Expert NFL Picks for Week 11, Including Titans-Ravens and Chiefs-Raiders
Chris Altruda of NJ Online Gambling, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Chris Altruda, a national betting industry analyst for NJ Online Gambling, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 11 games, including the Titans taking on the Ravens in a key AFC matchup and an inter-conference showdown between the Packers and Colts.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1) (+160, +3.5, 47 O/U) at Cleveland Browns (6-3)
A compelling matchup because … despite having a -28 point differential on the season, the Browns have somehow won six games this season and are tied for second place in the AFC North. They’ll take on a Philadelphia team that is miraculously in first place despite having a losing record and a negative point differential (-29) in their own right. The Eagles are 1-3 on the road this season while the Browns are 4-1 playing at home.
Altruda’s Angle: Aside from Nick Chubb’s decision to step out of bounds in the final seconds in the win over the Texans — to the chagrin of those holding the Browns -3.5 last week — his return after a four-game absence due to injury gave Cleveland’s offense better balance and took some pressure off quarterback Baker Mayfield in Week 10. The Browns are 4-1 when Chubb is in the lineup and both he and Kareem Hunt have tormented defenses. The two are especially good at picking up yards after contact — Chubb leads the league in that category and Hunt is 14th. The Eagles are better against the run than the stats show — they give up yards, but a substantial percentage has been gained by quarterbacks and other non-running backs. Philadelphia’s offense, though, remains scattershot — there were no turnovers in the loss to the Giants, but they were 0-for-9 on third down. Add in a subpar offensive line trying to slow down Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, and the feeling is the Browns will win a game where they control the line of scrimmage on both sides. The over/under has bounced around throughout the early part of the week from 45 to 48, and I like the under at 47 in this spot.
Gable’s Guess: Against the Giants last week, Carson Wentz didn’t turn the ball over for once, but he’s not playing well overall. Wentz ranks 32 of 33 quarterbacks in completion percentage at only 58.4 percent. You have to start questioning some of the decisions Doug Pederson is making with the play-calling, as they’ve shown they can run the ball yet they don’t do it much. Pederson continues to allow Wentz to make decisions, and he’s overthrowing people when he’s not throwing interceptions. Defensively, they are getting to the quarterback and are amongst the league leaders in sacks. We know Mayfield struggles against good pass rushes when they don’t blitz, so it should be a tough road game here for him. Cleveland is 7-2 straight up in their last nine home games and they’ve been playing pretty decent as of late. The Eagles have not shown much of anything all year. I’m going to be looking to lay the points with Cleveland in this one.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Eagles (3-6 ATS) have a below-.500 record and just got embarrassed by the Giants 27-17, losing straight up as 4.5-point road favorites. On the flip side, the Browns (3-6 ATS) are more than holding their own in the loaded AFC North and are fighting for a playoff spot. Cleveland just beat Houston 10-7 last week, although they failed to cover as 4.5-point home favorites. This line opened with Cleveland listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The public looks at both teams’ won-loss records and says give me the Browns at home laying a short spread. However, despite the public backing Cleveland, we’ve seen this line fall from Browns -3.5 to -3 at some books. This signals some sharp reverse line movement buying low on the Eagles getting the hook (+3.5), forcing oddsmakers to adjust the line. The Eagles have value as a short road dog +6 or less (37-19 ATS, 66 percent this season). I’ll buy low on the Eagles getting points in this one.
Our Pick: Done with the Eagles. Take the Browns and lay the points.
Tennessee Titans (6-3) (+240, +6.5, 49 O/U) at Baltimore Ravens (6-3)
A compelling matchup because … this is a rematch of a second-round playoff game last season that saw Derrick Henry run roughshod for the Titans as they sent the top-seeded Ravens home. Coming off an upset loss last week to the Patriots, Baltimore could really use a win against a Tennessee team that also lost in Week 10 and has dropped three of their last four after starting off the season 5-0.
Altruda’s Angle: Both teams are jockeying for playoff position, though the Titans arguably have more at stake given they are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the lead in the AFC South. Special teams again plagued Tennessee in its loss to Indy last week, as Trevor Daniel had a 17-yard punt and a second one blocked in a momentum-changing third quarter. Stephen Gostkowski also missed his NFL-high eighth field goal attempt in the fourth. This is the start of a pivotal three-game stretch for the Titans, who have a rematch with the Colts in Indianapolis and then face the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore’s offense was its own worst enemy at times in last Sunday night’s loss to New England. Lamar Jackson had a red-zone interception and offensive coordinator Greg Roman was pilloried for running the wildcat on a fourth-and-1 with a botched direct snap to running back Mark Ingram. A big concern in this game is the Ravens’ run defense. The Patriots finished with 173 rushing yards and the Ravens potentially playing without linemen Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams against Henry would be problematic. Additionally, the Ravens have not played many close games — five of their six wins have been by 14 or more points. Tennessee’s special teams make me nervous, but Henry should do enough to make taking the Titans and the points a winning pick.
Gable’s Guess: Henry, the last three weeks, is averaging under 20 carries per game. He definitely needs more carries, because they’re 5-1 when he has 20 or more carries in a game. When he carries that much, it really opens up the play-action for Ryan Tannehill. So, if they can get him a lot of touches here, I think it’s going to do wonders for the offense. Baltimore is 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 games when they’re a favorite. They’re favored here. So, while the Titans’ defense is certainly nothing great, I think we’re going to keep seeing the regression that’s happened with Jackson year-over-year. I think the Ravens will be able to score here, but I’m still going to take the points here with the Titans.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: After an impressive start, the Titans (3-6 ATS) have stumbled, including a 34-17 loss to the Colts last Thursday night as a 1-point home dog. Similarly, the Ravens (4-4-1 ATS) have lost two of their last three games, most recently falling to the Patriots 23-17 on Sunday Night Football, losing outright as 7-point road favorites. This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 7-point home favorite. Wiseguys seem to think this line is a bit too high and have pounced on the Titans, which has dropped this line down. Tennessee has value as a road team with a line move in their favor (46-32 ATS, 59 percent this season). The Titans also have a rest advantage as they last played on Thursday, compared to the Ravens playing Sunday night. I’ll take the points and bank on the Titans to keep it close.
Our Pick: Feels like it could be a field goal game. Take the Titans and points.
Green Bay Packers (7-2) (+105, +1.5, 51.5 O/U) at Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
A compelling matchup because … in a matchup of strength against strength, a Green Bay offense that has put up 277 points this season will take on an Indianapolis defense that has only allowed 177 points. Both teams are in first place in their respective divisions, though the bulk of both Indy and Green Bay’s wins have come against inferior competition.
Altruda’s Angle: After Aaron Rodgers rescued the Packers from a drab performance versus the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Green Bay has a far more challenging opponent in Indianapolis. It is not surprising the Packers are a different team when forced into mistakes — their five turnovers on the season factored into their two losses and last Sunday’s squeaker. Indianapolis is the kind of team that can create takeaways — they have 11 interceptions among 15 forced turnovers overall. Rodgers, however, has been lights-out indoors on the road this season, going 3-0 while completing 76-of-110 passes for 930 yards and 11 touchdowns without an INT. The Colts swung their Week 10 victory at Tennessee in their favor through solid special teams play and need to get their ground game going for two reasons — to keep Rodgers off the field and take pressure off quarterback Philip Rivers. Green Bay’s defense is still suspect and Colts coach Frank Reich’s play-calling should keep that unit off-balance. This game is a toss-up, and in such instances, the play is with the better quarterback. Give me Rodgers and the Packers on the money line to win outright.
Gable’s Guess: The Packers come in averaging 30.8 points per game, which is third in the NFL. Conversely, Indianapolis is surrendering only 19.7 points per game on defense, which is also third in the NFL. Green Bay has played to the over in seven of their last 10. Rivers was efficient last week against the Titans and he threw for more than 300 yards with no interceptions. That’s always been the Achilles heel for him. I think this game is really going to come down to how Green Bay’s defense plays. They’re 5-0 this year when the defense allows fewer than 25 points. But I do think Indianapolis is going to be able to run the ball against Green Bay. They’re not great against the run. We’ve seen them exposed a number of times this year in that regard. I’d be looking to lay the 2.5 here with the Colts.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Packers (6-3 ATS) have won two straight and just took down the pesky Jaguars 24-20, although Green Bay failed to cover as big 13.5-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Colts (5-4 ATS) have won three of their last four games. This line opened with the Colts listed as roughly a 1-point home favorite. The public says give me the Packers, yet we’ve seen all line movement and liability on the Colts, pushed Indy to -2.5 and then settling back down to -1.5. The Colts have value as a contrarian favorite in a “fade the trendy dog” situation. Indianapolis has a rest advantage, as they last played on Thursday while the Packers are on regular rest. I’ll bet against the public and back Indy laying a short spread.
Our Pick: Don’t love Green Bay, but Packers with points is hard to pass up.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) (-325, -7.5, 56.5 O/U) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)
A compelling matchup because … winners of three in a row, the Raiders will host the Chiefs in Vegas with their undefeated division record (3-0) on the line. The only team to beat the defending champs this season, the Raiders are looking to hand Kansas City their first road loss of 2020. Facing a team that is looking for a little payback for Week 5, it won’t be easy.
Altruda’s Angle: The expectation is this line will climb during the week following Wednesday’s announcement the Raiders put seven players — all on defense — on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Another two were placed on the list Tuesday and Las Vegas has 11 players overall who could miss this contest. That makes Jon Gruden’s team chum in the water for an angry Chiefs bunch looking to avenge their only loss of the season. Most of Kansas City’s problems in the first meeting were the result of allowing chunk plays — Derek Carr had touchdown passes of 59 and 72 yards, and there were another five plays of 23 yards or more. Patrick Mahomes did his job, throwing for 340 yards and a pair of scores. He has thrown for 738 yards and eight TDs in two previous road wins over the Raiders. Add in Chiefs coach Andy Reid being 18-3 in the regular season coming off the bye week and beating the Raiders in that scenario each of the last two years, the suggestion is to grab the Chiefs and lay the points as early as possible.
Gable’s Guess: We opened this with the Chiefs favored by a touchdown, but the game is currently off the board due to the COVID-19 news. Kansas City has struggled to keep their offensive line healthy all year. So, if they have to rely more on Travis Kelce for pass protection, it will take targets away from him and the Raiders can pay more focus defensively on slowing down Tyreek Hill. But we’ll see how that plays out. Defensively for Las Vegas, prior to three weeks ago, they looked pathetic. They haven’t looked as bad in the last three weeks, but they still aren’t very good. Their offense is scoring a lot of points, which is allowing them to win games and stay in the playoff picture. There may never be anyone better than Andy Reid coming off the bye week. The Chiefs come in averaging 31.8 points per game, which is second in the NFL. Vegas is averaging 27.2 points per game. Both teams are obviously capable of putting up a lot of points. I’d be looking at taking the over.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Chiefs (6-3 ATS) have the second-best record in the NFL and have won four straight, most recently beating the Panthers 33-31 but failing to cover as 10.5-point home favorites. Similarly, the Raiders (6-3 ATS) have won three straight and just crushed the Broncos 37-12, easily covering as 3-point home favorites. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 7-point road favorite. Early sharp action was all over the Raiders plus the points, dropping this line down to 6.5. But then we saw a rash of COVID-19 positives pop up for Vegas, driving the line back up. Las Vegas has value as a divisional dog and a contrarian play in a heavily bet game. Primetime dogs are 20-11 ATS (65 percent) this season. The Raiders beat the Chiefs 40-32 five weeks ago as 10.5-point dogs. If the Raiders get their COVID players back, I’ll back the gross contrarian play and take the divisional dog plus the points.
Our Pick: Don’t love the points either way, so we’ll side with the over.
Los Angeles Rams (6-3) (+175, +4, 48.5 O/U) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
A compelling matchup because … the Rams have been a bit hit-or-miss over the past four weeks with a record of just 2-2, but their two victories have been quality wins over the Bears and Seahawks. Tampa has won four out of five, with the one loss being a drubbing by the Saints on Monday Night Football. Once again in primetime, it will be interesting to see which Tampa team shows up against a stout Los Angeles defensive front.
Altruda’s Angle: Weren’t we here two weeks ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a big game at home ready to establish themselves against the NFL’s elite? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. … That said, the Buccaneers looked good in eventually pulling away from the Carolina Panthers in Week 10 as Ronald Jones had a 98-yard touchdown run and Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three scores. Equally impressive was the bounce-back effort by the offensive line, which gave Brady time to throw and kept a clean pocket for most of the contest. That line will get a stern challenge from the combination of Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd, who have combined for 16 sacks — two more than the Bucs have allowed — and helped the Rams become the first team to truly stifle Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks this season. The offense looked crisp, aided by the running back by committee, and Jared Goff kept the chains moving as Los Angeles had the ball for 33-plus minutes in Week 10. The knock on the Rams is the defense has not played well on the road against good teams, evidenced by LA’s losses at Buffalo and San Francisco. If Tampa Bay can stop the run, something it has done consistently, making Goff try to win the game could turn into an advantage. Despite it being primetime and the want for offense, this game looks to veer in the opposite direction into more of a defensive slugfest. I like a same-game teaser of Tampa Bay +2.5 and UNDER 54.5 points.
Gable’s Guess: The Rams are back in the thick of things really due to their defense. They have the No. 2 total defense in the league and are ranked third against the pass and fifth against the run. Jalen Ramsey is going to be a tough matchup on whoever he covers. They tend to play a lot of zone and then let Ramsey match up as needed. With the defensive front the Rams have and their pass rush, Brady’s definitely going to be feeling pressure to get rid of the ball quickly. I think Tampa will need to establish a run early in order to provide some balance. Their running back, Ronald Jones, had a good game last week, but it’s going to be much more difficult to run against the Rams than it was against the Panthers. But they can’t really abandon the run either. I just don’t know what’s going on here with the Buccaneers and how they’ve looked in night games. So, while I do worry about Tampa’s defense pressuring Goff and he’s certainly not someone who does well with that, I still believe the Rams defense will keep this close. I’ll take the Rams and the points in this one.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Rams (5-4) are coming off an impressive 23-16 win over the Seahawks, covering as 3-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Bucs (5-5 ATS) rebounded from a 38-3 beatdown by the Saints in Week 9 with a resounding 46-23 win over the Panthers last week, easily covering as 6-point road favorites. This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The public is split but we’ve seen this line rise to -4. In a vacuum, a line shouldn’t move at all if the tickets are even. So we know this line move was caused by respected money hitting the Bucs. I’ll lay the points with Brady in primetime against a non-divisional opponent.
Our Pick: Goff could be the weak link for LA. Lay the points with Tampa.
Last Week: 2-3, Season: 26-24
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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