NFL Week 11 offered another fantastic week of football with several games decided on the final play. But which players showed out and which ones disappointed? Here is our list of the biggest winners and losers.
Week 11 Winners, Losers
Winner: DaRon Bland, CB, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys lost one of the best playmaking cornerbacks in the NFL (Trevon Diggs) due to a torn ACL before Week 3. Diggs is an All-Pro cornerback who had 14 interceptions between the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That was expected to be a massive loss for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Luckily, the Cowboys have overcome that injury and then some due to the play of DaRon Bland. The second-year cornerback from Fresno State has replaced Diggs in the starting lineup and has been fantastic.
On Sunday, he recorded his fourth pick-six of the season, which ties an NFL record. He undercut a Bryce Young throw and took it to the house to give the Cowboys a 30-10 lead. It was his sixth interception of the season and his 10th interception in his past 14 games.
At this point, Bland is a near-lock to be a First-Team All-Pro this season. Not only has he created turnovers but he’s been excellent in coverage, playing on the outside and in the slot. If he can snag another interception or two this season, he’ll put himself in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. There hasn’t been a cornerback in the NFL better than Bland over the past year.
Loser: Bryce Young, QB, Carolina Panthers
It was another brutal day for the Carolina Panthers on offense. Facing one of the NFL’s top defenses, the Panthers only scored 10 points despite rushing for 110 yards (on 4.8 yards per carry). Bryce Young just wasn’t good enough, averaging just 4.2 yards per attempt. Young threw a bad interception to DaRon Bland and took seven sacks. He lost a fumble in the fourth quarter, leading to more points for the Cowboys.
In fairness to Young, there isn’t a lot of talent around him. The offense is getting worse by the week and the Panthers only have one reliable option in the passing game (Adam Thielen). Regardless, the Panthers need more from Young. They drafted him to be a problem solver on offense and he has been anything but through his first 11 games. He hasn’t done a good job creating plays outside of structure, and his lack of height (5-foot-10) is a major issue.
The biggest issue for Young is the lack of big plays. Against the Cowboys, Young failed to complete a single pass beyond 20 air yards, and he only attempted two passes beyond 20 air yards all game.
Maybe things will change this offseason for the Panthers once they bring in more talent. But right now, there aren’t a lot of signs that the Panthers have their franchise quarterback under center right now.
Winner: Tank Dell, WR, Houston Texans
C.J. Stroud will be the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and deserves every bit of it. The Houston Texans are 6-4 and only a game back in the AFC South. Houston looks like a playoff team and with its upcoming schedule, it should get to double-digit wins.
But the Texans wouldn’t be where they are this season without the play of another rookie, WR Tank Dell. The Texans have received good play from Nico Collins, Robert Woods and Noah Brown. But Dell is the one who has given this offense a lot of juice. Without Brown in Week 11, Dell stepped up to the plate.
Dell led the team in receiving yards with 149 yards on 10 targets. His biggest play was a 40-yard touchdown where he made an insane adjustment on the ball to make the catch. He glided past multiple defenders to get into the end zone for the sixth time this season.
Dell has 343 yards and four touchdowns in the Texans’ past four games. He has created a bunch of chunk plays in the passing attack, and his speed has allowed this offense to take off. Dell is getting better by the week and Houston’s offense continues to grow.
If Dell continues to progress at this pace, the Texans might be the team in the AFC that everyone wants to avoid in the playoffs. His explosiveness is reminiscent of a young Tyreek Hill. That the Texans found Stroud and Dell in the same draft is the franchise-altering move Houston desperately needed.
Loser: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a major problem on their hands. They are 6-4 and have a decent chance of winning the AFC North. However, second-year QB Kenny Pickett has regressed. Not only has he gotten worse, but it’s to the point where the Steelers might need to consider moving on from him after this season even though Pickett was a first-round pick in 2022.
Pittsburgh scored just 10 points against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. Its only touchdown came on a 74-yard run by Jaylen Warren in the second half. Pickett finished with 106 passing yards on 28 attempts and the Steelers had just 77 passing yards on 31 dropbacks. Most of Pickett’s completions came on screens and throws to the flat. It’s clear the Steelers are terrified of him throwing interceptions and they’ve completely neutered his playmaking ability.
This isn’t anything new for Pickett, who has played this way all season. But it’s been masked a bit due to his ability to help lead the Steelers to wins in the fourth quarter. That didn’t happen on Sunday and it’s the reason Pittsburgh lost.
Twice, Pickett got the ball with great field position late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game. However, he completed just one of four passes for 12 yards on those two drives. Pittsburgh picked up just one first down on its final three drives and it could not find a way to beat Cleveland.
Pickett has six touchdown passes through 10 games and averages only 172.2 passing yards per game. His passer rating is just 81.a and his QBR of 36.0 ranks 28th in the NFL.
The Steelers remain in a great position to make the playoffs, but the fact that Pickett hasn’t progressed at all might render all of their success this season irrelevant. If Pickett doesn’t improve dramatically, the Steelers will be in the quarterback market again in 2024.
Winner: Jordan Love, QB, Green Bay Packers
When a team has a young quarterback, it wants to see steady progress, even if it comes at a slower pace than expected. That’s precisely what has happened with Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers over the past few weeks.
Love played well against the Steelers in Week 10, throwing multiple touchdowns and giving the Packers a chance to steal that game. He wasn’t perfect, but he was one of the reasons why the Packers were competitive. In Week 11, he was the reason they won. It’s really the first time in his career that he was mostly responsible for the win.
With just more than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Love and Packers got the ball at their 25-yard line down four points. In six plays, Love led the Packers down the field for what would be the winning touchdown. His touchdown throw to Romeo Doubs was his second of the day and it was a gorgeous slot fade in the end zone. Doubs made a fantastic play on the football to ensure the defender could not knock it away.
Love passed for 322 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt. It was the second time in three weeks that Love averaged more than 8.0 yards per attempt. It’s a sign he’s playing with more confidence and the entire offense is starting to function at a higher level.
The Packers are 4-6 and likely won’t be a playoff team in 2023, but the good news is Love has progressed over the past month. If this can continue for the final seven games, the Packers can feel pretty good about their future entering the 2024 offseason.