NFL Predictions – Week 11

Today, the Michigan Wolverines will square off against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus.  The game between two undefeated national programs is being billed as the Game of the Century.  These two schools have competed for over one hundred years and produced hundreds of great professional football players.  There is no question that many NFL players will be standing on both sidelines today as the game unfolds.  For Michigan, there are presently 35 players in the NFL.  That list includes future Canton enshrinees Tom Brady and Ty Law.  Other notable Wolverines include Amani Toomer, Colts LB Cato June, Steeler LB Larry Foote, Braylon Edwards, Ian Gold and former Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson.

Ohio State has 39 players in the NFL and the list includes some of the best players at their positions in the entire league: Orlando Pace, Nate Clements, LeCharles Bentley, and young Donte Whitner.  Big playmakers like Will Smith, Antoine Winfield, Shawn Springs, Terry Glenn, Chris Gamble and Joey Galloway are also part of the lineage.  With this much talent, it’s easy to see how this rivalry has risen to this level of competitiveness.

The NFL schedules are beginning to shake out pretenders from contenders.  What do make of the Falcons or the Jaguars?  Do you think Jack Del Rio really wants Leftwich’s big arm back on the field?  Maybe Jim Mora, Jr. wishes he could get Matt Schaub on the field.  Can the Dolphins still make the playoffs?  What about the Jets?  There’s still much to figure out.   Here’s the slate:

NFL Lines For Week 11
NFL Game Lines 11/19 & 11/20, 2006

Date & Time Favorite Line Underdog Total
11/19 1:00 ET At Kansas City -9.5 Oakland 36
11/19 4:15 ET At Dallas PK Indianapolis 49
11/19 1:00 ET At New Orleans -3.5 Cincinnati 51
11/19 1:00 ET Pittsburgh -3.5 At Cleveland 37.5
11/19 1:00 ET At Philadelphia -13 Tennessee 43.5
11/19 1:00 ET At Baltimore -4 Atlanta 40.5
11/19 1:00 ET At Carolina -6.5 St. Louis 44
11/19 1:00 ET At Houston -2.5 Buffalo 36.5
11/19 1:00 ET New England -6 At Green Bay 45
11/19 1:00 ET At Tampa Bay -3.5 Washington 33.5
11/19 1:00 ET Chicago -7 At NY Jets 38
11/19 1:00 ET At Miami -3.5 Minnesota 34
11/19 4:05 ET At Arizona -2 Detroit 46
11/19 4:05 ET Seattle -3.5 At San Francisco 43.5
11/19 8:15 ET At Denver -2.5 San Diego 42

Monday Night Football Line

11/20 8:30 ET At Jacksonville -3.5 NY Giants 39

 Wow.  The Chiefs are huge favorites over the Raiders.  9.5 points?  The Raiders have been extremely competitive for about a month now.  They’ve been dismal and embarrassing on offense – but their defense has kept them in games.  This will be Trent Green’s first game back.  He’ll benefit from facing a familiar opponent, but the Raiders won’t be pushovers.  They almost took down the Broncos last week.  I don’t where the Raiders get points from to win this game.  I know the Chiefs have Larry “No More Diapers” Johnson and Tony Gonzalez.  That’s enough for me – and it should be enough for Trent.  Kansas City 17, Oakland 10.

The Colts and Cowboys are in a Pick ‘Em game at Texas Stadium.  I’ve been picking against the Cowboys for most of the season, but I could certainly see the tandem of Jones and Barber getting about 150 yards.  If the Cowboys can get those rushing yards and score in the red zone, they can win the game.   There is another development here, though, which could be important.  Anthony McFarland has had more time to get acclimated to his new surroundings in Indianapolis.  If he can have a big game – and begin to turn the tide for a run defense that is without Mike Doss, the Colts win be able to do their thing.  Tight game – Vanderjagt gets the game winner.  Dallas 31, Indianapolis 30.

The Saints are going to Lourdes – I mean Cincinnati.  I’ll take Drew Brees (a QB who threw for 350+ against Baltimore and Pittsburgh) to do at least as well against the Bengals.  This should be a high scoring game – the over/under is 51.  Everyone scores here.  They’re going waaay over.  New Orleans 44, Cincinnati 38.

Ok.  I like the Steelers to win against the Browns.  Last year, the Steelers figured out alot of things against the Browns.  They figured out that Charlie Batch could win tough games (round 1); they found their pass rush (10 sacks, round 2).  I don’t suspect much of that will change.  The absence of LeCharles Bentley means Casey Hampton will be his usually disruptive self.  Edge Pitt.  Pittsburgh 37, Cleveland 14.

The Titans are tremendous dogs against the Eagles – but the game is a homecoming for coach Jeff Fisher.  Fisher and Reid have lots of ties.  I know he’ll be ready for whatever the Eagles have offensively.  The question is what will the offense of Norm Chow be able to do with the blitz happy Eagles.  The Titans have done some of their best work against their toughest competition.  Philadelphia has tons of weapons but should not overlook the Titans and their power running game led by Travis Henry.  I don’t like Philly, but their quick strike offense can put up points so quickly that I believe they can cover by pulling away late.  Philadelphia 33, Tennessee 20.

The Falcons next football game will be played in a morgue.  Unless they find something big in a hurry, this is going to be one ugly instructional video.  Baltimore 34, Atlanta 17.

Carolina is home to the Rams.  Good thing, because Carolina is still trying to find itself.  I was not impressed with their W over Tampa Bay last week.  What’s worse – I’m almost always going to pick against the Rams.  Hate ’em.  Panthers at home should get it done.  Perhaps they can find their running game.  The Rams are not a playoff quality team – and the Panthers may not be.  The jury is still out.  If they’re going to make any noise, De2 (DeShaun and DeAngelo) has to get rolling.  Carolina 26, St. Louis 21.

If I lived in Buffalo, the guy who decided to draft JP Losman would be in real trouble.  The Bills absolutely suck.  There are no two ways about it.  Buffalo is a disaster and Vegas thinks they should be a dog to the Texans.  The Texans are 2-0 against Jacksonville and they’re tough.  The Bills, conversely, are a walking disaster.  The team is inconsistent and does not have healthy playmakers on offense.  After you get past Willis McGahee and Lee Evans, it’s like playing a JV team.  Houston 28, Buffalo 23.

QB Legends Past and Present Game.  New England at Green Bay.  Too bad the Packers aren’t just a little bit better.  I’d like to see Ahman Green get off against a strong run defense.  Perhaps it can happen if Favre is able to pick the Pats D apart the way Manning did.  Of course, the flip side is that the Pats can run with power all game long.  They’re struggling after two consecutive losses to the Colts and the Jets.  Belichick is em-bare-assed and so is Brady.  I like the Pats to stick with their running game a bit longer than they have in recent weeks.  The Pats have tried to be cute when being brutal would have been better.  New England 23, Green Bay 17.

Tampa Bay and Washington.  This was a tremendous game last year.   I don’t believe it will be as compelling this year.  I wonder what Jason Campbell has learned with all of his time on the bench.  He ought to know enough to coach the team on both sides of the ball.  He should have watched enough film on each team in the league to narrate with Steve Sabol.  He has a huge arm and good mobility, but he’s raw.  If he can take a page from the Tony Romo book and make quick decisions (while avoiding Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks) he should be fine.  Ladell Betts should be fine.  The absence of Santana Moss won’t mean much because as the number 3 QB, Campbell hasn’t been getting many reps (until this week) and he couldn’t be expected to have much timing with Moss.  I suspect that Brandon Lloyd might be the primary beneficiary of this change.  Washington 20, Tampa Bay 19.

The Bears are back in the Meadowlands (not unlike the Colts earlier this season) and trying to go 2-0.  The Colts were able to do it – but had the most difficulty with the Jets.  I suspect the same will be true for the Bears.  The Bears are susceptible to power running teams that attack the middle of the defense.  For all of Tommie Harris’ skill, he is undersized and plays in a tandem 4-3 supported by an undersized MLB (Brian Urlacher).  When safety Mike Brown fills holes from the secondary, the Bears are a formidable defense against the run – but Brown is out.  I believe that Kevan Barlow and Leon Washington will find room to run against the Bears.  The Jets scheme is designed to thwart pass rush teams like the Bears – screens, draws, traps, etc.  The key to the game for the Jets will be execution.  They have tremendous confidence coming off a win against the Patriots in New England.  New York 24, Chicago 21.

The soft Minnesota Vikings are taking their depressing show on the road against the Miami Dolphins.  It won’t be pretty.  The Vikings are led by a running back who is out of gas.  The next option on the team is the ancient and mediocre Brad Johnson.  The wide receiver corps is limited in skill and play-making ability.  The Dolphins are rallying after wins against the Bears and Chiefs.  To lose to the Vikings would be the equivalent of announcing the end of the season.  Saban’s not ready to close up shop – but Brad Childress should begin looking at Mel Kiper’s Big Board.  Miami 31, Minnesota 10.

Tailspin Bowl:  The “Go Figure” Cardinals host the “Don’t Bother” Lions.  I have no idea which team wins this game.  I’ll take the road team – just because.  Even though the Lions and Cardinals do not play one another often, the coaching staffs are familiar given their tenures with the Buccaneers and Vikings.  There is some history here – and most of it favors the Lions.  The Lions shocked the state of Michigan by beating the Falcons – and then the Browns shocked the state of Ohio by beating the Falcons.  Things have returned to normal in Michigan since the Lions lost to the 49ers.  Low expectations usually lead to wins for this team.  Kitna, Jones and Williams go big fly.  Detroit 41, Arizona 35.

The 49ers have been playing some tough defense this year – Ravens Lite.  The Seahawks, though, have been finding ways to win.  The Niners will be tough to beat without Alexander and Hasselbeck – so it is time for Seneca to hook up Deion Branch and company.  Mo Mo (also know as Maurice Morris) has played admirably in Alexander’s absence.  Seattle 16, San Francisco 14.

The most important game of the day pits divisional rivals San Diego and Denver against one another.  This game should go down to the wire.  Denver’s defense is going to give up some serious points in this game.  The Colts and Steelers moved the ball up and down the field.  The Chargers are at least as good offensively – perhaps better.  I believe this game will come down to two players: LaDainian (as always) and Champ Bailey.  The Chargers don’t need to attack Bailey to dominate offensively.  They can attack with Gates or they can create matchups that get Malcolm Floyd (6’5″) away from Bailey – and they can always run or throw with LT.  Denver should be able to move the ball as well – with Tatum Bell and Javon Walker, but I don’t believe they have enough weapons.  It took about 30 turnovers for them to squeak by the Steelers – so I’m not exactly impressed with the Broncos.  San Diego 40, Denver 24.

What does the line say about the extent of the Giants injuries that the Jags are coming off their second loss to the TEXANS and are favored over the G-men?  Banged up is an understatement.  The Giants were not a good defense against the run when they were healthy.  They will not be a good run defense on Monday night.  I like Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard to get their yards on the ground, but I don’t know if they’ll get points through the air.  The Giants appear to have a well-formed aversion to throwing to Jeremy Shockey.  Rashean Mathis should make it prohibitively difficult to throw anything but fade routes to Plaxico Burress.  Tiki Barber is injured and Brandon Jacobs still does not get significant carries outside the red zone.  Jags in a low-scoring affair.  Jacksonville 18, New York 16.

And that’s all I see in my hazy crystal ball.

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