I can’t believe it is Week 11 already, folks. It seems like we wait an eternity after the Super Bowl for the NFL to kickoff and then it’s gone quicker than a bottle of Fireball at a sorority social. Now, Ryan Mallett is the starting quarterback of my favorite football team. His first task is against the daunting Cleveland Brown defense, the first place Cleveland Browns mind you, at the Dawg Pound. The big thing that Mallet has going for him is that he can’t be any worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Well, at least I hope he can’t.
The Wayniac Nation Power 5 takes a bit of a scramble this week. Last week, the Arizona Cardinals flew high to the number one spot. They won again this past weekend against a very tricky St. Louis Rams team to get to an NFL best 8-1. They lost, however, Carson Palmer for the year. The Cards have already played three games without Palmer this year and Drew Stanton went 2-1 in his stead. How far will they fall off with the sixth toughest remaining schedule? The Wayniac still thinks they take the very formidable NFC West, however, they take a step back this week.
THE WAYNIAC NATION POWER 5: 1.Denver Broncos, 2. Arizona Cardinals, 3. New England Patriots, 4. Detroit Lions and 5. Philadelphia Eagles
Luckily the Cowboys are on a bye this week, so we won’t have to hear about how great they are, especially after that impressive monster win in London over the… Jacksonville Jaguars (also on a bye). For those of you unfamiliar with the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are a team that the best High School football team in America could beat. The New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens also take a seat this week. The good news for NFL fans is that those are pretty crappy teams, so there should be some interesting games to watch this week. At least you would think. Somehow the football powers-that-be felt the Washington Potato Skins versus the Tampa Bay Suck-a-neers, the Atlanta Falcons versus the Carolina Panthers and a Monday Night Football matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans was good scheduling. Don’t worry though, there are still several important story lines to follow this week.
1. The “Cardiac Cats” roll into the desert to take on the Carson-less Cards.
Drew Stanton’s first test as official field general for the statistically-speaking best team in football will not be an easy one. The last thing Stanton needs to see is the number one defense, but that is exactly the draw he has been given. Larry Fitzgerald has gotten his groove back and has to become the unheralded leader of this team. Andre Ellington will have a hard time against the Lions front seven (who allow only 71.3 rushing yards per game) so Fitzgerald will be entrusted upon to be a possession guy to move the chains. The Cardinals defense is sick, especially at home, so Stanton shouldn’t need a lot of offense to win this game.
Matthew Stafford‘s evolution is nearly complete. He is playing sound, smart football and the Lions have won their last three games coming from behind. Stafford has been poised and confident in everyone of those wins and now he has his good friend Calvin Johnson back. Megatron had a huge game in his return, going for 113 yards and a touchdown. What’s scarier is that there was no fall off for Golden Tate. Tate had more receptions than Megatron and reeled off 109 yards. This is what Stafford has been waiting his whole career for: someone else to throw the ball to when five defenders are on Megatron. He has it and he has risen to new heights. Statistically, Stafford may be heading for one of his “worst” seasons of his young career. If the Lions go to Arizona and win this game in a tough environment, Stafford will have the Lions as the team to beat in the NFC and on the verge of their best season ever.
2. How Dirty can Sanchez get on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
Mark Sanchez sure looks comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense, doesn’t he? Let’s take a deep breathe before we anoint him the next Nick Foles. Sanchez’s first duty came against a Houston Texans secondary that has allowed the fourth most passing yards per game all season. Monday night, he squared off against a Panthers defense that has allowed 255 yards passing per game, good for tenth worst in the league. Sanchez looked good, but he still only completed 54 percent of his passes and his misses were kind of – would you say – Sanchez-esque? This week Sanchez has to lead the Eagles into Lambeau to take on a Packers defense that just dismantled a pretty good offense in Chicago. They allow only 229 yards passing per game, and while they have allowed 13 touchdowns through the air, they have countered with 12 interceptions, which is tied for third best in the NFL. I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but Mark Sanchez likes to thrown interceptions.
You are, however, probably aware that Aaron Rodgers likes to throw touchdowns. He threw six in the first half in one of the more embarrassing thrashings I have ever witnessed. That is of course, until the Eagles thrashed the Panthers on Monday night. The Eagles defense is fast and highly opportunistic, and they are squaring off against one of the most accurate and mistake-free quarterbacks ever to play the game. Let me give you an example. Rodgers has thrown 23 picks over the last four seasons (that’s less than 6 a season, folks) at 67 percent accuracy. Last season, Eli Manning threw 27 picks, and three others threw 22. That’s how good Rodgers is. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy look to be full strength, too. Can the Eagles force Rodgers into a mistake? Can they stop Nelson from scoring a 50-yard touchdown? Whoever wins this game is a huge threat to come out of the NFC at season’s end.
3. Will the real Seahawks please stand up (please stand up, please stand up)?
All hail Beast Mode. Marshawn Lynch returned to superstardom with a 140-yard, four touchdown performance. The reigning champs have now scored 68 points over the past two weeks and Lynch has found the end zone 6 times. The problem is they have been at home, where they lose about one game a season. The other problem is their once-fearsome defense has become suddenly not so scary. This is a team that allowed 24 points to the Raiders two weeks ago. The Legion of Boom is still intact, but they are struggling because the front seven has been exposed. They are smaller and seemingly weaker than most, and without the pressure in the backfield, quarterbacks have been taking advantage of the Seahawks vaunted secondary.
Now they travel to Arrowhead Stadium which is probably the second hardest place to play in the NFL behind Seattle. Jamaal Charles has the Chiefs relevant yet again, but it has had a lot to do with their defense. Russell Wilson will have his hands full with the number one pass defense in football, which means Lynch needs to load up on Skittles and go full Beast Mode on their 20th-ranked rush defense. The Chiefs are suddenly full of playoff hope at 6-3 in the AFC West. This is a must-win for the Seahawks. If they can’t get that magic back and win in a hostile environ like Arrowhead, the champs may be home for the playoffs.
Game of the Week: Pats at Colts
Andrew Luck is arguably the best quarterback in football right now. Tom Brady is the hottest quarterback in the NFL right now. Since Brady’s Monday night debacle in Kansas City he has thrown 18 touchdowns and one interception. Rob Gronkowski has returned to elite tight end status and Brandon LaFell has finally become a legit wide receiver. T.Y. Hilton is amongst the league leaders in receiving yards and Ahmad Bradshaw has become a scary dual-purpose back with 8 touchdowns already this season. Neither defense is particularly amazing, but both have the ability to turn a game around in a hurry with a big punt return or a timely pick-six. Brady and Luck are pretty much consistently great and don’t make many mistakes. This may come down to who makes the one big mistake and who takes advantage of it.
Survivor Pick of the Week: If your survivor pool is going on in Week 11, especially after last week’s Steelers loss to the Jets in the ultimate Survivor Trap Game, then you have some lucky people and it’s very unfortunate you haven’t won yet. You must be getting down to the bottom of the barrel in teams you would pick with confidence. Now you got to get sneaky and pick someone you don’t think the other people will take. I say take the Washington Potato Skins over the Tampa Bay Bucs at home.