Walk the Line: Week 11
The Falcons finally lost; there was a tie game for the first time in four years; four starting quarterbacks for high-profile teams were injured; and my record over the past four weeks is now 8-3-1. It was a big week for the NFL and this column in Week 10.
Speaking of injuries, did anyone else hear Big Ben could have actually diedfrom his injury? A dislocated rib hasn't been a documented injury of the NFL since 1998. The tables have now turned in the AFC North. Roethlisberger could be out for six weeks, making the Steelers' comeback in the division a lot more complex with Byron Leftwich at the helm.
Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Alex Smith also suffered injuries last week, all three being concussions. Although only Cutler's is relevant (Jason Campbell is expected to get the start this week against the 49ers), Smith will likely be able to start - and does it really matter for the Eagles if Vick plays or not? Eagles coach Andy Reid has to be thrilled he doesn't have to come up with an excuse of his own to replace Vick with youngster Nick Foles.
Because of the injury-rattled quarterbacks, I have to stay away from the Baltimore at Pittsburgh and Chicago at San Francisco (there isn't even a line for this game yet) matchups this week, which takes my "Matchup of the Week" up North, where Detroit hosts Green Bay.
The Packers are on a four-game win streak and are now only one game back of the Bears for the division lead. Meanwhile, the Lions looked like they were finally heading in the right direction until they lost by 10 to the Vikings last week. Their schedule doesn't get any easier the rest of the season, so a statement win against one of the NFL's best is exactly what they need to keep their hopes of a playoff berth alive.
Note: lines as of Nov. 15, via: sportsbook.ag
Matchup of the Week (6-4):
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at Detroit Lions
When the Packers win, they win in convincing fashion. Four of their six wins this season have been by double digits. As for Detroit, only one of their five losses has been within three points. I'm taking Green Bay here. Rodgers and the Packers' offense have been clicking on all cylinders and the Lions' defense is a less-than-impressive squad. As Stafford continues to struggle to score in the first half, the Pack should take an early lead and hold on to it. Packers 31, Lions 27
New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Oakland Raiders
This line is only so slim because the Raiders consistently find themselves down double digits at half-time, and then Carson Palmer racks up the garbage points in the second half to make the game appear that it isn't a blowout. But it didn't work last week against Baltimore in what was a 55-20 shellacking, and it won't work this week against the hottest team in the NFL. Brees should torch Oakland's secondary and keep this game well out of a touchdown's reach. Saints 38, Raiders 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5) at Carolina Panthers
The addition of Vincent Jackson is helping Josh Freeman become the quarterback he was supposed to be and, needless to say, Doug Martin has given the Bucs one of the best running games in the league. Tampa is hot, winning four of five with an average margin of victory of 14.25 points. On the other hand, the Panthers are struggling; they've won only two games this season. It's hard to pick against them because five of their seven losses have come by less than six points. But there isn't much of a spread here; a win for Tampa would most likely cover. Buccaneers 23, Panthers 20
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