Week 11 picks

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Week 11 picks

Packers (-5.5) vs. Eagles

The Packers are sizzling, particularly at home, where they are 4-0 straight up this season and 3-0-1 vs. the number, winning by an average of 25.2 points per game. Aaron Rodgers has led Green Bay’s resurgence after a 1-2 start, throwing 20 touchdowns against just two interceptions during a 5-1 stretch. On the season, Rodgers is averaging 12 yards per completion, which is tied for third best in the NFL. The Eagles, conversely, have struggled against the pass, allowing 11.6 yards per completion (27th). They’ve also been extremely poor in the red zone on both sides of the ball, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 59.09 percent of red-zone opportunities (19th) while reaching the end zone on just 50 percent of their chances (26th). That figures to be a problem against a Packers team that boasts a 48.39 percent mark on defense (sixth) and 62.16 percent rate (ninth) on offense and in the same categories. One other important note: the Packers have been ball hawks, forcing 18 turnovers in nine games, while the Eagles have proven terrible at taking care of the ball, ranking second-to-last in the league with 21 giveaways. Losing the turnover battle on the road to an elite offensive team is one of the primary ingredients of a blowout.

Patriots (+3) at Colts and over 57.5

Blindly betting the Patriots as underdogs in the Belichick/Brady era has proven immensely profitable, as they are 40-21-1 in such scenarios under Belichick. New England also has a knack for heating up as the weather cools down. Over the last three seasons, they are 30-3 straight up in the second half. The Colts are playing at a very high level, the reason why they’re 3-point favorites despite the Patriots’ 43-22 win over the Broncos before their bye. Indy is 6-1 since an 0-2 start. However, the one loss was significant, as the Colts defense was torched by the Steelers for 51 points in a 17-point defeat. That’s noteworthy because the Patriots – who have averaged over 40 points per game during a 5-0 run – have met little resistance in two meetings with Indianapolis since Andrew Luck came into the league, totaling 865 yards, 6.5 yards per play and 102 points in a pair of decisive wins (the second coming in the playoffs last January).

This will be the first time the teams meet at Lucas Oil Stadium so the game figures to be much tighter, but it’s tough to see either offense being slowed down much. That’s the recipe for an old-fashioned shootout, which makes the over a solid play despite the abnormally high total. As for the outcome – much like the aforementioned Eagles-Packers game – turnovers will almost certainly determine who comes away with a leg up in the race for a top two seed in the AFC. As prolific as Luck has been this year, turnovers have still plagued him, as he’s thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Colts as a whole are tied for 18th in the NFL with 18 giveaways, while the Patriots have forced 18 turnovers and committed just six of their own for an NFL-best plus-12 ratio. That should be the difference.

Saints (-7) vs. Bengals

The Saints have received their fair share of criticism, and while some of it is merited – a 4-5 team does not deserve to be in first place – they have actually been better than their record would indicate, as four of their five losses have been by three points or fewer and essentially came down to one play in each game. Their point differential of plus-26 reflects that discrepancy. The Bengals, on the other hand, have been worse than their 5-3-1 record; losses by 26, 27 and 21 points have given way to a minus-14 point differential. Cincinnati’s tendency to lose big doesn’t bode well heading into New Orleans, which was on an 18-0-1 ATS run in the Superdome under Sean Payton before its current 1-2 mark over the last three games. Then there’s Drew Brees, who deserves the bulk of the blame for the Saints’ 27-24 loss to the 49ers last week. Brees threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble that led directly to San Francisco’s winning field goal in overtime. The good news for the Saints is Brees has historically been phenomenal coming off a poor performance and playing at home. Since 2011, he’s 7-1 straight up and ATS in the Superdome after games in which he threw multiple interceptions. In those eight contests, he’s thrown 32 touchdowns and just four interceptions while completing 73.2 percent of his passes. Against a Bengals team that has been trending downward since a 3-0 start, the Saints should have their way in this one.

Lions at Cardinals – under 41.5

Similar to last week’s Dolphins-Lions matchup, defense figures to be the name of the game when these teams square off. Detroit is allowing a league-low 15.8 points per game, while Arizona isn’t far behind at 18.9 (fifth). The Lions rank at or near the top in many other key markers, including yards per rush (3.2, tied for No. 1), yards per completion (9.5, second), yards per play (4.7, tied for first), opponent’s red-zone touchdown percentage (48 percent, fifth) and third-down conversion percentage (32.46 percent, second). The Cardinals are no slouches themselves, ranking fourth in yards per rush (3.4), eighth in third-down conversion percentage (36.97), 14th in red-zone TD percentage (54.55) and tied for third in takeaways (19). Another factor that should lend to the under is Arizona’s fearlessness with the blitz. Because of guys like Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie on the outside, the Cardinals are able to bring extra pressure often. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense have struggled against the blitz, as their 7.34 percent sack rate ranks 23rd in the league. Barring any special teams scores, the under should be a safe play here.

Last week: 3-0
Overall: 12-17-2

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