NFL Week 11 Expert Best Bets: Panthers, Texans Face Underwhelming Competition on the Road

Don't be fooled by the Redskins' victory over the Bucs this past Sunday. Here's why we love the Texans to cover as a road favorite in Washington.
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Looking to put some money on Sunday's NFL games? Read on for our Week 11 best bets.

Carolina Panthers (-4) at Detroit Lions

Sun. 11/18, 1:00 p.m. ET

Pick: Carolina -4

Sometimes teams just don't show up. That would appear to be the best explanation—or lack thereof—for Carolina's performance last Thursday, when the Panthers got pounded 52-21 in Pittsburgh as a 3.5-point underdog. There's no excuse for a performance that bad, although one can at least see how playing an explosive offense on the road on four days rest isn't a situation that sets a team up for success.

The night wasn't devoid of silver linings for Carolina, as running back Christian McCaffrey continued his excellent second-year campaign with 77 yards on the ground, 61 more through the air and three total touchdowns. The Panthers are now third in the league with an average of 5.1 yards per carry as a team, thanks largely to McCaffrey and quarterback Cam Newton.

The fact that the Lions rank 27th in the NFL in rushing defense (4.9 yards allowed per carry) is just one reason to like the Panthers to bounce back as a short favorite in Detroit this week. Averaging 6.6 yards per pass attempt (24th in NFL), the Lions won't come close to matching what the Steelers were able to do through the air offensively. Detroit's offense has been especially dismal as of late, with oft-targeted wideout Golden Tate having been shipped to the Eagles and quarterback Matthew Stafford taking an otherworldy 16 total sacks in Detroit's last two games. In the midst of a battle for a playoff spot, Carolina should run away with this one. — Sam Chase

Houston Texans (-3) at Washington Redskins

Sun. 11/18, 1:00 p.m.

Pick: Houston -3

While double-digit road victories in the NFL are normally the result of a certain level of effectiveness, if not dominance, Washington’s 16-3 triumph in Tampa Bay on Sunday had far more to do with the Buccaneers losing the game than it did with the Redskins winning it. Tampa Bay became the first NFL team ever to gain more than 500 yards of offense in a game without scoring more than three points, which was due in large part to the Buccaneers turning the ball over four times, including three times in the red zone. Washington gained 286 yards of offense.

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Houston comes into this one on a six-game straight-up win streak, during which the Texans have gone 4-1-1 against the spread. That includes a 3-0 ATS mark over their past three games, a stretch in which they did not turn the ball over once. The Texans are 4-0 against the spread under head coach Bill O’Brien when coming off a bye, and they’re 5-1 against the spread as a road favorite under O’Brien. The big mismatch in this one would appear to be Houston’s front seven against a Redskins offensive line that’s been decimated by injuries with left tackle Trent Williams out along with starting guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao. While the patchwork line held up admirably by allowing only three sacks against a weak Tampa front with only 43 sacks in 25 games since the start of last season, the group is unlikely to have similar success against a Texans unit led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. — Scott Gramling

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-7.5)

Sun. 11/18, 1:00 p.m.

Pick: New Orleans -7.5

One of my favorite bets this season was Kansas City -8.5 at Cleveland: a prolific offense needing no more than a touchdown and a field goal to cover against a team that, for all its talent, can struggle to consistently score. Apparently, the betting gods are feeling generous again, offering up this tasty spread. While the Eagles have a much better defense than Cleveland, and could actually force Drew Brees to play for four quarters, no team appears capable of slowing down New Orleans at the moment. The Saints are 5-0 ATS in their last five games (all wins), and just put up 45 points against the Los Angeles Rams at home and 51 points against Cincinnati on the road. Everyone talks about the Saints’ massive home-field advantage because it’s true: they've won 11 of their last 12 in the dome.

The Eagles’ stop-start, post-Super Bowl season has seen them cobble together a 4-5 record without anything close to their 2018 playoff offense, or confidence level. Aside from their 34-13 win over the hapless Giants, the Eagles haven’t scored more than 24 points all season, and their acquisition of wide receiver Golden Tate will take time to bear fruit. In his debut against Dallas, Tate finished with just two catches for 19 yards. "The lingo's a little different for sure, the signals," Tate said about the Philly playbook. "The way things are run here is a little different on the field."

Philadelphia rarely travels to New Orleans—this will be just the second time it has since 2008. In an unfamiliar setting with questions about their own personnel, look for the Eagles’ sobering season to continue in front of a crowd that will be anything but temperate. — Ed McGrogan

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-3)

Sun. 11/18, 8:20 p.m.

Pick: Minnesota +3

Over the past three seasons, the Vikings went 2-1 both straight up and against the spread when coming off their bye week. This year’s bye figures to be especially impactful, as Minnesota is going to get star running back Dalvin Cook back on the field as a full-time player against the Bears. Cook has been dealing with hamstring issues all season, but the second-year stud was able to play on a pitch count before the bye and will now be fully ready to go after having another two weeks to heal up. And while Latavius Murray has been solid for Minnesota, Cook brings a whole different level of explosiveness to this offense. An improved running game should make things easier for Kirk Cousins moving forward.

Going up against Khalil Mack and the rest of this daunting Bears defense on Sunday night, Minnesota will indeed need to be firing on all cylinders to move the ball. But it’s worth noting that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has had Chicago’s number since taking over for Minnesota. In Zimmer’s time with the team, the Vikings are an impressive 6-2 straight up when facing the Bears. The against-the-spread numbers aren’t quite as good, but this game has a very small line and I expect Minnesota to go into Soldier Field and steal a win. It helps that Chicago is 0-8 against the spread after having gained 6.5 or more yards per play in its previous game since the start of the 2015-16 season. — Zachary Cohen