In NFL Week 11, Neil Harvey's expecting Oakland to reach new heights in the altitude of Mexico City, but is predicting less air miles than usual for Aaron Rodgers against the Redskins...
"Given that Green Bay rely frequently on the deep ball, something Washington have defended well, I strongly fancy that Aaron Rodgers will struggle to reach his quote of 290.5 passing yards, even if his team fall behind."
Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins
4-5 Green Bay head to Washington in dire need of a win against the 5-2-1 Redskins. A lot's been said about the Packers needing Aaron Rodgers to get back to his best form in order for Green Bay to turn things around. The stats though suggest he's not playing that badly. His passer rating is on a par with last year, as are his number of touchdowns. The only cause for concern is the number of interceptions, which is a touch high. That could be from being less accurate, or more likely I suspect from him having to chase games more often and more desperately.
For me though, the true cause of Green Bay's malaise is their defense, which is conceding 8.2 yards per pass (third worst in the league) and is also the only unit in the NFL to have not yet forced a fumble against the run. Actually, the Packers rank quite highly in run defense. I'd argue though that's because they've faced few quality running backs. And when they have, they've struggled, such as last week when DeMarco Murray gashed them for 123 yards, or Week Six, when Ezekiel Elliot ran riot for 158 yards.
Washington's running game is led by Rob Kelley, a strong, burly athlete in the mould of Marshawn Lynch, who's put up 87 yards and 97 yards in two starts to date, from 21 and 22 carries respectively. He's impressed in a short space of time and made the job of lead back his own. So his quotes of 17.5 carries and 75 yards both look worth going high on.
I suspect the bulk of the touchdowns though will come through the air for both sides. The Packers have thrown 22 of their 25 TDs. And with the relatively slender James Starks now starting at running back, there's no reason to think they'll stop going aerial in the red zone. A whole plethora of Green Bay receivers stand to benefit, but there's one particular who catches my eye. The Redskins don't give up many big passing plays and that makes Randall Cobb, Green Bay's short range receiver of choice, a great shout to add to his three TDs for the season.
Given that the Packers rely often a lot on the deep ball, something Washington have defended well, I strongly fancy that Aaron Rodgers will struggle to reach his quote of 290.5 passing yards, even if his team fall behind. And if Green Bay find themselves ahead late in the game, then they are sure to run down the clock through Starks, which makes that bet look even safer. Likewise, the quote of 82.5 receiving yards for Jordy Nelson, who's heavily reliant on catching deep balls, looks well worth opposing.
Despite playing for several games without a genuine running back, Green Bay still average a healthy 4.6 yards per carry. James Starks is an agile runner who gives their attack a real edge now and he should be offered plenty of opportunities to prove himself early on. He rushed for 33 yards on seven attempts last week. But that was a combination of being eased back after injury, and Green Bay having to abandon the run after falling 21 points behind in the first quarter. Starks should see plenty more action though this time round.
Kirk Cousins leads the NFL's third ranked passing unit and is expected to make short work of a Packers' defensive unit that's been in disarray of late. Jordan Reed is as good as they come at tight end and could easily be Washington's leading receiving here. He's also a big end zone target and decent value for the first score.
But let's not underestimate the value of Clay Matthews here. Matthews is expected to return from three games out injured. And it's no coincidence that Green Bay lost all three of those games. The linebacker is his team's defensive leader, and is as important to the Packers D as Rodgers is to its offense. His return should make Green Bay more organised, which boosts their chances of winning, and makes the points quote of 50.5 look inflated.
It's said discretion is the better part of valour, and so I'm going to avoid trying to pick the winner, which looks a tight call. Instead I'll go with the points total and the individual markets already mentioned.
7pts Aaron Rodgers passing yards to be Under 290.5 @ 1.9110/11
5pts Total Points to be under 50.5 @ 1.9110/11
3pts Rob Kelley rushing yards to be Over 75.5 @ 1.9110/11
3pts James Starks rushing yards to be Over 57.5 @ 1.9110/11
3pts Rob Kelley rush attempts to be Over 17.5 @ [5/6]
3pts Jordy Nelson receiving yards to be Under 82.5 @ 1.9110/11
3pts Jordan Reed receiving yards to be Over 67.5 @ 1.9110/11
1pt Jordan Reed to score first touchdown @ [12/1]
1pt Randall Cobb to score 1st touchdown @ [11/1]
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
To the rarified air of Mexico City , which stands 7503 feat above sea level, way higher than any NFL venue. The air at that altitude contains roughly 23 percent less oxygen. The argument is that this will see defensive (reactive) players tire more quickly - and create opportunities for explosive offensive players...something to bear in mind.
But will the thin air aid the throwing of Houston's Brock Osweiler? Surely it can't hurt. Houston's big money free-agent has disappointed lots of people with his performances this season. Even the Houston fans have been booing their new quarterback. Osweiler's passer rating of just 74 speaks volumes. And his record of nine TDs to seven interceptions is hardly awe inspiring.
But all that said, Osweiler has had a few moments of genuine quality. And somehow, despite him, the Texans stand proudly at the top of the AFC South at 6-3. So what's going on? Well, no prizes for guessing that it's their defense that's been bailing them out. In particular their pass defense, which has conceded just eight touchdowns - that's joint third best in the league.
But that's unlikely to be enough to save them here. The Houston pass rushers will find life much tougher against an Oakland offensive line that's protected quarterback Derek Carr like they think he's the President of the United States. Oakland's QB has been sacked just 11 times. That's the least in the NFL and explains why he's having such a fantastic season. With 700 yards and eight TDs more than Osweiler this season, Carr should play his opposite number off the field.
The two teams rushing units match up similarly for distance gained. Yet Oakland have 11 rushing scores to Houston's mere two. That suggests that Lamar Miller could pick up some decent yardage against the Raiders without hitting paydirt. Osweiler will look to receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tight end CJ Fiedorowicz in the end zone. With three touchdowns each, they've accounted for more than half of Houston's passing scores this season.
Houston could have one of their better days on offense, against an Oakland D that's been poor all round. But still the Raiders keep winning, and they should continue to do so here. Even the great Denver defense was forced to its knees, yielding 30 points to the Oakland offense. So there looks little hope of Houston doing much better.
That Denver performance was no fluke. 7-2 Oakland have scored at least 30 points in four of their last five games. Latavius Murray has eight touchdowns this season and should make hay against the soft part of the Texans' defense, it's D-Line, which has given up 10 rushing TDs. I fancy Murray to bag one from close in here and put up a hundred yards. Meanwhile, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts have been stealing the glory, with 10 receiving TDs between them. Expect Amari Cooper to put up the big yardage though, with someone else usually stealing the score at the end.
The Raiders offense looks hard to stop, and returns fresh from a bye, but their D should concede a fair few points as usual - making this another entertaining, but comfortable win for the Raider Nation.
6pts Oakland (-5.5) to beat Houston @ 1.9720/21
6pts Total Points to be Over 46.5 @ 2.0621/20
3pts Oakland to score Over 26.5 points @ [20/23]
3pts Houston to score Over 21.5 points @ [11/10]
2pts Latavius Murray to score 1st touchdown @ 7.5013/2
4pts Latavius Murray to score anytime touchdown @ [21/20]
3pts DeAndre Hopkins to score anytime touchdown @ [17/10]
3pts Latavius Murray rushing yards to be Over 57.5 @ [5/6]
3pts Lamar Miller rushing yards to be Over 68.5 @ [5/6]
3pts Amari Cooper receiving yards to Over 61.5 @ [5/6]
Profit and Loss Record
Staked: 248 pts
Returned: 287.06 pts
Staked: 261 pts
Returned: 295.21 pts