One of the many reasons why the NFL appeals to so many fans is its unpredictability when compared to other sports.
As an example, if someone told you in July that the Oakland Raiders would have as many wins as the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings COMBINED heading into Week 11, you would have laughed at them.
Or that Raiders running back Darren McFadden would lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage per game (142.7)? Or Texans running back Arian Foster would lead the league in rushing yards (920)? Or that wide receiver Randy Moss would be playing for his third team...this season?
OK, you get the point.
Despite the difficulty to make predictions, it's what we do in The Weekly Blitz section of our website. So, here are three picks against the spread (ATS) for this week's NFL slate of games:
The Cowboys entered the 2010 season with aspirations of becoming the first NFL team to ever play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The Lions entered the 2010 season with hopes (and even guarantees) of being a sleeper team that could make the postseason. Instead both teams enter their Week 11 matchup with identical 2-7 records.
In the Jason Garrett era, however, the Cowboys are 1-0 after their impressive road win against the Giants last week. In fact, the Cowboys were the only double-digit underdog last week. But one week is not a trend, especially after a half-season of disappointing performances. Was last week the beginning of a new attitude in Dallas? Or just a dead-cat bounce?
Meanwhile, the Lions, the only 0-16 team in NFL history, allowed the Bills to become the 32nd team to record a victory this season. In the process, Detroit extended their road losing streak to 25 consecutive games.
Both of these teams are pass-happy. The Lions lead the NFL in pass attempts per game (43.4) while only rushing the ball 23.7 times per game, on average, while the Cowboys have a 38.7-to-21.9 pass-to-rush ratio. Even though the Lions and Cowboys rank 30th and 31st in rushing, respectively, it could be the team that runs the ball effectively that prevails.
The Dallas duo of Felix Jones and Marion Barber was effective against the tough Giants defense last week. Detroit's Jahvid Best has been limited to less than 100 yards from scrimmage and hasn't scored a touchdown for seven straight games. Dealing with the lingering effects of turf toe, it's unlikely that Best will regain the form he had in the first two games of the season.
With their newfound energy, greater number of weapons on offense and home-field advantage, the Cowboys will make it two straight.
Over the past three weeks, the Cleveland Browns are nearly 3-0. They had two quality wins against the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. In fact, the Browns won both of those games by double-digits. Although they lost to the New York Jets last week, the Jets needed almost all of overtime to win the game.
Jacksonville has been successful through the air in their past few games, but much of the success is derived from the quality of pass defenses they have faced. Last week's win was against Houston, who has allowed the most passing yards and touchdowns in the NFL, and the previous week's win was against the woe-is-me Dallas defense under now-fired coach Wade Phillips.
In addition, the Jaguars will likely be without receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who is the team's No. 1 receiver, at least in name. You could argue that Mike Thomas has emerged as the team's No. 1 receiver. But either way, the Jags will be without one of their top two receivers.
Although Maurice Jones-Drew has had back-to-back 100-yard performances, he should find the going a little tougher this week. No team has allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Browns (two) this season. Meanwhile, only the Broncos have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Jaguars (12) this season.
Like the Cowboys, the Bills are on a one-game winning streak. For the first time this season, the Bills won a game while extending the Lions' road losing streak to 25 games in the process.
Although they won their first game, it's not the first time the Bills have been competitive. In fact, their previous three losses were by a cumulative total of nine points. Two of those three losses occurred in overtime. And all three of those opponents (Baltimore, Kansas City and Chicago) have a winning record this season and a cumulative record of 18-10.
And the numbers against the spread favor the Bills as well. Buffalo is 11-4 ATS in their past 15 road games while the Bengals are 6-20 ATS as a favorite in their past 26 games.
While you would expect Bengals running back Cedric Benson to be able to run the ball effectively against the Bills, who rank last in the league in rushing defense, Benson was held to only 24 rushing yards against the Colts last week. The Colts have the 29th ranked run defense and have allowed a league-high five yards per carry this season.
While the Bills may not get their second victory of the season, I have confidence in their ability to keep it close against the Bengals.
Good in luck in Week 11.
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