by DONNIE VAPHIDES Section Editor
Week 11 of this NFL season was a full of surprises and games with some serious playoff implications down the road.
Divisional games that have shaken up the standings, and conference match-ups have altered teams’ playoff hopes. All 32 teams were still alive at the beginning of the week, but one team has fallen out of contention entirely.
The Oakland Raiders are on track to go down a road that only the 2008 Detroit Lions, 1960 Dallas Cowboys, the 1982 Baltimore Colts, and arguably the worst football team of all-time, the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have traveled. They lost this week to the San Diego Chargers by a score of 13-6.
The Raiders have one of the best rookie draft classes this season led by Quarterback (QB) Derek Carr, but have not had enough veteran leadership and playmakers to get the job done. They sit at 0-10, and their schedule does not look any easier from here.
“The Oakland Raiders are most likely going to finish the season winless this year. They do not have the talent on their roster as of right now to win football games. Hopefully for them the draft and free agency will improve their team and the win total,” said junior Brian Hansen.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks were both sitting 6-3 at the beginning of the day. It was a hard-fought game, but the Kansas City Chiefs prevailed 24-20.
Chiefs Running Back (RB) Jamaal Charles had a huge day, as he often does. He rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns against a team that has a good run defense.
The surprise of the week came in St. Louis, where the Rams shut down the Denver Broncos in a 22-7 victory. The team had made a switch at the QB position this week and went with backup Shaun Hill. The move paid off, as he completed 20 out of 29 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. The defense was key, as they intercepted Peyton Manning twice and only allowed him one touchdown.
Drew Stanton will fill in for injured QB Carson Palmer for the season. His first start since his start in week two was against the team that he was drafted by in 2008, the Detroit Lions. This game had extra importance because the Lions and Cardinals are the top two teams in their conference.
Stanton beat his former team 14-6 in a defensive battle; he threw for 306 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The win improved the top record in the NFC (National Football Conference) with the Cardinals upgrading 9-1, as the Lions remain on the Cardinals’ tail with the second-best record in the NFC (7-3).
Monday night football had a different kind of ending. The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Tennessee Titans in a game that was expected to be a blowout. However, the Steelers struggled in the first half of the game.
Rookie QB Zach Mettenberger was having a career day and completed 15/24 of his passes, threw for 263 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The Pittsburgh Steelers came storming back in the second half, scoring the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Although Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers won the game, RB Legarette Blunt was unhappy with his playing time and tried to leave during the game. This led to him being released from the team the day after. He then signed with the New England Patriots where he played last year.
“It was pretty obvious that Legarette Blunt did not want to be in Pittsburgh. It is very rare to ever see a player attempt to leave the field before the game is over. I guess he got his wish, as he signed with another team the day after voicing his stance with the team,” said junior John Primavera.
With only six weeks left, the playoffs are still up for grabs as 22 teams still have legitimate playoff hopes. Who do you think will make the playoffs come January?