Early NFL Lines as the Playoffs Come Into Focus

Murray
Murray

I expect the Cowboys to get DeMarco Murray involved early and often in Chicago.

Here’s an early look at your NFL Lines for week 14. Picks in BOLD

Dallas (-3.5) at Chicago – The Cowboys were humbled before a national TV audience on Turkey Day and now hit the road for another Thursday nighter. Look for them to get back to the running game in Chicago.

Baltimore (+3) at Miami – The Ravens dropped a stunner at home to San Diego and now travel to Miami where the Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot with these same Ravens. Best match-up here is the Ravens’ offense versus the Dolphins’ D.

Tomlin

Mike Tomlin's Steelers in a 'must-win' situation in Cincinnati on Sunday.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Cincinnati – It’s this simple for the Steelers; they have to win or the playoffs are all but out for a third straight season. The Bengals have won three-straight road games and will be happy to return home.

Indianapolis (-3) at Cleveland – Will it be Johnny Football or will Cleveland Coach Mike Pettine stay with Brian Hoyer? You can bet the Colts are prepping for both while their offense just keeps humming along behind Andrew Luck.

Houston (-4) at Jacksonville – If J.J. Watt doesn’t finish in the top three for league MVP then there’s a huge problem. He has scored five touchdowns this year and his play on the DL is only getting better. The Jags are coming off an amazing comeback win over the Giants though and will have some momentum.

NY Giants (EVEN) at Tennessee – You have my sympathies if you have to watch this game Sunday. The Giants and Titans are a combined 5-19 and have not won in 13 straight games.

Carolina (+9.5) at New Orleans – The Panthers have lost six straight and are no longer a threat in the brutal NFC South. The Saints got a much-needed win in Pittsburgh to stay even with Atlanta atop the division.

Tampa Bay (+9.5) at Detroit – The Buccaneers are better than their 2-9 record in my opinion. They’ve lost some tough games as evidenced by Sunday’s one-point loss to Cincinnati so I don’t think the Lions should treat this as a cakewalk by any stretch.

St. Louis (-2) at Washington – I’ll join the chorus in saying the Redskins are better without RGIII at QB right now. They just are, it’s that easy. The Rams might be the hottest team in the NFL and are coming off of a massive shutout over Oakland.

NY Jets (+4.5) at Minnesota – The Vikings have played well at home even in defeat and now the Jets come in with Rex Ryan on the hottest seat in the league.

Buffalo (+9) at Denver – Four weeks ago I would have said the Bills have a great shot to win this game because the Broncos really didn’t have a running game. Now that they do, Buffalo will have to respect that and in turn their pass rush will slow down.

Kansas City (+1.5) at Arizona – The Chiefs have dropped two-straight as have the Cardinals. This is a monster game for both teams in terms of playoff implications. A loss by Kansas City pretty much ends their chances of the postseason while a Cards’ loss brings Seattle right back into division title contention.

San Francisco (-7) at Oakland – The Raiders certainly led us on didn’t they? A week after beating Kansas City, they got throttled by St. Louis and didn’t score a point. The Niners need a win to stay alive in the NFC playoff chase.

Seattle (EVEN) at Philadelphia – A possible NFC Championship Game preview here? The Seahawks have suddenly turned on the defense and that’s not good for Mark Sanchez who can be a turnover machine.

New England (-3.5) at San Diego – Best game of the week features teams who right now would be in the playoffs. The Pats headed west immediately after losing to Green Bay so the time change and weather will not be a factor.

Atlanta (+11.5) at Green Bay – There is not a hotter quarterback on the planet than Aaron Rodgers, especially at home. The Falcons can score points but their defense is in for a long day at Lambeau.

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A Trio of Thanksgiving Games For Your Plate

Cutler
Cutler

Jay Cutler needs to take full advantage of his weapons if the Bears are to defeat Detroit on Thursday.

I’m getting you you’re Thanksgiving Day games early because I know many of you will be on the road or sleeping in or you’ll be stuck at work so here is my take on al three games for Turkey Day.

Chicago (+7) at Detroit (O/U 47) – At 5-6, the Chicago Bears are in no position to lose games. Thursday will mark the first of two meetings with the Lions in the final five weeks of the season. For Detroit, they cannot afford to fall any further behind Green Bay who they will face in Lambeau Field on the final day of the season. And they haven’t won there in about 25 years.

Defensively, the Bears have struggled all year and that’s good news for a Detroit offense that is also struggling. The key match-up for this one is the Detroit defense against the Chicago offense. If the Bears can’t generate any offense then this could get ugly.

Trends: Chicago is 9-3 straight up in their last 12 games versus Detroit… The Lions are 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games against the Bears… The total has gone OVER in four of Chicago’s last five games when playing in Detroit… The Lions are 1-9 in their last ten Thanksgiving Day Games.

The Pick: I love the Bears getting a touchdown and take the OVER.

Sanchez

The Eagles need Mark Sanchez to take care of the ball and they can do that with a good running game.

Philadelphia (+3) at Dallas (O/U 54.5) – Both teams are 8-3 and a win would go a long way towards a division title but these two will meet again on December 14th in Philly.

It may be cliché to say, but I think whichever team has more success running the ball will have an inside track on winning the game. I say this because Mark Sanchez and to a slightly smaller extent Tony Romo, will turn the ball over.

The better each team can run the ball the better each team’s quarterback play is likely to be. One other thing to keep an eye on… The Eagles excellent special teams unit.

Trends: Philadelphia is 15-5 straight up in their last 20 games… The Cowboys are 8-2 SU in their last 10 games… The total has gone UNDER in five of the Eagles’ last seven games playing in Dallas… The Cowboys have won eight of their last ten games on Thanksgiving Day.

The Pick: I like the Eagles getting three and I like the OVER.

Seattle (EVEN) at San Francisco (O/U 40) – These two NFC West foes will follow the same patter as Dallas and Philadelphia. They’ll play each on Turkey Day then see each other again on December 14th.

With each team at 7-4 and trailing the Arizona Cardinals by two games, this game carries monstrous implications. Arizona will have a very winnable game at Atlanta on Sunday so the loser here could fall back three games with four to play.

The 49ers have struggled to score points recently and that will be a factor here despite their home-field advantage.

Trends: Seattle is 1-4 against the spread in their last five road games… The 49ers are 0-5 ATS in their five games against Seattle… The total has gone UNDER in five of the last 6 times Seattle and San Francisco have played each other… The Seahawks are 1-2 in career Thanksgiving Day Games while the 49ers are 3-1-1 on Turkey Day.

The Pick: I think the Seahawks ride the momentum of their win last week and win in San Francisco. Take the UNDER as well.

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Several NFL Games for You to Think About for Tomorrow

Johnson
Johnson

Calvin Johnson returns in the nick of time as the Lions host the red-hot Dolphins.

I’m giving you some extra time to mull over these NFL games for tomorrow so consider carefully.

Miami (+3) at Detroit (O/U 43.5) – This is the most intriguing match-up of the week because Miami is red-hot and the Lions are winning close games and get back Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. The Lions have one of the best defenses in the league but now they face Ryan Tannehill is playing perhaps the best football of his career right now.

The Dolphins are playing great defensively as well illustrated by their 37-0 waxing of San Diego last week. This one may likely turn on turnovers and whether the Miami offense can handle the crazy fans sure to be in Detroit tomorrow.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Miami’s last 15 games… Detroit is 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games at home… Miami is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road… The Lions are 1-5 in their last six games against the Dolphins.

The Pick: I love the Dolphins getting the three and I’ll take the UNDER.

Gore

Frank Gore has guaranteed a playoff trip for his Niners. Now he has to deliver.

San Francisco (+6) at New Orleans (O/U 49) – Could two teams be any different despite the fact they have the same 4-4 records? New Orleans leads the NFC South after winning two-straight while the 49ers are staring up in the NFC West standings at both Seattle and Arizona. Because their division is the worst in football, there is less pressure on the Saints to win this one.

San Francisco has to face the reality that falling another game behind the Cardinals would mean a division title is out of the question. Therefore they have to play well in order to beat the Saints in the Superdome. If they go with large doses of Frank Gore I think they can pull this one out but that’s always a big “if.”

Trends: The 49ers are 10-4 straight up in their last 14 games on the road… The total has gone OVER in four of the Saints’ last six games against San Francisco… The Niners are 5-10-1 against the spread in their last 16 games against the Saints… New Orleans is 7-2 SU in their last nine games against the 49ers.

The Pick: I like the Niners getting the points in a game of much needed urgency. Take the UNDER as well.

Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay (O/U 46) – This game was a “pick’em” game early in the week and frankly this one is tough to call because Atlanta can’t win on the road and Tampa can’t win at home. When Matt Ryan gets outside of the Georgia Dome his numbers slip dramatically so why should we think differently here?

I think the running game of Tampa Bay is the difference today.

Trends: Atlanta is 0-5 straight up on the road in their last five games… Tampa Bay is 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Falcons last six games at Tampa Bay… The Bucs are 0-5 SU in their last five home games.

The Pick: I like the Bucs getting the points and I’ll go with the UNDER.

Other Games I like This Week

Pittsburgh (-6) at NY Jets – Until the Steelers offense hits a speed bump I’ll take them to cover.

NY Giants (+10) at Seattle – In their last eight games against Super Bowl winning QBs the Seahawks are 8-0. Enter Eli Manning and take the Seahawks to cover.

Chicago (+7.5) at Green Bay – More than a TD dogs are tough to pass on but I will here because the Packers have Jay Cutler’s number. Take the Pack to cover.

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Your Monday Nighter Features Bears at the Jets

Cutler
Cutler

Jay Cutler leads the Bears into New York to face the Jets.

Chicago (+3) at NY Jets (O/U 45.5) – The last time the Jets and Bears played was the day after Christmas in 2010 in Chicago. The Bears jumped to a 10-0 lead before trailing 24-17 at half. Jay Cutler would throw three third quarter touchdowns to lead Chicago to the win. While Cutler is still around in the windy city, the Jets’ quarterback that day was Mark Sanchez and we know how that worked out.

Now the Jets play host to the Bears in a week three match-up that’s of vital importance to both teams. Heading into the weekend, the entire NFC North was 1-1 but now the Bears will need a victory to keep pace with the Lions who defeated Green Bay yesterday. Minnesota lost in New Orleans.

Decker

Eric Decker has a bad hamstring and that isn't good for the Jets.

For the Jets, they sit at 1-1 and now are behind the Pats and Bills who both 2-1.

The Bears enter with both of their top wideouts still banged up despite playing last week in San Francisco. They’ve also lost cornerback Charles Tillman for the season and will be without center Roberto Garza and guard Matt Slauson. Linebacker Shea McClellin and defensive lineman Jay Ratliff are also out.

New York doesn’t have nearly the issues the Bears do. Cornerback Dee Milliner is doubtful with an ankle and wide receiver Eric Decker is questionable with a hamstring.

Offensively the Jets rank 13th overall and first in rushing while the Bears rank 26th overall and ninth in passing. The glaring stat for each is the New York ranks 30th in passing while Chicago ranks 30th in rushing. In other words, this will be a battle of who can keep doing what they do best and who can do just a little better at what they do worst.

On defense, the Jets rank second in the league overall while the Bears are 21st. Both teams are obviously struggling in the secondary but the edge up front clearly goes to Gang Green. Can the Bears get enough out of Matt Forte to slow the pass rush of the Jets? Even if so, can they protect Cutler?

The Jets will look to establish the ground game early and often in effort to get the play-action game with Geno Smith going. If the Bears can make the Jets one-dimensional then that will go a long way towards their chances of winning .

Both teams will need to put last week deep in the past. The Bears made a fantastic comeback last week in defeating San Francisco on the road. As great as that win was, they have to move forward and focus on the task at hand. New York went into Green Bay and saw the Packers come back from a double-digit deficit on them only to seemingly tie the game but a timeout called by an assistant coach nixed that.

Like the Bears, they have to put the game behind them and focus on the present.

Trends: The Bears are 6-16-1 against the spread in their last 23 games… New York is 1-4-1 ATS in their last six games against the Bears… The total has gone OVER in nine of Chicago’s last 11 games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in seven of the last eight games in which they’ve played the Bears.

The Pick: Everything in my head points to a Jets’ victory considering the injuries to the Bears but I have a feeling that win last week will propel Chicago forward. Take them getting the points and take the OVER as well.

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NFC Regular Season Win Totals

Ryan
Ryan

Can Matt Ryan lead the Falcons to a bounce back season in 2014?

Our friends at Bovada have released their numbers for NFL win totals and today I’m looking at the NFC.

Arizona 7.5 (-150 over/+120 under) –  The Cardinals have four of their final six games on the road and three of those trips are to Atlanta, Seattle and San Francisco. The middle of the schedule features winnable games against Washington, Oakland, Detroit, Dallas and St. Louis though.  OVER

Atlanta 8.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Falcons face a potential ‘murderer’s row’ in the final five games when they have Arizona, @Green Bay, Pittsburgh, @New Orleans and Carolina. Which Falcons’ team shows up in 2014? Last year’s version or the 2012 team that got to NFC Title Game? UNDER

Carolina 8.5 (+120 over/-150 under) – The Panthers have a stretch from late September through early November that includes the following; Pittsburgh, @Baltimore, Chicago, @Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Seattle, New Orleans and @Philly. If they can come through that stretch at 4-4 or better then the sky is the limit. UNDER

Chicago 8.5 (-155 over/+125 under) – Da Bears finish the season with five of their final eight games at home in Soldier Field. The first eight games is the real problem. They have road games at San Francisco, Carolina, Atlanta and New England. A 4-4 start is not the end of the world, but I still expect better. OVER

Dallas 7.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – Dallas has five of their last eight games away from Jerry World and that includes trips to the Giants, Eagles and Bears. The Cowboys do draw the AFC South which could net them three wins there against a weak division. UNDER

Detroit 8.5 (EVEN/-130 under) – The Lions will split their final eight games between the road and Ford Field but the task on the road is daunting. Their four away games are at New England, at Arizona and then they finish the season at Chicago and at Green Bay. A strong start is a must in the Motor City. UNDER

Matthews

Clay Matthews needs to stay healthy if the Packers are going to win consistently.

Green Bay 10.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Pack has the benefit of five home games in their last eight but the opening half of the season features road games at Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans. If they can comes through the first half over .500 then they are in excellent shape. OVER

Minnesota 6 (-150 over/+120 under) – For a young team with a new head coach, the Vikes could have done worse with their schedule. Besides divisional games on the road, they have St. Louis, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami and New Orleans. There are a couple of very winnable games there. OVER

New Orleans 10 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Saints will go marching on the road in four of their first six games but the destinations aren’t overly brutal. They’ll head to Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit where they will likely be favored in all four of those games.  UNDER

NY Giants 8 (-130 over/EVEN) – The G-Men have a very balanced schedule and get the benefit of the AFC South which could offer three wins plus they get the Colts at home. Other than a trip to Seattle, the road schedule isn’t too bad. OVER

Philadelphia 9 (-140 over/+110 under) – Philly finishes the season with four division games in their last five and three of those are on the road. They also have trips to San Francisco and Green Bay but the opening half isn’t too difficult. OVER

San Francisco 10.5 (-135 over/+105 under) – The Niners have four of their final six at home. One of those road games is at Oakland too so a strong finish is possible even tough two of the final six are against Seattle. They open their new stadium in week two against Dallas. UNDER

Seattle 11 (-115 over/-115 under) – The defending champs have a balanced schedule that includes potentially tough road games at San Diego, Carolina and Philadelphia but they get Denver and Green Bay at home. UNDER

St. Louis 7.5 (-155 over/+125 under) – The Rams could start 3-0 before starting a gauntlet of contests in the mid-season. They have the Vikes, Cowboys and Bucs in the first three then have Philly, San Fran and Seattle. UNDER

Tampa Bay 7 (-130 over/EVEN) – The Bucs have a stretch of three straight road games and then two more times they have back-to-back road games. With a very tough division and the AFC North, Lovie Smith’s job will be a tough one. OVER

Washington 7.5 (-130 over/EVEN) – The ‘Skins finish the season with three straight divisional games and they draw the AFC South which could bring a couple of wins. Back-to-back road games at San Francisco and Indy will be tough however. UNDER

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Latest Super Bowl XLIX Odds

Manning Brady
Manning Brady

The window is closing on both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Will either lead their teams to Super Bowl XLIX?

Now that our nation’s little foray in Brazil is over, we can turn our attention back to the type of football that I prefer. Believe it or not, we are about a month away from the Hall of Fame game which is the traditional kick-off to the NFL’s Preseason. The Buffalo Bills, who will be playing in that game against the New York Giants, report to camp two weeks from today.

Hard to believe, but are you ready for some football?

Here are the latest Super Bowl XLIX odds from our friends at Bovada. My best bets are in BOLD.

Denver 13/2 – Teams that have lost the previous Super Bowl rarely make it back but the Broncos are ‘all-in’ on trying.

Seattle 13/2 – We haven’t seen a repeat champion since the Patriots back near the beginning of this century. Can Seattle handle the crown which has brought many players (Sherman, Lynch, Wilson, etc) significant personal attention?

San Francisco 7/1 – Colin Kaepernick has a new deal, but will age catch up with the defense?

New England 9/1 – Speaking of age, when will Father Time finally force Tom Brady to the sidelines? I’m not sure, but his offensive weapons are still lacking a bit.

Green Bay 12/1 – How much will the defense be improved? If it makes a big jump, then this could be a sexy pick right here with Aaron Rodgers running the offense.

New Orleans 14/1 – How often does a head coach testify against one of his players? That’s what Sean Payton had to do in Jimmy Graham’s hearing. Will that be a factor this season and how do the Saints replace Darren Sproles?

Chicago 18/1 – Is Jay Cutler worth the monster deal the Bears signed him to? He has plenty of talent around him so there are no excuses.

Indianapolis 18/1 – Andrew Luck enters his third season and is 0-2 in the playoffs. In a weak division, he needs to get back and get a playoff win under his belt.

Foles

I like the future for Nick Foles and I think this could be a big year for him in Philly.

Philadelphia 25/1 – Like Green Bay, the Eagles have some appeal because of offensive firepower. Can the defense improve though?

Atlanta 28/1 – The question here centers on last year. Was it just an anomaly or a pattern of things to come? This team has a lot of holes to fill too.

Carolina 33/1 – The same could be said of the Panthers. Should we expect more of the same from them or will they revert back to a .500 or worse team?

Detroit 33/1 – Defense, defense, defense… If they can cover receivers and if Matthew Stafford can take better care of the ball then watch out. I have my doubts on both ends however.

Pittsburgh 33/1 – The youth movement has begun in the Steel City. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is there, they have a chance but the defense has to create more pressure.

Arizona 40/1 – The Cardinals won 10 games last year and missed the playoffs. They need splits with the Niners and Seahawks and great play from Carson Palmer.

Baltimore 40/1 – How long will Ray Rice’s suspension be and will it matter? He was very unproductive last year and has the defense improved at all?

Cincinnati 40/1 – This is all about Andy Dalton.

Kansas City 40/1 – Competitive, but I see a fall back year.

NY Giants 40/1 – Can Eli limit the turnovers?

San Diego 40/1 – Bolts need another good year from Rivers and a better effort on defense as well.

Cleveland 50/1 – How soon before we see Johnny on the field?

Dallas 50/1 – Loss of Sean Lee hurts an already bad defense.

Houston 50/1 – This defense will be fun to watch but the offense? Yikes.

Miami 50/1 – The Dolphins were right there last season and now they need to make the jump. Can they is the question especially without Mike Pouncey.

St. Louis 50/1 – Sam Bradford, this is it for you man.

Tampa Bay 50/1 – Lovie Smith will turn this team around immediately. Don’t be surprised to see them push for a playoff berth.

Washington 50/1 – Which RGIII will get this year?

Minnesota 66/1 – Teddy Bridgewater will start at QB on day one. You heard it here first.

NY Jets 66/1 – Personally, I don’t think Vick is going to help the development of Geno Smith but that’s just me.

Buffalo 75/1 – Loss of Alonso is a heart-breaker.

Oakland 100/1 – Is Ken Stabler returning?

Tennessee 100/1 – This team will be better under Ken Whisenhunt. Mark my words.

Jacksonville 200/1 – At least they have “cool” uniforms.

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Get Ready for a Crazy NFL Week 17

Goodell
Goodell

I often criticize Roger Goodell but having divisional match-ups in the final week has been a positive move.

Quite often in this spot I take every opportunity to rip National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell and league offices. Today I’m praising him and them for making a significant schedule change that has proven to be great for the fans.

A few years ago, the league made it so that the final games of the regular season would pit teams from the same division against each other. The goal was to have exactly what we are going to see next week as the regular season comes to an end. While not every game next week will playoff implications, the NFL has succeeded in doing exactly what it set out to do and that is create must-see television and a ‘win or go home’ scenario.

Here’s what you have on the docket for the final week of the NFL season. The NFC will have two games that will decide division winners. The losers will have no wild-card opportunity thus the ‘win and you’re in’ situation.

NFC East

Philadelphia will play at Dallas and the winner will take the division title and will be the three or four seed in the playoffs. The Cowboys won the earlier meeting this year in Philadelphia. If there is any pressure in this game it has to be on the Cowboys and Tony Romo. In case of a tie, the Eagles would win the division

Flynn

Flynn may be the Packers' only hope if Aaron Rodgers can't go agaisnt the Bears.

NFC North

Both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears lost yesterday in very different fashion. The Packers had a chance to tie the Steelers on the final play of the game but the pass from Matt Flynn was incomplete. In Philadelphia, the Bears surrendered 54 points to an Eagles’ team that already knew the outcome of its’ game was meaningless.

Chicago will host the Packers on Sunday at 1pm Eastern although there is talk that the game could be flexed to late afternoon start.

NFC Wild-Cards

I’m holding off on this because a San Francisco win tonight against Atlanta could make much of what I write a moot point. Basically, the Saints , Panthers and Cardinals are the ones waiting things out.

AFC East

New England is the division champ and can clinch the one seed with a win and a Denver loss. Miami is still alive for a wild-card berth but must win and get losses from Baltimore and San Diego.

AFC South

Indianapolis is your division champion.

AFC North

The Bengals are the division champion. The Ravens can earn the final wild-card spot with a win over Cincinnati on the road where the Bengals haven’t lost all season. The Ravens also need the Chargers or Dolphins to lose.

Pittsburgh stayed alive in Green Bay yesterday and now needs a win over Cleveland at Heinz Field coupled with losses by the Dolphins, Ravens and Chargers.

AFC West

Denver is at worst a number two seed. A win or New England loss gives them the top seed. Kansas City has the number five seed as a wild-card. The Chargers need to win and get losses from Baltimore and Miami.

AFC Wild-Cards

Basically, the AFC is set other than positioning and the final wild-card spot which will go to Baltimore, San Diego, Miami or Pittsburgh.

In recent years the NFL has toyed with the idea of adding two more teams to the playoffs. This season is the perfect illustration of why they shouldn’t. What makes the NFL unique from the NBA and NHL is that you aren’t going to see half or more of the teams make the playoffs. Yes, you could have an 8-8 team in but that is still far from what the other leagues offer.

 

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