PFF Week: Up North, Week 12
It’s your last chance to get caught up on the happenings at PFF before the next slate of games is upon us, and our new ‘PFF Week’ posts provide quick access to the week that was. The ‘Up North’ edition covers all things pertaining to the AFC and NFC North divisions for a one-stop Saturday shop built to keep you in the loop and on top of your football-watching game.
Just six weeks to go. Just six weeks, and everyone in the AFC North and NFC North, bar the Vikings, has a realistic shot at the postseason. The Bengals have a three-game lead over their division rivals, while each of those same rivals is only a game out of a Wild Card spot in the AFC. Over in the NFC, the Lions and Bears are tied for top spot in the division while the Packers are just a game back with Aaron Rodgers waiting off stage for what could be a dramatic late-season return. So while it may seem like there’s only six weeks to go, a whole lot is going to happen over those six weeks.
Week 11 Wrap
Week 11 was a round in which the AFC and NFC North teams turned on each other. The Steelers got a big win over the Lions, the Bengals stopped the Browns, and the Bears made life a lot more difficult for the Ravens. As always, our PFF analysts covered all the key points of each Week 12 matchup in the regular Re-Focused series, and you can take a look back at how each of the Northern teams fared by following the links below.
Those performances earned seven players from the AFC and NFC North a place on the PFF Team of the Week, while only four made the “Had a Bad Day’ Team — a nice outcome for eight teams that combined to go 3-5 on the week.
The strong Week 11 play continued with Detroit’s Larry Warford posting his best grade of the season and earning second place in the Race for Rookie of the Year. He’s joined on that list by a pair of runners in Giovanni Bernard and Eddie Lacy.
Week 11 also proved a good one for Vikings guard Brandon Fusco who earned a place on Gordon McGuinness’ weekly Secret Superstars list.
This week, Khaled Elsayed returned to re-evaluate the performance of the league’s offensive lines. The Bengals were the top-ranked unit after the first quarter of the season, and while they slipped a little in the second they still made the Top 10, along with the Lions, with Green Bay, Minnesota, and the Browns in the top half, and the Ravens struggling down in 25th place.
There was more joy for Bengals fans with Neil Hornsby’s ranking of the leagues special teams unit in his regular Third Phase feature. Cincy placed seventh on that all-important list, followed closely by the Steelers and Bears, while the Ravens, Lions, and Browns all fell to the bottom third.
And, keeping the Cincinnati theme running, Vontaze Burfict currently sits sixth on the list of the top tackling linebackers across the league, as revealed in this week’s Signature Stats piece. Things are less rosy for Chicago star Lance Briggs who has suffered through a poor season that leaves him 64th on that list.
The men those LBs are most often charged with bringing down headlined this week’s 32 Observations — the running backs. Each week Nathan Jahnke provides a unique stat from each of the league’s 32 teams, and this week, among others, he revealed Willis McGahee has the third-most rushing opportunities inside the opponents 5-yard line, Matt Forte has the best rushing average on runs off right tackle, and Joique Bell’s yards per carry average drops as the game advances from 5.9 yards per carry in the first quarter, to 4.0 in the second , 3.9 in the third , and 2.6 in the fourth.
After all that analysis our experts could find places for only the Lions and Bengals within the Top 10 of their PFF Power Rankings — and they scraped in at 9 and 10. The Bears continue to linger just outside the elite group in 11th, and there’s room for the Packers, Ravens, and Steelers in the chasing pack.
Looking Ahead to Week 12
Cincinnati are on a bye this week, so there’s an opportunity for the Ravens to close the gap at the top with a win over the Jets, while it’s guaranteed either the Steelers or Browns will do just that. Both the Bears and Lions are given big chances of maintaining their hold on the division lead in their Week 11 matchups, so it’s vital the Packers can stay in touch by ending their slide and beating the Vikings. As always, PFF has each game covered in the Three to Focus On series, so why not take a peek at how our experts think the playoff race will shape up after Week 12.
As if that weren’t enough to get you ready for the weekend of football, our experts have also stuck their necks out to predict who’ll be saluting in Week 12, in the PFF Pick’em — and there’s a lot of love for the Steelers, Lions, Packers, Ravens, and Bears this week.
Each week Sam Monson digs a little deeper into some of the key games and performances from the gridiron in his Analysis Notebook. This week he took a look at another quiet game from the potentially destructive Von Miller, and had a peek inside Drew Brees’ bag of tricks to work out why he’s such an accomplished passer. If you want to have a closer look at the Saints’ win over the fading Falcons, Ben Stockwell has all the essential elements covered in his Re-Focused review of the game.
So that’s it, six weeks left and a whole lot remains to be decided — were will we sit after Week 12?