NFL Predictions 2019: Week 11

Well, on the surface it was a disastrous week for me. I missed a lot of picks. However, I feel fairly good about how it went. A few really crazy things happened, so yes I was only 5-8 picking winners (93-54-1 overall) and that stinks. Honestly it’s just a matter of some coin flip games going the other direction. I had 49ers 23-21 and a missed field goal in OT would have had them beating the Seahawks 27-24 instead of losing by that score. I had the Cowboys 24-23 and they lost 24-28 thanks to some awful play calling at the end when they had the game winning touchdown within their reach. I changed my Titans/Chiefs pick when Mahomes was declared the starter, so shame on me for that. I had the Bills 23-20 and they lost to the Browns 16-19 I can live with that. I also had the Raiders 27-23 (26-24 actual) Packers 24-17 (24-16 actual) Bears 20-13 (20-19 actual) and Bucs 34-28 (30-27 actual) so there’s that. I was 8-4-1 against the spread (76-69-3 overall) and 8-5 on the over/under (69-77-2 overall) so with the +7 week I now stand -1 against Vegas. I’m almost there.

Pittsburgh (5-4) @ Cleveland (3-6): Last season it felt as if this rivalry was back. Let’s face it the Browns are the little brother by a long shot. It doesn’t mean they can’t want to beat a geographic rival and the shocking tie was a signal they were heading in the right direction on the heels of their 0-16 campaign. Entering 2019 everyone was on the bandwagon and they have collapsed. The Steelers lost key offensive pieces including their quarterback and have muscled their way to resting in the second wild card spot. Now both teams are coming off a victory, but clearly Cleveland’s season is hanging in the balance. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to go on a run after they just beat the team resting in the first wild card spot (Buffalo) so let’s see what they have in primetime at home. Hunt made his season debut and if they can run the ball and play defense I think Mayfield will be fine. Pittsburgh has somehow won five of six, the lone loss being overtime against red hot Baltimore. Even without Conner, a crippling blow to their rushing attack, they used a 4-2 turnover edge to down the Rams 17-12 with a physical defense. The Browns have not lived up to their offensive potential through the air, and 25 sacks is lot to give up. They complete only 59.6% of their throws, but if Mayfield can protect the ball they are fine. The Steelers have survived the loss of Big Ben by allowing only 11 sacks. On defense they are both competent, ranking in the top 12. Cleveland is a losing team in large part because they have created 4 interceptions while Pittsburgh has 14. The Browns have a duo of backs now and a huge edge in rushing offense. The Steelers have a sizable edge in rushing defense. This is a nail biter. Did the home team turn a corner and now suddenly they are okay? I’m not so sure. Mike Tomlin is so much better than Freddie Kitchens it’s not even worth a discussion. Coaching matters. These teams are close and I don’t know if I can trust Mayfield right now, or an offensive line that’s facing a team that just shut down a talented offense: Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 16 (PIT +3/under 42)

Atlanta (2-7) @ Carolina (5-4): What got into the Falcons last week? It’s like the team I expected to see all season decided to finally show up. The Panthers suffered a loss at Green Bay and now that their fate is in Allen’s hands I wonder if they are up to the task for a playoff push. This is the week we find out because playoff teams don’t lose games like this. Well, for the most part they don’t. Sorry New Orleans. The big shock for me last week coming off the bye was Atlanta’s defense. They had allowed 27-plus in five of their previous six games (and 24 in the exception) so to limit that offense to 3 field goals was amazing. Carolina has been shaky on defense since the calendar flipped to October, allowing an average of almost 30 points per game and somehow going 3-2 in those contests. They will have to tighten that up if they want to make a playoff push and fun fact, they control their own destiny in the NFC South. Next week they travel to the Saints who they host in the season finale and they stand two back at the moment. It’s crucial for them not to look ahead in this spot, and the visitors are typically not strong outside the dome so we’ll see. The Falcons are second in passing offense, but 10 interceptions have hurt their cause and now Hooper is out. The Panthers have suffered 29 sacks and are completing only 59.9% of their passes with a below average attack and inexperienced quarterback. Carolina’s defense has 12 sacks and 36 interceptions so they will get after Ryan. Atlanta has only 2 picks and 13 sacks, plus it will be harder for them to get going here in the elements compared to last week’s spoiler effort in a dome. The Falcons are one of the worst rushing offenses with only 3 scores on the ground. The Panthers are seventh with 14 sacks and pick up 5.1 yards per carry. McCaffrey is having an MVP season and if the team makes the playoffs he might get it. Carolina’s defense, however, gives up 5.2 a pop and has allowed 17 scores. Atlanta’s isn’t great but they only yield 3.8 per rush. I think this is a level matchup the way things stand in terms of momentum. I don’t like dome teams outdoors once the weather turns. In this spot they could turn to the run and really make this a battle. I think they will, but I like the team with something on the line to pull it out: Carolina 23, Atlanta 21 (ATL +7/under 54)

Dallas (5-4) @ Detroit (3-5-1): The Cowboys really want to be a contender and it just isn’t happening. They failed in primetime against Minnesota last week and now have to endure a rugged second half schedule while the team they are competing with faces a much easier path. They do get a break here because the Lions are without Stafford, or at least I expect them to be. I can’t fathom a team with a losing record risking their starting quarterback further injuring his back in a spot like this. Driskel played last week and should play again. The team has lost five of six and has only lost once this season by more than 7 points. They are close to competing and unfortunately for them it’s not going to happen in 2019. Dallas goes to New England next week and quite frankly cannot afford to lose this game. These are two of the top four passing offenses in the league, but removing Stafford clearly slants that to the visitors. Detroit is one of the worst passing defenses having allowed 19 TD passes against 3 interceptions. Dallas is sixth and has given up only 9 touchdowns. Driskel will struggle. The Cowboys are fifth in rushing offense and the Lions are picking up only 3.7 yards per carry with two scores on the ground so far. Detroit’s defense gives up 4.6 a pop while Dallas is able to at least slow teams down on the ground. I like the visitors a lot here. I think the home team is deflated. Both of these teams are hosting Thanksgiving Day games as is tradition and if this was turkey day here I might feel differently. I just see a contender against a team that has been erratic all year: Dallas 24, Detroit 16 (DAL -6.5/under 51.5)

Jacksonville (4-5) @ Indianapolis (5-4): The Jaguars paid Foles to stabilize their quarterback situation and after getting dumped 26-3 by Houston before the bye week it makes sense to bench their fun rookie Minshew. The AFC South is a mess and with another round of games within the division this team can compete even though they currently rest in last place. It won’t be easy because four of the next six are on the road so we’ll see. The Colts fell out of first place by losing to a team that was 0-7 a couple weeks ago, and at home no less. Brissett couldn’t play and Hoyer looked like a dusty vet going 18/39 for 204 yards and tossed 3 picks. Their starting quarterback returns here and that will make a huge difference. Both passing offenses limit mistakes. Jacksonville has fewer interceptions (4 to 7) thanks to last week’s Hoyer performance and produces more yards per game. Indianapolis has allowed fewer sacks (17 to 22). The pass defenses are both solid. The Jags have more sacks (30 to 23) and the Colts allow a really high completion percentage at 68.7%. Both rushing offenses rest in the top 10 with Jacksonville better per carry (4.8 to 4.2). Somehow they have only a single rushing score all season while the Colts have only 4. On defense it’s reversed with the Colts allowing less per rush (4.4 to 4.9) and both units below average. It sure seems like both teams can run. I trust Mack more at this point, and dome field advantage matters a lot so that’s where I’m leaning. Nothing would shock me in this one: Indianapolis 22, Jacksonville 19 (IND -2.5/under 44)

Buffalo (6-3) @ Miami (2-7): So much for the Dolphins tanking. They won at Indy, albeit against a guy the Colts never thought would quarterback their team this season, and have now won two straight. The first meeting with the Bills was actually a contest with the Fins leading 14-9 into the fourth quarter and closing to within a field goal before the hosts took an onside kick attempt to the house with 1:38 to play for the 31-21 win. Buffalo dropped a tough one last week at then 2-6 Cleveland and if they had any dream of winning the AFC East it’s gone now. Their wild card hopes are very much alive, however, and hosting Denver next week leaves them potentially 8-3 into Thanksgiving at Dallas. Thanks in part to testing out Rosen, the Dolphins are nearly the worst passing offense with 13 interceptions and 35 sacks allowed. The Bills are only a little bit ahead of them, but are better at protecting the quarterback and football. Neither team completes 60%. Buffalo is a solid pass defense with only 7 passing touchdowns allowed while Miami is subpar and has only 13 sacks. The Bills are solid rushing the ball while the Dolphins are dead last and running out of backs. Their run defense is third worst and that’s a good recipe for losing. Buffalo isn’t great against the run, but they should be able to hold it down here. I think they realize last week was an opportunity lost and will regain their focus here in South Florida to end the winning streak for the Fins: Buffalo 21, Miami 17 (MIA +7.5/under 40.5)

Houston (6-3) @ Baltimore (7-2): Watson versus Jackson in a battle of division leaders? I’m in. The South and North respectively have sort of crumbled beneath these teams as the AFC feels not quite so deep this season. Losing Luck and Big Ben had a lot to do with that, and these teams are taking advantage. The Texans are rested off the bye week having played in London and have a key divisional game against the Colts just a few days after this so they are in an interesting spot. Things could go south in a hurry for them, especially with a visit from the Patriots after that. The Ravens are soaring. They buried the Bengals last week on the heels of their dominating win over the champs. The division is theirs to lose and it’s not unrealistic for them to aim for home field advantage at this point. They do have to deal with the 49ers in two weeks and have road games with the Rams and Bills sandwiched around that, but the way they are playing it’s possible they run the table. Houston does have the better passing offense and Hopkins is by far the best receiving option on the field. They are more efficient and flat out better through the air. Watson at this point is a better passer that’s a fact. The Texans are struggling to stop the pass and now without Watt it’s hard to generate a rush. The Ravens are average in terms of yards allowed, but have given up just 9 touchdown passes and allowed passers to complete just 59.6%. Baltimore leads the NFL in rushing, obviously, since their quarterback has more yards than most team’s lead running back. Houston is fourth and their signal caller can produce with his legs as well. These are both top 8 run defenses and it’s a fairly even matchup overall. I think home field is really big in this one, and so is momentum. The layoff means the visitors are fresh. The home team is on a roll though. It’s like they are a boxer on a streak of knocking out an opponent. Jackson is unstoppable until someone can figure out a scheme to slow him down: Baltimore 24, Houston 21 (HOU +5/under 51.5)

Denver (3-6) @ Minnesota (7-3): Kirk Cousins got his primetime win and it might be time to appreciate the fact that he has thrown only 3 interceptions. Cook has a shot to rush for over 1,600 yards in an era where few backs carry the load. The defense has given up 24-plus in three of their last four games, but they managed to win two of those contests. They also stood strong at the end in Dallas last week. The Broncos come off their bye week having won in Allen’s first start at quarterback. They’ve won three of their last five games and the defense has played very well over that stretch. The playoffs are likely out of reach and now they must play four of their next five on the road so we’ll see how much desire they have left. The Broncos have one of the worst passing offenses and just 8 scores through the air all season. The Vikings are average, but efficient and have allowed only 17 sacks. Denver is fourth in pass defense so they are going to make it tough. Minnesota is ordinary, but their sack total (29) and dome field advantage will be huge against a guy making his first road start. The Broncos have two good backs, but are merely average running the ball. The Vikings are third in the league and can certainly power past teams. Their run defense is better. It’s not a wipeout because I like both defenses overall and I don’t think the home team can do a lot through the air. They will win comfortably though: Minnesota 28, Denver 17 (MIN -10/over 38.5)

NY Jets (2-7) @ Washington (1-8): A wild week shook up the 2020 draft order and maybe proved these teams don’t give two shakes about tanking. Their jobs are on the line. The Jets beat their in-stadium rivals and in the process are probably removed from contention for the first pick. The Redskins had the week off and watched two other 1-win teams win to put them solely in the second position. Haskins is going to be their quarterback the rest of the way and that makes sense, but the team hasn’t scored a touchdown in a while. Will their offense be ready after the time off? New York erupted for 34 last week and seems to have woken up. Three of their next four games are against teams with a combined 3 wins and they can build up some momentum in what has been a lost season. These are the two worst passing offenses in the league and a combined 65 sacks allowed plus 21 interceptions in 18 games is not a good look. Darnold is a lot more prepared than Haskins to win games. New York allows 30 more yards passing per game, but Washington lets opposing quarterbacks complete 72.5% of their throws. The Jets have Bell, but are the second worst rushing offense in the league. The Redskins a yard per carry better, but still only run for 89.4 yards per game. New York is second in run defense though, and Washington is in the bottom five. It’s cold and which team is going to run the ball better? I think the team with Bell is a better bet and I like the quarterback experience: NY Jets 20, Washington 17 (NYJ +2.5/under 38.5)

New Orleans (7-2) @ Tampa Bay (3-6): The Saints are in a state of shock after a 1-7 Falcons team held them to 18 first downs and 3 field goals in a 26-9 loss. Somehow their two backs combined for just 9 carries so it was a weird game and these things happen over the course of a long season. They should bounce back fine although historically they struggle outdoors. So far they have gone 3-1 on the road and weather here is not a factor. In the first meeting Bridgewater was the quarterback and he completed 76.5% of his passes for 314 yards and 4 scores in a 31-24 win. The Bucs snapped a hard luck four game losing streak with a 30-27 win over Arizona. Throughout the season they have proven they can compete it’s just a matter of finishing. Unfortunately their 2-2 record against the NFC West means they are 1-4 when not facing that division. Seven consecutive games they have played in have produced 50-plus total points and they are playing with house money at this point. If Winston protects the ball they can beat just about anyone. These are both top 10 passing offenses. Tampa Bay has allowed almost twice as many sacks (34 to 18) and thrown almost triple the interceptions (14 to 5) so that explains the results not to mention New Orleans completing 11% more of their throws. The Bucs are dead last in pass defense while the Saints are tenth. Brees should win this battle. The rushing offenses are both middle of the pack and it’s hard to figure that with Kamara and Murray going for New Orleans. The Bucs lead the NFL in run defense, and the Saints are fifth. It’s interesting to analyze these numbers and figure out what’s going to happen. These teams know each other. It figures to be close. I trust Brees more than Winston, but a crazy outcome is very possible. Instead I see a wild win for the visitors: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 27 (TB +5.5/over 49.5)

Arizona (3-6-1) @ San Francisco (8-1): The 49ers finally lost, an exhausting overtime affair against Seattle. They are on a little bit of a short week although the Cardinals had to fly back from Tampa Bay and will need to travel here. It’s a quick rematch of a game these teams played in the desert on Halloween. San Francisco was in control of that game most of the way, scoring on the final play of the half to go ahead 21-7 and leading 28-17 before a long touchdown just inside five minutes to play made it interesting. They got their starting tackles back last week and while the result wasn’t great against Clowney and the Seahawks, they are surely better off with them in the fold as well as Juszcyk. Arizona ranks higher in passing offense, but has allowed almost twice as many sacks (32 to 17). San Francisco is first in pass defense with 35 sacks and the visitors are second worst having allowed 25 touchdown passes against only 4 interceptions. The 49ers are second in rushing offense while the Cardinals are in the middle although they do average 4.9 yards per carry in large part because of their elusive quarterback. The run defenses are both below average and allowing about four and a half yards per carry. These teams aren’t too far apart. The change of venue is big. Weather won’t matter. Emotionally I think the 49ers want to prove taking the loss does not bother them and the best way to do that is with a resounding win. I think their offense controls the ball and the defense contains Murray having already seen him once: San Francisco 26, Arizona 14 (SF -9.5/under 44)

Cincinnati (0-9) @ Oakland (5-4): Are the Raiders back? They seem to be. Games they would have blown in the last decade plus they are finding a way to win as evidenced by their 5-1 record in games decided by one score. The Bengals are the Bungles again, unfortunately and their only solace is having their pick of quarterbacks in the 2020 draft. Last week’s 49-13 loss to Baltimore certainly proved their best chance to win is not with Ryan Finley at quarterback. He wasn’t awful, just very ordinary and turned it over twice, both resulting in defensive scores for the Ravens. Allowing seven touchdowns through three quarters is not a good look. It was their fifth loss by double digits this season and third in a row. I see very little reason for them to be fired up here on a long road trip. Oakland is supremely motivated after last week put them in control of their own destiny for the AFC West title. Maybe it’s not realistic, but a win here and next week at the Jets will send them to Kansas City with first place on the line. The passing offenses are right in the middle of the league on the stat sheet, but Cincinnati has allowed way more sacks (31 to 12) and completed 11% fewer passes plus Finley is not responsible for most of that. He’s not an improvement over Dalton. Oakland has a worse pass defense, but has twice the sacks (20 to 10). Their only issue is injuries in the secondary adding up, especially at safety. The Raiders are eighth in rushing and Jacobs is a legit OROY candidate. The Bengals are anemic and while Mixon played high school ball in the east bay he won’t be the best back on the field. Cincinnati is dead last in rushing defense allowing 173.0 yards per game and 5.2 per carry as teams pile on them. Oakland is tenth. This is a textbook rout in the making. I think the visitors are tired. They can’t even show up at home, so there is no reason to expect much of them here. The Silver and Black have been waiting to pile on an opponent and finally do: Oakland 30, Cincinnati 14 (OAK -8/under 48.5)

New England (8-1) @ Philadelphia (5-4): I like to think Nick Foles might watch this game in the locker room after he plays earlier in the day, for nostalgia purposes. This is the first meeting that counts between these teams since the epic Super Bowl. The Patriots are no longer invincible having suffered their first loss and had to stew on it during the bye week. They lose consecutive games like never and aren’t likely to lose with an extra week of preparation. This is an awful spot for the Eagles. They also had last week off and have won a couple games to draw even in the NFC East. Their schedule is quite favorable overall in the second half, but not until December. Next they host Seattle who just took down the last unbeaten team in the league. Philly’s passing offense is ordinary and certainly misses Jackson as a deep threat. New England is seventh and that Brady guy is pretty good. The Patriots are second in pass defense with an unreal 19 interceptions against 3 TD passes plus 32 sacks. The Eagles are average and at times have been very vulnerable. Philadelphia is capable in rushing offense while New England has mustered only 3.3 yards per carry. While the Pats are eleventh in run defense they allow 4.7 yards per carry. The Eagles are fourth and give up a more reasonable 3.8. Could the home team pull out another miracle? I can see them running the ball and keeping this one close. Wentz definitely wants to prove he could have beaten this defense in the big game, but let’s be honest he lacks the supporting cast to do anything close to what Foles did. The champs rebound: New England 26, Philadelphia 20 (NE -3/over 44)

Chicago (4-5) @ LA Rams (5-4): This was a great game last December between teams who at the time had NFC title aspirations. The Bears won 15-6, slowing down a potent offense with a physical defense. The Rams of course avoided them in the playoffs and wound up winning the conference. This season things have changed dramatically. Trubisky is under serious fire. Goff is probably less scrutinized because he did lead the team to the Super Bowl. However, these teams each have the exact low number of touchdown passes (11). Chicago has thrown half the interceptions (5 to 10) but has allowed way more sacks (27 to 16) and Los Angeles gains almost a full 100 yards per game more. On the stat sheet the pass defenses are both average and comparable in most key categories although the addition of Ramsey recently helps the home team a lot. The Bears are near the bottom in rushing offense and the Rams are actually below average as well. It’s puzzling that Montgomery has more yards than Gurley. Both run defenses are in the top 10. Los Angeles is better and weather won’t be a factor in primetime. It’s an even matchup, but coaching favors the home team. Mistakes could tilt the outcome, especially if it’s low scoring. Chicago has two games they can win on deck and if they spring an upset here then December at least will mean something when they face four very tough games. More likely is they wash out. Los Angeles needs more than to win both rematches with the Seahawks and 49ers if they want a shot in the NFC West, but if they lose this one their title defense is over: LA Rams 24, Chicago 13 (LAR -6/under 42)

Kansas City (6-4) @ LA Chargers (4-6): I thought Mahomes should rest last week. He didn’t and they still lost. How do you throw for 446 yards without an interception and lose? This is clearly not a championship defense and they are only 3-3 in games decided by a single score. Their MVP can only do so much. The Chiefs are in a really dangerous spot here honestly, under the MNF lights. If they lose to a team that beat them during the playoff push last year, suddenly the AFC West is a three-team horse race. Assuming Oakland beats an 0-9 team they would be out of the lead and just a half-game ahead of the Chargers who are known for making late season runs. They have allowed 23-plus points seven times this season and that’s a dangerous game to play, especially when you go 4-3 in those contests. Their season has become a coin flip. Los Angeles enters this one on nearly a bye after playing a short plane ride away in Oakland on TNF. Yes, they lost and gave back the gains of two wins over NFC North foes, but they are still in this. They get their actual bye week next before going to Denver and Jacksonville. It’s conceivable they race to 7-6 for the final push and who knows what could happen? Kansas City is obviously the best passing offense in the league. It’s amazing that while allowing only 18 sacks and throwing a single interception they have lost four times with this attack. Los Angeles is eighth with the proverbial gunslinger Rivers at the controls as he tries to pull his team to one last run. The pass defenses are both in the top 8. The Chiefs have more sacks (30 to 24) but the Chargers have Bosa. I think Mahomes will complete passes at will against this defense and eventually one of his speedsters will break free. The rushing offenses are both in the bottom 10, plodding along. Replacing Hunt has been no easy task for Kansas City while Los Angeles hasn’t found their groove even with Gordon back in the fold. The Chiefs are getting crushed on the ground. Only the winless Bengals are worse. The Chargers are average. On paper, the hosts should win this game. It’s hard to pick them though. They have no real home field advantage here, and the better quarterback is on the other team: Kansas City 25, LA Chargers 24 (LAC +4/under 52.5)

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