For The Win: Week 11

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

This was a respectable week, but once again, oh what could have been.  It is my own fault for putting far too much weight on the Cowboys to stay close on the road at Atlanta, which in retrospect was not a good call at all.  With no Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant iffy at best even on Wednesday, I should have kept that pick off the list or at least pushed it down the teaser rankings.  That mistake cost me as I went 0-11 on big teasers, whereas if I had Dallas sixth rather than third I would have been 7-4.  Needless to say, that would have made the week far, far better, but such is life (and picks).  Lesson learned. 

I think I am going to keep going back to the established wells for this season.  A few weeks back I mentioned that winning teams tend to keep on winning after a bye, and Minnesota and New England did just that – and the Bears and Browns kept on losing. Although I will say that Cleveland was making it rather interesting in Detroit until DeShone Kizer was injured, as I also mentioned in several places around Footballguys last week.  So the takeaway for me is that I will continue to ride good teams after a bye week and fade the bad ones.  Not exactly a #HotTake but sometimes the little things do add up.

Also last week I mentioned how point spreads do not matter overall, which seems completely counterintuitive, yet it holds true.  It sounds really weird to say that the points matter in less than 20% of all games, but that is partly due to outright upsets – so just pick winners each week and ignore the numbers and you should do just fine.  Now, this is our last week for byes (but Thanksgiving is right around the corner) so the season is already starting to gear up for teams to make playoff runs.  There is much to discuss for Week 11.  Here we go:

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

Teams on a Bye Week – Carolina, Indianapolis, New York Jets, San Francisco

Teams coming off of a Bye Week – Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia 

(Thursday) TENNESSEE (+7) at PITTSBURGH
Thursday Night Football is actually going to be very entertaining this week as the 6-3 Titans travel to take on the 7-2 Steelers in Pittsburgh.  At first you might think that this will be easy for the Steelers – at home, short week, Tennessee just lost to Cincinnati – but upon further review I think it is much closer.  Tennessee runs the ball well with two backs (DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry) and Marcus Mariota can scramble as well, plus I think we are starting to see Pittsburgh’s secondary get exposed with recent efforts against Detroit and Indianapolis.  While I am not about to call for the outright upset, I certainly like that Tennessee is in a good spot to take advantage of Pittsburgh giving up 4.2 yards per carry.  On a short week, nothing translates better than a ground game on the road.  Tough game to pick outright, but I am shockingly loving that touchdown head start for Tennessee.  PICK: Titans

GREEN BAY (+2.5) vs. BALTIMORE
There is no question that Green Bay is banged up, but getting points at Lambeau in November?  Sure, Baltimore is coming off of their bye week, but that does not mean the Ravens added talent over the past two weeks.  The Packers may be on their third option at running back but Jamaal Williams is actually rather good as far as rushers go, and Brett Hundley seemed to have turn a corner last week.  Couple that with Baltimore’s ineptitude to score points (16 points or fewer in 5 of 9 games) and I like the underdog home side here.  PICK: Packers

DETROIT (-3) at CHICAGO
Detroit is on the brink of the playoffs at 5-4 and they escaped a closer call than expected against the Browns at home last week.  Now they get another NFC North game (at the Bears) in Week 11, with another looming on Thanksgiving (vs. Minnesota).  Winning these two games will be critical for them as a 7-4 record with three wins over the division (adding in the Green Bay win before their bye) will put them in a great spot not just for a playoff berth but for winning the division.  As for the Bears, well, they dropped a winnable contest against the reeling Packers where Green Bay was on a short week and Chicago was coming off of their bye.  This is a classic “two teams heading in opposite directions” matchup and I am taking the better squad on an upward trend with strong playoff hopes.  PICK: Lions

JACKSONVILLE (-7.5) at CLEVELAND
I was right that the Browns were going to put up a good fight against Detroit last week, but even their best efforts still fall short.  Jacksonville survived last week against the Chargers, taking a win in overtime with fourth quarter drama, but they need to win these winnable games to have a legitimate shot at a playoff run this year.  This game is going to be decided by either the passing game of the Jaguars or the run game of the Browns, as Jacksonville is way too good against the pass while the Browns are a “runnel” defense – strong against the run but terrible against good passers.  So the question is this – is Blake Bortles a good enough passer?  I think he is, and I think the Jacksonville defense is strong enough to limit Cleveland to 13 or fewer points, leading to a 24-13 Jaguars win.  PICK:  Jaguars

TAMPA BAY (+1) at MIAMI
This battle of Florida was supposed to have been played in Week 1, but Hurricane Irma washed it out, leading to a rescheduled bye week for both teams and using their common bye week of Week 11 as a new date for this contest.  Much has changed for both teams as now Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter for the Buccaneers and Jay Ajayi is now an Eagle.  Both teams offer up bad defenses, especially against the pass (both have opposing QB ratings over 98) and the run defenses are not much better.  So how do you pick a winner of a game with two defenses that cannot stop anyone?  Take the side with better skill players on offense, which screams Tampa Bay with better wide receivers (Mike Evans returns), Doug Martin as the best running back in the game by far (Miami just scored their first rushing TD of the year last week in garbage time) and arguably a better quarterback – although Fitzpatrick vs. Jay Cutler is debatable.  No matter, just take Tampa Bay and a point or two for the win, but do not put too much faith in this matchup that could get ugly and go sideways in either direction.  PICK: Buccaneers

LOS ANGELES RAMS (+2.5) at MINNESOTA
Now we are about to test that “good teams win coming off of a bye” theory, as the Vikings host the Rams.  Both offenses can certainly put up points as the Rams lead the league in that category, but Minnesota is still in the upper third with 24 points per game.  Defensively, the Rams are weak against the run (4.5 yards per game against) which will invite the Vikings to use both Jerrick McKinnon and Latavius Murray quite often, which will also help to manage time of possession.  Anything to keep the Rams’ offense on the sideline will be welcome here, but I still like the Rams in a pristine dome environment to score lots of points and keep on rolling.  Bottom line – when the top scoring team in the league is getting points, I am taking them all the way.  PICK:  Rams

NEW ORLEANS (-7.5) vs. WASHINGTON
Without even looking at the point spread, I knew that the Saints would be a big favorite this week.  New Orleans has won seven games in a row and get to host Washington, who has been up and down all season long.  It is tough to find many holes for New Orleans, as they can run and pass well on offense and the defense seems to get better each week.  Washington just put Rob Kelley on IR and they always seem to have issues fielding healthy receiving options.  I just trust Drew Brees at home far more than Kirk Cousins against that defense, points or no points.  New Orleans is the better team by far, so K.I.S.S..  PICK: Saints

ARIZONA (-1) at HOUSTON  
But I don’t WANNA make this pick!  Yuck, what a game.  Two quarterbacks that have no business starting this week – and that’s just the options for the Cardinals.  It is either Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton for Arizona against Tom Savage.  Horrendous.  Adrian Pederson should be the only fantasy name relevant here, and the game could easily be a snooze fest.  Reluctantly I take Arizona, but this is just an ugly set of teams chewing up NFL game time.  I want no part of this game.  PICK: Cardinals

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3.5) vs. BUFFALO
I was all set to say that the Bills were a strong underdog to take this week, and then Tyrod Taylor gets benched for Nathan Peterman, who I know next to nothing about.  Fortunately at Footballguys, you can learn fast just by clicking his name and reading articles that refer to him, but even that feels limited.  No matter really, as this all comes down to LeSean McCoy and the Bills on defense.  If Buffalo can rattle Philip Rivers, which seems to have been the best thing to do for opponents yet again this season, then the Bills can win.  The Chargers will look to get both Melvin Gordon III and rookie Austin Ekeler running, and that is what I think decides this game.  What just swayed me was this stat – 14 touchdowns on the ground against the Bills this year.  Yikes.  Add in 4.2 yards per carry and this looks like a Chargers win if they can run and not turn it over.  I’m looking at you, Philip.  PICK: Chargers 

CINCINNATI (+3) at DENVER
Another pair of teams heading nowhere fast meet up in Denver with the Bengals visiting the Broncos.  Andy Dalton is the best quarterback here, but that is more a condemnation of Brock Osweiler than an endorsement of Dalton.  Tyler Kroft may have the most value for Cincinnati against a Denver defense that cannot defend tight ends, and I also expect a healthy dose of Joe Mixon.  Denver will look to counter with, well, I’m not really sure.  Bengals and the points, with a likely outright victory.  PICK: Bengals 

KANSAS CITY (-10.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS 
I omitted this game earlier, but can you blame me?  The Giants should not even bother to show up the rest of the way, as they have been mailing it in after such an abysmal start and will likely to continue to lose the rest of the way.  Do not worry about the Chiefs heading east for this early start - Andy Reid is very familiar with the trip to the Giants from his days of coaching the Eagles.  The only question here is if the "touchdowns to tight ends" streak continues, as the Giants have allowed a score to opposing tight ends in every game this year - and Travis Kelce is no slouch when it comes to tight ends.  Start Kelce in fantasy (of all kinds) and pick against the Giants.  PICK: Chiefs 

NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
This game marks the final contest of the NFL’s International Series for 2017, with the Patriots and Raiders heading to Mexico City for a Sunday afternoon game.  Oakland is the designated home team, but look for fans of both sides to be in attendance.  Oakland is coming off of their bye week, but at 4-5 they fall in the category of weaker teams even after two weeks of rest.  The Patriots were humming last Sunday in Denver and they enjoyed Colorado so much that they stayed there, planning on practicing near Denver at elevation (Colorado Springs, 6,000 feet) to prepare for the trip to Mexico City, which is at even higher altitude (7.300 feet) than Denver (5,280 feet).  So not only was this a smart travel plan to not head back to New England as it is a quicker trip to Mexico from Denver, it also allows the team to practice at higher altitude.  That’s just goes to show that the Patriots are at another level, but figuratively and literally this week.  Oakland may be able to throw their way into this game for the first half, but I look for New England to finish strong and pull away in the last two quarters and win by double digits.    PICK: Patriots

PHILADELPHIA (-3) at DALLAS
This one feels almost too easy.  A good team coming off of a bye week that just scored a ton of points that feels fantastic at 8-1 going against a team on the ropes after a tough road loss.  That describes this matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys.  Philadelphia has Dallas on the ropes when it comes to the NFC East, and a win here should be the knockout blow that secures the division and potentially leaves Dallas almost out of the playoffs entirely.  With Jay Ajayi added to the Eagles and now two additional weeks to work him in, Philadelphia looks poised for a run at the NFC top seed.  Dallas is struggling on all fronts, losing linebackers and Ezekiel Elliott, plus suffering big losses on the offensive line that allowed Adrian Clayborn to rack up six sacks of Dak Prescott last week.  So many signs that point at an Eagles win here, they are all just too hard to ignore.  PICK:  Eagles

(Monday) SEATTLE (-3) vs. ATLANTA
This one could be a good game to close out Week 11 with the Falcons heading up to Seattle for a Monday Night Football clash with the Seahawks.  Seattle just shook off a bad loss last Thursday, beating Arizona in a close contest 22-16 after dropping a winnable home game against Washington.  Heading back home after 10 days off to face Atlanta in what should be a slightly chilly, wet and loud Seattle environment should be to Seattle’s benefit, but they will now be without Richard Sherman (torn Achilles) for the first time in quite a while.  This is a tough one to pick, but I am going to take the home team to cover the field goal.  PICK: Seahawks

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

  • JACKSONVILLE (-7.5) at CLEVELAND
  • TAMPA BAY (+1) at MIAMI   
  • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+2.5) at MINNESOTA  
  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3.5) vs. BUFFALO  
  • CINCINNATI (+3) at DENVER  
  • (Monday) SEATTLE (-3) vs. ATLANTA
  • CINCINNATI “FOR THE WIN” (+125) at DENVER
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+8.5) at MINNESOTA  
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+8.5) at MINNESOTA  
    • (Monday) SEATTLE (+3) vs. ATLANTA 
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+8.5) at MINNESOTA  
    • (Monday) SEATTLE (+3) vs. ATLANTA
    • DETROIT (+3) at CHICAGO   
  • 10-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (26-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+8.5) at MINNESOTA  
    • (Monday) SEATTLE (+3) vs. ATLANTA
    • DETROIT (+3) at CHICAGO  
    • TAMPA BAY (+7) at MIAMI   
  • 11-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (37-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • PHILADELPHIA (+3) at DALLAS
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (+8.5) at MINNESOTA  
    • (Monday) SEATTLE (+3) vs. ATLANTA
    • DETROIT (+3) at CHICAGO  
    • TAMPA BAY (+7) at MIAMI   
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) vs. BALTIMORE  

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER: NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.10-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • (Thursday) PITTSBURGH (-1) vs. TENNESSEE
    • NEW ENGLAND “at” OAKLAND (OVER 46) (Mexico City, Mexico)

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • PHILADELPHIA (-3) at DALLAS
  •  3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (1.65-1 ODDS):
    • NEW ENGLAND (-1.5) “at” OAKLAND (Mexico City, Mexico)
    • JACKSONVILLE (-1.5) at CLEVELAND
    • NEW ORLEANS (-1.5) vs. WASHINGTON  

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK:  Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Kansas City, New England, Philadelphia, Seattle  

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 10-4 (71.4%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 17.72-17 (51.0%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 7-2 (77.8%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 76-65-5 (52.0%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 150.57-153-3 (49.6%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 44-29-2 (60.3%)

Good luck this weekend!

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com 


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