Week 11 NFL Matchups, Previews, and Predictions

Jan 1, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) meet on the field after a game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles won 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Week ten of the NFL season is in the books and once again the NFL delivered excitement and drama. Whether it was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick setting records (Belichick tied Tom Landry for third-most victories while Brady won his 86th road game Sunday night), Drew Brees and the Saints continuing to “go marching in” as they scored 47 points without Brees throwing a touchdown pass, the Steelers still stuck in neutral on offense but winning ugly, or the Jaguars winning even UGLIER in a mistake-filled game with the Chargers and both teams seemingly trying to give the game away.

There were Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart playing a perfect game on offense against the Dolphins on Monday night for Carolina on their way to 45 points, Seattle winning the Thursday night game against Arizona but losing cornerback Richard Sherman for the season, and Adrian Clayborn piling up six sacks against the Dallas Cowboys for the Falcons in their 27-7 victory.

Kyle Shanahan got his first career win against a Giants team that seemed to quit on head coach Ben McAdoo. The Rams continued to roll with Jared Goff continuing his strong play and Robert Woods looking like a steal. Tampa Bay won for the first time since October 1 as they ended a five-game slide against the Jets. Green Bay outlasted the Bears. Tennessee gutted out a tough win over the Bengals while Detroit broke away late to outlast Cleveland.

Week ten of the NFL schedule had a number of intriguing and interesting match-ups and week 11 looks like it could be even more exciting. Let’s dive into those match-ups and see who is going to come out on top and why.

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Arizona Cardinals 13 at Houston Texans 17

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that it is not just about the quarterback in the NFL. With Carson Palmer, the Cardinals had playoff hopes. In Houston, with Deshaun Watson behind center, they were dreaming about the Super Bowl. Now it is Tom Savage vs Blaine Gabbert: “NFL Fever: Catch it!”

Arizona lost their starting left tackle D.J. Humphries, starting safety Tyvon Branch and tight end Ifeanyi Momah who were all placed on season-ending injured reserve last Thursday against the Seahawks. Arizona has to make up two games in the standings just to get into the Wild Card discussion and without Palmer, David Johnson and now these contributors they have little chance to make-up ground. Arizona’s wins have come against San Francisco twice, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay.

Houston losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus while already without Brian Cushing is tough on a defense that was already weakened having lost top cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency. On offense, Tom Savage has a 62.2 QB rating and is completing less than 50% of his passes. Without Watson, the offense only has one player to fear in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. If Houston can pull out the win over Arizona, they have winnable games against Baltimore, Tennessee, and San Francisco before they have to face Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.

Baltimore Ravens 16 at Green Bay Packers 22

The Packers are in a position to mount a final challenge for a playoff spot as they are just a game behind the Seahawks for the final Wild Card spot. For the Ravens, they are only a game behind the Bills–who just turned to a rookie fifth-round draft pick to lead the offense.

Baltimore is still in position to make a run for a Wild Card spot with winnable games in the final three weeks of the season against Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. Before getting to the easy part of the schedule, they have to get through Green Bay (albeit without Aaron Rodgers), then the Texans (without J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson), the Lions and a big showdown in week 14 at home against the Steelers. Running backs Alex Collins and Javorius Allen remain inconsistent while the passing offense has leaned on tight end Ben Watson with wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace struggling. The defense remains strong against the pass, however.

Green Bay will miss tackle Bryan Bulaga against the strong pass rush of the Ravens. The Packers are likely to not have running back Aaron Jones able to play and Ty Montgomery is questionable. Baltimore’s weakness has been the running game but the Packers may not be in a position to take advantage. Quarterback Brett Hundley finally looked competent against the solid Bears defense last week. The Packers struggle to stop the pass, but this may be a week that it may not matter as Joe Flacco has been unable to throw on anyone.

Detroit Lions 23 at Chicago Bears 24

Detroit is on the cusp of the playoffs at 5-4. The Bears are spending the rest of the season developing rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Detroit remains the same year after year: they cannot run the ball and lean on Matthew Stafford to throw the ball for all their offense. On defense, they are usually solid against the run and vulnerable against the pass. This year is no different. If the Bears could not stop Brett Hundley, they should have their hands full with Matthew Stafford. The Lions will need T.J. Lang (in concussion protocol) to help slow down defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. On defense, after being unable to stop DeShone Kizer, the Lions need Ziggy Ansah back to reinvigorate their passing offense.

For the Bears, they were a bad decision to challenge a touchdown (turning into a fumble and loss of possession) away from beating the Packers. They’ve beat the Panthers, Steelers, and Ravens this season and should have beat Atlanta in week one, took the Steelers to overtime, and lost to the Vikings by three points. The defense is legitimate with young safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Kyle Fuller leading the secondary. Young veteran Akiem Hicks is becoming a star while Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee bring the pressure along with Hicks.

Jacksonville Jaguars 27 at Cleveland Browns 6

What was once a match-up of the two most miserable franchises in modern NFL history are now a team looking to be on track for the playoffs in the Jaguars and…well, Cleveland cementing their place as the MOST miserable franchise in modern NFL history.

The Browns desperately need to make yet another coaching change. Hue Jackson just does not have “it”. Jackson is two years in as a head coach and continually looks to be over his head. He has just one win his last 25 games as the Browns’ head coach, the team is loaded with young players in desperate need of leadership, and his team has shown absolutely zero signs of any kind of improvement. At this point, I would be surprised if they win a game this entire season.

Jacksonville needs rookie running back Leonard Fournette to pick up the slack for the offense. Every week I watch the Jaguars on offense and wonder how this team would look if Allen Robinson had not torn the ACL in his left knee in week one and Blake Bortles had the athletic six-foot-two and 220-pound wide receiver to throw to all season. Robinson only had 153 catches for 2,283 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016 combined. That said, this defense is a treat to watch and speedy linebacker Telvin Smith has grown from a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 out of Florida State into probably the most vital member of that defense. Kudos to him for earning his four-year and $44 million extension.

Kansas City Chiefs 31 at N.Y. Giants 23

Kansas City is still on top of the AFC West with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos in no position to challenge them. The Giants are ready to just call it quits this season.

The Chiefs are coming off a well-needed bye week after losing three of four. Kansas City is in position to pile up some victories with the Giants this week followed by the Bills, Jets, Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins, and Denver in week 17. Kansas City is looking up at Pittsburgh and New England for the top two seeds in the AFC (although the Steelers still have to play the Patriots) and the Chiefs should be winning at least five of the next six heading into Denver on New Year’s Eve. Kansas City needs to find another receiving option in the final seven games other than their top three Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt. That trio has accounted for 123 of the 204 receptions (60%).

For the Giants, they will likely be without Damon “Snacks” Harrison on the defensive line and Justin Pugh on the offensive line. A porous offensive line will have to protect Eli Manning and try to make space for their unimpressive group of running backs. The growth of wide receiver Sterling Shepard has been the only positive. On defense, the Giants’ collapse is most pronounced as they have fallen from second in the NFL in points allowed in 2016 to 28th heading into this game.

L.A. Rams 27 at Minnesota Vikings 24

In a potential NFC Championship Game preview, the Rams travel to Minnesota to face-off against the Minnesota Vikings.

Case Keenum showed what happens when you have a little competition. After three games in a row with his performance slipping against Green Bay, Baltimore, and Cleveland, he put up a performance against the Redskins that was surreal 21 for 29 for 304 yards and four touchdowns). Coincidently, he had a healthy Teddy Bridgewater on the sidelines (he also had a healthy Stefon Diggs). The offense still misses running back Dalvin Cook (Latavius Murray 3.3 yards per rushing attempt). The defense should be back to normal with Everson Griffen healthy.

Another week and another dominating performance on both sides of the ball by the Los Angeles Rams. In their last three games, they have outscored their opponents (Arizona, New York Giants, and Houston) 117 to 24. That translates to an average score of 39 to 8. The next month or so will be the measure of the team as they play the Vikings (6-3), the Saints (7-2), the Cardinals (one easy win), Philadelphia (8-1), and Seattle 6-3).

Tampa Bay 17 at Miami Dolphins 13

This game should have just been canceled, not rescheduled after Hurricane Irma.

Miami cleared the negative energy from their locker room by trading Jay Ajayi by rushing for 100 yards on just 17 carries. Of course, most of that came on a 66-yard run by Kenyan Drake when they were behind 31-7 (16 carries for 34 yards on the other carries is pretty unimpressive). Jay Cutler continues to be somewhere on the scale between average and mediocre. On defense, the Dolphins gave up 548 yards to the Panthers in their third straight loss.

Tampa Bay–without quarterback Jameis Winston–broke a five-game losing streak in defeating the punchless New York Jets 15-10 last weekend. At 3-6, the Buccaneers’ promising season has been reduced to playing spoiler as they face NFC heavyweights Carolina, New Orleans, Detroit, Green Bay, and Atlanta (twice). Ryan Fitzpatrick has been adequate as a fill-in and gets Mike Evans back from suspension. On defense, the Buccaneers are down linebacker Robert Ayers and standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is nursing a shoulder injury. The best medicine for the defense is Miami’s 32nd ranked offense.

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