NFL Week 11 Preview – The Wild Card Hunt: Now or Never

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10 weeks of the 2015 NFL season are already done with, and it is pretty clear who are the play-off contenders and who are only fighting for the honor. It is the last week with teams on bye - New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are taking a breather.

12 teams came into the Week 11 with four victories. Each of them still has a chance to compete for a play-off spot, but they must start winning and rise to the positive record zone if they want to at least stay in the hunt for a wild card.

Week 11 began with the Tuesday Night Football match between two AFC South divisional rivals. Jacksonville Jaguars won against Tennessee Titans at home - the Jaguars’ sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles led his team to two back-to-back victories. At the end of the match, the Titans had a chance to win if they had managed a successful attack with a touchdown, but they fumbled the ball and the Jaguars secured a victory. The Jacksonville team improved to 4-6 and they are just a half win behind Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, who both share a 4-5 result and the first place in the AFC South.

Still, the best of NFL Week 11 is yet to come in Sunday matches:

Green Bay Packers (6-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

At the start of the season, no one had any doubts about the Green Packers becoming the NFL North champions for the fifth year in a row. The Packers started this year with an impressive 6-0 run, while their closest divisional rivals Minnesota Vikings lost two of the first four matches. But after the bye week in Week 7, the Packers lost three straight games and dropped to a 6-3, while the Vikings, starting from the Week 5, won all five games and improved to 7-2, leaving the Packers in the 2nd place.

In the Week 8 loss against Denver Broncos, the Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers threw for a career-low 77 passing yards and no TD. While in the next 2 games he surpassed 300 yards both times and has thrown a total of 6 TD, the Packers still lost against Carolina Panthers and, unexpectedly, against the Detroit Lions at Lambo Field.

This Sunday will show who is who in the NFL North. The Vikings are coming into the Week 11 as the least penalized team in the NFL. They have won all four home matches this season, and while the sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater is inconsistent, the Minnesota team has Adrian Peterson.

The veteran running back is leading the league with 961 rushing yards. He is also the best in yards per carry after the contact. Last week in Oakland, Peterson had his 6th career game with 200+ rushing yards and he is not going to stop. The Vikings’ defense has also been consistently good. They've allowed only 17.1 points per game, which is the second best result in the league. Last week against Raiders, the Minnesota secondary looked impressive. 

Still, it is too early to write off the Packers. The Green Bay has been doing a solid job protecting the ball. They are leading the league with only six giveaways (the Vikings are also pretty careful - they have lost the ball only 9 times - tied for the 4th best result in the league).

The QB Aaron Rodgers has been missing his deep threat targets for the most of this season, but now the sophomore wideout Davante Adams is back. Last week, Rodgers targeted Adams for astonishing 21 times and while he failed to impress with 10 catches and only 79 yards, it still shows that the QB has trust in his young receiver on the other side of the field from the 4th year wideout Randall Cobb.

Teams will play each other on Week 17 in Green Bay, but it may be too late for one of them, so this Sunday game may determine who will be the king of NFC North.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting a marginal Vikings’ victory. It is hard to see the Packers losing a 4th game in a row, but it may be the case as the Vikings are young and ambitious. They smell blood in the water and they will fight with double the effort this week.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (7-2)

This week in Sunday Night Football match the Cardinals will host the Bengals who suffered their first loss of the season last week when they unexpectedly got beaten at home by the mediocre Houston Texans. The Bengals and their QB Andy Dalton will seek redemption, but it may be a long shot as the Cardinals have already proven that they are the real deal.

Last week, the Cardinals won one of the most important matches this season when they beat the NFC West divisional rivals Seattle Seahawks on their own turf. This win was a huge step towards the NFC West champion’s title. The Cardinals are on a three game winning streak, and they will try to continue it with a home win against Bengals.

Arizona's QB is Carson Palmer who spent first seven years of his career in Cincinnati. His breakout with the team was not the most pleasant one (he requested trade, but was first denied and became Andy Dalton's backup) so he will do everything he can in order to hand the Bengals their second loss of the season. After struggling with several injuries in past years, Palmer is finally healthy this season and it was a big year for the veteran QB. His quarterback rating is best in the league and he has thrown 23 TD passes - second in the NFL after the Tom Brady.

The Cincinnati team is led by the QB Andy Dalton who was having his best season of the career. NFL experts even began to talk that Dalton finally matured and that he is ready to lead the Bengals to his first ever play-off victory. But lately Dalton began to struggle once again. There were warning signs in the Week 8 match against Pittsburgh Steelers, when he threw 1TD with 2 interceptions although he did rebound at the end of the match and led the team. However, during the last week's match against the Texans he threw for a season low 197 passing yards with no TD and the Bengals lost 6-10.

The voices of the Dalton's critics have become louder once again. Can he silence them with an on-the-road victory against the tough Cardinals team?

Prediction and Pick: TonyBet is expecting the Cardinals’ victory by 5 points. The Cardinals are clear favorites to win this match but the Bengals are one of the most talented teams in the league. If they can beat the Cardinals this Sunday, they will make a loud statement.

Buffalo Bills (5-4) @ New England Patriots (9-0)

Week 11 will conclude with Monday Night Football and a classical AFC East rivalry between the Bills and the Patriots. These two teams already met in the Week 2 match in Buffalo, and the Patriots found their way to an on-the-road victory with the result of 40-32.

The defending Super Bowl champions Patriots are one of the two still undefeated teams together with the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots are looking unstoppable with a staggering 33.7 points per game, which is the best record in the NFL.

The QB Tom Brady was efficient all season long. His passes were only picked off three times this season, he is leading the league with 3043 passing yards and 24 passing TDs while he also ran for 2 more TDs by himself.

The New England team has lost their top wide receiver Julian Edelman and the pass catching running back Dion Lewis to injuries, but the roster is solid enough to replace them, and the Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick is known for his ability to get the best possible results from average players.

Buffalo Bills have won their last two games and finally raised their record to a positive 5-4. Last week they won an important divisional road game against New York Jets, and they will try to do the very same thing this week.

The new head coach Rex Ryan has found the way to ignite the team's passion for victory. The Bills are looking really good when their key players are on the field. The dual-threat QB Tyrod Taylor expanded Buffalo team’s offensive arsenal. He is 3rd in rushing yards per game among the quarterbacks.

The star running back LeSean McCoy is having a solid year and the rookie RB Karlos Williams was a solid change of pace option. The sophomore wideout Sammy Watkins is a real threat when he is on the field. All these players struggled to stay healthy this season, but now they are all ready to challenge the Patriots.

Still, it may be a mission impossible as the Patriots have won all five home games by at least a touchdown difference. Last week the Patriots won a super tough road match in New York against the Giants, and this victory boosted team confidence even more.

Pick and prediction: TonyBet is predicting the Patriots’ victory by 7 points. Despite of all the talent, it is hard to see the Bills coming victorious out of Boston – the Patriots are just too good, Tom Brady is too efficient, and Bill Belichick is one of the greatest masterminds in football.

Denver Broncos (7-2) @ Chicago Bears (4-5)

A few weeks ago this match would have been considered a boring one-way-traffic duel with two different caliber teams, but lately, a lot has changed.

Denver Broncos were one of the four 7-0 teams, but now it seems that it was a 100 years ago. Last week, the Broncos' QB Peyton Manning surpassed the NFL passing yards lead, but it wasn't the night he will want to remember. He completed only 5 of 20 passes for a total of 35 yards with a league highest four interceptions. Finally he got benched in favor of the backup QB Brock Osweiller, but the team still couldn't avoid a home loss against the AFC West divisional rivals Kansas City Chiefs.

Now the Broncos are 7-2, and on a two game losing streak. This week Osweiller will begin the match against the Bears and it will be his first career start. While the young QB is excited and the NFL experts unanimously agree that at the moment it is right decision to bench Manning who is suffering from a bunch of small injuries, Osweiller’s lack of experience will come in handy for the Bears.

After the 0-3 start including the 0-26 loss in Seattle, Chicago Bears were written off as one of the worst teams in the league, but since then something happened. Starting from the Week 4, they won four out of six matches and both loses were only by 3 points. With a 4-5 record, the Bears even have a long shot chance to fight for a spot in the NFC play-offs.

The QB Jake Cutler last week led the team to a road victory against the tough St. Louis Rams defense and threw a season high 3 TDs. While a few weeks ago the Bears lost their star running back Matt Forte due to a sprained MCL, he was successfully replaced by the rookie RB Jeremy Langford who added explosiveness scoring 3TD and averaging 162 scrimmage yards in the last two games.

The Bears are on an upwards wave, and the Broncos are on the downswing. Still, let's not forget that the Broncos have one of the best defense in the league so we can expect an intriguing duel in Chicago.

Prediction and pick: TonyBet is predicting the Bears’ victory by 1-2 points. The outcome of this match can be decided by the performance of the Broncos’ defense. If they will be able to manage the defensive dominance that we saw at the beginning of the season, it can be hard for the Bears to score the points.

Other Sunday matches:

New York Jets (5-4) @ Houston Texans (4-5) - Last week, the Jets lost an important home match against the divisional rivals Bills. After an impressive 4-1 start they won only one of four last games and they need to go back to winning if they want to hold on to their play-off hopes. The Texans started 1-4, but lately won three out of four and are real contenders for the AFC south championship. Unfortunately, the Texans’ QB Bryan Hoyer will most likely miss this match due to a concussion and the backup QB T.J. Yates will start for the Houston team.

Indianapolis Colts (4-5) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-3) – The Colts lost their QB Andrew Luck for an unclear period of time (two to five weeks), but the backup veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck has already proven that he knows how to win - the Colts have won both matches with Hasselbeck under center this season.

Still, it won't be easy in Atlanta. After the 5-0 start, the Falcons began to crumble but the duo of the QB Matt Ryan and the wideout Julio Jones are one of the best offensive tandems in the league. Add the explosive RB Devonta Freeman into the mix and you will understand why the Falcons are considered obvious favorites in this match.

St. Louis Rams (4-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-7) - Last week, the Rams lost an important match at home against the Bears, and complicated their situation in the fight for the wildcard play-off spot. After that, the team announced that they are benching the QB Nick Foles in favor of Case Keenum. It is hard to say if this change will pay off, but the Ravens were bad this season so the Rams have some hope.

Washinghton Redskins (4-5) @ Carolina Panthers (9-0) – The Panthers are the real deal. The QB Cam Newton has been truly "camtastic" this season and is one of the most likely MVP candidates. The Panthers’ defense is also impressive. Washington can also find some arguments on the defensive side of the ball, but they are struggling on the offense. The Panthers should come, see and win.

Oakland Raiders (4-5) @ Detroit Lions (2-7) – The Raiders are a young and talented team, but they are not consistent yet. Last week they couldn't find a way to score at home against the tough Vikings’ defense. The Lions are a real disaster this season, but they have shown some glimpses of hope last few weeks and they can try to challenge the Raiders at home.

Dallas Cowboys (2-7) @ Miami Dolphins (4-5) – The Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo is finally back after the collarbone injury which he suffered in Week 2, but it may be a bit too late, as the Dallas team lost all seven games without him. The Cowboys must win in Miami with Romo at the center if they want to keep at least a theoretical hope of making it to the playoffs. Miami is an inconsistent mess this season, so everything is in hands of the Cowboys.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) - 2015 NFL draft 1st pick QB Jameis Winston is improving his game every week. The Bucs may not be a play-off team yet, but they have shown some progress. Still, in the city of brotherly love, they stand no chance against the Eagles who are fighting for the top spot in the NFC East. The home team must win even with the backup QB Mark Sanchez under center.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) @ San Diego Chargers (2-7) – The AFC West matchup of two struggling teams. The Chiefs found their game at last in the last few weeks and are on a three game winning streak. They must be full of confidence after the last week’s win in Denver, although they still have plenty of problems on the both sides of the ball. But the Chargers are simply worse. The San Diego team has been consistently bad - they have lost five matches in a row and the Chiefs will try to extend that streak.

San Francisco 49ers (3-6) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-5) – A few years ago it was the most intriguing match for the NFC West champions title, and now it is the battle of the NFC West outsiders. The Cardinals have a firm lead in this division, and all the other teams are fighting for the 2nd place and have slim hopes of making it to the wild card match.

Blain Gabbert started last week for San Francisco while the former star QB Colin Kaepernick was benched, and it will stay this way once again in Seattle. The home team is also looking pretty bleak this season, but they should beat the 49ers and secure their 5th victory.

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