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Ben Volin | On Football

NFL Week 11 Review: Even on a Sunday off, everything’s coming up Patriots

The Bills couldn't lay a hand on Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, who scored five touchdowns.Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

With the Patriots off Sunday, I envision Bill Belichick kicking back in his lounge chair, with a bowl of pistachios and faithful Nike in his lap, cracking a big smile as the Week 11 action unfolded.

The day almost went perfectly for Belichick and his 7-4 Patriots. The Bills got demolished at home by the Colts to drop to 6-4 and propel the Patriots into first place in the AFC East. The Patriots also jumped from the No. 5 to the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff race.

Down in Nashville, the Titans were sloppy in the rain in a 22-13 loss to the Texans, who were 10-point underdogs. The loss dropped the Titans to 8-3, and while they remain the No. 1 seed in the AFC, they are just one game ahead of the Patriots. Just our luck, the Titans travel to Foxborough Sunday for a showdown at 1 p.m.

A Ravens loss to the Bears would have been the cherry on top, but they pulled off a miracle 16-13 win with a last-minute touchdown drive by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley. The Ravens improved to 7-3, and remain in the No. 2 seed, a half-game ahead of the Patriots.


But it was still nice of the Bills and Titans to make Sunday so enjoyable for Belichick, which is where we begin the Week 11 Review:

▪ The Bills didn’t just lose to the Colts, they got humiliated at home, 41-15, with Jonathan Taylor trampling all over their defense. He rushed for 185 yards and four touchdowns, and overall the Colts rushed for 264 yards with a 5.7 average. The Bills’ offense wasn’t much better, turning the ball over four times.

The Bills have lost three of their last five games to drop all the way down to No. 7 in the AFC. And the Patriots now have the best point differential in the NFL — plus-123, compared with plus-119 for Buffalo.


The Bills have a tricky game at New Orleans next before hosting the Patriots in a showdown on “Monday Night Football.” Bills fans, already freaking out that the Patriots are back in first place, might go over Niagara Falls in a barrel if they lose to the Patriots.

Bills fans' were left drenched and despondent following Sunday's loss.Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

The Colts, meanwhile, are officially the Team That No One Wants To Play. They have a dominant offensive line and run game, a nasty defense that leads the NFL with 25 takeaways, and a smart coach in Frank Reich who knows how to perform on the big stage.

Though the Colts are just 6-5, they are inching closer to the playoffs, now sitting in the No. 9 seed. The Colts have won five of their last six games, and would have an eight-game win streak if not for overtime losses to Baltimore and Tennessee. The Patriots’ toughest remaining game might be Week 15 at Indianapolis, which seems destined to be flexed to Saturday night in prime time.

▪ The 8-3 Titans are confounding this season. They are 7-0 against 2020 playoff teams, yet have lost to the two-win Jets and Texans. Sunday’s loss exposed significant issues with the Titans’ offense without Derrick Henry. They did gain 420 yards, but only scored 13 points, while Ryan Tannehill needed 52 attempts to get his 323 passing yards.

The Titans also have to be worried about their ability to play from behind. They had a chance to win with the score 19-13 in the fourth quarter, but Tannehill threw interceptions on consecutive possessions to end the day.


▪ The Patriots would have jumped all the way to the No. 2 seed if not for the Ravens’ comeback. Huntley, getting his first career start when Lamar Jackson was ruled out with a virus, didn’t lead the Ravens to a touchdown on their first 10 possessions. But with 1:41 left and trailing by 4 points, he led the Ravens 72 yards for the game-winning score.

It was an ugly win, but when you’re coming off a bad loss to the Dolphins and your starting QB is ruled out at the last minute, all that matters is the W.

▪ Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs’ defense have definitely figured things out. The Chiefs’ 19-9 win over the Cowboys was their fourth in a row, and the Chiefs have not allowed more than 17 points in any of them. The Cowboys entered with the NFL’s highest scoring offense (31.6 per game) but were held to three field goals, and the Chiefs got three turnovers and five sacks.

Kansas City linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and defensive end Michael Danna bottle up Dallas running back Tony Pollard during Sunday's win.Peter Aiken/Associated Press

The 7-4 Chiefs remain behind the Patriots in the playoff race because of their 2-4 conference record, but the Chiefs are officially dangerous.

▪ You’ve got to be happy for Cam Newton, who played well but didn’t win his first start back with the Panthers, losing 27-21 to Washington and his former coach, Ron Rivera. Newton was impressive considering he was on his couch two weeks ago and probably doesn’t know much of the Panthers’ playbook — 21-of-27 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, plus 46 rushing yards and another score.


The Panthers dropped to 5-6 and down to the 10th seed in the NFC playoffs. But they’ll remain in the hunt with Newton aboard.

▪ The Cardinals’ win over the Seahawks improved their record to 9-2 and propelled them past the Packers into the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals deserve a lot of credit for being patient with Kyler Murray’s ankle injury. They’ve won two of the three games he missed, with Colt McCoy throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. They get a bye next week, and a healthy Murray for the final six games.

▪ No wonder the Saints checked with Denver at the trade deadline to see if they would part with Teddy Bridgewater. Trevor Siemian finished with 214 yards and three touchdowns in the Saints’ 40-29 loss to the Eagles, but at one point he was 9 of 24 for 105 yards as the Saints trailed, 33-7, entering the fourth quarter.

The 5-5 Saints have lost three in a row and are barely holding onto the No. 7 seed. Sean Payton needs to somehow make a miracle out of his QB situation.

Ranking Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidates

1. Patriots QB Mac Jones: Didn’t have his best game against Atlanta Thursday, but has been ascending all season, and winning his fifth straight game makes him the new leader in the clubhouse.


2. Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase: Quiet day with just three catches for 32 yards, but caught his eighth touchdown of the season.

3. Steelers RB Najee Harris:Was fifth in the NFL in scrimmage yards (963) entering Week 11.

Pittsburgh's Najee Harris runs to daylight Sunday night against the Chargers.Ashley Landis/Associated Press

4. Falcons TE Kyle Pitts: Had three catches for 29 yards but no help on Thursday night against the Patriots.

5. Eagles WR DeVonta Smith: Had four catches for 61 yards, and is second among rookie receivers with 664 yards and four touchdowns.

Tracking former Patriots

▪ 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-10 win over the Jaguars. The 5-5 49ers have won three of four with Garoppolo and are right in the NFC playoff mix.

▪ Texans RB Rex Burkhead: His team’s leading rusher with 18 carries for 40 yards in the Texans’ win. Burkhead entered with seven rushes for 29 yards all season.

▪ Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones: Having quite a roller-coaster season. Had two sacks Sunday to give him eight, but he had five in Week 1 and only one between Weeks 2-10.

▪ Falcons S Duron Harmon: Had three tackles and his first QB hit of the year in a 25-0 loss to the Patriots.

Stats of the Week

▪ Colts RB Jonathan Taylor is the fifth player since 1950 with four rushing TDs and one receiving TD in a game, joining Shaun Alexander (2002), Gale Sayers (1965), Abner Haynes (1961) and Dub Jones (1951).

▪ Cam Newton games with multiple passing touchdowns: 2020 — one in 15 starts. 2021 — one in one start.

▪ Packers QB Aaron Rodgers dropped to 24-3 in his career when throwing for four touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of the three losses are at Minnesota.

Minnesota defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson talks with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers during the Vikings' win Sunday in Minnesota.Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

▪ The 49ers’ first drive lasted 13:05, the NFL’s longest drive since the Titans went 13:27 in 1997.

▪ The Texans broke their streak of four straight road games without a touchdown.

▪ The Cardinals are 6-0 on the road, with all six wins by double digits.

▪ D’Andre Swift became the first Lion since Barry Sanders in 1997 to have a 50-yard touchdown rushing and receiving in the same season.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.