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Week 11 NFL Picks

The Rams finally had enough of Case Keenum. It’s now Jared Goff’s turn to fix one of the NFL’s worst offenses. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Last Week:  7 – 7 – 0
Season:     87 – 58 – 2

Thursday Recap

Saints 20 at Panthers 23
Despite their best efforts to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, Carolina escaped with a much-needed win Thursday night. As I detailed here, the Panthers followed their go-to script for 2016; dominate early, build a lead, and hold on for dear life. If not for a huge Kelvin Benjamin 3rd and long conversion with less than three minutes to go, it’s likely New Orleans completes the comeback.

Speaking of New Orleans, I still think they’re a good team. I underestimated how devastating that loss to Denver last week was and the impact it would have. The Saints slept walk through the first 40 minutes of that game in Carolina. Regardless, look at their schedule; the Saints are a fluke play from topping the Broncos and a two point conversion from taking out the Raiders. They’ve played the toughest division in football (AFC West) better than anyone. Before losing to Carolina, their defeats have come to opponents with a combined 33-13 record. Their remaining schedule features only two winning teams (DET and ATL), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints finish the season with nine wins, which could very well win the NFC South.

P.S. I thought Sean Payton’s time management in the 4th quarter was bizarre. Sure, the running game worked as far moving the football, but you’re down three scores. The clock is your biggest opponent. Payton’s insistence on running the ball chewed up at least an extra two minutes throughout the quarter. Counting on that defense to string together multiple three-and-outs was asking too much. Had Payton gone to the air more frequently the defense would have had a greater margin for error than they did on Carolina’s final drive.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Steelers at Browns
Though there’s still nearly half a season to go, an interesting trend is developing this season: Offense doesn’t translate to victories. Defense may be the new trend in the NFL. There are currently seven playoff teams among the NFL’s 13 worst offenses, and that doesn’t include the Dolphins or Vikings, who are both one game out right now. Conversely, 11 of the NFL’s top 16 offenses are currently outside the playoffs, including 5 of the top 10. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -9

Ravens at Cowboys
Despite a 2-1 record against their division, the NFC East has given Dallas its stiffest competition of the season. The Baltimore Ravens are an honorary member of the NFC East by both location and style of play. The offense is bland and conservative and the defense does enough to keep the offense within striking distance. I don’t expect the Cowboys to lose to an offense as mundane as Baltimore’s, but I do expect a close outing. Now to the Tony Romo drama. I still think Romo will have a big role at some point this season. Dallas’ next four games (including this week) come against elite defenses or division opponents. Dak Prescott has been great, but he still makes a handful of really bad throws every week. I’ve never seen opponents drop so many interceptions against one guy before. That luck is bound to run out. My guess is Dallas loses three of their final seven and the Romo whispering starts up again. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +7

Jaguars at Lions
The NFC is great this year. G-R-E-A-T. Not great as in “there are a bunch of great teams,” but great as in, “everyone outside of Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco is going to kill each other for playoff berths.” The NFC North is especially chaotic. The Lions somehow find themselves in 1st place after the Vikings and Packers drove off a cliff. Look at Detroit’s victories this season. It’s miracle after miracle.

Trailing by a point, Detroit got the football back with 37 seconds to go in Week 1 against the Colts. They won. In Week 5, while trailing 23-21, the Eagles’ Ryan Mathews fumbled on a 3rd and 2 with less than 3 minutes to go. The Lions kicked the game-winning field goal with 90 seconds remaining. Two weeks later it appeared Detroit’s luck ran out when the Redskins went up 17-13 with 65 seconds left. Matthew Stafford led the Lions down the field for the game-winning touchdown in 6 plays. In Week 9, the Vikings thought they wrapped up a 16-13 victory with a touchdown. Only 23 seconds remained. Detroit still found a way. After tying the game in regulation on a 58-yard field goal, the Lions won in overtime. At some point the Lions will stop pulling wins out of their rear ends, right? LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -6.5

Titans at Colts
I don’t always enjoy beating a dead horse, but when that dead horse is Chip Kelly, the fun is too much to resist. Do me a favor and take a look at these numbers real quick.

DeMarco Murray 2014: 1,845 YDS, 4.7 AVG, 13 TD

DeMarco Murray 2015: 702 YDS, 3.6 AVG, 6 TD

DeMarco Murray 2016: 930 YDS, 4.9 AVG, 8 TD

Guess which season Murray spent under the brilliant tutelage of the offensive wizard Chip Kelly? As an Eagles fan, I’m especially bitter. If Kelly hadn’t ruined Murray to such an alarming degree, he might still be with the Eagles, chewing up yardage behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines (according to Pro Football Focus). We’d be the Dallas Cowboys but with a dominant defense. I’m angry. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +3

Bills at Bengals
The Bengals are currently churning out yardage at the same rate as the Patriots. New England is 7-2 while Cincinnati has struggled to 3-5-1. Though the offenses may be moving the football at the same rate, scoring is where a discrepancy appears. Cincinnati is averaging a touchdown less per game than New England. At 20.8 points per game, the Bengals score the fewest points of any of the league’s top 15 offenses. Their red zone efficiency is down 12% from 2015, dropping them from 6th in the NFL to 18th. It’s not a stretch to say the Bengals need a win here to keep their playoff hopes alive. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3

Buccaneers at Chiefs
The Chiefs give me hope the Eagles will be a playoff team this season. How Kansas City is 7-2 with that offense deserves an award… or an investigation. Last week the Chiefs stole a win in Carolina despite some disastrous offensive stats. They lost time of possession 24:36, went 0/3 in the red zone, and converted only 17% of their 3rd downs. Again, Andy Reid is a really good football coach. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +7.5

Bears at Giants
Jay Cutler’s career as a starting NFL quarterback may be coming to end. If Brian Hoyer didn’t break his arm last month it might already be over. Cutler was an absolute disaster last week in Tampa Bay. Late in the 1st quarter Cutler and the Chicago offense was handed a golden opportunity thanks to an interception inside Buccaneers territory. With a 1st and goal from the seven, Cutler’s next three plays went as follows; dropped interception, 3 yard completion, fumble. The Bears never recovered, and outside of a fluke Hail Mary to close the 1st half, never found their way into Tampa territory again until there were 27 seconds remaining in a blowout. In fact, look at Chicago’s offensive output under Cutler in the 2nd half before the aforementioned meaningless final drive; 12 plays, -13 yards, zero 1st downs and a safety. Poor Matt Barkley must be really bad. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -7.5

Cardinals at Vikings
This may come as a shock to you, but I thought the Vikings discovered something last week against the Redskins. Look at Minnesota’s 2nd quarter; 19 plays, 175 yards and 20 points over a span of less than ten minutes. The Vikings sped up the offense, going to a hybrid hurry up. With a banged up offensive line and no reliable back, it makes sense for the Vikings to ride Bradford and his experience with an up-tempo offense. It won’t always be successful, but it’ll at least keep the defense on its heels. At this point, the lesser of evils is the best option for an offense that’s grasping at straws. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -1.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Dolphins at Rams
Ranking 31st in overall offense and 32nd in points scored isn’t cutting it, not even for Jeff “8-8” Fisher. So here comes Jared Goff. There was a time when sitting your franchise quarterback early in his career was considered prudent, and that is still the case in some circles today. However, when you sit your franchise rookie QB and torture your fan base with half a season of Case Keenum you somehow manage to put MORE pressure on the rookie. Well done, Rams. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -2

Patriots at 49ers
I never understood the fade route in critical situations. I get that it’s unstoppable when executed properly, but there are so many factors that could go wrong. A poor throw ruins any chance of success. A mistimed jump, a stumble off the line or lousy footwork near the sideline makes the fade highly volatile. I was surprised the Patriots didn’t it run it four times at the end of last week’s matchup with Seattle. Anyway, there’s been a good deal of noise this week about how the Patriots are in trouble given the quality of their defense. I don’t disagree that their defense is substandard, especially for a Bill Belichick team. However, what AFC team outside of Oakland is offensively gifted enough to threaten the Patriots in the postseason? PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -13

Eagles at Seahawks
The Eagles have been a disaster on the road. They start slow, the coach does dumb things, and they like to fumble in the 4th quarter while protecting leads. Regardless, I like the Eagles’ chances here. Seattle’s offensive line is less than stellar. The Seahawks own the 30th ranked rushing offense at 77 yards per game. The Eagles should be able to pin their ears back and get after a less than 100% Russell Wilson. On the flip side, the Eagle offense isn’t short-circuiting scoreboards, and Seattle’s defense feasts on passive offenses. The outcome will be determined by whichever defense presents the most scoring opportunities for its offense. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +7.5

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Packers at Redskins
Last week I told you the Packers just aren’t any good. Their 8-11 record since a 6-0 start to the 2015 season proves as much. There are so many factors as to why the Packers stink right now that blaming one unit or one player or one coach is simply a waste of time. However, while pouring over some statistics this week there was one that jumped out at me. The Packers are on pace to finish outside the top ten in passing offense for the 2nd consecutive season. How does an offense with Aaron Rodgers under center not finish among the ten best in the NFL? What’s worse, prior to 2015, the last time Green Bay finished outside the top ten in passing offense was 2003! There’s really no excuse for being outside the top ten, especially this season. The Packers have trailed in the 2nd half by multiple scores in three of their last five games. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins -3

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Texans at Raiders
The NFL did the Raiders a favor by taking a home game and moving it to Mexico. Oakland is 5-0 on the road and just 2-2 at home. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the Texans. Of all the NFL teams with a .500 record or better, only four have a negative point differential. The Dolphins and Giants own a point differential of -2. The Lions’ is -1. The Houston Texans… -27. What??? I’m going to pick the Raiders here but I’m doing so without confidence because I have no idea what the Texans will do from week to week. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -6

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 7 – 7 – 0
Season:     70 – 73 – 4

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