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Badgers in the NFL: Week 11

Following your favorite Wisconsin football alumni week to week in the NFL can be a difficult task. Don't fret -- here's a recap of how the Badgers' brightest NFL stars did in their games this past weekend.

Doug Pensinger

Just because they no longer play at Wisconsin doesn't mean that they aren't still Badgers. With that in mind, here's a look a how the Badgers of the NFL did in Week 11.

RB Montee Ball, Denver Broncos

After failing to reach the end zone in his first seven games as a professional football player, Montee Ball (2009-12) has scored three touchdowns in his last three games thanks to two touchdown runs on Sunday Night Football in the Denver Broncos' 27-17 victory over the previously-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs.

Ball's best game in the NFL was one that encompassed all of the aspects John Elway and the Broncos saw in the 5-foot-10 running back when they drafted him 58th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Peyton Manning and his injured ankle went untouched the entire 60 minutes of the game thanks in large part to the outstanding protection job Ball and the offensive line did against the best defense in the league; Ball carried the pigskin eight times for 25 yards and a career-high two touchdowns; and caught a career-high three passes out of the backfield for 16 yards.

While Knowshon Moreno led the team in rushing (27 carries, 79 yards), it was Ball who got the bulk of the touches near the goal-line. The former-Badger's two red zone rushes went for touchdowns of 1-yard and 8-yards in the second and third quarters respectively. Twice was Ball targeted in the red zone as a receiver, while Manning did not look Moreno's way once when inside the 20-yard line.

Here's a head-scratcher: Montee Ball scored twice as many touchdowns as Peyton Manning did on Sunday night.

Ball and the Broncos head to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 12.

TE Garrett Graham, Houston Texans

The Houston Texans are a mess right now. There's no nice way to put it. After starting the season 2-0, Houston has lost eight in a row and now finds itself sitting at 2-8.

While most position players are struggling for the Texans, one of the few bright spots on the team has been the play Gary Kubiak has received from the tight end position where former Badgers are abundant - Owen Daniels (2002-05), Garrett Graham (2006-09), and Jake Byrne (2008-11) are the first, second, and third string TEs. With Daniels on the IR due to a leg injury, Graham has filled his shoes famously as the 2010 fourth-round pick is in the midst of a career season. While there are still six games remaining in the regular season, Graham has already recorded career highs in receptions (33), targets (55), yards (404), touchdowns (4), receiving first downs (20), and has extended the length of his longest reception (42).

Sunday's 28-23 loss to the Oakland Raiders helped Graham achieve such accolades as the 6-foot-3, 243-pound New Jersey product had seven receptions (on a career high 13 targets), 136 yards, and one touchdown. Graham's touchdown reception was a career-high 42 yarder that represented Houston's lone offensive touchdown of the afternoon. The touchdown was made possible by Case Keenum and his ability to escape the pocket, but Graham's wherewithal to get open downfield should not go overlooked.

Perhaps the only negative on the day for Graham, aside from his team falling at home yet again, took place in the first quarter where he lost his first fumble of his career after being stripped by Charles Woodson. The fumble led to an Oakland touchdown pass from former Penn State product Matt McGloin to Denarius Moore, giving the Raiders a 7-0 lead.

The Houston Texans host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12.

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

"I really don't know how you stop Russell Wilson," FOX commentator Tim Ryan said after Wilson (2011) "threw" this touchdown pass to Marshawn Lynch. Lately, Ryan hasn't been alone in his thinking as there really hasn't been a formula for stopping the 2012 third-round draft pick.

On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Wilson, who was 13/18 for 230 yards, and two touchdowns, had a Total QBR (quarterback rating) of 98.5 - his highest total in a game this season and his second straight game over 90.0. Since Wilson entered the league in 2012, only Peyton Manning's 12 games with a QBR above 90.0 are more than the eight Wilson has put up. In fact, Wilson's eight games with a QBR above 90.0 since 2012 are three more than Tom Brady.

While his running game was a less-than-impressive two attempts for 14 yards, Wilson's ability to get the ball down the field more than made up for it. The 5-foot-11, 206-pound averaged 12.78 yards per completion - the second highest of his career - en route to leading his team to their record-setting 13th consecutive victory at home.

The Seahawks put their home-undefeated streak on the line in Week 12 as they welcome the New Orleans Saints into town on Monday Night Football.

Other notes from Badgers in the NFL

  • OLB DeAndre Levy is turning into one of the best linebackers the NFL has to offer. The former-Badger (2005-08) turned Detroit Lion is currently 14th in the NFL this season in total tackles (81) after his 12 tackle performance, which included two tackles for a loss, on Sunday in the Lion's 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Levy's 12 tackles were the third highest single-game total of his career and his two pass deflections tied a previous career hight.
  • P Brad Nortman (2008-11), sixth round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, punted the ball twice for a total of 87 yards in Monday night's thrilling Panthers victory over the Patriots.
  • Undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien (2008-11) was 24-for-34 for 339 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in the Packers' 37-13 loss to the New York Giants. As is the case with many inexperienced quarterbacks, Tolzien was careless with the ball and the experience of the Giant's defense took advantage. In short yardage situations, Tolzien was not the quarterback Badgers fans are accustomed to seeing, with all three of Tolzien's interceptions coming on passes thrown shorter than 15 yards down the field. On deep throws, however, Scott Tolzien excelled as he went 6-for-6 on passes thrown at least 15 yards down field. It was just the fourth time since the start of 2006 that a quarterback had gone 6-for-6 or better on such throws in a game. Prior to Sunday's game, the Packers had gone 65 straight games without throwing three interceptions, the longest active streak in the NFL.
  • 2012 fourth-round draft pick WR Nick Toon had one reception, on one target, for eight yards in the New Orleans Saints 23-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Former first-round pick DE J.J. Watt, along with Graham, was one of two Badgers to shine for the Texans on Sunday as the Pewaukee High School graduate had five solo tackles, five quarterback hits, and two sacks against the Raiders. The two sacks now give Watt five sacks in the past four games and raise his sack total to 8.5 on the season. Watt is fifth in the NFL in total tackles by a defensive lineman (47). Unfortunately for Watt and the rest of the defense, his individual numbers alone are not good enough to hide the fact that Houston has allowed 23 or more points in nine out of 10 games this season.