Week 11 NFL Preview

NFL SpyingTwo 9-0 Teams For Third Time In NFL History; Division Leaders Showing What A Difference A Year Makes

As the NFL season rolls into Week 11, there are still two undefeated teams. The two unbeatens – the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints – form just the third pair in NFL history to start a season 9-0, joining the 1934 Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.

To get to 9-0, Indianapolis needed a come-from-behind victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Trailing by 17 points in the fourth quarter, the Colts scored three touchdowns in the final period to pull out a stunning 35-34 victory. Indianapolis quarterback PEYTON MANNING threw four touchdowns on the night, including the game-winner to REGGIE WAYNE with 13 seconds remaining.

“Reggie called the last play,” says Manning. “He kept fighting through and made an extended catch. Maybe not his best catch ever, but it sure was timely.”

The Colts, who are 9-0 for the third time in the past five years, have won a franchise-record 18 consecutive regular-season games, tied with the 2003-04 Patriots for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

“We can’t be any better,” says Indianapolis head coach JIM CALDWELL about the team’s 9-0 record. “But the fact of the matter is, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

New Orleans, who visits Tampa Bay this Sunday, improved to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history with a 28-23 win at St. Louis. The Saints, who were 4-5 at this time last season, are one of three 2009 division leaders – Cincinnati (7-2 in 2009; 1-8 in 2008) and Dallas (6-3; 5-4) – who were in last place after Week 10 a year ago.

The nine 2009 division leaders (Denver and San Diego are tied for first in the AFC West) are a combined 63-18 (.778) through Week 10, 22 wins better than their records from a year ago at this time (41-40, .506).

The Bengals completed a sweep of the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers last week to vault into first place in the AFC North. Cincinnati is now 4-0 against division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the two teams that met in the AFC Championship Game. The Bengals are just the third team in the Super Bowl era to go 4-0 against the reigning Conference Championship Game participants (1967 Raiders vs. Buf/KC and 2006 Chargers vs. Den/Pit/Sea).

“The Steelers and Ravens have been the cornerstones of the league the last few years,” says Bengals cornerback JOHNATHAN JOSEPH. “We want to make our presence felt as well.”

Some of the headline games in Week 11:

MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-5) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (4-5) (Thursday, NFLN, 8:20 PM ET)

“These two teams are clawing their way back into the playoff picture,” says NFL Network’s BOB PAPA, who will call the game on Thursday night. “It’s power running versus power running.”

It will be a matchup of two of the league’s best rush teams as the Panthers (156.6 yards per game) are third in the NFL and the Dolphins (156.2) rank fourth. Carolina’s attack will showcase DE ANGELO WILLIAMS (860 yards, 7 TDs) and JONATHAN STEWART (466 yards, 6 TDs) while Miami’s offense will feature RONNIE BROWN (648 yards, 8 TDs) and

RICKY WILLIAMS (558 yards, 6 TDs). The Panthers and Dolphins are the only teams in the NFL to each feature two running backs with at least 450 yards and five rushing touchdowns.

Both teams were division winners last year and are looking to get back to the postseason after slow starts. The Dolphins and Panthers have each won four of their past six games after 0-3 starts.

“We were 1-3 in the first quarter and 2-2 in the second,” says Carolina head coach JOHN FOX. “The upside of that is there is room for improvement. There is no question to get better we’ve got to take a one game at a time approach. We’ve got a lot of season left. We’ll define where the body of work is after 16 games.”


The Colts have won 18 consecutive games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history (New England, 2003-04). But head coach JIM CALDWELL is looking forward, not back.

“If you take a peak in the rearview mirror, there are some teams that are behind us, but not far behind us,” says Caldwell. “So we better make certain that we stay on our toes and continue to try and get better. All we have to do is look down the road to next Sunday and see who we’re playing. It’s an outstanding team in Baltimore. It’s going to be a tough battle.”

That outstanding team in Baltimore is coming off a 16-0 road win at Cleveland on Monday night.

“Anytime you’re in the NFL and you get a shutout, it’s big,” says Ravens linebacker RAY LEWIS.

Baltimore is gearing up for a tough series that will see them host the Colts and Steelers before traveling to Green Bay.

“This upcoming three-game stretch is probably everything for our season,” says Ravens head coach JOHN HARBAUGH.

The Colts have won six in a row against the Ravens, including a 15-6 win in the 2006 Divisional Playoffs en route to Indianapolis’ Super Bowl XLI victory.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-3) at DENVER BRONCOS (6-3) (Sunday, CBS, 4:15 PM ET)

First place in the AFC West is on the line when these two division rivals meet on Sunday.

The streaking Chargers, who will play the 1,000th game in franchise history (including preseason and postseason), have won four in a row, including last week’s 31-23 win over Philadelphia.

“We didn’t know it would happen like this or this fast,” says San Diego quarterback PHILIP RIVERS, “but we believed we could get ourselves back into the division race. There is a lot of football left and there is no telling where things can go, but it’s nice to put together a string of wins and play better football. Denver will be a tough test and we’ll put together a great week at practice and look forward to it.”

Denver has stumbled after a 6-0 start, but head coach JOSH MC DANIELS knows his team is still in good position at 6-3 and tied for first place.

“We’re 6-3 and playing San Diego, who is also 6-3,” says McDaniels, whose club defeated the Chargers 34-23 in Week 6. “It’s a huge division game at home. I don’t know why we wouldn’t like to be in this situation. We need to fix the problems and play good football from here on out, starting this week against a great team coming from San Diego in our division.”


“Monday Night Football is very big,” says Houston wide receiver ANDRE JOHNSON, who ranks third in the NFL with 800 receiving yards. “Everybody is watching. This is a real big game and it will be a test for us.”

The Texans, coming off a Week 10 bye, will look to slow down the red-hot Titans, who have won three in a row and have averaged 35.0 points per game in their three victories, all started by quarterback VINCE YOUNG. Running back CHRIS JOHNSON, who became the second player in team history with 100 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing in a game last week, leads the NFL with 1,091 yards. He is the third player in NFL history (Pro Football Hall of Famer JIM BROWN and ADRIAN PETERSON) to rush for at least 1,000 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry in his team’s first nine games.

“My confidence level is high right now,” says Johnson. “We’ve won three in a row, and like I said earlier, our goal has been to try and go 10-0 in these last games (after the team’s 0-6 start).”

“It’s all about the next game,” says Titans head coach JEFF FISHER about the team’s winning streak. “We just have to keep it going.”

There are nine quarterbacks – BRETT FAVRE, DREW BREES, PEYTON MANNING, AARON RODGERS, TOM BRADY, MATT SCHAUB, PHILIP RIVERS, BEN ROETHLISBERGER, DONOVAN MC NABB – with a passer rating of at least 95.0, the most through the first 10 weeks of a season since 1970.