Lombardi Ave Picks 2016: National Football League Week 11 roundup
Week 11 of this NFL season brought Green Bay Packers fans yet another dose of disappointment, but there were plenty of games happening beyond just that one.
As with every week, Lombardiave staffers Brad, Josh, Thomas and myself came together in our season-long competition to see who would correctly pick the most games for the week.
Here are the Week 11 results, with some insights and thoughts on each game afterwards:
What We Got Right
Games we correctly agreed upon
It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers came away with another garden-variety victory over the still-winless Browns.
They didn’t throw the ball well despite their array of weapons (167 passing yards) and Cleveland’s weak defense (#31 Pass Defense DVOA), but their work on the ground (146 yards, 1 TD from Le’Veon Bell) made up for it. Combined with their defense holding the Browns to just 9 points, it was as simple and expected of a win to figure out as there is.
This win puts Pittsburgh at 5-5 and right there with the Ravens in the AFC North race, but they must play a lot better in the coming weeks to avoid falling out of the playoffs. The offense has a bit of the same feel as Green Bay’s has had this year: a strong quarterback and seemingly a bunch of talented weaponry, but they rarely live up to that potential. In theory they seem scary, but they keep proving to be anything but that when they actually play. If they struggle again this week against a bad Indianapolis team that’s terrible on defense (#30 Weighted Defensive DVOA) and likely missing their star quarterback, we need to treat them as the underwhelming team they are.
For Cleveland, they may not have wins, but they have some positive signs for the future. Terrelle Pryor continues to look like a legitimate weapon at wide receiver (5 catches, 97 yards), and their young players got to continue gaining experience.
This game was marked as a potential stumbling block for the sudden juggernaut Cowboys, with their #1 Run Defense DVOA ranking in tow. As with Green Bay’s top-ranked run defense earlier this season though, the Cowboys threw the ranking into the abyss in another dominating effort.
This was actually a pretty close game in the early going, with the Ravens successfully mucking things up to a 10-10 tie at the half. Dallas followed not only their run game (118 yards on the ground) but the arm of their impressive rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott: 27/36, 301 yards, 3 TDs) to pull away in the second half. The Ravens, forced to rely on their pitiful offense (#30 Weighted Offensive DVOA), of course could not score enough to stay in it, and sputtered away to the eventual 27-17 loss.
Dallas is undoubtedly one of the two NFC powers at this point, and we seriously may not see them lose again this year. Their best remaining competition is in their own division; they’ve already beaten both Washington and Philadelphia, and have massively improved since their season-opening loss to the Giants. Outside of the Seahawks, there appears to be nobody at this point who even has a chance to stop them from representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Baltimore meanwhile is a team that probably shouldn’t be in the playoff conversation at all, but enough close contests early let them rack up wins against easy competition and their only competitor in their division (Pittsburgh) is proving to be much less scary than their roster says they should be.
Detroit is somehow in the NFC North lead with 6 wins — including one over the also 6-win Vikings — despite having no running game and the worst defense in terms of advanced metrics. That’s mostly due to a strong season from Matthew Stafford, especially in key late-game situations. Jacksonville wouldn’t mind some of those heroics from their own QB, but as their defense has made a huge jump into mediocrity, the offense and Blake Bortles have plummeted.
Even so, Jacksonville was challenging hard in this game and could have possibly won with a slightly better showing from Bortles. They actually led 19-16 heading into the fourth quarter, but as Stafford tends to do he led scoring drives to go up 26-19. The Jaguars had a chance to make a final game-tying drive, but for the second straight week Bortles threw an interception off a teammates’ foot and those hopes were dashed before they really began.
Detroit is not as good as they seem, but winning does matter — even in this uninspiring manner. They have already beat Minnesota once this season, and if they do enough to stay close (their modus operandi in 2016) they could do so again. It’s like watching a head-on collision in slow motion each week though: you know what is going to happen, it’s going to be unsightly, but you still can’t look away; then somehow Matt Stafford jumps into the driver’s seat at the last minute and steers it through danger.
That allegory can be applied to Jacksonville too, but instead of steering out of it Bortles finds a way to turn it into a bridge-collapsing explosion (and there wasn’t even a bridge to begin with!). The Jaguars need this season to end so they can get a clean break from the failed Gus Bradley regime, but not even that will likely save them from Bortles. Teams rarely give up on highly-drafted QBs, and they likely are willing to think his garbage-time heroics of 2015 are enough of a sign that they’ll risk tanking his next coach’s tenure before it even begins.
Since we were already talking about a team in Detroit which isn’t as good as their record makes them seem, let’s move onto the Giants.
They have seven wins, but have done so in a quite uninspiring manner. After a 2-3 start, they’ve won 5 straight; that includes beating a offensively-offensive Ravens team, getting 4 INTs off of Case Keenum’s Rams, slopping their way past a turnover-happy Carson Wentz and his Eagles, surviving by one against the depleted (and no longer good) Bengals, and now making a 10 point comeback against a 2-win Chicago team.
You didn’t read that wrong; this now-7-3 team fell behind 16-6 to a Chicago team that was missing their best receiver to a PED suspension and might end the year by cutting their quarterback and firing their coach despite knowing full well this team was far from contention from the start. They had to hold on for dear life from mid-way through the third quarter with their 22-16 lead, needing a missed field goal and then a game-sealing INT at the end to get out with the win despite having five different chances in that time to add onto the lead (each became punts).
The positive things for them are they’ve banked enough wins to be in prime playoff position in a massively-flawed conference, they have a two-time Super Bowl winning QB who has excelled in the playoffs as recently as 2011, and a defense which is handsomely paid and sometimes plays up to those dollar figures.
Wait, those aren’t really compliments..
Oh well. Still better than the Bears, I guess.
New England-San Francisco
The Patriots did not impress in this one. Though they won by double-digits and scored 30 points behind 4 Tom Brady TD passes, this was much closer of a game than anyone expecting them to be an undeniable Super Bowl favorite would hope from them.
Going into the fourth quarter, they were only up by a mere 13-10 margin. The defense let Non-Voter In Chief Colin Kaepernick appear like he was still in 2012 at times, and allowed the 49ers run game to pile up 122 yards. Of course they eventually won — they should have; the 49ers are god-awful and sparsely-talented — but they have to come away concerned that it took all four quarters to do so.
The offense shouldn’t be too much of a problem (of course not having Gronk hurts, but they have enough weapons to make up for it almost every week by itself). That defense must be worked on though, before it lets them down when it matters.
San Francisco meanwhile may actually have something to work with here though. New England’s defense isn’t scary, but any signs of life from Kaepernick are worth some level of excitement for them since they have little else to bring them joy in a 1-win season. If he can capitalize on this sort of performance as the season continues, he may be able to give them hope of at least having a stopgap quarterback as they embark on a much-needed rebuild for their depleted roster.
The final game of the weekend brought fun and craziness in multiple forms.
The game was in Mexico City, breathing a fresh dose of palpable excitement from numerous fans who may not ever had seen the game otherwise. It also brought with it a high elevation, giving a Denver-like boost to the passing games.
Derek Carr showed off his strong work in the passing game as expected (295 yards, 3 TDs), but something was awoken within the carcass of Brock Osweiler too; he tossed a TD and 243 yards on his way to a Carr-besting 82.7 QBR on the night. He even ran for 19 yards! Behind those efforts, his Texans were actually up 20-13 with 10:57 left in the fourth quarter.
It wouldn’t last.
Oakland took just one play to tie it up; being the bundle of fun they are, it went to their fullback for a 75 yard TD catch-and-run. Houston tried their hand at a score of their own, but in Texans fashion, it was a disaster. They got within the red-zone before slamming to a halt, falling short by a credit card (announcer’s words, not mine) on 4th down. Oakland had zero hesitation upon getting the ball back, going 85 yards in 5 plays and with just 1:32 coming off the clock for a 27-20 lead.
Houston punted their next chance with the ball; it would be their final time with it at all. The Raiders proceeded to run time off the clock, and found themselves in their own 4th down play. Unlike the inept Texans though, Oakland took the bull by the horns and banged through a rush for six yards needing only one, despite having the lead and being pretty close to midfield. Had they failed it could have been lambasted — but knowing how bad the Texans are offensively, they likely win anyway.
In contrast to the way many teams (especially Green Bay) continue to find ways to disappoint their fans with brutal losses, Oakland continues to find new, impressive fashions in which to win, and it has been a treat to watch. They still have multiple major tests on their schedule, but maybe we should stop expecting them to slip up and just enjoy the ride as the get back to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
Houston meanwhile is still somehow the leader in the AFC South, but that feels like it must change sometime soon. They have a bunch of games left which could go either way, and both the Colts and Titans feel like they are better overall teams even with their own issues taken into account. With at least two wins left among their final six contest though, Houston may still back its way into the playoffs anyway. What we know for sure: they would be the least exciting option of the three.
What We Got Wrong
Games we got incorrect across the board
This game brought together two teams in dire need of a resounding victory to stop the bleeding. Arizona is far below the Super Bowl contender many hoped them to be, while Minnesota was coming in off four straight losses after a 5-0 start to the year.
Minnesota appears to have woken up, while Arizona is still just a much lesser team than anyone thought.
This game was actually more offensively influenced than you might expect between two defensive-minded units (Arizona: #25 Weighted Offensive DVOA, #5 Weighted Defensive DVOA; Minnesota: #23 Weighted Offensive DVOA, #7 Weighted Defensive DVOA), but the defense from at least one side was hugely impactful here.
Up 13-10, Minnesota found themselves with Arizona about to score a TD. Carson Palmer followed his troubling pattern in his dropoff from 2015 though, throwing an ill-advised pass; Xavier Rhodes easily snagged it, taking it from one endone to the other for a pick-six and a 20-10 lead. Arizona had enough offense to keep in the game despite this behind David Johnson (160 total yards, 2 TDs), but Minnesota showed off the same efficient formula they followed to their hot start (timely offense, terrifying defense, impactful special teams) to do just enough to hold on for the win.
I still don’t trust the Vikings in most games (mostly due to their offense), but with only a majorly-flawed Lions team in their way now they seem poised to reclaim the NFC North crown for a 2nd straight year if their other two units can prop up the Bradford-led offensive unit.
Arizona meanwhile shouldn’t yet be considered done, but they are pretty close. One more misstep and you can stick a fork in them; with games remaining against Atlanta, Washington, Miami, and Seattle, keep it at the ready.
Tampa Bay-Kansas City
Kansas City seemed like a prime bet to continue their strong efforts on defense to keep their winning streak going against a turnover-prone Tampa Bay team. That perception took a massive hit here, and they may have problems as we get into the meat of the playoff race.
Against a middling Tampa Bay defense (#18 in Weighted Defensive DVOA), the Chiefs’ offense mustered only 17 points. Meanwhile their own defense (#11 Weighted Defensive DVOA) held Tampa Bay to just 19 points, but due to their offensive struggles it turned out to be enough. They had some late chances down 19-10 to come back — and did score a TD in that situation before forcing a punt — but it was too little, too late.
Kansas City now has to hope they can keep up that defensive effort without Dee Ford (their best pass rusher most of the year with10 sacks; suffered a hamstring injury) while trying to find their offense again (no more than 20 points in each of the past three weeks); with a remaining schedule of Denver (x2), Atlanta, Oakland, Tennessee, and San Diego, this could go south fast.
Tampa Bay meanwhile is surprisingly sitting here with a .500 record and seemingly a playoff challenger. I’m still leery (still too turnover-prone offensively, unreliable running game, suspect defense), but they deserve more credit than they’ve been receiving to this point.
I had a bad feeling about this game for Cincinnati, but as with the Packers and Steelers I was hesitant to write them off just yet due to their success in recent years and the talented players heading their teams.
Consider them written off now.
Andy Dalton barely completed half his passes and just got over 200 yards in the air while throwing two INTs. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill each continue to add little excitement on the ground (and Bernard tore his ACL in this one). A.J. Green is still one of the league’s best receivers, but he appears to have a torn hamstring and won’t be around the rest of the year; his other receiving counterparts are a massive step down in production and ability. The offensive line — once one of the team’s best assets — has routinely let their quarterback get pressured at a league-high rate, while their defense can’t get stops when they need to and has dropped off from the past few seasons. Even their kick is off, missing multiple PATs on the afternoon.
Buffalo meanwhile impressed me enough in their prior games that I nearly changed my pick, and continued those strong efforts here. Their ground game put up almost 200 yards despite LeSean McCoy getting sat down due to a thumb injury. Tyrod Taylor wasn’t statistically great (166 passing yards, 1 INT), but he continued to make plays with his legs (39 rushing yards) and found his bottom-barrel-level receiving options when he needed to.
The Muddled Middle
Games we didn’t agree on
The Panthers and Saints both came into this game with faint hopes for the playoffs, but looked good enough in recent weeks that a late-season run couldn’t be ruled out just yet; they each left with those hopes seemingly fully dashed.
Carolina put up a 23-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter behind a strong defensive effort and key big plays (including an incredible TD throw from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn), but New Orleans finally found themselves offensively to almost steal the game away. With their defense unable to quickly stop Carolina’s last drive however, Drew Brees had too little time left for a real drive and the comeback petered out with a whimper.
Each is now 4-6 with plenty stacked against them. New Orleans’ defense has mostly played at a mediocre level (a massive improvement from the league-worst quality the past few seasons), but they still let up too many big plays and continue to undo their offense’s normally-strong play. Carolina did seem poised for a possible run, but they just lost Luke Kuechly to a terrifying concussion (he was literally in tears) and almost gave away a game they seemed to have locked down even before that happened.
These teams each have recent major wins over the Packers and officially announced themselves in competition for the AFC South crown. The Colts looked to make it a blowout early, putting the Titans in an early 21-0 hole (much like what the Titans did to the Packers in Week 10); Tennessee fought back behind the arm of Marcus Mariota and the hands of Rishard Matthews (9 catches, 122 yards) and Tajae Sharpe (4 catches, 68 yards, 1 TD).
Following a late INT from Andrew Luck, Tennessee had their chance to try tying it up from down just 24-17 and in great field position. A 13-play drive fell short though, with Demarco Murray getting stuffed on 4th-&-1 at the Colts’ 19 yard line; the Colts would run out the final 2:42 from there.
While this had to be a blow to Tennessee (5-6, with two losses to the Colts now), it may be Indianapolis who is worse for wear from this game. Luck has ended up in concussion protocol, and though it was questionable whether Indianapolis would beat Pittsburgh on Thursday even with him, it now seems to be a foregone conclusion his team will be back under .500 after Thanksgiving. Tennessee meanwhile gets to face an erstwhile Chicago team which should provide them with their 6th win of the year.
This wasn’t really what you’d call an exciting game, but it was intriguing for a number of reasons. Jared Goff was getting his first start for a Los Angeles team looking for some semblance of a positive quarterback contribution as they somehow have stayed in the playoff race in the NFC; Miami meanwhile had been hot, with a month’s worth of straight wins to get into the conversation of the AFC’s playoffs.
Of course, as these teams are wont to do, the Rams played up to the competition while Miami played down to it. Through the first 53:22 of the game the Dolphins found themselves down 10-0, with 10 punts and an interception to their offense’s name.
From there, they flipped the script entirely. Miami scored on their two remaining drives almost entirely on the arm of Ryan Tannehill (final two drives: 11/12, 114 yards, 2 TDs) and the hands of Jarvis Landry (3 catches, 27 yards, 1st TD) and DeVante Parker (5 catches, 57 yards, 2nd TD) — as well as a couple huge defensive penalties by the Rams’ Alec Ogletree and Aaron Donald –to go up for the final 14-10 margin.
Miami entrenched themselves as an AFC playoff threat for the stretch run; if they keep up their efforts they might bust through the Oakland/Denver/Kansas City group holding the current frontrunner positions for the wild card spots. Los Angeles meanwhile finally got to see their #1 overall pick quarterback in real game action, and while they shouldn’t expect the playoffs any longer (nor should they ever really have, to be honest) they at least know he’s no worse than Case Keenum, no matter how long of a development curve he appears to still have ahead of him.
After the fact, it feels like overthinking on my part to stray from the pack on this one, but there was some legitimate reasoning as to why I thought the Eagles could win. I looked at Seattle’s biggest weakness (their offensive line), looked back to Philadelphia’s biggest strength (their defensive line) and saw this becoming the sort of gruesome contest the Eagles beat Minnesota with a few weeks back.
Turns out, Seattle isn’t Minnesota (who knew?), and the Seahawks were much better equipped to handle what the Eagles wanted to throw at them.
Using power, trickery, and misdirection, the Seahawks took away the what the Eagles wanted to do defensively. Russell Wilson’s legs prevented the penetrating defensive front from finishing the job often, only getting sacked once. Before injury C.J. Prosise blasted away for a 72 yard run, and Thomas Rawls ran with authority to wear down the Eagles’ front. The constantly-underrated Doug Baldwin went for not only 100+ yards by receptions, but he even threw a touchdown to Wilson. On the other end, Seattle’s defense had their way with Carson Wentz and his abysmal receiving corps; they held him to just 218 yards through the air and picked him off twice.
The Seahawks are one of the two best teams in the NFC, and have a win already over the AFC’s top team (New England). Even if Dallas ends up with home-field advantage in the playoffs, many will still be picking these guys if those two do indeed meet there. The Eagles are a step below Seattle, but they can still prove to be a terror of a matchup if they can work their way into the playoffs from here (at 5-5, that is a distinct possibility).
We’ve talked a lot about this game across the site already, so I’ll finish this one off quickly.
Washington and Green Bay each started slowly on offense, with a 13-10 margin heading into the half and the winds swirling heavily. Washington woke up in a huge way for the second half though, scoring on every meaningful drive in the final two quarters. Green Bay’s offense, while looking better with the re-addition of Jared Cook to the fold, could not even hope to keep up with the barrage of points their defense allowed, and fell in yet another blowout.
Washington has firmly put themselves as one of the NFC’s best second-tier squads (Dallas/Seattle are the top, obviously), with all facets of their offense working well enough right now that they’ll be tough to beat even if their defense can’t hold up.
Green Bay meanwhile is doing so poorly we see the usually-silent Mark Murphy feeling the need to publicly state that he isn’t planning to make any firings at this point despite his disappointment with where the Packers stand right now. Minnesota and Detroit haven’t been good enough to put away all thoughts of the division yet, but the team has performed so poorly all year that the playoffs shouldn’t be near anyone’s minds for this team.
Who Won The Week
As per usual, we ended another week with Brad leading our pack.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised by now; he’s won or tied for the lead in seven of the eleven weeks which have passed, and now holds a double-digit advantage over his closest competition (that’s me).
We have a lot of ground to make up to give him a run, but most weeks haven’t seen as much agreement between our picks for the week; a couple weeks here or there down the stretch could change things dramatically.
Whether it does or now, I’m sure the rest of us will do our best to make it a competition.
Hopefully we do a better job at it than Green Bay has been doing in their games.
Week 11 Picks Records:
2016 Picks Records:
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