The 32 things we learned from Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season:
1. Who is No. 1? No idea. This isn’t college football. Georgia holds the case. Four first-place teams – the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers – lost Sunday. The division-leading leagues have lost 11 games over the past three weeks to teams that don’t have winning records. The NFL, as you have probably heard, is a league that values parity and aims to get everyone to.500. Well, 9-8. Or 9-8. You get it.
2. It’s not that the mystery surrounding the 2021 season isn’t entertaining to see. According to the NFL, 23 games have been decided with a game-winning score on the final play – most at this point of a season since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.
3. What were Sunday’s greatest winners? The Arizona Cardinals were the biggest winners of Sunday’s game. They improved their record to 9-2 despite QB1 Kyler (ankle), being out for the third consecutive week. But QB2 Colt McCoy and Co. secured a valuable division road win in Seattle, leapfrogged the Packers for the top spot in the NFC standings and – above all else – earned Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) an extra week of rest since the Cards get Week 12 off.
4. Let’s welcome Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor to the forefront of the MVP conversation following his five-touchdown performance in Sunday’s 41-15 dismantling of the Bills in Buffalo. Taylor became the first player in the league this year to rush for more than 1,000 yards – he’s suddenly up to 1,122 after a 185-yard day on the ground – and also leads the NFL with 1,444 yards from scrimmage and 15 TDs.
4a. Taylor is more. After Adrian Peterson (2007-08), Taylor became the first player with at least 1,000 rushing yards, and 10 TDs running in the same two seasons. Taylor also joins Hall of Famer and 2006 league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson as the only players with eight consecutive games with 100+ yards from scrimmage and a rushing TD in one season.
4b. We must not overlook Taylor’s significance to the Colts. The Colts are now at 6-2 after their 0-3 debut while closing in on Tennessee in AFC South play and the wild card chase. The schedule isn’t over with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting Indianapolis in Week 12.
5. Less impressive – but only slightly – was Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler’s four-TD performance (and 115 yards from scrimmage) in the Bolts’ barnburner 41-37 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was his first rushing and receiving game in 10 years.
6. However Ekeler was in a supporting role to QB Justin Herbert (382 yards, 3 TDs passing and 90 yards rushing), who kept LA (6-4) in one of the AFC’s wild-card spots while knocking Pittsburgh from the field for now.
7. Cowboys-Chiefs was widely framed as game of the week … so – naturally – Dallas QB Dak Prescott and Kansas City counterpart Patrick Mahomes combined to account for five turnovers and zero TDs in K.C.’s 19-9 victory. This is exactly what everyone expected.
7a. It doesn’t mean Arrowhead Stadium was not a place where there were great defensive performances. Chiefs DL Chris Jones sacked Prescott 3½ times, while Cowboys LB Micah Parsons bagged Mahomes twice, further cementing his hold as presumptive defensive rookie of the year.
7b. However, Kansas City’s defense won the day. They held Dallas to just nine points and 276 yards for the season. Cowboys opened the day at No. #1 scoring offense, and the top-ranked overall offense.
8.It’s the AFC East champion again. After a 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, the New England Patriots are back at their usual divisional position.
9. 25 point win by the Patriots maintained their 25 point average win margin during a winning streak of five.
10. Since Week 9, no Falcons team has scored a TD. The Falcons were outscored by 68-3 over the previous two weeks. They hadn’t missed the end zone consecutively in 34 years.
11. Atlanta wasn’t shut down at home in 1988 before Thursday.
12. In 26 starts against the Vikings, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 54 TD passes and seven INTs – the best ratio any passer has against any single opponent in NFL history – after striking through the air four times Sunday.
13. But in his 10 season starts, Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins boasts a stellar 21-to-2 TD/INT rate. On the Vikings’ last drive, Cousins almost got robbed. However, replays overturned his pick, and he guided his team to the winning field goal against Green Bay. Restored to .500, the Vikes might be a second-tier NFC team – for now – but they’re now installed as the conference’s sixth seed.
14. CBS’ top broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo must have wanted to call in sick after Ravens QB Lamar Jackson was ruled out Sunday morning with a lingering non-COVID-19 illness for Baltimore’s matchup with the Chicago Bears. But Nantz and Romo posted, as true pros do, even if they must’ve thought they were covering a preseason game during a 16-13 yawner won by the Ravens and QB2 Tyler Huntley … who spent much of the day opposed by Andy Dalton after Chicago rookie Justin Fields was knocked out by a rib injury.
15. Eight consecutive losses for the Bears were suffered after a bye. Remarkable.
16. The Ravens are now 13 wins in succession against NFC foes. In NFL history, only the Patriots have had a longer interconference winning streak (2005-09).
17. Importantly, Baltimore (73-3) now trails the Titans by half a game for AFC’s best record.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars want to completely avoid NFC teams. The Jags suffered their 14th consecutive loss against NFC teams with Sunday’s defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. Jacksonville has lost 44 out of 51 previous games against NFC.
COVID-19. Still raging. The NFL is still facing this problem. Prescott spoke out for Amari Cooper (an unvaccinated player who was not allowed to participate in Sunday’s game). Amari will miss Week 12, as the league is changing its virus protocols. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was cleared by the Chargers’ DE Joey Bosa. Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, however, wasn’t. In a winnable effort, Browns RB Nick Chubb was also back on the field.
20. In their three last games, the Bills had nine turnovers.
21. What a deadly team the Philadelphia Eagles have become when they are on the ground! They hung 242 rushing yards – three players eclipsing 60 individually – Sunday on the New Orleans Saints, who began the day with the league’s No. 1 rushing defense (72.9 allowed per game).
22. What is the Stat of The Week? After the 1978 Patriots, it was the Eagles’ first time that they ran for over 175 yards in consecutive games.
23. The Eagles and Saints are part of an NFC scrum of five teams – each with five wins – vying for the conference’s final two wild cards at the moment.
24. It was hard not to think of University of Georgia. Former teammates in Athens (RBs Chubb, D’Andre Swift, Lions) stole the show at Sunday’s Cleveland game, which the Browns won 13-10. Swift and Chubb combined for 285 yards and two touchdowns from the scrimmage.
25. Backup QB Tim Boyle made his first NFL start for winless Detroit … and finished with 77 yards passing and a pair of interceptions. The Lions still haven’t won a game without Matthew Stafford – yes, another Georgia product – under center since 2010.
26. You have to wonder what the Bulldogs, who are the highest-ranked in the league, would do against these pathetic Lions.
27. Ryan Tannehill, Titans quarterback, was flagged a record four times on Sunday. In his 37 starts since joining Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill had never been able to throw more than 2 INTs per game. There is no one more important than Derrick Henry, the injured running back.
28. Niners WR Deebo Samuel was having a season statistically on par with Jerry Rice’s golden years by the Golden Gate. Samuel was only able to grab a 15 yard catch in Jacksonville. It’s because Samuel was being team-first and sparking San Francisco’s banged up backfield. Samuel ran for a whopping 79 yards on eight carries. It’s this kind of spirit and determination that can make the team a force to reckon with in the final stretch.
29. It won’t end well for Russell Wilson, QB. Since Wilson’s 2012 draft, the Seahawks have gone 3-7. Only Detroit is worse in this NFC.
30. What was the pick of the year? Colts’ CBs Xavier Rhodes (Colts) and Kenny Moore II (Colts) teamed up in order to present their cases… or perhaps they are just looking for post-NFL volleyball careers.
31. You have Thanksgiving Week, so be grateful… except if you are the Bears Lions Raiders Cowboys Saints or Bills. They all lost on Sunday. They all have to get up and go on Turkey Day. You don’t need to dwell too long on the L, at least for now.
32.“I am fed up. “I just want to be there when it happens, that’s all I want,” stated Derek Carr, a Las Vegas quarterback. It shouldn’t end this way every time. Carr lamented the Raiders losing third straight game, and not the weekly 32 things.
Follow USA TODAY’s Nate Davis via Twitter @ByNateDavis.