One of the most commonly asked question heading into Week 11 is proving to be one of the most difficult one to answer. Who is the best team in the NFL?
It seems the answer changes from week to week with the NFL lacking one purely dominant team. After starting the season 5-1, the Steelers were considered the crème of the crop heading into a Week 8 meeting with the New Orleans Saints. The Steelers proceeded to drop two games to the Saints and Patriots and were stripped of the title, “best team in the league.”
The honor was passed down to the New England Patriots entering Week 9 after the Pats ripped off five straight wins including victories against the Ravens and Chargers. New England was then effectively routed in Cleveland, 34-14, raising concerns while passing the torch of best in the league to a team they had defeated, the Ravens.
The Ravens inherited the throne before dropping a close game in Atlanta, 26-21, in Week 10. With New England bouncing back with an inspired victory in Pittsburg, the Jets stealing a victory in Cleveland and Michael Vick and the Eagles handing the Redskins an embarrassing loss on Monday Night Football, the answer to who is the best team in the league is murky at best. The answer appears to be shifting weekly with a new contender staking a claim to the best team in the league.
For our purposes, we’re more concerned with who is picking the most games correctly in your LIPressPicks pool. (For more details on how to enter and win weekly prizes, including a grand prize for a trip for two to Hawaii, visit LIPressPicks.com)
Percentages taken from fan voting on LI Press Picks Football Pool. Picks indicated in bold.
Chicago (6-3) (49% picked) @ Miami (5-4) (51% picked)
Did anyone have a more costly win than the Dolphins had last week against the Titans? While the Dolphins managed to come out of the game with a win, they lost QB Chad Pennington, QB Chad Henne and LT Jake Long to injuries. If entering a game with third-string QB Tyler Thigpen wasn’t bad enough, the Dolphins and Bears square off in a Thursday night matchup, limiting the time the Dolphins have to prepare with a new QB. The Dolphins will have to be creative as running the ball against the Bears defense may prove to be a difficult task; the Bears enter the game allowing 82.3 yards per game on the ground, good for 2nd best in the league.
Buffalo (1-8) (14% picked) @ Cincinnati (2-7) (86% picked)
The Bills come off their first victory of the year with an impressive running attack accumulating 151 yards on 4.6 yards per carry. The Bengals are inadequate in stuffing the run, surrendering 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. Expect the Bills to come out running the ball against one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
Detroit (2-7) (14% picked) @ Dallas (2-7) (86% picked)
Back from the dead, Big-D triumphed through multiple blackouts at the new Meadowlands Stadium to earn interim head coach, Jason Garett, his first NFL victory as a head coach. Dallas now plays host against Detroit, who managed to throw a two-point conversion that could have tied their game with Buffalo last week, out of the end zone. The Lions enter the game rushing a mere 81.1 yards a game and unless the Lions can establish the run, Dallas will disrespect the run and relentlessly pursue the QB.
Oakland (5-4) (10% picked) @ Pittsburgh (6-3) (90% picked)
Are the Steelers are doomed to repeat history? Last season, the Steelers started off 6-2 and proceeded to lose five consecutive games while missing the playoffs and are in the same position this year. One of those losses last year came against the Raiders but is the same to be said for this year? The Raiders enter the game as one of the hottest teams in the league and the Steelers will not be surprised by the Raiders this time around. The Steelers will be determined to display they are not mimicking their 2009 collapse by sporting the NFL’s best run defense against a Raiders team dependent on establishing the run.
Houston (4-5) (11% picked) @ NY Jets (7-2) (89% picked)
The Texans biggest issue remains their league-worst defense and following a heartbreaking, last second loss on a Hail Mary pass from the Jags, the Texans enter a tough game Sunday in New York. The Jets are coming off two straight OT victories and are winners of seven of their last eight contests. Following the Texans, the Jets have tough road games against AFC contenders looming in Week 13 in New England and Week 15 in Pittsburgh.
Cleveland (3-6) (38% picked) @ Jacksonville (5-4) (62% picked)
Nobody wants to face the Cleveland Browns heading into the second half of the season and the Jaguars need to avoid a letdown following one of the greatest Hail Mary passes in league history. The Browns come off a tough OT loss to the Jets, ending a two game win streak with victories over the Patriots and Steelers.
Baltimore (6-3) (98% picked) @ Carolina (1-8) (2% picked)
There’s no shame in losing a close game in Atlanta and the Ravens look to rebound this week against one of the league’s worst in Carolina.
Washington (4-5) (13% picked) @ Tennessee (5-4) (87% picked)
Rumors has it that former Mets GM brokered the five-year, $78 million contract the Redskins gave to the aging Donovan McNabb. How will the Redskins recover following their 59-28 loss at home on national television? The Titans need to exploit a Redskins defense that allowed a mind-boggling, 592 yards of total offense last week after dropping two straight against the Chargers and Dolphins.
Arizona (3-6) (6% picked) @ Kansas City (5-4) (94% picked)
The Chiefs come off a shellacking of their own, being embarrassed 49-29 by Denver last week and enters this week against a Cardinals team in QB disarray. With no solid mainstay at QB, the Cardinals feature a passing attack that’s only mustering 181.2 yards through the air. The Chiefs bring the NFL’s best rushing team with 165.3 yards on the ground against a Cardinals team giving up 132.4 yards on the ground a game.
Green Bay (6-3) (78% picked) @ Minnesota (3-6) (22% picked)
Brett Favre and the Vikings continue their downward spiral against a Packers team on the mend. In the final meeting between the two teams, Brett Favre could be facing the Packers for the last time in his career.
Atlanta (7-2) (90% picked) @ St. Louis (4-5) (10% picked)
Atop ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings, the Falcons are the popular pick for “the best team in the lague” at the moment. It only would make sense, then, that the Falcons suffer a New England-type letdown against the Browns this week when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams.
Seattle (5-4) (4% picked) @ New Orleans (6-3) (96% picked)
A USC reunion is brewing as reports indicate that Saints RB Reggie Bush will return from injury against his old college coach, Pete Carroll. Seattle is abominable at defending the pass (272.2 yards per game) and visit a New Orleans team that is slinging the ball around to the tune of 276.2 yards per game.
Tampa Bay (6-3) (66% picked) upset by San Francisco (3-6) (34% picked) after three TD’s were brought back by penalties last week by the Niners. QB Troy Smith is establishing himself after bringing his team back against the Rams despite the erased TDs.
Indianapolis (6-3) (34% picked) falls short in New England (7-2) (66% picked) in another classic matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
San Diego (4-5) (83% picked) will continue to roll against Denver (3-6) (17% picked) following the Chargers current two game winning streak.
Philadelphia (6-3) (74% picked) has Michael Vick and the NY Giants (6-3) (26% picked) must figure out a way to stop the new and improved QB. The Eagles are going to have to break the bank open following Vick’s impressive play in 2010 and an aging McNabb receiving a brand new contract. Show Vick the money.