It was not exactly the most exciting week of football we had this week; it certainly pales in comparison to Week 10 where we saw more than a half dozen games decided in the closing minutes, but there were still some major happenings in Week 11 that are shaping up the playoff picture.
1) The Green Bay Packers are alive and well: A week ago when the Packers spit the bit against the Detroit Lions at home, it was looking pretty sketchy for the Packers.Then again,when your quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, nothing should ever be in doubt. Remember this is the same quarterback who told the fans to relax when Green Bay got of to a 1-2 start last season. The Packers outlasted the Minnesota Vikings 30-13 on Sunday, with a second half surge proving to be the difference.
Rodgers first hit Randall Cobb on a 10-yard strike to push the Pack to a 16-9 halftime lead, completing 9-play, 80-yard drive. Then with Green Bay holding onto a 19-13 lead, Rodgers hit a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone to James Jones, who kept both feet in bounds for the score. Rodgers finally, faked out the Vikings defense on a nifty two-point conversion to Jones to make it 27-13. Game over.
As for the Vikings, without Adrian Peterson having a big day they got exposed. Teddy Bridgewater is pure game-manager, and is not a quarterback one can rely on to win a game against a big team like Green Bay. Sorry Vikes, looks like the North is going to Green Bay once again.
2) The Carolina Panthers surge into Turkey Day at 10-0: The Panthers remain as hot as a firecracker. Facing a pesky Redskins team just days before the take the field again on Thanksgiving in Dallas, the Panthers pulled away from Washington on Sunday. The turning point of the game came midway through the second quarter, when Greg Olsen had the ball knocked out of his hands by Chris Culliver, who grabbed the loose ball and dashed into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Redskins a 20-14 lead. However, the officials ruled that Culliver provided unnecessary roughness on Olsen (a ridiculous call), and erased the Skins touchdown.
Instead Carolina got the football at the Redskins 26-yard line after the penalty was enforced. The Panthers would score a touchdown thanks to the officials to take a 21-14 lead. The Panthers would go on to score the games next 23-points as they blew away Washington 44-16. While the Panthers are 10-0 they are probably the most Teflon unbeaten we have seen in the NFL in some time. Carolina has a rough six game stretch coming up, and there is no guarantee they will finish with even the NFC's number 1 seed.
3) The Dallas Cowboys with Romo still have a chance in the NFC East (believe it or not): How bad is the NFC East? So bad that the 3-7 Cowboys, mathematically, still have a shot at winning this god-awful division. The Cowboys won inspite of Tony Romo. Romo's much heralded return was created with two interceptions and the Cowboys had to rally late in order to beat the woeful Miami Dolphins. Now the Cowboys fans, those that are left, actually believe this team has a shot at the playoffs. Let's get real, the Cowboys are so far behind the eight ball that it is highly unlikely that they will have a run in them, even with Romo back in the lineup. The Cowboys would not only need to win out, but they need their rivals to lose key games as well. Not happening.
4) The Broncos can win without Payton Manning: See the Broncos can win with Brock
5) 2015 can't end soon enough for the Ravens: The Ravens have had a nightmare season. Not only has the team lost all seven of their games by eight points or less, but lost their star quarterback Joe Flacco to a torn ACL and MCL in Sunday's 16-13 win over the Rams. The Ravens are already short handed defensively with all the injuries they have endured this year, now they have no quarterback. While Matt Schuab might be the best back-up in the NFL, let's be honest he's not saving the season anytime soon.
6) The AFC South now has two teams at .500! Holy Cow, we finally have two teams with a .500 record in the AFC's most miserable division. The Colts won on Sunday thanks in big part to the Falcons own incompetence, while the Texans played the Jets (that says it all). Hey and the Jaguars are in the mix as well.
7) The Falcons are the artists of the choke: Let's face it the Atlanta Falcons are masters at choking in a big spot. Whether it be the NFC Title game in 2012 where they blew a 17-0 lead against San Francisco, or Sunday's 24-21 debacle against the Colts it has been the same ole story for not-so-hotlanta. Maybe it wasn't all Mike Smith's fault after all. Matt Ryan was picked off three times on Sunday, and the defense couldn't stop a 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck. While the 6-4 Falcons are still in the drivers seat for a playoff spot, they are not as good as many once thought.
8) Are the Buccaneers serious playoff threats? Meanwhile, the team that is behind the Falcons in the NFC South may very be better than anyone ever thought. The Buccaneers sliced and diced Mark Buttfumble Sanchez and the Eagles to the tune of 45-17 on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston threw for five touchdown passes, while Doug Marton churned out 235 yards on the ground. The Bucs are now winners of four of their last six games, and find themselves at .500 (5-5). Suddenly Tampa is in the middle of the NFC wild card conversation. While Tampa Bay was an improving team, nobody expected it to come this quickly. The Bucs still have three games in the division on their schedule and match-ups with the awful Colts, Bears and Rams on the docket. Who knows? They might be the surprise team of 2015.
9) New coach, same drama for Jets: It's the same ole Jets! They trick their fans into thinking their good. It's the same ole Jets! Remember that 4-1 start for Gang Green? The Jets sure don't. New York has lost four of its last five and played probably their worst game of the year in Houston on Sunday. Not only were the Jets beat by a banged up Texans team, starting a third string quarterback, but they made T.J. Yates look like Tom Brady. Yates threw a couple of touchdowns, including a 61-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins. The Jets also left the game banged up with Nick Mangold suffering a laceration on his snapping hand, and corner Darrelle Revis with a concussion. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was underwhelming, threw two picks and may have knocked himself in the process when he dove head first into the end zone, all while taking two nasty head-on shots in the process. The 5-5 Jets are in major trouble.
10) The Bengals still can't win a big game even when they play well. Sunday night's 34-31 lose in the Desert was not on Andy Dalton. Dalton threw for 315 yards and two scores, however the Bengals defense had no answer for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. After the Bengals scored 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 31, the Bengals allowed the Arizona to march on down the field and get into position for a game-winning field goal. The Bengals D even helped the Cardinals make it a chip-shot, after they were flagged for mimicking the snap count. Great job Cincy.