The NFL has a few teams on a tear of late, along with some of the have-nots that have been outscored by more than 100 points on the season. The same is true among the players, where many are on a roll over the last month or so, but not the Manning brothers this last weekend.
Two of the hottest teams in the NFL are also the two considered to be among the best, if not the best, in their respective conferences.
The New England Patriots
continued to roll in Week 11 with a convincing 42-20 road win over the Indianapolis Colts
, pushing the Patriots to a six-game winning streak, putting them at 8-2 overall with a two-game lead in the AFC East and a one-game lead in the conference, and making them the only team in the AFC with a net-points differential over 100.
In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals
are also riding a six-game winning streak after holding off the Detroit Lions
14-6 in Arizona. The Cardinals are a perfect 7-0 in the NFC, 6-0 at home and 2-0 in the NFC West. They have a gauntlet of imposing games in front – including the Seattle Seahawks
twice, the Kansas City Chiefs
, St. Louis Rams
and San Francisco 49ers
. But the Cardinals have built enough of a cushion to put them in good shape to survive a loss or two in the final six. At 9-1, they have a three game lead in the division and a two-game lead in the conference. Of course, they will have to do it with a backup quarterback, as they did Sunday with Drew Stanton
, who completed 65.6 percent of passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions against a solid Detroit Lions defense.
Posing the biggest challenge to Patriots in the AFC are a pair of 7-3 teams – the Denver Broncos
, who are only 3-2 in their last five games as Peyton Manning
’s hot streak has cooled, and the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won their last five since their bye.
In the NFC, no one has been on a bigger offensive rampage than the Green Bay Packers
, who join New England with a 105 net-points differential on the season and have scored 50 or more points in their last two games since coming out of their bye. The Packers have had a 100-yard receiver – either Randall Cobb
or Jordy Nelson
– in each of their last five games.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the struggling teams of the NFL.
No team in the NFL has been as bad as the Oakland Raiders
, whose “Commitment to Excellence” has kept them winless in 2014 at 0-10. They have a net-points differential of minus-113, but that’s not even worst in the league. That mark belongs to the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars
, who are minus-124 in net points.
The Tennessee Titans
showed there is some life with rookie QB Zach Mettenberger
looking strong on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers
but proving unable to complete the job in a 27-24 loss. The Titans have dropped four straight games.
In the NFC, the New York Giants
and Carolina Panthers
are tied for longest losing streaks at five games each. While the Giants are four games behind in the NFC East, the Panthers are only one game out of first place in the NFC South with a 3-7 record.
Those are some of the teams that are hot (or not). How about the individuals in the NFL?
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell registered the fifth 200-yard rushing performance in the history of Monday Night Football with a 33-carry, 204-yard, one-touchdown outing in the Steelers’ 27-24 win over Tennessee. Bo Jackson holds the MNF record with 221 yards for the Oakland Raiders against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 30, 1987. Ricky Williams, Thurman Thomas and Shaun Alexander were the other backs to put up 200 yards on MNF.
Jonas Gray set the rushing standard for the weekend before Bell’s breakout. Gray, the Patriots’ suddenly surging back, had 199 yards rushing and four touchdowns against the Colts, becoming the first player to score his first four career rushing touchdowns in the same game since 1921.
Colts QB Andrew Luck tried to keep his team in the game against the Patriots. Luck threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns, the eighth consecutive game he has passed for at least 300 yards, the third-longest streak in NFL history. The record is nine consecutive 300-yard passing games, put up by Drew Brees overlapping the 2011-12 seasons and then again in 2013. Luck now leads the league with 3,388 passing yards.
Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt had five tackles, one sack, a forced fumbled, a fumble recovery and a touchdown catch in the Texans’ win at Cleveland. He is the only NFL player to register a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown reception in the same game since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
The rookies are also making quite an impression: San Francisco 49ers LB Chris Borland had 12 tackles and two interceptions against the Giants, becoming the first rookie linebacker in franchise history with two interceptions in a game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie receiver Mike Evans had seven catches for 209 yards and two TDs in the Bucs’ win over the Washington Redskins, becoming the youngest player in NFL history with a 200-yard receiving game (21 years, 87 days old). It was also Evans’ third consecutive game with at least seven catches, 100 yards receiving and a touchdown, the first rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill and Texans back Alfred Blue, teammates last year at LSU, each topped the 150-yard rushing mark. Blue had 156 yards and Hill 152, making them the first rookies from the same college to rush for at least 150 yards on the same day in NFL history. It was Hill’s second performance with 150 yards or more on the season, and Blue tied the Texans’ franchise record with 36 carries in a game.
Despite the relative struggles of his quarterback last week, Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas has seven straight games of more than 100 yards receiving. For the season, he already has 1,150 yards and six touchdowns, and his receiving mate Emmanuel Sanders is closing in on 1,000 yards, too. Sanders has 954 yards and seven touchdowns.
WHO’S NOT HOT?
For the better part of the first half of this season, Peyton Manning has put his name in the headlines with outstanding passing performances. After going four straight games with a passer rating of 110 or better – including a nearly perfect 157.2 against San Francisco – Manning has been below 81 in two of his last three games, both when he was asked to throw more than 50 times. Against New England on Nov. 2, he threw 57 times for two touchdowns and two interceptions. After lighting up the Oakland Raiders for 438 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, Manning faltered again last weekend. Against the St. Louis Rams, he completed 63 percent of his 54 passes for 389 yards but threw one touchdown and two interceptions, as well as taking two sacks (tied for the most he has taken all year) and a 75.3 rating.
Like his brother, Eli Manning was asked to do a lot of passing on Sunday, too. Eli threw a season-high 45 times but only completed 48.9 percent of them – a season low – for one touchdown and a whopping five interceptions and a 36.6 rating.
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