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Week 11 Predictions

Posted Nov 17, 2017

Who are you picking to win the week 11 games?

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Tennessee (6-3) at Pittsburgh (7-2): Cody SensaBowl! Dick LeBowl! On the road the Steelers tend to play down to their opposition (cf 20-17 win at Indy) while the Titans seem committed to doing the same at home (24-20 over Cincy) in a game they could have won big, and maybe would have had they been able to protect Marcus Mariota better, and if 2M had a better game throwing. One problem is that their offensive line is good, but better at the run game than pass pro, and the run game is somewhat dependent on Mariota's ability to run the option, and Mariota is still not 100% to win games with his feet. He gets better each week, but he got up limping after one run last week and his passing seemed off from there. Not that Mike Mularkey's offense is a consistently effective thing to watch. The Steelers will just wait for Ben's mid-game wake up call, and watch JuJu present further arguments that Martavis Bryant might have had value at the trade deadline. At home, on Thursday, even Ben can overcome flatness. Pick: Steelers

FRIDAY MORNING FEELINGS: The hinge point of this game was Delanie Walker’s drop in the end zone; to that point it had been back and forth with the Steelers seeming dominant but their pass defense showing creaks. We see the Steelers as a big play team from their big play guys, but even Antonio Brown, who made a few, was lucky to have Martavis Bryant recover his fumble. Marcus Mariota has to shoulder a lot of the blame for the four picks, with some ill-judged throws, though he was under pressure. Drops, turnovers, the blocked field goal all came back to haunt the Titans, as did ex-teammate Cody Sensabaugh, though the play of the night was Sensy getting (Artie) Burned and Turned at the same time by Rishard Matthews on the 75 yard TD. That Steelers’ zone has its holes.

SUNDAY:

Detroit (5-4) at Chicago (3-6): I thought last week the Bears were primed for a big win over the Pack, and I'm still not convinced they should have managed to lose it. Meanwhile the Lions rallied twice to finally blow past the Browns at home. Detroit will have problems running the ball, but they usually do: going one dimensional is not a good idea even against the Bears, who are just waiting for consistency from both Trubisky and their O line. Just like last week, I can see a dominant game from Howard leading to Bears win, but I’m not sure. John Fox got hosed on his challenge, but he shouldn’t have been challenging anyways. It goes that way sometimes. Pick: Lions

Jacksonville  (6-3) at Cleveland (0-9): It's odd that Tashaun Gipson would bother dissing his old team, but given the Jags' penchant for self-killing self-aggrandizement on display last Sunday, not surprising. The Jags became the first team at least since the 1970 merger to throw two picks inside the two-minute warning and still win a game, so maybe they need a new challenge. Gipson is actually the unheralded key to the Jags' defense: they play a Seahawks-style system with a lot of cover 3 in which he plays the Earl Thomas role. They have the two shutdown corners reminiscent of Sherman and Browner, fast linebackers and versatile rushers, and Barry Church is their Chancellor. I suppose no one ever accused the Legion of Boom of keeping quiet either. This game is not a slam dunk: the Browns may be foot-shooters as much as the Jags, and Hue really seems to be channelling his inner Marvin Lewis, but DeShone Kizer had maybe his best game last week and Blake Bortles had maybe his usual Bortlesque game. Kizer is a rookie, Bortles doesn’t have that excuse. The Browns can run the ball, and despite a lack of wideouts are seeing a bit more from the Kaiser. Hue Jackson’s 1-24 in his first 25 games is well ahead of John McVay’s 0-25 start with the Bucs, but watch him catch up with pick: Jags

Baltimore (4-5) at Green Bay (5-4): Palindromic Records! How do you figure this one? The Ravens' D shut out Miami just before the bye, but that was Miami and they were at home. The Pack are playing Ty Montgomery at QB, Brett Hundley at RT, and Davante Adams at RB this week, right? The problem with recency bias is that when a team is coming off a bye week, you don’t have any recency to bias you, and if you go back to week 8 that was the Ravens losing on the road in Nashville. You’d think their D would be able to make life difficult for Hundley, and be able to shut down the run game, but you wonder if pressure on Joe Flacco and a weak group of wideouts apart from the veteran Jeremy Maclin will neutralise that. The Pack are a tough out at home, even with their virtual rookie QB, but maybe he is getting his feet under him and maybe the Ravens’ resurgent D does not make them a top tier team. Or maybe not. Every season one team emerges from the morass of 5-5 or near abouts teams to make a playoff run, and it could be Baltimore this year. Pick: Ravens

Arizona (4-5) at Houston (3-6): Blaine Gabbert vs Tom Savage? Savage is most likely to be a place-holder until Josh Johnson is ready to throw his first pass since 2011, but the knee guy wasn't considered because it's been too long since he played. Gabbert and the Knee Guy shared time in SF for two years. Although Kaepernick's stats are much better, here's their combined records as starters: Gabbert 5-9, Kaep 3-16. I heard that after an intervention by Doctors Without Borders, the teams have agreed to have their D linemen count to 3 Mississippi before they start pass rushing. Both teams can still play D, Houston’s a bit better running and at home, so it boils down to how much faith you have in Gabbert, or whether you can face picking Tom Savage to win a game. Pick: Texans

LA Rams (7-2) at Minnesota (7-2): Jeff Fisher Quarterback Whisperer Memorial Game! The game of the week, matching two teams on rolls, and one of them is playing coin flip with its QB situation. The Vikes announced Case Keenum would continue as their starter, with Teddy Bridgewater ready to go. It’s probably the right call, though it makes Keenum aware that each mistake brings him closer to losing the job. Keenum against Goff keeps the storyline of last year’s hapless pair of Ram QBs: coaching matters. Wade Phillips vs Mike Zimmer on defense is another good line, Zim may be a bit more predictable, but the Vikes are in their own house. Pick: Vikes

Washington (4-5) at New Orleans (7-2): The Skins probably ought to have a better record than they do, but any doubts that the Saints were not legit were dispelled as they crushed the Bills in Buffalo. Terron Armstead's return means their O line is at full strength, and rookies Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams in the secondary, along with undrafted second-year man Ken 'Creepy' Crawley, one of my favourites from 2016, and free agent Alek Okafor at end, have helped improve their D immensely. In fact the Saints have four rookie starters (five before Alex Anzalone's injury) who are all contributing at a high level. The Saints may find it harder to run the ball this week, but they still can throw with that QB they have. Pick: Saints

Kansas City (6-3) at New Jersey Giants (1-8): It was painful watching the Giants last week; forget the offensive woes, which is supposed to be Ben McAdoo's speciality; the defense, their game-winning unit last year, was literally refusing to tackle (Janoris Jenkins busy counting $38 million) or pursue. Meanwhile, I am sure someone will mention that Andy Reid's teams are 16-2 after a bye week and all-you-can-eat Dunkin Donuts on the off days, so I wont. McAdoo About Nothing. Pick: Chiefs

Buffalo (5-4) at LA Chargers (3-6): Tre Boston is celebrating the Chargers win already. It's the start of the Nate (great name that!) Peterman era in Buffalo? Here's the thing: I liked Peterman better than round 5 (he went after Josh Dobbs, who beat him out at Tennessee) but he didn't look ready last week. Taylor makes plays, but is probably being benched for the plays he doesn't see, and therefore can't make. If you want to compare him to another QB, I'd say the closest comp is the guy with the knees. The Bills gave up nearly 300 yards rushing to the Saints; Marcel Dareus is playing in Jacksonville. Just sayin. The Chargers conspired with the Jags to stage the most amazing 'no YOU win the game' finish we've seen in a long time, and if Philip Rivers thinks letting him throw on that third and eight would have made the difference, well, the time to make the difference was long before. Peterman is not too mobile, Bosa and Ingram made much less impact on the Jags than we thought, and who knows which team will have more supporters in the Dominguez Hills stands. Pick: Chargers

Cincinnati (3-6) at Denver (3-6): Another game in the NFL's repechage divison. Vontaze Burfict will play, which says to me his ejection last week was a case of a ref using a hair trigger because it was a known Bad Boy. Now Bengals teammates are accuseing officials of cursing Burfict and making contact with him to draw him out. There’s a tactic Elway might consider encouraging. Denver’s D appears to be living off their reputation, rather than delivering on the field, and say, didn’t you used to be Demaryius Thomas? Still, in Denver you’d expect the team to show up at least once and this would be the week to do it. Pick: Broncos

New England (7-2) 'at' Oakland (4-5) in Mexico City: Los Raiders were on the adios week, pero los Patriotas had the next best thing in Fesitval de los equipes especiales at Kilometre High in Denver. Whether or not the balls were inflated to less than 86184.47 kilopascals. The Pats spent the week at the Air Force Academy, discussing plans to provide aerial cover at Estadio Azteca, while Jack Del Rio might have had the Raiders out in the desert with Hell Angels to get touch. Derek Carr might have watched what Emmanuel Sanders did to Malcolm Butler and thought: hmm, Amari Cooper might. But then again, not. Pick: Pats

SUNDAY NIGHT: Philadelphia (8-1) at Dallas (5-4): Last week I picked the Cowboys over the Falcons (yes, my bad) without Zeke Elliott, but before Tyron Smith was ruled out and Sean Lee got injured. Smith's status is crucial—Dallas actually did try to help Chaz Green more than people think, but they don't have a TE or FB who's a big load to do the blocking. But if Adrian Clayborn has something like Osi's Winston Justice day, imagine what Brandon Graham might do. I still thing they can try running the ball. I also wonder if Byron Bell might give them some LT reps. Defensively, without Lee, they move Hitchens to the weakside and Jaylen Smith comes back in the middle. He seems to have most of his speed back, but not the explosion, and he simply doesn't see things as well as Hitchens, much less Lee. I'd be tempted to try him on the weakside, where the assignments are more specific. Meanwhile the Eagles are coming off a bye, rested and ready, and signed talented but injury-prone linebacker Danelle Ellerbee to help plug the hole left by Jordan Hicks, which hasn’t been as crucial as Sean Lee’s. The Eagles could freeze in the bright TV screens of the JerryDome, but I don’t think so. Pick: Eagles

MONDAY NIGHT: Atlanta (5-4) at Seattle (6-3): Dan Quinn Bowl! This one is tough, since you would expect Quinn to anticipate how the Seahawks might attack Matt Ryan, and how the Falcons might defend Russell Wilson. Atlanta has been better on the road than at home this year, but Seattle is another story. Georgia isn’t going to have to march through Sherman this week, so the big matchup ought to be Julio Jones against the secondary however they decide to cover, and that’s where there could be a weakness. This is one of those playoff previews you watch to see if the road situation will affect the Falcons, and whether last week’s play against the Lee-less Dallas (Civil War metaphors all over the column this week!) was a sign the O has turned a corner. Pick: Seahawks

BYE WEEK: Carolina (7-3)

BYE BYE WEEK: The Repechage: Indianapolis (3-7), Miami (4-5), New York Jets (4-6), San Francisco (1-9 but on a win streak), Tampa Bay (3-6)

LAST WEEK: 10-4 SEASON: 90-56

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