NFL Week 11 AFC North Picks: Are The Steelers Looking Past The Jaguars?
(CBS Pittsburgh) -- The AFC North has three potential playoff contenders going into Week 11. The Pittsburgh Steelers, or course, remain undefeated. And despite a few potential obstacles -- the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving being an obvious one -- they have a reasonable shot at winning out the regular season. Of course, it's never that easy, as history will attest. Only three NFL teams have completed the regular season undefeated.
The Baltimore Ravens, now 6-3, lost a little ground in the division race after falling to the Patriots in soggy Foxborough. The Cleveland Browns squeaked by the Houston Texans to pull even with the Ravens. Baltimore currently holds the tiebreaker based on their blowout win in Week 1. The Cincinnati Bengals are sit in last place, but have the talent to play spoiler in the coming weeks, with upcoming matchups against the Ravens and Steelers.
SportsLine's Kenny White, the Wizard of Odds, breaks down AFC North matchups in Week 11.
All times listed are Eastern.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Washington Football Team, Sunday, November 22, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
The Bengals, at 2-6-1, have a slightly better record than the Washington Football team, at 2-7. But Washington has a better shot at moving on to the postseason, because they play in the dismal NFC East. With the Philadelphia Eagles currently leading the division with three wins, a losing record might be enough to make the playoffs. But what does all that mean in Week 11?
"Sometimes that is hard [when you have two losing teams]," says White. "A lot of people like to throw out the losing teams, throw out the best teams and work with the teams in the middle. Some of the teams that are a little bit easier to predict. I don't mind if there's a winning record, losing record. Doesn't matter to me. I'm just going to try to match up power ratings. Right now, the Washington Football Team is plus-eight dollars to win the [NFC] East. In this game, they're a point-and-a-half favorite."
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The Bengals continue to ride Rookie of the Year candidate Joe Burrow as he puts up some impressive stats. The young quarterback already has five 300-plus yard passing games on the season. He'll face a stingy Washington defense, which, despite its losing record, boasts the NFL's best pass defense, at least in terms of yards allowed. They're giving up just 194.7 passing yards per game, one of only three teams allowing under 200 yards. Burrow struggled a bit against the Steelers last week, and faces a similarly tough challenge this week. Will he do better?
"I think Cincinnati actually has the better football team," says White. "They are a longshot to make the playoffs, obviously, because they're behind Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I'll take Cincinnati here to pull the mild upset over Washington."
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, November 22, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
The Steelers have had a few close calls this season. In fact, five of their nine wins have come by a touchdown or less. The most recent close call came against the Dallas Cowboys a couple weeks ago. Keeping their winning streak alive required a fourth-quarter comeback against a Cowboys team led by their fourth quarterback in five games.
The Steelers are favored by 10 points over the Jaguars and face an intra-division matchup with the Ravens on Thanksgiving, just four days later. "Any time you get these big favorites, they feel like they're going to win the game easily," White notes. "And you don't get the great effort that you need to. Pittsburgh let up against Dallas just a couple weeks ago as a 14-point favorite. With the Ravens on deck, that is the biggest game of the year for them. They're 9-0 right now. To finish 16-0, they yes price is plus $7.50, the no price is minus $12."
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Could the Jaguars be the spoiler for the Steelers' perfect season. The double-digit spread suggests it's unlikely. "Gardner Minshew is out. Definitely a point-and-a-half drop to Jake Luton. I think if this was a normal year, Jacksonville could have a fairly decent shot of pulling the upset. They have a 29 percent chance. And that's what a minus-10-point underdog is telling you... 29 percent."
The Steelers may be looking ahead to Ravens. But the Jaguars may already be looking ahead to next season. At 1-8, they have the NFL's second-worst record. Their offense is among the worst in the league. "Do they really want to win, or do they want Trevor Lawrence? I think they could be tanking for Trevor Lawrence."
Philadelphia Eagles @ Cleveland Browns, , Sunday, November 22, 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
The Eagles lead the NFC East, which isn't saying all that much. And a loss won't drop them out of that top spot. Still a win this week could help put some distance between them and the rest of the division. And a win over the inconsistent Browns, even as three-point underdogs, isn't that farfetched.
"They may be bad at 3-5-1, but they're still tops in the division, even after losing to the Giants last week," White points out. "Can they beat the Browns? Yes, I think they can beat the Browns this week. I think it's going to be a very close game. I think it will be right down to the wire."
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The Browns, even at 6-3, are already fighting for their playoff lives. The AFC North has a legitimate shot to put three teams into the postseason. But if it only sends two, those would likely be the Steelers and the Ravens. "[The Browns] are ninth right now in the playoff race for the NFL," says White. "And the NFL's taking seven teams right now. There always could be an adjustment they're talking about. They could add an extra playoff team. They're right on the border of making the playoffs or not."
The Eagles are coming off an ugly loss to the Giants. The Browns had to fight the weather and the Texans to get their win. And this week's matchup promises to be tough as well. Both teams need the win. "I think it's going to be a very close game" says White. "I can see the Browns winning but not covering."
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, November 22, 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Both the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans are coming off of disappointing losses. The Ravens slipped to 6-3 on a rainy night in Foxborough, against a New England Patriots team that's seemed out of sorts for weeks. The loss, their second in three games, puts them even further behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. The Titans, now 6-3, let a winnable game against the Indianapolis Colts get away from them in the second half, yielding the division lead in the AFC South. It was their third loss in four games.
This "might've been a better game three or four weeks ago, because Tennessee was 5-0, and Baltimore was 5-1," notes White. Both have gone through a little losing streak here."
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Can one of these teams turn things around? Both rely heavily on the run game. The Ravens average 164 yards per game on the ground, second best in the NFL. The Titans rely on Derrick Henry, who averages 105.1 yards per game, also second best in the NFL. While the Ravens can stop the run on defense, the Titans tend to struggle a little more. Then again, Henry bulldozed the Ravens for almost 200 yards in last year's playoff game, even as Lamar Jackson racked up almost 150 yards.
The Ravens come in as 6.5-point favorites.
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