2018 NFL Week 11 takeaways

NFL


Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers stunned the Jaguars with a late victory, while the Texans padded their lead in the AFC South and the Cowboys made up ground in the NFC East. Plus, the debut of Lamar Jackson electrified the Ravens in a win over the Bengals. In the late afternoon slate, the Broncos and Raiders staged thrilling late-game victories, while the Saints dropped 48 points on the Eagles.

All that and more in Week 11’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:
CHI-MIN | PIT-JAC | DAL-ATL | TEN-IND | CIN-BAL
HOU-WSH | CAR-DET | TB-NYG | DEN-LAC
OAK-ARI | PHI-NO | SEA-GB


First-year Bears head coach Matt Nagy is off to a better start than anyone predicted. The only Bears head coach to have a better record through their first 10 games than Nagy (7-3) is Hall of Famer and team founder George Halas (9-0-1), per Elias Sports Bureau research. Nagy has the Bears closing in on a playoff berth, which is remarkable, since Chicago finished dead last in the NFC North in each of the past four seasons. — Jeff Dickerson

In every prime-time game the Vikings have played this season, a costly turnover, interception or mistake elsewhere plagued them in ways they were not able to recover from. Against the Rams on Thursday Night Football, Sean McVay’s playcalling created mismatches they weren’t able to win, but in the end, a Kirk Cousins fumble on a drive where the Vikings had a chance to tie the game sealed Minnesota’s fate. Versus the Saints, Adam Thielen‘s fumble in the red zone was the beginning of a domino effect of bad breaks in a loss. The same can be said of Sunday’s game, when Dalvin Cook‘s red-zone fumble and Cousins’ interception in the red zone proved costly. The fact that some of these mistakes keep occurring are “definitely” a concern, according to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, and they should be. The best teams in the NFL are able to overcome negative plays and self-inflicted wounds, which the Vikings haven’t shown they can do this season against playoff-caliber teams. — Courtney Cronin


The gutsy, fourth-quarter comeback over Jacksonville showed the Steelers’ resolve but also exposed a flaw: Rangy defenders and a stout running game can control the pace against them. The Steelers gave up 141 first-half rushing yards to the Jags, and the offense has mustered just 66 passing yards and three turnovers by late in the third quarter. That will need to change for the stretch run. But apparently these games can impact a locker room the most. “Those are the ones you want to win — when it’s ugly,” DE Cameron Heyward said. “It shows a lot of character, a lot of maturity.” — Jeremy Fowler

The Jaguars’ No. 1 priority in the offseason has to be adding playmakers. Sunday’s loss against the Steelers reinforced that, with RB Leonard Fournette leading the team in receiving with two catches for 46 yards and receivers and tight ends producing only 58 more receiving yards. QB Blake Bortles‘ inconsistency and inability to elevate those around continue to be a problem. Jacksonville’s offense had negative yardage on four of its final nine possessions, which allowed the Steelers back in the game after they led 16-0. At 3-7, the Jags are playing out the string, starting next week at Buffalo. — Michael DiRocco


At 5-5, the Cowboys find themselves in the chase to win the NFC East with six games to go, which did not seem likely when the Cowboys lost to Tennessee two weeks ago. Since then, the Cowboys have won back-to-back road games. The Cowboys have four of their final six games at home, starting with their Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins, but Dak Prescott said the team’s mindset will not change. “Our backs are against the wall,” Prescott said. “They’re still against the wall. [This win] showed the character of this team, us swinging, fighting, coming out, the ups and downs in this game, adversity, success — just played through it and stayed together.” — Todd Archer

One of the Falcons’ biggest issues this season has been their inability to close out games. Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys marked the third time this season they lost at home in the final seconds, and the fourth time overall in six outings they’ve lost a game decided at the end, counting a road loss at Philadelphia. The last time a team rallied from a 4-6 start to make the playoffs was Green Bay in 2016, when the Packers rattled off six straight to finish 10-6. That might be too much to ask for the Falcons, especially with a quick-turnaround against the Saints on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans. — Vaughn McClure


Indianapolis’ offensive line has not given up a sack on 214 consecutive dropbacks by Andrew Luck, who has thrown at least three touchdown passes in seven consecutive games and improved to 10-0 against the Titans. The Colts are on a four-game winning streak to stay in the thick of things for the final playoff spot in the AFC, with six games to go. They can make it five straight wins next Sunday, when the Colts host the Dolphins. — Mike Wells

Nothing worked for the Titans on Sunday, and their point total reflected it. They managed only 263 yards of offense and lost quarterback Marcus Mariota after an elbow injury. The Titans struggled in all phases of the game but can get back on track in next week’s divisional game against the Texans. The key will be Mariota’s return to the lineup. — Turron Davenport


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Lamar Jackson talks about struggling to score, the night before game day and his team giving him the game ball.

In his first NFL start, quarterback Lamar Jackson provided a jolt of excitement to a struggling team and ushered in a different style for the Ravens offense. Looking like a young Michael Vick, Jackson showed his explosiveness by running for 117 yards, the most by an NFL quarterback in four years. It certainly looks like Jackson will start Sunday against the Raiders, one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Asked if Joe Flacco can return for the next game with his injured hip, coach John Harbaugh said, “It will be tough for him this week coming up.” — Jamison Hensley

Marvin Lewis isn’t going to magically save the Bengals defense, and he doesn’t appear to be able to save the offense, either. The Bengals played better against the Ravens than in recent weeks, but they still allowed a rookie quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards and couldn’t drive down the field to score in two tries. The schedule should get easier with the Browns next week, but after Cleveland beat the Falcons, that’s no guarantee. — Katherine Terrell


The Texans’ victory over the Redskins was their seventh in a row, and they have a two-game lead in the AFC South. But Houston still has improvements to make as Bill O’Brien has repeatedly talked about the importance of winning the turnover battle, and quarterback Deshaun Watson — who threw two interceptions on Sunday — has to take care of the football. The Texans have a big divisional game in Week 12 against the Titans. Watson threw an interception, and the Texans lost, when the teams met earlier this season. — Sarah Barshop

The Redskins need quarterback help after losing Alex Smith for the season to a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg. The good news for Washington is veteran backup Colt McCoy has been in Jay Gruden’s system for five years and understands it well; he throws with rhythm and timing, and teammates have always respected him and considered him a leader. But the Redskins don’t have another quarterback on the roster, so they must sign one Monday; they likely will have four or five in for a workout. At 6-4, the Redskins are still a game ahead of Dallas in the NFC East. Losing Smith hurts, but if McCoy gives the Redskins a similar effort like he gave them in his one and half quarters Sunday, they can continue to contend over the final six games. — John Keim


The Lions won for the first time in almost a month, but for all the positives for the franchise on Sunday — improved offensive line play, a breakout game from Kenny Golladay, a defense that held the Panthers to 3.5 yards per carry — there is one major concern: the health of RB Kerryon Johnson. Johnson went down with a knee injury in the third quarter and didn’t return. After the game, coach Matt Patricia had no update on the rookie sensation. If the Lions were to be without Johnson for any period of time, it would significantly alter an offense that traded away WR Golden Tate at the deadline and then lost WR Marvin Jones Jr. to injury for an undetermined amount of time last week. — Michael Rothstein

The decision to go for the two-point conversion with just over a minute left against a struggling Lions team had a feeling of desperation, even though coach Ron Rivera argued he was just being aggressive and going for the win. But the Panthers are approaching that point of desperation, at least to win on the road. They are 1-4 away from Bank of America Stadium and now in a mix of teams fighting for a wild-card spot. At 6-4, with two of the next three games on the road, Carolina has to find a way to win away games if it has any hopes of being a postseason factor. — David Newton


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Saquon Barkley says he’ll never been satisfied with where he’s at and, with the help of the veterans, he’s been making a lot of improvements.

Saquon Barkley said this week he would carry the ball two or 38 times, whatever necessary to win. The Giants needed a career-high 27 carries from Barkley in a 38-35 win over the Bucs. He finished with 142 yards and three total TDs. It helped the Giants collect their first winning streak since December 2016, a span of 700 days. They used the same formula to beat Tampa Bay that they used to defeat San Francisco. They leaned on Barkley and the run game while Eli Manning also completed a career-best 94.4 percent of his passes (17-for-18) in what coach Pat Shurmur considered a “winning performance.” — Jordan Raanan

Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched after throwing three interceptions in three quarters, including a pick-six. Jameis Winston stepped in, leading three scoring drives while producing a 129.9 passer rating and nearly pulling out a win. “[He played] fantastic,” coach Dirk Koetter said of Winston. “He came in and lit it up.” Koetter said the Bucs will weigh their options as to who starts next week against the 49ers and make an announcement Monday. At 3-7, the Bucs’ two wins to open the season against the Saints and Eagles are looking more and more like a mirage, and they’re still a team that doesn’t know how to get out of its own way. — Jenna Laine


It took several tries, a few disappointments and a kick as time expired, but as Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay put it, “We got on the good end.” Brandon McManus‘ 34-yard field goal as time expired gave the Broncos a win over one of the league’s hottest teams. They’re still a long way from contending at 4-6, but the Broncos say if they keep working as they have all season, they still believe they can make something happen. “We’re trying to ignite something,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. — Jeff Legwold

The Chargers experienced that losing feeling in a big way on Sunday, letting the Broncos escape with a 23-22 win at the StubHub Center. The Chargers finished with 14 accepted penalties for 120 yards and allowed a fake punt to work for a second consecutive week. However, the Chargers are still in good position for the playoffs at 7-3 and host the 2-8 Cardinals next week. — Eric D. Williams


Both coach Jon Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr insisted their heated conversation was not the first such occurrence, nor would it be the last. Beating the Cardinals 23-21 on a last-second field goal for Oakland’s second win of the season against eight losses will also diffuse any tensions, real or imagined. Because as Gruden acknowledged, the Raiders were in need of some positive vibes in such a trying season beset by so many injuries and, well, losses. — Paul Gutierrez

By losing to the Raiders, the frustration of a 2-8 season has set in. Players questioned why the same mistakes were happening over and over, week after week. There seems to be more frustration amid lip service that the Cardinals are improving and are close to turning a corner, but yet they’re not winning games. “No disrespect to the Raiders but we feel we are the better football team. That’s what makes this so frustrating,” Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen said. — Josh Weinfuss

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Derek Carr and Jon Gruden discuss the supposed confrontation saying it isn’t the first time it’s happened but it’s all good between the two.


The Saints (9-1) have now scored 45, 51 and 48 points over the past three weeks while winning nine straight games overall. Each win is more impressive than the last, and MVP contender Drew Brees now has 25 TD passes to one interception this year. They’ll have to turn around quickly to host the rival Falcons on Thanksgiving night, and they can’t really afford to let up with the Rams also 9-1 in the NFC. — Mike Triplett

An Eagles loss to the Saints on Sunday was expected, but the degree to which they were outclassed in a 48-7 throttling was troubling. The offense is broken — raising questions about the significance of losing former assistants Frank Reich and John DeFilippo — and the defensive secondary is unrecognizable thanks to a slew of injuries. Forget focusing on the playoffs. This team needs to figure out a way to stabilize, and if it keeps going this way, there could be some long-term damage. — Tim McManus


The Seahawks are still capable of finishing games after all. That was starting to come into question following their past three losses, as they had a chance in all three to either take the lead or tie on their final drive. Seattle had its finishing touch Thursday night, with the defense forcing punts on four of Green Bay’s final five possessions and Russell Wilson leading the go-ahead touchdown drive before the offense iced the game with a four-minute drill. At 5-5, the Seahawks will need a similarly strong finish down the stretch to make the playoffs. — Brady Henderson

Coach Mike McCarthy had a chance to make a bold move by going for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 33-yard line with 4:20 left and down three points in Thursday’s game. Given how the Packers’ season has gone, it could have been a turn-around moment had they made it and gone on to score. Instead, he sent the punt team on the field, and Aaron Rodgers never got the ball back. At 4-5-1, the Packers might need to run the table to make the playoffs. — Rob Demovsky



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