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NFL Power Rankings, Week 12: New York Giants enter top five

Turkey Day week ...

The table has been set. Right next to the overcooked turkey and the cranberry nobody wants to eat lies the Week 12 Power Rankings. If you are lucky, A) your team lies somewhere in the top 20 (or else your team will be home with Chip Kelly after New Year's) and B) you have chocolate pie as one of your Thanksgiving desserts. No one in L.A. eats chocolate pie. Everything is chichi here. People go out for sushi on Thursday and skip the Lions game. Total B.S. But I digress. Let's move on ...

Thanks for checking in, Michael. OK, but if Dallas hadn't beaten the Steelers, they would have a winning record. If Dallas hadn't beaten the Eagles, they would have a winning record. Ravens? Ditto. Stats will lie to you. You are tall, though.

While I love a good clown suit, I'm just gonna leave this here: (Feel free to click ... Or I can just tell you that I am tied for most wins in my industry.)

Those Redskins do look fantastic, though, and they remain in the top 10. But for the first time in weeks, not as much shuffling at the top. In fact, our Big Three are locked in. So who do you think is missing from that group? Let me know: @HarrisonNFL.

Let the dissension commence!

NOTE: The lineup below reflects changes from our Nov. 15 Power Rankings.

Cowboys fans love Dak Prescott, but even they'll tell you he is starting slowly, missing throws early and so on. Yet, Dallas is recovering -- not only because Prescott does, but because the offensive line continues to impose its will on dog-tired front sevens in the second half. In a football sense, it's an awesome thing to watch. Ezekiel Elliott runs even harder, while Prescott has all day (he wasn't touched in the second half on Sunday) to find Jason Witten or Cole Beasley or ... well, you just can't hold 88 down too long, can ya?

Seattle is playing as well as any team in the NFL right now. At center stage for Pete Carroll's group on Sunday ... surprise, surprise, it was the defense, which grounded the Eagles' air game. Carson Wentz dropped back 47 times, yet Philly had a paltry 195 net yards passing to show for it. Meanwhile, Seattle's passing game was clicking, as Doug Baldwin produced for the second week in a row with 104 yards on just four catches. The only bummer? C.J. Prosise might be out the rest of the season, according to Carroll. Scapula injury right when the rookie was really making his mark (see: 234 total yards over the past two weeks). Ouch. At least Thomas Rawls is back in the fold, looking like the bowling ball we came to love last year.

Hard to believe that, in 17 years as an NFL quarterback, Bay Area native Tom Brady had never played at San Francisco before Sunday. He made up for lost time -- and a missed outing at Candlestick back in 2008, when Brady was out with a torn-up knee -- with four touchdowns in a 13-point win. Count me as one who had never seen the photo of 4-year-old Touchdown Tommy at the 1981 NFC Championship Game. (You know, that game with a certain Catch.) They showed the photo on the Pats-Niners broadcast Sunday afternoon, and I must admit my first thought was, Wonder if little Tommy Brady saw Joe Montana take an inadvertent tap on the helmet from a Cowboys pass rusher and immediately ask for a cheap flag? I kid, I kid. In a related vein, sure looks like we could get a Dallas-New England Super Bowl.

The Raiders keep winning, and on Monday night in Mexico, found a couple -- or three -- new ways to earn victory. First, get the running backs involved in the passing game. Second, include the fullback in that equation. Jamize Olawale, a University of North Texas Mean Green alum, delivered a huge catch-and-run TD in the fourth quarter. Overall, the RBs posted 199 in the receiving column. The third new way to get a W? How about finding a way to the winner's circle when you're getting outplayed, outsnapped and have no ground game? #8-2

Encouraging signs from the Giants on Sunday despite the slow start. First, Landon Collins is the real deal. Can he get some NFL Defensive Player of the Year burn (along with Marcus Peters)? Secondly, the ground game was not just a theoretical concept, with 102 yards against a run defense that had been playing well. Then there was rookie Sterling Shepard, who outproduced the player who needs no more hype, with five receptions for 50 yards and a tug.

The Broncos were off last week, but when they take the field this week, Aqib Talib is likely to rejoin 'em. After missing the last three games with a back issue, Talib returned to practice last Tuesday before the bye-week break. His presence gives Denver three stud cornerbacks (along with Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby) -- that's enough to blanket any trio of wideouts in the league, much less the group of guys Kansas City will be trotting out there on Sunday night. Oh, by the way: You know who else made his presence felt at the aforementioned Tuesday practice? Paxton Lynch, who got a full day of first-team reps.

Not a good day to be a Chiefs fan. First, it started with a collective uh-oh at the news of Marcus Peters not playing. Peters is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, especially after forcing that fumble to set up the game-winning kick at Carolina in Week 10. You don't want your top corner out against Mike Evans, who sees more footballs thrown his way than anyone else in the game today. Of course, Alex Smith's fourth-quarter end-zone interception was even costlier than Evans' production on Sunday. Let's be straight as an arrow here: Smith isn't playing well. Far from terrible, but minimal big-play action from No. 11 has translated to just 29 offensive points over the last two weeks.

Give the Lions a ton of props here, people. Do you know how hard it is to win an NFL game with 12 rushing yards (on 21 carries)? I figured Detroit would struggle in this spot, as being in first place must be so uncomfortable for this group. In fact, I was off on the Jags- Lions score by one point in my Game Picks column. What's even more intriguing than all that jazz -- er, Motown -- is the nuance involved in playing quarterback in this league. Matthew Stafford's subtle headiness and accuracy ensured the win Sunday. Up 23-19 on the Lions' final possession, Stafford and crew needed to convert a third-and-5 on the Jags' 36-yard line. After the snap, Stafford quickly fell under pressure and stepped up and to the side. The Lions QB waved a crosser to the left in order to throw off the defense and open things up for Theo Riddick on the right. Stafford then put just the right amount of touch to lead Riddick so that he could sprint for the first down. That play salted away the clock, and helped give Matt Prater a much more makeable field-goal attempt (which gave us the game's final score of 26-19). #Lions

Agreed with Cris Collinsworth in that it was hard to fully assess the Redskins based off Sunday night's win, given that the depleted Packers secondary couldn't stop Angelo State right now. That said, we can deduce that this Washington squad is real enough to lose all of one game since Week 3. On the topic of banged-up secondaries, Kirk Cousins will see his second ravaged unit in a row Thursday in Big D. Don't let me take anything away from Cousins, though, as he was making vertical love on those post patterns. The deep shot to Jamison Crowder that essentially put the game on ice was on point. What a game we have to look forward to on Turkey Day. #NFCEast #HTTR #deviledeggs

A fifth straight win that came out of nowhere. Seriously. The Dolphins' offense was nowhere to be found through three-and-a-half quarters in a rain-soaked Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. Much like one day of rain in drought-weary SoCal gives climate-change deniers an excuse, Miami's absent pass offense was obscured by a late surge. Jarvis Landry fueled the first scoring drive, while DeVante Parker owned the second. Interesting that Sunday marked Jared Goff's first start in the NFL, with the Rams keeping the game-plan-leash tight. Dan Marino's fourth career start came against Los Angeles, and it marked the first time Don Shula let him throw the ball more than 30 times. Miami won.

The first-place Falcons were on a bye, though two of their competitors in the NFC South infringed on their lead. At 6-4, Atlanta is a mere one game in front of the Bucs, with the two teams having split their head-to-head meetings. The Falcons will face Carolina and New Orleans in the last two weeks of the regular season, but the next three won't be easy: home vs. Arizona and Kansas City, then at Los Angeles. The last one there is a loooooong road trip. Jared Goff should be better by then, too.

The Vikings' front four would've steamrolled your grandmama had she worn a Cardinal on her helmet Sunday. For the love of Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen, Doug Martin, Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, Henry Thomas, John Randle and Jared Allen -- that was unreal. Nonstop pressure on Carson Palmer allowed the Vikings to end a painful losing streak at four games and stay above .500. An important win, too, with the Lions prevailing at home. Guesssssssssss who plays in Detroit on Turkey Day?

Rex Ryan asked Marvin Lewis for a gift -- and the football gods gave it to him. No A.J. Green to deal with, as the Bengals' star wideout went down with a hamstring injury on the opening drive of the game. Hate seeing Green go down, but fortunately, the injury doesn't appear as bad as initially thought. And hey, the football gods kinda owed Ryan a favor (or 35). No team in pro football has been beset by more injury problems to key players this season than the Bills. Ryan's squad stuck it out Sunday on the road, thanks to timely defense and a stout run game -- despite yet another injury to LeSean McCoy. That said, Tyrod Taylor has to make that third-and-5 completion to Percy Harvin on the final Bills drive. Jeff Tuel could have made that throw. EJ Manuel could have made that throw. Joe Ferguson could have made that throw. Joe Ferguson -- right now, at age 66 -- could have made that throw. Still, nice win, #BillsMafia. Click here for a sweet pic of the final-play scrum.

Sizeable drop for Philly after a loss that was more of a blowout than the final score ( 26-15) indicates. Admittedly, your Power Ranker had given the Eagles some tough love of late, as they didn't move higher than the 10 spot after beating the Falcons in Week 10. The issue? Well, fans might not realize it, but the Eagles now have dropped five of their last seven games and are a distant fourth in the NFC East (0-3 in the division). After owning a passer rating north of 100 through his first four starts, Carson Wentz has enjoyed only one game over 90 since, piling up a not-robust 4:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in that span. Luckily for the much-praised rookie, the Packers' defense limps into the Linc next Monday night.

Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm. Wow. Tough to swallow that deal Monday night. The sideline call in the first quarter appeared to cost the Texans a touchdown. Both spots on the penultimate possession in the fourth quarter were questionable, to say the least. And tough to disagree with Jon Gruden's assessment in postgame: Bill O'Brien probably should have gone for it on fourth-and-4 with only one timeout left and 3:13 remaining. As bitter as the defeat might be, the Titans also lost and the Colts could be without Andrew Luck this week. Houston is still in first.

Steve Smith Sr. might be 37 years old, but the dude still looks like the Ravens' best skill player. This Energizer Bunny came into Week 11 with a respectable 36 receptions for 417 yards. Sunday in Dallas, he caught eight balls for 99 yards and a touchdown -- despite a game plan that called for the run early and had Joe Flacco looking for Mike Wallace often. Let's not overreact to a road loss to the NFC's best team. Although it seemed like Flacco had an overcooked reaction to Ray Lewis' comments, coming off a little cocky in postgame -- saying the Cowboys are a team the Ravens should beat. They're 9-1, dude. And better than your team. That said, Baltimore remains atop the underwhelming AFC North.

Typical Mike Tomlin, eschewing the field goal with a few seconds left in the first half. Touchdown, Le'Veon Bell. On the subject of Bell ... Took some flak on Twitter this week for saying you can arguably call Ezekiel Elliott the best back in the league. Well, there Bell was on Sunday, racking up over 200 total yards and a tug. So, where's the love? Where are the rad highlights? This is a "What have you done for me lately?" sports league, and Bell has done plenty of runnin' lately.

Consider it difficult to win when you let your quarterback get hit on every play. Arizona's offensive line was so bad Sunday that Carson Palmer got hit twice on some plays. Arizona's offensive line was so bad that the Vikings rushed four on a third-and-18 late, and three of those guys pummeled Palmer. (I think the other Viking got held.) At one game under .500, there is a better chance than not the Cardinals miss the playoffs. The Giants look to be in line for one wild-card spot, with the Redskins, Vikings, Buccaneers and Eagles ahead in the race for the sixth spot.

Andrew Luck is a super-nice guy who apparently hates Tennessee. The franchise quarterback is treating the Titans the way his predecessor used to abuse the Texans. Through nine starts, Luck is 9-0 with numbers that don't jump off the page ... but do win football games: 15 touchdowns to eight interceptions, over 260 yards passing per game and, most importantly, a robust 8.0 yards per attempt. On Sunday, Luck was not alone, as the Colts' run defense lassoed the NFL's second-leading rusher, holding DeMarco Murray to 70 yards on 21 carries. Thanksgiving night, though, Luck might feel alone on the sideline, as he is in the concussion protocol. Still, look who's 5-5. #resilient

Off week in San Diego, following another devastating -- er, Chargers-esque -- loss in Week 10. That game sucked for the Bolts. But here's the good news: If San Diego can best the Texans this Sunday, the schedule then lets up considerably from Weeks 13 through 16: vs. Bucs, at Panthers, vs. Raiders, at Browns. The only team in that group that has played well is the Silver & Black, whom the Chargers played thisclose in Oakland. The only team in that group that has played well in the secondary is nobody. Pick up Philip Rivers in fantasy, broham.

The Titans aren't ready for the big stage, no matter how much analysts or the fans in Tennessee want them to be. In order to compete in the AFC South, this team must be viable against the Texans and Colts. After the loss in Indy on Sunday, the Titans are now 0-3 in that regard. They've lost every time in the nine games they've played Andrew Luck. People are all hot dogs and apple pie over the play of Marcus Mariota, who performed like a franchise quarterback once again. Consider the 109 yards of penalties to be dog turds and asbestos.

What we all saw Sunday night was the painful side of the salary-cap era: lack of depth. For example, how much of a difference would Casey Hayward have made against a hot quarterback who abused the Packers' young corners? Of course, Hayward now resides in San Diego because Green Bay wasn't going to pay him. It's a small example, obviously, but what's now clear is the answer to the "What's wrong with Aaron Rodgers?" question: an injury-riddled defense that can't stop anybody. Yell at Dom Capers all you want, but Buddy Ryan, God rest his soul, couldn't do squat with this group of walking wounded.

Tampa has pulled down two straight -- first, against a Bears team coming off a bye, then against a Chiefs team coming off an emotional win. Bear in mind, Kansas City had won 17 of its last 19 regular-season games before losing to the Bucs, 19-17 in Arrowhead. Jameis Winston once again played within himself, posting his third straight strong start. His passer ratings over the last three games are as follows: 110.3, 107.1 and 97.3. That's sterling work. Helluva play, Chris Conte. Next up: Seahawks.

The win? Important. Losing Luke Kuechly? Potentially devastating. You know how broadcasts glorify players, and you get tired of hearing the same old names? Yeah, I don't tire of hearing about Kuechly and Thomas Davis. They are old-school players who are evaluated in an old-school way. In other words, they are recognized for being top-shelf despite the absence of sacks. These days, the top LBs mentioned are all the pass rushers. But that's not what Davis and Kuechly are asked to do in Carolina. Moreover, they drop in coverage and tackle as well as any tandem in football. That said, shutting down Kuechly for the bulk of what's left of the season might be the right step, given his concussion history. Love that dude.

Many thoughts from the Saints' loss in Carolina.

 **1)** They are far from done in the NFC South. 
 Tim Hightower runs hard. Sure, he might be in a Mark-Ingram-isn't-producing-timeshare, but I can understand why Sean Payton plays him. 
 **3)** Think this offense is better when 
 Willie Snead makes plays (he dropped a touchdown pass on what would've been a very difficult catch). 
 **4)** The New Orleans defense 
 *is* noticeably better than it was at the beginning of the season. 
 **5)** Check 
 the schedule. The rest of the 
 Saints' games are all winnable, prior to 
 Week 17 in Atlanta. 

The Rams had to take the plunge at some point with Jared Goff, figuratively speaking, as the rain-soaked Coliseum field called for more Todd Gurley dive plays than seven-step drops from a rookie quarterback. The offense -- along with the team's temporary home venue -- recalls the days of "Ground Chuck" and those 1970s Rams teams that ran the football -- and ran it some more -- while playing suffocating defense. This 2016 Ram defense is special. The unit gave up 14 points to Miami and lost. Aaron Donald and Co. are allowing just 18.7 per game, despite an offense that does them no favors. It's pretty damn impressive.

Tough losing A.J. Green in the first drive on Sunday. The receiver was especially missed on that Hail Mary to end the game. On a day the Red Rifle looked red in the face, the Bengals' leader hurled two more interceptions while averaging less than 5 yards per attempt, a terrible number. The oft-inconsistent run game (which lost Giovani Bernard to a torn ACL) couldn't mitigate the absence of Green, averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. As stated in last week's Game Picks column, losing this one isn't the end of the road for Cincinnati. Not with Baltimore crashing into the middle of the Dallas offensive line and Pittsburgh sitting at 5-5. But the Bengals are running out of pavement. Quickly.

More of the Jay Cutler era was on display in New York on Sunday. Witness his brilliant throw, on a line, in between two defenders to Zach Miller in the end zone. Don't want to go all Old Milwaukee in a Bears blurb, but it just doesn't get no better than this. Cutler threw another beauty to Miller down the seam, as well. Then, almost as if on cue, he couldn't produce any points in the second half. After displaying his arm on a laser to Josh Bellamy to get the Bears within shouting distance of tying the game, Cutler gave it away. He held the ball for nearly five seconds before letting Jason Pierre-Paul close and knock it out. On the next down, Cutler stutter-stepped on his back foot and heaved an ill-advised throw into double-coverage. Ballgame. And now he and Miller are both hurt.

 ***(UPDATE:** On Tuesday, it was reported that Cutler is likely to miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum.)* 

This was another of our off teams this past weekend, as the bye weeks (slowly) fade away. Which gives us a chance to wonder why Chan Gailey's planning has never incorporated big-time tight end production. Not in Dallas (David LaFleur), Buffalo (Scott Chandler) or New York (uhhh ...). This is Gailey's 14th season as a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL, and the TE1s in his offense have caught all of 359 balls, which is well under 30 per season. If you take the one year he inherited Tony Gonzalez (96 catches in 2008 in Kansas City) out of this mix, that total drops to 263, or about 20 per year. You always hear how having a young tight end helps a young QB out. Maybe that's a little overblown as a theory, but it sure wouldn't hurt Bryce Petty. Tell you what really hurts: Eric Decker's absence.

Anyone who has ever complained about writer's block should try taking a crack at writing the Jags blurb this week. They've lost five games in a row. Their last win was by one point over the Bears. They lost to a team Sunday that has a weaker running game than Jacksonville University. They lost on a punt-return touchdown and a pick-six. Again, not sure what to write here. Let's stay on the up and up: Chris Ivory gained 114 yards from scrimmage!

Patriots at 49ers was all about Tom Brady's homecoming to the Bay Area -- at least, that's what we were sold. Cool. But actually, not cool. It was only four years ago that Colin Kaepernick outdueled Brady in a shootout that remains one of the best Sunday night games ever. Kap is obviously not the same quarterback. But all of his weapons from that memorable battle -- Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker -- are gone. While New England is still rolling, having won a Super Bowl two years ago, the Niners are buried in the middle of a nine-game losing streak. Since Bill Belichick won his most recent Lombardi Trophy, the 49ers have gone 6-20 ... a stretch that coincides with the absence of a certain head coach.

Rough season for Cody Kessler, forced to depart early again after getting knocked out against Pittsburgh. That's now two concussions for the Browns rookie. Rough season to be the Browns quarterback coach. Cleveland started with RGIII, then went to Josh McCown, then Cody Kessler, then Charlie Whitehurst, then Kevin Hogan, then McCown, then back to Kessler ... who was inexplicably benched mid-game last week for McCown. Confused yet? You should be! Kessler received the starting nod against the Steelers on Sunday, before the hit delivered by Lawrence Timmons (a personal foul). At that point, Hue Jackson was forced to turn to McCown again, who was equally blasted several times (including four sacks) in less than a half of play. Not sure what the original point was here. The Browns are 0-11.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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