Week 10 was an eye-opening experience for many teams in the NFL as we saw the last undefeated team fall, some under the radar teams surprise and other struggling squads continue to falter. The stretch run into the playoffs is slowly beginning to clear up in some areas, while it remains clouded as ever in others.
Week 11 concludes the bye week portion of the season, so starting next week, we can count on 16 games per week from here on out. Many of the league’s perennial powers still have a lot to prove, and if they hope to make any noise this year, they will need to kick it into gear quickly.
I turned out a below-average rate against the spread last week, but a strong 10-4 in the Over/Under column was enough to keep my overall total right around the 56 percent I went in with. Through these first 10 weeks, I find myself with the following results:
Straight Up: 94-51 (65 percent)
Spread: 73-72 (50 percent)
Over/Under: 77-68 (53 percent)
My preseason goals of 70 percent straight up and 60 percent ATS are not totally unachievable at this point, but it will take a lot more than mediocrity to reach those lofty expectations. This was my first down week in about a month, so I hope to bounce back strong and keep those numbers headed up.
Miami Dolphins (+1.5) at Buffalo Bills (O/U = 45.5)
In a game that I couldn’t have predicted more inaccurately, the Dolphins got absolutely smoked by the Titans in Week 10 37-3. A loss like that at home against one of the leagues lower-tier teams has me second guessing my bullish attitude with this squad, and wondering if this team is really ready to contend for a playoff spot.
The Bills put up a fight in New England, as they usually do, but couldn’t get over the hump, as a late interception thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the red zone sealed the deal. If they are able to keep their offense clicking as they were against the Pats, then this team could hang with most opponents, but inconsistency has been their notorious claim to fame.
I don’t think the Dolphins are as bad as they looked last week, and I don’t think the Bills are as good as they looked last week. That makes this one tough to judge for me, but based on body of work this year, I am going to roll the dice on Miami and take them to pull it out on the road.
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at Detroit Lions (O/U = 52)
Coming off of their bye week, the Packers should be well-rested and ready to face off against the NFC rival Lions. Aaron Rodgers had been rolling going into the bye, and with a 107.4 QB rating, the Packer signal caller finds himself yet again among the league’s elite in all passing categories. While the running game has remained a question mark, it hasn’t seemed to matter with such a powerful air assault.
The Lions had a chance last week to move out of last place in the division, but instead fell on their faces in Minnesota. A spectacular 200-plus yard game from Calvin Johnson was countered by a monster effort by Adrian Peterson, as the Lions fell to 4-6 on the year. They will need to go on a serious run for the rest of the year if they hope to return to the playoffs for a second straight season.
If there is a run to be made by Detroit, it’s unlikely it happens this week against the Pack, who will come in fresh and well prepared.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
Arizona Cardinals (+10) at Atlanta Falcons (O/U = 44)
The Falcons dropped their first contest of the year in a slugfest against the NFC rival New Orleans Saints in Week 10, but still hold a commanding three-game lead in the division. This was the first sign of weakness from a squad who had seemed unbreakable through the first part of the year, but I can’t take them down too far for losing to Drew Brees in the Superdome.
Entering this one on a five game losing streak, the Cardinals have fallen off the face of the earth over the past couple of months. With Kevin Kolb sidelined, they have looked inept on the offensive side of the ball, and it remains unclear when he will be able to take the reins of the offense back. Until then, it’s hard to see this team getting back to the level they were at in the beginning of the year.
Cleveland Browns (+7.5) at Dallas Cowboys (O/U = 43.5)
In a do or die game against the Eagles last week, the Cowboys were able to come away with a win and avoid complete media scrutiny for at least another week. Critical mistakes by the Eagles led to a misleading 38-23 victory, as the loss of Michael Vick sent Philly into a late spiral in which they gave up 14 on defense and special teams. I’m still not convinced that this team can hang with the league’s top squads, and a loss to Cleveland would surely put them back in the doghouse.
The Browns come off their bye week hoping to start a new chapter in a season, which is already basically lost. While Trent Richardson has continued to rack up yardage, the rest of the team has failed to perform consistently, and only mustered two wins thus far. It will be interesting to see how they approach the rest of the year, and even more interesting how they react in the offseason.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U = 43.5)
Hosting the Giants in Week 10, the Bengals put the pedal to the metal and blew out the defending champs 31-13. The defense made Eli Manning look downright putrid while the offense rolled behind their young passing game. When the season started, I believed this team would be able to make a playoff run, and if they continue to play like that and some cards fall right it may not be completely out of the question.
The Chiefs put up a solid fight on Monday night against the Steelers, but even in their best effort of the year, they couldn’t come up with a win. They were able to get out to a rare lead early, and perhaps this type of strong effort would be enough against a less formidable opponent. My guess is, however, that the Chiefs are not about to turn this season around and are already scouting top college QBs to try and snag in next year’s draft.
Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) at Washington Redskins (O/U = 44)
After yet another loss, combined with a concussion for Michael Vick, the Eagles seem to have hit rock bottom, and it feels like Andy Reid is coaching for his job week in and week out. A loss here and it’s a great possibility he could be seeking employment elsewhere. Backup QB Nick Foles has already been named this week’s starter, and after making some solid throws against Dallas, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put a couple TDs up on a weak Redskins defense.
Washington had the bye last week, and after losing three in a row before the break, they must be anxious to come out and try for a turnaround. The Eagles have been the most turnover-prone team in the league, and if RGIII is given multiple extra possessions, it’s easy to believe he will take advantage by finding the end zone either by air or land.
I like the Skins here against a down-and-out Eagles squad that is in dire need of a change.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) at Carolina Panthers (O/U = 48)
The Bucs grew their win streak to three following another victory over the Chargers in Week 10. A late pick-six thrown by Philip Rivers was enough to take the wind out of the Bolts’ sails, and with the win, Tampa remains in second in the NFC South. A quieter day from Doug Martin still resulted in over 100 all-purpose yards as the offense continues to roll over opponents.
After ending their long losing skid a week before, the Panthers were unable to make it back-to-back against a rolling Peyton Manning. That loss can’t get the Panthers down too much, however, as they hope to take care of business at home against a divisional foe.
Tampa has been as hot as anyone lately, and I’m taking them to stay hot in this one which could be closer than you think.
Straight: Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay
Jacksonville Jaguars (+16) at Houston Texans (O/U = 40.5)
Houston solidified their spot among the league’s elite in a big win against the Bears on Sunday night. The Texans offense continues to control the ball better than anyone in the league while the defense is equally dominant. If the Bears defense, which had been on fire going into the contest, couldn’t pull out a win in the rain, then it’s hard to imagine how anyone else might.
Jacksonville is in the running for the league’s worst team, as neither their offense nor defense is striking fear into the hearts of anybody these days. With a six-game losing streak heading into this one, their only hope is to make it lucky No. 7 and try again next week. No chance for the Jags here.
New York Jets (+3) at St. Louis Rams (O/U = 38.5)
After regulation and a full 15 minutes of overtime, the Rams finished in a tie with division leading San Francisco last week, a final turnout that they should still take some pride in. After winning just two games in 2011, this team is already ahead of that mark with three, and while I think they still have a long way to go, they proved a lot to me hanging in there with such a tough SF squad.
The Jets have fallen off a cliff this season, and believe it or not, have an even worse record than the Rams heading into this one. With questions of Tebow growing in frequency and Mark Sanchez failing to deliver wins, the offense may have some big decisions to make moving forward. A loss here and we could be counting down the days in the Rex Ryan era.
The Rams have all the momentum coming off their close one last week, but after taking an extended beating against that SF defense I’m giving the edge to the Jets here, but just barely.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
New Orleans Saints (-5) at Oakland Raiders (O/U = 54.5)
After some early season struggles, the Saints finally appear to be putting it together, and it showed in last week’s win over the previously undefeated Falcons. That makes it back-to-back wins for this team, which is still at 4-5, but if they can roll off a few more in a row, they will find themselves right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Oakland took a major beating at the hands of Baltimore in Week 10, giving up 55 points and never looking competitive from the start. It’s been hit or miss with this team all year, and last week was about as big of a miss as you will ever see. The Raiders haven’t beaten a good team in almost two months, and I don’t think they have what it takes to stall the upstart Saints in this one.
Straight: New Orleans
Spread: New Orleans
San Diego Chargers (+7.5) at Denver Broncos (O/U = 48.5)
Behind Peyton Manning’s league-leading QB Rating of 108.0, the Broncos have won four straight games heading into this contest. They’re in the top five in the league for point differential, and have put up 30 points or more in all but one game this season. All of this with an average receiving core and a spotty running game. Is anyone still questioning John Elway? I didn’t think so.
Philip Rivers has put up some fantastic numbers over the past two games, but it’s been his untimely mistakes that are the most memorable for SD fans. Sitting at two games back from these Broncos, the Chargers could desperately use a win here, and it looks like we will be in store for a toe-to-toe battle between two of the NFL hottest QBs.
Indianapolis Colts (+9.5) at New England Patriots (O/U = 53.5)
The Patriots have found ways to win in three straight while the rest of the AFC East has done nothing but lose over that stretch. With their division lead grown to two, they are finally in more familiar territory, and I expect a confident looking squad heading into this home matchup.
One of the bigger surprises of the season has undoubtedly been the Colts, who now sit at 6-3 just a game and a half out in the AFC South. While many expected Andrew Luck to have an easy transition into the NFL, I’m sure not many had him turning this team into a playoff contender in year one.
This will be one of the bigger games Andrew Luck has seen to this point, and I expect him to show up like he has the rest of the year. Even behind a strong game from him, however, I think the Pats pull it out at home.
Straight: New England
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 41)
Coming off a dominant victory in Week 10, the Ravens head to Pittsburgh for a huge Sunday night matchup. Fifty five points on any professional defense is impressive, and pretty much everyone on the offensive side of the ball had a solid game for Baltimore. They will need to come out strong here as well to maintain their current one-game lead in the AFC North.
The Steelers won on Monday night, but took a major blow losing QB Ben Roethlisberger to an injury. Despite his history as a tough guy, he surely won’t be playing through a sprained shoulder and dislocated rib. It will be up to Byron Leftwich to take control of the offense for the time being, and he couldn’t be asked to do so in a more pressure-packed situation.
Without Big Ben, this Steelers team is just not the same, and there are just too many question marks to pick them in this one.
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers (Line unavailable due to Jay Cutler injury)
After losing at home in the downpour on Sunday night, the Bears get no time to catch their breath as they fly to San Francisco on Monday. Jay Cutler sat out the second half with a concussion and it’s still unsure whether he will play this week or not. While Jason Campbell has a decent pedigree as an NFL starter, he lacks the chemistry that Cutler has shown with his receivers, which puts a lot of pressure on their stellar defense.
The Niners took a shocking tie from the Rams last week after being unable to take advantage of multiple opportunities to take control of the game. I’m not sure if they were already looking ahead to this matchup or what, but it’s been a long time since I saw a team move against their defense as freely as St. Louis did last week.
If Cutler plays, that changes everything, but assuming he takes the week off due to increased concussion awareness I have to give the edge to a SF defense looking for redemption.
Straight: San Francisco
All spreads and Over/Under numbers provided courtesy of VegasInsider.com