Every game in the NFL has playoff implications, but some matchups shape the playoff picture more than others. As the season moves closer and closer to its end, these pivotal games become more meaningful with every passing week, and there are some incredibly exciting contests on the schedule in Week 11.
To this point in the season, we've seen plenty of surprises.
Nobody predicted the Kansas City Chiefs would have the best record in the league. Andy Reid's squad will face a stiff challenge on Sunday to stay undefeated heading, however, but more on that later.
Similarly, you'd be hard-pressed to find many experts who expected the Carolina Panthers to be ahead of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoff race. But after the Panthers demoralized the 49ers at Candlestick Park in Week 10, San Francisco is hanging onto the No. 6 seed by a thread, while the Panthers appear poised for a playoff berth with the No. 5 seed.
Just as shocking are the playoff teams from a year ago that are currently near the bottom of the league, such as the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans.
The parity we see on a weekly basis is incredible, and it's one of the many reasons we love the game. Here's a look at the entire slate of games for Week 11, followed by a closer examination of the games with the biggest playoff implications.
|Week 11 NFL Picks|
|Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||Colts|
|New York Jets||Buffalo Bills||Bills|
|Baltimore Ravens||Chicago Bears||Bears|
|Cleveland Browns||Cincinnati Bengals||Browns|
|Washington Redskins||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Detroit Lions||Pittsburgh Steelers||Lions|
|Atlanta Falcons||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Buccaneers|
|Arizona Cardinals||Jacksonville Jaguars||Cardinals|
|Oakland Raiders||Houston Texans||Texans|
|San Diego Chargers||Miami Dolphins||Chargers|
|San Francisco 49ers||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Green Bay Packers||New York Giants||Giants|
|Minnesota Vikings||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Denver Broncos||Chiefs|
|New England Patriots||Carolina Panthers||Patriots|
Cleveland at Cincinnati
The Cleveland Browns are just one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals in the loss column for the AFC North lead.
No need to clean your glasses—you read that correctly.
The Bengals have lost two straight games in overtime to the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens—teams Cincinnati should beat—to fall to 6-4 on the season.
Meanwhile, the Browns appear revitalized with veteran quarterback Jason Campbell starting behind center. Cleveland nearly beat the Chiefs in Week 8 and then took down the Ravens in Week 9 before taking last weekend off on a bye.
Since taking over, Campbell has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions. His opponent for this game, Andy Dalton, has thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions in his last two games.
Both teams feature top-five defenses, and this upcoming battle will likely turn ugly early on and stay that way.
If the Bengals lose at home to the Browns, then the Browns will have a legitimate shot at taking the division with a strong finish to the season.
In the end, I trust Campbell to make better decisions under pressure than Dalton, and as such, I'm predicting a Cleveland victory that will shake up the AFC North even more.
San Francisco at New Orleans
As was mentioned in the opening, the 49ers are no lock to make it into the playoffs this year.
After getting chewed up and spit out by the Panthers at home on Sunday, San Francisco fell back to 6-3, which puts the 49ers in the sixth seed if the playoffs began today. It also means the 49ers are now two games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, with the Arizona Cardinals breathing down their necks at 5-4.
San Francisco's offense was completely shut down by Carolina, and it doesn't get any easier this week.
New Orleans comes in as hot as any team in the league after walloping the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 on Sunday Night Football with the nation watching.
Not only did the Saints break an NFL record by recording 40 first downs on offense, as noted by ESPN, but Rob Ryan's defense shut down Dallas' high-powered offense to the tune of 193 total yards and shut out the Cowboys on third downs.
The Saints haven't come close to losing a game at home this year since Atlanta gave them a run for their money in Week 1. Drew Brees and his offense are clicking at an unbelievable pace right now, and the 49ers don't have the firepower on offense to match it.
Final Score: Saints win 31-24.
Kansas City at Denver
This is the game everyone's been asking for since early in the year when the Chiefs started shockingly winning on a weekly basis—eventually beating out the Broncos in the division with their undefeated record.
Kansas City features the NFL's most dangerous defense. Allowing just 12.3 points per game to lead the league, the Chiefs sack the quarterback more frequently than any team in the league (36 sacks in nine games) and have forced more turnovers than any team in the league (23).
Denver comes into the game with easily the best offense in the league, however, averaging 458.7 yards and 41.2 points per game—both marks are by far the top in the NFL.
It's a classic strength-versus-strength battle, and on paper it appears the Chiefs have the personnel to match up well with the Broncos' high-octane offensive weapons.
Sean Smith, Brandon Flowers and Marcus Cooper are all excellent man-to-man cornerbacks, and if they win their one-on-one battles against Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, the Chiefs pass-rushers will make Peyton Manning's life a living hell.
Final Score: Chiefs win 21-17.
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