Gabe's Gridiron Week 11 edition
Veteran’s Weekend was full of upsets. Both teams that had not won a game, Tampa and Jacksonville, found their first win. And what happened with Indy? Let’s look back at what we learned.
5 Things We Learned in Week 10
1. The Colts are vulnerable. They may have the most quality wins than any team in the NFL (San Fran, Seattle, Denver) but Sunday left a lot of people scratching their heads. Behind rookie Tavon Austin’s 3 touchdown day, the St. Louis Rams throttled the Colts 38-8. The Rams defense sacked Andrew Luck 3 times and forced Luck to throw 3 interceptions. It didn’t help that the Rams scored 2 touchdowns on defense/special teams. It’s hard to beat anyone when you give that up. Colts fans are hoping that this is an anomaly but this loss certainly hurt Indy’s potential playoff seeding.
2. Carolina may be for real. One of the biggest questions of this season is about just how good Carolina is. Going into this past weekend, they had won 4 in a row but against lesser opponents. This past Sunday Carolina’s defense dominated the 49ers only allowing 151 yards while forcing 2 turnovers including an interception on the 49ers’ last drive. Carolina ranks 2nd overall defensively in yards allowed per game and Sunday may have proved they are the real deal with a win at San Francisco. It doesn’t get any easier for the Panthers as they host New England this Monday night.
3. There are divisions that aren’t very good, particularly the NFC East and AFC North. Both first place teams, Cincinnati and Dallas lost. Neither team has played well consistently. Between both divisions, only the Bengals have a winning record. As bad as some teams have been, like the Giants and Steelers, they still have a chance (albeit a small one) to make a late season push. The team that has looked the best recently, the Philadelphia Eagles, has won 4 out of their last 6 (although their 2 losses are against divisional opponents). The divisional games in the NFC East and AFC North will all mean something down the stretch and will be crucial to who gets in to the playoffs.
4. Quarterbacks continue to pile up record breaking numbers. Peyton Manning threw 4 more touchdown passes on Sunday and has now thrown for 3249 yards. Manning also leads the league in touchdown passes with 33 while only throwing 6 interceptions. Drew Brees extended his record 21 straight home games with at least 2 touchdown passes on Sunday. Brees is second only to Peyton Manning in both yards (3064) and touchdowns (25). Yes, Manning has 8 touchdowns more than the next guy on the list. Both quarterbacks are veterans and the keys to the offense are in their hands. For sure it is a different era but both of these quarterbacks will have a place in a history that is undeniable.
5. Really bad teams still find a way to win every now and then. As rare as it is to go undefeated in a season, it’s just as rare to lose every game. Both Jacksonville and Tampa won their first games of the year. Tampa beat a reeling Dolphins team that continues to be plagued with off the field issues. Jacksonville went on the road and beat a marginal Tennessee team in a large part by forcing 4 turnovers. Regardless of what is going on in the locker room or on the field, players in the NFL still have a lot of pride and this was shown this past Sunday.
Week 11 Meaningless Power Rankings
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Denver Broncos
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. New England Patriots
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. New Orleans Saints
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Cincinnati Bengals
5 games to watch in Week 11
Last week’s record (4-1) Season Record (28-21)
Sunday, November 17th: Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
Both of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives. If the season ended today, neither team would make it into the postseason. However both teams are in striking distance. The Bears are without Jay Cutler and have struggled ever since he was injured. Both defenses are not as good as both teams are accustomed to (Baltimore: 15th overall, Chicago: 26th overall). The biggest difference may be turnovers. Baltimore has only forced 13 turnovers with a -3 turnover margin while the Bears have forced 20 turnovers with a +8 turnover margin. The Bears are at home and that will give them an edge.
My pick: Chicago Bears
Sunday, November 17th: Cleveland Browns (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The battle of Ohio rarely is for anything more than bragging rights. If the Bengals win, that’s all it will be. If the Browns win, they will be able to make things interesting in the AFC North down the stretch. Both Cleveland and Cincinnati’s defenses have been stellar. Cinci’s defense ranks 4th overall (allowing 311.4 yards a game) while Cleveland’s defense ranks 5th (315.7 yards). The Bengals’ strength is stopping the pass (7th overall) and Cleveland’s strength is stopping the run (6th overall). Offensively, these two teams are worlds apart. The Bengals offense ranks 8th overall (378.6 yards/game) while Cleveland ranks 25th (316.8). The Bengals better offense and the fact that they are playing at home will mean victory for Cincinnati.
My pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, November 17th: San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
After coming off a tough loss to the Panthers, the 49ers will have to travel to New Orleans. We have already talked about Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense earlier in this column. The Saints, which have struggled in the past defensively, sit at 4th in the NFC. The 49ers are right in front of them at 3rd in the NFC. The key will be San Francisco’s passing defense, which has given up 211.4 passing yards a game, against New Orleans’ passing offense, which leads the NFC with 324.9 yards per game. The 49ers probably need this win more to keep up with the Seahawks but I’m not sure they’ll be able to beat New Orleans in the Superdome.
My pick: New Orleans Saints
Sunday, November 17th: Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
This is the long awaited showdown between the surprising Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. It has been well documented that the Chiefs have not played, and likewise beaten, a team with a winning record. Yet, the Chiefs have won all the games on their schedule and head into the divisional showdown with the Broncos undefeated. Offensively, these teams are nowhere near each other. Denver ranks 1st in the AFC by a fair margin while Kansas City ranks 12th. Defensively, it’s the same story but vice-versa. Kansas City ranks 6th in the AFC while Denver ranks 14th. As stated in columns before, Kansas City wins by forcing turnovers. They lead the AFC with 23 turnovers and a +15 turnover margin while Denver has forced 16 turnovers but with a -2 turnover margin. Not to mention Kansas City has scored 6 touchdowns on defense while Denver has only scored 1. Although Kansas City has only given up 208.3 yards a game, 3rd best in the AFC, they have not faced an offense anywhere near as good as Peyton Manning. Denver is at home and Invesco Field will be crazy.
My pick: Denver Broncos
Monday, November 18th: New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
When we saw this game on the Monday night schedule at the beginning of the season, it looked fairly lopsided. The Chiefs have been the surprise of the AFC while the Panthers have been the surprise of the NFC. The Panthers’ defense has been exceptional ranking 2nd overall in the NFL (allowing 283.3 yards per game). The Patriots’ defense continues to struggle as it ranks 21st overall (allowing 361 yards per game). Both teams force turnovers. Carolina has forced 21 turnovers with a +8 turnover margin while New England has forced 19 turnovers with a +9 turnover margin. While New England’s offense hasn’t been as good in year’s past (ranking 12th overall), they have still been more consistent than Carolina’s offense (ranking 20th overall). Then there’s that Tom Brady guy. No, he’s not been burning up the fantasy football stats this season but he has kept the Patriots afloat while the offense dealt with injuries (Amendola, Gronkowski, Vereen). This may be the best defense that New England plays this year but Tom Brady on Monday night will quiet the Carolina crowd.
My pick: New England Patriots
It won’t be long until that snow starts becoming a part of these games. Heck, it may end up being a part of the game in Denver on Sunday. Snow can be a great equalizer and always makes games even more of a spectacle. A handful of truly awesome games this weekend! Have fun watching!
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