The Week 11 Wrap

There is a long way to go and many big games still to be played, but it does feel like the Baltimore Ravens are in the midst of a very special season.

Their much-hyped contest with the Houston Texans was supposed to be all about the battle between exciting young quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. It actually turned into something of a non-event because Baltimore inflicted such a beating on the Texans.

The Ravens cruised to a 41-7 win in a game that was so one-sided that both Jackson and Watson watched their backups go through the motions in the final minutes of the contest. There was no point in either passer still being exposed to the risk of injury.

Jackson, of course, catches our eye and garners most of the headlines. And that's fair enough. He is hard to ignore with his weekly collection of highlight-reel plays and he was outstanding again on Sunday night, throwing for 222 yards and four touchdowns while adding 86 on the ground.

While there is much football to be played, the 'MVP, MVP, MVP' chants in Baltimore on Sunday night did not seem out of place. In fact, I feel like Jackson is leading a very competitive race in which Russell Wilson is not about to go quietly into the night.

But there are so many players who are stepping up big time for the Ravens. Mark Ingram keeps making big plays at running back, the tight ends step up big when called upon and Wink Martindale's defense has come alive in a big way just as the Ravens' schedule has toughened up.

The Ravens recorded seven sacks against the Texans and they corralled Watson excellently on so many plays that the normally-elusive passer ended up running figure of eights and moving himself straight into the very pressure he was trying to evade.

Baltimore are able to play so aggressively in their front seven because they are performing so well on the back end and I thought one play summed up that secondary perfectly. In the first half, Watson lofted up a jump ball for DeAndre Hopkins and it was the sort of one-on-one jump ball that the All-Pro receiver normally gobbles up in his sleep.

But, on this occasion, the ball was expertly swatted away by cornerback Marcus Peters. It was just one play but, for me, it served as a reminder that the Ravens are indeed a complete team as they move into the business end of the 2019 season.

Who's Hot...

Dak Prescott...The Cowboys paid big bucks to running back Ezekiel Elliott on the eve of the 2019 season and I think they're going to need to do the same in 2020 to keep Dak Prescott happy at quarterback. I would argue he is much more valuable to this Dallas team than Zeke as they move towards the NFC playoffs. Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 35-27 win over Detroit and that marked the fifth game this season in which he tossed a hat-trick of scoring strikes. The Cowboys can play that risky franchise tag game but Washington tried that with Kirk Cousins, Pittsburgh did the same with Le'Veon Bell and it was that was with Jadeveon Clowney and Houston. All three players are now with different teams. The Cowboys clearly need Prescott leading their attack and need to pay him accordingly.

Atlanta Falcons...That bye week has done wonders for an Atlanta Falcons team that is playing hard for under-pressure head coach Dan Quinn. A week after pulling off an upset win in New Orleans, the Falcons continued to throw a spanner in the NFC South playoff chase with a dominant 29-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers. For the second week in a row, Atlanta's maligned defense came to play as they recorded five sacks and picked off Kyle Allen four times. The resurgence on that side of the ball has coincided with former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris taking over the coaching of the secondary. Atlanta have left it way too late for a playoff run in the NFC, but the players can do their part in saving Quinn's job.

Michael Thomas...Some players produce at such a high rate that their weekly exploits can so often get overlooked. That might be the case for the New Orleans Saints receiver who keeps chugging along at a record pace. Thomas caught eight passes for 114 yards and one touchdown in Sunday's 34-17 win over Tampa Bay. Thomas now has 94 catches for the year and the Saints still have six regular season games to play. Thomas, who has at least 50 receiving yards in every game this season, is a receiving machine and he becomes the first player in NFL history with at least 90 catches through a team's opening 10 games. Others get more headlines at times but no receiver can match such historic production.

Who's Not...

Mitchell Trubisky...According to the official party line, a nagging hip injury was the reason Trubisky was benched for Chase Daniel late in Chicago's Sunday night loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The truth is that Trubisky is not getting the job done and this Bears' attack seems broken and beyond repair. Trubisky threw for just 190 yards, one touchdown, one pick and a rating of 65.1. A promising season is disappearing down the toilet in Chicago and I see no harm in giving Daniel a run of games now. If nothing else, that would give Trubisky time to gather his thoughts and go again. As things stand right now, he is growing increasingly anxious and the chatter of him being selected ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson is not going away.

Tom Brady...I get all the excuses that are being trotted out and there is validity to a lot of them. His offensive line is poor, he is missing Rob Gronkowski, his receivers cannot get separation, it was windy in Philadelphia. I get all that and I also recognise the danger of piling on to the greatest quarterback who ever lived, but that was a very ropey game played by Brady and it was hardly a stand-alone performance. Brady has earned plenty of respect and room for error, but I think if we had torn the name and number off his jersey on Sunday night, you might have been confused for thinking you were watching Blake Bortles or some other lesser light. There are mitigating circumstances, for sure, but this very simple truth also remains... Tom Brady does not look much like Tom Brady.

Washington Redskins...This is pretty anecdotal stuff that comes from a friend of a friend but I heard re-sale tickets for the Redskins' Sunday clash with the New York Jets were going for as little as $6. And the best seats in the house at FedEx Field were on offer for just $36. Has it really come to this for what was a once-proud franchise? Apparently so. These are dark days in D.C. A new head coach will come on board in January and have quite the mess to clean up, but the issues are not solely related to the football field. The winning has to start in terms of personnel building as well and that is not going to be an easy or quick fix.

The Fast Five...

The Colts absolutely stuck it to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Sunday's 33-13 win, particularly on the ground where they rushed for 264 yards and three scores. Marlon Mack went down with a reported broken right hand but this RB group is deep and the line aggressive and dominant.

Minnesota were expected to easily handle the Denver Broncos on Sunday yet found themselves in a 20-point hole at the half. And that's when Kirk Cousins took charge with Dalvin Cook being held to just 26 rushing yards on the day. It was a big scare for the Vikings but they dug deep and kept up their playoff charge... just!

Josh Allen has his doubters, for sure, but he looked pretty decent on Sunday as Buffalo recorded a 37-20 win over Miami. Allen threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, so why do I still not believe in him or the Bills? Maybe I just need to see that performance replicated against tougher opposition.

Todd Gurley has not been the same running back for much of 2019 but the Rams made him the focal point of their attack in Sunday night's win over the Bears. Gurley carried 25 times for 97 yards and added 36 receiving yards. Hardly vintage stuff, but better than in recent weeks and enough to keep the Rams alive... for now!

I have to credit the San Francisco 49ers for surviving a scare against Arizona with a mounting injury list but I also feel like the Cardinals will feel happy with where they're heading. Kyler Murray is growing week to week and I think he is going to be one of the true stars of the league in 2020.

Fact of the Week

The Baltimore Ravens had more rushing yards (263) on Sunday than the Houston Texans had total yards (232). It was also the fourth game this season in which Baltimore has recorded more rushing yards than passing yards. The Ravens are 4-0 in those games.

Finish That Sentence

Each week in this spot I ask readers - via Twitter - to randomly send me the start of a sentence and, as we do on our NFL UK Live stage show tours, I will finish the sentence with the first thought that comes into my head. Here we go...

From Rich Stone (@richstone77)... Tanking doesn't work because ... you don't know who or what you are tanking for? Who knows what these young players are going to become when they enter the NFL? Mitchell Trubisky was selected before the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen were chosen before Lamar Jackson. It is risky business to put all your eggs into one college player basket. The serious hip injury suffered by Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Saturday now adds another layer to the mystery this year. Who exactly are the NFL teams now tanking for?

From Jeremy Preece (@JeremyPreece)... The Atlanta Falcons real identity is...something closer to what we have seen during back-to-back wins over New Orleans and Carolina. I was hugely disappointed in the Falcons during their 1-7 start and felt they had far too much talent to be struggling so badly. They have dangerous offensive weapons in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper and the defense also boasts talent that is just now starting to bear its teeth. This team will pull a few more 'upsets' between now and the end of the season.

From Michael Gilbert (@Gilbo08) Next year, Cam Newton will be playing for...the Chicago Bears or the Denver Broncos. Both teams are storied and respectable franchises who would appeal to a true superstar like Newton. And both would welcome an upgrade at the game's most vital position. Joe Flacco is not the answer in Denver and John Elway could do with more of a sure thing, which Cam could be if healthy. And we all know the situation in Chicago, where Newton could be a bridge quarterback between Trubisky and another first-round roll of the dice.

Final Thought...

I might need to revise that answer above because I wonder if the Panthers stick with Newton? It would cost them $19.7 million but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Kyle Allen is not the answer. Pressure is a funny thing, isn't it? When Allen was occupying a spot that ultimately belonged to Newton, he shone and looked very accomplished indeed. Yet as soon as chatter about Allen being 'the man' started to increase, his play has diminished. Allen threw seven touchdown passes and no picks for a rating of 106.6 in his first four games of 2019. In his last four games, Allen has thrown three touchdown passes, nine interceptions and has a rating of 60.3. If Carolina are keen to move on from Cam, his eventual replacement will have to come high in the NFL Draft.

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