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Monday, January 22 2018

NFL Predictions 2011: Week 11


 I would say I had a bad week, but compared to others in the prediction business it was not too bad. I was flat, which in an unpredictable week like this is just fine. My straight up mark was 8-8 (97-49 overall) and I peeked in at ESPN's expert list where I am behind only Eric Allen who if memory serves usually is stuck in the middle of the pack. Against the spread I went 7-9 (71-73-2 overall) to go back under water, but I was 8-6-2 on the over/under (84-59-2 overall) where I continue killing it.

 The Broncos are actually worse at home (1-3) although the Jets are struggling on the road (1-3). They love to run it and it is easy to see why with quarterback Tim Tebow unable to throw. Should the horses borrow the "ground and pound" mantra for this game? They are a whisker over 60 yards per game rushing better than the J-E-T-S and 1.3 yard per carry on average over the course of the season. All that matters is this matchup though.


The Jets do an adequate job against the run and have the desire to tackle for four quarters. This is not a given in the NFL or any level of football actually. The run defenses statistically are just about dead even although the Broncos give up fewer rushing touchdowns (5-9). Both teams are in the middle of the pack giving up 4 yards per tote.


What's different about this game is that New York can put Eric Decker on Revis Island, man up on whoever Denver's second best receiver might be and go after Tebow. I expect them to hit him like he stole something from him. Teams attacked Michael Vick this way and I'm actually surprised no one has done it to Tebow yet. He will not be able to pass his way out of trouble. My only question is how much the struggling New York offense will wake up on a short week traveling after a wipeout loss. They have to be tired.


Looking at the stat sheet the Broncos have allowed 243 passing yards per game and 18 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions. The "Sanchaters" will be out in full force if Mark Sanchez struggles in this one, and with 24 sacks this defense could cause problems against a shaky offensive line, especially at home in primetime with a fired up crowd. I do not expect a lot of scoring here from either side. The averages say New York wins this 25-22 which is really high to me. The battle of field position should give the visitors more field goal opportunities and that actually could be the difference: NY Jets 22, Denver 17 (DEN +7/under 40)

Oakland (5-4) @ Minnesota (2-7): Points could be flowing as two of the five worst scoring defenses hook up in a dome. It will also be two of the five best rushing attacks on display with both teams averaging about 5 yards a pop with double digit rushing scores. The Vikings can stop the run though and the Raiders have proven to be very vulnerable in that area. Adrian Peterson should be able to pound out some yardage if he is given the opportunity to pile up some carries in a close game.


Carson Palmer gives Oakland an exciting passing game for the first time since Rich Gannon retired. In his two starts he has thrown for 631 yards on just 55 attempts and 5 touchdowns. He does have 7 interceptions including the relief appearance against Kansas City, but that is part of opening up the attack. Minnesota loses Antoine Winfield and is getting torched through the air to the tune of 272.8 yards per game. They have logged 27 sacks, but that just slows down opposing offenses. Eventually they recover.


The Raiders should make life difficult for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder who is at this point feeling the grind of the NFL after getting battered on MNF by Green Bay. He had a short week to prepare and goes up against a defense allowing a low completion percentage (52.1%) with at times a solid pass rush having logged 23 sacks. This is a hard game to read because it will swing on the first quarter. The Vikings have the dome advantage which sets up Jared Allen to fire up a defense that is not really equipped to stop the Raiders. Eventually the visitors have too many options and will never be out of this game. They pull it out in the fourth quarter: Oakland 28, Minnesota 24 (OAK +0/over 45.5)


Buffalo (5-4) @ Miami (2-7): The wheels have started to come off for the Bills. At 3-0 after their dramatic come from behind win over the Patriots everything looked great. Since then, not so much but there might be good news. Yes, they are 2-4 since that high mark but four of those games (2-2) were against the NFC East so that is over with. The other two losses came against stout defenses (Bengals, Jets). I didn't think they were great at 3-0 and I don't think they are terrible now on the heels of consecutive losses by a combined 71-18. Momentum is going the other way for the Dolphins who have won by a  combined 51-12 the past two weeks after starting 0-7. They beat the Chiefs and Redskins though so let's not get crazy. 


The running game has really set up Buffalo's offense. It will be a tough task this week because their offensive line is weakened. Eventually C.J. Spiller might show up and make a few big plays. No one knows when that might happen. On the flip side, the Bills are without a couple key players on their front seven trying to stop the run. I see the running games pretty equal in this game, and both have a good chance to be successful. 


Passing the ball might be the difference in the game, and Buffalo certainly hopes so. They have the better quarterback who has been protected well and completed a high percentage of his passes. Miami rolls with Matt Moore and they have already taken 23 sacks. Moore takes on a defense giving up a ridiculous completion percentage (65.7%) though and a lot of yards per game (261.4) with not a lot of pass rush. They have been aided by 15 interceptions. Even though Fitzpatrick has thrown 14 picks the Dolphins as a team only have 4. Their pass defense is struggling almost as much as Buffalo. I have to ride the better quarterback here and the team with something to play for. It's true this goes against momentum, but I think interceptions will decide this game and I like the visitors to make those plays: Buffalo 20, Miami 17 (BUF +2/under 43)


Cincinnati (6-3) @ Baltimore (6-3): What a battle the AFC North has turned out to be. The Steelers are off this week and have battled through the whole Super Bowl loser hangover thing thus far. They will be tied for the division lead with the winner of this game. The Bengals would technically be trailing on a tiebreaker having just lost to Pittsburgh last week 24-17. The Ravens would be in better position having already swept their bitter rivals, but they are just 4-3 against the rest of the league including last week's debacle in Seattle. 


The defenses are both in the top 5 and figure to decide the outcome in a low scoring struggle for field position. Joe Cool is more like Joe Ice lately. Flacco has thrown just 3 touchdown passes in his last 6 games, even though he topped 300 yards three times over that stretch. It's not like he has killed the team with interceptions, but he has given up the football on 12 occasions for the season including fumbles lost. His opposite number is a rookie going on the road against a great defense though. Andy Dalton is also without stud rookie wide receiver A.J. Green.


Of course, Ray Lewis being out is an immeasurable loss to the Ravens on defense. It might be huge and it might be lessened by the supporting cast rallying. Either way I have to favor the defenses in this spot. Both running games are below average. The perception is that Ray Rice takes over games, but that is not reality because as a team Baltimore runs for only 99 yards per game. San Francisco leads the NFL in rushing defense and both of these units are next in line. Cincinnati has allowed 8 rushing touchdowns though and that is crucial. 


Neither pass offense is special, but clearly the Ravens have the advantage. The Bengals just lost Leon Hall for the season and will have a tougher time keeping up with Torrey Smith as a result. Offensively they are without Green as I previously mentioned and while Dalton has been protected well that is always a precarious situation with a rookie. Baltimore's pass defense is going to control the action here and keep Dalton inaccurate. I expect Cincinnati to hassle Flacco, but the more experienced passer at home has to be the call: Baltimore 16, Cincinnati 15 (CIN +7.5/under 40.5)


Jacksonville (3-6) @ Cleveland (3-6): This thriller pits two of the four worst scoring offenses in the NFL so get ready for some punts. The defenses are both competent and the first team to 17 points might win this one. Heck, the first team to double digits might. Then again, you know how these things go. Both defenses could just quit on a lost season and leave us with a 34-31 shootout. I don't see that happening shy of Thanksgiving. 


The Jaguars have the better running game with MJD who is good enough to be featured on the Madden cover, but knows not to mess around with that jinx. The Browns run for just 87 yards a game and have scored only two rushing touchdowns, fewest in the NFL. Jacksonville has an average run defense, but it should be enough to get them by here. Cleveland's run defense has suffered as the losses have mounted. A lot of teams pile up yardage on them after they build a lead. Eventually their defensive line will be a force, but they are still young. 


In the passing game no team is more inept than the Jags with rookie Blaine Gabbert not doing anything to fix that weakness. It's not like the Browns are throwing the ball all over the field with Colt McCoy, but they average just over 80 yards more per game. Both teams give up a fair number of sacks. Cleveland leads the NFL in passing defense and Jacksonville is fifth. Suffice it to say these offenses will try to run as much as possible. The more successful team is likely to win the game and T.J. Ward being out on the back end for the Browns is a key factor because of the support he provides. I like the visitors: Jacksonville 14, Cleveland 13 (JAX +0/under 34)


Dallas (5-4) @ Washington (3-6): I will never tire of this rivalry. As much as I want divisions to be aligned according to geography I hope they are always in the same division. In the first meeting the Cowboys had Tony Romo playing through busted up ribs and kicker Dan Bailey was the hero booting six field goals in the 18-16 win. The leading rushers for both teams in that game, Tim Hightower and Felix Jones, are both out for the rematch. Advantage visitors in that regard because now rookie DeMarco Murray is busting out. Fellow rookie Roy Helu Jr. is also playing well, but not at the same level. 


Speaking of the running game, the Redskins are not doing much of that with the fewest running plays of any team in the NFL which partially explains the 86.7 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys are almost a yard better per attempt and run it about four more times a contest. Defensively both teams are pretty average against the run. Again, I expect that advantage to tilt in favor of Dallas. Murray is more of a weapon. 


Passing the ball has been an adventure for Washington. They are back to Rex Grossman, but on the season have thrown 15 interceptions and taken 27 sacks. Even with injuries on offense Dallas has thrown for 288.3 yards per game. The respective pass defenses are above average, mostly due to their ability to rush the passer. At this point I have no trust whatsoever in Washington's offense. They have scored 20 points in the last three weeks total and if not for this being a rivalry game I would not hesitate to expect another poor showing. Dallas comes in confident, possibly overly so after blowing out the Bills. It should be relatively tight, but not as close as last time: Dallas 24, Washington 13 (DAL -7/under 41.5) 


Tampa Bay (4-5) @ Green Bay (9-0): This used to be a great rivalry in the old NFC Norris division as Chris Berman called it. Now it's the Packers trying to stay perfect and put a nail in the Bucs' coffin. Lack of offense has been killing Tampa Bay all season. They have scored 3, 18, 16 and 9 points in the their last four losses sandwiched around the 26-20 upset of New Orleans. That's 46 points, or one more than Green Bay scored in smashing Minnesota on MNF less than a week ago. Maybe the defending champs are tired on a short week, but I doubt it.


Josh Freeman has thrown 13 interceptions, more than triple the total of Aaron Rodgers. He is going up against a defense allowing a ton of yards, 284.3 per game, but that has 17 interceptions and 22 sacks. Both pass defenses are in the bottom five actually, but the Buccaneers have an inferior pass rush with just 13 sacks and allow a higher completion percentage. 


The run defenses both give up high averages, but of course Tampa Bay's yards per game is a lot higher because they trail in games and teams keep coming at them. Simply put Green Bay can score at will until proven otherwise. Tampa Bay can't score much until proven otherwise. As a result there is really no other way to call this game: Green Bay 34, Tampa Bay 16 (GB -14/over 48.5)


Carolina (2-7) @ Detroit (6-3): Even if the records don't reflect it this one has game of the week potential with two No. 1 overall picks at quarterback squaring off. Remember when the Lions were the toast of the town? At 5-0 everyone was assuming they would be having a 10-0 showdown on Thanksgiving Day with the Packers. Instead they lost three of four scoring a total of 48 points in the losses. The win mixed in was a 45-10 trashing of the Broncos. It is also worth mentioning that they gave up 85 points in those setbacks which is kind of a lot right? 


The Panthers have been giving up points all season, 24 or more every week save the poor weather game against Jacksonville they won 16-10 back in September. Their offense fell totally flat last week coming off the bye. Are teams going to catch up to the rookie Cam Newton? He was very mortal against the Titans in a 30-3 loss getting sacked 5 times and needing 47 plays (passes plus rushes) to come up with 267 yards of offense. 


Carolina will try to run the ball of course, and Detroit will be sticking to the pass because since Jahvid Best has gone out they have no rushing threat. Both rushing defenses are in the bottom six, but it is worth noting the Panthers have given up 12 rushing touchdowns compared to just 4 for the Lions. I have to think the game plan will be similar to what was employed stopping Tim Tebow only this time they need to account for the forward pass as well. 


The Panthers actually have a slightly better passing game in terms of yards per game, but the Lions have a big edge in touchdown passes (20-11). Pass defense is heavily in favor of the home team. Detroit has a top four unit with 26 sacks and 11 interceptions. Taking on a rookie quarterback with nine weeks of tape to peruse I like their chances. Matthew Stafford has Calvin Johnson at his disposal and I don't see the visiting defense being too interested in tackling anyone when they fall behind. I expect a sound win to get the Lions back on track: Detroit 34, Carolina 24 (DET -6.5/over 47.5)


Arizona (3-6) @ San Francisco (8-1): The NFC West is almost settled up. All the 49ers need to do is win a couple more games and with another loss by the Seahawks they can clinch up before Week 13. We all saw this coming right? The unpredictable quarterback situations across the division have really been the story. The Cardinals thought they had a star when they traded for Kevin Kolb and paid him a mint. He was 1-6 beating only the Panthers in the debut of rookie quarterback Cam Newton on opening day. Then John Skelton, who the team didn't view as a future starter, directed wins over the Rams and Eagles. 


Obviously the 49ers have their quarterback in Alex Smith. Or at least they think they do. We will find out in the playoffs. For now he is protecting the football like his life depends on it and that is enough to win games with the running of Frank Gore and awesome play from the defense. The key here is for them to stay focused and deal with prosperity. Week after week they keep slugging out victories. Will they ever wear out and come up flat? 


San Francisco has the top scoring defense even though they are eleventh in total yards allowed. Giving up zero rushing touchdowns certainly helps their red zone defense. They will not be letting Arizona run on their top ranked run defense, even between the twenties. It will be on Skelton's arm. Meanwhile, even with Gore wearing down the 49ers should do some damage running. Rookie Kendall Hunter has a different skill set, but he can get the ball up the field. 


For all the praise being heaped on Smith, this offense is passing for more yards than exactly three teams. Those teams are led by Curtis Painter, Tim Tebow and Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. If the Cards were able to force passing situations by loading up the box to contain the run this might get interesting. Divisional games often do. Arizona's pass defense is below average, but not terrible. San Francisco is actually inferior on paper because teams come at them through their more. I look for a typical ugly win from a team that just wins baby. Sorry Al: San Francisco 24, Arizona 13 (SF -10/under 41)


Seattle (3-6) @ St. Louis (2-7): Remember when these teams were battling for the division title? Both teams had aspirations this season in what looked like a wide open NFC West race. Now they are battling to stay out of the cellar. The Rams have started to gain some momentum after a brutal start to the season thanks to a rugged schedule and bevy of injuries. The Seahawks come off a nice win over the Ravens, their first since stunning the Giants prior to the by week. 


There is really nothing to play for on either side here. In this case I push heavily towards the home team. The crowd will keep them motivated. Plus, the Rams are getting healthy and want to flex a little bit. The running numbers are deceiving here. St. Louis has Steven Jackson, but Marshawn Lynch is revving up. Defensively the Seahawks can shut down the run and the Rams are dead last defending it. 


When it comes to the pass, both teams are struggling and their quarterbacks have gone down hard. Sam Bradford is a much better option than Tarvaris Jackson, especially with the crowd noise in his favor. I like his pass rush better as well thanks to Chris Long. This is certainly not a glamorous showdown, but I have to go home team with the better quarterback here in a close one: St. Louis 21, Seattle 17 (STL -2.5/under 39.5)


San Diego (4-5) @ Chicago (6-3): Is this really happening to the Chargers again? They finally got off to a hot start at 4-1. Then came the bye week. Maybe they got confused and thought the season was starting over because they are 0-4 since, giving up at least 23 points in every game. The offense has been good, but not great. Philip Rivers is having a down year and this a turning point for their season. 


Both defenses are soft against the run and there will be plenty of it if the wind kicks up. Chicago allows over 5 yards per carry. They also give up a ton of passing yards. On paper this definitely looks like a San Diego win. However, they keep blowing games. At least they are well rested coming off a Thursday night game. 


If the passing game is impacted due to the weather I wonder which team will stubbornly stick with it and put their respective defense in a hole via the turnover. I loved it when Rivers and Cutler battled it out before Cutler was traded from Denver. It would be too bad if the wind took away their ability to get the ball down the field. I call this a tossup, but ultimately I just don't think the Chargers are very good right now. Rivers can't dig them out: Chicago 23, San Diego 21 (SD +4/under 45.5)


Tennessee (5-4) @ Atlanta (5-4): It's kind of amazing these teams have identical records at this point. The Titans are not serious contenders are they? The Falcons hope not because they have no room for error. Last week Chris Johnson finally broke loose and Tennessee destroyed Carolina. Atlanta lost a heartbreaker in overtime to New Orleans. They will be emotionally down, but maybe the home crowd elevates them. 


Every week it amazes me to say this, but the Titans are dead last in rushing offense. The Falcons are above average with Michael Turner still running strong. Mixing in the defenses I would say Atlanta has a distinct advantage running the ball. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck has been protected well and moves the chains in the passing game, but Matt Ryan can pick up chunks of yardage even if rookie Julio Jones is out. Defensively against the pass neither team stands out. It could turn out to be a tight game if it is that way through the first quarter, but I can't see the Falcons letting this one get away on their home turf: Atlanta 28, Tennessee 20 (ATL -6.5/over 44)


Philadelphia (3-6) @ NY Giants (6-3): When these teams met last time I joked that New York's "B" team beat Philly's "dream" team. Michael Vick was knocked out of that 29-16 Giants victory and is not making the trip for the rematch. That leaves Vince Young, the one who dubbed them the dream team, as the starting quarterback. This should be fun on SNF with a national audience watching.


The Eagles love to run and not just with Vick. LeSean McCoy is getting down. The Giants don't have the running game going at all, picking up just 3.3 yards per carry. Defensively both units are a little below average. New York really doesn't have the running backs to make them pay though. It probably will come down to Eli Manning and the passing game which averages almost 300 yards per game. Philadelphia passes for good numbers, but 14 interceptions have hurt. I like Manning to throw for a ton of yards here and for Young to get sacked a lot. That's really all there is to say: NY Giants 27, Philadelphia 17 (NYG -5/under 45.5)


Kansas City (4-5) @ New England (6-3): When this game was put on the schedule I guess it made sense, but it sets up as a potential laugher. Does anyone care that Romeo Crennel once ran the defense for the Patriots? I'm sure ESPN will play up that angle as if it gives the Chiefs some sort of advantage. 


Somehow both teams have been able to run the ball effectively. The Pats keep rotating players in while the Chiefs have dealt with the loss of Jamaal Charles. There isn't much difference in the run defenses other than Kansas City being attacked more on the ground. The passing edge goes to New England by a mile. Matt Cassel is returning home to the team that drafted him, but is sidelined. Tyler Palko does have the luxury of playing the worst pass defense in the league. As the points go on the board I happily take Brady: New England 31, Kansas City 17 (KC +16.5/over 46.5)

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