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Bad behavior mars an otherwise exciting Week 11

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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There are professional ways to handle things in this game we know and love as "professional" football.

But in Week 11, there were too many instances where that wasn't the case.

Let's review the lowlights:

» Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall got it started last Thursday night when he responded by taunting from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on the sideline by tossing the ball he had just caught at his former Denver teammate. That drew a 15-yard penalty.

» Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, apparently angry about not returning to the overtime loss against the Washington Redskins after leaving with what would prove to be a season-ending thumb injury, threw his jersey and shoulder pads in the crowd after the game. A day later, he explained that he was giving his jersey to a friend and tossing some souvenirs to fans -- something he said is routine -- although the tossing of his shoulder pads into the stands appeared to be unusual. Nevertheless, Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who had a verbal post-game altercation with the quarterback, later announced that Young wouldn't regain his starting job, injury or not. In all likelihood, Young will never see the field as long as Fisher remains the Titans' coach.

» Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour decked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a surprise shot to the face in the first half. Seymour, a highly accomplished veteran who is supposed to be a leader and role model to his younger teammates, was ejected and later fined $25,000 by the NFL.

Favre deserves blame
Brad Childress took the fall for the Vikings' struggles by getting fired on Monday, but veteran QB Brett Favre is at least as culpable as the deposed coach, Vic Carucci writes. More ...

» More: Frazier named interim coach

» There were two ugly sideline confrontations during the Minnesota Vikings' uglier loss against the Green Bay Packers. The first was between veteran defensive end Ray Edwards and rookie cornerback Chris Cook, who was the focal point of a particularly rough day for Minnesota's secondary. The second was between quarterback Brett Favre and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after another game-changing interception by Favre. Given the way the game and the season were unraveling for the Vikings, these were more than competitive, heat-of-the-moment flare-ups. They were strong indicators of the team's dysfunction, which ultimately resulted in the firing of coach Brad Childress.

» Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason had a heated exchange with his quarterback, Joe Flacco, because he apparently didn't like a pass that was thrown to him. Really?

What makes the NFL the king of all sports brands is the action on the field. All of the other nonsense does nothing but threaten to cheapen it.

They've got answers

» The New England Patriots, because they won a shootout against the Indianapolis Colts without Randy Moss. That was a significant accomplishment considering that, with Tom Brady at quarterback in two games against the Colts, Moss had nine receptions in each game for a combined 324 yards. Footnote: Since trading Moss, the Patriots are 5-1. Minnesota and Tennessee, the teams on which Moss has played since leaving New England, have gone a combined 1-5.

» The New York Jets, because they have made an art of winning close, pressure-packed games, which they demonstrated once again with their 30-27 win against Houston. It's easy to look at it as a negative and question whether they are as good as their 8-2 record suggests. But it's just as easy to say that they're doing what good teams do, and keeping their cool under pressure (especially quarterback Mark Sanchez) when it counts the most. Are they lucky? Sure. But they're also good.

» The Pittsburgh Steelers, because rather than panic after that humiliating primetime loss to the Patriots in Week 10 -- a defeat that prompted even ardent Steeler supporters to wonder if the team was about to enter a skid for the second year in a row -- they responded with a convincing triumph over an Oakland team that appeared to be on a roll. The Raiders discovered the harsh reality that they aren't quite ready to step into the same ring as some of the NFL's true heavyweights.

They've got questions

» The Houston Texans, because at the start of their four-game losing streak, defensive end Antonio Smith had called a defensive-players-only meeting that he hoped would provide some sort of spark for that side the ball. Before the loss to the Jets, Smith confessed to reporters that he was "pretty much out of ideas."

» The New York Giants, because after their five-game winning streak, they have lost two in a row, both to NFC East opponents. They were thoroughly outplayed by the Dallas Cowboys, but were victimized by way too many blunders against a Philadelphia Eagles team that was ripe to be beaten.


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» The Seattle Seahawks, because even though they lead the NFC West, they continue to have serious problems on their offensive line. And that has contributed to ongoing issues with a running game that hasn't gotten any better since the acquisition of Marshawn Lynch from the Bills. In the six games since the trade, Lynch has produced only 253 rushing yards, while averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, and two touchdowns.

Observation points

» So can we take a breath and settle down a little bit after all of that Michael Vick hysteria of the past week?

He's still an incredible talent, capable of making plays with his legs and arm that no one else can match. He's still the most exciting player in the league, hands-down. However, what Vick confirmed with a more human-looking performance against the Giants on Sunday night is that what he did in Week 10 was have his way with the terrible defense of the Washington Redskins.

Things were much different when he faced a defense that was able to consistently make contact with him in and out of the pocket. That often pulled Vick, who is at his very best when all hell is breaking loose around him, away from his comfort zone. He found himself in unfavorable down-and-distance situations, and wound up with his only turnover of the season -- a fumble -- because he simply hung onto the ball too long.

» There are two ways you can look at the Buffalo Bills scoring 35 unanswered points in the second half of their 49-31 victory at Cincinnati: Remarkable accomplishment on the Bills' part or a classic quit job on the part of the Bengals.

I'm inclined to think both are true, but let's give most of the credit to the Bills. Entering the game with a 1-8 record, they could have easily been in a quitting frame of mind. That certainly looked to be the case when they were down 21 points in the second quarter. However, as has been the case for most of the season, the Bills kept playing hard. They kept playing with a purpose. They kept caring.

Yes, the Bengals should be ashamed of their atrocious effort, which punctuates a season of underachievement. It makes you wonder if coach Marvin Lewis still has the attention of most of his players.

» Sunday's losses by all four NFC West teams already has us wondering about the injustice multiple teams from other divisions will rightfully feel when they miss the playoffs and one of those four clubs makes it because that division-winner gets a postseason spot.

Time to make nice
The rift between Jeff Fisher and Vince Young does not sit well with owner Bud Adams, and both of them would be well served to sort out their differences, Steve Wyche says. More ...

» More: Young out for the season

» Despite the chaos caused by Young's postgame theatrics, the Titans have this going for them while sitting only a game behind Indianapolis and Jacksonville: With five of their final six games against AFC South opponents, they're in position to determine their own fate in a wide-open division.

» It seemed the decade of run-defense dominance by units guided by Jets coach Rex Ryan, allowing only 19 rushers to hit the 100-yard mark, could take a hit from Texans running back Arian Foster, who has had five 100-yard games this season. It didn't. The Jets held Foster to 84 yards, although he did run for a pair of touchdowns.

Five (including a Thanksgiving Day special) intriguing games for Week 12

New Orleans at Dallas: On paper, none of the three Thanksgiving matchups looks particularly scintillating, which is nothing new, of course. But we eagerly anticipate the chance to watch them because they're as much a part of the holiday as figuring out who gets the drumsticks. This game seems to offer slightly more potential for excitement than the others because each team is on a roll. The Saints, and especially Drew Brees, have won three games in a row and are back to more closely resembling the team that won the Super Bowl. The Cowboys have suddenly become competent and explosive under interim coach Jason Garrett. On the one hand, a third win in a row would further validate Jerry Jones' decision to fire Wade Phillips, and, on the other hand, it would raise the obvious question of why he didn't do it sooner.

Green Bay at Atlanta: A couple of NFC heavyweights play a classic statement game. The statement might be a little louder if the Packers win, because the Falcons are widely perceived as the best team in the conference and a victory would be Green Bay's fifth in a row. The Packers had an easy time with the Vikings, but that was a team that had given up on its season. The Falcons are as sound a team as there is in the league. They keep turnovers and penalties to a minimum, and capitalize on opponents' blunders. Matt Ryan continues his ascension as a steady, mature leader who consistently puts his team in a position to succeed.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore: With the NFL's youngest roster, the Buccaneers have suddenly emerged as a powerhouse. Their early success was seen as a little bit of a fluke. And there probably are still plenty of skeptics refusing to believe that the Buccaneers could make a serious run at the NFC South crown or even edge out the Falcons or Saints in their own division for a wild-card spot. With their losses coming against Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Atlanta, the Bucs still have some work to do on the credibility front. A win here would help plenty in that regard. Needing a pair of late defensive scores to beat the hapless Carolina Panthers, the Ravens aren't exactly looking dominant (but then can't we say that about all of the teams with seven or more wins?)

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Philadelphia at Chicago: Even with Vick not quite up to top video-game form, the Eagles were able to knock off the Giants and move into first place in the NFC East. Much of that was because of the outstanding work by the Giants' talented defense, which did a good job of keeping Vick mostly in check and hitting him every chance it could. The Bears' defense is equally capable of giving Vick problems. Their offense is another story. And the Eagles' defense, which can turn loose an aggressive pass rush and has an opportunistic secondary, is capable of forcing shaky Jay Cutler into repeated mistakes.

San Diego at Indianapolis: The quarterback matchup makes this game must-see TV. Philip Rivers is having a monster season, and he figures to receive a significant boost with No. 1 wide receiver Vincent Jackson playing in his first game of the season. Peyton Manning will be extra motivated to try and redeem himself from his three-interception performance against New England. But he continues to face the extremely difficult challenge of trying to overcome injuries at receiver and at running back … and on defense.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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