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Phinsider Week 11 Game Previews and Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly game previews and predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

All 32 NFL teams are gearing up for the stretch run of the season, with many attempting to make the right adjustments that will allow them to make a push for the postseason. In the AFC, that race has been forgiving to the middling teams, as outfits like the Bills, Ravens, Raiders, and Dolphins are all within one game of the second wild-card spot despite underperforming over the past bunch of weeks. The NFC race for the playoffs has been far more competitive. Three teams sitting at 5-4 are on the outside looking in, while the current wild-card teams (Seahawks and Panthers) are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. At this point in the season, each game counts even more than the last. Who will begin to make the push this week?

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of every contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 10 prediction record: 11-3

2017 season prediction record: 90-56

Thursday

Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) - 8:25 PM ET on NBC/NFLN

Week 11 kicks off with a solid matchup between two units very much in line to earn playoff spots by the time the regular season ends. However, both teams have some flaws that need to be corrected if a deep run in the playoffs is to be had. For Tennessee, that involves making more big plays. The Titans offense seemed far more dynamic last year, and the electric running game and explosive aerial attack that put up points from last season has fizzled out. Marcus Mariota is still dangerous and DeMarco Murray is still a good runner, but something seems off in this offense.

Pittsburgh has a similar issue, although most of the blame falls on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulders. The beat up veteran has been missing easy throws and has failed to connect on far too many deep balls over the past few weeks. However, the Steelers’ dominant defense is continuing to perform, helping the team win games. We’ll see if that’s enough against stiffer competition come January.

Score prediction: Pittsburgh 24 - Tennessee 20

Sunday

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-9) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Browns are once again in danger of losing 16 games in a season, and their path to finding a single victory doesn’t get any easier against a formidable Jacksonville defense this week. The Browns offense has been downright dysfunctional this season, while the Jaguars offense has been as imposing as any other unit in the league. The team’s cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye is the best tandem in the NFL and should easily shutdown Cleveland’s shameful excuse for a passing game.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 26 - Cleveland 10

Detroit Lions (5-4) at Chicago Bears (3-6) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Matthew Stafford has been performing at a high level all season, and the Detroit defense is much improved from last year, yet the team is still sitting at 5-4. The Lions have been suffering from a subpar running game for years, and that’s exactly what’s been holding them back this season. Getting Ameer Abdullah going early would help them defeat a Bears team that is talented on defense. Pressuring rookie QB Mitch Trubisky could force some mistakes that help the Lions close this one out.

Score prediction: Detroit 27 - Chicago 17

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Green Bay Packers - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Packers proved they could win a game without Aaron Rodgers last week, albeit against a rather lackluster Bears unit that has struggled to put up points. This week’s test is a little bit stiffer given how consistent the Ravens have been in defending the passing game this year. Their run defense has been spottier, so getting whoever lines up in the Packers backfield going early will be the key to winning this contest. Expect this game to be on the lower scoring side.

Score prediction: Green Bay 20 - Baltimore 17

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Houston Texans (3-6) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Tom Savage is simply a liability under center for the Texans. The team’s offense has shown very little spark with its fantastic rookie gunslinger out for the season, and I don’t see that changing against the Cardinals. For the Texans to have a shot, head coach Bill O’Brian will need to rely on Lamar Miller and the running game to put up points.

On the other side of the field, Bruce Arians will be relying on his workhorse, Adrian Peterson, to get things going. Ever since Carson Palmer went down, the Cardinals passing game has gotten very little going outside of Larry Fitzgerald making plays that no other 34-year older receiver has done in a very long time, if ever.

Score prediction: Arizona 17 - Houston 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-5) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Dolphins looked awful against the Ravens and Panthers in two of the past three weeks, with both of those games coming in primetime slots in opposing team’s stadiums. That being said, in the one game sandwiched between, a home game against the Raiders, Miami looked good, and arguably should have won that contest given how they played.

The Buccaneers are a similar team, and are worse in many facets, when compared to the Raiders. Call me crazy, but I believe Miami wins this one. The defense is playing a backup quarterback who has a propensity for turning over the football, while the offense will be facing the league’s 27th ranked defense. As long as the secondary finds a way to contain Mike Evans, and Jay Cutler avoids his trademark backbreaking turnovers, the Dolphins will have a shot.

Score prediction: Miami 23 - Tampa Bay 16

Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

This is one of the best matchups of the week. The Rams and Vikings are two of this year’s NFC powerhouses with a legitimate shot at the Lombardi Trophy, and both have impressed in a variety of ways. Jared Goff has taken massive strides since his disappointing rookie season and now looks like the true franchise signal caller he was drafted to be, while Todd Gurley has gotten back on track and once again looks like a top three running back.

On the Vikings’ side, Mike Zimmer has found a recipe that allows his team to win games despite playing half the season with a backup quarterback under center. And seriously, hats off to Case Keenum. The former Ram has played great football and has used his talented supporting cast to his advantage. I’m excited to see Teddy Bridgewater back and healthy again, but the argument can be made that the Vikings would be better off riding out the season with Keenum leading the charge.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 30 - Minnesota 24

Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) at New York Giants (1-8) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Chiefs have cooled off since their scorching start to the season, but it’s time for them to heat up once again against one of the league’s weakest outfits. The Giants have been absolutely dreadful in just about every way this season, and are going into this contest without their best offensive lineman, Justin Pugh. The Chiefs defense should feast on Eli Manning and co. I’m also expecting Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt to put on a show against a defense that isn’t nearly as daunting as they seemed last season.

Score prediction: Kansas City 31 - New York 13

Washington Redskins (4-5) at New Orleans Saints (7-2) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

It seems odd that the Redskins are sitting below .500. Kirk Cousins has performed admirably all year and has the weapons to command a seriously dangerous offense, but things just haven’t panned out. The Terrelle Pryor experiment burned down in flames, Jordan Reed and Rob Kelley have failed to stay healthy, and the defense hasn’t carried it’s own weight. The pieces are there, but the production isn’t.

The Saints’ season has gone in the exact opposite direction. The load has finally been taken off of Drew Brees. The future Hall-of-Famer is having one of his worst statistical seasons to date, yet the team is the best it’s been since Brees was drafted back in 2001. The defense is playing opportunistic football and the running game is truly dominant. The Saints are looking like a serious Super Bowl contender.

Score prediction: New Orleans 34 - Washington 23

Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

The Bills surprised the football world this week when they announced that Tyrod Taylor would be riding the bench for the foreseeable future. It appears as though head honcho Sean McDermott has seen enough of the veteran quarterback that he inherited from Rex Ryan and is ready to test his own draft pick in rookie Nathan Peterman. He picked an interesting game to do so, as Peterman will need to contend with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in his first career start.

The Chargers may have a quarterback problem of their own. Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol and got in a limited practice on Wednesday. As of the publishing of this article, Rivers’ status for Sunday’s game is in question, and so are the team’s chances if he doesn’t play. For the sake of this score prediction, I’m going to assume he’ll be out there.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 21 - Buffalo 17

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) at Denver Broncos (3-6) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

The Broncos are sticking with Brock Osweiler at quarterback this week, but Paxton Lynch has now leapfrogged former starter Trevor Siemian for the backup spot and could take over if Osweiler struggles. It may not matter against this Bengals team though, as Andy Dalton’s offense ranks dead last in total yards per game. Although the Broncos’ defense has underperformed in recent weeks, this is the matchup where they get back on track. This should be a defense-heavy slugfest chalk full of sacks and turnovers, but the Broncos will emerge victorious at home.

Score prediction: Denver 14 - Cincinnati 10

New England Patriots (7-2) at Oakland Raiders (4-5) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Did someone say defense-heavy slugfest? Not for this contest. Tom Brady and Derek Carr both command offenses with explosive potential, while both teams’ defenses are highly susceptible to giving up big plays and plenty of points. In what should be the highest scoring affair of the week, I wouldn’t be surprising if both quarterbacks pass for over 300 yards with three touchdowns apiece. I expect Tom Brady coming away with the win, as the Patriots defense has become somewhat less of a sieve in recent weeks, but that won’t stop Derek Carr from attempting a game-winning drive in the closing seconds, though I see him coming up just short.

Score prediction: New England 33 - Oakland 30

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-4) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

You’ve gotta love Sunday Night Football, especially this weekend. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be calling one of my favorite matchups of the week between two fierce rivals with plenty on the line. The Eagles are currently the number one seed in the NFC, but could relinquish that position with a loss this weekend and a Rams win, while the Cowboys are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive without their most talented playmaker.

A crucial development that could decide the outcome of this game game is the status of Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith. With the Pro Bowl tackle out, Dak Prescott was absolutely battered by Falcons defenders last week. If Dallas wants a shot at a win here, they need to keep Philadelphia’s ferocious defensive line off of Prescott’s back.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 28 - Dallas 21

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

The Falcons found their groove against the Cowboys last weekend, but Seattle’s defense will give Atlanta a better litmus test at CenturyLink Field. The caveat, the Seahawks are without Richard Sherman for the rest of the season, so Julio Jones will have more opportunities than usual against Seattle’s stingy defense. In fact, the ‘Hawks signed ex-Dolphin Byron Maxwell to help fill Sherman’s position. It will be interesting to see how involved Maxwell is off the bat in Seattle.

The Seahawks aren’t the only team without an important player in this matchup though. The Falcons will be without Devonta Freeman who is recovering from a concussion. Tevin Coleman will shoulder the load, and he has plenty of talent, but Freeman’s absence certainly will change the shape of Atlanta’s offense.

Score prediction: Atlanta 27 - Seattle 24