Ranking the Most Watchable NFL Games of Week 11

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIINovember 14, 2012

Ranking the Most Watchable NFL Games of Week 11

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    To rank the most watchable NFL games from the Week 11 schedule you need to look at the standings, point spreads, injuries to star players, current streaks and recent trends.

    There are 14 games scheduled for Week 11, so we will rank them accordingly, using the factors we stated up front.

    Several of these rankings may need to change later in the week based on the concussion test results with Chicago QB Jay Cutler and San Francisco QB Alex Smith. Those tests will determine if they will start or have to miss the game.

    All point spreads are courtesy of ESPN.com.

    We will start with the least watchable game for Week 11 and work our way up to the best game to view this weekend.

14) Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-16)

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    The best record in the AFC against one of the worst records in the AFC. Sounds like a snooze already.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have to be one of the hardest teams to watch in the NFL right now. Without star RB Maurice Jones-Drew (already ruled out for Week 11 due to a foot injury), there just isn't much star power or appeal to the Jaguars team.

    Jacksonville (1-8) and losers of six-straight games, travels to Houston (8-1), to face the team with the best record in the AFC. Houston is favored by a whopping 16 points in the game, which is easily the highest spread of any Week 11 game.

    Unless Houston sleep walks through the entire game, they really shouldn't have too much trouble with the Jaguars. Look for Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson to all have a big game on Sunday.

13) Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (+4)

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    Just like Jacksonville, another team that is getting hard to watch is the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs (1-8) have lost six-straight games and are going to be fighting it out with Jacksonville for the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2013.

    The Chiefs did show some fight in them by taking the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime on Monday Night Football. But the overtime interception thrown by Matt Cassel is a typical play for Kansas City this year. They have a staggering 30 turnovers so far this year. At least they do it in a balanced approach with 15 fumbles and 15 interceptions.

    The Bengals (4-5) just came off of a big win at home against the New York Giants, so they will have to guard against a mental let down when they play Kansas City. The Bengals still have an uphill road to climb to get back in the playoff picture, so they can't afford to take Kansas City for granted.

    The Chiefs will have a short week of preparation for this game. Jonathan Baldwin was banged up, and the Chiefs haven't decided yet if they will start Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn.

12) New York Jets at St. Louis Rams (-3)

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    If you would have asked most football fans at the start of the season what the point spread would be for this Week 11 contest, the vast majority of responses would have to have been that the Jets would be around a seven-point favorite. But that is the reality of how bad the Jets are playing right now. They are underdogs to the Rams by three points.

    The Jets (3-6) are coming off a three-game losing streak, while the Rams (3-5-1) are coming off their tie against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10. The Rams had a chance to win the game but inexplicably let the play clock expire while waiting to kick the game-winning field goal.

    New York has been blown out by 58-16 in the last two weeks. The Jets have failed to score in double digits in either of their last two games, yet Rex Ryan refuses to bench his starting quarterback Mark Sanchez.

    In his nine starts this year, Sanchez has turned in four clunkers that make you shudder when you see the passing totals: 138, 103, 82 and 124 yards. Sanchez is completing just 52 percent of his passes this year and is ranked as the No. 30 quarterback in the latest passer ratings.

    St. Louis has been making some positive strides this season and looks like they are a team that will continue to improve under Jeff Fisher. This game is ranked this low because the Jets offense is just that difficult to watch. It is a painful experience.

11) Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys (-8)

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    This is our third-straight slide that offers up two teams with losing records facing each other. That is one of the major reasons why they are ranked so low. It also means that one of these teams has to win the game.

    With a combined record of 6-12 both head coaches in this contest are under fire.

    Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is dealing with a change of ownership and sees headlines that Mike Holmgren is interested in becoming the next Cowboys head coach. Holmgren has since denied the story (via Yahoo! Sports), but that does give a little twist to this game, which is in need of a little sizzle.

    The Cleveland Browns defense is No. 23 overall and No. 27 against the rush, so the Cowboys offense should have a reasonable amount of production this week.

    As for the starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, the only players ranked in the top 20 in the NFL are RB Trent Richardson and WR Miles Austin.

    Dallas coach Jason Garrett is in trouble if he can't direct his team to the playoffs this year, so this is a must-win game for Dallas.

10) Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-10)

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    Another game with a huge spread features the Arizona Cardinals (10-point road underdogs) at the Atlanta Falcons. The Cardinals are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, while the Falcons finally lost their first game of the 2012 season.

    Arizona (4-5) started out the year as hot as Atlanta was, winning their first four games. But now that they have dropped five in a row, things don't look very promising in the near term. The offensive line gives up too many sacks, and the running attack is ranked dead last in the NFL, averaging 76.2 yards per game.

    The Falcons should be able to rebound over the Cardinals and get back on track with a win in Week 11. At least this contest offers up an interesting matchup in Patrick Peterson trying to defend against the likes of Julio Jones and Roddy White.

    One of the better areas of production for Arizona is in the sacks department. The Cardinals are tied for No. 4 in the NFL with 27 sacks, so the Falcons' offensive line will be tested to try to keep Matt Ryan protected this week.

9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (+1)

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    In Week 11, the Carolina Panthers are a slight one-point home underdog to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs (5-4) are a much improved team this year under first-year coach Greg Schiano. They are one of the surprise teams in the NFL this year.

    The team that most experts thought would be the surprise team out of the NFC South was the Carolina Panthers (2-7), but the Panthers have gone in the opposite direction.

    Cam Newton has looked lost and disenchanted at his post-game press conferences. He lacks the confidence that he displayed throughout his rookie year. A couple wins in a row would do wonders for Newton's outlook and attitude.

    The quarterback in this game that has been the most impressive this year is Josh Freeman. Freeman is currently ranked as the No. 7 quarterback in the latest QB passer ratings. His 18-7 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions is very impressive. He is also helped out by star rookie RB Doug Martin, who is tied for the No. 4 ranking in the NFL with 862 rushing yards.

    Besides Newton, another disappointment this year is Panthers WR Steve Smith, who has caught just one touchdown pass for the year.

8) San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-8)

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    These teams already played this year back in Week 6. San Diego held a 24-0 lead at halftime, only to watch Denver storm back to score 35 unanswered points in the second half. Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes, and the defense converted two turnovers into touchdown returns.

    The Chargers (4-5) are eight-point underdogs to the Broncos (6-3). Denver has now reeled off four-straight wins, and another win by Denver would give them a commanding three-game lead in the AFC West division.

    Philip Rivers turned in a very inconsistent 2011 season, and 2012 has been more of the same. Rivers has a disappointing 15-12 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. Manning on the other hand has an exemplary ratio of 21-6 and is the No. 1 ranked quarterback in the latest QB passer ratings.

    AFC West fans will want to tune in to watch this game, as it is only one of three late Sunday afternoon games scheduled for Week 11. But the Chargers have been a frustrating team to watch and follow, and much of that can be attributed to Rivers.

7) New Orleans Saints at Oakland Raiders (+5)

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    In another late Sunday afternoon game, it is going to be bombs away when Drew Brees and Carson Palmer square off in a contest featuring two quarterbacks that love to throw the football.

    After the first 10 weeks, no other NFL quarterback has passed for more yards than Brees (2,847 yards). Right behind him at No. 3 is Palmer, who has passed for 2,723 yards. Both quarterbacks are on pace to throw for over 4,800 yards this year.

    The Raiders (3-6) have been limited due to RB Darren McFadden's ankle injury. His availability for this game is still up in the air.

    New Orleans (4-5) is turning things around after Joe Vitt and Jonathan Vilma have returned from their suspensions. The victory over previously undefeated Atlanta in Week 10 should give the Saints plenty of confidence going forward.

    If you happen to be a football fan that loves to watch a great aerial display, then you need to see this game.

6) Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (-4)

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    Rookie quarterback versus rookie quarterback. A pair of NFC East with identical 3-6 records squaring off to try to keep slim playoff hopes alive.

    One concussion injury to Michael Vick took the matchup of Vick versus Robert Griffin III and turned it into a RG3 versus Nick Foles match instead. That is why it only appears as No. 6 on our list of most watchable games.

    Foles came in to relieve Vick in Week 10 and threw one long touchdown pass but also looked shaky in turning the ball over just as Vick has done. This week Foles will be getting the vast majority of snaps with the first-team unit. We will see how much of a difference that makes in his play.

    The Redskins have lost three-straight games, while the Eagles have dropped five in a row. A combined streak of 0-8 doesn't sound like a winner on the surface. However, whenever you get two NFC East teams together, it should be a war. The rookie QB battle will also be an interesting side story, so this is a game worth watching.

5) Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-1)

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    Even though the Buffalo Bills have lost three-straight games, they are favored by one point at home in the Thursday Night Football matchup on the NFL Network for Week 11.

    The Bills (3-6) are coming off of close losses to Houston and New England in their last two games, while Miami (4-5) was getting blown out by Tennessee last week 37-3. Miami benched RB Reggie Bush after a first-quarter fumble, so it will be interesting to see what his attitude is like for this game against an AFC East division rival.

    Miami is just one game under .500 for first-year head coach Joe Philbin. The Bills were expected to challenge for a wild-card spot this year, but they have not been able to finish very well. Coming into the game against the Patriots last week, Buffalo had been outscored 90-28 in the fourth quarter this year. That just simply won't get the job done.

    Buffalo RB Fred Jackson suffered a concussion in Week 10 and has already been ruled out for the Thursday night game. That means lots of C.J. Spiller, and Buffalo is thinking about giving him 25-30 touches for the game. Spiller leads the NFL with an average of 7.3 yards per rushing attempt.

    It has taken some time for Spiller to learn how to use his quickness, speed and elusiveness in the pros. But slowly but surely, he has turned into a dynamic and decisive runner, who is also adding some power to his game. Watching Spiller's exploits is reason enough to tune in.

    The game also provides Mario Williams with a national spotlight to show what he can do. His wrist injury has clearly limited his effectiveness, but even after the procedure, he came up with a weak game against Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 10.

4) Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+3)

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    Two NFC North division rivals are squaring off this Sunday when the Green Bay Packers visit the Detroit Lions. The Lions are three-point home underdogs in this game.

    Detroit made the playoffs last year, but with a record of 4-5, they need to string some wins together if they want to return to the postseason.

    After a slow start, the Packers (6-3) have been playing like a legitimate NFC contending team.

    The Packers defense has made a remarkable recovery in one year. In 2011, they were ranked dead list in the NFL for overall defense. This year, they are all the way up to No. 14. That is quite a jump and one of the reasons that they will be a force in the postseason.

    Detroit has been too inconsistent this year to know what you are going to get from them one week to the next. No doubt that Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford will be throwing a ton of passes inside the dome.

    The Lions running game is getting better, but they are still just the No. 24 rushing attack in the league, averaging 98.8 yards per game. The Packers are right ahead of them at No. 23, averaging 99.7 yards per game.

    This contest will likely come down to which secondary and pass rush can do a better job of slowing down the passing attack of their opponent. Should be an entertaining game to watch.

3) Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-10)

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    The Indianapolis Colts versus the New England Patriots. It brings back images of the rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but times have changed. It is now Andrew Luck versus Brady. A pair of 6-3 teams squaring off to see which team is for real in the AFC.

    Luck, the No.1 overall draft pick of the 2012 NFL draft class, goes up against Brady in a contest featuring the young gun against the crafty veteran quarterback.

    Luck has led the Colts to a remarkable 6-3 start, especially when you realize just how bad this team was last year. The fact that they are in the playoff picture is nothing short of amazing.

    Brady has been his usual highly productive and efficient self in 2012. The Patriots have a two-game lead in the AFC East, and they have the look of a playoff team again.

    The Colts are an emotionally-charged team due to head coach Chuck Pagano's battle with leukemia. The team is playing their hearts out every week, so it will be interesting to see how long they can sustain this level before they crash and burn.

    Indianapolis is playing with confidence, and the message coming out of that locker room has the team believing that they can win every week.

    To watch Luck in his first battle with Brady is a good reason to tune in and see if the Colts can keep their streak going.

2) Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers (-5)

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    Back when the 2012 NFL regular schedule was announced, the Chicago Bears (7-2) visiting the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) was circled on quite a few calendars.

    They are playing on Monday Night Football, and this was a game people were really looking forward to. The game would provide greater insight about which team was emerging as a serious contender for the NFC.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

    Chicago QB Jay Cutler and San Francisco QB Alex Smith both suffered concussions in Week 10. Either one of them or both could be deemed unable to play in this marquee Monday Night Football game. Cutler has more history with concussions than does Smith, so Cutler looks to be at more risk to play this week.

    With two of the top defenses in the NFL going after each other, this could be a very low scoring contest reminiscent of NFL games from prior decades. Between Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, there are some serious challengers for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year that will be showcased.

    But if this game winds up with Colin Kaepernick versus Jason Campbell, it will still be an interesting contest to see which backup quarterback can lead scoring drives against a superior defense.

    The 49ers defense will be required to step up and try to force turnovers the way that the Bears defense can produce big plays. Due to the quarterback injuries, this isn't what ESPN envisioned, but it will still be a fun game to watch no matter who starts at quarterback for both teams.

1) Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)

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    Our No. 1 game for Week 11 is the Sunday Night Football contest between the two teams atop the AFC North division. The Baltimore Ravens (7-2) visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3). This is the first meeting this year in this intense rivalry with the second round coming right up in Week 13. 

    This rivalry is one of the classics in the NFL, but the series this year should come with the Red Cross insignia attached. Both teams have dealt with a wide range of injuries throughout the year. This game will be no different.

    According to this report from CBS Sports, it is doubtful that QB Ben Roethlisberger will be able to play in Week 11. Big Ben sprained his shoulder on Monday Night Football against Kansas City.

    Both starting safeties, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, are expected to miss the game. Clark has now been hit with two concussions in three weeks, so he will likely be out. RB Rashard Mendenhall and WR Antonio Brown are both questionable, so the Steelers are hurting on both sides of the ball.

    Baltimore has their own issues. Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb have gone to I.R, with Lewis getting the designated to return tag. 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs is working his way back into shape from his Achilles injury, and NT Haloti Ngata sat out the Week 10 due to his injuries.

    Despite all the missing key players, the Steelers defense has been able to thrive, as they are the No. 1 ranked overall defense in the NFL coming into Week 11. Baltimore's defense has sunk all the way to No. 27.

    This game could come down to Joe Flacco versus Byron Leftwich. It is worth watching to see if things tighten up in the AFC North or if the Steelers are able to trim the Ravens lead in the division. No matter how bad things get, the Steelers find a way to compete, which makes this a must watch game.

    Thanks for checking out the presentation.