Monday, November 15, 2010

Early picks for week 11.   If you missed out on KC -7, try to buy the half point if you can.  Check here for the latest odds. 

Arizona Cardinals vs Kansas City Chiefs: KC -7
The Chiefs are one of my favorite picks of the week.  That might be a little surprising since they have lost a couple in a row and got drubbed in Denver.  However, the NFL is all about matchups week to week and thankfully for them they get a lowly ARI team to cure their current skid.  The travel isn't going to help ARI in this one and playing in a tough road stadium makes matters even worse.  There are only a couple things about them that are positive and one of them is their red zone defense.  You wouldn't know it by the scoreboard, but they have done a good job at keeping people out of the end zone once they get inside of the 20.  The other bright spot is their return game.   Unfortunately for ARI, neither will benefit them in this game.  Their red zone success has come mostly against bad teams and KC do a pretty good job at limiting big returns.  In fact, McCluster should return this week from injury so if there are going to be big plays in the return game it could be KC that does the damage on special teams. 

For KC, the advantages might be too long to list them all.  First and foremost they have a monumental advantage on the ground.  Jamaal Charles has been an underrated monster and along with Thomas Jones they have one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. They also do a good job against the run on defense.   Another bid edge they will have will be on the line of scrimmage.  KC has protected Cassel pretty good this season and they will also cause fits for the ARI offensive line.  They haven't been great with red zone defense this year, but this will only hurt them against teams that can consistently move the ball.   ARI rank near the bottom on third down offense and only average about a touchdown a game from long drives.   ARI also turn the ball over too much and don't generate enough on the other side of the ball.   Look for KC to bounce back from a horrible loss and get back on track this week.  It would qualify as a great shock if this game is competitive in the 4th quarter.  Prediction: Bank KC -7.

Washington Redskins vs Tennessee Titans: TEN -7
The Redskins got properly smashed on Monday Night Football as Mike Vick put up a performance for the ages.  I don't expect TEN to put up 59 points on WSH this week, but I do expect them to win the game comfortably.  Road teams have not done particularly well coming off a Monday night game and it is asking a lot of WSH to travel to a tough stadium and come out with a win.  I fully expect the WSH defense to be sucking wind once again as Chris Johnson repeatedly blows by them on Sunday.   Vince Young and Randy Moss might not be much to get excited about, but they do warrant attention.  WSH will still stack the box and make Johnson their priority, but Young's mobility will keep that defensive line honest enough to leave gaping holes in the run game.   The other big edge TEN has in this game is the pressure they'll get on Mcnabb.  WSH's offensive line has been a mess all year and now they are rewarded with an aggressive TEN front seven.   Even if WSH manages to protect Mcnabb they won't be scoring a bunch of touchdowns.  TEN rank near the top in red zone offense and defense.   Sit back and relax as TEN score touchdowns while WSH will be kicking field goals.  Just like KC, I see TEN getting back in the win column against a wounded animal in week 11.  

Atlanta Falcons vs St Louis Rams: ATL -3
ATL is coming off a mini-bye week after pulling out a last minute win against BAL last Thursday.  However, don't let that fool you.  ATL clearly dominated that game.  Give BAL credit for fighting back with two late touchdown drives, but ATL is not a team that rolls over and dies. They are making a serious push to supplant the Super Bowl champs in the division.  This isn't to say that they are going to go into St Louis and steamroll the Rams.  STL have played very well this season and will make things tough for ATL.   Bradford and Jackson are the guys that get the headlines, but the true strength of this team this year has been their defense.  They will be able to get some pressure on Ryan in this game and they rank in the top half of the league in red zone defense and on third down.  Will this be enough to pull off the upset?  Against a lot of other teams I would say yes, but ATL is no joke. 

ATL is a team that can beat you a number of different ways.  They will do a good job limiting Jackson in this one and there will be opportunities to make plays in the air.  The Ryan-White duo are proving to be unstoppable this season.  I lost two props last week because I thought White was more injured than he was, but he showed no ill effects of his knee injury and put up gaudy numbers against BAL.  The are a tough team to get off the field.  ATL rank 1st in the league on third down offense and sit in the top third of the league in red zone offense.  They average almost three touchdowns a game from long drives and control the clock more than their opponent in most games.  If things weren't already tough enough for STL, they will also have to earn every yard and point they get.  ATL rank near the very top in turnover differential and penalties.   This is a sign of a well-coached team as they very rarely beat themselves.  The future is bright for the Rams, but the best I see for them in this matchup is a moral victory.  Prediction: Bank ATL -3.

Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings: GB -3
What a difference a year makes huh?  Coming into the season many people had circled this game as a ratings bonanza.  As Lee Corso likes to say - not so fast my friend.  I wrote in my Minnesota Vikings season preview that those expecting a repeat performance from Favre were headed for a rude awakening.  In hindsight, it shouldn't come as a surprise.  The guy had a great year last season playing within the constraints of the play-calling and a healthy lineup.  This year he has said to heck with the plan, I'm going to make things happen like I usually do.  The result?  Typical interceptions and inconsistent play.  He played his last meaningful game of his career last week and now he has to play a rested GB team that is good against the pass.  MIN should rely heavily on Peterson to sustain drives and score points in this one, but Childress loves to ignore the run game for long bouts at a time and I still haven't figured out why.  On defense they aren't getting to the QB like they have in the past and they rank near the bottom in third down and red zone defense.  They only average about 10 points a game from long drives, have a horrible turnover differential, and can't control the clock like they used to.

 Despite the injuries, GB have continued to find ways to win games and a lot of that has to do with two key players - Aaron Rodgers and Clay Mathews.  Both of these guys are difference makers on their respective sides of the ball.  I don't expect it to be any different when they lineup on Sunday.   GB is great offensively once they get inside the 20 and don't have much problem moving the sticks even without a legitimate running game.   They are near the top in turnover differential and score a lot of points from long drives.  MIN might have swept the division series last season, but it will be GB who takes both games in 2010.  Prediction: Bank GB -3.

Indianapolis Colts vs New England Patriots: IND +4
I waited to see where the line would go with this one, but I can't say that I am surprised that most people are taking the Patriots.  This is usually the case when the public see a team dominate in a night game the week before.  This week everyone is taking NE and PHI.  However, a closer look at the matchup reveals that NE shouldn't be favored by 4 points.  This game is much closer to a pick em and that is only because NE have home field advantage.  

Let's take a look what NE will be able to do on the field.  First off, everyone knows how vulnerable IND is in run defense.  NE have a nice edge here, but is it something that Belichick will exploit?  Traditionally Brady is the one making things happen in this offense and that is no different in this rivalry.  Therefore, this advantage is not as important as it should be.  This doesn't mean that Brady won't make plays.  We all know he will.  But will it be enough?   NE also have a nice edge stopping the run in this matchup.  Unfortunately for the Patriots this isn't a game that is going to be won or lose on the ground.

For me there are four significant mismatches on the field in this game and they all favor IND.  The obvious one is in the air.  Peyton knows how to exploit inferior defensive backs - especially when they are inexperienced.  Road noise is not something that Peyton worries about so the home field advantage is not as relevant as it would be otherwise.   The less obvious advantages IND have is on third down and in the red zone.  IND rank near the top in both categories offensively.   NE are near the bottom on third down defense and dead last in red zone defense.  Lastly, NE have had problems getting to the quarterback all season long, while Peyton is one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the NFL.  These factors will be paramount and should provide Peyton with enough of an edge to keep it within four points - if not win outright.   The Pats might have surprised me last week in PIT, but the Colts have a much better passing game to exploit what Big Ben and company couldn't.  Prediction: Bank IND +4.