The Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams each were a potential missed field goal away from pulling huge upsets in Week 10 of NFL action and likely torpedoing your survivor pool competition.
The Rams tied the 49ers in San Francisco at 24, the first “sister-kisser” in the NFL in four years. Excellent St. Louis rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53-yarder to win it in overtime, but the Rams were penalized five yards for delay of game. How does Coach Jeff Fisher allow that to happen when the team had a timeout remaining (the holder said it was his fault)? Zuerlein tried again from 58 and missed wide right with 2:42 left in OT. It hugely helped the Rams’ upset cause that 49ers starting QB Alex Smith left with a concussion in the first half.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, actually led Monday night’s game early in Pittsburgh, Kansas City’s first lead of the season. Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop did kick a 46-yarder to send the game into overtime, but he missed a chip shot earlier. Naturally, Chiefs turnover machine Matt Cassel threw a pick on Kansas City’s first possession of OT and the Steelers won it 16-13. It hugely helped the Chiefs’ upset hopes that Pittsburgh lost starting QB Ben Roethlisberger to a shoulder injury in the first half. I used the Steelers as my top choice but did warn they could overlook the Chiefs.
And that brings us to Week 11, which appears to be the week of backup quarterbacks. Roethlisberger is out. Smith might be. Chicago’s Jay Cutler probably is with a concussion. The Eagles’ Michael Vick might be done for his Philly career with a serious concussion. Sorry, Jets fans, but Mark Sanchez is healthy and apparently will start.
It’s the final week of byes and the teams off are Tennessee, Minnesota, NY Giants and Seattle. Presumed favorites are listed first below.
Atlanta vs. Arizona: The 1972 Dolphins players popped the champagne corks last week when the unbeaten Falcons were beaten by New Orleans – a result I predicted. I could see Atlanta coming out a bit flat on Sunday, and the Cardinals had the bye week to prepare. But the Falcons can’t take their foot off the gas if they want to be the NFC’s top seed with the Bears and 49ers right behind them.
Dallas vs. Cleveland: This would be typical Cowboys to play a dud after an impressive win over the Eagles last week. In addition, the Browns enter on a bye and Dallas will again likely be without DeMarco Murray. I wouldn’t give the points here, but the Cowboys should win.
Houston vs. Jacksonville: As of right now, the Texans are the biggest favorites of the season. Obviously, this is an easy pick, but no doubt Houston is not available to you any longer. By the way, I love the Jags to cover as it’s a total “sandwich” game. The Texans just had arguably the biggest regular-season win in franchise history last Sunday night at Soldier Field, and after this game have another big challenge at Detroit early on Thursday.
New England vs. Indianapolis: Patriots vs. Colts used to be must-see TV. Presumably that wasn’t going to be the case any longer with Peyton Manning in Denver, but it remains so as the first of hopefully several matchups between Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. The rookie is terrific, but I don’t think the young Colts are ready to win in Foxborough.
Green Bay at Detroit: A loss here probably realistically ends Detroit’s playoff hopes, while a Green Bay win could find the Packers tied with Chicago atop the NFC North come Monday night. The Pack enter off the bye and should win, but Calvin Johnson could change things by himself. It’s the first of three straight at home for Detroit, so I expect a great effort.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: Maybe the Eagles rally around rookie QB Nick Foles? How can a team with this sort of talent be 3-6 and on a five-game skid? The Skins have lost four of five, and Robert Griffin III has started to look like a rookie – he’s now clearly behind Andrew Luck and Doug Martin for the Offensive ROY award. Maybe the bye week will re-energize RG3, but I have no clue who wins here.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: How schizo is the Bucs’ defense? Last in the league in passing and first in rushing. Unfortunately for them, Panthers QB Cam Newton can do both. It’s too close to risk the Bucs here. In Week 1, Tampa Bay beat Carolina, 16-10. I expect 26 points in this one by halftime.
New Orleans at Oakland: The Saints probably have to close 6-1 to have a shot at a wild-card spot in the NFC. Their schedule is much tougher after this week, so I presume they won’t blow a chance to get to .500. But this smells like a huge letdown after back-to-back big home wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Denver vs. San Diego: The Chargers are known for suddenly going on a mid-to-late season surge, and they pretty much know the AFC West is gone should they lose for the second time this season against the Broncos. But maybe the Bolts finally show some heart here after the Broncos embarrassed San Diego on Monday night a few weeks ago, rallying from a 24-0 halftime deficit for a 35-24 win. Can Peyton Manning complete 70 percent of his passes again? He’s first to do so in six straight games.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: The Steelers are rare home dogs because Big Ben is out. I definitely don’t trust Byron Leftwich to do much, but I also would never take a team in a survivor pool playing at Pittsburgh. This heated rivalry just won’t be the same without Roethlisberger and Ray Lewis.
San Francisco vs. Chicago (Monday): I wouldn’t touch this if both Alex Smith and Jay Cutler played. I’m definitely not if it’s Colin Kaepernick vs. Jason Campbell. MLB’s Giants and Cubs played their last game of the season on Sept. 2. The eventual World Series champs won, 7-5. Expect a similar score here.
Buffalo vs. Miami (Thursday): The Thursday night games generally are the ugliest of the week as the players aren’t totally healed from the previous weekend and the teams are unprepared. Thus, this one could be ghastly. Watch the NBA on TNT doubleheader or break out your DVD or the “Goonies” instead. The good news is there are intriguing Thursday night matchups the next two weeks (and of course two afternoon games on Turkey Day).
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Cincinnati at Kansas City: The Bengals likely saved their season with a dominating win over the Giants in Week 10, while the Chiefs are, well, the Chiefs. And they are on a short week. Will they start Matt Cassel or a recently cleared Brady Quinn at QB? Paper or plastic? Bengals should win but K.C. is still a tough place to play.
St. Louis vs. NY Jets: I honestly don’t know what Rex Ryan is waiting for on Tim Tebow. The season’s over, so Ryan might as well see what he has in Tebow, or why did the team trade for him? Supposedly a defensive starter told the New York media this week that Tebow is “terrible.” But terrible would be an upgrade over Mark Sanchez at the moment.
Because Houston is off the board, I would go with Atlanta as the first option and Dallas with No. 2. Remember to get your research done early next week with the Thanksgiving schedule.