Week 9 has come and gone and there are some new teams that have entered the Week 10 edition of The Al Dente Dozen.
The Broncos got beat up in Oakland, the Lions surprised the hell out of the Vikings, and the Giants knocked off a tumbling Eagles team.
The Al Dente Dozen will continue to be a rotating carousel as only the Patriots and Cowboys have shown any real consistency throughout the season thus far.
1. New England Patriots (7-1) ⇔
The Patriots remain in the number 1 spot as they were off on the bye last week. Week 10 should provide a good test and a rematch of Super Bowl XLIX when the Seattle Seahawks travel to Foxborough for a Sunday Night showdown.
2. Dallas Cowboys (7-1) ⇑3
You can’t put too much stock in a victory over the lowly Browns, but the Cowboys did it in decisive fashion and won in the same manner that they have won every week since game one—pound the football. In Zeke’s return to Ohio, he rushed for 92 yards and hit paydirt twice. The 25-point victory gives the ‘Boys a commanding lead in the NFC East and has people debating that they are the Super Bowl favorite out of the NFC.
3. Oakland Raiders (7-2) ⇑4
There has been no denying the ability of the Oakland offense and its ability to score points. Cooper and Crabtree are in the discussion for top wide receiver duo, the backfield is extremely deep and talented, and it’s very easy to make the argument that Derek Carr is a viable MVP candidate. The question mark so far this season has been the inconsistency of the Defense. Well, aside from a 68-yard screen play on Sunday night, the Raider defense held the Bronco’s offense in check, holding Denver to 33 rushing yards and 299 total yards. If the D can get that production on a weekly basis, they are a top team in the NFL.
4. Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) ⇔
Seattle is still a team that can look suspect at times, but teams would be lying if they said they want to face them in December. The offense showed up in a big way on Monday, putting up 30+ points for the second time this season. I’m still very confused by the Sherman hit on Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, but Sherman has played like that his whole career. The defense showed up when it had to and stopped an electrifying Bills offense on the final drive. The way that the NFC West is shaping out, Seattle may coast to a Division championship, meaning they will have at least one playoff game at home—bad news for any team.
5. Atlanta Falcons (6-3) ⇑4
The Atlanta offense is the best in the league this season scoring 305 points so far. That puts them on pace for 542 points for the season, which would be good enough for 7th all-time. The six teams ahead of them all made it at least to the Divisional round and two of the six teams made it to the Super Bowl (’13 Denver Broncos, ’07 New England Patriots). If history shows us anything, a prolific offense can get you into the playoffs, but the defense will have to be better than 26th overall if they want to hoist a Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta.
6. Denver Broncos (6-3) ⇓3
Take nothing away from the Oakland Raiders, but the Broncos looked bad on all sides of the ball on Sunday night. Kubiak has been known for his dynamic rushing attacks, but only called 12 running plays against the Raiders. Is there a lack of trust with his rookie running back Devontae Booker? On the defensive side of the ball, I think we all saw just how important Aqib Talib is to the unit as a whole. The secondary was able to keep Carr in check, but there were three big pass interference calls that may not have happened if Talib had been in there. The rushing woes and run defense will have to be corrected quickly if the Broncos want to keep up in the best division in football.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) ⇓1
The Chiefs 19-14 victory over the Jacksonville doesn’t look that impressive on paper, but they did it without Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Jeremy Maclin left early with an injury and Travis Kelce was ejected for impersonating a ref. Kansas City is not an elegant or radiant team to watch, but they find a way to win and they are extremely tough to play at Arrowhead. I expect three teams to make the playoffs out of the loaded AFC West—order still unknown.
8. New York Giants (5-3) N/A
The New York Football Giants crack the top 12 this week for their nice victory over division rival Philadelphia. The defense has been much better than expected and the offense still has a lot of room for improvement. A lot of distractions have been swirling around this team, but when they just take the field and play football they are extremely talented. OBJ showed flashes of what we know he is capable which is a good sign for the Giants moving forward. They own the second spot in the NFC East and the fourth-best winning percentage in the NFC as a whole.
9. Minnesota Vikings (5-3) ⇓7
I kept the Vikings in the Dente Dozen primarily for the fact that they still lead the NFC North and the defense is still very good moving forward. The offensive line will have to get substantially better if the offensive wants to do anything in the run game or if they plan on having Bradford at quarterback for an entire season. Number one wideout Stefon Diggs had his first good game in a while which is definitely a good sign for Vikings’ fans.
10. Detroit Lions (5-4) N/A
The tale of two teams. One week the Lions look great, and the offense looks like they can score at will. And then the next week they look lost and have very minimal production. A lot of this consistency can be attributed to coaching and if Jim Caldwell can get his guys to perform at a high level each week, then the City of Detroit may see their Lions make their 18th playoff appearance in franchise history. In my opinion, Matthew Stafford is having an MVP-caliber season, especially after that impressive overtime victory last week in Minnesota.
11. San Diego Chargers (4-5) N/A
Now before everyone jumps down my throat for having a team under .500 in my Dozen when there are other teams out there with better records—hear me out. The Chargers have scored 268 points which are second in the entire NFL only to Atlanta. All five of their losses are by 8 points or fewer. Phillip Rivers is still playing at an elite level, even with a depleted receiving corps, and Melvin Gordan has made everyone forget about his rookie campaign by rushing for the third most yards and sitting atop the leader board with nine touchdowns. The defense ranks fifth against the run, and Coach McCoy is coaching like his job is on the line (probably because it is). No one in the NFL wants to play the Chargers right now, and if they weren’t in the AFC West they would have a much better chance at making the playoffs. They will play spoiler and finish above .500, making them a great team that will miss the playoffs.
12. Houston Texans (5-3) N/A
The Texans are still a very suspect team to me and are probably the worst division leader in the NFL, but they are just that, the AFC South Division leader. They still rank 5th in total team defense so they are very strong on that side of the ball. If the run game continues to improve and can increase red zone proficiency it will take the pressure off of Osweiler and should lead to fewer turnovers. Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has been a very pleasant surprise this season and has become one of Brock’s favorite targets.