NFL Week 11: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

By Anthony Goss

The injury sustained by Bengals QB Joe Burrow was a gut punch to football fans all around the country.

After a historic collegiate season at LSU, Burrow was drafted by the Bengals, and his arrival injected enthusiasm and some swagger into the Cincinnati franchise. Make no mistake, the Bengals were not a good team even with him, but every week Burrow took the field, looking to get better and give his team at least a chance.

Sadly, an ACL tear against the Washington Football Team on Sunday will sideline him until at least next season. Burrow will be back, though, and when he gets a better offensive line and as he continues to develop, look out for the Bengals.  

Three Good Things 

Resilient Titans Walk Off in Baltimore 

The loss to the Bengals was confusing, and last week’s showing against Indianapolis spiraled out of control, but the Tennessee Titans picked themselves up and snagged a huge win against the Ravens. 

In the middle of the third quarter, the Titans faced a 21-10 deficit on the road against a Baltimore team desperate for a win itself. The Titans kicked a couple field goals early in the fourth, and after WR AJ Brown rumbled his way into the end zone, the Titans found themselves up 24-21. RB Derrick Henry had another big day, finishing with 133 yards and a walk-off touchdown in overtime to seal the game.

Tennesse moves to 7-3, keeping pace with the Colts in the AFC South and owning a tiebreaker over a possible wild card team. A win next week in their rematch with Indianapolis would vault the Titans into the third seed in the AFC playoff picture.

Mahomes Making a Case for MVP 

At the beginning of the year, it seemed like QB Russell Wilson would run away with the league’s Most Valuable Player award. QB Aaron Rodgers also made some noise recently, but at this point in the season, the defending Super Bowl MVP looks like the clear frontrunner for this year’s regular season MVP award.

Down 31-28 late in the fourth quarter, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II led a game-winning drive down the field with little resistance, capping it off with a touchdown throw to TE Travis Kelce. Mahomes finished with 348 yards two touchdowns and a rare interception against the Raiders, who are now too far back to challenge Kansas City for the AFC West crown. Mahomes has already surpassed his touchdown total from last season as well, and his incredible passing dazzles audiences every week.

Leading a 9-1 team trying to defend a championship, Mahomes likely has other goals in mind besides the MVP. However, another stellar performance next week when he matches up with future hall of fame quarterback Tom Brady could push the needle further in his direction for the award.

Another Week, Another Big Colts Victory 

Coming off a major win in Tennessee, it would have been easy for the Colts to ride high on their momentum and falter against QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

Down 28-14 at the half, this looked to be the case. Instead, the Colts rallied in the second half, led by QB Phillip Rivers, who finished with 288 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The Colts defense came up big, especially in the second half as they forced two fumbles and held the Packers to three points between half time and the end of overtime.

The Colts are not as flashy as some of the other contenders in the AFC, but when Rivers is solid leading the offense and the defense makes plays like they did on Sunday, it’s hard to argue that they cannot make a run deep in the playoffs. The Colts welcome the Titans into town next week for a matchup that may decide the winner of the AFC South.  

Three Bad Things 

Carson Wentz Struggles Continue 

It’s hard to imagine any team having a worse Sunday than the Philadelphia Eagles did. Both of their division rivals competing on Sunday won, and they suffered an ugly loss in Cleveland. There are a lot of issues with this club, whether it is coaching, injuries or other players underperforming. At a certain point though, the quarterback must be held accountable for continuous disappointment on offense.

The safety that they allowed was not ideal, and the weather certainly did not help, but the interception Wentz threw to Browns LB Sione Takitaki was a painful reminder of the turnovers plaguing Wentz this season. Wentz leads the league in interceptions and fumbles. In a division void of a quality team, it has been disappointing to see Wentz get in his own way when many thought the Eagles had the edge after the injury to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. The road ahead does not get any easier for Philly, either. In their next three games, the Eagles will take on the three teams atop the NFC standings. 

Dolphins Take a Step Back in Mile High 

Last week, the Dolphins won another game to move to 6-3 with a manageable schedule and dreams of a playoff spot in mind. Unfortunately, the Dolphins faltered in a game they might have needed on Sunday afternoon.

The play of rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa has been good, but not great, through his first three starts, and this showed against a hungry Denver defense. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio brought the heat against the rookie, and his defense sacked Tua six times. Defense was also an issue, as the Dolphins struggled to stop the Denver run game and could not create any pressure on QB Drew Lock either.

Without any pressure from the Miami defense, the Broncos were able to control this game, although it remained close throughout. With still a couple of winnable games ahead, there is no reason to panic in Miami, but in a competitive race for a wild card spot, slip-ups like these can be costly.  

Patricia and the Lions Underwhelm Once Again 

Sunday’s game between the Panthers and the Lions was the dichotomy of two polarizing mindsets. For Carolina, there was a clear motivation to play hard and win for a coach that is changing the culture for the Panthers, and that the players respect.

On the other side, it was clear (and it has been clear for a while) that there is a rift between the players and head coach Matt Patricia. Patricia’s tenure in Detroit has been a disappointment, a 20-0 shutout to Carolina reflected this. QB Matthew Stafford’s inefficient performance totaled 178 yards and no touchdowns, and a porous offensive line allowed five sacks on Stafford. Former XFL star QB P.J. Walker had a solid NFL debut for the Panthers, and the Lions’ defensive scheme did not do much to disrupt him.

This season has been the culmination of the underwhelming seasons and disappointing finishes during the Matt Patricia tenure. The Lions will not be able to overcome their sixth loss this early in the season, and at this point, it looks like the team is ready for the season to be finished. 

Keep an Eye On… 

Thanksgiving Day Divisional Matchups 

On the biggest feasting day of the year, the Washington Football Team heads to Dallas to face the Cowboys in what should be the biggest game between 3-7 teams in recent memory. Thursday’s winner will take control of the NFC East for the time being.

On Thursday, the Steelers have an opportunity to start wrapping up the AFC North before Christmas comes around, but they will have to fend off a Baltimore squad that needs a momentum boost after consecutive weeks of disappointing finishes.  

NFL WEEK 9: Goss’ three good things, three bad things and one thing to watch

photo: USA Today Sports

By Anthony Goss

As the weather gets colder and the NFL playoff race heats up, I enjoy watching the teams at the middle of the pack or teams who started slow try to climb back into contention.

A perfect example of this climb is the Minnesota Vikings. After notching back-to-back wins within its division, Minnesota is inching its way into the wild card conversation. A record of 3-5 leaves the Vikings with a lot of ground to cover, but riding the coattails of RB Dalvin Cook has led to dominant performances in their last two games.

Cook has carried this offense in its last two games, totaling 369 yards and five touchdowns in victories against Green Bay and Detroit. Leading this resurgence, Cook has made his case as the best running back in the league.  

Three Good Things 

Drew Brees Orchestrates a Vintage Performance 

There has been a flagrant disregard for Saints QB Drew Brees this season.

His arm strength is fading, but he has navigated the season basically without his best receiver in WR Michael Thomas. Despite the doubt cast on Brees and the Saints leading up to their matchup against the Buccaneers, they rang the bell and beat down on Tampa Bay. Brees spread the ball to twelve different receivers and finished with 222 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 135.2. Sean Payton continued to use QB Taysom Hill as a wrinkle in an unstoppable Saints offense. The defense was on top of QB Tom Brady all night with nine hits and three sacks. 

This dominant victory puts the Saints back in the spotlight in the NFC going forward. Brees may not be the player he once was, but Sunday showed that he and the Saints are not quite ready to let go of a division they have owned the last three seasons.  

Bills Notch a Huge Win 

Questions surrounded the Bills after a streak of weak showings, mainly focusing on defense and QB Josh Allen. With a 44-34 victory over the Seahawks, the Bills silenced the critics and officially changed the trajectory of their franchise.

Allen was outstanding with 415 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers. The Buffalo defense also stepped up big, forcing four turnovers, generating five sacks, and kept QB Russell Wilson from finding his rhythm throughout the game. Keeping a lid on Wilson is a near impossible task, but Buffalo’s explosive offense picked apart a weak Seahawks secondary which made the difference. In what might be the best win for the franchise in decades, the Bills turned a corner on Sunday. 

In consecutive weeks, Buffalo has shown it can win games in a multitude of ways, a key to success in the NFL. The days of competing as an “exciting” or “up-and-coming” team are over; the Bills are a legit Super Bowl contender that can hang with the best teams in the league. 

Dolphins Steal One in the Desert 

After their rival secured a huge win against an NFC West opponent, the Miami Dolphins returned the favor by marching into Arizona and making a statement in the desert. 

First of all, the turnaround of this franchise led by head coach Brian Flores is nothing short of incredible. Through eight games, the Dolphins have already matched their win total from last season. Last week was an underwhelming debut for QB Tua Tagovailoa, but he was the difference this week and led the Dolphins to victory after going down ten early in the fourth quarter. Tua took a couple sacks, but showed a lot of poise for a rookie quarterback in his second start.

Another big difference in this game was the Miami defense, which scored a touchdown for the second consecutive game thanks to DE Shaq Lawson. The Dolphins might be a bit ahead of schedule, but continued performances like these will keep the Bills on their heels in what looks to be a two-team race in the AFC East.  

Three Bad Things 

Tampa Bay Blunder 

Going into Sunday night’s game, the thought of three quarterbacks out-performing Bucs QB Tom Brady was not on the mind of anyone. After a 38-3 drubbing courtesy of the Saints, that is exactly what happened.

In one of the worst performances of his career, Brady posted only 209 yards and three interceptions, one of which hung in the air for an eternity. This disastrous performance was not just his fault, but showed a general lack of preparedness in all facets of the game. The Bucs ran the ball only five times, one carry being a kneel at the end of the game. In addition to Brady’s poor passing, he as under duress the entire night without any help from his offensive line. The defense that looked so promising in weeks past had no answers for QB Drew Brees, and QB Taysom Hill also had his opportunities to expose their porous defense.

It would be an exaggeration to call this a devastating loss for the Bucs, but it does give the Saints the edge in the division going forward. 

Lions Coming Up Short 

After a disappointing outing last week against Indianapolis, the Lions had a chance to rebound and pick up a key divisional win. Instead, they were trounced by RB Dalvin Cook and the Vikings.

Inconsistency has plagued the Matt Patricia era and the Lions continue to struggle making themselves a true contender. Detroit has shown they can beat their lesser opponents, but against contenders or teams with playoff aspirations, the Lions have come up short. Sunday’s matchup followed this narrative. The inability to contain Cook was a problem, but even worse were the interceptions QB Matthew Stafford threw deep in Minnesota territory on consecutive drives (the second coming after a blocked punt). 

The schedule sets up well for the Lions in the coming weeks, but ends with several challenging games. If they cannot change course, Patricia might be on his way out.  

Winning Ugly v. Losing Ugly 

Earlier this season, Bears QB Nick Foles discussed how winning ugly is better than losing pretty. This sentiment is true, but now the Bears are losing ugly and streaking in the wrong direction.

For the third game in a row, the Bears have demonstrated an ineptitude on offense. Foles and the Bears admittedly moved the ball a bit on Sunday, but could never finish long drives. By the middle of the fourth quarter, the score was 24-3 and despite a couple late touchdowns, it never felt like Chicago had a chance to change the game. 

The defense did its part and held RB Derrick Henry in check, but without any response on offense, the game got out of reach. Chicago was able to mask its offensive woes early, but as its schedule become more challenging, points have been scarce. A win against division rival Minnesota on Monday night would be a major boost for a team desperate for momentum. 

Keep an Eye On… 

COVID Outbreak in Pittsburgh 

So far, the coronavirus is the only thing able to beat the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers. On Tuesday, QB Ben Roethlisberger and three others were ruled as close contacts with TE Vance McDonald who tested positive for COVID-19. They must isolate for five days and continually receive positive tests while participating in team meetings online. The Steelers face the Bengals on Sunday and, if they are without their quarterback, their undefeated streak might be in jeopardy.