NFL Week 11 Preview: NFC Powerhouses in Playoff Seeding Battles7 min read
If week 10 proved anything, it’s that the NFC is far and away the better conference in 2017; and this week fans are in for a treat as the conference’s premier team battle it out in search of home-field advantage and a bye week in the playoffs.
So, as usual, we’ve broken down the week’s biggest matchups and provided tips for week 11’s best action.
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
(Sunday 19th Nov – 6pm Sky Sports Action)
Two 7-2 teams on win streaks collide to get the day started. The Rams offense continues to roll as the highest scoring in the league, while the Vikings – led by their defence and a surprising Case Keenum – have consistently been finding ways to win. This is about as even a matchup as you might find, and the Vikings open as slight favourites with home-field advantage.
What stands out as the difference to me are the type of games each team has won so far. LA – as impressive as they have been – have made a name by blowing out below average teams. This is a tough criticism as they didn’t choose their schedule, but the three opponents they have faced so far with the best records (@ DAL, vs SEA, vs WAS) have resulted in one win and two home losses.
On the other hand, the Vikings have won ugly against top competition. They manhandled a great Saints team in week one, and just last week travelled to Washington and beat a good Redskins team in a shootout.
This is undoubtedly going to be a close game, but I’ll take the Vikings based on how they’ve won games so far, and for Keenum to exact his revenge over the Rams, who hung him out to dry last year.
Minnesota Vikings -2.5 handicap
Total points over 45.5
New England Patriots @ Oakland Raiders
(Sunday 19th Nov – 9.25pm Sky Sports Action)
Stepping away from the NFC, there is an AFC classic in Mexico City as the in-form Patriots take on the up and down Raiders.
Although technically a neutral site, the Raiders have the advantage of having played in Mexico last year and are coming off a bye. However, the Patriots remain the clear favourites; they simply have too many offensive weapons for the Raiders inconsistent defence to cover.
If the Raiders can get an early lead and get their best defender Khalil Mack in prime position to wreak havoc, they may have a chance; and Derek Carr proved against the Chiefs that he and this Raiders side can go head-to-head with the best when they play well, but right now the Patriots are in too good form to bet against.
Total points under 55
New England Patriots -6.5 handicap and Oakland Raiders under 24 points (?)
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
(Monday 20th Nov – 1.30 am Sky Sports Action)
After a humbling loss to the Falcons last week, the Cowboys once again take centre stage. This time they face possibly the best team in the league, who are on a seven-game win streak and are coming off a bye.
The Cowboys will again be without stars Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith – an issue that resulted in Dak Prescott getting ruthlessly blown up last week. The only advantage the Cowboys have going in is that they need a win more than the Eagles. With the strength of the NFC this year, a loss this weekend would likely put Dallas out of the playoff picture.
Nonetheless, the Eagles strength has not only been the play of second year quarterback Carson Wentz, but a pick-your-poison defensive line that will be licking their lips against the banged-up Cowboys. They have covered the spread the last six weeks, and will likely do so again.
Philadelphia Eagles -4.5 handicap
Philadelphia Eagles total points over 26
Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks
(Tuesday 21st Nov – 1.30 am Sky Sports Action)
One of the best Monday Night Football matchups of the season so far has two resurgent teams going head-to-head. The Falcons will be looking to prove that they weren’t made to look better than they actually are last week; while the Seahawks will be without Richard Sherman for the first time since drafting him in 2011.
A lot of focus will be on Seattle’s defence without Sherman, but they still have playmakers across the field and the best safety tandem in the league to mask miscommunication in the secondary. What I think this game comes down to is the play of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a dark horse MVP candidate who is playing the best football of his career.
The Falcons defence relies heavily on its pass rush – as demonstrated last week – but Wilson takes that away and has been making play after play on the move this year. He proved against Houston that he is still one of the best big game quarterbacks around, and I think he puts Seattle on his back this week.
Seattle Seahawks to win and score over 24 points
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Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles all to win