Tuesday, November 15, 2016

NFL Now Rolling Eleven

Yep, the Bengals failed in a big opportunity again, and the NY Giants are now in the fight for the NFC playoffs.

And suddenly the NFL landscape is a lot different entering Week Eleven than it was when thirteen teams were 1-3 - of course the 0-4 Browns are still winless, so on that score nothing has changed.  

So what can we think we'll see for this coming week's games?

Panthers over Saints - This is a risky pick given both teams lost last week and the Panthers' inability to hold a lead showed its ugly head again against the Chiefs.   Being at home is not advantage for the Panthers either, but neither team has looked like a playoff team despite some gaudy offenses and an aging Drew Brees is still having his hands full despite yet more 4,000-yard production.

Bengals over Bills -  The Bengals' run of playoff appearances is almost certainly over but this week they lick their wounds from another primetime flameout and get a Bills team that's been competitive but not good enough.  

Steelers over Browns -  It is simply impossible to feel the Browns can win even one game, as mediocre as the Steelers are.

Cowboys over Ravens -  The Ravens lead the AFC North and that says this division is the weakest in the league as they take on a Cowboys team that keeps taking the steps needed toward making the Superbowl.

Lions over Jaguars - One of the regrets of the season has been the regression of Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, who showed every reason to feel they would take the next step - instead it's been the division-leading Lions - that's right, I'll say it again, division-leading Lions - who may have taken that next step.  

Titans over Colts - Yes, this is a completely risky pick because of the ten straight wins by the Colts over the Titans and with the Colts coming off a bye.   The Titans, however, have shown significant improvement the last few games (especially in Marcus Mariota's command of the offense and in coaching) and they've usually played the Colts bitterly tough in this ten-game stretch of lost opportunity.   Look for the two teams to light up the scoreboard.

Chiefs over Buccaneers - While they haven't taken the next step, the Bucs have shown some improvement of late, it won't though be enough against a Chiefs team that is now in the lead in their division.  

Cardinals over Vikings - Sam Bradford has now authored the Vikings into freefall, aided by a stunning collapse of his O-line, while the Cardinals are still well within Wildcard territory and possible division upset range.  

NY Giants over Bears - The Giants are now in the Wildcard fight and the Bears are almost worse than the winless Browns.  

Dolphins over Rams - It's no longer a question of whether Adam Gase can get anything going - it's now a question of whether the Dolphins can pull off an upset surge into the playoffs.   Making it easier is a Rams team once again stuck in mediocrity, though pressure to start Jared Goff has eased with the win over the Jets.  

Patriots over 49ers - Not the lock one assumed before the stunning Seahawks loss.   The Patriots get a Niners team that played surprisingly well against the Cardinals and do so with major questions about responding to hard hitting and ability to cover anyone - with one postgame analysis after the loss to the Seahawks stating the Patriots defense is basically a lunch-pail group that takes coaching but lacks playmakers - questions that usually get answered albeit some more quickly than others; making it more intriguing is the possible absence of Rob Gronkowski for a game due to an injury.   The Niners are in Bears-Browns territory in terms of being memorably worthless.

Seahawks over Eagles - The win over the Patriots has now put all the momentum back in Seattle's hands and they get an Eagles team that's played well but not consistently so.

Redskins over Packers  - With word (via Mike Florio) of a swelling power struggle between Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy - and burgeoning Rumor Control Central belief McCarthy is gone after the year, though who would want to take over this burgeoning drama queen enterprise has yet to sort out - the Packers season is suddenly in serious trouble even with the mediocrity of the division and facing the weakest team in the NFC East in the Redskins.   The Skins, however, host this game and Rodgers' weaknesses as a quarterback are only becoming more glaring - freelancing, not adequately reading defenses and setting up passing attacks accordingly, and of course when he falls behind by 10 or more points, more and more it's an automatic win for his opponent.  

Raiders over Texans in Mexico City - Mexico City hosts the NFL for the first time in years - the last time I remember a game there, Ed Hochuli was the ref and spoke in Spanish.   The Raiders for their part have turned into Speedy Gonzalez and Brock Osweiler has turned into the flustered crow who gets humiliated by Speedy, this despite leading the Texans to 6-3.   The Raiders look like a division lock and appear to be the comeback team of the season.

One note on a team now in its Bye week - the San Diego Chargers now need to start phasing away from Philip Rivers and develop a new quarterback.   Their playoff hopes are now gone and Rivers can no longer deliver when it's needed.

So it goes for Week Eleven.

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