Every week you read about NFL games and why certain teams are or aren't going to win. That's great to help inform what you know about a game. Unfortunately, it all goes out the window after kickoff.
For instance, who saw the New York Jets beating the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend? If you say that you did, you're a liar. No one predicted that because the Steelers were playing as well on offense as anyone in the league, while the Jets have been a disaster all year.
To steal the old catchphrase, that's life in the NFL. Nothing is ever as it seems. Knowledge might be power in most aspects of life, but it's a burden when it comes to the game of football. There's so much thought and analysis spent on the games because there's seven days in between them, so answers seem easy to find.
As the lines start trickling out for this week's games, here are picks for all of them against the spread and a deeper dive into the critical showdowns.
|NFL Week 11 Odds and Predictions|
|Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins||MIA -5||Dolphins, 24-14|
|Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers||Even||Falcons, 31-28|
|Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears||CHI -3||Bears, 27-23|
|Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns||CLE -3||Texans, 23-17|
|Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs||Even||Seahawks, 20-13|
|Cincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints||NO -7.5||Saints, 34-27|
|San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants||SF -4.5||49ers, 27-23|
|Denver Broncos at St. Louis Rams||DEN -10.5||Broncos, 35-20|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington||WAS -7.5||Washington, 24-16|
|Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers||SD -11.5||Chargers, 27-21|
|Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers||GB -4.5||Packers, 35-31|
|Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals||AZ -1||Lions, 24-20|
|New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts||IND -2.5||Patriots, 41-28|
|Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans||PIT -5.5||Steelers, 27-17|
Key Week 11 Games
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-1)
It would be easy to say that this showdown between the two best teams in the NFC lost some of its luster when Carson Palmer's season ended last week against St. Louis. That's simply dismissing what the Arizona Cardinals have accomplished this year, as well as the performance of Drew Stanton.
Stanton has started three games in 2014, leading the Cardinals to a 2-1 record and throwing three touchdowns without an interception. This is also a roster loaded with offensive weapons to help the backup quarterback, not the least of which is John Brown, via ESPN Stats & Info:
However, Stanton is getting thrown to the wolves in his first start as Arizona's full-time starting quarterback. Detroit's defensive line is the best in football, led by the best defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus ratings (via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com):
In the games Arizona won with Stanton at quarterback earlier this season, the Cardinals ran the ball 55 times. San Francisco did limit the Cardinals rushing attack to 84 yards, but Bruce Arians never abandoned it because it helped keep the clock running.
No one has been able to run the ball against the Lions. They are tied for the fewest yards allowed per carry (3.2) and the second fewest touchdowns (four) and yards per game (71.3). That pressure in the middle will force Stanton to beat Detroit's defense.
By the way, the Lions got Calvin Johnson back from an ankle injury last week. All he did was catch seven passes for 113 yards and one touchdown. Golden Tate also chipped in with 11 catches for 109 yards.
Arizona's secondary has been vulnerable this season, allowing 274.2 passing yards per game. There are big plays for the Lions in this game, and they will find a way to exploit them. The Cardinals might have all the confidence in the world in Stanton, but there will be a drop-off from what Palmer was giving them.
Prediction: Lions 24, Cardinals 20
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs (Even)
This is a sneaky interconference game. The Seahawks and Chiefs are both 6-3, fighting to stay in shouting distance of a team leading their respective divisions and finding ways to win games without playing their best football.
Seattle has finally figured out the formula for success. Who knew that riding Marshawn Lynch could produce such great results? He's been great before, but Pro Football Focus metrics show that his game against the Giants was off-the-charts incredible, via NBC's Corey Griffin:
The Seahawks will need that if they are going to win games this season. Russell Wilson has been wearing his cleats out, running the ball more than ever this season with 500 rushing yards. It's necessary, too, because he's been turnover-prone when throwing the ball, and the Seahawks receiving corps is nonexistent.
The Chiefs present their own problems for Seattle. Andy Reid's defense is allowing a league-best 205.3 passing yards per game, which isn't what the Seahawks want to see for a struggling passing attack. The Chiefs are also the only team that hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
However, Kansas City does give up a lot of yards on the ground. Reid's bunch allows 115.6 rushing yards per game and is tied for 31st with 4.7 yards allowed per carry.
Speaking of mediocre passing attacks with a nonexistent receiving corps, take a look at this stat about the Chiefs from ESPN Stats & Info:
Even though teams have had success throwing the ball against Seattle this year due to the lack of a pass rush, the secondary is still very good. It can be even better when the opposing team doesn't have anyone capable of breaking a big play down the field.
This isn't the same Seahawks team that won the Super Bowl, but it is adapting to what works well this season. It's not always pretty, but it has been largely effective.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Chiefs 13
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)
If you are a fan of offense, the Patriots-Colts showdown is made for you. That's not to say there won't be defensive talent on display, but these two teams have combined to score 571 points this season.
Tom Brady was so good in October and against Denver that he needed to take a week off just to give other quarterbacks a chance to keep up. One key secret to this newfound success, per Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, is accuracy on deep throws:
At one point in the season he was 2 of 19 attempts over twenty yards in the air. Since the Chiefs game he has completed 57.1% of his deep passes (only Hoyer and Brees have been better in the same span) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He has added back that element to the offense that had gone missing and allowed teams to play the rest of the Patriots passing attack more aggressively.
Brady has 18 touchdowns and one interception during New England's five-game winning streak. He's also been able to exploit the way defenses are playing Rob Gronkowski, per Field Yates of ESPN.com:
That doesn't bode well for an Indianapolis team that's allowing 263.6 passing yards per game and 16 touchdowns.
Fortunately, the Colts are able to counter with their own quarterback who is pretty good. Andrew Luck is doing things that another kind of famous Indianapolis quarterback did, via ESPN Stats & Info:
If you're going to nitpick either one of these quarterbacks to find a difference and pick a winner, look at the turnovers. For all Brady's struggles early in the year, he only has three interceptions. Luck has thrown the same number of interceptions (nine) as Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr.
The Patriots are tied for the league lead with a plus-12 turnover differential, while the Colts are even. If there is a big mistake that's going to be made, it's more likely to come from Indianapolis.
Prediction: Patriots 41, Colts 28
Stats via ESPN.com unless otherwise noted
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