So, in Week Eleven, the playoffs got a little more concave and truncated. The Patriots lost to the Panthers, Eagles dispatched the Redskins to move above .500 and the 49ers are heading towards a free fall mode as the Seahawks (whom are on a bye this week) pulled even further ahead in the NFC West.
With that said, the three games to watch this week are: Panthers @ Miami [NFC South], Bears @ Rams [NFC North] and Broncos @ Patriots [AFC West]
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins.
The 3rd ranked Defensive Line of the Panthers bring them into this one at 7-3, while the Dolphins don’t have any line ranked 20 or higher, and somehow have won more games than the defending Super Bowl champions who have two lines ranked inside the top 20 [Defence & Passing]. Let’s take a look at why the Panthers should go to 8-3 in this encounter.
Firstly, their 24 year old QB Cam Newton in his third year, with numbers of 189-299 with 16 TDs off 2179 yards. His distribution is all over the field, as there is no clear leader in the receiving TD although the most receptions are completed to Steve Smith  for three TDs off 512 total yards. Their rushing game is more scattered, and Deangelo Williams occupies the lead rusher position with 141 carries for three TD off 579 yards. The Panthers as a team play slowly and methodically and average 33 minutes of game possession. While the Dolphins have Charles Clay with four TD from 42 Receptions for 474 yards, the highest yard getter is Brian Hartline with 599 from 48 carries for only two TDs. On the rushing side, Lamar Miller easily leads the way with over 100 carries for 467 yards with two TDs. Daniel Thomas has more rushing touchdowns than Miller, and even Tannehill has one, so ball distribution is varied for the Miami outfit. The Dolphins are always facing an uphill battle as they have less than half of the ball distribution, so it always invites pressure from the first down. All of this suggests that the Panthers should win at a canter, but this is the Dolphins who themselves aren’t completely out of it yet. So long as they have hope, they could pose a problem.
Chicago Bears at St Louis Rams.
Two teams without their first choice QB due to injuries, as Cutler still hasn’t recovered from his ankle problem, so Josh McCown will again make the start for the bears, while Sam Bradford has a torn ACL so Kellen Clemens will continue to deputise, probably for the rest of the season. The Bears outscore the Rams on game averages, and this is a primary reason why the Bears will look to push on for the playoffs, as a win here will put them three games over .500 while the Rams are currently two games under .500 at 4-6. Matt Forte is a huge player for the Bears and their rush game, as he has seven TDs off 175 carries, totalling 774 yards. The top receiver is Brandon Marshall who has eight TDs from 64 catches totalling 828 yards. For the Rams, their rush game is no match for the Bears although for what it’s worth, Zach Stacy has 537 yards from 129 rushes which equates to three TD. The all-around numbers just aren’t impressive enough to compete in this match up, as the receivers average half the number of yards as the Bears primaries do, and a good example of that is Chris Givens has no TD from 28 catches and 463 yards. This is another match up where the Bears should ease to victory, although the Bears just can’t do that, as their point differential is so small, that if the Rams can keep it tight, there’s every chance they can walk away with the W, although they won’t, this is the Bears game.
Finally, we stop off on Sunday Night Football as the Broncos travel to New England to take on the Patriots.
So, another Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady Battle and it is certain to be a playoff altering encounter. Having last week, ended the undefeated streak of the Royals (yes, the Royals) the Broncos come into this one having only lost once themselves. As you might expect for a team with only one loss, their offense is the best in the league, although surprisingly their D line is only ranked 23rd, so this combined with the Pats 9th ranked rushing line, might give them renewed hope. With the top Offensive line for the Bronchos, it goes hand in hand that the passing line would be the best in the league too, and when your QB is Peyton Manning, that’s usually a good argument to have. On the other side of the coin, and scrimmage, is Tom Brady’s crew, which with what happened in the offseason (Welker leaving, plus other stories) leaves them looking vulnerable at times, although the recent returns of Gronk and Vereen will help to stabilise their push for the playoffs. They also hold the advantage when it comes to Defence and rushing (as mentioned above) so this will it seems, be a very entertaining and compelling game.
It seems ridiculous that Peyton Manning has 34 touchdowns at this point, but the more telling stat is his 3572 yards so far with 286 completed throws (409 attempts). He has had a sublime season so far, but how deep into the post season can he take the Broncos? Of course, it isn’t just him he has a very talented receiving core, headed by Demarius Thomas and Wes Welker who each have nine TDs and running back Knowshon Moreno with eight TDs. For the Patriots, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins lead the way with four TDs while Stevan Ridley runs it in past the goal line for seven TDs. In contrast to Manning’s numbers, Tom Brady has 14 touchdowns, from 223 completions off 380 attempts at a success rate of 58.7 % totalling 2552 yards. The Broncos will need to keep Gronkowski quiet, as he looks to continue to impress on his eventual return from injury.