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NFL Week 11 predictions: Our picks against the spread


One of the most exciting images in the N.F.L.: Patrick Mahomes with time to pass.

By Emmanuel Morgan


Through the season’s first half, the NFC was top-heavy with contenders, as up to five teams jostled for home-field advantage in the playoffs. But with injuries mounting and weaknesses now revealed, divisional races could get weird.


The Carolina Panthers, who added quarterback Cam Newton and returned running back Christian McCaffery from injury, could pounce on the NFC South while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints play games without key starters. The 49ers, after a statement win Monday night, have a soft stretch in their schedule. With a win likely over the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, San Francisco could make up some ground on securing a wild-card spot out of the NFC West while the Los Angeles Rams are on a bye.


As the intrigue in the NFC heightens, the AFC’s tightest races could get new leaders. The New England Patriots have a shot at closing the half-game gap with the Buffalo Bills in the East, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1) have inched to within a fraction of the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) in the North — a space it will try to close in a matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.


Below is a look at NFL Week 11, with all picks made against the spread.

All times are Eastern.

Byes: Broncos, Rams

Last week’s record: 4-10


SUNDAY’S BEST GAMES


Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City

4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Kansas City -2.5 | Total: 55.5

Yes, Kansas City (6-4) looked good defensively on Sunday but it played the Las Vegas Raiders, whose offense is foundering after the team released its best receiver. Now, Kansas City will try to stop the Cowboys (7-2), who feature arguably the best receiving corps in the league and average 294.3 passing yards per game.

Dallas’s defense has been vulnerable to volume passers like Patrick Mahomes — who has the second-most interceptions in the league, but is coming off a five-touchdown, zero-interception performance in which he had 50 attempts. But Dak Prescott can keep pace, and Dallas is good enough against the run to prevent Kansas City from controlling time of possession. PICK: Cowboys +2.5.


Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -2.5 | Total: 49

Given another week to recover from the coronavirus, Aaron Rodgers should return to form as the Packers (8-2) face the Vikings (4-5). But he’ll be without running back Aaron Jones, who is dealing with a sprained knee.

All but one of Minnesota’s games this season have been decided by one score, and if the spread was a little larger, it would be tempting to bet on them to cover. But after the Packers’ sloppy performance against Seattle, Rodgers will be eager to remind the league that Green Bay can score a lot. PICK: Packers -2.5.


Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

4:25 p.m., Fox

Line: Cardinals -2.5 | Total: 49

Injuries are the only reason for the tight spread between the NFC West’s best and worst teams. The Cardinals (8-2) have played their last two games without quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle sprain), but coach Kliff Kingsbury said “it’s going to be close” when asked if Murray will play Sunday. It’s also unclear whether receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) will be available, and Murray’s backup, Colt McCoy, is also questionable (pectoral).

The Seahawks (3-6), meanwhile, just had the worst offensive outing in Russell Wilson’s career, and are uncertain of the status of starting running back Chris Carson (neck). Assuming Murray and Hopkins play, this one shouldn’t be close. PICK: Cardinals -2.5.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers

8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Chargers -6 | Total: 47

Bet this one. The Chargers (5-4) have lost three of their last four games and have issues defending against the run, but the Steelers (5-3-1) could play Sunday without their three best players. Coach Mike Tomlin said he is unsure whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will clear COVID-19 protocols, although Tomlin was more optimistic about Roethlisberger. T.J. Watt, who is second in the league in sacks (12.5), is also questionable with hip and rib injuries.

Chargers defensive linemen Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery were also placed on the COVID-19 list Tuesday and may be unable to play. But the Steelers’ potential absences are more consequential. Even with the Chargers’ inconsistency, Los Angeles should cover the spread because of Pittsburgh’s short-handedness. PICK: Chargers -6.


SUNDAY’S OTHER GAMES


Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Bills -7.5 | Total: 49

A win — no matter how ugly or close — is a win, and the Colts’ (5-5) narrowly beating the lowly Jaguars last week kept their playoff hopes realistic in the wide-open AFC. The Bills (6-3), though, should bring them back to reality. Buffalo’s top-ranked defense can frustrate Carson Wentz in ways the New York Jets and Jaguars didn’t during the Colts’ two-game winning streak, while Josh Allen relishes carving up the Colts’ secondary, ranked seventh in passing yards allowed (2,499). PICK: Bills -7.5.


Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Ravens -6.5 | Total: 45.5

Lamar Jackson is indeed human, and the Ravens’ (6-3) loss to Miami in Week 10 showed that Baltimore needs production from other players to have a real shot at a title. Running back Latavius Murray looks likely to play after missing three games with an ankle injury. Wondering who will step up to help Jackson will be a relevant concern in the playoffs, but maybe not this week against the Bears (3-6).

Chicago’s defense is tied for fourth in sacks (25), but it has generated only nine takeaways. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ development has progressed after each game, but it is hard to imagine the Ravens will perform poorly in back-to-back games. PICK: Ravens -6.5.



Washington Footballers at Carolina Panthers

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Panthers -3.5 | Total: 43

Coach Matt Rhule would not officially name Cam Newton the starter but this week’s first-team reps have gone to Carolina’s prodigal son, all but ensuring that Newton will see much more than the nine snaps he played in his first game back in a Panthers uniform. The practice should help reestablish his connection with receiver D.J. Moore and the now-healthy Christian McCaffrey, breathing new life into the Panthers’ (5-5) playoff hopes.

Against a Washington (3-6) team led by former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, Newton — and backup P.J. Walker — will face less of a pass rush with Chase Young out after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament. If Newton takes care of the ball, his first game back at Bank of America Stadium should be filled with Superman celebrations. PICK: Panthers -3.5.



Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Browns -10 | Total: 45

Baker Mayfield has had an up-and-down campaign for a contract extension and is trending downward. The Browns (5-5) are last in the AFC North, and he completed only 52% of his passes for 73 yards last week in a blowout loss against the Patriots that Mayfield left in the second half because of a knee injury.

Mayfield’s status is day-to-day as he nurses that injury and an ailing shoulder, but coach Kevin Stefanski said he expects Mayfield to play against the Lions (0-8-1), who recently played the season’s first tie. Detroit took Pittsburgh to overtime last week and looked gassed trying to finally get a win. If Mayfield is even somewhat effective, and if running back Nick Chubb clears COVID-19 protocols, Cleveland should cover at home. PICK: Browns -10.



Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Titans -10.5 | Total: 44.5

The Titans (8-2) have won both their games without their star running back Derrick Henry, but they’re still without Julio Jones (hamstring), who must miss at least two more games while on injured reserve. Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and the Titans’ cast of replacement backs should face little resistance from the Texans (1-8), who are rested from a bye week but whose defense has given up the second-most rushing yards (1,232) in the league. PICK: Titans -10.5.



Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

1 p.m., CBS

Line: Dolphins -3 | Total: 45.5

The Dolphins (3-7) returned their 2020 methodology of aggressively blitzing to beat Lamar Jackson last week, and it can definitely give Joe Flacco problems. Mike White threw four interceptions against the Bills, clearing up any quarterback controversy for the Jets (2-7). With Zach Wilson still recovering from a knee injury, Coach Robert Saleh elected to start Flacco, a 14-season veteran, over White. PICK: Dolphins -3.



New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

1 p.m., Fox

Line: Eagles -1.5 | Total: 45

After ignoring the run earlier in the season, the Eagles (4-6) have rushed for over 130 yards in each of their last four games, including two performances over 200 yards. That strategy may not work against the Saints (5-4), whose defense has given up more than 100 rushing yards only once. The Saints have been unbearably hard to predict, but even with running back Alvin Kamara’s (knee) status unclear, the defense should carry New Orleans, forcing the Eagles to revert to leaning on Jalen Hurts. PICK: Saints +1.5.



San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars

1 p.m., Fox

Line: 49ers -7 | Total: 46

Jacksonville (2-7) has played better in recent weeks, but a matchup with the 49ers (4-5) could test the Jaguars’ biggest strength: its rushing defense, which allows a mere 106 yards per game. The 49ers’ offense is predicated on misdirection and playing through contact, a challenge for a defense that’s still finding itself.

Trevor Lawrence has seesawed through his rookie season so far and is tied for third in interceptions with nine. His mistakes could give San Francisco’s offense extra possessions, a less-than-sound strategy against coach Kyle Shanahan. PICK: 49ers -7.



Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders

4:05 p.m., CBS

Line: Bengals -1 | Total: 49

What a difference a month makes. After Jon Gruden resigned as coach in October, the Raiders’ (5-4) efforts to remain poised and efficient have faltered in November amid more personnel shake-ups — including the release of 2020 first-round draft picks Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette. Las Vegas has lost its last two games, and looked sloppy and disorganized in doing so. Kansas City last week exploited deficiencies in the Raiders’ passing defense and pointed out miscommunications in coverages, beating them with 422 passing yards.

That should excite the Bengals (5-4), who hope to reawaken their passing attack. Joe Burrow threw two interceptions against the Cleveland Browns before Cincinnati’s bye, so the Bengals will be fresh and motivated to deepen the Raiders’ rut. PICK: Bengals -1



MONDAY’S MATCHUP


New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Buccaneers -11 | Total: 50

Saquon Barkley returned to practice for the Giants (3-6) after missing the last four games with an ankle injury and a positive coronavirus test. If he can play, it could be under ideal circumstances since Buccaneers tackle Vita Vea, arguably Tampa Bay’s most impactful defensive player, was carted off at the end of last Sunday’s game with a knee injury.

Rob Gronkowski (back) and Antonio Brown (ankle) are also uncertain to play for the Bucs (6-3) with injuries that have hampered Tampa Bay for much of the season. Although they are the better team, the Buccaneers’ soft secondary and key absences give the Giants a chance to keep this one close. PICK: Giants +11.



How Betting Lines Work

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Raiders -5.5, for example, means that Las Vegas must beat Chicago by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

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