NFL Week 11 Rundown

  • The Stillers improve to 10-0. This was expected but maybe not exactly guaranteed given their tendency to play down to their competition. But they did not play down to Jacksonville’s level. They won easily, 27-3.
  • The Ravens lose again. My big knock on the Ravens has been their inability to play from behind, but in this game they blew an 11-point second-half lead. Normally they’re able to hold on to leads with their running game and defense, but not against Tennessee. It’s not an excuse, but they were without some key players on defense including Calais Campbell due to injury. My biggest concern for this team remains Lamar Jackson’s arm. He was 17/29 for 186 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. His passer rating was only 74.8 and his QBR was pretty bad at 40.2. He missed a throw on a crucial third down in the 4th quarter: with 7:50 to play and leading 21-16 with a 3rd and 6 on his own 41 yard line, he overthrew an open Mark Andrews on what would’ve been at least a 20-25 yard gain. That’s just a play you have to have. The Ravens could’ve gotten more points and potentially taken a commanding lead had Lamar been accurate on the throw. On the ensuing drive the Titans went down and scored a TD plus a 2-point conversion to go up 24-21 with just 2:20 to play in the game. Lamar was then able to lead the Ravens on a drive to tie the game up with a field goal and send it to OT, so credit to him for that, but unfortunately for the Ravens they had to settle for the field goal. They had an opportunity to win the game in regulation; with 40 seconds to go they had 1st and 10 from the Titans 14 but failed to get into the endzone. The Ravens went three-and-out on their first drive in OT, and that was the last time their offense would see the field in the game. It was a huge loss for Baltimore, their second in a row, to drop them to 6-4 and the #8 seed in the AFC. To make matters worse, they play the Steelers in a quick turnaround on Thanksgiving night. It’s a must-win game for them. Final Ravens note: Dez Bryant had his first catch in an NFL game in almost 3 years. Good to see him back on the field.
  • On the other hand, a huge win for the Titans. Tennessee came into this game 1-3 in their last 4 games. The last thing you want in that type of situation is a road game in Baltimore. About midway through the third quarter Tennessee was down 21-10 after a 21-3 Ravens run and it looked like Baltimore might run away with the game, but the Titans rallied to force OT and ultimately won on a walk-off Derrick Henry 29-yard run. Impressive win for the Titans. There’s a big difference between 7-3 and 6-4. After the win, the Titans were in first place in the AFC South and the #3 seed in the AFC for a few hours, but when the Colts finalized their win over Green Bay the Titans fell back to second place in the division and #5 in the AFC playoff picture. Still, the Titans are in good shape here. They get another crack at the Colts in week 12 and a win will put Tennessee in first place in their division.
  • Joe Burrow goes down with a torn ACL. This sucks not just because he’s one of the best young QBs in the league (and an awesome dude in general), but because a lot of us expected him to get hurt playing behind that horrible offensive line. People have been saying it all year: “If the Bengals can’t protect Joe Burrow he’s going to get killed.” Well, it happened. What a shame.
  • Are the Seahawks back? Their Thursday night win against Arizona was absolutely crucial for them. The Seahawks moved into first place in their division with the win, while the Cardinals dropped to 3rd place with a 6-4 record. It wasn’t a must-win game for the Seahawks technically, but coming into that game it felt like they were a team going in the wrong direction. They really needed that win. They have now regained control of the NFC West and are the #2 seed in the NFC, just a game behind the Saints. Russell Wilson didn’t throw a pick, which is a great sign considering he had 9 in his prior 6 games. We also finally saw signs of life from the Seahawks defense, as the 21 points they allowed was their lowest points allowed on the season. And they came up with a game-ending sack on Kyler Murray on 4th down late in the game from their own 27 as the Cardinals were attempting to tie the game. New addition Carlos Dunlap (DE) had two big sacks in the game, including the game-ender. He’s already making a huge difference. Major win for the Seahawks.
  • I am very impressed with the Indianapolis Colts. The OT win today over Green Bay was huge for them. It keeps them in first place in the AFC South (they hold the tiebreaker over Tennessee), which is the most important thing of all. But it was also a great test for that team’s confidence and specifically that defense. You find out just how good your defense is when you play against Aaron Rodgers, and while the defense did let up 31 points, they really turned it around in the second half, holding the Packers to just 3 points over the second half + OT. The only points the Packers managed after going up 28-14 was the tying field goal at the end. I’ll be honest, I thought the Colts would be competitive in this game but end up losing by 7-10 points. When Indy went into halftime down 28-14, I thought the game was over and Green Bay was going to run away with it. Hats off to the Colts for not being intimidated and hanging in there, putting together a 20-3 run to close out the game. That’s now two high-quality wins in a row (last week 34-17 over Tennessee) for a team that maybe a lot of people wrote off after they lost 24-10 to Baltimore three weeks ago. You have to consider the Colts a legitimate team at this point. They piled up 140 rushing yards while holding Green Bay to 66 and controlled the clock 35-27. Philip Rivers went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers, too, so we can’t forget about him. Rodgers’ statline: 27/38 for 311 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. Rivers’ statline: 24/36 for 288 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. Huge confidence-building win for Indy.
  • Give Aaron Rodgers a lot of credit: even though he and the Packers offense basically ground to a halt in the second half, he was still able to overcome long odds and take that game to OT. He led the Packers over 90 yards down the field in the final 1:30 to give Mason Crosby an easy field goal for the tie. Green Bay was backed up on their own 6 to start the drive, and after two incompletions it looked like they might be toast. But then Rodgers aired it out to Valdes-Scantling for 47 yard completion to keep the Packers alive. It was one of those plays that only Aaron Rodgers can make. On the flip side, the Packers blew a 14 point lead in this game.
  • The Packers are still a great football team. Valdes-Scantling fumbled the ball on the Green Bay 30 in OT which was basically the ballgame. If that doesn’t happen then the Packers probably win that game. But they’re beatable. They’re not as scary as I previously thought they were. There is a blueprint for beating them: run the ball. The Vikings beat the Packers by rushing for 173 yards. The Bucs ran for 158 against them. And now the Colts just ran for 140. People made a lot of noise about the Packers not drafting a wide receiver in the first round this year, but the real weakness of that team is its run defense. In last year’s NFC championship game the 49ers gashed them for 285 rushing yards. That’s why the Packers failed to reach the Super Bowl last season, and they did nothing to address their run defense in the draft. Their first defensive pick (LB Kamal Martin) wasn’t until the 5th round.
  • The Saints keep rolling and have now won 7 in a row. They started slow, but eventually ended up running away with the game. They sacked Matt Ryan 8 times and picked him off twice (although one was kind of a gimme on a Hail Mary attempt). The Saints are now
  • But the biggest story of the Saints-Falcons game was Taysom Hill getting the start at QB. Reports came in during the week that Hill would be the starter, and it was surprising given that most people expected Jameis Winston to get the start. Hill played well: 18/23 passing for 233 yards (no TDs), but his real value is his ability to run, especially around the goal line. He led the team with 51 rushing yards and had 2 rushing TDs. People really didn’t know what to expect out of him given that he only had 18 career regular season passing attempts prior to this game, but he looked like a capable and competent passer. He had a 57-yard TD that was called back due to holding by his offensive line. Obviously he’s not an elite arm-talent, but nobody expected him to be Aaron Rodgers. The Saints looked just fine with him at QB, and it looks like he’ll be the starter until Brees comes back. I’ve even seen some people saying Hill might be the starting QB even when Drew Brees comes back. I’m not willing to go that far, but if Hill keeps playing well it’s possible. There were people who thought last season Teddy would remain the starter when Drew came back given that Teddy went 5-0, and it didn’t happen.
  • However, look for other teams to start figuring out a gameplan for Hill given that there’s now game tape available. We’ll see if he and Sean Payton can figure out a way to stay one step ahead of opposing defenses. One thing I do worry about with Hill is his ball security. He lost a fumble today, which now makes 3 on the season for him. He’s only got 44 carries this season and 6 receptions, so that’s a high fumble rate. On his second rushing TD of the day, he ran towards the pylon and beat the defender to the endzone, but he had the ball in his inside arm rather his outside arm. That could’ve been another fumble. I feel like the guy runs so hard he doesn’t think much about ball security, but he’s got to get that fixed.
  • The Patriots are done. A 27-20 loss in Houston drops them to 4-6, and 3 games back of the Bills in the AFC East. They’re just not a very good team. There’s no way this team will be able to string together wins and make a playoff push. Can anyone realistically see them going 6-0 to close out the season and finish 10-6? Because that’s basically what it’s going to take to make the playoffs in the AFC. If the Patriots lose one more game the best they can do is 9-7, which probably isn’t going to cut it. And closing out the season 5-1 is a very tall order for this Pats team. They’re currently in 11th place in the AFC, and they lose the tie-breaker with Denver because Denver beat them several weeks back. Right now the Raiders are the #7 seed in the AFC at 6-4.
  • The Browns improve to 7-3 with a 22-17 win over Philly. It seems like every game played in Cleveland this year has had terrible weather, and this game was no exception. It was pouring rain the whole game. The final score makes it look like this game was close, but it really wasn’t. The Eagles added a garbage time TD late to make it look like a respectable score. The Browns are now 7-3 and the #6 seed in the AFC. It’s a tight wild card race so you can’t pencil the Browns in just yet: the Titans are also 7-3, and then there are four 6-4 teams just behind Cleveland in the standings.
  • The Eagles, on the other hand, just blow. Carson Wentz has been sacked 35 times this season, most of any QB. He’s got the most turnovers in the league. But hey: they’re still in first place in the NFC East with a record of 3-6-1. Everyone else in the division is 3-7.
  • What a letdown for the Miami Dolphins. Their 5-game winning streak comes to an end and Tua got hurt in the game and was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick. At 6-4 the Dolphins are now in 9th place in the AFC and on the outside looking in with regards to the playoff hunt. They are one of three teams at 6-4 (Vegas, Baltimore) but lose tiebreakers to both, which is why Vegas is the #7 seed, Baltimore is the #8 seed and Miami is #9.
  • The Cowboys surprise the Vikings. After looking like the worst defense in NFL history early in the season and the sports media calling for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s head, the Cowboys actually look pretty good on defense lately. Yes, Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs for a 140 passer rating, and Dalvin Cook had 115 yards rushing, but the Cowboys defense still looked much improved. They were absolutely punishing Dalvin Cook all game long. Cook had to earn every single yard he got in that game. The Cowboys stay alive in the NFC East playoff hunt at 3-7. Lol.
  • As for the Vikings, their three-game win streak comes to an end and they drop to 4-6. That’s a tough loss because had they won and gone to 5-5 they would have been the #8 seed in the NFC and just a game behind the #7 Arizona, who is 6-4. They’re still alive in the playoff hunt but this one hurts.
  • The Chiefs win a thriller in the desert. It was a back-and-forth game that came down to the final minute, but the Chiefs pulled out a 35-31 win over the Vegas Raiders, although the Chiefs did not cover the 7.5 point spread on the game. Give Vegas credit for hanging in there and almost pulling that thing off; people were expecting them to get beaten pretty handily considering it was a revenge game for the Chiefs. The problem for Vegas was that they left too much time on the clock after going up 28-24. You can’t leave Mahomes any time, although after the DPI call in the endzone that put the Raiders on the 1 yard line with a bit over 2 minutes to go, it’s hard to say what the Raiders should’ve done differently. The Chiefs still had two timeouts plus the two-minute warning, and you can’t guarantee a TD so it’s a massive risk to try to run out the clock and bank on getting a TD on 4th down.
  • So now the Chiefs are 9-1 and have avenged their only loss. If you want to say the Chiefs are the best team in the league I won’t really disagree with you, I just feel like I have to respect Pittsburgh’s unblemished record and give them the edge in the power rankings. As I wrote last week the Chiefs’ upcoming schedule is a real grinder: at Bucs, vs. Broncos, at Dolphins, at Saints. However, being the reigning Super Bowl Champs, the Chiefs are the only team I don’t think has anything to prove. If they win all four of those games, it just confirms they’re elite, but we already know that. The only thing that would cause me to lose confidence in them is if they go 1-3 or even 0-4 in those games. But they won’t. What the Chiefs really need now is a Steelers loss so they can get back in the conversation for the #1 seed in the AFC.
  • The Raiders continue to impress. When you compare their rosters, there’s really no reason the Raiders should be able to consistently compete with the Chiefs. Yet they do. Even though they lost last night, I think they proved that their earlier win over KC was no fluke. The Raiders are a genuinely good team. The Chiefs have only been in four one-possession games (in terms of final score) this season and two of them were against the Raiders. The Raiders just compete. Again, when you look at their roster it’s not as if it’s full of elite players. They only have a +10 cumulative point differential this season. But they somehow manage to win games. Jon Gruden has done a great job with this team. Despite the loss they’re currently hanging on as the #7 seed in the AFC, and hold the tiebreaker over Miami and Baltimore because of their superior record against AFC conference opponents. Next week they’re at Falcons and the week after they’re at Jets. They’ll need to win those two games because the Dolphins are at Jets next week, and host the Joe Burrow-less Bengals the week after. Both teams need Baltimore to lose to the Steelers on Thanksgiving.

So that’s it for the important Sunday games. I’ll do power rankings after the Rams-Bucs Monday Night Football game concludes.

Octavian

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