When everybody looks back at the 2013 regular season it wouldn't be a surprise if Week 11 ends up being one of the most important weeks of the season. Almost every game on the schedule has some type of playoff implications.
Whether it's teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos battling for AFC supremacy or the myriad of matchups pitting desperate teams against each other, there will be no shortage of key action. It should make for an exciting Sunday for fans around the league.
With that in mind, let's examine some of the top games on tap for Week 11 and make predictions for each. The breakdowns are followed by a complete list of selections for a very important week of action.
San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
Last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers was a perfect example of what San Francisco has to worry about. On the plus side, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis led another terrific defensive effort, Frank Gore remains a force on the ground and Mario Manningham's return bolstered the receiving corps.
Yet when Colin Kaepernick isn't able to get the aerial attack on track, it bogs down the entire team. He doesn't have to make a lot of big plays, but he needs to at least keep defenses honest and move the sticks. He couldn't and the task doesn't get any easier against the third-ranked Saints pass defense.
On the flip side, Drew Brees has a quarterback rating of nearly 109 for the season. It's tough to reach that number in a game, let alone maintain it for more than half a season. He should be able to make enough plays in front of the friendly Superdome crowd to lead New Orleans to a narrow victory.
Prediction: Saints 28, 49ers 24
Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
These two teams will meet twice over the next three weeks and the stakes couldn't be higher. Not only is the winner of the AFC West on track to get a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, but the second-place team will have to go out on the road as a wild card. That's a huge drop-off.
The biggest concern for the Chiefs is the first two drives. If they can keep Denver off the scoreboard and turn the game into a slow-paced grind, they have a chance. If Peyton Manning and Co. come out flying like they have so many times this season, Kansas City won't be able to keep up.
For the Broncos, the defensive game plan should be simple. Pack the box to slow down Jamaal Charles and the short passing game to force Alex Smith to beat them over the top. It's easier said than done, but Denver has enough talent on defense to keep the Chiefs at bay until Manning takes over.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Chiefs 21
New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
If the Panthers can knock off the 49ers and Patriots in consecutive weeks, it will officially be time to move them into the contender category. The back-to-back big wins would show they can beat a team with a great defense or a dangerous offense.
The New England offense, which sputtered out of the gate, is averaging nearly 35 points per game over its past four games. Add in the fact Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Co. had a bye week to rest up and get back on the same page, and the Patriots seem poised to have a very strong finish.
It's undoubtedly a measuring-stick game for the emerging Panthers defense. The unit must find a way to get consistent pressure on Tom Brady. If it does, Cam Newton will have an opportunity to steal the spotlight like he's done so often during the five-game winning streak.
Carolina is on the cusp of reaching the next level, but the battle-tested Patriots should be up to the task.
Prediction: Patriots 20, Panthers 17
Complete Week 11 Predictions
|Week 11 Predictions|
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|NFL Week 11|