NFL review and preview: Rams or Vikings will be among several teams that see their fortunes change in Week 11
The luck stops here. That might be good luck or bad luck, but some NFL teams are going to see their fortunes change this weekend.
Several clubs have strung together streaks — either winning or losing — and will see them come to an end in Week 11 as they face teams heading in the same direction.
The Rams play at Minnesota. The arrows of both teams are pointing up, with Los Angeles on its fourth consecutive victory and the Vikings on their fifth. Something’s got to give.
Before that, there’s Tennessee at Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Both teams have won four in a row.
That game is a reunion of the Steelers and their longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, now handling those duties for Tennessee.
“As awesome as it will be to see Dick on a personal note, he’s not the type of guy you want to see in a headset on the other sideline,” Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said Monday.
The Titans are riding their longest winning streak since stringing together five in a row in 2009. But now they need to prove they can win big games on the road. They’re 8-1 in their past nine at home, dating to last season, yet are 2-2 on the road this year with losses at Houston and Miami.
After leading the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone last season, the Titans struggled to do that early in the year. They have scored that way in each of the past three games, however, climbing from 31st to 10th in red-zone scoring.
“Proof is in the tape that when we get all guys operating and doing their job efficiently, we’re pretty effective, and not just in the red zone; I’m talking about putting drives together for scores,” Coach Mike Mularkey told reporters Monday. “It’s been very easy for us to teach off of game tape.”
Buffalo plays at the Chargers, with each team looking to stop a two-game slide.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was ineffective in a 47-10 home loss to New Orleans on Sunday, with backup Nathan Peterman directing Buffalo’s only touchdown drive.
“Horrible game,” Taylor said of the performance, in which he completed nine of 18 passes for 56 yards with an interception. “Our offense didn’t get anything going and that starts with me. Just an overall bad game. Something as a team we have to learn from. I definitely have to learn from this one.”
Bills Coach Sean McDermott did his best to squelch talk of a quarterback controversy, reiterating that the starting job belongs to Taylor. The status is not so clear for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has been placed in concussion protocol. His backup, Kellen Clemens, has thrown 10 passes in the past four seasons.
Cincinnati, which has lost two in a row, will play at Denver, which is looking to avoid its sixth consecutive defeat and get out of the AFC West cellar.
This is a critical point in the season, with the playoff picture just starting to take shape. Five teams have won seven games — the Rams, Vikings, Steelers, Saints and Patriots — and Philadelphia, which plays at Dallas, has won eight. If a franchise gets to 11 wins, it’s essentially assured of a playoff berth (even though New England achieved that with Matt Cassel at quarterback in 2008 yet famously failed to qualify).
The deck has been reshuffled in a big way, with six teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season either sharing the lead in their division or leading outright: the Rams, Eagles, Vikings, Saints, Titans and Jaguars.
Now that San Francisco picked up its first victory, no one has a longer streak going than Cleveland, which has lost nine in a row. The Browns play host to the Jaguars, who allow the fewest points per game (14.9 ppg) and lead the NFL in sacks with 35.
If New Orleans beats Washington on Sunday, the Saints would be the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 0-2 then tear off eight wins in a row. As it stands, they’re tied with the 1993 Cowboys as the only teams to go from 0-2 to 7-2. (That Dallas team went on to win the Super Bowl.)
In trampling Buffalo on Sunday, the normally pass-happy Saints ran for 298 yards and a club-record six rushing touchdowns.
Washington has a middle-of-the-road run defense and is tied for 18th with Oakland and the New York Jets in allowing 4.1 yards a carry.
Living on the edge
One of the vulnerable spots for Seattle is its offensive line, so the Seahawks can’t be too excited about trying to contain Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn this week.
Clayborn had a career-high six sacks against Dallas on Sunday while forcing two fumbles and recovering one.
Those six sacks are not only a single-game club record but also are tied for the second most in a game since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. The record is held by the late Derrick Thomas, the Kansas City icon who had seven against Seattle in 1990.
South of the border
The Raiders, who broke ground Monday on their Las Vegas stadium, will play New England in Mexico City on Sunday. It’s the second consecutive season the Silver & Black has played in that locale, with the Raiders beating Houston there on “Monday Night Football” last year.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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