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Travis Ellison/Minnesota Vikings

Week 11 NFL Game Picks

Last week: 9-5

Overall: 85-61-2


GB (4-4-1) @ SEA (4-5) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon

Packers-Seahawks has turned into a great conference rivalry in recent years, as they’ve met six times since 2012, splitting the series at 3-3 with some memorable moments like the “Fail Mary” on Monday Night Football and Seattle’s amazing comeback in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Both those games ended with the Seahawks on top, but Green Bay has actually won the last three meetings, and including the shocking playoff loss, they’ve limited Russell Wilson to a 4:10 touchdown-interception ratio since January of 2015. Now, the Packers have young, elite talent at cornerback to cause more problems for Wilson, but Seattle has returned to a ground-and-pound offense with the three-headed monster of Chris Carson, Mike Davis, and first-round pick Rashaad Penny, while Aaron Jones has helped create balance on the other side of the field for Aaron Rodgers. The key will probably be which quarterback makes a play late, but establishing the run to control the game will be key, and both defenses need to play better than they did last week to get off the field. Interestingly enough, the home team has won every meeting between these franchises this decade, and I think that trend will continue in another big primetime victory for Pete Carroll’s squad, as I’m not sure Rodgers has the usual firepower to beat a team that’s a league-best 24-4-1 in night games under Carroll.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks


CIN (5-4) @ BAL (4-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

No one seems to know who will end up under center this week for the Ravens with Joe Flacco (hip) injured, but I think he, Lamar Jackson, and Robert Griffin III are all capable of helping Baltimore bounce back off the bye as they aim for the No. 6 seed—barring a surprising collapse by Pittsburgh—in a wide-open race in the AFC. Fortunately for them, the Bengals are falling apart just as quickly (and perhaps more harshly) with two blowout losses over their past three games and 44.3 points per game allowed over that span. I thought Cincinnati would be in it last week against the Saints, but they went away from Joe Mixon after he touched it five times for 42 yards on the team’s opening drive, handling just eight touches the rest of the way after two punts and an interception led to a 35-7 halftime deficit with New Orleans scoring every time they got their hands on the ball. We’ll see what kind of success Marvin Lewis and new “special assistant” Hue Jackson have sorting out the defense, but don’t be surprised if after the season, Lewis moves into the GM role with Jackson taking over as head coach. All things considered, the pressure in Baltimore this weekend will be as high as it’s been since Marlo Stanfield was wrecking havoc in the city, but I’m taking the Ravens in a toss up no matter who is under center because I don’t have faith in Andy Dalton sans A.J. Green (three touchdowns in the first meeting).

Winner: Baltimore Ravens


DAL (4-5) @ ATL (4-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

This year’s matchup between Dallas and Atlanta is very similar to last season, as both teams with playoff expectations are hovering around .500 in the middle of November, but on the field, things look a lot different than they did in 2017. For the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott isn’t suspended, Tyron Smith isn’t injured, and Amari Cooper leads a new-look receiving corps; and for the Falcons, they’ve lost several defensive stars to free agency or injury, including Adrian Clayborn (NE, 6.0 sacks against Dallas in 2017), Deion Jones (foot, though he might return this week), Keanu Neal (knee), Ricardo Allen (knee), and Dontari Poe (CAR). But despite last week’s disappointment in Cleveland, Atlanta has been better on the other side of the ball than they were in Steve Sarkisian’s first season as offensive coordinator, and Matt Ryan is on pace to set career-highs for completion percentage (71.1%) and passing yards (5,360) with a current touchdown-interception ratio of 21:3. This week, I think the Cowboys actually match up well with the Falcons thanks to Byron Jones’ switch to cornerback before the season, and first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch has been a phenomenal replacement for Sean Lee (who will be out again and was forced to leave last year’s game early due to his troublesome hamstring). That said, I think Atlanta will bounce back at home and set up a huge clash against the Saints on Thanksgiving Night, and the Cowboys will potentially face a must-win earlier in the day against Washington.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons


TB (3-6) @ NYG (2-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

I don’t think anyone in the league is on a hotter seat than Dirk Koetter, and he’s almost acting paranoid by benching his starting quarterback twice and taking over play-calling duties from an offensive coordinator that has led Tampa Bay to the most yards per game (452.8)—more than the Rams (448.0) and Chiefs (423.1)—in the league. Sure, having to play in constant comeback mode has helped, but there was no reason for Todd Monken to have his responsibilities scaled back for an offense scoring 28.6 points per game, and the only week with Koetter calling the shots led to just three points. I would think the team can sense the desperation around the building, so things could fall apart very quickly if the Bucs get hit in the mouth by Saquon Barkley and the Giants this weekend in New Jersey. Outside of a 50-yard highlight against Philadelphia, the No. 2 overall pick has been bottled up as a runner in October and November with 74 attempts for 276 yards (3.7 YPC), but this could be the spot for him to takeover as the Giants gain confidence following Eli Manning’s game-winning touchdown to Sterling Shepard on Monday night. If I had confidence in Tampa Bay’s play-calling and personnel groupings (Chris Godwin was demoted to the No. 4 receiver last week but still caught all seven of his targets for over 100 yards), I would pick them to stay alive in the playoff race, but Pat Shurmur and his team have the momentum right now.

Winner: New York Giants 


PIT (6-2-1) @ JAX (3-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Including their 45-42 playoff victory, the Jaguars went into Pittsburgh twice last year and won both games, imposing their will with the rushing attack centered around Leonard Fournette, who totaled 53 carries for 290 yards (5.5 YPC) and five touchdowns in two matchups. Overconfidence and injuries have derailed the 2018 season for Jacksonville, though, and they are facing a must-win as the streaking Steelers come to town. Not only are the AFC North leaders stronger against the run than they were last year, but they’ve also become a more physical, run-centric offense themselves with James Conner setting the tone. The offensive line deserves a bunch of credit, too, as they are one of the best overall units in the league, but Conner has extended/finished runs with superb balance, power, and determination that led to many people hoping one of the best running backs of this generation in Le’Veon Bell would stay away to avoid any chemistry issues. It would have been interesting to see what kind of role Bell would have had if he showed up this week—perhaps 8-12 carries while moonlighting as a slot receiver—but Pittsburgh is likely happy the saga is finally over, and they should finish the month strong before huge games against the Chargers, Patriots, and Saints in December. A loss for the Jags would probably mean they need to win out to have any chance at another postseason appearance.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


HOU (6-3) @ WAS (6-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

A game between two division leaders is always fun this late in the year, and this weekend’s matchup between the Texans and Redskins will be no exception with a couple well-coached teams led by really good quarterbacks opposing each other. Houston has rattled off six wins in a row, and while the streak was started with an overtime shootout against the Colts, the team has since played stout defense, allowing 15.2 points per game over the past month-and-a-half. Deshaun Watson has done an excellent job taking care of the football in recent weeks (zero turnovers against the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Broncos), but he will need to be wary of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and D.J. Swearinger on the backend of a top-five scoring defense for Washington (19.3 points per game allowed). It’s no coincidence that the Redskins are suddenly favorites in the NFC East with Alex Smith at quarterback, and they are predictably third in the league in turnover differential (+11) so far, which shouldn’t come as a surprise after the Chiefs finished second, first, and second over the past three years with Smith at the helm. Defensively, Washington has struggled against high-volume, pocket-passing quarterbacks—Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan have handed them three losses by a combined 20.0 points per game—but I think they can contain DeAndre Hopkins and stop the running game to win a low-scoring battle on Sunday.

Winner: Washington Redskins


TEN (5-4) @ IND (4-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Coming off a 34-10 victory over the Patriots, Tennessee looks like a legitimate threat to not only win the AFC South, but also make a deep run in the postseason. Remember, the Titans won a playoff game last year before running into New England, and that experience should help them down the stretch. Last month, people were foolishly questioning Marcus Mariota’s status as a franchise quarterback, but those who watch the games instead of reading box scores know that he’s one of the NFL’s best young signal-callers, and the 25-year-old has carried over his clutch play from last December/January into 2018 with big-time throws and impressive poise. If Tennessee can beat the Colts on the road this week and then Houston on Monday Night Football in Week 12, they play four of their final five games at home (v NYJ, v JAX, @ NYG, v WAS, v IND) as potential favorites the rest of the way. I’m still not sure why Derrick Henry has been playing clearly behind Dion Lewis, but the formula has worked recently with the five-foot-eight starter averaging 19.5 carries per game (despite barely 3.0 yards per carry) over the past two weeks before the six-foot-three backup finishes things off late in games (5.0 yards per carry and three scores since the bye). The Titans are likely going to implement a similar approach to keep Andrew Luck off the field, and I think they would be wise to give Henry more early touches after he combined to rush 32 times for 210 yards (6.6 YPC) and one score in two meetings (both wins) last year. The Colts are favored at home, but I like Tennessee’s ability to match up with Frank Reich’s offense.

Winner: Tennessee Titans


CAR (6-3) @ DET (3-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

Detroit is heading in the wrong direction since trading Golden Tate, as they’ve dropped two division games to Minnesota (24-9) and Chicago (34-22) this month, and they now head into a make-or-break home stand against three probable playoff teams (v CAR, v CHI, v LAR). The Panthers, on the other hand, were just demolished by the Steelers, but as I said earlier this year when Washington lost in a similar fashion (and then ended up winning three in a row), it was probably a burn-the-tape game more than a sign of an impending collapse. Last year’s No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey almost never leaving the field with snap counts between 94% and 100% in every game besides the opener has been pretty amazing, and it’s understandable that the franchise allowed C.J. Anderson to look for work elsewhere considering McCaffrey’s 95% of the snaps played last week—in a 31-point loss—was the first time since Week 2 that he’s been on the field less than 97% of the time. The Stanford product will be fed the rest of the way, but look for Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel to get more involved on Sunday against a Lions team that just allowed Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller do whatever they want before and after the catch in Week 10. Matthew Stafford is good for a heroic performance in any given week, but it won’t be easy with Tate in Philadelphia and Marvin Jones (knee) looking doubtful, as Carolina’s top corner James Bradberry might be able to handle Kenny Golladay on the outside.

Winner: Carolina Panthers


DEN (3-6) @ LAC (7-2) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS

The Broncos held Melvin Gordon in check last year with 36 carries for 92 scoreless yards (2.6 YPC) in two meetings last year, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can have success again after a complete turnaround against the run in recent weeks; after allowing 318 rushing yards to the Jets and 232 rushing yards to the Rams in back-to-back weeks, something clicked for Denver, as they’ve held Arizona, Kansas City, and Houston to a combined 158 yards and no touchdowns over their past three outings. The bigger concern for the Broncos will be scoring points, and I think they need to feed the rookie combination of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay to set up downfield, play-action passes by pulling standout safety Derwin James closer to the line of scrimmage. Of course, it will be a lot easier for Emmanuel Sanders to get free from Casey Hayward and Desmond King if he’s given some one-on-one opportunities, but look for Courtland Sutton to take advantage of more looks in the passing game coming off the bye. As long as the Chargers don’t sleepwalk—and I don’t think they will because Oakland played them tough last week—they should be able to get through Denver this week and Arizona next week with Joey Bosa (foot) nearing a return for a playoff run.

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


OAK (1-8) @ ARI (2-7) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS

There isn’t much to look forward to in a November matchup between two teams “contending” for the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but optimistically, both squads have rebounded from an embarrassing Thursday night loss at some point (though Oakland didn’t bounce back with a victory), so we can at least hope for a competitive game this weekend. The Cardinals have a much healthier and stronger roster with headlining rookie talents Josh Rosen and Christian Kirk, but keep an eye on seventh-round pick Marcell Ateman on the other side of the field. The former Oklahoma State receiver might be forced to play an extended role in his probable NFL debut after Jordy Nelson (knee) and Martavis Bryant (knee) went down in Week 10, and besides having the size (six-foot-four) to make an impact in the red zone, Ateman is a crafty route-runner for a big target. Looking at the schedule, this appears to be the best opportunity for the Raiders to get another win and avoid 1-15, but I think Arizona has the edge at every position other than quarterback, and Derek Carr might be starting to get worn down in a long, forgettable season.

Winner: Arizona Cardinals


PHI (4-5) @ NO (8-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX

Sunday night was about as demoralizing a loss as possible for the Eagles—dropping their third in a row at home to a Cowboys team that looked dead—and the “new norm” Doug Pederson talked about after Super Bowl LII might be over before it even starts with Jason Kelce suggesting accountability is the root of their 2018 issues. New Orleans is the worst opponent to right the ship against, too, as even last year, they felt like a team Philly would be fortunate to avoid due to Drew Brees’ ability to rip a defense to shreds, and that’s doubly true with all the injuries to the secondary. It will likely take a career day by Carson Wentz to have any chance this week, and he needs avoid locking onto Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery with both Nelson Agholor and Golden Tate (who has owned the Saints throughout his career) needing more looks as lethal complimentary pieces. Even a complete offensive performance might not be enough for the Eagles if the home team puts up another 40-spot at the Superdome—which they’ve done three times in four games this season—so Jim Schwartz needs to change things up in an attempt to confuse Brees. I wouldn’t call this a must-win for Philadelphia considering they have two games against Washington and another against Dallas in December, but they almost certainly need to beat everyone other than the Saints and Rams the rest of the way to have a chance in the NFC East.

Winner: New Orleans Saints


MIN (5-3-1) @ CHI (6-3) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC

Chicago played the Vikings tough in both meetings last year, including a 20-17 loss at Soldier Field in which Leonard Floyd (2.0 sacks) and Akiem Hicks (2.0 sacks) dominated a sub-par offensive line, so the first, second, and third priority for Minnesota needs to be keeping Kirk Cousins upright against a dominant front that’s now led by Khalil Mack. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year had a tune up last week against the Lions with a couple takedowns of Matthew Stafford, and he would undoubtedly like to have another monster game in primetime—and against the NFC North—to help the Bears take a decisive lead in the division. A healthy Dalvin Cook will add more explosiveness to the running game and keep the pass-rushers honest, but I think it would be a mistake for Minnesota to go completely away from Latavius Murray (20 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17 against Chicago last year) as an elite change-up. Both teams have playmakers all over the place on both sides of the ball, but the best individual battle of the night will probably be between Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Bears wideout Allen Robinson, and it’ll be interesting to see how much the All-Pro defender follows the former 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown receiver into the slot. Robinson is obviously on a new team with a better play-caller and quarterback, but Rhodes got the better of their matchup a couple years ago, limiting the Penn State product to one reception for 17 yards. I was at first a little disappointed with Jaguars-Steelers being flexed out of Sunday Night Football, but I’ve warmed up to this game, and I expect a great matchup with Chicago coming out on top.

Winner: Chicago Bears


KC (9-1) @ LAR (9-1) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN

Speaking of great matchups, Chiefs-Rams could easily be a Super Bowl preview, and with all due respect to the fans that were hoping to attend in Mexico City, it feels right to have a game between a couple 9-1 teams played at the Coliseum (and by the way, Roger Goodell doesn’t deserve any credit for moving the game, as they should have established ground rules to begin with for international events—such as not holding a concert in a stadium a week before the league is set to play there). We could see an “MVP moment” on Monday night if Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, or Todd Gurley goes off and/or makes a clutch play late in the game, but it really might come down to whoever has the ball last for a game that’s at least going to get into the 30s and might approach the 40s or 50s. Kansas City has played better defense recently with 17.0 points per game allowed over the past four weeks, but the performances came against Cincinnati, Denver, Cleveland, and Arizona; and Sean McVay’s offense is obviously on a level at or above Pittsburgh (37 points in a loss to KC) and New England (43 points in a win over KC), even without Cooper Kupp (knee) in the lineup. There really isn’t any deep analysis to go into (perhaps that will come in February), but the Rams could potentially have the advantage if Aaron Donald can get push inside to slow down Mahomes, and the Chiefs could potentially have the advantage if Tyreek Hill can break a return for six or flip the field. Overall, I think Los Angeles might be slightly more prepared for a playoff atmosphere after Goff experienced it last year.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


Against-The-Spread Picks

Last week: 8-6 /// Overall: 71-77

Recommended picks last week: 2-3 /// Overall: 31-19


Packers @ Seahawks (-2.5)

Bengals @ Ravens (PK)

Cowboys @ Falcons (-3.5)

Buccaneers @ Giants (-1.5)

Steelers (-5.5) @ Jaguars

Texans @ Redskins (+3)

Titans (+2) @ Colts

Panthers (-4) @ Lions

Broncos @ Chargers (-7)

Raiders @ Cardinals (-4)

Eagles @ Saints (-8)

Vikings @ Bears (-3)

Chiefs @ Rams (-2.5)


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