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Week 11 NFL Recap
1. The Ravens may need to run the table to secure a playoff berth.The Tennessee Titans haunted the Ravens again. After last year’s playoff elimination at Tennessee’s hands, Baltimore once again was rolled over by Derrick Henry, who walked this one off with an overtime touchdown run to cap the 30-24 victory. Having now lost three of their last four games, the Ravens now sit in eighth place in the AFC, outside even the expanded seven-team playoff picture for 2020-2021. Despite again likely pacing out to a 1,000-yard rushing season, Lamar Jackson already has five interceptions — just one fewer than his 2019 total — and he, along with the offense on the whole, has suffered a violent touchdown regression as his receivers have taken a major dip in quality. That’s the catch with a run-heavy Greg Roman offense. As proven when he pushed Colin Kaepernick to elite form, defenses eventually catch up. Though they have time to improve before the postseason, they have to make it there first. is that reckoning for Baltimore. And the defense isn’t the brick wall it once was, either. It’s still top-10-level (333 yards per game allowed ranks a solid eighth). But it’s beatable, especially by efficient offenses like Tennessee’s and elite players like Henry … and fellow physical freak A.J. Brown: Baltimore faces a gut check at the 9-0 Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving, with a loss all but clinching the division for the Steel Curtain. Luckily, the schedule lightens a bit, so if they can get back on track, they can win at least 3 of the season-ending stretch against the Cowboys, at the Browns, versus the Jaguars, versus the Giants and at the now Joe Burrow-less Bengals.
2. Maybe Sean Payton knows what he’s doing with this Taysom Hill thing.Arguably the biggest social media story heading into Sunday, the Saints’ new starting quarterback delivered in the spotlight. TaysomBall is certainly a different brand of offense than what we’re used to with the Saints, and perhaps the Atlanta Falcons’ woeful defense helped. But Hill He was pinpoint through the air with an 18-for-23 passing day, and he led the squad with 51 rushing yards while scoring twice on the ground. Michael Thomas surprisingly popped off on the box score, catching 9 passes for 104 yards, mostly featuring on midrange looks but breaking loose a few times. Maybe this actually hurts Alvin Kamara‘s fantasy football value moving forward, but don’t count him out. Payton’s decision to feature Hill under center instead of the high-risk, high-reward Jameis Winston bewildered many but, for at least one week, wound up correct. Maybe they’ll thrive without Drew Brees again instead of treading water.
3. We can’t blame Justin Herbert for the Chargers’ 3-7 record.The Los Angeles Chargers have found plenty of ways to lose over the past few seasons, despite possessing plenty of talented contributors along the way. We can add likely Rookie of the Year frontrunner Justin Herbert to that list. And he certainly showed during Sure, the winless, tanking Jets hardly put up a fight, but Herbert has gone punch-for-punch with the contending Kansas City Chiefs (311 yards), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (290 and 3 TDs), New Orleans Saints (264 and 4), and Las Vegas Raiders (326 and 2). Regardless of his haircut, the 22-year-old brings an attractive combination of pocket presence and mobility that escaped the Bolts’ offense during the Philip Rivers era. Herbert’s ability to extend plays raises L.A.’s offensive upside to allow for more downfield damage, including this brilliance to deep threat Mike Williams: He’ll get a major test in Week 12 at the Buffalo Bills, who are coming off a bye and feature elite shutdown cornerback Tre’Davious White.
4. Diontae Johnson is the key to the Steelers’ offensive resurgence.Sure, a healthy Ben Roethlisberger was going to help this offense regardless after his season-ending injury put the O in turmoil for most of 2020. Rookie Chase Claypool has been a splash scorer who’s expanded the possibilities of this aerial — and rushing — attack. However, as JuJu Smith-Schuster has succumbed to injuries and inconsistency, Johnson’s emergence as Pittsburgh’s true No. 1 wide receiver has stabilized this offense. He once again evidenced it in his 12-catch, 111-yard pile-on during the Steelers’ win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 24-year-old displayed true WR1 focus on this jaw-dropping TD: The sophomore has commanded double-digit targets in the six games during which he’s been fully healthy. The fact he’s often in 1-on-1 coverage has worked to his benefit.
5. The Indianapolis Colts could make noise late into the playoffs.The Indianapolis Colts brought themselves back into the elite conversation with a 34-31 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
[esi sportsbookgrid num=3 ttl=”0″]Skepticism has surrounded the Colts’ defense, which has admittedly had some easy opponents this year. Still, they held somewhat steady against the Packers. They let Aaron Rodgers throw for 3 touchdowns. Fortunately, Indy registered four takeaways, reminding us the D may have been underestimated. The headliner was the recovery of Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s fumble in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal: Darius Leonard has again proved to be one of the NFL’s best defensive players, and offseason acquisition DeForest Buckner has steadied the defensive line, and even Rodgers looked pestered for much of the day. The key to their future may be whether Philip Rivers can replicate the offense hae showed in Week 11 (288 yards, 3 TDs). If rookie Michael Pittman Jr. (3 receptions, 66 yards, 1 TD on Sunday) remains more heavily involved, he’ll have a better shot. If the Steelers remain undefeated by Week 16, the Colts might be in a position to pull off a season-breaking upset. And I still want to see where the Colts’ AFC playoff futures land on Tuesday; they could be a sleeper wager to at least reach the conference championship game. I didn’t have room to comment on the New England Patriots’ woes, but I’ll let Courtney Fallon do that in her latest episode of Easy Money: