With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, the G&G staff are scattered around the country and have taken the week off from podcasting. But never fear, we’ve still got your NFL weekly recap! Here are 10 thoughts from NFL Week 11 around the NFL, including the MVP race, WhistleGate, controversial plays and more.
#WhistleGate: The best news the NFL got Monday night was the Patriots winning, because a whole lot of nonsense would have ensued if the Patriots had lost after the referee’s inadvertent whistle. People were very quick to point out that there was a ton of open space in front of Danny Amendola after he made the catch, and argued that he would have scored a TD had it not been for the referee’s mistake. Ultimately, the referee blew his whistle when Rex Ryan blocked his view, and the referees correctly called a 15 yard penalty on Ryan.
But go back and watch the play; Bills rookie CB Ronald Darby, a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year (and a great tackler), gave up on the play once the whistle was blown. Had it not been for the whistle, I believe he would have tackled Amendola at the spot the ball was caught. So in effect, while the whistle was 100% incorrect, the play would not have resulted in a TD, and the Patriots correctly gained 15 yards from Rex Ryan’s mistake.
Cadence Craziness: Monday Night Football had it’s share of questionable calls, but Sunday Night Football’s finish was a wild one between two great teams. But the play everyone came away talking about was a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Domata Peko illegally mimicking the Cardinals’ snap count to induce a false start. After the game it was revealed that the Cardinals informed the referees of the Bengals doing this throughout the game, and this time the Bengals got caught. Peko of course argued that he was simply relaying signs to his team, but I’ll lean with the refs on this one. Something that doesn’t get much media coverage is that coaches and players often times alert referees of illegal tendencies (like the time Rex Ryan snagged a win against the Patriots on a field goal rule). When a referee is told to look for something and they see it, it is human nature that he or she becomes more inclined to call it. Ultimately what should be taken away from this game is that the Cardinals and Bengals are two very good football teams, and if that was a Super Bowl preview we’re in for a great postseason.
Concussion Protocol: In a Ravens-Rams game full of injuries where Justin Forsett suffered a gruesome broken arm and Joe Flacco tore his ACL, the most concerning injury was Case Keenum’s concussion. After being hit by Courtney Upshaw, Keenum’s head bounced off the turf and he immediately reached for his head, indicating he was in pain. When a teammate then came over to help him stand up, Keenum stumbled and fell back to the ground, clearly struggling to keep his balance (a typical immediate symptom from suffering a concussion). The NFL recently instituted protocols to ensure players are fully evaluated in situations like this before returning to the field, yet Keenum managed to not miss a single play. Fortunately Keenum avoided further injury, but this was inexcusable and the NFL must step up their game before something much worse happens to a player in this scenario.
R-E-L-A-X Packers, the Vikings Aren’t Ready Yet: With those stories out of the way, let’s start talking about playoff contenders. The past few weeks here at G&G we’ve discussed our concern for the Packers offense, and excitement over the Vikings rise. We pointed out how Peterson looks to be in his old form, how the Vikings had yet to allow 23 points in a game, and how the Green Bay offense could not run the ball or get receivers open. But when these two teams faced off on Sunday, it was clear that the Packers are still the class of the NFC North, and that everyone needs to RELAX before writing off the Packers. Eddie Lacy finally looked strong, and Green Bay’s defense made more than enough plays for Rodgers and Co. to win this one comfortably. Meanwhile, the Vikings wasted a golden opportunity to assert themselves in the NFC North, but will get a shot at revenge in week 17, perhaps with the division on the line.
Hard Knocking Houston: Watch out NFL, JJ Watt is on a hot streak, and this Texans team is finally looking like the one that got all the hype on Hard Knocks. Watt has posted 7.5 sacks the last four weeks, and since getting smacked by Miami four weeks ago, the Texans have allowed just 29 points in three games. A big part of the recent success appears to be Jadeveon Clowney getting things going as well, as he has notched 1.5 sacks the past three weeks to go with 11 tackles. Yes, the Quarterback situation is still a concern with Brian Hoyer being announced the starter despite TJ Yates’s success, but at 5-5 following a big win over the Jets, this team has to be considered a playoff contender not just in the AFC South, but for a wild card. And before I switch away from the AFC South, it’s worth noting that the division is 6-1 in its last 7 out of division games and 8-4 overall the past three weeks.
The Boys are Back in Town: Another team that was written off by many pundits may have found some life. Yes the Cowboys sit at 3-7, but now find themselves just two games back from the NFC East leading Giants, and with Tony Romo at the helm they easily handled Miami by a score of 24-14. Romo looked rusty at times, but his presence alone makes a huge impact. Darren McFadden had been running strong without Romo, and the threat Romo brings as a quarterback will only help him moving forward. After watching the Redskins and Eagles get dismantled in week 11, it is not hard to imagine this Cowboys team sneaking back into the mix. But they’ll likely have to knock off either Carolina on Thanksgiving or Green Bay in week 14; the NFC East is bad, but someone has to get to 8-8… right?
Wild Card dark Horses: Looking around both conferences, a multitude of teams sit around the .500 mark and have a chance at making the playoffs. But when I look around both leagues, the two dark horses I see that could not only get to the playoffs but perhaps making some noise are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks. The Chiefs absolutely decimated the Chargers 33-3 on Sunday, and despite the injury carousel at running back seem to be trending upwards and will be aided by the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. The Seahawks meanwhile are a bit more confounding, as week to week they are either dominant or mistake prone. But in my mind there is no team outside of Arizona or Green Bay in the NFC that can be as scary when they put it all together, just like they did on last year’s Super Bowl run. Expect this team to be playing into 2016.
MVP Discussion: The average news outlet will tell you this is a two horse race between Brady and Newton, and rightfully so. Both teams are undefeated, and without those players those franchises would obviously be in crisis mode. But I’m here to tell you why Cam Newton is MVP, and it’s because of Carson Palmer. Wait, what?
If we’re looking at traditional QB statistics, Brady clearly has the edge over Newton (Brady is 1st in passing yards, Newton is 20th; Brady’s QB rating of 107.4 vastly surpasses Newton’s 90.7). But if you’re just using “traditional” stats, Carson Palmer needs to be in the conversation. Palmer has thrown more TDs (27-25) than Brady, while also boasting a higher QB Rating (108.6-107.4), QBR (81.9-68.1) and yards per attempt (9.04-8.12). Not to mention that he has done all of this on far fewer attempts (339-409) than Brady, suggesting greater overall efficiency.
So why is Cam Newton my MVP then? For me, traditional statistics need to go out the window, because no one has ever played QB the way Cam is right now. When we talk about the great running backs in the NFL like Adrian Peterson (a former MVP), we talk about their ability to wear you down physically as a game goes on. I’m not sure if a quarterback has ever received that label before Cam Newton. But Cam is tied for 3rd in rushing touchdowns, averaging the 18th best rushing yards per attempt, and is 8th in rushing first downs. Those are absurd statistics for a Quarterback; and don’t forget the fact he’s thrown for 20 touchdowns (tied for 6th) and has led his team to a 10-0 start.
Jameis for ROY?: A few weeks ago, the offensive rookie of the year was all but given to Todd Gurley, with some folks rumbling for Amari Cooper or maybe Marucs Mariota. But after Gurley posted the worst PFF score of any running back in week 11 and Cooper has fallen off the table, I want to make a case for Jameis. In the past 6 weeks, the Bucs are 4-2 behind Jameis’s 9 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs and just 2 INTs. Granted 5 of those passing TDs came this past week against the Eagles, but Jameis has the Buccaneers in the playoff mix a few years ahead of schedule, and story matters with Rookie of the Year voting as much as any award out there.
Turkey Day Preview: Since we won’t be doing our picks podcast either, I’ll give you my hot take and predictions on the three turkey day games. Make sure to check back tomorrow for our full list of picks and to play along with us though!
Eagles at Lions (pick em): This could be an ugly one. Sanchez was horrendous against the Bucs, and the Lions have played some ugly games of late, on a two game winning streak despite putting up just 18 points in each of those wins. I’ll take the Eagles to do just enough to get a win and keep their slimming playoff hopes alive.
Panthers (-1) at Cowboys: The Panthers are 10-0 and I just told you that Cam is my MVP, and Vegas is only giving them one point on the road against a 3-7 team? Yes I talked about how Romo is back and how they need to win this game or their Packers game, but I’ll take Carolina.
Bears at Packers (-9): I expect the Packers to win this game. They’re a great team at home, and Jay Cutler struggles mightily against the Packers. But 9 points is a lot in a short week game that tends to be ugly and close, so I’ll take the Bears to keep this a one score game in an eventual loss.