Darnell's NFL Week 11 Breakdown
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (46.5)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have played lights out football all season long. They are undefeated, healthy and have shown very little sign of slowing down. Offensively, there are very few injuries that Pittsburgh is fighting through. Ben Roethlisberger has been healthy all year except for a few series he sat out in Dallas. His receiving core has been consistently producing. Dionte Johnson has been his favorite target when healthy. When Johnson has missed time, Chase Claypool has stepped in fantastically for him. James Connor has not had the most productive season, but he is there when he is needed. The defense needs very little explanation. They are the best in the league. It is not particularly close. The Jacksonville Jaguars are not a good team. They are bottom ten in coverage, rushing defense and pass rush. This has led to them having the second-worst record in the NFL. Jake Luton will get the start again with Gardner Minshew already ruled out. Minshew is the 23rd ranked quarterback according to Pro Football Focus. Luton stepping in will be a downgrade at a position that they were already weak at. Pittsburgh is not the type of team that you want to have offensive players out against. James Robinson and Laviska Shenault were limited in practice. Robinson is a top ten running back and they will need him in order to sustain drives and move the ball. The Jaguars will need all of the weapons they have in order to compete with Pittsburgh. There isn’t much to this game. These two teams are on two totally different ends of the spectrum.
Atlanta Falcons (+5) @ New Orleans Saints (50.5)
This division matchup may be very different than what it has been in the past. Both teams play in dome stadiums, so regardless of the home team, historically this has been a shootout matchup every time. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees have battled for the better part of a decade. Although the teams will match up, these quarterbacks won’t. Drew Brees suffered broken ribs and will be out for at least three weeks. There are reports that Taysom Hill will start at quarterback. We have not seen him at the helm so this will be a treat for all of us. We know how versatile he is when used sporadically. I have told people that this season, Winston is the best quarterback on the team. It appears he won’t be able to prove me right Sunday. Alvin Kamara is listed as questionable. As a top ten running back, this would be a huge blow to the Saints’ offense if he were to miss. His work in the passing game also adds extreme value to Kamara. I am not sure how Sean Payton will play the quarterback situation. A lot of people believe that we will see a heavy dose of Taysom Hill. Calvin Ridley on the other side of the ball is questionable. The fifth ranked passing attack for the Falcons will be diminished if he were to miss. Julio Jones seems ready to go, so Matt Ryan will have his favorite target for the past seven years on the field. Because of the expanded playoffs, mathematically the Falcons are still alive. Staying alive is contingent upon their performance in this game. They hope to take advantage of the quarterback change. Hopefully they can play a full 60 minutes of football.
Philadelphia Eagles (+3.5) @ Cleveland Browns (47.5)
These teams play each other once every four years. This year has been a strange one for both teams. The Philadelphia Eagles have been ravaged with injuries all season and the Cleveland Browns have had extreme weather in their home games in the month of November. The Eagles are getting healthier although they will still be without Desean Jackson. Jackson has a major impact on the effectiveness of his offense with his ability to stretch the field. The Eagles face the tough task of facing the team with the best offensive line in football. The Cleveland Browns also have arguably the best running back duo in the NFL. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are both healthy and will suit up. Although they will be missing Odell Beckham Jr, the Browns should see a moderate level of success moving the ball. This game is a must win for the Browns, as the Steelers continue to roll and the Ravens are very good. Although the Eagles are limping their way to a first-place finish in their division, their margin for error is very thin and they cannot afford slip ups. The team that imposes their will on the other one should come out on top.
Tennessee Titans (+6.5) @ Baltimore Ravens (49.5)
Two 6-3 teams battle it out to keep pace with their division leaders as well as keep control of their playoff destiny. The Titans are coming off a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. They allowed Phillip Rivers to do whatever he wanted and spread the ball around to a lot of receivers. The Titans did not appear to be able to stop anything the Colts wanted to do. They had their offensive struggles also and I believe that was due to the absence of AJ Brown. He will be returning to the lineup to take on the Ravens. Brown is a top ten receiver according to PFF, so anytime you get that quality of a player back in your lineup it should only benefit you as an offense. The Ravens’ offense remains intact. They are coming off an ugly lost to the New England Patriots. The rain in the second half did not help their cause, but they did not look sharp to start the game. They were out worked and out muscled. That usually doesn’t happen to the team that has given up the least amount of points in the NFL. Lamar Jackson definitely has not been the Lamar Jackson that we know and love from last season. That role is now reserved for Kyler Murray. The Ravens have to find a way to move the ball effectively on offense. Their best wide receiver according to PFF is Willie Snead. He is rated 46th in the NFL. The Titans are the second best coverage team in the NFL, so they should present a huge challenge for these receivers getting open. One team will be on a two game losing streak and one team will begin the process of righting the ship.
Cincinnati Bengals (+1.5) @ Washington Football Team (46.5)
The NFL is funny. These teams have the same amount of wins (2). The Bengals are in last place in their division and virtually have no chance at making the playoffs. These teams are very close in PFF rating. Washington, on the other hand, is one win away from having the most wins in the division. The NFC East continues to be a laughing stock, but that keeps every team alive. Washington will want to protect their home field and secure a victory to keep their division winning hopes alive. Alex Smith threw for a lot of yards last week, but did not score a touchdown. I expect him to have little resistance against the Bengals’ terrible defense. The Bengals have the worst pass rush in the NFL so there will be little pressure on Smith. On the other side of the ball, Joe Burrow has looked good as a rookie this year. He is rated better than Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers and Justin Herbert. He has three wide receivers that have shown capabilities of making plays for him. Joe Mixon has been ruled out. There is not much of a drop off at running back with Giovanni Bernard starting. Mixon is ranked 37th and Bernard is ranked 42. With the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles having tough opponents this week, Washington will want to take advantage and get this home win. Joe Burrow will have something to say about that as he fights for rookie of the year honors.
New England Patriots (-2) @ Houston Texans (49)
The Houston Texans are bad. They have been bad all season. They are bottom ten in coverage, rushing defense, overall defense and points allowed. Their only redeeming quality is their top five pass rush. It has not translated to much success. The New England Patriots seem to have adopted the formula of killing the clock and keep the opposing team off the field. This is because they have the sixth worse defense in the NFL. They are bottom five in points scored. Their offense does not put big numbers up. They have the number one run blocking offensive line so they like to play to their strength. As usual the Patriots have a plethora of players listed as questionable. Some of these players include Ryan Izzo and N’keal Harry. We will keep an eye out for their status updates. It should not affect much because neither of these players are in the top 60 ranked in their position. The Texans’ playoff hopes are likely dashed but the Patriots still have a fighting chance. The Buffalo Bills have not completely pulled away and because of matchups between wild card contenders, a win here puts the Patriots right into the thick of things.
Detroit Lions (-2) @ Carolina Panthers (46.5)
The Detroit Lions will travel to take on the Carolina Panthers in an NFC matchup of two bad defenses. Both teams rank bottom five in defense. The Panthers have the second worse rushing defense in the NFL. Deandre Swift was certainly in line for a successful day. He has been ruled out with a concussion. This leaves a muddled backfield of Keryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Swift is ranked 23rd in the NFL at the running back position. Whether it is a time share or one back gets the bulk of the work, it will be a significant drop off in quality of player. Peterson and Johnson both rank outside the top 55 of running backs in the NFL. Regardless of who it is, they will be running behind the tenth best run blocking unit so this should help negate some of the drop off. Kenny Golladay, a top ten receiver and Danny Amedola have been ruled out. With a questionable Stafford, this puts the entire Lions offense in disarray. The Panthers have major running back issues as well. Christian Mcaffrey will not suit up in this game, leaving Mike Davis to restart his role as the main guy. This drop off is not major ranking wise. Mike Davis ranks 17th and Mccaffrey ranks 12th. The eye test has these backs much further apart. Mike Davis has negative air yards on the season with the 47 balls he’s caught. That is an amazingly interesting statistic. Teddy Bridgewater is questionable to suit up, so we will have to keep an eye on that. Phillip Walker has not played enough to be ranked on PFF, but I can only imagine he would be a drop off from Bridgewater’s ranking of 25. With so many questions marks on both sides, this game could play out either way.
Miami Dolphins (-3.5) @ Denver Broncos (45.5)
The Miami Dolphins are having fun laughing at everyone that laughed at them early in the 2019 season. They have the 8th best record in the league and they are doing it with defense. They have given up the fifth fewest points in the league although their defense ranks 21st in efficiency. It appears that a lot of their success has been predicated on luck rather than skill. However it is happening, Miami is okay with it. Denver has the third best defense in the league, but strangely enough has given up the eighth most points. This seems to be mostly due to their bad offense and horrific special teams. Myles Gaskin is still out on injured reserve. Salvon Ahmed has done well with his opportunity. He looks good, although he is not lighting up the statistic board. Gaskin is the 31st ranked running back so his return should be welcome. Drew Lock and Noah Fant are listed as questionable going into this matchup. Drew Lock is rated as one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. I say that every time I see him miss a wide open Jerry Jeudy. I am not sure how much of a downgrade it can be if he were to miss, but we will keep an eye on it. The Dolphins will look to win to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills.
New York Jets (+9.5) @ Los Angeles Chargers (46.5)
The Jets have been looking for their first win of the season all year. The search continues out west when they take on the Chargers. There really is not much positive to say about the Jets. They are bottom ten in special teams and defense. They have the worst offense in the league. Sam Darnold is out. There is a drop off from Darnold to Joe Flacco, and the drop off is 30th ranked to 33rd ranked. The only quarterbacks that separate these two are Drew Lock, and Nick Mullins. The Chargers have a bottom ten offense in the league also, but Justin Herbert has been making a strong case for rookie of the year. They get Joey Bosa and Chris Harris back, which should definitely boost their 12th ranked defense. With a 2-7 record, their playoff hopes are likely dashed. It will be interesting to see who truly is motivated to compete in this game.
Green Bay Packers (+2) @ Indianapolis Colts (51)
This will be one of the most interesting games on the slate. This is a matchup of two teams that succeed very differently from one another. The Packers have the number one passing attack in the league, with the second best pass blocking unit to protect the top rated quarterback in the league. Aaron Rodgers will have to move the ball against the sixth ranked defense in the NFL, and a quarterback that is more than comfortable with the short passing game and long sustained drives. That would be an effective strategy to keep this explosive Packers offense off the field. Davante Adams was questionable but has since been cleared. That is a huge relief for Packers fans. Adams is the number one rated wide receiver in the league. He is a matchup nightmare and can open up paths for his teammates to succeed with the focus being on him. Allen Lazard is questionable for Sunday’s game. Honestly, after Adams, everyone seems relatively interchangeable at wide receiver. Phillip Rivers may be without Jack Doyle. This should not change things much because he has no problem spreading the ball around even when everyone is healthy. The Packers will look to stretch their division lead while the Colts will look to keep pace with the Tennessee Titans. I am looking forward to this clash of styles.
Dallas Cowboys (+7) @ Minnesota Vikings (47.5)
As funny as it is that the Washington Football Team are one win away from having the most wins in the division, it is equally, if not more funny that the Cowboys are in that same boat. The Cowboys have the worst defense in the NFL in my opinion. They rank bottom five in overall defense and bottom five in rush defense. They have given up the most points in the NFL. They allow over 32 points a game. That typically won’t get the job done. They will be getting Andy Dalton back at the helm. From name value alone, he is an upgrade from what they have had at quarterback in his absence. Dalton will have some very talented receivers to throw the ball to. I am not sure what the Cowboys will do to slow down the best rushing attack in the league. Kirk Cousins has shown his flashes of excellence, especially when he looks for Adam Theilen in the red zone. The expanded playoffs are giving more teams a chance to compete, so Minnesota will definitely want to secure this victory at home. Dallas will want to keep pace with the first place, three-win Philadelphia Eagles. This may be a tough game because it seems both teams will be driven to win.
Betting Tip of the Week: Certain games are called ‘’bad spots’’ for particular teams. Always look at the last couple of games and the next game for the teams you are betting on. Sometimes a team can get caught ‘’looking ahead’’ to a huge game the following week. In these situations, they have a higher risk of coming out flat and unfocused. This causes them to play poorly and either fail to cover or lose altogether. Typically, these ‘’look ahead’’ spots affect the team that is favored. For example, Green Bay had a revenge game on a Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers. Before this game they had to face the Minnesota Vikings at home. Many people feel like the Packers were not up to par because they were ‘’looking ahead’’ to the 49ers, and not focused on their current opponent.