NFL Week 11 insider notes: Benching Gardner Minshew for Nick Foles looks even worse, Cousins steps up and more

Bring back Minshew Mania.

I need it. America needs it. The Jaguars' fans deserve it. That football team seems to require it.

Gardner Minshew never should have been benched for Nick Foles in the first place. This is not revisionist history in this space, as I was making the case for keeping the mustached wonder under center on a weekly basis, including after his one poor outing against the Texans before the Jaguars' bye. The kid was a top 10 passer for half a season, on pace for 4,000 yards with the fourth-best TD/INT ratio in the NFL through eight weeks, and guess what, he was the cause of that success and not a symptom.

And on Sunday, Foles was a big part of the cause of a defeat to the Colts that wipes out the already-faux playoff aspirations this team has clung to. While Minshew sat back and watched.

Minshew was playing with a suspect cast around him on a middling-at-best football team, and was the best thing Jacksonville had going for itself through the first half of what was always going to be a nondescript season. He was one of the best feel good stories for a franchise that desperately needed one, he held that team together while the front office let an ugly situation with Jalen Ramsey fester for over a month, and he has the Jags in the hunt in the AFC South.

He wasn't being propped up; he was propping the offense up. It took a certain degree of hubris to not see it from that perspective, but then again, the Jaguars have been fooling themselves for years about who they are and where they are going – especially at the quarterback position. They did it with Blake Bortles and they did it with Nick Foles (a veteran who can get you through a sprint on a great team but is not built for a marathon with an okay club), paying him $50M guaranteed for two years and bidding against themselves to do so.

A wild Week 11 is almost in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.

Foles got hurt one series into the season – he has tended to do so when asked to carry a team for 17 weeks – and all Minshew did was energize the huddle and make big plays with his legs and arm and give you a reason to pay attention to the Jacksonville offense. The sixth-round pick was winning rookie of the week honors with regularity and became the face of the franchise and chief marketing tool for the small-market team with his mustache and playful spirit … and this is the thanks he got.

First moment he showed his youth and inexperience, he was sent to the bench. Some gratitude.

As for Foles, well, he looked like a less-athletic QB playing for the first time in two months. Every bit of it. Sure, there were the opening two drives, when he went 5-for-6 for 78 yards and a 7-0 lead. But by the end of the third quarter it was the Colts in the lead, 24-7, and Foles had gone 12-for-20 for 78 yards and an interception since that scoring drive. Yeah, it really was that ugly.

They next four drives after that TD went: Punt, punt, punt, INT, end of half, and they gained 25 yards on 16 plays. Foles padded his box score in garbage time (Bortling is the technical term for that, by the way), but the reality was the Jags had no passing game to speak of with the game in the balance. Through three quarters Jacksonville had 176 net yards and had the ball for all of about 18 minutes.

You sat down a kid with immense upside who was more than doing the job, for that? At the first sign of poor play on his part? Maybe that's football karma for you. But, listen close, it's still not too late. Put Foles on the sidelines – you're going to be trading him for pennies on the dollar anyway, in 2020, eating salary to do so – and don't risk getting him hurt again. Kinda like what you did with Bortles last year.

Let your best quarterback play, the one who had you hanging around the periphery of the postseason at 4-5. Give him the job for the rest of the season. Let him show you what you else he can do. I wouldn't hold my breath, of course, given the contracts and all, but I'll take Minshew Mania over Foles Follies any day.

Cousins impressive in Vikings comeback

Kirk Cousins takes a lot of crap, but he had to be pretty much perfect in the second half Sunday with the Vikings down 20-0 at the half of a must-win game against the Broncos. And, well, he was.

Denver's defense has been very good the last month or so and it was suffocating in the first half Sunday, and without Adam Thielen, you had to wonder if this was going to be another week filled with Cousins bashing. Then the Vikings went out and rolled up about 300 yards of offense in the second half and Cousins made huge throws to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph with no room for error. He was 18-for-23 for 261 yards (11.3 yards per attempt!) with three touchdowns and no picks. Had he been anything less than that, the Vikings lose this game, and even with it they almost did anyway.

Yes, Cousins and this passing game can run very hot and cold. It's streaky. But for the most part it has been streaking to the top of the NFL leaderboard since October. I'll say it again – this team manages to get a home game or two in January and they could make a real run.

Panthers sinking fast ... again

The Panthers will be under heavy scrutiny in the final six weeks. Perhaps as much as any team in the league. They fell apart in the second half of the season a year ago, getting blown out far too much for the liking of David Tepper, then a rookie NFL owner.

Sunday, it happened again. At the worst possible time, right as teams like the Cowboys and Vikings – who Carolina is battling for wild-card position – found ways to barely hang on and win. The Falcons (3-7) manhandled the Panthers (5-5) for all four quarters. There is no other way to put it. And young quarterback Kyle Allen looked totally out of sorts, with his three early interceptions shifting the game permanently in Atlanta's favor.

Allen flipped the ball to the Falcons in the first quarter, got picked in the end zone at the end of a promising drive and then got picked in the red zone again. It was over at the half, and the questions about coach Ron Rivera and whomever the quarterback will be in Carolina in 2020 (whether Cam Newton, Allen, or someone else) are going to get louder if the Panthers can't shake this off.

They have now lost 3-of-4 dating back to that blowout loss to the 49ers last month, getting outscored 124-62 in that span. They kicked a field goal down, down 26-0, Sunday. It really is that bad. Allen, not too long ago undefeated as an NFL starter, has now thrown nine picks and tossed just three touchdowns over the past four games. They are just 2-5 within the NFC and have a crucial game at New Orleans next week.

More insider notes from Week 11

  • How about Lamar Jackson completely taking over another football game, completing 13 passes in a row at one critical stretch and putting together three more highlight-reel runs and leading his offense to 40 points (while playing just three quarters of the game before making way for RG3) like it's no big thing? The Ravens are now averaging over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing, per game, on the season. And the defense showed once again it has completely reinvented itself since a brutal September. Best pass rush of the season … 
  • Going to be interested to see how the Broncos respond to their collapse Sunday. Things have been very rough inside that building in Vic Fangio's first season as an NFL head coach, they are going to have to look at Drew Lock soon, and John Elway isn't known for being patient. Rough times in Denver, and perhaps getting rougher …
  • Deshaun Watson should have been out of that game sooner. He was getting thrashed by the Ravens to the tune of six sacks in the first half, under constant pressure and his ankle clearly wasn't right from when he rolled it early in the game. In a four score game, he is sitting for me. Sorry. Nothing to be gained and with a quick turnaround on Thursday against the Colts. I wonder if we get to see him at 100 percent. I'd surmise we don't … 
  • Love the way Indy responded to its recent rough stretch. They got back to basics and road graded the Jaguars in Jacoby Brissett's return. No T.Y. Hilton or Parris Campbell? No worries. Marlon Mack showed why he is a top-five running back, and the Colts made a statement. They sweep the Texans and they are right back on top of the AFC South … 
  • Wake me up when the Skins win a game again at home. What an epic mess they are. Dwayne Haskins has no chance with that crew … 
  • The Cowboys give me pause, week in and week out. Jeff Driskel did way too much damage against them. That defense will not beat good teams.
CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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