November 18, 2021

NFL Week 11 Game Picks: Can Cam Newton Win His First Start Back With the Panthers?

Welcome to Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season. We're starting to get a feel for the playoff picture as the back-half of the season is underway. With half the league in divisional showdowns and the other half in unique matchups, this will be a week to remember.

Injuries have hit hard across the league, leaving numerous favorites down important playmakers. The storylines go well beyond the obvious though, and we're going to break down the key question within each matchup in Week 11.

This storyline will determine the matchup's outcome. I'll also provide a pick for each game, with odds courtesy of BetMGM.

New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons 

Storyline: Will New England Continue Its Hot Streak?

I don't want to overreact to last week's blowouts involving the Patriots' win and Falcons' loss. I would've taken New England and the points regardless of last week's results because these teams aren't built the same. New England is now hot and stocked full of veterans, whereas the Falcons were exposed for their youth and limitations last week.

This spread has already grown three points, so don't hesitate any longer if you want to take the Patriots. Atlanta has struggled with lesser teams all year and have lost to every decent foe minus the injury-riddled Saints in Week 9. New England, as well-coached as any, will roll.

Pick: Patriots -6.5 (-105)

New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles 

Storyline: Can Philadelphia's Offense Continue Their Pace?

The value of a quarterback cannot be understated. The Saints are currently a neutered version of themselves with Trevor Siemian, and they deserve criticism for not exploring either Cam Newton or Philip Rivers as stopgaps for the rest of 2021. Their offense is far too limited with their current starter.

While it's time to sell New Orleans, Philadelphia is now a buy candidate. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles' offense has remembered they're allowed to run the ball, and the unit has been an elite performer over the last three weeks. New Orleans will slow them but not enough to avoid a cover from the Eagles.

Pick: Eagles -2 (-110)

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets 

Storyline: Can Robert Saleh Get His Jets To Fight?

Somehow, the New York Jets have gotten worse under Robert Saleh. Now with the worst defense in the NFL after a disturbing recent slate of performances, it's fair to wonder if the Jets should pull the plug after Year 1 of this disaster. Nothing has gone well for the Jets outside of Mike White's start against Cincinnati.

Miami has their own trainwreck to deal with but they're a respectable competitor as long as Tua Tagovailoa plays. Losing this battle would be another major statement about this coaching staff and overall roster. While I think Miami has some serious fractures in their current state, they're not bad enough to lose to the Jets.

Pick: Dolphins -3.5 (-110)

Washington Football Team at Carolina Panthers

Storyline: Who Wins In The Ron Rivera-Cam Newton Reunion Game?

I simply love that Newton is back in Carolina. The Panthers shouldn't have gotten rid of him to start, and certainly shouldn't have traded for Sam Darnold. Now the Panthers have a legitimate shot at the playoffs with Newton back under center.

Washington will bring a resuscitated defense to town this week and won't be an easy foe. I'm less certain about this line than any this week and believe the money line might be worth taking less value on. 

Pick: Panthers -3 (-110)

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills 

Storyline: Are The Bills Elite?

Buffalo's team rankings are good enough to make you do a double-take, ranking in the top-10 in every major offensive category and top-three in major defensive categories. Yet, they're 5-3-1 ATS and have disappointed against quasi-contenders. They're tough to predict.

I still like Buffalo though as the Colts have a ton of injuries and an overall scheme that doesn't match up well against Josh Allen. The Colts have beaten a string of bad teams recently and tend to lose their identity against better teams. Buffalo can force the Colts into forgetting about the run and forcing Wentz to do too much, which will lead to turnovers.

Buffalo covers, although consider buying this line down to 6.5 for safety.

Pick: Bills -7 (-115)

Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns 

Storyline: Who Are The Browns?

The cycle of the Browns and Baker Mayfield performing well against bad teams and then disappointing against quality foes continues. At 5-5 overall and ATS, they're maddening to watch. The good news is their best offensive playmaker will likely be back as Nick Chubb should clear off the Covid-19 list in time to play this week.

Detroit showed a great fight last week against Pittsburgh and can drag Cleveland into a similar bout. I don't love this line, but the talent difference is so massive there's still value here. I'm taking Cleveland but expecting them to let me down again.

Pick: Browns -11 (-110)

San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars 

Storyline: Will We See Trey Lance?

This should be a game of two rookie quarterbacks, but Kyle Shanahan has been stubborn despite his team floundering. Trevor Lawrence has struggled mightily in the last three games, presumably hitting the rookie wall and also facing three quality defensive minds. However, Trey Lance has been unheard of since Week 1 despite the 49ers' struggles.

San Francisco should win this game fairly easily even as a bad team. They're barely hanging around in the playoff discussion, and therefore their priorities should shift towards playing the young guys. We all want to see Lawrence against Lance.

Pick: Under 45 (-110)

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans 

Storyline: Can Tennessee Extend Their Win Streak To Seven?

The Titans should easily win this game even as half their offensive star power is on injured reserve. Houston is so bad they should start looking to completely clean house once again and start from scratch. Everything about their weekly game plan is basically non-functional and limits what an already bad roster can do.

I don't love this many points even against Houston considering how Tennessee's run game has disappeared over the last month. However, I'm hoping we get an Adrian Peterson breakout performance against his hometown team. Turnovers should also considerably help Tennessee get into advantageous situations. 

Pick: Titans -10 (-115)

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings 

Storyline: Are The Packers Too Injured To Win?

The Vikings did well against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, baiting Justin Herbert into short throws, and limiting the explosiveness of this offense. This team is mediocre though, and a sharper game plan can exploit their back-end weaknesses more effectively.

Green Bay has been that thorn in their side. In their last three matchups, Green Bay has won twice by an average of five points. The Packers are beat-up on defense but they'll handle the Vikings and crush their playoff dreams.

Pick: Packers -1 (-110)

Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears 

Storyline: Can Justin Fields Carry The Bears' Offense?

There's no question Baltimore's injury bug has led to numerous issues for the team's 3-6 ATS record. Finally, this line is more reasonable against a decent defensive team. Chicago, though, is beaten up in their own right and their solid pass defense may be compromised due to their own injuries.

Unless Justin Fields can scramble his way out of pressure and make chunk-play-throws like a veteran star can all afternoon long, the Bears will struggle. This should be a low-scoring affair but Baltimore can grind out wins. The end is coming for Matt Nagy as the team looks destined to fall to 3-7.

Pick: Ravens -5 (-110)

Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders 

Storyline: Which Team Is A Pretender?

Is this a game of two fallen AFC pretenders, or one that will serve as the catapult for one of these teams to make a playoff push? Both the Bengals and Raiders have flawed defensive rosters and have suffered embarrassing losses in back-to-back contests. Barring another tie on the season, one will emerge 6-4 and have a decent shot at controlling their own destiny.

Cincinnati has a better overall identity, roster, and defense. I expect a shootout, so buckle in as both Joe Burrow and Derek Carr can light up the opposing defense. But the Bengals prevail in the end by a field goal thanks to their immense playmaking skill around Burrow.

Pick: Bengals -1 (-105)

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks 

Storyline: Who Plays For Arizona?

We continue to wonder who is going to suit up for the Arizona Cardinals after a slew of injuries and a Covid run-in. This was the hottest team in the league not long ago, but it's also been a month since we saw them dominate. The good news for Arizona is that Seattle is a bad overall team right now.

If Kyler Murray plays, the Cardinals have the distinct advantage even as a road team. Russell Wilson looked awful in his return last week, and the defense has been hilariously terrible all season. A loss here will start the teardown discussion in Seattle for good reason.

Pick: Cardinals -2.5 (-110)

Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs 

Storyline: Are The Cowboys For Real?

The Cowboys have sustained a ton of injuries this season, and this may finally be the game where it haunts them. But for us to get points on the better team means oddsmakers believe the Chiefs will break out despite their internal issues. Or they're not buying into the Cowboys' streak of eight wins in nine games where they beat only two winning teams.

The Chiefs are coming off a big win against Las Vegas, but their performance is inconsistent at best. Their defense has their work truly cut out for them. I simply can't trust the Chiefs' 23rd-ranked pass defense and 18th-ranked run defense to stop the best overall group of offensive playmakers in the league.

Dallas not only covers, but the money line is also a great value pick.

Pick: Cowboys ML (+115)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers 

Storyline: Is The Chargers' Offense Broken?

Things have been ugly for the Chargers' offense lately as they've dropped three out of their last four games. Much blame has been given to their scheme, but Herbert has also struggled as defenses have figured out he loves to take check-downs and shorter throws despite his highlights. He also has seven clean pocket interceptions, meaning it's time for Joe Lombardi and Herbert to simply get their act together and aggressively take over games.

This is a tough week to accomplish that goal as the Steelers' shell defense will prevent big plays. As long as Ben Roethlisberger plays, the Steelers have been playing close games. Their last double-digit defeat was October 3, and I think that trend continues in a tight battle between playoff hopefuls.

Pick: Steelers +5.5 (-110)

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Storyline: Does Tampa Bay Stop Their Skid?

Most teams in the NFL cannot afford to lose two-straight games and still be favored by double digits. I hate the line on this game because Tampa Bay is beaten up, and the Giants can throw the ball downfield on their decimated secondary. Three starting corners are on the Bucs' injured reserve, making them vulnerable to a close game.

Still, I don't see this being a high-scoring game. Tampa Bay has been sluggish as Tom Brady has missed his former Patriots teammates Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown recently. The Bucs win, but the safer play is the under. 

Pick: Under 49.5 (-110)

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