2016 NFL Picks: Week 11
Last Week: 3-2
- Dallas Cowboys -7 vs. Baltimore Ravens
- Kansas City Chiefs -7 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Arizona Cardinals +1.5 at Minnesota Vikings
- Pittsburgh Steelers -9.5 at Cleveland Browns
- Miami Dolphins +1 at Los Angeles Rams
- Washington Redskins -3 vs. Green Bay Packers
- Oakland Raiders -6 vs. Houston Texans
Not bad in Week 10! I was way off about the Packers being competent, but I hardly think I was alone there. My other miss was on the Falcons, whose high-flying offense was brought to earth by the Eagles. The Wentz Wagon may have a broken axle, tongue, and wheel, but when you're leading the league in both special teams and defensive DVOA by wide margins, you can get by with subpar quarterback play. Unfortunately, I can't pick for or against them this week in Seattle because I'm now 1-7 picking Eagles games this season, and even I learn eventually.
All three of my underdog picks managed to win their games outright, with the Cowboys and Seahawks topping the Steelers and Patriots in two of the most entertaining games of the season. The Chiefs managed to pull a win right out of Carolina's hands to secure our second winning week. We're still six games under .500, but we have seven weeks to go. On to the picks!
Dallas Cowboys -7 vs. Baltimore Ravens
This game features a classic strength-on-strength matchup, with the Cowboys ranked 2nd in offensive DVOA and the Ravens ranked 2nd in defensive DVOA. Dallas won't move the ball as easily as they did against the Browns and Steelers, but they played a similar team back in Week 6 when they went up against the Packers' then-league-best rush defense in Green Bay. Over the course of four quarters the Packers' defense eventually capitulated, and the Cowboys won comfortably. Meanwhile, the Ravens bring the NFL's worst offense to Dallas; they've only topped 21 points four times this season, and two of those were against the Browns. Regardless of how you felt about Joe Flacco when he signed his mega-contract after winning Super Bowl 47, this version is decidedly not elite. Unless the Baltimore defense can force some turnovers from a team averaging less than one giveaway per game, the Cowboys and their run game should wear them down on the way to a comfortable win.
Kansas City Chiefs -7 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I've picked against the Buccaneers a few times this year, typically citing their proclivity for giving the ball to the other team. I'm not going to stop this week, with the butter-fingered Buccaneers (1.67 giveaways per game) facing the league's top takeaway artists in Kansas City (2.44 takeaways per game). Tampa Bay could play conservatively to cut down on turnovers, but their offense ranks 30th in rushing DVOA; if they fall behind and have to throw on the Chiefs' 8th-ranked pass defense, this game might resemble their Week 2 tilt against Arizona. You might look at Jameis Winston's streak of four consecutive games with multiple touchdowns and think "he's figured it out!", but none of the teams he's played in that stretch rank higher than 16th in defensive passing DVOA. If that isn't enough, the Chiefs are 4-0 at home and have a big advantage in special teams (5th to Tampa Bay's 22nd). This game could be close if Tampa can avoid turning the ball over, as Kansas City's offense has struggled all year. Until proven otherwise, though, I'll count on Jameis to be as generous with the football as he is with Trump-esque sexual advice. At least Winston has the excuse of being a 20 year old at the time; Trump had an extra 39 years to learn acceptable behavior.
Arizona Cardinals +1.5 at Minnesota Vikings
This pick is based more on the Vikings' recent play than metrics spanning the entire season. As Minnesota's offensive line has fallen apart, Sam Bradford has been under more and more pressure, and it will only get worse with news of Jake Long's injury. Arizona's offense is 26th in DVOA this season, but it won't matter if the Vikings can't score 10 points. Think that bar is too low? In the last four games, Minnesota has scored 20 points against the 21st-ranked Washington defense, 16 points against Detroit's 32nd-ranked defense, 10 points against Chicago's 16th-ranked defense, and 10 points against a very good Philadelphia defense. The Cardinals, who have the league's 4th-best Defensive DVOA, are closer to the Eagles than and of those other teams. Points will be scarce, so I'll take Arizona with an extra 1.5.
Pittsburgh Steelers -9.5 at Cleveland Browns
The Steelers are giving just nine points to the Browns this week. I say "just" because Cleveland is 0-10 and has finished within ten points of an opponent just four times. I think this line is lower than it should be because Pittsburgh has struggled lately, but that line of thinking disregards Ben Roethlisberger's injury and a good showing against a strong team in last week's last-minute loss to Dallas. I think the Steelers will easily top 30 points in a "must-win" game for them. Cleveland should have plenty of time to pass against the Steelers' 32nd-ranked pass rush, but it would take a long time for me to get nervous about Cody Kessler throwing to Terrelle Pryor, Gary Barnidge, and Andrew Hawkins. I don't think they can break 20.
Miami Dolphins +1 at Los Angeles Rams
Miami has been on a tear lately, beating Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and San Diego (and the Jets) in the past four weeks. This streak coincides with improvements in their running game and pass rush, moving them all the way up to 6th in total DVOA. Los Angeles has been feisty this season despite starting Case Keenum at quarterback, who ranks dead last in Total QBR, 30th in passer rating, and 29th in DVOA. The good news for Rams' fans is that Case Keenum has been benched. The bad news is that number one overall pick Jared Goff will be starting in his place, and he hadn't demonstrated enough to get the starting nod sooner. The Rams defense has carried them to a 4-5 record despite the human embodiment of a tire fire taking snaps, but I think the Dolphins will play well enough to eke out a win.
Washington Redskins -3 vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay's struggles on offense are well-documented by now, and they've fallen to 13th in offensive DVOA. Their defense has been above-average, ranking 12th in DVOA and looking especially tough against the run. Unfortunately for cheeseheads everywhere (and they are everywhere, trust me), Washington ranks 9th in offensive DVOA behind a balanced attack. How much faith should we place in a team who gave up 31 points to the Colts and 47 points to the Titans in consecutive weeks? Washington also has a distinct edge in special teams, where they rank 9th compared to Green Bay's 25th-ranked unit. Of course, Aaron Rodgers is still the Packers' quarterback, and I'm making this pick as a Bears fan, so...
Oakland Raiders -6 vs. Houston Texans
There's only one place to start when picking this game, and it's with Houston's $72-million dollar man, Brock Osweiler. He is not good, and I'm not creative enough to put into words how bad he has been this year. Instead, try setting the cadence to Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham and then asking a Houston fan for Brock-related complaints. For example:
I do not trust Brock Osweiler, I do not trust his hair styler.
If he can't even throw to Hopkins, what good are his other options?
I do not trust him stone cold sober, but he plays as though he is hungover.
If you favor a more analytical approach, he's led the Texans to dead last in offensive passing DVOA despite ranking 8th in adjusted sack rate allowed. He's getting plenty of time; he just can't consistently throw the ball to anyone, which is a relief for Oakland's 28th-ranked defense. The Raiders also boast a balanced offensive attack that ranks 4th in offensive DVOA, and have a huge edge in special teams because being average is much better than sitting in 31st place. I wish I'd known this game was being played in Mexico before making my pick, but I don't think it would have changed my mind.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Check out some more of our Sports Book content below, and if it isn't against your favorite team's interests, send some good vibes my way for these picks. Enjoy your weekend!