NFL : Sunday
Re: NFL : Sunday
Game Preview for Rams vs Cardinals
(Sports Network) - There won't be a playoff berth on the line when the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams square off at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, though the avoidance of dubious achievements should be enough incentive for both teams to display a strong effort.
With a loss, the Cardinals will have finished off their ninth consecutive losing season, and 18th in 20 seasons since moving from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988.
Last Sunday, Arizona took a step in the right direction by defeating Atlanta, 30-27 in overtime. The Cardinals' seventh win of the year assured the franchise of its best mark since going 7-9 in 2001, and helped the organization halt its streak of seasons with double-digit defeats at five.
A victory for Ken Whisenhunt's squad on Sunday would give Arizona its best record since the 1998 team went 9-7 and reached the postseason.
The Rams, meanwhile, come to the desert seeking to sidestep their worst mark since finishing 3-13 as the Los Angeles Rams in 1991.
St. Louis has already clinched at least a tie for its worst mark since arriving in the Gateway City from L.A. in 1995. The 1998 Rams went 4-12 under head coach Dick Vermeil before rebounding to go 13-3 and win the Super Bowl the following season.
The Rams will be taking the field for the first time since a 41-24 loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday night, a game in which head coach Scott Linehan and veteran wide receiver Torry Holt engaged in a heated sideline confrontation.
Linehan, who is expected to be back in St. Louis next season, downplayed the incident when asked about it by reporters.
The Rams hold a 30-25-2 lead in the all-time series with Arizona, but were 34-31 home losers when the teams met in Week 5. St. Louis earned unconventional home-and-home splits with the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006, including a 16-14 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 3 of last season. The road team has now won five straight in the series, and St. Louis is 4-1 in its last five trips to Arizona, with the only loss during that stretch coming in 2004.
The Rams won the only postseason meeting between the two, with the then-Los Angeles-based franchise pulling out a 35-23 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in a 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff.
Linehan is 1-2 against the Cardinals as a head coach, while Arizona's Whisenhunt is 1-0 against both Linehan and the Rams as a head man.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
Part of Holt's frustration likely stems from the continued struggles of a once-prolific offense that has fallen on serious hard times this year. While working behind a patchwork offensive line that has sustained a large number of injuries, Rams quarterbacks have thrown a league-worst 25 interceptions on the year, while the ground game is tied for last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (5), along with Carolina. Bulger (2216 passing yards, 10 TD, 13 INT) threw three TD passes against Pittsburgh last Thursday, including one each to wideouts Drew Bennett (32 receptions, 3 TD) and Isaac Bruce (53 receptions, 4 TD), but also tossed a pair of key interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by the Steelers' Ike Taylor. Running back Steven Jackson (947 rushing yards, 37 receptions, 6 TD) had 106 yards on 15 total touches in the win, including a 12-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, and now needs 53 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive year. Holt (86 receptions, 7 TD), who was limited to three grabs for 41 yards versus the Steelers, has a touchdown catch in his last five games against the Cardinals.
When the postmortems are written about Arizona's season, many will focus on the significant injuries that decimated coordinator Clancy Pendergast's defense. Safety Adrian Wilson (heel), cornerback Eric Green (groin), and defensive end Bertrand Berry (triceps) are but three of the top-tier defensive players that saw their 2007 seasons cut short, a situation that has caused the team to allow 21 or more points in each of its last seven games. The Cardinals still have some playmakers on the unit, however, with tackle Darnell Dockett (55 tackles) and Karlos Dansby (93 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT) the most productive members of the front seven and cornerbacks Antrel Rolle (60 tackles, 3 INT) and Roderick Hood (52 tackles, 5 INT) capable of doing damage in the secondary. Dockett leads all NFL defensive tackles with eight sacks on the season, while Hood had the team's only interception of the Falcons' Chris Redman last Sunday. Pass rushers Calvin Pace (92 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Antonio Smith (40 tackles, 4.5 sacks) each had sacks of Redman. Arizona is 28th in the league against the pass (237.1 yards per game) and ninth versus the run (99.5 yards per game) as Week 17 begins.
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Though the Cardinals have had their share of bumps and bruises on offense as well, apart from Week 1 starting quarterback Matt Leinart (collarbone), the attack will reach the finish line more or less intact. Kurt Warner (3117 passing yards, 24 TD, 15 INT) has played through a lingering elbow problem to post his best year since 2001 this season, last week going over 3,000 yards and throwing three more touchdown passes. Wideouts Larry Fitzgerald (89 receptions, 8 TD) and Anquan Boldin (67 receptions, 8 TD) have both missed time in 2007, but both contributed to last week's win over Atlanta. Boldin caught 13 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in his best game of the season to date. Fitzgerald, who has a TD grab in each of his last four outings versus St. Louis, will look to continue his mastery of the Rams on Sunday. The Cardinals running game ranks a disappointing 29th overall (87.9 yards per game), but Edgerrin James (1120 rushing yards, 6 TD, 21 receptions) is over 1,000 yards for the second straight season. James had 88 rushing yards on 26 attempts against the Rams in Week 5.
Injuries have robbed the Rams of both talent and depth on defense, a situation that was evident during Pittsburgh's 425-yard performance last week. St. Louis comes into Week 17 ranked 17th in NFL total defense (335.7 yards per game), including 19th against the pass (220.9 yards per game) and 20th against the run (114.8 yards per game). Jim Haslett's group allowed 261 yards and three touchdown passes to the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger last week, with safeties O.J. Atogwe (70 tackles, 7 INT) and Corey Chavous (70 tackles, 3.5 sacks) not able to make any big plays off of the Pro Bowler. A pass rush that has been reeling since Leonard Little was lost for the season with a toe injury in early November did manage four sacks of Roethlisberger, including two by veteran tackle La'Roi Glover (36 tackles, 6 sacks). Linebackers Will Witherspoon (106 tackles, 7 sacks) and Brandon Chillar (65 tackles, 2.5 sacks) have been among the Rams' most reliable tacklers this year.
Any fantasy leagues that play their championship in Week 17 will likely keep a close eye on this game, since managers can be sure that starters will play for the duration, and both defenses are suspect.
For the Cardinals, Warner, Boldin, and Fitzgerald are must-plays, and James could do some damage against a team that struggled against the Steelers run last Sunday.
On the St. Louis side, Bulger has been error-prone all year, but could have his best day of 2007 against a Cardinals defense that made Chris Redman look like an above-average signal-caller last Sunday. Don't hesitate to start Holt or Jackson either.
This finale might be viewed as something of a nuisance for the Rams, who have been long awaiting a merciful end to this painful, lost season. From that standpoint, it is difficult to envision Linehan's team playing with much emotion or desire on Sunday. The perspective should be a bit different for the Cardinals, who will be able to point to measurable progress if they can get to 8-8 with a win in front of the home fans. With more of a positive nature to play for, give the edge to Arizona.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cardinals 33, Rams 14
Re: NFL : Sunday
Rams visit desert trying to upset Cardinals
The road team has won five straight meetings between the Cardinals and the city that used to host the Cardinals. Arizona beat one horrible team (Atlanta) last week and will try to close with two straight wins and a .500 record by beating up on the Rams. Of note, the UNDER is 6-1 past seven Ram road games.
Oddsmakers currently have the Cardinals listed as 6-point favorites versus the Rams, while the game's total is sitting at 48.
The Rams were defeated 41-24 by the Steelers last time out, as 8-point underdogs. The 65 points sailed OVER the posted total of 43.5.
Marc Bulger completed 18-of-35 pass attempts for 208 yards with three touchdowns and was picked off twice in the loss.
The Cardinals defeated Atlanta 30-27 in overtime as an 11-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (43.5).
Kurt Warner passed for 361 yards with three touchdown passes for Arizona, while Anquan Boldin caught 13 passes for 162 yards with two touchdowns in the win.
St. Louis has lost 3 straight games.
St. Louis: 3-12 SU, 5-10 ATS
Arizona: 7-8 SU, 7-7-1 ATS
St. Louis most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 6-4
After being outgained are 2-8
When playing within the division are 3-7
Arizona most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on grass are 5-5
After outgaining opponent are 4-6
When playing within the division are 5-5
A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of St. Louis's last 7 games on the road
St. Louis is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Arizona
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of St. Louis's last 5 games when playing on the road against Arizona
St. Louis is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games when playing Arizona
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Arizona's last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Arizona's last 5 games when playing at home against St. Louis
Arizona is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games at home
Arizona is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing St. Louis
Re: NFL : Sunday
Game Preview for Chargers vs Raiders
(Sports Network) - Playoff positioning will be on the line when a pair of AFC West inhabitants clash this Sunday at Oakland's McAfee Coliseum, where the division-champion San Diego Chargers will attempt to maintain their excellent recent form in a showdown with the downtrodden Raiders.
Although the Chargers wrapped up their third AFC West crown in four years two weeks back, the red-hot club still has something to play for in its regular- season finale. A victory over the punchless Raiders would ensure San Diego the No. 3 seed in the upcoming AFC Playoffs and a seemingly easier road to the conference championship.
If the Chargers gain the third seed, which they would also clinch if Pittsburgh loses at Baltimore on Sunday, that means a home matchup with either Tennessee or Cleveland in next weekend's Wild Card round. And maybe more significantly, San Diego would avoid an encounter with still-unbeaten New England in the Divisional Playoffs if it manages to defeat the Titans or Browns.
If San Diego winds up as the fourth seed, the team would play the 11-4 Jacksonville Jaguars, who dealt the Chargers a 24-17 loss back in November, next weekend at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers enter Sunday's meeting with plenty of momentum, as they've recorded five straight victories to run their season record to 10-5. The two most recent wins have been of the blowout variety, a 55-14 shellacking of Detroit on December 16 and last Monday's 23-3 decision over visiting Denver.
Not surprisingly, running back LaDainian Tomlinson has keyed San Diego's late- season surge. The reigning NFL MVP has strung together four consecutive 100- yard games and scored seven touchdowns over that span, while his 1,418 rushing yards for the season is currently tops in the league.
Tomlinson racked up 107 yards and a score on just 17 carries in Monday's win over the Broncos, despite sitting out most of the second half with the game already in hand.
The 4-11 Raiders come in having dropped three in a row and ensured their fifth straight season with at least 11 losses with last Sunday's 49-11 thrashing at the hands of Jacksonville.
That setback marked the most extensive action thus far for Oakland rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 draft. The talented 22-year-old will likely have better days than his showing against the Jaguars, when Russell completed just 7-of-23 throws for 83 yards and was intercepted three times.
Russell will get an opportunity for redemption on Sunday, when he will make his long-awaited first career start under center.
Oakland has a 54-39-2 record in its all-time regular season series with San Diego, but has lost the last eight in a row to the Chargers, including a 28-14 setback at Qualcomm Stadium in Week 6. San Diego also posted home-and-home sweeps of Oakland in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and was a 27-0 winner when it visited McAfee Coliseum in Week 1 of last season. The Raiders' last win in the series was a 34-31 overtime triumph at home in 2003.
Oakland won the only postseason meeting between the teams, prevailing by a 34-27 count in the 1980 AFC Championship.
San Diego head coach Norv Turner, who served as head man in Oakland in 2004 and 2005, is 2-1 all-time against the Raiders, including 1-1 in his tenure in Washington (1994-2000). Oakland's Lane Kiffin is 0-1 against both Turner and the Chargers as a head coach.
WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL
You can expect the Raiders to receive a healthy dose of Tomlinson (1418 rushing yards, 59 receptions, 17 TD) for as long as this game remains competitive. The perennial All-Pro abused Oakland for a season-best 198 yards and matched a career high with four touchdowns when these teams squared off in Week 6. Tomlinson should play enough to secure his second consecutive NFL rushing title, as he owns a healthy 113-yard advantage on Minnesota's Adrian Peterson coming into the season's final week. If the Chargers can build a sizeable lead, look for Turner to rest his star back and let capable reserve Michael Turner (274 rushing yards, 1 TD) carry the load for the league's seventh-ranked rushing offense (127.9 ypg).
It would be a surprise if Tomlinson didn't have another big day against an Oakland defense that's next-to-last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (147.6 ypg) and was trampled on by Jacksonville a week ago. The Jaguars piled up 201 yards on the ground against the Raiders, 62 of which came on a first-quarter touchdown run by Fred Taylor. Oakland played the entire second half of that game without tackle Warren Sapp (45 tackles, 2 sacks) after the veteran stopper was ejected for making contact with an official. His actions drew a $75,000 fine from the NFL on Thursday, but not a suspension. The Raiders' top tacklers are linebackers Kirk Morrison (111 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack) and Thomas Howard (91 tackles, 6 INT, 1 sack), both fast and undersized players more renowned for their coverage skills than their play versus the run.
Oakland's secondary, led by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (32 tackles, 1 INT) and second-year strong safety Michael Huff (81 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack), should present more of a test for the San Diego offense and quarterback Philip Rivers. The Raiders have yielded only 15 touchdowns through the air on the season, the second-best mark in the league, and picked off 18 passes. Morrison and Howard have accounted for more than half of the team's interception total, while ends Derrick Burgess (34 tackles, 7 sacks) and Chris Clemons (20 tackles, 8 sacks) have provided a steady pass rush up front.
Rivers (3017 passing yards, 19 TD, 15 INT) has endured an inconsistent season but has been on a good roll of late, as the young signal-caller has completed over 67 percent of his passes over the last two weeks and wasn't intercepted in either one of those games. His main target is All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates (69 receptions, 9 TD), who needs just 78 receiving yards on Sunday to go over 1,000 for the season. Former Miami Dolphin Chris Chambers (63 receptions, 3 TD) comes in 79 yards shy of that mark and has been a nice upgrade to an otherwise pedestrian receiving corps since joining the Chargers in a midseason trade, while Tomlinson's pass catching skills add another dimension to the team's passing attack.
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
Russell's (371 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INT) rookie season has to be labeled a disappointment thus far, but the athletic quarterback can end it on a positive note by showing something in his starting debut. There's plenty of room for improvement off last week's dismal performance, in which Russell made a litany of mistakes and often appeared confused and jittery in the pocket. He did connect with fellow rookie Zach Miller (36 receptions, 3 TD) in the game's final seconds for his first career touchdown pass and has two solid receivers to work with in Ronald Curry (54 receptions, 4 TD) and Jerry Porter (42 receptions, 5 TD). Throwing the football has been a season-long problem for Oakland, which enters Sunday's tilt 31st overall in passing offense (162.5 ypg).
The Raiders do have a strong ground game that wasn't slowed down by the season-ending injury to top running back Justin Fargas in a Week 15 loss to Indianapolis. Veteran backup Dominic Rhodes (180 rushing yards) made up for the loss by producing 115 yards on 27 carries in his first extended action of the year. The ex-Colt is the third Oakland player to eclipse the century mark this season, along with Fargas and one-time starter LaMont Jordan (549 rushing yards, 28 receptions, 3 TD). The trio has helped the Raiders rank sixth in the NFL with an average of 130.9 rushing yards per game.
Rhodes will be going up against a San Diego defense that could be without sturdy nose tackle Jamal Williams (39 tackles) for a second straight week because of an ankle injury. However, standout end Luis Castillo (30 tackles, 2.5 sacks) made a successful return from a six-game absence due to midseason knee surgery in the Denver game, recording a sack and two tackles in limited action. He and fellow lineman Igor Olshansky (48 tackles, 3.5 sacks) anchor a quality run-stopping unit that limited the Raiders to just 43 rushing yards in this year's earlier meeting.
Russell figures to have his work cut out for him on Sunday, as the inexperienced quarterback will have to worry about San Diego's premier pass- rushing duo of outside linebackers Shawne Merriman (65 tackles, 12.5 sacks) and Shaun Phillips (67 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 2 INT) and the ball-hawking abilities of cornerback Antonio Cromartie (40 tackles, 18 PD), who leads the NFL with 10 interceptions and recently earned his first career Pro Bowl nod. Merriman and Phillips combined for 4 1/2 sacks of Daunte Culpepper in the Chargers' October win over the Raiders, while Cromartie and strong safety Clinton Hart (76 tackles, 5 INT, 1 sack) spearhead a pass defense that's produced a league-best 29 picks.
Tomlinson's slow start to the season is now well in the back of his owners' minds, and the humble superstar has shown why he was the consensus top choice in most fantasy drafts over the past month. It's doubtful he'll play the entire game on Sunday, but Tomlinson will still have enough cracks at Oakland's porous defense to deliver another productive day. So will a San Diego defense that has forced a league-high 44 turnovers in a most-favorable matchup against a mistake-prone rookie quarterback. Be wary of using any other Charger offensive players, although it would be a tough call to sit Gates. Stay away from Rivers, who's been dealing with a knee sprain in recent games and will surely sit if the team builds a comfortable lead.
I pegged Rhodes as a potential sleeper last week, and he made me look pretty good with an excellent outing against a tough Jacksonville run defense. Oakland's new No. 1 back is certainly worth using again on Sunday. Steer clear of Russell, however, as well as any Raider receiver because of the quarterback's inexperience and expected struggles in this game.
Raiders fans who had trouble stomaching the team's awful showing a week ago should be prepared for a similar queasy feeling on Sunday. Russell's outing against Jacksonville showed he's not yet ready to take on NFL defenses, and having the rookie line up against a San Diego squad that excels at forcing turnovers looks to be a mismatch of epic proportions. So does the one between Tomlinson and Oakland's woeful run defense, which was powerless to stop last year's league MVP when the two divisional foes squared off in October. This one sets up perfectly for the Chargers, who should be able to give many of their key contributors a breather for next weekend's playoff game with an easy victory. Russell will have plenty of great days over the course of his fledgling career, but this will not be one of them.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chargers 31, Raiders 7
Re: NFL : Sunday
Chargers visit Oakland in Week 17 finale
San Diego is making a second-half push that should frighten the front runners in the AFC. LT looks like the LT of 2006 and the Raiders should provide only token resistance as the Chargers push for a better playoff seed. Of note, the Chargers are 8-1 ATS the past nine meetings with the Raiders.
Oddsmakers currently have the Chargers listed as 9-point favorites versus the Raiders, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in Week 16 to lead the Chargers to a 23-3 home win over the Denver Broncos.
The Chargers had no trouble covering the 9-point spread in that contest, while the combined score fell UNDER the night's posted total (47).
The Raiders lost to Jacksonville 49-11 as a 14-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (40).
JaMarcus Russell completed 7-of-23 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions for Oakland, while Dominic Rhodes rushed for 115 yards on 27 carries.
San Diego has won 5 straight games.
Oakland has lost 3 straight games.
San Diego: 10-5 SU, 10-5 ATS
Oakland: 4-11 SU, 6-9 ATS
San Diego most recently:
When playing in December are 9-1
When playing on grass are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When playing within the division are 8-2
Oakland most recently:
When playing in December are 1-9
When playing on grass are 2-8
After being outgained are 2-8
When playing within the division are 2-8
A few trends to consider:
San Diego is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
San Diego is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
San Diego is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Oakland
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of San Diego's last 5 games when playing Oakland
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Oakland's last 5 games when playing San Diego
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Oakland's last 6 games
Oakland is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 games
Oakland is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 games at home
Re: NFL : Sunday
Game Preview for Vikings vs Broncos
(Sports Network) - Last weekend, the Minnesota Vikings had a playoff berth in their hands. Now the club needs some help to reach the postseason. Step one comes this Sunday in Denver, where Minnesota will battle the Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Minnesota had a shot to wrap up the final NFC wild card spot after Philadelphia defeated New Orleans last Sunday. The Vikings were battling the Washington Redskins, the other team in contention for that spot, later that night and were handed a 32-21 setback. That dropped Minnesota to 8-7, the same record as Washington.
In order to advance into the playoffs, the Vikings now need to both beat or tie Denver while also having the Redskins lose to the Dallas Cowboys. If Washington ties Dallas, then Minnesota can only get the final spot with a win.
The Vikings didn't play like a team that was fighting for their playoff lives, as Minnesota allowed Washington to score the first 25 points of the game en route to having a five-game winning streak halted.
Minnesota came into the game with the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense, but logged just 87 yards on the ground against Washington. The Vikings also had the top- ranked run defense in the NFL, but gave up 106 rushing yards.
The Vikings, who had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl this season, now have to go on the road, where they are just 3-4 on the year. They will play for the first time ever at Invesco Field, which opened in 2001.
Standing in Minnesota's way are the Broncos, who lost in blowout fashion on Christmas Eve to San Diego, 23-3. The loss secured Denver's first losing season since 1999, as the club dipped to 6-9 on the year.
The Broncos were also blown out at home against San Diego earlier in the year, but otherwise are a very tough team in Denver late in the season. The team is 20-4 since 1995 at home in December, good for the third-best mark in the NFL, and 4-3 overall as the host this season.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who struggled against San Diego, has thrown seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions for a 124.4 passer rating in his last three home games.
However, Denver enters this game as losers of two straight and four of its last five games. The Broncos have scored a mere 16 points in their last two games and will post their first losing record since going 6-10 in 1999.
Minnesota has a 7-4 lead in its all-time series against Denver, including wins in its last two head-to-head matchups with the Broncos. The Vikings were 28-20 home winners when the teams last met, in 2003, and took a 23-20 decision when they last visited Denver in 1999. The Broncos' last win in the series occurred in 1996 at the Metrodome, and they last beat Minnesota in Denver in 1984.
Denver head coach Mike Shanahan is 1-2 in his career against Minnesota. The Vikings' Brad Childress will be meeting both Shanahan and the Broncos for the first time as a head coach.
WHEN THE VIKINGS HAVE THE BALL
The Vikings have lived and died on the ground this year, which is why it is no surprise they were unable to beat Washington. The club averages 164.1 yards per game rushing, but got just 27 out of rookie Adrian Peterson on nine carries and 14 on six attempts by Chester Taylor (761 rushing yards, 7 TD). In fact, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (1,736 passing yards, 7 TD, 12 INT) was the team's leading rusher with 44 yards and two scores. The Vikings will try to get Peterson (1,305 rushing yards, 12 TD), the NFC's leading rusher, back on track. He needs just one rushing score to tie a team record for most touchdowns on the ground in a single season. That mark of 13 is currently held by both Chuck Foreman and Terry Allen. Peterson is also trying to become the first the first rookie to lead the NFC in rushing since Barry Sanders in 1989. The Vikings are also just 46 rushing yards shy of the 2002 club's record of 2,507 in a season.
Minnesota will also hope Jackson can control the ball better than last week. While he did run for two scores, he threw two interceptions to go along with a touchdown toss and 220 passing yards. He also attempted 41 passes, a number Minnesota will look to decrease this weekend. Taylor and wideout Troy Williamson (18 receptions, 1 TD) each led the team with five catches last week, while Robert Ferguson (27 receptions, 1 TD) added four for 51 yards. Leading receiver Bobby Wade (49 receptions, 555 yards, 1 TD) added three catches for 34 yards, and tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser made the lone touchdown catch.
Minnesota should have little trouble getting its ground game going against Denver. The Broncos are allowing 140.7 yards per game rushing, 30th in the league, and allowed NFL leading rusher LaDainian Tomlinson to run for 107 yards and a touchdown on Monday night. In all, San Diego racked up 147 yards on the ground. Linebacker D.J. Williams continued his assault on opposing plays, posting 12 tackles against San Diego to give him an AFC-leading 133 on the season. He trails only San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis in that category. Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey (78 tackles, 3 INT) added eight tackles, but the Denver secondary failed to grab an interception in the game. Jamie Winborn (27 tackles) finished with seven tackles, while Nate Webster posted six. He is second on the team with 86 tackles this season. Josh Mallard (11 tackles, 2 sacks) had a sack against San Diego, while Elvis Dumervil and Tim Crowder (17 tackles, 4 sacks) each had a half-sack. For Dumervil (36 tackles), the defensive end is now tied for fourth in the AFC with 11 1/2 sacks on the season. In addition to Bailey, Minnesota's Jackson also has to keep an eye on corner Dre' Bly, who leads the team with five picks to go along with 46 tackles and a sack. On the injury front, linebacker Ian Gold will likely miss the game due to a knee problem.
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Both Minnesota's Jackson and Denver's Cutler were drafted in 2006 by their respective clubs, though more long-term pressure is on Cutler, as he was taken 11th overall. Jackson, meanwhile, was a late second-round pick. In his first full season as a starter, Cutler has thrown for 3,251 yards and 18 touchdowns while also getting picked off 14 times. Against the Chargers, he completed 14- of-32 pass attempts for 155 yards, but failed to find the end zone while throwing two interceptions. He was limited in practice this week due to a knee injury, but should be ready to go in this one. However, wideout Brandon Stokley, third on the team with 40 receptions to go along with 635 yards and five touchdowns, could miss a second straight game because of a knee ailment. Despite having the 13th-best pass attack in the league while also ranking ninth on the ground, the Broncos are scoring just 19.9 points per game.
Denver has been using a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Travis Henry and Selvin Young, though both were limited versus San Diego. Young (642 rushing yards, 1 TD) had 10 carries for 39 yards, while Henry (691 rushing yards, 4 TD) had just four attempts for 11 yards. Cutler was the leading rusher with three carries for 42 yards. Second-year wideout Brandon Marshall continued his emergence, hauling in six passes for 75 yards against the Chargers. He has 92 catches for 1,211 yards and six receiving touchdowns on the season, and needs just 89 yards to become the first Broncos wideout to reach 1,300 receiving yards since Rod Smith in 2001. Wide receiver Javon Walker (24 receptions) added two catches for 14 yards on Monday, but has five touchdown catches in six career games against Minnesota. Finally, Tony Scheffler (42 receptions, 4 TD) needs just three receiving yards to become the first Denver tight end to reach 500 yards in a season since Jeb Putzier in 2004.
The Vikings are allowing only 70.5 rushing yards per game -- tops in the NFL -- but are getting torched through the air. Minnesota has allowed the opposition to throw for a league-high 266.1 yards per game. Washington's Todd Collins was right on the mark last week, throwing for 254 yards and two scores against the Vikings, while running back Clinton Portis ran for 76 yards and a TD on 20 carries. The Vikings failed to post a sack against Washington, nor did they force a turnover. Linebacker Chad Greenway (99 tackles, 2 INT) led the way with 11 tackles, while cornerback Cedric Griffin (87 tackles) added eight stops. Defensive end Kenechi Udeze (39 tackles, 5 sacks) and linebacker Ben Leber (60 tackles, 4 sacks) each had six tackles, while leading tackler E.J. Henderson (110 tackles, 4 sacks) had five. Henderson has three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble over his last six games. Minnesota will get one last chance to break the team record for most interception returns for a touchdown in the single season. This year's squad is currently even with the 1992 team, which returned six picks to the house. Defensive tackle Pat Williams (62 tackles, 2 sacks) missed practice time this week due to a knee ailment and is considered questionable for this Sunday.
Minnesota will be going all out on Sunday, and Denver's poor run defense makes both Peterson and Taylor great starts. Jackson, meanwhile, will be relying on his ground game and should be avoided. The Vikings defense should also have a good game this weekend as it pressures Cutler and stuffs the run game. For Denver, Shanahan's inconsistency in choosing which running back will be the focus of his attack makes Henry and Young tough starts, combined with the Vikings great run defense. Marshall is a must-start and Cutler isn't a bad choice, as he will be forced to throw.
Despite a recent five-game winning streak, the Vikings don't control their own destiny. But, all is not lost if the club can come through with a victory in Denver. However, that is easier said than done given the Broncos' recent home success. Still, if Minnesota can get Peterson and Taylor going against Denver's defense, it has an excellent shot of winning. The Vikings will need to avoid scoreboard watching and just leave it in the hands of fate and its awesome running back duo. Meanwhile, Cutler will get a good test this weekend against a solid defense putting it all on the line. While he won't fail the test, he won't be able to do enough to eliminate the Vikings from the postseason. Expect Minnesota to its part on Sunday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vikings 24, Broncos 16
Re: NFL : Sunday
Vikings control destiny, must win at Denver
Losing to Washington ended the Viking win streak and damaged their playoff hopes. But a win at Denver will get Minny in. And the Vikes are 6-1 ATS (including 3-0 since 1996) past seven vs. Denver, who are just 3-10 ATS in their past 13 home games.
Oddsmakers currently have the Vikings listed as 3-point favorites versus the Broncos, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
The Vikings lost to Washington 32-21 as a 6-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (40.5).
Tarvaris Jackson completed 25-of-41 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while running in for two touchdowns for Minnesota, while Adrian Peterson was held to 27 rushing yards on nine carries.
Jay Cutler was picked off twice in Week 16 as the Broncos fell 23-3 on the road to the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers had no trouble covering the 9-point spread in that contest, while the combined score fell UNDER the night's posted total (47).
Denver has lost 2 straight games.
Minnesota: 8-7 SU, 7-6-2 ATS
Denver: 6-9 SU, 4-11 ATS
Minnesota most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 4-6
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 5-5
Denver most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 4-6
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing outside the division are 3-7
A few trends to consider:
Minnesota is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing Denver
Minnesota is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Minnesota's last 8 games on the road
Minnesota is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games when playing Denver
The total has gone OVER in 10 of Denver's last 12 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Denver's last 8 games
Denver is 17-8 SU in its last 25 games at home
Denver is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games when playing Minnesota
Re: NFL : Sunday
Game Preview for Chiefs vs Jets
(Sports Network) - When he returns to the Meadowlands to face his former team this Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards isn't likely to do a double-take over the New York Jets' brand new look.
In fact, Edwards will gaze across the field at the same stumbling, bumbling Jets that he seemed in a haste to leave when he took the Kansas City job following the 2005 season.
After he led the organization to three playoff berths in his first four years, Edwards' final team with the Jets went 4-12 in an injury-marred season that saw both quarterback Chad Pennington and running back Curtis Martin succumb to injuries. After Edwards was replaced with Eric Mangini in time for 2006, it looked as if Gang Green had undergone a renaissance, finishing 10-6 and making a surprise playoff appearance.
But one year later, the Jets have reverted back to the '05 form they displayed under Edwards, and with one more loss will put the finishing touches on the franchise's worst season since going 1-15 under Rich Kotite in 1996.
Edwards would not likely swap places with Mangini at this stage, though it's not as if things are much better for the former NFL defensive back's current employer.
Kansas City comes into the Meadowlands riding an eight-game losing streak, just one off the franchise record of nine, set in the strike-plagued year of 1987.
The Chiefs have already been assured of their worst season since going 4-11-1 in 1988, and with one more loss will have put up their least favorable showing since the 1978 team finished 4-12.
The Chiefs have a 16-14-1 edge in the all-time regular season series with the Jets, including a 27-7 home win when the teams last met, in Week 1 of the 2005 season. Kansas City was a 29-25 winner when it last played the Jets at the Meadowlands, in 2002. New York's last win in the series was a 27-7 home win in 2001.
The Chiefs and Jets have also met twice in the playoffs, with New York earning a 35-15 home victory in a 1985 AFC First-Round Playoff and the Chiefs winning a 13-6 road decision in a 1969 Inter-Divisional Playoff.
Edwards will be meeting the team that he guided from 2001 through 2005 for the first time as a head coach. The Jets' Mangini will be meeting both his predecessor Edwards and the Chiefs for the first time.
WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
The Chiefs have some uncertainty at the quarterback position as they head to the Meadowlands. Starter Brodie Croyle (1032 passing yards, 5 TD, 6 INT) injured his hand while trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception in last week's loss to the Lions, and is listed as questionable on this week's injury report. Croyle told reporters he would play, but if he experiences a late-week setback, veteran Damon Huard (2257 passing yards, 11 TD, 13 INT) will again step in. Huard had perhaps his best game of the season against the Lions, completing 24-of-36 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort. Huard was also sacked four times behind a poor K.C. line that has now allowed 52 sacks on the season. Wideout Dwayne Bowe (69 receptions, 5 TD) and tight end Tony Gonzalez (92 receptions, 5 TD) will serve as the top targets for whoever plays QB. The rookie Bowe needs just 18 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the season. The Chiefs are last in NFL rushing offense (79.7 yards per game) as Week 17 begins, and will be without running back Larry Johnson (foot) again on Sunday. Rookie Kolby Smith (406 rushing yards, 2 TD, 21 receptions), who carried 17 times for 60 yards last week, will be the team's backfield starter.
The Jets rank a respectable ninth in the league against the pass (199.2 yards per game), with a blossoming secondary serving as an overall team strength. Rookie cornerback Darrelle Revis (82 tackles, 3 INT) looks to have Pro Bowl potential down the line, while safety Kerry Rhodes (65 tackles, 5 INT, 1 sack) is a sure tackler with good cover ability. Cornerback David Barrett (58 tackles, 1 INT) had the team's only interception of Tennessee quarterback Vince Young in last Sunday's loss to the Titans. The Jets' pass rush has come up with just 26 sacks through its first 15 games, but three came last week against Tennessee. End David Bowens (23 tackles, 1.5 sacks) took down Young once in the contest. New York is a disappointing 29th in the NFL against the run (140.2 yards per game), but has a capable young tackler in inside linebacker David Harris (116 tackles, 4 sacks). The rookie Harris had eight tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble at the Titans in Week 16. Up front, Sione Pouha (39 tackles) added value by posting a team-high eight solo stops.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Like the Chiefs, the Jets are either unsure or are unwilling to share who their starting quarterback will be on Sunday. Seven-game starter Kellen Clemens (1414 passing yards, 4 TD, 10 INT) has not appeared since going down early with a rib problem against the Patriots in Week 15, and Pennington (1765 passing yards, 10 TD, 9 INT) could be in line for his second consecutive start. Pennington was accurate in the loss to the Titans, completing 26-of-32 passes for 264 yards with a touchdown, but also threw a pair of interceptions and was sacked six times behind the Jets' paper-thin line. Jerricho Cotchery (74 receptions, 2 TD) had a big day with eight catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, while Brad Smith (32 receptions, 2 TD) hauled in five passes for 45 yards as he subbed for the injured Laveranues Coles (ankle), who has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Smith himself is questionable for Sunday with a back problem. The Jets running game is led by Thomas Jones (1021 rushing yards, 1 TD, 27 receptions), who went over 1,000 yards last week but has not kept Jets fans from pining for University of Arkansas back Darren McFadden, a potential pickup of the team in the 2008 Draft.
Edwards won't be the only familiar figure Jets fans see on Sunday, as cornerback Ty Law (45 tackles, 2 INT) will also return to face his old employer. Law played just one season with the Jets (2005), but made an impression to the tune of an NFL-best 10 interceptions and a Pro Bowl appearance. This year, the veteran corner has made an impact on a Chiefs defense that ranks sixth in the NFL against the pass (192.3 yards per game) but hasn't made enough big plays. Safety Bernard Pollard (79 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) had the team's only interception of the Lions' Jon Kitna last Sunday. A pass rush led by end Jared Allen (61 tackles, 13.5 sacks) has been the defense's strength, with Allen adding two more sacks to his total to go along with his second touchdown catch of the year last week. The Kansas City run- stopping group could be in trouble this week, as a unit that ranks just 26th in NFL ground defense (126 yards per game) could be without questionable linebackers Napoleon Harris (98 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Donnie Edwards (101 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) due to knee and groin problems, respectively.
Most fantasy championships took place last week, and those that didn't won't be impacted very much by this game. Gonzalez is the only sure-fire fantasy starter on either team, and Bowe and Cotchery are decent No. 2 or flex options. If you're desperate for running back help due to some players around the league taking Week 17 off, you might take a flier on Thomas Jones or Kolby Smith, both of whom are facing poor run-stopping defenses.
Winning this game isn't going to make either team feel good about its 2007, but it would be something for a pair of young clubs to build upon heading into an important offseason. For that reason, expect both the Jets and Chiefs to play hard. With the home fans on their side, and due to the trace of development that has been present with New York in back-to-back close losses to the Patriots and Titans, give a slight nod to Gang Green here. Kansas City will come to play for Edwards in his homecoming, but it won't be enough.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 20, Chiefs 17
Re: NFL : Sunday
Chiefs look to avoid season-ending nine-game slide
And to think KC once looked like a playoff team. The Jets, who have an even worse record at 3-12, will try to send the Chiefs to their ninth straight loss in Week 17. It's coach Herm Edwards against his former team. KC has won and covered the past two meetings and this one is strictly about pride, making it a dangerous game to handicap.
Oddsmakers currently have the Jets listed as 6-point favorites versus the Chiefs, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
The Chiefs lost to Detroit 25-20 as a 6-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (43.5).
Damon Huard completed 24-of-36 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns for Kansas City, while Tony Gonzalez caught 10 passes for 137 yards.
The Jets lost to Tennessee 10-6 as an 8.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (37.5).
Chad Pennington completed 26-of-32 passes for 264 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for New York, while Jerricho Cotchery caught eight passes for 152 yards with a touchdown.
Kansas City has lost 8 straight games.
New York has lost 3 straight games.
Kansas City: 4-11 SU, 6-8-1 ATS
New York: 3-12 SU, 6-8-1 ATS
Kansas City most recently:
When playing in December are 3-7
When playing on turf are 2-8
After outgaining opponent are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 2-8
New York most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on turf are 1-9
After outgaining opponent are 3-7
When playing outside the division are 2-8
A few trends to consider:
Kansas City is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Kansas City's last 10 games on the road
Kansas City is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games when playing NY Jets
Kansas City is 4-2 SU in their last 6 games when playing NY Jets
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of the NY Jets last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of the NY Jets last 5 games at home
NY Jets are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of the NY Jets last 6 games when playing at home against Kansas City
Re: NFL : Sunday
Game Preview for Cowboys vs Redskins
(Sports Network) - A month ago, the Washington Redskins were a team in disarray. Now the once-shattered club has an opportunity to earn the NFC's final playoff spot when it hosts the rival Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's regular- season finale at FedEx Field.
The goal of reaching the postseason looked like a pipe dream for the grief- stricken Redskins after they suffered their fourth consecutive loss on December 2, a gut-wrenching 17-16 defeat at home to Buffalo that occurred less than a week after the fatal shooting of standout safety Sean Taylor. The tragic event was part of a grueling 12-day stretch in which the Redskins played three games amidst an unplanned trip to Florida for the funeral of their fallen teammate.
Washington has engineered a remarkable turnaround since that last-second loss to the Bills, winning three straight games and putting itself in position to claim the second NFC Wild Card berth with last Sunday's 32-21 victory at fellow playoff contender Minnesota. The Redskins' resurgence has been even more remarkable considering that it's been done without the services of starting quarterback Jason Campbell, who hasn't played since dislocating his kneecap in the first half of a Week 14 triumph over Chicago.
It turns out that Campbell's loss has been Washington's gain, as seldom-used backup Todd Collins stepped in and guided the team to a 24-16 decision over the Bears and key wins over the New York Giants and Minnesota. The 36-year-old journeyman has played flawlessly during that stretch, throwing for a combined 644 yards and four touchdowns without a single interception.
The 8-7 Redskins enter the last week of play tied with the Vikings for the NFC's remaining Wild Card, but own the tiebreaker advantage over Minnesota by virtue of last week's crucial victory. Washington will secure the sixth and final seed in the conference with a win over Dallas or losses by both the Vikings and New Orleans in their finales. Minnesota travels to Denver on Sunday, while the Saints visit Chicago.
If the Redskins do make it into the playoffs, they will face NFC West champion Seattle in next weekend's Wild Card round.
Dallas has already wrapped up the NFC's No. 1 seed, thanks to a 20-13 win at Carolina on December 22 coupled with a surprising 35-7 loss by Green Bay to Chicago last week. The 13-2 Cowboys can set a franchise record for victories in a regular season on Sunday, which would surpass the mark this year's team now shares with the 1992 Super Bowl champion squad.
It's likely that record is of secondary importance to Dallas head coach Wade Phillips, whose immediate goal remains getting his players healthy and ready for a Divisional Playoff matchup in two weeks. With that in mind, it would be no surprise if many of the Cowboys' key contributors will be either rested or used sparingly in Sunday's tilt.
One Dallas player who definitely won't suit up against Washington is Terrell Owens, after the colorful wide receiver suffered a high ankle sprain in the Carolina game. Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode will also sit out due to a sprained right knee, while star quarterback Tony Romo, who's been bothered by a bruised thumb on his throwing hand, will probably give way to veteran backup Brad Johnson at some point during the contest.
The 39-year-old Johnson played for the Redskins in 1999 and 2000 and threw for a career-high 4,005 yards during his first year with the organization.
The Cowboys lead the all-time regular season series with Washington, 56-35-2, including a 28-23 win when the teams met at Texas Stadium in Week 11. Dallas also posted a conventional home-and-home split of last year's series, which included a 22-19 loss at FedEx Field in Week 9. Dallas is 0-2 at FedEx Field since last winning there in 2004.
Washington is 2-0 against Dallas in the postseason, winning in the 1972 and 1982 NFC Championship games.
Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs is 15-16 against the Cowboys, including a win in the 1982 NFC Championship, during his career. Phillips, meanwhile, is 2-0 all- time against Washington, with one of those wins coming for his Bills team in 1999 at FedEx Field. Phillips is 1-0 against Gibbs head-to-head.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL
A potent Dallas offense which ranks second in the NFL in both total yards (380.3 ypg) and scoring (29.9 ypg) figures to have a decidedly different look this week, particularly at the wide receiver position. You can bet the Redskins will be glad to see Owens (81 receptions, 1355 yards, 15 TD) in street clothes, since the dynamic wideout racked up 173 yards and a career- high four touchdowns against Washington in November. His spot opposite Patrick Crayton (48 receptions, 7 TD) will be filled by the combo of second-year pro Sam Hurd (16 receptions, 1 TD) and veteran Terry Glenn, expected to be active for the first time since undergoing a pair of knee surgeries in September. The 33-year-old had posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for the Cowboys prior to this year. Expect an early exit from Romo (4125 passing yards, 36 TD, 18 INT) even though the Pro Bowl signal-caller proved his health by throwing 42 times for 257 yards against Carolina.
Dallas' strong running game didn't miss a beat with Gurode sidelined last week, as the Cowboys amassed 148 yards on the ground versus the Panthers. The club stands 12th overall in rushing offense (116.3 ypg) and boasts two quality backs in Marion Barber (981 rushing yards, 43 receptions, 12 total TD) and Julius Jones (581 rushing yards, 21 receptions). Barber, who recorded 110 yards and a score on 22 attempts in the Carolina win, is the more valuable of the pair, which likely means Jones will be getting the bulk of the work with nothing on the line for the Cowboys.
Whoever gets the ball in the Dallas backfield will be facing a Washington defense that can be mighty tough against the run. The Redskins rank eighth in the league in rushing yards allowed (97.3 ypg) and limited Barber to only 43 yards on 15 carries in the teams' earlier meeting. The unit was equally as impressive last Sunday, holding Minnesota sensation Adrian Peterson to a mere 27 yards on nine tries. Washington will again be without its second-leading tackler in weakside linebacker Rocky McIntosh, who tore ligaments in his left knee during a Week 15 win over the Giants, but former Cowboy Randall Godfrey (25 tackles) stepped in nicely by registering nine tackles and a forced fumble against the Vikings. The 12-year pro is part of an experienced and sound linebacking corps headed by tackling machine London Fletcher (125 tackles, 3 INT) in the middle.
If the Redskins are to achieve their postseason dreams, the defense will have to improve on the 293 yards and four touchdowns it allowed to the Cowboys through the air back in Week 11. Washington has tightened up its 17th-ranked pass defense since that game, as cornerbacks Shawn Springs (60 tackles, 3 INT, 12 PD) and Fred Smoot (49 tackles, 1 INT) have played well lately and second- year safety Reed Doughty (47 tackles, 0.5 sacks) has shown to be a capable fill-in for Taylor at free safety. The Redskins also sacked Romo just once in that earlier encounter, as top pass rusher Andre Carter (52 tackles, 10.5 sacks) was held in check by Dallas Pro Bowl tackle Flozell Adams.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Collins (644 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 INT) certainly hasn't shown any rust after attempting just 27 passes over the previous nine seasons. The well-prepared veteran hasn't turned the ball over once in his two starts in place of Campbell, and lit up Minnesota's shaky secondary for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-27 passes last week. Oft-injured receiver Santana Moss (53 receptions, 2 TD) has re-emerged as a big-play threat down the stretch for the Redskins, and amassed 121 yards and a score on nine catches in last month's matchup with Dallas. Counterpart Antwaan Randle El (48 receptions, 1 TD) had his first touchdown grab of the year in Sunday's win, while Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley (61 receptions, 8 TD) is a feared red-zone target for an offense that comes in 14th overall in passing yards (216.0 ypg).
An inconsistent Redskins' running game is keyed by workhorse Clinton Portis (1158 rushing yards, 9 TD, 43 receptions), whose 300 rush attempts in 2007 are tied for second in the NFL. The veteran back hopes to improve off his last encounter with Dallas, when Portis mustered just 36 yards on 12 totes back in November. For the year Washington is averaging 113 yards per week on the ground, good for 13th in the league.
Collins will attempt to bomb away at a Dallas secondary that gave up 348 yards through the air to Campbell earlier this season and could be without Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman (50 tackles, 4 INT, 13 PD), who's dealing with soreness in his right foot and will play sparingly, if at all, on Sunday. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff (30 tackles, 3 INT) likely won't participate due to a knee sprain, meaning controversial ex-Bear Tank Johnson (8 tackles, 2 sacks) would get the start up front. One Cowboy defender who's well-rested for this meeting is strong safety Roy Williams (83 tackles, 2 INT). The four-time Pro Bowl choice sat out the Carolina game after being suspended for an illegal tackle on Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb in Week 15.
Williams is an integral part of a Cowboy stop unit that ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (92.1 ypg) and did an excellent job bottling up Portis last month. Dallas is also tied for third in the league with 43 sacks and boasts two top-notch rushing linebackers in DeMarcus Ware (78 tackles, 13 sacks) and Greg Ellis (29 tackles, 12.5 sacks). The duo combined for three of the team's five sacks at Carolina last week. Expect Ellis, who's coming off Achilles' surgery which cut short his 2006 campaign, to have his playing time cut into by promising rookie Anthony Spencer (32 tackles, 3 sacks) on Sunday.
The Cowboys normally have a wealth of must-start fantasy performers, but it's unclear how much Romo, Barber and stud tight end Jason Witten (94 receptions, 1121 yards, 7 TD) will play on Sunday with Dallas having already wrapped up home-field advantage in the conference playoffs. Therefore, it might be wise for those whose seasons are still going on to bench each one of those usual stalwarts. Jones and Crayton seem to be the best options among the Cowboys contingent for this week. For the Redskins, Portis is sure to receive plenty of work and makes for a solid start, while Moss has strung together back-to- back strong games and was a handful for the Dallas secondary back in November. He and Cooley look like very good choices on Sunday. Even Collins is worth a flier for those whose regular quarterback may be rested this week.
No team has had to go through what the Redskins have endured over the last month, but it appears Gibbs' troops will be rewarded for their perseverance and handling of a situation that would have crumbled most clubs. Dallas' offense isn't quite as scary without Owens in the lineup, and with Romo expected to take an early seat during the game, the Cowboys will be fielding a unit that shouldn't give Washington's quality defense too many problems. If Collins can deliver another steady performance under center and the Redskins establish something of a ground game, there's little reason to think Washington won't be able to come through in a matchup where it has far more at stake than its divisional rival.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 24, Cowboys 13
Re: NFL : Sunday
Redskins have plenty of motivation against Cowboys
Washington hates Dallas. Washington could make the playoffs with a win. Dallas is locked into the top spot in the NFC. The Redskins come off a big win over Minnesota and have covered four of five against Dallas heading into Week 17.
Oddsmakers currently have the Redskins listed as 9-point favorites versus the Cowboys, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
Tony Romo threw for 257 yards and a touchdown to lift the Cowboys over the Panthers 20-13 last week. The Cowboys could not cover the 11-point spread on the road, and the 33 points were UNDER the posted total of 42.5.
Marion Barber ran for 110 yards off 22 carries with one touchdown for the Cowboys.
The Redskins upset Minnesota 32-21 as a 6-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (40.5).
Todd Collins passed for 254 yards with two touchdowns for Washington, while Clinton Portis rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown and also threw a touchdown pass in the win.
Washington has won 3 straight games.
Dallas: 13-2 SU, 9-6 ATS
Washington: 8-7 SU, 6-7-2 ATS
Dallas most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When playing within the division are 5-5
Washington most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 5-5
After outgaining opponent are 4-6
When playing within the division are 3-7
A few trends to consider:
Dallas is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Dallas is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Dallas's last 7 games on the road
Dallas is 16-4 SU in its last 20 games when playing Washington
Washington is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Dallas
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Washington's last 10 games
Washington is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Washington's last 9 games when playing at home against Dallas
Re: NFL : Sunday
Buffalo (7-8, 9-6 ATS) at Philadelphia (7-8 SU and ATS)
A non-conference matchup with no implications whatsoever – other than the winner finishing at .500 – takes place when the Bills travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles.
Buffalo, which two weeks ago had strong playoff hopes, fell to the New York Giants 38-21 last week as a one-point home underdog. It was the second consecutive SU and ATS loss for the Bills.
Philadelphia played spoiler in New Orleans last week, dimming the Saints’ slim playoff hopes with a 38-23 road victory as a three-point pup. The Eagles have followed a three-game slide with back-to-back upset wins, both on the road.
Despite the Bills’ rough run lately, they still hold positive ATS trends of 20-6-1 against teams with a losing record and 7-3-1 following a SU loss of more than 14 points. But they are 3-4 ATS this season on the highway, 2-5 ATS as a road pup and 0-4 ATS in their last four season finales.
Buffalo, which got blanked 8-0 at Cleveland in its most recent road game, averages a paltry 9.6 points and 266 yards per game as a visitor this season.
The Eagles, with QB Donovan McNabb seemingly healthy again, are 5-2 ATS in their last seven starts and 6-3 ATS this season in non-division play. However, they are just 4-12-1 ATS in their last 17 as a chalk and 2-7 ATS laying points at home.
ATS ADVANTAGE: PHILADELPHIA
Carolina (6-9, 7-8 ATS) at Tampa Bay (9-6, 8-6-1 ATS)
The Panthers cap another disappointing season with a trip to Raymond James Stadium for an NFC South battle against the division champion Buccaneers.
Carolina, considered a playoff contender in the preseason before injuries ravaged its QB corps, lost to Dallas last week 20-13. On the bright side, the Panthers got the cash as a 10½-point underdog, their second straight spread-cover.
Tampa Bay, already locked in to the NFC’s No. 4 playoff seed, lost at San Francisco 21-19 as a 6½-point favorite last Sunday. QB Jeff Garcia was pulled before halftime, having already gone 12 of 20 for 196 yards and a TD and helping the Bucs to a 13-7 lead. Despite the final score, Tampa Bay dominated statistically, with a 434-213 yardage edge and a 34:29-25:31 time-of-possession advantage.
The Panthers have covered in back-to-back games for only the second time this season, and they’re on further ATS rolls of 5-1 in December, 4-1 in Week 17 and 9-4 against the NFC. But after starting the season with a 4-0 SU and ATS road record, the Panthers have dropped three in a row SU and ATS on the highway, including a 37-6 drubbing at Jacksonville in their last trip to Florida.
The Buccaneers, likely to again rest key players, are 5-2 SU and ATS in their last seven games. Additionally, they are on positive ATS runs of 5-0 against the NFC South, 7-2 against losing teams, 7-2 in regular-season finales, 5-1-1 at home and 17-4-1 as a home underdog.
The underdog is 8-1 ATS in the last nine meetings in this series, including Tampa Bay’s 20-7 win at Carolina as a three-point pup in September.
The straight-up winner is a perfect 15-0 in Bucs games this season, and the winner cashed in Carolina’s first 14 games before last week’s contest against Dallas.
The under is 9-3 in Carolina’s last 12 starts overall, 7-2 in Tampa’s last nine Week 17 games and 10-4 in the last 14 meetings in this series, including 2-0 in the last two.
ATS ADVANTAGE: TAMPA BAY and UNDER
Cincinnati (6-9 SU and ATS) at Miami (1-14, 5-7-3 ATS)
The Bengals travel to South Florida to finish off a disappointing season against the hapless Dolphins.
Cincinnati halted an 0-3 ATS slide by beating Cleveland 19-14 as a one-point home pup last week, putting a big dent in the rival Browns’ playoff hopes in the process.
Miami was unable to build on its first win of the year, falling 28-7 to the infallible Patriots last week. However, the Dolphins did manage their second straight cover for the first time this season, cashing as a 22-point road ‘dog. The Dolphins got a third-quarter TD and held the Patriots scoreless in the second half, the first team all year to turn that trick.
The Bengals are 3-6 ATS in their last nine starts (4-5 SU) and 1-4 ATS in December games. They are on further negative ATS slumps of 0-4 as a road chalk, 0-5 following a SU win and 0-5 following a spread-cover.
The Dolphins are a pathetic 10-26-1 ATS in their last 37 home games (2-5 ATS this season) and 7-19-1 ATS against teams with a losing record.
Cincinnati has stayed under the total in five straight games overall and three straight on the road.
ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE
Dallas (13-2, 9-6 ATS) at Washington (8-7, 6-7-2 ATS)
The Cowboys, who wrapped up the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed last week, head to FedEx Field to face the division-rival Redskins, who have stunningly turned around their season to the point that they’re in a win-and-your-in situation for the playoffs.
Dallas fended off Carolina 20-13 last Saturday, failing to cover as a 10½-point road chalk. RB Marion Barber rushed for 110 yards and a TD, and QB Tony Romo was 28 of 42 for 257 yards and a TD, with one INT. The Cowboys dominated time of possession (39 minutes to 21 minutes) and total yards (405-216).
Washington stunned Minnesota last week 32-21 as a six-point road pup, posting its third straight win and cover to stay alive in the playoff chase. Todd Collins, the 36-year-old journeyman QB subbing for the injured Jason Cambpell, was a sterling 22 of 29 for 254 yards and two TDs, with no turnovers. Washington’s defense stuffed star rookie RB Adrian Peterson (nine carries, 27 yards) and forced two INTs and a fumbled handoff exchange from QB Tarvaris Jackson.
The Cowboys, who are on an 0-3 ATS slide (2-1 SU), have said they will sit WR Terrell Owens (ankle) and will likely limit several other key players, including QB Tony Romo (thumb). That said, they are 7-3-1 ATS on their last 11 road trips, including 4-0 ATS as a road pup. On the negative side, Dallas is 1-4 ATS in its last five against the NFC, 0-4 ATS in Week 17 contests and 0-5 ATS in its last five December starts.
The Redskins, who were on a 1-6 ATS plunge (2-5 SU) before their current surge, are still mired in pointspread downturns of 2-6-2 at FedEx, 2-7-1 as a home chalk and 3-7-1 following a SU win. However, they are on positive ATS runs of 7-2-1 against teams with a winning mark and 4-1 against the NFC, including covering an 11-point spread in a 28-23 loss at Dallas last month.
Dallas is 6-4 SU and ATS the last 10 in this series, but Washington has covered the last two and four of the last five. Also, the ‘dog is an eye-popping 17-4 against the line in the last 21 meetings.
ATS ADVANTAGE: WASHINGTON
Detroit (7-8, 7-8 ATS) at Green Bay (12-3, 11-3-1 ATS)
The Lions, seemingly destined for the playoffs before a late-season meltdown, travel to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers, who have already clinched the NFC’s No. 2 seed.
Detroit held off Kansas City 25-20 last week as a six-point home chalk, finally halting its season-killing six-game losing streak (1-5 ATS).
Green Bay gave away its shot at the NFC’s top playoff seed, getting hammered by rival Chicago 35-7 in bitter cold conditions as a nine-point road favorite, the Packers’ second loss to the Bears this season. The loss halted a 2-0 SU and ATS uptick for the Pack.
The Lions, despite the win over the Chiefs, are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games, including 0-3 ATS on the highway. This season, Detroit is 2-5 ATS on the road and 4-7 ATS catching points. The Lions are also 4-11-1 ATS in their last 16 starts against the NFC North. A lone positive note for Detroit is its 5-1 ATS mark over the past six years in Week 17.
The Packers, meanwhile, are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 games and 12-4-2 ATS against the NFC. They are on further positive ATS runs of 7-3 inside the division, 6-0-2 following an ATS loss, 5-1 laying points and 5-1-1 at Lambeau.
The home team is 15-5-1 ATS in the last 21 in this series, and the Lions are 2-7 ATS on their last seven trips to Green Bay. The Packers are 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) in the last 10 meetings in this series.
ATS ADVANTAGE: GREEN BAY
Jacksonville (11-4 SU and ATS) at Houston (7-8 SU and ATS)
The red-hot Jaguars, headed to the playoffs as a wild card with the fifth seed, cap the regular season at Reliant Stadium against the AFC South rival Texans, who are seeking their first-ever .500 finish.
Jacksonville ripped Oakland 49-11 last week as a 14-point home favorite for its third consecutive win and cover. QB David Garrard was just 11 of 18 for 199 yards, but he threw two TDs (and one INT) before giving way to Quinn Gray later in the game. The Jaguars’ defense forced rookie QB JaMarcus Russell into three INTs and a lost fumble, and allowed just 215 yards. RB Fred Taylor had seven carries for 111 yards, 62 of which came on a TD jaunt.
Houston fell to defending Super Bowl champ Indianapolis 38-15 last Sunday as a 6½-point road pup, halting a 2-0 SU and ATS surge.
The Jaguars are on a 7-0 ATS spree (6-1 SU), with the only straight-up setback coming in a 28-25 loss at Indianapolis earlier this month. This season, they are 6-1 ATS on the highway and 6-2 ATS as a chalk, including a 37-17 rout of Houston as 6½-point home chalk in October. On the negative side, though, Jacksonville is 1-4 ATS in its last five trips to Houston.
The straight-up winner is 29-2 ATS in Jacksonville’s last 31 games, dating to the 2006 season opener.
The Texans are 2-7 ATS in their last nine games against the AFC, including 1-3 ATS this season in division play. However, they are 7-2 ATS at home (5-2 ATS this year), 10-3 ATS at Reliant Stadium against teams with a winning record, and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in this series (5-5 SU). Finally, Houston is 11-5 ATS in its last 16 December starts.
The over is on runs of 8-0-1 for Jacksonville and 9-2 for Houston in December games. However, six of the last eight series meetings have stayed low.
ATS ADVANTAGE: HOUSTON
New Orleans (7-8, 6-9 ATS) at Chicago (6-9 SU and ATS)
The Saints, barely clinging to their playoff hopes, travel to Soldier Field to face the Bears in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game.
New Orleans blew an opportunity to enhance its playoff chances with a 38-23 loss to Philadelphia last week as a three-point home ‘dog, ending a 2-0 SU and ATS run. QB Drew Brees aired the ball out 45 times, completing 30 for 289 yards, but he had no TDs and one INT. The Saints’ defense allowed Donovan McNabb and Co. to rack up 435 total yards, compared to 346 for New Orleans.
Chicago pulled off a stunning 35-7 upset of NFC North champion Green Bay in frigid temperatures, cashing as a nine-point home dog for its second straight spread-cover. Defense and special teams paced the Bears, as LB Brian Urlacher had an 85-yard INT return – one of two Brett Favre INTs – and Chicago blocked two punts. Offensively, RB Adrian Peterson had 30 carries for 102 yards and a TD.
The Saints, who lost at Chicago 39-14 as a 2½-point pup in last year’s NFC title game, are 5-1 ATS in their last six as a road chalk and 4-1 ATS in their last five roadies overall. They are also 4-1 ATS following an ATS loss. On a negative note, New Orleans is 2-8 ATS in its last 10 regular-season finales.
Although they won and covered last week, the Bears are still just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 home starts (2-5 ATS this season). Furthermore, Chicago followed its first five wins this season with a SU and ATS loss. Finally, Lovie Smith’s squad is 7-14-1 ATS in its last 22 overall, including 3-6 ATS in non-division games.
The over is 14-5 in the last 19 games at Soldier Field, including last year’s NFC Championship Game, and 7-2 for New Orleans in its last nine overall, with the last four in a row hurdling the total for the Saints.
ATS ADVANTAGE: NEW ORLEANS and OVER
Pittsburgh (10-5, 8-7 ATS) at Baltimore (4-11, 2-13 ATS)
The Steelers, who are fighting for the third seed in the AFC, head to M&T Bank Stadium to face the division-rival Ravens, who can hardly remember what it’s like to win a game.
Pittsburgh, laying nine points on the road, pounded St. Louis 41-24 in a Thursday night matchup to halt an 0-2 SU and ATS skid. The Steelers lost star RB Willie Parker early to a season-ending broken leg, but QB Ben Roethlisberger picked up the slack with a 16-for-20 passing effort for 261 yards and three TDS, with no INTs, earning a perfect 158.3 rating. RB Najeh Davenport added 24 carries for 123 yards and a TD. Pittsburgh won the turnover battle 2-0 and dominated time of possession (36:16-23:44).
The Steelers need to win today and have the Chargers lose in Oakland to secure the No. 3 seed.
Baltimore, with a banged-up defense and a hapless offense, traveled to Seattle last week and got blasted 27-6 as a 12½-point pup for its ninth straight setback (1-8 ATS). Rookie QB Troy Smith, subbing for injured Kyle Boller, went 16 of 33 for 199 yards and a TD. Smith didn’t throw a pick, but he lost two fumbles.
The Steelers, coming in on a 2-5 ATS plunge, haven’t covered in back-to-back games since routing Baltimore 38-7 at home as a 9½-point favorite on Nov. 5. They are on further negative ATS funks of 1-4 following a spread-cover and 1-5 against the AFC. But Pittsburgh is 5-1 ATS in division play this year, 9-3 ATS in December and 5-2 ATS in its last seven season finales.
The Ravens carry into this game negative season-long ATS trends of 2-5 at home, 1-6 catching points and 0-5 in AFC North play. They are also 1-11 ATS in their last 12 against the AFC and 3-14 ATS in their last 17 starts overall dating to last season. On a positive note, although these teams have split their last 10 meetings, Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings (3-2 SU).
The over is 9-4 in the last 13 in this series, including Pittsburgh’s November win, which eclipsed the total of 36.
ATS ADVANTAGE: PITTSBURGH
Seattle (10-5, 9-6 ATS) at Atlanta (3-12, 7-8 ATS)
The Seahawks, locked into the NFC’s No. 3 playoff seed, travel cross-country to the Georgia Dome to take on a Falcons team that can’t reach the end of the season soon enough.
Seattle routed Baltimore 27-6 last week as a 12½-point home chalk, moving to 6-1 SU and ATS in its last seven starts.
Atlanta went to Arizona last week and nearly notched its fourth win of the season, but befitting of their miserable season, the Falcons fell short 30-27 in overtime, their sixth consecutive loss. On the bright side, they halted an 0-5 ATS slide by covering the 11-point spread, also ending a run of five straight double-digit defeats.
The Seahawks, who are likely to play it safe with their starters this week, are 5-2 ATS as an underdog (1-2 ATS as a short this season). They hold positive ATS marks of 6-1 against teams with a losing record, 6-1 against the NFC and 4-1 following a spread-cover.
The straight-up winner is 14-1 ATS in Seattle’s games this season.
The Falcons are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 at the dome (2-5 ATS this season), and they are 2-5 ATS both in their last seven as a chalk and in their last seven December starts.
ATS ADVANTAGE: SEATTLE
San Francisco (5-10 SU and ATS) at Cleveland (9-6, 11-4 ATS)
The 49ers make a lengthy road trip to cap their disappointing season, taking on the Browns, who can still end up with the AFC’s final wild-card berth, though they have no control over that fate.
San Francisco topped playoff-bound Tampa Bay 21-19 last week as a 6½-point home ‘dog, the first time all season the 49ers posted back-to-back spread-covers. Unheralded QB Shaun Hill completed just 11 of 24 passes for 123 yards, but three of those completions went for TDs. He had one INT as the 49ers won consecutive games for the first time since starting the season 2-0.
Cleveland blew its opportunity to seal a playoff berth last week at Cincinnati, falling behind 19-0 at halftime and losing 19-14 as a one-point favorite. Browns QB Derek Anderson had by far his worst outing of the season, going 29 of 48 for 251 yards with two TDs but four INTs.
Because of the loss to the Bengals, the Browns’ playoff fate is out of their hands. Win or lose, the only way they reach the postseason is if Tennessee falls at Indianapolis tonight.
This season, the 49ers are 5-9 ATS as pups, 2-5 ATS on the highway and 2-6 ATS in non-division games. They are on further negative spread runs of 1-5 as a road ‘dog, 1-5 following a spread-cover and 3-7 in their last 10 overall.
The Browns are 7-1 ATS as chalk this season, the lone blemish coming last week against the Bengals. Still among the best bets in the league, Cleveland is 6-1 ATS at home and 7-2 ATS in non-division play. In addition, the Browns are on positive ATS runs of 5-0 following a SU loss, 6-1 following an ATS loss and 8-2 in their last 10 overall.
The under is on multiple runs for Cleveland of 5-0 overall, 6-0 in December games, 4-0 laying points and 9-2 as a home chalk. Also, San Francisco averages a league-worst 14.1 points per game and has scored 10 points or less six times this season.
ATS ADVANTAGE: CLEVELAND and UNDER
Minnesota (8-7, 7-6-2 ATS) at Denver (6-9, 4-11 ATS)
The Vikings, who must not only win but get some help to reach the playoffs, travel to Invesco Field at Mile High for a date with the Broncos, one of the league’s worst bets over the past two seasons.
Minnesota could have wrapped up a wild-card spot last week, but instead got punished by Washington 32-21 as a six-point home favorite, its second straight ATS setback. QB Tarvaris Jackson (25-for-41, 220 yards, 1 TD) played a part in three first-half turnovers, with two INTs and a bad handoff exchange that led to a lost fumble. RB Adrian Peterson was shut down, with just nine carries for 27 yards.
Denver assured itself of a losing season, getting belted by San Diego 23-3 as a nine-point road underdog on Monday night, its second consecutive SU and ATS loss. QB Jay Cutler (14 of 32, 155 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) had a miserable night, and the Broncos mustered just 225 total yards and had the ball for just 23:17.
The Vikings, who need a win and a Washington loss to Dallas to gain the NFC’s final wild-card spot, are still 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS in their last six games. However, they’ve failed to cover in back-to-back games as a favorite, and they’re 1-6 ATS in their last seven regular-season finales.
The Broncos have been an ATS disaster recently, recording the following negative pointspread trends: 9-22 overall dating to the 2006 season opener, 3-10 at Mile High, 2-5 as an underdog this year, 2-7 in non-division play this year, 2-10 against teams with a winning record and 4-12 following an ATS loss. Denver’s one positive: It is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven as a home pup.
For Denver, the over is 11-4 this season, 11-1 in its last 12 home starts (6-1 this year) and 10-1 following a SU loss. For Minnesota, the over is on runs of 4-0 as a road chalk, 5-0 following a SU loss and 12-2-1 following an ATS loss.
ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER
Re: NFL : Sunday
San Diego (10-5 SU and ATS) at Oakland (4-11, 7-8 ATS)
The Chargers head up the California coast to McAfee Coliseum to take on the rival Raiders, knowing with a win they’re guaranteed the AFC’s coveted third seed
San Diego tamed the Broncos 23-3 last week laying nine points at home to earn its fifth straight win and cover, with four of the wins coming by double digits. QB Philip Rivers went 17 of 25 for 189 yards and a TD, with no turnovers, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson had 19 carries for 107 yards and a TD before exiting the game in the third quarter. The Chargers won the turnover battle 3-1 and dominated time of possession (36:43-23:17), and they allowed just 225 total yards.
Oakland was flattened at Jacksonville 49-11 as a 14-point pup for its third consecutive loss (1-2 ATS). No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell saw his most extensive action of the season and looked like the rookie he is, going 7 of 23 for 83 yards and one TD, with three INTs and a lost fumble. One good note was the effort of RB Dominic Rhodes, who had 27 carries for 115 yards subbing for the injured Justin Fargas.
The Chargers are 9-3 ATS as a chalk and 4-1 ATS in the AFC West this year, including a 28-14 rout of the Raiders as a 9½-point home chalk in October. San Diego has defeated Oakland eight consecutive times, going 7-1 ATS, including 3-0 SU and ATS in its last three visits to McAfee Coliseum. In fact, the favorite in this series is on an 8-2 ATS run.
San Diego is 17-5-3 ATS in its last 25 division contests.
The under is 14-5 in San Diego’s last 19 AFC West games and 10-3 in Oakland’s last 13 division contests. Also, the last six meetings in this rivalry have stayed low.
ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN DIEGO and UNDER
St. Louis (3-12, 4-11 ATS) at Arizona (7-8, 7-7-1 ATS)
The Rams and the Cardinals finish out the string with an NFC West matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium.
St. Louis lost to Pittsburgh 41-24 last week catching nine points at home, the third straight loss for the Rams (1-2 ATS). Meanwhile, Arizona fended off Atlanta 30-27 in overtime at home, but failed to cover an 11-point spread. It was the third straight non-cover for the Cardinals (1-2 SU).
The Rams are on ATS plunges of 3-8 as underdogs, 3-7 following a double-digit home loss and 2-5 against the NFC West. They are also 4-11 ATS in their last 15 starts following a SU setback. On the bright side, St. Louis is 6-0 ATS against teams with a losing record, 6-1 ATS in Week 17 and 5-2 ATS in December contests.
The Cardinals, who have given up an average of 33 points in their last three games, are 1-4 ATS against teams with a losing record, 1-4 ATS following a SU victory and 0-4 ATS against the NFC. However, they’re 4-0 ATS in their last four regular-season finales and 6-3 ATS in their last nine following an ATS loss.
Arizona beat St. Louis 34-31 in October but failed to cover as a 3½-point road chalk as the Rams scored a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion in the final minute to secure the backdoor cover. The underdog has cashed in eight straight meetings, and the road team is on a 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS run.
ATS ADVANTAGE: ST. LOUIS
Kansas City (4-11, 6-8-1 ATS) at N.Y. Jets (3-12, 5-9-1 ATS)
Two teams aiming to close out miserable seasons on a somewhat positive note square off when the Chiefs travel to the Meadowlands to face the Jets.
Kansas City, winless for more than two months now, had to settle for a spread-cover in a 25-20 loss at Detroit as a six-point pup. That extended the Chiefs’ losing skid to eight in a row (2-6 ATS).
For the second straight week, New York also had to be satisfied with an ATS win after losing to Tennessee 10-6 catching nine points on the road. The Jets have dropped three in a row (2-1 ATS).
Despite their poor record, the Chiefs are 5-1 ATS in their last six on the highway. Among myriad negative ATS trends, Kansas City is 1-4 after a SU loss, 1-4-1 following a spread-cover and 0-4 against the AFC.
This season, the Jets are 2-4-1 ATS at home, 0-2-1 ATS as a chalk and 3-5 ATS in non-division games. But they are on positive ATS stretches of 4-2 overall, 5-0 following a SU loss, 6-1 in December games, 5-1 in Week 17 and 4-1 against the AFC.
The under is 7-3 in Kansas City’s last 10 road trips and 12-5-1 in its last 18 as a road ‘dog. For New York, the under is on streaks of a 5-1 overall, 4-0 following a spread-cover and 6-1 in December.
ATS ADVANTAGE: N.Y. JETS and UNDER
Tennessee (9-6, 7-7-1 ATS) at Indianapolis (13-2, 9-6 ATS)
The Titans face a win-and-your-in, lose-and-your-out situation in a prime-time matchup at the RCA Dome against the defending Super Bowl champion Colts, who are already locked into the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
Tennessee fended off the New York Jets 10-6 last week as a nine-point favorite, moving to 3-1 in its last four games (2-2 ATS). QB Vince Young had another subpar performance, going 12 of 22 for 166 yards with no TDs, one INT and three fumbles (one lost). However, RB Lendale White stepped up with 103 rushing yards, while the Titans’ defense also came up big, sacking QB Chad Pennington six times and forcing two INTs while allowing only a second-quarter TD.
In a meaningless game for Tony Dungy’s squad, Indianapolis beat up Houston 38-15 as a 6½-point home chalk for its sixth consecutive victory (3-3 ATS). QB Peyton Manning, in likely his last significant action before the playoffs, was sensational, completing 28 of 35 for 311 yards and three TDs, with no INTs. The Colts racked up 458 total yards and allowed just 299, forcing three INTs.
The Titans, who make the playoffs with a win but give Cleveland the final AFC spot with a loss, are 4-1 ATS this season in the highly competitive AFC South, a division that would send three teams to the playoffs if Tennessee can pull off the win. Going back to last year, Jeff Fisher’s troops are on a 7-1 ATS run in division contests and 10-4 ATS spurt on the road. On the negative side, the Titans are on ATS slides of 2-5 overall, 1-6 following a SU win and 6-13 as a chalk.
The Colts are a bit banged up and, with nothing to play for, could rest several players today. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that Indy is on ATS tears of 13-6 overall, 7-2 at home (5-2 this year), 5-1 against winning teams, 8-2 following a victory and 4-0 as a home pup. In fact, this marks just the second time since Week 1 of the 1999 season – Manning’s second in the NFL – that Indy will take to the RCA Dome as an underdog. The only other time was in Week 8 of this season, when the Colts lost to New England 24-20, but cashed as a five-point pup.
On the negative side of things, Indy is just 2-7 ATS in its last nine inside the division (1-3 ATS this season) and 3-8 ATS in its last 11 December starts.
Indy edged Tennessee 22-20 earlier this season as a seven-point road favorite. The Titans are on a 3-0 ATS run in the series (all as an underdog), but the Colts have taken eight of the last 10 straight-up.
The last five meetings have stayed under the total.
ATS ADVANTAGE: TENNESSEE
Re: NFL : Sunday
What bettors need to know: Titans at Colts
Titans in control
The Titans entered last year’s final game needing three other teams to lose, combined with their own victory, in order to make the playoffs. They didn’t make it, but it’s a lot simpler this time around.
Tennessee just needs a win in Indianapolis to secure a postseason berth for the first time in four seasons. Despite the Colts’ insistence that they will play a weakened team in a game that means nothing for them, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch warned that the Titans should expect a tough ride.
"I think we would be making a big mistake by thinking we're going to go in there and beat up on some backups," he told the Associated Press.
"Indianapolis is the defending world champ. That says a lot about their depth. They've been banged up for a good part of the year, playing with some backup guys.”
The Colts have dominated the Titans in recent seasons, winning seven of the last eight meetings. But Tennessee has managed to keep the score within three points or less in the last three meetings.
"What we've got to do is just stay focused and play our game,” quarterback Vince Young told the AP. “I really feel like we match up with the guys pretty good. All we've got to do is just not think about what's ahead and just think about that game on Sunday.”
A Tennessee loss means the Browns will make the playoffs. The team that advances will face either San Diego or Pittsburgh in a wild card game next week.
Sorgi to see time
Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has remained tightlipped about his plans for the Tennessee game, but he is certain that backup quarterback Jim Sorgi will be featured prominently in a game for the first time in two seasons.
Peyton Manning will make the start before handing over the reigns to his backup.
"I know Jim Sorgi's going to play at least a half,” coach Dungy told Indianapolis Star this week. “I don't know how early he'll get in the game, or if he'll get in the first half.”
The Colts have found themselves in a similar situation twice before. They had secured their playoff spot and seeding before the final game during both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns. Manning played the first series and then spent the rest of the game on the bench on both occasions. The same was true of several other front-line starters.
Injuries could also impact Dungy’s decision making. He already ruled out defensive tackle Raheem Brock, tight end Ben Utecht, cornerback Tim Jennings and offensive tackle Ryan Diem.
Defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea are both doubtful.
While Dungy is unsure of his starting lineup, he is expecting a strong performance from whoever takes the field.
"You coach your team and you really can't worry about anybody else,” Dungy said. “We've got to get ourselves ready to go and just play the best we can and get ourselves ready for the playoffs.”
The Colts have one other piece of injury news that could have a major impact on this game. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison is expected to play against Tennessee, his first appearance since the Oct. 22 game at Jacksonville.
The eight-time Pro Bowl receiver injured his knee in late September and missed 11 games, including the last nine straight. Dungy told the Indianapolis Star that Harrison “felt good” in practice this week and that he took repetitions with the No.1 offense on Thursday and Friday.
"He's a guy that if he didn't play this week, I wouldn't be worried about him,” Dungy said. “If he's feeling good and healthy two weeks from now, I'd think he'd have a great game."
Harrison has 247 yards and one touchdown in five appearances this season. He registered a combined 201 yards and two TDs in two games against the Titans last year.
Head to head
The Colts have won seven of their last eight meetings with Tennessee, but the Titans have covered the spread in the last three. Five consecutive series games have gone under the total.
Indianapolis is 9-6 ATS overall this season, while the Titans are 7-8.
Re: NFL : Sunday
How hard will it be to qualify?
Tennessee and Washington are in the playoffs if they win, but others needing help might not get it if opponents rest starters.
Two will be sixth.
Three more will be deep-sixed.
Such is the drama on this, the final day of the NFL's regular season. Five teams are playing for two remaining playoff spots -- the No. 6 seedings in the NFC and AFC.
Tennessee and Washington control their own destinies. If they win, they're in.
Minnesota, New Orleans and Cleveland need various degrees of help to keep their seasons going.
The unknown: How hard will opponents who are already either in or out of the playoffs be trying to win. For instance, when second-seeded Indianapolis plays host to Tennessee, will the Colts keep Peyton Manning in the game and risk injury to their star quarterback, or replace him with seldom-seen backup Jim Sorgi?
The difference means the world to the Cleveland Browns, who need to have the Titans lose to make the playoffs.
"We certainly want to continue playing well," Colts Coach Tony Dungy told reporters who cover the Titans. "We want to win the ballgame. We'd like to finish 6-0 in the division. We'd like to finish 7-1 at home. But more than anything else, we'd like to keep improving."
Colts rookie receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who played at Ohio State, said he has been getting a lot of phone and text messages from folks in his old stomping ground urging him to play as hard as he possibly can tonight -- whatever it takes to help the Browns' cause.
"They all want me to play my heart out," Gonzalez told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "One of the things about being over here, you're pretty isolated from knowing what's going on in Cleveland. But, clearly, I know the mind-set over there, how fans want us to win. But for me, I'm a lot more concerned with doing my job and playing well.
"I'm certainly going to give it all I have, but no more so than any other game."
If the odds of making the playoffs are slim for the Browns, they're even thinner for the Saints. Not only does New Orleans need to win at Chicago in a rematch of last season's NFC title game, but it needs a Minnesota loss at Denver and Washington to fall to Dallas.
"It's difficult that you've got to count on other things to happen," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "We had an opportunity to put ourselves in position to be sitting here today and in control of it. But we weren't able to do that, so it's disappointing."
The Vikings have an ever-so-slightly easier path. They're in if they beat the Broncos and the Redskins lose. Minnesota and Washington both play afternoon games, so it's natural to think the Vikings will be watching the scoreboard.
Vikings Coach Brad Childress said he has no plans to ask the Broncos not to show the scores of other games.
"They certainly know what's at stake and the way it is today," Childress said of his players. "There is going to be a time where the scores are going to flash up there, and I'm sure somebody is going to whisper."
From a whisper to a scream? Not likely for the Vikings. Washington has won three in a row and everything points to the Cowboys resting some key players as they prepare for the postseason. Terrell Owens is out because of a high ankle sprain, center Andre Gurode probably won't play because of a bum knee, and quarterback Tony Romo has a sore thumb.
The Vikings are dubious the Redskins will see the best the Cowboys have to offer.
"You've already clinched home-field advantage," Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield said in an interview on KFAN radio. "What you're trying not to do is get any of your starters hurt. I think they'll probably take the same approach. Of course they'll try to win the game, but I don't think they'll have enough to beat Washington."
Then again, the Redskins have beaten the Cowboys only three times in their last 20 games, dating to mid-season 1997. There's little if any doubt in Washington's locker room, though, that this will be the fourth such victory.
"As long as you don't quit, anything can happen," receiver Santana Moss said. "And I don't think this team has any quit in us."
Playoff scenarios for Week 17:
* CLINCHED: New England, East Division and home-field advantage; Indianapolis, South Division and a first-round bye; Pittsburgh, North Division; San Diego, West Division; Jacksonville, playoff berth.
* ELIMINATED: Miami, N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Buffalo, Denver.
The Browns can clinch a playoff berth with:
1) A loss by Tennessee OR 2) A win or tie and a Tennessee tie.
The Titans can clinch a playoff berth with:
1) A win OR 2) A tie and a Cleveland loss.
* CLINCHED: Dallas, East Division and home-field advantage; Green Bay, North Division and a first-round bye; Seattle, West Division; Tampa Bay, South Division; N.Y. Giants, playoff berth.
* ELIMINATED: San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona, Philadelphia, Detroit, Carolina.
The Redskins can clinch a playoff berth with:
1) A win OR 2) A tie and a Minnesota loss or tie OR 3) A loss and a Minnesota loss and a New Orleans loss.
The Vikings can clinch a playoff berth with:
1) A win and a Washington loss or tie
2) A tie and a Washington loss
The Saints can clinch a playoff berth with:
A win and a Washington loss and a Minnesota loss.
Re: NFL : Sunday
Sunday NFL Gameday
Two Wild Card berths will still be on the line on Sunday during the last weekend of the National Football League's regular-season schedule. Here is your NFL Gameday .
San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns (-11.5) (Total 40.5)
Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1:00pm ET (FOX)
The 49ers might not have anything to play for, but that didn't stop them from upending the Buccaneers at home last weekend. Of course, that was partly due to a solid effort from Shaun Hill (three TD passes), and he'll sit out on Sunday with a back injury. That makes Chris Weinke the 49ers' starting quarterback for Sunday's game vs. Cleveland.
The Browns hurt their Wild Card chances by losing 19-14 on the road to the Bengals last weekend. Cleveland now needs to hope that the Titans fall to the Colts on Sunday night to reach the postseason. Derek Anderson went 29-of-48 for 251 yards passing in the loss to Cincinnati, with two touchdown passes but four big interceptions on the day.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-9) (Total 39.5)
FedExField, 4:15pm ET (FOX)
Dallas has said they want to win Sunday's game, but the result won't make any difference to them in the standings. Terrell Owens has already been ruled OUT for the contest with his ankle injury, while Marion Barber is expected to have limited carries. Tony Romo is likely to get the start at QB but he's not expected to play the whole game.
The Redskins can clinch the second NFC Wild Card berth with a win over the Cowboys; if they lose they'll have to hope that both the Vikings and the Saints lose on Sunday as well. Washington came up large in a 32-21 road win over Minnesota last weekend, with Todd Collins going 22-of-29 for 254 yards and two TDs. Clinton Portis also had a score.
Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Denver Broncos (Total 41.5)
Invesco Field, 4:15pm ET (FOX)
The Vikings need the Redskins to lose to advance to the postseason, but they won't know the result of that game when this one begins. Minnesota scored two late touchdowns last week to make the game close, but they couldn't come all the way back. Tarvaris Jackson went 25-of-41 for 220 yards passing, with one TD strike and two INTs.
Denver probably doesn't care if Minnesota or Washington makes the postseason, so there's no telling how much their starters will play on Sunday afternoon. The Broncos were embarrassed 23-3 on the road vs. San Diego on Christmas Eve, with Jay Cutler going just 14-of-32 for 155 yards passing and two INTs. Jason Elam booted a field goal.
Tennessee Titans (-5.5) at Indianapolis Colts (Total 39)
RCA Dome, 8:15pm ET (NBC)
The Titans are in with a win, or they can play for a tie and still make the playoffs if the Browns lose in the afternoon. Tennessee kept their playoff drive alive with a slim 10-6 home win over the Jets last week. Vince Young went 12-of-22 for 166 yards passing in that contest, with one INT. LenDale White rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries in the win.
The Colts are expected to limit Peyton Manning to only a cameo appearance on Sunday night, although Marvin Harrison is finally expected to return from injury and get the start at wide receiver. Indianapolis cruised to a 38-15 home win over the Texans last weekend, with Manning throwing for 311 yards and three touchdowns in that matchup.
Re: NFL : Sunday
Five NFL matchups that mean something
Everyone wants to know if the New England Patriots will top the New York Giants and finish as the first team in NFL history with a 16-0 regular season record.
But really, who cares?
We all know how this is going to play out. The Giants won’t risk an injury in a useless exhibition when their first playoff game is a week away.
There are several matchups with playoff implications on the line. Here are five matchups worth wagering on:
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
I call this the Jim Sorgi effect. The Colts get points at home as often a Spears uses birth control so it’s apparent the books don’t think Indy’s starters will see the field on Sunday.
“I know Jim Sorgi’s going to play at least a half,” Colts coach Tony Dungy told the Indianapolis Star of his backup quarterback. “I don’t know how early he’ll get in the game, if he’ll get in the first half.”
Recent history says Peyton Manning won’t play more than the first series. The All-Pro quarterback was on the field for just three plays for the final game of 2004 (against the Denver Broncos) and 2005 (against the Arizona Cardinals). Indy failed to cover the spread each time.
A Titans’ win will secure Tennessee with the final playoff spot in the AFC and end any chance of the Cleveland Browns sneaking in. The Titans couldn’t ask for a better scenario heading into the RCA Dome.
San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns
The Browns are in a dicey situation because of last weekend’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now the club’s fate is completely dependent on what Tennessee does against Indy.
Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson took much of the heat for the setback to the Bengals. He threw four interceptions (two inside the red zone) but don’t expect rookie Brady Quinn on the field against San Francisco.
“Derek’s been our quarterback all year and I don’t see why you would switch,” center Hank Fraley told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s been playing well.”
“I think if we had it wrapped up and we were going to the playoffs, you might do something like that, just give (Brady) some game experience. But we’re still fighting since the beginning of the year and we’re playing as a team. “
The 49ers, on the other hand, could start their fourth different signal-caller this season. Recently signed Chris Weinke could start against the Browns because of third-stringer Shaun Hill’s sore back.
Hill missed practice on Wednesday but he’s confident he could play Sunday even without practicing all week.
“I’ve done that before,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s part of life as a backup quarterback anyway. I’ll get mental reps.”
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
The Redskins are in the same position as the Titans: Win and they’re in. Kind of amazing if you remember three weeks ago Washington was two games below .500 (5-7).
It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys doing anything to help out a long-time rival but Dallas already has home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs secured.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips isn’t sharing his plans for the playing of his starters this weekend.
“We haven’t finalized everything as far as who’s playing,” Phillips told reporters. “We have to see who’s healthy, see who’s ready to go. And then we’re gonna approach it like we’re gonna try to win the game. That’s what you play for.”
This could be a bluff from Dallas. The Cowboys certainly don’t want to risk another injury to a star player after Terrell Owens suffered a high ankle sprain Saturday.
Either way Washington is preparing for Dallas’ best performance.
“I expect them to come out here and play us,” Skins receiver Santana Moss told the Washington Post. “The rivalry speaks for itself. I think they’re going to be smart, but at the same time we’re going to be smart. We’ve got to go out there and try to win regardless of the situation.”
Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos
The Vikes seemed to be a sure thing in the NFC playoffs but a 32-21 setback to the Skins has Minnesota scrambling to continue its season.
The purple-people eaters need a victory and a Washington loss to creep into the NFL tournament. The Cowboys should expect gift baskets care of the Vikings if Dallas beats Washington.
Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson isn’t finding much room to run these days but the rookie back faces the league’s third-worst rushing defense this time out. The Broncos inability to stop the run has led to two embarrassing losses in which the club has been outscored 54-16.
“Obviously, (Peterson) wants to contribute, and you don’t begrudge him for that,” Vikings head coach Brad Childress told the Pioneer Press. “It’s just you don’t want him to get frustrated and see ghosts and go somewhere it doesn’t belong.”
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
The Saints playoff chances are slim but still existent. A win over the Bears along with a Washington and Minnesota loss puts New Orleans back in the dance.
Of course Chicago is the same team that beat New Orleans on Soldier Field in the NFC Championship game last season. The Bears aren’t playing anywhere close to the level they were last season and are just looking to end their miserable campaign.
“The season seems like it has just drawn on long for us,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week.
The Saints play before Washington and Minnesota, so bettors shouldn’t expect any type of second-half letdown because of an out-of-town score.
Re: NFL : Sunday
National Football League Weather
Sunday, December 30th
Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy. Winds blowing from the Northeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 40.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy. Winds blowing from the South at 5-15 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 80.
Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins, 1:00 p.m.
Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Winds blowing from the Southeast at 5-15 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 80.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, 4:15 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy with a 80-percent chance of rain. Winds blowing from the Northeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 40.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy with a 30-percent chance of snow. Winds blowing from the South at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 25.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m.
Sunny Sunny. Winds blowing from the West at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 70.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m.
Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Winds blowing from the South at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 35.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 4:15 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy with a 60-percent chance of rain. Winds blowing from the Northeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 40.
San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.
Mostly Cloudy Mostly cloudy. Winds blowing from the Southeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 35.
Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos, 4:15 p.m.
Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Winds blowing from the West at 10-15 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 35.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders, 4:15 p.m.
Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Winds blowing from the Northwest at 5-15 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 50.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals, 4:15 p.m.
Sunny Sunny. Winds blowing from the Northeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 60.
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets, 8:15 p.m.
Partly Cloudy Partly cloudy. Winds blowing from the Northeast at 5-10 m.p.h. Game-time temperature: Around 40.
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