Biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 11

Nov 19, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates his sack in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not sure if it was something in the water that turned the early games Sunday in NFL Week 11 into a chaos-filled whirlwind of craziness, but we loved it. Multiple games went down to the wire, with two needing overtime to decide the victor.

The afternoon games were only good for those who needed a nap, but that’s the price we paid for so much early excitement.

Sunday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles turned into a one-sided blowout that left fans of the home teams feeling blue.

These were the winners and losers from the action in NFL Week 11.

Winner: Vikings prove a great defense is better than a great offense

No team in the NFL had a hotter offense than the Los Angeles Rams heading into Sunday’s action. They had averaged 39 points in their last three games, scoring at least 33 points in each of them.

Of course, those games were against the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Houston Texans, who can’t hold a candle to what the Minnesota Vikings have done on the defensive side of the ball this year.

On Sunday, Minnesota appeared to be just the next victim of Jared Goff and Co.’s high-powered offense. The Rams marched down the field on their first drive to score a touchdown and go up 7-0. It looked way too easy, which has been the hallmark of this offense all year.

Minnesota tied the game up a couple of drives later, and the game was all knotted up at 7-7 heading into the second half.

Los Angeles was brutally shut down in the second half. The offense ran just 16 plays on its first four drives of the second half, gaining a total of 52 yards before a last-ditch effort late in the fourth quarter. By that time, the Vikings were already up 24-7, and the game was over.

The Rams managed just 179 yards of offense after scoring on that initial drive and wouldn’t score again. It was a dominant showing by the Vikings’ defense, which has been a huge reason why Minnesota is 8-2 on the season.

Loser: Dolphins’ descent into madness continues

Adam Gase seems to have lost his team. The Miami Dolphins lost their fourth game in a row Sunday in an ugly, ugly game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have also been awful recently.

It started out with three first-half interceptions by Jay Cutler, who was later replaced by Matt Moore after being evaluated for a concussion. Moore did breathe some life into the offense, throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

But overall, Miami was atrocious, especially on offense. The team’s performance was “highlighted” by five turnovers and 17 accepted penalties, which is the most any team has been called for in a single game all year, per NFL Research.

And to cap it all off, the Buccaneers scored late in the fourth quarter when the Dolphins’ special-teams unit attempted to lateral its way to a desperation touchdown, only to lose the ball in the end zone.

The only silver lining was that Damien Williams had a long run of 69 yards and that Jarvis Landry surpassed his previous career high with his sixth touchdown of the year.

Winner: Steelers break out with monster offensive showing

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Pittsburgh Steelers running on all cylinders offensively. Antonio Brown said last week that it was coming, and we should have believed him.

Ben Roethlisberger had four touchdown passes, three of which were hauled in by Brown, who impersonated David Tyree with a helmet catch of his own on one of them (watch). Le’Veon Bell wasn’t utilized heavily on the ground but still managed to total 103 yards on 21 touches.

The end result was a 40-17 drubbing the likes of which the Steelers haven’t been on the winning side of since early October…of the 2016 season.

Loser: Browns gonna Browns

The Cleveland Browns had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars, down by just six points.

With plenty of time left on the clock, in Jaguars territory, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer’s already rough day — he had two interceptions and at one point had back-to-back turnovers — got significantly worse.

Here’s the very brief version of how it went down: Kizer held onto the ball too long and fumbled the ball. Jacksonville went three-and-out, punted the ball, and then Kizer fumbled for the second time in a row. Except this time, it went for a touchdown as Telvin Smith recovered the ball in the end zone for the Jags.

In the relative blink of an eye — 34 seconds of game time — the Browns went from having a shot at winning their first game of the season to losing their 10th by 12 points.

Winner: Larry Fitzgerald continues to make history

The Arizona Cardinals lost Sunday in Houston, but Larry Fitzgerald had a huge game. He hauled in nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. In the process, the legendary receiver moved into fifth place all time for most career receiving yards.

Now with 15,157 yards in his illustrious career, this future Hall of Famer is just 52 yards away from passing Isaac Bruce at No. 4 and just 136 yards away from passing Randy Moss at No. 3 on the all-time list.

Loser: Packers shut out for first time since 2006

When Aaron Rodgers was injured earlier this year, we thought the Packers would crumble because he’s been propping up a talent-deficient roster for years. Well, it’s happening, people.

Brett Hundley failed to build upon a strong showing last week against Chicago on Sunday. He opened the game with two straight interceptions and finished with three as Green Bay turned the ball over a total of five times.

The running game wasn’t much help, either, as Jamaal Williams managed just 57 yards on 18 carries behind Green Bay’s injury ravaged offensive line.

Baltimore wasn’t sharp, either. Joe Flacco had just 183 yards with one touchdown and an interception, and the Ravens scored just two offensive touchdowns. Yet at the end of the day it was an easy 23-0 win for the road team, marking the first time since 2006 the Packers were shut out.

Winner: Big Blue’s defense steps up big

Heading into Week 11, the Kansas City Chiefs had thrown two interceptions all year long, and one of those was thrown by Tyreek Hill. On Sunday, Alex Smith threw two bad interceptions and Travis Kelce threw another one on an ill-conceived trick play called by Andy Reid.

Credit goes to the Giants for forcing those turnovers, for keeping running back Kareem Hunt from running wild, and for continually putting pressure on Smith in the pocket.

Given how awful New York’s own offense was, the fact that the Giants won this game in overtime is nothing short of a miracle. A miracle we can attribute to a strong defensive showing, the likes we haven’t seen since the Denver Broncos game last month.

Loser: Marcus Mariota has worst game of his career

There’s no easy way to spin Marcus Mariota’s performance on Thursday night as anything other than atrocious.

Granted, the entire team was a miserable wreck, including Mariota’s offensive line, which gave up five sacks and allowed nine hits. But the line wasn’t responsible for Mariota throwing the ball to the Steelers, which Mariota did four times. Three of those interceptions were absolutely on the young quarterback, who was as wild as we’ve ever seen.

Injuries might have played a role in how poorly Mariota played. He was banged up both high and low before the game, and was playing on a short week of rest. Regardless, it was the worst game of Mariota’s career as a pro.

Winner: Saints find a way to keep streak alive

It sure looked like the Washington Redskins were on their way to halting the New Orleans Saints’ seven-game winning streak on Sunday. Washington’s offense was purring like a kitten for much of the game, thanks in part to a renewed focus on running the ball and thanks in part to Marshon Lattimore getting injured.

With about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Washington went up by 15 points when Kirk Cousins threw his third touchdown pass of the game.

Then, the high-powered Saints offense responded with two straight touchdown-scoring drives that went 12 plays in total for 162 yards. The final drive was vintage Drew Brees, with a sprinkling of the new school — Alvin Kamara, who capped it off with an 18-yard touchdown catch and the two-point conversion.

After forcing the Redskins to punt in overtime, Mark Ingram put the Saints in field goal range with two runs that went 51 yards. Ballgame.

Brees hadn’t needed to throw the ball as much as he did in this game since Week 4. Somehow, the Saints keep marching on, and they’re the class of the NFC South heading into the final weeks of the season.

Loser: Bills head coach Sean McDermott had to have seen this coming

Bills head coach Sean McDermott

It’s almost like Tyrod Taylor is better than Nathan Peterman and gives the Buffalo Bills a better chance to win games than a fifth-round rookie. Though, that can’t be true. Because Buffalo’s head coach, Sean McDermott benched Taylor this week.

Okay, sarcasm aside, McDermott had to have known his decision to bench Taylor would backfire. After all, Taylor hasn’t been the main reason Buffalo has been losing lately. The team’s inability to stop the run has a lot to do with it, as does the lack of talent at receiver.

And once it became immediately obvious that Peterman had no business on the field Sunday — two interceptions in a row to start the game — McDermott should have had an involuntary reflex to pull the poor kid out of the game. He didn’t do that, and by halftime — three interceptions later — the game was over.

Buffalo’s head-scratching decisions this year once appeared to be unconventional strokes of genius. After all, the Bills won five out of their first seven games.

But now everyone who was highly critical of the strange personnel moves engineered by rookie general manager Brandon Beane is collectively nodding their heads. We all saw this coming. This scribe even wrote that Beane wasn’t taking things far enough, that the Bills needed to completely tank this year to give themselves the best chance to rebuild the right way.

As of now, it seems all but assured that Buffalo still has no shot of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Winner: Tom Terrific destroys Oakland’s defense in Mexico

Winners of five in a row heading into Sunday’s game in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders, the New England Patriots had no trouble making it six straight.

Thanks in large part to Oakland’s terrible defense, the Pats had their way on offense. Tom Brady was darn near perfect, finishing the game with 339 yards on 30-of-37 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Patriots didn’t turn the ball over once, and to this point the Raiders still have yet to force a single interception — a truly mind-boggling stat now that we’re heading into Week 12.

Brady came into the game with the league lead for passing yards, by quite a bit. His flawless performance Sunday will only help his cause. And at the age of 40, it’s crazy to say it, but Tom Terrific seems to be getting better.

Loser: Denver’s offense is broken

Without an elite quarterback to make up for a poor offensive line, mediocre running backs and a questionable offensive coordinator in Mike McCoy — already reportedly on the hot seat — Denver’s offense has no oomph.

This was crystal clear Sunday in Denver against the Cincinnati Bengals. Denver’s defense held Cincinnati’s offense to just 12 first downs, 192 total yards and 49 rushing yards, and still the Broncos lost.

Brock Osweiler is who we thought he was (still) and nobody should expect that to change. But it matters not if it’s Osweiler, Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, who we suspect will get his chance next — this offense is broken.

In the 20-17 loss to the Bengals, the Broncos averaged just 4.3 yards per play. They moved the ball quite a bit, racking up 341 yards and 20 first downs, but were hopeless when it came to actually putting points on the board. That’s been the case all year long, as Denver averages just over 18 points per game.

Winner: Yep, Eagles are still the NFL’s best

It took a while for the Philadelphia Eagles to get fully into the groove Sunday night, but once they found it there was no stopping this team.

Dallas actually took a 9-7 lead into halftime as Carson Wentz struggled to get his game going.

That didn’t last, however. The Eagles would dominate every aspect of the game in the second half.

Rookie pass rusher Derek Barnett was an absolute monster off the edge. He had two of Philly’s four sacks and stripped Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter, leading to a defensive touchdown. Ronald Darby made one of the three interceptions of Prescott in his first game back from an ankle injury that sidelined him in early September.

The offense took off like crazy in that second half, romping to three straight touchdown-scoring drives that spanned 24 plays and chewed up 250 yards.

The end result was a 30-0 run in the second half to slam the door shut on a suddenly hapless Cowboys team that has been pantsed by the Atlanta Falcons and Eagles in consecutive weeks.

Loser: Todd Gurley, Rams running game stuck in first gear

Having already acknowledged the stellar job the Vikings did on the defensive side of the ball, we can’t ignore Los Angeles’ inability to run the ball. After all, this is a team that came into the Battle Royale against Minnesota with the No. 7 rushing offense in the NFL.

Todd Gurley, who was the league’s fourth-ranked rusher heading into the game, was held to just 37 yards on 15 carries. Though, he did keep his fantasy owners happy with three  catches and a rushing touchdown on the game’s first drive.

If Los Angeles is going to get anywhere late in the season and, presumably, in the playoffs, it has to be able to run the ball against good defenses. Sean McVay and Co. have to get this fixed, and soon.

Winner: Fournette apparently is just fine playing in the cold

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette

Maybe it was just a case of misdirection. But reports indicated Leonard Fournette might not even play Sunday in Cleveland with an ankle injury. And the running back himself seemed to indicate he’d rather not play given his own comments about taking hits in cold weather.

Then Sunday came. And not only did Fournette play, but he played a lot and he played well. Jacksonville scored just one touchdown offensively all game long, and that came in the first quarter. Going up against a feisty Cleveland Browns defense, Blake Bortles was minimally effective, going for just 154 yards on 17-of-30 passing.

So it was up to Fournette to keep the offense chugging along. And he did just that, rushing for 111 yards on 28 carries, throwing in two receptions for good measure.

This is exactly the type of formula that the Jags will need to continue employing in games where weather will be a factor. Now at 7-3, first place in the AFC South, the Jags continue to look like a playoff team heading into the latter weeks of the season.

Loser: Connor Barth keeps the Bears from winning another close one

Last weekend, John Fox cost his team points on an absurd challenge that bit him in the behind by flipping the tables in the worst way. In a game that was decided by one score, it stood out. And it’s hardly the first time that’s happened to Chicago this year — the Bears just find ways to lose close games, thanks in part to the poor play of embattled kicker Connor Barth.

He came into Sunday’s game already on shaky ground, having missed five of his 15 attempts this year.

Then with the game on the line, it happened again on Sunday at home against their NFC North rival Detroit Lions. Down by three points in the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky drove the Bears 55 yards on 10 plays to set up Barth for the 46-yard attempt to tie the game at the end of the game.

Rather than knock it through, which is pretty standard for most kickers at that distance these days, Barth pushed it right and the Bears lost another gut-wrenching game in 2017.

Trubisky had a solid game, as did Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen (who did this). The Bears have some positives to take away from this. But there are no moral victories in the NFL, and this one will hurt.

Winner: Chargers show no mercy in blowout win

We won’t let the fact that Buffalo put on the worst performance of any team in the first half of any game this year get in the way of praising the Los Angeles Chargers for taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Nathan Peterman was completely out of his depth running Buffalo’s offense and gifted the Chargers five turnovers before halftime. Los Angeles turned those five turnovers into 24 points — a tally that was good enough to tie the game all by itself.

But the Chargers didn’t just take advantage of the turnovers. They took advantage of a defense that has now crapped the bed in three consecutive weeks, too. Los Angeles racked up 429 yards of offense and dropped a 50 burger on the Bills.

In the NFL, that’s always impressive. No matter how many mistakes the other team makes.

Loser: Oakland’s passing offense continues to stink 

Derek Carr and the Raiders are in danger of being upset in NFL Week 9

We already touched on how easily the Patriots were able to impose their will offensively on Oakland’s defense. That’s something the Raiders have been dealing with this year and in 2016, and it’s not going to change any time soon. Without any real talent in the middle of the field and at cornerback, the Raiders are who they are on that side of the ball.

The big difference this year is that Derek Carr has struggled in the passing game. He entered Week 11 with just 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions through eight games played, which is a far cry from the 28 and six he threw last year in 15 games.

We thought the Patriots might offer a reprieve, however, due to the fact New England’s defense hasn’t been much better than Oakland’s this year. That didn’t happen. Carr averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt Sunday, finishing with 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 28-of-49 passing.

Through nine games, Carr now has 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions, the Raiders are averaging just 20.4 points per game, and the offense is nowhere good enough to make up for the defensive lapses.

Winner: Andy Dalton plays mistake-free game in big win

In all likelihood, the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. That was the case going into Sunday’s road game against the Denver Broncos, and it’s still the case now after they won, 20-17. But another loss would have been the beginning of the end, for sure. Now at 4-6 there’s still an outside chance in the crazy AFC.

A big reason the Bengals won in Denver is that starting quarterback Andy Dalton had a strong game. He didn’t put up gaudy stats, finishing with 154 yards on 15-of-25 passing. But he also threw three touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over once.

He didn’t have much help from his run game, and the Broncos were very stingy on the defensive side of the ball. Dalton’s poise under pressure, along with some great play by his own defense, was the difference in this game.

Loser: Adrian Peterson flames out again

Well, it appears the good, bad, good, bad pattern we’ve seen from Adrian Peterson since he arrived in Arizona was nothing more than a fluke. After an awful performance by Peterson against Seattle, he was completely useless Sunday against Houston. And unlike last week, this time around he had plenty of rest in between games.

Peterson rushed for 26 yards on 14 attempts and had a long run of seven yards Sunday.

His ability to quickly accelerate through holes has been diminished in recent years, and this has been highly evident the past two weeks, during which time he’s rushed for a total of 55 yards on 35 carries.

Even including his two huge games, Peterson is averaging 3.38 yards per attempt since being traded to the Cardinals. That’s not going to get the job done.