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Week 12 NFL Power Rankings

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The NFL Power Rankings are all about evaluating teams every week. Because we have to rank all 32, there aren’t teams that fall through the cracks. That’s not the case with individual players, though.

Some players, no matter what they do, don’t get the big headlines. Whether this player is a star who isn’t fully appreciated or a role player who defers the praise to more celebrated teammates, our NFL Nation writers identified that guy on the team they cover who quietly gets the job done. Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Week 11 ranking: 1

Most underrated player: Lawrence Guy, DT

Big, powerful defensive tackles who don’t put up weighty sack numbers aren’t often part of the postgame conversation, especially if they prefer to be under the radar with the media, such as the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy does. But a large part of the success of the Patriots’ defense, which is the backbone of this year’s team, is Guy’s unsung work at the line of scrimmage — particularly against the run. He also tallied his first career interception earlier this season on an exemplary play. — Mike Reiss

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Pat McAfee says Lamar Jackson is doing something that nobody else can do right now in the NFL.

Week 11 ranking: 3

Most underrated player: Nick Boyle, TE

Boyle often takes a backseat to the Ravens’ pass-catching tight ends — Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst — with fans. But Boyle is the NFL’s top blocking tight end and a major reason Baltimore has rushed for 2,038 yards — the most by any team in its first 10 games of a season since the 1977 Bears. “We all know how valuable he is,” Andrews said. “He’s basically what makes this offense tick.” — Jamison Hensley


Week 11 ranking: 2

Most underrated player: K’Waun Williams, CB

The diminutive Williams is a favorite in the Niners locker room for playing much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 185-pound frame would suggest. Williams is one of just three defensive backs with at least one sack, two forced fumbles and two interceptions through the first 11 weeks. “We call him the Shark for a reason, because he’s just out there tearing everything up in sight,” Niners linebacker Fred Warner said. “He kind of is the whole package and an outstanding player for sure.” — Nick Wagoner


Week 11 ranking: 4

Most underrated player: Shaquill Griffin, CB

Of all the issues the Seahawks have had on defense, Griffin has not been one of them. His 11 pass breakups are tied for the league lead among defensive backs, per ESPN charting. He has allowed a passer rating of 75.9 when he has been the nearest defender in coverage, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s eighth-best among DBs with at least 50 targets. Griffin will have a hard time making the Pro Bowl unless he starts picking off some passes, but he is otherwise playing at that level. — Brady Henderson


Week 11 ranking: 5

Most underrated player: Elgton Jenkins, LG

The second-round pick ranks fourth among all NFL linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate at 97.3%, which also is second among all guards. The rookie trails NFL leader and fellow Packer Corey Linsley, who was probably second choice for this write-up. Jenkins took over as a starter in Week 3 after left guard Lane Taylor suffered a torn biceps but would’ve done so eventually even without an injury to Taylor. “There’s been so much good, both in the run and the pass,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “But what I love about Elgton is the consistency and the level of effort that he brings each and every day on every play.” — Rob Demovsky


Week 11 ranking: 6

Most underrated player: Demario Davis, LB

The eighth-year veteran has never made a Pro Bowl. But he is working on his third straight season of at least 110 tackles. Since he arrived as a free agent last year, the Saints have had the NFL’s No. 1 run defense (allowing just 82.2 rushing yards per game over the past two seasons). Throw in everything Davis does as a captain, emotional leader and signal-caller wearing the defensive headset and he might be the Saints’ best free-agent signing in a decade. — Mike Triplett


Week 11 ranking: 7

Most underrated player: Jayron Kearse, S

In back-to-back weeks, Kearse has been credited with making the final play of the game to seal victories. He picked off Dak Prescott‘s Hail Mary attempt last week and broke up a pass in the end zone as time expired on Sunday against the Broncos. Kearse’s playing time has fluctuated, and the return of Andrew Sendejo puts the 6-foot-4 safety’s role in question. Still, when Harrison Smith sustained a hamstring injury late against Denver, Vikings coaches trusted Kearse to cover tight end Noah Fant in the ultimate “got to have it” situation. Coming through in these moments cements Kearse’s importance in the secondary. — Courtney Cronin

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Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debate if Patrick Mahomes can lead the Chiefs’ potent offense on a Super Bowl run despite the team’s vulnerable defense.

Week 11 ranking: 9

Most underrated player: Anthony Sherman, FB

Sherman doesn’t play much on offense, but there’s a reason the Chiefs keep bringing him back. Sherman is now in his seventh season with the Chiefs because of his special-teams ability. He led the Chiefs in special-teams tackles with five heading into Monday night’s game against the Chargers. — Adam Teicher


Week 11 ranking: 10

Most underrated player: La’el Collins, RT

On an offensive line with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, it is easy to be overlooked, but Collins is having his best season. He came to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent playing left guard and moved to right tackle in his third season. He has become comfortable in his techniques and has found the right blend between aggressiveness and patience, especially in pass protection. The only issue he has is a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee that he aggravated in Sunday’s win at Detroit. If he can’t play, then folks will see his value. — Todd Archer

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Ryan Clark explains that Dak Prescott is showing every week that he should be included in MVP conversations and that he deserves the contract he’s asking for.

Week 11 ranking: 8

Most underrated player: Carlos Hyde, RB

Yes, Hyde is averaging 76.9 yards per game, nearly double what he averaged last season, but he is sometimes overlooked because he plays on an offense highlighted by quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Thanks to Hyde, the Texans rank fifth in the NFL in rushing. — Sarah Barshop


Week 11 ranking: 11

Most underrated player: Cory Littleton, LB

On a defense that packs plenty of star power with Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Clay Matthews, Littleton often gets overlooked. But the fourth-year pro, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, often comes up with big-time plays. He has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a team-best 82 tackles this season. Littleton, also a special-teams standout, is in the final season of his contract. — Lindsey Thiry


Week 11 ranking: 13

Most underrated player: Jordan Phillips, DT

Phillips is a known commodity among the Bills fan base, but the rest of the league likely will get to know him this coming offseason, as he has played himself into a sizable payday. Despite initially taking a backseat to 2019 first-round pick Ed Oliver, the upcoming free agent trails only Aaron Donald in sacks among defensive tackles with seven and has been a much-needed presence in Buffalo’s interior pass rush. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Week 11 ranking: 14

Most underrated player: Zach Pascal, WR

Pascal has been the Colts’ best receiver not named T.Y. Hilton this season. Pascal, who was claimed off waivers from Tennessee in 2018, leads the Colts in receiving yards (364) despite being fifth (23) in receptions and third in targets (40). He’ll continue to be one of quarterback Jacoby Brissett‘s favorite targets at receiver until Hilton returns from his calf injury, which has cost Hilton four games this season. — Mike Wells


Week 11 ranking: 12

Most underrated player: Jalen Mills, CB

He isn’t the fastest or flashiest corner out there, but there’s no denying the value Mills brings to the Eagles’ secondary. The defense has looked much different since he returned to the lineup Week 7 following a lengthy absence due to a foot injury. Over the past three games, opposing quarterbacks have managed only two passing touchdowns while averaging 170 passing yards per game. That’s quite a shift from earlier in the season, when the Eagles were among the most giving pass defenses in the NFL. Mills’ swagger and steady, physical style have been a big part of the turnaround. — Tim McManus


Week 11 ranking: 17

Most underrated player: Trayvon Mullen, CB

Sure, the rookie was a second-round draft pick, but many observers wondered if the Raiders were too high on him when they traded away a former first-rounder in Gareon Conley midseason to elevate Mullen. Turns out, the Raiders’ instincts have been on the mark. Mullen still is growing into the role, no doubt, but while he has been a step or so short on a pair of pick-sixes over the past few weeks, he sealed the Raiders’ win against the Bengals on Sunday with a pick of Ryan Finley. — Paul Gutierrez


Week 11 ranking: 15

Most underrated player: Steven Nelson, CB

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Will Dak Prescott be with Cowboys for the long haul? Answer is near

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Perhaps mercifully, a determination on Dak Prescott‘s contractual fate with the Dallas Cowboys will be known in a week.

Talks between the Cowboys and Prescott’s agent, Todd France, began in the spring of 2019. The club initially hoped a deal could be consummated before training camp, then during training camp, then at the start of the season, but it never happened.

Unable to get a contract worked out before free agency, the Cowboys put the exclusive franchise tag on Prescott, knowing that July 15 is the deadline to sign him to a long-term deal.

The negotiations have generated a lot of public debate. Do the Cowboys really believe Prescott is their guy? Why won’t owner and GM Jerry Jones just pay the man? Does Prescott really think he should be the NFL’s highest paid quarterback, even after the 10-year extension worth up to $503 million Patrick Mahomes agreed to Monday with the Kansas City Chiefs?

By next week, there will be some answers. Either Prescott and the Cowboys will have their contract agreement or the quarterback will play the upcoming season on the franchise tag.

For perhaps the final time, here are some answers to some key questions regarding Prescott’s situation:

Where do negotiations stand?

It seems the sides have not had any substantive talks since March. Perhaps the coronavirus pandemic played into that because there was not the traditional offseason program. Prescott did not miss any on-field work even if he was not a part of all the virtual meetings.

Before the Mahomes news, sources said the Cowboys’ offer would make Prescott the second-highest paid quarterback in terms of average per year to Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who makes $35 million a season. That offer includes a guarantee that is on par with the $110 million the Los Angeles Rams gave Jared Goff. What is unknown are the details of the Cowboys’ offer, such as how much is guaranteed at the time of signing and how much is guaranteed for injury and cash flow.

Is the deal’s length a concern?

Yes. The Cowboys would like a five-year deal; Prescott would like four years. The reasons are pretty obvious. If the Cowboys are going to make such a commitment, they would like it for as long as possible so they are not back at the negotiating table any sooner than necessary. Prescott would like a shorter term so he can hit the open market again when the new television money is expected to kick in. That might be a bit trickier now considering the pandemic, but live sports has been a cash cow.

How does Mahomes’ deal impact the discussions?

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Stephen A. Smith has faith in Dak Prescott to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl based on their revamped offense.

Truthfully, it probably doesn’t all that much. The Cowboys likely would do a 10-year deal with Prescott, but if he won’t do a five-year deal, why would he do a longer deal if the guaranteed money does not go up appreciably?

Quarterbacks are judged on wins and stats. Mahomes has both. His first two years as Kansas City’s starter are off the charts. He has taken the Chiefs to an AFC Championship Game and a Super Bowl win in his first two seasons. Prescott has one playoff win and has missed the postseason twice in his first four seasons.

Depending on how you want to read the Mahomes deal, it’s a max of $50.3 million per season, $45 million per season based on new money or $39.75 million when looking at it as a 12-year deal. You know which way France will view it and which way the Cowboys will view it.

What happens if the sides do not reach an agreement?

Prescott has to play the season on the $31.4 million tag and the sides cannot discuss a long-term deal until 2021. Essentially, this might kick the can down the road for a year before the sides get into the same prolonged dance again. The only good news is we wouldn’t have to hear and read incessant reports about negotiations until next offseason.

Could Prescott sit out?

Now that he has signed the tender, he is under contract and would face prohibitive fines if he does not report to camp. For those who believe Prescott would hold out, he played last season for $2 million, why wouldn’t he play for $31.4 million this season?

If he had not signed the tender, he would not have faced any fines for skipping training camp and preseason games (however those look starting later this month). He could have shown up the week before the season opener against the Rams.

By signing the tender, the Cowboys and Prescott will avoid the fiasco the Pittsburgh Steelers and Le’Veon Bell went through in 2018.

Can the Cowboys use the tag on Prescott in 2021?

Yes, and it would cost them roughly $38 million, a 120% increase over what he makes in 2020. Washington used the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins two years in a row in 2016 and ’17, but never made him an offer as substantial as the one the Cowboys have made to Prescott.

If the Cowboys wanted to use the franchise tag on Prescott for a third year, it would cost more than $54 million.

Have the Cowboys gotten to this point with a franchise-tagged player before?

Yes, but not a quarterback. They were able to sign Troy Aikman and Tony Romo to long-term deals before either could have come close to testing the market. In the years between Aikman and Romo, they did not have a quarterback they wanted to keep long term.

In 2015, the Cowboys put the tag on receiver Dez Bryant. He spent only a handful of days around the team in the offseason because he did not sign the tender. Eventually, the Cowboys and Bryant agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal, but it nearly did not happen.

After the sides agreed, the Cowboys needed Bryant to sign the contract before sending it to the league office. It wasn’t until about 10 minutes before the deadline that Bryant made it to Valley Ranch to put pen to paper.

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‘Most hated’ tweet helps Cardinals’ Eno Benjamin become an entrepreneur – Arizona Cardinals Blog

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals rookie running back Eno Benjamin saw a hole in the marketplace and hit it this past January.

Benjamin, the Cardinals’ seventh-round pick in April’s draft, played college football at nearby Arizona State, where he set the Sun Devils’ single-season rushing record and graduated from the school’s W.P. Carey School of Business in three years. A native of Wylie, Texas, Benjamin knew about the rivalry between his Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats before he arrived on campus, and he quickly learned about its intensity during his first two seasons.

Then, in a tweet on May 20, 2019, he unknowingly laid the foundation for an entrepreneurial endeavor.

He not only got his wish as the most hated man in Tucson but also earned himself a nickname.

“They kind of ran off with that,” Benjamin said.

In January, after declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft, Benjamin announced that he had launched a line of shirts — including one that has “Tucson’s Most Hated” emblazoned under a caricature of Benjamin stiff-arming a defender — that are being sold on a website named after his full first name: Enotobong.

“I knew when I had this whole opportunity, knowing that you have the moment, you got to seize it,” Benjamin said. “And so, just trying to put out as much content as I can. Just knowing that over the years, I’m gonna look back and be happy that I did it.”

An off-the-cuff tweet that turned into a nickname that turned into a T-shirt that turned into a brand isn’t blind luck. It comes from Benjamin’s interest in sports marketing and has him developing his brand before he sees the first snap of his rookie season.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Tayo Adewon, Benjamin’s marketing representative.

“One of the things we preach, and you see it everywhere, is being more than an athlete, building your brand. There’ll come a time [when you’ll have to ask yourself], what are you gonna do? What type of passions do you like to do? What type of hobbies? What types of things can you do to generate revenue and stay relevant off the field? And so, Eno’s a really smart kid.”

Benjamin doesn’t know what he wants to do after football, whether marketing, finance or accounting, but he has “always been into those classes,” he said.

When it was time to design his T-shirt line, Benjamin was hands-on. He drew his logo and put his own ideas on paper. With the help of Adewon, Zach Soskin, Benjamin’s other marketing rep, and the e-commerce brands they partnered with, the final designs were picked. The result, now on sale, is the “Tucson’s Most Hated” and the “All About the Benjamin” shirts, which come in a variety of styles priced from $25 to $60.

“It’s been going really well, and [he’s been able] to immerse himself into the business side of being a professional athlete,” Adewon said.

“He always wants to know what’s going on, why this is the way it is, etc. etc. I’m really excited for him because he’s one of the guys that get it, and he’s really young, so it’s really cool to have a guy that gets it at that age.”

Although Adewon said there are plans to keep expanding Benjamin’s line of shirts as the 2020 season approaches, how he performs on the field will be a major factor in the brand’s long-term success. Benjamin rushed for 2,707 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in his three seasons in Tempe, but he enters his rookie season behind Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds on the Cardinals’ depth chart.

As a member of the state’s professional football team, Benjamin also risks alienating with the “most hated” shirts some of his fans who root for the Wildcats.

“That was a question that went through my head,” Benjamin said. “That was something I thought about.

“I’m faithful to my school, but just knowing what else I’m gonna have to take just to let them [Arizona Wildcats fans] back in my life, I’m going to be back in their life as well. So we’re gonna see.”



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Patrick Mahomes sought security, flexibility for Chiefs in landmark deal

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Patrick Mahomes said he had two goals for his new contract when extension talks began with the Kansas City Chiefs earlier this summer: He wanted long-term security and he wanted to leave the Chiefs enough financial flexibility to otherwise build a strong team around him.

Mahomes said Tuesday he’s confident he attained both by signing a 10-year extension that could pay him up to $503 million and is the richest valued contract in American professional sports. Combined with the two seasons on his existing deal, Mahomes is bound to the Chiefs through the 2031 season.

“Not only does it give me the security that I’ve always wanted but also it allows an opportunity for the team to be great around me the entire duration of my career,” Mahomes said. “I have full trust things will be handled the right way as we go throughout this career and that we will be in a position to win a lot of football games and hopefully win a lot more championships as my career goes on.

“It’s an exciting time. I’m just glad that I get to continue to build this legacy in Kansas City.”

Mahomes said he leaned on his father Pat and godfather LaTroy Hawkins for advice. Both were long-time major-league baseball pitchers.

“They didn’t sign that long-term contract but they saw players who did and . . . how they were able to go out there and play free knowing they had the security that they had always wanted,” Mahomes said. “The biggest thing they preached to me is kind of the same thing I already thought. It was good to just hear them. You want to have great players around you. You don’t want to be a guy that takes up all the money and then all of a sudden you’re having to sign different guys that will take cheaper deals. We’re going to be able to reward players and keep a lot of these guys around that have built the culture even before I was here.”

To sign for the next 12 seasons required a great deal of trust on the part of Mahomes. It’s impossible to know what the Chiefs will have in place around him much beyond the immediate future. Coach Andy Reid, for instance, is 62 years old though he seems to be enjoying coaching as much now as he ever did. Mahomes said he consulted with Reid before signing such a long extension.

“He said he had no thoughts of being retired any time soon,” Mahomes said. “Obviously, that’s a huge part of it. Having Brett Veach, a young general manager who’s done a great job of drafting and putting a lot of great players round me, was definitely another huge boost of confidence to sign this 10-year extension.

“You can’t do this with every single organization. When you have an organization with the stability and the culture that we have in the Chiefs’ organization, I felt very comfortable. I have a lot of trust that I can do a contract like this knowing that we were going to have that same stability by the time I’m at the end of that contract.”

The Chiefs said they had no problem in giving Mahomes, who is still only 24 years old, a long extension. He has yet to disappoint them in his two seasons as their starting quarterback. He was the NFL’s MVP in 2018 and last season led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.

“There’s still a lot of improvement for Pat in his game,” Veach said. “He’s still growing and learning. He’s hungry. He’s a special kid. At such a young age he’s so mature.”

As the 2018 season started and it quickly became evident what kind of player Mahomes is, Veach met with the Chiefs’ salary cap managers and they started preparing for what he called a “baseball contract” for Mahomes. Mahomes’ deal tops the contract signed last year by Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, who signed for 12 years and almost $427 million.

“If there was ever a player that was truly deserving of the largest contract in U.S. sports history, it’s definitely Pat Mahomes,” Veach said.

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