Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 11 NFL Picks
An impressive slate of Week 10 NFL games was marred by injuries that will affect things moving in Week 11 and forward.
The game of the week, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, was supposed to be a huge event on the NFL schedule, but Ravens injuries over the past few weeks gave the Steelers a direct shot to the top of the division. However, with Ben Roethlisberger out for what looks to be multiple weeks, the Ravens could put a hammerlock on the AFC North.
The Nick Foles era has started (at least temporarily) in Philadelphia, which could help the Washington Redskins get their season back on track.
Chicago and San Francisco face off in what was supposed to be a matchup of two of the league's top teams, but will anyone tune in to Jason Campbell vs. Colin Kaepernick?
Check out who our experts picked in these games and more!
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight-up.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills
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B/R Consensus: Dolphins (6-5)
Vegas: Bills (-1.5)
Last week was a lesson in managed expectations for Dolphins fans, but I still have to think it's an aberration for the young team. It won't be easy winning on the road on Thursday night, but Ryan Tannehill will be all kinds of motivated to get things done.
The Miami Dolphins are simply the better team. Better offense. Better defense. Better coaching. Even on the road, the Dolphins get my pick for the win over a reeling division rival.
The Dolphins need to get both Tannehill and Reggie Bush back on track, and Dave Wannstedt’s bad defense is a good place to start. But C.J. Spiller will have a big game, opening up Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game. Division games are always tough, and this one will be no different. The Bills win a close one.
It's becoming harder and harder to trust Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense. Even when things are going well, as they were for much of their Week 10 game against the Patriots, you can't discount the possibility for a sudden meltdown. The Dolphins offense remains a work in progress, but their defense is dominant enough to make this relatively easy for Ryan Tannehill and Co.
Also Picking the Bills: Hangst, Hansen, Dunlevy, Gagnon
Arizona Cardinals vs. Atlanta Falcons
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B/R Consensus: Falcons (Unanimous)
Vegas: Falcons (-10)
I may have been wrong before the season when I called the Cardinals the worst team in the NFL, but they're playing like it right now. The Falcons have more weapons than the Cardinals can match up with and will have a lot of ill will to take out on Arizona.
How well the Falcons rebound after their first loss will be heavily covered. The good news is that the Cardinals have a way of making bad teams look good, so they'll make a great team look unbeatable. Atlanta wins big at home.
Coming off their first loss of the season, the Falcons will be a focused team looking to take it out on their next opponent, in this case the hapless Cardinals. Arizona can hang with Atlanta when it is on defense, but when the Cardinals are on offense, the talent gap is just too wide for this to end up competitive.
Even though Arizona is coming off of its Week 10 bye, it's hard to image the Falcons losing two weeks in a row at home. Granted, the Saints and Cardinals have identical records, but we know who the better team is. Ken Whisenhunt's club is currently sporting a five-game losing streak, and they are only averaging 10.6 points per game in those five contests. Ten points a game on the road will not be enough.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons will face their toughest task among passing defenses when they host Arizona on Sunday. Atlanta has won each of its games facing top-10 passing defenses, scoring 23 points per game, and the Falcons will look to prove a point after suffering their first loss of the season in Week 10.
Cleveland Browns vs. Dallas Cowboys
B/R Consensus: Cowboys (Unanimous)
Vegas: Cowboys (-7)
I always know the Browns are in serious trouble when Hangst picks against them. How lucky are the Cowboys, though? They were in a tailspin and get the even-more-beguiled Eagles and then the lowly Browns.
The Cowboys have some confidence after a big win in Week 10, but the Browns defense isn't something to sleep on. Dallas gets the win, but this one is much closer than Jerry Jones will like to see.
The Cowboys may be feeling good after beating up division rival Philadelphia, but they need to stay focused against a Browns team that actually matches up well with them. I think people may be surprised how close this game ends up, but Romo and the Cowboys offense should score just enough to ensure a Dallas victory.
The Cleveland Browns are coming off a much-needed bye week to travel to Dallas to take on the inconsistent Cowboys, and while there's a lot of compelling on-paper evidence for how Cleveland can pull off the upset, I just don't see it this week. Dallas may not be all that much better a team, but the Cowboys are more explosive, which will make the difference on Sunday. Plus, the Browns on the road is always a hard sell.
This is the kind of game I'd expect the Cowboys to blow right when they're back in contention, but I believe this offense is about to explode, and the D should feast in Cleveland. The Cowboys won't choke...yet.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
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B/R Consensus: Packers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Packers (-3.5)
The comeback kids finally ran out of gas last week, and it's more than clear that the offense isn't as explosive or well tuned as it should be. The defense, while hardly the biggest problem or as terrible as it's made out to be, can't get stops when it needs one. Packers roll.
This would have been a Game of the Week in the preseason, but the Lions' inability to generate points on offense is a real problem. As is their secondary. Even a banged-up Green Bay offense will dominate the Detroit defense.
The Lions, who showed a hint of promise two weeks ago, crashed back to Earth against the Vikings. Expect more of the same against the Packers. I think the Lions come out of the gate with a big push based mostly on emotion, but Mike McCarthy’s team will ride out that storm and take over.
I could see the argument that, with the Packers as banged up as they are, the Lions have a shot to win here. After all, this is about as "back up against a wall" as it gets after that huge loss to the Vikings. That said, the Lions offense starts too slow, and despite the injury issues, the Packers defense is good enough to make "too slow" look like "never happened." Detroit will give Green Bay a fight, but in the end, slow starts will be the death of the Lions' season.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Kansas City Chiefs
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B/R Consensus: Bengals (10-1)
Vegas: Bengals (-3.5)
The Chiefs went toe-to-toe with the Steelers in Week 10, so this game might not be the cake walk that the Bengals had been looking forward to a few weeks ago. However, the Bengals are firing on all cylinders after a win against the Giants, and their passing game hasn't looked better.
Two teams playing below expectations, but the Bengals have a chance to make up ground this week and build on the momentum of a win over the New York Giants in Week 10. Bengals win as Geno Atkins dominates the Chiefs' interior offensive line.
If ever there was a looming danger of a letdown game, the Bengals are staring it right in the face. Coming off their most complete performance in their big win over the Giants, Andy Dalton and the Bengals will keep things rolling against one of the worst teams in the league.
Even if the Bengals would have fallen to the New York Giants last week, I'd still be picking them to defeat the Chiefs this Sunday. The Giants were the first playoff-caliber team the Bengals have beaten in the Andy Dalton era, but they've proven more than effective against the one- and two-win teams of the world, of which the Chiefs are one. Cincinnati is better than this team, whether on the road or at home.
I don't know if you can pick the Chiefs to win another game this season until they prove they can reduce their turnovers. It's a team with some potential for a second-half turnaround, but they are not headed in the right direction. The coaching staff doesn't seem to know how to manage the players they have, and very few players are playing like they have in the past. The Bengals might not be a great team, but they have plenty of offense and defense to win this game.
Picking the Chiefs: Gagnon
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins
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B/R Consensus: Redskins (10-1)
Defensive coordinators dream of the weeks they get to scheme for a rookie quarterback like Nick Foles. It's time for the Redskins to get off the schneid; the Eagles are just what the doctor ordered.
With the season all but over, the Eagles will limp into Washington and be served up a loss by Robert Griffin III and Co. The Eagles are the more talented team, but betting on Andy Reid's ballclub right now would be foolish.
With Nick Foles most likely getting his first NFL start, look for Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to go with a bevy of big blitzes against an overmatched Eagles offensive line. RGIII, who has been contained over the course of the Redskins’ last two games, breaks out again against the Eagles.
The Redskins are in the right place (home), facing the right team (disaster-case Philadelphia) at the right time (coming off their bye week). They might not win a lot of games between now and the end of the year, but they should be able to get by the mess that is the Eagles, regardless of who starts at quarterback for Philly.
Picking the Eagles: Hangst
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
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B/R Consensus: Buccaneers (10-1)
Vegas: Buccaneers (-1.5)
Who is doing to stop Doug Martin? Anyone? No...Bucs win big.
Tampa has put together a solid five-game stretch, and each week it gets closer to competing for a wild-card berth. Shutting down Cam Newton and Carolina should come easy. Doug Martin should have a fantasy game for the ages (again) in this one.
Josh Freeman has looked more and more comfortable as the year has gone on. A big part of that coincides with the emergence of Doug Martin, who has defenses committing a safety to run support, leaving Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in single coverage. For Carolina, head coach Ron Rivera knows he’s coaching for his job and has responded by firing the special teams coach. The Panthers are a mess.
Tampa Bay boasts the NFC's top scoring offense this season and has played extremely well since the bye in Week 5. A Josh Freeman who rarely makes mistakes along with a rookie running back in Doug Martin who's making a Rookie of the Year case should be able to push Carolina's defense around.
Picking the Panthers: Dunlevy
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
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B/R Consensus: Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Texans (-15)
There is no matchup—not one-on-one, not unit vs. unit—with which the Jaguars have much of a chance. The Texans are going to dominate in the trenches and on the outside. This game should be a laugher by halftime.
This has "trap game" potential, but the Jaguars just aren't good enough to keep up with the Texans—especially without Maurice Jones-Drew.
Could the Texans be in for a letdown performance after their big victory over the Chicago Bears? Um, no.
The best team in the NFL is playing the worst team. This isn't Any Given Sunday. Texans win in a walk.
New York Jets vs. St. Louis Rams
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B/R Consensus: Rams (7-4)
Vegas: Rams (-3)
The Rams took the 49ers to overtime and tired them in Week 10 because their defensive line won individual battles against one of the best offensive lines in football. Mark Sanchez and the Jets offensive line have no chance.
Two of the toughest teams in the NFL face off, but one team is good (St. Louis) and the other (New York) is not. The Rams can win this game with a heavy dose of Steven Jackson and more of the defense we saw in Week 10.
The Rams took division rival San Francisco to the edge and ended up with a tie. That won’t be an issue this week. The Jets are too inconsistent on offense, too soft on defense and just not a very good team. The Rams aren’t a powerhouse, but they are clearly better and play tougher at home. Jeff Fisher’s squad gets the better of Rex Ryan and company.
After an awkward tie with the 49ers, the Rams are eager to return home to the Edward Jones Dome where they are 3-1 this season. Sam Bradford and Company are coming off their third 400-yard game of the season against one of the best defenses in the NFL, so you know they will be looking to replicate that same success in Week 11. St. Louis' offense will explode again as the Rams move to 4-5-1.
Picking the Jets: Hangst, Dunlevy, Garda, Bardeen
New Orleans Saints vs. Oakland Raiders
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B/R Consensus: Saints (Unanimous)
Vegas: Saints (-5.5)
The Saints are clicking right now, and the Raiders, frankly, are not. Oakland can't match up with the multiple receivers New Orleans is about to throw at it, and the Raiders don't have enough firepower to keep up.
Drew Brees is hot. That's a bad matchup considering the Raiders secondary is absolutely terrible. The Ravens put up 55 on Oakland, and only Joe Vitt's conscience will keep the Saints from besting that total.
Every game is precious for the Saints, who have zero margin for error as they try to climb back in to playoff contention. The Raiders are a bad team, and the Saints should be able to put up a bunch of points. On offense, Greg Knapp’s unit looks lost and will most likely be that way for the remainder of 2012.
The Saints just took down the then-undefeated Atlanta Falcons last week not by allowing Drew Brees to open an aerial attack, but by crushing the Falcons with a powerful running game. With New Orleans clicking with both the run and pass, it should be able to outscore most opponents, including Oakland.
The Raiders haven't been able to stop any offense on the ground or through the air. They might be able to focus on stopping one, but then the other will be an issue. The Saints can do both very well. Oakland will have to try to keep up with Drew Brees on offense and hope a play on special teams or a turnover can swing the game in its favor. The Raiders should rebound from the last two weeks, but it probably will not be enough to beat the visiting Saints.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
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B/R Consensus: Broncos (Unanimous)
Vegas: Broncos (-7.5)
We're still waiting for that midseason run that makes Chargers fans (both of them) think that this could be the year. Peyton Manning is going to keep us waiting one more week. San Diego is No. 17 against the pass, and Manning is, well, Manning.
A surprisingly good matchup on paper. The Chargers can stop the run, forcing Peyton Manning to take more of the game into his own hands. Eric Weddle and the rest of the secondary have the talent to make plays on Manning. This one is very close.
The last time these two teams met, Philip Rivers had a nightmare second half in which he pretty much single-handedly gave the Broncos the game. Lo and behold, that’s exactly the type of performance he had against the Buccaneers on Sunday. The Broncos may be without Elvis Dumervil, but it won’t matter. Peyton Manning will be too much on offense, and Von Miller will be too much against a bad Chargers offensive line.
The Chargers certainly want revenge for giving up 35 points to the Broncos earlier this season. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the Broncos are playing better football than they were the last time these teams met. Denver's offense, defense and special teams are all playing well.
The Chargers have had trouble stopping the pass, and that's not a recipe for beating Peyton Manning. The Chargers can win this one if Rivers takes care of the ball and they force a few turnovers. Considering Rivers' recent history, I'm not betting on him.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
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B/R Consensus: Patriots (10-1)
Vegas: Patriots (-9)
Andrew Luck and the Colts are playing fantastic football compared to their talent level right now, but they're going to run into a buzzsaw in Foxboro. The Patriots are going to pick apart the Colts secondary and put up more points than Luck could hope to come back from.
Luck vs. Brady isn't quite Manning vs. Brady, but this game should be a ton of fun to watch. Luck and the Chuckstrongs have the momentum, but you can bet Brady and Belichick will give the rookie a tough dose of reality in the NFL.
That’s right—I’m calling the upset. The Patriots have looked far from the dominating team we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, while the Colts are playing better than anyone expected at this point in the season. The old adage, “It’s not who you play but when you play them,” holds true for this matchup.
Indianapolis is a great story, but the Colts aren't a complete team. They aren't ready to go on the road and topple even a vulnerable Pats team.
The Colts have all the tools to make this a good game: And by "all the tools," I mean "a quarterback who can throw and receivers who can catch." This one could turn into a shootout early, as most Patriots games are prone to these days. If New England can capitalize on the Colts' porous run defense, it should be able to pick up the win.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
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B/R Consensus: Steelers (6-5)*
Vegas: Steelers (-3.5)
*Some picks were submitted before Ben Roethlisberger's injury and may be updated.
Byron Leftwich behind the Steelers offensive line and against the Ravens defense (even banged up) is a recipe for disaster. This game should go poorly, quickly.
It doesn't get bigger than this. The Ravens are banged up, putting them at a disadvantage, but when it comes to rivalries things like injuries tend to be forgotten. Ray Rice can duplicate what Jamaal Charles did in Week 10, giving the Ravens a huge division win.
This used to be a matchup that was guaranteed to end with a final score somewhere in the 13-10 neighborhood. While neither team plays the type of defense it used to, the Ravens look less like the defensive juggernaut we remember and more an offensive threat that is somewhat inconsistent. The Steelers will be able to take advantage on offense, and their defense, despite rumors to the contrary, is still a force, especially against a hated division rival.
Let's see: The Ravens dominated the Oakland Raiders last week, and the Raiders defeated the Steelers earlier this year, so the Ravens win, right? Not so fast. The Ravens have proven they are a far different team on the road than at home, and the Steelers are vastly different and better team than they were when they faced Oakland. It will be a tough game—it always is—but with the division on the line and Pittsburgh being the better all-around team, this is a Steelers win.
Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers
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B/R Consensus: 49ers (7-4)
The 49ers have lost a lot of good will by failing to beat the Rams, and against a much-better defense in Chicago, things could be tough sledding. However, the same is true for the Bears, who will find yards hard to come by against the Niners' tough front.
Game of the Week...if the starting quarterbacks are in. So much in this one depends on who is under center for both clubs. As of Monday night, the 49ers have the upper hand, but if Jay Cutler is in and Alex Smith is not, this game could swing the other way.
Both teams are coming off tough games, and both are looking at this matchup while dealing with the possibility they may need to start their backup quarterback. While the Bears and Niners will both struggle to move the ball—the Bears will almost certainly force a turnover or two—the 49ers are simply a more complete team and will be able to move the ball via play-action once Frank Gore wears the Bears down, much like Arian Foster and the Texans did.
As of today, it sounds like this game will be the backup quarterback battle. Jay Cutler and Alex Smith both left Sunday's games with a concussion, so it's hard to tell who will be under center come Monday Night. Right now, I'm picking the 49ers because they have the better backup quarterback.
This could be the battle of the backups, in which case it will still be more exciting than the last few MNF games. The Bears will have a week to plan for Colin Kaepernick (of whom I am a big fan) and counter his mobility and arm, and if Alex Smith plays, the Niners lack the ability to come from behind against a any defense, much less a defense like this.
I know everyone likes to say Jason Campbell didn't play well Sunday night, but considering how bad Cutler and Schaub were and that Campbell came off the bench with little prep work during the week, he looked fine for the most part. A week's worth of practice and he'll be fine. It'll be a bloody fight, but the Bears win this one.
Also Picking the Bears: Hansen, Dunlevy, Gagnon.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."