The Denver Broncos looked totally dead this season. Then the Minnesota Vikings looked totally dead.
If you looked ahead to Vikings-Broncos Sunday night matchup for Week 11 a few weeks ago, you were probably hoping the networks were on their way to flexing it out. Now, it's a game between two fascinating turnaround stories.
The Broncos were 1-5 after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 12. They competed hard on defense in that loss, but before that they looked like perhaps the worst team in football. There should be no revisionist history; there were zero signs at 1-4 that the Broncos were even a competent football team. Then it just turned, starting with that Chiefs loss. They've won three in a row since, including wins over the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. It's one of the more stunning turnarounds you'll find.
The Vikings' turnaround was easier to see coming, but that came in a weird way too. The Vikings, who won every close game last season, lost every close game early this season. That usually turns around, but injuries seemed like they'd be too much to overcome. Justin Jefferson went down with a hamstring injury. Then Kirk Cousins blew out his Achilles. Despite the injuries the Vikings went from 1-4 to 6-4, including two wins in a row behind Joshua Dobbs and his amazing story, and look like an easy pick to make the playoffs in the NFC given their remaining schedule.
This matchup of two teams that went from drawing dead in the first third of the season to the playoff race perfectly exemplifies the 2023 NFL season. When you think you know something about any team, it's bound to change.
The Broncos are 2.5-point favorites at BetMGM, and the line seems weird because it's still the Broncos and it's hard to shake how bad they were early this season. I buy that the Broncos' turnaround is real. They figured out a lot of things on defense. But I'm still taking the Vikings. This is a really well-coached team that has a ton of confidence. But it should be an intriguing game either way. Couldn't have said that a few weeks ago.
Here are the picks against the spread for Week 11 of the NFL season, with odds from BetMGM:
Ravens (-3.5) over Bengals
Finally, a fantastic Thursday night matchup. Discussed this big game in The Daily Sweat.
Steelers (+1) over Browns
The Steelers have their issues. They've been out-gained in every game but keep winning, and that will change. But if new Browns starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was awful in his first career start against the Ravens back in Week 4 but gets another chance with Deshaun Watson done for the season, beats a fierce Steelers defense then so be it.
Lions (-7.5) over Bears
It's hard to know what we're getting out of Justin Fields this week. Presumably he's fully healthy, and was just getting hot before he dislocated his thumb. But did that time off ruin his momentum? The Lions are rolling on offense so I'll lay the points.
Packers (+3) over Chargers
What if — and hear me out for a second — the Chargers just aren't good? There's really no measure in which you'd say they are much better than their 4-5 record other than that old "eye test" that has failed us with the Chargers year after year. I get it, the Packers aren't good either, but they're at home and I don't trust the Chargers.
Raiders (+13.5) over Dolphins
Since Jon Gruden got fired in 2021, here is a telling stat:
Raiders' record with McDaniels, 9-16
Raiders' record without Josh McDaniels, 9-5
I don't think McDaniels is the only reason the Raiders weren't good, but they sure look like a different team since they fired their coach. It's scary to fade the Dolphins but the Raiders look like a reborn team and that's a lot of points to give.
Commanders (-9.5) over Giants
The Giants are starting quarterback Tommy DeVito again, which I can only imagine has to do with their draft positioning. Brian Daboll better be careful. Joe Judge likely thought he had all the job security in the world when he pulled his infamous, arrogant, passive-aggressive quarterback sneak from his own end zone; Judge was fired the next day. The Giants are incredibly uncompetitive with DeVito at quarterback. That's fine for a game or two at the end of the season, but two months of it? Good luck, Brian.
Cowboys (-10.5) over Panthers
The Panthers are really hard to watch. Switching playcallers isn't going to change that. Dak Prescott is on a heck of a heater, as is CeeDee Lamb. I hate taking double-digit favorites, especially on the road, but I don't know how the Panthers move the ball.
Titans (+6.5) over Jaguars
The Jaguars are oddly bad at home. Their yards per play differential is -0.96 in home games and 1.06 on the road. The Titans always seem to rise up with a good performance when everyone gives up on them, and they definitely looked like toast in a slog of a loss to the Buccaneers last week. They should keep it close.
Cardinals (+4.5) over Texans
Remember the rule of the 2023 NFL season: When something looks good and everyone starts to like it, it turns sour. C.J. Stroud's MVP push — which is real, and was before everyone caught on a few days ago — has been perhaps the best story in the NFL this season. And you know what that means. Also, Arizona looked rejuvenated with Kyler Murray back last week. Remember: NFL players don't tank for draft picks.
49ers (-11.5) over Buccaneers
When the 49ers are playing at their peak, they look like the best team in the NFL. They looked like it again against the Jaguars last week. I don't know how to reconcile that with the three-game losing streak they had before the bye, but I'm going to assume they are ready to go on another impressive run.
Bills (-7) over Jets
I've been on the Jets practically every game this season because I don't like laying a lot of points against that Jets defense, but I think this could be a game in which the Bills take out their frustrations. They've been sloppy but also unlucky in things like fumbles recovered. They are still a good team ... I think. Firing offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will be a wake-up call. The Bills will explode in this game, then we'll see if that actually leads to anything sustainable.
Seahawks (-1) over Rams
This is the weirdest line of the week. The Rams are off a bye and have Matthew Stafford back, but it's not a good team. They've lost four of five and the only win was over a bad Cardinals team. Every one of the losses was by seven points or more. The Seahawks are a good football team. If the Rams win that's fine, but I'm not sure what reason I'd have to pick it beforehand.
Eagles (+2.5) over Chiefs
I'll have more to say about this game in The Daily Sweat on Monday. But what a game. Finally, some fun prime-time matchups.
Last week: 6-8
Season to date: 71-76-3