Enough time had passed to forget about the Titans’ Week 4 loss to the Jets … and then they lost to the Texans. Too much for them being the AFC team we could count on the most. (What fool would have said that?) That team now belongs to the Ravens, who found a way to win with Tyler Huntley? Dare we say it … the Patriots? In the NFC, Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a mysterious toe injury, and defending champion Bucs avoided a third straight loss, albeit against the hapless Giants. There are seven more weeks into the season, a long time for the rankings to be altered and eliminated in a completely different order and new favorites emerge. But now, after week 11, here are seven things to know.
1. The Giants are ready to make some changes. That was made clear at Joe Judge’s press conference after the 30-10 loss to the Bucs, in which he criticized the coaching staff for failing to put players in positions to be successful, stopping just short of directly saying the name of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. The Giants’ offense was miserable to the point of being hard to watch, driving just 215 yards on a night in which they got back Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas, and had a healthier Kenny Golladay. Daniel Jones threw two interceptions, one to a 300-pound defensive lineman. The last play they ran when they still had a chance was when they tried in fourth and one at the beginning of the third quarter, losing by seven. That was the correct decision, but there appeared to be a delay with the game call coming in, causing the Giants to snuggle up late and then have to rush to the line with less than 10 seconds left on the game clock. The call itself was equally inexplicable, a throwing pass to a catcher that crossed from the other side of the formation, which Bucs linebacker Devin White immediately shut down; Golladay and Kadarius Toney weren’t even on the field. The $ 72 million Golladay only achieved two goals all night. So yeah, the Giants need to start making changes. But the bye week, which has just passed, is usually the ideal time to make a coordinator change, rather than a short week. However, Judge is clearly desperate because his seat is so hot in the middle of his second season. In the preseason, co-owner John Mara said he needed to see “progress” and feel like the team was “moving in the right direction.” Not only are the 3-7 Giants at the bottom of the NFC East, but unlike Washington and Philadelphia, they have shown no signs of moving in the right direction. The question is not whether changes need to be made, but how many.
2. MVP almost always comes down to cable. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to debate or speculate on potential winners, particularly after Jonathan Taylor’s five TD performance in the Colts’ big win against the Bills, making a non-quarterback winner seem like plausible. But the votes will not be received until January 13, after week 18 and there are still almost two months to go. Also, Kyler Murray’s three-game absence with an ankle injury, or even Lamar Jackson’s absence from illness, is somewhat mitigated due to the season being a longer game and players often lose time due to the COVID-19 protocols.
3. Baker Mayfield’s future with the Browns is more uncertain than ever. The results so far this season have not been what the Browns expected after last year’s 11-5 campaign that ended in a close divisional round loss to the Chiefs heading to the Super Bowl. Mayfield has been playing with multiple injuries; While that should be taken into account when evaluating his game, it has also meant that he has not been able to give the team a definitive answer on whether or not he is a QB they can compete with for championships. Mayfield is under contract until 2022 after the team chose his fifth-year option this spring; Although Josh Allen signed an extension this summer, both Mayfield and his 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson entered this season with no long-term deals with their clubs. The decision for the Browns may depend on which other quarterbacks are potentially available in what is gearing up to be an offseason of the veteran quarterback movement and whether or not they can sign someone they feel more confident in than Mayfield. . But after a game in which Mayfield was visibly beaten and frustrated, his future with the No. 1 team overall feels much more fragile than it did a year ago.
4. Chris Jones has been in the midst of the Chiefs’ defensive resurgence. Literally. When the Chiefs traded for Melvin Ingram at the deadline, he was skeptical of the impact the 32-year-old would have. But perhaps the biggest impact he’s had is that his presence exclusively on the edge has allowed Jones to get back to playing most of the plays on the inside, where he is at his best. In the first six games of the season, Jones’ play ratio from the edge to the inside was roughly 5: 1. However, since Ingram came to KC, Jones has lined up as defensive tackle 50% more to often than on the edge. During Sunday’s win against the Cowboys, for example, Jones spent 30 plays at defensive tackle, 16 plays lined up on offensive tackle and 4 plays off the opposing OT, according to Pro Football Focus. On the play that secured the Chiefs’ game, in which Jones deflected a pass that was later intercepted by teammate L’Jarius Sneed, Jones was, you guessed it, lined up inside.
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5. The Cowboys got a draft steal on Micah Parsons. The cornerback might have been a higher priority position for the Cowboys entering this year’s draft, but losing the top two corners led them to select Parsons, who has become one of the most important pieces of their defense. As a draft prospect, Parsons was rated a converted lead running back, a high school defensive end who played weak-side linebacker in his two seasons at Penn State (before opting for COVID-19 in 2020). But the Cowboys have played him in both places, partly out of necessity because of the injuries to DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, but also because they recognized he could do it. His role has wavered from week to week, but on Sunday, Parsons lined up on the defensive front in all but one snap, according to PFF, and had two sacks to tie the franchise’s rookie record (8) set by DeMarcus Ware. It’s perhaps odd to say that the No. 12 overall pick was a steal, but that kind of performance from a rookie who entered this season isn’t even qualified for that role certainly qualifies as such.
6. Deebo Samuel’s versatility has helped ignite the 49ers. His receiving stat line in San Francisco’s win at Jacksonville was a catch for 15 yards. But Samuel also had 8 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown, of the 10 plays in which he lined up in the 49ers backfield. Samuel has lined up everywhere for the 49ers offense this season: off the side, in the backfield, in the slot, and even, on occasion, on the line. Samuel’s two biggest backfield actions have come in the last two games, and both were wins. In Week 10 against the Rams, he had the same number of rushing and catching, and each scored a touchdown both through the air and on the ground. As Gary Gramling would say, send this man a mylar balloon.
7. The Vikings did something that is very difficult to do. In 2020 they decided to trade a very good but disgruntled veteran, Stefon Diggs, and then used part of the draft to select his replacement, Justin Jefferson. What is remarkable is how well it worked, and almost immediately. On Sunday, Jefferson showed how critical he is for the team with eight receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the division-leading Packers, his personal best of the season. Catcher is a tough position to recruit, and one that some of the league’s top personnel departments, like the Ravens and Patriots, have a hard time hitting. But Jefferson’s rookie production in 2020 didn’t lag behind Diggs, and this year, he’s ahead of the player he replaced, with 944 receiving yards in 10 games.
More NFL coverage:
• MMQB: How the D Chiefs turned the season around
• Jonathan Taylor has entered the MVP conversation
• MAQB: the best camera Newton has seen in years
• SI cover: an evolution of QB that caused a revolution in coaching
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.