Let’s begin with a review of how accurate Vinnie has been against the spread ten weeks in:
Now for Week 11. At the risk of watering down his picks, Vinnie is uncharacteristically throwing his opinion down on every game Sunday. You’ll find that most of ’em are one-star picks, of course. But with a lack of strong inclinations one way or the other this week, Vinnie’s going in a slightly different direction.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (-1): Sort of hard to fathom that the the team that was trounced by a combined 53 points the last two weeks, is the same one from Buffalo that won five of its first seven. With Ryan Fitzpatrick in a slump, Stevie Johnson hurt, and some injuries to key offensive linemen, Fred Jackson is struggling to carry the offense. Matt Moore, Brandon Marshall, and Reggie Bush have had much to do with Miami’s resurgence, most of whom should keep it going this weekend.
Gimme the Dolphins minus the points.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cleveland Browns (+1): In a battle of two unpredictable teams, such as we have here, opt for the home team unless you have really good reason not to. The over/under is a joke; is Vinnie the only one who cannot imagine these guys coming up with 34 points between them? Don’t expect much from Colt McCoy or Blaine Gabbert in the way of passing stats. Maurice Jones-Drew will do something with his touches, but ultimately it won’t be enough.
Gimme the Browns plus the points.
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins (+8): Although the Redskins host this division rivalry game, we’re talking about a team whose slide following its 3-1 start was so precipitous that five consecutive losses later, things cannot get much worse. Running backs Roy Helu and Ryan Torain, for example, don’t scare anyone. When the Cowboys defense isn’t having a field day against Rex Grossman & co, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray will be rekindling the playoff hopes of fans who’d been prone to worry back in October.
Gimme the Cowboys minus the points.
Carolina Panthers @ Detroit Lions (-7.5): The basic problem with the Lions right now is that with Jahvid Best out, Matthew Stafford is forced to pass way too often. Calvin Johnson showed how dominant he can be, over the first half of the season, but desperately needs Detroit’s other wide receivers and tight ends to shoulder some of the load. Fortunately, the Panthers’ defense is so bad that any number of Detroit’s offensive skill players can perform at a high level, including ordinary running backs Maurice Morris and Kevin Smith. Interesting note: the Panthers have lost 11 consecutive road games.
Gimme the Lions minus the points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (-15): Aaron Rodgers gets it done against the best of NFL defenses, and will face a decidedly lesser challenge from the Buccaneers. Vinnie has a feeling James Starks will put up some decent rushing numbers. The matchup says you can feel confident in Josh Freeman getting Tampa Bay’s passing game into full swing, but that’s just it. Despite Tampa Bay taking the ball out of the capable hands of LeGarrette Blount and far more often expecting Freeman to deliver, the mobile quarterback has not been impressive this season. Green Bay probably has this game in hand by halftime.
Gimme the Packers minus the points.
Oakland Raiders @ Minnesota Vikings (Even): This is a good test for Oakland, one it more often failed than passed in recent years. You see, Darren McFadden probably will miss another game and Michael Bush is playing very well but faces a tough Vikings’ run defense, whereas Carson Palmer and Denarius Moore cannot wait to get at a depleted Vikings’ secondary. Normally at home Minnesota has success rushing the passer, but somehow Oakland has allowed very few sacks to date. Minnesota will make a concerted effort to establish the run against what has tended to be a poor Raiders’ run defense, but Oakland has had several extra days to recuperate and game plan for Adrian Peterson since last Thursday.
Gimme the Raiders straight up.
Tennessee Titans @ Atlanta Falcons (-6): Of Atlanta’s last seven games, the only teams that managed to notch a win were New Orleans last week in overtime and Green Bay back in October. Tennessee hasn’t been particularly impressive in any one facet, but displays no glaring weaknesses and has a real shot on any given Sunday. Chris Johnson has been finding more running room and breaking some tackles, but the Falcons’ run defense ranks #3 in the NFL. Between Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, one, if not both of them, will come up huge for Atlanta at home.
Gimme the Falcons minus the points.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (-7.5): With cornerback Leon Hall out and rookie receiver A.J. Green very likely to follow suit, Cincy has been slammed just in time for a crucial division game in Baltimore. Fortunately, the Bengals’ defense has had a knack for getting inside Joe Flacco’s head. And as tough as it is for any team to limit the effectiveness of Ray Rice, Cincinnati is up for the task. One needn’t pick the Bengals to win outright, to cash in on how heavily Baltimore is favored; one need only a seven-point or less Ravens’ victory, which is handy given how often they’ve played down to their competition this season.
Gimme the Bengals plus the points.
Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams (-1): Despite significant enough injuries to Seattle’s offensive line you have to wonder how sustainable their recent offensive success is? Marshawn Lynch is a safe bet to run the football effectively against the Rams. Similarly, Steven Jackson is a safe bet to move the chains often and perhaps score a touchdown, despite matching up against a stellar Seahawks’ run defense. The biggest game changer, though, will be this Sam Bradford to Brandon Lloyd connection that grows more dangerous by the week. As dominant as Seattle has been against St. Louis for quite some time now, the Rams will gladly take one back this weekend.
Gimme the Rams minus the points.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers (-10): Listen, you don’t beat San Francisco by running the ball. Second-year quarterback John Skelton has been a breath of fresh air for Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald and his fantasy owners reaping the benefits. The Cardinals’ offensive line hasn’t been one to shield defenders from the pocket, though, as evidenced by 31 sacks allowed. Arizona is going to find the going tough, in the midst of attempting to pass the ball 40-50 times. The 49ers, on the other hand, will get onto the scoreboard on the strength of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter running the football, with occasional help from Alex Smith’s efficiency passing.
Gimme the 49ers minus the points.
San Diego Chargers @ Chicago Bears (-3.5): Don’t get carried away studying statistical trends between these teams, or bother trying to figure out which coverage schemes Chicago’s coaching staff will employ against Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, and Vincent Brown. The Chargers have been playing consistently poorly, week after week, and for all their headliners on offense do not look like a team that will challenge for the AFC West crown. The Bears have been very balanced on offense, Matt Forte and Jay Cutler leading the way, and arguably even better defensively. Don’t be surprised when Chicago grabs the lead early, widens the gap by the beginning of the 4th quarter, and wins big.
Gimme the Bears minus the points.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants (-3): Lost amid some of the more surprising stories from the first 10 weeks is how great Eli Manning has been playing. Hakeem Nicks has been out of the Giants’ lineup at times, as has Mario Manningham, yet Manning has found a way to produce at an exceptional level. Complicating things further for the Eagles, who were once already victimized by Manning this season, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is inactive due to injury. Brandon Jacobs, too, will play well against Philly. All of this adds up to the sort of challenge that Vince Young – even at his best (which, let’s face it, may well be behind him) – isn’t capable of overcoming from the quarterback position.
Gimme the Giants minus the points.