Around the League  

 

Sunday Primer: Week 11

Everything you need to know as kickoff approaches...

Key game-time decisions

All players questionable unless noted

Tony Gonzalez, TE (toe); Harry Douglas, WR (knee) Atlanta Falcons

Both of Matt Ryan's targets were limited in practice Friday. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning that the Falcons expect Douglas to play.

Martellus Bennett, TE (ankle) Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears tight end returned on a limited basis Friday after missing practice Thursday. Josh McCown would miss a key target over the middle if he can't go.

Vernon Davis, TE (concussion); Mario Manningham,  WR (knee) San Francisco 49ers

Each pass catcher was limited all week. Davis will have to pass the final stages of the league's concussion protocol before he's cleared for game action.

Michael Floyd, WR (shoulder) Arizona Cardinals

Floyd said he expects to play.

Marlon Brown, WR (knee); Haloti Ngata, NT (knee) Baltimore Ravens

Brown missed practice Friday. Ngata didn't practice all week.

Harrison: Week 11 Game Picks
With a number of marquee matchups dotting the Week 11 slate, Elliot Harrison provides his predictions for every game. READ

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE (shoulder) New York Giants

JPP returned to practice after missing Wednesday and Thursday. The defensive end wasn't optimistic earlier in the week that he would play Sunday.

Mike Wallace, WR (hamstring) Miami Dolphins

Wallace was limited in practice Thursday and Friday, but he is expected to play Sunday.

WR Eddie Royal (toe)

Yet again, Royal sat out practice all week. He's done the same for the past three weeks and still suited up Sunday.

Three QBs to watch

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs' starting quarterback has been described with every possible synonym for plebeian, while guiding his team to a 9-0 start. Yes, he has his failures -- mainly his shyness to stretch the field-- but all he does is win (28-5-1 since 2011). Every eyeball Sunday night will be evaluating his play. He could silence critics with a strong game in the most highly anticipated matchup this season.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers

Kap's struggles have been dissected ad nauseam this season. This might be the most telling stat: In the 49ers' three losses this season, Kaepernick has yet to throw a touchdown pass. The 49ers quarterback will need to make plays in the passing game to keep up with the high-flying Saints.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Dalton's uneven season continues. Over the course of his three-year career, Dalton has his best passer rating against the Browns (92.4 versus his 84.7 career average). However, he faces a stout defense Sunday in a vital game for the AFC North race. He can't continue his two-game streak of three-interception games.

Weather Tracking

Whoa rain. It could rain at every Sunday contest, except the Sunday night bout in Denver, where it will just be cold.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills -- 63 degrees / Chance of rain

Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears -- 63 degrees / Thunderstorms

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals 68 degrees / Rain showers

Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars -- 77 degrees / Chance of rain

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles -- 63 degrees / Chance of rain

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers -- 61 degrees / Chance of rain

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- 81 degrees / Thunderstorm

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins -- 81 degrees / Chance of rain

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints -- 79 degrees / Chance of thunderstorms

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks -- 50 degrees / Chance of rain

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants -- 63 degrees / Chance of rain

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos -- 38 degrees

Did you know?

» Through Week 10, seven of eight divisions have at least one team in first place (or tied for first) that did not win the division in 2012. Of those, four teams (Lions, Chiefs, Saints, Eagles) finished last or tied for last in 2012. At least one team has finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last place for 10 consecutive years (longest streak in NFL history).

»Peyton Manning has faced the league's No. 1 scoring defense six times in his career in the second half of a season, including the playoffs. His teams are 3-3 in those games, and he has thrown more INTs (8) than TD passes (6), with a passer rating of 69.9. He averages only 201.8 pass yards per game in those six games.

Sunday's storylines

New York Jets (5-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)

The Genocoaster has been on its downhill slope for the past month, but the Jets keep alternating wins and losses regardless of the rookie quarterback's play. They can break the pendulum swing this week. With the Jets' ground game, Smith just can't turn over the ball to an opportunistic Bills defense.

Speaking of the Bills' defense, don't think defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wouldn't enjoy sticking it to his old team. Pettine has the horses up front to terrorize Geno into some bad mistakes.

Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)

The Buccaneers' backfield took another hit last week, but little-known backup Bobby Rainey showed some burst. He could look downright studly against one the NFL's worst rush defenses. In the passing game, Mike Glennon will look to feed Vincent Jackson.

The last couple weeks haven't made Matt Ryan look like a player who can carry a bad team. His last multi-touchdown game came against the Bucs in Week 7. With no running attack and a sieve on defense, Ryan will need a big game to avoid joining the Buccaneers in the NFC South's cellar.

Detroit Lions (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)

It's almost too simple, but this game will come down to how long the Steelers' offensive line can slow up Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and the rest of the Lions' front four. If they can give Ben Roethlisberger some time, he and Antonio Brown should pick apart the Lions' secondary. That is still a big if.

Can Reggie Bush's nimble legs outrun an aging defense if the turf grows soggy and slow?

Washington Redskins (3-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

The Redskins couldn't stop the Michael Vick iteration of Chip Kelly's offense, and now they get to face the more efficient Nick Foles version. The Redskins struggled stopping Christian Ponder the last time they were on the field; why should we expect them to stop Mr. No Interceptions?

Robert Griffin III has been able to move the ball with a certain ease in recent weeks -- not including the bone-crushing hits. This week, he'll have to do it against an Eagles defense that shockingly hasn't allowed more than 21 points since Week 4.

Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)

Can the Jags build momentum off their first win of the season? To do so, the defense will need to turn over Carson Palmer (he's always game for that) and capitalize off those mistakes. The Cardinals' ferocious defense might seem like a brick wall for Chad Henne and the offense.

Andre Ellington is finally getting close to the number of carries he deserves. I still think Bruce Arians needs to find a way to get him the ball more in the passing game.

Oakland Raiders (3-6) at Houston Texans (2-7)

Even if Terrelle Pryor hadn't been ruled out, it's difficult to envision the Raiders moving the ball against the Texans' swarming defensive front. Rashad Jennings has provided some punch to the Raiders' running game, but he has yet to face a group like J.J. Watt & Co.

No QB has ever started his career 0-4 with a passer rating of more than 87.5. Case Keenum has a 105.1 rating, seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions. He's lost the three games he's started this season by a combined seven points. The bounce has to go the other way at some point, right?

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)

If the Ravens' feeble run game can't get going against a banged-up Bears front, they might as well scrap it. Joe Flacco will have the advantage of going against a Bears defense missing its best player at every level now that Charles "Peanut" Tillman is out for the season.

The wonderful things being said about Josh McCown the last two weeks are nice. But let's be honest, he went up against a poor Redskins defense, a middling Packers defense sans Clay Matthews and one drive against a Lions D playing prevent defense. The best thing McCown does is let Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery make plays. He'll have plenty of opportunities to do that against the Ravens.

Cleveland Browns (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

Joe Haden is rarely in the conversation about the top NFL cornerbacks, but he should be. In the two teams' last meeting, Haden helped hold A.J. Green to just 51 yards on seven catches. If Haden can aid in snapping Green's five-game streak of 100-plus yards, the Browns will be in business.

Giovani Bernard became the sixth back this season to join the 400 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving club. Against a stingy Browns defense, the Bengals will need need the shifty back to break some plays.

San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)

The Dolphins almost overcame their distractions last week, but it was evident they were missing offensive linemen. This week, Ryan Tannehill takes his offense against the 29th ranked Chargers defense. San Diego doesn't have the most effective pass rush (22 sacks on the season), so if Tannehill can stay upright, the quarterback could have a bounce-back week.

Philip Rivers must lead the Chargers to the road win if his team has any designs on nabbing a playoff spot. His quick passing game should neutralize some of the Dolphins' fierce pass rush and allow his receivers to make some plays in the secondary.

Green Bay Packers (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6)

Eddie Lacy will be the bell cow for the Packers as Scott Tolzien progresses in the offense. Going against a Giants defense that has performed well against the run might put the Packers in a spot to throw the ball more than is ideal.

Eli Manning, with his league-leading 16 INTs, gets to face a Packers defense that has forced just three INTs the entire season.

Minnesota Vikings (2-7) at Seattle Seahawks (9-1)

Adrian Peterson should have a big day against a Seahawks defense that has undergone its share of struggles stopping runs between the tackles. On the flip side, Christian Ponder still gives defensive backs a chance to make plays. Unlike other teams, the Seahawks take advantage of those opportunities.

Russell Wilson's ability to extend plays could be killer for a Vikings secondary that labors to stick with receivers. Wilson will be especially buoyed when his starting tackles return Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)

The 49ers' defense is holding opponents to 11.8 points per game since Week 4, but it faces by far its toughest test against Drew Brees and the Saints. Increased snaps for Aldon Smith should help matters.

Rob Ryan's defense got back to form last week, but it will be facing a different beast in the 49ers' ground game. We will see a heavy dose of Frank Gore on Sunday as Jim Harbaugh tries to keep Brees on the sideline.

Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)

Jamaal Charles is the key to this contest. If the Chiefs running back can keep the chains moving, keep Alex Smith in third-and-short and help keep Peyton Manning on the sideline, the Chiefs' chances of winning are boosted exponentially.

Expect Manning to throw a lot of quick passes to keep the Chiefs' pass rush off his injured ankles. The question will be can Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker et al. turn those short passes into long runs against a good-tackling Chiefs secondary.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15