Week 11 is upon us. Week 10 shocked us.
I think we learned a lot this week in the NFL, yet things are as cloudy as ever, @Harrison_NFL good luck.â Kyle Thiem (@ThiemPark) November 11, 2013
No kidding, Kyle. I agree: Things are as predictably out of whack as prognosticated prior to an expectedly weird season. (Uh ... what?) Anyway, we're thinking there will be fewer big surprises this weekend.
We definitely can count on some highly anticipated contests, including Chiefs at Broncos. Colts at Titans on Thursday night could be sneaky good; we'll be covering that one live from all angles -- including the All-22 -- on NFL.com. Then there's the Patriots trying to steal a road win against the Panthers. We're really looking forward to Brady v. Cam.
As for the rest, take a look below. Feel free to send your thoughts on said matchups ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Now, let's get to it.
Elliot Harrison went 6-8 on his predictions for Week 10, giving him a record of 90-57 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 11? His picks are below, with home teams listed second. To make your own predictions for this week's game, click here.
The Jets will win again this weekend. Last time these teams met, New York did nearly everything it could to give the game away, yet Buffalo couldn't capitalize on 20 (yes, 20) Jets penalties. The problem with Doug Marrone's club right now is an offense that lacks punch. Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel averaged less than 4 yards per attempt (an abysmal achievement) in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The proposed marriage between C.J. Spiller and a workload netted all of 34 yards on 11 touches -- oh boy. Fred Jackson continues to be the Bills' most consistent performer, but even he won't be enough against what is easily the league's top run defense (New York allows 73.8 rushing yards per game). Protect the ball, Geno Smith. #NYJvsBUF
Baltimore squeezed back into the AFC wild-card race with a clutch (?) win over Cincinnati on Sunday. Can the Ravens do it on the road? No. The front seven has to get pressure -- and that figures to be a tough task against the Bears, for whom protecting the quarterback is no longer the huge issue it once was. Consider that Chicago quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Josh McCown have been floored a combined 14 times this season, the third-lowest total in the NFL. Of course, Baltimore has the third-most sacks, so this really comes down to the threat of a run game or short passing game. The Bears couldn't run against the Lions on Sunday, but they do have two excellent short-game options in Matt Forte (44 receptions) and Martellus Bennett (40 receptions). Bear in mind, this game is in Chicago. The Ravens have lost four of their five road games this season. #BALvsCHI
This should be a close, classic AFC North contest between two teams with a habit of playing each other tight over the past few years. Last time out, the Browns won under the guidance of Brian Hoyer. This week, they'll try to do it with Jason Campbell, who in two starts this season has put up five touchdowns and zero interceptions while recording a passer rating well north of 100. Though he's not a runner per se, Campbell can get out of the pocket; he rushed seven times for 37 yards during those starts. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, on the other hand, has to get it together, especially when it comes to playing under duress. Dalton is 18-of-39 versus the blitz over the past two weeks, notching a passer rating of 36.9. That said, this is a game in which home field is a factor -- the Brownies have won just one of their last nine games in Cincinnati. #CLEvsCIN
Houston doesn't have a problem this week. Sorry, that was a horrific drop, but "Apollo 13" was on HBO last night. Seriously. So in honor of Tom Hanks becoming a serious actor around that time -- and not the guy who starred in "Joe Versus the Volcano" -- I'll go with ... Actually, the Texans' pass rush has a little more to do with this pick. Watched every snap of Raiders-Giants, and I can tell you Terrelle Pryor had trouble making reads and playing under pressure. Maybe it's the knee brace he's wearing. Whatever the case, once Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips sees that Pryor is playing everything to one side of the field, he'll pounce with pressure and loaded fronts. Also, we like what Case Keenum and Andre Johnson have going: five touchdown connections in the Texans' past two games. #OAKvsHOU
Try to temper your enthusiasm here; even Cardinals and Jaguars fans don't want to see this one. Alright, maybe that's not accurate, because a win gets Arizona to 6-4 and keeps the team in the thick of the NFC wild-card race. As for Jacksonville, Gus Bradley's group has to be feeling confident after building a lead and putting an opponent away Sunday. That defense will give the Cardinals some trouble -- we don't expect Andre Ellington to keep gaining 7.2 yards per carry. Carson Palmer should be able to mount a couple of touchdown drives, backed by a D that can shut down the Jags. Too bad Palmer can't play as well as the last Cardinals quarterback to start in Jacksonville. (Hint: He went 24-of-26 to set an NFL record for completion percentage.) #AZvsJAX
We don't trust the Redskins on the road this week, but we are exhibiting trust in Nick Foles. Yes, his stat line last Sunday looked better than the reality, but that's the way it goes. Sometimes, you hit a receiver in the chest, the ball bounces off and you find yourself chasing down a pick-six; other times, you underthrow a guy and get a score. By and large, Foles has been solid this season, save for a really bad outing versus Dallas. As for Washington, if I'm coach Mike Shanahan, I'm running the football as much as possible. That's the Redskins' bread and butter. Get Robert Griffin III out in space and make the Eagles play 11-on-11, not 11-on-10. Also, be aware that Alfred Morris, who is averaging well over 5 yards per carry, is having a top-notch season; force that Philly front seven to play physical. #WASvsPHI
Calling a safety! Matthew Stafford will get caught holding the ball too long, or a Lions offensive lineman will get caught holding. Actually, come to think of it, the former is more likely than the latter. Detroit's O-line has been flagged for one holding penalty (on Riley Reiff) all season -- an amazing stat, considering Detroit leads the NFC in passes thrown. Does that mean the Lions will beat the Steelers? No. But their recent play on defense does. While Stafford and the offense are always difficult to stop -- mostly because Megatron presents such matchup problems -- the defense is what impressed Sunday. The Bears got no traction on the ground at all (38 yards on 20 attempts). Detroit earns a road win, securing an NFC North-leading record of 7-3. #DETvsPIT
The Buccaneers are going streaking! Sans Will Ferrell. But not sans a ground game, despite the misfortunes that have befallen their running backs. Bobby Rainey gave this football team a nice little spark Monday in place of Mike James ... who is the latest guy on my fantasy team to be headed for injured reserve. Ugh. Falcons fans can feel the pain; their offense misses Julio Jones greatly, while Roddy White admits he has not been himself. At least he gets to face Darrelle Revis this weekend ... We like the Bucs because of the way their defense -- particularly the line -- has been playing. That D-line didn't give the Dolphins an inch where running the football was concerned, while the pass rush got hot late. Tampa will pull off two in a row. #ATLvsTB
The Bolts have hit a bit of a bump, no doubt, dropping two in a row behind a defense playing jussssst well enough to lose and an offense that can't put together a drive when it's most needed. So what's the ultimate elixir? A Dolphins football team in complete disarray. Obviously, the off-the-field stuff has taken its toll -- as evidenced by the on-the-field product. The offensive line fared so poorly in the late stages in Tampa Bay on Monday that it's muy dificil to project any kind of bounce-back for Miami this week -- or this season, for that matter. The offense, which can't protect and can't run the ball, is down a guard and a tackle -- facts about which Dolphins fans are well aware. We're not trying to be Negative Nancys, but we might be looking at another 7-9 season -- or worse -- for the Fins. #SDvsMIA
You saw that right -- we believe in the fleur-de-lis. Coming off a stomping of the Cowboys, the Saints are 5-0 in New Orleans and have home-field advantage in the playoffs dead in the crosshairs. This really is a hugely significant game with respect to the larger NFL landscape ... If the Niners lose here, they're pretty much kissing their shot at the NFC West title goodbye. If the Saints win, they'll push their record within the NFC to 6-0 -- putting them right behind the Seahawks, who, provided they also win, will be at 7-0 in the conference, setting up a fight for the top seed between New Orleans and Seattle on Dec. 2. Here's another thought bubble: If the Niners lose, they'll drop to 6-4, falling behind both the Lions and Panthers (whom San Francisco lost to last Sunday) and will enter a tight race for the sixth seed. Maybe Jim Harbaugh's group can pull out the kind of clutch victory it managed last year in the Big Easy -- though that trip was made easier by the absences of both Sean Payton and a decent Saints D. #SFvsNO
I don't have the necessary curves to be forecasting weather these days, but there should be a slight wind this weekend in New York, with some precipitation. So the original thought was to keep the points down in our prediction -- but both defenses have had their struggles this season. That said, Green Bay's defense has done a fine job on third down, allowing opponents to convert on just 37 percent (ninth-best in NFL), keeping the team in games when the offense has stalled. Admittedly, that's something the offense hasn't done much of this season, but with former practice-squad quarterback Scott Tolzien in the driver's seat, situational defense will be everything. If they keep the Giants punting or kicking field goals, the Packers could escape New York with a win. However, we like Big Blue here. Facing Tolzien at home, the Giants have the advantage, which is only boosted by the fact that Andre Brown looked great in his first start last week (and the fact that he has fresh legs). #GBvsNYG
Minnesota's blazing winning streak stops at one game. Now, we know
Seahawks fans are going to be all over us for "allowing" the
Vikings to score 24. Thinking
Marcus Sherels gets a punt-return touchdown (that's not an indictment of Seattle's coverage, which has been outstanding -- it's more about a gut feel regarding Sherels) and the
Seahawks cough up some points in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, Seattle's offense will assert itself at home, with the team putting two strong wins together. Still, this locker room has to be leery of looking ahead. The 'Hawks have a bye, then
a MONSTER game coming up on the night of Monday, Dec. 2.
A couple of player notes: Percy Harvin is planning to play. What with the off week coming up, this is an appropriate time to get him 20 plays and then 14 days of evaluation. Despite his shoulder injury, Christian Ponder is in the mix to start for the Vikings, though Matt Cassel seems to better look the part, given how he fared Thursday. On the season, here are the Minnesota quarterbacks' passer ratings: Cassel, 91.9; Ponder, 77.6; Freeman, you don't want to know. #MINvsSEA
Did you hear these two teams are locking up this weekend? It's only been covered on NFL Network from every angle for 12 hours a day. That said, here's how we see the tale of the tape:
Running back: Chiefs
Special teams: Broncos
Pass rush: Chiefs
Run defense: Broncos
This is one close call. I think the Chiefs will score a defensive touchdown in this game; thus, the 27 points. But special teams is the interesting category. Denver's kicker ( Matt Prater), punter ( Britton Colquitt) and returner ( Trindon Holliday) are all having outstanding years. These teams match up with each other very well, but we can't ignore where the game is being played: Denver. And that's the tiebreaker here. Consider that the Chiefs struggled in Buffalo against a Bills team led by Jeff Tuel. We've been burned taking plenty of road teams in the past, including last week ... not this time. #KCvsDEN
Can New England run the rock while keeping Carolina from doing the same? The
Patriots are the eighth-best rushing team in the NFL, racking up 129.1 yards per game -- which is incredibly impressive, given the number of backs they've used this year, including
Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen,
Brandon Bolden and
LeGarrette Blount. It should be noted, however, that their opponent Monday night has been rebuilt up the middle over the past two years, behind defensive tackle
Star Lotulelei, linebacker
Luke Kuechly and safety
Mike Mitchell. In 2013, the
Panthers are allowing a mere 82 yards on the ground per game. Conversely, Carolina should have no trouble ripping through holes in New England's front seven. The
Patriots have the 30th-ranked rushing defense, which plays right into
Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula's rather conservative play calling.
Cool stat of the week: The Panthers have allowed nine offensive touchdowns this year. They've played nine games, for crying out loud. #NEvsCAR
Yes, the Colts were embarrassed at home last weekend -- which is precisely why we think they'll rebound Thursday night. Their special teams coverage must be better, as they don't want to let a Titans returner go all Tavon Austin on them. (Uh, they don't have to worry about Darius Reynaud; that we know.) Tennessee sure could use Ryan Fitzpatrick going all something on somebody. The backup quarterback has been strictly average in four games this season, which has been par for the course since he signed that big deal with the Bills two years ago. One guy who has not been a big deal is Trent Richardson -- in seven games since being traded to the Colts, he's rushed for 250 yards while averaging 2.84 yards per carry. If you need 1 yard, he'll get you 3, and if you need 5 yards, he'll get you, well, 3. For Indy's sake, hope the first-round pick Cleveland got for Richardson doesn't work out. Despite Richardson's complete lack of productivity, we're trusting Andrew Luck to bounce back. #INDvsTEN
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.