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NFL Betting: What We Learned from Week 11 (2021)

by November 22, 2021
Ryan Tannehill

If we zoom out and take a grand view of the National Football League at any given time, it usually isn’t too difficult to make accurate assumptions. For the most part, we know which teams are good and which aren’t. We can see which division races are almost over and which will be tight for the next month.

As soon as we hone in on one week, the picture changes.

We will always have drama somewhere, and that drama is what drives our impression of a team or playoff race. The job is to find that drama, the resultant shift of perception, and use it to our advantage.

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The Mighty Have Fallen

The obvious, no-doubt storyline of Week 11 was not only the upsets but the upsets that occurred at the top of divisions. The Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and Green Bay Packers all entered last Sunday with a lead in their respective divisions and a game in which they were favored to win. All three lost. If we throw in the Dallas Cowboys — who were underdogs in Kansas City — then we had half of the league’s division leaders lose in Week 11.

Some were bad. There were those that tightened a division — Buffalo and Tennessee, specifically — while others were bad in how they looked — I guess, Buffalo and Tennessee again. Still, we are deep enough into the season to not take these outcomes too seriously. Perhaps there are signs of weaknesses present, but we would be foolish to suddenly expect complete collapses in the aftermath of Week 11.

What we do need to watch is the balance between rebounds and a competitive race. In the same way that I have written in the past about a team securing wins and not giving them back, the losses did create some tension. We will have to approach each team carefully, but always with the mindset of not overreacting to one week.

The Colts Have Arrived

All season, we have waited for the Indianapolis Colts to show how good they can be. It feels like it took much longer than it should have, but Indianapolis is now over .500 and technically still alive in the AFC South race. The real story? That the Colts went to Buffalo and absolutely dismantled a team many thought was among the best in the league.

This was obviously a “statement game” by Indianapolis, but it mattered less for the record and more for the reputation. The Colts had fought their way back toward a winning record by taking advantage of weaker teams, but last Sunday marked one of the few times it stepped up in competition.

Let’s remember that in the coming weeks. The distance that Indianapolis had to travel up the standings was large and did include some hard-fought battles. There is probably a regression lurking now that the Colts have surged so forcefully so quickly.

The Baltimore Ravens Win Without Lamar Jackson

I write about it constantly, because it presents itself constantly: a team can win a game without its starting quarterback. It’s not preferred, and it shouldn’t be asked to do it repeatedly over the course of a season, but it happens. Still, when it does, we need to sit back and admire just how impressive it is.

The Baltimore Ravens went on the road and won a game without Lamar Jackson under center. The storyline even includes Jackson arriving at the stadium to see if he would be able to play, only to be announced as inactive.

The Ravens absolutely don’t want to see extended time without Jackson — and, by all accounts, they won’t — but this type of win should have a positive effect on the squad. It is now 7-3, alone atop the AFC North, and with the momentum and confidence that comes from Week 11’s victory. They’ll need it for a divisional matchup on Sunday Night Football next week.

The Detroit Lions Fight Again and Lose Again

We can’t be surprised by the Detroit Lions’ record, but we can be impressed with how hard the team has fought. Even with a backup quarterback starting in place of the injured Jared Goff, the team simply does not quit.

The problem? We are 11 weeks into the season, and this is becoming a stronger narrative for the team. Put another way, people expect the Lions to compete in a game — not all games, of course — and that is going to lower the spreads in the near future.

This is a rare setup for a team. Normally, when a squad is winless this deep into the year, there’s louder chatter about how it might go winless. It usually never comes to fruition and then, when the team finally wins, football fans and experts are shocked. That doesn’t feel applicable to the Lions. People do expect a win to come eventually, and this might be one of the rare times where we can still sell a team that looks like it can’t get any worse.

No One is Doubting the Chiefs Anymore

Should we be surprised? Of course not. It was silly to complain about what the Kansas City Chiefs were doing when they weren’t winning games at a feverish rate, and it’s even sillier now to look back at that time and validate it. The Chiefs started the season as one of the best teams in the league, lost some games, struggled in others, and are now eleven weeks in to the year as one of the best teams in the league. All that happened was the natural ebb-and-flow of a season and its schedule.

The schedule now leaves the Chiefs on a much-needed bye.

Over the last few games, Kansas City has answered the questions about how good it can be, and it has done so with its defense improving — it had been nonexistent earlier. The Chiefs are now “easy favorites” in the collective mind of the football world, and the time away from action is only going to solidify that.

Let’s not forget this because, when Kansas City next takes the field, it will probably carry a premium.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 7 years.