Biggest surprises from Week 11 in the NFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Kansas City Chiefs

A rare and unexpected loss by the Kansas City Chiefs, the implosion of NFL kickers on extra points and the likely end of the Cincinnati Bengals’ season highlighted the biggest surprises from Week 11 of the 2016 season.

Here is a closer look at the week’s most surprising events:

Bucs end Chiefs’ five-game winning streak

It took Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to put an end to Kansas City’s five-game winning streak and 10-game home winning streak. Of course. Winston threw for 331 yards and Aguayo hit four field goals as the Buccaneers marched into Arrowhead Field and left with a rare win over the Chiefs.

Kansas City hadn’t lost at home since October 2015. The defeat was also just the third for the Chiefs over their last 20 regular season games. Kansas City is still in good shape at 7-3, but the upcoming schedule—which features road games in Denver and Atlanta and a visit from the rival Raiders over the next three weeks—will test Andy Reid’s suddenly mortal bunch.

NFL kickers struggle on extra points

The NFL changed the extra point rules to make play more competitive. Consider the objective achieved. Kickers missed an NFL record 12 extra points on Sunday, which represented more misses in one day than most full NFL seasons before the league moved the kick back 15 yards.

There was a time when touchdowns were worth a guaranteed seven points. Those days are now long gone. Six points for a touchdown often felt just as likely as seven on Sunday. Are we still sure that giving kickers a bigger say in wins and losses is good for the game?

Vikings stagnant on offense, yet find other ways to win

Minnesota overcame another abysmal day on offense to snap their four-game losing streak. Two huge plays—one delivered by the defense, the other by special teams—helped the Vikings. They gained just 217 yards on offense, yet still beat the visiting Arizona Cardinals and avoided a fifth straight loss.

Xavier Rhodes picked off Carson Palmer on the goal line and returned the interception for a 100-yard touchdown, and Cordarrelle Patterson returned the second half kickoff 104 yards for another score. Not since 1962 has a team produced an interception and kickoff return over 100 yards in the same game.

There’s never a need to apologize for a win, especially with the Vikings still tied atop the NFC North with the Lions. But how sustainable is the way Minnesota plays? It’ll be hard to count on defensive and special teams scores once the postseason nears.

Bengals’ playoff streak in serious jeopardy after disappointing home loss

The Bengals’ 2016 season effectively ended on Sunday. An ugly, 16-12 loss at home to the Buffalo Bills dropped Cincinnati to 3-6-1 after 10 games, and it seems likely that the Bengals will have to play the final six games without star receiver A.J. Green, who was carted off and reportedly suffered a hamstring tear.

Cincinnati has made the postseason in each of the last five years, but that streak is now in serious jeopardy. The Bengals have a ceiling of nine wins, which—even with a six-game winning streak to end the season—is unlikely to be enough to make the playoffs in the AFC. The season is all but over for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals.

Cowboys’ offense has a field day against one of league’s best defenses

The Cowboys winning a ninth straight game wasn’t surprising, but how easy they made it look was.

Dallas ran over the visiting Baltimore Ravens, with 417 total yards, 27 first downs and almost 36 minutes of possession fueling a 27-17 win at AT&T Stadium. Rookie Dak Prescott threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, Ezekiel Elliott gained 127 total yards against the league’s top-ranked run defense and Dez Bryant caught a pair of scores in the second half.

The Ravens should have been stiff competition for this Cowboys team. Baltimore was no match, especially over the final three quarters. It’s becoming easier and easier to believe in the Cowboys as a Super Bowl favorite.

Dolphins score twice late to spoil Jared Goff’s debut

Held scoreless for the first 56 minutes on Sunday, Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins engineered two late touchdown drives to steal a win away from the Los Angeles Rams in Jared Goff’s NFL debut.

Tannehill started the rally with a touchdown to Jarvis Landry with 4:02 left, and he finished the comeback by finding DeVante Parker for a second score with just 36 seconds to go. The Dolphins have now won five straight games to get to 6-4, while the Rams—who started 3-1—are now 4-6 and looking at the very real possibility of another losing season.

The ramifications of the outcome could be huge. The Dolphins have positioned themselves to be a factor in the AFC playoffs. The Rams are fading fast, and Jeff Fisher’s job might now be on the line over the final six games of 2016.

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