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Sunday, 20 November 2016

NFL Week 11 Picks 2016 (November 17-21)

The previous three weeks of the NFL season has put the season in a really strong position, but Week 10 took a huge step back with the worst week of the 2016 season so far.

I've got to be a little annoyed by that with Carolina blowing a huge lead against the Kansas City Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints fumbling away their chances of beating the Denver Broncos, and then the Pittsburgh Steelers losing in the last moment to the Dallas Cowboys. Those three teams landing my way would have produced another winning week, but instead I couldn't get out of my own way in Week 10 to remove all of the good work done.

There are still plenty of weeks left in the regular season as well as the Play Offs to end this season, but the hard work has to start again to get the 2016 season moving in the direction I want.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns Pick: I have never been a big fan of backing the Pittsburgh Steelers to cover big numbers as they seem to have some problems in that spot, but I have done that before this season and I will be doing the same in Week 11. The Steelers have been in a slump, but they pointed the fingers at themselves in Week 10 after some mental mistakes helped the Dallas Cowboys come back and beat the Steelers in a high-scoring shoot out at Heinz Field.

The Steelers are now trailing the Baltimore Ravens by one game in the AFC North and have also lost their first game against that team which means they can't overlook any team they face. Add in the fact that Pittsburgh have lost four in a row and Mike Tomlin and the players have to be very focused on the Cleveland Browns who have yet to win a game.

Pittsburgh are 5-2 against the spread in the last seven games against Cleveland and their Offensive unit came alive in Week 10 which will give them confidence against a Browns Defensive unit that have allowed at least 28 points in each of their last eight games.

Much is going to depend on Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game, but the Quarter Back looked very much on the same page as his Receivers a week ago. Le'Veon Bell gives him a threat in the passing game while the returning Ladarius Green gives Roethlisberger a big threat in the End Zone to go along with Antonio Brown. The Cleveland Browns have struggled against the pass and it would be a real surprise if Roethlisberger is not able to have a big game statistically in this one.

Bell has not been able to run the ball as effectively as he would have liked in recent games, but he could get back on track if Cleveland start protecting against the pass and I like the Steelers moving the chains and getting back on track here.

With this number the question is whether Cleveland can find enough offense to stay with their visitors. It looks like Hue Jackson has picked Cody Kessler as his starting Quarter Back again this week after somehow pulling him from a tight game with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10, but the Head Coach has also made it clear that he will give every player a chance to prove they deserve to stay long term with the Browns.

Kessler has made some solid plays at Quarter Back, but things have been more difficult in recent games with Cleveland struggling to run the ball. Isaiah Crowell is a decent Running Back, but the Browns are averaging under 50 yards per game on the ground in their last three games and Pittsburgh have been a little stronger up front despite the big holes that Dallas exposed at the end of their game in Week 10.

That means Kessler is having to make plays behind a porous Offensive Line which has struggled to protect him and that has led to some mistakes being made. While the Steelers don't have the pass rush of old, they have been able to get to the Quarter Back in recent games and put some pressure on that player and I think that is going to be the case with Kessler this week too.

There is a lot of money on the Steelers with the public convinced by them and I think they will be focused knowing they can't afford to let their losing run continue to slide. It is a lot of points, but the Browns have allowed a lot of points in the last few weeks as the turnovers have hurt and I am looking for Pittsburgh to win this one by at least eight points.

Baltimore Ravens @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: The Dallas Cowboys will always garner a lot of attention from the media, but this current team looks like one that might be able to go all the way and win the Super Bowl. This week it was off field issues that took the headlines as Tony Romo admitted he has lost the Quarter Back job to Dak Prescott and is willing to be the backup going forward.

That has eased any questions about what Dallas would do when Romo was cleared to play and it was certainly the right decision with Prescott leading the team to eight straight wins. He has been helped massively by the best Offensive Line in the NFL and rookie Running Back Ezekiel Elliot, while the Defensive unit have been better than advertised despite being banged up.

Both Prescott and Elliot have come through those tests that everyone has wanted to see with Dallas beating both Green Bay and Pittsburgh on the road, two teams that were considered amongst the favourites to win the Super Bowl back in August. This is another test for both players though as they face a Baltimore Ravens team that continues to be amongst the best Defensive teams in the NFL.

It is going to be a lot of fun to see the Dallas Offensive Line try and open holes against a Baltimore Defensive Line that have been stout against the run. I don't doubt Elliot will make some big plays, but the Ravens are capable of shutting down the run, at least relatively, and try and see if the rookie Quarter Back is going to avoid some the big mistakes like he has all season.

Prescott didn't play well in his last game at home though against the Philadelphia Eagles and he will be throwing against a Baltimore team that gets a fierce pass rush towards the Quarter Back. The Offensive Line has protected Prescott well, while the Quarter Back can move well enough inside and outside of the pocket to extend plays, but the Ravens Secondary have done a good job and Baltimore's Defense can give them a chance in this one.

You have to note that Dallas are still likely to move the chains and they should have a more effective running game than the Baltimore Ravens who have struggled with Terrance West showing he is not the answer for them at Running Back. Kenneth Dixon might get a few more plays and is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield, but Baltimore won't be getting a lot of help for Joe Flacco who has not been as careful with the ball as he should be.

Flacco has a lot of experience but was called out by Ray Lewis for showing little passion which did come as a surprise during the week. Being in third and long is tough for any Quarter Back, but Flacco has been asked to throw a little deeper under a new Offensive Co-Ordinator and there are holes in the Dallas Secondary that he can expose in Week 11. The problem for Flacco has been the Interceptions, but Baltimore will have a real chance in this one if the Quarter Back can avoid those and find the likes of Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta and Breshad Perriman down the field.

I like what the Cowboys have done this season, but this looks a lot of points to give to a very good Defensive team that should get enough from their Offense to stay in the game. The Cowboys also have a huge Divisional game against the Washington Redskins to come on Thanksgiving this week which might take away some of the focus. The Baltimore Ravens have plenty of motivation in a tighter Division and I think getting more than a converted Touchdown worth of points is too much and I will take the road underdog.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Detroit Lions Pick: It looks like most of the public money is going to be on the NFC North Division leaders the Detroit Lions who were handed that position in their bye week thanks to both Minnesota and Green Bay losing. They actually have the same record as the free-falling Minnesota Vikings and the fact that the Detroit Lions are facing them on the short week on Thanksgiving Day has to mean there is every chance that they are not as focused in Week 11 as they should be.

On the other hand the Detroit Lions are coming off a bye week and face the Jacksonville Jaguars who look to be some distance from becoming a Play Off team again. They have lost four in a row thanks to some poor play from the Offensive unit, namely Blake Bortles who looks to have regressed at Quarter Back.

That has put the pressure on Gus Bradley as Head Coach with this expected to be the year they could challenge in the AFC South. The fact the Division has not been as good as many others makes the Jaguars 2-7 record feel even worse than it should do and they look to be in the last chance saloon as far as this season goes.

Bortles struggles have been a big concern for the Jaguars with most of his statistical numbers being put up when games have been out of reach. Interceptions have been a big problem for Bortles, but the Detroit Secondary have not played that well through the course of the season and the likes of Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas are big weapons in the passing game if Bortles is avoiding the poor decisions.

There will be some pressure up front from the Lions which has to be respected and the pressure is likely to be on Bortles' shoulders as Jacksonville won't find it easy to get either TJ Yeldon or Chris Ivory established in this one. I do think they can have some decent runs, but the Lions Defensive Line has played well although I am convinced Bortles can make some solid plays if he is fully focused on what he is seeing on the field.

The better Quarter Back in this game is clearly going to be Matt Stafford for the Detroit Lions, but he has had some inconsistent performances. This week is going up against an underrated Defensive unit of the Jaguars especially as Stafford has not really been helped by much of a running game either.

There is room for a Running Back to take advantage but those inconsistencies means it will be more likely to come down to Stafford and what he can do when it comes to throwing the ball. Stafford is more than capable of making every throw he needs to, but there have been times the Receivers don't seem to be on the same page as their Quarter Back although they have had two weeks to work on things.

The Jaguars Secondary has played pretty well this season when Bortles is not leaving them with short fields to protect and they will believe they can make some key stops of this Detroit team. Stafford has perhaps looked after the ball better than in previous years without an obvious passing target like Calvin Johnson in the line up, but I do think the Jaguars can make some big plays which can give them a chance of keeping this one close.

You can't ignore the fact that Detroit have a huge Divisional game with Minnesota to come on Thursday which could give them the tiebreaker over the Vikings and I can see them overlook the Jaguars in Week 11. The Lions might have a winning record, but none of their wins have come by more than six points this season and I am going to back the Jaguars to stay within this number.

Arizona Cardinals @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: This could be an absolutely huge game when it comes to working out the NFC Wild Card spots at the end of the 2016 season as two teams with similar records meet in Week 11. The Arizona Cardinals have been massively underachieving, but there aren't many teams in a bigger slide than the Minnesota Vikings who opened the season at 5-0 but have now lost four in a row.

Losing Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson looked to have sapped any hope that the Vikings had of winning the Super Bowl, but the trade for Sam Bradford looked to be working well at 5-0. However that had much to do with how well the Minnesota Defense had played early in the season, but they are beginning to spend far too much time on the field than on the sidelines which has hurt their effectiveness.

Minnesota hadn't allowed more than 16 points in any game in their winning run, but they have given up 20 plus points in each of their losses. There has been a little misfortune for the Vikings, but Sam Bradford is going to be under immense pressure to try and help the home team beat the visiting Cardinals this week.

Bradford has been given an almost non-existent running support without Peterson and there doesn't look to be a lot of room for success against an Arizona Defensive Line that have been stout up front. The Quarter Back will need every yard that either Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon can give him because the Offensive Line is banged up and Bradford has taken far too many hits of late.

The Cardinals have players like Chandler Jones up front that will be expected to get into the backfield all afternoon in this one and Bradford has shown he can be a little fragile at Quarter Back. Another injured Quarter Back is the last thing Minnesota need, and even a quick release is not going to help Bradford as his main Receiving target is likely to be bottled up by Patrick Peterson.

I do think Bradford will struggle for a big game, but Carson Palmer looks to be in the final few plays of his own career. 2015 was a very good regular season for Palmer, but 2016 has been much more difficult and taking on a Minnesota Defensive unit that is still amongst the best in the NFL is going to be tough for him. Like Bradford, Palmer can't look for David Johnson to earn too many yards on the ground against a stout Defensive Line, although Johnson has proven to be an effective safety blanket sneaking out of the backfield.

One difference between the Quarter Backs does look to be looking after the ball- where Bradford has been given a cautious playbook, Palmer is still being asked to throw downfield by Bruce Arians and has been guilty of some poor decisions. Turnovers could be huge here, while Palmer has also not been given a lot of time by his Offensive Line which is again a similarity to Bradford's situation.

This has all the makings of a close game, but I am leaning towards the road team with the points. Both Defenses are likely to be on top for most of the afternoon, but Minnesota's might spend more time on the field and I think the biggest playmaker who should have room to perform is likely to be David Johnson. If Arizona can get the ball in his hands more than Minnesota can get it to Stefon Diggs, I do think the road team can win this game and I will take the points.

I really hope Palmer can avoid the Interceptions that have hurt him and the Cardinals this season, but doing so should give Arizona the chance for an upset win on the road.

New England Patriots @ San Francisco 49ers Pick: This is the chance for Tom Brady to play back in his home State and there has to be plenty of motivation for him to help get the New England Patriots back to winning ways after losing in Week 10 to the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots were on the goal line when stopped last week as they looked to tie the game with Seattle, but they shouldn't have as many issues against a San Francisco 49ers Defensive unit that have struggled all season.

Rob Gronkowski won't be a target for Brady having been given the week off to rest after suffering a huge hit against the Seahawks. While he will be missed, New England should not be overly concerned about missing their starting Tight End with Martellus Bennett more than capable of standing in for this game.

The Quarter Back also has the likes of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman who can make some solid plays for Brady and there are plenty of holes for Tom Brady to attack in the Secondary. He will be helped by LeGarrette Blount who can also have a huge game against the 49ers who have struggled to contain the run and I think it isn't too difficult to think New England will move the chains and likely score 30 plus points in this one.

In relation to the spread, the bigger question is whether Colin Kaepernick can find a consistent game to make the plays for San Francisco. Kaepernick has had some positive starts in recent games but not been able to make the second half adjustments and playing a Bill Belichick Defense is never easy when he makes it his mission to take away the biggest Offensive weapon.

In this case that might be Carlos Hyde, Dejuan Harris and the running game as New England look to force San Francisco to beat them through the air. Stopping the run has been an issue since Belichick decided he wanted to trade away Jamie Collins from the Linebacker position, but you have to believe he will have set out the task to stop San Francisco running the ball and make Kaepernick throw from third and long to some inconsistent Receivers.

Chandler Jones was the other big name traded away by New England in 2016 and they have not really been able to push the Offensive Line backwards and get to the Quarter Back. That should see Kaepernick make some plays with his legs to get away from any pressure generated, but I am not sure the 49ers can find the consistency to stay with the Patriots in this one.

I think New England will come out with a point to prove from last week and Kaepernick is due a really bad game. A Head Coach like Belichick can confuse Kaepernick enough to force mistakes from him and I think Brady will be playing with a point to prove this week after losing at home in Week 10. The first half could be tight, but I expect the Patriots to pull away in the second and cover the double digit spread on the road.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks Pick: This has been the time of the season when the Seattle Seahawks start heating up and they are heading into Week 11 with two very good wins behind them. They were perhaps a little fortunate to knock off the Buffalo Bills, but looked stronger still when beating the New England Patriots and I think this is a team that is getting healthier at the right time.

The most important piece from them from an Offensive standpoint has always been Russell Wilson as the mobile Quarter Back has been able to escape pressure and make big plays on the run. He has made the Offensive Line look better than they are and the ankle looks a lot better which gives Wilson the chance to do what he has become famous for in the NFL.

The Seahawks are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles who beat one of the better NFC teams last week when knocking off the Atlanta Falcons but who had lost four of five before that. Wilson will have seen some of the big plays that the Eagles have given up in the Secondary and will be encouraged he can do the same with players like Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham big time Receivers for him.

An improving ankle will also help the running game as Wilson has become a threat again, but Seattle have also found confidence in CJ Prosise and Thomas Rawls. That confidence has seen Seattle move on from Christine Michael who was waived this week and the Seahawks will begin to feel they can get back to the running game that has been a feature of their team over the last few years. It might not happen so much this week, but Prosise showed he can make some tough runs in Week 10 and can also be effective as a catcher out of the backfield.

I do expect Seattle to score their points in this one which puts the pressure on Carson Wentz who won't have played in too many Stadiums that come close to the loudness of Seattle. The rookie Quarter Back has had some big games, but this game might be leaning more on his shoulders when you think of the difficult that Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles are going to have when it comes to running the ball against the Seattle Defensive Line.

There have been a few more holes in the Secondary than we are used to seeing with the Legion of Boom, but a returning Kam Chancellor makes them tougher. I also think it will be tough for Wentz to find the time to throw downfield against a fierce pass rush and with Lane Johnson still missing through suspension on the Offensive Line.

Wentz has not been as effective on the road as he has at home and I think the Seahawks are going to have the Quarter Back under pressure most times he drops back to throw the ball. That is going to make it tough for Philadelphia to keep the chains moving in one of the most difficult road environments in the NFL and I think they will do well to stay in this game.

The Seattle Defense has not been as strong as in previous seasons, but they are good enough to give this rookie Quarter Back a few problems and I can see them winning by at least a Touchdown.

Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins Pick: How many people would have picked the Green Bay Packers to be at 4-5 at this stage of the season? From a Super Bowl contender, the Packers are in danger of not even making the Play Offs after being embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans, although being in a weak Division like the NFC North has kept them alive.

The Washington Redskins have a better record than the Packers, but they are in a loaded Division in the NFC East which sees them trailing the Dallas Cowboys by 2.5 games. That makes this game a really big one, but the Redskins will be visiting Dallas on Thursday afternoon in the second of the Thanksgiving Day games and that is the bigger game having already lost at home to Dallas this season.

I don't think they can afford to overlook this one, but it does raise some issues for Washington to show they can contend with. They are going to be confident of moving the chains with Kirk Cousins showing he is perhaps a better Quarter Back than even some of his team mates believed earlier in the season. Rob Kelley is a rookie Running Back, but has shown he is capable of running the ball for Washington which has helped keep Cousins in third and manageable spots.

The troubles Green Bay have had in the Secondary will not have been unnoticed by Cousins even if deep threat DeSean Jackson is set to miss out in Week 11. There are still enough Receivers for Cousins to keep the chains moving unless Green Bay have suddenly rediscovered their mojo in the Secondary while Cousins should have time behind an Offensive Line that may be missing Trent Williams, but being kept in third and short spots thanks to the running game.

While I do think Washington move the chains, I also do think Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Offense have played better in recent weeks than how they began the season. Christine Michael has been signed to give the Packers another Running Back to join James Starks and give the Packers some balance and I can see those two players at least keeping the Redskins honest.

Mike McCarthy will be hoping for more than just a running game which is there to keep Washington from selling out on the pass, especially as there feels like little doubt that Aaron Rodgers is going to be under pressure from Ryan Kerrigan and the Washington pass rush. The Offensive Line has not been able to give Rodgers the time he has been used to especially as the Quarter Back has perhaps not been as mobile as previous years and being in third and long allows teams to pin back their ears and get after him.

Injuries on the Offensive Line have hurt Green Bay too but there are some holes in the Secondary that Rodgers can get the ball moving downfield. DaVante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson have shown they can get free and make some plays for Rodgers and the Packers are likely going to need to be on the right side of a shoot out.

That game in Dallas definitely has to be on the Washington players minds and I think that can play a part in this one. Green Bay as the underdog getting the full Field Goal feels too much and I can see them keeping this close in a shoot out and perhaps even upsetting Washington as they did in the Play Offs last season. I'll take the points in what could be a fun Sunday Night Football game.

MY PICKS: Pittsburgh Steelers - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens + 7.5 Points @ 1.86 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Jacksonville Jaguars + 6 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 11.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Seattle Seahawks - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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