Week 11 kicks off Thursday Night with a showdown between the division rival Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. Week 10 gave us plenty of drama and plenty of movement in the Al Dente Dozen.
After another impressive victory by the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo announced his commitment to backing up Dak Prescott, who according to Romo, “he earned it.”
The Seahawks traveled to New England and reversed the result of Super Bowl XLIX, as the Patriots offense sputtered on a 4th and goal to end the game.
Some new teams entered the fold, and a few fell out. Here is the Week 11 edition of the Al Dente Dozen.
1. Dallas Cowboys (8-1) ⇑1
The Cowboys went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers at their own game. Dallas is a running team and they were still able to keep up with Big Ben in a Sunday afternoon shootout. Ezekiel Elliott is on pace to flirt with history and challenge Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record. Dak Prescott is officially the starter for the rest of the season with Tony Romo’s “concession” speech on Tuesday night, which is probably the right decision; in a league where momentum is everything, Jerry’s Boys’ have the most Mo’ in the NFL.
2. Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1) ⇑2
When a team goes into Foxborough and defeats “The Hoodie” and his Patriots, they deserve to move up a few spots in the rankings. Russell Wilson finally looked fully healthy, throwing for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Hawks may have found a new weapon in running back C.J. Prosise. The rookie out of Notre Dame rushed for 66 yards and caught 7 passes out of the backfield for 87 yards. With the emergence of Prosise and Thomas Rawls returning from injury, the offense should be clicking on all cylinders, not to mention the defense is still one of the tops in the league.
3. New England Patriots (7-2) ⇓2
New England surprisingly looked sloppy throughout the game, and quite frankly, didn’t look as good as Seattle, and yet, the Pats still had a chance to tie the game with a 4th and goal pass attempt to Gronk that fell incomplete. They have the best coach in the league, and arguably the best quarterback continually keeping them as the team to beat in the AFC. One red flag, Gronk has missed two days of practice and his availability is up in the air against San Francisco.
4. Oakland Raiders (7-2) ⇓1
I hate moving teams in the rankings when they are on a bye, but I had to move Seattle ahead of them after their impressive victory in Foxborough. The Raiders will have to travel to Mexico City to face the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. If the Raiders can get the running game and their three-headed monster going early, and Derek Carr airing it out in the passing game, this game could turn into a rout
5. Denver Broncos (7-3) ⇑1
Maybe the craziest finish of the week happened in the Big Easy on Sunday. Siemian looked great some moments and then made some poor decisions at others. The running game still wasn’t great but Booker was able to pick up 76 yards on the ground with Bibbs adding 22 more. Darien Stewart came up big in Aqib Talib’s absence picking off Drew Brees twice and recovering a Bradley Roby forced fumble. The decisive play came when rookie safety Justin Simmons hurdled the offensive line to block the extra point that would have given the Saints the lead with 1:22 remaining. Will Parks scooped up the ball and returned it the other way for two points for the Broncos. This team continues to make plays at critical times.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) ⇑1
The Chiefs are another team that continues to find a way to win this season. I don’t know what Andy Reid does at halftime, but with his team trailing 17-3, they came out in the 2nd half and scored 17 unanswered to win the game. Safety Eric Berry had the pivotal pick-six that swung the momentum in the Chiefs favor. The offense was stagnant for most of the game, but the defense held tough and created turnovers that gave them a chance to win. Sunday, November 27. Circle that on your calendar. The Chiefs visit the Denver Broncos for a huge division showdown on Sunday Night Football.
7. New York Giants (6-3) ⇑1
I think the most surprising thing about the Giants in 2016 is the huge turnaround that the defense has made. They continue to play well against good offenses and continue to improve each and every week. They held the Bengals to 264 total net yards, keeping their duel threat running attack in check for 78 net yards. OBJ displayed his usual antics, but when he posts a stat line of 10/97/1 nobody cares. If this team can make the playoffs in a deep NFC East, watch out.
8. Atlanta Falcons (6-4) ⇓3
“Uh-Oh,” said every Falcons’ fan after last week’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. After another good start, the last thing fans want to see is the Falcons slip out of playoff contention just like last season. The good news: they still hold a good lead in the very weak NFC South as they enter their bye week. The bad news: in their next three games they play the Arizona Cardinals, the Kansas City Chiefs, and at the Los Angeles Rams. Corrections will have to be made after the red-hot offense put up a season-low 15 points against Philly.
9. Detroit Lions (5-4) ⇑1
Although the Lions were on their bye week, I moved them into the number 9 spot because the free-falling Minnesota Vikings have lost four games straight, so Detroit moves into their spot from last week. If the Lions want to stay in the hallowed Al Dente Dozen they need to make a statement against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week at Ford Field.
10. Washington Redskins (5-3-1) N/A
Once one of the most feared defenses in the league, Minnesota looked rather tepid in Washington on Sunday. Kirk Cousins threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, and the combination of Kelly and Thompson rushed for 122 yards on the ground against the aforementioned Vikings. Meanwhile, the ‘Skins defense held McKinnon and Asiata to 29 yards combined on the ground. When Cousins’ plays mentally sound this is a very talented and dangerous team that can beat just about anybody. I’ve mentioned it before, but the key in Washington is consistency. They face another downward-spiraling team in the Packers this weekend at FedEx Field.
11. Houston Texans (6-3) ⇑1
I guess a win is a win as the Texans squeaked out a 24-21 victory over the inferior Jaguars. Osweiler barely had a 50% completion percentage and only threw for 99 yards, but he did toss two touchdowns. Miller and Hunt looked good on the ground as they combined for 135 yards and averaged 5.5 and 6.5 yards per carry respectively. The Texans still rank 4th overall in team defense but will face the 5th overall offense this week in Mexico City. If the Raiders blow the Texans out, it may be the last time an AFC South team sniffs the glory of the Al Dente Dozen, albeit Tennessee continues to improve as it has over the past weeks.
12. Miami Dolphins (5-4) N/A
You have to give head coach Adam Gase credit here. Five weeks ago the Dolphins were 1-4 and the season seemed to be over before it started. Fast forward to today and Miami has won four straight games improving their record to 5-4. The key to their success, aside from some stellar play from the defense, is putting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in situations where he isn’t forced to win the game for you. High percentage throws, and a stout run game, that’s been the formula in Miami the past four weeks. The ‘Phins travel to Los Angeles this week to face Jared Goff in his first career NFL start. If Miami wants to prove that they are a contender in the muddled AFC, this feels like a must win.