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Week 11 NFL Picks

It’s been a rough year for young quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Mitch Trubisky. Sunday night they battle for a week of a peace. (Photo by Keith Srakocic/AP)

Last Week:   5 – 8 – 0
Week 9:        9 – 5 – 0
Season:      84 – 67 – 1

Thursday Recap

Steelers 7 at Browns 21
Uhhh, Myles Garrett lost his mind. Never seen anything like that before. I hope the NFL gives Maurkice Pouncey an award instead of a suspension. As for the game, the Browns offense is still stuck in mud. The Browns had nine running plays go for no gain or negative yardage. They also added two negative pass plays for good measure. This was supposed to be an elite, explosive offense. Tonight they struggled to score 21 points despite 4 turnovers from their defense. That defense will most certainly get worse without its best player, so time is of the essence for the offense to get it in gear.

Self-Partnered and Ready to Mingle (Bye Week)

Packers
If I had to put money on who will finish as the top seed in the NFC right now, the Packers would be my choice. And believe it or not, that’s probably good news for the rest of the NFC. Think about it, would you rather go into the Superdome or up to Wisconsin? Aaron Rodgers is only 3-2 in the postseason at Lambeau. I’m not at all saying the Packers are an easy out. I still think they’re the best team in the NFC, but outdoors in the cold levels the playing field more than in a dome.

Titans
Tennessee is 5-5. That means a fourth consecutive 9-7 season is very much in play. At this point the Titans should just put 9-7 on their helmet. If you could somehow isolate TV ratings for each team, is there any doubt the Titans would finish dead last? Maybe the Chargers would give them a run, but I feel like the Chargers have some national appeal. The Titans haven’t been interesting since… never.

Giants
New York’s bye week should be devoted to getting Saquon Barkley back into the offense. In 2018, Barkley finished four games with less than 20 touches. In those games, he received 19, 18(x2) and 16 touches. In seven games in 2019, Barkley’s already had three games with less than 20 touches, including two games where he finished with 15 or less.

Seahawks
It’s somewhat of a miracle Seattle is 7-2. In Week 1 they squeaked by the now 0-9 Bengals. A missed 44 yard field goal gave them a victory over the Rams in Week 5. They rallied back from two scores against the laughable Browns, needed overtime to take out the Buccaneers, and just last week needed another missed field goal to avoid a loss to the 49ers. Did I mention they lead the NFL in fumbles?

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Cowboys at Lions
It’s been a tough year for the Lions, and considering their history, it’s not easy to make Detroit fans feel the suffering is excessive. Let’s highlight some of the lows. First, they tie the Cardinals in a game they had a 24-6 4th quarter lead. In week 4, they dropped a heartbreaker to the Chiefs that included a weird goal line fumble that was returned 99.9 yards for a Kansas City touchdown. In Detroit’s next game, the officials extended Green Bay’s game-winning drive with bogus penalties on Trey Flowers… twice. In Week 9, Matthew Stafford and the offense had a 1st and goal from the Oakland 8 needing a touchdown to tie the game in the final minute. They failed to convert. One week later, less than 24 hours before kickoff, Matthew Stafford was ruled out against Chicago due to fractures in his back. That loss all but sealed their fate for the season. Poor Detroit. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; No Line Yet

Jaguars at Colts
Welcome back, Nick Foles. I’m probably not alone on this, but having Foles playing again is less than ideal. Carson Wentz has played pretty well this season and still a large number of fans and media have criticized his performance, and that was with Foles not playing but a single quarter of football. Now that Foles is back, if he performs well, the critics will only get louder and more obnoxious. The Colts, meanwhile, are reeling and their schedule is not doing them any favors. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +3

Bills at Dolphins
The Buffalo Bills are Halloween candy. At the start you’re super excited about everything you’re getting and it all looks so good and you just can’t wait to get through it. Then, as time passes and you work your way through the candy, you realize the chocolate pieces absorb the taste of the other candy around it and too many of the pieces are stale and old. That’s the Buffalo Bills. They start out looking good and you get excited and then soon enough they play a stretch of decent teams and they’re stale and bad. I’m not even confident about taking Buffalo here but I think Miami has won too much and needs to be careful. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills -6.5

Broncos at Vikings
I still think Denver is decent. Some bad September luck scuttled their season. I know the Broncos are in no hurry to play Drew Lock, so we get Brandon Allen for the foreseeable future. In conclusion, there’s no reason to watch the Broncos until 2020. For the record, the Vikings are pretty good, but not good enough to sleep walk through this one. I wouldn’t be surprised if Denver hung around for longer than Minnesota fans would like. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +10.5

Saints at Buccaneers
It’s never a good sign to come out of your bye week and get trounced by the 1-7 basement dweller of your division. I won’t say I’m worried about the Saints but I am considering it as an option. I still have questions about Drew Brees. Not because of his recent thumb injury, but because of his age and how he declined rapidly last year. I’m not convinced Alvin Kamara is fully healthy yet and now the defense is taking injury blows with the NFL’s best duo of receivers on deck. Also, take a look at the Saints schedule thus far. A couple of those wins that impressed have lost their shine. The Bears aren’t any good. The Cowboys appear above average at best. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +5.5

Jets at Redskins
Dwayne Haskins has two very important jobs over the final 8 weeks of the NFL season. First, he must prove to the Redskins they don’t need to grab another quarterback at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. Second, he must demonstrate enough ability and potential in order to attract a head coach that actually wants Haskins to be his quarterback of the future. Fast forward one year from now and it’s very possible I’m writing the same thing about Sam Darnold. I’d rather not pick either of these teams, but if I have to, I’ll take the Jets defense. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +2

Falcons at Panthers
Carolina is very much alive in the NFC South. Three things must happen if they want to make a run at the Saints, though. First and foremost, the run defense must improve. The Panthers rank 29th in the NFL in run defense. That puts them in a class with the Bengals, Dolphins and Redskins. Second, Kyle Allen must be better at protecting the football. He’s committed six turnovers over the last three games. Third, Carolina must win the games they’re “supposed” to win. This week against Atlanta is one of them. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +4.5

Texans at Ravens
I’m going to swim upstream on this one. Instead of raving about the Lamar Jackson/Deshaun Watson matchup, I’d like to talk about the underrated yet wildly frustrating Bill O’Brien. O’Brien doesn’t get enough credit for what he did at Penn State. That program was supposed to die after the absurd NCAA sanctions placed on the university. O’Brien kept the program afloat during his two years. In fact, he surprised just about everyone with how competitive those teams were despite the chaos and sanctions of the Sandusky scandal. I say this because O’Brien doesn’t get enough credit for his NFL success either. He’s on pace to finish with a winning season for the fifth time in six seasons and likely his fourth playoff appearance in that time. Sure, he’s made some confusing player personnel moves and he doesn’t always seem like he’s the best game manager, but his football teams are good. They’ll temper some of the Lamar Jackson hysteria this week. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +4

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Bengals at Raiders
The Bengals own the NFL’s worst record, benched a competent starting quarterback, and still have matchups against the Jets and Dolphins. It’s been a master tank in Cincinnati. Congrats. RAIDERS. If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -11.5

Cardinals at 49ers
As you may have heard, Colin Kaepernick has a workout this Saturday to demonstrate his skill set to NFL teams. At this point can we even trust whatever story comes out of Atlanta Saturday night? The NFL and Kaepernick’s people are already bickering about the logistics of the workout. Unfortunately, like most things in our culture, there are only extremes when discussing Kaepernick. I try to operate in the middle. I think Kaepernick was very average and even bad in the final seasons of his career. On the other hand, his performance against the Packers in the postseason following the 2012 season was perhaps the greatest performance from a QB I’d ever seen. I’d love to have that Kaepernick back in the league, but at this point, given his production in 2015 and 2016, I’m not sure that guy is in there anymore. Look out for the Cardinals in this one. It’s a short week for the 49ers and that was a devastating loss Monday night against Seattle. The Cardinals are feisty. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals +10.5

Patriots at Eagles
I never believed the Patriots were as good as their 8-0 record. They’re unique in the same way the Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs were; they beat teams they’re suppose to beat. If you think that’s an obvious statement, look around the NFL. The Ravens lost to the Browns. The Chiefs lost three times at home in October and just lost to the Titans. The Cowboys lost to the Jets. The Packers got stomped by the Chargers. The Rams defense died against the Buccaneers and the Saints lost to the 1-7 Falcons. Beating teams you’re supposed to beat is a very underrated characteristic of great teams. Losing to the Ravens in the fashion New England did was certainly surprising, but in no way alarming, at least not to me. With that said, good luck to all of you writing off the Patriots. That’s always worked out well. I think the Eagles have a chance Sunday but they’ll need a lights out performance from Carson Wentz. Speaking of Wentz, he’s the Eagles only shot of making a playoff run. It’s unfair to put that much on him considering the “talent” he’s been working with at receiver, but that’s the gig when in Philadelphia. Just ask Donovan McNabb. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +4

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Bears at Rams
The 2019 NFL season has been a carousel of roasting young quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff and Mitch Trubisky have been the preferred prey this season with a dash of Jameis Winston thrown in. With Mayfield winning Thursday night, Trubisky and Goff square off with a one-week reprieve on the line. We knew coming into the season Chicago would rely heavily on its defense to repeat as NFC North champs, but I don’t think anyone expected the offense to be this bad. Trubisky’s unit is averaging almost 100 yards less per game than in 2018. Only the Jets, Dolphins and Redskins offenses are worse. While Trubisky is the leading offender, Matt Nagy deserves plenty of blame. Everything Chicago does is east/west. There’s no challenging the defense vertically and certainly no imagination in their offensive approach. It’s ugly. The Rams, meanwhile, were supposed to have one of the NFL’s best offenses. Instead, their offense has sputtered throughout the season. While injuries have played a significant role, it’s been Goff’s struggles at quarterback that have neutered the offense. He’s had a completion percentage under 60 for five straight games. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. Of course, it’s not entirely Goff’s fault. The Rams thrived off play action in 2018 behind a lethal rushing attack. That rushing attack has fallen on tough times in 2019, down over 40 yards per game and more importantly, lacking the explosiveness of Todd Gurley. Both Trubisky and Goff have proven themselves unable to carry an offense, so it’ll be up to the coaches to manufacture offensive production via the ground game or pray their defense delivers. I’m banking on the Rams defense. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -6

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Chiefs at Chargers
Throughout the course of his career, Philip Rivers has either been underrated or overrated with no in between. He played an entire playoff game with a torn ACL. He’s been one of the NFL’s prolific passers for over a decade. He hasn’t missed a single game since being named the starter in 2006. And then he goes and has a game like he did against Oakland. He had a similar night in December 2017 against the Chiefs. His three interceptions in that loss ultimately cost the surging Chargers a playoff berth. Earlier this season Rivers put the Chargers in a 14-0 hole against the Steelers by fumbling and throwing an interception on consecutive possessions in the 1st half of the 1st quarter. In a game the Chargers really needed last week, Rivers opened the game with interceptions on Los Angeles’ first two drives. He finished the night with five interceptions but the officials only allowed three. He’s really good, and sometimes, unfortunately, really bad, too. He’s essentially the Andy Reid of quarterbacking. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +4

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 7 – 5 – 0
Week 9:      8 – 6 – 0
Season:    66 – 82 – 1

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