Week 11 of the NFL season began with a tightly contested fight for the NFC West, and this weekend brings plenty more intrigue with a starter who could stir things up, a couple of streaks on the line and a Sunday night revenge game.
Here are some of the storylines we’re watching this weekend:
Titans @ Ravens: Don’t call it revenge, call it a rebound
The last time these two teams met, things ended in heartbreak for the 14-2 Baltimore Ravens as the Tennessee Titans pulled off a massive upset in the 2019 AFC divisional playoffs with a 28-12 victory. To call a Week 11 matchup a revenge game is unfair, considering a regular-season victory will never heal the wounds of a playoff loss, but it can certainly be called a rebound game — maybe even a little redemption.
After losing two of their last three games, the 6-3 Ravens are looking a little more mortal than we expected at this point. That two of their three losses on the season came in primetime matchups — first against the Chiefs in Week 3 and most recently on Sunday night against the Patriots — only furthers the growing narrative that they can’t win when it counts most. A 1 p.m. kickoff against Tennessee isn’t going to rewrite that one, but winning against a tough opponent that’s bested them before would likely go a long way in setting them up for success down the stretch.
The Titans, also 6-3, started off even stronger than Baltimore this season, racking up five straight wins to start the season before running into the Steelers. Even more painful than that first loss, though, was what came after: One week later, they lost to… *double-checks notes*… the Bengals. Yikes. Like the Ravens, the Titans have been underperforming lately and, also like the Ravens, are coming off a primetime loss they totally should’ve been able to win (vs. Colts).
The key to a Titans win? Give the ball to Derrick Henry. Every win of last season’s late-season streak featured Henry running for more than 100 yards, and he was the reason the Titans trampled the Ravens in the post-season back in January. Yet, his usage has dropped. In the five games leading up to this year’s Week 6 loss to Pittsburgh, Henry averaged 24.6 carries and 117.6 yards while tallying six touchdowns. Since (and including) that Week 6 loss, he’s down to an average of 19.5 carries and 89.5 yards per game (through four games) and has just two touchdowns to his name. While games like his 31-carry season opener against Denver and his 212-yard matchup against Houston aren’t sustainable, he is the key to success and simply hasn’t had enough touches of late to be the high-impact player that he is.
Eagles @ Browns: Cleveland’s path to playoffs just got tougher
The Cleveland Browns got their best offensive weapon back in the lineup last week, with Nick Chubb returning to action and providing a massive boost as the Browns look to maintain their winning record and land a playoff spot for the first time in about two decades.
Unfortunately, they’ll now be without their biggest defensive star after elite edge rusher and league sack leader Myles Garrett tested positive for COVID-19. He was placed on the COVID reserve list Friday. His availability for next Sunday’s matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars is very much in doubt as well, as he’s required to quarantine for at least 10 days following the onset of symptoms.
The Browns know what life without Garrett is like, and it’s… not great. He missed the final six games of last season due to suspension following the helmet incident with Mason Rudolph, and Cleveland went 2-4 without him to finish the season 6-10.
Falcons @ Saints: It’s Taysom time (?!?)
It’s unclear how long Drew Brees, who suffered cracked ribs and a punctured lung against the 49ers last Sunday, will be sidelined — the minimum is three weeks, now that he’s been placed on IR.
Up until Friday, it was Jameis Winston who was thought to be the next man up, considering he stepped in against San Francisco to finish off the win. But head coach Sean Payton appears to be shaking things up, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons would actually see Taysom Hill start the game behind centre.
Saints’ QB Taysom Hill will start Sunday vs. the Falcons, per source. Hill took all the starter reps at practice this week. Jameis Winston will be the backup.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 20, 2020
This is going to be electric! https://t.co/kZSZqKke05
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) November 20, 2020
This will be the first start for the 30-year-old tight-end/backup QB/jack-of-all-trades, at the quarterback position. Since landing in New Orleans in 2017, Hill has returned kickoffs, factored into the receiving corps with seven touchdown catches, rushed for 538 yards and four touchdowns, and has been used sparingly as a passer — he’s completed 10 passes for 2015 yards as a wildcard at Payton’s disposal.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 20, 2020
Taysom Hill may be older than Brock Osweiler, who just retired after an 8-year NFL career, but he also has 55 fewer career passing attempts than Jake Luton, who played in his first NFL game two weeks ago
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) November 20, 2020
Payton’s fascination with Hill’s diverse skillset is rivalled only Football Twitter’s fascination with Payton’s love for Hill. So, naturally, Twitter was a fun place to be when the news broke — and it’ll be a fun place Sunday, too.
We’ve obtained the Saints’ playbook for Taysom Hill’s start at quarterback pic.twitter.com/OvKPJqTXie
— Pick Six Podcast (@picksixpod) November 20, 2020
Taysom Hill’s first start is football twitter’s Super Bowl. We deserve this.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) November 20, 2020
The biggest question to come out of Friday’s revelation? What do to about Fantasy…
A note: Taysom Hill is eligible to be utilized at your TE spot on @ESPNFantasy for this week.
We will reassess that for Week 12, but for those looking to add a TE (or QB), Hill is a great start for this week at TE.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 20, 2020
If you can play Taysom Hill at TE, you’re probably playing on the wrong site. (But you should definitely do it.)
— Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23) November 20, 2020
Bengals @ Washington: Top two draft picks go head-to-head
Washington head coach Ron Rivera has no regrets about his team’s selection of rusher Chase Young second overall last spring — nor should he, Chase has been great so far. But there’s an element of the what-could’ve-been heading into Sunday’s matchup between Washington and Cincinnati as the top two picks of the 2020 class go head to head. There was never really any question that Cincinnati would be taking Burrow — nor was their any doubt that Chase Young would be the second player taken off the board. But had Young been the first off the board to the Bengals, Rivera would’ve made sure Burrow was Washington-bound.
“We feel like championships are won by playing good defence. We felt pretty strongly about (Young). The only other option we felt was a viable one for us was Burrow and obviously he was taken by Cincinnati,” Rivera said this week, via SI.com. “We think Joe is the full package. We really do. We think Chase is the full package. Depending on what Cincinnati did, that’s what we were going to do. The opposite. We didn’t think we would lose out either way. We really didn’t. We think both players are going to be great players and have great careers and we’re fired up that we have Chase.”
Dolphins @ Broncos: Can Tua extend his career start to 4-0?
With all the talk about the rise of Buffalo in AFC East, you’d be excused for sleeping on the Dolphins — especially considering they opened the season with back-to-back divisional losses and a 1-3 record. But by the end of Sunday’s game, Miami might just be all tied up atop the divisional standings with the Bills (who have a bye this week) at 7-3.
After preaching patience with the development of rookie Tua Tagovailoa through the first six games, however, Miami handed the keys of the offence to the fifth-overall pick of 2020 and haven’t looked back. Through his first three career NFL starts, Tagovailoa is undefeated to the tune of 3-0 and on the brink of becoming the first rookie quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger (2004) to start his NFL career with four straight wins. (In case
you’re wondering, Patrick Mahomes’ six straight wins to open his career don’t count, as this wasn’t done during his rookie year.)
Chiefs @ Raiders: Can Kansas City avenge its lone loss of season?
It was Week 5. The Chiefs were one of a handful of undefeated teams.
And then the Raiders came to town.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns while running back Josh Jacobs ran in two more to deliver the Chiefs their first loss of 2020. It remains their only loss of 2020, and you just know Mahomes & Co. are ready to even up the score against their division rival — especially after a week of rest. Recent history is on their side: The Chiefs have faced the Raiders in their return from the bye in both of the past two seasons, and twice came out victorious with high-scoring victories (they scored exactly 40 points both times).
Head coach Andy Reid is historically excellent when coming off a bye week, registering a career record of 18-3 in those games. He was also 5-0 last season when playing teams for the second time in the regular season, one of the best in the game at learning from and adapting to opponents’ schemes. Mahomes is having another MVP-worthy season, ranking third in touchdown passes (25) while throwing just a single interception all season long. (That interception, by the way, was against those pesky Raiders.)
This could be Sunday Night Football at its finest.
Jets @ Chargers: Hair today, gone tomorrow
There was a lot of buzz around L.A. this week, with some critical cuts and tough farewells for the Chargers.
We’re talking about Justin Herbert’s hair, of course.
If you’re grieving and looking for someone to blame, look no further than Chargers strength and conditioning coach John Lott.
“He said he was good with the clippers,” Herbert told reporters. “I think he did a good job.”
Said Herbert of his new ‘do: “I wasn’t looking for anything fancy.” (Gosh, let’s hope not.)
Considering the Chargers’ opponent this week, the winless New York Jets, it feels like Herbert will begin his post-flow life in the pros on a winning note. If he doesn’t, you know who to blame:
this the man “good with the clippers”? pic.twitter.com/6tAvtxuDl3
— Jasmyn Wimbish (@JasmynWimbish) November 18, 2020
If you’d like a moment to say goodbye:
Justin Herbert has SIX Rookie of the Week awards.
He’s only played in seven games.
— Gridiron (@Gridiron) November 13, 2020