NFL Week 11: Cowboys high ceiling, Patriots punt return, Eagles top Colts

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The time of beautiful football has passed. It’s time for long shadows, bunched fans, and puffs of steam discharging from face masks. The teams have to play early, if the weather allows them; more than six feet of snow forced the Buffalo Bills to move and play the Cleveland Browns in Detroit. Elsewhere, NFL teams traded punts during the cold and took extra points off the uprights.

Here’s what you need to know about Week 11.

The Cowboys have a Super Bowl ceiling. That’s been self-evident all along, but on Sunday they provided an emphatic proof of concept. It’s unclear which the best team in the NFC is, but Dallas is in the conversation. The Cowboys traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings, who had just beaten the mighty Bills and validated their position among the NFC’s elite. And the Cowboys wiped them out.

In a 40-3 victory, Dallas showed just how good their offense can be when all of its pieces work together. Dak Prescott made quick decisions and accurate shots and, more importantly, scrambled for easy yardage when the running lanes opened up. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

Ezekiel Elliott had short-yardage conversions, and Tony Pollard served as a versatile player with explosive skills out of the backfield, gaining 189 total yards, including a 68-yard touchdown reception, on six receptions and 15 carries. Regardless of which running back the Cowboys call the starter, Pollard is their best offensive player.

And not for nothing, kicker Brett Maher is a weapon. He hit a 60-yard field goal inside the right post before halftime, only to learn that a whistle had stopped play so the officials could review CeeDee Lamb’s catch on the sideline. Once Lamb’s catch was confirmed, Maher jogged back and delivered another kick, and this one went straight up the middle.

For the season, Maher has made 19 of 21 field goals and 26 of 27 extra points. There is an argument that he is the second best kicker in the NFL behind Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. That’s the kind of thing that matters during the big games in January, and the Cowboys will play in some of them.

The AFC West pounced on the king and missed. The divisional rivals of the Kansas City Chiefs spent the offseason preparing to challenge them, to take a legitimate run to end their reign. The Los Angeles Chargers added Khalil Mack. The Las Vegas Raiders brought in Davante Adams and Chandler Jones. The Denver Broncos turned over their franchise to Russell Wilson.

And where did he get any of them? The Bosses are still the Bosses, and the rest are not. The Chiefs seized further control of the division with a thrilling 30-27 victory Sunday night over the Chargers, pushing them to 8-2 and leaving them as the only team in the AFC West with over .500.

More specifically: the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and their rivals don’t. Mahomes is the favorite for MVP again after his last outing, when he took charge with his team down four at their 25-yard line with 1:46 to go, led the Chiefs down the field with surgical efficiency and threw his third pass. touchdown. with 31 seconds to spare.

Early Sunday, the Raiders topped the host Broncos for a 22-16 overtime victory. The result left both at 3-7. Wilson has only provided buyer’s remorse, and the Raiders’ additions haven’t prevented six losses in one possession. The 5-5 Chargers have been torpedoed by injuries, and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi hasn’t been able to get the most out of Justin Herbert. The AFC West was supposed to be a challenge that would test Kansas City’s dominance. Instead, it has been more of the same.

The Patriots found another way to beat the Jets. Neither team scored a touchdown in the first 59 minutes, 55 seconds before rookie defensive back Marcus Jones, at his team’s 16-yard line, tucked under a Braden Mann punt. In a 3–3 game in which both quarterbacks brawled, Jones slid to the sideline, backed up, and then across the field and past Mann until only the goal line was in front of him.

Jones’ touchdown run with five seconds left gave New England a 10-3 victory, unlikely in form and inevitable in outcome. The Patriots have beaten the Jets in 14 straight regular-season meetings, beating them twice this year despite scoring one offensive touchdown in two games.

Jones’ return, the first punt returned for a touchdown all season, could impact the AFC playoff race. Both the Jets and Patriots advanced to 6-4, and the Patriots jumped out in front of the Jets thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Patriots stun Jets with game-winning punt return in dying seconds

Their windswept game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, did little to inspire optimism in either team’s second-year quarterback. Zach Wilson completed 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards, unable to back up his confidence after the Jets’ first loss to the Patriots, when he said, “We’ll see you in two weeks.” Somehow he played both hastily and indecisively. On a playoff-worthy roster, he’s not doing his part.

Mac Jones had six sacks and dunked on third down despite completing 23 of 27 passes. His task will only be made more difficult if the Patriots lose center David Andrews, their most reliable offensive lineman, who limped into the locker room in the first half.

The Giants’ magical season could be in jeopardy. Even after a 31-18 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions, New York is 7-3 and comfortably in the wild card position. On the surface, there is little for a fan to worry about. However, a look around the corner and a quick study of his resume suggest that a playoff spot is not a sure thing.

The Giants have few if any easy wins left. They must play the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles and the rising Washington Commanders twice each, plus the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, the Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts. And as the Lions put it, the Giants aren’t as good as their record indicates. They have relied on close wins, some of them near miraculous, against mediocre opponents.

Entering Sunday, the Giants’ .399 winning strength (the combined winning percentage of the teams they had beaten) ranked fourth lowest in the NFC, and their point difference is now only more- 1. First-year coach Brian Daboll, running back Saquon Barkley and many others deserve immense credit for making the Giants competitive after years of ineptness. But this team could end the season playing at the same level that gave it a 7-2 record and still fall out of the playoffs. It would not be a collapse so much as a regression towards the mean.

Houston is almost on the clock. The race for the top pick in the draft has one clear leader: the Texans, who at 1-8-1 have the worst record in the NFL by more than a complete game. They don’t seem particularly close to a second win either; they have lost five in a row by an average of 11.6 points. at half time their 23-10 loss to the Commandersthey had five yards of offense.

Buckner: Commanders are sailing. Don’t analyze it, just enjoy it.

It’s clear the Texans should target a quarterback in April, even though they have a second-year starter. Given a season’s worth of work, Davis Mills has shown that he might be a low-level starter in the NFL, but he’s not a quarterback worth building a franchise. Assuming the Texans finish the season with the worst record in the NFL, they should determine whether they think Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young or another draft-eligible quarterback is their franchise quarterback.

The other draft subplot to watch out for is the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams. They owe it to the Lions; he is the second first-rounder they sent to Detroit in their trade for Matthew Stafford. After the Rams fell to 3-7 with a loss at New Orleans, the pick sits at No. 6, much better than either team expected.

The Eagles are going through some turmoil. Entering Week 10, they were undefeated and barely challenged. After Loss on Monday night to the Commanders revealed some cracks, they screeched against the Indianapolis Colts, 17-16, rallying for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. They won on the road in a short week, are 9-1 and alone atop the NFC again after the Minnesota loss. It’s hard to complain about that. It’s also hard to see the Eagles the same way they did last week.

After the Commanders controlled the ball running over them, the Eagles signed thirty-something defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh from the street. Both played on Sunday and the Eagles held Jonathan Taylor to 84 yards on 22 carries, just 3.8 per . After Taylor tore them apart for 49 yards on the Colts’ opening drive, which ended with a one-yard touchdown run, he managed just 35 the rest of the game.

His improvement in run handling was encouraging, but the Eagles still struggled to beat the Colts. They lost two fumbles, and without injured tight end Dallas Goedert, Jalen Hurts passed for just 190 yards and had three sacks. Hurts also rushed for 86 yards, including the game-winning touchdown. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni called beating the Colts “sweet” after they fired Frank Reich, whom he considers a mentor. The Eagles aren’t playing their best, but they can at least try to improve after a win.

Deshaun Watson will return to a team out of contention. The Browns’ dastardly plan to lure Watson to Cleveland with a record guaranteed contract despite an overwhelming number of allegations of sexual misconduct against him failed in year 1. Watson returned to practice this week and will make his debut in two weeks. When he does, the Browns’ season will be over.

The Browns fell to 3-7 with a 31-23 loss in Detroit to the Bills, their sixth loss in their last seven games. Next week, the Browns will be an underdog against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are coming off their bye. At best, the Browns will be on the outside edge of the AFC wild card race. Most likely they have 3-8.

While the Browns wait for Watson, the quarterback hasn’t been their problem. Jacoby Brissett has been just what the Browns might have hoped for: a caretaker who may not have led them to wins but kept them in games. The Browns’ horrible run defense is why they have sunk to the bottom of the conference. They entered Sunday allowing 4.8 yards per carry, fifth-most in the NFL. Coming off Sunday’s loss, they are allowing 26.9 points per game, second-most in the NFL.

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