Tough go of it last week, though I feel a bit heartened as I was tied with two of our B/R experts for best record for the week. (That either says something about how hard the games were to pick last week, or it says something about our acumen when it comes to picking football games...)
Here are my picks for Week 11, including one pretty significant upset pick. Read on!
Last week: 9-5
Miami vs. Buffalo
The Dolphins need to get both Tannehill and Bush back on track, and Dave Wannstedt’s bad defense is a good place to start. But C.J. Spiller has a big game which opens up Fitzpatrick and the passing game. Division games are always tough and this one will be no different. The Bills win a close one.
Arizona vs. Atlanta
Coming off their first loss of the season, the Falcons will be a focused team looking to take it out on their next opponent, in this case the hapless Cardinals. Arizona can hang with Atlanta when they are on defense, but when the Cardinals are on offense, the talent gap is just too wide for this to end up competitive.
Cleveland vs. Dallas
The Cowboys may be feeling good after beating up division rival Philadelphia, but they need to stay focused against a Browns team that actually matches up well with them. I think people may be surprised how close this game ends up, but Romo and the Cowboys offense score just enough to ensure a Dallas victory.
Green Bay vs. Detroit
The Lions, who showed a hint of promise two weeks ago, crashed back to earth against the Vikings. Expect more of the same against the Packers. I think the Lions come out of the gate with a big push based mostly on emotion, but Mike McCarthy’s team will ride out that storm and take over.
Cincinnati vs. Kansas City
If ever there was a looming danger of a letdown game, the Bengals are staring it right in the face. Coming off their most complete performance in their big win over the Giants, Andy Dalton and the Bengals will keep things rolling against one of the worst teams in the league.
Philadelphia vs. Washington
With Nick Foles most likely to get his first NFL start, look for Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to go with a bevy of big blitzes against an overmatched Eagles offensive line. RGIII, who has been contained over the course of the Redskins’ last two games, breaks out again against the Eagles.
Tampa Bay vs. Carolina
Josh Freeman has looked more and more comfortable as the year has gone on. A big part of that coincides with the emergence of Doug Martin, who has defenses committing a safety to run support, leaving Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in single coverage. For Carolina, head coach Ron Rivera knows he’s coaching for his job and has responded by firing the special teams coach. The Panthers are a mess.
Jacksonville vs. Houston
The Rams took division rival San Francisco to the edge and ended up with a tie. That won’t be an issue this week. The Jets are too inconsistent on offense, too soft on defense and just not a very good team. The Rams aren’t a powerhouse, but they are clearly better and play tougher at home. Jeff Fisher’s squad gets the better of Rex Ryan and company.
New Orleans vs. Oakland
Every game is precious for the Saints, who have zero margin for error as they try to climb back into playoff contention. The Raiders are a bad team and the Saints should be able to put up a bunch of points. On offense, Greg Knapp’s unit looks lost and will most likely be that way for the remainder of 2012.
San Diego vs. Denver
The last time these two teams met, Philip Rivers had a nightmare second half in which he pretty much single-handedly gave the Broncos the game. Lo and behold, that’s exactly the type of performance he had against the Buccaneers on Sunday. The Broncos may be without Elvis Dumervil, but it won’t matter. Peyton Manning will be too much on offense and Von Miller will be too much against a bad Chargers offensive line.
Indianapolis vs. New England
That’s right – I’m calling the upset. The Patriots have looked far from the dominating team we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, while the Colts are playing better than anyone expected at this point in the season. The old adage “it’s not who you play but when you play them” holds true for this matchup.
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
This used to be a matchup that was guaranteed to end with a final score somewhere in the 13-10 neighborhood. With Ben Roethlisberger missing the game, look for the Steelers to pound the football with great success. This won't be the type of defensive struggle we'd grown accustomed to when watching these two teams play, but the Steelers defense will do just enough to slow down Joe Flacco and company. Byron Leftwhich won't be asked to do much as the Steelers look to go back to their roots with the running game.
Chicago vs. San Francisco
Both teams are coming off tough games. While it sounds like the 49ers will have Alex Smith, the Bears are dealing with the possibility they may need to start Jason Campbell. While the Bears and Niners will both struggle to move the ball, and the Bears will almost certainly force a turnover or two, the 49ers are simply a more complete team and will be able to move the ball via play action once Frank Gore wears the Bears down, much like Arian Foster and the Texans did.