Week eleven started with a game that didn’t garner a lot of interest amongst the majority of football fans, but as we would find out on Sunday you had to follow the games very closely because there were a lot of subaverage teams giving good (and even great) teams a run for their money. That’s a very strange thing too, because this is the part of the season where things get really good so you’d think all of the teams headed towards the playoffs would really show their A game. But in the NFL, somebody is always trying to play spoiler and week eleven was no exception.
Buccaneers 27, Panthers 21
I’m starting to love me some Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They had to pull this one out at the last minute, but the end result shows that they did just that. Doug Martin had another touchdown, and I bet he’s super pissed that Andrew Luck will end up being rookie of the year because in a neutral voting system where QBs don’t always win everything that award is rightfully his. Another reason for them to be upset is that just when they get on a roll, the Saints do as well and since we all know it’s a fight for second place the Bucs may end up missing the postseason when many could argue that they have played like a playoff team.
Falcons 23, Cardinals 19
Yet another game today where I thought the better team didn’t play as well as I had expected. The Falcons yet again used the Georgia Dome to their advantage and eventually beat the Arizona Cardinals, who are quickly becoming the worst road team in the NFL. What’s the most disturbing thing about this game was that the Falcons were still able to come out of this game with a win, even though Matt Ryan had five interceptions. Sure, it’s impressive but that obviously wasn’t their game plan and if it was everyone that works for that franchise should be executed in public. The Falcons’ running game has to step up soon, and this was another portal into the future where you can see the Falcons going into the playoffs at 14-2 only to lose the first divisional round game they play in.
Cowboys 23, Browns 20
Fantastic. Spickler’s Browns could have really helped my Giants out in this one if they had decided to show up for the fourth quarter. After three they were up 13-3 and then the wheels just fell off. Dan Bailey added a field goal at the end of regulation as well as in overtime, and just like that Tony Romo is now 20-3 in the month of November for his career. The Cowboys probably got away with one on a couple of different levels but they’re at the Giants’ back door ready to steal this one. If they can beat the Redskins on Thursday, then they are only a half game behind New York who has to play the Packers on Sunday night. The Browns are a bad team because bad teams blow games like this one. They lack the composure and discipline to make it work, so they aren’t able to close the deal.
Packers 24, Lions 20
Although this game was in Detroit, this may be a wake-up call for the Packers. I just don’t see how they couldn’t have been affected by this. They are extremely beat up and are missing all sorts of personnel, yet they were still able to make it happen in the end. Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for what would end up becoming the game winning catch, and the Packers will start preparing for the New York Giants next Sunday night, who will be looking to exploit a lot of those second stringers who are playing due to injuries. Other than that I don’t really have much to say about this game other than it was nice to see JerMichael Finley use his hands to make a difference in the actual ballgame, as opposed to his mouth or his agent’s Twitter account.
Texans 43, Jaguars 37
This one is extremely puzzling to me – the game was in Houston. The Texans’ defense is usually stifling but I have to think that even in a 5 quarter game the fact that Matt Schaub threw for 527 yards has to at least tell us that they couldn’t pull it together today. (Who thought that when they woke up this morning Chad Henne was going to throw for four touchdowns? Really? You are all liars…) The Texans were very uncharacteristically missing basics on defense – They weren’t tackling well at all and it’s hard to imagine that this game went into overtime and they could have very well lost. That 527 yard total from Schaub was second amongst single games in all of NFL history, the lone better performance having come from Norm Van Brocklin who didn’t exactly play in the post concussion era. Wide Receiver Andre Johnson also had a huge day – 14 receptions for 273 yards for him. Part of me is a little worried about the Texans, but every Sunday is different and as long as they can be the same team that marched into Chicago and pissed all over the Bears they should be back to business and I still believe that they’ll have the one seed. I really have to hand it to Jacksonville, they are long past the point of having anything to play for and they still went out against arguably the best team in the league in their home stadium and almost won. So good for them even though it doesn’t matter.
Bengals 28, Chiefs 6
The Bengals seem to be back in business even if it’s just for the time being. It wasn’t an incredible day for Dalton (18/29) and it was against the Chiefs who seem to be incapable of watering a houseplant, but Cincinnati did manage the game well. Ben-Jarvis Green Ellis rushed for over 100 yards, and still retains his spot as having the most ridiculously pretentious name in the history of sports. (And I shouldn’t have to Ryan Patrick Gerald Joseph Meehan to you why that’s the case)
Jets 27, Rams 13
The box score from this game leads me to believe that all of its participants should be wearing helmets for reasons other than playing football. Yeah, I’ll give it up to Mark Sanchez for going 15 of 20 in this one. It wasn’t a spectacular performance, but it was better than he had been doing and the Jets don’t really want him throwing any more than that anyway – I know I wouldn’t. At least they figured out they need to run the ball more. I don’t think that fleeting realization is going to be enough for Rex Ryan to keep his job once the season is over, but it’s something to consider. Sam Bradford needs either a better offensive line or a better overall awareness of when someone is trying to pop the ball loose from his hands. The kid’s got skills, there’s no question about that but now they have to really start to use those draft picks they got from the Redskins in the RG3 trade to surround him with enough players so that he can succeed in the NFC West.
Random Thought: I sincerely hope this Gangnam Style shit is nothing but a hallucinogenic side effect of my sleeping medication. This has to stop sooner or later, right?
Redskins 31, Eagles 6
From bad to worse, then back to bad and worse all over again. The Philadelphia Eagles continued their “Desperation of Depression” tour Sunday in Washington DC, forcing Nick Foles to throw the ball 46 times and only giving him the protection to complete 21 of those opportunities. We all know that during Andy Reid’s tenure as coach of the Eagles, he has been the most aggressive play caller when it comes to pass versus rush. But with a quarterback like Foles who is relatively new to the league, you could understand how leaving him out there to die like that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. You could argue that camel’s been laying a ditch for a month and a half with a spear through its head, but you get my point. But then again, what else is he supposed to do? Philly has virtually no running game, so it’s hard to blame him. (Bonus note: LeSean McCoy also has a concussion. I’m sure that won’t help) As for the Redskins, Griffin hardly threw the ball at all but he still went 14 for 15 and ran for 82 yards. The Eagles had three turnovers and the Skins didn’t have any.
Saints 38, Raiders 17
The Saints didn’t stray too far away from their winning formula here: Get up early and wait for the other team to choke to death eating their own jock straps. New Orleans didn’t really need too much help on defense because Oakland has now given up 135 points in their last three games. Sometimes the best defense is just making sure your offense is always out there. As usual Drew Brees had another excellent day, and just because they can’t possibly catch the Falcons doesn’t mean they don’t have their eye on that last wild card spot. In fact, if I had to pick either the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants or the Saints to make the playoffs I’m taking the Saints 120 times out of 100. Look for Lance Moore to have a couple more good weeks that started with a touchdown catch in this one. Somebody needs to put the Raiders out of their misery, I can’t watch them without getting sick anymore.
Broncos 30, Chargers 23
This one I’m a little bit more understanding of because San Diego was attempting to avenge blowing the lead they had in the first game between these two that you knew even they were going to bring it. You all know it breaks my heart to say this, but the Chargers played well overall. Meanwhile Peyton Manning is in practice mode where he looks so loose it’s almost as if he’s going through pregame warm-ups for three hours and it just happens to be on television. He may have previous experience working with Jacob Tamme and Brandon Stokley, but it’s clear now that Eric Decker is going to be the guy he looks for to win those close games late in the fourth quarter. The Broncos are one of these teams that have veteran leadership (like New England) that will be looking to make life a living hell for teams like Houston, Indianapolis, and whoever gets that 6th playoff spot. Their defense looked good yet again, and Von Miller had three more sacks. The Denver Broncos are just getting started, and may be a perfect example of just how the beginning of a season can distort the public’s perception of a team – Their first five games were brutal as hell, but now their schedule is relatively easy for the most part.
The New England Patriots rolled all over the Indianapolis Colts and believe it or not, this was yet another game where I thought the better team could have won by even more. I’m dead serious about that as the Patriots could have easily scored 70 here. Nonetheless, 59 (a franchise record) is a very odd point total because you have to figure a touchdown will give you seven points so if you score eight of them that only adds up to 56. What that means of course that at some point in there they had the opportunity to kick a field goal, which is crazy when you think about it. If that weren’t bad enough, 21 of those points came in the fourth quarter when Tom Brady was putting his feet up and having a Gatorade. The Colts pretty much showed everybody that although their play has improved, let’s be honest they can’t hang with elite teams like New England. Their defense is still really bad but I have a feeling Tommy could have made the ’77 Steelers look like ninth graders on this day. Andrew Luck had three interceptions on the day as well, and if the Colts are going to make it into the postseason he won’t be able to get away with doing that. The real story that came out of this game may be the fact that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on an extra point late in the game and may be out 4 to 6 weeks. Although I’ve always respected Belichick as a coach, he does need to do a better job pulling his guys when the game is out of reach.
Ravens 13, Steelers 10
Despite not scoring a single offensive touchdown, somehow the Baltimore Ravens went into Heinz Field and took every necessary step towards ruining Byron Leftwich’s life. Somewhere around the middle off the second quarter Byron looked as if he wasn’t all there, and the Ravens’ stifling defense probably has a lot to do with that. Everybody has been saying for weeks about how the Ravens need to play better run defense, which they did here but I’m actually giving the credit where credit is due: It’s my opinion that the better play by their pass defense is what alleviated the pressure of their run defense and because that was the case the whole unit played much better. Perfect example would have to be cornerback Corey Graham who had a big night – it was more than just the interception – he was everywhere on some really important clutch plays late in the game. I realize that Leftwich isn’t a starter and sort of got thrown into the mix last week, but the Steelers’ clock management in the second half of this game was atrocious. Hindsight may always be 20/20, but you have to wonder if Leftwich really was at anywhere over 75% when you see some of those passes in the 4th quarter, as well as if maybe they would have been in a better position to win (or at least tie) with Batch in the game. The Ravens have San Diego next and I look for them to deliver in the same way that they did in the Oakland game. Oh, and Jacoby Jones might just be the best special teams player in the league.
49ers 32, Bears 7
Just as I suspected, the Chicago Bears were a mess. Of course they didn’t start Cutler, it was a road game, coming off of a loss, et cetera, et cetera…The San Francisco 49ers are better than a lot of teams, and even if Cutler had been healthy he wouldn’t have won this game. Kaepernick did a hell of a job filling in, and I really like how that Kyle Williams kid has rebounded from those playoff miscues against the Giants last year. That’s coaching right there, to have a rookie who makes such serious mistakes early in his career make a commitment to getting himself right back to work. San Francisco may have looked limp last week, but they were every bit as vibrant as the team that everyone thought would go all the way had those mistakes not happened. Chicago was disorganized and looks identical to some of those mediocre teams that ironically Jim Harbaugh played for. The Bears have only beaten one team this year with a losing record – Indy first game of the season. Chicago may still be good down the line but the Niners are better.
Summary: The overall theme for the week was that the two top tier teams in each conference (Atlanta and Houston) really struggled to put together Ws and in that process maybe ways to beat either of those teams may have been laid out. In other words, if nothing else week eleven provided a lot of film for teams who may have lesser records as to how to beat teams like the Falcons and the Texans. I think that the Saints may be the hottest team in the league right now, and I really mean that. They got off to an awful start as we all know, but now they are at .500 and may be able to sneak through now that the Lions are essentially out of NFC playoff contention.
If it seems like I discuss the playoffs a lot, it’s because that’s what’s really important here…This time of the year more than ever. We can all pretty much agree on the teams that are done in the AFC (your Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars) but there is still plenty of time for a team like Tennessee or the Jets to make a run and get in there on the final day of the season. (I’m hoping it isn’t the Jets either, I’m simply listing it as a possibility)
In the NFC things are not so simple. Both the NFC South and the NFC North have three teams who are .500 or better, and the other two divisions have two teams who are .500 or better. In other words, with the exception of the South everything is still up for grabs. Out of the teams in the East and the West that are .500 or better, the only team who is actually at .500 is the Dallas Cowboys who are on a two game winning streak. And boy do I hope Washington beats the shit out of them, I can’t think of anything else I’d want for Christmas more than that.
Next week, we’re going to actually post playoff seeding in the “if the season ended today” vein. For those who may snapback with a hearty “But the season doesn’t end today…” I do understand your point but we have to have some kind of a map as to where things are headed. The real morons are the websites and television stations that have the six and six brackets drawn up after week four, and if you don’t believe me ask an Arizona Cardinals fan.
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.