American Football Expert & Columnist
Last Updated: 18/11/19 2:04pm
Kirk Cousins helped his team to a fantastic comeback against the Denver Broncos
The top two teams in the AFC won on Sunday night but there were some stark differences between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.
And that is where I begin my look back at Week 11 in the NFL.
Ravens keep rolling
Watch Lamar Jackson’s four-touchdown display as the Baltimore Ravens beat Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans
John Harbaugh’s team have that look of being in the midst of a special season. We spent a considerable amount of time building up the battle between young quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson in our Sky Sports studio on Sunday night but it turned into a damp squib.
The Ravens steam-rolled Houston 41-7, compiling 263 team rushing yards and sacking Texans quarterbacks seven times. The game was so one-sided that Jackson and Watson ended the contest on the bench watching their backups go through the motions.
The form of Jackson has been well documented this season and rightly so. He was excellent again on Sunday, throwing for 222 yards and four touchdowns while adding 86 on the ground. But more ominous for the rest of the AFC is the form of Wink Martindale’s defense, which is growing fiercer by the week.
Just win, baby
Watch the New England Patriots see off the Philadelphia Eagles to secure another winning record in the NFL regular season
Okay, so that’s a line that is historically associated with the Oakland Raiders, but it fits the New England Patriots right now after the defending Super Bowl champions improved to 9-1 on the season with a 17-10 victory in Philadelphia.
It was not pretty but, at the end of the year, they do not ask how you won, they ask how many you won. That said, there are some worrying signs for the Patriots. Tom Brady looks so out of sorts behind a shaky offensive line and his receiving options are Julian Edelman and very little else. I’m not sure a quick fix is coming on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, the Patriots remain elite and their in-game adjustments took care of a misfiring Eagles’ attack that was marshalled by the disappointing Carson Wentz. Winning is in New England’s DNA so only a fool would write them off, but boy they make it look ugly at times.
That winning tradition
Wide receiver Julian Edelman threw a touchdown pass to lead the New England Patriots to victory against the Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday’s victory saw New England secure a 19th consecutive winning season. That is a truly remarkable statistic in an era of supposed parity where we so often see good teams fall off a cliff from one season to the next.
The aforementioned Brady has helped in a massive way, of course, but coaching is also so impactful in New England. I thought Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels glossed over some of the team’s shortcomings on Sunday night with some excellent calls in Philadelphia.
Belichick quickly fixed the early defensive struggles and Philly’s final 10 drives ended in seven punts, a lost fumble, a turnover on downs and an incompletion on the final play of the game. McDaniels was dialing up trick plays in order to breathe some life into the Patriots’ attack. That failed on a throwback to Brady that resulted an imcompletion downfield but later produced the winning points as Edelman threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett.
Dak seeing dollar signs
Dak Prescott continued his impressive run by helping the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions
While he will insist he is playing purely to keep his team in the playoff race, this fact remainsâ€¦ Dak Prescott is playing his way towards a big contract if the Dallas Cowboys decide to tie their quarterback down to a long-term deal instead of going the franchise tag route in the offseason.
As has so often been the case this season, Prescott was at the very heart of the Cowboys’ 35-27 win at Detroit. He threw for 444 yards and tossed three touchdown passes in a game for the fifth time this season.
For several years we have pointed to running back Ezekiel Elliott being the key man in Dallas and he got paid accordingly on the eve of the 2019 season. But as we head into the season’s stretch run, I feel like Prescott is way more important to his team’s still-alive Super Bowl chances. And that has to be worth something to the rising quarterback come pay day.
Niners dig deep
The San Francisco 49ers came out on top against the Arizona Cardinals despite quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo being without his main offensive weapons
At first glance we can look at the San Francisco 49ers and say they may be on the ropes. Six days after losing their undefeated record to Seattle, the 49ers had to dig very deep to record a 36-26 win over Arizona that was only that wide a margin due to a fluky touchdown on the final play of the game as the Cardinals tossed the ball all over the field with desperate abandon.
But the truth was that the Niners showed their depth and character, playing without injured offensive tackle Joe Staley, running back Matt Breida and tight end George Kittle. Jimmy Garoppolo had a couple of shaky moments with two red zone interceptions but we should applaud his 424 passing yards and four touchdowns while operating with very little running game support.
Their schedule is about to toughen up but the 49ers benefit from some excellent play calling by head coach Kyle Shanahan and I remain convinced they are built to last in the ultra-competitive NFC.
Cousins leads the way
Cousins passed for three touchdowns in the Minnesota Vikings’ comeback win over the Denver Broncos
I wonder what the scene was like in the Minnesota Vikings’ locker room at halftime as they trailed a Denver Broncos team they were expected to handle comfortably by 20 points to zero?
This was an unexpected game from start to finish with Dalvin Cook being held to just 26 yards on 11 carries. Thankfully for the Vikings, Cousins got hot in the second half and led Minnesota to 27 second half points en route to a 27-23 win that was only secured when Brandon Allen’s end-of-game pass into the end zone fell incomplete and failed to result in what appeared to be an obvious pass interference penalty.
This is why they play the games. The Broncos were not supposed to have a hope in hell yet they almost sneaked out of US Bank Stadium with the win. Cousins ended the day with 319 passing yards and three touchdowns while his Vikings are very much in the midst of a playoff run at 8-3. But oh how the narrative could have been so very different on this Monday.