Week 11 viewer's guide


Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup for Week 11. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

Matt Ryan is averaging 49.9 fewer passing yards on the road than at home this season. However, he brings playmaking wideouts Julio Jones and Roddy White to face a Panthers secondary that has been worked over in recent weeks. Who would have believed Jones would go the past six straight games without a touchdown catch? If Ryan gets protection Sunday, that streak should end.

Cam Newton, like most NFL players this deep in the season, isn't feeling 100 percent. His play is looking even worse. The quarterback has thrown at least one interception in six straight games, and his 80.1 passer rating is the lowest of his career. The Panthers' offensive line does more olé-ing than anyone outside a bullfighting arena. Luckily, the unit faces a limp Falcons defense that ranks 31st in total defense (404.8 yards per game), 24th in scoring defense (26.4 points per game) and 31st in sacks with 11 (seven of those sacks coming in two games against the Bucs).

Pregame reading material
Can the Falcons turn 3-6 into a playoff berth?
Cam Newton admits he's playing hurt
Around The NFL's Dan Hanzus explores what's wrong with the Panthers
Newton may be playing hurt, but he still thinks he has to be better on the field

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Falcons.

The Vikings' pass rush has been dominant as of late and sits third in the NFL with 30 sacks. Everson Griffen has had at least one sack in each of the last five games, while Anthony Barr's four are the most among NFL rookies. They could be in Jay Cutler's face often Sunday -- and we know what happens when Cutler gets pressured. Mike Zimmer's secondary could be in for some meaty opportunities at Soldier Field.

The Bears' defense, on the other hand, has been dreadful -- allowing 277 points this season, the most through nine games for the Bears since at least 1940. Chicago has also allowed 55.2 percent of 20-plus air yard passes to be completed (the highest in the NFL). Luckily for Chicago, hitting the deep ball has been Teddy Bridgewater's weakness. The Bears have been burned by tight ends a lot this season, so it could be a big day for Vikings Chase Ford and Kyle Rudolph, the latter of whom is likely to return from injury.

Pregame reading material
Brandon Marshall feels like the Bears have lost confidence -- and their season is over as a result
Marc Trestman said in his Monday news conference that now coaching changes will be coming for the Bears
Trestman also called out his own team, saying that the Bears are "not a very good football team right now"
Are Vikings coaches disappointed in Cordarrelle Patterson?

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Bears.

Ryan Mallett makes his debut, and we'll finally get to see the strong-armed quarterback in a meaningful game. Andre Johnson has felt like a depressed man on an island this season, but he's accounted for 32.4 percent of the Texans' targets this season. Against a Browns defense with cornerback Joe Haden beginning to sparkle, we'll see if Mallett targets Johnson a boatload. Cleveland's defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 72.2 passer rating -- best in the NFL -- so Mallett will be challenged from the get-go in his journey to prove he can be a starting quarterback.

The Browns' offensive line is in for a huge test Sunday against J.J. Watt. The defensive end has complied 29 quarterback hits this season, the most in the NFL by eight. If Brian Hoyer can get some protection, however, he could connect deep. The quarterback has completed 54.7 percent of 15-plus air yard passes (highest percent in NFL among QBs with at least 15 such attempts), while Houston's defense has allowed 10 completions of 30-plus air yards this season (tied for most in the NFL).

Pregame reading material
Mike Pettine has been scouting Ryan Mallett
Ben Tate in the Browns' backfield
J.J. Watt: He's just like us. Even the Texans defensive end craves pizza.
With the power of hindsight, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah calls for a re-draft. Who does he think the Texans should have selected at No. 1 overall?

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Browns.

Do you like ground games? Yes? Then this is the game for you, with the NFL's two leading teams in rushing touchdowns: the Seahawks (14) and the Chiefs (13).

The Seahawks are gaining four-plus yards on 53.8 percent of their rushes, an NFL-high. Marshawn Lynch has been locked in Beast Mode the past two weeks (six rushing touchdowns in the last two games). Expect more of that Sunday, as the stalled Seattle passing game faces the No. 1 ranked passing defense in Kansas City (205.3 yards per game allowed).

On the flip side, Kansas City boasts the NFL's fifth-best rushing offense (135.8 yards per game). Jamaal Charles has scored rushing touchdowns in four straight games. With Brandon Mebane out for the year and Bobby Wagner (toe) still out, the Chiefs could take advantage of the Seahawks third-ranked run defense up the gut. When Alex Smith does throw, expect him to look for Travis Kelce early and often -- especially in the red zone. The Seahawks have allowed 10 touchdown receptions to seven different tight ends this season, the second-most allowed to tight ends this season.

Pregame reading material
NFL Media's Judy Battista examines whether the Chiefs are a legitimate threat in the AFC
NFL Media's Mike Mayock discovered that Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce is the NFL's most underrated player
Who's got moxie? Jamaal Charles and the rest of the Chiefs, per Battista
Not so fast, Randy Moss. Pete Carroll said a courtship never happened.

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Chiefs.

Coming off an embarrassing performance last week, Andy Dalton desperately needs a bounce-back game. However, it hasn't been a one-week struggle for the quarterback. Since Week 7, Dalton's completion percentage of 52.3 and passer rating of 54.4 are the NFL's worst. In his last four games, Dalton has two touchdowns and six interceptions. He'll face a Saints defense that is giving up chunk plays, so A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu could have opportunities down the field. But Dalton will need protection (of which he has gotten much) as New Orleans has earned four sacks in each of the last three games.

Mark Ingram is running angry -- and, boy, it's been a joy to watch. The bludgeoning back has another beautiful matchup that should provide plenty of chances for him to churn up defenders and lower some booms. The Bengals have the 31st-ranked run defense and are allowing 143 yards per game. Last week, they gave up 169 yards to three running backs. If the game falls right for Ingram, he could have that many himself on Sunday -- he needs just 51 yards to set a new career high (602).

Pregame reading material
Drew Brees said his teammates think he's "annoyingly optimistic and confident"
NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino said the flag on Jimmy Graham's Hail Mary play was accurate
One of Andy Dalton's teammates thinks the QB isn't at a critical point
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, meanwhile, says he is "joined at the hip" with Dalton

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Saints.

The 49ers' offense should be in for a whale of a game against a Giants defense that ranks last in the NFL in total defense (404.9) and has allowed 400-plus yards of offense in the past four games. Last week, the 49ers started off strong on the ground but reverted to a pass-heavy plan as the game wore on and their lead dwindled. With backups abounding in the Giants’ secondary, if Colin Kaepernick can't get on the same page with Michael Crabtree this week, let's stop wondering if it will happen. Of course, the 49ers will need to block better against Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers to make any of the above come to pass.

Rashad Jennings will return to the Giants' offense, which will be a big boost from what they have been getting. Without Jennings, Eli Manning has had to carry the load, which hasn't worked out well at all. Manning has been sacked 11 times in the last four games. With that in mind, keep an eye on Aldon Smith, who returns from suspension for the 49ers. He of the NFL-best .98 career sacks-per-game rate could be a devastating force. History suggests the 49ers might ease Smith back into the rotation, but an already-banged-up D could need its best pass rusher a bundle on the road Sunday.

Pregame reading material
NFL Media's Bucky Brooks thinks Colin Kaepernick is poised for a huge Week 11 effort
Is Michael Crabtree unhappy with his role in the Niners' offense?
Why did the Giants fail to build a defense that could stop a mobile quarterback?
Richard Sherman called Odell Beckham "a great player" after the Giants' loss to the Seahawks in Week 10

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the 49ers.

The Broncos offensive line has been the team's biggest concern recently -- hence John Elway toying with the idea of bringing in Richie Incognito. Denver has particularly struggled with opening running lanes for backs. C.J. Anderson is likely to carry the load this week. The line will face a Rams defense that has been blitzing more than any team and is getting to the quarterback -- 16 sacks in the last four games. Rams rookie Aaron Donald could be in for a big day against that questionable Broncos interior.

The Rams will move to Shaun Hill under center after the Austin Davis experiment puttered out. The Rams haven't topped 14 points in any of their last three games, have 228.0 total yards per game in their last four and are gaining only 5.1 yards per play this season (27th in the NFL). Hill will be thrown into the fire against the Broncos' pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who have a combined 17 sacks. Rams quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times in the last three games. Ouch.

Pregame reading material
The Rams will start Shaun Hill at quarterback
Brock Osweiler laughed off an embarrassing sideline moment in last weekend's blowout win against the Raiders
Rams coach Jeff Fisher thinks Peyton Manning is "playing his best ball right now"
Ronnie Hillman will reportedly be sidelined at least two weeks with a midfoot sprain

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Broncos.

I'm really looking forward to the matchup of two rookies: Bucs receiver Mike Evans and Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland. Evans has made a big leap in recent weeks, going for seven catches, 125 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. Breeland has displayed flashes that give him the look of a stud in one-on-one matchups. This should be fun to watch. But don't discount Vincent Jackson, who also is getting healthier. There were wide-open receivers jaunting all over the place in the Redskins' secondary last time they were on the field. If that happens Sunday, quarterback Josh McCown could be in for his best day since putting on a Bucs jersey.

We'll see if the bye week helped Robert Griffin III improve him in the mental side of Jay Gruden's system. RGIII looked fine physically in Week 9, but he needs to make quicker reads this week. Look out for several deep shots to DeSean Jackson against a Tampa secondary that has allowed 60.2 percent of 15-plus air yard passes to be completed (highest in NFL).

Pregame reading material
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that "a lot of things need to change" for his team
Another conclusion Gruden reached this week? Washington was "just so close" to being 7-2 this season
Austin Seferian-Jenkins posted an Instagram photo of his Captain Morgan pose. A talking-to from Lovie Smith quickly followed.
Gerald McCoy said the Bucs are "a very undisciplined team"

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Redskins.

Khalil Mack is having a Defensive Rookie of the Year type season. He has been an absolute beast in run defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Mack ranks third in run stop percentage among 3-4 outside linebackers. He will be big for the Raiders with Ryan Mathews expected back in the Chargers' ground game. The Chargers' rushing attack has withered the past few weeks (after Branden Oliver rushed for 101 yards last time San Diego faced Oakland) and the hope is that Mathews return could be a much-needed spark. I just suggest running it opposite of Mack's side.

Philip Rivers is averaging 94.4 fewer passing yards per game in the team's three-game losing skid than in the six games prior. He's especially struggled throwing deep balls. On passes of 15-plus air yards, Rivers has completed just 37 percent since Week 6. He'll look to remedy that against a Raiders defense giving up 241.6 passing yards per game.

Pregame reading material
Turns out the Raiders can win: The team topped Chris Wesseling's rookie class rankings
The Raiders received their Week 10 report card, and the results weren't pretty
Then again, neither was the Chargers' score
Should Oakland tight end Mychal Rivera be on your radar? Michael Fabiano takes a look at the waive wire for Week 11.

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Chargers.

Ndamukong Suh has been an absolute force for a Lions defense that is the only team allowing fewer than 300 yards per game this season. If he is destroying the pocket again this week it will give Detroit a huge advantage against the plethora of weapons the Cardinals deploy on the outside and could hinder Bruce Arians ability to stretch the field. Keep an eye on how the Lions match up with Andre Ellington when he leaks out of the backfield or lines up out wide. The matchup with DeAndre Levy and the Lions safeties in coverage could be a key to the game if quarterback Drew Stanton is forced to check down often.

Similarly, Todd Bowles -- fresh off signing a new contract -- will bring blitzes against a Lions offensive line that has been susceptible to pressure. Matthew Stafford has been knocked around this season, which has short-circuited the offense. Without a running game the Lions will rely on Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to win their matchups outside. However, against one of the most athletic secondaries in the NFL that won't be easy. As intriguing of a matchup as this is on paper, with two defense that can take advantage of poor offensive line play and back ends not giving up big plays, why do I get a sick feeling we could be seeing a lot of punts in Arizona on Sunday afternoon?

Pregame reading material
NFL Media's Bucky Brooks explores the Lions' secret to success
Carson Palmer was wired for sound when he tore his ACL
Bruce Arians said the Cardinals are definitely thinking playoffs ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Lions
Todd Bowles and the Cardinals agreed to an extension through 2017

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Lions.

We'll get to see if Mark Sanchez can build on his performance last week against a solid Packers' secondary. I'm more interested in if Chip Kelly will try to force the ball to LeSean McCoy against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Clay Matthews moving to inside linebacker helped the Packers last week against the run -- but the score got out of hand so early the Bears weren't running anyway. If Chip can get Shady going early it might force Matthews inside more. And while we believe Clay can make plays from anywhere on the field, Sanchez would much rather someone else be rushing from the edge.

Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have combined for 18 receiving TDs, the most in the NFL for any receiving duo. They will face an Eagles pass defense that has given up some big plays this season and allows an average of 251.7 yards per game through the air. If the Eagles' pass rush -- which has been uberly dynamic for stretches this season -- can't pressure Aaron Rodgers, it could be a long, cold night out in space for their defensive backs.

Pregame reading material
Is the Eagles' offense even faster with Mark Sanchez under center? Conor Orr explores.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are producing at a historic pace for the Packers
Casey Matthews said his brother, Clay, wasn't a fan of playing inside linebacker in Week 10
Aaron Rodgers is poised to separate from the top of the NFC

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

How will the Colts cover Rob Gronkowski? Over the last two games, Tom Brady has thrown 19 passes to Gronk. Brady has completed 18 of those passes (94.7 pct), for 254 yards and four touchdowns. The Colts have struggled covering tight ends at times this season -- somewhere Heath Miller is still running free. Indy also owns the NFL's worst red-zone defense, allowing a touchdown on 70 percent of opponent's trips. All these stats combine to one conclusion: It would be a huge upset if Gronk didn't spike a touchdown ball this week.

Andrew Luck has been nearly unstoppable, leading the NFL in passing yards (3,085). He's spread the ball around to T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, rookie Donte Moncrief and the under-discussed Dwayne Allen in a fashion that defenses can't keep up with. However, he'll face a stiff test Sunday night in the Pats' long, challenging secondary. Only Peyton Manning (438 yards) has thrown for 300-plus yards against Patriots this season. If Luck follows Manning, the Colts could pull into the discussion for the AFC's top seed.

Pregame reading material
NFL Media's Michael Fabiano tells you whether you should start or sit Colts tight end Dwayne Allen
NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah examines Pats coach Bill Belichick's keys to scouting defensive backs
Can Colts QB Andrew Luck reverse the Brady domination this weekend?
Tom Brady divulges his secret to longevity

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Patriots.

Over the last two weeks Le'Veon Bell has just 56 total rushing yards on 21 carries. That is a shockingly low number of totes considering how vital he's been to the ground game. I'm expecting Pittsburgh to get back to the ground this week, after last week's loss to the Jets sent their high-flying act crashing back to earth. The Steelers face a Titans' defense that has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in seven of their last eight games.

Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been suspect in two starts, but faces a secondary that's given up chunk plays. He must be better with his intermediate and deep balls, however. Mettenberger has a passer rating of just 29.3 on passes of 10-plus air yards (lowest in the NFL among QBs with at least 15 such attempts). I still think the offense should run through running back Bishop Sankey against the Steelers’ front allowing 107.5 yards per game on the ground. Sankey's flashed more playmaking potential than any other young offensive player on the Titans roster this season.

Pregame reading material
Big Ben downplayed the Justin Bieber visit
Mike Tomlin thought that Mike Mitchell's leap was unprofessional
Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged that Bishop Sankey needs better blocking
Alejandro Villanueva juggles his position on the Steelers' practice squad with his Army Reserve duties

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Steelers.

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