Week 11 means desperation time. I can smell the sweat and feel the anxiety in the Meadowlands and Baltimore and Philadelphia and San Diego and Denver. One place where no one can smell desperation is Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn’t write a post for the Dolphins-Panthers contest, but if you’ve been reading you know I liked Miami.
Carolina’s new offensive coordinator did it again. He allowed Jake Delhomme to throw the ball more than 40 times. The Panthers did not rely on their offensive line and lost another winnable game. They did not rely on DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to carry the load. When those two combine for 25 carries, book the loss.
15 targets to Steve Smith for all of 87 yards. Like I said — book the loss.
On to Sunday:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs. If the Chiefs were remotely decent, I’d like their chances in this game. The Steelers always play games that are a bit too interesting in Kansas City. I’m still recovering from Dante Hall’s exhibition there a few years back. No Bowe, no way. Pittsburgh 45, Kansas City 6.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys. If Washington can keep the rush off of Jason Campbell, they can stay close. I don’t believe Tony Romo will sling the ball all over the new stadium vs. the ‘Skins. Their pass defense has been smothering. For me, the only question is whether or not Jason Garrett will run the ball or if he’ll be trying to score “Genius Points” by showing he’s the smartest guy in the building. He tried that last week at Green Bay and failed miserably. Humble pie equals a Cowboy win. Dallas 21, Washington 17.
Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions. How does this happen? How? It’s time for Congress to initiate those hearings against the Ford family for failing to field a competitive franchise. WTF? Eric Mangini may know enough about football to get a job, but he doesn’t know enough about people to keep it. Detroit 24, Cleveland 13.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers. For me, this is simply a tough game to pick. The 49ers just have to compete in this game if they are to have any hope at all of making the playoffs. The Packers are coming off of two of the most bizarre games all season: a 38-28 loss at Tampa and a 58-minute shut out of the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers have had more impressive losses than impressive wins. Losses at Minnesota and at Houston probably mean this team just isn’t ready to win big games away from home — unless they really the opponent (Arizona, Week 1). I like Rodgers and the Packers to make this more difficult than it needs to be. Green Bay 31, Vernon Davis 28.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants. How the mighty have fallen. If the Falcons were playing the Giants without Michael Turner in Week 1, they’d be 20 point dogs. On Sunday, Jason Snelling and company could pull this one off. The Giants are coming off a bye week, so there are no excuses. The Falcons have lost to every power team they’ve faced this season — except Miami in Week 1 (at New England, at New Orleans, at Dallas). Still, I’m not so sure. I like the maturation of the Falcon DB’s. When Turner hit the Panthers for 111 yards on his first 9 carries, they were expecting big things. The weak link in big games this season has been “Matty Ice.” New York has been unseasonably warm and I suspect the thaw continues. New York 21, Atlanta 20.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It has all the makings of an epic trap game. Mizzo over at TSF has already picked the Buccaneers to pull off the win of the year. I’m not going there, but I can see how a 38-28 win over the Packers, a home date against the recently struggling Drew Brees, and an emerging defense is attractive. I think the Saints shift gears and run the ball down the Buccaneers throat all day long.
Side Note: If you want to know how weak the rushing game is in New England or Philadelphia or how committed Jason Garrett is to being cute with the passing game, take a look at the rushing stats against the Buccaneers this season. Only New England, Philadelphia and Dallas failed to amass 125 yards on the ground. In the last two weeks, the Bucs surrendered 199 yards to Miami and 170 yards to Green Bay. Conversely, only New England and Dallas have thrown for more than 250 yards vs. the Bucs.
The best path to victory for the Saints is on the ground. If they attack through the air, they might find more pewter than gold. New Orleans 23, Tampa Bay 10.
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars. Something tells that Jacksonville should, quite literally, run away with this game. Maurice Jones-Drew is an elite running back and he is on top of his game. The Bills have had far more success against the pass this season. They’ve been excellent in pass coverage this season. The Bills have surrendered only two 300 yard games all season: to New England in Week 1 (Tom Brady – 53 passes) and to Carolina in Week 7 (Jake Delhomme – 44 passes). Garrard is an efficient passer and tends not to turn the ball over. I hope that the new Bills coach lets it all hang out. I think the Del Rio’s win a close one. Of course, if Buffalo can stuff the run (for once), they’ve got a great chance to do some things. Jacksonville 27, Buffalo 21.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens. Remember when the 2006 Colts marched into the playoffs with their usual gaudy record and were poised to play a Steve McNair-led Raven team on the road. Sure you do. You thought that game looked a lot like this one. The Ravens of that season were not as good offensively as this team, but they were better defensively. The Colts were basically the same old Colts. They had been mauled by the Jaguars for 300 yards rushing — in one game. They were dead last in rushing defense heading into the playoffs. That game was decided in the trenches. It will be on Sunday as well. In 2006, the Colts won in Baltimore by running the ball and beating Baltimore at their own game. If I could name a healthy Raven other than Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, I might buy it. I can’t, I don’t. Heavy doses of Addai and Brown between the tackles will get it done. No one expects it…but if they see it again, they’ll never forget it. Indianapolis 24, Baltimore 19.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings. Any road trip to face Minnesota and Jared Allen without Walter Jones is bound to be painful. Matt Hasselbeck’s ribs are not likely to improve on this trip. If he survives the game, it will be a minor miracle. Steve Hutchinson will be smiling all day and drinking from Brett’s Fountain of Revenge. 3-6 will become 3-7. Minnesota 38, Seattle 17.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams. Trap game! The Cardinals have found their winning stride and need to stay focused here. They hold all the cards (no pun intended) to the NFC West. Arizona has won five of six games since a humbling loss to the Colts in Week 3. The Rams are not going to be pushovers this week. The venue alone should be enough to keep Kurt Warner from returning to his fumbling ways. Ball security will rule the day. Get the ball to Larry and Anquan. Too much Beanie in the gap will mean balls on the carpet. Arizona 17, St. Louis 12.
New York Jets at New England Patriots. If the Patriots had beaten the Colts last weak, the Jets would have a shot. Since The Blunder, the Jets have no chance. Having said that, they’ll peel off that dusty Mangini tape and win the game. Nah! I still like Revis on Moss — as long as the pressure gets there. New England 18, New York 15.
Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders. Trap game! The Raiders may be dysfunctional. They may have benched JaMarcus Russell, but they still have talent and a cross-country trip is a cross-country trip. And, to top it off, the Bengals are coming off of their regular season Super Bowl. The Bengals lost to the Texans this season after feeling too good about themselves on the heels of an impressive win over the Ravens. This time is probably different, but you never know. Maybe the Raiders make the big special teams play this week. Maybe Richard Seymour takes advantage of the absence of Cedric Benson and the adjustments to be made by Larry Johnson. Maybe Nnamdi Asomougha does an Ike Taylor imitation and keeps Chad Ochocinco running on treinta y tres. The Raiders have proven they can play head-to-head and toe-to-toe with anyone (San Diego, Philadelphia). Maybe the Raiders pull this out as redemption for the Bengals ending Bo Jackson’s career. Nah! Cincinnati 14, Oakland 13.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos. I’ve been waiting for this game ever since people started talking smack about how good the Broncos were after beating Dallas and New England. I never thought the Broncos were all that impressive. If I’ve been waiting for this game, I KNOW the Chargers have been waiting for this game. Eddie Royal gashed them for two special teams touchdowns on national television. The men in baby blue must have been kicking themselves that night. This week, they get their only shot at redemption and at first place in the AFC West. The Steelers were facing the same opportunity last week — and lost. The differences for San Diego are several: they’re on the road; Kyle Orton is not likely to play; and their play has improved in recent weeks. They’ve notched wins over the Giants and Eagles in consecutive weeks. San Diego 33, Denver 13.
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears. The Eagles should win this game running away. The problem is that they will not run the ball. Chicago is going to keep this game close because of the play calling by the Eagles. The Bears WANT the Eagles to pass the ball. Andy Reid will comply. I think this could be an uneven, ugly game filled with penalties, turnovers, and timeouts. It just may be that if neither McNabb nor Cutler is on target that the incompletions could drag this game well into the night. The stars of this game could be DeSean Jackson on special teams and Devin Hester. Philadelphia 13, Chicago 10.
Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans. The Texans are just not winning this game. Tennessee 31, Houston 26.
And that’s all he wrote.