Category Archives: Week 11, 2016 Season

Week 11 of the 2016 season

Week 11 Recap: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Detroit Lions

Eric Ebron
Eric Ebron finished his afternoon against the Jaguars with three catches for 70 yards, as well as a rushing touchdown.

Final: Detroit 26, Jacksonville 19

In a game that was pretty back-and-forth throughout, featuring six lead changes, the Lions pull off the win at home following a bone-headed offside penalty against Sen’Derrick Marks late in the fourth quarter on a fourth and one.  Detroit did not look particularly good in this game outside of a couple of players while the Jaguars were not all horrible, but still very sloppy.  Here’s a look at the performances of the players in the contest.

We start with the Jacksonville defense.  This was a unit that came into the game having not forced a turnover in five straight contests.  They snapped that streak when they recovered a muffed punt off the mitts of Andre Roberts in the first quarter.  Of course, that turnover was technically credited to their special teams but the defense also forced a fumble on Golden Tate to create a play of their own.  Telvin Smith, who was coming off of an emotional week after his brother was murdered, came out and made some nice plays and demonstrated some good form tackling.  He missed one take-down, but was otherwise sure to bring his man down with seven solo tackles.  Paul Posluszny was around the line of scrimmage and helped out with a couple of run stops as well.  The best player in the secondary was strong safety Johnathan Cyprian who was also a sure-tackler and mad a couple of nice breaks on the ball.  Jalen Ramsey was okay, making big plays and also giving up a couple of completions when in coverage on Anquan Boldin.  The biggest play of the game was surrendered in the third quarter when Matthew Stafford hooked up with Eric Ebron for a 61 yard pass.  This was on a zone coverage when Ramsey stumbled as he attempted to turn his hips.  This let the big tight end out of North Carolina run loose.  Prince Amukamara’s tough year continued as well when he was beat on routes on more than a couple of occasions.  The Jaguars played a lot of zone on passing downs, which hurt them more than anything, but they ran many run blitzes and hit on almost all of them.  This could be more attributed to the Detroit line than anything else, which will be hit on now.

Davon House
Davon House in coverage from Sunday’s game.

The Lion’s up front were pushed around.  There was almost no fight out of their O-line and most players on the offensive side were not very good.  Matthew Stafford turned in one of the lone solid performances from Detroit.  His right arm essentially became their running game, especially late in the fourth quarter when the Lions went on an eight minute drive to milk just about all of the remaining time out.  He had a lot of throws from weird arm angles, as we have become accustomed to seeing, and was pinpoint accurate on most of them.  He did face a lot of pressure early in the game and the offensive line is to blame for that.  The Lions had almost no yardage until about halfway into the second quarter, something that will not cut it if they are to play a competent team down the stretch here.  There was almost no surge from the O-line in the run game and it is hard to blame any of the backs for the lack of space running the ball.  Anquan Boldin was not bad; he made a lot of separation on his routes with his physical running.  The Golden Tate roller coaster season continued.  He showed up in this game but did not have a monster impact with three catches for 27 yards.  Tight end Eric Ebron was a near non-factor against man coverage, but had a lot of success against zone.  He also trotted into the end zone on a fourth quarter one yard rushing touchdown.

The Jaguars on offense were not a whole lot better running the ball with Chris Ivory, who put the ball on the ground for the fourth time this season.  T.J. Yeldon looked strong with the rock in his arms, but he suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the game.  Blake Bortles was an adventure in this contest.  He was brought down hard on a scramble early in the game and was rolling his shoulders for the rest of the contest.  Many of his throws from that point forward were underthrown and off the mark.  He threw two picks in the game, and as coach Brian Billick would say interceptions come because of four reasons: Bad throw, Bad decision, Bad route, or Bad luck.  His first interception was a bad throw while his last was bad luck when the ball bounced off of Marqise Lee’s foot and into the hands of Tavon Wilson.  Before those two second half turnovers, he did have a nice first half, getting rid of the ball quickly and into the hands of his play makers.  Allen Robinson chipped in with a touchdown catch and the backs were active participants in the receiving game.  Chris Ivory ended up leading the team with six catches.  9/22 of Bortles’ completions went to his running backs, many on screens.  He made a horrible pass coming out of the half that was intercepted by Rafael Bush and returned 39 yards to the house.  He then came back on the very next thrown and was nearly picked off again trying to force it in to Allen Robinson (Darius Slay was on the coverage).  The throw was behind Robinson and clearly a greedy pass.  Bortles was trying to do too much in this game and made some careless throws because of it.  The best overall player on offense for the Jags was Marqise Lee.  He made some great catches, had separation, chipped in with excellent blocks, and grabbed a touchdown at the very left side of the end zone.  He has picked up his play the past few weeks and is becoming Blake Bortles’ go-to receiver.  Allen Hurns was essentially a no-show in the game, as was Julius Thomas.  The two combined for four catches and 21 yards.  They are going to need a lot more production than that.

Jacksonville taking the field against the Lions in Detroit.

The Detroit defense was nothing too special in coverage; they lucked out facing a quarterback who made a lot of errant passes.  Ziggy Ansah was a beast, however, forcing multiple QB pressures and a tackle for a loss.  Miles Killebrew came up and made four huge tackles on third down situations stopping the runner short of the sticks.  The Lions opted for a lot of zone in their own right and they were effective in that coverage only because their front four was able to get pressure on Bortles.  Otherwise the secondary was not great.  Haloti Ngata was in the backfield for practically the whole game as the nose tackle had his best showing of the year, making a tackle for a loss and a couple of run stuffs as well as a pressure on the quarterback.  As stated before, Rafael Bush had a 39 yard pick six which ended up being the difference in the game.  His interception was basically gift-wrapped though as the ball was thrown right to him.  Blake Bortles made a lot of risky and bad passes and it made this sloppy secondary look much better than it really was.

Special teams-wise, the Lions benefited from a 55-yard punt return touchdown from Andre Roberts in the second quarter.  Marqise Lee had a 42-yard kickoff return as well, but other than these two plays special teams was awful in this contest.  There were two missed PATs, and many penalties.  The Jaguars lead the league in penalties against them in this area of the field and their 2-8 record reflects how sloppy they have been.

Looking back, this was a really bad effort from so many players.  The Lions were not very good outside of Matthew Stafford on offense, and their defense benefited from playing a dysfunctional offense.  Neither offensive line got any push; Jacksonville was bullied when protecting against the pass while Detroit got no surge when blocking for the run.  The Lions are tied for first place in the NFC North with Minnesota, who they play next week on Thanksgiving.  If they do not straighten up, they could be in for a rude awakening.  The Jaguars will be taking on the Bills on the road as they desperately try to give their head coach Gus Bradley anything to help him save his job by the season’s end.  They are one of the most undisciplined team’s in the league and this was clearly seen on a fourth and one late in the 4th when Sen’Derrick Marks, a leader of the D, jumped offsides in an obvious 4th and one hard count from the Lions.  The Jaguars are not going anywhere until they fix their problems on offense.

Jared Odrick
Jared Odrick attempts to bring down Matthew Stafford.

The Skinny:

  • Matthew Stafford was forced to bail his offense out yet again as the Lions could forge nothing on the ground in an all-around embarrassing effort from the offensive line.  Detroit finished the game with 14 rushing yards and just one first down via the run.
  • The Lion “D” was lead by a relatively unknown player today in Miles Killebrew.  He made a number of key third down stops to hold back the Jacksonville attack.
  • Offensively the Lions were a mess overall.  Half of their points came on return touchdowns with a punt return TD by Andre Roberts, who shined outside of a muffed punt in this contest, and a pick six from Rafael Bush in the third quarter.
  • Blake Bortles continued to struggle in this game.  After producing his best half of football in the first two quarters, he came out and was forcing throws and missing his receivers in the final two.  He ended the game with two picks, with yet another one bouncing off of his receiver’s foot.
  • Marqise Lee had an excellent showing making very nice plays on offense and a couple of nice returns.  He ran great routes, made nice sideline grabs (as well as a touchdown), and even threw a couple of nice blocks.
  • The Jacksonville defense had a nearly perfect stuff rate when run blitzing and were able to keep things tight for the entire game.  They were beaten deep a couple of times in zone coverage which has been a problem for them all year.

2016 Season: Week 11 Preview

It is Week 11, and after last week the world is eager to see what the NFL has in store this time around.  There were a ton of classic games and a lot of upsets.  Going by the Vegas line, eleven out of the fourteen scheduled contests ended in an upset.  That wreaked havoc on the picks from yours truly, but that is what makes the game so fun to watch.  There wouldn’t be any sense in predicting outcomes if we all knew what was going to happen.  Anyways, I’ve been handing out superlatives in this column, talking about who the best players are, those who are deserving of awards, those who are fun to watch, and the greatest games of the year.  Now it is time to go down a darker path: head coaches on the hot seat.  Who are the top ten head coaches in trouble this season?  I have that list compiled below as well as all of my picks for the week.

10- Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans:

We will touch on this one a bit later in this article, but a lot of the offseason moves he and the Houston braintrust have made have not worked yet.  He is 6-3 and is only in hot water if his team has a major collapse.

9- Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers: 

A couple of weeks ago McCoy would have fallen much lower on this list, but his team has rallied to make some nice wins lately.  Still, the Chargers should be much better than 4-6 right now and part of the problem begins with the head coach and his ability to keep the team mentally tough.

8- Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions: 

Widely regarded as the worst head coach in football, you get the feeling that Jim Bob Cooter is going to overtake him at some point.  His team is winning now, but that may be despite him.  Caldwell is a great offensive mind and an underwhelming head coach.

7- Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams: 

Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but his stubbornness can be leading him towards trouble.  He has shrugged off making obvious changes to his roster in favor of holding the same 7-9 team from year to year.  Things will have to change quickly or he could find himself looking for employment elsewhere in the coming year(s).

6- Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers: 

Mike McCarthy’s offensive system has run very stale (much like someone else appearing on this list) and it may be time for Green Bay to make a change on top.  They have the players, but sometimes a firing of the head coach is necessary to shake the culture of the lockeroom.  It happened to Andy Reid in Philadelphia and it can happen to McCarthy in Green Bay.

5- Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills:

Ryan seems to always be on this list, but often comes up with a big win to save himself from embarrassment.  If his team goes on a run to end the year, then he is going to be just fine, but if the team falls flat there are going to be a lot of people calling for his job in Buffalo.

4- Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: 

We all know the story: Lewis and the Bengals cannot win a playoff game.  After years of so much promise, Cincinnati has been one of the more disappointing teams in the game this season and a changing of head coach could motivate them to play even better in the future with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in the prime of their careers.

3- Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers: 

Chip Kelly’s offense has been figured out and because of his schemes, the defenses have been terrible.  Look at what Jim Schwartz is doing in Philly with virtually the same players.  If your entire persona is built on an amazing offensive scheme that ends up doing nothing, there isn’t a whole lot left to hang your hat on.  Kelly could be one and done in San Fran.

2- Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: 

Much like the Bengals, Indianapolis has a problem with their head coach.  He has not made good decisions in games and has a talent-poor team around him, save for Andrew Luck.  A better coach could help the Colts quite a bit.

1- Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: 

This one was easy to place.  Gus Bradley and his Jags have not been winning games.  They were supposed to take the leap forward this season, but have instead taken five or six steps back.  This game is all about winning, and Bradley has not done that since coming to Jacksonville.  This team needs a change at head coach worse than any other team in the league.

Now, on to this week’s exciting games!

Last week: 5-9

Season: 74-73

Thursday, November 17th, 8:25 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (4-5) @ Carolina Panthers (3-6)

The eleventh week of the season kicks off with a game between two desperate teams who are likely going to be forced to look towards next year with a loss.  In other words, the season will be over for the loser of this game (lock that one in).  Both are coming off of horrifying fourth quarter losses at home to playoff-calibur teams and have to do everything they can to bounce back and save their seasons in the Queen City.  Cam Newton was chirping about not receiving protection from low hits while in the pocket, and rightfully so, and since that time he has not been under too much duress.  The offensive line has played slightly better than it did early on but one of the problems is that Newton is holding the ball too long, inviting big hits.  Luckily the Saints, save for Cameron Jordan, have no pass rush and he can afford to scan the field and go through all of his reads. Cameron Jordan

Hopefully this will help guys like Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr. get involved in the passing game; hey have been silent as of late.  While the Panthers offensive line has been much maligned all year, the Saints’ has been the opposite.  Drew Brees has had a lot of time to pick opposing defenses apart and if he is afforded excellent protection here he should be able to throw up close to 41 points against this porous secondary like he did back in Week 6.  What a game that was, by the way with the two teams combining for 79 points and a thriller requiring a last second field goal from Wil Lutz to seal a W for New Orleans.  NFC South games this year have seen points scored in bunches and this week should prove no differently.  I’m still holding out hope that the Panthers can get on a little roll here in the second half of the season and if that is to happen it will start here.  They cannot afford to drop two games to the Saints if they hope to make any kind of playoff run.  I’m taking Carolina because their defense has been playing much better lately and I think they ride that momentum to a key fourth win.

Carolina 36, New Orleans 28

Thursday, November 20th, 1:00 e.t.

Chicago Bears (2-7) @ New York Giants (6-3)

Coming off of what has to be their most satisfying win of the season, the Giants get ready to hit a two game stretch that will see them face some of the worst teams in football, one of them being these Bears.  Chicago was flat out pushed around by Tampa Bay on the road last week and will be facing a much better defense this time around.  Jason Pierre-Paul seems to be getting back to his all-pro form and the secondary of New York is finally beginning to play up to their bill.  Eli Manning certainly hasn’t looked great lately, but he doesn’t need to if the D can continue to ball out like it has.  Jay Cutler is good for a solid performance every now and again, but I don’t see it happening this week.  The Bears’ real key in this contest will be their rookie running back Jordan Howard.  He continues to knife through defenses and if New York has one weakness on that side of the ball, it would be defending the quick trap run game.  Pounding the middle of formations with the rookie running back may be the way to go, but the G-Men probably know this.  Chances are they’ll pack the box and force Cutler to beat their solid secondary.  Without Alshon Jeffrey to throw the ball to, being lost due to suspension, the Bears have a limited arsenal to attack with.  That does not bode well for them against a team that is peaking right about now.  I’m going with the home team in a rout.Landon Collins

New York 35, Chicago 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) @ Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Antonio Brown Savage

The Steelers enter this game having lost four straight contests and are in desperate need of a win as a pick-me-up to their season.  Luckily they run into the Browns who looked every bit the part of a winless team in an embarrassing loss to the Ravens in Baltimore last Thursday night.  Their offense was held to 144 total yards and they turned the ball over three times.  Cody Kessler was not awful, but was yanked after the first half of play (a half that the Browns won, by the way, being up 7-6 after two quarters).  The switch to Josh McCown may seem puzzling to some, but it is becoming apparent that Hue Jackson is simply trying to decide which quarterback is best to run this offense.  If you’re asking me, I say you stick with the rookie Kessler.  He has looked a bit gun-shy for sure, but he has not been a liability for the offense.  He has tossed six touchdown passes to only one interception and has one of the best completion percentages when under pressure.  Whether or not he starts remains to be seen, but in the end it won’t matter.  Ben Roethlisberger returned to form last week against Dallas and did everything he could to propel his team to a win.  The defense choked the game away in the final seconds by letting Ezekiel Elliot run for a 32 yard touchdown, but Pittsburgh did play the once-beaten Cowboys tougher than almost any other team this season.  Offensively, the Steelers seem to have awoken after getting shut down by Baltimore, but as we are finding out now, the Ravens have an excellent defense.  Cleveland does not.  They are still allowing too many busts in coverage and their secondary has been shaky at best.  That does not bode well with Antonio Brown and company coming to town.  On the verge of desperation, I expect the Steelers to come out and play some inspired football.  The ground game has all but disappeared for the Brownies, and they will desperately need it to come back if they hope to slow down their division rivals by keeping that explosive offense off the field.

Pittsburgh 43, Cleveland 17

Buffalo Bills (4-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1)

This game, much like the Thursday nighter, promises to be one of the better contests of the week simply because it pits two teams desperate to make a push for the playoffs who, if they lose, will likely fall out of contention entirely (possibly putting their head coach in a lot of trouble, but that’s another topic for another day).  I give the visiting Buffalo the edge here.  It goes much further than the fact that the Bills will have had 13 days rest while Cincy will have only had 6.  Rex Ryan’s boys are running the ball well and their offense has been preforming lately whereas the Bengals have struggled to put drives together and have not been so fundamentally sound on defense, especially when forced to tackle in space.  The Bills have two of the best make-you-miss players on offense with LeSean McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod Taylor

Cincinnati will have to keep within its own means in this game, which means no over-pursuing and better gap play, something the team has had a lot of trouble with lately.  If Cincy can find a running game against a Buffalo defense that is average in that category, then they stand a chance.  The Bills have not been great defending tight ends either, so in will step Tyler Eifert who seems to be almost all the way back.  He should get his targets in the middle of the field.  With that being said, I am not a fan of the unit that Paul Geunther is throwing out on the field and ultimately I think they will be the downfall here.  Buffalo was fun to watch and very crisp on offense in Seattle against a much better D, so if they play anywhere near that level in this contest they should leave town with a win.  I expect Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and company to keep this one interesting however.

Buffalo 23, Cincinnati 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

Don’t look now but Tampa Bay is in second place in the NFC South.  They are coming off of a thrashing of the Chicago Bears at home and will head to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs who continue to win despite their injuries or criticism from the media.  Kansas City is one of just four teams who are undefeated at home while the Buccaneers are actually 3-1 on the road.  The are, also, 0-2 in games against the AFC West so far this year and are facing a team that is very opportunistic on defense, something that could hurt a gun-slinger like Jameis Winston.  Coming off of a BYE, the Tampa Bay defense played very well and should continue to do so this week if the Chiefs are down a handful of their play-makers like they were last week in Carolina.  We thought that Justin Houston was going to suit up for the first time all year against the Panthers, but he was given an extra week to recuperate.  He should be a go here against the Bucs and if he is, he can provide an immediate spark alongside Dee Ford who continues to dominate in his playing time.  The Tampa Bay offensive line has been up and down all year and will have to be great if the team is going to win this game on the road.  It is going to take some fundamentally sound team defense and a mistake-free offense.  This is something that the Bucs are not and is something that the Chiefs are.  Marcus PetersKansas City tends to feast on these types of teams, and with the Buccaneers still not running the ball all that well, I don’t like their odds to go on the road and control this game.  I do want to go on record by saying that I gave an upset a thought here.

Kansas City 21, Tampa Bay 12

Baltimore Ravens (5-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-1)

Having both come off of impressive wins a week ago, this game will be the only one all week that will pit two lone division leaders against one another (the Raiders are co-division leaders with Kansas City, so we aren’t counting their game with Houston).  The Baltimore defense has been lights out this season, but at the same time slightly less than itself on the road, as many teams are.  Dallas, on the other hand, continues to tear teams apart with their running game and play action from Dak Prescott.  To this point in the year, the only teams who have had any success at slowing the Cowboys offense (divisional foes in the New York Giants and Eagles) have done so by stopping the run.  Baltimore is not just the #1 ranked offense in the league, but it is also the #1 defense against the run.  We have pointed this out before, however, when the Cowboys and Packers played a few weeks ago.  All Dallas did was go ahead and run 191 yards in that Week 6 affair.  Zeke Elliott

The Ravens offense has not been very good this season, and has not looked much better since Marty Morhinweg was promoted to offensive coordinator a short time ago.  That was to be worrisome for Baltimore against a team that can wear you down and out with their running game.  The Cowboys are scoring almost 29 points per game, and that is a direct compliment to their offensive line and what they have been able to do running the ball.  If the Ravens cannot slow down Zeke Elliot, then they will have to hope that their offense can score more than 30 points against a defense that is doing enough to hold teams back from doing just this.  I don’t have confidence in Joe Flacco being able to shred a defense.  He did not look too impressive against one of the worst defenses in the league at home last week so I don’t see him making a miraculous turnaround on the road in Big D.  IF the Ravens can dominate at the line of scrimmage like they have been able to lately, they they just may be able to pull an upset.

Dallas 26, Baltimore 17

Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

This Minnesota Viking ship is sinking, and fast.  I have been going down on that ship over the last few weeks and refuse to continue down that path.  No, Arizona has not looked impressive in almost any of their games this year, but I do think they have the better team and here is why: they are actually able to run the ball on offense.  If you look at both of these defenses, it is easy to say that they are basically a wash.  The Cardinals have one of the best, if not the best secondaries in football.  If the Vikings are unable to run the ball as has been the common trend so far this year, it will come down to their offense throwing the ball against Patrick Peterson and pals.  Peterson will be matched up with Stefon Diggs in what could be the best match-up of the week.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that Diggs can make history in this game.  He is the only player in NFL history to record at least 13 receptions in back-to-back games, and can be the first player ever to have three straight games with 11+ catches. Stefon Diggs I don’t see him doing so against one of the best cover corners in the league, however, but I did want to mention that bit of historical trivia.  David Johnson was bottled up last week by an atrocious 49er defense, but I try not to read too much into that since it was a divisional game and those can often be wacky.  The Minnesota defense has been exposed over the last couple of weeks and teams have gotten to them by delivering quick passes over the middle and not letting that great pass-rush get going.  With the offensive line in shambles for the Cardinals, I think they will do everything they can to limit Carson Palmer’s game.  He should throw a lot of slants and quick hitches when the Vikings play off coverage and take his shots when they are there.  In the end, I can’t see Minnesota winning this game being a one-dimensional offense.  If they cannot run the ball and have to throw it, it will be playing right into Arizona’s hands as their secondary can create turnovers and make plays.

Arizona 19, Minnesota 13

Tennessee Titans (5-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Both of these teams enter this game having just pulled off big wins over the Green Bay Packers (of course, Indy’s came two weeks ago before their BYE).  Now they are looking to make a push for the AFC South with a win in Indianapolis.  The Titans have been alternating wins and losses all season long, and if that trend continues then they are due for an L on the road against the Colts.  Tennessee has not beaten the Colts since 2011, as they have rattled off ten straight wins against them; the longest such current streak by any divisional rivals in the league.  The Titans have been rolling on offense lately, having scored over 35 points in three straight games.  Their offense could do no wrong against the Packers as it all started with a 75 yard touchdown run from DeMarco Murray.  Marcus Mariota started 10/10 for 192 yards and two scores and the Titans just did whatever they wanted against Green Bay at home.  It certainly was, as Mike Mularkey would say, a statement win for his team and one that they can really build off of.  Mike MularkeyThe Colts and Andrew Luck can say the same thing, but it is easy to forget about what they did on the road in Lambeau as that game did take place two weeks ago.  Luck made some great throws under pressure and carried his team to a late win in that game.  The Indy defense has been up and down throughout this entire season.  They will be tasked with stopping the Titans from running the ball against them.  If they can do this then there should be opportunities to force Marcus Mariota into mistakes, something the young sophomore QB has been prone to this season.  This is a really tough game to call, but for the second time this year I am going to take the Colts.  They will have the home crowd in their corner and have had a BYE to think things over.  That Tennessee defense has not been great lately and I think that bites them hard on the road.

Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 31

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) @ Detroit Lions (5-4)

The Lions are returning from their BYE in a great mood because they suddenly find themselves in first place in the NFC North with both Minnesota and Green Bay losing a week ago.  Now the get an apparent cupcake at home when the Jaguars come to town.  Blake Bortles continued to struggle early on in the game a week ago against Houston, but something tells me that he won’t in this one.  The Detroit defense has been bad for much of this season and I think that Bortles will have opportunities for big plays down the field.  With that being said, it will come down to their defense and whether or not I think they can slow down Matthew Stafford and the Lions.  I was going to go with them in an upset, but then I remembered that Stafford is clutch in the fourth quarter.  Steve Smith Jalen Ramsey FightJalen Ramsey versus a rejuvenated Golden Tate should be a fun one, but the real key here will be on the other side.  Prince Amukamara continued to struggle last week and should have his hands full with Marvin Jones this time around.  Add in a highly physical Anquan Boldin and you have a lot of matchup issues across the board for Jacksonville.  Their running game will have to get chugging like it did on the road in Kansas City two weeks back.  The key sounds like it would be to keep their offense on the field, but that never works since they are prone to mistakes themselves.  I expect a competitive game out of the Jaguars, however, but in the end I am trusting Matthew Stafford to make enough plays to win his team the game.  If the Lions can’t beat Jacksonville at home, they are certainly not worthy of being considered a playoff team, so this contest serves as a huge litmus test for them.

Detroit 28, Jacksonville 27

Sunday, November 20th, 4:05 e.t.

Miami Dolphins (5-4) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-5)

Jared GoffFinally the Rams have decided to go with Jared Goff as the starter, and a lot of people think this is way overdue.  Personally, I don’t think the rookie will bring much to the table that Case Keenum did not already do but he should draw more fans to the stadium and make this team more fun to watch.  The Rams were held without a touchdown in three of their first nine games.  Surprisingly, they won two of those, but that is not a formula that should be followed in today’s NFL.  Goff will immediately be expected to produce since his compatriots in the rookie QB class are already out there doing big things.  Opposing him will be a Miami defense that has improved week to week.  Last time we saw them, they were picking Philip Rivers off four times in the fourth quarter to help the whole squad win the game.  They did give up a couple of big plays in that one, but luckily for them the Rams’ are not exactly known for getting that chunk yardage.  Todd Gurley sports a 3.1 yards per carry average and has a long run of 18 yards on the year putting him dangerously close to Trent Richardson territory.  It is easy to say that teams are loading up the box to stop him from tearing through them (which they are, since Los Angeles has not had any kind of passing attack to scare people so far) but I’ve notice that he is pushing to hard on tape and missing possible cut-back opportunities.  If Goff can come in and be effective throwing it, that will take some of the pressure off of Gurley’s shoulders.  They should use him more in the passing game, by the way, as he can be a very effective outlet.  For the Dolphins, they have rejuvenated their season behind a strong running game and much better play out of their secondary.  That has, in turn, made things much easier for Ryan Tannehill since he is not having to win the games all on his own.  That said, this is not a favorable matchup for him.  The Miami offensive line is going to have its hands full with Aaron Donald and friends and Tannehill may not be able to get rid of the ball in time.  Also, call this a stretch if you want, but I can see Jared Goff actually making plays in this game.  I think the Rams should take this one in an upset due to their mismatches that they will create for the Dolphin offense.

Los Angeles 20, Miami 17

Sunday, November 20th, 4:25 e.t.

New England Patriots (7-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-8)

The New England Patriots are coming off of a narrow loss to the Seahawks and are likely going to come into San Fran fired up to play.  Tom Brady returns to the area where he grew up as a Niners fan and now has a chance to tear that team apart.  Tear it apart he shall as the Frisco defense has been awful to this point in the season.  They have not stopped the run worth a darn, and the Patriots come in with back LeGarrette Blount who already has twelve rushing touchdowns on the year.

LeGarrette Blount

You can add another one or two in this game.  I’ve stated before that the 49er defense has been the worst unit in the league ever since their stud linebacker Navorro Bowman was lost for the year.  I don’t see them doing enough to slow New England down.  Even if they do, do we have confidence that their offense is going to do anything to help the team win the game.  It comes down to this: if the 49ers are to win this game in miraculous fashion, they will have to score at least 35 points.  That is five touchdowns.  I certainly don’t see that one happening.  San Fran loses its ninth straight because the Patriots are simply too much for them to handle, especially coming off of a loss.

New England 34, San Francisco 12

Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)

The premier late-window game features two teams with solid defenses throwing down in the Emerald City.  To be honest, I really wish this game were being played in Philly, because that defense is other-worldly at home while it is more vulnerable on the road.  Since the Eagles are traveling to Seattle, they will have a distinct disadvantage due to the crazy loud crowd.  That could give rookie quarterback Carson Wentz a lot of problems.  Philadelphia’s defense is also very average on the road.  That is not going to get it done against a Seahawk team that seems to have found a groove with their offense.  Russell Wilson is playing just as well as any other quarterback in the league right now and is becoming a great pocket passer.  Doug Baldwin is on fire also and should be a handful for a banged up and inconsistent Eagle secondary.  Jimmy Graham is also elevating his play and that will be something to see because Philly typically plays opposing tight ends very well. Jimmy Graham In other news, the ‘Hawks cut Christine Michael, so they will be going forward without him.  Thomas Rawls should be back for this game, but his role should be limited so as to ease him back into the game.  The one thing that really hurts the Eagles in this game is the fact that their corners don’t fight for the ball very well, and that is something that Seattle’s receivers do better than any other team in the league.  Big plays should be there for the Seahawks as long as their offensive line can fend of a vicious pass rush for just long enough.  Brandon Graham, who typically rushes from the right side of the formation, my find some playing time on the left against rookie George Fant.  If that is the case, then Seattle will likely have to keep backs in for protection.  It shouldn’t matter because I think that Russell Wilson is playing great right now and him being hot should carry through this battle.  If this game were being played in Philly I’d think differently, but in Seattle there is no way that the Eagles lackluster receivers will be able to do enough against the Legion of Boom to lead the team to a win.  They will have to lean on their defense heavily and that is a bad strategy in this situation.

Power Pick of the Week: Seattle 31, Philadelphia 17

Sunday, November 20th, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (4-5) @ Washington Redskins (5-3-1)

What in the world is wrong with the Green Bay Packers?  For starters, their defense could not have possibly turned a worse effort than they did a week ago.  The fact that their offense was stuck in the mud did not help either.  When diagnosing Aaron Rodgers game and trying to determine what is wrong, it looks like he is shouldering too much of the weight on offense.  The Packers have had almost no running game to fall back on since losing Eddie Lacy and James Starks.  Starks came back last week, but was not much of a factor since the Pack trailed big early on and they were immediately in catch up mode.  To help their running game, the team signed Christine Michael but that should not have that big of an impact on this Sunday night affair.  Rodgers is holding the ball too long, and would really be much more effective if he could get rid of it quicker. Aaron Rodgers

The Washington Redskins pass defense was shaky last week against Sam Bradford when he dumped the ball off rapidly, so I would say that part of their game was exposed.  The Redskin offense did look very impressive against a great defense, though, scoring 26 points.  Kirk Cousins has been playing some good football lately and has more weapons on offense that most QBs have, including one of the best tight end tandems in the league with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.  Against a Green Bay defense that allowed Delanie Walker almost 100 yards receiving after the first quarter, you can expect them to be fed.  The Washington ground game has gone a bit silent lately, and I don’t think it will pick up much in this game.  If you consider defense and the running game a wash, then it will come down to who plays better quarterback when determining a winner.  I like Aaron Rodgers still.  He’s been on this stage before and is still capable of delivering a gem (just look at what he did in Atlanta this year without any of his favorites healthy).  I’m going with Green Bay because they will be the more desperate team without a doubt and because I believe in Rodgers over Cousins.

Green Bay 29, Washington 22

Monday, November 21st, 8:30 e.t.

Houston Texans (6-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-2) (in Mexico City)

The final game of the season will be played south of the border in Mexico City when the Texans take on the Raiders.  The two teams have a combined 13-5 record, but only one of them looks deserving of a playoff spot right now.  Houston’s defense is not too shabby, but their offense is unwatchable at times.  Oakland, on the other hand, is a lot of fun to watch with Derek Carr playing great football with good outlets and a productive running game.  It all starts with their top five offensive line; they are protecting their QB and allowing him to make big plays with his arm.  The Raiders throw down field effectively which is something that the Texans have not been able to do.  This is a shame because they spent a majority of their offseason trying to improve upon that facet of their game and it has only regressed if anything.  Brock Osweiler is not very eager to chuck the ball down the field, and that is one thing that has hurt Oakland this season.  If you cannot attack an opponent’s weakness then you are in for some trouble and that is what Houston is headed for.  I am looking very forward to seeing what Michael Crabtree will do.  You have to assume that A.J. Bouye is going to be match up with Amari Cooper for most of the game, and Carr will probably be looking elsewhere to guys like Crabtree if that is the case.  Bouye has had his finest season to this point by far and is the number one ranked CB per Pro Football Focus.  He has dominated in man-to-man situations and has been a good tackler.  Take away Cooper and the Raiders will be forced to see what their other guys can do.  I have no faith right now in the Texan offense since they have lacked big plays all year.  They did pick up their first road win of the year last week over Jacksonville, but that didn’t exactly prove anything since it was the Jaguars after all.  A win over the Raiders would show a lot, but I don’t see it happening because Brock Osweiler has the ability to make bad defenses look good.  Jack Del Rio’s team has a very balanced offense that will make things tough on the Texans in this game as well.  But, would it be so Raider-ish for them to lose this game?  Perhaps so, but I am not predicting it to happen.A.J. Bouye

Oakland 30, Houston 14

Week 11 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (7-2): New England over San Francisco

Upset of the Week: Buffalo over Cincinnati

Offensive Player of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DL, Rams

Rookie of the Week: Jared Goff, QB, Rams

Best Quarterback: Tom Brady, Patriots

Best Running Back: LeSean McCoy, Bills