Pigskin Preview: National Football League Week 11

Another great week in the National Football League has come and gone, and we are back with the Pigskin Preview. After having their bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles remained at 8-1 and hold the best record in the NFL. But there is a trio of teams only one game back in the NFC.  The Saints dominated the Bills, winning 47-10 on the road thanks to 298 total rushing yards. The Rams rolled over the Texans after another big day from Jared Goff who threw for 355 yards and three touchdown in a 33-7 victory. Then we saw the Vikings win a 38-30 shootout with the Redskins who were led by Case Keenum’s 304-yard, four-touchdown performance.

In the AFC, the two teams atop the standings are the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers who both stand at 7-2. The Patriots dominated on all sides of the football on Sunday Night Football in Denver, beating the Broncos, 41-16. The Steelers however, had a much different game at Indianapolis needing 17 straight 2nd half points and a game-winning 33 yard FG by Chris Boswell as time expired.

With the standings so bunched up in the league, this could potentially be a huge week for playoff implications. Here is a preview for the best games of NFL Week 11.

Los Angles Rams (7-2) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

In a faceoff between the two best teams the NFC has to offer, potential playoff seeding is at stake. The Rams must keep wining with the Seattle Seahawks who are only a game back in the West division at 6-3.

Meanwhile, The Vikings offense had its best game of the season. Minnesota did whatever they pleased against the Redskins defense, rushing for a total of 100 yards thanks to the efforts Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. But the real issue for the Redskins defense was the play of quarterback Case Keenum who lead the Vikings to touchdowns on five of their first six possessions. Keenum threw for four of those trips for six along with 304 yards in the air. His favorite target in that game was Adam Thielen who had eight catches, for 166 yards and a touchdown. Thielen has had a breakout season this year, with 56 catches for 793 yards on the year, and is the only player in the NFL with at least five catches in every game this season. The Vikings offense was also bolstered thanks to Stephan Diggs, who returned from injury in Week Nine, but made an impact in the offense against the Redskins catching four passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings defense, on the other hand, had their worst game of 2017 giving up a season high 30 points. It marks only the 2nd time they have conceded more than 20 points as a team all season as the 5th best in the NFL, allowing 18 points a game.

That Vikes defense will be tested once again this week has the red-hot Rams come to town averaging a league-high 32.8 points a game. Los Angeles is coming off their 3rd consecutive blowout victory after a 33-7 win against the Texans. The focal point for the Rams offense this season has been running back Todd Gurley who is currently 4th in rushing yards in the league averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and has a total of 1,160 all purpose yards, along with 10 total touchdowns. But the biggest surprise of the season has been the play of the #1 draft pick from 2016, Jared Goff. The young signal caller has the 6th most passing yards in the league with 2,341 yards, and a 16-4 TD-INT ratio. Goff has been excellent the past two weeks as well, throwing for a combined 666 yards on 66% completion rate, and seven touchdowns with no interceptions over the two game span. This should be a very intriguing match up, with a ton for both teams to play for. I could see this being a high-scoring affair, coming down to which team’s defense can create turnovers, and slow down the opposition.

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-4)

The Dallas Cowboys, who fell to 5-4 after a loss at Atlanta, have a tough task at hand when they host the team with the best record in the NFL off the bye. The Cowboys struggled last week only scoring seven points, and couldn’t generate anything on offense without their lead running back, Ezekiel Elliott, who officially started serving his six-game suspension. Former All Pro Alfred Morris got the start in Zeke’s place and had 53 yards on 11 carries giving solid production averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Only having a total of 15 rushing attempts between the Cowboys’ three backs, Morris, Rod Smith, and Darren McFadden is a big question mark to me. I think if they want any chance to stop the Eagles, they need to control the ball and keep it out of the hands of Carson Wentz by running the football.

Dak Prescott added 42 rushing yards for the Cowboys offense through scrambles, but struggled to pass the ball down field with only 176 yards on 30 attempts,. The quarterback couldn’t generate any offense for the Cowboys besides a rushing touchdown early in the 1st quarter. The Cowboys must get things together quickly, as the Wentz Wagon and this dominate Eagles front seven comes rolling into town. The Eagles are only allowing 66.4 yards per carry, which is 14 yards better than the 2nd closest team in the NFL, and are 10th at getting to the passer with 25 sacks on the season.

The Eagles currently have the #2 total scoring offense in the NFL at 31.4 points per game. Carson Wentz, who has over 2,000 passing yards and a league high 23 touchdowns with only five interceptions, is a big part of that. Yet the Eagles offense has been very balanced as they rank fourth in the league, averaging 136.8 per game, with four-headed beast of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clemont, and newly-acquired running back from the Dolphins, Jay Ayaji. If the Cowboys want to stop the Eagles offense, they must get pressure on Wentz. If given the time, he will pick apart this Cowboys secondary. I expect the Cowboys to come out guns blazing in this game against their division rivals, as their season could be on the line with a  crowded NFC wild card picture. A win for the Eagles would all but lock up the NFC East.

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-3) 

This Monday Night Football game has huge potential playoff impact as the current #6 seed in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, play host to the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons who currently find themselves on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. With three other teams at 5-4 in the NFC, a win for the Falcons would be huge in a potential tie-breaker scenario. The Seahawks need a victory not only to fight for a final postseason spot in the wild card, but to keep pace with the division-leading Los Angles Rams.

We saw the Falcons get a big win over the Cowboys where Matt Ryan was very efficient, going for 22 completions on 29 throws for 215 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons will likely be without running back Devonta Freeman this week after he left the game with a concussion. Without Freeman, Tevin Coleman stepped up to take the majority of carries, rushing 20 times for 83 yards and a score. Without Freeman, expect to see a lot of Coleman who has done very well this season, averaging 4.81 yards per carry.

Another reason for the dominate performance in Atlanta last week was the play of Adrian Clayborn who abused Cowboys LT Chaz Green for six sacks and recorded two forced fumbles. They are going to need that same pass rush this week as the Seahawks are on 11 days rest since their victory in Arizona. That win came at a price as All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a torn achilles tendon causing him to have season-ending surgery. The Seahawk offense has been carried by the play of quarterback Russell Wilson, as Seattle has shown no signs of being able to consistently run the ball. The Seahawks rank 22nd in total rushing, but the leading rusher for the season is Wilson with 290 yards,. Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, or C.J. Prosise combine are averaging over 3.0 yards per carry as running backs. I expect this to be highly competitive game between two of the most consistent powerhouses in the NFC. It will come down to a battle between Wilson and Ryan, and whichever quarterback can make the big time play while taking care of the football.

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