Finally! We here at SportSmasher.com have struggled all season long with our NFL picks, but we knew a big week was coming if we kept plugging away, and it finally happened during week ten. We went (9-5) outright and (10-4) against the spread, easily making week ten our most successful week of the 2013 NFL season, and giving us a ton of irrational confidence going into the final seven weeks of the season. Do we finally have a feel for the NFL? Have the tables turned? Is it the shoes? Let’s find out, and get to the week eleven NFL picks, both outright and against the spread:
BYE WEEKS: Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams
Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans (+3) Each of these teams are coming off of a terrible loss in week nine, and did not have a lot of time to fix what was wrong, as this game takes place on Thursday night. The Indianapolis Colts (6-3) looked to be one of the league’s best teams, but were absolutely drubbed by the St. Louis Rams at home last weekend, in a outcome that surprised everyone. I had been thinking that the Tennessee Titans (4-5) were a sleeper to win the final AFC playoff spot with an easy schedule coming up after last week, but they instead took things in another direction, and became the first team this season to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Side note: How bad does that Trent Richardson trade look for the Indianapolis Colts now, the running back is averaging only 2.8 yards per carry, and the Colts traded a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for him. I actually like the Titans more than most, and think that they will hang in this game, Tennessee’s eighth ranked defense should keep this game low scoring and give them a chance to secure a win at home. However, Andrew Luck is the best offensive player on the field in this game, and I think that the Colts will bounce back after that home loss on the national stage last weekend and will ultimately come away with a win.
THE PICK: Colts (-3) FINAL SCORE: Colts 24 Titans 20
***REXRATED BEST BET: COLTS (-3)***
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills (-1) The Jets (5-4) are one of the league’s most surprising teams, they should be motivated coming off of a bye week, and if the playoffs started today they would be the sixth seed in the AFC. In fact, the Jets were the big winners in the AFC playoff race last weekend, because they did not play while others who should be in contention for that spot lost (Chargers, Titans, Dolphins). It is games like this that the Jets have to win if they are serious about making the AFC playoffs this season. The Buffalo Bills (3-6) are a talented team, and I think that they would have a much better record had players like running back C.J. Spiller and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel been healthy for the entire season, I think they are a few players away from being a playoff contender and expect them to be a team to watch in 2014. I see one glaring advantage here in the Jets favor, they have the best run defense in football by far (allowing only 73.8) rushing yards per game, and the Bills love to run the football to help out their rookie quarterback as they are third in the NFL in rushing yards (1,407). I think that the Jets will stuff the Bills rushing attack, which will put a lot of pressure on EJ Manuel to make plays, and I expect the Jets to force him into mistakes. When the Jets have the ball, they will pound the Bills 30th ranked defense with Chris Ivory, which will allow fellow rookie quarterback Geno Smith to make plays downfield. Jets win a low scoring battle and improve their playoff positioning.
THE PICK: Jets (+1) FINAL SCORE: Jets 20 Bills 16
***REXRATED BEST BET: BILLS (-1)***
(RRNotes: Rex Ryan is 1-3 off the bye. I don’t have a good feeling on this one. Hope Im wrong. Go Jets)
Baltimore Ravens @ Chicago Bears (-3) This is an interesting game, because both teams are still in the thick of playoff races, and the loser of this game will see their postseason hopes take a serious hit. The Baltimore Ravens (4-5) are coming off of a big home win over the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which they had an early lead, but seemingly tried to lose before recovering to win in overtime. The Ravens have the third fewest rushing yards in the NFL (658) and have struggled on the road (1-4) this season. The Chicago Bears (5-4) rushed quarterback Jay Cutler back from a serious groin injury in time for last week’s game, only to see him struggle and leave with an ankle injury, but backup Josh McCown has played well in his absence and kept the Bears in the game. Cutler will miss this game and McCown will get the start. One fact that is rarely discussed about either of these teams, is despite their historically strong defenses, they are both poor defensive teams this season. Despite the fact that the Ravens have struggled to run the ball this season, I think they will be able to get the running game going in Chicago, and I do not feel comfortable taking Josh McCown as a favorite. In a tough game to call I am taking the points.
THE PICK: Ravens (-3) FINAL SCORE: Ravens 27 Bears 24
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals (-6) The Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) quietly have one of the best offenses in the NFL (3rd in total yards), wide receiver A.J. Green leads all NFL receivers with 1,013 receiving yards, while rookie running back Giovanni Bernard has been one of the most explosive players in the NFL. The Bengals have taken some major hits defensively, as both defensive tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall will miss the rest of the season due to injuries, two blue chip players who have proven extremely tough to replace. The Cleveland Browns (4-5) are a quarterback away from being a very dangerous football team, and since veteran Jason Campbell has taken over as the team’s starting quarterback, he has brought consistency and stability to the position. The Browns have the third ranked defense in the NFL, which has kept them in games, and given them a chance to win. If the Browns are able to win this game, they will be right back into the playoff picture, and I think they will keep it close and have a chance to win. However, I think that the Bengals will remain unbeaten at home in a close one, as their outstanding playmakers on offense will do enough down the stretch to secure a win.
THE PICK: Browns (+6) FINAL SCORE: Bengals 23 Browns 20
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) The Philadelphia Eagles (5-5) have the top ranked offense in the NFL, and after a two game stretch where they managed to score just 10 total points, the Philly has scored 76 points in the last two weeks. The problem with the Eagles, of course, is the fact that they have the second worst defense in the NFL, so expect a lot of points to be scored in this game on Sunday. The Washington Redskins (3-6) blew a lead in Minnesota last Thursday night and lost to the lowly Vikings, although quarterback Robert Griffin III looks like he gains more confidence in his knee each week, the Redskins have really struggled defensively and miss a lot of tackles that turn into big gains. I think that the Redskins will score some points in this game, running back Alfred Morris should move the chains, while Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed should have success in the passing game against the Eagles. The Eagles have yet to win a home game this season (0-4) and have now lost a whopping ten consecutive home games going back to last season, I think that streak will stay alive on Sunday as these two teams split the season series.
THE PICK: Redskins (+3.5) FINAL SCORE: Redskins 34 Eagles 28
Detroit Lions @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) The Detroit Lions (6-3) need to seize this opportunity, both the Bears and Packers have injured quarterbacks, and the most competitive division in football should be theirs to win. The Lions have the seventh ranked offense in the league, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and I think each of these players step up in a big way on Sunday. The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6) have really struggled to move the football this season, where their offense is ranked 26th in the league, and they are scoring only 19.9 points per game. The Steelers have had major problems along the offensive line, they have struggled to protect Ben Roethlisberger which has led to 36.0 sacks allowed, tied for second worst in the NFL (and it would be a lot more if Roethlisberger was not so good at extending plays). The Lions are tied for second to last in the NFL with just 15.0 sacks, so whoever wins that battle in the trenches could have a serious advantage in this game. I think the Lions win this game, they are the better team this season, will be motivated knowing that a win could easily extend their lead in the NFC North.
THE PICK: Lions (-3) FINAL SCORE: Lions 27 Steelers 20
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2) The Buccaneers (1-8) are coming off of their first win of the season, a victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, in which I came away impressed with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. The Atlanta Falcons (2-7) have been ravaged by injuries this season, it almost seems like they have given up, and will try to come back healthy and contend again next year. The Falcons are favored on the road in this game, which surprised me, because they have yet to win a road game this season (0-4). Football is a game of momentum, and I feel that the Bucs have momentum on their side entering this weekend’s game, coming off of their first win of the season. The Falcons have lost three games in a row and seem to have decided that without their best offensive player, injured wide receiver Julio Jones among a myriad of injuries, that this season is a lost cause. Atlanta should not be favored on the road against anyone.
THE PICK: Buccaneers (+2) FINAL SCORE: Buccaneers 17 Falcons 13
Arizona Cardinals @ Jacksonville Jaguars (+7) I think that the Arizona Cardinals (5-4) are one of the league’s most underrated teams this season, of course they have some serious issues (Carson Palmer, the offensive line protecting him), but they have an excellent defense and some explosive playmakers that make them a dangerous team against any opponent. The Cardinals also insist on running Rashad Mendenhall (105 carries, 323 yards, 3.1 average) when rookie Andre Ellington (54 carries, 388 yards 7.2 average) is clearly a superior running back at this point, and I think they will unleash Ellington against the Jaguars on Sunday. The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) are coming off of their first win of the season, but they are still the lowest ranked offensive team in the league, going against the Cardinals 12th ranked defense. Look for Arizona’s defensive playmakers to force turnovers, a big game out of Ellington, and an easy Cardinals easy win.
THE PICK: Cardinals (-7) FINAL SCORE: Cardinals 24 Jaguars 10
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: CARDINALS (-7)***
***REXRATED BEST BET: CARDINALS (-7)***
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans (-7) It amazes me that the Houston Texans (2-7) are seven point favorites against anyone at this point, they have to be the league’s most disappointing team, and have lost seven straight games. How are they seven point favorites? The Texans do have the tenth ranked offense in the NFL, and new quarterback Case Keenum has provided a spark, but mistakes and turnovers always seem to cost the Texans games. The Oakland Raiders (3-6) are not a good team by any stretch of the imagination, however quarterback Terrelle Pryor is a dangerous playmaker, who is good for enough offense that this game should remain close. Texans running back Arian Foster is out for the season, and his backup Ben Tate has bruised ribs, which he will attempt to play through so the Houston running game should be limited. I think the Texans come away with a home win in this game, the Raiders have yet to win on the road this season, but the spread is far too big and I expect Oakland to cover.
THE PICK: Raiders (+7) FINAL SCORE: Texans 23 Raiders 20
San Diego Chargers @ Miami Dolphins (+1.5) I thought that each of these teams would be fringe playoff contenders in the early part of the season, however each team has struggled recently, and both of these teams will have a (4-5) record entering this game. The winner of this matchup will still be in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC, while the loser will not be mathematically eliminated, but will have their work cut out for them if they still are going to attempt to make a run for the postseason. The Miami Dolphins have lost five of their last six games, including a loss to the previously winless Buccaneers last Monday Night, and they seem to have been doomed by the whole Richie Incognito vs., Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. Not only has the scandal fractured the Dolphins locker room, but it also forced them to lose two starters off of an offensive line that had already allowed the most sacks in the NFL, making the incident even tough to come back from. I do not think the Chargers are a bad team, they lost two straight, but one of them was a game in Washington that they would have won had a replay not overturned the winning touchdown and the other was to the Denver Broncos who are one of the best teams in the NFL. I think that an excellent Chargers front seven will dominate the line of scrimmage, stuff the Dolphins running game, and pressure the Dolphins into bad throws. Chargers win easily.
THE PICK: Chargers (-1.5) FINAL SCORE: Chargers 31 Dolphins 17
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: CHARGERS (-1.5)***
San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints (-3) One storyline that is not getting enough airtime this season has been the terrible play of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who the league seems to have figured out, he has thrown for just 1,675 passing yards which is the fewest in the league for a quarterback that has started every game this season. The 49ers are still (6-3) and should be on the way to the playoffs as one of the NFC Wildcard playoff teams, and they should get a boost from the return of receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham from injuries, but the fact that they are ranked 23rd in the NFL in total offense and last in the league in passing yards is troubling. The 49ers do have the league’s fifth ranked rushing offense, but good teams find a way to take that away, forcing Kaepernick to throw is this team’s weakness. The New Orleans Saints (7-2) have the third best offense in the NFL led by quarterback Drew Brees, and are unbeaten at home (5-0) where they are much more dangerous. The Saints also have the fifth best defense in the league, which I think will limit the 49ers running game, get the ball back in the hands of Brees quickly. In San Fran, this game goes differently, but in New Orleans the Saints win easily.
THE PICK: Saints (-3) FINAL SCORE: Saints 34 49ers 20
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: SAINTS (-3)***
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants (-6) The New York Giants (3-6) are winners of three straight games, and while it has not been pretty, the team has worked their way back into a spot to have a chance at winning the worst division in football. The Giants defense has rebounded from a terrible start to the season, and is suddenly the eleventh ranked unit in football, led by excellent play by linebacker Jon Beason who they traded for midseason. Offensively Eli Manning has still struggled with turnovers, but the Giants got a spark from the return of running back Andre Brown who rushed for 115 yards in his first action of the season. The Green Bay Packers (5-4) will again be without their MVP caliber quarterback Aaron Rogers in this game, a lucky break for the Giants, and will start Scott Tolzien at quarterback this weekend. The Packers will try to run the ball with running back Eddie Lacy, and Tolzien did throw for 280 yards in a loss last weekend, but I expect the Packers offense to struggle on Sunday in the Meadowlands. I see the Giants getting a win, getting back into the playoff race, and making next weekend’s match with the Dallas Cowboys very interesting.
THE PICK: Giants (-6) FINAL SCORE: Giants 23 Packers 14
Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks (-13) The Seattle Seahawks (9-1) do not lose at home, they are unbeaten (4-0) in Seattle again this season, andthis will continue against the Minnesota Vikings this weekend. The question is, can the Vikings lose by fewer than thirteen points? Minnesota is coming off of their second win of the season, and the first on U.S. soil, when they beat the Washington Redskins last week in a come-from-behind win. Despite the win the Vikings have really struggled this season, and have the league’s 28th ranked offense and 30th ranked defense, which is a bad combination if you are going into Seattle. The Seahawks had several injured players return to practice this week, including two starting offensive linemen, and explosive wide receiver Percy Harvin. Seattle acquired Harvin this offseason to become the team’s most dangerous offensive threat, however he suffered an offseason hip injury, and has not played a down this season. If he returns for this game, the Seahawks look to show their fans the big play ability that they paid for this offseason, however I would probably shelve him for another week. The Seahawks sixth ranked defense alone is enough to keep Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in check, and I think Seattle will easily hold home field against the Vikings on Sunday.
THE PICK: Seahawks (-13) FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 30 Vikings 13
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos (-8.5) The matchup we have all been waiting for, two of the best teams in football who also happen to be divisional rivals meet on Sunday night for the first time in season, and the first of two meetings in three weeks. The Denver Broncos (8-1) have been an unstoppable force offensively this season, Peyton Manning has been incredible, as the quarterback of the number two offense in the NFL. However, Manning took a few shots last weekend, including one on the lower leg that left him hobbled following a win over the Chargers. Keep an eye on Manning, because the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) lead the NFL with 36.0 sacks, and I expect that they will pressure Peyton early and often and try to rattle the banged up future Hall of Fame quarterback. Andy Reid is one of the most innovative offensive minds in football, and I think that he will attempt several trick plays that he has not used this season in this game, plays where Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster will get the ball in space. I think that these two teams will split the season series, but I think that the Chiefs will use every trick in the book against Denver in this game, in attempt to make a statement that they and not the Broncos are the team to beat. The spread is too big for an unbeaten team, take the points, but I am picking Kansas City Outright.
THE PICK: Chiefs (+8.5) FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 28 Broncos 26
New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers (-2) I have not been a believer in the Carolina Panthers (6-3) all season long, while I respect their excellent front seven on defense and the playmaking ability of quarterback Cam Newton, I did not think that the Panthers were strong enough in the secondary or had talented enough offensive weapons around Newton to become a playoff contender this season. The Panthers, winners of five straight games, have easily been the hottest team in the NFC and maybe all of football. They have an opportunity to make a huge statement on the national stage this weekend, when the New England Patriots (7-2) come to town on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have had some issues this season, and have had several key injuries which have caused them to struggle, but they are still clearly one of the best teams in the NFL lead by quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. I think that a healthy Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski will help the Patriots shred the Carolina secondary that I have questioned all season long on Monday Night Football, and the Patriots will get an easy road win. If the Panthers can win this game, as favorites at home against the Patriots, they will convert me into a believer. I just do not see it.
THE PICK: Patriots (+2) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 27 Panthers 17
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