NFL Week 11 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. Lines, team rankings, and standings as of 11/13/14 (before the Thursday night game).  All lines per consensus. Bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, NY Jets]

CLEVELAND (-3) vs. Houston

The Basics:

Cleveland: 6-3, 1st AFC North, #13 total offense, #15 scoring offense, #20 total defense, #6 scoring defense

Houston: 4-5, 2nd AFC South, #16 total offense, #16 scoring offense, #28 total defense, #11 scoring defense

Derek: The Texans lead the league in takeaways, but they’re going against an offense that doesn’t turn the ball over often. Though it is fair to say that the Browns haven’t gone against J.J. Watt yet, and the thought of him occasionally lining up across from Nick McDonald must be unpleasant for Browns faithful.

The Texans are coming off a bye, but the Browns have had extra time as well since they played the Thursday game last week. The Browns definitely hold the upper hand in the battle of former Tom Brady backups, as Ryan Mallett is making his first career start. His claim to fame (at least for me) is he replaced an injured Chad Henne the week after the greatest college football game of all time. Advantage, Browns.

I think we’ll get a delirious Cleveland crowd as they bask in their first place glory. I don’t think the team will let them down. I’ll take the Browns.

Will: I will be at this game, and it will be snowy and/or cold, and the crowd will be fantastic. Playing the Bengals on Thursday has meant an extra few days of peeking at the division standings and seeing that the Browns are actually in first place. First cold weather game + First place team = A really, really drunk and fun Muni Lot.

I understand that the Browns are no juggernaut, but a three-point line feels like a slap in the face when Mallett is starting his first NFL game. Then again, J.J. Watt is probably worth a few points by himself. The refs should let he and Joe Thomas square off in the Oklahoma Drill for a whole quarter, for science.

I’m a little bit nervous about this game, but I believe in the Brownies.

CHICAGO (-3) vs. Minnesota

The Basics:

Chicago: 3-6, 4th NFC North, #15 total offense, #22 scoring offense, #26 total defense, #32 scoring defense

Minnesota: 4-5, 3rd NFC North, #27 total offense, #26 scoring offense, #9 total defense, #14 scoring defense

Derek: I’d say I like the Bears this week because teams that get embarrassed usually come out with something to prove, but the Bears were embarrassed against New England, and that didn’t seem to help them last week.

CutlerThen … wait a second … the Bears are favored by three points? No thanks. They’re winless at home and there may not be a colder team in all the land. I’m not laying points with them unless there’s a gun to my head. At the moment, there is not. So give me the Vikings.

Will: I like the Bears in this one! Yes, they’ve lost three straight. Yes, their defense has put up a fight like origami in a hurricane. Yes, someone on this team may actually try to kill someone else on this team.

But Jay Cutler is 5-0 against Minnesota at home, and this team still has some talent, and I believe that the Bears believe that the Vikings are bullshit. Bear down, Chicago!

KANSAS CITY (-2) vs. Seattle

The Basics:

Kansas City: 6-3, 2nd AFC West, #22 total offense, #14 scoring offense, #7 total defense, #2 scoring defense

Seattle: 6-3, 2nd NFC West, #10 total offense, #7 scoring offense, #3 total defense, #10 scoring defense

Derek: Oh, I hear all of your reasons to pick the Chiefs. The Seahawks aren’t as good outside of Seattle. There will be a raucous Arrowhead crowd in Kansas City. The Chief defense is just so good. Brandon Mebane is out for the season and Jamaal Charles is going to run wild. Maybe Russell Wilson isn’t Russell Wilson anymore. Maybe this is the real Russell Wilson. All the Chiefs have to do is key on Marshawn Lynch, because he’s the Seahawks’ only weapon. The Seahawks are overrated.

I’ve got two words for those people, delivered by Sports Monocle’s Unofficial Spokesdemon:

The Chiefs have even fewer weapons than the Seahawks. No Chiefs wide receiver has a touchdown this season. The Seahawks lead the league in rushing, while the Chiefs are 20th in rush defense. Kam Chancellor is back. And though I’ll miss Brandon Mebane, we have a replacement.

Russell Wilson is still Russell Wilson. He’s going to remind us of that as he returns to where it all started. Well, unless the Chiefs give him food poisoning. I’ll take the underdog Seahawks.

Will: This oughta be a wonderful football match, and it will be taking place in the cold. I don’t buy into the idea that Russell has declined, but I also don’t believe in this Seattle defense as much as I once did.

I do buy into the idea that no matter how much I think about this, it will not help my pick, so I’ll keep it simple: I believe in Russell and Pete Carroll way more than I believe in Alex Smith and Andy Reid. Seattle it is.

Atlanta (-1) at CAROLINA

The Basics:

Carolina: 3-6-1, 2nd NFC South, #25 total offense, #25 scoring offense, #25 total defense, #29 scoring defense

Atlanta: 3-6, 3rd NFC South, #8 total offense, #13 scoring offense, #31 total defense, #24 scoring defense

Derek: Oh boy, an NFC South game. The Falcons have looked less incompetent than the Panthers lately. Atlanta it is, then.

Will: I officially don’t care about any NFC South division matchup. I’ll take the point because I like the Dirty Bird. Go Falcons, I guess.

NEW ORLEANS (-7) vs. Cincinnati

The Basics:

New Orleans: 4-5, 1st NFC South, #2 total offense, #6 scoring offense, #19 total defense, #22 scoring defense

Cincinnati: 5-3-1, 2nd AFC North, #20 total offense, T-#18 scoring offense, #30 total defense, T-#18 scoring defense

Derek: You don’t bet against New Orleans at home! Unless you do. They lost there last week, and needed overtime to beat the Bucs earlier this year.

But you know who isn’t good at football? Andy Dalton. Andy Dalton isn’t good at football. After last week’s legendary clunker, I can’t imagine him succeeding at anything, whether it’s throwing a football in an NFL game, getting money out of an ATM, or looking both ways before crossing the street. The Saints redeem themselves.

Will: Seven points?! Even though Dalton has looked miserable, a whole touchdown is a lot to give to the team with the better record. The Saints defense is still quite bad, their offense leads the league with 18 turnovers, and they have blown fourth-quarter leads in four of their five losses. I don’t know if the Bengals can win the game outright, but I think they can keep it close enough to cover. I’m going with Andy Dalton.

I already regret this.

WASHINGTON (-7) vs. Tampa Bay

The Basics:

Washington: 3-6, 4th NFC East, #7 total offense, T-#18 scoring offense, #10 total defense, #23 scoring defense

Tampa Bay: 1-8, 4th NFC South, #29 total offense, #27 scoring offense, #29 total defense, #31 scoring defense

Derek: It’s pretty impressive that the Buccaneers are 27th or worse in every statistical category. It’s not going to feel good when I pick them a few sentences from now.

Despite being a frequent punchline around these parts, the Bucs have been fairly competitive in all of their games except for the thrashings they took from the Falcons and Ravens. The Redskins have been favorites on four occasions this season, and only covered against Jacksonville.

I don’t want to get too carried away with my Bucs love here. I don’t think they’ll win. I do think they’ll cover, though.

Will: The Bucs are to football now what the they have been to football for most of their existence: Cover-your-eyes bad. This sentence will be the last time that I think about this game, ever: Gimme Washington.

Denver (-9.5) at ST. LOUIS

The Basics:

Denver: 7-2, 1st AFC West, #3 total offense, #2 scoring offense, #5 total defense, T-#15 scoring defense

St. Louis: 3-6, 4th NFC West, #30 total offense, #28 scoring offense, #17 total defense, #27 scoring defense

Derek: Are you the sort of person who thinks Vegas has enough pull to affect the outcomes of NFL games? Because if you are, you should note that Vegas got killed last week, so they will presumably be out for blood this week.

I’m not saying I definitely am one of those people, but I also won’t say that I’m definitely not one of those people.

According to ESPN PickCenter (subscription required) 89% of the public is backing the Broncos. It’s not shocking, because the public usually loves Peyton Manning and he’s playing indoors.

The Broncos seem like the easy pick, but I just can’t shake the Vegas thing. This game reeks of a shady backdoor cover. I’ll take the Rams.

Will: The Broncos have scored 31-plus in six of their nine games. The Rams have averaged 11.3 points in their last three. St. Louis has occasionally been competitive this year. I do not think this week will be competitive. I back Denver.

San Francisco (-4) at NEW YORK GIANTS

The Basics:

San Francisco: 5-4, 3rd NFC West, #17 total offense, T-#20 scoring offense, #2 total defense, T-#15 scoring defense

New York: 3-6, 3rd NFC East, #18 total offense, T-#20 scoring offense, #32 total defense, #26 scoring defense

Derek: After last week’s loss, the Giants are now 0-6 against teams over .500, with six double-digit losses in those games.

Hey … the 49ers are over .500! And the spread is less than 10! The Niners cover.

Will: What he said. I thought the Giants would show some fight last week; they did not. They have lost four straight by an average of 18.5 points. I don’t really believe in the Niners, but I really, really, really don’t believe in the Giants. They are the NFL equivalent of Scientology. I choose The City.

SAN DIEGO (-10) vs. Oakland

The Basics:

San Diego: 5-4, 3rd AFC West, #21 total offense, T-#17 scoring offense, #12 total defense, #8 scoring defense

Oakland: 0-9, 4th AFC West, #32 total offense, #30 scoring offense, #24 total defense, #28 scoring defense

Derek: The Chargers were destroyed two weeks ago, and they had a bye week to sit at home and think about it. Now, the lowly Raiders are coming to town.

I wish I felt better about the Chargers, but their offensive line is an abomination. The relentlessly fragile Ryan Mathews is set to make his return this week, and it’s fair to wonder if his comeback will last more than a quarter. Sure, it’s possible that Branden Oliver slept with every offensive lineman’s girlfriend/wife and they wanted to get back at him, but it’s more likely they’re just bad.

Well, I suppose there’s a reason the Raiders are 0-9. If there’s a team that will fail to capitalize on this, it’s them. The Chargers haven’t covered since Week 5 against the Jets, and I think they’ll do everything in their power to win this game handily to regain some confidence. I will reluctantly pick the Chargers.

Will: Aw man, I really hope the Raiders get one of these. I thought they would hang in there against Denver, but they got embarrassed more than when someone leaves you hanging on a high five. They inspire less hope than the Cuban Missile Crisis. They’re more of an existential question than a football team.

Screw it; I’m taking the Raiders. Ice Cube’s fandom has gotta be worth something.

GREEN BAY (-6) vs. Philadelphia

The Basics:

Green Bay: 6-3, 2nd NFC North, #12 total offense, #5 scoring offense, #23 total defense, #17 scoring defense

Philadelphia: 7-2, 1st NFC East, #5 total offense, #4 scoring offense, #21 total defense, T-#12 scoring defense

Derek: We weren’t treated to a vintage Mark Sanchez performance last week. I think there’s a decent chance we get it this week.

The Packers have absolutely murdered the competition in their last three games at Lambeau (42-10, 38-17, 55-14). The games were probably less close than the scores indicate, which is saying something.

This pick seems a little too easy, and 78% of the public is on the Packers, so the aforementioned Vegas thing is in play. Still, I can’t ignore the Packers’ recent play at home. I’ll go with Green Bay.

Will: Never forget the Butt Fumble. Go Pack Go.

ARIZONA (-1.5) vs. Detroit

The Basics:

Arizona: 8-1, 1st NFC West, #24 total offense, #12 scoring offense, #15 total defense, #4 scoring defense

Detroit: 7-2, 1st NFC North, #19 total offense, #24 scoring offense, #1 total defense, #1 scoring defense

Derek: I think we’re going to learn a lot from this game. We’ll see how Drew Stanton does in his new role against a good defense. We’ll see if the Cardinals’ home-field advantage lives up to its recent billing. We’ll see if Detroit’s offense can match the success of its defense in the second week of Calvin Johnson’s return.

There’s a substantial chance I’ll regret this, but I’m going with Detroit. Teams have been able to throw on the Cardinals this year, and that’s not good news with Johnson and Golden Tate coming to town. I also don’t like Stanton’s chances against the top defense in the league. Bruce Arians has made fools of us all before, but I don’t think the Cardinals can pull this one off.

I look forward to reading that again after Matthew Stafford throws five interceptions and Drew Stanton inserts himself into the MVP race.

Will: Fine, fine game, and one that I struggle to pick. Detroit’s offense is quite potent. Golden Tate is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game, and Calvin Johnson is capable of ruining a whole football team, even if he is covered by Patrick Peterson. The Lions’ defensive front should make Drew Stanton’s life hell. The Leos have 26 sacks this year, led by Ndamukong Suh and Ziggy Ansah.

Arizona has been leading a charmed season, and they have a whiff of destiny about them. But this week, I choose my Rust Belt brethren from Michigan.

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) vs. New England

The Basics:

Indianapolis: 6-3, 1st AFC South, #1 total offense, #1 scoring offense, #18 total defense, T-#18 scoring defense

New England: 7-2, 1st AFC East, #9 total offense, #4 scoring offense, #16 total defense, T-#12 scoring defense

Derek: This is a tough one. The Patriots are the darlings of the NFL right now, but the Colts are at home in a nationally televised game. Plus, if I pick against the Patriots, Bill Belichick will know. I don’t want to pick this game.

So I’m not going to. I’m going to let my dog, Victor, do it for me.

I’ve written each team on a piece of paper, and put a treat on top, like so:


Victor seems skeptical at first …


… then swoops in for the kill!


He takes the treat away, leaving the losers in disgust.


Thanks, Victor! Or should I say Picktor? Right?



I’ll take the Colts.

Will: I’m not sure what happened just then so I’ll make it quick — I’m picking the Pats because I like clam chowder more than whatever people eat in Indiana.

Pittsburgh (-6) at TENNESSEE

The Basics:

Pittsburgh: 6-4, 3rd AFC North, #4 total offense, T-#8 scoring offense, #13 total defense, #20 scoring defense

Tennessee: 2-7, 3rd AFC South, #31 total offense, #31 scoring offense, #22 total defense, #21 scoring defense

Derek: This game bores me. I reckon the Steelers are the better team, and they need this one badly to keep pace in the AFC North. I’ll go with them.

Will: We saw the Steelers crap the bed against a bad team last week, as they have done many times before. Six is a big number on the road, but I think they’ll be fired up after said bed-crapping. The Titans are real, real bad, so I’m also taking the Steelers.

Last week

Derek: 10-3

Will: 8-5


Derek: 27-14

Will: 15-15


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