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2011 NFL Week 11 Point Spreads & Odds

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Paris Lenon hits Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick hard on the Arizona 19-yard line during fourth quarter Arizona Cardinals-Philadelphia Eagles game action at Lincoln Financial Field November 13, 2011. Vick was injured on the play. Arizona defeated Philadelphia 21-17. UPI/John Anderson

Four spreads of note:

Jets –6 @ Broncos, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
The spread for this game has danced for three days now. It opened at Jets –5 and then dropped to 4.5. Now it’s all the way up to 6. I’d personally lay the points with New York up to 7 because I think Tim Tebow is going to have a hell of a time scoring on Rex Ryan’s defense. If he struggled three weeks ago against Detroit, then I shudder to think how he’ll fare against a pissed off New York team that New England just pounded at home. Although I don’t trust Mark Sanchez and the Jet offense as far as I can throw them, this is a perfect spot to lay the points with Ryan’s squad.

Eagles +4.5 @ Giants, 8:20PM ET
This line actually opened at Giants –3 but once word spread that Michael Vick played last week’s game with broken ribs and is now questionable for Sunday night, the spread jumped up. For betting purposes, it’s actually better if Vick does play because the line may drop back down to 3. And if that happens, jump all over the Giants, who would be a massive value. The Eagles look like they’re a team mailing it in and if they don’t feel as though they have anything to play for then they’re not going to get up for a divisional rival in November, in blustery New Jersey no less. The road team usually prospers in this matchup but now might be the perfect time to kick the Eagles while they’re down. (As long as the line doesn’t keep going up, that is. (At some point the Giants stop being a value, even against a fading Philadelphia team.)

Titans +6 @ Falcons, 4:15PM ET
This line is way too high. The Titans enter the week with an extra spring in their step following the news of Matt Schaub’s season-ending surgery. They have a perfect opportunity to catch the Texans in the AFC South if they play well and Houston folds with Matt Leinart under center. The Falcons, meanwhile, are coming off a loss in which their head coach Mike Smith blew it by going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 29-yard-line in overtime. (Which set the Saints up with primo field position.) Atlanta is a conservative team by nature and with Chris Johnson heating up the Titans should be able to keep this game close throughout.

Bengals +7 @ Ravens, 1:00PM ET
If you can figure out how the Ravens perceive the Bengals then this line should be easy to figure out. Baltimore has been playing up (Pittsburgh, NY Jets, Houston) and down (Jacksonville, Seattle, Arizona) to its competition all year. So if the Ravens view the Bengals as a team that is standing in their way of potentially winning the AFC North, then I would lay the 7 points. But if they view Cincinnati as a wounded (top corner Leon Hall is out for the year and star receiver A.J. Green is banged up) poser that didn’t have what it takes to beat Pittsburgh last week, then I’d take the points with the Bengals. Or better yet? Just lay off this game completely. I personally think that 7 points is a lot in a divisional game but if the Ravens are ticked off from their loss last week to Seattle then they could roll.

2011 NFL Week 11 Point Spreads:

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A Six-Pack of Questions: NFL Week 11

Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) signals his offensive line against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter of their NFL football game in Indianapolis November 1, 2010. REUTERS/Brent Smith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

What are some of the big questions heading into this week in the NFL?

1. Can Matt Leinart save the Texans’ season?
You almost have to feel bad for the Houston Texans. Now that they’re finally knocking on the door of their first postseason appearance, they lose starting quarterback Matt Schaub (Lisfranc surgery) for the season. The good news is that the Texans are still two wins up on the Titans in the AFC South and hey, it’s not like the NFL has never seen a backup quarterback resurgence before. Don’t forget that in this very division, Kerry Collins once stepped in for Vince Young and led the Titans to a 12-3 record and a No. 1 seed in the AFC. That said, Collins had already taken a team to the Super Bowl earlier in his career and had some success as a starter. Matt Leinart has not. He may have won a bunch of games at USC but he’s done nothing in his four years in the NFL to make you believe that he’s going to one day wake up and put it all together. In fact, he hasn’t even attempted a pass since 2009. Maybe the question for the Texans isn’t whether or not Leinart can save their season, but whether or not the duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate can rise to the challenge. Houston’s running game will be relied upon even more than it already has this season, although at some point Leinart will have to make plays. Like most people, I have my doubts about his potential to lead.

2. Can the Titans capitalize?
Tennessee has kind of gotten lost in the midst of Houston’s current four-game winning streak. But now that Leinart is taking over under center, the Titans have a realistic chance to win the division if they can play well in the second half. Chris Johnson is coming off a 130-yard effort against the Panthers and is showing signs of life for the first time all season. Matt Hasselbeck has also stayed healthy and is managing the game like the seasoned vet he is. The defense, however, has regressed. While the Titans have been stout against the run and good (not great) in coverage, their pass rush has been non-existent at times. For the Titans to beat teams like the Saints, Falcons and Bills over the next month, they’ll need to be able to rush the quarterback. But with games against the Bucs, Colts, Jaguars and Texans left on their schedule, there’s no reason the Titans can’t steal the AFC South right from under Houston’s nose. It’s really up to Tennessee to step up and string some wins together if Leinart falters.

3. Can Mike Smith and the Falcons bounce back?
That was a nasty way to lose last Sunday. While some have argued that Smith’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 29-yard-line last weekend against the Saints was a risk worth taking, the bottom line is that the move backfired. It cost the Falcons a potential victory and now they sit a game and a half back of the Saints in the NFC South. Smith’s decision is something that could come back and bite the Falcons later on once the NFC playoff picture takes shape. That said, the toughest part of Atlanta’s schedule has already been played. Tennessee, the Falcons’ opponent this Sunday, is certainly beatable, as are Minnesota, Houston, Carolina and Jacksonville (Atlanta’s four opponents before taking on New Orleans again on December 26). The Falcons close the season out at home against a Bucs team that is presently floundering, so there’s a chance they could win out if they play to their full potential. But not if they can’t put “the decision” behind them. To Smith’s credit, he hasn’t backed down from taking responsibility for the fourth down call and his players have come out in full support of their head coach. Now they just have to prove that they’re over the loss on the field.

4. Can the Chargers shake out of their funk?
The Chargers pissed away a golden opportunity to take their lead back in the AFC West when they lost to a banged up Oakland team last Thursday at home. Now they have to travel to Chicago to take on a red-hot Bears team that is playing with a ton of confidence right now. The Bolts have lost four straight and Philip Rivers isn’t carrying the team like he did a year ago. Norv Turner’s passing attack is still explosive but Rivers can’t stop turning the ball over and the running game is nowhere to be seen. On the other side of the ball, San Diego’s secondary has been suspect all season, which isn’t good considering Chicago likes to put the ball in the air. Fortunately for the Chargers nobody in the AFC West seems ready to pull away. But for confidence sake, the Bolts need to pick up a huge road win this Sunday.

5. Will the Ravens’ rebound from their horrendous loss last week?
I didn’t think the Ravens could play any worse than their 12-7 loss to the Jaguars in Week 7. And then they came out last Sunday and lost 22-17 to the Seahawks in a game they never led. The Ravens have clearly played to the level of their competition this season. They played inspired football in wins over Pittsburgh (twice), the Jets and Houston, but in losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville and Seattle the Ravens clearly thought their inferior opponents would just roll over. So how will they perceive the Bengals this Sunday? Cincinnati didn’t have what it takes to beat Pittsburgh at home last week but it did fight to the end. They’ve also played solid defense this year, although they just lost star cornerback Leon Hall to a season-ending injury. Will Baltimore view Cincinnati as a tough divisional opponent and play up to its potential or will the Ravens not take the banged up Bengals seriously and drop consecutive games for the first time all season?

6. Are the Bills finished?
If they’re not, they better be able to beat a 2-7 Miami team this Sunday. Buffalo has lost two in a row and has looked really bad in the process. The Dolphins may have started the year 0-7 but their confidence is rising with two straight wins. Still, they’re the Dolphins. They’re beatable. They’re certainly beatable when you’re a 5-4 Bills team that is trying to keep pace with the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East. This is a must win for Buffalo, especially considering New York and New England should beat Denver and Kansas City, respectively. If the Bills lose for a third straight week, then chances are this fairytale season is about to have a horrendous ending.

Falcons wise to reward Mike Smith with an extension, stay the course

I don’t fault anyone who thought the Falcons should hire two new coordinators, set fire to the Georgia Dome carpet and draft seven new defensive backs in April after the Packers torched Atlanta 48-21 in the postseason.

But that would have been an overreaction and after the Falcons went 13-3 this season, there’s no need to panic just because they were humiliated in the playoffs.

Pardon the clichéd expression but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Owner Arthur Blank had a real mess on his hands when Michael Vick was hauled off to prison and Bobby Petrino left in the middle of the night to go call hogs in Arkansas. But he made one really great decision in hiring GM Thomas Dimitroff, who then made one really great decision in hiring Mike Smith as head coach.

Smith, who has guided the Falcons to a 33-15 record in three years as head coach, was just given a well-deserved three-year contract extension. Don’t be surprised if Dimitroff were given a new deal as well, which would be smart on Blank’s part. This is a team that needs to stay the course.

The Falcons’ biggest goal is shared by all 32 teams: Win a Super Bowl. But while they want to emulate the success that the Steelers and Packers have had this season, they can’t worry about trying to model themselves after either team. The Steelers have had great defenses for decades and Ted Thompson spent years building the roster that the Packers will feature this Sunday in Arlington. Just because the Falcons aren’t in the position that Green Bay is right now doesn’t mean they need to start over.

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Smith needs to fix the Falcons’ defensive woes

Putting aside their lackluster effort Sunday in New England, the Atlanta Falcons have more than enough offensive talent to reach the Super Bowl. They have a rising superstar at quarterback in Matt Ryan, a solid back in Michael Turner and two excellent receiving weapons in tight end Tony Gonzalez and wideout Roddy White.

But the Falcons aren’t going anywhere unless Mike Smith fixes the issues on the defensive side of the ball.

Atlanta’s game plan in its loss to New England on Sunday was befuddling. They often only rushed four down linemen and allowed Tom Brady to stand back in the pocket for seconds, minutes and even hours (maybe not hours, but it sure seemed like it) on end. What should frustrate the Falcons is that Brady wasn’t very good, especially in the first half. He routinely overthrew his receivers and often failed to hit them in stride despite having loads of time to get the ball out of his hand.

I want to meet the person for the Falcons that watched the tape of the Jets’ win over the Patriots last week and decided not to attack Brady with multiple defensive fronts. I get that Atlanta didn’t want to be burned deep by Moss and was getting beat by New England’s screen passes in the first half, but why the Falcons didn’t get more aggressive in the second half is beyond me.

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