The NFL’s seemingly never-ending run of poor PR continued this week when the league had to move its highly publicized Mexico game to Los Angeles because, well, the Azteca Stadium field was a disaster.
So the NFL waited until the last possible minute before finally moving Monday night’s must-see matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs to L.A. … which undoubtedly is for the best, as you would hate to see either Super Bowl contender derailed by an avoidable injury.
But you still have to feel for fans of either team, especially the Chiefs, who arranged to go to Mexico City for the game. We’d like to offer all those fans a small consolation: our Week 11 picks.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are back, as they are every week, to make their against-the-spread picks for each game on the NFL slate.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 8-5-1 (71-72-3)
Ricky Doyle: 7-6-1 (73-70-3)
Andre Khachaturian: 7-6-1 (78-65-3)
Here are their Week 11 picks, with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
THURSDAY, NOV. 15
Green Bay Packers at (-2.5) Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Seahawks. The Packers have injuries on both sides of the ball, and it’s just so tough to go into Seattle and win shorthanded on a short week. Not only that, the Packers’ general lack of consistency on offense is unlikely to be fixed in the same scenario.
Andre: Packers. Seattle allows nearly five yards per carry on the ground, so the Packers should be successful in running the ball and taking the load off Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay also leads the league in sack rate and sacks and the Seahawks have the highest opponent sack rate in football. Russell Wilson might be running for his life in this one.
Ricky: Seahawks. The home team is 7-0 SU over the last seven games between these two perennial NFC contenders, winning by an average of 16 points per game. The Seahawks will use their ground game to open up play-action for Wilson, who will make enough big plays to swing the tide in Seattle’s favor at CenturyLink Field.
SUNDAY, NOV. 18
(-4) Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. The Lions have been especially sloppy with the football recently (seven turnovers in their last three games), and now they get the Panthers, who have 11 takeaways this season, which is tied for fourth in the NFL.
Andre: Panthers. The Panthers are third in rushing yards per attempt and the Lions allow nearly five yards per carry. Carolina also has a significantly better turnover differential (plus-6) than Detroit (minus-6). Detroit has struggled to run the ball over the last three games (58.7 yards per game), so Matt Stafford might have to throw a ton.
Ricky: Panthers. The Panthers just got destroyed by the Steelers in a litmus test on Thursday night, but the Lions’ shortcomings, particularly on offense, have been far more prevalent in recent weeks. Carolina, playing on 10 days’ rest, rights the ship thanks to a strong defensive showing.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
(No line as of Thursday morning, with Baltimore’s QB situation unknown)
(-3) Houston Texans at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. Feels kind of trap-y, but all signs point to the Texans, who are getting healthy (with Johnathan Joseph and Zach Cunningham expected to return), and Bill O’Brien has been very good off a bye in his young career. Houston is 3-1 and 4-0 against the spread after the bye under O’Brien.
Andre: Redskins. I’m not sure if either of these teams is for real, so I’ll take the points. Houston’s six consecutive wins have come against teams without winning records. I also like Washington’s ability to force takeaways and the fact that Alex Smith doesn’t turn the ball over (three interceptions this year.)
Ricky: Texans. The Redskins have suffered several injuries along their offensive line, and the Texans’ pass rush will exploit that en route to making Smith uncomfortable. The Texans (plus-four turnover differential) also won’t beat themselves like the Buccaneers, who put up 501(!) yards of offense last week against the Redskins but scored only three points thanks to four back-breaking turnovers.
Dallas Cowboys at (-3) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. The Cowboys should copy and paste their game plan from last week, and use it this week in Atlanta against an injury-depleted Falcons defense that hasn’t been able to stop the run.
Andre: Cowboys. The Falcons allow a whopping 5.2 yards per carry, which is the most in the league. Ezekiel Elliott will be able to run the ball as successfully as he did last week and take pressure off Dak Prescott, who should be able to feast on an injury-depleted Atlanta secondary.
Ricky: Falcons. I’m trying not to overreact to Atlanta’s loss to Cleveland and Dallas’ win over Philadelphia last week. The Falcons showed signs of turning a corner prior to that, and their defense should improve moving forward with Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones returning from IR and defensive end Bruce Irvin having another week of preparation with his new team.
(-5.5) Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. This feels like a game in which the Steelers should roll, right? Typically, it seems like that’s when they’re at the worst, and this Jaguars team — for all its warts — has played Pittsburgh tough the last couple of years. Steelers eke it out but fail to cover.
Andre: Jaguars. Blake Bortles has seven touchdowns and two interceptions at home this season. He’s much worse on the road, so I’ll take the points, especially since the Jaguars have been successful recently against the Steelers.
Ricky: Steelers. The Steelers are 9-0-1 SU in their last 10 road games, winning by an average of more than seven points per contest, so traveling to Jacksonville shouldn’t be a factor here, especially given the awful state of the once-dangerous Jaguars. Leonard Fournette’s return gives Jacksonville’s offense a boost, but Pittsburgh’s defense ranks third against the run, per Pro Football Focus.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-1.5) New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. This might end up being Saquon Barkley’s signature game in an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign against a team that’s allowed the second-most overall touchdowns to running backs this season.
Andre: Bucs. Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in yards per pass attempt and the Bucs just know how to generate yards. While the Redskins were able to force turnovers and restrict Tampa from the endzone, the Giants aren’t as good at forcing turnovers.
Ricky: Giants. The Bucs have an NFL-worst minus-19 turnover differential. They’ve coughed up the bacon 25 times. You can trust them. But I won’t.
Tennessee Titans at (-2) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. In his last three games, Andrew Luck has completed 72.3 percent of passes with 10 touchdowns and just one interception, good for a 131.0 passer rating. It’s no coincidence Luck hasn’t been sacked in any of those games; the Colts are dangerous when they protect No. 12.
Andre: Colts. Everything Mike said is gold. It’s amazing how great Luck is when he gets some protection. The Colts have also been running the ball well over the last three games and taking the load off Luck, who has averaged 28 pass attempts during that span. In the Colts’ five losses, Luck has averaged more than 51 pass attempts.
Ricky: Titans. The Colts’ current three-game winning streak includes victories over the Bills, Raiders and Jaguars — three of the most broken teams in the NFL right now. The Titans, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back wins over the Cowboys and Patriots, the latter of which was very impressive. Tennessee will ride its balanced offense and find continued success in Indy.
Denver Broncos at (-7) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. L.A. needs an emphatic win to announce its presence with authority as a legitimate favorite in the AFC, while the Vance Joseph era in Denver feels like it’s nearing the knockout punch. Seems like this is the spot both things happen.
Andre: Broncos. Los Angeles has the best yards per play differential in football, but Denver has four losses to first-place teams this year and they’ve kept all of those games within a score.
Ricky: Broncos. Denver has been snakebit this season, losing several close games. The Chargers are among the NFL’s elite, but the Broncos will do enough defensively to keep it within a touchdown.
Oakland Raiders at (-4) Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. I read that this game won’t be televised in Las Vegas, despite the Raiders’ impending move. Maybe everyone involved should consider themselves lucky.
Andre: Cardinals. Oakland allows the most yards per play and Arizona has a decent defense, as they’re ranked second in tackling, according to PFF.
Ricky: Raiders. This game. Woof.
Philadelphia Eagles at (-8.5) New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Saints. Just too many injuries for Philly to overcome, especially in the secondary, where Ronald Darby is done for the season with a torn ACL, Jalen Mills seems unlikely to play, Sidney Jones is questionable at best, and while Malcolm Jenkins isn’t on the injury report, he’s out here with a dang cast on his hand. Not great when you have to face Drew Brees in the dome.
Andre: Eagles. Brees has only one interception, has been sacked only nine times and has completed 77 percent of his passes. He also loves to use his running backs and the Eagles have allowed the ninth-most receiving yards to backs this year. All of that said, I’m taking the Eagles to cover the spread. Carson Wentz is quietly having a very strong season and the largest margin of defeat for Philly this year is only seven points.
Ricky: Saints. This is the first time since December 2015 that the Eagles are road underdogs of seven or more points, which gives me reason for pause — until I remember how many injuries Philadelphia is dealing with and how awesome New Orleans has been in nearly every facet of the game.
Minnesota Vikings at (-3) Chicago Bears, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Bears. The Vikings still struggle in pass-blocking situations (ranked 31st by Pro Football Focus) and have looked their most vulnerable against the Rams, Saints, Eagles and Bills, all of which have good defenses — and those units pale in comparison to what the Bears are capable of doing.
Andre: Bears. The Bears are great at stopping the run and have allowed 3.6 yards per carry. The Vikings haven’t run the ball well this year. Although Dalvin Cook rushed for 89 yards on 10 carries in the Vikings’ last game, it was against the Lions’ awful rush defense. Otherwise, Cook was averaging fewer than three yards per carry. Chicago should slow him down and force Kirk Cousins to throw the ball a ton.
Ricky: Vikings. Minnesota has turned things around defensively thanks to some schematic changes. The return of three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen also is huge. Mitchell Trubisky has been excellent at times in his second season with the Bears, but he’s still a young quarterback and susceptible to sputtering against good defenses. Offensively, the Vikings should find success thanks to Cook’s return, particularly in the screen game.
MONDAY, NOV. 19
Kansas City Chiefs at (-3.5) Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. The Rams, like most great offenses, are best slowed by a good offense on the other side of the field. K.C. might be the best one L.A. has seen all season, and I expect the Chiefs to feature the run game against a Rams defense that’s allowed a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry this season.
Andre: Rams. The Chiefs have the 32nd-ranked rush defense, according to Pro Football Focus. That awful rush defense has to go up against Todd Gurley. Also, the Chiefs have beat up on some pretty bad competition lately with wins over the Cardinals, Browns, Broncos, Bengals, Jaguars, Broncos again and 49ers.
Ricky: Rams. There could be a ton of points scored in this game. Obviously. And if that’s the case, I’ll take the defense I trust more to come up with a big stop late in the game. The Rams. Los Angeles’ ability to pressure Patrick Mahomes early and often could be the recipe to slowing Kansas City’s offense — to some extent, at least.