By Sterling Pingree
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Week 11, the Patriots are on a bye and I find myself making picks that I don’t want to make. Like this one, originally I penciled in Baltimore but as reports swirled all week that Joe Flacco wasn’t practicing, Lamar Jackson missed Thursday with a stomach ailment, I just couldn’t abide by that pick. If Flacco doesn’t play and Jackson can’t go, that means Robert Griffin III will start for Baltimore. Are you kidding me? I realize that if you lose two quarterbacks that most teams wouldn’t have an appealing third option, hell the Patriots don’t even feature a third quarterback except for practice squad passer Danny Etling. Making picks I don’t want to make, I’m going with Cincy on the road coming off of one of the biggest beat downs of the 2018 season. It’s all downhill from here.
Dallas at Atlanta
What do you do with these two teams? The Falcons last two games, they locker-stuffed the NFC East leading Redskins and then got whacked by Nick Chubb and the Browns. The Cowboys on the other hand, got beat up by Tennessee at home and then beat the defending Super Bowl champs IN PHILADELPHIA! This feels like a coin flip game because I don’t believe in either team, I’m going with the dome team at home.
Tampa Bay at NY Giants
How fickle is the NFL? I’ve only picked the Giants once this season, sworn them off like a bad relationship every week and now I’m picking them to beat Tampa Bay. The Giants compare closely to a bad relationship because they have skill position players that make you think there is no way they can be that bad. It’s like seeing a horrible ex-girlfriend’s Instagram picture at the beach, you forget that she hated all of your friends and your mom didn’t like her, she looks great. That’s the Giants: Barkley, Beckham and Sterling Shepherd look so good, you forget that they’re horribly coached and have a bad case of Eli Manning.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville
This is my upset special, I think the Jaguars upset the Steelers. The Steelers are coming off of their best win of the season last Thursday night against Carolina, but the Jags have had the Steelers’ number as of late, beating them twice at Heinz Field last season. What’ll happen when Big Ben travels to Florida? Leonard Fournette is back from injury and the Jags offense looked capable at Indy last week for the first time in two months. Much like the Patriots win streak that got snapped last week in Tennessee, I think the same thing happens to Pittsburgh this week in Jacksonville.
Houston at Washington
In a strange weekend, this might be the best early game on the slate. The Texans are rolling since starting the season 0-3, they’re coming off of their bye week so Watson’s ribs should be as close to 100% as they’re probably going to get. The Redskins are in first place in the NFC East, but if we’ve learned anything about the NFC East the last two decades it is this: at Thanksgiving we know nothing about this division. I think Washington is going to slide back to the pack and it starts this week against Houston.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
This is the toughest slate of games to predict and there’s two games that hold up a big neon sign as to why and this is one of them. Two teams that played well last week and seem to be building momentum in the right direction are matched up. Two rookie head coaches in Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel duking it out in this division trying to catch the red hot Texans. Before the season this division looked even better, because everybody thought Jacksonville had a better chance of going to the Super Bowl than the top 10 in the draft.
Carolina at Detroit
So the Panthers and the Bengals both got smacked with Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s 2 x 4 last week and this week I’m going to pick both to win. Week 11 everybody!
Denver at LA Chargers
This is my 16 pick of the week which seems odd because Denver isn’t THAT bad, but the Chargers are the only good team this week that has as big a talent discrepancy as this one. Denver doesn’t travel well (except to Arizona, more on them in a minute) and the Chargers are steadily improving as the season goes on. The Chargers will be a factor in the AFC playoffs as a wild card because as good as they are, I don’t see them catching the Chiefs for the division title. I wouldn’t want to be the 4 seed and have to welcome in the Chargers on Wild Card Weekend. If you’re the Patriots, this is your worst case scenario:
If everything went chalk, to go to the Super Bowl, the Patriots would have to beat the Chargers at home, the Chiefs at Arrowhead and the Steelers in Pittsburgh. That would be the toughest road the Patriots have ever had through the AFC.
Oakland at Arizona
A rule that I have developed this season, DO NOT PICK THE RAIDERS EVER, FOR ANY REASON, NO MATTER WHERE THE GAME IS, EVER, FOR ANY REASON, DON’T EVER PICK THEM, EVEN IF THEY ARE PLAYING BANGOR HIGH SCHOOL, DON’T PICK THE RAIDERS!
Holy cow, I’m picking the Cardinals. The gravity of that just sunk in.
Philadelphia at New Orleans
The Saints are clicking, the “Year of Brees” rolls on and I can’t see it being much different. I think this is going to be a great game though, because you have a prideful Eagles team that has one foot, if not in it, hovering above the grave right now. I don’t think there is much that Philly can do with the Saints however. Since Wentz has come back, the Eagles offense looks slow and reactionary. The Saints don’t have the greatest defense, but they’re a defense that can make plays and play with a ton of speed.
Minnesota at Chicago
The Vikings have won 4 of their last 5 games and are coming off the bye. The Bears have Khalil Mack back and that fact is what I keep repeating as my gut tells me to pick the Bears. Could this be a Thanksgiving trap game for the Bears? They’ll have a short week after this game as they get the honor of playing the Lions on Thanksgiving at 11:30am local time. Until now, I’ve never thought of that before, that the Lions game technically starts in the morning local time. For the Lions, that seems about right somehow.
Kansas City at LA Rams
It feels like we say this every week, but this is the game of the year. We’ve had some great match ups in 2018: Chiefs/Patriots, Rams/Saints, Packers/Patriots and now what smart money would call a Super Bowl preview. Not only that, but thankfully this game was moved out of Mexico City and back to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where it belongs. I tweeted last week that I wish the Rams weren’t building a new stadium because these Rams games with the old blue and yellow uniforms look so good on TV in that venue. The Coliseum hosted the first Super Bowl, and every Rams game these days looks like Jackie Slater, Fred Dryer and Vince Ferragamo are suiting up.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.Com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.