Week 11 of the 2014 NFL season was eventful, to say the least. There were upsets galore, two of the best individual rushing performances of the season, and a statement win by the Green Bay Packers. The Arizona Cardinals silenced several of their critics and proved they could beat a premier team with Drew Stanton at quarterback, and the New England Patriots further entrenched themselves as the team to beat in the AFC. This week proved that anything can happen on any given Sunday in the National Football League. Here’s a look at five significant takeaways from Week 11.
All statistics are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
1. Cam Newton’s long-term future in Carolina is far from a sure thing
The Panthers lost, 19-17, to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, bringing their current losing streak to five games. To say Newton has played poorly during the streak would be an understatement. For a guy who is playing for a new contract, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Throw in the fact that the personnel who made the decision to draft Newton with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft are no longer in Carolina, and it is very possible that Newton may be taking snaps for a different team in 2015. With the number of teams that have been burned by signing average quarterbacks to elite quarterback-level contracts (Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, etc.) the Panthers may shy away from throwing big money at the inconsistent but talented Newton.
2. The Denver Broncos are in serious trouble
The Broncos haven’t looked the same since being blown out by the New England Patriots in Week 9. They hit an all-time low for the Peyton Manning era in Denver with their embarrassing 22-7 Week 11 loss to the St. Louis Rams. Their seven points scored on Sunday is the lowest total since Manning took over at quarterback in 2012. Their lackluster running game forced Manning into attempting 54 passes — the Broncos only ran 64 offensive plays — which allowed one of the best groups of pass rushers in the league to pin their ears back and harass Manning all game.
The defense had major issues stopping the Rams on third down and let journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill pick them apart. It’s entirely possible that the Patriots provided a blueprint to the rest of the league on how to beat the Broncos. If their offensive line and third-down defense doesn’t improve in a hurry, the Broncos are highly unlikely to make a return trip to the Super Bowl this season.
3. The Indianapolis Colts aren’t contenders … yet
If the Colts are going to win the AFC anytime in the near future, they are going to have to beat the New England Patriots and/or the Denver Broncos. The problem? They have already been dominated by both teams in 2014. It would be shocking if Andrew Luck doesn’t lead the Colts to at least one Super Bowl appearance in what is shaping up to be an illustrious career. However, while the Colts appear to be very talented, they are still far away from being serious AFC contenders at this point.
4. Robert Griffin III is wildly immature
After a stellar rookie season, RGIII appeared to be a rising star in the NFL. Since suffering a major knee injury in his last game — a playoff game — as a rookie, the former Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t been able to regain the same level of play or escape off-field controversy. After recovering from his latest injury, a dislocated ankle in Week 2, RGIII is 0-2 and played poorly in both losses. His statements in his Week 11 post-game press conference have stirred up yet another controversy in Washington.
Here’s what he had to say: “If you want to look at the good teams in this league and the great quarterbacks, the Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Mannings, those guys don’t play well if their guys don’t play well. I need every guy in that locker room and I know they are looking at me saying the same thing.” Manning or Rodgers would never publicly throw their teammates under the bus.
5. The 2014 rookie class of wide receivers is loaded
Mike Evans in Tampa Bay, Kelvin Benjamin in Carolina, Sammy Watkins in Buffalo, Brandin Cooks in New Orleans, Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants, and Allen Robinson in Jacksonville have all exceeded expectations and look like they have multiple Pro Bowls in their respective futures. Each of these guys has a legitimate shot at cracking 1,000 receiving yards in their first professional season with the exception of Cooks, who is out for the remainder of the season with a severe thumb injury. They will all get better with experience and have the talent to be among the top 10 wide receivers in the league.