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Most interesting storylines for NFL Week 11

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing dominant performances.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a whole heck of a lot of storylines to focus on around the NFL world this coming week. It starts Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks playing for relevancy in the NFC Playoff picture.

Once Sunday comes calling, Amari Cooper and the Cowboys will look to put an end to the Falcons’ postseason aspirations. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints will attempt to continue their dominating recent performances.

Then, on Monday, the best game of the season takes place in Los Angeles with the 9-1 Rams hosting the one-loss Kansas City Chiefs.

These are among the top storylines for NFL Week 11.

 

Seahawks looking to rebound at home following bad loss

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Wilson and Co. will have the luxury to take to the friendly confines Thursday against the Packers. Unfortunately, Seattle is just 1-2 at home on the season and needs a win here to stay competitive in the NFC Playoff race.

The good news here is that Seattle has found a rushing attack for the first time since Marshawn Lynch literally hung his cleats up. The team put up 273 rushing yards against the Rams last week and ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL in that category. The better news? Green Bay is yielding a robust 4.5 yards per attempt this season. That’s where this game will be won, not through the throwing prowess of one Russell Wilson.

 

Injured-ravaged Eagles look to save season

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Now that No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby is lost for the season with a torn ACL, the Eagles are in big trouble. Fellow starting corner Jalen Mills has not suited up since suffering a foot injury late last month. Meanwhile, second-year cornerback Sidney Jones hasn’t played since Week 6. This was on full display as Dak Prescott ate apart a depleted Eagles secondary this past Sunday night.

It’s now clear that the 4-5 Eagles will have to rely on the likes of youngsters Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas to pick up the slack. Taking on a Saints team that’s averaging 36.7 points per game and in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, this is a less-than-ideal scenario. A loss here to New Orleans could mean the end of Philadelphia’s repeat aspirations. It’s in this that whoever suits up at cornerback must step up. Good luck with that, Philly.

 

Packers must stay relevant for Mike McCarthy’s

It's time for the Packers to get Aaron Rodgers some help.

Kim Klement, USA Today Sports

It’s rather simple here. Green Bay has played like anything but a playoff team thus far this season. Sure beating Miami last week might have saved the team’s season. In no way does that mean heading into Week 11 at .500 is what Mike McCarthy and Co. had in mind. With Chicago trending upwards in the NFC North, a string a strong play is needed in Green Bay.


That starts Thursday night against the Seahawks in a game between two desperate teams battling for playoff relevancy moving forward. For the Packers, this could also be as much about McCarthy’s future in Green Bay. With a new front office calling the shots and in the midst of a rift with Aaron Rodgers, further struggles could signal an end to his long and largely disappointing career in Wisconsin.

 

Are Jameis Winston’s days in Tampa Bay numbered?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Even after last week’s three-point outing against the Redskins, Tampa Bay decided to stick with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick over the guy it had pegged as the franchise guy moving forward. We’re now wondering whether Winston’s days with the Buccaneers are numbered.

Outside of the off-field issues, Winston has been terrible this season. He’s thrown 10 interceptions and turned the ball over 12 times in four games (three starts). It led to him getting benched earlier in the season, where he remains to this day. Given that Winston’s $20.9 million salary for next season is guaranteed for injury only, it’s an open question whether he’s played his final snap as a member of the Buccaneers. If he remains on the pine should Fitzpatrick struggle against the Giants, we’ll certainly know where Winston stands in Tampa.

 

Yes, Philip Rivers is a legit MVP candidate

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dating back to Week 5 of last season, the Chargers boast a 16-5 record. Rivers has been among the best quarterbacks in the NFL during that span. At 7-2 heading into Week 11, that hasn’t changed in 2018. The veteran quarterback has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,459 yards with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season. He also has Los Angeles averaging a robust 26.7 points per game.

Taking on the division-rival Broncos at home this week, Rivers can further solidify his status as a top-end MVP candidate. It will be a challenge against a pass rush led by Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. But Rivers has more than proven he’s up for the task.

 

Check in on Marvin Lewis’ next fall guy

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Last season it was offensive coordinator Ken Zampese who found himself in the unemployment line after a horrible start to the year. He represented the latest fall guy for a head coach in Marvin Lewis who seemingly has more lives than your pet cat. That once again became apparent this week when Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, only to take over play-calling duties from him.

At 5-4 on the season and having lost three of their past four, the Bengals are battling for relevancy against Baltimore this coming weekend. They’ve given up north of 500 yards in each of the past three games and are a complete mess. Maybe, Lewis is just running out of excuses. Then again, he can always call on Hue Jackson to be his fall guy. Because, why not?

 

Steelers look to submit the Jaguars

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even with Le’Veon Bell done for the season, Pittsburgh looks to be the class of the AFC North. The team has won five consecutive since a slow start to the season and just dropped a 50-burger on the Carolina Panthers last week. All things are pointing up for Ben Roethlisberger and Co. as we enter the stretch run.

The same thing can’t be said for a Jaguars squad that has now lost five consecutive and is in last place in the AFC South. Now three games behind Houston in the division, Jacksonville has to win out in order to have a chance. After being submitted by the Jags in last season’s playoffs, the Steelers hope to return the favor here.

 

The Amari Cooper dynamic in Dallas

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s win over Philadelphia was a clear indication that Cooper has changed things for the Cowboys. Dallas put up north of 400 yards for just the second time this season en route to remaining in the NFC East race heading into Week 11. For his part, Cooper has now caught 11 passes for 133 yards in two games with the Cowboys.

In an attempt to get back to .500 on the season, Dallas heads to Atlanta to take on a struggling Falcons defense. Cooper’s presence should continue to change the dynamic in this one and heading into Thanksgiving’s game against the first-place Redskins.

 

End of the road for Dan Quinn in Atlanta?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons’ regression since earning a spot in the Super Bowl back in 2016 has been something to behold. This season alone, Atlanta boasts a 4-5 record and is completely out of the NFC South race. It’s coming off an humiliating loss to the Cleveland Browns and simply doesn’t have much to hang its hat on.

Sunday against the Dallas might very well be Quinn’s final opportunity to salvage his job. If the Falcons fall to 4-6 heading into the holiday weekend, it might ultimately lead to him receiving his ousting near turkey day.

 

The mighty Bears go black and blue on prime time

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite leading the NFC North with a 6-3 record on the season, Chicago doesn’t have that signature win just yet. It almost happened in the opener when these Bears opened up a three-score lead against Green Bay. But Aaron Rodgers’ epic comeback foiled that opportunity.

Now set to take on the second-place Vikings at home on Sunday Night Football, Matt Nagy’s squad can announce its presence on the larger NFL stage. The team has won three consecutive games and is averaging nearly 30 points per outing. Meanwhile, Minnesota has won four out of five since a 1-2-1 start to the season.

 

Frank Reich has changed the Colts’ offense

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Luck might get most of the credit for Indianapolis’ progression on offense this season. But we’re pretty darn sure that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the presence of first-year head coach Frank Reich. Indy heads into Week 11 at 4-5 on the season and having averaged 28.9 points per game.

This week’s outing against a surging Titans team will be a nice marker for Indianapolis moving forward. Tennessee is coming off a blowout win over New England and sits at 5-4 on the season. If the Colts are able to come out on top here, they’ll tie the Titans for second place in a surprisingly competitive AFC South. Yeah, it’s a big game.

 

Needing to see more from Alex Smith and Co.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the good news. Washington heads into Week 11 with a 6-3 mark and a two-game lead in a really bad NFC East. Its defense continues to play elite ball and has this team on the verge of breaking open the division big time. Though, there’s also a bit of bad news when checking in on the Skins.

Veteran quarterback Alex Smith has failed to do anything of substance in recent weeks. He’s thrown for exactly 178 yards in three of the past four games and has tallied four total touchdowns during that span. At some point, Smith’s inability to move the ball through the air will be an issue for Washington. That could come as soon as Sunday against a red-hot Houston Texans team.

 

The Saints are next-level ridiculous

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of eight consecutive games, New Orleans has an opportunity to pretty much put an end to the Eagles’ repeat aspirations this coming weekend. And at this point, there’s no reason to believe this won’t happen. Drew Brees and Co. rank No. 1 in the NFL in points per game at 36.7. Brees himself has logged 21 touchdowns compared to one interception on the season. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas has caught an otherworldly 90 percent of his targets this season.

Taking on an Eagles team that’s extremely thin at cornerback, we’re pretty darn sure the Saints will dominate on offense. After all, they’ve put up 96 points over the past two games, each one coming against a winning team. That’s just next-level ridiculous right there.

 

The $100 million mistake in Oakland

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no coming back from the decision to hand Jon Gruden a $100 million contract after he was out of the league for more than a decade. The Raiders are stuck with this head coach over the long term and through their move to Las Vegas in 2020. That’s the bad news.

The good news? The glass half full person in us can suggest that there’s nowhere to go but up. Oakland sits at league-worst 1-8 on the season. It ranks 30th in both points scored and points allowed. Drama is unfolding behind the scenes. Meanwhile, former Raiders such as Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack are showing out on other teams. But hey, maybe they’ll be able to hand a two-win Arizona Cardinals team a loss in Week 11.

 

Next generation of quarterbacks do battle in Los Angeles

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In pretty much the most-anticipated regular season game in years, the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs will head to Los Angeles to take on a fellow 9-1 Rams squad. Southern California needs this after the tragic events of the past two weeks. So maybe it was good this game was moved from Mexico City.

But back to the point at hand. Flush with 32 total touchdowns on the season, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is leading the league’s second-best scoring offense. He’ll go up against fellow MVP candidate Jared Goff, who has accounted for 22 touchdowns on a Rams offense that ranks third in the league in scoring. This one is going to be a blast Monday night.

 

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