‘For Real’ Cowboys Headline 10 Biggest NFL Takeaways From Week 11

Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys

Getty Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott scores a touchdown vs. the Vikings.

The Dallas Cowboys authored a reputation-affirming beat down of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 that solidifies their status as legitimate contenders.

Dallas dominated in all phases in Minnesota, handing the Vikings just their second loss of the season, 40-3 systematic dismantling.

For the Cowboys, help could also be on the way in a wide-open NFC race.

NFL Network reported on Sunday morning, November 20 that All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will visit the Cowboys and New York Giants after Thanksgiving, possibly nearing a decision on his next destination.

“There’s no doubt the Cowboys are for real,” an AFC South scouting director told Heavy following Sunday’s game. “They have some pieces. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. will only help.”

Sunday afternoon, led by Micah Parsons, Jayron Kearse and Trevon Diggs, Dan Quinn’s relentless and swarming defense completely neutralized Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Cowboys held a Vikings offense that entered Week 11 averaging 355.8 yards per game to fewer yards (183) than Tony Pollard’s yards from scrimmage (189).

Parsons cemented his status as Defensive Player of the Year front-runner with a first half for the ages; sacking Cousins twice and forcing a fumble.

Quinn deployed Parsons the way he was always meant to be, as a Swiss Army Knife, bringing the former Penn State star off the edge and blitzing him up the middle. Had Parsons realized Cousins hadn’t already thrown the ball away on a second-quarter rush, he’d have upped his season total to 11.0 sacks. As it stands, with seven games remaining, Parsons has already reached double-digit sacks.

“Micah is elite because he has unmatched speed, power, and can bend,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy.

However, on Sunday, Parsons — as dominant as he was — was only part of the Cowboys’ equation on defense. Quinn had Cousins seeing ghosts — especially late, when the venerable defensive coordinator brought Kearse on a blitz off the edge when it looked like the safety was going to be in coverage.

This was an absolute statement by the Cowboys’ defense, against a Vikings team that went into Buffalo and announced their arrival with an overtime victory over the Bills.

However, Dallas’ defensive dominance tells only part of the story.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offensive performance wasn’t just vintage Dallas but were the kind of blueprint for sustained success down the stretch and into the postseason.

Running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 231 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns. Prescott, only asked to put the ball in the air 25 times, only threw 3 incompletions en route to 276 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Perhaps most encouraging for the Cowboys, Minnesota could barely breathe on Prescott all afternoon.

The NFL, more than ever, is a week-to-week league, but the Cowboys are firing on all cylinders. Dallas entered Sunday as the No. 4 ranked team in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and the outlet’s No. 2 ranked defense.

If Dallas can continue to dictate to teams defensively at the level they did the Vikings on Sunday, and relentlessly pound the running game to take pressure off Prescott, this is a team capable of making a run. With or without Beckham.

Here are 10 more reactions from Sunday’s Week 11 action.

Jalen Hurts Puts Eagles on His Back in Biggest Moment

Trailing 16-10 and in very real danger of losing for the second consecutive week, after dropping their first game of the season in Week 10 against the Washington Commanders, Jalen Hurts put the Philadelphia Eagles on his back.

With 1:24 remaining, the Eagles’ offensive line parted the Indianapolis Colts‘ defense like the Red Sea, and Hurts darted into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to lift Philadelphia to what became a decisive 17-16 lead.

Sunday was a continuation of trends for the Eagles, and Hurts, who has been nearly perfect late in games in recent weeks. Hurts has now rushed for 7 touchdowns inside the red zone, and tossed 9 touchdown passes inside the 20-yard line.

In addition to his rushing touchdown, Hurts also hit wide receiver Quez Watkins for a 22-yard score to pull the Eagles within 13-10 with 13:37 remaining in the game. Hurts’ fourth-quarter consistency was pivotal to the Eagles’ comeback win, the fourth fourth-quarter comeback of his career and second this season.

“That dude just has insane belief in himself,” an NFC offensive coach told Heavy is most impressive about Hurts’ late-game success. “He never thinks he’s out of a game.”

The Indianapolis Colts further exposed some chinks in the Eagles’ armor; Jonathan Taylor rushed for 84 yards, including 49 and a touchdown in the first quarter. The Eagles’ run defense could be Philadelphia’s biggest vulnerability. Likewise, Zaire Franklin forced an A.J. Brown fumble the Colts converted into a field goal. Creating turnovers and limiting giveaways was the Eagles’ hallmark during an 8-0 start, but have now turned it over 6 times over the past two weeks.

But, Hurts made the biggest plays in the biggest moments of a game that has the potential to forge championship character for the Eagles.

Cordarrelle Patterson Runs Into History Books, Falcons to Victory

The Atlanta Falcons desperately needed a spark, and Cordarrelle Patterson responded by making NFL history.

With the Falcons trailing the Chicago Bears 17-7 with 4:31 remaining in the first half, Patterson fielded a Cairo kickoff in Atlanta’s end zone before sprinting up the middle of the field and through the heavy traffic of the Bears’ coverage unit for a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Brian Mitchell, who returned 9 punts for touchdowns during his career with Washington, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, knows a thing or two about what it takes to be one of a generation’s most prolific returners.

“He’s fearless,” Mitchell told Heavy of Patterson. “He has really great vision, and can run. But, what sets him apart is he also sets up blocks great.”

Patterson’s kickoff return for a touchdown was the NFL record ninth of his career, surpassing Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs, and a pivotal play in Atlanta’s 27-24 win over the Bears.

Jets Must Come to Grips With Inconvenient Truth

Games like Sunday in New England aren’t just a missed opportunity for the New York Jets, but a barometer of how far away Zach Wilson is from being a competent NFL quarterback.

Yes, it took the Patriots a Marcus Jones 84-yard punt return for a touchdown that sent Gillette Stadium into bedlam and New England to a 10-3 win. But, Wilson had the kind of performance that underscores that he’s what’s holding back a young and gifted roster.

Chosen by the Jets No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL draft, Wilson has yet to consistently look the part of a quarterback capable of rising to the level of one of the top passers in the NFL. Never has that been more apparent than Sunday in Foxboro.

Wilson completed only 9-of-22 passes for 77 yards.

The Jets had more punts (10) than Wilson completions against the Patriots.

An offense that includes wide receivers Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, and running backs Michael Carter and James Robinson managed only 103 yards of offense while averaging a pathetic 2.1 yards per play.

In a division where the Buffalo Bills suddenly look vulnerable, and the Patriots’ offense didn’t score a touchdown, this was a game that Wilson and the Jets could have established themselves as legitimate contenders.

Instead, it’s becoming evident that New York is going to need to go shopping for a competent quarterback to maximize the young and burgeoning talent on the roster.

Aidan Hutchinson Slams Door on Giants

The Detroit Lions chose Aidan Hutchinson No. 2 overall with designs on making him the anchor of a rebuilt pass-rush, instead, Hutchinson has become a versatile cornerstone of the defense.

Sunday in East Rutherford, Hutchinson intercepted Daniel Jones, after deceptively dropping into coverage and baiting the New York Giants quarterback to throw his direction. The Lions converted Hutchinson’s turnover into a Jamaal Williams touchdown.

Hutchinson’s interception was the second of his career and comes two weeks after picking off reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers in the end zone, making a critical play that powered Detroit to upset the division-rival Packers. Hutchinson certainly had a career afternoon, adding a pivotal fumble recovery with 8:04 remaining and the Lions nursing a 24-12 lead.

The University of Michigan alum has certainly delivered on his pass-rush prowess, producing 6.0 sacks through his first nine games, along with 20 total pressures, and now 3 turnovers.

“Aidan’s a very good player,” an NFC personnel executive told Heavy. “He might not be elite, but he’s solid in every single aspect, and he’s going to be until the day he retires.”

Detroit’s ability to keep Saquon Barkley completely under wraps (22 yards) and creating 3 turnovers was pivotal to Sunday’s win, and as he figures to be for the rest of his Lions’ career, Hutchinson played a starring role.

Buffalo Bills Find Missing Link on Offense?

The Buffalo Bills have yet to produce a 100-yard rusher this season, but on Sunday finally got the kind of game-powering production from the running back position that gives Buffalo some balance.

Forced into Ford Field in Detroit, due to a record six feet of snowfall in the Buffalo area, the Bills plowed through the Cleveland Browns’ defense as backs Devin Singletary and James Cook led the charge.

Cook and Singletary each rushed for 86 yards, with Singletary rushing for a touchdown and adding 2 receptions for 11 yards.

There is no question that Buffalo’s vertical passing game is one of the most prolific in the NFL, and Josh Allen remains a fringe MVP candidate. But, if the Bills are going to return to their place as the AFC’s team to beat, the running game is going to need to consistently feature more than Allen, who still leads the team in rushing.

Sunday’s newly discovered balance may be the missing ingredient for the Bills as they enter a stretch run that includes games against playoff-caliber competition like the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Bengals Once Again Class of AFC North: Can They Close?

No Ja’Marr Chase, no problem.

Even after the Baltimore Ravens held on to beat the Carolina Panthers to improve to 7-3, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals went out and reminded the league why this team is so tough to beat, in a 37-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Six Bengals wide receivers caught passes of 20+ yards, as seven different Bengals caught a pass from Burrow, who finished 24-of-39 passing for 355 yards with 4 touchdowns to 2 interceptions.

Defensively, the Bengals harassed Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett all night long, sacking him twice and hitting him 7 times.

With seven games remaining, if Burrow’s Bengals face the NFL’s third-toughest remaining strength of schedule. Cincinnati’s opponents boast a .609 winning percentage, and the Bengals still face contests against the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Ravens, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Bengals are going to make a repeat run to the Super Bowl, it is going to be well-earned.

Bryce Young Should Start Shopping for Houston Real Estate

If the NFL season ended today, the Houston Texans would own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and quarterback Davis Mills has done little to dissuade the organization from choosing his replacement next spring. Sunday may have been rock bottom.

On Houston’s first possession, Mills inexplicably floated a pass into harm’s way intended for Brandin Cooks along the sideline that Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller returned for a touchdown. By game’s end, Mills tossed a pair of interceptions, while completing just 19-of-33 passes for 169 yards. Brutal.

Mills is now 3-17-1 as a starter, he’s already thrown more interceptions this season (11) than he did as a rookie (10), and there’s little reason to believe he’s worth building around.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s Bryce Young is a playmaker and consistently dominant presence at the helm of Alabama’s offense. Houston made a tacit commitment to Mills, choosing him in the 3rd-round of the 2021 draft, but it’s past time for Nick Caserio and the Texans to make a real investment in the position.

Davante Adams Delivers a Win for Raiders

Few players have been more outspoken about the issues facing the Las Vegas Raiders amid a terribly disappointing 2-7 start to the season than Davante Adams.

It is fitting, then, with the Raiders staring down the barrel at a possible tie — or fourth consecutive loss — Adams got behind the Denver Broncos’ secondary breaking wide open for a 40-yard touchdown catch from Derek Carr to lift Vegas to a 22-16 overtime win.

This hasn’t been the season the Raiders envisioned since going all-in on Adams. Nor, what Adams expected in his first season reuniting with his college roommate, Carr.

However, Adams was instrumental Sunday in delivering the kind of win the Raiders hope he plays a vital role in leading over the next four years.

The Rams Really Sold Their Soul for a Super Bowl

In the span of nine months, the Los Angeles Rams went from a storybook Super Bowl finish to beginning the stretch run of a season that lays bare all the franchise’s flaws.

Now 3-7, following a 27-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, this has been the worst season of Sean McVay’s tenure as head coach.

Adding insult to injury, reports surfaced Sunday that Odell Beckham Jr. will visit the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys after Thanksgiving, potentially making a decision on his next destination shortly after. That would officially shut the door on one of the leaders of last year’s Super Bowl run arriving like a knight to save the Rams’ day.

Sure, the Rams boast the sixth-youngest roster in the NFL, but general manager Les Snead’s “f*** them picks” philosophy is going to make it possible that this year’s struggles bleed into next season, and possibly beyond.

Los Angeles does not only a pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, but also won’t be selecting in Rounds 4 or 5, either. Likewise, Snead and the Rams are going to have to pay the piper, currently projected to be $1.5 million over the cap this offseason, according to Spotrac.

It’s easy to write this Rams season off as a fluke, but holes and lack of depth at key positions have played starring roles in Los Angeles’ struggles. Fixing those flaws may prove difficult.

End of the Line for Carson Wentz?

For the second time in as three seasons, Carson Wentz has been benched. This time, by his third team, and potentially for the final as an NFL starting quarterback.

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera addressed the decision to stick with Taylor Heinicke following Sunday’s game by noting “winning,” as the deciding factor behind the move.

Wentz has been sidelined since spraining his right ring finger back in Week 6 but limped to just a 2-4 record in his six starts this season.

Since being benched by the Philadelphia Eagles, in favor of Jalen Hurts, on December 6 2020, Wentz is just 11-12. Over that span, Wentz has completed 62.3% of his passes for 5,052 yards with 37 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and has been sacked 55.0 times.

Whether it was burning out the locker room in Philadelphia, where he was reticent to the hard coaching that brought out the best in him, or fading drastically down the stretch run with the Indianapolis Colts last season or struggling to find any semblance of consistency this season in Washington, it would seem Wentz’s days as a starting quarterback are over.

There likely isn’t a team that will give Wentz a fourth opportunity to be a starting quarterback in as many seasons, and it remains to be seen if his ego and temperament will allow him to find renewed NFL life on the veteran backup circuit.

Week 11 MVP: Lions RB Jamaal Williams

Just call the Lions the Detroit Jamaal Williamses.

Williams, who now leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns, was the Lions’ battering ram along the goal line, scoring 3 rushing touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-18 win over the Giants.

Through 11 weeks, Williams has been instrumental in unlocking the Lions’ red zone offense. Detroit converted just 46% of trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns in 2021, good for the second-worst red zone efficiency in the NFL, but entered Sunday scoring touchdowns at a 69% clip as the No. 5 ranked red zone offense in the NFL.

Week 11 Breakout Star: Patriots PR Marcus Jones

The chasm between the New England Patriots and New York Jets from the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills might be wide, but in the waning seconds of Sunday’s AFC East clash Marcus Jones assured that the Patriots would keep pace in the division race.

With the game knotted at 3 points apiece, and overtime appearing assured, Jones fielded a Braden Mann punt and returned it 84 yards for the game-winning touchdown to seal a 10-3 win and season sweep of the Jets.

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