Week 11 kicked off Thursday night in Buffalo with the Bills hosting the Dolphins in a rare prime time game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. In what was far and away their most complete game of the year the Bills front four played a big role as Buffalo hung to beat the Dolphins 19-14 and improve to 4-6 on the season.
From Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Shawne Merriman the Bills front four did a great job of negating the Dolphins running game and putting pressure on Ryan Tannehill.
"I think it’s just starting to click, playing fast, getting off of blocks, guys coming downhill," said Kyle Williams. "I believe that is something we can build on. We need to be able to build on that," said head coach Chan Gailey.
The upside for the Bills is they will now get extra time to rest and prepare to face the Colts on the road in week 12.
Time now to take a look at the top games for Week 11.
Luck, Brady go head-to-head in New England
Going into week 11 Andrew Luck is tied with Peyton Manning (Who else?) for the most completions 20 yards or longer with 41. To top it off Luck has also run for five touchdowns. Luck and the Colts will now attempt to extend their winning streak to five games against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
While the issues in their secondary continue, there are no issues with Brady and the Patriots offence as they’re averaging 37 points per game their last three contests.
This game figures to be a showcase for receivers from each team; the Patriots’ Wes Welker and the Colts’ Reggie Wayne. Welker leads all AFC receivers with 393 yards after the catch and Wayne leads the entire NFL with 50 catches for first downs. Stopping Wayne and to a lesser extent Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton will fall on the shoulders of the Patriots rag-tag secondary.
The recently acquired Aqib Talib is expected to make his debut with a Patriots secondary that has allowed 19 passing touchdowns and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 66 per cent of their passes.
With eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last three games Brady will once again be asked to put up enough points to compensate for the sins of the Patriots pass defence. On top of Welker, the Colts also have to worry about Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski who has caught five touchdowns his past three games.
Ravished Ravens, Steelers renew rivalry in Pittsburgh
At this point in the season Mike Tomlin is using duct tape and prayer to cobble together a lineup on Sunday. With Ben Roethlisberger out of action with a shoulder injury Byron Leftwich will be making his first start since September of 2009.
So now the Steelers will face their bitter division rivals without their franchise quarterback. To beat the Ravens the Steelers will have to run the ball and rely on their outstanding defence to bail them out, again.
The one "X" factor that could bail out the Steelers offence is receiver Mike Wallace. If Leftwich can find a way to get the ball in Wallace’s hands he’s more than capable of making a big play all on his own.
For all of their injuries and inconsistent play the Ravens are still 7-2 and in first place in the AFC North. John Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for the job he’s done with a Ravens team that is dealing with their own fair share of adversity.
The Ravens have won five of their last six games and thanks to receiver Torrey Smith and the special teams they’ve found different ways to win every week. With the Steelers designed to contain Ray Rice the Ravens will need another big game from Smith.
Even with all of the injuries both teams will pound on each other until only one is left standing. Ultimately it will come down to which quarterback, Joe Flacco or Leftwich, can find a way to make enough plays to win.
By the way, the last time Leftwich won a game as a starting quarterback was back in October of 2006 when he was playing for the Jaguars (they beat the Jets that day).
Packers, Lions battle for NFC North position
Coming off their bye week the Packers will play the first of two straight road games when they take on the Lions. With the Bears coming off of a loss and Jay Cutler dealing with a concussion this is a gold opportunity for the Packers to temporarily move into a tie for first place in the NFC North.
Despite injuries to some key players on offence, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t missed a beat. Rodgers is tied with Drew Brees with 25 touchdown passes and he’s only thrown one interception in his last four games.
The Lions catch a break this week because Clay Matthews has already been ruled out because of a hamstring injury. The absence of Matthews might provide Matt Stafford more time to find Calvin Johnson down field.
After a slow start by his standards Stafford has thrown six touchdowns his last three games. The big problem for the Lions last week was their complete inability to stop Adrian Peterson. The Packers don’t have a running back anywhere close to Peterson’s skill set but they do have a quarterback (Rodgers) who is capable of lighting up any defence in the NFL (See Texans, Houston).
Chargers look to ignite playoff chase vs. Broncos
Von Miller and the Broncos lead the NFL with 31 sacks so far this year. That’s what makes the Broncos so dangerous in the AFC; they are not a one man team.
Even though Peyton Manning is enjoying a tremendous season he has plenty of help in Denver. From Miller to running back Willis McGahee the Broncos have a lot of top end talent surrounding Manning.
With Manning playing the way he is, the usually dour John Fox can be seen cracking a smile now and then. The same cannot be said for Chargers head coach Norv Turner. Poor old Norv snapped at the media after last week’s loss. Poor old Norv might also be a tad grumpy watching Philip Rivers implode week after week in the fourth quarter.
During the fourth quarter Rivers has a quarterback rating of 56.5 and has thrown six of his interceptions in the fourth quarter. Norv is also grumpy about the fact the last time they played the Broncos his team blew a 24-0 lead and watched helplessly as Manning threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Sunday the Broncos will be aiming to score at least 30 points for their fifth straight game.
Bucs, Panthers look to rise in NFC South
People better start considering the fact that the Bucs could be a wild card team in the NFC. Greg Schiano has his team playing hard and more importantly he has the Bucs believing in themselves.
Not only that, the Bucs offence leads the entire NFC with a 28.9 points per game average. In their last five games alone the Bucs are scoring at a rate of 35.6 points per game.
The cause for this offensive outburst is rookie running back Doug Martin, veteran receiver Vincent Jackson and the emergence of quarterback Josh Freeman. Now in his fourth season Freeman is in the top in passing touchdowns, quarterback rating and number one in the NFL with an 8.27 yards per pass attempt.
The Panthers can only hope that Cam Newton eventually evolves into the kind of quarterback that Freeman has become. While the Panthers defence isn’t great, it isn’t horrible either. The problem is they are just not scoring enough points to be competitive. Unfortunately for Carolina they’re playing a Bucs team that is scoring points at a dizzying pace.
Eagles, Redskins look to stay alive in NFC East
Assuming Michael Vick doesn’t have a miraculous recovery from what Andy Reid deemed a "pretty significant concussion" the Nick Foles era with the 3-6 Eagles will officially begin Sunday at FedEx Field.
Coming off of their bye week the 3-6 Redskins are trying to snap a three game losing streak against the first of three straight NFC East opponents.
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offence scored a total of 25 points in their last two games causing coach Mike Shanahan many sleepless nights. It would be a huge help for RG3 and the Redskins if Alfred Morris can run for at least 100 yards. In the Redskins three wins Morris has run for a total of 347 yards and four touchdowns.
The Eagles defence has allowed 106 points their past three games so if there ever was a game for RG3 and the Redskins offence to get it back on track this is it.
Bengals visit KC to battle lowly Chiefs
The best kept secret in Cincinnati is Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The 300 pound Atkins has quietly emerged as one of the most feared interior defensive linemen in the NFL and comes into the game with seven sacks, more than another defensive tackle in the league.
Bengals receiver A.J. Green will be equally worrisome for the Chiefs. After catching seven touchdowns in 2011 Green already has nine this year and is cement his status as one of the most dangerous receivers in the AFC.
The Chiefs gave the Steelers a real scare on Monday night but Matt Cassel threw a back breaking interception in over-time. Irate Chiefs fans are out for blood. If Andy Dalton and the Bengals can get out to an early lead the fans will turn on the Chiefs as they vent their frustration.
Cowboys look to take advantage of reeling Browns
Rumours of the Cowboys demise have been greatly exaggerated. Beginning with their game against the Browns the 4-5 Cowboys are about to play three straight winnable home games.
The defensive game plan for the Cowboys won’t be very complicated; stop Trent Richardson and dare Brandon Weeden to beat them with his erratic arm. The Browns are a scrappy team and usually put up a good fight.
However, even with a mediocre running game at the moment the Cowboys offence has far more firepower than whatever the Browns can throw at them.
Lifeless Jets seek solace in St. Louis
It is getting painful to watch how the Jets are imploding before our very eyes. From players anonymously sniping at Tim Tebow, to the ongoing struggles of Mark Sanchez, to the embattled Rex Ryan trying to hold the whole thing together, the Jets are a hot mess right now.
Everybody knew this kind of thing would happen when the Jets acquired Tebow, what nobody really knew is what week things would really get ugly. Well this is the week.
The bottom line is the Jets do not have enough talented or healthy playmakers on offence to give them a chance to win; no matter who is playing quarterback. The Rams duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long has combined for 13 and half sacks and they know the more they can pound on Sanchez the more he will be forced to make decisions.
Surging Saints do battle in Oakland
The Saints come into the Black Hole with some momentum. Led by Drew Brees the Saints are 4-1 in their last five games and they’ve scored 139 games in that stretch.
On top of that the Saints are getting healthier on defence and Chris Ivory has given them a respectable running game the last two weeks. The Raiders are a team going in an entirely different direction right now. It is painfully obvious the re-build by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen is going to take a few years.
The most pressing issue for the Raiders is their defence. The Silver and Black have been torched for 97 points their last two games and facing the Saints offence has the potential for disastrous results.
Falcons look to take flight over Cardinals
Now that they’ve been knocked down a peg and are no longer undefeated, the Falcons will attempt to start another winning streak against the struggling Cardinals.
Kevin Kolb is still injured so that means John Skelton will once again be asked to revive the Cardinals struggling offence. Offence isn’t an issue with the Falcons, especially their passing game.
The issue is their pass defence and last week the Saints exposed the Falcons secondary time and time again. For all of their recent struggles at least the Cardinals lead the NFL in something, sacks. The Cards have allowed a mind blowing 41 sacks, 13 more than the next closest team.