By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) With Week 11 upon us, contenders are starting to separate themselves from pretenders. There are a few heavyweight bouts in the Sunday and Monday night games, featuring four very physical teams. Here’s my take on how this weekend’s action is going to play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
REDSKINS 24, Eagles 20 – Noon
Things have gone from bad to worse in Philadelphia. Mired in a five-game losing streak, their 3-1 start is nothing but a memory now. Mike Vick is out with a “serious” concussion, Andy Reid is six weeks from the unemployment line, and rookie Nick Foles is the starting quarterback. Apparently, it isn’t always sunny in Philadelphia (great show, though). Mike Shanahan had to clarify his comments about the rest of the season being dedicated to evaluating players, even though that’s exactly the situation in Washington. I like the well-rested Redskins at home.
Packers 30, LIONS 20 – Noon
With the Bears losing to the Texans and a looming tilt against the 49ers without quarterback Jay Cutler, this is a huge opportunity for the Packers. Despite some struggles earlier in the season, the Packers offense has found its way. Injuries to weapons like Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson have enabled Aaron Rodgers to get other players involved and productive. Even without a running game, the Packers are the best team in the NFC North, and will continue their dominance of Matthew Stafford’s Lions.
FALCONS 27, Cardinals 13 – Noon
Just when wide receiver Roddy White opened up about the Falcons having the makeup to go undefeated, the perfect season is no more. Hey Roddy, if you didn’t stop running on a vertical route at the end of the game, your team could’ve won the game. The Falcons inability to consistently rush the passer on defense, and their inability to convert with the running game in short-yardage are limiting factors on their ceiling. Luckily, the blocking is optional Cardinals are in town, so the Falcons will start a new winning streak.
Bucs 27, PANTHERS 24 – Noon
The Bucs have responded well to first-year head coach Greg Schiano. Their four losses have been by a touchdown or less, so they come to play every week. They’ve made significant turnarounds in run defense and pass protection. The Bucs haven’t allowed more than two sacks in nine straight games, which is quite impressive given they drop back to throw 30+ times a game. The Panthers are falling apart at the seams. They’ve fired their special teams coach, and brought in Ernie Accorsi to help find the next general manager, thus, there’s no continuity in Carolina. Give me the Bucs on the road.
COWBOYS 27, Browns 17 – Noon
It’s November, so that means the Cowboys will go on a little run, only to fade back into oblivion down the stretch. Tony Romo boasts a 20-3 record in November, which is the second highest mark in NFL history for quarterbacks with at least 15 starts. When you actually look at the Cowboys losses, they’ve all come against teams who will most likely make the playoffs. Thus, the Cowboys aren’t a playoff team, but they’re not awful either. They’re like a lot of teams, in that blob of mediocrity, known as “parity” in NFL parlance. With the Browns in town, Romo will notch his 21st victory in November.
RAMS 20, Jets 16 – Noon
So wait, even Jets players think Tim Tebow is terrible? Weird. It’s like they have eyeballs or something. It’s upsetting that truth garners so much attention nowadays. Well, it gets attention in places that set up wall-to-wall Jets training camp coverage. Can’t Skip Bayless say something to make this all better? The Rams played in one of the more bizarre games I’ve seen this year, and Jeff Fisher deserves some heat. How do you get a delay of game penalty on a potential game-winning field goal when you have a time out? Inexcusable. Against the Jets, it shouldn’t come down to that.
TEXANS 31, Jaguars 13 – Noon
The Texans are riding high after their win in Chicago, and get a pseudo bye week against the awful Jaguars. The Texans offensive line bullied the Bears at times on Sunday night and should have no issues opening holes in the Jaguars front. Will this offseason be the wrath of Khan in Jacksonville? It certainly should be. General manager Gene Smith makes Jerry Angelo look like Ron Wolf. Another win will put Houston at 9-1 and closer to the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Bengals 23, CHIEFS 16 – Noon
Quite a showing from the Bengals last week, who jumped all over the slumping defending-champion Giants. I have no idea how teams still leave AJ Green – the best wide receiver in the league – wide open down the field, but it seems to happen weekly. Green has a touchdown catch in eight straight games, and I see him getting another this weekend against the wretched Chiefs.
Saints 31, RAIDERS 23 – 3:05 PM
Drew Brees and the rejuvenated Saints head west for a tilt against the Raiders. Since Joe Vitt’s suspensions ended, the Saints have made a more concerted effort to running the football and it’s paid dividends. You can call the Raiders defense lots of things, I will call them consistent. Consistently awful. One week the rush defense collapses, the next week it’s the pass defense’s turn. With the powerful Saints offense in town, being consistently awful on defense is a bad thing to be.
BRONCOS 31, Chargers 23 – 3:25 PM
Norv Turner is the AFC’s version of Andy Reid, by that I mean someone who’s overstayed their welcome and will be out of a job at season’s end. I wouldn’t be surprised if Turner doesn’t make it through the season. It’s not just Turner though, as the Chargers lack talent on offense and have protection issues. On the other hand, Denver is rolling, and may be the best team in the AFC. Peyton and friends will have their way on Sunday.
PATRIOTS 34, Colts 24 – 3:25 PM
Crank up the hype machine, it’s Brady-Luck part one. Yes, the Colts are a wonderful story, and Luck is the real deal, but a little dose of reality is waiting for them in Foxboro. The Colts patchwork secondary is about to get exposed. The Patriots have a reworked secondary of their own, but they pressure the quarterback with more consistency. If you think the hype is out of control right now, wait until these two teams meet in the Wild Card round.
Ravens 20, STEELERS 17 – 7:30 PM
Scary reports out of Pittsburgh about the severity of Ben Roethisberger’s rib and shoulder injury. Yes, Roethlisberger is a bad person, but ribs pressing against his aorta is a frightening thought. It’s Byron Leftwich’s turn now in Pittsburgh. Seeing the Ravens can’t stop anyone on the ground, the Steelers will deploy a run-heavy game plan. However, the Ravens are at full strength, so I’m giving them the edge.
49ERS 20, Bears 16 – Monday Night 7:40 PM
With Jay Cutler ruled out for Monday night, will Alex Smith “shake off the cobwebs” also know as bruises on his brain in time to play on Monday night? I hope the 49ers err on the side of caution and sit Smith, but it’s not my call. Either way, this game will be a very physical affair between two ferocious defenses. Offensively, both of these teams are sporadic, but the 49ers can run the ball at will. I expect the 49ers to shut down the Bears offense and dominate time of possession with their running game en route to victory.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.