NFL Week 11: Predictions and Storylines for All of Sunday's Games

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst INovember 17, 2011

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:   Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers points down field during their game against the Tennessee Titans at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Carolina at Detroit (-7)

The Panthers suffered their worst defeat of the season, losing 30-3 to the Titans, who sacked Cam Newton five times. Next up for Carolina are the Lions, who are battling for a wildcard position.

“I’m sure Ndamukong Suh and the Lions will come after me,” Newton said. “I’m interested to see what happens first, me ‘losing my head,’ or a Lion. If he catches me, he’ll do something the NCAA couldn’t: make me pay.”

After a 5-0 start, the Lions are 1-3 in their last four games, their last loss a 37-13 shellacking in Chicago last week. With the undefeated Packers looming on Thanksgiving, the Lions need a win to provide the momentum necessary for any chance against Green Bay.

“I told our guys to play like their old selves,” Jim Schwartz said. “But I didn’t mean that old. I thought accosting Jim Harbaugh after the San Francisco loss would inspire my team. It did. Now they, like me, can’t finish what they started."

Matthew Stafford has a fractured bone in his throwing hand, which is not good news for a team that relies heavily on the pass. That could mean the Lions throw more fits and tantrums than touchdown passes. But the Lions defense steps up, and a Kyle Vanden Bosch sack of Newton seals the win.

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 30:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs for a nine yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers October 30, 2011 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Vikings
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Detroit wins 30-27.

Oakland at Minnesota (-1)

The AFC West-leading Raiders, fresh off last Thursday’s 24-17 win in San Diego, travel to Mall Of America Stadium to face Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. Oakland is a game up on the Chargers, Broncos and Chiefs.

“We’re the outright leaders in the AFC West,” Hue Jackson said. “But can we maintain it? This is the West, where the division lead is like a hot potato, and each team hates hot potatoes. The Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos are all 4-5, one game back. So, three teams are in last, and one team won’t last.

“I expect a close game, one that may be decided by a field goal. Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 63-yard field goal earlier this year. His range indoors is 70 yards. His range in bars is 17 to 19-year-olds.”

The Vikings were Lambeau “lapped” in Green Bay on Monday night, losing 45-7 as Aaron Rodgers passed for 250 yards and four touchdowns. The Raiders come to town confident and rested after a 10-day layoff.

“Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 140.3,” Christian Ponder said. “My QB rating was 52.3. So, there were 88 points separating us, which would have also been the case had the game gone two quarters longer. Between Rodgers and myself, we made Brett Favre look good and bad. Favre’s usually capable of doing that by himself, usually in the span of seconds.”

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 30:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates his third touchhdown against the Arizona Cardinals at M&T Bank Stadium on October 30. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Cardinals 30-27. (Photo by Larry French/Get
Larry French/Getty Images

Carson Palmer throws for two scores, and the Raiders limit Adrian Peterson to 84 yards on the ground.

Oakland wins 22-17.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-9)

After Week 9’s huge win in Pittsburgh, the Ravens stumbled in Seattle, losing 22-17 to the Seahawks. After a heroic performance in Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco was so-so in Seattle, going 29-52 for 255 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

“We need Flacco to be like our helmets,” Ray Lewis said. “A reliable weapon. Joe goes from ‘G.O.A.T.’ to goat seamlessly. At this rate, there will be only one way for him to get the monkey off his back: surgery.”

The Bengals went down to the wire before losing to the Steelers 24-17. A win over the Ravens would put the Bengals in a tie atop the division with Pittsburgh.

“We plan to come after Flacco,” Marvin Lewis said, “and hopefully force mistakes. Flacco blows up more plays than the Ravens defense. In his defense, he does redeem himself. Of course, he’s in more positions to ‘redeem himself’ than any quarterback in the league.”

Flacco bounces back, and Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense send the Bengals home with their second consecutive defeat.

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns throws to a receiver over defensive end Chris Long #91 of the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Get
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

“There’s the door,” quoth the Raven. “There’s the door.”

Baltimore wins 24-17.

Jacksonville at Cleveland (-1)

The Jaguars are 3-6 after a 17-3 win in Indianapolis last week and are still theoretically in the AFC South race. Of course, that also means, theoretically, Jacksonville could be Super Bowl champions.

“We are more than just ‘theoretically’ in the South race,” Jack Del Rio said. “We’re also ‘mathematically’ in the race. I think that doubles are chances.

“Beating the Colts was a big win for us, and one we had to have. There are ‘must-win’ games, and there are ‘can’t-lose’ games. The Indy game was both.”

The Browns have lost three in a row to fall to 3-6, last in the difficult AFC North. Victory against the Jags will likely hinge on the Browns ability to contain Maurice Jones-Drew, who is second in the AFC in rushing.

“Indeed,” Pat Shurmur said, “there are holes in our defense. Unfortunately, they’re being filled by the opposition’s running backs. Jones-Drew packs a wallop into his 5’7,” 208-pound frame. He’s the real ‘Smash And Dash.’”

Jones-Drew plows for 126 yards and a touchdown, and the Jaguars snatch a 19-16 win in the Dawg Pound.

Tampa Bay at Green Bay (-14)

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 6:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws from the pocket against the San Diego Chargers on November 6, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Packers remained undefeated with a 45-7 win over the offensively-challenged Vikings on Monday night, and now lead the NFC North by three games over the Bears and Lions. While it is still early, many Packers are eyeing a perfect season and the chance to join the 1972 Dolphins as the NFL’s only undefeated teams.

“I’d love to play the ’72 Dolphins,” Aaron Rodgers said. “I have no doubt we’d beat them. And I have no doubt we’d give up about 38 points in doing it. Since we won the Super Bowl last year, we’re ‘defending’ champs. It was finally nice to see our defense do a little ‘defending’ last week against the Vikes.”

The Bucs suffered their worst defeat of the year, losing to the Texans 37-9 in Tampa last week to fall to 4-5 in the NFC South.

“Houston ran us out of Raymond James Stadium,” Raheem Morris said. “That’s okay, because we were leaving anyway, for a game in Green Bay.

“I’m sure we’ll give up some points, but I expect us to score a bunch, too. I hesitate to call it a ‘shootout;’ that violates the terms of Aqib Talib’s probation. Talib’s one of the hottest defensive backs in the NFL. If he’s not ‘blazing,’ he’s ‘burned.’”

Rodgers lights up the Tampa secondary, throwing for 311 yards and three scores, and the Packers roll 41-20.

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 13:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dallas at Washington (+9)

The Cowboys pummeled the Bills, 44-7, last week to improve to 5-4, and with the Eagles and Redskins struggling, the NFC East appears to be a two-team race. Dallas now trails the East-leading Giants by only one game.

“The Bills game was over in the first quarter,” Tony Romo said. “Add that to my list of unimpressive accomplishments under ‘first quarter game-winning drives.’

“Was a Dallas blowout win over the Bills a surprise? The Bills seems to think so, but only because it didn’t end their season.”

The Redskins lost 20-9 in Miami last week to drop to 3-6. In their last three games, the ‘Skins have scored only one touchdown.

“When you can only manage ‘six’ in three,” Mike Shanahan said, “you’re lucky to be 3-6. I’ve seen more ‘offense’ from Brian Orakpo insulting a caveman.

“But help could be on the way. Rumors are swirling about a trade to bring Peyton Manning to Washington. Early reports indicate it involves three first-round picks, heavy sedation, and handcuffs.”

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23: Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins runs with a catch against Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos at Sun Life Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Cowboys win 23-19.

Buffalo at Miami (-1)

After starting the season 0-7, the Dolphins have reeled off two straight wins and are the hottest team in Florida right now.

“The calls for my firing have subsided somewhat,” Tony Sparano said. “The NBA lockout notwithstanding, there’s no Miami ‘heat.’ Thanks goodness! I was worried that another ‘decision’ was coming.”

The Bills have lost two in a row, and three of their last four, to fall to 5-4. Last week, the Bills fell behind 21-0 in Dallas on their way to a 44-7 loss.

“Dallas obviously has our number,” Bills owner Ralph Wilson said. “They also have our letter, which happens to be ‘L.’”

Miami wins 26-20.

Seattle at St. Louis (-3)

When the Seahawks and Rams last met, it was the final game of the 2010 regular season and the NFC West title was on the line. Sunday’s game in St. Louis isn’t for the division lead, but, just like last year, it features two teams with losing records.

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 13:  Running back Marshawn Lynch #24 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes the ball as linebacker Jameel McClain #53 of the Baltimore Ravens pursues. at CenturyLink Field on November 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. The run set up a one ya
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

“The game may feature two teams with losing records,” Pete Carroll said, “but the division features three. San Francisco has eight wins, which matches the combined victories of the rest of the division. The NFC West was a joke last year. It’s still a joke, and the 49ers find it funniest of all.”

Seattle has the famous “12th Man” creating noise and difficult conditions for the opposition. The Rams have their own version, a collection of raucous fans in sheeps’ clothing known as “Meet The Flockers.” Sadly, in St. Louis this year, the home team has done more to quiet the crowd than the visitors. Again, there’s precious little to cheer about in St. Louis.

Marshawn Lynch rushes for 123 tough yards, and the Seahawks edge the Rams 22-19.

Arizona at San Francisco (-10)

The 49ers beat the Giants, 27-20, last week to win their seventh straight and remain in strong position for a first-round bye in the playoffs. San Francisco holds a five-game lead in the NFC West and are on the cusp of clinching the division.

“We’re running away with the division,” Jim Harbaugh said. “That’s mostly because we can’t do it ‘passing.’ We’re well on our way to clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs. Trust me, we have no qualms about going to Green Bay for the NFC championship game. We do, however, have qualms about needing tickets to get there. I like our chances in Green Bay. I think we match up well with the Packers, as long as there’s 18 inches of snow on the ground.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Cards are 3-6, good for a tie for second place in the West, to use the term “second place” loosely. In Kevin Kolb’s absence, quarterback John Skelton led Arizona to a 21-17 win over the Eagles in Philadelphia.

“That one was for Kolb,” Skelton said. “He gets the game ball. That has to be the most satisfying inactive of his career.

“We’re 3-6 with the 49ers far out front. It’s time for us to show San Fran that they won’t be handed the division, at least not on a silver platter. On Sunday, we’ll make our case for the NFC West, or, more realistically, for realignment into the AFC West.”

San Francisco wins 27-20.

Tennessee at Atlanta (-6 1/2)

The Falcons decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from their own 29 backfired in overtime last week, and Atlanta lost 26-23 to the Saints after John Kasay’s game-winning 26-yard field goal.

“That may have cost us the division,” Mike Smith. “My boss, Arthur Blank, was a little more specific in his assessment of the call. He said, ‘That S.O.B. may have cost us the division. Atlanta hasn’t been burned this bad since the Civil War.”

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints at Georgia Dome on November 13, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Titans overwhelmed the Panthers 30-3 last week, but will face a much tougher task against the Falcons. Last week, Chris Johnson rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown, finally breaking out after a season of underperformance.

“I like Smith’s boldness,” Mike Munchak said. “Apparently, he’s got dice for balls.

“We know all about risk-reward situations. We risked it all signing Johnson to an extension; he’s reaping the rewards. Was it ‘money well spent?’ It’s too soon to tell. Right now, we’re calling it ‘money, well, spent.’ We’re happy Chris finally cut loose. Because of that, he was the recipient of the game ball, as well as sarcastic cheering, last Sunday.”

Matt Ryan throws for 278 yards and three touchdowns, and the Falcons win 31-23.

San Diego at Chicago (-4)

The Chargers look to end a four-game skid that has dropped them from the top of the AFC West to the bottom of the NFL’s most competitive division.

“Some call it competitive,” Philip Rivers said. “Others call it weak. In what other division can you lose four in a row and only fall from first to second? We’ve got to play better. Otherwise, Norv Turner will be fired, or worse, retained.”

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 13: Matt Forte #22 of the Chicago Bears runs past Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions for a touchdown at Soldier Field on November 13, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears picked up a vital NFC North division win, blasting the visiting Lions, 37-13, last week.

“We’re only three games behind the Packers,” Jay Cutler said. “We’ve got them in our sights. Luckily, we have great vision. But all eyes are on the Chargers right now. They’ve had 10 days rest, which means Rivers has gone 10 days without a turnover. Throw out their bye week, and that’s a season-high.”

The Chargers get back on track, with a renewed commitment to the run, and a defense that pressures Cutler. Rivers makes a cameo in the third quarter, tossing a long scoring strike to Vincent Jackson.

San Diego wins 22-20.

Philadelphia at NY Giants (-3 1/2)

The Eagles blew another late lead and lost at home to the Cardinals, 21-17. Philadelphia lost a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time this year and are now 3-6, three games behind the Giants in the NFC East.

“DeSean Jackson was benched for being late for a meeting. This whole team is guilty of missing a meeting—they missed meeting their goals.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“As you know, Michael Vick played last Sunday with two broken ribs. If he can’t play, Vince Young will start. We need a big game from Vince. Hopefully, he won’t disappear.”

The Giants lost a tough 27-20 showdown with the 49ers in San Francisco last week, and their lead in the NFC East was trimmed to one game over the Cowboys. The inconsistent yet dangerous Eagles await, desperately in need of a win to maintain any hope of a playoff berth.

“The Eagles playoff chances are so slim,” Tom Coughlin said, “Jim Mora, Sr.’s their biggest supporter.”

New York wins 34-24.

Kansas City at New England (-14 1/2)

The Patriots regained control of the AFC East with a 37-16 win over the Jets last week. Next up for the Patriots are the Chiefs, who are 4-5 and in a three-way tie for second in the AFC West.

“The West is such an up-and-down division,” Tom Brady. “By that, I mean top to bottom, it’s bad.

“But a lot of the credit goes to our no-name defense, which, oddly enough, became less of a no-name defense when Albert Haynesworth was released. Give that man a bra, because he’s been a bust in two places.”

The Chiefs have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak offset their 0-3 start. Matt Cassel may be out for the season after sustaining a hand injury in last Sunday’s 17-10 loss to Denver.

“Matt’s taken a beating this year,” Todd Haley said. “Verbally and physically. It’s too bad. I was looking forward to Matt’s return to New England, ostensibly for more training.”

Tom Brady throws for 267 yards and four touchdowns.

New England wins 38-13


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