Week 11 in the NFL is loaded with tremendous matchups; this article breaks down the Cowboys at the Chiefs, the Cardinals at the Seahawks, the Packers at the Vikings, and the Saints at the Eagles, while Part Two of The Professor’s NFL Games of the Week will analyze the Colts at the Bills, the Steelers at the Chargers, the Bengals at the Raiders, and the Football Team at the Panthers. All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Dallas Cowboys at Kansas City Chiefs (KC -2.5, Total 56.5)
There have been several instances in the first half of the NFL season where the Chiefs were -2.5 on the look-ahead lines against a top opponent, only to see that number flip by Monday morning, with the Green Bay line before the Aaron Rodgers COVID announcement serving as the most recent example. When Dallas blew out Atlanta to the tune of 43-3, it appeared that would happen once again, but then Sunday Night Football happened.
Kansas City did put up video game numbers against Philadelphia earlier in the season, which makes it difficult to be certain about this offense until they put together consecutive performances, but all signs were positive for quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the Kansas City offense on Sunday. This offense always had the talent to excel; the right tackle position has been an issue, but they have a great group from left tackle to right guard, and Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are two of the NFL’s most talented skill players.
It was always a matter of cleaning up mistakes and taking what the defense gave them; once Mahomes did that, the big plays occurred organically. He’ll need to maintain that performance against a Dallas defense coming off an outstanding game that saw all three cornerbacks from their nickel package (Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis) come up with interceptions.
The Dallas offense should have a bigger edge over the Kansas City defense, though the much-maligned Kansas City unit has improved in recent weeks. Second-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has emerged as a consistent playmaker, teaming with star safety Tyrann Mathieu in the back end to give them a pair of players who make plays on the ball. Dak Prescott and company will provide a stiff test of whether Kansas City has improved enough to get this team back into Super Bowl contention; how pass rushers Chris Jones and Frank Clark perform against the Cowboys’ loaded offensive line will go a long way in determining how this matchup goes.
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (ARI -2.5, Total 48)
Arizona dug their grave early against the Panthers as they watched former Cardinal/current Panther Haason Reddick get a strip-sack on their first drive before they failed to convert on fourth down on their second. Seattle had a more drawn-out death that was no less agonizing; the Seahawks were shut out and the Packers pulled away late for a 17-0 victory.
Quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins have been absent for the past two games, but the Cardinals have gone 1-1 while the Rams have gone 0-2 in that period, so Arizona remains in control of the NFC West. They can afford to rest Murray for this game given the circumstances if he’s not completely ready to go, though the latest indications are that Murray is on track to play, which will make this one of the NFL weekend’s marquee matchups.
At 3-6, the Seahawks are in a more desperate situation. Whether or not Murray is at quarterback for the Cardinals, expect Russell Wilson to rebound from last week’s brutal outing with a standout performance in a game that borders on a must-win for Seattle. Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy has had an excellent season but rookie Marco Wilson will be hard-pressed to contain D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett regardless of which Seattle receiver lines up against him. The Cardinals could negate that advantage if the Seahawks don’t have left tackle Duane Brown available; Brown left Sunday’s game against the Packers, and his absence would create a prime opportunity for Cardinals pass rusher, Chandler Jones.
Seattle wouldn’t be completely out of the NFC playoff race at 3-7 but would likely need to run the table if they end up in that spot. This week’s game would put them back in the thick of the race and leave room for error; I expect a desperate Seattle team to find a way in this one.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (GB -2, Total 49)
Green Bay’s offense was out of sync as quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned to the field without the benefit of practice but the Packers still got a win against Seattle as the defense pitched a shutout. The win puts Green Bay in prime position to essentially clinch the NFC North in this weekend’s game against the Vikings, but as the Chargers discovered last week, Minnesota isn’t going down easily.
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had one of the NFL’s best performances of the season in last weekend’s win and will likely draw Packers rookie cornerback Eric Stokes, who has followed number one receivers when the Packers elect to match their corners up. Adam Thielen provides a formidable threat as well, but Jefferson is the twitchier, more explosive athlete of the two, and Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry may want to deploy Stokes’ elite athleticism in an SEC alum matchup that would pit an LSU Tiger against a Georgia Bulldog.
Both teams need to shut down the run game and allow their safety tandems to play two-deep to help contain the opposition’s talented receivers; Green Bay’s A.J. Dillon and Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook are very different running backs, but both have been highly effective in recent weeks and it will be a priority for both defenses to shut them down so they can give their cornerbacks help over the top. If the respective run games do get going and the defenses are forced into single-high safety looks, it could be a field day on sideline vertical routes for Jefferson, Thielen, and Green Bay’s Davante Adams.
Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari is progressing in his return from an ACL tear and would give the Packers a huge boost in this game if he is in the starting lineup. Not only is Bakhtiari one of the premier left tackles in the game, but his return would allow Elgton Jenkins, who has been solid filling in for Bakhtiari at tackle, to return to his usual left guard position, where Jenkins is one of the NFL’s dominant players. It’s a must-win for the Vikings to have a shot at the NFC North; expect a close battle.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (PHI -1, Total 43)
It’s truly remarkable to watch the offensive coaching staffs of teams such as the Eagles and Bears operate next to a unit like Sean Payton’s Saints. As Payton smoothly transitioned through two more new quarterbacks in what has become a revolving door over the past three seasons, the Eagles and Bears took months to deploy their quarterbacks as if they were among the NFL’s best athletes and could transform the team by contributing with their legs.
Whether the Eagles would be better than 4-6 if they had employed this run-heavy approach earlier is debatable given their competition, but the formula is working now and should only get better as their best running back, Miles Sanders, returns to the lineup this week. The space and hesitation that Hurts creates in the run game has allowed Jordan Howard and Boston Scott to post standout numbers; Sanders should only boost that production.
New Orleans currently sits at 5-4, which makes this a critical game for both teams as they attempt to position themselves in an NFC Wild Card race that became more crowded when the 49ers beat the Rams on Monday Night Football. The Saints would get a significant boost if running back Alvin Kamara can return for this game but will have a strong chance regardless if their defense continues to be one of the NFL’s best. The matchup between the Philadelphia offensive line and New Orleans defensive front will be one to watch; the Eagles have a freak athlete in Jordan Mailata at left tackle who has been susceptible to high-level hand combat techniques in pass protection, which could leave him vulnerable if he faces Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. This will be a proving ground game in the NFC; Trevor Siemian probably isn’t a candidate for the long-term starting gig in New Orleans, but stranger things have happened in the NFL, and this is certainly the type of game where Jalen Hurts could establish himself as the Eagles’ quarterback moving into 2022.
This article previewed four prominent NFL matchups for the coming week. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out The Professor on BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.
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