When anything can happen, everything becomes significant.
Take, for instance, the National Football League, where in consecutive weeks, four teams that entered the weekend with .500-or-below records defeated opponents that began the week with at least a share of first place in their divisions. The eight such wins – .500-or-below teams defeating first-place clubs – are the most in Weeks 9-10 of a single season since 1970.
The teams that entered each of the last two weeks with .500-or-below records and beat opponents in first place:
|WEEK 9||WEEK 10|
|WINNING TEAM*||FIRST-PLACE TEAM*||WINNING TEAM*||FIRST-PLACE TEAM*|
|Denver (4-4)||at Dallas (6-1)||at Miami (2-7)||Baltimore (6-2)|
|at Jacksonville (1-6)||Buffalo (5-2)||Carolina (4-5)||at Arizona (8-1)|
|at Kansas City (4-4)||Green Bay (7-1)||Minnesota (3-5)||at L.A. Chargers (5-3)|
|at N.Y. Giants (2-6)||Las Vegas (5-2)||at Washington (2-6)||Tampa Bay (6-2)|
|*Record entering game|
This week, six of the eight division leaders are facing teams with .500-or-below records. Which first-place team will fall in Week 11? The field is wide open in each conference. Any team can beat any other team. Go ahead and try to predict the unpredictable.
The playoffs are only eight weeks away and each conference has only one first-round bye. Every play of every game matters, especially when the unexpected is more than merely expected.
BOUNCE-BACK TEAMS HAVE PLAYOFF HOPES
Through the first 10 weeks, two divisions have a team in first place that missed the postseason in 2020: The NFC West (ARIZONA, 8-2) and NFC East (DALLAS, 7-2). At least two teams have won their divisions the season after missing the playoffs in 17 of the past 18 years.
Entering Week 11, five teams that missed the postseason last year are in playoff position: ARIZONA, CAROLINA, DALLAS, the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS and NEW ENGLAND. Additionally, six teams – ATLANTA, CINCINNATI, DENVER, LAS VEGAS, MINNESOTA and SAN FRANCISCO – that missed the postseason last year are within one game of a playoff spot entering Week 11.
In each season since 1990 – a streak of 31 consecutive years – at least four teams that were not in the prior postseason have qualified for the playoffs.
COWBOYS-CHIEFS COULD BE MAIN EVENT ON SUNDAY CARD
The DALLAS COWBOYS (7-2), who have won three straight road games, make an interconference trip to face the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (6-4) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX) in a battle of first-place teams.
"We up there!"@PatrickMahomes and @DarrelWilliams_ had fun with it after putting up 5 TDs 👏 pic.twitter.com/FVc8zV9iA2
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) November 16, 2021
- The Cowboys lead the NFL in both total yards per game (433.9) and points scored per game (31.6). Last time Dallas finished a season leading the league in both categories was 1971, when the Cowboys won Super Bowl VI.
- The Chiefs’ offense ranks fourth in the NFL in total yards per game (405.6).
Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES, who grew up about two hours east of AT&T Stadium, meets the Cowboys for the first time (Dallas, Minnesota and Kansas City are the only NFL clubs he has not faced).
- Last week, Mahomes passed for 406 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions, compiling a 127.6 rating in the Chiefs’ win. The performance was the 30th game in which Mahomes reached 300 yards, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (29) for the most such games in a player’s first five NFL seasons. Mahomes also became the first player in NFL history to reach three career games of 400-plus yards passing and five-or-more touchdown passes in his first five NFL seasons.
Each team has a standout rookie linebacker. The Cowboys’ MICAH PARSONS leads NFL rookies with six sacks while the Chiefs’ NICK BOLTON has 75 tackles, most among the league’s rookies.
- In last week’s win, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions for a 127.9 rating and added a rushing touchdown, while cornerback TREVON DIGGS registered his eighth interception of the season.
- Prescott, who enters with the NFL’s top-ranked passer rating (110.8) among qualified players this season, has 126 touchdown passes and 25 rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2016. He joined DAUNTE CULPEPPER and CAM NEWTON as the only players with at least 125 touchdown passes and 25 rushing touchdowns in their first six seasons in league annals. Prescott also now has 17 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown. The fourth-most such games by a quarterback in his first six seasons in NFL history. Only CAM NEWTON (35), DAUNTE CULPEPPER (20) and JOSH ALLEN (19) had more.
- Diggs‘ eight interceptions are tied with JAIRUS BYRD (eight in 2009) and TIM JENNINGS (eight in 2012) for the most by a player in his team’s first nine games of a season since 1990.
JACKSON STELLAR WHEN FACING OPPONENT FOR FIRST TIME
Two well-rested teams, the BALTIMORE RAVENS (6-3) and CHICAGO BEARS (3-6), will square off at Soldier Field on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
- Baltimore quarterback LAMAR JACKSON will face his 28th NFL team. Jackson is 25-2 when facing a team for the first time (2018-21, including the postseason). Only the Chiefs in the 2018 regular season and the Titans in the 2019 playoffs earned wins over Jackson in their first meetings.
- Baltimore enters having last played on Thursday, Nov. 11, and will have nine days between games. Meanwhile, Chicago is coming off its bye week, having last played on Monday, Nov. 8, and will have 12 days between games.
Each club also ranks in the top five among NFL teams in rushing. Baltimore leads the league with 154.1 rushing yards per game while Chicago ranks fifth with 136.6.
- The Bears have kicked an overtime field goal to defeat the Ravens in each of the last two meetings, 2017 in Baltimore and 2013 in Chicago.
- Before the bye week, Chicago rookie JUSTIN FIELDS threw for a season-high 291 yards, including a late, go-ahead touchdown pass to DARNELL MOONEY, in the Bears’ loss at Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football.
SUPER BOWL STRIKING DISTANCE
Every NFL team has multiple losses through 10 weeks. The last time the NFL entered Week 11 in a season in which every team had at least two losses was 2010, when the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team. Over the previous three seasons, the eventual Super Bowl champion entered Week 11 with at least three losses.
|SUPER BOWL CHAMPION||SEASON||ENTERING WEEK 11||FINISHED|
|Tampa Bay||2020||7-3; second, NFC South||11-5; NFC Wild Card|
|Kansas City||2019||6-4; first, AFC West||12-4; AFC West champion|
|New England||2018||7-3; first AFC East||11-5; AFC East champion|
CARDINALS BID FOR NFL HISTORY AT SEATTLE
When the ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-2) meet the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-6) at Lumen Field on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Arizona has a chance to accomplish something no NFL team has done: Score 30-or-more points in each of its first six road games of a season. Arizona is the fourth team in league history to reach 30 points in its first five road games of a season, joining the 2000 St. Louis Rams, 1983 San Francisco 49ers and 1966 Kansas City Chiefs.
The five longest throws of the season so far!
Russ made the list twice 👀 (via @NextGenStats) pic.twitter.com/pHtfjVvQyn
— NFL (@NFL) November 11, 2021
- Seattle quarterback RUSSELL WILSON is 35-10 (.778) with a 105.7 passer rating in regular-season games following Seahawks losses.
TITANS LOOK TO STAY HOT
The TENNESSEE TITANS enter the week with the AFC’s best record (8-2). Tennessee has won six straight, the league’s longest active winning streak, and bids to extend that streak when the Titans host the HOUSTON TEXANS (1-8) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
- Last week, Tennessee became the second team ever to win five consecutive games against opponents that earned playoff berths the prior season. The are joining the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles. Tennessee’s gauntlet consisted of victories over the Buffalo Bills (Week 6), Kansas City Chiefs (Week 7), Indianapolis Colts (Week 8), Los Angeles Rams (Week 9) and New Orleans Saints (Week 10).
- With a win this week, Tennessee would have its longest winning streak (seven) since a 10-game streak to begin the 2008 campaign. A win would also make the Titans 9-2 in their first 11 games. In franchise history, the Titans/Oilers have won nine or more of their first 11 games five times (1991, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2008).
- A win would also guarantee the Titans a winning record for the sixth consecutive season (2016-21). The only previous stretch in which the Titans/Oilers achieved at least six straight winning records was a seven-year run from 1987-93.
The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (5-5) have won four of their past five games heading into their trip to face the BUFFALO BILLS (6-3) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS).
Jonathan Taylor with the second effort!
That's seven straight games with a rushing TD for @JayT23. #ForTheShoe
📺: #JAXvsIND on CBS
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/ZYHE1iyqj5
— NFL (@NFL) November 14, 2021
- After dropping their first three games, the Colts are attempting to become just the seventh team in NFL history to make the playoffs after an 0-3 start. In the previous 22 seasons, only the 2018 HOUSTON TEXANS have made the playoffs after losing their first three games. Other teams to reach the playoffs after beginning a season 0-3: The 1998 BUFFALO BILLS, the 1995 DETROIT LIONS, the 1992 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, the 1982 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS and the 1981 NEW YORK JETS.
- Last week, Indianapolis running back JONATHAN TAYLOR rushed for 116 yards and one touchdown in the Colts‘ win. He became the fourth player to register at least 100 scrimmage yards and a rushing touchdown in seven consecutive games in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (eight consecutive games in 2006), LYDELL MITCHELL (eight from 1975-76) and LARRY JOHNSON (seven in 2005).
- The Bills (plus 14 with 24 takeaways) and Colts (plus 11 with 21 takeaways) rank first and second in the NFL, respectively, in both turnover margin and takeaways this season. The last time two teams leading the league in both categories met in Week 11 or later was Week 12 of the 2016 season, when Kansas City beat Denver, 30-27, in overtime.
- Buffalo’s defense leads the NFL in both fewest total yards allowed per game (274.1) and fewest points allowed per game (15.0).
- Sunday’s contest is also a rematch of a 2020 AFC Wild Card game, won by the Bills. To date, the 2021 schedule has featured six 2020 playoff rematches, and teams have avenged a playoff loss in four of those six games.
The 2021 rematches of 2020 playoff games, through Week 11:
|2021 PLAYOFF REMATCH||WEEK||2020 PLAYOFF GAME|
|Kansas City 33, Cleveland 29||1||Kansas City 22, Cleveland 17 (AFC Divisional)|
|*Buffalo 38, Kansas City 20||5||Kansas City 38, Buffalo 24 (AFC Championship)|
|L.A. Rams 26, Seattle 17||5||L.A. Rams 30, Seattle 20 (NFC Wild Card)|
|*New Orleans 36, Tampa Bay 27||8||Tampa Bay 30, New Orleans 20 (NFC Divisional)|
|*Pittsburgh 15, Cleveland 10||8||Cleveland 48, Pittsburgh 37 (AFC Wild Card)|
|*Washington 29, Tampa Bay 19||10||Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23 (NFC Wild Card)|
|Indianapolis at Buffalo||11||Buffalo 27, Indianapolis 24 (AFC Wild Card)|
|*Avenged 2020 playoff loss|
HARBINGER OF DEEP PLAYOFF RUNS
In recent history, whenever the GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-2) visit the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (4-5) – as they do on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX) – the winner is important. In three of the past four seasons, the team that won the Packers-Vikings game in Minnesota has advanced to the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings used a home victory over Green Bay to help them reach the NFC Championship Game in 2017. The Packers picked up wins at U.S. Bank Stadium in both 2019 and 2020 en route to the game.
Justin Jefferson showing Justin Herbert why he should’ve won OROY last year pic.twitter.com/HajJLmDHnf
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) November 15, 2021
Last week, Minnesota quarterback KIRK COUSINS passed for 294 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 109.5 rating while wide receiver JUSTIN JEFFERSON recorded nine receptions for 143 yards in the Vikings‘ win.
- Cousins became the sixth player ever with at least two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 100-or-higher in seven consecutive road games, joining CARSON PALMER (eight games from 2004-05), TOM BRADY (seven from 2011-12), PATRICK MAHOMES (seven from 2018-19), TONY ROMO (seven in 2014) and AARON RODGERS (seven in 2011).
- Jefferson played in his 25th career game and increased his career receiving yards to 2,175, surpassing VICTOR CRUZ (2,032) for the second-most by a player in his first 25 games in the Super Bowl era. Only ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2,625) had more. Jefferson also recorded his 10th-career game with at least 100 receiving yards and joined Beckham (15 games) as the only players in the Super Bowl era with 100-or-more receiving yards in at least 10 of their first 25 career games.
GIANTS, JONES RETURN TO TAMPA
The NEW YORK GIANTS (3-6) travel to face the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-3) on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).
- In their last visit to Raymond James Stadium, Week 3 in 2019, then-rookie quarterback DANIEL JONES made his first NFL start, passing for 336 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 112.7 rating and adding two rushing touchdowns in a 32-31 win. Jones became the first rookie with at least 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a single game since the league merger in 1970.
- On their way to a Super Bowl XLII championship, the Giants opened the 2007 playoffs with a Wild Card victory at Tampa Bay. Including that game, New York has returned victorious in four of its last five trips to Tampa Bay.
- The Giants also won Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium, a 20-19 win over Buffalo.
- Tampa Bay quarterback TOM BRADY leads the league with 27 touchdown passes. In each of his last five home games, he’s thrown at least four touchdowns.
EAGLES, SAINTS MAKE FOR INTERESTING CHESS MATCH
When the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-6) have the ball against the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (5-4) at the Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX), look for who controls the line of scrimmage. The Eagles enter the contest ranked third in the league with 144.3 rushing yards per game while the Saints (72.9 rushing yards allowed per game) rank first in the league against the run.
The birthday boy climbed a Mile High to catch this one@DeVontaSmith_6 | #PHIvsDEN pic.twitter.com/fNqeHTqnjI
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 14, 2021
- Philadelphia has at least 175 rushing yards in three consecutive games. The Saints have not allowed 175 rushing yards since giving up 179 to the Chiefs in Week 15 last season.
- Eagles quarterback JALEN HURTS made his first NFL start against the Saints in Week 14 of last season, passing for 167 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions and adding 106 rushing yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 win. Hurts joined LAMAR JACKSON (119 rushing yards in Week 11, 2018) as the only quarterbacks with at least 100 rushing yards in their first career starts in NFL history.
- Last week on his 23rd birthday, Eagles rookie wide receiver DEVONTA SMITH caught a season-high two touchdowns among four receptions for 66 yards in Philadelphia’s win.
RIVERA VISITS PANTHERS, NEWTON
Both Washington head coach RON RIVERA and Panthers quarterback CAM NEWTON will make their return to Bank of America Stadium when the WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (3-6) plays the CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-5) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
CAM NEWTON IS BACK.
📺: #CARvsAZ on FOX
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/6gM8zX7UMX
— NFL (@NFL) November 14, 2021
Rivera and Newton spent nine seasons together (2011-19) in Carolina. In Newton’s 124 starts under Rivera, Carolina was 68-55-1 with four playoff appearances, including a 15-1 season in 2015 that ended with a berth in Super Bowl 50.
- Newton is expected to make his first appearance in Charlotte since Sept. 12, 2019. Last week, days after re-signing with the team, Newton ran for a 2-yard touchdown to cap the Panthers’ first drive, then threw a 2-yard touchdown to ROBBY ANDERSON to give Carolina a 14-0 lead just six minutes into the game. Newton has 71 career rushing touchdowns and 43 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, both the most by a quarterback in NFL history.
- Also in the win, Carolina running back CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY registered 10 receptions and 161 scrimmage yards (95 rushing, 66 receiving). McCaffrey now has 11 career games with at least 10 receptions, the most by a running back in NFL history, surpassing JULIO JONES (10 games) for the third-most such games by a player in his first five career seasons in league annals. Only MICHAEL THOMAS (18 games) and BRANDON MARSHALL (12) have more.
- Meanwhile last week, Rivera’s Washington club defeated defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, 29-19. After the Buccaneers cut the deficit to 23-19 in the fourth quarter, Washington quarterback TAYLOR HEINICKE engineered a 19-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, draining most of the final 11 minutes off the clock. Heinicke on the drive competed all six pass attempts for 45 yards, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by ANTONIO GIBSON to put the game out of reach with 29 seconds left.
LIONS, BROWNS RENEW LAKE ERIE RIVALRY
From 1952-57, the Lions and Browns met in the NFL Championship Game four times over six seasons, with Detroit taking three of the four league titles (1952-53 and 1957). Cleveland won the world championship in 1954. This week, DETROIT (0-8-1) and CLEVELAND (5-5) meet for the 25th time, including the postseason, on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX).
WEEK 11 NFL SCHEDULE
(All times Eastern)
|Thursday, November 18||New England at Atlanta||FOX/NFLN/Amazon||8:20|
|Sunday, November 21||Indianapolis at Buffalo||CBS||1:00|
|Washington at Carolina||FOX||1:00|
|Baltimore at Chicago||CBS||1:00|
|Detroit at Cleveland||FOX||1:00|
|San Francisco at Jacksonville||FOX||1:00|
|Green Bay at Minnesota||FOX||1:00|
|Miami at New York Jets||CBS||1:00|
|New Orleans at Philadelphia||FOX||1:00|
|Houston at Tennessee||CBS||1:00|
|Cincinnati at Las Vegas||CBS||4:05|
|Dallas at Kansas City||FOX||4:25|
|Arizona at Seattle||FOX||4:25|
|Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Chargers||NBC||8:20|
|Monday, November 22||New York Giants at Tampa Bay||ESPN||8:15|
|Byes: Denver, Los Angeles Rams|