Let me steal a line from Mark McGwire to get this column started: I’m not here to talk about the past.
Yes, last week was a bloodbath. It happens. But we’ve got 14 new games on the Week 11 schedule, and it’s time to bounce back. Let’s just get to the picks. My confidence is fragile right now.
Lines are from FanDuel. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.
Week 10 record: 4-10
Season record: 77-69-4
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers (-3)
Aaron Rodgers had just 14 completions on 20 attempts during the Packers’ 31-28 win over the Cowboys last week, as Green Bay relied heavily on its ground game. At 4-6, the Packers aren’t cooked quite yet. They are +340 to make the playoffs, which equates to about a 22.7 percent chance.
Having said that, Green Bay will likely have to lean on a different formula in this game. The Titans have the best run defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
The Packers are at home. Their backs are against the wall. And it’s only a three-point spread. I hate going against Mike Vrabel as an underdog, but what the hell? I think I’m ready to be hurt again.
The pick: Packers (-3)
Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens (-13)
The Ravens are coming off a bye and look like a team that’s about to go on a run. Their next four games are against the Panthers, Jaguars, Broncos and Steelers. According to Unpredictable, which measures schedule strength based on how the betting markets view teams, the Ravens have the easiest remaining slate in the NFL. At 6-3, they are one game out of the top seed, but Baltimore would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against both the Dolphins and Bills.
The Panthers are 2-3 with Steve Wilks as their head coach and beat the Falcons last Thursday night. But with Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have gone 7-3-1 against the spread as double-digit favorites. I like the Ravens to win big.
The pick: Ravens (-13)
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-7.5)
If you’re a Bills fan, last week’s loss to the Vikings stung. But think of all the things that had to go wrong for them to blow that game. And then remember that the most important thing is that Josh Allen looked healthy. The Bills are one of two teams (the Eagles are the other) that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive DVOA. Their three losses have come by a combined eight points. This is still a really, really good team.
Jacoby Brissett is down to his last two starts before Deshaun Watson takes over. But barring a miracle, the Browns (3-6) will not be competing for a playoff spot. Their odds to make the postseason are currently at +810, which equates to about an 11 percent chance.
It’s possible that the Bills take their frustrations out on this leaky Browns defense and win by 30. But Cleveland can at least run the ball, and Buffalo is dealing with injuries. I think it’ll be relatively close.
The pick: Browns (+7.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)
Jeff Saturday got a win in his debut as the Colts head coach last week. Two things helped Indy’s offense. One, they went back to Matt Ryan at quarterback (even though reports out of Indy strongly suggested that owner Jim Irsay, and not former head coach Frank Reich, was the one who wanted to try Sam Ehlinger in the first place). And two, they faced a Raiders defense that ranked 32nd in DVOA.
As for the Eagles, they are coming off a loss to Washington where they turned the ball over four times. Tight end Dallas Goedert had been playing at an All-Pro level, and now he’s injured. Through 10 weeks, among tight ends, Goedert is:
- Second in receiving yards
- First in yards per reception
- First in yards after the catch
- Third in yards per route run
He has also been one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends.
But the Eagles still have AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith on the outside. Defensively, their ability to stop the run will be tested in this game, but the Eagles have favorable matchups up front.
Reich has been a friend and mentor to Nick Sirianni. The Eagles win big, and Sirianni throws on a University of Maryland Reich jersey to pay homage to his guy.
The pick: Eagles (-6.5)
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-3.5)
These two teams just played each other in Week 8, and the Patriots left MetLife Stadium with a 22-17 victory. Zach Wilson threw three interceptions in that game.
Both teams have defined strengths and weaknesses. The Patriots defense is first in EPA per drive, while the Jets defense is fourth. The Patriots offense is 27th in EPA per drive, while the Jets are 23rd. Mac Jones is 34th out of 35 quarterbacks in EPA per pass play, while Wilson is 30th.
The smart move here is probably to take the points. This figures to be a low-scoring game where the defenses dominate. But until Wilson shows me he can get through a game like this without committing critical turnovers, I have to take the other side.
The pick: Patriots (-3.5)
Washington Commanders at Houston Texans (+3.5)
There was a lot made of the Commanders’ run game (49 carries for 152 yards) in Monday night’s win over the Eagles, but WR Terry McLaurin was really the guy who carried them. He finished with eight catches for 128 yards and kept multiple drives alive with impressive third-down conversions.
The Texans were competitive in their Week 10 loss and actually outgained the Giants by 20 yards. The Commanders have a tough run defense, but Dameon Pierce has been tough to slow down. The rookie is currently fifth in the NFL with 772 rushing yards.
Washington QB Taylor Heinicke will turn the ball over if you give him enough opportunities. I’m not comfortable taking the Commanders to cover more than a field goal on the road here.
The pick: Texans (+3.5)
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
We talked a lot about both these teams Extra Point Taken. The Rams have had one of the NFL’s worst offenses, and now they’ll be without Cooper Kupp. Their season is over, and it’s hard to figure out how they can get much better in 2023, aside from hoping for better injury luck.
The Saints, meanwhile, are in a terrible spot. They’re 3-7 and paying Jameis Winston $15.2 million to sit on the bench. They already traded next year’s first-round pick to the Eagles. That would be the fourth overall selection if the season ended today.
I’ve been getting killed by the Rams with these picks all year, but the Saints are too banged up to be giving more than a field goal here.
The pick: Rams (+3.5)
Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-3)
The Giants were dying to blow the cover last week against the Texans but somehow held on for an eight-point victory. Saquon Barkley rushed 35 times for 152 yards in that game. The Giants defense allowed 387 yards and 22 first downs.
The Lions look like a completely different offense when wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is on the field. He had 10 catches on 11 targets for 119 yards in Detroit’s comeback win over the Bears last week.
The Giants are currently tied with a league-best 7-2 record against the spread. They are a well-coached team, and at 7-2 should be a shoo-in for the playoffs. But with St. Brown, the Lions have shown they can move the ball. I don’t think these teams are as far apart as their records indicate.
The pick: Lions (+3)
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
Over the last five weeks, the Bears offense ranks fifth in EPA per drive, and Justin Fields has been flat-out electric as a runner.
Highest regular season, single-game rushing totals by a QB in the last 20 years:
1. Justin Fields last week
2. Mike Vick (2006, Wk 12)
3. Lamar Jackson (2019, Wk 6)
4. Colin Kaepernick (2014, Wk 16)
5. Justin Fields this week
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) November 14, 2022
Marcus Mariota looked horrible during the Falcons’ Week 10 loss to the Panthers, but all indications are that head coach Arthur Smith is not ready to turn to rookie Desmond Ridder.
The Bears are currently putting out one of the NFL’s least talented defenses. It’s possible that Mariota and the Falcons bounce back here. But Fields’s legs are such a dynamic weapon right now. I like Chicago.
The pick: Bears (+3)
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (-2.5)
Derek Carr got emotional after the Raiders’ loss to the Colts last week. The Athletic‘s Tashan Reed made the case that Carr could be the fall guy after the season, and that seems like the most likely scenario. The Raiders went all in on 2022, trading for Davante Adams and signing Chandler Jones. They are 2-7, and only the Texans have fewer wins. Just a complete disaster for Josh McDaniels.
Before the season, if you would’ve told me that the Broncos defense would rank second in EPA per drive through 10 weeks, I would’ve assumed they were a Super Bowl contender. Not the case! Denver’s offense is 31st in DVOAahead of only the Colts.
There’s no reason to trust either team, but the Raiders offense has at least looked capable of moving the ball at times. I’ll take the points.
The pick: Raiders (+2.5)
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (+1.5)
After last week’s spectacular win against the Bills, the Vikings are now 5-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer. If you’re a Vikings fan reading this and screaming “WHO CARES?!” I am with you! Sports fandom is about being entertained by the team you root for. Are the Vikings performing like a typical 8-1 team? No. But they’re going to win the NFC North, and they have a shot at the no. 1 seed in the NFC. If you root for the Vikings, you’re enjoying this season. Nothing else should really matter.
The Cowboys fell to the Packers last week. They’re 6-3 and would be the 6-seed in the NFC if the playoffs started today. They quietly need this game, or things could start to get tight with teams like the Packers and Commanders hovering around .500.
I’m still a big believer in this Cowboys team and think they have a Super Bowl ceiling. I really like Dallas to bounce back in this spot.
The pick: Cowboys (-1.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5)
The Steelers got TJ Watt back last week and limited the Saints to 10 first downs and 186 yards in a 20-10 victory. Pittsburgh’s defense is a completely different unit with Watt on the field. Few defensive players in the NFL consistently make the impact that he does.
As for the Bengals, it feels like they’re getting slept on a bit as we enter the final eight weeks. Cincinnati is one of three teams (the Eagles and the Bills are the others) that currently ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive DVOA. They have shown that they can win in different ways. Having said that, the Bengals’ remaining schedule is brutal. It’s the hardest in the NFL, according to Unpredictable.
The Steelers beat the Bengals in Week 1. It’s a division game, and they’ll have Watt on the field. I like Pittsburgh to keep it close.
The pick: Steelers (+3.5)
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (+5.5)
The Chiefs continue to boast the best offense in the NFL. They are first in expected points added per drive. The gap between the Chiefs and Dolphins (no. 2) is roughly the same as the difference between the Dolphins and no. 16 (the Vikings).
The Chargers got shut out in the second half of their loss to the 49ers last week. It’s just hard for Justin Herbert to do a lot, given his supporting cast of pass catchers. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the Chargers will get wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen back for this game.
Herbert has looked a lot healthier the past couple of weeks and has made a number of high-level throws. The Chargers have played the Chiefs tough the last couple of years. I’ll take the points.
The pick: Chargers (+5.5)
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals (+8.5)
It’s unclear whether the Cardinals will have Kyler Murray (hamstring injury) or Colt McCoy (knee injury) as the starting quarterback for this game in Mexico City.
The 49ers didn’t exactly light it up last week, but they held on for a 22-16 win over the Chargers. Only the Eagles currently have better Super Bowl odds than the 49ers among NFC teams.
It’s always uncomfortable taking the 49ers with big lines like this because Kyle Shanahan is one of the NFL’s most conservative in-game decision-makers. But I just don’t believe in this Cardinals team.
The pick: 49ers (-8.5)