Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY Published 6: 20 am ET Nov. 18, 2019
SportsPulse: It feels like every week Lamar Jackson does something amazing. At this point we just need to sit back and enjoy, says Lorenzo Reyes. USA TODAY
The NFL playoff pictureis tightening, and spots in the NFC are at a premium, where it looks like there are no more than eight squads that are viable contenders for the six playoff spots .
The most exciting race in the conference is the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys took over control of first place witha big victory against the Detroit Lionsand got some help later in the day when theNew England Patriots cut down the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile , Lamar Jackson did more Lamar Jackson things and the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Houston Texans (who fall on the wrong side of this list below).
Here areWeek 11‘s winners and losers.
Due to injuries along the offensive line, the concern was that the LA O-line would be a weakness. Ina 17 – 7 victory against the Bears, it was just the opposite. The Rams had their fourth different combination of starting offensive linemen this season and featured their ninth different starter along the unit. They were forced to shuffle players out of their natural positions and had two rookies starting on the right side in David Edwards at guard and Bobby Evans at tackle. Yet the line was a strength and Gurley was the beneficiary, totaling a season-high 133 yards from scrimmage and tied his season-high rushing yards total (97) to go with one score. It had been a slow start to 2019, and a productive Gurley would be a massive boost to LA’s push for the postseason .
The rest of the AFC should be seriously worried because Baltimore’s defense appears to have finally turned the corner. Houston’s offensive line had been much improved over the previous five games, allowing just seven sacks. Baltimore shredded the unit, sacking Deshaun Watson six times and backup AJ McCarron once. Though aided bya clear no-call pass interferencethat should’ve been flagged, the Ravens nevertheless smothered Watson. He completed just 18 of 29 passes for 169 yards with one interception. The Ravens shut Houston out in the first half, the first time the Texans have failed to score before intermission with Watson as a starter. In fact, this was the first time in Watson’s career that he has failed to score at least one touchdown – rushing or passing – in a game in which he started.
NFL teams were 0 – 99 over the past five seasons when trailing by 20 or more points at halftime. Thanks to Cousins, the Vikings became the first to overcome such a deficit.The Vikings defeated the Broncos, 27 – 23, after they outscored Denver 27 – 3 in the final two quarters. The Vikings had four possessions in the second half. They became the first team in NFL history to score a touchdown in each of their second-half drives. And because the Vikings basically had to abandon their rushing game – Minnesota finished with just 37 yards on the ground – and turn to an up-tempo passing attack, it was on Cousins’ right arm that the comeback happened. He threw for 261 yards and three scores in the second half .
Once on the hot seat, the Falcons’ head coach might be doing just enough to keep his job. Owner Arthur Blank has said all season long that he would assess the team’s coaching staff and Quinn’s future at the end of the year. Now that Atlanta has won two in a row after itthumped the Panthers 29 – 3and improved to 3-7, Quinn might make Blank’s decision much harder. The Falcons’ defense has now gone 10 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown. The fact that the victories came against a Saints team that might be one of the best in the NFC and a Panthers team that still has Christian McCaffrey and has put up points all season long, only helps Quinn even more.
PLAYOFF PICTURE:Fluid outlook throughout AFC, NFC
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Narrative that Dak Prescott needs the running game
For Prescott’s first few years in the NFL, the narrative was that Prescott could be effective only when Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ rushing game was productive. People thought Prescott faced favorable looks with defenders crowding the box. If that narrative wasn’t already debunked, it is now. Prescott tossed 444 yards and three touchdowns in (a) – 27 victory against the Lionsand has clearly been the impetus for Dallas’ success this season . He has been clutch in crucial stretches. On third downs against the Lions, he completed 7 of 11 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He now has a 9-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 126 .0 QB rating when Dallas holds a lead of between one and eight points. This does two things. It puts Prescott squarely in the MVP conversation; and with an ongoing contract negotiation, it only makes him more valuable and indispensable.
Bears’ playoff hopes
That just about does it. Withtheir 17 – 7 loss to the Rams, the Bears again looked incompetent on offense, have been all but eliminated from the NFC playoff picture, and there are more questions than answers. Atop the list has to be about Mitchell Trubisky’s future in Chicago. The Bears said Trubisky suffered a hip injury and that was the reason for coach Matt Nagy removing him late in the game. But Nagy’s play calling has been unimaginative, especially on key downs. Chicago converted just 6 of 17 third-down attempts against the Rams. Chicago fell to 4-6, and it feels like the offseason could bring some serious changes.
They had, essentially, two weeks to prepare for the Ravens – quickly becoming one of the toughest teams in the AFC – but the Texans still came out flat in a pathetic performance. Coming off their bye, Houston’s offense was disjointed. But its defense just had no answer for Lamar Jackson or for Baltimore’s rushing attack. The Texans were abysmal on third-down defense, allowing Baltimore to move the chains on five of nine attempts. The Ravens gained an absurd 7.7 yards per play. With the poor showing, the Texans let go of their hold on first place in the AFC South, in part becausethe Colts beat the Jaguars. The good news is that Houston gets the chance to forget about this one quickly, with Indy coming into town on a short week in what’s a battle for first in the division Thursday night.
The young Panthers’ quarterback started his time in relief of injured Cam Newton on a tear. But over the last four games, his play has plummeted.The Falcons stunned the Panthers, 29 – 3. And Allen – after he threw seven touchdown passes and no picks in his first four games as the team’s starter – has thrown nine interceptions in his last four games, including four against the Falcons. Worse yet, Allen has thrown for just three touchdowns in that stretch, three of which have been losses. He forced throws and simply was not accurate or careful enough with the ball. All that talk about Allen potentially supplanting Newton as the team’s franchise QB clearly was premature.
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