(25-23-2 against the spread this season)
By Danny Picard
BOSTON — I’ve been ice cold the last couple weeks. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to what happens in this stupid league. But, no excuses. I need to be better. And that better starts right now.
Here are my picks for Week 11:
DALLAS COWBOYS (-10.5) over Carolina Panthers
-The 1-8 Carolina Panthers aren’t playing to lose, because their first-round pick is going to the Chicago Bears. So, in a vacuum, the Panthers can still be somewhat dangerous to pick against this deep into the season, even with the worst record in football. But the only question here is, will they cover the spread? There’s just no way Carolina is beating the 6-3 Cowboys, who are feeling super confident coming off a 49-17 win over the Giants last weekend. Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns and rushed for another in that win. I don’t expect Prescott to have a similar 400-yard pass game in Carolina against a Panthers pass defense that ranks sixth in the NFL, allowing just 176 pass yards per game. But the Cowboys should be able to move the ball on the ground enough to where they can find the end zone more than enough to cover a very high spread for a road team. The Panthers do allow the third-most points-per-game in the league, so, I feel good about Dallas winning big. Is this the day Tony Pollard snaps his eight-game scoreless streak? I think so. Pollard scores his first touchdown since Week 1, and the Cowboys win by two touchdowns.
DETROIT LIONS (-7.5) over Chicago Bears
-Justin Fields returns from injury in this one, but all that does is raise the over-under to 48, which is the tied for the highest point total in Week 11. The Bears are 3-7, they allow 25 points per game and 248 pass yards per game, and so, Jared Goff should be able to keep it rolling at home. The Lions have won two straight, they’re 7-2 on the season, and in first place in the NFC North. Detroit is also 7-2 against the spread this season, which has me feeling even better about this pick. It is a divisional game, so perhaps the 7.5-points seems high, especially with Fields returning. But it should be noted that Fields is 1-2 in his career against the Lions, averaging just 150 pass yards per game in those three games. Enough with the stats here though. If you don’t feel confident in the Lions by now, you haven’t been watching. Their weapons will overwhelm the Bears. Give me Detroit to win big at home.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-12.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-Did you see San Francisco’s defense with the addition of Chase Young last weekend in Jacksonville? That should scare the pants off every quarterback in the league who has the 49ers on their schedule moving forward. The 6-3 Niners snapped a three-game losing skid with a 34-3 win over a very good Jaguars team in Week 10. Young and Nick Bosa combined for two of San Francisco’s five sacks, but they were in Trevor Lawrence’s face all day. And they’ll be in Baker Mayfield’s face all day this week as well, as the 4-5 Buccaneers are about to get crushed on the West Coast. Tampa Bay is coming off a win over Tennessee, but prior to that, the Bucs had lost four in a row. Tampa’s defense only allows 19 points per game, but San Fran’s defense allows just 15 points per game, which is tied for the league lead with Kansas City. You can’t run on the Bucs, but you can definitely move the ball in air on them, so expect Christian McCaffrey to have a big day catching the ball out of the backfield. Tampa Bay has the NFL’s second-worst pass defense, allowing 267 pass yards per game. I’m taking the 49ers at home to roll over the Bucs.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3) over Denver Broncos
-This is going to be one of those games you’ll watch and say to yourself, “How did that happen?” The logical thing to think here is that the 4-5 Broncos — who have won three straight, including two huge wins over Kansas City and Buffalo — will keep it rolling at home over a 6-4 Vikings team that’s without Kirk Cousins. But this is the NFL, and sometimes, you can throw logic out the window. So that’s what I’m doing here. Minnesota has won five straight, and since Cousins went down a torn Achilles, the recently-traded-for Joshua Dobbs has filled in nicely, winning two straight against Atlanta and New Orleans. Dobbs has thrown three touchdowns, rushed for two touchdowns, and has zero interceptions in those wins. So, it does feel as if the Vikings might still contend for a playoff spot, even without Cousins. On the other side, the Broncos have seemingly figured something out. And Russell Wilson has great numbers in his career against Minnesota. Make no mistake about it, Denver should win this game at home on Sunday Night Football. But, there’s just something about the Wilson/Sean Payton connection that I don’t trust. I think Minnesota brings the Broncos back down to earth. It doesn’t have to make sense. Vikings win by a touchdown.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-2.5) over Philadelphia Eagles
-It’s a Super Bowl rematch on Monday night. Both the 7-2 Chiefs and the 8-1 Eagles are coming off the bye. Philadelphia will certainly be out for revenge, after losing to the Chiefs, 38-35 in February. And the way the season is playing out, this could be a little preview of the upcoming Super Bowl as well. Philly has won three straight, while Kansas City shook off a bad loss to the Broncos by beating Miami in Germany before the bye. My concern here would be that the Chiefs can’t shake off the overseas travel, which has affected some teams this season. But I’d be more concerned if this game was in Philadelphia. It’s not, and so there’s just no way I can bet against the Chiefs at home in a big game with the spread being less than three. The Eagles also have a suspect pass defense, allowing 257 pass yards per game, which ranks fifth-worst in the NFL. The Chiefs’ defense is rock solid across the board, and they are tied with the 49ers for the league lead in points allowed, giving up just 15 points per game. Again, I can’t bet against that at Arrowhead. Give me Kansas City by a field goal.
Follow Danny on instagram @DannyPicard.