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Top 5 NFL Week 11 Matchups
With the NFL schedule now a few weeks past the halfway point, I examine the top five matchups of the week to detail what I'm watching for and the expected outcome.
San Diego (4-5) at Miami (4-5)
This may seem like a strange choice for a top 5 game, but take a look at the AFC standings. Both of these teams are out of the hunt for their division titles, but are only a game out of the second wild card spot. The AFC in its entirety is weak this year (only six teams are currently above .500) and the Jets currently hold the sixth playoff spot. This may hold up, as the Jets are having quite the year and will most likely save Rex Ryan's job in the process.
Phillip Rivers has looked good this year in leading the offense and a few of his weapons are having great years. Antonio Gates looks healthy for the first time in years, Danny Woodhead looks great catching balls out of the backfield and Keenan Allen has emerged as a legitimate WR1/WR2. Couple this with the Dolphins looking like a mess right now and I think the Chargers pull this one out.
Prediction: Chargers 27 Miami 17
4. Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (5-5)
As bad as Washington has looked at times this year, the NFC East is up for grabs. While Dallas appeared to be the front-runner a few weeks ago, their defense has been decimated by injuries, and there's always Tony Romo's habit of choking late in the season. RG3 has looked healthier in recent weeks and the Redskins have begun running more of the offense that made them successful last year, running the option out of the pistol formation. The Eagles have also looked better in recent weeks, with Nick Foles at the helm. In just the past two weeks Foles has thrown 10 TDs and 0 INTs.
With the Cowboys having a bye week, it gives the Eagles a chance to claim first in the division for the first time all year. With the recent surges in both team's offenses and the struggling defenses, I think we see a high-scoring shootout. You would think that the Eagles being at home would be a good thing, but they have won zero of their past 10 games at home. I think they finally buck that trend this week and take advantage of the Cowboys being idle.
Prediction: Eagles 31 Redskins 28
3. New England (7-2) at Carolina (6-3)
I'll be the first to admit that I would never have thought this would be a game between two playoff contenders at the beginning of the year. I expected the Panthers to be competitive and finish around .500, but after starting off the season 1-3, I never expected for them to run off five straight wins, with the last coming at Candlestick against the Niners. Meanwhile the Patriots have been commanding the AFC East as usual, although time Brady and the rest of the offense has not been as dominant as we've seen in recent years.
The Panthers may be for real, as their defense, which was among the worst only a season or two ago, is now among the best in the NFL. Cam Newton is managing the offense and taking care of the ball. He's having big games when needed, but has also shown the ability to understand the situation and not be the reason that the Panthers lose a game. While Brady finally broke out last week and had his biggest game of the year, I expect this one to be a grinder. I don't see either QB throwing for more than 250 yards and I don't expect that either team will have much success on the ground. This will be a grind it out, low-scoring contest. I like the fact that the Panthers are at home in this one, but the Pats are coming off of a bye week and no doubt Belichick took full advantage of it.
Prediction: Patriots 16 Panthers 13
2. San Francisco (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2)
I expect this game to show us all who the Niners really are. All eyes have been on them and the Seahawks out west to determine who wins the division. Seattle won the first contest, but had looked inconsistent until last week, while the Niners had looked as if they were on their way up before their lost to the Panthers last week. With another loss the Niners will find it very difficult to win the division and will be fighting for their wild card lives. The Saints lost to the Jets two weeks ago, before rebounding nicely at home against the decimated Cowboys.
The Saints are almost unstoppable at home, but if anyone can slow them down I think it's the Niners defense. The Niners have the ability to effectively put pressure on the QB when only rushing four players, and they will need to do this against Drew Brees. If Brees consistently has time in the pocket to find his weapons the Niners don't have a chance at winning this game. On the other side of the matchup, the Niners offense has been struggling. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has regressed this year, and has not been a threat throwing the football. The Niners need to be able to run the football and use all of their weapons in the process. Between Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Lamichael James the Niners should be able to put up 200+ yards rushing against a Jonathan Vilma-less Saints defense. It amazes me that the Niners don't use James more, as him in the backfield with Kaepernick is a matchup nightmare. In the end, I think the Saints are a little too much and use home field to their advantage.
Prediction: Saints 20 Niners 13
1. Kansas City (9-0) at Denver (8-1)
I think I'm in the majority here, but I'm not buying the Chiefs as one of the top teams in the NFL. I think they're really good, because of their defense and Jamaal Charles, but I don't think they're a top five team. At his best Alex Smith can manage a game and they haven't played anyone good this year. Their defense wins them games similar to what the Bears have done for years, and it's really hard to keep this up for a full season. Denver has looked dominant for most of the year, but have slowed down since the first few weeks. Peyton Manning is a bit banged up, but I don't expect this to factor in much.
I'm excited to see the Chiefs defense against the Broncos offense. The Chiefs will put pressure on Manning with a four man rush and if the Broncos offensive line can't keep Manning fairly clean, I think we have a close game on our hands. The Broncos will look to use their hurry up offense as much as possible and attempt to wear the Chiefs defense down. Look for the Broncos offense to run the ball a bit more than usual and call a heavy amount of screens and draws. While Denver's defense has looked bad at times, their main concern is to contain Jamaal Charles. If I'm John Fox I'm stacking eight or nine defenders in the box everytime and making Alex Smith beat me with his arm--it won't happen. Once again, the Chiefs defense will need to win the game for the team, and I don't see Peyton letting that happen.
Prediction: Broncos 24 Chiefs 13
That's all I have for this week. Please leave any comments on your thoughts!