2019 NFL Week 11 Picks & Previews: Who Will Come up Big when it Matters?

Welcome to my Week 11 NFL Picks.  Last week, I went 7-6, putting my overall record at 85-61-1 (85-62-1 with Week 11 TNF).  This week, many marquee match-ups will take place. The Patriots and Eagles have a Super Bowl LII rematch.  The next two best AFC teams in the Ravens and Texans face off. AFC South rivals in the Colts and Jaguars will battle it out in an important game for the Wild Card race.  On Monday Night Football, the underperforming Chiefs and Chargers will play an important AFC West game in Mexico. Which teams will emerge as contenders this week, and which teams will fall behind or fall flat?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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The Dolphins have won two in a row, and the Bills are a bit overrated.  But QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and his depleted offense are no match for a rising young Bills D.  Without CBs Xavien Howard and Aqib Talib, the Dolphins will also struggle to contain WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley.  The Dolphins run defense isn’t in much better shape against the RB duo of Devin Singletary and Frank Gore. The Bills will be at their best in this game, and that will make things too difficult for Miami to pull off another upset.

Upset of the Week

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I’m a believer in QB Derek Carr and the Raiders offense.  But without S LaMarcus Joyner (injured) and CB gareon Conley (traded), I’m worried that the Raiders will have trouble containing WR Tyler Boyd and the rest of Cincy’s receivers.  The young Oakland front seven has improved, but they may also struggle since they’re facing 2018’s AFC leading rusher in Joe Mixon. With help from Mixon, Boyd, and a banged-up but underrated defense, the Bengals will come out on top here and pull off a huge upset, exposing the Raiders and winning their first game of 2019.

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Expect WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and TE Vance McDonald to outmatch Cleveland’s young secondary, helping QB Mason Rudolph lead Pittsburgh to an upset victory.  With ex-Browns and current Steelers CB Joe Haden out, the Steelers secondary will also be a bit shorthanded, making things easier for QB Baker Mayfield. I do expect Cleveland to turn their season around, and this game will help build momentum.  But I think they’ll need TE David Njoku back on the field to give them the boost they need for wins and contention.
img_6209 I don’t expect much more from Washington this year, but QB Dwayne Haskins, RB Derrius Guice, and WR Terry McLaurin will thrive against a depleted Jets defense, showing promise for the future.  QB Sam Darnold will connect with WR Jamison Crowder here as usual, but he’ll have trouble connecting with his other receivers against an underrated Redskins D, causing the Jets to fall short.
img_6210 I had originally said Houston would pull off an upset here coming off the bye.  But with WR Will Fuller V and CB Bradley Roby still sidelined, I don’t think the Texans have enough in the tank for a victory here.  They should come pretty close, as the run game thrives and WR DeAndre Hopkins outmatches a strong Ravens secondary. However, QB Lamar Jackson will rely on his usual tactics as he leads the Ravens in a close one.
img_6211 Many people have said the Colts’ fate this week depends on QB Jacoby Brissett’s health.  But even with Brissett playing, I don’t think the Colts will be able to take down Jacksonville.  The Jaguars will have QB Nick Foles back to lead them. Meanwhile, the Colts will still be without WRs T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell, leaving Brissett with minimal options as Indy falls short.
img_6212 This will not be as easy for Minnesota as people think.  The Vikes are still without WR Adam Thielen, and CB Chris Harris Jr. will have WR Stefon Diggs in tight coverage throughout the game.  The Broncos run defense should be able to slow down RB Dalvin Cook as well. That will leave QB Kirk Cousins with less options, but with a lot of help from the defense, I still expect the Vikes to come out on top here.  
img_6213 The Lions run game is running out of options, as RB Kerryon Johnson is done for the year now.  Though QB Jeff Driskel will put up a slightly better game against an inexperienced Cowboys secondary, the Lions will fall short at home.  Expect Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott to be able to run all over Detroit’s weak front seven, and the rest of the offense should do alright as well.
img_6214 Tampa’s offense will put up another strong game here, especially against a Saints secondary that’s missing CB Marshon Lattimore.  But QB Drew Brees and his receivers will put up a field day against a crumbling Buccaneers secondary. Tampa’s run defense has been pretty good, but it’s their secondary that will cost them here, as WR Michael Thomas dominates.
img_6215 This Falcons offense just keeps losing weapons.  WR Mohamed Sanu was traded. TE Austin Hooper and RB Devonta Freeman are hurt.  But I think Atlanta will take one last victory lap against a weak Carolina secondary before struggling down the stretch.  The WR duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will thrive, and RB Christian McCaffrey will have another strong game as well.  But McCaffrey can’t lead the Panthers alone.
img_6216 I’m a little concerned about the 49ers right now with WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Dante Pettis, and TE George Kittle banged up.  This game will definitely be close, as QB Kyler Murray and his offense continue to succeed, even against a strong 49ers D. But San Fran will still edge out a home victory.
img_6220 The Eagles secondary has improved, but it is still no match for QB Tom Brady and his receivers.  Especially in a favorable match-up, Brady can make any receiver look like a star. The Eagles will put up a good fight, as their backfield will improve with RB Jay Ajayi in the mix and QB Carson Wentz will have a strong game.  But without WRs Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles will fall behind.
img_6218 This will be a very defense-heavy game.  The Rams offense has struggled more and more as the season progresses, and they are no match for an elite Chicago defense.  However, QB Mitch Trubisky and his offense have been even worse, and I don’t expect anything special for them in LA either. In the end, I have the Rams winning in overtime, but this will be an ugly game.
img_6219 QB Philip Rivers has declined significantly this year.  But with help of RBs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, I think he can lead LA past the Chiefs.  The Chiefs run game will struggle against DE Joey Bosa and a strong Chargers front seven. QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers will thrive as usual, but if the Chargers offense puts up a strong game all around against a flawed Kansas City defense, the Chiefs might not have enough in the tank.

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

In addition, as many of my readers are football fans living in the Boston area, I wanted to mention that I’m putting on a charity event at APEX Entertainment, where you can bowl, eat, and watch Monday Night Football as well as Gonk Knocks, my series about how my high school’s football team prepares for the season.

Go to https://www.accelevents.com/e/GonkKnocksFootballNight to buy event tickets, buy raffle tickets, bid in the silent auction, or make a straight donation.  The event will benefit the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and The Algonquin Football Boosters.

You can also text “Auction” to 201.241.4608.

 

Gonk Knocks Football Night at APEX Entertainment Confirmed

I’m proud to announce that we will be holding a Gonk Knocks and football themed charity event at APEX Entertainment to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and the ARHS Boosters.

Check out more information in this flyer:

“Gonk Knocks” Football Night Flyer

We also just posted a site for raffles, auctions, and donations.

With just your cell phone, buying tickets, submitting a donation, entering the raffle, or bidding in the silent auction is easy and can be done in several ways with the first method giving you options for all:

  • Text the word “Auction”to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to the event site where you can choose all the event options like donate, buy event or raffle tickets, or participate in the auction.
  • Go to Gonk Knocks Football Night site where you can choose all the event options like buy event or raffle tickets, select raffle items, bid on auction items, or make a donation
  • Text the word “Donate”to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to make your payment
  • Text the amount with the word donate(i.e. Donate100) to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to make your payment
  • Text“Auction” or a 3 letter raffle item code to 201.241.4608 to participate in an auction or raffle

NoteMore details will be made available for volunteers or inquiring minds like processing cash or check to do all of the above.  Please continue to check website often as additional raffle/auction items will be added/updated weekly.

I hope to see you on 11/25/2019 to raise money for charity and have fun!

Gonk Knocks S2 E7 – Setting the Tone

Episode 7 highlights Algonquin’s final practice before putting on full pads.  Check it out:

Since the team got themselves adjusted to upper pads on Tuesday, August 20, the Algonquin Tomahawks improved in all areas on Wednesday, August 21.

They started off practice by thudding it up in a series head to head match-ups known as “Set the Tone”, and as Coach Allen says, it sets the tone for practice.

One of the closest match-ups of the day was between TE and DE Joe Scangas and WR/TE and DB Derek Blanchard.

Blanchard went on to have another huge day, catching more deep balls successfully.

On offense, Jason Levin and Aidan McKenna also stood out. Levin is a versatile player who succeeded in multiple roles. McKenna has gotten more reps as a junior and made some pretty good catches. He had a great jumping catch during 11 on 11s.

Ralph Gutierrez, Nick Alessi, and Jack Rafferty also made some good catches on Wednesday.

The o-line saw significant improvement compared to Tuesday. They also tried out some new contact drills. Unfortunately, the increase in contact meant more injuries, as several T-Hawks went down.

A couple players who were resting or hurt played with OC Bill Griffin’s son Joey. Joey loves football and always spends a couple days of his summer watching the team practice.

On defense, John Fontecchio, Eli Khasabo, Brett Jolley, and others continued to shine, as they learned plenty from DC Mark Allen and Line Coach Andy Brooks.

Joey also played with his dad while the players were doing conditioning drills to end practice.

After practice, I interviewed T/DL Brett Jolley.

I also spoke with Head Coach Taylor Allen as usual.

Stay tuned to see how the T-Hawks do in full pads as they prepare for their Saturday scrimmage in the 8th and final episode of Gonk Knocks.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks S2 E6 – Thudding it Up

In Episode 5, Algonquin’s return to the field after a weekend break was highlighted.  Episode 6 moves on to Tuesday, Algonquin’s first of two days in upper pads.  Check it out:

On Tuesday, Algonquin put on uppers as well as their official practice jerseys for the first time.  These would be the jerseys they wear at their scrimmage in Clinton that they will spend the week preparing for.

Many of the players were excited to thud it up for the first time, but pads also add some extra challenges at practice.  Players must be ready for man to man action, the increase in weight on their shoulders and chest, and the pressure on the team to act like football players once uppers come on.

It took a bit for some of the players to get adjusted, but others benefitted from the pads.

The DBs saw a big improvement on Tuesday.  Eli Khasabo had some great blocks and an interception during defensive 7 on 7s.

The d-line took a bit to get adjusted to the more difficult blocking, but they enjoyed trying out some new, more physical drills and going 1 on 1 against other linemen for the first time.  They did many of these drills during defensive 7 on 7s, in which the focus is on linebackers and DBs.

We mic’d up DC Mark Allen for much of the defensive focused parts of practice.

After this, the team shifted focus to the offense.

Derek Blanchard had the 2 best catches of the day, diving for a deep ball on one play, and showing off some excellent route-running after catching another deep ball the next play.

Rafael Gutierrez and Aidan McKenna also had some nice catches.

The o-line struggled at times during their first day in upper pads despite a strong day on Monday.  But Coach Brooks was ready to move on and focus on a strong day Wednesday.

After practice, I spoke with junior captain, LB and FB Rio Ferguson, senior QB Riley Greenwald, and Head Coach Taylor Allen

Now that players have begun to get adjusted to uppers, Wednesday and Thursday will be very telling as to who’s ready to go.  Wednesday is the team’s last day on uppers.   They put on full pads on Thursday.

Stay tuned to see how they do in Episode 7 of Gonk Knocks.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

 

 

Gonk Knocks S2 E5 – Football Players or Playing Football

After a brief weekend break, players returned to practice on Monday 8/19.  Episode 5 highlights this practice.  Check it out below:

On Monday August 19th, their last day before putting on uppers, Algonquin looked great in all aspects of practice. But the coaches made sure that the players didn’t let it get to their heads as The next practice would be crucial in determining who was ready to be a football player.

The defense continued to improve. Coach Brooks was especially proud of the line performance.

For the offensive drills, the team focused on ball hand off and handling techniques. 2 standouts in the runs drills were junior captain and FB Rio Ferguson and senior RB Thiago Filadelfo. They were able to practice a lot with both of them in the backfield at the same time.

This is Thiago’s last year with the team as he will be graduating in May so it is great to see him get these opportunities to practice his skills after putting in a lot of work in the off season. The team worked the drills fast so Rio and Thiago could both benefit from the reps.

While running and handoff techniques were the focus on offensive drills, QB Riley Greenwald did throw the ball well, especially on a deep ball to WR/TE Derek Blanchard.

The team wanted to finish practice on a high note, and they were successful in doing so.

The team had practice jerseys ready to go with upper pads.

Coach Allen is learning more about his players every day and once the team puts on uppers and thuds it up a bit, things should become even more clear.

I saw Chris Ocnos back on the field. He brings a lot of positive energy and everyone was excited to see him out there after missing some practice earlier in the week.

I spoke with Ralph Gutierrez and Eli Khasabo after practice. Eli won a game of rock-paper-scissors in order to go
first.

Stay tuned to see how the T-Hawks do on their first day in uppers in Episode 6 of Gonk Knocks.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks S2 E4 – One Percent Better Every Day

In the first three episodes, I went behind the scenes throughout Day 1 (Friday 8/16), showing highlights of the first official team meeting and practice of the preseason.  Episode 4 moves on to Day 2 (Saturday 8/17), when players arrived early for a morning practice and photo day before getting the rest of the weekend off.  Check it out below:

The coaches were focused on improving on Day 1 in all aspects.  With the offense dominating the team focused on defense and special teams more on Day 2.

The special teams needs to find some new personnel as kicker/punter Rory Caffrey and returner Sam Crain both graduated this past May.  As they hinted at in practice the day before, they experimented with different kickers, returners, and other personnel.  Most of everyone on the team got the chance to show off their special teams skills.

The team did get to some 7 on 7s, but the focus in these was on defense.  Nick Alessi did have some pretty impressive catches though.  It was Head Coach Taylor Allen’s job to put together an offense that can beat the top defensive players.

The DB’s worked hard in their own drills and learned a lot from Coach Tyrone Notice leading up to the 7 on 7s.  I mic’d him up for a large portion of practice.

Coach Notice is one of the more vocal coaches on the team, and his job is to prepare the DB’s for in-game action.  The group does not have the same amount of experience as last year’s DB’s, so they still have a lot to learn.  However, they showed some promise and made a few good plays in 7 on 7s.

While the DB’s and linebackers took on Coach Allen’s offense, the linemen continued to work on blocking, blitzing, and more.  Unfortunately, Chris Ocnos, one d-linemen, went down during practice with a lower body injury.

The T-Hawks received their jerseys for the season that morning, and they took team photos after practice.  Due to photo day, the team wrapped up practice early.  But they finished with some intense conditioning.  The team will return to the practice field on Monday, August 19, and on August 20, they’ll be putting on uppers, which is a helmet as well as shoulder and chest pads.

Before team photos began, I spoke briefly with Head Coach Taylor Allen.

Stay tuned for coverage of Algonquin’s return to the practice field in Episode 5 of Gonk Knocks.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks S2 E3 – Offense Leads the Way, Defense wins Games

In Episode 1, I showcased highlights from the pre-practice meeting on Day 1 that opened up the 2019 Algonquin Tomahawks preseason.  In Episodes 2 and 3, I focused on what happened out on the practice field.  Check out Episode 3 below:

After some defensive drills early in practice, it was time for some 7 on 7 football.

Today, most of everything clicked for the offense. All 3 QBs, senior Riley Greenwald, junior Jeff Valentine, and sophomore Coleman Hostage, had some big moments. Captain Rio Ferguson anchored the backfield with help from Ryan Connelly, Pedro Ribeiro, Ray Del Re, and others. Many receivers, both on the outside and in the slot, had great moments, including Nick Alessi, Tom Geoffrion, Jason Levin, and Derek Blanchard.

Last year, Blanchard was primarily a tight end, as he played in 2 TE sets with Chris Pacios, who has since transferred.

This year, he not only got work at tight end, but also as a wide receiver and defensive back.

Blanchard especially shined as a route runner and pass catcher.

Before practice, Blanchard was voted the third captain by his teammates.

Rafael Gutierrez also had a great catch.  As a sophomore, he has already stood out in the slot and made a name for himself, so his future with the team is bright.

As Coach said, this offense looked pretty good today. But the way to win football games is with good blocking, good tackling, and good defense, skills the team will continue to work at throughout camp.

I caught up with Coach Taylor Allen once more after practice.

It was a strong practice for the T-Hawks, but this is only the beginning. Tomorrow morning, the team will have to get there early for practice and team photos before a day of rest on Sunday.

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

Season 2

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/19 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #3
  • Tuesday, 8/20 @ 6 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #4
  • Wednesday, 8/21 @ 1 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/22 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/24 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton
  • Monday, 8/26 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Friday, 8/30 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 at Home vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/13 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 @Doherty
  • Friday, 9/20 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #2 at Home vs. Shepherd Hill