by Ryan Meehan
Week eleven of the 2014 NFL season has arrived, and it’s almost as if you can smell the playoffs right around the corner. At least you would be able to, if every single gas station, mall, and truck stop adult film store wasn’t decorated for the impending danger that is the Christmas holiday. (Editor’s note: I am now being told by my colleague that the white stuff on the counter at the film store is not fake snow and hardly a decoration. My apologies…) Thanksgiving isn’t even here yet, but thankfully we have plenty of football before then. A few marquee matchups in week eleven make up for some of the other “fake snow” stains that are taking place around this great country of ours, so let’s take a gander at what might happen in a very busy week eleven. (Honk!)
Thursday Night Football: Buffalo Bills (5-4) +5 at Miami Dolphins (5-4) (42)
Both of these teams suffered close four point losses last week at the hands of teams who were exactly that much better than they were. The games were a perfect example of the NFC’s current prowess when it comes to interconference matchups, but Thursday night’s game it every bit as crucial for the playoff hopes of its participants. Whoever loses this game will likely not get a wild card spot. Buffalo is in the top eight spots in both defensive categories, and although Miami struggles in the passing game sometimes they can run the football really well. The fact that Miami is at home in this one leads me to believe they should probably take it, but I can’t expect them to cover because Buffalo is just crazy scrappy. Even in the Chiefs game last week they were mere yards away from winning that one, so I wouldn’t bet on either opportunity here.
Dolphins 24, Bills 20
Houston Texans (4-5) +3 at Cleveland Browns (6-3) (42.5)
The Texans had their bye week last week, perhaps a little too late to turn around their season. They’ll be in uncomfortable territory here headed into the Dawg Pound in Cleveland to play the Browns. Who of course are coming off of a slaughtering of a Bengals team that now knows the Browns are for real. Speaking of the Browns if I’m the Mike Pettine, for one week I’m abandoning the whole “One game at a time” mantra. I’m going to talk to that team as if they are a sixth grade baseball squad. Remember when you were younger and the coach would try to convince you that if you play well, you would all go out for pizza afterwards? The trick of course, was that the pizza place served beer for the parents so you were going either way. If they can get past the Texans and take care of business, they will get their “pizza party” the following week when they get to head to Atlanta to play the Falcons. Seems like a long way to travel for pizza, but if anybody can do it the Browns are in great shape. The Texans still have to rely on JJ Watt being Superman in order for them to stay competitive in a division they obviously have no chance in hell at winning. They’ve lost four out of their last five, and I believe this will be another L for them. This one should be close so tell Vegas to GFI here.
Browns 21, Texans 20
Atlanta Falcons (3-6) +1.5 at Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) (46)
Last week the Falcons added another win against Tampa to their hard-hitting season of desperately trying to achieve mediocrity in the worst division in the NFL. Victories against the Buccaneers now account for 67% of everything that Atlanta can count in their win column, and they will head to Charlotte Sunday to face the Panthers. Carolina looked unspeakably poor in the Monday Night game, a contest where Cam Newton committed four turnovers and was sacked nine times. While everyone rushes to blame the quarterbacks in such situations, doesn’t that tell you about the deficiencies in their offensive line? I understand why Atlanta is the underdog: It’s a road game and they’ve been beyond garbage away from the Georgia Dome this year. But given what I saw against the Eagles, I see no plausible way the Panthers explode onto the windshield with a ton of offense. That’s why I like the Falcons in a bad game that probably won’t get high ratings in the Dakotas. Go ahead and take the over on the point total, neither of these teams can tackle to save their lives.
Falcons 31, Panthers 21
Minnesota Vikings (4-5) +3 at Chicago Bears (3-6) (47)
Believe it or not, I actually like the Bears’ chances to win this game. They could use a home game against the Vikings right now, and even though Minnesota has the better record I refuse to believe that they are the better team. Although Chicago’s locker room is falling apart at the seams and nobody is on the same page as the guy standing next to him, Minnesota is relying on a very confusing offensive setup as of late. The way that team currently stands, you don’t view them as how they can execute a play to success. When you look at the Vikings on offense, all you think about is where they need to draft next year to finally turn this into a team you can believe in again. The Bears have lost five out of their last six: The only victory coming against an incredibly weak Falcons squad that was half asleep, and their most recent loss a 55-14 plastering up at Lambeau Field. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I think that Jay Cutler will actually have a field day against this Minnesota defense. The Vikings haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet, and other than the Rams game they’ve all been fairly close. Cutler bounces back, and then gives a very boring press conference where you still can’t tell whether or not he won. Bears cover, and even though I’m going ahead and picking these teams to top the point total – I’d sit on it if I were you because this game could easily end up 15-12.
Bears 33, Vikings 16
Cincinnati Bengals (5-3-1) +8 at New Orleans Saints (4-5) (50.5)
The Bengals fell victim to the being the latest pawn in the NFL’s unfortunate desire to hold games every single Thursday night, as they were trounced by Cleveland in a game where for the second time this year they only scored 3 or fewer points. Boy, that tie really bends Cincinnati’s record doesn’t it? It tricks your brain into thinking that they are really just a 5-3 team, and as of late they haven’t played like a team that’s anywhere near .500 unless the Ravens are within shouting distance. There’s a reason that a 5-3-1 team is an eight point dog to a sub-.500 squad. The reason is that right now nobody trusts the Bengals, and New Orleans is pretty much faced with a rough predicament here: If they lose, they can still make the playoffs because the NFC South is so unbelievably fucked to shreds. But if that’s the case, then people are going to start pegging them as an easy target and even though they’ll sit in first place at 4-6, absolutely no one will take anyone in that division seriously the rest of the year. That’s why I like the Saints to get back to sea level in this one with a win, and I like them to cover. Stay away from the total though – this is Andy Dalton we’re talking about here.
Saints 31, Bengals 21
Denver Broncos (7-2) -10 at St. Louis Rams (3-6) (51)
The Broncos rolled easy last week after Oakland took an early lead that I’m sure will be told as a much adjusted fairy tale for generations to come, in which the throes of victory were ripped from the hands of whoever gets a DUI after this game Sunday night. It kind of makes you wonder with Peyton throwing for another 5TDs in that game (and Rodgers throwing for six in the first half of his) if perhaps we are now protecting the quarterback to an unnecessary degree. Either these guys are just this good, or defenses are simply being forced to look this bad. Denver is allowing just 67 rushing yards per game, and the Rams don’t average a hundred spot per sixty minute contest so obviously a lot of this game will be played in the air. Ten points seems like a stretch, but this is all playoff warm-up stuff for Peyton. And when he’s warming up he’s comfortable, so I like Denver to cover here. Somebody in the NFC West needs to start sinking, and that somebody probably should be the Rams. Avoid the PT because Jeff Fisher has named Shaun Hill the starter and Manning can’t do all 48 by himself.
Broncos 37, Rams 21
Seattle Seahawks (6-3) EVEN at Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) (42)
This one should be a very telling football game, and shouldn’t involve a lot of scoring. On one end you have the Seahawks, who at times are a very one-dimensional offensive football team. Of course the point total is low here, and of course you should avoid it. I can’t even believe that I’m picking the Seahawks on the road against a Chiefs team that has won four in a row and six out of their last seven. But what you have to remember here is that the Seahawks now have a gun to their head – they are still two whole games behind Arizona and San Francisco appears to have kind of maybe sorta gotten their shit together. I’m not certain that Pete Carroll’s Bobby McFerrinesque attitude is the right one to convey that urgency, but I think Russell Wilson has enough brains to understand just how important this game is. The question is: Does he have enough brains and diversity amongst the receiving corps to make that happen if KC can stop the run early?
Seahawks 19, Chiefs 16
San Francisco 49ers (5-4) -4.5 at New York Giants (3-6) (44)
San Francisco may have very well saved their season last week with an overtime win against the Saints at the same venue where they either lost or got screwed out of winning (depending on who you talk to) Super Bowl 47. The Giants were playing Seattle quite well on Sunday afternoon, but then quickly succumbed to the momentum caused by a key third quarter interception. My buddy Heath is a 49ers fan and he did point out that the Giants always play them tough. However I can’t see San Francisco not covering four and half the way the Giants have been playing as of late, and if SF wins they advance to 6-4. It will hardly be Bay area weather, so I’d stay away from the point total which I seem to recommending a lot this week.
49ers 26, Giants 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) +8.5 at Washington Redskins (3-6) (45.5)
I’m going to do my very best to try and explain why this is something that you should care about. I don’t know where society stands as far as shooting people out of cannons for halftime entertainment, but if we haven’t explored that possibility in some time this might be an excellent chance to do just that. At this point, honestly I think Tampa is so bad it wouldn’t matter who you trotted out there to face them. I like Washington to cover here but getting anywhere near the point total is probably a dumb move. Not as dumb as actually watching this game, but pretty fucking close nonetheless.
Redskins 23, Buccaneers 16
Oakland Raiders (0-9) +11.5 at San Diego Chargers ( 5-4) (44.5)
San Diego had the week off to nurse three straight losses and may have gotten their bye week at just the right juncture. Even with a week off, a lot of unanswered questions involving their defense, and the Chiefs gaining momentum faster than MC Hammer before “Too Legit to Quit” came out and destroyed his career. The Raiders still haven’t won a game yet, which might be one of the many reasons that they are double digit dogs against a team who hasn’t won a game in over a month. I like San Diego to cover but once again employ the Raiders rule and don’t touch the total. Oakland is finding so many different ways to shit the bed at this point they might just want to put a hose in the nursery room.
Chargers 31, Raiders 10
Detroit Lions (7-2) +1 at Arizona Cardinals (8-1) (41)
Once again the NFC game of the week is dwarfed by a much more exhilarating game just a few hours later. That’s what happened a few weeks back when the Cardinals played the Eagles, and it happened again the following week when they played the Cowboys. Of course, they won both of those games and it was hardly news. Now that Drew Stanton will be starting in place of Carson Palmer (Torn ACL, out for the year) I’m sure this will give every sports analyst in the country yet another reason to doubt the Cardinals. If there’s one team that can sympathize with such lack of attention it’s Detroit, who held Aaron Rodgers to seven points earlier this year and are so far detached from the news cycle they’re ordering Titans jerseys just so they can feel comfortable sleeping at night. But unlike Tennessee, the Lions are an upper echelon team with a quarterback that has a cannon for an arm. They have a solid receiving corps and when they can run the football (I said when they can) it’s very much effective. Look, I would love nothing more than to see the Cardinals win this game so it will prove that they can still beat great teams without Palmer. I’d love to see Drew Stanton have the game of his career against a defense that doesn’t make hardly any mistakes and just gets beat plain and simple. But I also like being right, and I think that when Matthew Stafford steps into that stadium he’ll realize the magnitude of what that building means to him. He’ll see that this is where the two best teams in the NFL will square off the first week of February for the world championship, and it will dawn on him that the annual lip service that he serves up to the media about going after a Super Bowl is true because this year it’s actually possible. I am going against my heart and with my gut. Wouldn’t you hate to be my doctor?
Lions 27, Cardinals 24
Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) +5 at Green Bay Packers (6-3) (55.5)
The last we heard of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers was taking the Chicago Bears secondary to the cleaners in every single possible way. Just 24 hours later the Eagles were finally starting to look rather convincing on defense in a blowout win against the Panthers, where their defensive line was starting to look like the Steel Curtain. I doubt that will happen again, with Aaron Rodgers convincing everyone that his Frankie Goes to Hollywood act is indeed true and that everybody does just need to relax. In his defense, the only game they have lost since he said that was at New Orleans and the Saints would have beaten the 2000 Ravens that day. The Eagles are hard to trust because we haven’t seen Mark Sanchez string together several games where he dominates just yet. The Packers are hardly Carolina, and at this point I have to believe that they are a little better than Philly is. So I like Green Bay to cover in Wisconsin this Sunday, and I like the over in what could be a very high scoring event.
Packers 34, Eagles 23
Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots (7-2) +2.5 at Indianapolis Colts (6-3) (57.5)
The NFL really won the lottery in the Peyton Manning trade, didn’t they? Manning went to a team that was in the same conference and has had success, and the Colts were able to replace him with a once in a lifetime draft pick who has a shot at being a legitimate Hall of Famer in a small market. Everybody ended up winning. Both of these teams are coming off of two weeks’ rest, and now that the Patriots have shown everybody that they are every bit the contender they knew they were they find themselves faced with completing the second part of their AFC regular season challenge. Having already taken out the Broncos by three touchdowns, they now face Indianapolis who is easily the best 6-3 team left. I really do believe that the Patriots are the better team – They are getting much better on defense and are selfless in every sense of the word. But they lose this game just barely. It’s cool though, I have a feeling we’re going to see this game again very soon and then who knows what will happen?
Colts 30, Patriots 27
Monday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) -5.5 at Tennessee Titans (2-7) (46.5)
The Steelers lost to the Jets last week, which is kind of like finishing last in a sack race. You’re hoping everybody’s focused on the winners, but deep down in your heart you’re well aware that everybody and their mother is laughing hysterically at the fact that you couldn’t convince an upright individual to hop simultaneously for a hundred feet without falling flat on their face. For the sake of this piece let’s just assume that’s never happened to me, and say that I would guess that feeling is a lot like how Titans fans feel when they leave LP Field where the Titans have lost every home game with the exception of one against the Jaguars. (By two points…yeah…) I was really hoping to see some life out of the Titans this year. When I saw them roll into Kansas City week one and take out the Chiefs, I really did believe that they could be a .500 team. Since then, they’ve lost seven out of their last eight and are going to look very out of place on primetime television Monday Night. I like the Steelers for no other reason than Tennessee is awful.
Steelers 32, Titans 17
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