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NFL Week 11 picks

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Peyton Manning and the Broncos will look to make up ground in the AFC West against the Chiefs Sunday night.

Yeah, yeah, Week 10 was big in both Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, with the bedraggled Bucs and Jaguars finally getting their first win of the season. Congrats all around, especially in Detroit, where the 2008 Lions still reign in reverse. But I don't mind telling you Week 10 was not my idea of a party. I went 6-8 last week, and with a 7-6 mark in Week 9, I'm under .500 in November and falling faster than Packers quarterbacks. I need a bye. Or at least a slate of gimmes, something to help steady my frayed prognosticating nerves before I totally waste a pretty good first half of the season on the picking front.

I'm like the Bengals right now. I'm better than this, I know it, and it's time to show it. Here we go. Fifteen-and-0 this week. Who's with me?

For all of Week 11's picks, see below:

Last week: 6-8; Season 96-51
 
Thursday, Nov. 14
 
8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network) Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at Tennessee Titans (4-5)
They should win the AFC South almost by default, but it's time to figure out if these Colts are the team that beat San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, or the team that lost to Miami, San Diego and St. Louis. Being good enough to beat anyone in the league, but inconsistent enough to lose to anyone in the league is a maddening way to go through a season. I know this much: The Colts haven't gotten what they paid for in the Trent Richardson trade. The ex-Browns running back hasn't topped 60 yards rushing in any of the seven games in which he has worn the horseshoe, and his 2.8 yard per carry average is embarrassingly low. Cleveland can't possibly be this shrewd, can it?
 
Sunday, Nov. 17
 
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
The 5-4 Bears aren't losing anything by starting Josh McCown against the 4-5 Ravens. A healthy McCown beats a gimpy Jay Cutler by a considerable margin, based on what has transpired in the past three Chicago games. And if this game comes down to running backs, Matt Forte remains a weapon for the Bears, while Ray Rice has become virtually a non-factor for Baltimore. Neither of these teams look playoff bound in mid-November 2013, but the Bears will stay more alive in the NFC North than the Ravens will in the AFC North.
 
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) New York Jets (5-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)
Here's my dilemma with picking this game: Is it Jets loss week, with New York having won its most recent game, at home against New Orleans in Week 9? Or is it Jets win week, with New York having sat out Jets loss week on a bye in Week 10? It's hard to discount Buffalo's ability to swoon in November, but New York is just 1-3 on the road, and something tells me EJ Manuel would love to upstage fellow rookie starting quarterback Geno Smith.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Oakland Raiders (3-6) at Houston Texans (2-7)
Ed Reed made the mistake of thinking he was still in Baltimore when he popped off about the Texans getting "outplayed and outcoached" last week. You can get away with that when you're a franchise icon and producing anywhere near your career norm. But when you're the new guy in town, the season is swirling down the drain and you're not holding up your end of the deal to begin with, it's no time to play locker room spokesman. Hall of Fame resume, or no Hall of Fame resume. Bye, bye, Ed. Talked your way right out of town, you did.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)
The Bucs never really had the stuff to go winless this season, and sooner or later they were going to meet up with a team that had more vexing issues than even they did. Meet your mid-November Miami Dolphins! And the Falcons really aren't that far behind in terms of the wheels coming off in 2013. As Romeo Crennel said so memorably last year when his Chiefs got their first win of the season: "We got that first pickle out of the jar." Tampa Bay, we're happy to report, now has a pickle, as of last Monday night. And the Bucs will double that total this week against Atlanta.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Detroit Lions (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)
The Steelers aren't even filling Heinz Field to capacity on game days this season, and that's because Pittsburgh fans know a sub-standard product when they see one. I mean, they did have that 20-year Pirates slump to gauge things by. The first-place Lions are gaining confidence, but they do have a tendency to make things more difficult on themselves than need be. With winnable games this week at Pittsburgh and next week at home against Tampa Bay, Detroit should roll into its Thanksgiving Day showdown with visiting Green Bay at a fat and sassy 8-3. Imagine that. It would be nice if the Steelers brought Jerome Bettis back to call the opening coin toss for this one, for Phil Luckett-inspired yucks, but I suppose no one's in the joking mood in Tomlin-ville these days.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX) Washington Redskins (3-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
Picking the Eagles to win at home keeps costing me ground this season, but the stink at the Linc has to lift eventually. Win-starved Eagles fans might tear the place down if the Birds snap their 10-game home losing streak and climb over .500 in one fell swoop. Philly's offense won't look the same as it did the last time Washington saw it, in that Week 1 Monday-nighter, but it's actually a better, more consistent unit with quarterback Nick Foles having supplanted the streaky, oft-injured Michael Vick.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Cleveland Browns (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The can't-stand-prosperity Bengals need a big bounce back after losing on the road in Miami and Baltimore, and they can't afford to get sloppy against a Browns team that has already beaten them once this season. Cleveland at .500 in mid-November would be a great little story, but if Cincinnati means business this year in the AFC North, this game shouldn't be close. And, oh, did you see the Bengals' latest defensive star last week against the Ravens? Linebacker Vincent Rey can play. His 13 tackles, three sacks and first career interception got overshadowed in the overtime loss, but Cincinnati knows how to find defensive playmakers, does it not? Tell me why Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer isn't an NFL head coach already?
 
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Jaguars fans are probably nervous, not wanting their team to go and do anything foolish, like producing a winning streak that might jeopardize next May's No. 1 overall pick. Not to worry Jag-heads. The Cardinals won at Tampa Bay earlier this season, and they'll show no favoritism among the two clubs vying for the draft's top spot, beating Jacksonville on the road to climb to an impressive 6-4 in the NFC wild-card chase.
 
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
This is the fourth and final trip into the Eastern time zone for the Chargers this season, and, for a change, the Right Coast has been pretty good to the Bolts. They won at Philadelphia and Jacksonville, and lost in overtime at Washington, a game they let slip away thanks to not being able to punch it in from the one-foot line late in regulation. The Dolphins should be desperate, but with Miami's pass protection and running game issues, I like the Chargers' chances of scratching their way to 5-5 more than Miami's.
 
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) Green Bay Packers (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6)
During my recent three-plus-year stint living in Madison, Wis., I actually got to watch ex-Badger, current Packer Scott Tolzien play quite a bit of football. Even attended a Rose Bowl game he started, and almost won, against TCU. He's a smart, efficient quarterback who usually knows where to go with the football and has just enough arm to get it there. I could easily see the Packers winning this game if they get some fourth-quarter defense, but the Giants defense and running game are playing well of late, and only another spate of turnovers would get New York beat.
 
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) Minnesota Vikings (2-7) at Seattle Seahawks (9-1)
Well how convenient. Seattle's Percy Harvin is ready to return for the game he's probably had circled on his calendar since the schedule came out in April. But go easy on the revenge theme, Percy. The Vikings did you a favor in trading you to Seattle, which allowed you to avoid the train wreck that has unfolded in Minnesota this season. Seattle can't get caught looking past the Vikings. Their Week 12 bye looms, as does a Week 13 Monday-night showdown with New Orleans for potential NFC supremacy. We saw what happens when the Seahawks start feeling too good about themselves. They fall behind Tampa Bay 21-0 at home and have to sweat it out to get the W.
 
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX) San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (7-2)
This is not the same Saints defense that San Francisco handled easily enough last November in the Superdome, and at the moment the 49ers offense is grasping to find some sort of rhythm and consistency in the passing game. That's not a good combination for Jim Harbaugh's club. Colin Kaepernick seems to always respond well to external challenges, and I think he'll put last week's ugly game behind him and play well against the Saints. But New Orleans simply has too many ways to score these days, and the 49ers offense won't be able to match points with Drew Brees and Co.
 
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
The hits are starting to pile up a bit on the 37-year-old Peyton Manning, and I'm sure the Chiefs would love to target his gimpy right ankle early in the game and get No. 18 out of there. But while Kansas City still leads the NFL in sacks with 36, its pace has slowed considerably on that front, with only one sack posted by the Chiefs in their past two games. If Denver can keep Manning upright, he'll find a way to keep the touchdown passes coming. His 33 are tied for the most in NFL history through nine games, pacing along with Tom Brady's epic 2007 season.
 
Monday, Nov. 18
 
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Both teams had a very productive Week 10, with Carolina winning a validating victory in San Francisco to improve to 6-3, and the Patriots gaining ground in the AFC playoff field without even playing. With the Colts and Bengals both losing last week, New England now has the inside track on the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Panthers defense will make Tom Brady's night difficult, but he'll make just enough plays to out-point Cam Newton in the biggest game Charlotte has seen since 2008.
 
MORE:
BURKE: Chiefs stay on top in Week 10 Power Rankings
FARRAR: All eyes on Harvin as Vikings take on Seahawks
BURKE: Taking stock of Cutler, other upcoming FAs
MMQB: Inside the greatest NFL season ever
BELLER: Player-by-player fantasy projections for Week 11
 
Esiason: Is the 2012 QB draft class, one of the best?
NFL vetern Boomer Esiason discusses the recent play of quarterbacks drafted in 2012 and makes the case to consider that draft class one of the best in NFL history.

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