Week 11 in the 2011 NFL season turned out to be one of the wildest as we saw the Packers stay perfect, the Lions make another comeback and San Francisco winning again, which sets up the best set of Thanksgiving Day games we've ever seen. The undefeated Packers travel to Detroit to take on the upstart Lions and the Harbaugh Bowl will feature the 9-1 49ers, winners of eight straight, and the 7-3 first place Ravens.
Those teams weren't the only notables in Week 11. Vince Young engineered a drive reminiscent of his time at Texas, Chicago lost Jay Cutler to injury and the previously 0-7 Dolphins have now won three in a row.
It's all in this week's NFL Debrief, starting with the biggest injury of the week ...
Chicago moves on without Jay Cutler. The Bears have been playing at a very high level over the last month, winning four games in a row, which is why it's do disheartening to see that they're losing Jay Cutler for what appears to be the season. Optimistic reports have him returning in 6-8 weeks, so he could be back for a playoff run but make no mistake -- this hurts the Bears badly. Caleb Hanie steps in as the backup and he'll have a somewhat soft schedule aiding him as the Bears play all four AFC West teams (arguably the worst division in football) as well as Seattle in their next five games. The Bears can make the playoffs without Cutler but they need him back if they're making any noise in the postseason.
Green Bay stays perfect. The Packers didn't play their best game on Sunday but still managed a nine-point victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35-26. The crazy thing about the Packers is that they didn't play great -- Aaron Rodgers threw his fourth pick of the year and they didn't have much of a rushing attack -- and still won by two scores. This sets up the showdown on Thanksgiving day against the Detroit Lions. That game is in the early running for game of the year at this point.
Another Thanksgiving Day game looks to be a big one. The Packers-Lions game is what everyone will be talking about but don't sleep on the 49ers-Ravens game on Thursday night. The 49ers have won eight in a row and sit at 9-1 on the season. They're en route to locking up the division and they'll face arguably their toughest test of the season when they play the Ravens -- dubbed the Harbaugh Bowl -- on Thursday night. The early line has the Ravens as a 3.5 point favorite.
Vince Young has a drive to remember. VY struggled throughout the night in New York, throwing three picks and generally being unable to consistently move the Eagles offense. But then, as if he were back at Texas, Young took the Eagles on an incredible 18-play drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of clock, including a whopping six third down conversions, and gave the Eagles the eventual game-winner. Let's remember this for what it was -- one great drive. Young's entire day wasn't worth remembering but that last drive, when the Eagles needed it most, he was there.
Chris Johnson's fall is almost unbelievable. In his first three years in the NFL, Titans RB Chris Johnson looked like he was on his way to being one of the all-time greats. Instead, in his fourth year, he's having a season to forget. Actually, he's just been terrible this season. Entering the game, Johnson had 496 yards on 148 carries this season and ended Sunday with a miserable 12 carries for 13 yards. The excuses are over -- it's not the lockout, it's not an injury situation and it's not the contract. Johnson appears to be a guy who got paid and packed it in. For that, the Titans are now unlikely to be playoff contenders in a division that's very winnable with Matt Schaub's injury for the Texans.
Dolphins win third straight game. Or "One reason we know nothing about the NFL." We counted the Dolphins out several weeks ago at 0-7 and essentially nothing to play for. But the Dolphins have now won three in a row, with two of those coming in blowouts. So what to think of the Dolphins? Your guess is as good as mine. There's no reason they should all of a sudden be playing this well.
AFC North making the case for three playoff teams. If the playoffs started today, the AFC North would send three teams to the playoffs. The Ravens and Steelers are tied for the division lead at 7-3, while the Bengals are in second place at 6-4. Cincy's record is a game better than four other teams vying for the wildcard at 5-5. You have to figure the Jets will be competitive down the stretch but from there it's hard to figure out who would a wildcard spot over the Bengals. Bills? Titans? Broncos? All 5-5 teams and I wouldn't bet on any of them to overtake the upstart Bengals.
It hasn't been a good week to be a quarterback. Dating back to Week 10, it's been a very bad week to be an NFL quarterback. First, Matt Cassel is likely out for the season with a hand injury. Second, Michael Vick missed Sunday night's game with cracked ribs. Third, Matt Schaub is expected to miss the rest of the year. And now this week has brought us injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Hasselbeck. There was an unusual amount of consistency at the quarterback position early in the year but it appears we're reverting back to the mean with these latest injuries.
The Lions are the comeback kids. No, really. They're the first team in NFL history to win three games in a single season in which they trailed by more than 17 points. The Lions trailed the Panthers on Sunday 24-7 midway through the second quarter but Matthew Stafford's five touchdown passes helped them comeback to lay 49 points on the Panthers in a victory. That wasn't the only NFL record set in that game -- Cam Newton rushed for his ninth touchdown, setting a new record for rookie quarterbacks.
Tyler Palko's tough start begins on Monday night. The Chiefs lost Matt Cassel for what is believed to be the season and they'll start their Cassel-less season on Monday night against the Patriots, where they're huge underdogs at 16.5 points. Palko is the Pitt quarterback who beat out Joe Flacco, causing him to transfer. Obviously their careers have gone in opposite directions since then. Palko assumes the Chiefs starting QB duties and his first two games are about as difficult as they get -- at New England on Monday night and facing Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Yikes.