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Week 11 NFL Picks

Despite their 7-2 start, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings face a tough road to the postseason. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)

Last Week: 7 – 7 – 0
Season: 94 – 52 – 0

Thursday Recap

Titans 13 at Jaguars 19
The Titans were in control of Thursday night’s contest right up until they gave the game away with just under four minutes to play. A 63 yard punt return set Jacksonville up at the Tennessee five yard line. They scored a touchdown on the next play. On the Titans next play from scrimmage, they fumbled the football inside their own 30. It led to a Jaguars field goal. Jacksonville scored 10 points in 90 seconds. Their scoring “drives” consisted of a total of 5 plays for 14 yards. Jacksonville’s three drives prior totaled 12 plays for 47 yards and an interception. So yeah, the Titans were in control until their special teams and 3rd string tight end failed them. The AFC South, everyone.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Raiders at Lions
I don’t trust the Raiders like I did three weeks ago, but Detroit’s offense has struggled all year, so I don’t see them exploiting Oakland’s weak defense. Besides, even in victory last week the Lions looked incompetent more often than not. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -1.5

Colts at Falcons
I think I’m one of the few that hasn’t given up on the Falcons yet. If the defense were the problem, I think that’d be it for Atlanta. However, the problems over the last month have been on the offensive side of the football. The Falcons have gone from scoring 30 points per game over the first six weeks all the way down to 15 the last three. This is a direct result of the Falcons red zone inefficiency (33% over their last three games). Atlanta’s red zone problems are hard to comprehend. Julio Jones is the most physically dominant receiver in the NFL. If you throw 3 fade routes in a row, what are the chances all three plays come up empty handed? The odds of Jones not coming down with the football or forcing a pass interference call have to be less than 20%. Anyway, don’t toss the Falcons away just yet. There’s too much talent on that offense for them not to figure some things out. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -5.5

Jets at Texans
JJ Watt should be suspended for his Red Rifle-BB gun joke after Monday night’s victory. Here’s why: It was clear Watt had prepared that joke in advance of Monday’s game. Right after he said it he waited for the reaction of ESPN’s reporter as if his joke was the funniest thing in the history of football. No, JJ, it was not. The joke was too long. It was too corny. If you rehearsed a joke and that’s what comes out, you deserve a suspension. [Pick updated 11/21/15 at 3:15PM ET after I learned Brian Hoyer was not playing. Not sure how I missed that.] JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -3

Buccaneers at Eagles
For that 1st quarter against the Dolphins the Eagles looked like the 2013 version of Chip Kelly’s offense. They were explosive, accurate, and accumulating yards in bug chunks. The Eagles accumulated 179 yards on their first three drives of the game. I thought everything had finally clicked. Nope. The natives have turned on Chip Kelly. If he loses to the Buccaneers in Philly, he might as well drive directly from the Linc to the airport. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +5.5

Broncos at Bears
I liked the Bears entering the season. I’m not a big Jon Fox fan, but his teams are almost always competitive, regardless of talent. Unfortunately, I gave up on the Bears too early after an 0-3 start. Right now the Bears are sneaking up on the playoff field in the NFC and they were ohsoclose to a six game winning streak had they not surrendered late 4th quarter leads in consecutive weeks against the Lions and Vikings. Also, and it’s kind of sad no one is mentioning this, Jay Cutler is on pace for the best season of his career. Most of that can be attributed to fewer turnovers. If he can continue that trend, the Bears will be in good shape for a December playoff push. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +1

Rams at Ravens
The NFL admitted it screwed up the end of the Jaguars/Ravens game, which led to a Baltimore defeat. While this is unfortunate, I wouldn’t be that heartbroken if I’m the Ravens front office. Your season is over regardless of last week’s outcome. Instead of a win in the standings, you get the peace of mind knowing you won the game while still getting credit for a loss and the higher draft pick that comes with it. That’s a win-win for the Ravens. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +2.5

Cowboys at Dolphins
I’ve said all season long the Cowboys were still my pick to win the division IF they could make it to Tony Romo’s return with no worse than a 4-6 record. Romo is returning a week earlier than originally expected, so a win over the Dolphins would bring Dallas to a 3-7 record. I know there’s some ground swell in the media about the Cowboys winning the NFC East, but’s it not happening. And that’s coming from someone who was riding that train all season long. Dallas played its best football of the season over a three week stretch against the Giants, Seahawks and Eagles and came out with nothing to show for their efforts. Dallas looked deflated and resigned to their fate last week against Tampa Bay. Romo’s return should bring a spark, but at this point it won’t be enough to make the playoffs. It won’t even be enough to beat Miami. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +1

Redskins at Panthers
Jay Gruden sent me a thank you letter last week for reminding him Alfred Morris was still on the roster. Morris responded with his best game since opening week, rushing for 92 yards on just 15 carries. The Redskins are lingering in the NFC East race, and with four games remaining within the division it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see Washington steal the division. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -7.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Chiefs at Chargers
Kansas City is set up nicely for an AFC Wildcard spot. They already own a victory over the Steelers and they’ll play the Bills next week. A win against Buffalo would give the Chiefs the tiebreaking advantage against two of the three teams currently ahead of them in the Wildcard standings. Obviously, there’s a ton of football left to play, but the pieces are falling into the right places for the Chiefs to return to the playoffs. (Assuming of course they don’t return to playing like garbage.) CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -3

49ers at Seahawks
Two years ago everyone in and around the NFL would be discussing this game ad nauseam. In 2015 it’s an afterthought highlighted by questions about Russell Wilson and the Seattle defense. In fairness to the defense, they’re on a similar path as they were in 2013 and 2014. Prior to their collapse against Arizona, Seattle’s defense was allowing only 16 points per game*. That’s only 2 points more than they allowed in 2013 and about equal to 2014. Even the rushing game has been producing (4th in the NFL) despite the nagging injuries to Marshawn Lynch. That leaves Russell Wilson. Wilson hasn’t passed the eye test this season. Even his coaches have begun calling him out publicly. Though his stats are generally on par with his past performances, his turnovers are way up, adding more strain on an overworked defense and robbing Lynch and the running game of added touches. The numbers indicate Seattle is closer to their 2013-2014 selves than we may think. If Wilson can get control over the turnovers the Seahawks will be a threat in the NFC. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -12.5
*This number is somewhat misleading considering opponent, but we can get into that later.

Packers at Vikings
You may find this hard to believe, but the Vikings need this game more than the Packers. Green Bay’s remaining schedule doesn’t pit them against another playoff team until Week 16. The Vikings, on the other hand, face teams with winning records in five of their final seven games. Which brings up another point, are we sure the Vikings are this good? Through their first nine games, Vikings opponents have a combined record of 32-49. Only one team has a winning record in that bunch. The combined record of Minnesota’s final seven opponents is 44-26 and all but two of those opponents boast a winning record. Minnesota’s defense has been really good and Adrian Peterson has the Viking running game atop the NFL, but are the Vikings a legit NFC contender or the product of lesser opponents? I lean toward the former but we’ll know exactly how good the Vikings are over the next month. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers +1

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bengals at Cardinals
I thought Andy Dalton turned the corner this season? While it’s unfair to judge Dalton on one bad outing, Dalton performed poorly on the team’s biggest stage this season. It even felt like a playoff game. Dalton missed open receivers all over the field, failed to crack 200 yards, and finished with his lowest QB rating of the season. In fact, that’s the 2nd subpar Dalton performance in three weeks. His lackluster outing against the Steelers two weeks ago was almost identical.

vs. Steelers: 231 YDS, 60.5%, 6.08 AVG, TD, 2 INT, 64.7 QB Rating
vs. Texans: 197 YDS, 57.9%, 5.18 AVG, INT, 61.0 QB Rating
Season AVG: 269 YDS, 66.2%, 8.19 AVG, 2 TD, 0.5 INT, 104.6 QB Rating

Consider me worried about the Bengals playoff lives. They’ll get there, but with Dalton playing this poorly, they have little shot at sticking around. I often trend toward redemption when an opportunity presents itself, but I don’t trust Dalton to bounce back against Arizona’s defense. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bills at Patriots
Rex Ryan is going to make Tom Brady’s life a miserable hell. Without Julian Eldeman and Dion Lewis, Brady’s favorite release valves will be gone. Expect the Bills to blitz over and over and over and over again and force Brady to find receivers he’s not as comfortable with in regards to where they’ll be and what they’re expecting from Brady. I still don’t believe strongly in the Bills because Tyrod Taylor is more of a running back throwing the football than a quarterback. However, the Bills running game can be devastating if LeSean McCoy is healthy. I think the Patriots perfect season ends Monday due to the aforementioned injuries. This unfortunately means Rex Ryan will get credit for knocking off the Patriots and we’ll all endure a few days of “Just how good are the Bills?” nonsense. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +7.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 8 – 6 – 0
Season: 74 – 68 – 4

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