Look between the lines: Handicapping NFL’€™s Week 11 slate

James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and will contribute weekly for FOXSports.com as our betting expert. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at jameshernandez1981@gmail.com.

During the NFL season, I will attempt to guide you to the winner’s circle more often than not. I consider a combination of statistical trends, my own personal player ranking system, and meticulous attention to various wagering techniques that allow me to analyze and formulate a plan of attack each week.

Each week I will post my five favorite plays in order of preference, best on top and so on. All right, let’s get into it:

New York Jets (+1.5) over Buffalo Bills

By Week 11 most of us thought the Jets would be a 2-win punchline attempting to secure the best possible pick in next year’s draft. However after posting a very respectable 5-4 record, New York finds itself in the thick of the AFC wild card race.

Led by an unpredictable rookie signal caller, a fiery head coach and the best run defense in the business the J-E-T-S have blown past preseason expectations and vaulted into relevance. Odd number weeks have had this team looking like world beaters while even number weeks have produced glimpses of the mediocre unit most experts predicted.

The 2013 version of the Fighting Ryan’s have been especially chippy and competitive in the toughest spots on their schedule. With a quick trip upstate to Orchard Park on the agenda this weekend, the Jets must not let a golden opportunity pass them by because a road win will have them firmly in control of the final wild card spot in the AFC.

Expect New York’s front four to pressure Manuel all day long as they neutralize the Bills running game and force the Buffalo passing game to beat them. The Jets should do enough to win a closely contested divisional road game as Rex and his upstart squad continue to defy the odds as well as their critics.

Washington Redskins / Philadelphia Eagles over 52

As people continue to dismiss the NFC East the division continues to entertain us with star-studded contests despite the below-average records.

Running back royalty Shady McCoy and Alfred Morris lead the first- and fourth-ranked rushing offenses in the league as both teams look to put the pedal to the metal and score like Ryan Lochte did in the Olympic Village two summers ago over in London.

The first meeting in Week 1 easily pushed passed the posted total and that was with a one legged RG3 playing his first game since tearing up his knee last January and the Eagles offense gassing out in the second half.

Fast forward 10 weeks and despite a loss last week at Minnesota, Griffin finally appears as if he trusts his surgically repaired knee. With Nick Foles throwing 10 touchdowns over the last two games, these young signal callers may potentially be looking at a record-setting afternoon.

Even the city that infamously booed Santa Claus will have no choice but to be captivated by the offensive firepower on display between two of the best scoring teams in the NFL.

Expect both teams to race up and down the field blowing by the posted total of 52 and cashing yet another over bet.

San Francisco 49ers/ New Orleans Saints under 48.5

Despite the lackluster offensive showing by the 49ers against the Panthers, this matchup still has all the appeal of a Miss America swimsuit competition.

When you think of the Saints it’s natural to think offense first as Brees continues his personal assault on the NFL’s most prestigious passing records. But it is a rejuvenated defense led by Rob Ryan that is allowing only 18.1 points per game and ranks fifth in total defense that has transformed New Orleans from a title pretender to contender in just one season.

On the flip side, defense has and continues to be the rallying cry from Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers as they continue to punch the opposition in the mouth for 60 minutes, taking away what their opponent does best on the offensive side of the ball. This formula along with a stout running attack has guided San Francisco to the top of the NFC mountain the past few seasons and if they hope to avenge last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Ravens, they must continue to shut down the league’s elite offenses week in and week out.

San Francisco can ill afford to drop to 6-4 and come back to the pack in the wild card race, especially with the emergence of even more playoff threats the past few weeks.

It’s time for coach Harbaugh to unleash his pass rushers on Brees and once again make Aldon Smith a factor defensively so that his ball-hawking secondary can take a few chances and disrupt the near flawless passing game of the Saints.

This is going to be a heavyweight fight under the dome in New Orleans where both teams will have to scratch and claw for every inch in a game that will come down to the very end and in turn keep the final score well under the posted total.

Denver Broncos (-7.5) over Kansas City Chiefs

Sorry Andy, but your team’s run of feasting on helpless backup quarterbacks is about to come to a screeching halt.

This vaunted Chiefs defense is about to receive its first test of the season traveling to the Mile High City in a matchup with the great Peyton Manning. The chip on Denver’s shoulder is now more like a boulder and you can bet they are sick of hearing about a Chiefs defense that is only surrendering 12.3 points per game and how they have what it takes to shut down a Denver offense that has been putting up video game numbers all season long.

As good as Kansas City’s defense is, they will be forced to pick their poison when dealing with the impressive offensive weapons the Broncos feature in both the passing and running game.

Manning has made a habit of starting fast and if he executes that plan against game manager Alex Smith it will put him in an unfamiliar spot of having to play catch up and let’s face it, if the Chiefs offense gets caught trying to match the Broncos score for score they will get blown right out of the building.

Don’t be surprised if Denver gets out of the gate early and even styles a few scores just to let everyone know who the "real" best team in the NFL is. Even if Peyton and company are downplaying the idea of this being a statement game, it will not prohibit them from making one of the biggest statements in league to date as the Broncos win this one by at least two touchdowns and prove that the Chiefs defense is human after all.

Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars

Generally I am not a fan of laying this many points on the road in the NFL. Then again, most teams aren’t the Jaguars.

After catching the Titans snoozing last weekend, Jacksonville was finally able to get into the win column for the first time all season.

Following home wins over Atlanta and Houston, the Cards hit the road looking to win their sixth game and throw their hat in the mix for the final NFC wild card spot.

It’s obvious Bruce Arians is succeeding by changing the culture in the desert and his players are responding by leaving it all out on the field for him each and every week. Arizona’s secondary can man up all day long with the Jacksonville wideouts and this should allow Calais Campbell and company to rush the passer and stuff the run as they keep Chad Henne guessing and even generate a turnover or two.

What a difference the appearance of a run game makes. By committing to the run the past few weeksm Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington have eased the load for Carson Palmer and forced opposing defenses to respect the running game while providing Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd more opportunities to stretch the field.

Arizona will expose plenty of mismatches on the way to a huge road win and cover as they improve to 6-3-1 against the spread and 6-4 overall.

Questions? Comments? Send them to lacesoutmail@gmail.com and we might respond in our weekly mailbag!