Josh Strope’s NFL Week 11 Picks
When Ben Roethlisberger went down with his injury, there was a lot of lost hope for Steelers fans. And rightfully so.
He is a future Hall of Famer and the leader of the team. Plus, without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, turning to a young quarterback, there were plenty of questions.
Mason Rudolph has been OK, solid if unspectacular.
But the real reason the Steelers sit at 5-4, winners of four straight and currently sitting in the No. 6 spot of the AFC playoff race, has been the play of their 2020 first-round draft pick.
The same week that Roethlisberger was injured, Steelers brass signaled they wouldn’t be punting on the season. Instead, they made a bold trade, sending their top pick next year to the Miami Dolphins for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
It was a curious move, considering Roethlisberger’s age and if Rudolph didn’t pan out, that pick could have been used on a top-tier quarterback of the future.
It has turned out to be the best move of the year.
Fitzpatrick has been a game-changer for the Steelers defense, including a secondary that has had its fair share of question marks through the years.
Two weeks in a row, Fitzpatrick has made biggest play of the game. Against the Colts, it was an interception near the goal line he returned 96 yards for a score. Sunday against the Rams, he scooped up a Jared Goff fumble and took it the distance. His interception at the end sealed a victory.
He has five interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery this year.
When the Pittsburgh offense has been sluggish, it has been the defense that has been nasty and paved the way for the Steelers on this run they are on.
Fitzpatrick has energized this team and the fan base. Considering where the Steelers will be picking in the draft, this trade has now become a steal of epic proportions.
With Fitzpatrick only in the second year of his rookie deal, he is still under control to the Steelers for at least three more years, with the franchise tag also an option to keep him in the Steel City longer if a new deal doesn’t get done.
Well, I took one on the chin last week. It was the first time I came away with a losing record, the Dolphins beat the Colts and eliminated me from my survivor pool, and the 49ers suffered their first loss. At least my fantasy football team is still perfect.
Steelers 24, Browns 21
This is the game Browns fans circle on the calendar every year, but even more so this year as they expected to be good and this was the game they were going to finally beat the Steelers. Well, they still stink. It was a nice win against Buffalo, but I’m not ready to say things are looking up just yet.
Cowboys 27, Lions 12
Will the real Dallas Cowboys please stand up? The Cowboys are tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East, but hold the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head matchup. This may be the best race down the stretch because whoever doesn’t win this division is not going to make the playoffs. The wild cards will likely go to the second-place team in the West and North, making Dallas in a near must-win from here on out.
Jaguars 31, Colts 14
Nick Foles returns from injury, sending Minshew Mania to the bench. Not sure if Jacoby Brissett will be playing for the Colts, and Brian Hoyer is terrible. If he can’t beat the Dolphins, he isn’t beating the Jags. Since I don’t know which QB will be under center for Indy, I am just going against them out of spite for costing me a lot of money.
Bills 20, Dolphins 14
Can the Miami Dolphins win three in a row? Maybe, considering the Bills just lost to the Browns. Buffalo has an easy schedule down the stretch which should make them a playoff lock. But they have to win these games first. Ryan Fitzpatrick keeps it interesting as he always does, but Buffalo hangs on.
Vikings 24, Broncos 14
The Vikings earned a huge victory against the Cowboys to keep pace behind the Packers in the NFC North. They can’t follow that up with a dud against the Broncos. This game should be hard-hitting, but I will go with the veteran Kirk Cousins having a little more patience than Denver’s Blake Allen, who will be making his second career start.
Saints 41, Buccaneers 21
The Saints’ loss to the Falcons did just as much damage in my survivor pool as the Colts’ loss to the Dolphins. The Saints can’t possibly have two duds in a row, can they? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Redskins 14, Jets 7
Dwayne Haskins has been named the Redskins starting quarterback for the rest of the season. It is time to see what Washington has in its first-round pick.
Panthers 21, Falcons 18
The Panthers are in must-win mode throughout the rest of the year. They can’t afford to fall more back of the Saints and as stated previously, the wild card is likely not an option. Cam Newton is done for the year and Kyle Allen gets an audition to see if he can be the man.
Texans 27, Ravens 24
The hype train is all over Lamar Jackson right now. The Ravens are playing as well as anyone in the league with an innovative offense and a defense that is doing what Ravens defenses usually do. They have a win over the Patriots and appear to be running away with the AFC North. So naturally I am picking the Texans. As I’ve said before, Deshaun Watson is my dude and I have the Texans representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
49ers 31, Cardinals 17
Mercury Morris and the rest of the 1972 Miami Dolphins are having a little bit of the bubbly today. They are still the lone undefeated team in the history of the NFL after Seattle knocked off San Francisco in overtime on Monday night. It was a nice run, but I’m not worried. No one goes undefeated in the National Football League these days.
Raiders 27, Bengals 3
Congratulations Bengals. You are the worst team in the NFL. I know it was just one game against a good Ravens team, but Ryan Finley has a lot of work to do if he wants to convince management to not take a quarterback early in the draft. Speaking of quarterbacks, it seems like every year people are trying to say Derek Carr should be replaced in Oakland. Jon Gruden has stuck by him and right now it is paying off.
A rematch of the Super Bowl two years ago, New England has had two weeks to stew over the embarrassing loss to the Ravens. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has had two weeks to listen to how they might not be the best team in the AFC anymore. A motivated Patriots team is a dangerous Patriots team.
It isn’t that great of a week for matchups and CBS isn’t going to let the NFL touch the Patriots-Eagles game. Meaning no games are worthy of being flexed and two vastly underachieving teams will meet in prime time. Watch the ratings tank for this one.
Wow, what a crazy end to the Chiefs game against the Titans. And what a horrible way to lose. Kansas City will probably win the division, but its chances of getting a first-round bye are dwindling. They can’t let another game get away from them, especially a division game against the Chargers. This game will be played in Mexico, meaning for once, the Chargers may have a “home” game where they actually have fans to support them.
Josh Strope can be reached at email@example.com