Week 11 Recap: Going… Going… Going?
We are 11 weeks into this NFL season, and there is absolutely no way to say one team is better than any other. Altanta is the league’s best, right? Well they lost to New Orleans last week, who lost to Denver a few weeks ago, who lost to New England a few weeks ago, who went to OT with the Jets, who lose a lot. Having trouble following yet? Every time a team gets hot, they stumble and lose or go to overtime with a sub-.500 team. But what can we do but follow trends, preview matchups, and scratch our heads like monkeys at the madness that is. After the first full week of Spogo, we’ll try to give that scalp a break and try to draw some sense out of this.
Colin Kaepernick (QB, San Francisco 49ers)
Colin went out and stomped the usually heady Bears defense. He completed 16 of 23 for 243 yards and 2 TDs. Some people might not consider 243 yards to be “stomping” but his predecessor Alex Smith has started nine games and threw for more than that only once. The 49ers now have a serious QB controversy that even head coach Jim Harbaugh recognized. Kaepernick gives them a constant extra dimension on offense with his speed and would be my choice over Smith going forward. It’s possible that Smith has benefitted from an offense that has out-performed his abilities, and now that there is someone with potential; they’re going to fly. It’s too early to put Kaepernick on that level, we need to see a few more like this, but I love what I saw from him last night.
Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons)
The Falcons got away with one at home, and Matt Ryan feels like the luckiest guy in the NFL. After throwing 5 (yes, 5) interceptions the Falcons found a way to win and stay 9-1. After a hot, MVP caliber start, Ryan has shown some growing (still) pains. In his last 5 games, he has thrown 7 TDs and 9 INTS. The Falcons are a complete football team, which allows them to overcome 5 interception games, but they can’t expect to get away with this often. While maybe 2 of these interceptions weren’t Ryan’s fault; that still leaves 3. Some of the throws even left me simply awestruck, they seemed mistakes a college freshman makes.
Calvin Johnson (WR, Detroit Lions)
After struggling to find consistency early in the season, Johnson is back. In his last two games Calvin has snagged 17 passes for 350 yards. More telling than the yards, are the back-to-back TDs in games. He’s only found the end zone three times this year, but is headed in the right direction. There is no question that he possesses all the talents a man can be born with, so I expect this quality play to continue. Whether it will make a difference on the Lions season remains to be seen. While sitting at 4-6 and not out of the race quite yet, the Lions have the Falcons, Colts, Packers, Bears and Texans left on the schedule. Tough, tough sledding. I don’t see them making the playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots
The Patriots went off on Sunday. Again. They’ve scored 30+ points in five of their last seven games, and stacked up a season high 59 on
Sunday. It wasn’t just an explosive game for the Pats offensively, but the addition of Aqib Talib at the trade deadline already has paid off, as he returned a Luck interception for a touchdown in his first outing. They finished with two interceptions for touchdowns, and showed some bite. The Pats went back to their two-back split in the run game, and while neither back had an explosive game, they still ran the ball 25 times and amassed 115 yards (in large part to a 47 yard Edelman rush). They’ll miss Gronkowski who broke his forearm while on extra point blocking duties. Before this happened I didn’t even know he was in on extra point coverage. As for the Colts, this was the yardstick test, and it’s clear they have some work to do to compete with the top teams.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
So, so, so close. This was one of those games that left us pondering the definition of “NFL’s best”. We know the Texans can score points, they probably have a top-three offense in the league, but their defense has shown that it is susceptible to giving up points in bunches. The Broncos put up 25 on them and the Packers exposed the secondary for 42. Fine. It’s Rodgers and Manning. But Chad Henne comes in and throws for 354 yards and 4 TDs? I’m a big Michigan fan and Henne gave me some great years, but he is eons from the Rodgers-Manning level. Expect the Lions to eat up the Jacksonville game tape as they prepare for this reeling Texans team on Turkey Day.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
There are few things harder to watch than a team put up yards, but come away with nothing. Apart from the 31-yard scamper by Byron Leftwich in the first quarter, the Steelers had one of those games. They had 311 total yards compared to the 200 of the Ravens. It was three turnovers and a lapse on punt coverage that sealed their fate. What may be worse is they lost Leftwich to a broken rib, and will have to start Charlie Batch (he’s 37, I looked it up) next week. The Ravens have lacked consistency offensively. They’ve exploded on two weeks for 44 and 55 points, but have also put up only 13 points in two of their last four. They’ll need to become more consistent going into the end of this season.