RB Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags will look to stay in the playoff hunt as they host the Buffalo Bills in Week 11
As the 2009 NFL Season moves closer to the third quarter pole and it is quickly becoming apparent that this season is going to come down to the bitter end (week 17) before everything is said and done. After 10 weeks of play, there are still the “Have’s” including two undefeated teams (Colts and Saints both 9-0) and the “Have Nots” (six teams with 2 or less wins). But there are also 15 teams currently caught in the league’s parity-filled middle (records ranging from 3-6 to 5-4) that still need to figure out, real fast, if they are joining or jumping out of the playoff hunt.
There are currently 17 teams at .500 or better, so over half of the teams in the parity-laden league have a shot for one of the NFL’s 12 coveted playoff berths. Two teams that are very much in the driver’s seat for two the NFL’s playoff spots are the league’s unbeaten teams – the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. The Colts and Saints are just the third pair in NFL history to start a season 9-0, joining the 1934 Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Winning early in the year is nothing new for the Colts, who are 9-0 for the third time in the past five years and have won a franchise-record 18 consecutive regular-season games — tied with the 2003-04 Patriots for the second-longest streak in NFL history. This week, the Colts will be pitted in “The Charm City Grudge Match” as they return to Baltimore for a battle with the Ravens (5-4). Colts rookie head coach Jim Caldwell said of his team’s good start, “We can’t be any better, but the fact of the matter is, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
As great of a story the Colts run back up the NFL ladder without head coach Tony Dungy has been, an even better story this season has been the New Orleans Saints. With their 28-23 win over St. Louis in Week 10, the Saints reached a record of 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. Hard to believe, the Saints were 4-5 at this time last season. However this season with an embarassment of offensive weapons (QB Drew Brees, RB Pierre Thomas, scatback Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston and others), the Saints have been the scoring machine of 2009 as they have put up an NFL-best 330 points (next highest is the Vikings with 271). This week the Saints have a dangerous NFC South game in Tampa Bay against a Bucs (1-8) who play better than their awful record. The Saints along with the Cincinnati Bengals (7-2 in 2009; 1-8 in 2008) and Dallas Cowboys (6-3; 5-4) are current division leaders who were in last place after Week 10 a year ago. Speaking of division races, the nine 2009 division leaders (Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers are tied for first in the AFC West) are a combined 63-18 (.778) through Week 10, which is 22 wins better than their records from a year ago at this time (41-40, .506).
For the second week in a row, the NFL’s weekly action began on Thursday night. This week the Miami Dolphins (5-5) behind veteran running back Ricky Williams powered their way passed the Carolina Panthers (4-6) for a hard earned 24-17 road victory – more on this game in the Week 11 review. Whenever I see that the NFL is playing games on Thursday Nights and the Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, I know that NFL bye weeks have concluded. In Week 10, the NY Giants and Houston Texans completed the NFL’s off-weeks until the playoffs. Without having byes and teams playing on short rest, teams have to study and prepare much quicker for their next week’s opponent. Players will also have to heal quickly, which is always a challenge in the NFL this time of the year as team’s rosters sometimes resemble a MASH unit.
But the good teams that have a chance to win the NFL’s championship rounds (Weeks in late November, December, and early January) will make the adjustments needed, will not turn the football over, and most importantly establish a running game on their way to the playoffs.
Since the real fun is beginning, I thought now was a good time to look at the remaining games for all of the NFL’s contenders (9-0 to 3-6 teams)
ARI (6-3) @STL @TEN MIN @SF @DET STL GB
ATL (5-4) @NYG TB PHI NO @NYJ BUF @TB
BAL (5-4) IND PIT @GB DET CHI @PIT @OAK
BUF (3-6) @JAC MIA NYJ @KC NE @ATL IND
CAR (4-6) @NYJ TB @NE MIN @NYG NO
CHI (4-5) PHI @MIN STL GB @BAL MIN @DET
CIN (7-2) @OAK CLE DET @MIN @SD KC @NYJ
DAL (6-3) WAS OAK @NYG SD @NO @WAS PHI
DEN (6-3) SD NYG @KC @IND OAK @PHI KC
GB (5-4) SF @DET BAL @CHI @PIT SEA @ARI
HOU (5-4) TEN IND @JAC SEA @STL @MIA NE
IND (9-0) @BAL @HOU TEN DEN @JAC NYJ @BUF
JAC (5-4) BUF @SF HOU MIA IND @NE @CLE
MIA (5-5) @BUF NE @JAC @TEN HOU PIT
MIN (8-1) SEA CHI @ARI CIN @CAR @CHI NYG
NE (6-3) NYJ @NO @MIA CAR @BUF JAC @HOU
NO (9-0) @TB NE @WAS @ATL DAL TB @CAR
NYG (5-4) ATL @DEN DAL PHI @WAS CAR @MIN
NYJ (4-5) @NE CAR @BUF @TB ATL @IND CIN
PHI (5-4) @CHI WAS @ATL @NYG SF DEN @DAL
PIT (6-3) @KC @BAL OAK @CLE GB BAL @MIA
SD (6-3) @DEN KC @CLE @DAL CIN @TEN WAS
SEA (3-6) @MIN @STL SF @HOU TB @GB TEN
SF (4-5) @GB JAC @SEA ARI @PHI DET @STL
TEN (3-6) @HOU ARI @IND STL MIA SD @SEA
WAS (3-6) @DAL @PHI NO @OAK NYG DAL @SD
Week 11 in the NFL will features:
Six divisional match-ups — Redskins at Cowboys, Chargers at Broncos (first place in the AFC West on the line), NY Jets at Patriots, Saints at Buccaneers, Cardinals at Rams, and Titans at Texans (Monday Night Football)
Some interesting reunions —
- The Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) return to their former home city to face the Houston Texans. Too bad this game couldn’t be played at the Houston Astrodome.
- Arizona Cardinals QB and former Rams’ Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner returns to the Edward Jones Dome to face the St. Louis Rams. Also remember the nomadic Cardinals once called St. Louis their home from 1960 to 1987.
- The Indianapolis Colts return to the Charm City again to play the Baltimore Ravens, but some Baltimore residents will never forgive the Irsay family for moving their beloved team 25 years ago. The Colts-Ravens game will also mark the first game in Baltimore for Colts kicker and former longtime Raven Matt Stover
- The New England Patriots will play host to the NY Jetsand their emotional head coach Rex Ryan, who got real mouthy after the Jets’ Week 2 win in the Meadowlands.
- The Niners will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers in a revival of one of the ‘90s greatest rivalries – who could forget their 1999 Wildcard Game where T.O caught the game-winner for San Francisco.
Some teams that I believe in must-win situations this week – Philadelphia Eagles (at Chicago), New York Giants (host the Atlanta Falcons), Houston Texans (host the Titans), Baltimore Ravens (host the Colts) and Dallas Cowboys (host the Redskins)
Buffalo Bills (3-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4), Sunday 1:00 PM ET (CBS) , Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Broadcast Team: Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein
Surprisingly these two teams seeming to be going in opposite directions will meet for the fourth consecutive year – have split their last 4 meetings. To say the least the 2009 NFL Season has been nothing like what the young Bills thought it would be. They have had too many injuries, poor quarterback play, lack of production from their first round pick and a multitude of other problems through the first 10 weeks of the season. All the disappointment came to a head this week as 90-year old owner Ralph Wilson (wants to win now) fired former head coach Dick Jauron this week. Wilson had seen enough of his 3-6 team to know that a third 7-9 season in row would not be very popular in Western New York.
The Bills will regroup with interim head coach and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell at the helm. Fewell’s first order of business was re-installing heady former Ivy leaguer Ryan Fitzpatritck (38-77-362-2-4)as the team’s starting quarterback and benching Trent Edwards. The Harvard grad can run with the ball and seems to have found a nice repoirre with ticking time bomb receiver Terrell Owens (only 26 catches for 366 yards and 1 TD in 2009). Speaking of T.O, the mouthy one only needs 92 yards to pass former Colts WR Marvin Harrison for fourth all-time in receiving yards – currently has career numbers 977 catches for 14,488 yards, 14.8 ypc, and 140 TDs. However it is more than likely that the Bills will try to lean on their RB’s Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in attacking a Jaguars defense that allows average of 357 total yards per game. The key for the Bills will be protecting Fitzpatrick behind a make shift O-line, but keep in mind the Jaguars only have 8 sacks as a unit this season.
With two teams that don’t play much defense, the real fun will be on offense. The Jaguars can match the Bills in terms of big names on offense, but no name is bigger than “Pocket Hercules” for the Jags. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is putting together another Pro Bowl season and Sunday’s game should be a showcase for him. MJD’s numbers are amazing (169 rushes for 860 yards (2nd in AFC), 5.1 ypr, and an NFL leading 12 TDs) and he is a threat to take it to the house at anytime in the game. Jones-Drew also should get help from efficient quarterback David Garrard (178-292, 2088 yards, 7 TDs, and 5 INTs) and emerging receiver Mike Sims-Walker (39 catches for 603 yards, and 5 TDs). The player the Jaguars offense will have to keep an eye on his possible defensive rookie of the year safety Jarius Byrd. The second round pick from Oregon has been an unbelievable ballhawk producing an NFL leading 8 INTs including one in 5 consecutive games.
This game will also mark a homecoming of sorts for former Jags and current Bills players DT Marcus Stroud and CB Drayton Florence.
LV’s Pick: Though the Bills won their last meeting in September of 2008 by a score of 20-16 and they have a narrow 5-4 overall series advanteage, Buffalo has been a mess this season. As stated before Jauron is gone leaving Fewell, who has limited coaching experience, both their offense and defense has a ton of injuries, their quarterback is not a downfield thrower and T.O is about to have a T.O moment real soon. The Jaguars are on a roll at home — won three consecutive home games – and I don’t expect that to change on Sunday, especially with Jags head coach Jack Del Rio trying to save his own job. Jaguars 31, Bills 17
NFL Week 11
THU, NOV 19
Miami (5-5) over Carolina (4-6), 24-17 (NFL Network)
SUN, NOV 22
Washington at Dallas 1:00 PM (FOX)
Cleveland at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX)
San Francisco at Green Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)
Pittsburgh at Kansas City 1:00 PM (CBS)
Atlanta at NY Giants 1:00 PM (FOX)
New Orleans at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)
Buffalo at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (CBS)
Indianapolis at Baltimore 1:00 PM (CBS)
Seattle at Minnesota 1:00 PM (FOX)
Arizona at St. Louis 4:05 PM (FOX)
NY Jets at New England 4:15 PM (CBS)
Cincinnati at Oakland 4:15 PM (CBS)
San Diego at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)
Philadelphia at Chicago 8:20 PM (NBC)
MON, NOV 23
Tennessee at Houston 8:30 PM (ESPN)
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)