Week 10 of the NFL season may not have been the most exciting slate of games, but it did help us learn a few important things: Atlanta — with its 27-7 beatdown of Dallas — is far from done, and sticking with that game, the Cowboys are in serious trouble without Ezekiel Elliott. Perhaps we knew both to be true, but between Matt Ryan’s resurgent play and the struggling Dallas offense, we were left with no doubt.
With that in mind, let’s dive into our Week 11 bold predictions.
Matt Ryan goes for 300 and four scores versus Seattle
You called me crazy when I made a similar prediction about Deshaun Watson against the Seahawks defense. Ryan though, has been steadily improving of late, totaling 782 yards, along with six touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last three games. The Seahawks have now lost two hugely important players for the season to their elite defense, first in Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril and most recently in perennial All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. As a result, expect a steady diet of Tevin Coleman to open up the play-action to Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel. Ryan should thrive, despite playing in the league’s toughest road environment.
2. Jared Goff flops versus Minnesota Vikings defense
I traded Goff for Ryan in my fantasy league, so this is a bit touchy since Goff has been so good. In fact, the high octane Rams are now undefeated in all six of their games when they have eclipsed the 30-point barrier. However, Sunday in Minnesota is an awfully difficult spot for the second-year quarterback. The Vikings’ defense ranks sixth in passing yards per attempt and 11th in passing defense, as well as fifth in total defense. It’s a very sound group that relies on the strong secondary play of Pro Bowlers Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Goff, to his credit, has been masterful in making the right reads and delivering an accurate ball, but I hate this matchup for him.
3. Another team violates the NFL concussion protocol
This has become an increasingly serious issue for the league, both because the football community now has an immense knowledge of CTE and because teams are not taking concussions seriously enough. The Seahawks have been slandered because they did not handle Russell Wilson properly after he took a significant shot to his head in last Thursday’s win over Arizona. With such laser focus attention on head injuries, it seems hard to believe that Wilson merely missed one play in that game. Additionally, it feels like we are bound to see another violation this weekend.
4. Jacksonville versus Cleveland and Baltimore versus Green Bay combine for fewer than 40 points
Blake Bortles, DeShone Kizer, Joe Flacco and Brett Hundley. Yikes! Those are your four starters in these two early games Sunday, which means we can expect a boatload of punts and announcers saying things like “boy, they just did a great job of flipping the field.”
Kizer, who has endured one of the worst rookie seasons in NFL history, gets a Jags defense featuring an elite duo of young corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week — and hence the league’s second-ranked total defense. On the flip side, we know how bad Bortles has been — Jacksonville has reached the six-win mark for the first time since 2010, in spite of him. Flacco, for his part, has actually been worse. The 32-year-old ranks dead last in yards per attempt and only Kizer has a worse touchdown-to-interception ratio. Meanwhile, Hundley — making his fourth career start — faces off against a Ravens defense that ranks third against the pass and makes a living off of creating turnovers. While Hundley (212 yards and a touchdown pass) showed promise last week against the Bears, this could be a full fledged nightmare.
5. Tennessee Titans upset the Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh — winners of four straight — comes off a disappointing offensive performance (20 points) against Indianapolis, proving once again that the 7-2 Steelers play down to their competition. Remember, they lost to Chicago and nearly lost to Cleveland. Now, the Ben Roethlisberger faces a Titans third-down defense that ranks second in the NFL during the past six weeks, allowing a 27 percent conversion rate, according to ESPN.com. There is also the fact that Pittsburgh is averaging fewer than two offensive touchdowns per game for the first time in more than a decade.
Better yet, despite having the NFL’s top ranked defense, I’m hardly convinced that the Steelers can hold off the visiting Titans come Thursday night. Marcus Mariota has certainly not had the type of season we’d hoped for, but he’s fully recovered from a hamstring injury and has led the streaking Titans to four straight wins.
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