Bet On It: NFL Week 11 predictions
With LaDainian Tomlinson sidelined Thursday night, Shonn Green will get a heavy workload. (ZUMAPRESS.com)
Last Week: 4-4; Season: 34-44-2
How unpredictable has this NFL season been? If the playoffs started today, the Texans would be the AFC's top seed, the 49ers would have a bye in the NFC, and the Bengals, Raiders and Lions would all be participating in wild-card weekend.
Or how about this list of probable starting quarterbacks for Week 11: Tim Tebow, John Skelton, Vince Young, Tyler Palko, Carson Palmer and Christian Ponder. I can't imagine anyone expected all of those guys to be under center come mid-November.
But that's part of the beauty of the NFL -- you never know what to expect.
Nevertheless, here's another attempt to predict some of this week's action.
• Shonn Greene will be Thursday night's leading rusher
We know what Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos are going to try to do against the Jets Thursday. Whether it's a hobbled Willis McGahee or Lance Ball (who had 30 carries last week) next to Tebow, Denver's game plan will be the same as in wins over Oakland and Kansas City: Run, run and run some more. But the Jets should put up a decent amount of resistance on defense, while trying to get a little physical on offense themselves. With LaDainian Tomlinson out, the onus to establish the run falls on Greene, who should have a nice game.
• Matthew Stafford will throw at least three touchdown passes
Stafford and his Lions teammates would rather forget a Week 10 debacle in Chicago, which saw Stafford throw four interceptions -- and two pick-6s -- in a 37-13 drubbing. Detroit's facing, for all intents and purposes, a must-win Sunday, as Carolina visits the Motor City, just four days before the Lions' Thanksgiving Day showdown with the Packers. Stafford ought to be eager to bounce back, and Carolina's defense has been somewhat hit or miss this season.
• Washington QBs will be sacked at least four times
Rex Grossman probably will see most or all of the action Sunday when Washington hosts Dallas, but who knows? Mike Shanahan is grasping at straws -- overmatched, undermotivated straws. The Redskins have allowed the sixth-most sacks in the league this season (27), and the Cowboys feature one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the league in DeMarcus Ware. Washington could be in for a long Sunday afternoon.
• Cincinnati won't score more than three points in the first half
The Ravens have seen first-hand what the after-effects of playing Pittsburgh can be -- twice, Baltimore has beaten the Steelers this year; twice, Baltimore has been upset on the road the week after. Cincinnati took a tough loss against Pittsburgh last Sunday, made worse by an injury to A.J. Green, who's questionable for Week 11. Expect an angry Ravens defense to make life extremely difficult for rookie QB Andy Dalton, especially if Green can't go.
• Marshawn Lynch will have at least 150 total yards
In a classic case of "too little, too late," Seattle turned in an inspired performance to upset Baltimore last week. At 3-6, the Seahawks are out of the playoff race, but they've shown some signs of life in their past two outings. Helping to spark that turnaround has been Lynch, who's averaged 122 yards rushing in Seattle's current 1-1 stretch. This week, Lynch gets to do his thing against the NFL's worst rush defense -- St. Louis is allowing 150.6 yards per game on the ground. Lynch figures to cruise over the century mark on the ground, then chip in a couple nice gains in the passing game.
Running backs are going to be busy during Sunday's late-afternoon slate of games. In Chicago it will be Matt Forte and the Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert combo in the spotlight, and Forte has to be feeling pretty good about his chances to find room vs. San Diego -- the Chargers let Michael Bush rumble for 157 yards rushing last Thursday. But Philip Rivers will need some help from Mathews and Tolbert if the Chargers are going to have any chance of pulling off a win and righting their ship.
• Vince Young will commit at least three turnovers
Philadelphia's season is on the brink of going from disappointing to all-time stinker. And with Michael Vick likely sidelined Sunday night against the first-place Giants, the odds of things turning around this week don't look good. So far this season, Young has thrown one pass ... and one interception, for a turnover rate of 100 percent. Obviously, that number won't hold, but if he is thrown into the fire against New York's attacking front four, the results won't be pretty.
• New England will score at least 30 points One thing we know about the Chiefs is that when they lose, they tend to lose ugly. Their five defeats this season have come by an average of more than 23 points -- and that's with a seven-point and three-point loss in the mix. This week, they'll be breaking in new quarterback Tyler Palko with Matt Cassel on the shelf, against a New England team coming off a dominant win over the Jets. Bill Belichick might take his foot off the gas at some point with ex-Patriots coordinator Romeo Crennel and ex-GM Scott Pioli now in Chiefs gear, but not before New England puts this one away.