NFL Week 11: New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Others That Must Win
It is getting to the time of the NFL season where we begin to see some separation from contenders and pretenders.
Then, there are those in the middle—those that wouldn't make the playoffs if they began now, but are good enough that we shouldn't give up on them yet.
Some started hot and have since faded. Others have had good streaks, but are lacking consistency.
How they do in Week 11 might determine if they are contenders or pretenders.
Last week the Falcons had a chance to take over first place in the NFC South.
Playing New Orleans at home, the Falcons overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime.
In overtime, on 4th-and-2 at their own 29, head coach Mike Smith rolled the dice and had the Falcons go for it. The Saints stuffed a Michael Turner run and kicked the winning field goal four plays later.
It was a gutsy call that failed, but Smith took full credit.
The bad news: The Saints lead the Falcons by a game and a half.
The good news: The Saints have a bye this week, and with a win the Falcons make up half a game with another game left against the Saints.
Atlanta can't afford to fall two games behind New Orleans.
Has the Bills' glass slipper been broken?
After a 4-1 start, they have now lost three of four. The one game they won was against Washington.
In other words, you could say they haven't beaten a quality team in over a month. A team once in first is now in third. Last week they were never in a 44-7 loss at Dallas.
That was the first of three consecutive road games—this week at Miami; after that, at the Jets.
The Bills should be good enough to beat Miami, however the Dolphins have dropped out of the running for the No. 1 draft choice by winning two straight.
If the Bills hope to have any shot at the postseason, they must win this one.
How good are the Cowboys?
Good enough to be the only team that has beaten San Francisco. Good enough to gain 294 rushing yards against St. Louis. Good enough to thrash Buffalo 44-7.
How bad are the Cowboys?
Bad enough to blow a 14-point fourth quarter lead to the Jets. Bad enough to blow a 27-3 third quarter lead to Detroit and lose 34-30. Bad enough to give up a TD pass to Tom Brady with 22 seconds left and lose to New England 20-16. Bad enough to fall behind 34-0 before losing to Philadelphia 34-7.
Which team will show up in Washington this week?
With the Cowboys only one game behind the Giants—with two games against the Giants in their final four games—they can't afford to lose to a Redskins team that has lost five straight.
New York Jets
Last Sunday night, before a national TV audience, the Jets had a chance to show the world they were the team to beat in the AFC East.
They lost at home by three touchdowns to their hated rivals, the New England Patriots.
Now they are a game behind and have been swept by the Patriots.
Now they face a short week and must fly west to play on Thursday night in Denver.
The Raiders have played every other AFC West team in their last three games.
The bad news: They lost two of them, both at home.
The good news: They are in first place in the AFC West.
They are the only team on this list that would make the playoffs if the season ended now.
That is not to say that they are really all that good. It may be more fitting to say that the rest of the division is bad. As bad as they all might be, the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs are only one game back.
That is why Oakland can't afford to lose to Minnesota and their rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
Quick: can you name five Tennessee Titans?
If you can't, you're probably not alone. The Titans toil away anonymously in small-market Nashville.
The Titans are 32nd in rushing, but that hasn't prevented them from staying in the AFC South race.
If they win this week, they will only be one game behind Houston in a weak division—a division that is now weaker with Matt Schaub sidelined in Houston. The Titans have the most experienced quarterback in the AFC South in Matt Hasselbeck.
If he can lead them to a road win at Atlanta, it will certainly prove that the Titans might be competition for the Texans in the division.