I swear, every week the NFL comes up with some surprises that not many or nobody at all would have seen coming, but that’s why we watch it right? For example, I thought the Cowboys would be beaten by the Saints last week, but 49-17; not to mention the record for first downs in a game with 40, the Saints brutalised the Cowboys poor defensive work. Moreover the Jacksonville Jaguars AND the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recorded their first wins of the season, something was bound to give eventually but the Titans and the Dolphins will definitely be disappointed. Well, Delanie Walker has already berated the Titans’ performance saying that they went out there and ‘played like the Jags’ that alone should tell you how bad it feels to lose to a 0-8 team, especially the worst team in football. Meanwhile, the Vikings scored 20 unanswered points to beat the Redskins in Thursday Night Football which to be honest, was a real shocker for me, everyone knows Washington are bad on defence but I never for one second imagined Christian Ponder being able to take advantage of it. What about those St. Louis Rams too? Taking on the Indianapolis Colts and putting up 38 points to a measly 8. Tavon Austin played a monster game nearly notching himself a franchise record for all-purpose yards with 310 including a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown. In fact, he more or less won the game by himself, catching a 57 yarder and an 81 yard catch-and-run both for touchdowns. However, like I said, this is why we watch American Football and I can only try to anticipate the surprises that await for us in week 11 of this year’s NFL, now let’s get started.
Bye Weeks: Cowboys, Rams
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
And Jake Locker is out again, this time for the season so it seems that the Titans may have brought him back from injury too early a couple of weeks ago. This of course means that they will have to rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick at Quarterback for the rest of the season, which, let’s be brutally honest here, could make the Titans offence go up and down like a yo-yo with inconsistency. Having said that, Fitzpatrick did stage a slight comeback against the Jags in week 10 in the fourth quarter so maybe I’m being a little too harsh. To be fair, the Indianapolis Colts are also coming off a rough loss last week having been torched by Tavon Austin and the St. Louis Rams so Andrew Luck will be eager to bounce back with a better performance and a win. Luck attempted 47 passes last Sunday which led him to total 353 yards and a touchdown, you’d think that was a good stat-line if his counterpart in the game, Kellen Clemens hadn’t only attempted 16 passes, completing 9 for 247 yards and 2 TDs. Now, the Titans defence is ranked 9th in the league which is 8 places higher than the Rams so despite a bit of lapse against the Jags they could give the Colts a decent match. I still think that Fitzpatrick will not be able to overcome his inconsistencies to win this one though, so I’m going to be favouring the Colts, let’s just say week 10 was a blip – unfortunately for Tennessee.
Prediction: Colts 24 – 10 Titans
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
The Jets come back off of their bye week this Sunday to face a Buffalo Bills side that is really quite all over the place. They have serious issues at the Quarterback position, having to hope that one of their back-ups actually stays fit long enough to synchronise well with the offence; despite E.J. Manuel returning last week the Bills still fell to defeat at the hands of the Steelers. Moreover, their defence has been slipping of late, allowing an average of 25.9 points per game which is just plain not good enough if they want to keep their season alive. Manuel threw for 155 yards, a TD as well as an interception last Sunday – whether that was purely good defence from Pittsburgh or just rookie gameplay will be seen this week against the Jets who have been savage on defence of late. So much so, they rank 8th in the NFL on that side of the ball, having garnered 27 sacks, 5 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. Not forgetting a mere 18.8 points per game. Now that’s not to be sniffed at. The Jets are steadfast on defence and I have a feeling that if they can beat up the Saints offensive line and get to the likes of Drew Brees more often than not, then the Bills are going to be facing a long Sunday afternoon in week 11. This is the perfect opportunity for rookie QB Geno Smith of the Jets to gain some more confidence in his game and throw a couple of touchdowns.
Prediction: Jets 21 – 9 Bills
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This NFC South match-up could prove to be very entertaining after the Bucs finally notched their first win of the season on Monday Night Football this past week. Especially as they play at home again, which could make all the difference in this divisional game between two sides who look so much better on paper than their records show, 2-7 and 1-8 respectively. Matt Ryan will be seeking his 2nd victory over the Buccaneers this season having dispatched them 31-23 in week 7 at the Georgia Dome. This game will be a lot tougher for the Falcons though, Roddy White having played only his first game after injury last week against the Seahawks may still need to shake some rust off and well, it just hasn’t been Ryan’s season at all. The Falcons’ QB has thrown 10 interceptions so far this season(7 of which coming in the past 3 games) so the Buccaneers secondary will be keeping an eye out on those loose passes downfield. While the Buccaneers offence has seemed very dominant for the most part in it’s performances against the Dolphins and the Seahawks previously. The key is that they are having trouble holding onto their leads, eventually losing to Seattle in overtime and allowing 19 unanswered points against Miami. However, they hung on Monday and that could be very important even though they lost RB Mike James to injury the rest of the offence stepped up, especially the right-hand side of the O-Line in Demar Dotson and Davin Joseph. This will be a close one, but you know, I think momentum swings in funny ways in football. Bucs win.
Prediction: Falcons 17 – 20 Buccaneers
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers
So the Lions took the lead in the NFC North last week after beating the Chicago Bears and going up to 6-3. I think that they should be able to keep winning this week against the Steelers. Matthew Stafford is having a great season and so is Calvin Johnson(like he wouldn’t have a great season anyway) which is unlike their opponents this week who find themselves bottom of the AFC North with a reversed record of 3-6. The partnership of Stafford and Johnson as well as the implementation of Reggie Bush among others has the Detroit offence ranked 6th in the league and a force to be reckoned with, though their defence leaves something to be desired, the amount of points that they can put on the board normally means they have nothing to worry about. The Lions average 26.4 points per game and 410 overall yards compared to the Steelers 19.9 and 337. Arguably that would put this game to a touchdown win to the Lions right? Personally, I can see the Lions winning by a margin of around 10 points just because of how poor the Steelers have been this season on both sides of the ball. They have been far too inconsistent and Big Ben has not been the same QB of past seasons as you can see from his rating of 87.6 after 9 games this season.
Prediction: Lions 27 – 17 Steelers
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Yikes. Two terrible defences going up against each other’s great offences. This could be a fun one. But can Nick Foles really keep up the tempo of his game at the moment? I’m sorry, but, he’s playing way too good for who he is. Not that I’m knocking his performances, I’m just saying that those kind of games cannot last. Before all the Eagles fans start shouting about how they have the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. You don’t. The guy has thrown 10 TDs, 634 yards and 0 interceptions in his past two games and has notched himself impressive wins against the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, this won’t be the week that he gets knocked down a peg – after all the Redskins are 27th on defence and allowing nearly 32 points against them on average. It’s no wonder that they’re struggling to get wins and are currently 3-6 on the season and sitting bottom of the NFC East. This is a good chance for them to get back into the division though with a match-up against their NFC East rivals. On Sunday though, watch out for the link-up between Foles and his new-found ace at WR Riley Cooper as they storm through the Washington defence. Deep missilies incoming.
Prediction: Redskins 24 – 31 Eagles
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars
Well, well, well, Jacksonville got a win! That’s a historic day for their head coach Gus Bradley too, who recorded his first career win as a HC in the NFL. But this is where the excitement ends for now. Unlucky Jacksonville fans, you’re up against the Cardinals, one of the last teams in the league to have a record above .500 at 5-4. Now I might be getting ahead of myself here in saying that the Jags are going to lose but when you consider the performance that Arizona put in against the Texans last week I just have to vote for them to overhaul the Jaguars this Sunday. Obviously, the rankings for each team here are actually quite similar but there is one stat that sticks out in the comparison between the two teams. That being that the Cardinals are 13th on defence, allowing 22 points per game compared to the Jags 32 so it’s easy to see why I believe in the Cardinals that little bit more. I expect this to be a game where Carson Palmer finds his groove and actually throws more touchdowns than interceptions, having thrown 12 TDs and 15 interceptions thus far this season. It’s time for that order to change around a little.
Prediction: Cardinals 21 – 13 Jaguars
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Like I said last week, Case Keenum is a glint of hope for the Houston Texans who slumped to defeat against the Arizona Cardinals and left their record to drop to 2-7. This is the game where Keenum shows his true worth. A game against a defence that allowed 7 touchdowns against them just a couple of weeks ago and then fell to defeat against the New York Giants on Sunday. Not to mention the fact that the Raiders are only scoring just over 18 points per game which should ease the pressure on a wounded Texans defence as well as their new Quarterback who shouldn’t have to play catch-up this week. Furthermore, the Texans are 1st on defence. Hard to believe I know, seeing as they have one of the worst records in the league and have been in all sorts of turmoil this season. But they have only been allowing 280 yards of total offence in 2013 as well as only allowing 18.9 points per game. Now isn’t that funny, both the defence and offence stats of the Texans and Raiders match up to be more or less the same points-wise. This makes for a recipe of defensive victory don’t you think? I sure do. The Texans will grab this match-up by the collar and finally look like the Houston Texans that made the playoffs last year.
Prediction: Raiders 17 – 24
Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears
After taking down the leaders of the AFC North the Cincinnati Bengals last week, the Ravens must be feeling pretty good about themselves right now. But their offence still hasn’t found it’s speed despite Joe Flacco throwing a pair of touchdowns he still only threw for 140 yards on 20 completions. Moreoever, where is the Ravens running game? Pierce and Rice totalled 61 yards on the ground between them. That’s 201 yards of total offence and that’s a miserable stat to have. The Ravens are going to have to improve offensively whether they’re short-handed on the offensive line or not because the Chicago Bears have been putting up an average of 28.8 points and 372.7 yards per game. If the Ravens put in an offensive performance like they did last week again, then they just simply won’t be able to keep up with the pace of the Bears. Though the Ravens outmatch the Bears on defence I don’t think that it will make too much difference as even back-up QB Josh McCown has been playing decently when he’s had to deputise for Jay Cutler. He even almost helped them to a win against Detroit last Sunday after throwing 62 yards and a touchdown in 6 passes so he’s probably one of the better replacement QBs from around the league. That probably gives the Bears the edge this week.
Prediction: Ravens 14 – 20 Bears
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have had two poor overtime defeats and two poor Andy Dalton performances in the past couple of games, they’ll be looking to secure their lead in the AFC North against divisional opponents the Cleveland Browns at home this week. They were already beaten away by the Browns earlier in the season but home soil always lends an advantage in divisional match-ups. If Dalton can improve his game and go back to week 8 where he threw 5 TDs to 1 interception rather than throwing 3 interceptions a game like he has against the Dolphins and Ravens then the Bengals will be able to cope against a tight Browns secondary. Dalton even dropped below throwing 300 yards a game last week when he had previously been throwing over 325 every game for about 4 weeks. This has come at a bad time for the Bengals as they have had several key defensive players either put on injured reserve or taken out of action for 3-4 weeks recently, including CB Leon Hall, LB Rey Maualuga and DT Geno Atkins. This is the time for other defensive playmakers like Vontaze Burfict and Michael Johnson to step up. Though the Browns rank 5th on defence, only one place behind the Bengals, their offence is a lacklustre 25th but coming off of a bye week gives them a chance to work out their offensive flaws so far this season.
Prediction: Browns 17 – 20 Bengals
San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins
Both teams in this match-up will be looking to come back from defeat this week. The Chargers took on the Broncos last Sunday and lost to their divisional rivals despite good play on both sides of the ball. They played so well on defence that they even kept the Broncos from scoring 30 or more points for the first time this season. Offensively, Philip Rivers threw for 219 yards and a TD while the Chargers gained 95 yards and a TD on the ground too. If they play similarly against the Dolphins then I can all but guarantee you a Chargers win, especially as this certainly isn’t the self-destructing San Diego team of old. The Dolphins will have to pick up their game and then some in week 11 as they managed 2 yards rushing on MNF, that’s right, 2 yards. Those yards came from the quarterback himself too, they may as well have never rushed the ball at all. In defence of Ryan Tannehill he threw 229 yards and 2 touchdowns which isn’t bad considering how badly the offensive line of the Dolphins was playing. You can expect several sacks coming Tannehill’s way again and another poor performance from Miami in this game, something tells me that the media circus surrounding them right now isn’t helping matters either.
Prediction: Chargers 28 – 17 Dolphins
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
Having signed Matt Flynn this week to take the helm behind Scott Tolzien at QB, the Green Bay Packers will be in much better position come game-time this Sunday. His veteran experience will help the Tolzien and will make him feel a lot more secure in the pocket. Luckily, the Packers are facing a New York Giants side that nobody is really sure what will come out of. Over the course of the 2013 season the Giants have seen games go down due to awful amounts turnovers and penalties while also at times Big Blue has come good and actually shown that they are a competent side in this year’s league. Of course, Green Bay will be hoping they get the Eli Manning from earlier in the season who was throwing interception after interception and was averaging a QB rating of around 55. Having won 3 games on the trot his rating has propelled to 68.5 but I’m just not sure I believe in his consistency still. Especially not if he plays against a credible defence, the Giants have only won games against teams ranked 31st, 30th and 16th on that side of the ball. This one could go either way, it really depends how each QB handles themselves on the day. The rookie or the inconsistent half of the Manning brothers? Only time will tell, but honestly, Green Bay should be winning this even with a back-up quarterback.
Prediction: Packers 17 – 13 Giants
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
This match-up should be an absolute blowout, the Seahawks beat the Falcons in style last week so they should be able to take apart the Vikings defence with ease. Minnesota are practically last on either side of the ball, 28th on offence and 30th on defence. This makes them one of the worst teams in the league currently and their record of 2-7 proves it. And now they’re visiting Centurylink Field, the loudest stadium in the NFL. The 12th man really does count in games when Seattle are at home as shown by their unbeaten record there this season. Saying that, the Seahawks have only lost one game so far in 2013 so they are pretty unbeatable right now. This game will easily up their record to 10-1 as there is no way that the Minnesota Vikings will be able to out-perform them. Russell Wilson has been playing far too well in linking up with his Wide Receivers so far in 2013, having thrown 17 TDs to 6 interceptions and recording a rating of 101.8 in 10 games so far this season. This one is going to be more of a matter of just how many points do the Seahawks want to score?
Prediction: Vikings 10 – 34 Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
This match-up sees two of the NFL’s top franchises face-off against each other in a battle that may very well depend on the strength of defence and which one cracks first. After being toppled by the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, the 49ers will be rather sore and probably quite surprised. To be honest, it almost looked like the team as a whole was caught off-guard by the level of quality the Panthers brought to the field last week. They won’t be so foolish as to underestimate their opposition this week as the New Orleans Saints are to be downright feared; the combination of a 7-2 record, an offence and defence both ranked inside the defence as well as a resounding 49-17 win against the Cowboys last week show that. We all know that the Cowboys aren’t great defensively but 49 points? That’s a whole lot of damage. The 49ers should be very wary of Drew Brees and company, the Quarterback threw for 392 yards and 4 TDs against the Sundays and totalled an offence of 625 yards which was a franchise record. That yardage is absolutely monstrous. If the Niners know what’s good for them, they’ll have practised hard and prepared well for this game or else it might not be as close as a lot of people will think. I don’t normally like complimenting the Saints so much but I give credit where credit is due.
Prediction: 49ers 27 – 34 Saints
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
This is what it’s come down to. Battle of the AFC titans. Will the Chiefs be able to sustain their unbeaten record against the Denver Broncos? Unlikely. The majority of their wins have come through luck and big defensive plays rather than offensive magic. Which is why they’re only ranked 24th on offence overall. Compared to Peyton Manning, who despite playing through a niggling and painful ankle injury has been putting up 30 points or more with his Broncos offence except for last week against the Chargers, the Chiefs have nothing. It’s a no brainer really. This game will be all about the Kansas City defence and whether or not they can take down the league’s best team on offence. Nothing else. To be honest, they do stand a good chance, there have been moments in games such as those against the Chargers and the Colts where Manning has been pressured and sacked. This bodes well for the Chiefs, what doesn’t, is that I think the defence is going to be on the field too much to be able to keep piling on that pressure consistently and you know what happens to a tired defence? It gets beat.
Prediction: Chiefs 14 – 31 Broncos
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers
Haven’t the Panthers become interesting all of a sudden? They’ve gone from being a middle of the road contender in the NFC South to a viable playoff possibility, especially after taking the scalp of the San Francisco 49ers in a close game last week. If they can manage to beat the next member of the old guard in the New England Patriots then I will genuinely tip my hat and start arguing the case for them to be in the playoffs and possibly even a divisional final contender. The Patriots though, are never an easy side to beat, despite all of their struggles offensively this season. The Pats are going to be feeling better after the bye week as Gronkowski will have had more time to heal and I bet you him and Tom Brady will be raring to put down these cats. Seeing as Gronkowski had a record 9 catches last time he played this game will probably go similarly for the combination. The Patriots Tight End will be seeing a lot of the ball as Brady continues to up his performance after throwing 4 touchdowns in his last outing in week 9 against the Steelers. His rating in that game? 151.8. He plays like that again this week and the Panthers are gonna be sorry they ever had the gall to call themselves contenders, and maybe someone will manage to wipe that smug smile off of Cam Newton’s face.
Prediction: Patriots 24 – 20 Panthers