NFL WEEK 11: Things change drastically in the NFL from week to week, and the best laid plans and surest of bets can fall to pieces with the snap of a bone or the pop of a hamstring. Two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Bengals were roundly viewed as one of the AFC’s top Super Bowl contenders after four straight wins, the final two of which came over playoff contenders San Francisco and Buffalo. But as we sit here today, after two straight Bengals losses and a disastrous wrist injury to starting QB Joe Burrow that will force him to miss the rest of the season, it’s clear that Cincinnati’s only chance at Super Bowl LVIII is through the ticket gate.

Burrow’s injury occurred in Thursday night’s 34-20 loss to Baltimore, and it sets the Ravens up as clear favorites in the AFC North. The victory came with a steep price, however, as Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, was lost for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury after Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson took him to the ground with the soon-to-be-outlawed “hip drop” tackle. The AFC seems to be lacking any truly elite teams at the moment with Kansas City struggling on offense and division leaders like Jacksonville and Miami having looked totally inferior against top NFC competition, but we have a long way to go in this season– eight more grueling weeks– and the battle of attrition has only begun.

In the meantime, I’ll try to stay healthy by not falling off the couch and try to get rich by following my intuition. This week, the trusty ole intuition has led me to these four:

Los Angeles Chargers @ Green Bay Packers (LA -3, 43.5)

Recommendation: Los Angeles -3 at 2.0

Despite a talented defensive front seven that can wreak havoc in the backfield and apply serious pressure to the quarterback (31 sacks, third-most in NFL), the Chargers have been utterly unable to stop competent offenses, surrendering 41 points to Detroit in a narrow loss last week, 31 to Kansas City in a Week 7 loss, 36 to Miami in yet another early-season loss… good quarterbacks are lighting up the LA secondary and putting tremendous pressure on Justin Herbert and the excellent Chargers offense to keep pace. We did say “competent” offenses, however, and “good” quarterbacks, which are descriptors I definitely wouldn’t use for this Packers offense and their young signal-caller Jordan Love. The Pack have now scored 20 points or fewer in 7 straight games, losing 5 of those contests. The Chargers may have a sub-.500 record, but make no mistake, they know what to do against teams like Green Bay– see their 27-6 win over New York in Week 9 or their 30-13 dismantling of Chicago in Week 8 for reference. Green Bay’s defense isn’t good enough to stop the Chargers from running up and down the field, and the Packers offense isn’t good enough to run up and down the field on anybody. That’s the bottom line here.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns (CLE -1, 33)

Recommendation: Cleveland -1 at 1.91

The Steelers, somehow, some way, are 6-3. Their Week 2 win over these Browns was emblematic of their season thus far: they produced an anemic 255 total yards of offense and were badly outgained (408-255), and yet, thanks to four Cleveland turnovers and a gruesome Nick Chubb knee injury, they won, with T.J. Watt returning a 4th quarter Deshaun Watson fumble for the decisive TD. But here we are in Week 11, and here I am back on planet reality. Pittsburgh has a putrid offense led by one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks. The Browns have the NFL’s best defense, a dominant unit that is allowing a mere 242.7 total yards per game, some 30 fewer than 2nd-ranked Baltimore. While the quarterback situation in Cleveland is sketchy (this week it’ll be rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson making his second start of the season), the Browns continue to be one of the NFL’s best rushing teams, ranking second in the league with 147.9 ypg on the ground, and the Pittsburgh defense struggles to stop the run, surrendering 131.2 ypg (25th in NFL) and a robust 4.5 yards per carry. It’s a recipe for success for the Browns, who should be able to pick up a crucial win in front of the home fans.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills (BUF -7, 39.5)

Recommendation: Buffalo -7 at 1.93

The sky is falling in Buffalo, and any pretense from the coaching staff and front office that everything was fine went out the window this week when offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was fired and Joe Brady was given the reins of an offense that was supposed to be among the NFL’s best but has faltered badly. Brady might get things figured out– it certainly helps that he has pieces in place like Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs– but it’ll be tough sledding this week against a solid New York defense that is hovering around the top-10 in most statistical categories. That said, the Jets are absolutely awful on offense thanks in large part to the abysmal play of QB Zach Wilson, and they’re obviously out of answers on that side of the ball, having failed to reach the end zone in either of their last two games, losses to the Chargers and Raiders. The Buffalo defense has been decimated by injuries but it’s still an above-average unit that should be able to totally shut down the feeble Wilson-led Jets attack, and so unless the New York defense can create some turnovers and possibly even score themselves, I just can’t envision the Jets staying within a touchdown. This is the perfect opponent at the perfect time for Buffalo.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Kansas City Chiefs (KC -2.5, 46)

Recommendation: Philadelphia +2.5 at 2.03

The marquee matchup of this Week 11 is undoubtedly the Monday nighter– not only is it a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl, which Kansas City won in thrilling fashion, but it’s also a clash of two teams at the head of their respective conferences this season, giving us another compelling chapter in a budding rivalry. These aren’t the same teams that met in February, however, and in my humble opinion they have moved in opposite directions since that time. The Chiefs, despite their 7-2 record, have regressed badly on the offensive side of the ball. While the Mahomes-to-Kelce connection is still strong, the receiving corps apart from Kelce is inconsistent and utterly nonthreatening, and as a result the offense has produced far fewer big plays downfield, fewer yards, and fewer points than in years past. If not for a soft schedule that has included 5 losing teams in their past 7 games, the Chiefs would’ve been exposed by now as just another contender in a crowded AFC race, as opposed to the leader of the pack. The Eagles, meanwhile, have been playing like the best team in football for two months. They are third in the NFL in points scored (28.0 ppg) and are extremely balanced offensively, and their defense is tremendous up front, leading the league in rush yards allowed and ranking 5th in sacks. There’s no doubt, based on the numbers, the eye test, and anything else you can conjure up, that Philly has been the better of these two teams this season. This is a primetime game at Arrowhead Stadium, though, so it’s a tough test for the Eagles, but this feels like a great opportunity for a legitimate “statement win”, and I have a feeling that’s exactly what Nick Sirianni is telling his team. I like their chances.

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