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- Ian's Week 11 predictions

Ian Hetherington November 15, 2007
Ian Hetherington
NFL Columnist

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NFL Week 10 thoughts

Washington let one slip away...Again: What is it with Washington? Play reasonably in the first half and then come out in the second only to allow the opposition to get a foot in the door through poor execution and worse decision-making. NFC East is as competitive as ever, meaning these are mistakes Washington can't afford.

Ram raid: Bulger and Jackson both showed up for St. Louis as they contributed touchdowns to an impressive win against the Saints. For pride's sake if nothing else, St. Louis just keep on fighting.

Joshua Cribbs: Cribbs is yet another player who's raised his game this season to help the Browns along. If not for a second-half capitulation they might even have beaten Pittsburgh. Either way, Cribbs did his part with plenty of return yards and a touchdown.

Shayne Graham: Kickers are having big games all over the place this year, and this twenty-one pointer for Graham is just the latest. Speaking of kickers….

What’s wrong with Adam Vinatieri? That crucial miss against the Chargers is the sort of kick he used to make with his eyes closed.

Ricky Williams is back: It's not definitely with Miami yet, but the NFL have re-instated the shamed running back. Surely Miami must see Williams as a viable roll of the dice (once he's available) now that their season is done?

NFL Week 11

Game predictions
Arizona Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Bengals
What do you make of a game where a team scores 21 points all from field goals? Especially when it’s Cincy, when you’d expect them to get a touchdown or four if they were within field goal range that many times and the longest of them was a 35-yarder. Still, peculiar as that may be it doesn’t shake the fact that the Bengals have the tools to do some damage. As ever, they’re susceptible to allowing too many points so Arizona will look to make the most of Kurt Warner’s careful throwing to wear down Cincinnati. The Bengals should have enough in this one though, even if they end up being run closer than you’d expect to be by a Cardinals team.

Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers
When you struggle to 13 points against the Falcons you know you’re a team in trouble. If Joey Harrington on mediocre form can lead the way to victory in your stadium, what’s going to happen when you visit Brett Favre in Green Bay? The Pack stretched their record to an impressive 9-1 as they completely shut down the Vikings last week, and if the Panthers are to have a chance in this one they’re likely going to rely on getting the ball into the hands of Steve Smith. That’s been a struggle so far this year, somehow, and Carolina’s Plan B hardly seems convincing enough to foresee Favre finishing the week with his second loss of the year. As if Green Bay weren’t dangerous enough, now they may have found their running back in Ryan Grant, giving the Panthers one more thing to worry about as they try to stop the man behind center doing what he’s done best this year.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are even worse than I thought. They need to realise that fit or not, Steve McNair is no longer the answers (or if he is, they need to be asking a different question) especially when the defense isn’t good enough at the moment to back up an ailing offense. The Browns found means to put points on the board in spite of not accruing big yardage last week and the Ravens don’t look like they’re going to stop Cleveland for a full half as Pittsburgh essentially did. Cleveland to leave Baltimore with a win, the Ravens to finish the week with the dark realization that now they’re probably as well just planning for the future.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts
I fear for the Chiefs because after crawling to a tame defeat at home against Denver, they now face a trip to Indianapolis where I feel they could be the victim of a Colts backlash. They’ve gone from 7-0 to 7-2, they’ve got injuries, people are already saying they can’t win a potential AFC Championship game in Foxboro, some even questioning their ability to get back to winning ways and stay on a level with the Steelers. Being predicted to come third behind Pittsburgh in the AFC is nothing to be ashamed of, but I see Peyton Manning leading the wounded Colts to a win in the same mood as when he almost rallied them to an unlikely comeback win against the Chargers.

Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Assuming that John Beck isn’t a secret superstar, Miami’s woes are going to continue in Philly with McNabb and Westbrook looking in the zone against Washington in week 10. I still don’t see anybody going 0-16 no matter how bad they look and I believe Miami will pick up a win somewhere, be it through luck or skill, just not this week. Philly’s depth chart isn’t jam-packed with top class weapons, but they have enough to get the job done here.

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
After a nice rest that they hardly looked like they needed, the Patriots come back in week 11 to show the NFL how it’s done after week 10 was characterized by offensive ineptitude for many teams and players. Somewhat improbably, Buffalo are sitting on the edges of the playoff spots at this point in time after working hard to get into the black with a 5-4 record. After this week it’s likely to be 5-5, New England aren’t going to give the Bills as much as Dallas did, but they’re still in a good position and with so many AFC teams being unpredictable a playoffs spot isn’t out of the question should they be back to a .500 win ratio.

New Orleans Saints vs. Houston Texans
Since their real season began, New Orleans are 4-1. I thought Marc Bulger could be a dark horse last week, I even advised a workmate to pick him up in his fantasy team to great effect, but is Sage Rosenfels likely to have a similar effect? I suspect not, the Saints offense didn’t play badly after all, it was on defense where they lost against St. Louis. Houston’s defense is better when defending the pass, but Brees’ good decision-making will help Sean Payton set up a Brees-Bush one-two. I can see Houston getting a few touchdowns in this one against a flimsy New Orleans D, they’ll still be outscored though.

Oakland Raiders vs. Minnesota Vikings
Even without the Adrian Peterson the odds are still stacked in Minnesota’s favour. At home, they’re taking on Oakland, who offer one of the softest run defenses in the NFL while Minnesota’s only real offensive option will be running back Chester Taylor. On offense, Oakland are stronger on the ground, which -Ryan Grant’s big game for Green bay last week notwithstanding- is exactly what the Vikes are so good at defending against. In what promises to be a dreary game, Chester Taylor has a chance to star with the vast majority of the carries.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets
A single play summed up a resolute performance from Ben Roethlisberger last week: After a pump fake, he charged through a hole in the middle and barrelled past a couple of defenders and ploughed over the line for a 30-yard touchdown run. Roethlisberger has made his mistakes but he’s quietly gone about the business of having a great season so far, and he’s leading the Steelers in such a manner that makes you wonder what, if anything, the Jets are capable of doing to stop them.

San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Philip Rivers’ 2006 play seems to have gone walkabout, and his performance in a bizarre win over the Colts can’t have done his confidence much good. Taking a Tomlinson-heavy game plan to Jacksonville isn’t any way to try and win so they desperately need to get Rivers throwing better. Last week Quinn Gray had a very slow game, but steady enough that he didn’t turn it over in the air and got himself a touchdown, while letting Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew carry the brunt of the workload. The Chargers haven’t been great against the run this year, and I have a feeling they could struggle with the variety of plays the Jags can call on with their splendid rushing tandem.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Home or away, it’s games against teams like Atlanta which have helped Tampa Bay climb to a 5-4 record in the face of prophecies of doom for them in the pre-season. Joey Harrington has done okay since being called straight back into the team after Byron Leftwich got hurt but he hasn’t been great, but Leftwich still might come in. Whoever plays, while Tampa aren’t going to blitz him an awful lot, they’ll happily sit and make sure he doesn’t have many easy throws to make. Jeff Garcia’s game management has been a huge factor for the Bucs up to now, so they’ll be relying on him to steadily drive them down the field and pick up a few scores along the way, a task he shouldn’t have too much trouble completing.

***Game of the Week***
Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
It’s the fearlessness of Tony Romo that gives even teams with good pass defenses cause for concern. Some quarterbacks you can rattle, be it physically or by batting down and picking off everything they let go of. You can harass them mentally and physically until they become cowed and look happy to hand the ball off. Tony Romo is not one of those quarterbacks. Hit him, pick him off, force mistakes out of him and he’ll still be looking for big plays where he can and that could be the difference between Dallas and Washington. These games are all about will to win and passing and Romo seems to have that in spades, and backed up with good running backs and a solid defense is a recipe for success. That’s not to discount Washington altogether, though. For a start, in these rivalries either team can win, and it’s the history of this that will help the ‘Skins shrug off the huge disappointment of last week and try to take a crucial divisional win. Jason Campbell suddenly found out he has receivers after all, but he’s going to need to do that again if Washington are going to steal this one from the favourites. All in all, I see Dallas leading by a score at the half, and then extending their lead as desperation causes Washington to make mistakes.

New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions
“I said last week I was having a hard time guessing how the Lions would play in any given game, and sure enough they proved me right by winning when I had them down for a loss.”

Never a truer word was spoken. Since week 8 I’ve failed to correctly predict whether the Lions would win or lose, so screw them. I’m not going to waste precious lines on them if they’re just going to prove me wrong. Giants to win by 10.

St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
It’s 99% certain now that the Rams season is over, though it’s crazy to think after one win in nine games, St. Louis are “just” four games behind teams lurking around the playoff spots, including divisional leaders Seattle. If they can win remaining divisional games (which is doable, given how poor their NFC West comrades have been) and get results against the likes of Atlanta and Cincinnati they might even be able to force a late charge at Seattle’s top spot provided the ‘Hawks keep on struggling against distinctly average opposition. But they need to win, win, win, with the game in San Francisco likely to help them extend to a winning streak of two.

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks
It might seem unfair, but here it is: I think the Bears beat Oakland last week because they were simply less uninspiring than the Raiders. Seattle haven’t been as good as they could be this year, largely thanks to the disappointing performance of Shaun Alexander, but if Maurice Morris has another good game then he, Matt Hasselbeck and the decent receivers the ‘Hawks possess are more than able to get the job done against Chicago, who haven’t scored more than 19 in three straight games now.

Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos
When making predictions and trying to do it by analyzing the game, it’s often a smarter bet to work on the assumption that a player is going to keep playing at their current level until proven otherwise, and I think I’ll be applying that to Vince Young this week. Young has had a torrid time this year, and the Titans can’t assume he’ll be handed much slack by Denver’s strong pass defense. The Titans biggest strength this year has been a stingy run defense, so if Denver can get the running game going -and they’re likely to have a serviceable enough game to provide a distraction- that should give Jay Cutler the time he needs to fire the Broncos to a win in Denver. The Titans O-line can dominate the Denver D-line, but the Titans aren’t the most dynamic team so Denver might be able to slow them just by clogging the line with bodies.

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