NFL Picks Week 11: Predicting Winners of Marquee Matchups
The Chicago Bears will not be at full strength when they face the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Per ESPN, Jay Cutler is out with a concussion, so the Bears will have their hands full trying to score without their starting quarterback.
They haven't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard with Cutler. But after he went down against the Texans, the Bears were just as inept on offense as they were with him.
Still, the threat of Cutler's big-play ability is something the Niners won't have to worry about. Jason Campbell relieved Cutler on Sunday night, and he'll get the start. He looked tentative against the Texans, and the play-calling was especially timid once he entered the game.
If both of these tendencies continue, the Bears won't be able to handle the Niners.
Per the Mercury News, Alex Smith, who also suffered a concussion in Week 10, is on track to start versus the Bears.
Based on the quarterback situation, the Niners have to be the favorites at home. This will be a defensive struggle, and the Bears can't hope to continue to win games based on the points their defense creates.
Smith has thrown only five interceptions. The Niners will take care of the ball enough to win this game.
The Bears are headed for a two-game losing streak.
Prediction: 49ers 14, Bears 6
Here are predictions for the other two major matchups on the Week 11 schedule:
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
The health of a quarterback will also affect the outcome of this game. Ben Roethlisberger will not play due to a serious rib injury suffered in Week 10, per the Baltimore Sun. The Steelers-Ravens rivalry is bitter, but without Roethlisberger, it loses some of its appeal.
Byron Leftwich will play in Roethlisberger's stead.
The Steelers' offense has been all about power running and short passes. The Steelers are only 19th in the league in net passing yards per play and 24th in yards per rush. They play nasty defense and grind it out on the ground. But can Leftwich extend plays and make the deep connections that balance the run game?
The Ravens' defense isn't what it has been in the past because of injuries. The Ravens have allowed the seventh-most yards in the NFL on the ground. That would have been unthinkable in the past.
This game will come down to who stops the run and third-down conversions. Expect to see the Ravens load the box to stop the Steelers' run game. It'll be up to Leftwich to make the plays on third down, but he won't do it.
The Ravens will take firm control of the AFC North with a win.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 6
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
The Chargers wouldn't be in place to play in a marquee matchup were it not for the Kansas City Chiefs. Of their four wins, two have come against their lowly AFC West rivals from Missouri.
The Chargers have won only one game in the last five, and that came over the Chiefs as well.
Conversely, the Broncos are on a roll.
Peyton Manning is playing at an MVP level, and he has raised the play of the entire offense.
The Von Miller-led defense has been very good, especially in two of the last three weeks. The defense demoralized the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and held the powerful New Orleans Saints to 14 points in Week 8.
Philip Rivers' turnovers have increased the last three seasons. His turnover totals have gone from 15 in 2009 to 27 last season.
He has 17 combined turnovers this season. At his current level of play, there is no way the Chargers can defeat the Broncos at Invesco Field.
Prediction: Broncos 35, Chargers 17
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