Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What To Watch for in NFL Week 11

Alex JohnsonCorrespondent INovember 22, 2009

HOUSTON - DECEMBER 10:  Quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans rolls out with the ball against the Houston Texans on December 10, 2006 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Last Sunday was filled with lots of hard-hitting action and stunning finishes, and it was all capped off by an instant classic played between the Colts and Patriots.

This week we're in for another great weekend of football. We've got division rivalries all over the board and playoff hopes on the line.

In this addition of Sunday Morning Under the Helmet, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, we'll take a quick look at what's on the menu for Week 11.

Matchup of the Week: San Diego Chargers (6-3) at Denver Broncos (6-3)

Out of the six divisional matchups in Week 11, San Diego vs. Denver is arguably the most intriguing.

The Denver Broncos got off to a fast start to their season and shocked many people around the league. After six games they were 6-0 and flying high on top of the AFC West.

Then reality struck. In each of their three games since beating San Diego to improve to 6-0, the Broncos have lost by double-digit scores including a 27-17 loss to the lowly Redskins in Week 10.

The Chargers' season started just opposite.

San Diego got out to a 2-3 start but have won four consecutive games since to put themselves right back in the division race.

Whichever team wins today will have possession of the division lead.

But Denver's quest to regain sole possession of the West may have to be without quarterback Kyle Orton. Orton, who left in the first half of last week's loss with an ankle injury, hasn't practiced all week and as the Denver Post reports, is unlikely to play this afternoon.

This means Chris Simms will make his first start today since suffering a career-threatening ruptured spleen back in 2006 when he played for Tampa Bay.

In Orton's absence last week, Simms completed 3 of his 13 pass attempts for 13 yards and one interception. The Broncos will need a much better performance out of Simms if they plan to put an end to their three-game skid.

Good news for Simms, though, is that behind Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, the Broncos should have success running the ball vs. San Diego's 23rd ranked rush defense which is allowing 118.9 yards per game on the ground.

Simms should also have plenty of time to throw the ball on most of his drop-backs behind Denver's high quality offensive line. The Broncos' O-line has allowed just 16 sacks this season and are ranked in the top half of the league in that category. San Diego's pass rush has struggled at times to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks so when the Broncos are on offense they shall have the upper hand in the trenches.

Tight end Tony Scheffler will also be a key contributor on the offensive side. Scheffler has an impressive history against the Chargers (see the Small Names, Big Games section below for more on Scheffler).

When the Chargers offense is on the field, expect a lot of passing a big plays through the air.

With Phillip Rivers playing great at the quarterback position this season, the Chargers have become a pass-first offense. They rank seventh in passing yards and sixth in points per game.

They will be challenged, however, by the Broncos 4th ranked defense. Denver ranks 5th against the pass so it's not a given that Rivers will continue his success today.

Rivers will also have to contend with the Broncos' second ranked pass rush. Led by Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos have taken down the opposing quarterback 29 times this season. Dumervil leads the league with 12.0 sacks including two on Rivers in Week Six. Andre' Goodman, D.J. Williams and Darrell Reid all got to Rivers in that Week Six victory also.

Keys to the game

-Can Chris Simms lead Denver to victory?

-Phillip Rivers vs. Broncos secondary

-Chargers pass rush vs. Broncos O-line

-Tony Scheffler and Brandon Marshall vs. Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson

Prediction: Chargers win 31-23.

Small Names, Big Games

Here we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week 11.

Jason Snelling (RB, Atlanta)

With starter Michael Turner listed as doubtful with an ankle injury and Jerious Norwood questionable with a hip ailment, Jason Snelling will likely make his second career start this afternoon against the Giants.

Snelling, a third year back out of Virginia, ran well last week against the Panthers after Turner went down early. On 18 carries he racked up 61 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three Matt Ryan passes for 32 yards.

The struggling Giants have allowed eight touchdowns to opposing running backs in their last four games so Snelling could find the endzone today.

Julian Edelman (WR, New England)

Rookie Julian Edelman has been a pleasant surprise for Patriots fans this season. The quarterback-turned-receiver has played very well in the New England offense thus far.

So far this season, Edelman has 23 receptions for 202 yards and one touchdown which came last week vs. Indianapolis.

Today, Edelman and the Pats take on the New York Jets who struggled to stop Edelman in their Week Two 16-9 victory over the Pats.

In that game the rookie caught eight Tom Brady passes for 98 yards, both are career highs for Edelman.

With the New England offense much improved since that Week Two match, Edelman could have even more success today.

Tony Scheffler (TE, Denver)

Broncos tight end Tony Scheffler loves to play against San Diego.

In his last four games against the Chargers, Scheffler has combined for 17 catches for 240 yards and four touchdowns. That includes his six catch, 101 yards and one touchdown performance back in the Broncos' Week Six win over the Bolts.

The Chargers struggle to stop tights ends, especially Scheffler, so watch for No. 88 to have another big day for the Broncos.

Others To Watch: Bernard Scott (RB, Cincinnati), Mike Wallace (WR, Pittsburgh), Kevin Smith (RB, Detroit)

Upset Alert!: Tennessee (3-6) over Houston (5-4)???

It's safe to say the Tennessee Titans are on a role. They've won three-straight since starting 0-6 which included an embarrassing 59-0 loss to New England in Week Six.

What's changed to cause such a quick turnaround?

Two words: Vince Young.

The Titans' success began when Vince Young took the starting job back from Kerry Collins in Week Eight.

Young has had great success running the offense over his three starts this season.

He has a completion percentage over 70 percent since taking back the starting job and has posted a quarterback rating of 90.4 or better in each of his three starts this season.

With Collins under center, the Titans scored a total of 84 points through the first six games. With Young at quarterback, they've tallied a total of 105 points in just three games, a 21 point difference.

But it's not just VY running the show in Tennessee.

The Titans boast the league's leading rusher in Chris Johnson who has 1,091 yards on the ground this season and has topped 130 yards in each of his last three games including a 228 yard performance against Jacksonville in Week Eight.

The VY and CJ show could continue on this week's Monday Night Football against the Texans.

Houston's defense ranks a middle of the road 15th in points allowed, and 14th against the run.

But it's Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and the Texans' offense who Tennessee really needs to worry about.

The Schaub to Johnson connection is among the most dangerous in the NFL today. Schaub ranks third in the NFL in passing yards with only two future Hall of Famers ahead of him. Johnson ranks third in receiving yards with 800 yards and seventh in receptions with 54.

Back in Houston's Week Two 34-31 victory over Tennessee, Schaub and Johnson hooked up 10 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee's defense could have a tough time stopping them tomorrow night as well.

The Titans defense ranks 30th in points allowed, and 31st against the pass. However, they have improved lately.

Keys for TEN

-Can Vince Young play well again?

-Stop Schaub to Johnson

-Dominate with Chris Johnson

Prediction: Titans win 28-21.


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