IRVING, Texas (AP) -- DeMarco Murray's huge lead in the NFL rushing race isn't a surprise to last year's winner.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ike Taylor is a heck of a cheerleader. The Pittsburgh Steelers veteran defensive back has spent the last two months serving as the team's self-appointed hype man while recovering from a broken right forearm.
Justin Forsett had a big night running the football, leading the way to a win for the Ravens against the Saints, 34-27, in New Orleans.
Drew Brees had a big night through the air, but it wasn't enough to avoid a loss for the Saints against the Ravens, 34-27, at home.
This season, in which nothing makes sense from week to week, we have something that seems like a safe proclamation. The New England Patriots are the clear favorite in the AFC. And the Green Bay Packers have established themselves as the favorite in the NFC. That's not to say these are going to be your two Super Bowl teams. We've had plenty of seasons in which the best team doesn't win the Super Bowl or even make it there. But if you don't live in Arizona or Colorado, these are probably the two teams you're betting on to make it to the end. The Patriots have lapped the field in the AFC, and they might be on the way to doing it twice. They've beaten three straight division leaders by at least three touchdowns. They’re 32-3 in the second halves of seasons since 2010, and have won 15 straight at home. This team isn’t the 2007 squad or anything, but it would be a major upset if they don’t win the AFC title. The Packers aren’t in the Patriots’ league yet. If the Packers beat the Patriots at Lambeau Field on Sunday, we can re-evaluate. But the Packers are the top team in the NFC. The Packers have won seven of eight. They are undefeated at home, winning there by an average of 26.8 points. They also have a schedule that could lead to them winning out. If they hold serve at home against New England, Atlanta and Detroit, and win at Buffalo and Tampa Bay, it’ll be a tough task for the Cardinals to hold off a 13-3 Packers team for home-field advantage (although the Cardinals have a two-game edge in the loss column and in the first tiebreaker, which is conference record). I’m not sure Drew Stanton and that offense could hold off Green Bay, even if it's in Arizona, though. The Packers have the highest point differential in the NFC by far, had the highest DVOA ( Football Outsiders’ per-play metric ) in the NFC by far going into last week’s games, and have a quarterback with a 119.2 rating in Aaron Rodgers. They’re not unbeatable, but nobody else in the NFC is either. Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field isn’t really a Super Bowl preview, because single-game elimination tournaments are unpredictable. But it's the best two teams in football on the same field. We’ll see if the Packers can make a legitimate claim to the top spot overall. Here are the post-Week 12 NFL power rankings: 32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10, LW: 31) They were feisty for a while against the Colts. And still lost by 20. 31. Oakland Raiders (1-10, Last Week: 32) Who would have thought the Raiders would give us one of the more entertaining games of the season? 30. New York Jets (2-9, LW: 28) The Jets probably hit rock bottom on Monday night, losing 38-3 against a Bills team that could barely practice before the game. Geno Smith replaced Michael Vick late when Vick was hurt. Really doesn't do much harm to start him the rest of the way. 29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9, LW: 30) I think Lovie Smith gets a huge bonus if Josh McCown makes a certain number of starts. It's the only way I can explain it. 28. Tennessee Titans (2-9, LW: 29) After 345 yards against a solid Eagles defense, Zack Mettenberger is your 2015 Titans starter. If it's anyone else, the Titans' organization has lost its mind. 27. Washington Redskins (3-8, LW: 27) Has to be tough to play that well, when a C-minus effort at quarterback would result in a win, and come away with the loss. 26. New York Giants (3-8, LW: 26) I'm still mesmerized by Odell Beckham. 25. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, LW: 25) The best hope is that Cam Newton is healthier after the bye. Actually, that's their only hope. 24. Atlanta Falcons (4-7, LW: 24) My dream, in the name of chaos, is for a 10-loss Falcons team to win the NFC South and host a playoff game with an interim coach because Mike Smith has been fired. 23. New Orleans Saints (4-7, LW: 21) Well, if they can't win at home anymore, then they're just a bad team. 22. Minnesota Vikings (4-7, LW: 23) Cordarrelle Patterson has more than two catches in a game one time since Sept. 21. He has posted yardage totals of 8, 15, 9, 9, 24 and 18 in that stretch. Can't blame the coaches forever. Especially compared to this year's unbelievable rookie receiver class, it doesn't look good for Patterson. 21. Chicago Bears (5-6, LW: 22) Totaling 204 yards and 12 first downs at home against one of the worst defenses in football. I'm convinced Marc Trestman's play card this year is just "MATT FORTE CHECKDOWN" in 300-point type and that's it. 20. St. Louis Rams (4-7, LW: 20) What about this for a great full-circle scenario: The Rams send a late-round pick to Washington for Robert Griffin III? 19. Houston Texans (5-6, LW: 19) I didn't really think the Texans were going anywhere this season with or without Ryan Mallett, but his injury cost them the chance to evaluate Mallett for next year, which is a blow. 18. Buffalo Bills (6-5, LW: 18) Great, professional effort by the Bills to win after their issues leading up to the game. "Great, professional effort" doesn't apply to their opponent on Monday, but still a nice win. And a fun celebration by tight end Scott Chandler after a touchdown, too. 17. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4, LW: 16) Not hard to envision them finishing 4-1, given how the schedule looks. Not hard to envision them going 2-3 or worse, given how bad they look on their worst days, either. 16. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1, LW: 17) Four wins in five games is pretty impressive. I'm not quite ready to put them back in the circle of trust, because their bad days were incredibly awful and burned in my brain forever, but it's a start. 15. San Diego Chargers (7-4, LW: 14) Ryan Mathews is back, plays great and ... wait, he's back in the locker room with a shoulder injury? It stinks for him that his body hasn't cooperated. Hopefully he can change that reputation. 14. Cleveland Browns (7-4, LW: 15) Josh Gordon is obviously their most important player down the stretch, but Isaiah Crowell might be a close second. He hasn't had more than 14 carries in a game, although he's averaging five yards per carry. The Browns might be ready to unleash him down the stretch. 13. Detroit Lions (7-4, LW: 10) A couple of good teams will miss the playoffs in the NFC. How about the team with the offense that hasn't even scored 200 points (only the Jets, Raiders, Jaguars and Titans are in that group, and they're all in the bottom five of these power rankings) and has a point differential of just plus-7 this season? 12. San Francisco 49ers (7-4, LW: 13) I'm not sure there has been a tougher receiver than Anquan Boldin, ever. Maybe Hines Ward. Maybe. Definitely haven't seen another receiver get hit as hard as Boldin was by Ryan Clark, have the defensive player get an unnecessary roughness penalty, and the receiver runs off while the safety is injured. Incredible play. 11. Miami Dolphins (6-5, LW: 12) This is a really good team. They might not make the playoffs, but they're good. 10. Baltimore Ravens (7-4, LW: 11) Justin Tucker is a legitimate playmaker for the Ravens. It's hard to make a 55-yard field goal look like an extra point, which he did on Monday night. 9. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, LW: 6) Prayers go out for Eric Berry for a full recovery. 8. Seattle Seahawks (7-4, LW: 9) For either the Seahawks or 49ers to really get to where they want to go, they'll probably have to sweep the other. That's what makes this Thanksgiving matchup so good. 7. Dallas Cowboys (8-3, LW: 8) Tony Romo since fracturing the transverse process in his back: 38-of-53 for 521 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions and one last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive. Someday more people will appreciate how good he is. 6. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, LW: 7) The Colts' games against the AFC South should just get skipped due to lack of interest. 5. Philadelphia Eagles (8-3, LW: 5) The Eagles are tremendous at destroying awful teams. One potential problem might be the lack of awful teams in the playoffs, outside of the NFC South champ. 4. Denver Broncos (8-3, LW: 4) A lot can change before January. But right now, this doesn't look like a team that can beat New England. 3. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, LW: 3) Not much reason to downgrade them for the loss at Seattle. It was a desperate Seahawks team, which is still really tough at home, and the Cardinals' offense was shorthanded without Larry Fitzgerald. Nice win for Seattle, but not really a bad loss for Arizona. 2. Green Bay Packers (8-3, LW: 2) If you want to argue the Packers' defense isn't good enough to win the NFC, you must also point out the NFC team without a flaw to me. 1. New England Patriots (9-2, LW: 1) In 1996, the Jaguars cut controversial receiver Andre Rison during the season. He was immediately picked up by the Packers, who had lost Robert Brooks to a season-ending knee injury. It was a gift from the Jaguars to the Packers, already the best team in the NFL that season. The Packers won the Super Bowl. About 18 years from now, someone might retell the same story, replacing Jaguars with Steelers, Brooks with Stevan Ridley, and Rison with LeGarrette Blount. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Josh Harris spent three days in May expecting the phone to ring with an NFL executive on the other end telling the former Wake Forest running back he'd been drafted.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- A Pittsburgh judge who spent more than a decade playing cornerback for the Steelers said Monday he will be a candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court next year.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- For the first time in their seven-game winning streak, the New England Patriots didn't score first.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots showed off their passing game one week after a brilliant rushing performance.
Six days after walking off LP Field early in Pittsburgh's 27-24 road victory against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, erstwhile Steelers running back LeGarrette Blount trotted into the Gillette Stadium end zone as a member of the Patriots, giving New England an early lead against the visiting Detroit Lions. Upset about not receiving a touch for the Steelers, who understandably let Le'Veon Bell rush for 204 yards on 33 carries last week, Blount reportedly headed to the locker room prior to the final whistle on Monday, and Pittsburgh cut the mercurial running back after a series of disruptive decisions throughout the year. Two days later, Blount signed in New England , where he rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns on 153 carries last season, including a 166-yard, four-TD effort in a 43-22 divisional-round playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. On the first carry of his second stint with the Patriots, Blount rushed for a 3-yard touchdown, giving New England a 14-6 lead 2:17 into the second quarter. Blount scored just twice for Pittsburgh this season and hadn't reached paydirt since September. The Steelers had apparently grown tired of his off-field transgressions as well, as Blount was arrested in the preseason for marijuana possession and recently went on a Pittsburgh radio station to complain about his lack of carries this season. His early departure in Tennessee was the last straw. Still, it raises the quesion of whether it was wise for Pittsbugh to essentially deliver a former 1,000-yard back to a potential playoff opponent. Then again, the Patriots can seemingly plug anyone in their backfield, as former practice squad player Jonas Gray also just submitted a 200-yard, four-TD effort against the Colts. A day after appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Gray overslept for Friday's practice and was sent home from the team facility. He did not play in the first half against the Lions, opening the door for Blount.
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