The Houston Roughnecks had a proud Sunday. The Detroit Lions did not.
The Roughnecks, one of the teams in the defunct (for now, the league plans to be back in 2022) second run of the XFL, saw their old quarterback P.J. Walker help get the Carolina Panthers a 20-0 win over the Lions on Sunday.
Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t play due to a knee injury, so Walker, who was Houston’s starting quarterback in the XFL and one of the league’s stars, got the start.
Walker, an undersized quarterback out of Temple who was undrafted in 2017, appeared in two career NFL games, both this season. He had 15 career passing yards. He waited a long time for an opportunity like Sunday and did an excellent job with it.
He made one bad mistake, an interception into the end zone when he didn’t see the defender underneath, but bounced back from it. He threw another pick into the end zone, but the Panthers still cruised to an easy win. Walker finished with 258 yards and a touchdown, both of which are more than the Lions as a team had all day.
It’s hard to lose decisively when you have two picks in the end zone, but Detroit managed to do it. The Lions have a lot of injuries on offense, but getting shut out by a suspect Panthers defense while Walker moved the ball on Matt Patricia’s defense is not a good look. The Lions were outplayed in every way by a Panthers team that was just 3-7 coming in and playing its backup quarterback. Carolina had 374 yards to 185 for the Lions.
It’s hard for the Lions to use injuries as an excuse when they were without their starting quarterback and also superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. But that’s Matt Patricia’s Lions.
Get ready for three hours of speculation over Patricia’s job status when the Lions play on Thanksgiving, assuming Patricia still has a job by Thursday. The Lions are 4-6, and you’re bound to hear a lot of griping this week about how everyone is stuck watching them again on the holiday. The only positive for the Lions is there won’t be fans in Ford Field to boo the entire organization for how it has fallen apart under Patricia’s watch. But Patricia and the sorry state of the Lions will be the story the whole day. It has to feel like deja vu for Lions ownership. It’s one thing to get embarrassed by a 3-7 team with a quarterback from the XFL, but that didn’t happen with the entire country watching around turkey dinner.
Walker’s story should be celebrated. It’s an easy tale to root for, finding his chance after going to a startup league that saw a rough and early demise to its first season due to a pandemic. He wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough to lead his team to a win, which is more than can be said for Matthew Stafford.
Maybe the Lions can mine the leftovers from the XFL for their next coach.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 11 in the NFL:
New York Jets: Perhaps it’s misleading praise, but the Jets have looked like an actual NFL team at times in their past two games.
After almost beating the New England Patriots, the Jets made it interesting at the end against the Los Angeles Chargers. They trailed 34-26 late and had the ball in Chargers territory when a fourth-down pass was incomplete.
At least the Jets can move the ball. Joe Flacco has done a good job the past couple games, and that isn’t the best look for Sam Darnold. At least Flacco has given New York some semblance of decent offensive play.
The Jets are 0-10 and it seems likely they’ll finish 0-16. At least they haven’t been blown out the past two games. Progress.
Washington Football Team: The injury to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was brutal but Washington got a win that — you’ve heard this before — somehow keeps them in the NFC East race.
Washington had a nice all-around day. Alex Smith was efficient, rookie running back Antonio Gibson scored again and had 94 rushing yards and the defense played well. Head coach Ron Rivera is getting a lot out of a team that is still rebuilding.
The rare win for any NFC East team over a non-divisional foe puts Washington at 3-7. That record is nothing to be proud of and Burrow’s injury was a key moment in Sunday’s 20-9 win, but Washington is playing hard and for the moment still in a playoff race. Every win will be big, no matter how it comes.
Bridgewater played well, but it was the defense that deserved most of the credit for keeping the team afloat while Brees recovered from thumb surgery. That might be happening again with Brees out with fractured ribs.
Taysom Hill made some plays as his replacement and Sean Payton must have been thrilled his gamble at quarterback paid off for at least one week, but New Orleans’ defense carried the day in a 24-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons. A good Falcons offense got very little going. The Saints are still in the mix to win the NFC South even without Brees, as long as the defense keeps playing like it did Sunday.
Johnson has been great for the Steelers, while we all know of Brown’s path since that trade. Johnson had a big day with 12 catches for 111 yards as the Steelers handled business against a bad Jacksonville Jaguars team, winning 27-3. The Steelers often play down to the competition, especially on the road, so an easy win Sunday was nice to see.
The Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving in a game that can officially put the AFC North away. The Steelers have multiple strengths, including their exceptional receiving corps. Johnson was big on Sunday, rookie Chase Claypool had another touchdown and while JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t do much, he can put up huge numbers if coverage is focused elsewhere.
The Steelers are 10-0. Who knew the Brown trade would work out this well for them?
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: There can’t be a much emptier feeling in the NFL than what Valdes-Scantling experienced Sunday.
The Packers and Colts played a fantastic game, going back and forth. The Packers got an improbable tie at the end of regulation with a long drive in the final two minutes. One of the key plays late in the game was Aaron Rodgers hitting Valdes-Scantling for 47 yards when Green Bay was backed up at its own 6-yard line.
Valdes-Scantling’s hero status disappeared quickly. In overtime he caught a short screen pass and had the ball punched out for a fumble. The Colts recovered and didn’t move the ball, but kicked a field goal to win 34-31.
The Packers are in a tight race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Valdes-Scantling has had some big games and is a reason the Packers are 7-3 this season. Sunday’s fumble will be a tough one to shake.
Minnesota Vikings: Well, it was nice while it lasted.
The Vikings won three in a row after a 1-5 start and looked like a team that could still factor in the NFC playoff race. That’s what made a loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys look so bad.
The odds of the Vikings making the playoffs were low, but a loss to Dallas at home kills those dreams. It’s back to being a lost season after a few weeks of hope.
The Dolphins gave it right back. Tua Tagovailoa was hit often behind a leaky offensive line, and head coach Brian Flores turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second half. Fitzpatrick played OK but couldn’t lead a win.
The 20-13 loss is a blow to Miami’s playoff hopes. The Dolphins have made progress this season and maybe that matters more than whether they make the playoffs this season. It is a rebuild, after all. But they’ll need to play very well the rest of the way to catch the Bills.
Baltimore Ravens’ playoff chances: The AFC is deep, and good teams will be left out of the playoffs.
The Ravens might be one of them.
A loss to the Tennessee Titans on Derrick Henry’s touchdown run in overtime puts the Ravens in a tough spot. They’re not going to catch the Steelers in the division. The loss to the Titans also gives Tennessee, another wild-card contender, an all-important tiebreaker.
The Ravens had a shot to win. Even after giving up a great A.J. Brown touchdown late in regulation, they rallied to send it to overtime. But an offense that has sputtered most of the season went three-and-out to start overtime, and the defense gave up a drive capped by Henry’s run.
The Ravens could still make the playoffs, but their margin of error is almost gone. And they travel to Pittsburgh next.
Patriots’ momentum: It turns out the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens was probably the highlight of a lost season, not the start of a run back to playoff contention. And a win over the New York Jets before that was just a victory over the worst team in football.
The Patriots were on a winning streak, but that came to an end Sunday at Houston in a 27-20 loss. Deshaun Watson played very well against the Patriots’ lackluster defense and the Texans won. In a deep and tough AFC, that should end the Patriots’ playoff hopes.
The Patriots had won two straight but are now 4-6. It has been a long time since New England was playing out the string in a season, but the loss to Houston pretty much ensures the next six weeks won’t mean much to the Patriots.
Carson Wentz: You have to wonder how close Wentz is to getting benched.
Wentz threw a pick six under pressure, then took a sack from Cleveland Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon in the end zone. Those two plays accounted for nine of the Browns’ 12 points at that point of the game, and they led 12-7. Wentz threw another pick just ahead of the two-minute warning when the Eagles drove to the 10-yard line, trailing 22-10. Wentz got a touchdown to Dallas Goedert in the final minute, but it was too late as Philadelphia lost 22-17.
Wentz hasn’t gotten a ton of help this season. He wasn’t protected all that well Sunday. Still, he hasn’t performed and has exacerbated the issues more often than playing above the problems around him. Rookie Jalen Hurts might not be ready, but some point, you have to wonder if the Eagles will be tempted to try him.
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