Just when it looks like the NFL might turn the corner after a wild Week 11 of upsets, the league goes and sees a week in which a record-setting 12 extra points are missed by kickers.
One of those kickers was Kai Forbath, with a resurgent Justin Bethel making that play on special teams. But despite that block opening the door for the Cardinals to win with a late touchdown, they couldn't get it done and with the NFC playoff picture clearing up, they have but a hope and a prayer to make the playoffs this year.
Stranger things have happened, for sure, but at some point you just have to win games. With that, here are the Week 12 Power Rankings:
1) Dallas Cowboys (9-1) - What can you say about the performances of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot that hasn't been said already? Elliot has already shattered the previous Cowboys rookie rushing record and Prescott seems to improve by the week as Dez Bryant gets healthier. The showdown on Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins might have been lampooned by many around the league in years past. This year? It's must-see TV.
2) New England Patriots (8-2) - The Patriots might have lost to a Seahawks team that is looking very dangerous last week but just because they played the Niners and Seattle played a much tougher Eagles team isn't enough to flip them. The Pats didn't miss a beat without Gronkowski and, unless they stumble and the Raiders take advangate, should be able to lock up the #1 seed in the playoffs before Christmas. The 39-year-old Brady putting himself in the MVP conversation despite missing four games is truly remarkable.
3) Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) - If Gronk isn't on the field, the Seahawks might be the second-best team in the NFL right now with how they are playing. After struggling to get their offense going they have been able to find a run game and a healthy Russell Wilson is dealing dimes left and right all over the place. The only concern for now is their running back spot: with the impressive C.J. Prosise (who is reminiscent somewhat of David Johnson as a receiver) out until the playoffs, they are left with a still-rusty Thomas Rawls in the backfield. Should he go down, they might regret letting Christine Michael walk (and that's a bit crazy to type) Still, Rawls was supposed to be the starter, and he's more depth than some teams ever have at the position.
4) Oakland Raiders (8-2) - The Raiders defense still has a few concerns, but the excellent play of the Raiders offensive line is only being overshadowed by the performance of Derek Carr. Despite an up-and-down game against the Texans overall, the Raiders trusted Carr with the game on the line and he went out and won it for them. MVP talk, especially if the Patriots drop to the #2 seed somehow, isn't hyperbole. And Amari Cooper seems to be blossoming into something special as well.
5) New York Giants (7-3) Maybe the Giants are just a Super Bowl threat with Eli Manning every four years or so? After getting rings in 2008 and 2012, the 2016 Giants are starting to look very similar to those two championship squads with a dominant, explosive pass-rush and a good air attack to an excellent trio of wide receivers. Sterling Shepard is looking like the real deal and has been one of the best rookies in the league this season so far.
6) Denver Broncos (7-3) The Broncos had a bye week and got a boost from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Chiefs lost, giving them a tied record with the Broncos. Denver's defense is still good enough to win them a Super Bowl, and they are getting Aquib Talib back this week just in time to play them. The winner of the Chiefs/Broncos game will go a long way in determining the rest of the AFC Playoff picture and whether or not either team can catch the Raiders for a playoff bye. The only question at this point is QB.
7) Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) The Chiefs were without Marcus Peters on Sunday and boy, did it show. Mike Evans was all over the field on Sunday and Alex Smith threw a very costly interception that sunk the Chiefs' chances to pull ahead by half a game on the Denver Broncos. Getting Justin Houston back will be a huge boost for them however, and they're one of the most dangerous teams in the league. But if Kansas City can't make up ground on their other two divisional opponents, it might be that Alex Smith is what's holding them back.
8) Washington Redskins (6-3-1) Goodness, Kirk Cousins. To play like he did in the driving wind is awfully impressive. With DeSean Jackson back as a threat and Rob Kelley surprising everyone, the 'Skins have a solid defense and impressive ground game to go with their passing attack. How do you like them now, indeed, Kirk. The Redskins round out the NFC East as the most impressive division in football this year, with the AFC East just behind them.
9) Atlanta Falcons (6-4) The Falcons were on a bye this week, which should hopefully see Julio improved with some rest. He's going to need it against Patrick Peterson this week, who's having a phenomenal year shutting down top WR's left and right. If Atlanta can use Vic Beasley and enough of former Cardinal Dwight Freeney against Arizona's struggling offensive line, they might be able to wrap up the division if the Saints and Panthers drop one more game. But there's very little breathing room for them in the NFC South to stumble.
10) Detroit Lions (6-4) There has to be some sort of record set this season for 4th quarter comeback wins by Matthew Stafford. While it was against the lowly Jags, the Lions are right now in the driver's seat in the NFC North and control their own destiny. The concern? They only got 12 rushing yards all day against the Jaguars defense. With the way Stafford is playing right now, if the team can continue to build around him they will be a dangerous team in the NFC the next few years.
And the rest:
11) Miami Dolphins (6-4)
12) Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
13) Houston Texans (6-4)
14) Buffalo Bills (5-5)
15) Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
16) Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
17) Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
18) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5)
19) Tennessee Titans (5-6)
20) San Diego Chargers (4-6)
21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
22) Carolina Panthers (4-6)
23) Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) Arizona finds itself near the bottom of the pack, and trending downward despite the insane talent they have on their team. But while some teams such as the Chargers and Buccaneers have seen struggles with the same record, they've shown the ability to win games and have easier schedules going forward. Arizona winning against the Falcons could go a long way in trying to sneak into the playoff picture if they can get a groove going but that offensive line just can't seem to protect Palmer at this point. A Falcons loss on the road would all but sink their hopes for the 2016 season.
24) New Orleans Saints (4-6)
25) Los Angeles Rams (4-6)
26) Green Bay Packers (4-6)
27) Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1)
28) Chicago Bears (2-8)
29) New York Jets (3-7)
30) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
31) San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
32) Cleveland Browns (0-11)
What do you think? Did I give the Giants too much credit? Too high on the Panthers and Redskins? Should the Patriots still deserve to be number one? Sound off in the comments section!
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