The NFL week 11 slate of games became known (mostly) for two things: close finishes and a string of rough and hard-to-watch injuries.
More than anything it was the latest indicator of who the true contenders and pretenders are this season. Several teams that looked like true playoff threats were suddenly undressed while others continued their emergence after slow starts. Here are some quick takeaways from all the games during the afternoon action. Be warned that some of the descriptions get pretty vivid.
Tennessee Titans endure a remarkable turn of fortune in just one week
Just one week ago the Titans were becoming the darling of the AFC. They just trounced the New England Patriots and were in a position to seize control of their division if they could get a win in Indianapolis. Come game time? It all went wrong. Things started badly when defensive coordinator Dean Pees was taken to the hospital with an undisclosed medical issue. Without him, Andrew Luck shredded the Titans. To make matters even worse, quarterback Marcus Mariota left the game with another elbow injury. It was a true nightmare of an afternoon.
Ben Roethlisberger finally exorcizes his Jacksonville demons…in ugly fashion
Something about playing the Jaguars has given the Steelers quarterback problems. Big problems. That was no different for most of the day in Jacksonville as he looked awful for three quarters, throwing three interceptions. However, as the Jag defense began to wear down he finally found some openings in their coverage. Despite a myriad of mistakes towards the end, Roethlisberger capped a major comeback with a last-second TD lunge. Whatever it takes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers infected by interception plague
Facts are facts at this point. It doesn’t matter who the Buccaneers put in at quarterback between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston. Both are going to end up throwing it to the other team a few times each game. Between those two, they’ve thrown a whopping 22 interceptions this year, including the three Fitzpatrick had before getting benched again versus the Giants. If ever there was an indication that Dirk Koetter was getting fired, it’s that telling stat.
Alex Smith continues his sad NFL story in Washington
The guy is a four-time Pro Bowler. He overcame one of the most difficult starts to a career a #1 pick has ever had. He turned the 49ers and Chiefs back into winning teams. Yet he was replaced not once but twice for shinier new toys like Colin Kaepernick and Patrick Mahomes. Then he goes to Washington, has the Redskins leading the NFC East and breaks his leg against Houston on the exact same day Joe Theismann did 33 years ago. One has to feel for the poor guy.
Kerryon Johnson injury mars strong effort by Detroit Lions
The Lions are the weirdest team in the NFL. One week they look like they can beat anybody, and the next they look like a team awaiting their top 5 pick. It looks like Dr. Jekyll showed up this time as Detroit used strong defense and some big plays from Kenny Golladay to hold off the Panthers 20-19. Yet the celebration was bittersweet. Stud rookie running back Kerryon Johnson left the game with a knee injury and initial fears rumor it could be an ACL. That would be a gigantic loss for their offense.
Ezekiel Elliott and defense are dragging Dallas Cowboys to wins
The Cowboys have caught some fortunate bounces this year. Washington just lost their starting QB. Philadelphia is a shadow of what it was last season. The division is not good and wide open, which has afforded them the time to figure out a new identity. Try as they might, it’s not leaning on Dak Prescott. This team is oldfashioned. It’s running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and playing good, fundamental defense. It hasn’t been pretty, but they’re 5-5 now with a shot to take control of the NFC East next week.
Lamar Jackson opened up the Ravens offense, but not as hoped
The Baltimore Ravens got the win. That’s what matters. However, they got it in a fashion that didn’t really give them many answers in regards to their quarterback situation. That’s not a shot at Lamar Jackson. He made enough good plays to get the job done. That said, he didn’t do it as a passer. He was more of an extra extension of the running game. The Ravens ran for over 250 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson had 117 on 27 attempts. While the win is timely, it doesn’t solve the ongoing questions regarding their passing game.
Fracture widening between Jon Gruden and Derek Carr
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Yeah, the Raiders may have won but it certainly didn’t feel like a win. They beat a bad Arizona Cardinals team that may only end up hurting their draft position next April. If that weren’t bad enough, there were definite signs that a heated fissure has begun to emerge between head coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr. Video and reports surfaced of the two having an argument on the sidelines that go pretty intense. It’s hard not to wonder whether Carr may be gone by the end of this season.
The New Orleans Saints are now the unquestioned best team in football
They already had a grasp of that title after knocking off the undefeated Rams, but now there is no doubt remaining. New Orleans just finished steamrolling the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 48-7. Everything is clicking for this team right now, offensively and defensively. They’re on a mission after that loss in Minnesota last year. It’s hard to envision anybody stopping them short of the NFC championship.
Philip Rivers again fails to seize the moment for the Chargers
One thing that has become characteristic of Philip Rivers over the years. He puts up a ton of great stats and has some shining moments, but when it comes to grabbing that proverbial brass ring to get over the hump into true respectability? He always comes up short. Once again he had a chance to do so. His team was 7-2 and a win over Denver could put them in position to threaten Kansas City for the division crown. Rivers responded with two costly interceptions and a brutal 23-22 loss.