Considering all the injuries and adversity that the 2013 Pats have dealt with over the first half (plus one game) of their season, it's amazing that this squad is setting pretty at 7-2. But, danger lurks ahead, in the form of a visit to play the Carolina Panthers, a home tilt against the dreaded Horseface, and a road game in Houston, to play the revenge minded Texans. Should the Pats win two of these three games, especially if one of these wins comes at the expense of the Horseface, odds are good of the Pats winning another AFC East title...and of earning a first round playoff bye. More than that, winning two of three as described will solidify the Pats as a legitimate SB contender. But, doing so will be easier said than done. Here are my Week 11 picks, with the "Game of the Week" being:
1.) (9-0) Kansas City Chiefs (+8) @ (8-1) Denver Broncos: Can you ever remember a team that was undefeated so late in the season, be so disrespected? Really, an eight (8) point underdog? Talk about a slap in the face...watch for the Chiefs, coming off their bye week, to roll up the Horseface and his wounded ankle in this one: PICK: Chiefs;
2.) (6-3) Indianapolis Colts @ (4-5) Tennessee Titans (+3): Tennessee was embarrassed by the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars at home last week. The Colts were embarrassed by the mediocre St. Louis Rams last week in Indy. This is a huge game for both teams. With a win, the Titans can pull within a game of the first place Colts in the AFC South. With a win, Indy gains a stranglehold on their division, and remain in the running for a possible playoff bye. In a very tough game to call: PICK: Titans;
3.) (2-7) Atlanta Falcons (PK) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8): Doesn't it seem that Atlanta has quit on the season? The team seemingly has lost interest, and is just going through the motions. Though Tampa Bay is awful, they'll likely be more enthusiatic, after having won their first game of the season against the scandal ridden Dolphins: PICK: Buccaneers;
4.) (5-4) NY Jets (+1.5) @ (3-7) Buffalo Bills: Buffalo flubbed away a win against the unbeaten Chiefs two weeks ago...and than got beaten up by the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week. The up and down Jets are coming off their bye week, and then were rolled by an angry bunch of Goths, in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, they were beaten earlier in the year by the Jets in Gotham, 27-20. With the Patriots going through their toughest stretch of the season over the next few weeks, a win in Buffalo could put the Jets in hailing distance of the AFC East lead. This is a win that they must have. Nonetheless: PICK: Bills;
5.) (6-3) Detroit Lions @ (3-6) Pittsburgh Steelers (+2): Though these are not the Steelers of yester-year, they are still a franchise driven by toughness and pride. With the AFC North in shambles, and led by the 6-4 Bengals, the Steelers still have time to make a run. As for the Lions, I look for them to suffer a bit of a let down after a huge win in Chicago: PICK: Steelers;
6.) (3-6) Washington Redskins (+3.5) @ (5-5) Philadelphia Eagles: Who knows what to expect from any NFC East team now, from week to week. What we can expect is for the Redskins' defense to continue to be terrible: PICK: Eagles;
7.) (4-5) San Diego Chargers @ (4-5) Miami Dolphins (+1): The wheels were beginning to fall off of the Dolphins' band wagon, even before the Johnathan Martin mess became public. Are y'all as tired of hearing about poor Johnathan being "bullied" as I am?: PICK: Chargers;
8.) (4-5) Baltimore Ravens (+3) @ (5-4) Chicago Bears: The Ravens are a different team whenever they play away from that zoo, in Buzzardsville. The Bears might be a better team with Josh McCown at QB, than the erratic Jay Cutler: PICK: Bears;
9.) (4-5) Cleveland Browns (+5.5) @ (6-4) Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals lost to the Browns in Week 4 at Cleveland, 17-6. But at that time, Brian Hoyer was quarterbacking the Browns, leading them towards contention in the AFC North. Strangely enough, two QBs later, the Browns still find themselves in contention, thanks in large part to a pair of OT losses by the first place Bengals. Speaking of, it wasn't that long ago when the Bengals were referred to as the Bungles. They are apparently returning to their bungling ways, as two gutless decisions by head coach Marvin Lewis to pass up lengthy FGs by top flight kicker Mike Nugent (a 56 yarder in Miami, and a 50 yarder in Baltimore), may have cost them wins. That aside, who has more talent in the AFC North than Cincinnati? One has to wonder why Lewis isn't getting more out of the talent that he has: PICK: Bengals;
10.) (3-6) Oakland Raiders (+7) @ (2-7) Houston Texans: The Texans have lost their last three games by a total of seven (7) points. The Raiders look hopeless. This is another of those "who knows" type games...with two young QBs, Terrelle Pryor for Oakland, and Case Keenum for the Texans, struggling to earn a foothold on the starting QB job for their respective teams. Really, should either of these teams be made 7 point favorites?: PICK: Raiders;
11.) (5-4) Arizona Cardinals @ (1-8) Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5): Despite having defied all odds by winning a game this season, the Jags are still awful. This should be a lay-up for the Cards, who still have playoff hopes: PICK: Arizona;
12.) (2-7) Minnesota Vikings (+13.5) @ (9-1) Seattle Seahawks: Ordinarily, I'd jump at a 13.5 point spread. But, with their bye week approaching and a tough five game stretch of games still ahead, the 'Hawks aren't about to gag on this one: PICK: Seahawks;
13.) (6-3) San Francisco 49ers (+3) @ (7-2) New Orleans Saints: Just a bevy of great match-ups this week. After a tough loss at home to Carolina, the 49ers risk falling out of the play-offs altogether with a loss. The Saints are a much better team at their dome sweet dome, than on the road: PICK: Saints;
14.) (5-4) Green Bay Packers (+6.5) @ (3-6) NY Giants: How the tables are turning for these two teams! The Rodgers-less Packers squaring off against the improving Giants. Don't look now, but the Giants could yet steal the NFC East crown: PICK: Giants;
15.) (7-2) New England Patriots (+2.5) @ (6-3) Carolina Panthers: Huge game for the Patriots on Monday Night Football! Talk about tough match-ups coming off the bye week. Believe it or not folks, the Carolina Panthers have evolved into one of the top five teams in the NFL. Worse yet, they are the type of team that matches up very well against the Patriots. They are physical, have a first rate rushing attack, and a mobile, athletic QB in Cam Newton. They are currently second in the league in run defense, and 5th in the league in pass defense. Their front seven is one of the game's finest, led by MLB "Crazy" Luke Kueckley. Kueckley is a Jerod Mayo-like tackling machine, who is also outstanding in pass coverage. DTs Star Lotulelei, Dwan Edwards, and Kawaan Short are a trio of big, tough, nasty hombres who will rotate on the inside of their front four. DEs Greg Hardy (6 sacks) and Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks) apply the heat on passing downs. Currently. What this means is that the Patriots will be hard pressed to establish a running game. Look for Tom Brady to try to spread the field, and try to take advantage of the least talented aspect of the Carolina defense...their secondary. On offense, the Panthers have a trio of tough, hard running backs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert. You may recall that Tolbert did a ton of damage against the Patriots as a Charger, just a few years ago in Foxborough...as both a runner and receiver. Veteran WR Steve Smith must be accounted for. The Pats must get off to a good start in this game, and score regularly and early. They must not get bogged down in a low scoring game, where Carolina's superior physicality will take over the game in the second half...as was the case this season in the Patriots' two losses to the Bengals and Jets. BB and Tom Brady certainly have their work cut out for them in this one. But, coming off their bye week, somehow, someway: PICK: Patriots.
BEST BETS: Chiefs, Seahawks, and Bears.
As always, your comments, predictions, and thoughts about all the games, particularly the Patriot game, are welcome.
Goodnight, my friends. Have a great week!