NFL Playoff Picture Week 11: Patriots surging, Cowboys get back on track, and Titans keep rolling

The Cowboys won and the Patriots gained ground -- the AFC and NFC Playoff picture is taking shape heading into Week 11 of the NFL season.

The New England Patriots are back — and they just might be back in the Super Bowl. Crazy talk? Perhaps. But they’ve now won four straight games and five out of six to make the AFC East a two-team race. The other team in that race? The Buffalo Bills, who got back on track Sunday. And no doubt, the Tennessee Titans should be in it until the very end after six consecutive wins. Here’s a look (after conclusion of 1:00 games) at the NFL Playoff picture for the AFC and NFC heading into Week 11.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 11

What does it all mean? That the chaos known as the AFC Playoff picture is slowly coming into focus. The NFC, meanwhile, remains a five-team race with a half-dozen or so others in the hunt for the final two Wild Card spots.

Current AFC Playoff Picture

1. Tennessee Titans (8-2)
2. Buffalo Bills (6-3)
3. Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1)
6. New England Patriots (6-4)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)

8. Las Vegas Raiders (5-4)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-4)
10. Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

New England Patriots, Mac Jones are the real deal

Patriots skeptics point, with some justification, to the terrible teams that New England has beaten over the past month and a half. But there’s nothing fraudulent about this team, not after what the Pats did to the Browns Sunday.

New England out-gained Cleveland by more than two-to-one for the team’s most impressive win (45-7) of the season. If not for a Damien Harris fumble late in the Dolphins game, the Patriots would be atop the AFC East and a real threat to win home-field advantage. Mac Jones went 19 of 23 for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns.

As for the Browns, their Jekyll and Hyde act continues. They haven’t won consecutive games since the first month of the season, and Baker Mayfield got banged up again.

Buffalo’s offense finds old form vs. Jets

A week after they couldn’t do anything right on offense, the Bills could do little wrong, beating the Jets for the third time in as many meetings. This one was never in doubt. Josh Allen torched New York for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21-of-28 passing.

Mike White, meanwhile, regressed significantly, throwing 4 interceptions in what could be his last start before Zach Wilson returns from injury.

Titans survive late against Saints, win sixth straight

Each week, doubters expect the Titans to come crashing back to Earth without Derrick Henry. And each week, they prove us all wrong. Tennessee did it again Sunday, outlasting the Saints 23-21 to strengthen its grip on the AFC’s top seed. With the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Texans (twice) still on the schedule, it’s time to start making hotel reservations in Nashville for January.

Current NFC Playoff Picture

1. Green Bay Packers (8-2)
2. Arizona Cardinals (8-2)
3. Dallas Cowboys (7-2)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
5. Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
6. New Orleans Saints (5-4)
7. Carolina Panthers (5-5)

8. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
9. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
10. Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

Cowboys get back on track, crush Falcons

That Atlanta Falcons playoff chatter was fun while it lasted (which was all of a week). They probably don’t have enough games left against bad teams or backup quarterbacks — which account for all four of the Falcons’ wins in 2021 — to piece together a résumé good enough to squeak in.

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott each had 2 first-half touchdowns, and the Falcons botched the most basic of plays in a complete beatdown in Big D. A week after coming out flat against the Broncos, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions, re-establishing themselves in the NFC’s top tier. The 29 points scored by Dallas in the second quarter were the most in any quarter in the team’s 62-year history.

Washington Football Team stuns Brady, Buccaneers

Another Sunday, another stunner. The NFL’s dregs are having their moment as of late, with the Washington Football Team the latest to pull off a massive upset, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29-19.

Tom Brady threw 2 first-half touchdowns, and the Buccaneers’ defense couldn’t make the timely late stop, allowing Taylor Heinicke and the Football Team to march 80 yards on 19 plays with the game on the line.

The news wasn’t all good for Washington, however. WFT pass rusher extraordinaire Chase Young is feared lost for the season after suffering a significant knee injury in the first half.

The loss was Tampa’s second straight and was hugely damaging for the Buccaneers’ first-round bye hopes.

Panthers romp Cardinals in Cam Newton’s return

The Arizona Cardinals desperately need their quarterback back. And the Carolina Panthers are thrilled to have theirs back in the fold.

Cam Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for another in Carolina’s 34-10 thrashing of the Kyler Murray-less Cardinals. The loss, combined with Green Bay’s win over the Seahawks, knocked the Cardinals out of the 1 seed.

Aaron Rodgers (23 of 37 for 292 yards and a pick) was rusty in his first game back from reserve/COVID-19, but Russell Wilson was far worse. Wilson, playing for the first time since he underwent finger surgery, threw two end zone picks in the loss. The Seahawks are now 3-7 and two full games out of the 7 seed.

Adam Beasley is the NFL Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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