SideLion Report Staff Picks: Week 11
By Matt Urben
Check out SideLion Report’s staff picks for Week 11 of the NFL season.
After a much-needed bye week, Detroit takes the field this weekend as the class of the NFC North. The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) come to town in what looks like a possible trap game. However, our writers seem to think Detroit will take care of business, unlike in that week four loss to the lowly Bears. We each give our takes on the Lions-Jaguars game and pick one other game from around the league. Al is on top at 4-2, while Ty and I attempt to fight back from 1-5 starts. Brandon, despite having last week off is somehow 3-1, and in second place. Jack is looking to rebound at 2-4. So, let’s get to this week’s picks!
Al Stahl (4-2)
Detroit can sort of score points (ranked 17th). Jacksonville can’t (ranked 27th). Detroit doesn’t turn the ball over (6 TOs all season). Jacksonville does (14 TOs all season). Detroit can’t force any turnovers (7 TOs forced all season). Neither can Jacksonville (5 TOs forced all season). Detroit can’t run the ball (ranked 27th). Jacksonville won’t be able to stop it anyway (ranked 29th).
There are a lot of reasons to think the Lions’ offense should have a very efficient game and the defense should play well and force some turnovers en route to a W on Sunday. After all, the Lions have won three straight coming off a bye week.
But this Jacksonville matchup just has “letdown game” written all over it. I won’t go quite that far, but I think the Jags make a game of it late and for once this season, a QB other than Stafford will have to come up with big plays at the end. Bortles won’t make them.
According to Sporting Charts, the Cardinals have the 7th ranked offense in the league by total yards. The Cardinals have had no trouble moving the ball this year. Their issue is with converting drives into points. Arizona’s scoring offense ranks just 20th. The Vikings’ offense is 32nd in the league by total yards. Minnesota’s scoring offense ranks a slightly better 26th overall. The offense is providing no help to a defense that is great when it isn’t overworked. The yards are coming, but will they be able to keep the Cards off the scoreboard?
So what happens when you pit two struggling offenses against each other? Well, the defenses should excel. And these are two really good defenses. The worst rankings between the two defenses is Arizona’s 12th ranked run defense. That run defense will be going against Minnesota’s 32nd ranked rushing offense. Despite two top-3 ranked defenses, the stars are aligning for an Arizona playoff push.
Three months ago, this looked like it could be a good game. One month ago, this looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for the Vikings. However, after a 1-3 start, Arizona is now 3-1-1 in their last 5 whereas Minnesota started the season 5-0 and has completely fallen apart en route to an 0-4 record since their bye. Two teams going in different directions. All signs point to a Cardinals victory on Sunday. -Follow @LethalSax
Matt Urben (1-5)
The Lions (5-4) are coming off of their bye rested and healthier than they’ve been all year. The Jaguars (2-7) are without question the biggest disappointment of the NFL this season. Despite Jags QB Blake Bortles slumping (80.6 QB Rating in 2016), I can’t see him struggling against a Lions defense that has made Case Keenum and Brian Hoyer look like Pro Bowlers. While the writers over at Black and Teal (Fansided’s Jaguar’s site) are expecting Detroit to blow out the Jags, I can’t convince myself it will be that easy for Jim Caldwell’s group.
The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season and somehow have a winning record. I don’t think this one will come down to the final drive, but I see it as an uncomfortably close game for Detroit. The Lions are the better team, with a better quarterback, but they haven’t played with expectations of a possible NFC North crown in a long time. This is the classic game those “same old Lions” would lose because it’s right when people are starting to trust them. Detroit already lost to an awful Bears team earlier this season, however, so I think they will be ready.
Kansas City-27, Tampa Bay-24.
The Chiefs (7-2) are quietly one of the top 5 teams in the NFL. They went to backup QB Nick Foles and still easily handled their business and now have starter Alex Smith back. Their record is even more impressive coming in an extremely tough AFC West division. Their only losses coming from the Steelers and Texans. Stud corner Marcus Peters has 5 interceptions on the season and has maybe established himself as the best defensive back in the NFL.
With that said, this team seems to play down to their competition. The Bucs (4-5) are extremely pesky, even when they lose. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Chiefs let this one slip away, but quite simply, they’re a much better football team than the Buccaneers. I see Tampa Bay getting out to an early lead, but Smith and breakout HB Spencer Ware will lead them to another impressive victory that nobody will notice. -Follow @MattUrben88
Ty Finch (1-5)
I don’t believe in “trap games” in the NFL. Coaches and players prep for an entire week for the team they will face on Sunday. There is no looking ahead. So if the Jacksonville Jaguars roll into Ford Field on Sunday and beat the Lions, that excuse is gone. The Jaguars have enough talent on both sides of the ball to compete with most teams in the league, even if they can’t seem to turn it into wins. The Lions are streaky and unpredictable enough to lose to most any team in the league as well.
That being said, the Lions should beat this team. We’ve yet to see them play a complete game this season. Even if they are favored by 6.5 points, I wouldn’t expect a blowout. The Jaguars defense ranks 17th in defensive DVOA, and 13th in pass defense, so Matthew Stafford could find a bit of trouble moving the ball through the air at times. And we all know this defense can make any offense look competent, so this could be a back and forth affair. It’s one I see the Lions winning.
You never know what to expect from the Buffalo Bills from week to week. Their season has had many highs as lows. The Bengals are quite the opposite. Just about every game, week, and most seasons, are the same. The Bills do have one aspect of their game that is consistent; their rushing offense is the best in the league by DVOA. Obviously, a scrambling quarterback like Tyrod Taylor inflates those stats, but LeSean McCoy has had a resurgent year as well.
Taylor is an underrated passer as well, which is why their offense is so difficult to stop. The Bengals defense has been below average all year and could get run on with ease on Sunday. Both of these defenses are mediocre at best this year, but both offenses’ strength is running the ball. This could be a high-scoring game, but with slow scoring drives, which I ultimately expect the Bills to win. -Follow @Finchty
Brandon Finley (3-1)
The Lions enter week 11 as the division leader in the NFC North but that doesn’t change the fact that Detroit has struggled in games against teams they know they can beat. Stafford needs to come out strong and this needs to be a tune up game. Detroit can’t afford to kill themselves with a tough game as they have a short week playing Minnesota on Thanksgiving. The big matchup here will be stopping Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas from having big days. Limit these players and Detroit can improve to 6-4.
Jack Ozark (2-4)
Are these those Lions? This week we get to find out! The Lions of old would get destroyed in this game, leaving everybody confused about who this team is. However, I have started sipping on the Kool-aid. With the bye week coming at the perfect time the Lions got healthy for their playoff push. I think this week does conclude something though, ending the continuum of one scoring finishes. Both of these teams can score in bunches, but Detroit’s ball security compared to the Jags is stellar. Expect some interceptions from the struggling Blake Bortles and I see the Lions taking the next step and holding onto first place.
Miami-24, Los Angeles-16.
The Rams finally get to see their man behind center. It’s the first week of the Jared Goff experience, and nobody better to start off a career against than Ndamukong Suh. There is an actual chance that Suh throws Goff so hard that he gets stuck in the field. Hopefully sitting out for so long means the rookie nerves have dissipated, because if the Rams really want to end up in the playoffs, Goff needs to play like the first overall pick. For the Dolphins offense, I expect Ryan Tannehill to have that Tannehill game where he gives people a glimmer of hope that he actually is a top level quarterback. This will lead to the offseason wonders continuing if is their quarterback of the future or not. -Follow @J_zark
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