There are six teams on bye this week, but with the Patriots the only contender not playing, there’s no shortage of meaningful games on the docket for Week 11. The week begins on Thursday night with the Packers heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a game between a pair of four-win teams looking to stay in the NFC playoff race. The featured doubleheader game is another contest between NFC contenders with the Eagles visiting the Saints. The Sunday night game — Vikings at Bears — could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the NFC North, but the game of the week is on Monday night when two 9-1 teams meet. In a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Mexico City but moved to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Azteca Stadium, the Rams host the Chiefs in a game that could be played again in Atlanta in early February at Super Bowl LIII. I went 7-7 last week, giving me an overall record of 75-83 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Byes: 49ers, Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots
Thursday Night Football
Packers at Seahawks (-2.5) – This is a road game for the Packers in a tough stadium for visitors, but I still think they may be a better team than the Seahawks. Seattle has played better of late, but they don’t really have any playmakers. They don’t have a bona fide starting running back, with RB Chris Carson‘s status uncertain, leaving RBs Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny to split the carries if he can’t go. QB Russell Wilson doesn’t have any star receivers, with WR Doug Baldwin having a down year. The Packers, meanwhile, have QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has gotten better as the season has progressed and he has gotten more opportunities. Likewise, RB Aaron Jones is starting to put up some good numbers in the ground game. I think the Packers win the game, so I’ll take the points.
Sunday 1PM games
Cowboys at Falcons (-3.5) – The Cowboys had an impressive, and needed, win over the Eagles on Sunday night, while the Falcons lost a road game against the Browns in a game in which the offense wasn’t as prolific as it usually is. The Falcons are a better team at home, and I think QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones are going to have a good game. The Cowboys offense — led by QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Amari Cooper — could rack up some points, as well, against a Falcons defense that struggles. I don’t think the Cowboys can match up with the Falcons, core, though. Falcons win and cover in the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Bengals at Ravens (-3.5) – The Bengals are coming off a game in which they gave up more than 50 points to the Saints, which led to their defensive coordinator being fired. Now they face a Ravens team that could be without QB Joe Flacco, who is dealing with a hip injury. If he can’t play, that could mean rookie QB Lamar Jackson would get his first career start, unless the Ravens decide instead to turn to QB Robert Griffin. The Bengals are dealing with quarterback issues of their own after they benched QB Andy Dalton during last week’s blowout loss. Neither team has a great offense, so I’m going to bank on the Ravens’ better offense to lead to the win. I’ll go with the home team.
Panthers at Lions (+3.5) – Like the Bengals, the Panthers gave up more than 50 points last week. But that was against an explosive Steelers defense, and this week they face a Lions offense that isn’t at the same level as the Steelers. The Panthers still scored 21 in the loss on Thursday, and that was coming off of games in which they scored 36 and 42. The Panthers have a good offense with QB Cam Newton, RB Christian McCaffrey and TE Greg Olsen, with WRs D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel becoming a bigger piece of the offensive attack in recent games. For the Lions, rookie RB Kerryon Johnson has had his touches increasing over the last several games, but WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones have been inconsistent. That’s not good because they need to step up in the wake of the Golden Tate trade last month. I think the Panthers win this game easily, potentially by double digits, so I’ll give the points on the road.
Titans at Colts (-2.5) – The Titans are riding high after beating the Patriots on Sunday by a score of 34-10, while the Colts squeaked by the Jaguars by a field goal after nearly giving up a sizable lead. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been playing well lately, and RB Dion Lewis has been seeing an increasing number of carries in recent games. I’m going to take the points.
Buccaneers at Giants (-0.5) – The Buccaneers are expected to start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick again, even though the team scored just three points in a loss to the Redskins last week. If he doesn’t play well, he may not have a long leash with QB Jameis Winston waiting the wings. The Giants picked up their second win of the season on Monday night and now face a short week. Despite the win last week, I still don’t have much faith in Giants QB Eli Manning. RB Saquon Barkley is the best offensive player on either team, but I’m not sure if he’ll be enough to get the Giants another win, with WR Mike Evans catching passes on the other side. I’ll take the Bucs on the road.
Steelers at Jaguars (+5.5) – The Jaguars have lost five straight games, and now their defense — which isn’t nearly as good as it was a year ago — has to go against a Steelers team that scored six touchdowns on offense last Thursday night, giving them a few extra days to prepare for this game. The Steelers are now officially without RB Le’Veon Bell for the season after he failed to sign a contract with the team prior to Tuesday’s deadline, meaning RB James Conner will definitely be the starter for the rest of the season, barring injury, but he is currently in the league’s concussion protocol; the team expects him to be ready for Sunday’s game. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette performed well last week in his return to the field after missing several games. But he is the extent of the Jags offense, while the Steelers have QB Ben Roethlisberger and WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in addition to Conner. I think the Steelers win easily,
Texans at Redskins (+2.5) – A couple division leaders are playing each other in this game, with the Texans coming off their bye and looking to extend their win streak to seven games. They’ll likely get back WR Keke Coutee from his hamstring injury, and WR Demaryius Thomas should be more involved in the offense after having more time to learn the playbook since being acquired from the Broncos at the trade deadline. And the Texans, of course, have QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading the offense. The Redskins still don’t have much of a passing game, with RB Adrian Peterson continuing to be the team’s lead running back. I think the Texans are the better team on both offense and defense, so I’ll give the points.
Sunday 4PM games
Broncos at Chargers (-7.5) – The Raiders Broncos are coming off their bye looking to bounce back from two straight losses heading into the off week, while the Chargers are riding a six-game win streak into this home game. The Chargers should win the game with QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen leading the way. The Broncos have a decent offense, as well, so I think they can keep it close enough to cover the spread.
Raiders at Cardinals (-3.5) – Neither of these teams is very good, but the Raiders seem to be regressing as the season goes on, and they may be the worst team in the league at this point. The Cardinals at least have a couple of playmakers with RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald, so I’ll give the points at home.
Eagles at Saints (-8.5) – The Saints have won their last eight games since dropping their season opener to the Buccaneers, and their offense is firing on all cylinders.They signed veteran WR Brandon Marshall this week after last week’s signing of WR Dez Bryant didn’t work out when he tore his ACL in practice before even playing a game for the team. That’s just giving the team wide receiver depth, though, as QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are the keys to the offense. It won’t be easy for the Eagles to head down to the Superdome to face the Saints, who could be the best team in the league. I expect the Saints to win the game, so it’s just a question of whether the Eagles can keep it within nine points to cover the spread. The Saints have scored at least 43 points in three of their last five games, so I think they’ll easily get past the Eagles too. I’m going with the home favorites.
Sunday Night Football
Vikings at Bears (-2.5) – This game is for first place in the NFC North, and I think the Bears have the advantage. I think they have the better team on both sides of the ball, and Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky has more upside than Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. The Vikings will need to count on WR Adam Thielen to make some big plays if they want to win this game, but the Bears’ defense won’t make it easy for him. The Vikings may be hard-pressed to put a lot of points on the board. Bears cover.
Monday Night Football
Chiefs at Rams (-2.5) – IThe week ends with one of the most anticipated games of the season, with two 9-1 teams facing off against each other. QB Patrick Mahomes leads WR Tyreek Hill, RB Kareem Hunt and the rest of the Chiefs into Los Angeles to take on a Rams team that was dealt a significant blow last week when WR Cooper Kupp suffered a season-ending injury. While that hurts the team, it’s not devastating because they still have a couple star receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, with QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley also among the top players in the league at their positions. This game has shootout written all over it, so it could be the type of game where the last team to possess the ball wins it. I don’t think it’ll come down to that, though. I think the Rams could win by seven to 10 points, so if they’re essentially giving a field goal I’ll give the points.