Week 11 of the NFL saw plenty of truths being handed out around the league, fitting since Thanksgiving is around the corner and the playoff races are heating up. The Kansas City Chiefs own the AFC West and the Tennessee Titans control the AFC South to start, virtually locking up playoff berths with their wins this week.
The Dallas Cowboys had their largest road win in franchise history by thrashing the Minnesota Vikings, while the Philadelphia Eagles continued controlling the NFC East and conference with Minnesota and the New York Giants losing. The San Francisco 49ers even took the NFC West lead with their big victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.
As the playoff picture starts to come into focus, what did we learn about each team in Week 11? Here's one thing that's worth mentioning.
Second-half offense was typical Kliff Kingsbury: The Cardinals offense has gone through inconsistent stretches in games all season, typically in the first half. Arizona saved the poor stretch for the second half -- with its backup quarterback in tow.
The Cardinals ran 32 plays for 129 yards in the second half, averaging 4.03 yards per play. They turned the ball over on downs twice and punted twice, with the final possession resulting in an interception when Colt McCoy was pulled.
Arizona ran 22 plays for 80 yards on the four possessions McCoy was in (3.6 yards per play). The Cardinals didn't score any points and the 49ers scored 21 on three of their five possessions (not counting kneel downs). Different quarterback, same story.
The Kyle Pitts injury made the pass offense less efficient: The Falcons haven't used Pitts much on offense this year (or utilized him to his strengths), but his knee injury in the third quarter was devastating. Atlanta threw for only 25 yards since the Pitts injury, as Marcus Mariota went 3 of 4 during the stretch.
Of course, Atlanta is a running team. Drake London only had three targets and Damiere Byrd only finished with two targets, so throwing the football isn't exactly part of the game plan anyway. Without Pitts on the field, it's fair to wonder if the Falcons will even throw the ball 15 times next week.
DeMarcus Robinson is WR1: Robinson steeped up for an offense that only rushed for 115 yards Sunday -- Baltimore's second-lowest total of the season. He finished with nine catches for 128 yards on a day where no other wide receiver had more than two targets (James Proche had zero catches).
The only other Ravens wide receiver to catch a pass was Devin Duvernay (one catch for 3 yards). With Rashod Bateman out for the year, someone among the Ravens wide receivers had to step up. Robinson has emerged as the top wideout with 16 catches for 204 yards over the last three weeks.
Baltimore needs more help at wide receiver, but Robinson is the go-to wideout on this roster with Bateman out.
Josh Allen didn't carry the ground game: Good for the Bills to not have to rely on Allen to win a football game with his arm -- or his legs. The Bills actually ran the ball with their running backs, as the running back-by-committee of Devin Singletary and James Cook had 29 carries for 172 yards and a touchdown (5.9 yards per carry).
Allen only had three carries for 7 yards in the game, which is a good thing. The Bills acclimated Cook to the offense well, as he had 11 carries for 86 yards (7.8 yards per carry) -- which included a long run of 29 yards to end the third quarter.
Buffalo is still struggling throwing the football, but it's nice to see the Bills can go to the ground game to score points.
Baker Mayfield can't push the ball downfield: The Panthers' deep passing game is nonexistent when Mayfield plays quarterback. Mayfield averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt in Sunday's loss to the Ravens, lower than his 6.4 average for the year (32nd out of 35 qualified quarterbacks).
Not only did Mayfield fail to complete a 20-yard pass until the second half, his 34-yard pass to Terrace Marshall Jr. came with 1:38 left in a 13-3 deficit. Mayfield has completed 39.7% of his passes that have gone for 10-plus air yards, only higher than Carson Wentz, Zach Wilson and Kenny Pickett.
Perhaps this is why the Panthers go to P.J. Walker. Their offense isn't a threat in the passing game with Mayfield.
They run the ball too much: Hard to go against a formula that's working, especially when Chicago has rushed for 225-plus yards in five consecutive games. The Bears have the No. 1 run offense in football and had 160 yards on the ground Sunday -- and still run the ball too much.
Chicago had Justin Fields carry the ball 18 times and David Montgomery 17 in the absence of Khalil Herbert. That's too much for the starting quarterback -- no matter how dynamic Fields is on the ground -- especially since he's now dealing with a shoulder injury. Chicago ran the ball 41 times and averaged 3.9 yards per carry.
Yes, the Bears have a great run offense. They need to develop Fields and balance out the pass attack this offseason.
Trey Hendrickson appears back: One of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the past two seasons, Hendrickson has gotten off to a slow start in 2022. However, over the last few weeks, the Bengals' top pass rusher has rounded into form.
Hendrickson has 3.5 sacks over his last four games, adding seven quarterback hits, two passes defended and 14 pressures in the stretch. The Bengals edge rusher had his way against tackle Dan Moore Jr., finishing with two sacks, four quarterback hits and seven pressures in Sunday's win over the Steelers.
Hendrickson has been an unsung hero in Cincinnati winning three of its last four games. He's back to playing at that Pro Bowl level.
Nick Chubb was shut down for the first time this year: Chubb has been brilliant running the football all season long, but he had just 14 carries for 19 yards in Sunday's loss to the Bills -- averaging 1.9 yards per carry. The Bills defense deserves a lot of credit for shutting down Chubb, but it was interesting how the Browns offense worked without him.
Jacoby Brissett threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, yet the Browns were just 2 of 4 in the red zone because Chubb wasn't a factor in the situations he thrives in. The Browns ran the football just 12.5% of the time in the red zone -- and Chubb had just one carry for -6 yards (on a direct snap). Just an awkward day for one of the top running backs in the game.
Dak Prescott looked like Dak Prescott again: Prescott's struggles since his return were a bit overexaggerated, but his performance against the Packers wasn't one to write home about. Still, the Cowboys quarterback completed 68.4% of his passes for 722 yards with six touchdowns to three interceptions (97.4 rating) since his return.
Prescott was at his best Sunday, completing 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns (139.3 rating) in a dominant 40-3 win over the Vikings. The Cowboys are averaging 35.3 points per game since Prescott returned to the lineup, with Prescott completing 72.4% of his passes for 998 yards with eight touchdowns to three interceptions (107.7 rating).
With Prescott playing at a high level and the defense being able to tee off against the quarterback, the Cowboys are one of the best teams in the NFL.
The new play-caller couldn't help the offense generate points: Another week the Broncos failed to score 20 points in a game -- and this time Klint Kubiak was calling plays instead of Nathaniel Hackett. Denver scored a touchdown on the first drive and a field goal on the second drive. An 84-yard drive on the third possession resulted in a blocked field goal and everything went downhill from there.
Denver had just six points the rest of the way, having just 123 yards on the final seven possessions (3.3 yards per play). The Broncos defense couldn't preserve a 10-0 lead, but the offense didn't do anything to extend it much either.
There were a few aspects to like with Kubiak calling plays, but the end result was more of the same.
Jamaal Williams is Barry Sanders?: Not quite, but Williams accomplished a feat that only Sanders reached with the Lions. Williams had his fifth game with multiple rushing touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Giants, the only player to have that many games with multiple rushing touchdowns in a season not named Barry Sanders.
Williams has six games remaining to set a franchise mark for multiple rushing touchdowns. He's also the first player since Sanders in 1991 to have 12-plus rushing touchdowns in a season (Sanders had 16 that year to set the franchise record).
The No. 1 running back on the Lions, Williams has a legitimate shot at Sanders' franchise mark. He has six games to get five rushing touchdowns.
Coverage breakdowns and scheme did not help: Green Bay's pass defense was very disappointing in last Thursday's loss to the Titans, as Tennessee had its best passing day of the year. Ryan Tannehill threw just five incomplete passes, Treylon Burks caught two 40-yard passes, Austin Hooper caught two touchdowns and Derrick Henry (yes, that Derrick Henry) threw a touchdown pass.
Green Bay was determined to stop the run game (and did), but the coverage scheme had the Packers play deep, allowing the Titans to have command of the game through the air. For a defense which the secondary is supposed to be a strength, the unit was anything but that.
The Packers are fourth in the NFL in pass yards allowed per game, which makes allowing a season-high 320 yards against the Titans all the more disappointing.
Offense even worse when Dameon Pierce is shut down: Pierce has been the lone bright spot in Houston's offense, leading all rookie backs in rushing yards entering Week 11. He had 10 carries for 8 yards in Sunday's loss, making the Texans offense even less effective as he was taken out of the game plan.
Davis Mills went 6 of 9 for 22 yards and an interception while Pierce had negative rushing yards in the first half, as the Texans had just 5 yards at halftime. Mills is just too inconsistent to bail Houston out when the run game goes away, and the result was a season low in total yards (148) and no chance to win.
Houston needs to fix a lot on offense for 2023.
Stephon Gilmore thrived against A.J. Brown: The Colts tasked the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year to shut down Brown, and Gilmore did an excellent job in containing one of the top receivers in the game. Brown caught just two of four targets for 35 yards when Gilmore was covering him, which was 76% of Brown's routes (per NFL Next Gen stats).
Gilmore allowed four of his seven targets as the primary defender to be caught Sunday, and still hasn't allowed a passing touchdown this year. The Colts are getting excellent play from Gilmore, a bright spot on a team still trying to figure things out for next year.
Isiah Pacheco is RB1: Lost in Patrick Mahomes owning the AFC West and Travis Kelce furthering his case as the greatest tight end of all time, was Pacheco having 15 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown (7.1 yards per carry) in the victory over the Chargers.
This was the first 100-yard rushing game for the Chiefs since Week 4 of last season, furthering Pacheco's case as the starting running back. Sure Clyde Edwards-Helaire is injured and a Jerick McKinnon fumble led to more touches for Pacheco, but Sunday was the rookie's fourth consecutive start.
Pacheco has 31 carries for 189 yards over the last two games (6.1 yards per carry). The Chiefs are averaging 499.8 yards per game in his starts. Pacheco has earned the right to be the feature back.
A one-score win: The Raiders finally were able to win a one-score game, needing the lifeless Broncos to get on the positive side of the win column. Previously 0-6 in one-score games, Derek Carr's 35-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams on the initial possession of overtime snapped a three-game losing streak and capped a much-needed comeback.
The Raiders were trailing 16-13 with with 1:43 left before going 71 yards on seven plays to force overtime -- the big play being a 43-yard pass to Josh Jacobs. Daniel Carlson's 25-yard field goal forced overtime and the Raiders made sure the Broncos never got the ball back.
Las Vegas finally won a close game. Can the Raiders capitalize on this momentum in a lost season?
Derwin James wasn't an answer for Travis Kelce either: The Chargers tried anything to slow down Kelce, who finished with six catches for 115 yards and three touchdowns -- terrorizing the Chargers defense as a matchup nightmare.
They tried James on the last possession, holding on a 27-23 lead with 1:46 left. An All-Pro safety could match up with an All-Pro tight end, right? Kelce beat James on a 17-yard touchdown to give Kansas City the lead with 37 second left, Kelce's third touchdown of the night that capped off a game which he broke Rob Gronkowski's record for most 100-yard receiving games by a tight end.
Kelce has been a thorn in the Chargers defense for years. James couldn't stop him either.
The Rams could actually run the football: A positive from Sunday's loss to the Saints was the run game. Los Angeles rushed for a season-high 148 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. The Rams got contributions from Kyren Williams (seven carries for 36 yards) and quarterback Bryce Perkins (five carries for 39 yards) -- who entered in relief of Matthew Stafford.
Perhaps more mobility at quarterback will help Los Angeles as the Super Bowl repeat quest appears to be over. Cam Akers still averaged 4.4 yards per carry (14 carries for 61 yards) as the featured back while Darrell Henderson Jr. was a nonfactor again.
Los Angeles hasn't come close to this rushing total all year, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry this season. Perhaps the Rams found something.
This team needs Christian Darrisaw back: The Vikings offensive line has been one of the reasons behind their 8-2 start, yet Darrisaw's injury was brutal for a unit that couldn't afford to lose him. Darrisaw left with a concussion in the first half (the second one in two weeks for him), which had Kirk Cousins running for his life.
Darrisaw did allow two sacks, but the Vikings allowed seven as a team. Minnesota also allowed 20 pressures in the loss, only two were by Darrisaw. Blake Brandel allowed two sacks and four pressures filling in for Darrisaw, showcasing how valuable the left tackle has been for the offensive line.
If Darrisaw is out for a bit, the Vikings are back to square one on the offensive line. That's been the team's biggest weakness over the past few years.
Bill Belichick can't be happy with the miscues: The Patriots finished with eight penalties for 55 yards in Sunday's win over the Jets, numbers that won't thrill the Hall of Fame head coach. Two of those penalties led to missed field goals by Nick Folk, taking a total of six points off the board by New England.
Mac Jones took two sacks after those penalties that didn't help Folk, who missed 43- and 44-yard field goal attempts in the game. Those kicks were in the wind on the open end of the stadium, but the penalties and sacks didn't help the kicker overcome his struggles.
The Patriots took points off the board against a team that didn't seem to have a chance at scoring 10 points on the day. Good bet Belichick gets that fixed in time for the Thanksgiving night game in Minnesota.
Juwan Johnson is becoming a force at tight end: A converted wide receiver from Penn State and Oregon, Johnson has developed into a good pass-catching tight end in the Saints offense. Johnson had three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's win over the Rams, his fifth touchdown in the last five games.
The Saints have been missing Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry -- who scored a TD on Sunday -- but Johnson has been a mismatch for linebackers covering him. His ability to stretch the field has been a welcome for the Saints offense.
Over the last five games, Johnson has 17 catches for 179 yards and five touchdowns. The Saints seem to have found their No.1 tight end going forward.
Can't run, can't win: The Giants were suffocated by a Lions run defense that entered Sunday 31st in the league. Saquon Barkley was held to 15 carries for 22 yards as the Giants finished with just 3.4 yards per carry and 89 yards (50 of which came from Daniel Jones).
The Giants have lost the past two games in which they have rushed for under 100 yards. If Barkley gets contained, the Giants struggle to control the clock and score points. Injuries have played a significant role in this, but the Giants are running on fumes right now.
Fortunately, the Cowboys -- who the Giants face on Thanksgiving -- have a poor run defense. But so did Detroit.
Time to bench Zach Wilson: When a team has a more punts (10) than completions by its quarterback, it's time to seriously contemplate a quarterback change. Wilson went 9 of 22 for 77 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (50.8 rating) as the Jets put up just three points in Sunday's loss to the Patriots.
The Jets had just 2 yards in the second half, as Wilson was just 4 of 11 for 12 yards. To make matters worse, Wilson didn't feel he let a defense -- that held the Patriots to just three points -- down. The quarterback showed no accountability over the loss.
The Jets have to bench the former No. 2 overall pick. It's time to save the season.
The new defensive tackles were huge: No pun intended on this one, but Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh made a huge impact on the run game in their debuts for Philadelphia. Jonathan Taylor had seven carries for 49 yards on the first drive for the Colts, then had just 15 carries for 35 yards the rest of the way.
This was an Eagles run defense that allowed 160 rushing yards per game over the last two games, yet held the Colts to just 99 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per carry. Suh also had two pressures and a half-sack in 16 snaps, while Joseph had a pressure and a half-sack in 24 snaps.
For players who weren't on the team a week ago, both Suh and Joseph appear to have solved a weakness in the Eagles defense for the stretch run.
George Pickens had a good game and it should have been better: Pickens is starting to live up to the hype surrounding him from training camp, finishing with four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Bengals. Pickens had a nice touchdown catch on a route where he had Eli Apple stumbling and a highlight-reel snag in the fourth quarter with Apple covering him.
Pickens had another touchdown slip off his hands late in the fourth quarter. Regardless, Pickens is going to be a very good player in this league for a long time. That Justin Jefferson-type game is coming.
Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle had their turn to shine: Garoppolo threw four touchdown passes in Monday's victory over the Cardinals -- two to Kittle and two to Brandon Aiyuk -- as he threw for 228 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. With all the 49ers weapons on display, three players had over 50 yards receiving as San Francisco showed off its plethora of riches on that side of the ball.
Kittle had just four catches for 60 yards over the last two games, but had four catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns Monday. With all the 49ers playmakers, the middle of the field and the seams were wide open for Kittle to make plays and score touchdowns (especially on the last score he had).
Garoppolo and Kittle are the old guards of this 49ers unit. Both are still really good, even with all the shiny new toys in the closet.
Treylon Burks isn't too small: The Titans have been waiting all year for Burks to have his breakout game, which finally happened in last Thursday's victory over the Packers. Burks hauled in a pair of deep passes, including a 51-yard reception off Jaire Alexander that sealed the win late. Burks also had a 43-yard catch that led to the Titans' first touchdown.
The 51-yard reception capped off a performance in which Burks finished with seven catches for 111 yards, easily career highs in both categories. The rookie is emerging as the big-play receiver the Titans envisioned when they drafted him, finally overcoming a toe injury that kept him out since Week 4 (Thursday was just his second game back).
If Burks continues this progress, Tennessee will be a very dangerous team to play in the playoffs.
The dominant defense is back: Washington's defense put on a clinic in Sunday's win over the Texans, starting with Houston's second offensive play of the game. Kendall Fuller took Davis Mills' pass 37 yards the other way for a score -- giving Washington a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
That was just the beginning of the Commanders' dominant day on defense. Washington held Houston to just 2 of 13 on third down and 148 yards on the day -- as the Texans averaged just 2.7 yards per play. Dameon Pierce had just 10 carries for 8 yards and Mils had two interceptions in a poor offensive performance by Houston.
The Commanders have 12 takeaways in their last six games, allowing only 253.8 yards per game. Not surprising they are 4-1 during the stretch and fighting for a playoff berth.