Week 11 in the NFL started with a familiar script, special teams dooming the Saints and me being on the wrong side of a Thursday night spread, even though it was by just a half point. I posted a 7-7 mark last week. Highlights were calling the Broncos’ and Seahawks’ upset wins. 71-77-6 is where I start the week. My picks are bolded, upsets have an asterisk and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Let’s go.
*Cardinals at Vikings (-2.5) – I have no feel for this game at all. Despite their four game losing streak, the Vikings defense is still giving up just 17 points a game. Again, they are on a four game losing streak. So, what that really means is the offense cannot move the ball against anyone at the moment, including the hot and cold Cardinals… I think. Ari 17 Min 12
*Ravens at Cowboys (-7.5) – This is one of two games I feel very strongly about this week. Folks, I have been saying it all year as well as before the season. The Ravens are a really dangerous team that will be around in January. The offense has come alive after two divisional wins. With Joe Flacco and those receivers, it was just a matter of time. On the other side of the ball, gone are names like Ray Lewis, Chris McAllister and Ed Reed, but they have finally been suitably replaced by names like CJ Mosley, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. This is easily the best defense the Cowboys have seen all year. They are top-ranked against the rush.
As a general rule, great defense stops great offense. As good as Dak Prescott has been, Ezekiel Elliott will be at least somewhat neutralized here. I do not think Prescott can do it all on his own. The Cowboys are a good football team, but other good football teams should be able to exploit their flaws. They finally run into one of those here. Bal 31 Dal 20
Bills at Bengals (-2.5) – I am excited to be going to this game. It is a coin flip. These teams are similar. Both are loaded with firepower, particularly on offense, but they find themselves fading in the AFC playoff race. This is an elimination game. Buffalo’s back may already be broken. They really outplayed Seattle last time out, but have nothing to show for it. Given preseason expectations, the Bengals should be more desperate and play well. As a native Cincinnatian (who is by no means a fan), that is terrible logic to use when evaluating the Bengals, but it is all I have got. Cin 27 Buf 23
Bears at Giants (-7.5) – We are getting late enough into the season that it is not a bad idea to start looking at trends. There is one that made me change my pick here. This season, all but one of New York’s games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Bears are awful and after getting annihilated last week in Tampa Bay, the resurgence of Jay Cutler appears to have only lasted one week, but a trend like that should never be ignored. NYG 23 Chi 17
Jaguars at Lions (-6.5) – With division rivals Green Bay and Minnesota limping along at the moment, this may be Detroit’s year to make a real run at the big time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is playing at an MVP level. I have seen nothing from Jacksonville this year that makes me think this will be close. Det 40 Jac 21
Steelers (-7.5) at Browns– For the first time in my almost 24 years of life, the Steelers are flat out bad on defense. Giving up 380+ yards per game including well over 100 yards per game on the ground will not get you in the playoffs. It does not matter how good the offense is. There are major issues that need correcting in Steelers country. Fortunately for them, the Browns are all that is on tap this week. The Steelers are still plenty good enough to handle that task. Pit 34 Cle 24
Bucs at Chiefs (-7.5)- Boy, there are certainly easier places to go than Arrowhead Stadium if you are trying to build off a win last week the way the Bucs are. Kansas City continues to win games by playing mistake free football, having an opportunistic defense, and doing just enough on offense. As always, that style may have a ceiling on it come playoff time, but it will do the trick for now. KC 20 TB 10
Titans at Colts (-3)- It has been a very long time since I whiffed on a football game as bad as I did be Tennessee/Green Bay game last week. The Titans are a legitimate contender in that division and a lot better than I thought. Also, it is so nice to see running back DeMarco Murray back in a system that suits his skill set. However, much like the Titans, the Colts may have really found something their last time out, which was also against Green Bay. In what could be a shootout between two young and hot quarterbacks, I trust Andrew Luck a bit more than Marcus Mariota. Ind 30 Ten 24
Dolphins (-1) at Rams- This is the other game I feel very strongly about. In my house, we call this a “Nova game.” A game my dad and I would bet our beloved dog, Nova on. Thankfully, this is only hypothetical. We would have lost her many times by now. In all seriousness, Miami is rolling behind Jay Ajayi. Conversely, while his debut does add a layer of intrigue here, one can only assume that there is a good reason why Jeff Fisher and the Rams had to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to start top draft pick Jared Goff at quarterback. Mia 35 LA 17
Patriots (-13) at 49ers- As good as the Patriots are, the 49ers are that bad. However, the match-up is not terrible for them here. Without Rob Gronkowski, none of New England’s pass catchers are to be feared. The extra attention defenses must pay to Gronk creates more favorable match-ups for everyone else. Chip Kelly’s Eagles gave Bill Belichick’s Pats fits last year. These two things are enough to make this much closer than most people think. NE 35 SF 30
Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5) – The NFL’s surprise of the year is the way the Eagles have played. With a rookie head coach and quarterback, they are right there in the playoff race, but this is a tall order for Carson Wentz and company. With Russell Wilson finally healthy and the defense playing up to their capabilities, Seattle gets my vote for the best team in football right now. I am not sure how much the opponent matters to the Seahawks at the moment. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they get a rookie quarterback in their building. This week will be the start of Seattle catching Dallas for the number one seed in the NFC. Sea 31 Phi 17.
*Packers at Redskins (-3) – I am giving the Packers one more week before I bail on them. The good news is Aaron Rodgers and the offense were not the problem last week. If you give up 47 points, you are not going to win. The Redskins always put up huge yardage numbers, but really struggle in the red zone. They will lose by kicking one too many field goals Sunday night. GB 35 Was 32
MNF from Mexico City: Texans at Raiders (-5.5) – If the NFL is insistent on playing games outside our borders, this is how it should be done, in Mexico featuring two teams from cities with significant Mexican populations. As for the game itself, I struggle to buy into both these first place clubs long term. The Raiders are still committing way too many penalties. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler is the weak link in Houston. You can’t hide the quarterback forever in this league. Houston’ defense is carrying them and the Raiders offense is doing the same in Oakland. This will be really close. The team with the MVP candidate at quarterback will do just enough to get over the finish line, but taking the points is smart here. Oak 24 Hou 21