NFL Picks: Expert Predictions on Spreads, Totals | Week 11
NFL Picks | Week 11
Chris Raybon has made his three favorite NFL picks for the Sunday afternoon slate of Week 11. To get a breakdown on each of his NFL picks, click on a selection in the table below.
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Already the luckiest team in the NFL with a 6-3 record despite a negative point differential on the season and a negative yardage differential in every game, the Steelers caught another break with a season-ending injury to Deshaun Watson, a.k.a. the guy who last week led the Browns to a 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback last week against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Starting in Watson’s place is not P.J. Walker, a replacement-level journeyman for sure, but one who has gone 5-4 in nine career starts. That includes an upset win over the previously unbeaten 49ers in his first start as a Brown in Week 6, which he followed up in Week 7 by coming on in relief of an injured Watson down 14-7 and leading Cleveland to a 39-38 win over the Colts.
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Instead, the Browns will start rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, whose only other start came in the one game the Browns were not competitive in this season, a 28-3 loss to the Ravens in Week 4, a game in which DTR had only 73 net passing yards while tossing three picks, getting sacked four times, and leading the Browns to just 166 yards of total offense. There have been 44 other quarterbacks that have taken as many or more snaps as DTR this season, and his -0.486 EPA/play was not better than a single one of them.
It’s fair to excuse that performance given he was up against a Ravens defense that ranks second in DVOA against the pass, but this situation is barely better, if it all. The Steelers are No. 8 in pass defense DVOA, their pressure rate (32.1%) is higher than Baltimore’s (30.5%), and they’ve forced a turnover on 17.6% of opponent drives (third) while Baltimore has done so at a 10.4% clip (22nd).
DTR will be without not only starting right tackle Jack Conklin (IR-ACL) but also starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., who joined Conklin on IR after injuring his knee in Week 9. Against T.J. Watt and company, DTR’s tackles will be Dawand Jones, who missed last week with a knee injury and tied for a team-high with five pressures allowed in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, along with some combination of James Hudson, who grades out as a bottom-five tackle at PFF, and Geron Christian, who allowed three pressures and a sack last week.
DTR carries dual-threat ability and flashed in the preseason, so I’m not opposed to the decision to start him over Walker, but it’s rare a quarterback who was that bad in his first start is laying points in his second start. The Browns are the NFL’s top-ranked defense by most metrics and deservedly so, but whereas we are yet to have evidence that DTR is ready to generate competent offense, we do have evidence that the Browns defense isn’t consistently impenetrable: Their four most recent games consist of one impressive shutout (against Arizona and Clayton Tune), but three other games in which opponents combined to average 31.0 points and 374.7 yards of total offense, including 38 points and 456 yards to the Gardner Minshew-led Colts.
The Steelers offense is quietly up to 16th in DVOA (1.1%) – nearly identical to the aforementioned Colts (1.9%; 14th) – and has made a number of subtle strides as of late. Kenny Pickett has gone five games without throwing an interception (or committing a turnover of any kind). They are finally featuring their best running back (Jaylen Warren). The early returns on offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s move to the sideline are promising, with the Steelers going from 29th in EPA/play (-0.150) with him up in the booth to seventh in EPA/play (0.114) with him on the sideline.
Speaking of coaches, this is a spot where a Mike Tomlin-coached team will have the edge much more often than not. Per our Action Labs data, the Steelers are 55-29-3 (65%) against the spread (ATS) as a 'dog under Mike Tomlin, covering by 2.2 points per game.
Conversely, Kevin Stefanski has struggled in these spots. Under Stefanski, the Browns are 20-16-1 (56%) ATS in non-division games but just 7-15 (32%) ATS against fellow AFC North opponents.
I'd bet Pittsburgh to -1.
Pick: Steelers +2.5 (-110)
Their records may suggest otherwise, but this matchup favors the 3-6 Rams over the 6-3 Seahawks.
With Matthew Stafford (thumb) on track to return, the Rams have the superior quarterback: Stafford’s 0.05 EPA/play ranks 15th while Geno Smith’s 0.012 is 19th. The Rams out-gained the Seahawks 426-180 in the first meeting this season, and that was without Cooper Kupp. While many pinned Smith’s struggles in that game on losing his starting tackles to injury, that point was rendered moot when Smith led the offense to 37 points in Detroit the next week.
Smith’s struggles against this Raheem Morris defense that back to last season: With a playoff berth on the line for Seattle and Aaron Donald among the many starters sitting out for the Rams, Smith completed just 61.3% of his passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, producing a 65.7 passer rating, the lowest of his Seahawk career at that point. In Smith’s last two meetings against the Rams, he is averaging 5.7 yards per attempt and 162.5 yards per game with two TDs and two interceptions while leading the offense to 16.0 points per game.
The Seahawks have faced one of the NFL’s easiest schedules, with five of their six wins having come against the bottom-feeding likes of Carolina, the Giants, pre-Kyler Murray Arizona, P.J. Walker-led Cleveland, and post-fire sale Washington – the latter two of which required last-second scores just to squeeze out four- and three-point victories, respectively.
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The Rams have played a much tougher schedule, and despite no signature wins of their own, their schedule-adjusted point differential (also known as Simple Rating System, or SRS) of -0.45 rates over a full point better than the Seahawks’ -1.50 mark – and that’s without removing LA’s 20-3 loss to a below-average Packers team with Brett Rypien under center instead of Stafford.
This is also a brutal spot for the Seahawks. They are coming off a thrilling last-second win against the Commanders at home, and now have to get back up for this game on the road while at the same time avoiding looking ahead to an even more important Thanksgiving clash with the 49ers four days later. The Rams, meanwhile, are coming off their bye and don’t have to worry about playing again until the late window the following Sunday.
On top of that and as I alluded to before with Morris, the Rams coaching staff tends to do their best work against Pete Carroll’s squad. According to our Action Labs data, the Rams are 9-5 (64%) SU and 10-4 (71%) ATS against the Seahawks in the Sean McVay era, covering by 5.32 points per game. LA is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 against Seattle and has covered in six straight.
Pick: Rams -1.5 (-110)
Among the reasons Sean McDermott fired Ken Dorsey are too many turnovers and a failure to establish a consistent running game, which works in favor of the under. Josh Allen has struggled in the last three meetings with the Jets, averaging just 252.0 total yards per game with more turnovers (six) than touchdowns (four), so new offensive Joe Brady will likely be tasked with reigning Allen in a bit. It’s tough to score, period, on the Jets, who rank sixth in defensive DVOA, but if Buffalo does score, it will likely be via longer, more methodical scoring drives with more runs mixed in than we’re used to from the Bills.
The Jets, meanwhile, have a poverty offense with Zach Wilson at the helm. They haven’t scored a touchdown in 36 straight drives and are averaging 7.4 first-half points per game, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
These teams have combined to average 15.7 first-half points per game across the last three meetings. I prefer the first half to the full game because it’s possible both teams come out run-heavy in the first half, but whichever team falls behind will obviously have to throw late, and both Allen and Wilson are prone to turning the ball over at a high rate. Both teams have a winning first-half under record and have combined for an 11-8 (58%) first-half under record this season.
Per our Action Labs data, late-season divisional unders featuring a home team that made the prior postseason are 122-77-3 (61%).
I'd bet this down to 19.
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