Highs and Lows is back, and NFL Week Eleven was chaos personified. The NFL continues to be the best show on television and the late game heroics came from both familiar faces along with some unlikely names as well, and an AFC South team is starting to jump off my screen. As usual, there is plenty to discuss. I am simply here to narrow your focus a bit.
Charged Up Offense
In what was most likely the game of the week the Los Angeles Charges downed the Pittsburgh Steelers 41-37 on Sunday Night Football in a pivotal AFC matchup. The late game heroics of Justin Herbert propelled the Chargers to 6-4 and the Steelers fell to 5-4-1 and given that neither team is leading their division at the moment this game might decide their positioning in the AFC wild-card at the end of the season.
Justin Herbert was brilliant once again on Sunday. The MVP candidate threw for 382 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, and rushed for another 90 yards on nine carries. After the Steelers took the lead on a 45-yard field goal by Chris Boswell late in the fourth quarter, Herbert responded in a major way with a 53-yard strike to wide receiver Mike Williams that put the Chargers up for good.
The Chargers offense as a whole tore up a banged up Pittsburgh defense that was missing big name players such as T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Joe Haden. Los Angeles had a whopping 533 total yards and averaged 7.7 yards per play. Running back Austin Eckler had another huge day, with 115 total yards and four touchdowns, and star receiver Keenan Allen made a big impact with 112 yards on his nine receptions. The Chargers offense was simply too much for the Steelers to overcome and they left Sofi Stadium with a big win.
Top Dog Taylor
The Indianapolis Colts went on the road and dismantled the Buffalo Bills 41-15 for their third straight win. After starting the season 1-4 They now sit at 6-5, second place in the AFC South and firmly in the AFC wild-card picture, and an MVP candidate might be emerging on their squad.
Since the foot injury that finished Derrick Henry for the rest of the regular season, no running back has been better than Jonathan Taylor. The Wisconsin standout had a monster day in the Buffalo rain, amassing 204 total yards, including 185 on the ground, and five touchdowns, 4 on the ground and one through the air. While Carson Wentz had a pedestrian day, 106 yards and one touchdown, Taylor ensured he would star in the nightmares of Bills Mafia for the rest of the season.
Taylor has been on a tear this season, and the ludicrous play of Derrick Henry distracted us from what Taylor was doing early on. Following the Colts 0-3 start to the season, Taylor has had eight consecutive games with at least 110 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, the longest active streak in the league. He now leads the league with 11222 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, and his 1444 scrimmage yards and 15 total touchdowns top the leaderboards as well. He is most definitely an MVP candidate, and his play is propelling the Colts to the playoffs.
Flying Under The Radar
In case anyone forgot, the Arizona Cardinals are the league’s best team. A wild mistake on the goal line against the Packers and three games played without Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins has kept Arizona out of the headlines the past month, but without their two best players the Cardinals have gone on the road for a divisional game twice in the last three weeks and won both times by double digits. This past week Colt McCoy and the newly revived Chandler Jones led the Cardinals to a 23-13 win against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, handing Russell Wilson the first the three game losing streak of his professional career, and piling on what has been a dismal season in Seattle.
McCoy balled out going 35/44 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. He thoroughly outplayed Wilson, who only managed 207 yards with no touchdowns and had a QBR of 22.3. Wilson was dealing with constant pressure as he was sacked four times. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who had only one sack in his last seven games had two against the Seahawks and caused havoc in the trenches all day. The Cardinals are still atop the league and this past month has convinced me even more of this.
Every once in a while, the Tennessee Titans deliver a performance that boggles the mind. It happened Week One when they were beat down by the Cardinals in their home opener, it happened at MetLife Stadium to hand the Jets their first win, and it just happened against the previously one-win Houston Texans, who snapped their eight-game losing streak when they won 22-13 in Tennessee.
Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor only had 107 passing yards. The Texans leading rusher was Rex Burkhead who amassed 40 yards on 18 carries, and the Texans as a whole didn’t even have 200 yards of total offense. They had 17 less plays than the Titans, 11 less 1st downs, lost the time of possession battle, and were penalized five times to Tennessee’s five. So how did the Texans win this game by two scores, you might ask? Turnovers. Against one of the league's worst defenses, the Titans turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions from Ryan Tanehill. It could have been worse, but three of the four fumbles by the Titans weren’t lost. Just a terrible day by the Titans and a sorry way to snap a six-game win streak.
What Happens in Vegas...
The Las Vegas Raiders lost at home to the Cincinnati Bengals 32-13, falling to .500 and the future is looking bleak for Raider Nation. They are now on a three-game losing streak, tied for last in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, and have fallen out of the AFC wild-card picture. The Bengals were coming off two bad losses to the Jets and Browns and needed a win to keep pace in the AFC North but the Raiders were a no show on Sunday.
Las Vegas was not good situationally. They 1-7 on third down, compared to 8-16 for Cincinnati, and 1-3 in the red zone while the Bengals capitalized on both of their red zone trips. The Bengals played a clean game, only being penalized once while the Raiders were flagged seven times for 77 yards, and the Raiders lost the turnover battle 2-1 as well. The addition of DeSean Jackson hasn’t been able to fill the hole left by former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs, and Derek Carr (215 yards, one touchdown, one interception) has done little to nothing to elevate his team through the off field turbulence that the season has brought. The Raiders are in a bad spot right now with no answers in sight.
Extremely Dirty Birds
The Atlanta Falcons have been outscored 68-3 in their last two games. 68. To. Three. On Thursday Night Football they were manhandled by the New England Patriots at home 25-0. Funnily enough the 25 point lead the Patriots held when the clock hit zero isn’t the most painful 25-point margin between these teams in Falcons history, but that’s just me being mean.
The interesting thing is the Falcons prior to these last two nightmares had been trending in the right direction. Following an 0-2 start to the year Atlanta had won four of their last six games before taking the field in Arlington Texas, and were firmly in the NFC wild-card picture. Carnage ensued, however and the Falcons are once agains reeling with no answers in sight. The Falcons only had 165 yards total against the Patriots and threw four interceptions between the three quarterbacks that took the field Thursday. Matt Ryan was shut out for only the second time in his career, and the Falcons are back to the basement in the NFC South.
That’s it for Highs and Lows this week. Week 12 should be as cinematic as the rest have been as the season of giving will give us three interesting matchups on Thanksgiving day. Sunday we get a heavyweight bout in each conference, and a pivotal game in the AFC North.