At this point in the season we know who the playoff contenders are, and each game becomes more important to determine who makes it in.
The Colts and Cardinals came away with wins that put them both tied for the lead in their respective divisions. With their Week 10 wins, the Buccaneers and Dolphins drew to within a one game striking distance for their divisions' top spot. The Bills, Ravens, Seahawks, Eagles, and Titans took losses giving up valuable ground for playoff positioning.
Drew Brees suffered fractured ribs and a collapsed lung in a win over the 49ers, and is expected to miss at least two weeks. Jameis Winston will fill in during Brees' absence and will have a great opportunity to raise his value in free agency by keeping the razor thin division lead the Saints have over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Let's take a look at FindBet's Week 11 NFL Power Rankings based on what we've seen so far this season.
32. New York Jets (0-9, Last Week 32 +/- 0) - Trevor Lawrence seriously needs to consider going back to Clemson next year to avoid being a part of this train wreck under Adam Gase.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, Last Week 31, +/- 0) - Have lost eight in a row and get the Steelers this week. They still have the Titans, Colts, Vikings, Browns, and Ravens on their schedule. Yikes.
30. Washington Football Team (2-7, Last Week 30, +/- 0) - Alex Smith threw for 390 yards in a close loss to Detroit. Smith's comeback has been a great story out of Washington after a preseason name change fiasco and a dud of a season.
What a journey it's been for Alex Smith. So inspiring 🙏 (h/t @FieldYates) https://t.co/JCaeXK4CtO— ESPN (@ESPN)1605453142.0
29. Dallas Cowboys (2-7, Last Week 28, - 1) - Coming off their bye week the Cowboys get a tough matchup against the streaking Minnesota Vikings and Dalvin Cook. Their defense will be tested as Cook has run all over everyone he's faced this year.
28. Denver Broncos (3-6, Last Week 25, - 3) - Denver dropped their second game in a row in an embarrassing 37-12 loss that saw Drew Lock toss four interceptions. Jerry Jeudy has settled into the offense though, and should be a nice pairing with Courtland Sutton when he returns from injury next season.
27. Chicago Bears (5-5, Last Week 27, +/- 0) - Chicago has now lost four straight and is giving Minnesota the window they needed to make a move for second place in the NFC North. The Bears must have thought between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles that they had a starting quarterback, but over this stretch it's clear they need to be looking for other options in 2021.
26. New York Giants (3-7, Last Week 29, + 3) - The Giants enter their bye week riding a two game win streak. They'll get Cincinnati in Week 12, and have positioned themselves to unseat the Eagles for top spot in the NFC East. That's an accomplishment right?
Daniel Jones' 34-yard TD marks his third rush of 30+ yards this season. Just as many as Lamar Jackson 😮 https://t.co/KvT0wL40Hh— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1605465367.0
25. Los Angeles Chargers (2-7, Last Week 23, - 2) - Another one score loss for Justin Herbert and the Chargers. With a banged up running back group, Kalen Ballage has been productive in the primary role.
24. Houston Texans (2-7, Last Week 22, - 2) - The Texans were smothered by the Cleveland defense with Deshaun Watson only being able to throw for 162 yards. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt ran the Houston defense into the ground as both went for over 100 yards rushing. We won't be seeing a return to the playoffs for this group in 2020.
23. Carolina Panthers (3-7, Last Week 21, - 2) - Now losers of five games in a row, the Panthers have played themselves out of contention in a division looking up at the Saints and Bucs. Christian McCaffrey will be out again this week and that doesn't bode well for a team struggling to get a win.
Panthers officially ruled out RB Christian McCaffrey for Sunday's game against Detroit.— Adam Schefter (@Adam Schefter)1605722017.0
22. San Francisco 49ers (4-6, Last Week 20, - 2) - Even though they've dropped three straight, it's still impressive what this team has been able to do with all the injuries they've sustained. The NFC West is just too competitive this year and the 49ers have run out of tricks to keep their season afloat.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1, Last Week 19, - 2) - The Bengals got beat up by the Steelers in Week 10, but they get Washington this week and have the Giants the following week. A couple of opportunities for Joe Burrow to put on a show.
20. Detroit Lions (4-5, Last Week 26, + 6) - The Vikings look like the more serious contenders, but Detroit gets Carolina, Houston, and Chicago over the next three weeks.
19. New England Patriots (4-5, Last Week 24, + 5) - Say what you will about the Patriots and Bill Belichick, but they've now won two straight and are just a game below .500. One thing we've learned over the past two decades is to never count out a Belichick coached Patriots team.
18. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1, Last Week 18, +/- 0) - They lost to the Giants in Week 10 which moved the G-Men into second place in the East behind Philly. It's anyone's division to win, but right now it's Philadelphia's to lose.
17. Atlanta Falcons (3-6, Last Week 16, - 1) - The Falcons are coming off their bye and get a gift from the football gods as they'll take on a Drew Brees-less Saints team in Week 11. Atlanta looks like they're getting on the right track under interim head coach Raheem Morris, and a win over New Orleans would give them a boost heading into the home stretch.
16. Los Angeles Rams (6-3, Last Week 17, + 1) - Okay L.A. you got your first good win beating the Seahawks last week. Even though Russell Wilson and Seattle are on a little slide and not playing their best football, it's a big win for the Rams.
15. Cleveland Browns (6-3, Last Week 14, - 1) - Nick Chubb ruined bettors' day running out of bounds at the end of the game instead of running it in for the touchdown. Anyone who had Cleveland laying four points, we feel for you here at FindBet.
Nick Chubb fantasy owners crying right now https://t.co/RtKWXutbdw— Barstool Sports (@Barstool Sports)1605474806.0
14. Minnesota Vikings (4-5, Last Week 13, - 1) - Dalvin Cook had a pedestrian 112 total yards and no touchdowns in a win over Chicago. I guess we have been a little spoiled by his recent fantasy performances.
13. Indianapolis Colts (6-3, Last Week 15, + 2) - The Colts took the division lead with their victory over the Titans last week. They did it in convincing fashion and could run away with the AFC South if the Titans' recent run of play continues.
12. Tennessee Titans (6-3, Last Week 9, - 3) - No team is falling from grace faster than the Titans right now. They're 1-3 in their last four games and have the Ravens, a rematch with the Colts, and the Browns over the next three.
11. Las Vegas Raiders (6-3, Last Week 12, + 1) - Following the Raiders this season has been like a high school romance. Right now Vegas is on a three game winning streak and everything is looking great, but they get the Chiefs this week and the break up could get ugly.
10. Miami Dolphins (6-3, Last Week 11, + 1) - In Tua we trust. Now 3-0 as a starter and beginning to get it done with his arm as he had 2 TD passes last week outdueling Justin Herbert. Salvon Ahmed burst onto the scene with 85 yards and a TD.
AFC East point differential: 1. Miami Dolphins +69 2. Buffalo Bills +7 3. New England Patriots -28 4. New York Jet… https://t.co/3RSOxHdAo8— Adam Beasley (@Adam Beasley)1605488162.0
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-3, Last Week 7, - 2) - Lamar Jackson was unable to lead his team to a game winning drive in the fourth quarter. Doubt has begun to set in on one of the preseason favorites to win it all. Cleveland is right on their heels and a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Steelers is ahead of them.
8. Seattle Seahawks (6-3, Last Week 6, - 2) - It's hard to believe it but Seattle is on a two game slide and losers of three of their last four. Russell Wilson has looked human over the past couple weeks, and they're at the bottom of a three way tie for the NFC West division lead.
7. Buffalo Bills (7-3, Last Week 4, - 3) - It took a miracle Hail Mary to be beaten by Arizona in Week 10. The Bills have become one of the must-see teams in the NFL this year. Josh Allen has done it all for the Bills this season including catching a touchdown from Isaiah McKenzie against the Cardinals.
JOSH ALLEN IS WR1 😱 (via @NFL) https://t.co/9s7qgWJYt5— Bleacher Report (@Bleacher Report)1605475419.0
6. Arizona Cardinals (6-3, Last Week 10, + 4) - Kyler Murray's Hail Mary to DeAndre Hopkins may have taken the lead for play of the year in the NFL. A great game overall was capped off by one of the most exciting plays in sports. The Cardinals are looking more and more like a Super Bowl contender rather than just a playoff contender.
Hail Murray on repeat. @K1 @DeAndreHopkins (by @WilsonFootball) https://t.co/MUuskOjaat— NFL (@NFL)1605749426.0
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3, Last Week 8, + 3) - That's more like it. Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans all had at least six catches and Ronald Jones had a 98 yard touchdown run. Tampa Bay cruised to a win over Carolina in Week 10.
RONALD JONES GOES 98 YARDS! @rojo | #GoBucs 📺: #TBvsCAR on FOX 📱: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: … https://t.co/vKrV2Pmpt9— NFL (@NFL)1605470781.0
4. New Orleans Saints (7-2, Last Week 5, + 1) - The Saints beat the 49ers last week but lost Drew Brees for at least this week. The good news for them is that they have Jameis Winston to step in while Brees recovers which should give them a shot at maintaining their slim division lead over the Bucs.
3. Green Bay Packers (7-2, Last Week 3, +/- 0) - The running game was ineffective in Week 10 but Aaron Rodgers willed them to victory over the Jags throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns. Packers take on the Colts this week in a matchup of division leaders.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1, Last Week 2, +/- 0) - The Chiefs are coming off their bye and get a chance to avenge their only loss on the season as they get a rematch with the Las Vegas Raiders. Patrick Mahomes has been spreading the ball around to all of the weapons in his offensive arsenal which has made defending Kansas City nearly impossible.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0, Last Week 1, +/- 0) - Playing in the AFC North guarantees Pittsburgh some difficult games left on the schedule, but the Steelers have never been intimidated by a challenge. They have won close games, shown the ability to overcome deficits to win, and the defense is elite. Until someone can put a number in their loss column the top spot is theirs.
In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.
Offense being the key word here.
Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.
For a player that relies so heavily on driving to the basket to get shots off close to the hoop, it's expected for that player to draw plenty of contact resulting in a lot of free throw opportunities. That was certainly indicative of what we saw from Simmons in the first two rounds of the 20-21 playoffs.
He got to the line 45 times against the Hawks in their second round matchup, but only converted 15 freebies which equates to a 33% free throw percentage in the series. Simmons shot just 34.2% from the stripe if you include their first round games against the Wizards, which accounts for the worst free throw percentage by a player with at least 70 attempts in a postseason in NBA playoff history.
With a minimum of 70 attempts, Ben Simmons' 34.2% free throw percentage this postseason is the worst in a postseaso… https://t.co/EvEcQxEe8m— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPN Stats & Info)1624244835.0
In the four games that Atlanta beat Philly in this series, they lost by a combined 17 points. If Ben Simmons shoots just 70% from the line and makes 31-45 during this series, that adds 16 to Philadelphia's series point total. Obviously, the attempts might not directly impact the losses, but from a very broad overview, it would draw the series significantly closer — especially taking into account that three of the four losses the 76ers took in the series were lost by four points or fewer.
Also let's not allow people to say that the free throw stat is overblown and out of context. It's not. Shaquille O'Neal, who is notoriously one of the worst free throw shooters in league history, still managed a career playoff free throw percentage of 50%. That's why we saw the conception of "Hack-a-Shaq" where teams would intentionally foul O'Neal to put him on the line rather than allowing him to hurt them in other ways.
We've begun to see teams adopt this practice now with Simmons, which is just flat out embarrassing for a player of Simmons' pedigree. We have seen what he's able to do with the ball. He flies down the court on fast breaks, is a brilliant creator for teammates, and is one of the better finishers at the rim that we have in the league today.
We've already touched on his defensive prowess that has elevated him to becoming NBA All-Defense multiple times and a three time All-Star. But what do the Sixers do with Simmons before next season?
The 24-year-old point-forward still has plenty of time to work on his game. We've seen other players add a jumper later in their careers to great success; just ask Vince Carter how that works. But, usually, in order to develop a perimeter shot, there is at least a solid foundation to build on — that being the ability to consistently hit free throws.
Simmons is a career 60% free throw shooter, and he shot right around the mean during the regular season. The decline in made shots from the charity stripe in this postseason is cause for concern that this isn't the beginning of a trend.
Add to that Simmons' reluctance to take shots further away from the basket, and defenses have the luxury of ignoring Simmons in the half court set. We have seen teams (like the Jazz and 76ers) that rely heavily on the pick and roll get shut down in these playoffs, and it's teams like Atlanta and Phoenix that are able to spread defenses thin by putting multiple shooters on the court at one time succeed.
In 34 career playoff games, Ben Simmons has made 5 shots outside of 10 feet (from the basket).— Paul Hembekides (@Paul Hembekides)1624277710.0
Joel Embiid was phenomenal in the postseason, so let's not ignore that fact. Also, he was playing on one knee and still almost willed the Sixers to a win. But again, Embiid was not 100% in the playoffs, which limited his abilities.
Doc Rivers answers a question whether Ben Simmons can be the point guard of a championship team https://t.co/8xL35u98RC— Rob Perez (@Rob Perez)1624244460.0
Following their loss, Doc Rivers was asked if he thought Ben Simmons could be the point guard of a championship team, to which he responded, "I don't know that answer to that question right now," which doesn't provide a whole lot of confidence in Simmons' status with the team next year. Trade rumors have already begun to circulate, and it would make sense for this Philly team to hit the reset button now.
If Simmons continues to be exploitable in big moments, as we've seen him be so far in his career, his value is only going to go down. Adding further complications into the situation is the team just agreed to a new contract extension with Simmons and is due to make between $33 and $40 million per season over the next four years.
As the two cornerstone pieces of The Process appear to be two Scotties without a Mike, the early departure for the East's top seed will likely mean a big shakeup in the near future. If Embiid is healthy, he is elite without question. Maybe Philadelphia will go out and add around their two stars, but unless the organization is confident that Simmons can avoid another atrocious offensive performance in future playoff series, all they have is a really good regular season team.
The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.
After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.
LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.
The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.
🗣 DEVIN BOOKER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622601795.0
The idea of effort is something that was lacking on the purple and gold side last night though. It didn't take long after Booker started hitting everything that the Lakers team started playing sloppy and launching up bad threes in a failed attempt to not let the game get out of hand. Well it did.
The two teams were among the best defensive teams in league this season, the Suns finished seventh in overall team defensive rating and the Lakers first. The Lakers typically like to use their defensive prowess to control pace and work in the half court with their combination of speed on the wings and their combination of big men down low that includes Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis (when healthy), and former Sixth-Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell. Incase you forgot Harrell does in fact still play for the Lakers, but before last night if you blinked for too long you would've missed him on the court.
WHY ISN’T MONTREZL HARRELL GETTING PLAYING TIME?????@MONSTATREZZ #FreeMontrezl https://t.co/j55u9zg9kN— NBALakersReport (@NBALakersReport)1622603465.0
For some unknown reason Trez has been an afterthought in Frank Vogel's rotations, not only in this series, but throughout parts of the regular season. With AD being ruled out for Game 5, it would've been logical to think that we'd see an uptick in minutes for the high energy reserve, and we did. But not until the game was far out of hand in the second half. While the Suns were building a 30 point lead we saw Phoenix's guards cooking the slower big men of the Lakers off pick and rolls.
30 points is the largest lead at half in Suns playoff history. 🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/UoozhMf6Io— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1622604230.0
It's understandable to want some size to limit Deandre Ayton, but when it's Booker, Payne, and Bridges hurting you offensively why not see how a quicker and more agile defender like Harrell might fare slowing down the pick and rolls? We saw Jae Crowder having success doing that on the other side for the Suns all night!
It's not fair to just talk about how bad the Lakers were, in fairness it looked like they were getting open looks and were just collectively having an unlucky shooting night. Maybe they all got it out of their system now? But the Suns would have beat anyone on that home court last night. Let's give all credit to them by playing one of the best games ever seen against a LeBron James-led playoff team. Devin Booker is an absolute star and this team plays with a very focused chip on their shoulder which has been manicured by Chris Paul. His leadership has made ALL the difference for this Phoenix team and it can be seen most on the defensive side of the ball. The Suns players have adopted Paul's attitude and intensity on that end and it all paid off last night.
We've seen LeBron actively frustrated during playoff games on the court, and last night is one of the most cringe-worthy to have seen. James spent way too much time talking to officials about calls, and not just between whistles. It would be interesting to know how many possessions the Lakers played four on five because James never made it back on defense before the Suns put more points on them. LeBron was seen leaving the court with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and sure it could be to start receiving treatment on the injured ankle. But we know the real reason he left. We can only hope he didn't punch anything on the way to the locker room.
While the teams will travel back to L.A. for Game 6, the Lakers know they are in a must-win situation. We saw the rest of the team around LeBron scrambling because they felt the pressure. James was the only Laker in the second half that kept the team functioning. When we've seen a visibly dejected James like we did last night, it's been because he knew his team didn't have it. I don't think that's the case with this Lakers team.
There's plenty of talent on the roster even without Anthony Davis. Maybe Game 6 is when we get to see Harrell getting some meaningful minutes. Maybe Vogel can devise a way to get Andre Drummond more involved offensively. Maybe AD plays and isn't slowed by the groin injury. Or maybe you should've listened to us back in January when we told you the Suns were a pretty good basketball team.