Around the League: Week 11

A closer look at each game this week in the NFL.

Around the League

Houston Texans (6-3) @ Baltimore Ravens (7-2)

TEO Game of the Week!

In a matchup that features two of the most exciting, young, dual-threat QBs in the NFL I wonder if many have forgotten just how good Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans have been this season? Watson is 4th in QB Rating, 3rd in Completion %, 3rd in passing TD’s, etc. Oh and BTW all of those rankings are higher than Lamar Jackon’s! Likewise the Texans are 4th in YPG and 8th in PPG.

The Ravens offense is flying high led by their do-it-all MVP candidate Lamar Jackson! The team is 1st in PPG and 2nd in YPG. What else can I say about Jackson? Well here’s one more stat: Jackson is 11th in the NFL in rushing yards and has more rushing yards than the Ravens starting RB Mark Ingram. Because the Ravens depend on Jackson to do so much I wonder if the team can still win if he plays like a mere mortal.

Dallas Cowboys (5-4) @ Detroit Lions (3-5-1)

The Cowboys are tied with the Eagles at the top of the NFC East. Yet their season has been a disappointment. At 5-4 who have the Cowboys beaten? Their wins have come against the worst in the NFL: the Giants (twice), Dolphins, and Redskins. The Cowboys have come up short against every quality opponent.

Win or lose the Lions have played close games all season long. If injured QB Matthew Stafford can play this week then expect another nail-biter. However, if Stafford cannot go then the Lions will likely struggle.

Atlanta Falcons (2-7) @ Carolina Panthers (5-4)

By defeating the New Orleans Saints the Falcons pulled off the biggest upset of the NFL season last week. If the team aspires to beat another superior opponent then turnovers will be the key. The Falcons are last in the league with a -12 turnover differential. Even worse the team has forced a league low 4 turnovers all year. If the Falcons can fix this one issue then their team can be dangerous.

The Panthers remaining schedule in order: Falcons, Saints, Redskins, Falcons, Seahawks, and Colts. Just beating the teams they are supposed to will not be enough to make it into the playoffs. But games such as this even more important. Swiss Army Knife Christian McCaffrey has a shot at setting the all-time record for yards from scrimmage in a season (did you know Chris Johnson still holds the record with his 2009 season with the Titans?).

Buffalo Bills (6-3) @ Miami Dolphins (2-7)

These teams met in Buffalo nearly a month ago. And the heavily favored Bills struggled to come away with a victory. Since that game both teams are in vastly different places. The Bills have disappointed with a 1-2 record in the interim. Their offense has slipped to 23rd in YPG and 25th in PPG. Of all the teams with 6 or more wins the next lowest is 15th and 16th respectively. The Bills offense must start to carry some of the load or a once promising season could end up in disaster.

The Dolphins record at 2-1 is a mirror image. Ryan Fitz-Magic has led the team to back-to-back wins. As odd as it sounds Fitzpatrick is the perfect QB for the Dolphins right now. Fitz has played for many teams. Frankly, many of those teams were bad. Really bad. So, he knows how to go about his business when the deck is stacked against him. Fitzpatrick is a pro’s pro and will compete regardless of standings/scoreboard.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-4)

In their previous game the Jaguars looked more like soft, cuddly kittens against Texans. Nothing went right and the team did nothing well. The only thing to do when a professional team takes a beating like that is to put it in the rear view. Prior to the Texans game the Jags defense was making strides week by week. They must continue to do so against another tough, divisional opponent.

How important is Jacoby Brissett to the Colts? He missed the last two games and the Colts lost both. Brissett is back and will start which gives the Colts the edge. Informed readers will recall that prior to the Steelers game I wrote that Vinateri’s troubles would be a problem moving forward. And just a couple of days later Vinateri missed an XP and FG (potential game winner). Perhaps Father Time has finally caught up with him? Or his confidence is a mess? Whatever the reason the Colts need the dependable kicker they expected to have if they hope to make the playoffs.

Denver Broncos (3-6) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-3)

The Broncos offense (especially their passing attack) has been on ice in 2019. But in his first career start QB Brandon Allen thawed it out a little. If the Broncos can upset the Vikings then there may yet be life in their 2019 season.

The Vikings are one of the most complete teams in the NFC. They are tough to beat and even more so in Minnesota. The Vikings are one of two teams who remain undefeated at home (the Patriots are the other). Unlike most top teams in the NFL the Vikings have yet to play a poor game. Their only losses came against quality teams, the Packers, Bears, and Chiefs, by an average margin of less than 7 points.

New Orleans Saints (7-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)

The Saints were embarrassed last week against the Falcons. The team failed to score a TD which had not happened since 2016. After this defeat the Saints will not overlook any opponent regardless of their record. Fortunately, the 49ers also lost. So, the Saints remain firmly in the race for homefield in the playoffs. However, another quick loss and the team could end up struggling to retain the lead in their division.

There are many dangerous three win teams in the NFL. The Bucs are one of them. The Bucs’ offense is 3rd in PPG! If QB Jameis Winston hopes to remain with the team in 2020 and beyond then he needs to finish strong and play clean football. And if he can do that the Bucs are capable of beating anyone in the league.

New York Jets (2-7) @ Washington Redskins (1-8)

Sam Darnold has regressed somewhat in 2019, but the Jets’ O-line is awful. They are allowing a league worst 4.3 sacks per game. By comparison the Cowboys O-line allows only 1.2 sacks per game. Le’Veon Bell doesn’t appear to be the same player without the O-line he had in Pittsburgh.

The Redskins named Dwayne Haskins the starter for the remainder of the year. This move was probably made less out of confidence in Haskins and more out of hoping to instill confidence. Haskins has 0 TD passes, 4 INTs, and has been sacked 8 times in less than 3 games.

Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (8-1)

Of the Cardinals previous seven games six have been decided by 7 points or less! Kyler Murray has performed up to the lofty expectations of being the #1 overall pick. If new acquisition RB Kenyon Drake can help carry the load then the Cardinals are a threat to any team.

Last week the 49ers lost their first game of the season. The team played sloppy and nervous… and still almost won. Beyond this game the 49ers schedule is among the most difficult in all of football. The team must play better especially the receiving corps which has been plagued by drops if they hope to remain at the top of the conference. Only the Bears have more drops in 2019.

New England Patriots (8-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)

Expect a playoff level of intensity when the Patriots face off against the Eagles in a rematch of Super Bowl LII. Not only are the Pats still angry about their Super Bowl loss, but they also lost their first game last week. The receivers which began the year as a strength of the team are now it’s biggest (read: only) weakness. Someone other than Julian Edelman needs to step up.

In the past two seasons Eagles have been a great team in the second half of the schedule. This is their time! Carson Wentz is finally playing as expected and once again the Eagles are rounding into form for a run. The Patriots game is not a lynchpin for their success, but if the Eagles can prevail then there is every reason to believe the sky’s the limit for 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) @ Oakland Raiders (5-4)

As the losses accumulate the Bengals have played worse. Last week proved that benching QB Andy Dalton only made the situation worse as rookie QB Ryan Finely struggled. But the decision was less about winning and more about seeing what Finely can do. This is the worst team in football right now and they need to find their pride.

The Raiders have been one of the surprise successes in 2019. However, it’s still unclear how good the team can be. Their losses came against the NFL’s best: Chiefs, Vikings, Packers, and Texans. With a relatively easy schedule remaining the Raiders have a legit chance to win the AFC West division over the favored Chiefs.

Chicago Bears (4-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (5-4)

The Bears ended their 4 game losing streak last week against the Lions. But the Lions were without Matthew Stafford. This game is equally important for the playoff hopes of the Bears and Rams. The Bears’ defense still has plenty of bite! They are 4th in PPG and should keep the game close. The Bear’s offense however is 29th in YPG and barely ahead of teams such as the Dolphins and Redskins.

Halfway through 2019 who would have thought that the Rams would have more faith in their defense than their offense? But that is the surprising truth. The Rams offense has not been the same since Todd Gurley was injured late in the 2018 regular season. Without a strong running game Jared Goff is having his worst season of his young career. In a competitive NFC this is most likely a turning point game for the Rams.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) @ Los Angeles Chargers (4-6)

The Chiefs were supposed to run away with the AFC West. The Chiefs were supposed to challenge the Patriots for the AFC. The Chiefs were supposed to have the best offense in the NFL. Thus far in 2019 none of things have happened. The division has been much more competitive than expected. The Chiefs are doing what made 2018 so successful (scoring points, sacking the QB, Mahomes show, etc.) yet still losing more close games than they are winning. Last year the Chiefs were 5-4 in games decided by 7 points or less. So far in 2019 they are 3-4.

The Chargers have not lost a game by more than 7 points all season. Once again the team dropped a close game against the Raiders. But since the Chiefs lost too the Chargers still have a chance to win the division. Especially since the two teams will play once more after this game. Holdout RB Melvin Gordon may finally be in playing shape as he has performed well in the previous two games. This is a nearly a must win game for the Chargers.

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