Photo By: Adrian Curiel from Unsplash
Monday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants will be discussed in next week’s edition of this column.
Jonathan Taylor MVP watch?
It takes a special kind of player to be listed among NFL MVP favourites, and it’s all the more impressive when a player finds themselves in that discussion while not playing quarterback. Colts second-year running back Jonathan Taylor is putting together a special season that may very well vaunt himself into those talks.
Taylor’s case was aided this week by the best performance of his young career, and one of the best single-game performances in the league’s recent years. Taylor tore up the turf in Buffalo for a staggering 185 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and a receiving touchdown, to power the Colts to a 41-15 thrashing of the Bills. It was the first time ever that a Colts player scored five touchdowns from scrimmage in a single game.
With Derrick Henry’s injury potentially sidelining him for the rest of the season, this year’s rushing title is Taylor’s to lose. Taylor leads the league with 1122 total rushing yards, nearly 300 more than the second-place Nick Chubb. He also leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 13. If the Colts can sustain their recent winning ways, Taylor may very well have a case for MVP come the end of the year, which would be the first time a non-quarterback takes the award since Adrian Peterson in 2012.
The Colts improved to 6-5 on the year, but face tough competition in three of the next four weeks. Meanwhile, Taylor’s herculean effort was a sobering reminder to Bills fans of their complete lack of a running game. Buffalo’s three backs — Matt Breida, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss — combined for just 73 rushing yards. The Bills dropped to 6-4, and have lately looked like a far cry from last year’s AFC Championship team that pushed the Chiefs to the brink.
Tight playoff races get even closer
The Bills were not the only team in playoff position to lose in week 11. Two other standout losses from high-ranked playoff teams included the Packers’ 34-31 to the Minnesota Vikings, and the Titans’ 22-13 loss to the *checks notes* Houston Texans?
The injury-riddled Packers dropped a tight game to their NFC North rival Vikings, after a game-winning field goal from Vikings kicker Greg Joseph. Playing without their star running back Aaron Jones this week, Aaron Rodgers was forced to get it done through the air, as he threw for four touchdowns and 385 yards.
On the other side, Kirk Cousins pieced together 341 passing yards and three touchdowns. The talented Vikings haven’t been able to stay out of their own way in crunch time this year, which explains their positive point differential despite the 5-5 record. This week’s win over Green Bay could be a momentum changer for the Vikings though, as they’ll aim to go on a run and grab one of the NFC wild card spots. The bottom of the NFC playoff picture remains tight, with the Vikings, 49ers and Saints sitting at 5-5, and the Eagles and Panthers not far off at 5-6.
For Tennessee, a rough showing from QB Ryan Tannehill was what caused the shocking loss to the lowly Texans. Tannehill threw for 323 yards, but also tacked on four interceptions en route to the 22-13 loss. Tennessee still holds the top spot in the AFC at 8-3, but injuries to their skill players (namely Henry) and more lacklustre play from Tannehill and WR A.J. Brown could very well spell trouble for them.
The Titans face a relatively soft schedule (Patriots, Jags, Steelers, 49ers, Dolphins, Texans) for the rest of the year, but that may not make a difference to a team that has already lost to the Jets and Texans this season. This appears to be a classic case of a team that can’t stop playing down to its competition.
Week 12 games to watch
Next week’s action provides some intriguing action that may factor into playoff races as we approach December. The Bills will look to bounce back against the Saints in the Big Easy on Thursday night, as they now find themselves in a battle for the division with the surging Patriots. This is one of three games on Thursday’s American Thanksgiving, though I struggle to count the 12:30 p.m. Bears-Lions matchup as an actual NFL game.
On Sunday, the Eagles will look to get up to the .500 mark against the New York Giants, while both the Vikings and 49ers will aim to cross the .500 threshold in a matchup with potential big wild card implications. In the AFC, the Browns and Ravens square off in what could vault either team into first place in the division, while the Titans and Patriots do battle as two of the hottest teams in the conference (this week’s Titans result aside).