Scully’s NFL notebook: Chiefs, Raiders could meet again in playoffs
With 10 games decided by one score, Week 11 featured fantastic action.
Pittsburgh remains the only unbeaten team, and I rated the Steelers as the only legitimate AFC threat to Kansas City in early November.
However, Indianapolis and Las Vegas are making a push as December approaches.
Playoff rubber match may await Kansas City and Las Vegas
The Raiders left too much time (1:43) when they retook the lead against the Chiefs late in the fourth quarter, and Patrick Mahomes made them pay with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Kansas City prevailed, 35-31, in the most entertaining game of the 2020 season. The teams went back and forth the entire way, and the Chiefs narrowly avenged their lone loss, a 40-32 setback in Week 5. They could meet for a third time in the postseason.
The Raiders are better than their 6-4 record suggests and would be a tough out in the playoffs. If the season ended today, Kansas City would host Las Vegas in the divisional round.
Mahomes was fantastic in Week 11. He completed 34 of his 45 throws for 348 yards, and tight end Travis Kelce proved unstoppable, with eight catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs needed everything from their offensive stars to beat Las Vegas.
The Raiders looked terrible in a 36-20 loss to New England in Week 3, and I love their progression this season. The defense has made significant strides and has held two of the last four opponents to 12 points or fewer.
Derek Carr has also developed into a premier quarterback.
Las Vegas has embodied the tenacity of its coach, Jon Gruden, who won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders match up well against Kansas City. The number of offensive plays was the difference in Week 11, as Kansas City held an overwhelming 73-57 advantage. Las Vegas had a slight edge (67-66) the first time around.
It would be fun to see Round 3 in the playoffs.
Defense making the difference for New Orleans
Despite an injury to Drew Brees in Week 10, New Orleans has emerged as the Super Bowl favorite in the NFC.
Defense separates the Saints from the pack.
Brees will be back before the postseason, and Taysom Hill proved to be a competent backup in Week 11. The Saints will keep things simple in the interim. They can beat most teams with defense, if the quarterback avoids turnovers.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley returned for Atlanta in Week 11, but constant pressure made it impossible for Matt Ryan to be effective.
This isn’t the same New Orleans defense from earlier in the season. The turnaround began in Week 9, when the Saints throttled Tampa Bay, 38-3. In the last three games, the Saints have outscored the opposition by a 89-25 margin.
Picking up linebacker Kwon Alexander before the trade deadline was impactful, and defense makes New Orleans difficult to beat, regardless of who plays quarterback.
A potential Super Bowl preview looms, when Kansas City visits the Superdome in Week 15.
Rivers saving his best for the second half of the season
Count me among those who questioned Philip Rivers' future when Indianapolis dropped an ugly game to Cleveland in Week 5. The 3-2 Colts had already lost to Jacksonville, and they were too good to be performing so poorly.
The catcalls gained intensity, following a 24-10 setback to Baltimore in Week 9, but Rivers has turned things around in the last two games.
In Week 10, the Colts shut out Tennessee in the second half of a 34-17 rout. Rivers completed 29 of his 39 passes for 308 yards, and they needed him to play well, as Derrick Henry recorded the first 100-yard rushing performance of the season against Indianapolis.
Green Bay jumped out to 28-14 halftime advantage in Week 11, and Indianapolis had been 3-43-1 under Frank Reich when it trailed by at least two touchdowns at intermission. The Colts were still in the game because of a pair of touchdown passes from Rivers, and the veteran quarterback orchestrated scoring drives on the first four possessions of the second half.
The first two drives of the second half were critical — 14- and 10-play possessions that burned clock and kept Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. Indy’s defense did its part, with four forced turnovers (Green Bay had only five turnovers on the season entering the game), and Rivers finished with three touchdown passes. His lone interception came on a deflected pass.
After he struggled in the first six weeks of the season, Rivers is bringing it for the surging Colts. Rookie running back Jonathon Taylor has also been a valuable addition, and the defense is formidable.