Five takeaways from Week 11 of the NFL

Eddie Otto Roar Pro

By , Eddie Otto is a Roar Pro

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    We are only 11 weeks into the season, but I’ll be shocked if any team other than the Patriots and Steelers are lining up in another AFC championship game.

    1. The AFC has only two elite teams
    Last season both were the dominant teams in the AFC, and it appears nothing has changed this season, with both sides a full two games clear of the chasing pack at 8-2.

    While the Jaguars (7-3) and Chiefs (6-4) lead their divisions, they hardly look like genuine Super Bowl threats. The Jaguars have struggled their way to victories against the lowly Chargers and Browns in the past two weeks, while the Chiefs inexplicably lost to the Giants (1-9) this week.

    The Patriots and Steelers both started 2-2; however, they have reeled off six straight wins and appear to be just warming up as their rivals falter. Many people thought last year we might see Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, two famed quarterbacks, square off in the AFC championship game, but they look odds-on to do it again this year.

    The Steelers, having been blown out at New England last year, will be desperate to finish with a better regular season record than the Patriots to achieve home ground advantage.

    (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    2. On the flip side, the NFC is loaded
    As opposed to the top-heavy AFC that lacks depth in quality teams, the NFC appears loaded this year with several teams looking like possible Super Bowl contenders. While the Eagles at 9-1 and Saints at 8-2 are frontrunners at the moment, there have been several surprise packets this season.

    Two other teams leading their division are the Vikings at 8-2 and the Rams at 7-3, with both sides coming into the season as underdogs in many respects. With the Lions and Panthers both sitting on 6-4, the Seahawks on 6-4 and the Falcons on 6-4, you have eight teams that look capable of making the playoffs and having some sort of impact there.

    With only two wild card spots up for grabs there is a good chance we will see a 10-6 team miss the playoffs this season in the NFC, while in the AFC there is a very real chance an 8-8 side like Buffalo or Oakland could well sneak into the playoffs in the sixth seed.

    (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

    3. It’s time to start taking the Vikings seriously
    I didn’t think the Vikings could maintain the rage with Case Keenum as their quarterback, but at 8-2 they are currently running away with the NFC North title. The Vikings defence was once again dominant as they swatted away fellow NFC contender the Rams 24-7 at home on Sunday after initially trailing 7-0.

    Minnesota held explosive running back Todd Gurley to 37 yards rushing and dominated on third down, holding the Rams to 3/10 in those key situations. The Vikings defence has become one of the most vaunted in the NFL, giving up more than 20 points on just two occasions this season.

    Keenum, who has had a mixed NFL career, was solid on Sunday, going 27 for 38 passing for 280 yards and a touchdown. Keenum now has 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions this season, with a solid quarterback rating of 93.

    While question marks remain about whether the Vikings offence will be prolific enough to do damage in the post-season as the weather gets colder into January, their defence should be even harder to break down.

    4. The Cowboys look finished after two blowout losses
    With the NFC having many teams at 6-4 and on the rise, Dallas appear to be on the verge of a lost season after a hapless 37-9 home loss to the Eagles on Sunday. The Cowboys look totally lost without star running back Ezekiel Elliott and leader of defence Sean Lee in back-to-back losses, which has seen them fall outside the wild card spots and with a tough schedule ahead.

    Dak Prescott had the worst game of his career on Sunday night. Prescott managed to throw for only a pedestrian 145 yards and was picked off three times. He is starting to look either a little out of sorts or exposed without the powerful running game of Elliott to take pressure off him.

    Whatever the case, Dallas desperately need to win their Thanksgiving game on Friday at home to a plucky 4-6 Chargers team, otherwise they can just about kiss their playoff chances goodbye.

    (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

    5. Buffalo’s quarterback change is one of the howlers of the decade
    So the Bills decided mid-week to rip up the script and replace Tyrod Taylor with the unheard of Nathan Peterman. Most people called it a ridiculous decision given the Bills were 5-4 and, as things then stood, carried the second wild card spot. If the season stopped before Sunday, the Bills would have been in the playoffs.

    Similarly, if the season stopped now, they would still be in the playoffs. A shock replacement for Tyrod Taylor, who was dumped by coach Sean McDermott after just one bad performance, Peterman threw a staggering five interceptions in two quarters before being benched. The defence also seemed to quit on their coach as the Bills coughed up a totally embarrassing 57-14 loss to the Chargers.

    The Bills have now created a crisis where there should not have been one at all and, having dropped three games straight now, surely need to go back to Taylor, who played the second half, as they look to halt an alarming three-game slide which has seen them drop to 5-5.

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