TNF Preview, Week 11 Review

Posted: 11/20/2014 by levcohen in Football

Before I get to the game prediction and the week 11 review, a quick note: I realize I’ve been posting mostly about football recently, and I’m going to get to more of other sports in the coming weeks (baseball free agency and I still want to talk about Corey Kluber winning the Cy Young). A football season takes up a lot of time and attention, though, which is why I’ve mostly been writing about it. Anyway, on to the game.

On paper, this looks like another really bad Thursday Night Football game. It’s the 7-3 Chiefs playing the 0-10 Raiders, and the Chiefs have been especially hot recently, winning five in a row and seven of eight while failing to cover just one game since week one. The result of the Chiefs hot streak? According to Football Outsiders, they now have an 88% chance of making the playoffs, both because of their 7-3 record and because they have key tiebreakers over Miami, San Diego (for now), and Buffalo while also holding the edge over the AFC North because of their superior in-conference record. The Raiders are also pretty likely to do something, but that something is not making the playoffs like it is for Kansas City. Instead, they are closing in on a winless season and the top pick in the draft. Football Outsiders says they have a 75% chance at the top pick, and probably have a 1-in-4 or 1-in-5 chance at going without a win, if only because their schedule is so difficult. But against the spread, the Raiders haven’t been terrible. They are 5-5 against Vegas, and have covered four of five games in which they were at least touchdown underdogs (although three of those were on the road). They’ve actually been worse at home (losing by an average of 16 points) than on the road (losing by an average of seven). It’ll be interesting to see if that changes here against a rival in (gulp) primetime. This has blowout written all over it, doesn’t it?

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3, 8-2) at Oakland Raiders (0-10, 5-5):
Spread: Chiefs favored by 7.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: People often put too much stock into letdown games, but I think the Chiefs could actually come out flat tonight. They have their two biggest games of the season to this point (vs Denver, at Arizona) coming up directly after this game, and probably aren’t taking the Raiders entirely seriously even if they are focusing on this game. There’s no way I’m going to pick the upset here, because I think the most likely result is a blowout win for the Chiefs, but I have a feeling the Raiders will finally muster up a good home performance and keep this game close. The Chiefs will eventually win 23-17, but I have the Raiders covering. The Chiefs can’t keep covering, can they?
Raiders cover
Under

My five takeaways from week 11:

  • I was going to say that the Patriots and Packers have emerged as clear favorites from their respective conferences after week 11 blowouts against good teams, but I don’t really think it’s that relevant. Why? The Seahawks, Cowboys, 49ers, and Saints have all had times this season when they were the trendy Super Bowl pick (not to mention the 9-1 Cardinals), while the Broncos have reigned supreme for most of the season in the AFC. So instead of naming the Pats and Packers favorites, I’ll say this: don’t overreact to what happened in week 11, whether it was the Broncos losing to the Rams or the Eagles and Colts losing handily.
  • The rookie receivers are really, really good. From Mike Evans to Sammy Watkins to Kelvin Benjamin to Odell Beckham Jr., the NFL has four rookie receivers who seem primed to become top-15 options in the NFL as soon as next season, but the crop is notable for its depth as much as for its star power. Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, Martavis Bryant, Jarvis Landry, and recently-injured Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson have all been productive, while Cody Latimer might just be getting his chance thanks to an injured Emmanuel Sanders in Denver. These rookie receivers are fun to watch.
  • The Cardinals are unshakeable. It doesn’t matter who their quarterback is: they just win football games. They are now 19-7 since Bruce Arians became head coach, and this is an extremely well coached team. The defense has lost a lot of key parts to injury but continues to throttle opponents, while whoever the quarterback is makes enough big plays to lead the Cardinals to win after win after win. It might not work in the playoffs, but the Cardinals are close to clinching the NFC West. Already. That has to mean something.
  • The Redskins aren’t the worst team in football, but they are the most dysfunctional. This is a team with a lot of offensive talent, and a quarterback who looked like an emerging star in his rookie year. But it’s been bad all season, and it’s gotten worse since RGIII returned from his ankle injury. Everyone’s blaming each other or themselves, and Griffin looks unlikely to ever regain his form, at least in Washington. A team that looked so promising after that 10-6 season in Griffin’s rookie year is now 3-7 and on its way to another terrible season, whether it’s 3-13 like last year or 4-12.
  • If you had the “under” last week, you probably won yourself some money. The under went 10-4, including a 9-2 mark outside the three primetime games. The only outliers in the early Sunday games? The Aaron Rodgers led Packers’ 53 point outburst, and the Chiefs-Seahawks game, which went over by half a point. It was a low scoring week.

I went 2-2 on my upset picks, hitting on New England and Houston while missing on Carolina (thanks to two missed field goals) and Philadelphia, which I admit was a homer pick and can’t be too upset about. I’m now 17-22 on upset picks. I lost another lock in Denver, moving to a disappointing 7-4. I guess “lock” for means “64% chance of winning”.

9-5 straight up.. 104-56-1 on the season
10-3-1 against the spread… 82-76-3
6-8 over/under.. 70-89-2

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