NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS WEEK 11

By Arvind Pendurthi

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I have to scale my predictions back to the top 5 matchups of the week. This is an excellent opportunity for reader participation, because you can have a direct impact on which games I break down! It is important for me to note, however, that as a diehard Dolphins fan, I will be analyzing their matchup each week. With a playoff berth within reach, I need to prepare myself on a weekly basis for the inevitable loss that will send me into my annual 5-month depression; you know, the one where I sit around until the draft gives me hope that, “We’ll make it this year!” It’s been 6 years since we’ve gotten into the playoffs and 14 years since we’ve won a playoff game – can you blame me?


BUFFALO BILLS (5-4) AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-4)

Week 10 Results
Bills: L (13-17) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Dolphins: L (16-20) at Detroit Lions

This game has major implications for both parties involved, as the winner will move into 2nd place in the AFC East. Buffalo is coming off a tough loss to the Chiefs, marred by turnovers – fumbles in particular. With CJ Spiller on IR and Fred Jackson (groin) at less than 100%, the Bills turned to a committee of Anthony Dixon (62 yards) and Bryce Brown (35 yards, 6 receptions, 65 yards). While the duo averaged 6.06 yards per carry, Brown committed a crucial fumble on the 3-yard line that resulted in a touchback. Furthermore, Leodis McKelvin muffed a punt, leading to a go-ahead Kansas City touchdown.

Miami’s loss to the Lions ended in painfully similar fashion to their week 6 loss to the Packers. The Dolphins’ secondary gave up the game-winning touchdown to Green Bay with 3 seconds left, and did the same last week with 29 seconds remaining. However, their inability to close out games cannot be attributed to the defense, but rather the offense. Miami started slow, allowing Detroit to build a lead as well as momentum. RBs Damien Williams, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller struggled against the Lions, finishing with an average YPC of 3.63. In addition, QB Ryan Tannehill had 0 rushing yards on the day, after averaging 48 yards per game over the last 4 weeks. OC Bill Lazor will need to place a heavier emphasis on the read-option to beat the Bills’ tough defense.

Despite my bleak outlook in the introduction, the Dolphins are very capable of winning this game. They are not the same team that was destroyed by the Bills in Week 2 (10-29), nor are the Bills the same team that won that game. While Miami’s offense has steadily improved, the loss of LT Branden Albert – graded as the 4th best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus – will have a significant impact on both their pass and rush offense Rookie Ju’Wuan James, who has played very well at right tackle this season, will need to have a strong performance to fill in for Albert. Finally, the Dolphins’ defensive backs, anchored by Brent Grimes (5 INTs, 2nd most in NFL) have improved significantly since these teams last faced off. Unless rookie WR Sammy Watkins manages to break down Miami’s defense as he did in Week 2 (8 receptions 117 yards, 1 TD), the Dolphins will get their revenge.

Players to Watch: Sammy Watkins (WR – BUF), Ja’Wuan James (LT – MIA)

Prediction: Bills 17, Dolphins 28


BUFFALO BILLS (5-4) AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-4)

Week 10 Results
Bills: L (13-17) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Dolphins: L (16-20) at Detroit Lions

This game has major implications for both parties involved, as the winner will move into 2nd place in the AFC East. Buffalo is coming off a tough loss to the Chiefs, marred by turnovers – fumbles in particular. With CJ Spiller on IR and Fred Jackson (groin) at less than 100%, the Bills turned to a committee of Anthony Dixon (62 yards) and Bryce Brown (35 yards, 6 receptions, 65 yards). While the duo averaged 6.06 yards per carry, Brown committed a crucial fumble on the 3-yard line that resulted in a touchback. Furthermore, Leodis McKelvin muffed a punt, leading to a go-ahead Kansas City touchdown.

Miami’s loss to the Lions ended in painfully similar fashion to their week 6 loss to the Packers. The Dolphins’ secondary gave up the game-winning touchdown to Green Bay with 3 seconds left, and did the same last week with 29 seconds remaining. However, their inability to close out games cannot be attributed to the defense, but rather the offense. Miami started slow, allowing Detroit to build a lead as well as momentum. RBs Damien Williams, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller struggled against the Lions, finishing with an average YPC of 3.63. In addition, QB Ryan Tannehill had 0 rushing yards on the day, after averaging 48 yards per game over the last 4 weeks. OC Bill Lazor will need to place a heavier emphasis on the read-option to beat the Bills’ tough defense.

Despite my bleak outlook in the introduction, the Dolphins are very capable of winning this game. They are not the same team that was destroyed by the Bills in Week 2 (10-29), nor are the Bills the same team that won that game. While Miami’s offense has steadily improved, the loss of LT Branden Albert – graded as the 4th best tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus – will have a significant impact on both their pass and rush offense. Rookie Ju’Wuan James, who has played very well at right tackle this season, will need to have a strong performance to fill in for Albert. Finally, the Dolphins’ defensive backs, anchored by Brent Grimes (5 INTs, 2nd most in NFL) have improved significantly since these teams last faced off. Unless rookie WR Sammy Watkins manages to break down Miami’s defense as he did in Week 2 (8 receptions 117 yards, 1 TD), the Dolphins will get their revenge.

Players to Watch: Sammy Watkins (WR – BUF), Ja’Wuan James (LT – MIA)

 Prediction: Bills 17, Dolphins 28


ATLANTA FALCONS (3-6) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-6-1)

Week 10 Results
Falcons: W (27-17) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Panthers: L (21-45) at Philadelphia Eagles

Projected to finish the season with 4,292 passing yards – his lowest total since 2010 – Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing offense have struggled this season. Ryan passed for 219 yards and 1 touchdown on a 64.5% completion rating. As expected, Julio Jones and Roddy White were his primary recipients; the former caught 8 balls for 119 yards while the latter reeled in 6 passes for 72 yards and a score.   RB Steven Jackson played very well, averaging just over 5 yards per carry en route to 81 yards and 1 touchdown.

The box score does not do justice to how terribly the Panthers played on Monday night. Carolina’s offensive line was horrendous, allowing 9 sacks on QB Cam Newton, in addition to repeated hits. Furthermore, their inability to open holes in the defense limited the RB corps to 96 yards on 30 carries, an average of 3.2 yards per carry.   Head coach Ron Rivera continues to split touches rather evenly between Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams despite a significant difference in production (YPC) over the last 7 seasons:

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Stewart 4.5 5.1 4.3 5.4 3.6 3.8 3.9
Williams 5.5 5.2 4.1 5.4 4.3 4.2 3.4

The Panthers’ offensive line simply needs to provide better protection for the offense to have any chance of producing.

This game has particular significance not only in the NFC South standings, but in the wild card race as well. A win for Atlanta, which is 3-0 against divisional opponents, would allow them to take over the 2nd spot in the division. Their defense played well against the Buccaneers, totaling 4 sacks, 2 interceptions and 1 fumble. The Falcons should do so when facing a team that turned the ball over a remarkable 6 times last week – 3 interceptions and 3 fumbles. Carolina failed to force any turnovers against Philadelphia, sacking the quarterback just once. The Falcons offense has an excellent opportunity to build up a head of steam heading into the must-win stretch of the season.

 Players to Watch: Matt Ryan (QB – ATL), Matt Kalil (C – CAR)

 Prediction: Falcons 31, Panthers 23


DETROIT LIONS (7-2) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (8-1)

Week 10 Results
Lions: W (20-16) vs. Miami Dolphins
Cardinals: W (31-14) vs. St. Louis Rams

Detroit survived a close upset thanks to an aggressive offensive drive in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter to take a lead. WR Calvin Johnson’s highly anticipated return lived up to its billing, as the dominant receiver caught 7 passes for 113 yards and 1 touchdown including a 49-yarder. Most importantly for the Lions’ offense, however, Johnson’s performance did not diminish Golden Tate’s role, as he contributed 11 catches for 109 yards. As Detroit’s feature receiver for the majority of the season, Tate quietly has the 4th most receiving yards in the league, with 937.

Although they cruised to an easy win, the Cardinals suffered a tough blow with the loss of QB Carson Palmer (torn ACL) for the season. However, backup Drew Stanton has proven to be capable of leading Arizona’s offense, accumulating a 2-1 record in Palmer’s absence earlier in the season. John Brown, who finished with 5 catches for 73 yards and a very impressive touchdown, will most likely see an increase in production as he and Stanton have solid chemistry. Furthermore, Larry Fitzgerald has been on fire lately, averaging 114 receiving yards per game over the last 3 weeks.

While the Cardinals are currently the top-ranked team in the league, Detroit is not far behind. In fact, the Lions are scarier than ever, as they have the best defense in the league and a healthy Calvin Johnson. Arizona’s 29th ranked rush attack will struggle to find room to run against the Lions’ defensive line that held the Dolphins’ running backs to 63 yards. However, Detroit’s running backs have played even more poorly this season, coming in at 31st in the NFL. With Joique Bell and Reggie Bush averaging 4.4 and 5.0 YPC respectively against the Dolphins’ stout run defense, they should give the Lions yet another advantage this week.

Players to Watch: Calvin Johnson (WR – DET), Drew Stanton (QB – ARI)

Prediction: Lions 38, Cardinals 27


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-2) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (6-3)

Week 10 Results
Eagles: W (45-21) vs. Carolina Panthers
Packers: W (55-14) vs. Chicago Bears

Starting for the first time since 2012, Mark Sanchez played very well, throwing for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. With Sanchez at the helm, Jeremy Maclin had a quiet game, catching just 3 passes for 38 yards. Rookie WR Jordan Matthews, on the other hand, caught 7 balls for 138 yards and both of Sanchez’s TD passes. Led by LB Connor Barwin’s 3.5 sacks, the Eagles’ defense and special teams dominated the Panthers, totaling 9 sacks, 6 turnovers and 2 touchdowns.

It is difficult to put into perspective how remarkable Aaron Rodgers’ performance was last Sunday. The Packers’ elite quarterback completed 18 of 27 passes for 317 yards and 6 touchdowns – all of which were thrown in the first half. To be clear, 33% of Rodgers’ completed passes ended with a score. Jordy Nelson was his primary target, resulting in 6 catches, 152 yards and 2 touchdowns, both of which were from 40 or more yards.

Though Philadelphia possesses a strong defense, they will struggle against the Packers’ prolific offense. While RB Eddie Lacy was rather average on the ground (14 carries, 50 yards), he was productive through the air for the second consecutive week, catching 3 passes for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy continues to have an extremely underwhelming season, rushing for just 19 yards on 12 carries – an average of 1.58 yards per carry. Green Bay’s offense will simply be too much for the Eagles to handle.

Players to Watch: Jordan Matthews (WR – PHI), Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB)

Prediction: Eagles 24, Packers 35


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-2) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-3)

Week 10 Results
Patriots: Bye
Colts: Bye

Both the Patriots and Colts head into their week 11 matchup fresh off their bye weeks, but the former entered their bye on a 5 game win streak. New England’s offense improved steadily over the course of the season, with receiver Brandon LaFell slowly carving out a larger role in the offense. LaFell racked up 25 targets during weeks 8 and 9, compared to 32 targets over the first 7 weeks of the season. However, it will be important to monitor rookie RB Jonas Gray’s production. He has yet to prove his ability, as he averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his first start, but 2.8 against a tough Denver run defense.

Led by 3rd year quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts’ offense is ranked 1st in the league. Despite a massive difference in efficiency, Indianapolis’ coaching staff has given running back Trent Richardson more touches than Ahmad Bradshaw this season:

  Carries Yards YPC TDs Receptions Yards TDs
Richardson 108 391 3.6 2 21 182 0
Bradshaw 83 421 5.1 2 34 293 6

Speedy wideout TY Hilton, who has the 3rd most receiving yards in the league (997), will most likely struggle against the Patriots’ physical corners, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Luck will most likely turn to tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener to move the chains.

After a slow start to the season – in which he threw 1 touchdown per game for the first 4 weeks – Tom Brady has ramped up his production. He now has 22 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions, and is on pace to eclipse 4,000 passing yards. In addition, star TE Rob Gronkowski leads his position in nearly every receiving category:

  Receptions Yards Touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski 49 663 8
Greg Olsen 51 658 5
Jimmy Graham 56 594 7

New England’s secondary will have its hands full this week, but they are capable of holding Indianapolis off while Brady and the offense maintain the lead.

Players to Watch: Jonas Gray (RB – NE), TY Hilton (WR – IND)

Prediction: Patriots 48, Colts 42

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