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This week saw the least amount of change we've seen in the rankings all season.  Though things should be stabilizing anyways with every team having finished over two-thirds of their schedule, Week 11 was an anomaly nevertheless, with 12 out of the 14 favorites holding serve, based on the AFA game probabilities.

The fortunate byproduct of that chalk (from an entertainment standpoint) is that few postseason races saw big shifts in playoff probabilities for teams on the bubble.  However, that figures to change this week, with seven out of 16 games pitting two teams that currently either hold or sit within one game of a playoff berth.

This week's write-up will center around those races, starting with a look at a pair of squads playing this Thanksgiving.

The Turkey Day Hosts

Looking at the state of the two traditional Thanksgiving hosts.

- The Dallas Cowboys have developed an unseemly reputation for their recent late-season failures, but 2014 is starting to look like a potential exception.  The Cowboys have been a top 10 team in these rankings nearly the entire season, and at 8-3, Dallas is in strong position to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

The question, of course, remains whether or not the defense can hold up long enough to stave off the Eagles for the division and/or the other NFC wild card contenders.  One important fact to highlight is that the defense is not dependent on the offense to play keepaway, as many have suggested.  In the four games in which the Cowboys have lost the time of possession battle, the defense has allowed an average of 5.87 yards per play, right in line with their total season average of 5.9 yards per play.  They've allowed an average of 26.8 points per game in those contests, well above their 21.8 overall average, but that's to be expected when the opposing offense gets more plays to run.  On a per-play basis, the defense isn't any worse.

The thing is, that standard isn't particularly high to begin with.  The Cowboys rank 24th overall in defensive efficiency, highlighted by a 7.0 opponent net yards per passing attempt that ranks seventh-worst in the league. In fact, after peaking with a trio of impressive performances in victories over New Orleans, Houston and Seattle, the pass defense has gradually dipped into a decisively below-average unit:

A relative lack of talent was always going to limit the unit's upside, and it's taken the likes of Henry Melton, Rolando McClain and Tyrone Crawford exceeding expectations to prevent the doomsday prophecy many forecasted in the preseason.  In fourth-quarter one-possession situations, the Cowboys defense suddenly turns into a juggernaut, allowing just 4.1 yards per play, third-best in the league under those parameters. For reference, the Broncos lead the league in allowing 4.8 yards per play this year.

Furthermore, the offense has reciprocated that late-game "clutchness," averaging 5.6 yards per play in fourth-quarter one-possession situations, eighth-best in the league.  The Patriots and the Cardinals are the only other teams that boast top-10 offenses and defenses in late-game clutch situations; not coincidentally, all three squads are exceeding their Pythagorean win expectancy at the moment.

However, even some late-game regression probably isn't going to derail Dallas on its own.  DeMarco Murray has slowed down from his historic pace a bit—which is certainly no shame—but in reality, his efficiency remains third-best among all running backs with at least 100 carries.  In fact, some of his bigger swings in Expected Points Added (EPA) came earlier in this season, when his MVP candidacy shone brightest:

Tony Romo's health will remain the X-factor that no model can account for, but there's no reason to expect his back to give out.  In the two games since his scary injury against Washington, Romo has posted a whopping 12.8 adjusted yards per attempt, best in the league over that span.

That Week 8 loss to Washington might leave Dallas out in the cold during the NFC East race if they only garner a split with Philly.  However, even though the 8-3 record has been fueled by overperformance in the most timely situations, Dallas likely has enough in the bank to squeeze their way into the dance.

- One of the teams rooting for a Cowboys collapse will be the Detroit Lions, a team that has seen its stock plummet over the past two weeks.  The Lions' 7-4 record still looks shiny, and losing consecutive road games at Glendale and Foxboro is hardly a catastrophe.  However, having been outscored 48-15 in those two losses, few consider the Lions an elite Super Bowl contender anymore.

There's time for that to change, of course, and Detroit's No. 12 ranking suggests that they are a fringe playoff contender.  But a once-explosive offense is now below-average in both passing and rushing; the struggles of the last fortnight are particularly puzzling when considering that Calvin Johnson has returned from injury both contests.

It's strange to see Matthew Stafford regress after seemingly adjusting well to the lower risk West Coast principles of first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.  Stafford's interception rate is rising back towards his career norm, meaning that his dip in per-attempt metrics is no longer being masked.  It's possible that Stafford's two-week funk is simply a fluke, for he did experience a very similar stretch against Buffalo and Minnesota earlier this season:

One would expect Stafford to bounce back as the level of competition gets easier.  Three of Detroit's final five games are against Chicago and Tampa Bay, two teams in the bottom six of pass defense success rate.  Stafford does not face a truly stiff contest until Week 17 at Lambeau, by which point the Packers may have nothing left to play for.

The defense is the bigger concern, particularly against the pass.  Detroit has relied on an otherworldly front seven to cover up an average secondary, a formula that has worked for much of the year.  However, the corners have been forced to win more one-on-one battles in recent weeks, and the results have not been pretty.  The 34-point outing against New England was the first time this season that the Lions have allowed more than 24 points in a game, but in reality, that type of explosion was brewing for a while:

It's not so much the explosive plays, but rather the papercuts that have cut down the Lions.  Perhaps scheming against Detroit's fearsome four-man pass rush, teams have resorted to shorter route concepts designed to get the ball out quickly.  Last Sunday, Tom Brady relentlessly targeted Cassius Vaughn and Rashean Mathis on comebacks, hitches, sticks and other quick targets; the game plan worked to a tee, as Brady was not sacked once.

Indeed, from their seventh game on, the Lions are allowing 42.6 percent of opposing passing plays to gain first downs, by far the worst mark in the league.  The gap between the Lions and the second-worst defense, the Cowboys, is equivalent to the gap between Dallas and the 12th-ranked Jets.  By spreading out and willfully ignoring the impregnable interior of Detroit's line, opposing offenses are redirecting the spotlight towards the ugly features of the Lions defense that had previously remained hidden behind a veil.

An improvement from Stafford is the logical balancing antidote for this.  However, Stafford has yet to win a game on the road against a winning team in his career, as he is now 0-16 (!) after the Patriots loss.  Considering that Detroit will most likely hit the road in the first round, if they reach the postseason at all, that mark must be discouraging for championship-starved Lions fans.

Biggest Movers

Two teams will face a stretch of games against fellow postseason contenders.

- Because of the strength of the AFC's middle class, the 7-4 Baltimore Ravens are currently out of the postseason.  However, with a pair of games against the Chargers and Dolphins the next two weeks, Baltimore will have the greatest say on the AFC's playoff picture of any team in the conference.

The Ravens' two-spot rise was actually the third-highest upward move of the week, behind the three-spot move from Buffalo and Minnesota.  Unlike those teams, though, the Ravens harbor excellent playoff chances.  Football Outsiders pegs Baltimore's likelihood of reaching the postseason at 69 percent, a mark exceeded only by New England, Indy and Denver among AFC teams.

Though AFA ranks Baltimore as a slightly above-average offense and defense, the latter unit is quickly rounding into one of the league's more underrated all-around attacks.  The notoriously erratic Joe Flacco hasn't quite replicated his incendiary 2012 postseason run, but Gary Kubiak's system has clearly stabilized his game.  Flacco's 17.6 percent deep-ball attempt percentage is by far the lowest of his career, well below his 23.2 percent career rate, but he is also on pace to set career-highs in QBR and adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) while also lowering his interception rate.

This is emblematic of the improvements Stafford made under Lombardi, except that Flacco has sustained his success.  Flacco ranks seventh in EPA/P and eighth in success rate, but strangely, just 18th in Win Probability Added (WPA) per game.  Indeed, he has produced less WPA than one would success given his EPA production:

Given that the whole purpose of playing is to win the game, this is a troubling trend, albeit one that should correct itself.  Flacco hasn't necessarily been bad in situations where WPA is particularly volatile—he ranks 15th in passer rating during one-possession fourth-quarter situations, and ninth on third and fourth down.  Regression to the mean should help out the offense there.

That's good, because the pass defense is probably going to sink quite far the rest of the season.  Jimmy Smith's season-ending injury was a death blow for an already thin secondary, one that is now relying on Danny Gorrer, Anthony Levine and Tramain Jacobs at corner.  No, none of those names were made up.  The blow is somewhat lessened by Baltimore's reliance on safeties in nickel and dime packages, but since Smith's Week 8 injury, things have gone downhill:

Baltimore's pass defense is now essentially entirely pressure-reliant.  That's not a bad to bank upon when one can rotate the prolific pass-rushing trio of Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee, but as the Lions have shown, things can plummet quickly against an offense that can block. 

This could be especially problematic against Philip Rivers and Ryan Tannehill the next two weeks.  The Ravens are quite possibly the best all-around squad of the teams battling for the AFC wild card slots, but their greatest weakness does have the possibility to submarine them in those two critical contests.

- The AFA rankings have seen the Philadelphia Eagles as a perpetually overrated team this season.  Despite a considerable climb over the past month, the Eagles have fallen back to 16th over the past two weeks.  Even at 8-3, a brutal three-week stretch against Dallas, Seattle and Dallas again leaves Philly in a precarious position.

Mark Sanchez, of course, is probably the greatest impediment to the Eagles' playoff hopes.  In four games, Sanchez ranks 27th in EPA/P, but he does rank a robust fifth in net yards per attempt, the stat used to determine passing efficiency in this model.  Indeed, given the low bar Nick Foles set over the first seven-plus games, Sanchez has actually been an upgrade:

However, that does not mean the Eagles are capable of winning with subpar quarterback play the whole season.  While Chip Kelly's high-efficiency system typically limits mistakes, Foles ranks fifth in interception percentage, while Sanchez would rank fourth if he had enough passes to qualify.  The AFA passing metrics diminish the impact of turnovers, which are typically fluky and variable, but given Sanchez's 3.7 percent career interception rate over 2,013 regular-season attempts, there is probably enough evidence to suggest that the turnover rate is going to keep up.

Still, the Eagles offense is still functional with the ex-Jet at the helm, as the Eagles rank ninth in yards per offensive play over Sanchez's three starts.  A bigger issue may be the pass defense, which has been a literal roller coaster this season:

Starting corners Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams have embodied that inconsistency, while injuries to mobile middle linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have robbed the Eagles of their best coverage linebackers throughout the season.  Kendricks is back in the lineup now, but Ryans is out for the season, forcing inexperienced players like Emmanuel Acho and Marcus Smith into prominent (and likely excessive) roles.

The Eagles' secondary is far from the hopeless situation in Baltimore, but like the Ravens, Philly is left largely dependent on a deep pass rush.  The Eagles don't have anyone with the star power of Suggs or Dumervil, but the likes of Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (unofficially known as #FreeBrandonGraham) have emerged as quality edge-rushing options. 

Again, it's hard to reconcile Philly's ranking with their record or their individual units.  The Eagles are average or better in every single passing and rushing unit, and while there's nothing that has stood out as particularly extraordinary, that would still seemingly suggest a team better than a 0.52 GWP.  Philly's schedule adjustment strength will receive a nice boost over the next month, however, so if they continue to win games, the puzzling ranking will rectify itself.

Pooch Punts

Something goes here as well.

- Despite blowing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead, the Miami Dolphins remain entrenched in the No. 2 spot after losing to the Denver Broncos.  The Fins are likely a bit too high, but it's no longer foolhardy to suggest that Miami is a top 10 team, even with a playoff berth far from a lock.

However, the model does not consider injuries, and a high concentration of casualties along the offensive line and at cornerback could jeopardize the two most important variables—pass offense and pass defense.  Starting tackles Branden Albert and Ja'Waun James have gone down the past two weeks (though James should return soon), while Cortland Finnegan, Will Davis and Jamar Taylor have all suffered injuries of varying severity over the past three weeks.

There's reason to believe that Ryan Tannehill can handle the increased pressure, as play-action fakes and roll-outs are staples in Bill Lazor's scheme, which should minimize the opportunities for opposing pass-rushers to simply pin their ears back.  The pass defense could be another story, though, as opponents have averaged 6.2 yards per pass attempt over the last three games, well above the league-leading 5.6 yards per attempt mark Miami notched over the first eight games.

At 6-5, the Dolphins do not exactly have much room for error.  Their season likely comes down to a Week 14 game against Baltimore.  If Miami holds serve at home, the Dolphins will hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Ravens, Chargers and (probably) Bills, though the Chiefs did beat Miami in Week 3.  Still, even with the KC defeat, that's a lot of ammo that would likely push the Dolphins over the top in the event of ties at nine or 10 wins.

- Much of the discourse surrounding the Seattle Seahawks revolves around Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the general decline on defense.  While the issues surrounding Wilson and Lynch are mostly locker room rumors contributing to the overrated factor of team chemistry, the defensive decline is the one very real on-field aspect of Seattle's inconsistencies this season. 

However, that defense may have received a huge boost last week with the returns of Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor.  The injuries to Wagner and Chancellor, coupled with nose tackle Brandon Mebane's season-ending injury, left Seattle dangerously thin up the middle.  Unsurprisingly, Jamaal Charles exploited the soft interior to the tune of 159 yards two weeks ago.

With Wagner and Chancellor both back in the lineup, Seattle set season-lows in points and yards allowed.  In terms of success rate, the Seahawks' 19-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals suggested that the win was Seattle's best defensive performance of the season:

Some of that stemmed from Arizona's own pervasive injury woes, but it's hardly a coincidence that the Seahawks finally resembled the aggressive, flow-to-the-ball unit that tortured the league last season.  With a massive Thanksgiving game against blood rival San Francisco, it will be intriguing to see if Seattle can replicate that style to shut down a very simplistic 49ers offense.

Here are the updated team efficiency rankings after 11 weeks.  As always, observations, questions and snide remarks are welcome in the comments section.

1 DEN 1 0.71 0.51 4 1
2 MIA 2 0.68 0.52 12 3
3 GB 3 0.64 0.49 1 11
4 IND 6 0.59 0.50 2 21
5 SEA 4 0.59 0.50 8 8
6 NE 8 0.58 0.52 7 13
7 SF 7 0.58 0.50 19 4
8 KC 5 0.57 0.52 18 7
9 DAL 10 0.56 0.47 5 24
10 CLE 9 0.56 0.45 9 6
11 BUF 14 0.55 0.51 26 2
12 NO 12 0.54 0.49 3 30
13 BAL 15 0.54 0.49 11 15
14 DET 11 0.54 0.50 21 5
15 CIN 16 0.53 0.50 15 10
16 PHI 13 0.52 0.49 14 14
17 PIT 18 0.51 0.48 6 27
18 WAS 17 0.49 0.47 10 17
19 ARI 19 0.49 0.50 24 9
20 TEN 20 0.48 0.52 20 16
21 HOU 21 0.47 0.50 16 25
22 SD 24 0.46 0.49 17 18
23 CHI 22 0.46 0.50 13 29
24 CAR 23 0.45 0.50 25 19
25 NYG 25 0.41 0.52 23 31
26 MIN 29 0.38 0.50 30 12
27 NYJ 26 0.38 0.54 29 20
28 JAC 28 0.38 0.54 31 23
29 STL 27 0.37 0.52 27 26
30 ATL 30 0.34 0.46 22 32
31 OAK 32 0.33 0.54 32 28
32 TB 31 0.32 0.45 28 22

ATL 6.6 36 2.3 1.5 7.6 58 3.1 0.43
ARI 6.6 32 1.6 1.5 6.6 63 3.7 0.40
BAL 6.8 41 2.1 1.3 6.6 66 1.7 0.39
BUF 5.9 38 1.5 1.8 5.4 62 3.3 0.50
CHI 6.2 47 2.9 2.0 7.1 59 2.9 0.50
CAR 6.0 40 2.6 2.1 6.7 62 2.3 0.39
CIN 6.7 38 2.8 1.5 5.9 51 2.5 0.37
CLE 7.2 39 2.2 1.7 5.9 55 3.6 0.40
DAL 7.3 44 2.4 2.5 7.0 62 3.0 0.37
DEN 7.6 40 2.0 1.2 5.4 67 2.4 0.55
DET 6.1 41 2.4 1.4 6.0 64 3.2 0.49
GB 7.6 43 1.1 1.6 6.1 50 3.8 0.40
HOU 6.5 40 3.0 1.9 6.7 55 2.8 0.37
IND 7.3 45 2.1 2.1 6.6 55 2.3 0.40
JAC 5.4 35 4.2 1.6 6.7 61 1.3 0.26
KC 5.9 43 1.2 2.3 5.5 53 1.1 0.30
MIA 5.7 52 2.0 2.3 5.4 63 2.5 0.32
MIN 5.1 41 3.4 0.5 6.3 57 2.8 0.45
NE 6.8 45 1.4 1.1 6.2 54 3.0 0.57
NO 7.1 47 2.4 1.6 7.3 60 1.7 0.34
NYG 6.3 38 2.9 1.9 7.6 60 3.7 0.33
NYJ 4.7 47 3.2 2.3 6.6 63 0.8 0.52
OAK 5.3 35 2.8 2.1 6.8 58 1.4 0.42
PHI 6.8 41 3.5 1.8 6.4 61 1.9 0.43
PIT 7.0 43 1.4 1.6 7.0 60 2.2 0.51
SD 7.0 32 2.5 1.5 6.2 53 1.6 0.48
SF 6.2 40 1.7 2.0 5.7 62 4.2 0.45
SEA 6.1 51 1.6 2.1 6.1 61 2.0 0.50
STL 5.8 38 3.3 2.1 7.0 64 1.9 0.58
TB 6.2 34 3.6 2.5 6.8 61 2.1 0.51
TEN 6.6 38 3.2 1.9 6.3 55 2.9 0.52
WAS 7.0 42 3.6 2.0 6.6 65 1.1 0.55
Avg 6.4 41 2.5 1.8 6.4 59 2.5 0.44