The NFL's Week 11 slate is quite a bit timider than the one before it.
Would-be bettors had a lot to digest in Week 10 thanks to a schedule lined with gigantic spreads, whereas the opening Week 11 offering only features two games at seven or more points. Call it a breath of fresh air, when the week prior had three or more double-digit spreads right out of the gates.
The degree of difficulty always takes a step up in the middle of November as the cold settles in and certain franchises take a hard look in the mirror and start thinking about the future with others starting to cement the playoff field.
It's one of a few new factors thrown into the equation this time of years, starting Thursday with a tough showdown between Green Bay and Seattle.
Week 11 NFL Odds
Green Bay at Seattle (-3) | O/U 49
Carolina (-4) at Detroit | O/U 51
Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3.5) | O/U n/a
Dallas at Atlanta (-3) | O/U 48
Houston (-3) at Washington | O/U 42.5
Pittsburgh (-6) at Jacksonville | O/U 47.5
Tampa Bay at N.Y. Giants (E) | O/U n/a
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-2) | O/U 48
Denver at L.A. Chargers (-7) | O/U 46.5
Oakland at Arizona (-4) | O/U 40.5
Philadelphia at New Orleans (-9) | O/U 54.5
Minnesota at Chicago (-3) | O/U 45.5
Kansas City at L.A. Rams (-2.5) | O/U 63.5
Green Bay at Seattle (-3)
When the two teams are evenly matched, Thursday Night Football throws a huge advantage at the home team.
On a short week, the home team gets to focus on its limited rehab and game prep in the comforts of home without travel, which is a bigger advantage than most realize given the way home teams cruise on Thursdays.
The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are about as evenly matched as it gets in the NFC considering the quarterbacks under center.
Those Packers have lost two of their last three, falling to contenders like the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots on the road. But Aaron Rodgers is still sitting on 17 touchdowns against one interception; at points, he has a hard time compensating for a defense letting up averages of 120.9 rushing yards and 24 points.
But the Seahawks have had similar issues, going down twice in a row at the hands of both Los Angeles teams, who both classify as contenders. Russell Wilson has 21 touchdowns with just five picks and, as usual, is having to work some of his magic behind a miserable offensive line:
Other than playing at home, the good news for the Seahawks is they finally seemed to discover they could use first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who is now up to 254 yards and a score on a 4.7 per-carry average after being featured in Week 10.
While 108 yards and a score didn't help the Seahawks avoid a five-point loss on the road against the Rams, Penny's offensive balancing act on fresh legs during a short week can help keep Rodgers off the field and swing this one in Seattle's favor. The quarterbacks will get the hype, but it's a player in Penny's situation who features and sets up both teams.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 20
Houston (-3) at Washington
This line might only grow.
The Washington Redskins might be the most deceptive team with a winning record this year, even if they do lead the NFC East. While the defense is solid, the offense hinges on the play of a 33-year-old Adrian Peterson while new quarterback Alex Smith has done next to nothing under center, throwing for more than 300 yards once and multiple touchdowns just three times.
Last time out, the Redskins coughed up north of 500 yards but were, fortunately, playing the miserable Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who could only muster three points at home. The 16-3 win for the Redskins will go down as one of the year's strangest. Before that, the Redskins went down hard 38-14 against a 4-5 Atlanta Falcons team.
In other words, Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans should show up and blow past the Redskins.
These Texans have won six games in a row after starting 0-3 and command the AFC South. The impressive tear includes wins over playoff-caliber teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, whereas two of the three losses came against elite teams like New England and the Tennessee Titans.
The Texans have clicked alongside Deshaun Watson's return to form, which has snowballed into 17 touchdowns and seven picks:
And while Washington's defense deserves plenty of praise, Houston's unit is right there by ranking among the top 10 against the run and allowing just 20.4 points per game. It's a unit capable of stacking the box and stopping Peterson, forcing Smith to beat them through the air—which is something he can't do.
If Washington had a healthy line, this might be a more interesting game, but the Redskins have lost three starters to injury over the past few weeks. The Texans are strong enough to stop this while Watson will have his usual strong game leading a balanced attack.
Prediction: Texans 28, Redskins 20
Philadelphia at New Orleans (-9)
Those in charge of making the schedule had the right idea with this one.
As one can tell from the line assigned by oddsmakers, a good idea has turned into a disaster.
Blame the Philadelphia Eagles. The defending champs have lost two of three lately and the only wins have come against struggling New York Giants and Jacksonville teams. Losses to Tennessee, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers and Dallas show a severe trend of going down at the hands of playoff-caliber teams.
The fault doesn't fall on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, who looks well on his way back to usual form with 15 touchdowns and three picks on a 71 percent completion percentage. But his defense ranks 23rd against the pass and allows 21 or more points in losses this year.
That's a huge red flag against Drew Brees, who has his team sitting on an 8-1 record with totals of 30, 45 and 51 points over playoff-minded teams like Minnesota, the Rams and Cincinnati, respectively. On his way to 21 scores and one pick, Brees made surgeons blush:
This isn't going to change against a struggling Eagles defense, not when Brees has one of his best-ever supporting casts. Michael Thomas is one of the league's best receivers at 950 yards and seven scores and Alvin Kamara the same at running back on his 546 and 11. Mark Ingram has only played in five games but he's already at 285 yards and two scores on a 4.5 average.
Feel free to sprinkle in New Orleans owning one of the best home-field advantages in the league, and this line starts to make more sense. Brees and Co. have casually put up college-esque numbers on three strong teams in a row and haven't lost since the opener, so there isn't any reason to believe those trends change now.
Prediction: Saints 38, Eagles 24
Odds via OddsShark.