Spread picks for NFL Week 11
Week 10 provided arguably the best football of the season so far, as six games were settled by three points or fewer. Our model was keen on this, as eight of last week’s predicted spreads were less than three points. Our predictions held up well in general last week, going 10-4 against the spread overall, and 7-1 in games where our predicted spread was two or more points different than Vegas’ spread. This bring our records to 74-57-3 (56.5 percent) overall, and 42-24-1 (63.6 percent) when our predicted spread varies by two points or more from Vegas’, respectively, on the season.
The slate of games looks a bit different in Week 11, with half of the games having predicted spread values of four or more points, and five games with spread differences of two or more.
For my pick of the Thursday Night Football game, as well as win probabilities for each game, find me on Twitter at @EricEager82.
[Editor’s note: Analyst Eric Eager utilizes Pro Football Focus’ NFL Premium Stats in his predictive model. For more on Premium Stats, click here.]
Titans at Colts (-3)
Prediction: Colts win by 2
The Titans, at 5-4, remain one of the league’s most underrated teams, relying on a ground game featuring a rejuvenated DeMarco Murray and an offensive line with the third-best run blocking grade in the entire league. The Colts, on the other hand, have the third-worst run-defense grade in the league, featuring a starting defense with just one front-seven starter that owns an overall grade above 45.0. Murray is second in the league in rushing yards (937), third in yards per carry after contact (486), and leads the league with 35 missed tackles forced on carries. Look for the Titans to lean on this strength and cover the spread in Indianapolis this weekend.
Jaguars at Lions (-6.5)
Prediction: Lions win by 5
I was relatively bullish on the Jaguars going into the season, figuring that another year of development for Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, and T.J. Yeldon, coupled with numerous acquisitions on defense, would be enough to propel the Jags out of top-five draft status for the first time in half a decade. I was wrong. However, as good as Detroit’s record (5-4) is, they’ve trailed late in all their wins, due in large part to a defense that is grading among the league’s worst in every category. If the Jaguars’ offensive talent comes to play at all this week, Jacksonville could make this one interesting.
Buccaneers at Chiefs (-7.5)
Prediction: Chiefs win by 9
The Chiefs haven’t lost at home since October of last year, and continue to defy odds at every turn. If this is the week Justin Houston returns from his offseason knee surgery, he’ll have a relatively easy matchup when he lines up on the right side of the defense, as Tampa’s left tackle, Donovan Smith, is second-worst among tackles with a 91.1 pass-blocking efficiency so far. If Houston lines up on his customary left side, up-and-comer Dee Ford should be able to maintain his brilliant production thus far this season, where his 37 combined pressures have been eighth among 3-4 OLBs so far this season. Look for the Chiefs’ defense at home to be too much for Jameis Winston (just 17th in PFF’s QB grades so far this year) to handle in this one.
Bears at Giants (-7.5)
Prediction: Giants win by 10
The Bears, coming off a bye week following an impressive win on Monday Night Football against the Vikings, laid an egg last week in Tampa. Gone is Alshon Jeffery, suspended for PED use. The remaining cast of Chicago receivers, a respectable group that includes Cameron Meredith (1.90 yards per route run) and Eddie Royal (1.78), will probably not be enough to elevate quarterback Jay Cutler, who continues to disappoint fans in the Windy City with his erratic play. The Giants’ defense, on the other hand, is one of the league’s most-improved. Janoris Jenkins, one of New York’s prized acquisitions in free agency, has been supremely impressive, allowing less than 1 yard per coverage snap and just a 62.8 passer rating into his coverage. Look for the Giants to continue to roll in East Rutherford.
Cardinals at Vikings (-2)
Prediction: Vikings win by 3
These two teams are an enigma. The Vikings’ calling card during their 5-0 start was their defense, which let them down in last week’s 26-20 loss in Washington. The Cardinals had difficulty at home with the lowly 49ers in Week 10, surrendering Colin Kaepernick’s first positively-graded game in more than a calendar year. The loser of this game is going to have a very difficult path forward. I see the passing offense of the Cardinals, with Carson Palmer featuring the fourth-worst accuracy percentage (69.0) among qualifying quarterbacks, versus the passing defense of the Vikings being the premier matchup in this one. The Vikings’ corners, two of which are in the top 10 in the league in passer rating allowed, should be able to slow Arizona’s receivers. It will be up to Minnesota’s linebackers—Anthony Barr (who’s allowed the second-most passing yards into his coverage), specifically—to contain Arizona RB David Johnson (who’s first in the league in receiving yards by a running back), and allow Mike Zimmer’s crew to escape with their first win in over a month.
Bills at Bengals (-2.5)
Prediction: Bengals win by 2
Both these teams are desperate for a win to stay in the AFC playoff picture. The Bengals are coming off a short week, while the Bills are coming off a bye. Tyrod Taylor had one of the better games for any quarterback two weeks ago in a road loss at Seattle, showing some of the solid play that made him one of the more valuable free-agent acquisitions in the league last season. For Taylor to continue his strong play into this week, the Bills’ offensive line, led by Richie Incognito (78.8), needs to return to its 2015 form and slow Geno Atkins (85.6) and the Bengals’ strong front four. Atkins remains one of the best interior defenders not named Aaron Donald, posting the second-best pass-rushing productivity mark (11.0) among defensive tackles so far this season. That pass-rush will be needed, as the Bengals’ secondary has been shaky through the season’s first 10 weeks. Look for a compelling one in Cincinnati this week.
Ravens at Cowboys (-7)
Prediction: Cowboys win by 7
We backed the Cowboys last week against Pittsburgh—not only to cover the spread, but to win—and looked good for doing so. This week they face another AFC North opponent in Baltimore, fresh off a 10-day layoff after beating up on the winless Browns. At first blush, this looks like an easy call. However, the Ravens’ strength, a run defense featuring the two most efficient run stoppers in the league in Lawrence Guy and Timmy Jernigan, matches up well against Dallas’ strength. Add in C.J. Mosely (88.3) and Eric Weddle (91.0), and this one may be a little more difficult for Dallas than people envision. It will be up to Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense to match whatever Dallas can muster to keep this one close at AT&T Stadium.
Steelers (-8) at Browns
Prediction: Steelers win by 6
The Browns are running out of opportunities to win a game this season. Pittsburgh, smarting after losing a late lead at home to Dallas, doesn’t appear as though it can take any games lightly the rest of the way. For the Browns to have any prayer in this one, they will need to leverage the strengths of their two best defenders, Joe Haden (75.1) and Jamie Collins (83.1), against the superstar skill players the Steelers have in Antonio Brown (83.9) and Le’Veon Bell (76.8), respectively. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to find his groove in his third game back from injury this week in his home state.
Dolphins (-1.5) at Rams
Prediction: Rams win by 1
The Jared Goff era begins in Los Angeles this week, where a Rams team that has failed to score a touchdown in a third of their games faces a Miami squad on a four-game winning streak. Goff will need to build on the solid season Kenny Britt has had, where he is generating 2.20 yards per route run (12th-best among WRs), despite Case Keenum’s 21st-best accuracy percentage through 10 weeks. The offensive line, a respectable 14th in pass-blocking efficiency, will have to hold up against a solid Dolphins’ pass-rush (led by Cameron Wake’s league-leading 16.0 pass-rushing productivity) and give the rookie time. If they do, there’s yards to be a had against a defense that ranks 23rd in the league in pass-coverage grades. Look for a close one at the Coliseum this week.
Patriots (-13) at 49ers
Prediction: Patriots win by 10
It seems like just yesterday that the Patriots and 49ers played one of the more exciting Sunday Night Football games in recent memory, a 41-34 49ers’ win in which the Patriots stormed back from a 28-point deficit to tie the game before being turned away by a Colin Kaepernick-led San Francisco team that ended up becoming champions of the NFC. A lot has changed since then. Kaepernick is coming off his best game in over a calendar year, however, keeping the 49ers close in a road game against a Cardinals’ team completely desperate for a win. Be that as it may, the Patriots are coming off a home loss, leaving it extremely unlikely that the 49ers will have any measure of success this week, even at home. Tom Brady continues to be in a league of his own as a signal caller, with a QB rating (125.4) more than 10 points better than anyone else in the league. Although 13 is a high number, look for the Pats to win this one easily on the road.
Eagles at Seahawks (-6.5)
Prediction: Seahawks win by 3
In taking down the Patriots last week on the road, the Seahawks have claim over the most impressive win of the 2016 season. A close second was the Eagles’ win last week at home against the Falcons, where they held Matt Ryan to a modest performance by limiting the ancillary pieces of Atlanta’s attack. Brandon Graham (second among 4-3 DE in pass-rushing productivity) and Fletcher Cox (third among DT in pass-rushing productivity) have a significant edge over their counterparts on the Seattle offensive line (28th in pass-blocking efficiency). However, Seattle found something of a solution by spreading defenses out, with running back C.J. Prosise catching all seven of his targets for 87 yards against the Patriots. It will come down to whether or not Nigel Bradham (0.74 yards per coverage snap) and Jordan Hicks (0.25 yards per coverage) can continue their strong play in coverage and keep this one close.
Packers at Washington (-2.5)
Prediction: Washington win by 2
The Packers have fallen from a team that was projected to be favored in every game this season to a team that is multiple-point underdogs this week in Washington. Washington has had a quietly-good season, using an offensive line that has played well both in pass blocking and run blocking to utilize the talents of Kirk Cousins, Pierre Garçon, Jordan Reed, and Vernon Davis on their way to a 5-3-1 record. The Packers’ defense continues to miss pieces in their secondary, leaning on the likes of Micah Hyde (67.4) and Ladarius Gunter (77.4) to cover downfield—which has been made difficult without the services of edge rusher Clay Matthews the last few weeks. Since Washington’s 0-2 start, Cousins has the eighth-highest passer rating, throwing 13 touchdowns while surrendering just four interceptions. If he can continue this strong play, look for Washington to push the Packers’ skid to four.
Texans versus Raiders (-5.5) in Mexico City
Prediction: Raiders win by 7
This game doesn’t appear overly interesting at first, but it does feature a 6-3 Houston team against a 7-2 Oakland squad in the battle of first-place teams. The Raiders have reached 7-2 on the back of really strong play, generating the league’s 16th-highest team defensive grade, the third-highest graded offense, and the sixth-highest graded special teams. The Texans have mostly generated their wins on back of an easy schedule, finally earning their first road win last week against the lowly Jaguars. The Texans’ chances of winning will be significantly enhanced if they have CB A.J. Bouye back. Bouye (91.3) has been the highest-graded cornerback in the league, and will be needed to stop a Raiders’ passing attack that features a duo of Amari Cooper (843 yards) and Michael Crabtree (596) leading the league in receiving yards among WR duos. If Derek Carr can continue his MVP-caliber performance, look for the Raiders to move to 8-2.