NFL General

10 NFL Questions: Week 11

Nine games into the season, we are finally being shown some team’s true identities. The Falcons, Bengals, Rams, Vikings, and Jags have all declined from the teams they were a month ago. Even New England is down, after back-to-back losses for the first time in years. While the NFL’s middle ground remains muddled, two things are clear: some teams are elite while many have already secured a top 10 pick in next year’s draft. This week, with the exception of a few games, it’s the haves playing to have-nots. Question 1: Who will take the pivotal Denver-San Diego matchup?

This is one of the best games of the season, and we’ll get to see it again in week 14. While these two teams have identical 7-2 records, they couldn’t be more different. San Diego, who played in the year’s best game so far last week, scores 33 points a game and features numerous offensive stars. Denver, meanwhile, plays in low-scoring, dull games–but they still win. Their only true offensive weapon is Javon Walker, who has caught for about half of the team’s yards and touchdowns. Still, their defense is one of the top units in the league, and they have the game’s best corner in Champ Bailey. So it’s clear each of these teams is very good, and both should make the playoffs barring an absolute collapse. But who will win this one?

The Broncos have an edge because they’re playing at home. They rarely lose at Mile High. But still, the Colts came in and beat them three weeks ago, so this isn’t the biggest advantage. And while their defense has been outstanding in most of their games, it has slightly struggled recently. They allowed more than 300 yards in the air to the Colts and Steelers, and gave up a combined 54 points in those two games.

Some of the better offensive teams have done well against the Broncos, which is not good news when you’re going up against one of the league’s top offensives. The powerhouse Chargers feature LaDainian Tomlinson, who is in the middle of his best season. LT shouldn’t dominate against the Broncos’ tough rushing defense, but expect him to make a few plays and get into the end zone at least once. The key for San Diego is whether Philip Rivers can make plays in the passing game. Almost every game so far this year, Rivers has been efficient and very productive, and was one of the leading forces in the team’s comeback last week from a 21-point halftime deficit. He should be able to have a great game.

Basically, the Chargers have the edge in this Sunday Night showdown. They have one of the toughest run-stuffing defenses in the league, and are facing a Broncos team that has actually been inconsistent running the football. Their offense should be able to put up some points as well. Score prediction: Chargers 27, Broncos 21

Question 2: Will the Cowboys end the Colts’ undefeated season?

Honestly, the chance that the Colts will go undefeated this year is very slim. They have some tough games down the stretch, and with the way they’ve been keeping games close, one of those teams should upset them. The Colts aren’t as good as they were last year, and I don’t think they have what it takes to win a Super Bowl title. However, right now, the Colts are playing winning football. Someone can and will take them down, but it won’t be easy.

Dallas has not yet proven itself to be a juggernaut. While the media greatly enjoys the thought of Tony Romo leading the team to the playoffs, this team has been inconsistent and unimpressive against some of their toughest opponents. The opponents they’ve beaten have combined for a 14-31 record. In their showdown against Philly, they got routed in the second half. Same for their Monday night loss to the Giants. Their bizarre loss at Washington shows that even when Romo plays well, the team can still lose. This is what I expect from them against the Colts. Dallas has some great talent on both sides of the ball, but they’re not ready to take down Indy, whose two greatest wins this year were both on the road. Expect the game to be close, but as always, the Colts will win. Colts 28, Cowboys 23

Question 3: Can Cincinnati climb out of a 4-5 hole?

This is one team that perplexes me. Though their triplets–Carson Palmer, Rudi Johnson, and Chad Johnson–are all playing well, last week was the first time in months that their offense played to its potential. If they can score 30+ points consistently, like last year, then the Bengals could be a juggernaut. But I don’t know if they can do that, especially with remaining road games against New Orleans, Denver, and Indy. Their defense appears to be plain weak. Any defense bad enough to blow a 21-point lead is not good enough to survive in the AFC. And, as losers of five of their last six games, the Bengals don’t exactly have momentum on their side.

There is one way to reenergize this squad: win decisively against the Saints this week. If they do that, they might have a chance at the coveted second Wild Card spot in the AFC (assuming Denver/San Diego have the other WC locked up). However, I don’t think their defense can take another shootout scenario, which will be likely against the Saints in the Dome. I’m not saying it’s over for the Bengals, but it is getting close.

Question 4: Are the Bears fully recovered from their Week 9 loss?

In the Bears’ two decisive games so far this season–Sunday nighters against the Giants and Seahawks–they won by combined 75-26. While their game against New York last week was a little closer than the score indicates, last week did show me something important: Rex Grossman can play on the road. Going into last week Grossman had a 50 quarterback rating on the road; last week he put up 105.7. He did throw a pick, but you would too if you were smashed in between two 300-pound defensive lineman (as he was on the play). Anyway, Thomas Jones also played well, and Muhsin Muhammad had his best receiving game since joining the Bears. And their defense played well, limiting Eli Manning to his worst game of the year. Not only are the Bears back, but they have a chance at winning out the rest of the regular season. If they can get by in consecutive road games against the Jets and Patriots the next two weeks, then the Bears should finish 15-1. At this point, there’s not even a legit challenger to Chicago’s NFC supremacy.

(And here’s a random Bears fact: they had a four game stretch earlier this year in which they were favored by double-digits in each contest. Post a comment if you know of a team that has had a longer such streak.)

Question 5: Who else will be an upset victim of the Dolphins?

It seems that each year, some crappy team the first half of the year plays the classic spoiler role down the stretch. This year’s team appears to be the Miami Dolphins. After losing to some of the worst teams in the NFL during a 1-6 start, they have back-to-back wins against the Bears and Chiefs. And they have many more opportunities the rest of the year. Expect the Jaguars to be a victim in week 13, as well as the Jets on Christmas day. And it goes without saying that they’ll top the Vikings this week at home this week.

Question 6: Will the Panthers improve enough to make the playoffs?

Can anyone accurately predict the Panthers? One week, they look like the team that beat the Giants and Bears in last year’s playoffs. In other weeks, they take a nap and get crushed. As far as making the playoffs go, at this point I’m saying no. Here are three reasons why:

First, they will not catch the Saints in their division. New Orleans, despite last week’s loss, is still the most solid team in the NFC South. Second, their schedule is too hard. Their last five games are against Philly, New York, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Ouch. Third, their offense isn’t good enough. They rank 23rd in total yards and 28th in rushing. They are being outscored by the 49ers. Does this sound like a playoff squad to you?

Question 7: Who are the league’s most underrated and overrated teams?    

Overrated: The Patriots were hyped up before the Indy game like they were still the Super Bowl winning team of a few years ago. Here’s a news flash: they aren’t. The Pats just lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2002, and they have lost three times at home. I’m not saying New England won’t make the playoffs–five of their seven remaining games are against losing teams. But don’t expect them to be as consistent and dominant as they were two years ago–especially once they reach the postseason.

Underrated: I think the Eagles are a much better team than their 5-4 record indicates. Their offense is ranked #1 in the league, and their running game is quietly producing 5.0 yards a carry. Three of their losses were decided on the last play of the game. We’ll get to see just how good they are when they play each divisional rival on the road in a brutal week 14-16 stretch.

Question 8: Has LT passed Manning for the MVP?

This debate is admittedly a useless one, but it’s always fun to talk about. Right now, I don’t see how you can vote against LaDainian Tomlinson. He was the force that propelled the Chargers to their comeback win last week, and also was a deciding factor in their previous two games. With 15 touchdowns in his last five games and 18 overall, he is on pace for a stratospheric 32 scores on the year. If he attains that, it would be the statistical equivalent of a 5800-yard passing season. While Philip Rivers has also been an enormous help to the team, I don’t think they’d be anywhere near as good with an average back. For now, it’s Tomlinson over Peyton Manning.

Question 9: Who will win the other games this week?

Besides Chargers-Broncos, Bengals-Saints, and Colts-Cowboys (predictions stated above), this is a pretty easy week.

The Steelers will get their first road win of the season against the offense-less Browns. Kansas City will crush Oakland in Trent Green’s return. Philadelphia will take the Titans by double-digits. The Ravens will put the Falcons out of their misery. The Bears should win, but not easily, against the Jets. The Patriots should squeak one out as they travel to Lambeau to take on the Packers (I’m still putting it on upset alert). The Rams can pull off an upset against the Panthers in a possible shootout. Finally, the Giants will bounce back in a close one over Jacksonville.

Question 10: Which teams will make the playoffs?

Teams are sorted by predicted seed as always. Last time’s rankings are in parenthesis.


  1. Chicago (1)
  2. New Orleans (3)
  3. New York (2)
  4. Seattle (4)
  5. Philadelphia (5)
  6. Dallas (NR)


  1. Indianapolis (1)
  2. San Diego (3)
  3. New England (2)
  4. Baltimore (4)
  5. Denver (5)
  6. Kansas City (NR)

3 replies on “10 NFL Questions: Week 11”

Has BEEN-GALS! In the wake of last week’s  home meltdown the Gals receive a refresher course in How Many halves are there? and TJ finds his mouthpiece.  

huh? You say LT over Peyton Manning for MVP?  The Chargers might be mediocre without Tomlinson, but where would the Colts be without Peyton Manning.  Not mediocre.  They would be garbage.  Total garbage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *