Week 11 review: Ravens look like a lock for AFC Championship game

Lamar Jackson and the Ravens left Houston in their wake in a 41-7 romp.
Lamar Jackson and the Ravens left Houston in their wake in a 41-7 romp.rob carr/Getty Images

One team in the AFC looks destined to reach the AFC Championship game.

And it isn’t the Patriots, who have major issues on offense and still have to prove they can beat Houston and Kansas City.

It’s the high-flying Ravens, who improved to 8-2 with another blowout win on Sunday, 41-7 over the Texans.

The Ravens aren’t just winning — they are dominating good teams by double digits, on the road as well as home. And they look a lot better than the Patriots right now.

The steamrolling Ravens are where we begin the Week 11 review:

■   We all know about Lamar “The Star” Jackson, who is piecing together an unprecedented season as a dual threat. Jackson is fourth in the NFL in passer rating (106.3), sixth in yards per attempt (8.09), 10th in rushing yards (788), and first in yards per rushing attempt (6.85). He has thrown eight touchdown passes and completed at least 70 percent of his passes over his last three games, and hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5.

Jackson is getting more and more confident running the Ravens offense and is establishing himself as an MVP front-runner.


But the Ravens may have a pretty good defense, too. They sacked Deshaun Watson six times, held him scoreless at halftime for the first time in his career, and overall limited him to 169 passing yards. The Texans, who had averaged 32 points and 450 yards over their past five games, were held to just 7 points and 232 total yards.

The Ravens are winning in impressive fashion. In their last four games, they won by 14 points at Seattle, beat the Patriots by 17, blew out the Bengals by 36, and humiliated a solid Texans team. The Patriots, meanwhile, have all kinds of issues on offense and have not played well against good opponents.


The Ravens still sit a game behind the 9-1 Patriots in the AFC but now have a two-game lead on the Texans and Chiefs for the No. 2 seed and a bye.

The Ravens are unstoppable right now and look like a lock for the AFC Championship game.

The Patriots? We’ll see.

■   The 49ers have been able to win games with their run game and defense this year, but Jimmy Garoppolo finally put the team on his back in Sunday’s 36-26 comeback win over the Cardinals.

In a game in which the Niners trailed, 16-0, in the second quarter, and in which they rushed for 34 yards on 19 carries, Garoppolo completed 34 of 45 passes for 424 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions, in leading his team to victory. Garoppolo joined Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only Niners quarterbacks to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a game.

Garoppolo shined in the second half, throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He pulled off the comeback without tight end George Kittle, and with Emmanuel Sanders limited by injury.

“That’s something we haven’t put him in this year,” coach Kyle Shanahan said of needing Garoppolo to win the game. “He did a hell of a job. Really played unbelievable.”

The win improved the 49ers to 9-1 and maintained their one-game lead over Green Bay, New Orleans, and Seattle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Garoppolo, now 17-3 in his career as a starter, believes the win bodes well for the Niners’ chances moving forward.


“Every game is different,” he said. “Some games we’ve rushed for 200-plus yards and we pass less yards. So, just how our team is built, it doesn’t matter which way we have to win it, we will find a way, and that’s what you like to see.”

■   The NFC playoff field may be mostly set already. Five teams look good: The 9-1 49ers, 8-2 Packers, 8-2 Saints, 8-2 Seahawks, and 8-3 Vikings. No other NFC team has more than six wins.

The NFC East spot is up for grabs between the 6-4 Cowboys and 5-5 Eagles. And the 6-4 Rams may be able to catch the Vikings for a playoff spot. But about half of the conference has no shot at the playoffs with six weeks to go.

■   The most questionable coaching decision of the weekend came from the Bears’ Matt Nagy, who benched Mitchell Trubisky for Chase Daniel with just 3:24 left in the fourth quarter and Chicago trailing the Rams, 17-7.

After the game, Nagy cited a hip injury that Trubisky suffered in the second quarter as the reason. But let’s call it what it is: a benching. Trubisky was brutal again Sunday night, completing 24 of 43 passes for just 190 yards. If Trubisky could play two quarters with the injury, he could have toughed it out for the final drive or two. Tom Brady or Philip Rivers would never let a nagging injury take them out of a game like that.


Mitchell Trubisky was under siege by the Rams before being removed.
Mitchell Trubisky was under siege by the Rams before being removed.mark j. terrill/Associated Press

The benching is appropriate, but the timing was all wrong. Nagy should have either benched Trubisky earlier in the game, or made Trubisky tough it out, then bench him next week. Doing it late in the fourth quarter didn’t give Daniel a real chance at staging a comeback but still showed the world that Nagy has lost, or is quickly losing, faith in Trubisky.

■   Watch out for the suddenly hot Falcons. Dan Quinn’s bunch won their second game in a row with a 29-3 dismantling of the Panthers. Owner Arthur Blank didn’t fire Quinn over the bye week, and his team responded with a 17-point win at New Orleans and a 26-point win at Carolina.

Quinn’s defense picked off Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen four times and sacked him another five times. The Falcons may be 3-7, but if they keep playing inspired ball over the second half, perhaps it could be enough to save Quinn’s job.

■   The saddest sight Sunday was in Washington, where tickets were going for $10 on the secondary market and the stands were half empty as the Redskins lost to the Jets, 34-17, and it came at the start of the second half as Washington prepared to receive the kickoff.

As The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell wrote, “down 20-3, return man Steven Sims Jr., a rookie and still perhaps a bit naive, turned to the end-zone crowd just a few yards behind him. Over and over, he waved both arms upward, pleading for their support in a silent stadium. Finally, three fans, perhaps out of pity, stood up.”


There were plenty of empty seats at FedEx Field for Jets-Redskins.
There were plenty of empty seats at FedEx Field for Jets-Redskins.john mcdonnell/Washington Post

Ex-Patriots players

■   Lions DE Trey Flowers: Had three quarterback hits but no tackles in the Lions’ 35-27 loss to the Cowboys, and entered concussion protocol in the fourth quarter.

■   Lions WR Danny Amendola: Led Detroit with four catches for 47 yards. Quietly having a solid season with 39 catches for 452 yards and a touchdown.

■   Cowboys DE Michael Bennett: Had two sacks and a tackle for loss. Has three sacks in three games with the Cowboys and played 43 of 65 snaps Sunday.

■   Raiders RT Trent Brown: Played all but one snap of the 17-10 win over the Bengals. Has started nine of 10 games for the surprising 6-4 Raiders, and has not committed a holding penalty all year.

Yes, Brown signed a huge contract in free agency that seemed absurd at the time. But knowing what we know now, perhaps the Patriots should have spent the money to bring him back. Brown was great in his one season in New England, and left tackle has been a giant void all year.

Ex-Patriots coaches

■   Matt Patricia, Lions: Suffered another tough loss with his backup quarterback, but showed good use of analytics by going for a 2-point conversion when trailing by 8 in the fourth quarter. The math says that a team has a better chance of winning outright if it goes for 2 in that situation instead of kicking the PAT and eventually playing for overtime.

■   Brian Flores, Dolphins: Rounding nicely back into form with a 37-20 loss to the Bills to squash a two-game win streak. The Dolphins currently have the No. 4 draft pick (behind the Bengals, Redskins, and Giants).

■   Bill O’Brien, Texans: Said in his postgame press conference, “I have no idea what pass interference is anymore. No idea.” Please, no whining about instant replay when you lose 41-7.

■   Mike Vrabel, Titans: The 5-5 Titans had their bye week. They sit only one game out of the last playoff spot but are currently in ninth place in the conference.

Stats of the week

(via ESPN and NFL Research)

■   The Vikings became the first team in 40 years to win and score a touchdown on every second-half possession after trailing by 20 points at halftime. They also were the first team since 2015 to erase a 20-point halftime deficit. Teams had been 0-99.

■   Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has 18 interceptions in 10 games, tying his career high for an entire season. That is the most interceptions through 10 games since Jay Cutler had 18 in 2009.

■   The 0-10 Bengals were eliminated from playoff contention. Zac Taylor is the first head coach since Miami’s Cam Cameron in 2007 to lose the first 10 games of his coaching career.

■   Darrius Guice’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was the Redskins’ first touchdown of any kind since the third quarter of Week 6 — a stretch spanning four games, or 35 days, or 16 quarters.

■   Jets safety Jamal Adams became the 10th defensive back since 1994 to have three sacks in a game. Also on the list are Rodney Harrison (with San Diego), Lawyer Milloy (with Buffalo), and Troy Polamalu.

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin