NFL Game Picks: Week 11
Host Danny Murray and analyst Zac Kaye break down every Week 12 game in the NFL:
The NFL is always full of surprises. No week has been as surprising as Week 10, in which nine of 13 underdogs came away with victories. The most shocking may have been 1-7 Atlanta’s road upset over 7-1 New Orleans, in rather dominating fashion. The last unbeaten team fell in Week 10, too, as the Seahawks defeated the previously 8-0 49ers in a wild overtime thriller. Will Week 11 have as many surprises? Let’s find out with the latest edition of the NFL game picks series.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) at Cleveland Browns (3-6)
An AFC North clash starts out the week, as the red-hot Steelers travel to Cleveland for a bout with the division rival Browns. Pittsburgh won its fourth straight game last week, defeating the Rams in an excellent defensive performance, while Cleveland finally snapped a four-game losing skid at home against Buffalo. With the way the Steelers have been rolling on defense, it’s going to take a lot for Baker Mayfield and company to overcome that threat. The Browns will need to rely on their defense to generate turnovers early and often. Still, Mason Rudolph and the Steelers will be able to get the job done and take home a low-scoring victory on the road.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 16, Cleveland 10
Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-4)
The Falcons shocked the world with their 26-9 road upset of the powerhouse Saints last week. Can they do it again in Week 11 against Carolina? Don’t bet on it. Last week’s result was likely just a fluke, as the Atlanta defense still ranks among the worst in the NFL. How is it going to stop the one-man wrecking crew Christian McCaffrey? Throw in the fact that two of the Falcons’ biggest offensive threats in Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman are likely out for the game, and you’ve got a recipe for a total disappointment. With playoff hopes on the line, the Panthers rely on the legs of McCaffrey to guide them to another victory.
Prediction: Carolina 23, Atlanta 14
Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)
The Dolphins are getting hot at just the wrong time. Two straight victories over the Jets and Colts have all but sunk Miami’s hopes of snagging the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, but at least fans can relish in no longer being the worst team in the NFL. The Fins do have a tough challenge ahead in Week 11 with the Bills coming to town, though. Buffalo is coming off a disappointing loss to Cleveland last week, and with teams like the Steelers and Raiders looking to steal a wild-card bid in the AFC, the Bills need all the wins they can get to keep from falling out of the playoff picture. They rebound with a much-needed victory in Miami.
Prediction: Buffalo 27, Miami 17
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at Detroit Lions (3-5-1)
As their last three games have all come on either Sunday or Monday night, the Cowboys get a much-needed rest from primetime this week, instead taking the 1 p.m. slot for their matchup against Detroit. Dallas needs a win in order to tighten its grip on the NFC East, as recent blunders have evened the Cowboys and Eagles for the division lead. Detroit, meanwhile, is in deep trouble. Iron man quarterback Matthew Stafford has been experiencing back issues, and the Detroit defense gave up three touchdowns to Mitchell Trubisky last week. The Lions’ season might be coming to an end soon. Dallas helps to further drive in the nail with a big road win.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Detroit 16
Denver Broncos (3-6) at Minnesota Vikings (7-3)
For a team known to often disappoint its fans, the Vikings haven’t done much of that this year. Instead, Minnesota has kept pace with Green Bay for the NFC North title, and with the Packers on bye this week, the Vikings have an opportunity to inch closer to the lead. That’ll require grabbing a victory over the Broncos in Week 11, which shouldn’t be too difficult to do. While the Denver defense might give Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook a fight, the other battle should be much more lopsided. It will take a lot for a bottom-five Broncos offense to overcome a top-five Vikings defense. Minnesota gets the job done in a low-scoring game.
Prediction: Minnesota 16, Denver 6
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-4)
The Colts looked to be in good shape just weeks ago, but consecutive losses to the Steelers and Dolphins have them worrying about their playoff hopes. The first order of business is returning starting QB Jacoby Brissett to the field, as backup Brian Hoyer just didn’t have it against Miami. Jacksonville will also be dealing with a quarterback change, as rookie Gardner Minshew has been benched for offseason signee Nick Foles, now healthy from a Week 1 shoulder injury. Will Foles lead his team to victory in his return, or will Indy stop the bleeding with a much-needed win? The edge here goes to the home team, but don’t be surprised if the Jags pull off the upset.
Prediction: Indianapolis 20, Jacksonville 17
New Orleans Saints (7-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)
Last week’s hiccup against Atlanta should prove to be just a fluke, as the Saints still rank among the NFC’s best. The loss did cede their second-place spot in the playoff picture to Green Bay, so they’ll need to return to their winning ways in order to take it back. That starts with a win in Week 11 against Tampa Bay, which is fresh off a thrilling victory over the Cardinals. While the Bucs are dynamic at times, their offense remains inconsistent, as Jameis Winston backed up his stellar outing in Seattle with a two-interception day against Arizona. Trust New Orleans to shut down the Bucs offense and leave the game with a W.
Prediction: New Orleans 33, Tampa Bay 19
New York Jets (2-7) at Washington Redskins (1-8)
At this point in the season, we’re almost guaranteed to have at least one game per week between two total messes. Here it is for Week 11. Somehow, the Jets weren’t a total mess last week, as both the offense and defense seemed to find their stride together for only the second time this year. The Redskins were on bye last week, but they did announce that Dwayne Haskins would be the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. The rookie out of Ohio State hasn’t looked good at all so far, but perhaps his fortunes will change this week. Or maybe the Jets will show up and shut him down again. Regardless, don’t expect a pretty game between these two.
Prediction: NY Jets 15, Washington 13
Houston Texans (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
The most enticing game of the week takes place in Baltimore between the Ravens and the Texans. Elite play from Lamar Jackson has guided the Ravens to a 7-2 start. The Texans have also been electric on offense with Deshaun Watson leading the AFC in touchdown passes. Both offenses are explosive, and both defenses are solid, so neither team really has an edge in that department. Perhaps the result of this game will instead come down to motivation. Baltimore pretty much has the AFC North wrapped up, but Houston still needs to create separation in a crowded AFC South. In a high-scoring shootout, the Texans take a surprising victory.
Prediction: Houston 35, Baltimore 31
Arizona Cardinals (3-6-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
The 49ers may no longer be undefeated, but they still field one of the best teams in the entire NFL. A few receiver drops turn into receptions and San Francisco could still be perfect entering Week 11. There shouldn’t be too much reason to worry about the Cardinals, considering that the Niners took care of them on Thursday night just a few weeks ago, and with David Johnson’s status still up in the air, the run game should be a non-factor for Arizona. That will force Kyler Murray to pass, and the fierce San Francisco pass rush should cause the rookie to make a couple rookie mistakes. A great defensive performance puts the Niners back in the win column.
Prediction: San Francisco 30, Arizona 13
Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) at Oakland Raiders (5-4)
Not only have the Bengals stolen the crown of “NFL’s worst team” from Miami, they’ve run away to the top of the mountain with it. Perhaps Cincinnati’s decision to bench Andy Dalton for Ryan Finley was really a tanking move, as Finley looked completely outmatched by Baltimore last week. Don’t expect things to get better in Week 11, as the Raiders have really been turning some heads with how well they’ve been playing. With games against the Bengals and Jets over the next two weeks, the Raiders could be right in the heart of the playoff discussion very soon. They don’t disappoint, as Derek Carr and company mince the Bengals defense for a big win.
Prediction: Oakland 32, Cincinnati 14
New England Patriots (8-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)
A Super Bowl 52 rematch, albeit with a different look, takes place on Sunday. It’s unlikely that this game matches the same caliber, however, as the talent gap is noticeable. New England remains one of the NFL’s powerhouses, as it has for two decades, while Philadelphia remains inconsistent. Don’t forget that the Patriots defense has quickly become the league’s best, despite hitting its first hitch in Baltimore two weeks ago. Although Carson Wentz and company give it their all, the Eagles are no match for Tom Brady and the Patriots. New England secures its handle on the AFC, while Philadelphia slips up in the NFC East race against Dallas.
Prediction: New England 30, Philadelphia 16
Chicago Bears (4-5) at Los Angeles Rams (5-4)
A year ago, this game would have made for must-watch TV, but now it’s a wonder that this game didn’t get flexed out of the Sunday night primetime spot. Both of these offenses have been absolutely dreadful. Chicago’s offensive woes have been known for weeks, but the Rams’ struggles have been less publicized. Neither Jared Goff nor Todd Gurley have come even close to reaching their levels of success last season. This certainly hasn’t been helped by the offensive line, which ranks as one of the worst in the NFL. Once again, defense reigns supreme. Take the Rams in a low-scoring battle with turnovers and punts aplenty.
Prediction: LA Rams 14, Chicago 10
Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (4-6)
The week closes on a fairly low note with the Chiefs and Chargers on Monday night. Much like the Sunday night matchup, this would have been a must-watch game in 2018, but now it seems like a snoozefest. The Chargers are long removed from their successes of a year prior, and Philip Rivers’ recent performances could have him heading down the Eli Manning route: right to the bench. Kansas City is certainly the better team, especially with Patrick Mahomes healthy once again, but it is worth noting that the Chiefs have lost Mahomes’ last three full starts. For once, he’ll get the support he needs, leading Kansas City to a Monday night victory.
Prediction: Kansas City 29, LA Chargers 12
Byes: Green Bay Packers (8-2), New York Giants (2-8), Seattle Seahawks (8-2), Tennessee Titans (5-5)
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.