In Week 11, the pressure begins to intensify for several flagging NFC teams hoping to make a stretch run for a playoff berth.
The Cowboys will face an NFC North opponent again, this time the ailing Lions, a week after losing at home to the Vikings. The Eagles will hope to repeat their success against the Patriots, whom they upset in Super Bowl LII. In the Sunday nightcap, the Bears and Rams will try to show that they are capable of returning to the playoffs.
The most exciting matchup, though, may just be the earlier game between the Texans and Ravens, two AFC teams previously known for their defenses now showcasing electrifying quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. They’re the first two players with at least 15 passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns and a passer rating of at least 100 through their teams’ first nine games.
The Packers, Giants, Seahawks and Titans have byes this week.
All times Eastern.
|1||Falcons at Panthers||Fox|
|1||Cowboys at Lions||Fox|
|1||Jaguars at Colts||CBS|
|1||Bills at Dolphins||CBS|
|1||Texans at Ravens||CBS|
|1||Broncos at Vikings||CBS|
|1||Jets at Redskins||Fox|
|1||Saints at Buccaneers||Fox|
|4:05||Cardinals at 49ers||Fox|
|4:25||Bengals at Raiders||CBS|
|4:25||Patriots at Eagles||CBS|
|8:20||Bears at Rams||NBC|
The early shift
Falcons (2-7) at Panthers (5-4), 1, Fox
The Panthers have to know they let one get away last week in snowy Green Bay and Coach Ron Rivera is still getting second-guessed for his “purely analytics” fourth-quarter strategy of going for two after a Christian McCaffrey touchdown narrowed the Packers’ lead to 24-16. That turned out to be the final score. The Falcons had a dominating, and shocking, 26-9 win in New Orleans. Was it a fluke or a sign that a team with a Super Bowl appearance in its recent past is improving?
Cowboys (5-4) at Lions (3-5-1), 1, Fox
Know this about the Cowboys: They’ve had the good fortune to play the Saints without Drew Brees, the Packers without Davante Adams and the Vikings without Adam Thielen. And they’ve lost each time. That would seem to bode well for the Lions, who will be without quarterback Matthew Stafford for a second straight week because of fractures in his back. With 164 rushing yards, Ezekiel Elliott can become the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards through his first 50 career games. Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis are the others.
Jaguars (4-5) at Colts (5-4), 1, CBS
Put aside those jorts and tear up the fake mustaches. Minshew Mania is over and Foles Fanaticism is back, with Jacksonville QB Nick Foles starting for the first time since breaking his collarbone in Week 1. Brian Hoyer played poorly in replacing injured Indy starting QB Jacoby Brissett in last week’s loss to the Dolphins. Brissett is set to return on Sunday.
Bills (6-3) at Dolphins (2-7), 1, CBS
This game features the team with the longest winning streak in the AFC East, and it isn’t the Bills. (The Dolphins have won two straight!) Meanwhile, there’s an interesting factoid about Miami starter Ryan Fitzpatrick: He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to start a game and throw a touchdown pass for eight different teams. The Dolphins appear to have abandoned their tanking ways, with Coach Brian Flores saying they are “out to win every game, period.”
Texans (6-3) at Ravens (7-2), 1, CBS
The future has arrived in a get-yer-popcorn matchup of Watson and Jackson. A Houston defense ranked third against the run and 29th against the pass will try to stop Jackson, who is coming off his second perfect passer rating of the season and a spinning, jaw-dropping 47-yard touchdown scramble that his coach said “will be watched for many years to come.” The Ravens have won eight of the 10 all-time meetings between the teams.
Broncos (3-6) at Vikings (7-3), 1, CBS
Winners of four of their last five games, the Vikings are 4-0 on their home turf this season. Wideout Adam Thielen will be out again with a hamstring injury. Look for the team to call Dalvin Cook’s number a lot; no need to gamble with Kirk Cousins here. The running back rushed for 97 yards (and one touchdown) on 26 carries in the upset over the Cowboys and caught seven passes for 86 yards.
Jets (2-7) at Redskins (1-8), 1, Fox
The Redskins, for better or worse and for the rest of the season, are now Dwayne Haskins’s team. For Haskins and his teammates, the second half of the season is an audition for the next head coach. In their victory over the Giants last week, Jets safety Jamal Adams had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a 25-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, becoming only the sixth player (Cliff Avril, Jason Gildon, Orlando Scandrick, Jyles Tucker and Mike Vrabel) to have that combination in a game.
Saints (7-2) at Buccaneers (3-6), 1, Fox
The Saints are coming off an inexplicable home loss to the Falcons in a divisional game, something that feels like it happens to them once every season. Quietly, wide receiver Michael Thomas is on pace to catch 153 passes, which would break Marvin Harrison’s single-season record of 143. He’s also on pace for 1,826 yards receiving, which would be the fifth-highest single season total.
The late games
Cardinals (3-6-1) at 49ers (8-1), 4:05, Fox
The Cardinals face a division rival still smarting from a 27-24 loss to the Seahawks Monday night. Arizona rookie QB Kyler Murray has 2,553 passing yards and 351 rushing yards in his first 10 starts, joining Daunte Culpepper, Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson as the only quarterbacks with at least 2,500/250 through 10 starts. The 49ers will be without tight end George Kittle (ankle, knee) and it is uncertain whether wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) will play. Both missed Monday’s game. That loss Monday night was only the 12th for Niners rookie Nick Bosa since the ninth grade.
Bengals (0-9) at Raiders (5-4), 4:25, CBS
Can Raiders rookie Josh Jacobs keep up the workload? In his last two seasons at Alabama, the running back had 166 carries for 924 yards and five touchdowns in 26 games. Only once did he have more than 20 carries in a game. So far in Oakland, he has had 168 carries (averaging nearly 20 a game) for 811 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games. It’s tempting for a coach to continue to give a hot running back the ball, but maybe Jon Gruden should make like an NBA coach and consider load management.
Patriots (8-1) at Eagles (5-4), 4:25, CBS
So much has happened since that Super Bowl, right? And Tom Brady isn’t the kind of guy to nurse a grudge like a hothouse orchid, right? “You assume I’m over it,” Brady said last week. “Come on now. That’s a lot of mental scar tissue from that year. That was a tough game. … This is not the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals. This is all about tough competition against the best teams. They deserved it that year, and now a couple years later we get a chance to play the organization again. We’ve had a lot changes. They’ve had a lot of changes. It’s totally different circumstances. Huge game for us. Big game for them. And the best team is going to win.” Thanks, Tom, for writing this one for us.
The night game
Bears (4-5) at Rams (5-4), 8:20, NBC
We cannot say this more clearly: Next up for the Rams is a game against the Ravens and their season is on the brink. In third place in the NFC West, they’re in serious danger of not making the playoffs. Suddenly, opponents seem to have figured out Coach Sean McVay, while the drop-off in production from Todd Gurley and Jared Goff since last year’s Super Bowl campaign has been significant. The Bears’ plight is similar, but they’re coming off a division win over the Matthew Stafford-less Lions. Mitchell Trubisky passed for three touchdowns in a five-attempt span against Detroit. Before that, he had passed for only two touchdowns in his previous 134 attempts, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
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