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What we learned: Buffalo Bills still in AFC playoff race

  • By Gregg Rosenthal, Dan Hanzus, Kevin Patra, Marc Sessler and Chris Wesseling NFL.com
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Does any team want the AFC's final playoff spot?

All but three teams in the conference are within one game of the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins at 5-5. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans are the only two teams that are realistically out of the hunt.

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Arguments can be made for nine different teams as the favorites for the wild-card spot.

The Buffalo Bills are a half-game behind a half-dozen 4-6 squads, but their next three opponents (Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jaguars) have a combined five wins this season.

Remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers got off to their worst start in 45 years? If not for a pair of missed chip shots by kicker Shaun Suisham in Oakland, they would be considered the prohibitive favorite with the most accomplished quarterback-coach combo in the mix.

The Jets' temporary lead might be a comforting thought to their fans if their team didn't have a quarterback problem and the second-worst point differential in the NFL.

The final postseason ticket is up for grabs. Who wants it? More and more, it's looking like an 8-8 club winning via tiebreaker.

We broke down every Week 11 game on the latest "Around The League Podcast." Thirty-nine more takeaways from Sunday are below.

Denver Broncos 27, Kansas City Chiefs 17


On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Denver Broncos' 27-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs from Week 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network schedule

1. The Chiefs are built to play with a lead. Critics of Kanas City's soft schedule and lackluster offense wanted to see what would happen when the Chiefs fell behind by 10 points, a scenario in which Alex Smith now owns a 5-27-1 career record. The emphatic answer was that neither the head coach nor the quarterback trusts the team's ability to win outside the numbers and down the field. The Chiefs averaged more net yards per carry than net yards per pass attempt. Smith's 43.6 completion percentage was the third-lowest this season by a quarterback with at least 39 attempts. This is a playoff team, albeit a flawed one.

2. The Broncos are a different defense since Von Miller's return. In Miller, Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, Denver might just have the fastest linebacker corps in the NFL. They held Chiefs leading receiver Jamaal Charles without one catch and cut down on big plays.

3. The next two weeks will go a long way toward determining the Broncos' chances of landing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They travel to New England and Kansas City for two pivotal games before closing out the season with a four-game stretch against sub-.500 teams.

New Orleans Saints 23, San Francisco 49ers 20


1. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick led a ball-control, chain-moving attack that scored on three of four possessions across the late-second to early-fourth quarters. Unfortunately, that was negated by a trio of three-and-outs to start the game and two more to end the game. The 49ers want to use a fullback and second tight end in their power-running game, but it's hard for Kaepernick to succeed in the zone read with the extra defenders in the box against that "22" personnel. Over the past two weeks, Kaepernick has managed just 4.1 yards on 53 pass attempts. He desperately needs a healthy Michael Crabtree. A softer upcoming schedule will help.

2. Although two games remain against the white-hot Carolina Panthers, Sunday's victory ensures that the Saints control their own destiny for the NFC's No. 2 seed. The Panthers are 1.5 games behind, with a tough Monday night bout looming versus the Patriots. The Saints draw a circling-the-drain Falcons team in Week 12.

3. Saints running back Mark Ingram followed up his career game against the Dallas Cowboys with just 25 yards on six carries Sunday. His production and playing time are entirely dependent on game momentum. Because he's a liability in the passing game compared with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, Ingram is only used heavily when the Saints are protecting a big lead.

Pittsburgh Steelers 37, Detroit Lions 27


1. The Steelers' defense stepped up huge in the second half. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's group shut out the Lions after giving up 27 second-quarter points. His defense held Matthew Stafford to just 35 yards passing in the second half after the quarterback put up 327 yards in the first half.

2. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson destroyed Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor in the first half, catching six passes for 179 yards. The Steelers' defense shut him down in the second half, as Megatron had zero receptions after halftime. Credit LeBeau's second-half adjustments.

3. Lions coach Jim Schwartz's decision to run a fake field-goal attempt up four points in the fourth quarter with his rookie punter, Sam Martin, from the 10-yard line will be debated heavily. The failure completely swung momentum and set up Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's surgical, go-ahead 16-play, 97-yard touchdown drive.

Buffalo Bills 37, New York Jets 14

1. The Jets have a Geno Smith problem. The rookie QB had four turnovers, a passer rating of 10.1 and threw another pick six -- his fourth of the season. Smith didn't see the whole field and appeared overwhelmed from the moment he was decked by Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on the fourth play of the game. To make matters worse, Matt Simms came on in the fourth quarter and led New York on a scoring drive. Let the controversy begin.

2. Kyle Williams looks every bit the player he was before his career was thrown off course by foot issues. The Bills defensive tackle played a major role in rattling Smith, finishing with two sacks, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble.

3. The Jets are not getting good play from their high-profile cornerbacks. First-round draft pick Dee Milliner showed no ball awareness on an EJ Manuel 34-yard balloon pass to T.J. Graham in the first quarter that the wide receiver took to the end zone. Antonio Cromartie was toasted on a 43-yard score by Marquise Goodwin. Cromartie is not playing close to the level he did last season.

Oakland Raiders 28, Houston Texans 23


1. Coach Gary Kubiak is on thin ice in Houston after his benching of quarterback Case Keenum backfired to the point that Matt Schaub and a frustrated Andre Johnson were shouting at each other as the game clock was winding down. Kubiak hinted after the game that the quarterback switch was temporary. An irate Texans fanbase might revolt if it sees Schaub under center in next week's game against the Jaguars. Fans were raining so many boos and catcalls upon Schaub that it affected the quarterback's ability to make audibles at the line of scrimmage Sunday.

2. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported before the game that Raiders rookie signal-caller Matt McGloin had a chance to keep Terrelle Pryor on the bench with a strong performance. The former Penn State walk-on did exactly that, exceeding expectations by throwing darts around the field in his first start. Joining Matt Moore, Max Hall and Jeff Tuel as the only undrafted rookies to start at quarterback in the past decade, McGloin easily has the best arm talent of the group.

3. Pryor isn't the only Raiders star in danger of losing his job. On the strength of an 80-yard touchdown run, tailback Rashad Jennings finished with 150 yards on 22 carries. Already outproducing Darren McFadden on fewer touches this season, Jennings now is averaging 144 yards from scrimmage in three starts. He will maintain a significant role when McFadden returns from his hamstring injury.

Philadelphia Eagles 24, Washington Redskins 16


1. The Eagles are in the NFC East driver's seat with quarterback Nick Foles' high-flying offense complemented by an increasingly stingy defense. Philadelphia leads the NFL in explosive plays (20-plus yards) by a wide margin. Foles has generated a passer rating over 100.0 in five of six games this season, averaging an eye-popping 12.94 yards per attempt over the past three games. The real difference has been his ability to get through his post-snap progressions to find and exploit the mismatch.

2. The Eagles' defensive front is one of the most underrated position groups in the NFL. Connor Barwin, in particular, was a dervish in the first half, as Philadelphia dominated the line of scrimmage, harassing quarterback Robert Griffin III and limiting him to eight pass attempts in the first 35 minutes. Defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton have been one of the most effective duos in the league over the past two months.

3. The Eagles made the Redskins pay for their simplistic passing attack. Griffin didn't begin moving the ball through the air until the Eagles took their foot off the gas pedal with a 24-0 lead in the third quarter. Griffin held the ball too long, took too many hits and missed too many open receivers. With a chance to bring his team back, he threw the game away with an off-balance heave into the end zone on third down with under one minute remaining. This team has too many holes to make a run, even in a weak division.

New York Giants 27, Green Bay Packers 13

1. Watch out for the Giants now. They won three consecutive games without playing well. Sunday was a legitimately strong effort -- even with Scott Tolzien involved -- and now they get the Cowboys at home and the fading Redskins on the road in back-to-back weeks. As crazy as it seems, the Giants are in good position to go from 0-6 to 6-6.

2. The interception and 24-yard touchdown return by pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul was the game's defining play while serving as a nice reminder of what kind of impact JPP can make when healthy. The Giants need this guy to make plays if they're going to make a legitimate playoff push.

3. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' absence has far-reaching effects on the Packers. Just ask Eddie Lacy, who has found less and less running room over the past two weeks. Lacy got in the end zone on one bruising run, but he finished with just 27 yards on 14 carries.

Seattle Seahawks 41, Minnesota Vikings 20


1. Percy Harvin made an impact in his season debut. The Seahawks wide receiver made a 17-yard circus catch on his one target and added a 58-yard kickoff return when pressed into special teams duties after Jermaine Kearse suffered a concussion. Harvin appeared to have issues staying loose on the sideline, which could be expected considering his rust coupled with the cold and wet conditions.

2. Christian Ponder might have run out of chances in Minnesota. The third-year quarterback melted in the second half, throwing two interceptions -- including an ugly pick six -- before being pulled in favor of Matt Cassel. Don't be surprised if Cassel or Josh Freeman is the starter when the Vikings head to Lambeau Field next Sunday.

3. This talent-deficient Vikings team needs Adrian Peterson to bring his Superman cape every week. When it doesn't happen -- like Sunday (21 carries, 65 yards) -- they don't have a chance. That's a serious burden to hang on one player.

Cincinnati Bengals 41, Cleveland Browns 20


1. The Bengals rolled for their seventh win of the season despite just 93 yards through the air from Andy Dalton. The Bengals quarterback made an ugly read out of the gate that led to a costly first-quarter pick by cornerback Joe Haden. On Cincy's next drive, Dalton did it again, as Haden plucked his pass out of the air and took it the distance. Two throws you can't make at home with the division on the line. It's hard to buy into Dalton until he wipes these passes from his repertoire.

2. Quarterback Jason Campbell fell hard to Planet Earth. The Browns backup-turned-starter struggled all afternoon against Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's masterfully crafted plan. The Bengals took away the short passing game, leaving Campbell to run away from an aggressive front seven. Cincy's defense sacked Campbell four times and hit him nine times.

3. Special teams play is key in divisional tilts and the Bengals dominated Sunday, crashing the party on a pair of first-half punts by Cleveland's Spencer Lanning. The first was deflected, giving Cincy outstanding field position. The second was blocked, picked up by reserve defensive back Tony Dye and taken in for a touchdown. Game over.

Arizona Cardinals 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 14


1. It was no cakewalk for the Cardinals, but quarterback Carson Palmer overcame a 14-7 first-quarter deficit to play his finest game of the season, throwing for 419 yards and hooking up with Michael Floyd six times for 193 of them. The second-year wide receiver put the game away with a 91-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that marked the longest pass play of the NFL season.

2. The Rashard Mendenhall-Andre Ellington debate is on hold. Neither Cardinals running back got going against a stingy Jaguars run defense that allowed just 14 yards on the day. Mainly because we don't expect much from Mendy, Ellington was the bigger disappointment, rushing for just three yards on eight attempts. The rookie also went quiet catching the ball in his least impressive outing to date.

3. The Jaguars, slowly but surely, are improving. Jacksonville's offense gave the Cardinals fits early, scoring its first touchdown at home in 239 days, 232 minutes and 33 seconds, per ESPN's Michael DiRocco. The team's second score came just minutes later as quarterback Chad Henne drove the Jaguars on a seven-play touchdown drive that saw the offense move the ball with surprising ease. After scoring just 21 points at home all year coming in, we're seeing progress.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41, Atlanta Falcons 28

1. The Bucs have some serious backfield depth. With Doug Martin and Mike James both down, Bobby Rainey is making the most of his opportunity. Rainey rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns Sunday, six days after his big second half lifted Tampa Bay to its first win of the season. He's a keeper.

2. Could Bucs coach Greg Schiano save his job? That seemed impossible a few weeks ago, but the coach's fortunes are slowly shifting. The Bucs play hard every week and now are riding a two-game winning streak after an 0-8 start. Ownership will have a tough decision to make if the Tampa Bay finishes strong.

3. Even Matt Ryan has been dragged down during this lost Falcons season. The quarterback threw two more interceptions Sunday and has nine picks in the past four games, all Atlanta losses. We now have an even better idea how important wide receiver Julio Jones is to this team.

Chicago Bears 23, Baltimore Ravens 20


On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Chicago Bears' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens from Week 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network schedule

1. The Bears are nothing if not resourceful. They overcame a weather delay that lasted nearly two hours, then subsequent rain, wind, awful field conditions and their typically leaky defense. Josh McCown played a clean game again to move to 3-0 as starting quarterback.

2. This was Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's season in a nutshell. He played well for the most part, but his two interceptions led to 10 points. One quick throw was returned for a touchdown by Bears defensive lineman David Bass, largely because running back Ray Rice did a terrible job blocking Bass.

3. The Ravens will be sick about this one. Rice rushed for 131 yards, but the Bears stopped him twice near the goal line late in regulation. A promising overtime drive stopped on a fourth down throw to Tandon Doss. Baltimore mostly controlled the line of scrimmage but couldn't finish.

Miami Dolphins 20, San Diego Chargers 16


1. Forget the narratives. Miami's locker-room scandal hasn't affected this team much; every game comes down to the last possession. The Dolphins were mediocre before, and they remain mediocre now. The reconfigured offensive line had one of its best games of the season against San Diego.

2. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's numbers weren't bad, but he left a lot of yards on the field. He butchered a late-game situation, but Miami's defense bailed him out.

3. Give the up-and-down Dolphins defense a lot of credit. They held Chargers signal-caller Philip Rivers to six points in the second half, including zero points in San Diego's final three drives.

We recapped every Week 11 game on the latest "Around the League Podcast."

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