How many of us have had this week’s big matchup circled for a month or so now? You know the game. Now, know the way things will (should, could, might, maybe) play out.
Week 11 Picks
New York 27 – Buffalo 13
The up-and-down Jets have to begin solidifying their bid for a postseason berth, and winning divisional games is the absolute best way to do it. In the back of my mind, I can easily envision the Jets letting the Bills past them in Buffalo. But logic mostly dictates that the better team, and the team that has played better so far this year, will win this game. That’s the Jets.
Chicago 24 – Baltimore 21
This matchup is more even than you might expect, with both teams dealing with their share of problems. For Chicago, injuries are starting to take their toll, with CB Charles Tillman done for the rest of the year and QB Jay Cutler out at least another week with an ankle sprain. In Baltimore, the issue is less one of health and more about consistency, which they’ve lacked since the end of last season. When it’s right down the line, I tend to give the nod to the home team.
Cleveland 30 – Cincinnati 24
The Battle of Ohio is once again upon us. Earlier in the year, the Browns defense stifled the Bengals in Cleveland to the tune of 6 points, taking the win. I don’t think they do the same to the Bengals on their home turf, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Cincinnati team we’ve seen the past couple of weeks is the team we’ll see from here on out. That team that was lighting up the scoreboards and playing top notch defense? A mirage. At least offensively.
Houston 33 – Oakland 16
I was picking Houston anyway, but the news that Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor will be held out of this game due to injury doesn’t sway the odds any better for a struggling Oakland team. While we all know this season has been a huge letdown for the Texans, they’ve been competitive and should continue to be so, with solid veteran leadership willing them to a few more victories before they close the book on a disappointing 2013.
Arizona 31 – Jacksonville 10
The Cardinals are improving, particularly in the running game, which might be the elixir for Carson Palmer’s struggles getting the ball down the field. Jacksonville is coming off of their first win of the season, but traveling across the country to play a team hunting for a playoff spot won’t equal win #2.
Philadelphia 38 – Washington 30
They haven’t won at home since September of 2012, but the cards are stacked in the Eagles’ favor this week. Nick Foles has been playing almost perfect football since taking over for Michael Vick, and the Redskins defense has been plagued with inexperience and underachievement all year. If the Eagles were to lose this game, something would have to go seriously wrong…kinda like it did when Foles put up 90 yards against the Cowboys a few weeks back.
Detroit 34 – Pittsburgh 20
The writing on the wall for the Steelers hasn’t stopped them from showing up on Sundays, but this Lions team is on a mission and, for the first time in quite some time, I’m buying into their bid for the NFC North crown. It won’t be all that easy, but the Steelers will find ways to make it easy for the traveling Lions.
Tampa Bay 28 – Atlanta 24
Much like the Chicago-Baltimore game, this one is actually a lot more balanced than one would expect at first glance. Even with their struggles, both teams have found a bit of consistency from unexpected sources: a stable of capable backs in Tampa Bay and a mostly effective rookie in Mike Glennon gave them their first win last week, and the Falcons have gotten some decent production through the air despite big injuries. In the end, the home advantage and improving defensive play favor the Buccaneers.
San Diego 24 – Miami 21
Cross-country trips are rough on west coast teams, that’s a fact. But the Dolphins are a gracious host in their home stadium, and the Chargers, despite having the same record, have their arrow pointed significantly more in the right direction than the Dolphins do at the moment.
New Orleans 31 – San Fransisco 16
After managing three field goals against an attacking Carolina defense last week, I can hardly expect the struggling 49ers offense to improve much going into New Orleans, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The Saints should be able to wear down the opposing defense with their unrivaled depth of weapons, running and passing their way to a big win.
New York 33 – Green Bay 24
The Giants have their running game. The Packers have their running game. The difference? No Aaron Rodgers, and Eli Manning is healthy as can be. Also worth noting is that these two defenses seem to be heading in different directions, as the Giants have been steadily improving in the department since acquiring LB Jon Beason, while the Packers have been giving up too many yards and too many points due to injuries and lack of effort. Outside of Lambeau, the Packers are far more vulnerable.
Seattle 31 – Minnesota 10
In a matchup of the biggest, baddest running backs in the NFL, Adrian Peterson will no doubt be perceived as the loser of the duel despite playing for a team that has no possible chance of besting the Seahawks. Not in Seattle, not at all. But AP is still half again more of an effective back than Marshawn Lynch is, and Lynch is one of the best in the business. Just sayin’.
Kansas City 30 – Denver 24
Yeah, this game. It won’t disappoint, I know that much. What I’m not sure on is how the Broncos plan to attack the best defense in the NFL. It would seem logical that Wes Welker gets double-digit catches, as Denver’s M.O. has to be to get the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands as fast as possible. But there are going to be moments when Manning has to take his shots, and he’s going to take some shots, too. I’m talking hits. And with each hit, each sack, each pressure, the Chiefs will pull further and further away until finally, by the end of the game, the entire football world finally admits that the praise they were hesitant to give to the Chiefs was “their bad”. I won’t be one of them.
New England 26 – Carolina 24
After Sunday Night, this one is like the icing on the icing of the cake. Carolina is coming off what has to be their biggest win since drafting Cam Newton, while New England is coming off a bye. The rested Patriots will give the Panthers a much harder time than the 49ers did, simply because, offensively, New England is far more patient and practiced at finding ways to win games. The key to the Patriots taking this one will be an inspired defensive performance, something I’m 50-50 on happening. This is going to be a close one. A good one.
Fantasy Start ’em/Sit ’em
Russel Wilson – QB – Seattle Seahawks
Carson Palmer – QB – Arizona Cardinals
Andre Brown – RB – New York Giants
Darren Sproles – RB – New Orleans Saints
Riley Cooper – WR – Philadelphia Eagles
Keenan Allen – WR – San Diego Chargers
Jordan Cameron – TE – Cleveland Browns
Rob Gronkowski – TE – New England Patriots
Josh Brown – K – New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST
Colin Kaepernick – QB – San Fransisco 49ers
Andy Dalton – QB – Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Miller – RB – Miami Dolphins
Ray Rice – RB – Baltimore Ravens
A.J. Green – WR – Cincinnati Bengals
Eric Decker – WR – Denver Broncos
Tony Gonzalez – TE – Atlanta Falcons
Brent Celek – TE – Philadelphia Eagles
Sebastian Janikowski – K – Oakland Raiders
Carolina Panthers D/ST