(Wrote this in the morning, forgot to post until now.)
Football fans, Week 11 is upon us!
Granted, the week started with a relatively tepid Thursday night game between the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, which the Dolphins won 22-9, but the rest of the week, at least today, is slathered with a bunch of titanic matchups. This is the first time in NFL history that four games will take place between two six-plus win teams as early as Week 11.
There are also a lot of intriguing matchups that do not involve two higher level teams. The early slate of Sunday games is chock full of great matchups, the late game slate matches up with some of the best of the year, and the nightcap might see every American household paying attention to it.
As for my picks, last week went pretty well for me. I went 11-2 for the week, and, combined with my errant prediction from Thursday night, my overall record for the season is 107-36-1. Hopefully, I can reach 150 wins before picking 40 losers. It’ll be hard, but I’m up for the challenge.
Thursday Night Football (NFL Network, 8/30/7:30c)
Buffalo BIlls (5-4) at Miami Dolphins (5-4)
Prediction: Bills 20, Dolphins 17. Result: Bills 9, Dolphins 22.
Noon games (CBS & FOX, 1/12c)
Seattle Seahawks (6-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) (FOX)
Line: Chiefs by 1.5. O/U: 42
Let’s start with what, in my opinion, is clearly the best early game of the day. Both the Seahawks and the Chiefs are looking like playoff teams, but are not atop their divisions. The Seahawks trail the Arizona Cardinals by two games, while the Chiefs are a game back of the Denver Broncos.
Both teams are noted for possessing two of the best running backs in the league, as well as high-powered defenses, game-managing quarterbacks, and the loudest stadiums in the league. This game should feature a lot of running, sacks, and a decent amount of points. Do not look away.
As for my pick, this should be a close one, as the line indicates. I’ll go with the road team, though. The NFC is more clouded and crowded than the AFC, so they need it more. So, I cannot pick against them, even though this is as tough a road opponent as any in the league. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Chiefs 24.
Denver Broncos (7-2) at St. Louis Rams (3-6) (CBS)
Line: Broncos by 10. O/U: 51.5
The game in St. Louis may seem like a one-sided bloodbath, but the reality is that it is anything but. For one, the Rams are as big a wild card as any in the league. They have had double digit leads against the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers at home, and have won against the Seattle Seahawks in their home grounds. They have capable running backs, and nobody knows how Shaun Hill will play.
The Broncos are one of the best teams in the league, led by Peyton Manning and his arsenal of weapons. But, their running game is hampered, despite Montee Ball returning. His situation may still be iffy, though, and the man who did a fine job replacing him, Ronnie Hillman, will not be active. CJ Anderson was great last week in Oakland, but can he do the same this week? On paper, this is a mismatch. I’m still picking the Broncos, but this game will not be nearly as one-sided as many people believe it will be. Prediction: Broncos 31, Rams 17.
Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) at New Orleans Saints (4-5) (CBS)
Line: Saints by 7. O/U: 51.5
When the Bengals enter the New Orleans Superdome, they will be doing so against a team they should not be such a decisive underdog against. This Saints team has massively underachieved all season, yet they are atop the most mediocre division in the league!
The Saints finally have a running game with Mark Ingram, and Drew Brees is still slinging it, but his receivers have not looked as good as they usually do, and neither has he. The Bengals may be coming off an embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns, but I see them picking things up this week. I still believe the Saints will win a close game. I wish I did not have to make a pick, but I have no choice. Prediction: Bengals 27, Saints 28.
Atlanta Falcons (3-6) at Carolina Panthers (3-6) (FOX)
Line: Falcons by 1.5. O/U: 47
Up next is one of two divisional games of the early slate, featuring the last two NFC South winners. Neither team has looked any good, but both still have a shot at winning the division, since the Saints have continuously underachieved. I guess this comes down to which team looks less dead. The Falcons are coming off a divisional win at Tampa Bay, just a few weeks after blowing a 21-point lead against the Detroit Lions in London.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are coming off a monstrous 45-21 shellacking last Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, which was 45-7, until a few garbage-time touchdowns in the final minutes. Cam Newton looks broken, his running backs are not getting the ball enough, and the team seems hopeless. The Falcons are playing their best football of the season, as is running back Steven Jackson, so I’ll pick them. Prediction: Falcons 21, Panthers 13.
San Francisco Giants (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6) (FOX)
Line: 49ers by 4.5 O/U: 45
Can you believe the NFL had this penciled in as the #1 early game of the day, over the Seahawks/Chiefs game? The 49ers barely pulled off a season-saving win in New Orleans last week, while the Giants have failed to win a game in nearly two months. If the 49ers of the past few seasons were playing in this game, I would pick them handily. However, considering all the injuries the team has been dealing with, I’ll pick them in a slightly closer game. It will be somewhat competitive, but don’t look for an epic performance from either side. Prediction: 49ers 23, Giants 14.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) at Washington Redskins (3-6) (FOX)
Line: Redskins by 7.5 O/U: 45.5
When two teams with bad records face each other, neither side should be favored by a touchdown. That’s my sole reason for picking the hapless road team, which actually looks decent with Josh McCown at quarterback. Robert Griffin III still looks injured, and I’m picking against him. Prediction: Bucs 27, Redskins 20.
Minnesota Vikings (4-5) at Chicago Bears (3-6) (FOX)
Line: Bears by 3. O/U: 45.5
In the second early divisional game of the day, the two worst NFC North teams take each other on. Neither is mathematically eliminated from postseason contention yet, but each side needs a win to have a chance.
That is especially true for the Bears, who’s slide has been monumentally historic. After being thoroughly dominated last week at Green Bay by a score of 55-14, they became the first team in NFL history to allow 51 points in back to back games. The saddest part of that is the Bears were coming off a bye week, which should have helped them alleviate from an embarrassing 51-23 loss at the New England Patriots back in Week 8, which was never really that close to begin with.
Ultimately, I find it shocking that theBears have a worse record than the Vikings. They are more talented, and more desperate. Unlike the Vikings, the Bears were actually expected to contend for a playoff spot this season. I’m not supremely confident in them doing anything of the sort, but as far as this game goes, this is an easy bet. In my opinion, the Bears are basically a sure thing for this one day. Prediction: Vikings 14, Bears 34.
Houston Texans (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (6-3) (CBS)
Line: Browns by 3.5 O/U: 41
In the final early game worth addressing, we have a pair of teams that are historically hard to trust. The Texans always fail when anything is expected of them, while the Browns, albeit three games above .500, would not surprise anybody if they lost every remaining game.
Honestly, I was set to pick the Texans to win this game. But, with Arian Foster still being hampered by a groin injury, to the point that he will be unable to play, I have to pick the road team. Prediction: Texans 17, Browns 23.
Late afternoon games (4:05/3:05c on CBS, 4:25/3:25c on FOX)
Detroit Lions (7-2) at Arizona Cardinals (8-1) (FOX)
Line: Cardinals by one. O/U: 41
I know that this is not the game that FOX has opted to make the premier game of the day, and both sides are injured, but the reality is that these two squads hold the two best records in the NFC, and the lead.
The Cardinals may be playing without starting quarterback Carson Palmer for the rest of the season, but backup Drew Stanton has led the team to a few wins this season. Granted, he was the quarterback for their lone loss this season, but there’s no shame in losing 41-20 at the Denver Broncos, especially when the game was 24-20 at one point.
This is a matchup of two elite defenses, with the Cardinals possessing the league’s top rush defense, and the Lions boasting the number one pass defense in the league. It also features perhaps the best receiver/defensive back matchup since Darelle Revis took on Demaryius Thomas a few weeks ago in New England, when the league’s most highly regarded receiver, Calvin Johnson, takes on the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson.
As far as predictions go, this one s a doozy. I still find it hard to rely on the Lions, but this is a team that has finally started winning games it has been notorious for losing. If Carson Palmer was playing, I may have picked the road team. But, in this case, I’m not sure I can. Prediction: Lions 20, Cardinals 14.
Oakland Raiders (0-9) at San Diego Chargers (5-4) (CBS)
Line: Chargers by 10.5. O/U: 45.
Ugh. This game features two teams who have been, well lackluster of late. The Chargers have lost three straight, while the Raiders have not won a game this season. I want to pick the Raiders, but I simply cannot. I will not be surprised to see them pull it off, but I still have some faith in Philip Rivers. Prediction: Raiders 17, Chargers 27.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (FOX)
Line: Packers by 6.5. O/U: 55.5
In the game that is viewed as the premier late game of the day, the Packers host the Eagles. The Eagles are still a good team without Nick Foles, but I will not pick Mark Sanchez to win in Green Bay. The Packers are a great team at home, and I have a hunch that this game will be a blowout. Prediction: Eagles 17, Packers 45.
Sunday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, NBC)
New England Patriots (7-2) at Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
Line: Colts by 2.5. O/U: 58.5.
Two elite, high-powered offenses, led by two of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks, each coming off a bye? Clearly, this is the game of the week. Tom Brady has been fire lately, having thrown 18 touchdowns to just one interception in his last five games. Rob Gronkowski has returned to his status as the most fearsome tight end in the NFL, and Brandon Lafell has become the emerging target Patriots fans were hoping he would become.
Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is on pace to possibly break some regular season passing records, and his receiving core is pretty damn good. TY Hilton is a high-flying receiver, Reggie Wayne still has something left in the tank, and the team possesses a capable running and tight end game, as well.
I now this game is in Indianapolis, which is clearly the reason why the home team is favored. But, I’m picking the road team. I will not be surprised if they fall in Indy, but I view them as the best team in the NFL, and I believe they will pull off a double-digit victory. Prediction: Patriots 34, Colts 24.
Monday Night Football (8:30/7:30c, ESPN)
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-7)
Line: Steelers by 6.5. O/U: 46.5
Really? This is a Monday Night game? The Steelers are fairly unreliable on the road, as evidenced by last week’s loss at the hapless New York Jets. But, the Titans are hopeless. I will not be surprised if they won, but I’m rolling with Big Ben. Prediction: Steelers 27, Titans 14.