Week 11 NFL Picks: Breaking Down Sunday's Late-Afternoon Thrillers

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIINovember 16, 2012

Can Andrew Luck direct the Colts to an improbable road win over the Patriots?
Can Andrew Luck direct the Colts to an improbable road win over the Patriots?Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Get your popcorn ready for Week 11's NFL action as the playoff landscape continues to take shape. But if you have some duties to tend to on Sunday, get them done early because there are a trio of fantastic late afternoon thrillers that you won't want to miss.

Here is a breakdown of said three games—postseason peripheries, division battlers and ultimately season-turners—with final score predictions to cap them off.


New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Oakland Raiders (3-6)

Terrible defenses and crazily explosive offenses between two teams in playoff desperation mode. Sign me up, because this game might get to 100.

Don't look now, but the Raiders have a top-five passing offense led by Carson Palmer. Yes, you read that correctly. The former Cincinnati Bengal is quietly having a stellar season despite playing from behind constantly, thanks to a putrid Oakland defense.

The same can be said for Brees, except he's obviously one of the premier QBs in the game and has the Saints winning four of their last five games despite historically awful yardages being allowed on the other side of the ball.

Yup, according to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, New Orleans has given up more yards than any team in NFL history through the first nine games of the season.

The fact that this game is in the Black Hole makes it all the more interesting, as it is always among the most hostile environments to play in regardless of the home team's record. Look for this to be a classic shootout and one of the most captivating games that Week 11 has to offer.

Just don't look for Brees to let up in his heroic effort of salvaging the Saints to respectability in 2012 with the season on the line yet again.

Final score: Saints 48, Raiders 44


San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Denver Broncos (6-3)

Redemption time for the Chargers. Here they come. Storming back with a late-season run as usual—and potentially burning out to an 8-8 record when the dust settles.

Not so fast, people.

This is Peyton Manning that we're talking about here, and the Broncos look like one of the most unbeatable teams in the NFL. Maybe that's because they play in an extremely weak AFC, or maybe it's because they're just that good.

And to think, head coach John Fox—known for his defense first and foremost—has never had the benefit of a superstar quarterback during his time at the helm in Carolina or Denver. Unless you count some guy named Tebow, of course.

Until now. Look at what's happening. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has his unit playing great, and it's possible that Denver could run the table to one of the top two seeds in the conference.

Those 35 unanswered points on Monday Night Football not long ago are sure to stick in the minds of Chargers players and will be too much for the discombobulated team to overcome on the road. Manning will come to play, and Manning will win.

The Broncos will take a commanding three-game lead in the AFC West with a tiebreaker—and they won't look back.

Final score: Broncos 27, Chargers 21


Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at New England Patriots (6-3)

Sort of sticking on the topic of Manning unavoidably—Andrew Luck. The No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts has been just as good as advertised.

Although his actual passer rating (79.1) may not reflect very pretty numbers, his Total QBR of 77.6 is actually fourth among all starting quarterbacks. Manning is first in that category, and Falcons QB Matt Ryan is third.

Sandwiched between them is Luck's legendary counterpart in this contest, one Tom Brady. The three-time Super Bowl MVP has orchestrated the No. 1 scoring offense in the league in 2012, and no one has gained more yards than New England.

A reunion with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has proven to work yet again for the Pats. It seems nearly impossible to stop them, particularly with the emergence of second-year RB Stevan Ridley.

But the Colts do have Luck and Reggie Wayne, which has been enough quite often in the early going of the 2012 season.

This is a statement game for both teams, with the Patriots coming off a lackluster home victory over Buffalo and Indy still looking to prove itself among the NFL's best teams.

As warming and inspiring as the Colts' story has been this year, it's almost impossible to pick against them, much less root against them in that context. Yet this seems like a week where they will come crashing back down to earth.

Then again, that Pats defense is pretty suspect, sporting one of the worst secondaries statistically in the NFL. Luck may be able to hold his own should it come down to a shootout, but in the end, New England's balance will be too much for the undermanned Colts' D to overcome.

Even the clutch leg of Adam Vinatieri won't be able to save Indy against his former team.

Final score: Patriots 38, Colts 28