NFL Week 11 Picks: Predicting the Winners Against the Spread
Three weeks ago in Week 8 I wrote that I was dusting off my inner Bill Simmons and writing my first NFL picks article.
I gave a fair warning that my NFL picks so far this season had been dreadful, and that if you were looking for advice you should take my picks and go the other way. If you did that, you would win a lot more than you would lose.
Well, if you were in Vegas and you took that advice you were probably awfully mad at me. My picks went 9-3 that week. Week 9 was more of the same as my picks went 9-4. Last week finally returned to normal as my picks went back to being a nice 4-10.
So now I come back to make my picks on Bleacher Report, once again. The slate is much more difficult this week than it was in Week 8. This time the warning is simple, these picks could go anywhere.
Home teams will be listed in CAPS.
Chicago (+1) Over MIAMI
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It's very difficult to pick the Chicago Bears. The Bears have been nothing but erratic, and now are taking their show on the road.
The Bears have looked awful at times this season, struggling in many different areas, but they are coming off of a big win against the Vikings.
Still, this pick is less about taking the Bears than it is about not taking the Dolphins.
The Dolphins suffered a major loss last Sunday when they opted to bench Chad Henne in favor of Chad Pennington.
The second Chad Pennington era in Miami ended after just two plays when Pennington went down with yet another shoulder injury that will likely end his career. Correcting a mistake, Chad Henne returned under center.
But that would only last so long as Henne was lost for the game with a knee injury in the third quarter.
The Dolphins turned to third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen. While they pulled out the win, the Fins are now putting their season in his hands.
More importantly, with the game being on Thursday night, Thigpen will have just three days to get a grasp of the Dolphins offense. If something should happen to Thigpen, the Dolphins will turn to Patrick Ramsey, who has been on the team for all of three days.
The Dolphins simply will not have enough time to get used to a new quarterback and pull out a win.
Oakland (+7) Over PITTSBURGH
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Oakland is coming off of a bye week, Pittsburgh is coming off of a thrashing by the Patriots.
Early in the season we thought Oakland would be abysmal, once again. Then we thought they were pretty decent at home, but awful on the road. Now it appears that Oakland is actually fairly competent and can be considered a mediocre team.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has struggled lately. While historically they have been very dangerous following losses, that may not happen this week.
Pittsburgh is 1-2 in their last three games. While their losses have come against the Saints and Patriots, they came very close to blowing a lead against the Bengals, and were lucky to beat the Dolphins.
Conversely, Oakland is proving they can be fairly competent on the road and could give the Steelers a challenge. Oakland has a lot to play for as the AFC West is still completely up for grabs.
The Steelers will bounce back and win this one, but Oakland will keep it close.
Baltimore (-10) Over CAROLINA
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Baltimore is mad following a last minute loss on the road to Atlanta. Baltimore is also very rested as that game against Atlanta was last Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Carolina is a disaster.
After spending the beginning of the season flip-flopping between Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, the Panthers have now lost both of them to injuries. Adding injury to injuries, running back DeAngelo WIlliams has been put on injured reserve and is out for the season.
The Panthers will be starting either Tony Pike or Brian St. Pierre at quarterback Sunday against the ferocious Ravens defense.
What you've never heard of either of those guys? Me neither.
Normally I don't like double digit lines, but I really can't see the Panthers scoring more then three points in this one.
TENNESSEE (-7) Over Washington
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The Washington Redskins just embarrassed themselves on Monday Night Football last week. They allowed Michael Vick to throw for 333 yards and four tochdowns. They also allowed him to run for 80 more yards and two more touchdowns.
Their reward? They get to face another mobile quarterback this week in Vince Young.
Even better for the Redskins? They have been awful against big physical receivers who go down the field this season.
That's bad news for the 'Skins as Vince Young has the highest passer rating on deep passes this year.
Oh wait it gets better.
Tennessee now has Randy Moss who is a tremendous deep threat. Moss had a very small role in the Titans offense last week as he was still learning the offense. He has now been with the Titans for three weeks and Jeff Fischer has been very impressed how quickly he's learned the offense. Moss should be much more involved this week.
While the Redskins are trying to figure out how to stop Randy Moss, that will open up the field for Chris Johnson, the most explosive running back in the league.
This is a great matchup for the Titans and they should run away with this one.
DALLAS (-6.5) Over Detroit
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This could be the hardest game on the slate to pick. What do you make of Dallas? Are they turning their season around under Jason Garrett? Were the players mailing it in under Wade Phillips and are now back to giving maximum effort? Was beating the Giants just a combination of beginners luck for Garett and the Giants playing terribly?
And lets not forget, the Cowboys starting quarterback is Jon Kitna!
On paper this seems like a very winnable game for Detroit. But at the same time, Detroit is on the road, and while the Lions are not as bad as they used to be. The Lions just lost their record setting 25th straight road game last Sunday against Buffalo, a team that hadn't won all year.
But still, the Cowboys are starting Jon Kitna!
This would be much easier if the Lions had starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but he has been hampered by injuries all season. However, backup quarterback Shaun Hill has played better then almost every other quarterback the Lions have had recently.
While Hill isn't Stafford, he still has a pretty solid mastering of the "throw the ball up and let Clavin Johnson make a play" offense.
While the Lions likely won't win this game, it really comes down to "can they cover." After all, they did pull off a miracle cover last week with a late touchdown against Buffalo.
There are so many question marks in this game it is impossible to feel confident either way. Usually in a situation like this you take the points. I'm going to go the other way and say Garrett wins his first home game.
Green Bay (-3) Over MINNESOTA
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The Green Bay Packers were picked by many to be the darlings of the NFC and be the conferences representative in the Super Bowl. The Packers got off to a very inconsistent start, suffering overtime losses to the Redskins and to the Dolphins at home.
But the Packers are now 6-3 and seem to have put everything back together. Since the back-to-back overtime losses, the Packers have beaten the Vikings at home, shutout the Jets and demolished the Cowboys.
Now the Packers are getting one final shot to take out Brett Favre and they are well rested for it coming off their bye week.
Under Brett Favre though the Vikings are 12-1 at home. Despite the Vikings 3-5 record, they are pretty tough to beat in the Metrodome.
But at the same time, much like what has happened in Dallas, the players are not fans of Brad Childress. There have been many anonymous quotes in newspapers recently, including one player who said Childress does not have the players backs.
One of the players also said that they were no longer playing for Childress, but rather they were playing for each other. Well, we all saw what happened when they played for each other last week against the Bears.
The only way to describe the Vikings right now would be to say many players have quit on their coach. While the players will want to win this one for Favre, will that be enough?
Houston (+7) Over New York Jets
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All season long when I've needed to predict a player that would have a big game, I would look at the quarterback who would be facing the Houston Texans. That move has worked like a charm this season. After all, Houston has the worst pass defense in football.
That should mean a big game for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez has been playing the best football of his career recently, and the Jets have too many weapons for Houston to cover. Even if Jerrico Cotchery's pulled groin limits his ability, the Jets still have Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller and LaDainian Tomlinson to throw to.
On the other side of the ball, Darrelle Revis is back to being Darrelle Revis. Two weeks ago against the Lions, Revis held Lions playmaker, Calvin Johnson, to one 13-yard catch. Last season against the Texans, Revis held Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson to four catches for 35 yards.
When it comes to Arian Foster and the running game, the Jets have been excellent at stopping the run all season, as well.
So why am I picking the Texans? Because I'm a Jets fan and a big homer. This season the Jets are 0-1 when I pick them to win, and 7-1 when I pick them to lose. The Jets fan inside me can find every reason for the Jets to lose, even something as simple as this being a trap game, or it would be very typical Jets to blow it against the Lions.
So now I must find a reason to take the Texans in this game.
As much as I thought about, one just wasn't coming. I even went and checked what the weather at the Meadowlands would be like on Sunday, saying maybe some wind will throw Sanchez off his game (he struggled in the wind at home last season). But nothing, clear skies and very light wind.
So I'm really just left with this faulty logic. . .
The Jets have struggled at home (just a 2-2 record compared to 5-0 on the road) and since they haven't been playing good football lately, that trend will continue and the Jets not playing up to their potential will come back to hurt them this week.
PS: I really hope that writing out my karma logic isn't going to upset the good karma I've built this season and end up jinxing the Jets.
Cleveland (+1.5) Over JACKSONVILLE
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Have you seen the Cleveland Browns lately? Say what you want about Eric Mangini's coaching ability, but he has turned the Browns into a very competitive team.
The Jaguars are shaping up to be an all-offense no-defense team. That will not match up well against the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are starting to look very frisky on defense. They are a very physical team that has played very well recently. If the Browns can stop the Jags offense—and they are capable of doing so—it will be a long afternoon for the Jaguars.
Actually, it won't be a terribly long afternoon for the Jaguars: The Browns offense specializes in ball control and keeping the clock moving. If it wasn't for overtime last weeks Jets-Browns game would have ended before 4:00.
The Browns offense does not really use their wide receivers, and while that may be a disadvantage against some teams, it won't be this weekend.
The Browns will give the ball to Peyton Hillis, a boulder of a running back who just runs people over. Last week, the very good Jets running defense had tons of trouble tackling Hillis, as do most Browns opponents.
The Browns have been playing very well recently. They beat the Saints in New Orleans and the Patriots on back-to-back games, and were very unlucky to not beat the Jets last week.
The Jaguars should not give the Browns much of a problem.
Buffalo (+5.5) Over CINCINNATI
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A battle between two teams who play much harder then their records suggest. If you looked at just stats, you would think these teams would have much better then a combined 3-15 record.
The Bengals have spent the entire season digging a hole for themselves in the first half, only to come storming back in the second half, but still coming up just short at the end.
Since switching to Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, Buffalo has played tough and put up some good numbers against some good defenses. Unfortunately for them they have been unable to hold onto leads.
Judging by talent alone, the Bengals are the better team, regardless of how big of a hole they dig for themselves in this game. But this game will have external factors effecting the outcome.
That's right, this game falls under what ESPN.com's Bill Simmons has labeled "The Rule Of Gus Johnson." The rule simply states that whatever game Gus Johnson will be really tight, regardless of who's playing and will have a very close outcome, and will usually have a crazy ending.
Last week Johnson was on the call for the Jaguars hail-mary to beat the Texans. The week before he was there as the Jets rallied from 10 down with under three minutes left. The week before he was in Kansas City as a completely overmatched Buffalo kept it close. In Week 7, he was in Atlanta to watch the Bengals score 22 points in the third quarter and erase a 24-3 halftime deficit, only to see Atlanta outscore the Bengals 15-7 in the 4th quarter to get the win. In Week 6, he was the play-by-play man for the shootout in Houston between the Texans and Chiefs.
Need I say more? By some powers that be Gus Johnson calls close games. I really don't need to give any more of an explanation other then "The Rule of Gus Johnson."
This game smells like its coming down to a field goal.
KANSAS CITY (-8) Over Arizona
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This line seems a little bit too high as the Chiefs are coming off of losses to divisonal opponents Oakland, and then getting hammered by the Broncos. But those games were on the road.
Here is something to remember: The Chiefs are undefeated at home this year.
This week they will be facing the terrible defense of the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals have been a bit of an enigma this year. They looked bad on the road but decent at home, but recently they have now started to look bad at home, too.
When you look into it, bad on the road is an understatement. The Cardinals have been awful on the road this season. When you combine that with them now playing bad at home, the Cardinals are just a bad team overall.
Arizona will be trying extra hard this week as the NFC West is trying to pull off an upset for the AFC West in the battle of "worst division in football," but that won't be enough.
A terrible road team is meeting a great home team, eight points is enough for the Chiefs to cover.
NEW ORLEANS (-11.5) Over Seattle
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Another tough one to pick because of the large line. New Orleans has struggled at times this season, and we still don't really know anything about Seattle. When they show up, their a decent team, when they don't, their awful; and there have been many times this year when Seattle hasn't shown up.
Seattle has pulled out some decent road wins this season, but their road losses haven't even been close.
Meanwhile, the Saints still seem to be suffering from a Super Bowl hangover as they have been unable to replicate the dominant offense that they had the previous two seasons.
Two things swing the battle for this one: The Saints are coming off a bye week and are well rested. The other factor, this game will be played in New Orleans.
The rowdy Saints crowd inside the Superdome could be too much for the Seahawks.
Atlanta (-3) Over ST. LOUIS
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The only reason this line is remotely close is because its a home game for the Rams.
But, while Matt Ryan is 18-1 as a starter at home, he hasn't been too bad on the road either.
The Falcons may only be 2-2 on the road this season, but those losses came against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who never lose their opening game at home, in Week 1, and against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Falcons are still 7-2 and are arguably the top team in the NFC along with the Eagles.
Still, the St. Louis Rams have been very frisky at home led by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.
The season is already considered a success for the Rams, as they continue to watch Bradford get better right before their eyes.
Still, the Rams are not calling their season a success and wrapping it up now. They want more, and they want to steal a playoff spot. A goal that is very possible in the up-for-grabs NFC West.
The Rams have gotten better on the road recently, losing close games to Tampa Bay and San Francisco. They will take that new found road confidence and bring it home, adding to their already strong home-field swagger.
Nonetheless the Falcons will prove to be just too big of a task for the Rams. Having 10 days to rest between their last game and this one, the well rested Falcons will take care of business in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay (+3) Over SAN FRANCISCO
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San Francisco, just like the rest of the NFC West, is a much better team at home. After a terrible start to the season, the 49ers have gotten things going with Troy Smith under center.
It's scary to believe that with just a 3-6 record the 49ers are right back in the division race, but that is the result of the NFC West.
On the other side, there isn't much to say other than Josh Freeman just wins football games. No one saw the Buccaneers getting off to such a great start, and no one truly believes in this team yet.
Do you realize if the Buccaneers win this game they will be 7-3? 7-3! Thank God they play in the same division as the Falcons and Saints, otherwise, they could be hosting a playoff game this year!
With the Giants and Eagles battle it out for the NFC East, one of those teams is all but assured a Wild Card spot.
However, the Saints and Bucs are sitting with identical 6-3 records. If the Saints continue to struggle this season Tampa Bay could be sneaking into the playoffs.
The possibility of the playoffs has dawned on Tampa Bay. They won't want to screw up that chance. They'll do what they need to on the west coast.
NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) Over Indianapolis
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The marquee matchup of every NFL season that is somehow always on CBS and never on Sunday or Monday Night Football.
Who will be showing up to this game? The Patriots that lost two weeks ago to the Browns? Or the Tom Brady led Patriots that demolished the Steelers last week.
On other sideline, what has happened to the Colts? Is their dominance atop the AFC coming to a close?
At 6-3 the Colts are just one game above the Titans for first place in the AFC South. Worse news for the Colts, they are 2-3 on the road this season.
Peyton Manning has been dealing with a lot of injuries to his receivers this season. But that has happened in the past as well, and Manning rarely missed a beat.
This season it seems to be tripping the Colts up.
Nevertheless, Peyton Manning seems to enjoy taking the big stage. Manning and Brady have personal vendetta's against each others teams, and each quarterback will look to go all out to win this game.
So which Manning will show up? The Peyton that has been so dominant in the national spotlight, or the Peyton that has struggled on the road this season?
And which Brady will show up? The Brady that has struggled and been outplayed by Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco and others this season. Or the one that was dominant over the Steelers last week.
With the game being in New England, the Patriots will pull this one out.
New York Giants (+3) Over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
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It's very easy to look at last week and get carried away with this one. The Giants were demolished at home by the 1-7 Cowboys, while Michael Vick played the best game of his career on Monday Night Football in Washington.
But if you go back in time to before last week you would be able to hear the Super Bowl talk out of New York. The Giants had won five in a row and were easily the hottest team in football. They looked unstoppable and had their fans dreaming of Dallas in February.
But then the Cowboys happened, and Michael Vick ran wild against the Redskins. Many Giants fans were questioning defensive coordinator Perry Fewell after last weeks game. In the five games before that, the Giants defense had been so dominant. Defensive end Osi Umenyora had won Defensive Player of the Month honors.
But the Giants defense got virtually no pressure on immobile Jon Kitna. The Giants have knocked five starting quarterbacks out of games this season, but Kitna came away without a scratch. Its not like the Giants can't get through the Cowboys line, they were the ones that knocked Tony Romo out for the season.
If the Giants are going to have any chance this week, Fewell is going to have to figure out a way to contain Michael Vick. Last week, the Redskins chose to not put pressure on Vick and instead try to contain him. That didn't work at all, as Vick had time to wait for his receivers to get open and then find them, and he had the ability to take off and run.
The Giants are a little bit different though. The Redskins have the 2nd worst passing defense in football. The Giants have the 4th best. The Giants will be able to cover the Eagles receivers down the field. More importantly, not only do the Giants have good pass rushers, but they have a lot of them. The rotation will keep the Giants fresh, allowing them to keep putting pressure on Vick.
Historically the matchups between these two teams have been interesting, with the Giants usually winning in Philadelphia, and the Eagles being victorious in New York. This trend will continue Sunday night.
SAN DIEGO (-10) Over Denver
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Am I really picking a 4-5 team to cover a 10 point spread?
Monday Night Football this week will match the top two passing offenses in the NFL against each other. Therefore, this game will come down to everything else.
San Diego has the advantage in passing but not by much. They are the top passing offense in football, but the Broncos are second. San Diego has the advantage in everything else, though.
Neither team is that good at running the ball, but the Chargers rank 16th in the league in rushing while the Broncos are dead last.
Further, San Diego is 4th in the league at stopping the run while Denver is 30th.
If the Chargers mediocre rushing offense can break through against the Broncos terrible rush defense, the field will be opened up for Phillip Rivers to throw play-action passes.
What's more, even without play-action, the leagues best passing offense will be facing Denver's 19th ranked passing defense.
On the other side of the ball, Denver's last ranked rushing offense will struggle to get anything going on the ground against San Diego's defense. This will force the Broncos to pass the ball a lot and become predictable. San Diego is third in the league against the pass and will be able to focus in on it.
San Diego is 3-1 at home while Denver is 1-3 on the road.
San Diego will get out to an early lead, forcing the Broncos to go pass-wacky. San Diego's defense will be able to control the high powered Broncos passing offense and San Diego will be able to win this game by more then 10 points.