NFL Week 11

NFL Week 11: Good, bad and ugly

Jenna Watson, Indy Star

Week 11 in the NFL is in the books. We saw great performances, even better celebrations, and perhaps some of the worst calls from officials. Here's how I saw it play out:

The Good

-The Colts' offensive lineman Quenton Nelson thought he scored on a fullback dive and what ensued was a celebration that should be top 5 this season: they simulated a keg stand and used a fellow lineman as the human keg! Was it choreographed? Of course. But these guys get style point nonetheless because it's something we haven't seen before. He didn't get in after review, but the celebration was still awesome.
-Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had himself a game against the Lions. The Cowboys needed all 444 of his passing yards and three touchdowns to beat the hapless Lions who were playing with backup quarterback Jeff Driskel. This was one of those games in which his contract demands went up like a good day at the Stock Market. But just like the market, it can fall quickly.
-The Patriots defense is for real. Despite their one hiccup against potential league MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, they've been lights out. They beat the Eagles 17-10 and held the Eagles to only 255 total yards, sacked Carson Wentz five times, and held them to 3.9 yards per pass and the same per run. The aforementioned Prescott and Cowboys come to Foxboro next week and should present another test.

The Bad

-The Falcons have won their last two games by a combined score of 55-12. Not only did they dominate, but they beat the top two teams in their division. Why would I say this is bad? Because they're only 3-7 after those two wins! This team is way too talented to have that bad of a record after 10 games. Their Super Bowl hangover has lasted two seasons now!

-The 3-6 Broncos were up 23-7 over the Vikings heading into the 4th quarter in Minnesota. They ended the day 3-7 after giving up 20 unanswered points. They only committed one turnover which was a first half interception that the Vikings failed to do anything with. They simply stopped being able to move the ball or stop the Vikings from scoring. Remember when they decided to stand pat at the trade deadline? Wondering if Broncos general manager John Elway is regretting that decision now?

-Here's a reminder that the Bears moved up from #3 to #2 unnecessarily to draft Mitchell Trubisky and passed on Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Trubisky went 24/43 for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception, as well as getting sacked once. Not only do they have kicker issues, but the guy pulling the trigger for them sucks. Guess having the TVs off at Halas Hall to drown out the noise didn't help.

The Ugly

-Broncos fullback Andy Janovich suffered a gruesome injury Sunday. The injury occurred when he caught a short pass and tried to brace himself for the tackle, but ended up dislocating his elbow. It was so bad, CBS refused to show any replays of the play. Think of the Alex Smith leg injury, but at the elbow.

-Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph were at the center of a melee Thursday night. It started with Rudolph being a jackass and trying to rip Garrett's helmet off after he got hit. Garrett, in turn, ripped Rudolph's helmet off and managed to hit him with it which sparked an all out brawl between the two teams. A number of guys were suspended and/or fined, but Garrett received an indefinite suspension. Sure it's not wise to hit a guy with a helmet after ripping it off, but an indefinite suspension is a bit much NFL.

-Pass interference is the new catch rule. Remember a few years ago when the league tried to define waht was and wasn't a catch, only they never really did and we're still all not sure? Pass interference is now the same thing. In the 49ers vs Cardinals game, Cardinals linebacker Joe Walker was flagged for PI after 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk tackled him! Texans' wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was interferred with at least twice on one play, no flag was thrown and the ruling on the field was upheld upon challenge. Seriously, something needs to be done because the refs simply aren't doing their jobs when it comes to the calls and challenges.

By opening Pandora's Box on being able to review pass interference, I don't think the league and competition committee really took into consideration human nature. How likely is a ref to admit he or one of his crew messed something up? On the other hand, it's been great seeing the celebrations the last couple years. For as much as we bitch and complain about things in the league, it's pretty healthy. Games are good, young players are stepping up as new stars, but there's still much left to be desired. We'll all keep coming back for more because the product is so enjoyable and popular. It's like that one restaurant you go to time and again despite the service not being up to par, but the food is so good, you don't mind paying the prices they charge.

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Cristian Javier has proven he's a quality starting pitcher. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2022 regular season is nearing its end and while for the Houston Astros the true test will begin in the postseason, now is a good time to look ahead at what the team’s starting rotation could look like in 2023.

The big question will be whether long-time ace Justin Verlander returns to the team. Heading into 2022, there was doubt whether he would even be with the Astros coming off Tommy John surgery. Verlander re-signed with Houston on a two-year deal with a player option for 2023.

His production in 2022 has been nothing short of sensational. Verlander has the most wins for the Astros with a week left in the season. He has a 1.82 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 5.2 wins above replacement. More importantly for both Verlander and the Astros, is that he has played in 26 games and counting this season.

Whether Verlander remains with the Astros will likely depend on whether Houston is willing to spend. It is highly likely Verlander opts out of his player option following the strong 2022 campaign he has put together and looks for a bigger payday. Houston has shown it is not afraid to let key players walk in the offseason, so let’s take a look at a potential rotation with and without Verlander.

If the 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time the 2023 regular season starts, stays with the Astros, he will undoubtedly be either the No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher in the rotation along with Framber Valdez, who is right behind Verlander in wins this season at 16. If Verlander leaves, Valdez should be the new Astros ace at No. 1.

Behind those two should be pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who in seven games in 2022 has a 2.38 ERA and has cooled the concerns about his right flexor tendon strain being a long-term concern. He suffered the injury last postseason.

After those three, things begin to get interesting. Let’s say Houston opts to stay with a six-man rotation. The fourth starter could be Luis Garcia, who has a 3.90 ERA in 2022. The 25-year-old has shown he is more than a capable starter for the Astros.

The big question is if Hunter Brown can lock himself a spot in the rotation. Numbers wise, he makes a solid case to be more than Houston’s fifth starter as he has garnered 1.13 ERA through four appearances and two starts.

Brown’s starts have been against the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers, so there is a bit of a caveat there, but the upside undoubtedly should put him in the conversation for a starting role in 2023.

If Verlander leaves Houston, it should be more of a guarantee that a spot in the rotation as a starter for Brown is locked. Another factor in whether Brown is a starter could be if the Astros keep Dusty Baker as manager. Baker has shown at times he is willing to side with veterans over younger talent.

Other factors in Brown’s role will also be Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier. Urquidy has a 3.88 ERA in 28 games, all of which have been starts. Javier has a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances, 24 of which have been starts.

Javier’s role for the Astros the last couple of years has involved starting and coming out of the bullpen, but this season he has shown that he is a capable starter. Based on this season’s play, Javier should have the edge for a starting spot, which leaves the question, what should the Astros do with Urquidy?

If Verlander walks, and Houston opts to keep a six-man rotation, then he just slides in and becomes starter No. 6. If Verlander stays, then is he willing to accept a role out of the bullpen, or do the Astros continue to use Brown out of the bullpen? Over the course of the season, both Brown and Urquidy will undoubtedly have chances to start throughout 2023.

Because of the long grind of an MLB schedule, the Astros should not trade whoever doesn’t get a starting role if Verlander stays, but how likely is it that it is even a problem for Houston? Regardless of who leaves or stays, the Astros should also continue with a six-man rotation because over the course of 162 games, it is what is best for your starters.

If the Astros bring back general manager James Click, based on how the Astros have seen players like George Springer and Carlos Correa walk in the past under his leadership, it is likely Verlander leaves Houston, but at the same time, many didn’t believe he was going to be back at all for 2022.

One thing is for sure, the Astros have a great problem to have. So many starting pitcher candidates, many of whom can be under team control for several years. So even if Verlander walks, an unforeseen injury happens, or a player ends up being disgruntled, Houston has more than enough flexibility to remain among the American Leagues’s best.

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