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NFL Week 11 Preview & Picks:  Separation & Survival

Seth Dunlap
November 15, 2018 - 7:59 pm
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The NFL is set to showcase its most intriguing slate of games of any week of the season so far.  There are a slew of must-win games for teams across the league.  Combine that with top-of-the-league showcases on Sunday and Monday nights, and football fans will be feasting a bit early heading into Thanksgiving week.

On to the picks, as we try to sort out this week’s madness.

 

Packers @ Seahawks (-3)

There hasn’t been a better out-of-division rivalry in the NFL over the past decade than this one.  Green Bay and Seattle have played each other ten times in the past dozen years, including five times in the past four seasons.   There have been three playoff matchups, including Seattle’s historic comeback in the 2015 NFC Championship game, and the infamous, “We’ll take the ball, and we’re going to score,” misfire from Matt Hasselbeck at Lambeau.

These are two proud franchises that are now struggling to maintain relevancy in an NFC that is as top-heavy as it’s been since the 1990s.   In fact, the loser of this Thursday night clash will effectively be eliminated from the playoff hunt in the NFC.  Sure, the Packers (4-4-1) or Seahawks (4-5) could lose then crawl their way to six consecutive wins to finish the season, but even that might not be enough when the Bears, Panthers, Vikings all seem primed to approach double digit wins themselves.  That doesn’t even count Washington or Philadelphia, and whatever happens in that NFC battle.

Seattle is the better, more complete football team here.  That hasn’t often mattered in this rivalry, but it should in the noise at CenturyLink Field on a short week for the Packers.

Pick: Seahawks 27, Packers 23

Against the Spread: Seahawks (-3)

 

Cowboys @ Falcons (-3.5)

In what is essentially another playoff-elimination game in the NFC, Dallas and Atlanta bring matching 4-5 records to head on Sunday afternoon.   The Falcons are coming off an embarrassing 28-16 loss to the Browns, snapping their Atlanta’s three game winning streak.  With a trip to New Orleans looming on Thanksgiving night, this game is critical for Atlanta’s fading playoff hopes.

For the Cowboys, it’s been a week of collective sighs of relief, as they stunned the Eagles on Sunday night to inch their way back towards playoff contention.  That performance in Philadelphia was how Cowboys fans envisioned their team playing all season – a heavy run-first approach with Ezekiel Elliot, complimented by an efficient play-action passing attack from Dak Prescott.  Both Elliot and Prescott has one of their best performances of the season last week, and should give Dallas hopes for another road upset.

However, the Cowboys have been dreadful away from The House that Jerry Built this season, going just 1-4 in road games so far.  Expect them to try to take the air out of the football again, limit possessions, and keep it a one possession game in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Falcons 24, Cowboys 23

ATS: Cowboys (+3.5)

 

Titans @ Colts (-2.5)

The Colts are expectedly surging on the back of one of the league’s most manageable schedules over the past month.  Andrew Luck mania is ramping up again with every Luck touchdown pass.  He’s thrown at least three touchdowns in six consecutive games, and is now limiting turnovers – a problem that’s plagues him throughout his career.  Luck has thrown just one interception in the past three games, and will need to take care of the football again facing one of the league’s best defenses.

That Titans defense has been as good as any in football, allowing only one opponent to score more than 23 points all season – a 27-20 loss to the Dolphins in the opening week.   Tennessee has held their past five opponents to an average of 15.6 points per game, including limiting the explosive Patriots offense to just 10 points.  Now, their offense is getting hot with a 28 point effort against Dallas followed by a 34 point explosion against New England.

The Titans are playing with a bit of house money in this game, as they get the Colts in Nashville to end the season.  The Colts-as-contenders headlines could quickly be erased with a Titans win on the road.

Pick: Titans 23, Colts 20

ATS: Titans (+2.5)

 

Houston (-3) @ Washington

I continue to scratch my head at these Washington lines every week.  Don’t fault Vegas, as their job is to just get equal money bet on both sides of this game.   Well, the public is assuredly all over Houston, who comes into this game in on an AFC-best six game winning streak. taking control of the AFC South in the process.  Not to de-legitimize any NFL victory, but that winning streak is a bit more hollow upon closer examination.  The Texans have yet to beat a team with a winning record, and it’s not like a one two point win against the Broncos or a one score win against the Bills is exactly a statement.

Meanwhile we see Washington continuing defy public perception and win another road game – their third road victory in four tries this season.  They’ve also won four of their past five games and have a chance to further distance themselves from the Eagles in the NFC East, with Philadelphia in a brutal matchup in New Orleans against the Saints.

Pick: Washington 23, Houston 20

ATS: Washington (+3)

 

Bengals @ Ravens (no line)

The line is off on this game as the Ravens quarterback situation is still undecided.  Joe Flacco has an ailing hip, and Lamar Jackson missed Thursday’s practice due to illness.  That means this man is the only healthy starting quarterback on the Ravens roster.

This has to help a struggling Cincinnati defense, who was almost relegated to the Big Ten after their performance against New Orleans last week.  The Bengals beat Baltimore earlier this season, and a win here would give them the season tiebreaker over Baltimore, to go with their head-to-head wins against other Wild-Card playoff contenders Miami and Indianapolis.

Pick:  Bengals 27, Ravens 24

 

Eagles @ Saints (-8)

The free-fall in Philly has to be one of the biggest storylines coming out of the 2018 NFL season.  Everybody with a pulse thought the Eagles would again be a Super Bowl contender, even with Carson Wentz easing back into his role as starting quarterback after the knee injury last season.  What almost nobody saw coming was Wentz playing well while the Eagles still struggled to win games.

That’s exactly what’s happened, with Wentz throwing 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions this season but the Eagles losing four of their seven games with him as the starter.  It’s not like they’ve been losing to the NFL’s elite either.  Three of their losses have come to Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Tennessee with their other two losses were at home to the Vikings and Panthers. 

Now, they make a trip to face the NFL hottest team and, perhaps, the NFL’s best-ever offense.   The Saints offensive machine has put up mind-boggling numbers this season, scoring on 61% of their possessions while leading the league in points per game.   Quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to set the single-season QB rating and completion percentage records, and looks like a front-runner for league MVP.

This is a terrible spot for Philadelphia.  Normally you’d back a team with the Eagles talent playing what is essentially a must-win game.   Not in this one.  The Saints and too good and too explosive, especially in the Superdome.

Pick: Saints 34, Eagles 24

ATS: Saints (-8)

 

Vikings @ Bears (-2.5)

It’s a monster matchup in Midway, as NFC North leading Chicago hosts a Sunday Night football game.  The last time that’s happened, Joffrey Baratheon was still television’s greatest villain and Flo-Rida was still relevant.

The NFL is just cooler when the Bears are good, and this game should be an old-school, physical slugfest in the cold weather between two of the NFL’s best defenses

In an interesting twist, it’s the Bears who have a chance to separate from the rest of the division with a win.  Most people had assumed it would be the Vikings or Packers running away from everybody else by Thanksgiving.  

Much like the Titans trip to Indianapolis, a win here for the Vikings would be lagniappe, with a rematch in Minneapolis scheduled for December. 

Pick:  Bears 26, Vikings 20

ATS:  Chicago (-2.5)

 

Chiefs @ Rams (-3.5)

You wouldn’t know it by their record, but the Rams haven’t been playing like one of the league’s best teams over the past month.  They just escaped the Seahawks for the second time, but lost star receiver Cooper Kupp to a season ending knee injury.   While they’ve maintained their perch on top of the league standings, and Super Bowl odds, cracks have been showing in their foundation for a while now.

The biggest cracks are on the defensive side, where they’ve allowed 30+ points in four of their past seven games, including an eye-popping 76 points in the past two weeks.

Not an ideal time to see Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense.  This could turn out to be one of the great Monday Night Football score-fests we’ve ever seen.

Pick:  Chiefs 38, Rams 34

ATS:  Chiefs (+3.5)

 

OTHER GAMES

Panthers (-4) @ Lions

Pick: Panthers 24, Lions 17

ATS: Panthers (-4)

 

Buccaneers @ Giants (-2)

Pick: Bucs 27, Giants 24

ATS: Bucs (+2)

 

Steelers (-6) @ Jaguars

Pick: Steelers 24, Jaguars 20

ATS: Jaguars (+6)

 

Broncos @ Chargers

Pick: Chargers 30, Broncos 20

ATS: Chargers (-7)

 

Raiders @ Cardinals (-5.5)

Pick: Cardinals 28, Raiders 24

ATS: Raiders (+5.5)

 

Last week’s picks

 

Last week straight up:  8-5

SEASON STRAIGHT UP:  85-32-1

 

Last week against the spread:  8-5

SEASON ATS:  61-55-2

 

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