The Tim Tebow Show kicks off an action-packed slate of games in NFL Week 11, as the Denver Broncos (4-5) host Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets (5-4) on so-called T.G.I.T. (Thank God It’s Thursday) on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.
Immeasurable playoff ramifications will be put on the line all around the league.
This is the last stanza of byes, which includes the three 7-3 teams (Saints, Texans and Steelers) and winless Colts. Let’s get things started with the season’s last pre-Thanksgiving football feast!
Last Week: 9-7 (99-47 Overall)
N.Y. Jets (5-4) at Denver (4-5) (Thurs, NFL Network, 8:20pm EST)
With no Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee playing banged up, the ground and pound’s success will rest heavily in the hands of Tim Tebow and Lance Ball. Meanwhile, LaDanian Tomlinson’s absence means Shonn Greene has to step up for the Jets.
The Broncos will deliver another inevitable wrinkle (or more) and Sexy Rexy has stepped right back into upheaval and dragged his team along with him by the feet and this is on a very short week on the road. Expect some surprises and probably plenty of additional post-game controversy. In a slight toss-up, I’ll take Mark Sanchez and the Jets to get it done. Prediction: N.Y. Jets 20, Denver 12
***Update: As I’ve always said, even when I publish an article after a game has started, I never ever change my predictions. I have far too much integrity. (FYI You can see my prediction on our Facebook page.) Tebow Time was once again in full affect late in Thursday night’s game, as he led the Broncos to a 17-13 stunning, crowd-pleasing victory. The kid’s a winner—4-1 this year as a starter.
I understand why many criticize his mechanics, delivery and the fact that he’s talked about so much, but you’d think in this society, especially in the midst of the NCAA scandals and constant off-the-field trouble players find themselves in, that the Tebow talk would be more than welcomed and a complete breath of fresh air.
Buffalo (5-4) at Miami (2-7) (CBS, 1:00pm EST)
The budding Bills are crumbling to their inevitable and perennial fate while the Dolphins are talking playoffs!? Cracking the playoffs for the first time since 1999 is becoming increasingly unlikely for Buffalo, but the team can still preserve its slim hopes with a win this weekend. That might be easier said than done though as Miami’s playing as the much better team right now.
The Bills are 0-3 on the road this year (outscored 94-51), but all three defeats came to teams well within the playoff picture. The Dolphins are 1-3 at home this season (outscored 88-72). I wouldn’t put too much stock in Ryan Fitzpatrick or Matt Moore in fantasy just because both encounter occasional shoddy showings, but Reggie Bush and Fred Jackson are both gems. In hands down my biggest toss-up of the week, I’ll take Buffalo. Prediction: Buffalo 21, Miami 16
Tampa Bay (4-5) at Green Bay (9-0) (FOX, 1:00pm EST)
When Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers are at their best, they have the ability to beat anyone. But actually getting it done and against a virtually unbeatable team that’s riding a 15-game win streak is a whole different story. Still, the Bucs are not only cold and youngry, but also in a must-win situation. Aaron Rodgers has never beaten the Buccaneers (0-2 all-time) and the Packers could be in potential trap game with a huge clash coming up on a short week with the Lions on Thanksgiving in the Motor City.
Look for a tighter affair than generally expected, but even Tampa Bay’s hard-nosed D back in the days of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice would have its hands bursting at the seams with these Packers. Prediction: Green Bay 34, Tampa Bay 20
Carolina (2-7) at Detroit (6-3) (FOX, 1:00pm EST)
These cats turned into ugly possums last week. Matthew Stafford threw a whopping 63 passes. You know any time an NFL quarterback throws the ball that many times in a single game, especially on the road against a hot Bears team, he’s going to walk away empty-handed. It’s no coincidence that his hand also happens to be hurting. Where’s Barry Sanders when you need him?
Cam Newton, on the other hand, was sacked five times, threw an interception, lost a fumble and was forced to three-and-outs all last week against the Titans. It won’t get much easier on Sunday against Detroit’s ferocious front four, especially considering Jim Schwartz used to run the defense in Tennessee and still knows the team’s scheme.
In addition, the Lions are amongst the league’s best against the pass and are starting to send a message of don’t mess with Detroit to doubters. They also absolutely have to win this game. Prediction: Detroit 24, Carolina 10
Oakland (5-4) at Minnesota (2-7) (CBS, 1:00pm EST)
It’s not uncommon to shed tears when your team loses. Lord knows I’ve done it many times over the course of my lifetime, especially when it’s those completely heart-wrenching collapses. Well, Monday night’s 45-7 embarrassment against Green Bay probably drove many grown men to plenty of waterworks, so the little girl and passionate Vikings fan that cried after the loss is not alone. Her parents may want to tell her the Vikes don’t play this week though so she doesn’t witness more disappointment.
Carson Palmer, Denarius Moore, Michael Bush and the Raiders defensive line hit on all cylinders last week against the Chargers. With a mini-bye and a daunting schedule ahead, they need to take care of business in Minnesota. Nonetheless, look for a tighter affair than anticipated. Prediction: Oakland 27, Minnesota 20
Dallas (5-4) at Washington (3-6) (FOX, 1:00pm EST)
Dallas has its swag back. Depleted with injuries, especially on offense, woeful Washington has aired it out 75 percent of the time the past five weeks with Rex Grossman and John Beck taking turns under center after the other makes too many mistakes. There will be plenty of that going on again as DeMarcus Ware gets ever-closer to breaking Michael Strahan’s sack record. Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray continue to light it up. Prediction: Dallas 31, Washington 6
Cincinnati (6-3) at Baltimore (6-3) (CBS, 1:00pm EST)
Winner ascends to the top of the division with the Steelers; loser permeates to third. The Bengals have extraordinarily exceeded expectations. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green might be the best rookie QB-WR combination in NFL history and so far Marvin Lewis has done what nobody could have seen coming before the season started—have his coaching position not under fire.
However, Cincinnati’s best wins have been against the run-of-the-mill Bills and Titans. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has clearly had Joe Flacco’s number in the past four get-togethers, forcing nine interceptions to just two touchdowns.
Nevertheless, Leon Hall’s season-ending injury is insurmountable. In addition, the Ravens are coming off another inevitable letdown on the road and have bounced back almost flawlessly at home this season. This trend continues, as the true contenders and hard-fighting pretenders start to separate. Look for a pretty good game all-around here. Prediction: Baltimore 30, Cincinnati 16
Jacksonville (3-6) at Cleveland (3-6) (CBS, 1:00pm EST)
Ties don’t happen often in the NFL. Has anyone in this industry ever predicted a tie? And if so, has anyone ever gotten it right? Well I’m placing a tie alert on this game, folks. Think of it like the upset alerts in college football. If you love defense, you might actually find this watchable. Look for heaps of field goals. MJD is the key. Prediction: Jacksonville 16, Cleveland 13 (OT)
Seattle (3-6) at St. Louis (2-7) (FOX, 4:05pm EST)
Both teams won hard-fought contests last week. Marshawn Lynch and Steven Jackson are hitting on all cylinders. I’ll take Sam Bradford and the Rams with home-field advantage. Prediction: St. Louis 19, Seattle 15
Arizona (3-6) at San Francisco (8-1) (FOX, 4:05pm EST)
Seven of Arizona’s games have been settled by seven points or fewer, while five games have been decided by the same margin for San Francisco. In the Bay, with the Cardinals’ starting quarterback uncertain, the Niners inch considerably closer to clinching the division and earn their first winning record since 2002. Prediction: San Francisco 31, Arizona 7
Tennessee (5-4) at Atlanta (5-4) (CBS, 4:15pm EST)
The Titans lead the league in red zone touchdown efficiency (71.4 percent). Despite Chris Johnson achieving his second 100-yards-or-more outing last week, Tennessee ranks dead last in rushing (81.3 YPG) and faces a fierce Falcons run defense, which allows just 90.3 yards per game, third best in the league.
Matt Ryan and Atlanta will have a tough time trying to win in an aerial assault, especially with Julio Jones questionable. With this in mind, along with the fact that the Falcons are 5-1 when the star running back gets the rock at least 19 times, look for a really high dose of Michael Turner. This might be the most marquee matchup of the week and there are momentous playoff implications included. Atlanta advances with home-field advantage down to the wire. Prediction: Atlanta 24, Tennessee 20
San Diego (4-5) at Chicago (6-3) (CBS, 4:15pm EST)
The Bolts haven’t won since Week 5. The Bears haven’t lost since Week 5. San Diego’s O-Line has been regressing recently and Soldier Field can be a stifling battlefield for the footing of the opposition.
NFL.com’s Albert Breer says, “At least one of the Bears’ touchdowns in this one will come on defense or special teams.” There’s not an ounce of me that disagrees with his sentiment. Can Phillip Rivers and company quickly turn things around now? The Chargers are set up for some tough sledding with the Bears. Prediction: Chicago 29, San Diego 22
Philadelphia (3-6) at N.Y. Giants (6-3) (NBC, 8:20pm EST)
Break out the silver wear and stick a fork anywhere you want in the Eagles if they don’t come away with the “w” against the Giants. And with Michael Vick suffering from bruised ribs and Vince Young potentially waiting on a moment’s notice to face the NFL’s sack-leaders, I don’t like their odds to win this game, let alone each of their remaining seven.
Ultimately anything can happen—especially when it comes to these two foes on Sunday Night Football. A great game from LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson coupled with another meltdown at the Meadowlands will potentially preserve Philadelphia’s nightmarish campaign for another day.
The Giants’ volatile front four will be too hot to handle for the fickle Eagles. It might also be the last straw for Andy Reid. Prediction: N.Y. Giants 27, Philadelphia 24
Kansas City (4-5) at New England (6-3) (Mon, ESPN, 8:30pm EST)
Remember when Tom Brady was knocked out with a season-ending injury in the 2008 season opener by Bernard Pollard, which opened the door to the Matt Cassel era? He’ll now miss his long-awaited homecoming in Foxboro.
Taking over is Tyler Palko, who’s transfixing journey has seen its disappointment with the Arizona Cardinals, California Redwoods (UFL) and Montreal Alouettes (CFL) in ’09. Now he’s making his first-ever NFL start at the New England Patriots.
Bill Belichick will likely exhibit some clemency for his former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and old front-office pupil Scott Pioli once this game inevitably gets out of hand. That doesn’t mean you fantasy folks shouldn’t strongly consider Brady for your fantasy roster this week. Prediction: New England 38, Kansas City 13
Be sure to check out Peter King’s predictions (94-52), Albert Breer’s picks (89-57) and Jason La Canfora’s preview on all of the games. And enjoy another great slate of games! Also find ESPN.com’s and CBSSports.com’s expert roundtable picks.
Verse of This Piece: “Whoever gives to others will get richer; those who help others will themselves be helped.” —Proverbs 11:25