11 Things We Learned in Week 11 | November 21, 2012
Week 11 saw plenty of Overtime, some absurd stats and a couple of season defining performances. The early set of game on Sunday was full of drama and potential shocks. The Jags almost knocked off the Texans, the Cardinals were close to beating the Falcons and the Browns came a whisker away from upsetting Dallas. In the end, normal service was resumed, but it was great fun while it lasted. We also had a wonderful first start for Colin Kaepernick, a rude awakening for Andrew Luck and a few teams hauling themselves into Play Off contention. Here’s what we found out?:
1. Hitting the Wall
There are plenty of famous walls in the world – Hadrian’s, Berlin, Great,…err Mill. There’s also the notorious “Rookie Wall” - the pint in the season when First Year players stop progressing and begin looking like the young, inexperienced players they are. Ryan Tannehill appears to have hit that wall, head on at a pretty high speed! It started in Week 10 against the Tians, and this week he took further backward steps against the Buffalo Bills. Tannehill looked ruffled in the pocket, made some poor decisions and didn’t look like the rookie QB who had impressed so many people in the first half of the season. I still think Tannehill is the long term solution for the Fins, but 2012 may contain a few more duff weeks for the rookie.
2. Victory in Defeat
Yes, the Jaguars lost again, and yes, they conceded far too many points again. But the performances of Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon and Chad Henne will have given fans plenty of encouragement. After a dire performance in relief of Blaine Gabbert a few weeks ago, Henne has clearly being getting up to speed with his receivers and delivered a top class performance on Sunday in similar circumstances. It was enough to earn him the starting spot of Week 12 and leave Blaine Gabbert wondering if his time with the Jags may be coming to an end.
3. Coming Up on the Rails 1
Greg Schiano won’t get many Coach of the Year votes, but you have to admire the turnaround he is engineering in Tampa Bay. Josh Freeman has rediscovered his 2010 form, Doug Martin is turning into one of the most feared runners in the league and the Defence are creating plenty of turnovers. However, the biggest change in Tampa Bay this year has been the introduction of giant WR Vincent Jackson. Jackson is giving Freeman a large go-to target, as well as drawing attention away from the likes of Mike Williams, Dallas Clark and Tiquain Underwood. This was highlighted by the last minute Touchdown, 2pt conversion and Overtime win in Carolina this week. Freeman made 3 clutch throws when the game was on the line. If this run of run continues for the Bucs they will be a tough prospect to face in January.
4. Coming Up on the Rails 2
At 3-5, the Bengals were gone. Now 2 wins later they are right back in the Wild Card race. Any team with AJ Green (9 games with a TD in a row and counting) stands a chance and Andy Dalton has made a big leap forward over the last two weeks. This week’s comfortable win over the hapless Chiefs wasn’t a surprise, but they did it with a minimum of fuss and have moved back into AFC North contention. With the Ravens and Steelers looking banged up, the Bengals are in position to take advantage of any slip ups. If only they could get a win against one of their rivals!
5. Coming Up on the Rails 3
Leading the way in the remarkable turnaround stakes are the New Orleans Saints. Having started the season abysmally, the Saints have clicked into top gear and look like their old selves at last. A road win in Oakland isn’t exactly special, but the way in which they dismissed the Raiders will make the rest of the NFL stand up and take notice. Drew Brees has been playing well all season, but now the likes of Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham are coming out to play. What’s more, they finally have a decent running game in the shape of Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles is due to return shortly and the defence have finally started to make some big plays. The PlayOffs are a distinct possibility and after the season they’ve had in New Orleans that would represent a remarkable achievement.
6. Maybe the Bears don;t have the Top Defence in the NFL
I’ve spent the season in awe of the Chicago defence and the big plays they have made, but on Monday night in San Francisco they were comprehensively outplayed by debut starter Colin Kaerpernick and the 49ers offence. What’s more, the Bears attack was bullied all night by the rampant Niners D. Jason Campbell was picked off twice and given an absolute pounding by Aldon Smith, who finished with a remarkable 5.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
This defeat, coupled with another Packers victory, has taken the Bear sout of the Divisional top spot. Lovie Smith will be hoping this was a one off Defensive performance and normal service will be resumed next week.
7. Dawson’s Streak
According to NFL.com, David Akers is leading the way in Pro Bowl voting for kickers. This seems absurd given that Akers has missed 6 times this year, whilst over in Cleveland Phil Dawson is a remarkable 19 from 19. It’s not as if Dawson is dealing purely in chip shots either, he has landed 5 from other 50 yards – including another 2 in this week’s defeat to the Cowboys. True, Akers did equal the longest Field Goal ever earlier in the season, but surely you can’t argue with perfection!
Further scrutiny of the Pro Bowl voting shows that Troy Polamanu is also on course for a trip to Hawaii. More evidence that the whole thing is a complete sham and needs to be put out to pasture.
8. Kevin Kolb for MVP!
Maybe not, but the downturn in results since the Cardinals QB got injured has been remarkable. John Skelton has struggled to find any rhythm or accuracy and this week he had the indignity of being benched in the first half after just 2 completions. An errant pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the EndZone was the final straw for Ken Whisenhunt and he benched Skelton in favour of rookie Ryan Lindley. It was an unmitigated disaster, as the Cardinals finished the day with just 41 passing yards (Coincidentally the same number of completions made by Matt Schaub on Sunday!). Kolb is no world beater, but he’s getting better every week he doesn’t play.
9. Ryan’s Bad Day at the Office
Matt Ryan has been the front runner for MVP for much of the season. After all, he was the QB of the last undefeated side in the league. That has all changed in the last 2 weeks. Firstly, the Falcons lost their unbeaten record to the Saints. Then we had this week’s 5 (yup, five) interception outing against the Cardinals. Ryan was wildly inaccurate on most of the picks and certainly didn’t look like an MVP candidate. However, in fairness to Ryan he kept plugging away and engineered the game winning drive, that culminated in the cement footed Michael Turner chugging into the End Zone.
10. Rob Gronkowski plays on Special Teams!
One of my pet hate’s in the NFL is that “running up the score” is frowned upon. Why shouldn’t a team carrying on racking up points against weaker opposition. Why should they have to bench their best players? Fans have paid good money to watch 60 minutes of football. Not 45 minutes of football followed by a 4th quarter of back ups and punting practice. Unfortunately, the anti “running up the score” mob have had some ammunition this week as Patriots man mountain Rob Gronkowski got injured whilst helping out on the Extra Point unit. In truth, Gronk often fills in on that unit and there simply aren’t enough players to go round, so some first teamers have to help out. Gronk just got unlucky. He’ll be a massive miss for the Pats and they will be praying he’ll be back for the Play Offs.
11. This Thursday is Going to be Great!
Thanksgiving is my favourite part of the regular season. Most Sunday’s I watch a combination of Red Zone and whoever the Eagles are losing to. I usually catch the Sunday and Monday night games, but Thanksgiving is about the only time I get to watch 3 back to back games in one day. This year’s offering features some interesting match ups, the Lions will be desperate to keep their season alive against the impressive Texans. The Redskins and Cowboys will be looking to put the pressure on Giants by grabbing a win, and it’s always fun watching RGIII in action. Finally, the Gronk less Patriots take on the completely unpredictable Jets in what could either be a total miss-match or a thriller.
It’s time to get the Relentless, beer and snacks in and settle down for 10 hours of fun!
Star of the Week – Andre Johnson: 14 catches and 273 yards. Both career highs. Oh, and he scored a 48 yard touchdown in Overtime to win the game. He’s had worse games.
Flop of the Week – The Eagles: A 5th defeat in a row. In truth it was a 10th poor performance in a row. Big names not performing, basic errors, poor play calling. If Andy Reid sees out the season in Philly, he’s got some very generous employees.
Highlight of the Week – Half time in the Sunday early games – Leads for Jacksonville @ Houston, Cleveland @ Dallas and Arizona @ Atlanta. If only it could have lasted!
Finally, the bye weeks are over and we get all 32 teams playing this week. Thanksgiving also means that they are 7 live games on TV in the next few days. My girlfriend is going to be so pleased about that!