B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 11
The good news is there are still 108 games remaining in the 2019 NFL regular season.
Bleacher Report analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have struggled picking games against the spread in what's been a wild, wacky and extremely unpredictable season. But the campaign is just 58 percent complete, and our predictors are due.
Here's an updated look at how they're holding up (last week's records in parentheses):
1. Brad Gagnon: 75-72-1 (8-5)
2. Brent Sobleski: 70-77-1 (6-7)
3. Gary Davenport: 64-83-1 (5-8)
Consensus picks: 68-79-1 (6-7)
Moneyline consensus: 93-54-1 (4-9)
And here are 14 new kicks at the can.
Lines from Caesars as of 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-6)
The Cleveland Browns are desperate, they're back on a winning track after defeating the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, and they're hosting an offensively challenged team that will be traveling on short rest in Week 11. So it's not totally surprising that 3-6 Cleveland is laying a field goal against the streaking Pittsburgh Steelers.
But none of our experts are willing to back the Browns minus three points.
"The Steelers might not be racking up style points," Davenport said. "But the team is piling up wins, and the way Pittsburgh is doing so spells trouble for the Browns. Pittsburgh's pass rush off the edge has been vicious, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is on a tear scooping up mistakes made by opposing signal-callers. As it happens, the Browns specialize in poor O-line play and mistakes made by the quarterback. It's not Baker Mayfield's fault, though. His fans cheer too loudly."
But Davenport has a point about this particular matchup. The Browns are remarkably mistake-prone. They're the third-most-penalized team in the league, and only four teams have committed more turnovers. Meanwhile, the high-flying Pittsburgh defense has registered a ridiculous 24 takeaways in its last seven games.
The Browns haven't won back-to-back games this season, and there are major questions about the competence of rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens. That might not bode well for their chances of winning twice in a five-day span, with the second victory coming against a more accomplished team that hasn't lost in regulation since September and at least has a veteran head coach at the helm.
This might be a close game, but the more reliable and consistent team that is riding a four-game winning streak is getting three points. That appears to make Pittsburgh the safer pick on Thursday Night Football.
Davenport: Pittsburgh (+3)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (+3)
Sobleski: Pittsburgh (+3)
Consensus: Pittsburgh (+3)
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Browns 17
Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-4)
The Atlanta Falcons have suddenly covered the point spread in back-to-back games, which is particularly noteworthy considering they failed to cover in 16 of their previous 21 regular-season affairs prior to that. But the majority of our analysts figure they're now getting too much love against a winning team on the road, and they're willing to lay 5.5 points with the Carolina Panthers.
"Yes, the Falcons just blasted the Saints in New Orleans, while the Panthers lost at Green Bay," Davenport said. "But the Falcons are still 2-7, while Carolina was in the game against one of the NFC's best teams until the end on the road, still sits at 5-4 and remains in the playoff hunt. Atlanta is trotting out a third-team tailback and primed for a letdown, while the Panthers have won five of seven even after last week's loss and have historically played well at Bank of America Stadium."
The Falcons will indeed be without veteran back Devonta Freeman, who is dealing with a foot injury, and that is particularly problematic with change-of-pace back Ito Smith already on injured reserve. That could make it hard to take advantage of a run defense that ranks dead last in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, especially on the road.
The likelihood of Atlanta putting together back-to-back great road games is probably low (especially with breakout tight end Austin Hooper also out), and the Panthers have won 12 of their last 17 games in Charlotte.
Still, Matt Ryan is Matt Ryan, and the Panthers have lacked consistency in the passing game. You can't blame Sobleski for dissenting here, and it's worth noting those picking against the majority as lone wolves are 47-40-1 this season.
There are several lines this week more enticing than this one.
Davenport: Carolina (-5.5)
Gagnon: Carolina (-5.5)
Sobleski: Atlanta (+5.5)
Consensus: Carolina (-5.5)
Score Prediction: Panthers 30, Falcons 24
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-4)
At press time, Caesars had yet to post a line for Sunday's matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts. But the game opened at Indianapolis -3.5, and several books have a live line hovering around that number.
If you explore, you'll be able to find the Jaguars plus a field goal, and all three of our analysts are down to get behind them in that case, regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Colts.
It could be Jacoby Brissett, but it'd be Brian Hoyer if Brissett is forced to miss a second consecutive game because of a knee injury. The backup was a mess in last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins, and it's fair to be concerned about the already conservative Brissett if he's less than 100 percent, especially with top receiver T.Y. Hilton also hurt.
"Quarterback matchups often define contests," Sobleski said. "Sunday's meeting between the Jaguars and Colts will have an extra emphasis on the game's most important position for two reasons: Nick Foles returns as the Jags' starter after suffering a broken clavicle in Week 1, whereas Brissett's status remains up in the air as he deals with a knee injury. Clearly, the Jaguars hold an advantage whether a hobbled Brissett or Hoyer starts for Indianapolis."
The Jaguars are getting healthier on both sides of the ball and have had two weeks to prepare after winning two of three games prior to their Week 10 bye. Meanwhile, the Colts have lost back-to-back games after arguably playing above their heads with Brissett under center earlier this season.
The Jags fell by only a field goal in Indy last year, and that was in a matchup between Blake Bortles and Andrew Luck. Now they've got a former Super Bowl MVP at quarterback, while the Colts have reason to be extremely concerned about that position.
If you can, take those three points and run.
Davenport: Jacksonville (+3)
Gagnon: Jacksonville (+3)
Sobleski: Jacksonville (+3)
Consensus: Jacksonville (+3)
Score Prediction: Jaguars 23, Colts 20
Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)
So much for the tank job?
Dating back to the start of October, the Miami Dolphins have covered five consecutive spreads, and they now hold the longest winning streak in the AFC East. They held a fourth-quarter lead over the Buffalo Bills just a few weeks ago, and now they get to host Buffalo on Sunday.
They're getting just six points as a result, which is the second-lowest spread in a Dolphins game this season. But with Miami playing hard for rookie head coach Brian Flores and Buffalo seemingly coming back to earth following a 5-1 start, the majority of our gang is backing the Phins in this spot.
"The Dolphins have gone from the NFL's ultimate punching bag to a team that isn't to be trifled with," Davenport said. "Miami isn't good, mind you. Talentwise, the Dolphins are still the worst team in the league. But with a veteran quarterback getting what he can from the offense and an impressive first-year coach in Brian Flores firing up the defense, Miami is playing over its head and has been for a while. The Dolphins have figured out a way to turn a complete lack of talent and skill into a modicum of success."
But Gagnon costs us a unanimous consensus here. He figures the comically thin Miami roster is destined to come back to earth and that the much more talented and hungry Bills can still win by at least a touchdown, just as they did when they got it together in time to beat the Dolphins by a double-digit margin in Week 7.
You're allowed to consider the Dolphins unbettable. If so, you might want to invest your money elsewhere.
Davenport: Miami (+6)
Gagnon: Buffalo (-6)
Sobleski: Miami (+6)
Consensus: Miami (+6)
Score Prediction: Bills 20, Dolphins 17
Denver Broncos (3-6) at Minnesota Vikings (7-3)
The Minnesota Vikings have played four teams this season that currently have fewer than four wins. In those four games, they're 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 14 points. They're also 4-0 at home with an average margin of victory of 16 points.
We can argue over whether they've gotten over the hump on the road, in prime time and against high-quality opponents, but the Vikes usually kill it at home against low-quality teams on Sunday afternoons.
With that in mind, our analysts are unanimously willing to lay 10.5 points with Minnesota hosting the Denver Broncos on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, even with Denver coming off a win over the Cleveland Browns and then a bye.
"Brandon Allen played well in his first start, and he and the Broncos had two weeks to prepare for Minnesota," Sobleski admitted. "The Vikings defense is far better than the Browns' version, though. Minnesota ranks top-five in scoring defense and plays a far more disciplined brand of football. Don't expect the Vikings' defensive ends to allow Allen to work the edges of the pocket and make easy reads and throws. They'll attack the young quarterback in only his second start."
Allen completed just 12 passes at home against Cleveland, and now he's facing a talented and opportunistic defense in a hostile environment. Look for him to have problems, while a decent but inconsistent Denver D likely won't be able to shut down an offense that features the league's third-highest-rated passer and leading rusher.
Davenport: Minnesota (-10.5)
Gagnon: Minnesota (-10.5)
Sobleski: Minnesota (-10.5)
Consensus: Minnesota (-10.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 28, Broncos 13
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at Detroit Lions (3-5-1)
This is another game that lacked a live line at Caesars on Wednesday night as we await word on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. But Stafford's back injury would likely hold him back even if he were to suit up, which has our experts backing the Dallas Cowboys so long as we're looking at a single-score spread.
Books that do have lines posted are giving the Lions only about a field goal, making this a no-brainer for our trio.
"Even if Stafford plays, this line isn't likely to move beyond a touchdown," Gagnon said. "Lock in the Cowboys now if you can, because I doubt he'd be too effective with that back issue anyway. The Detroit offense is one-dimensional right now regardless of who's under center, and backup Jeff Driskel isn't about to slay a talented Dallas defense."
The Cowboys are 4-1 against losing teams and 1-3 against winning teams this season. The Lions have been doing a lot more losing than winning (they have just one win since September), they're banged up, and they've been dealing with locker-room turmoil.
It's not a good spot for them, and all three of our experts agree they're likely to lose by a touchdown or more on Sunday.
Davenport: Dallas (-3)
Gagnon: Dallas (-3)
Sobleski: Dallas (-3)
Consensus: Dallas (-3)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Lions 23
Houston Texans (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are all the rage right now, but could a Baltimore team that lacked consistency in the first five weeks of the season hit a wall?
The majority of our experts figure the Houston Texans could at least provide a speed bump. Gagnon and Sobleski aren't willing to spot Baltimore four points with Houston coming off the bye.
"The Texans were ravaged by injuries in October, but they've still won four of their last five games, and they've had two weeks to prepare for this one," Gagnon said. "They might not pull off the upset on the road here, but Deshaun Watson just keeps his team battling. In 31 career regular-season starts, Watson has never lost a game by more than one score."
Watson is also one of the few quarterbacks in Jackson's neighborhood of late. He posted a 117.8 passer rating in Houston's two pre-bye-week victories, and he's cut his sack rate way down. Both quarterbacks should have opportunities to exploit vulnerable yet opportunistic defenses, but Houston has a little more big-game experience and should be well rested.
The Texans look as though they'll get offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and defensive backs Tashaun Gipson, Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Bradley Roby back, while cornerback Johnathan Joseph and offensive tackle Tytus Howard should be further along than they were when they returned from injuries before the bye week.
Baltimore is always a tough place to play, but Houston played the Saints tough in New Orleans and beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. It should be ready to put up a fight here.
Davenport: Baltimore (-4)
Gagnon: Houston (+4)
Sobleski: Houston (+4)
Consensus: Houston (+4)
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Texans 23
New Orleans Saints (7-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)
The New Orleans Saints hold a four-game lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South, but it's been a weird year for a New Orleans team that is only 2-2 with Drew Brees at quarterback. With the Bucs hosting the Saints on Sunday, the majority of our experts aren't willing to give up more than a handful of points with New Orleans.
But Gagnon's advice is to sit this one out entirely.
"Don't bet on this game," Gagnon said. "Just don't. There's just too much uncertainty. The Atlanta Falcons dominated New Orleans last week, and it's tough to tell if the Saints are falling apart or if that was a fluke and this veteran team will bounce back aggressively. The pass protection was a problem, and Brees didn't look like himself against a bad Atlanta defense. Now they're without guard Andrus Peat, and they likely won't have cornerback Marshon Lattimore, either.
"I don't trust the Saints at all, especially against an inferior team that always plays them tough. The Bucs beat the Saints at home in 2016 and 2017 and won in New Orleans in 2018. They're coming off a win against the Cardinals, and before that, they nearly beat the Seahawks in Seattle. They're forcing me to pick a team here, and you can see why I'm rolling with Tampa Bay with 5.5 points in my back pocket. But we're still talking about the unpredictable Jameis Winston. The Bucs have only one win in Tampa this year, and the Saints might be pissed. Stay far away from this one."
It's thus fitting that we lack a unanimous consensus on this one.
Davenport: New Orleans (-5.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+5.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+5.5)
Consensus: New Orleans (-5.5)
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Buccaneers 20
New York Jets (2-7) at Washington Redskins (1-8)
This is another "do we have to?" game, because the New York Jets have yet to win on the road while the Washington Redskins have yet to win at home. Something has to give, and with a semi-pick'em line, the majority of our analysts are siding with the team that has won multiple games this season.
"Everyone should put a blindfold on and throw a dart to figure out who will win between the Jets and Redskins since these two squads are so bad," Sobleski said. "No one outside of diehards will even watch this game. But the Jets hold an advantage because Gregg Williams' defense is playing well. Washington interim head coach Bill Callahan wants to establish the run, but the Redskins will be slamming against a brick wall since New York allows a league-low 3.0 yards per carry."
The Jets offense has also made some progress since that Monday night disaster against New England in Week 7. Their scoring output has increased in every week since then, and the defense made several splash plays last week against the New York Giants. That could be a problem for shaky Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins, especially if that stout run defense takes Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice out of the equation.
The betting public is also strongly backing the Jets, which isn't surprising considering their Week 10 win and the negative press surrounding the Redskins right now. But Gagnon is fading the public (never a bad strategy) and assuming the Jets aren't reliable enough to string together back-to-back wins, especially since the Redskins have had two weeks to prepare.
Either way, consider spending your hard-earned money elsewhere.
Davenport: New York (+1.5)
Gagnon: Washington (-1.5)
Sobleski: New York (+1.5)
Consensus: New York (+1.5)
Score Prediction: Jets 20, Redskins 17
Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
Speaking of heavy public money, no team is getting a larger percentage of wagers in its favor this week than the Arizona Cardinals, who are 11-point underdogs for a road matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
That would typically be a red flag, but none of our panelists can bring themselves to lay that many points with San Francisco.
"These division rivals met only two weeks ago," Sobleski said. "While the 49ers are clearly the better team, the Cardinals lost the previous meeting by three points. Granted, Arizona needed 11 unanswered fourth-quarter points to draw close, but Kyler Murray and Co. were able to move the ball against San Francisco's second-ranked defense. Furthermore, the Niners offense won't be operating at full capacity if tight end George Kittle and/or Emmanuel Sanders can't play. Jimmy Garoppolo struggled to move the ball Monday against the Seahawks without his top two targets."
Kittle is unlikely to play, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, which is notable since the Cardinals defense is NFL's worst at covering tight ends in terms of DVOA. Throw in injuries to Sanders, Matt Breida and Joe Staley, and the 49ers could be in trouble, especially on slightly short rest after an emotionally grueling overtime loss to the Seahawks.
The Cards are a lot healthier, and they're coming off a solid road performance in Tampa. They've yet to beat a half-decent team this year, but they'll likely hang around here. And with this line, you also have a potential backdoor cover in your back pocket.
Davenport: Arizona (+11)
Gagnon: Arizona (+11)
Sobleski: Arizona (+11)
Consensus: Arizona (+11)
Score Prediction: 49ers 28, Cardinals 20
Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) at Oakland Raiders (5-4)
Are the Cincinnati Bengals even trying to win? It's fair to wonder that with Andy Dalton on the bench and rookie Ryan Finley throwing to a depleted supporting cast as A.J. Green and John Ross III remain sidelined with injuries.
Cincinnati has been outscored 73-23 in back-to-back one-sided losses, the second of which came by a 49-13 margin in Finley's debut at home coming off a bye.
So it isn't surprising that the majority of our experts are unwilling to take the Bengals even with 10.5 points on their side Sunday against the potent Oakland Raiders in the Bay Area.
"This is admittedly a lot of points to lay on a Raiders team whose defense is still a work in progress," Davenport said. "But the Bengals defense is a finished product...one that folks with manners flush as soon as they catch a whiff of it. The difference here is that Oakland has a run game and a quarterback playing at a Pro Bowl level. The Bungles have Joe Mixon's tortured ghost (remember when he led the AFC in rushing last year?) and Ryan Finley under center."
Still, this season's pick leader spoiled a unanimous consensus.
"I'm not laying that many points," Gagnon said. "In 25 games since Jon Gruden returned, the Raiders have only one win by a double-digit margin. They're 5-4 this season, but they've been outscored by 3.6 points per game. And while the Bengals are terrible, they're due. This team isn't bad enough to lose 'em all, and it is good enough to hang. The Bengals have covered in road games in Seattle, Buffalo and Baltimore this season, and the backdoor could be there in the worst-case scenario."
Davenport: Oakland (-10.5)
Gagnon: Cincinnati (+10.5)
Sobleski: Oakland (-10.5)
Consensus: Oakland (-10.5)
Score Prediction: Raiders 31, Bengals 17
New England Patriots (8-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)
Dating back to November 2010, the New England Patriots have lost eight games by more than 12 points, including their last one two weeks ago against Baltimore.
They've followed up each of their last seven 13-plus-point losses with 13-plus-point wins. Their average margin of victory in those rebound wins: 19.0.
And in the last five years, New England has outscored opponents by an average of 15.6 points per game coming off its bye week.
On Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, the Pats will be coming off both a 13-plus-point loss and their bye.
With that in mind, two of our three analysts are siding with the Patriots as a 3.5-point favorite in Philly.
"The hook on this spread scares the hell out of me," Gagnon admitted, "but even scarier than that half-point is the thought of backing anybody against an angry Bill Belichick-coached team on two weeks' rest. I can't bring myself to predict this'll be a field-goal game. I'd consider buying down to an even three points if I were betting here, but the Patriots are still the safer pick under these circumstances."
The Pats are also really healthy after the bye, but the Eagles have also had two weeks to prepare and they've become a lot healthier as well. That and the damn hook might explain why we don't have unanimity here. This is a tricky matchup between two well-coached and highly successful teams.
Davenport: Philadelphia (+3.5)
Gagnon: New England (-3.5)
Sobleski: New England (-3.5)
Consensus: New England (-3.5)
Score Prediction: New England 27, Philadelphia 17
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Chicago Bears (4-5) at Los Angeles Rams (5-4)
This doesn't look like the Chicago Bears' year, as the offense has regressed significantly with the struggling Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. However, they still have a world-class defense that has surrendered only 17.3 points per game over the last three weeks.
And while they haven't fallen on their face quite as dramatically, Chicago's Week 11 opponent is also a mess right now.
Over the last seven weeks, the Los Angeles Rams' only two wins came against the 2-7 Falcons and the 0-9 Bengals. As a result, none of our predictors are prepared to give Los Angeles nearly a touchdown Sunday night.
"Somehow, the Rams own a 6.5-point spread even though their offense is falling apart," Sobleski said. "Yes, the Bears offense isn't playing well. In fact, it has been downright terrible. But this matchup will come down to Chicago's defense exploiting multiple mismatches in the trenches.
"The Rams offensive front is in complete disarray. Center Brian Allen became the latest casualty with a season-ending MCL injury. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is week-to-week with a meniscus injury. And David Andrews hasn't performed well at left guard in Joseph Noteboom's absence. Quarterback Jared Goff crumbles under consistent pressure, as we saw against the Steelers on Sunday."
Notably, only four defenses have generated as much pressure as Chicago's this season. The mistake-prone Goff not only has a lower passer rating than Trubisky, but he has the NFL's highest bad-throw rate, too.
The Rams might win this game with their somewhat limited home-field advantage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but this number is far too high for our guys.
Davenport: Chicago (+6.5)
Gagnon: Chicago (+6.5)
Sobleski: Chicago (+6.5)
Consensus: Chicago (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 23, Bears 20
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Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-6)
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers are coming off tough road losses as they prepare to meet at a neutral site in Mexico City on Monday Night Football. But while Kansas City's last-second defeat at the hands of Tennessee felt like a shake-off-the-rust experience for Patrick Mahomes and his formerly injury-ravaged team, L.A.'s dud of a performance in Oakland looked and felt like a football funeral.
The Chargers have been gutted by injuries and can't protect quarterback Philip Rivers. At 4-6, they might be toast.
At the very least, their surprising Week 9 victory over the Packers now looks like a fluke. And with that in mind, our three-man crew is fully backing the favored Chiefs despite a nasty hook Monday night.
"Giving only 3.5 points with the Chiefs is either an opportunity for value after Kansas City stumbled last week or one more chance for the universe to junk-punch me this season," Davenport half-joked. "But we know the Chiefs can score early and often, while the Chargers offense was a pitching-and-lurching mess against the Raiders. If the Chiefs are in any way a 'contender,' they need to bury the Chargers here. If they don't, I started wearing a cup in Week 3. It was getting hard to breathe. It's been that kind of year."
Davenport: Kansas City (-3.5)
Gagnon: Kansas City (-3.5)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-3.5)
Consensus: Kansas City (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Chargers 21