Sunday Service PLays
Sunday Service PLays
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons
These teams have faced each other five times since 1993. All five of those games finished below the total. Those games averaged only 23.8 combined points and none produced more than 34. The most recent meeting came in December of 2005 and resulted in a 16-3 victory by the Bears. While all that's "ancient history," the Bears are again playing some solid defense. They allowed just seven points last week and have held four of five opponents to 20 points or less. They've been particularly stingy on the road, allowing an average of 13.3 points in three games away from Chicago. All three of those games fell below the number bringing the 'under' to 6-2 in Chicago's last eight road games overall. Looking back several years and we find the UNDER at a profitable 14-8 the last 22 times the Bears played a road game with a total in the 42.5 to 45 point range. This one should prove relatively low-scoring once again. Consider the Under
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*San Diego over New England by 24
The Patriots have eliminated the Chargers the past two years in the playoffs. That was with Tom Brady.They are no longer an elite team minus their star QB. But their problems go deeper.Brady’s injury lowered Randy Moss’s value and caused a regression in the offensive line.The Patriots are more of a power club now, forced to establish the run to set up mediocre passer Matt Cassel.The Patriots do not have an elite back.They are trying to muddle through with a committee of journeyman Sammie Morris, injury-prone Laurence Maroney, injured LaMont Jordan and Kevin Faulk, who is more of a pass-catching back.The Chargers’ run defense should be better with the return from suspension of linebacker Stephen Cooper. Even more of a concern in New England is a sagging defense that is weak versus the run, doesn’t have standout defensive backs and is slow at linebacker.This is the best offense New England has seen this season.The Patriots have faced Kansas City, the New York Jets, Miami and San Francisco. Now they get LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates.The Chargers haven’t turned in an all-around “A” performance yet. They are due. Expect it to come here. Tomlinson is getting close to 100 percent. Darren Sproles, his backup, has emerged as a dangerous change-of-pace back. Rivers is having a strong season. This is a huge revenge spot for San Diego.The Chargers have covered 13 of their last 16 games, while New England is only 3-12 ATS in its past 15 games. Bill Belichick remains a top coach. But he can’t mask his team’s many weaknesses on the road against a serious Super Bowl contending club that will be highly motivated. Getting past the 49ers is one thing. Doing it against the Chargers is quite another. SAN DIEGO 40-16.
*Arizona over Dallas by 11
Arizona remains untrustworthy on the road. But under coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals have become a tough out at home, winning 8 of 10 times.They are 2-0 this season outscoring Miami and Buffalo, 72-17.The Cardinals have the passing capability to attack a vulnerable, injured Cowboys secondary even if Anquan Boldin is out a second straight week. Part of Arizona’s home/road dichotomy is its defense plays with more intensity at University of Phoenix Stadium.That defense is healthy again with the return of nose guard Gabe Watson and safety Adrian Wilson.The Cardinals can mix in their full defensive package with the versatile and underrated Wilson in the lineup.Wilson gives the Cardinals a chance to specifically scheme their game plan.The Cowboys have only one interception.They are minus four in turnover ratio. Tony Romo has committed at least one turnover in eight consecutive games. Kurt Warner has thrown for more yards and been intercepted less than Romo this season.The Cardinals put up 373 yards on Buffalo’s defense minus Boldin.The Bills defense had been playing better than the Cowboys. Romo and Terrell Owens haven’t been in sync the past couple of games and no second wideout has stepped up to take the pressure off Owens.The Cardinals believe they finally are a serious contender to win the NFC West Division, something they honestly couldn’t claim in previous years.This is a huge test for them.They’ll be holding nothing back with a bye the following week. For Dallas, though, it’s just another game.The Cowboys don’t have to prove anything.They’ve been coasting, failing to cover in three of the last four weeks. It catches up to them here in this hostile environment.ARIZONA 31-20.
*Washington over St. Louis by 3
St. Louis has been one of the worst teams in the NFL losing eight in a row with the last seven coming by 17 or more points. General manager Jay Zygmunt and disposed head coach Scott Linehan have created a poisonous in St. Louis. But this is a prime ambush spot for the Rams. Certainly St. Louis should be rested and ready following a bye week and with fiery defensive coordinator Jim Haslett replacing the overmatched Linehan. Haslett already has improved sagging team morale by re-installing Marc Bulger as St. Louis’ starting quarterback.The Rams’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection, allowing 13 sacks.Washington, though, only has six sacks and could be without its best cornerback, Shawn Springs (check status), and star pass rusher Jason Taylor (check status).The Redskins are in a huge letdown spot following back-to-back upset road NFC East Division victories against Dallas and Philadelphia.Those were two tremendously focused efforts that have to take a toll.Part of Washington’s surprising success this season is not committing a turnover in five games.A due factor could kick in.The Rams don’t lack for talent with Steven Jackson,Torry Holt and Bulger.They’re a very live ‘dog here.WASHINGTON 26-23.
*Seattle over Green Bay by 14
These two teams are really struggling since the Packers buried the Seahawks, 42-20, at home in the playoffs last season. Look for Seattle, primed for revenge, to get back on track. Bobby Engram, the Seahawks’ most consistent wideout, finally is healthy.The Seahawks rely on quickness and speed defensively. They are vulnerable to power teams such as the Giants. Green Bay isn’t explosive or power-oriented this year. Ryan Grant hasn’t scored a touchdown and the Packers have yet to get their ground game going instead relying on Aaron Rodgers, who has an extremely sore shoulder. Behind Rodgers are two untested rookies.The Packers have the worst backup quarterback situation in the NFL.They also are getting buried by injuries on defense losing star cornerback Al Harris and underrated defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins for the season.They’ve also been without safety Atari Bigby (check status). Rookie Matt Ryan and Roddy White were able to capitalize on Green Bay’s battered secondary in leading the Falcons to an upset win last Sunday.Astute Mike Holmgren will pick up on this, too, against his one-time team. The Seahawks have won and covered seven of their last eight home contests. SEATTLE 30-16.
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Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
1 Unit on Minnesota Vikings -13
Teams have absolutely been annihilating the Lions this season and I have that trend continuing against a re-energized Vikings team coming off a big MNF win at New Orleans. The Vikings have won 14 of the last 16 games with the Lions at home, including last season's 42-10 massacre. Detroit is a terrible 4-14 ATS in road games over the last 3 seasons and 0-6 ATS in road dome games over the last 3 seasons. Close wins have ignited the Vikings and that's why we see them at 19-6 ATS in home games after a win by 6 or less points since 1992. Lay the number.
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Jeff Alexander Sports
Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts
1 Unit on Ravens/Colts UNDER 39.5
The Ravens have only played in one game this season where the total score has gone over the number we see here. Their ferocious defense and ball control offense is very conducive to Unders plays and we'll make one here against an Indy offense that has been less than sharp against good defenses this season. Plays on the Under on any team where the total is between 35.5 and 42 points (BALTIMORE) - with an excellent defense - allowing 260 or less total yards/game, after allowing 225 or less total yards/game over their last 3 games are 29-8 the last 10 seasons. Indy is 18-6 Under in home games versus good rushing defenses - allowing <=3.5 rushing yards/carry since 1992. Take the Under.
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Bet on the LIONS to cover the spread +13
Let's start by stating the obvious: Detroit is a terrible team. They have lost all four games this season by at least 13 points and a couple in the mid to high 20s. There is no way we would charge you money and pick the Lions (unlike some other handicappers). It's risky to take the Lions, so that's why this pick is free.
If you want to make serious money on Sunday take our HIGH ROLLER PICK OF THE WEEK, or one of our other premium packages.
That being said, if you want to impress your buddies and/or win your underdog betting pool this could be the way to go. Let's explain:
The Lions and the Vikings play in a division rivalry game. True, these haven't helped Detroit to date but this is a softer spot for the Lions. They catch the Vikings off short rest and a hugely improbable road victory in front of a national audience at the Saints. We're betting on complaceny and a Vikings let down. Furthermore, are the Vikings really good enough to beat any team by two TDs? The answer to that question so far this season is no.
The Lions are shockingly bad as usual, but you will go poor in a hurry laying double digit spreads in the NFL against any team (look at the Bengals at the Cowboys last week for an example). The league has more parity than you think. All the Lions guys are professionals (sort of) as well. Don't go overboard with the bankroll here, but look for a shock cover from the LIONS.
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Miami Dolphins +3.0
The Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans are certainly entering this game with different mindsets, as Miami is oozing confidence after upsetting the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers in consecutive games while the Texans are reeling from their late collapse vs. the Indianapolis Colts to fall to 0-4.
Granted, Matt Shaub should be back at quarterback for Houston after Sage Rosenfels singlehandedly gave the that Colts game away, fumbling twice in the last five minutes to help Indianapolis overcome a 27-10 deficit.
However, Shaub may be sick to his stomach again soon after this game starts, as the Dolphins have recorded 12 sacks this season and should be able to take advantage of what is still a suspect Texans offensive line. One way to slow down the Miami pass rush would be with an effective running game, but Houston lacks that right now despite a decent performance vs. a horrible Colts run defense last week.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have done a good job of controlling clock behind the running of Ronnie Brown the last two games, and we see no reason why they cannot have more success here vs. a Texans defense 32.5 points and 334.2 total yards per game. Quarterback Chad Pennington will not beat anyone deep, but he could be very effective off of play action here.
The bottom line here is that the Dolphins are simply playing better football than Houston right now, and the fact that the Texans may been psychologically fragile right now is a nice added bonus.
Pick: Dolphins +3
Jacksonville Jaguars +3.5
This is as close to a must-win game for the Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the Denver Broncos as there can be at this relatively early stage of the year, while the Broncos have more of a comfort level with a two-game lead in the West.
Jacksonville can ill afford to fall to 2-4 if they want any realistic chance of making the playoffs, and we feel they will have success vs. a bad Denver defense here, as we feel the Broncos performance vs. Tampa Bay last week was rather flukey.
The Jaguars have had some offensive line problems, but they are luckily facing a weak Denver defensive front, so look for running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to have to have big games this week, very similar to when they faced another soft front in the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks ago.
Now the Broncos were prolific offensively early this year, but they are coming off of back-to-back sub-par efforts. The fact that they have maintained a two-game lead in the division is a negative here, as there will really be no urgency to improve on those last two weeks here, Instead, Denver may have one eye on their marquee battle with the New England Patriots next week.
The combination of a more desperate Jacksonville team and a poor Broncos defense should be enough for the Jaguars to pull the upset.
Pick: Jaguars +3.5
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Green Bay at Seattle
Pick: Seattle +1
The Seahawks are coming off a truly gut-wrenching embarrassing loss. The Giants poured it on, winning 44-6. That dropped Seattle to 1-3 on the season. You can bet they are circling the wagons this week. There's nothing like that kind of embarrassment to motivate a set of professionals to perform better the following week. Is Seattle that bad? They beat St. Louis 37-13. Sure, that's the lowly Rams. But, you expect a good team to blow out the bad ones. Their losses have come against what can now be seen to be pretty good teams. The Giants are one of the top teams in the league. They also lost to San Francisco and Buffalo - two teams that were bad last season but have shown they are quite good this year. In Green Bay we have a bit more of a concern. They looked sharp out of the gate beating Minnesota and Detroit. But they have since dropped three straight including a really bad loss to Atlanta at home last week. Both of these teams have issues, but this game is in Seattle which will spell the difference. The Packers haven't won here since 1996 and Seattle is a good home team. And, they have about as strong a motivation as is available in the NFL after last week's stinker. We'll back them here to get the win.
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Carolina Panthers versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Public is overwhelmingly on the Carolina Panthers -- with about 75% of all bets are landing on the Panthers. We believe the true line should be Tampa Bay -3, but Carolina's big 34-0 win last week has caused the sportsbooks to open at TB -1.5. We like the fact the Public is overwhelmingly on Carolina and the fact that we will only lay 1 point for a playoff caliber squad like Tampa Bay, playing at home.
We also like this game because it is a tough divisional game, with victor taking first place in the NFC South. TB took a tough loss last week while Carolina had a blowout win. Let's "buy low, and sell high" and grab the home value.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -1
Chicago Bears versus Atlanta Falcons
The Public is all over the Bears in this match-up. And, why not? This is the vaunted Chicago Bear franchise, that has seen flashes of its former greatness in recent years (13-3 in 2006; and among the league leaders in point differential this season at +41 net points [128 PF - 87 PA]). "Da Bears" are playing the Atlanta Falcons, perennial league doormats (4-12 last season).
This kind of match-up seems "too easy" and this is the type of game where we can often find value. We'll "bet against the public" and make a play On Atlanta. The overwhelming Public bets on Chicago have pushed this line to the key number of 3, creating some nice value. We're buying a much-improved Atlanta squad at +3, at home. Take the "live home dog" to make some noise.
Atlanta Falcons +3
St. Louis Rams versus Washington Redskins
Take your Tums! Our readers know that we like to take the most painful-looking game on the board. These games, where nobody in their right minds would want to take the "ugly duckling" -- often have solid contrarian value. When it comes to sports investing, we'll let everybody else admire "Cinderella" while we take a good value.
In addition, our sports betting contacts circled this game because early "Sharp" action pushed the line back a huge 1 to 1.5 points through the key number of 14 from St. Louis +15 (at Cris) down to +13.5. This occurred even though a huge 75% of bets are on the favored Redskins. We like the fact that "big, smart money" is on the big underdog Rams.
We'll Sell on Washington's big win over Dallas. We also get to buy the value on a beaten-down St. Louis Ram team. Based on the constant pounding of bets on Washington, you might be able to get St. Louis + 2 TDs.
St. Louis Rams +13.5
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Dark Horse Sports
Dallas at Arizona
Dallas travels west on Sunday to take on former NFC East division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals. Dallas is carrying the reputation of an elite team, despite back-to-back shaky performances. Arizona is still a bit of an anomaly. But there is one fact that bettors can count on when dealing with Arizona. They are good at home, and are able to compete with anyone at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Don’t deal with the point spread in this match-up though. The easy money is on the total. These two teams are facing the highest total on the Week 6 board, but don’t let that sway you. These teams will sail over the total and provide one of the more exciting games of the weekend. The offense will come fast and furious. These two teams are both in the top-5 in the entire NFL when it comes to offensive yards per game, passing yards per game, and points per game. Putting the icing on the cake, Arizona has gone over the total in 24 of their last 36 games. Not far behind, Dallas has gone over in 23 of their last 38. The number 50, the total on Sunday, won’t slow these teams down.
Take Dallas / Arizona over the total of 50.
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Chicago Bears @ Atlanta Falcons
Sundays’ NFC showdown of 3-2 teams could go along way toward a possible playoff birth for the winner. Chicago without 4th quarter collapses against Carolina and Tampa should be 5-0. Led by do-it-all rookie Rb Matt Forte (383 yds rush, 172 yds rec) the Bears have found a balanced offense to help their aging yet still talented defense. In last weeks dismantling of the Lions, Detroit stacked the line to stop Forte and Qb Kyle Orton stepped up throwing for over 300yds.
Atlanta has been a pleasant suprise in the NFC South. Featuring the leagues leading rusher, free agent signee Michael Turner (543 yds rush, 6tds) and rookie Qb Matt Ryan the Falcons have proved to be a quality team. In last weeks win over Green Bay, Turner had over 100 yds rushing and Ryan hooked up with playmaker Roddy White for over 100yds as well. While the 1-2 punch of Turner and Jerious Norwood on the ground is their mainstay, Atlanta can get it done in the air as well!
Winning on the road in Atlanta would cement the Bears as contenders and as a legit team. However, we don’t see it! Their high ranking in rush defense is skewed by playing weak rushing opponents and they are vulnerable to the pass in the cover 2 scheme. They were lit up for over 400 yds passing by Tampa a few weeks back. Look for big plays from White and a solid workman game from Turner and a Falcon home win.
TAKE ATLANTA ON THE MONEY-LINE TO WIN OUTRIGHT
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Totals 4 U
Packers @ Seahawks
Green Bay (2-3) mounted a fine second half comeback last Sunday led but came up short in a 24-27 home loss to the Falcons, hamstrung by 9 penalties and a short-handed defense that has allowed 175+ yards rushing in each game of their current 3-game losing streak. Right defensive end in particular has been a nightmare where Cullen Jenkins (IR), Michael Montgomery (battling ankle injury), Kabeer Baja-Biamila (knee), and Jason Hunter have all fallen to injury. This week it could be 6’4” 270 rookie Jeremy Thompson that gets the call with the others chipping in a play at a time. The 161.4 yards per game and 46 first downs the Packers have surrendered on the ground have mostly come from lack of gap discipline that has left players reaching rather than DT’s 6’2” 330 Ryan Pickett, 6’3” 320 Johnny Jolley, and 6’1” 330 Colin Cole getting blown off the ball. WLB Brady Popinga (23 T), MLB Nick Barnett (27 T), and SLB AJ Hawk (31 T, 2 S) have all fallen into this trap of trying to do too much and must stay home for better results. The Green Bay secondary has also been shredded by injuries but the openings have given the opportunity to a couple of your players that have responded. The loss of Al Harris to a torn spleen elevated 2nd-year 5’11” 191 RCB Tramond Williams (21 T, 2 INT) to the starting job where he has snatched a pick in each of the last 2 games. That moves 3rd-year 6’0” 206 CB Will Blackmon (16 T, FF, FR) up to the nickel in addition to his job as return man where he has averaged 12.8 yards per punt with a score. 4th-year FS Nick Collins (26 T) has returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns but his mate SS Atari Bigby missed last week with a hamstring injury. Bigby is an absolute hammer over the middle and without him 2nd-year 6’4” 223 Aaron Rouse (23 T) has stepped up but is himself now batting a knee injury. Both are currently being tested for weekend availability. These kids have talent for the big play with 9 sacks, 9 picks, and 3 fumble recoveries but youth has also incurred a NFL worst 12 first downs by penalty.
Coach Mike McCarthy’s (24-15 in 3rd season) is in much better shape with plenty of talent at all the skill positions but an offensive line that has got to get their act together. 6’2” 220 QB Aaron Rodgers (103 of 163 for 1274 yards, 9 TD, 4 INT) has been flat-out superb in his first season as a starter, this past week playing in sometimes extreme pain with a sprained shoulder. Rodgers excels at throwing on the run and can scramble (21 rushes for 82 yards and 2 TD rushing) with the best of them and he has needed to be. This skill has bailed out the front wall repeatedly but they have still allowed 11 sacks and been continually flagged for holding and false start penalties. After veteran LT Chad Clifton – a dynamite player having a terrible season – left with a hamstring injury against Atlanta, 3rd-year 6’4” 308 LG Daryn Colledge moved over to take his spot with 2nd-year 6’4” 305 LG Allen Barbre taking his. After that the Pack played much better and got the run going with 6’1” 226 RB Ryan Grant (73 for 269 yards) finally looking like the player that dominated the 2nd half of 2007 while 5’10” 220 RB Brandon Jackson (20 for 104 and TD rushing, 12 for 69 receiving) has produced when given the rock. FB Korey Hall has missed time with injury and 6’0” 259 FB John Kuhn clearly is a major drop off, getting blown up multiple times. Given the time, Rodgers has weapons all over the field. Starting receivers Donald Driver (19 for 242 and 2 TD) and 3rd-year phenom Greg Jennings (29 for 569 and 3 TD) are tough as nails and willing to go after the tough catch in traffic. Backups 6’4” 220 Ruvell Martin (4 for 44) and 6’1” 218 James Jones (5 for 38 and TD) bring huge size and over the last 2 years have each produced big games. TE Donald Lee (15 for 109 and TD) has downfield skills while 3rd-year 6’2” 255 TE Tony Humphrey had his biggest week as a pro last week with 4 grabs and 67 yards. The numbers are decent with 26.6 points per game on 337.4 yards are decent and will get better if the line does.
Seattle (1-3) allowed the Giants to score on their first 6 possessions and amass 523 total yards of offense in an absolute 6-44 debacle last week – the 8th time they have lost following their bye week over the last 10 seasons. In the third snap from scrimmage 6’4” 225 QB Matt Hasselbeck (58 of 118 for 656 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT) went grabbing his knee but did return to play – at least into the 3rd quarter when the game was long lost. He will certainly go this week and will finally have someone to throw the ball to. Nate Burleson is on the IR, Koren Robinson missed last week with a knee injury but Seattle did get the return of Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, each of whom played for the first time last week and combined for 11 catches and 92 yards. Until then only 6’4” 215 WR Billy McMullen (7 for 124) and 6’5” 251 rookie TE John Carlson (12 for 168) contributed much of anything through the air for a passing game that has managed only 156.0 yards per game at just 5.5 yards per attempt and 2 scores. Pass-happy Coach Holmgren vows to pound the ball this week on the ground as he has many times over his career (often not doing so) and has reason to be hopeful for success if he does. 6’0” 242 FB Leonard Weaver (10 for 40) is the strong lead blocker that Holmgren has always used well, 6’0” 254 RB TJ Duckett (25 for 96 and 3 TD) has superb size for short yardage, and 5’10” 208 RBV Julius Jones (78 for 373 yards and 2 TD) will get Maurice Morris (6 for 31) back this week to share the rushing load. The veteran crew of LT Jones, LG Wahle, C Spencer, RG Womack, and RT Locklear has struggled in pass protection with 9 surrendered sacks but have dominated on the ground with 143.2 ground yards per game at 4.7 yards per carry. If Holmgren follows through with his stated game plan, this season could turn on a dime.Or a nickel, which might make all the difference this week as well. The Seahawk secondary has been routinely scorched for big plays this year with opponents racking up 237.0 yards of passing per game at a ridiculous 8.4 yards per attempt. Not per catch, per attempt. LCB Marcus Trufant’s (12 T) partner RCB Kelly Jennings was knocked out in the first quarter last week with a concussion and his replacement couldn’t do much worse. 2nd-year 5’9” 192 nickel back Josh Wilson (24 T) stepped in for Jennings and racked up a team-best 11 tackles using the great wheels that have produced 23.0 yards per kick return by him this season. Safeties 6’2” 215 SS Deon Grant (21 T, INT) and 6’2” 210 FS Brian Russell (17 T) have plenty of size but just don’t seem to possess the change of direction ability to recover and help keep made plays from becoming big plays. Seattle’s starting defensive line has piled up 8 of the squad’s impressive 11 sacks with 6’5” 272 LDE Patrick Kearney (11 T, FR, 4 S) and 6’4” 271 rookie RDE Lawrence Jackson (14 T, 2 S) crashing the pocket and tackles 6’1” 314 Brandon Mebane (9 T, S) and 6’3” 308 Rocky Bernard (10 T, S) very productive players up the middle. With this type of pressure, there really should be more to show for it that 1 interception and 3 fumble recoveries. Such is the case for this entire team so far: tons of talent but little results and the linebacker corps is a good example. WLB Leroy Hill (34 T), MLB Lofa Tatupu (23 T), and SLB Julian Peterson (22 T, 2 S, FR) should make up the best group in the league but where are the game-changing plays that we have seen these guys pile up in the past? By the numbers, the Seattle stoppers allow 31.0 points on 366.5 yards per game including 129.5 yards per game on the ground at 4.6 yards per carry.
SELECTION: Don’t write either of these 2007 division winning franchises off just yet. The Seahawks are better than they have shown so far on offense and the same is true for the Packers on defense. Quest Field is a very tough place to play, especially for opposing offensive lines due to the noise, and this game is critical for Holmgren’s crew as the next 2 weeks they hit the highway. Take Seattle –2!
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Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts
The surprising Ravens take their show on the road to the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the team formerly from Baltimore until they packed up the moving vans in the middle of the night on March 29th, 1984 and settled in Indianapolis. Twenty years later, the hard feelings have diminished somewhat as the Ravens, formerly the Cleveland Browns, as Art Modell made a cash grab of his own when he moved the Cleveland franchise to Baltimore in for the 1996 season. Many fans are confused when they see replays or pictures of Super Bowl V when Jim O’Brien kicked a last second field goal to defeat the Dallas Cowboys (16-13) in 1970. The Colt fans in Indianapolis were also rewarded with a Super Bowl victory when Peyton Manning brought home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLI (2007) when they defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17. Not to be left out, the Raven fans also celebrated a NFL championship when the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV (2001).
John Harbaugh being named the head coach of the Ravens in the offseason was a mild surprise just as the Ravens playing as well as they are with a rookie QB (Joe Flacco) is even more surprising. Despite being only (2-2), the Ravens two losses came in overtime to the Steelers in Week 4 and the undefeated Tennessee Titans scored a touchdown with 2:00 minutes remaining in the game to win (13-10). Coming off a (5-11) record in 2007, the Ravens future looked bleak with many aging players who seemingly were getting injured all the time, poor drafts and the loss of some key players to free agency. Add to that, a new head coach who was nothing more than a special teams coach with Philadelphia last season, injuries in preseason to incumbent QB Kyle Boller and a mysterious illness that shelved second year QB Troy Smith and a lackluster preseason performance, it looked like 2008 might even be worse than 2007. Rookie number one draft choice, Joe Flacco out of Delaware, was named the starter of the regular season by default. Opening wins over the Bengals and Browns along with good showings against the Steelers and Titans give hope the worst is past for the Ravens and the future not so bleak. The running game with Le’Ron McClain, Willis MaGahee and rookie Ray Rice is decent. Veteran WR Derrick Mason has become Flacco’s favorite target (21 recp/12.4 avg) in the aerial game. However, it’s the Ray Lewis led defense that has kept the Ravens respectable this season. The defense defined this team in it’s Super Bowl winning year and other winning seasons and again has emerged as the measuring stick for this teams success. Lewis, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs are the headline players but, unlike the last couple of years, the Ravens have brought in or developed good complimentary players. The usually reliable veteran K Matt Stover has not made a field goal over 39 years this season (0/3 40-49 yds) and the end may be near for him.
I’m not sure anyone really knows which way the (2-2) Colts are headed the rest of the year. They could easily be (0-4) but, came away with wins last week against Houston where the Colts scored 21 points in a span of 2:10 to steal a win on the road in Houston and were thoroughly outplayed in week 2 at Minnesota and trailing (15-0) late in the third quarter but, managed to rally and position themselves for a winning Adam Vinatiera field goal. One doesn’t know if this is the demise of the Colts or if they are regrouping from injuries to once again make a deep run in the playoffs. The big names of the offense are still there for the Colts, Manning, WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, TE Dallas Clark and RB Joseph Addai. Second year WR Anthony Gonazlez is already a reliable target and maybe the best third wide receiver the Colts have had. Manning missed the entire preseason with a knee infection, C Jeff Saturday missed time with a sprained knee, S Bob Sanders is missing time with a high ankle sprain. The dismissal of DT Ed Johnson (off field problems) and the unexpected retirement of second year DT Quinn Pitcock has left the defensive line thin. The Colts have had problems stopping the run and equally struggled to run the ball. Whether these problems can be corrected we’ll find out as the season progresses. If Manning can be dominating for a entire game remains to be seen but, he’s still Peyton Manning and one of, if not the best quarterback in the league. We know what a force Sanders is on defense and what he adds to the stop unit when he’s healthy.
The Colts are currently a 4½ favorite with the total for the game currently situated at 39. The Ravens are pedistrian on offense at best and despite the Colts problems on the defensive side of the ball, I still like this game to go under the 39 in a close low scoring game.
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -1.5
Carolina comes into this game with a solid 4-1 record but I don’t think the Panthers are a 4-1 team. They were very fortunate to win their opener against San Diego on the last play of the game and the next week, they were also fortunate to mount a big comeback against the Bears. The last two weeks have been wins over Atlanta and Kansas City so while they were easy, they are hardly impressive. And, they were both at home so now it is back on the road where it is 2-4 its last six games dating back to last season.
The Buccaneers has their two-game winning streak snapped at Denver last Sunday and it marked just the first time in their last four games that they were outgained. Even though it was a loss, it was a good loss if there is such a thing. They held the Broncos to a season-low 16 points which was less than half of their 33.3 ppg average heading into last weekend. Tampa Bay has something to prove as Carolina has won eight of the last 10 meetings and has reeled off five consecutive victories at Raymond James Stadium.
The Carolina defense has been outstanding this season and has gotten better as the weeks have progressed. The problem is that the offenses they have faced have gotten progressively worse. Tampa Bay is 7th in the NFL in total offense and I think they get even better this week. Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden confirmed on Friday that Jeff Garcia will start and I think that helps the offense immensely. Last Sunday, Garcia shook off the rust and marched the Bucs 90-yards for the Bucs' only touchdown.
On the other side, the Panthers are banged up along the offensive line. Three starting Carolina offensive linemen missed practice this week as Jordan Gross, Jeff Otah and Ryan Kalil all sat out. The former two could return but not close to 100 percent. Facing the Chiefs at home while being down two linemen was one thing but facing Tampa Bay on the road with three linemen down is something totally different. The Buccaneers defense is down from last season but that Denver game brings in confidence.
The recent games last week sets Tampa Bay up in a great spot. Play against all teams where the line is +3 to -3 after they allowed six points or less going up against an opponent coming a loss by three points or less. This situation is 24-4 ATS (85.7 percent) with the average point differential being +7.2 ppg in those 28 games. This is a tough place for the Panthers as Tampa Bay is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 home games and will look to snap that five game home skid in this series. Play Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1.5 Units
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Selection: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers travel to Tampa to take on the Bucs in a battle of the top two teams in the NFC South Division this Sunday. Carolina's ascent this season has been keyed largely by it's defense, one of which that has improved 71 YPG from last season. While the Bucs are 2-0 SU and ATS at home this season they are being forced to change QB's (from Brian Greise to Jeff Garcia) because of injuries. With Panther QB Jake Delhomme 25-6-1 ATS as a dog in his NFL career in games he's started, look for Tampa head coach Jon Gruden to slip to 1-11 ATS at home against .500 or greater opponents that are off a double-digit ATS win. Take the points with the Panthers.
Re: Sunday Service PLays
New York Jets -8.0
A late decision has Cincinnati's top gun QB Carson Palmer sitting this one out because of a sore elbow. Without the catalyst of their offense leading the way, the pedestrian Bengal attack is in big trouble, and should spend a great deal of time on the sidelines today because of their inability to move the chains. This will result in a tired Bengal D, that could be easily taken advantage of as this game progresses.
Meanwhile, the NY Jets enter into this home game, rested and prepared to perform off a bye week. The Jets behind future hall of fame QB Brett Favre , have had time to get the playbook down. With everything now working in sequence the Jets, are capable of another one sided win similar to the one they served up on the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago , all be it though in a lower scoring manner.
Final notes & Key Trends: The Jets are 6-0 ATS L/6 following a bye week.
Projected score: NY Jets 28 Cincinnati 10
Re: Sunday Service PLays
Carolina Panthers +1.5
The Carolina Panthers head south this weekend for a NFC South tilt with the Buccaneers. Right now the Panthers are leading the division at 4-1, but the Bucs can even things up with a win as they are sitting in second place at 3-2. We are going to go with Carolina at +1.5 on Sunday.
The Panthers appear to be running on all cylinders as they head into Tamp Bay and one of the great aspects of this team is their consistency. Jake Delhomme is about as steady a hand as there is in the league at quarterback, and the team’s play reflects that week to week.
This will be a tough, grind it out game for a couple of reasons, the first being that these two teams mirror each other in many ways, and the second is the fact that it is a division battle. The Panthers typically come out on top in these kinds of games and their ability to make big plays with the passing game gives them the edge here. Brian Griese is questionable for Tampa and if Garcia has to replace him, who knows where his psyche is at. The Panthers will force one of these two to win the game as I look for them to shut down the Bucs ground attack. Carolina has yet to allow a 100 yard rusher all season and I do not seeing it happening Sunday.
The Panthers are averaging 207 yards passing per game while the Bucs are yielding 218.6 per game. Delhomme should be able to move the chains with Steve Smith who has had some success against Tampa in the past. The Carolina running game will also keep the Bucs defense honest and take some heat off of Delhomme. John Fox’s team also has the advantage over the Bucs in both the turnover and time of possession categories.
Things to consider: The Bucs are 1-4 against the spread versus Carolina as a home favorite. Carolina is 9-1 against the spread and 8-2 straight up in their last 10 games as a road underdog versus an NFC South opponent. The Panthers are 4-0 against the spread and straight up as a road dog versus an NFC South foe with a spread of 0 to 3.5. Carolina is 7-1-1 ATS as an away dog coming off back to back straight up wins.
Pick: Take the Panthers +1.5
Re: Sunday Service PLays
St. Louis Rams +14.0
Yes, the Redskins have won four straight games, including road upsets at Dallas and Philadelphia. But at no point in any of those four victories did the Redskins enjoy a two touchdown lead. The four victories were all decided in the fourth quarter, each coming by a touchdown or less. This is not an offense built for easy blowouts, nor does the obvious flat spot on their schedule following the two divisional road wins provide much fodder for the ‘blow out St Louis’ theory. And let’s not forget the absolute ineptitude of double digit favorites in the NFL this season. The league as a whole is a perfect 0-7 ATS when laying ten points or more.
Speaking of ‘whole league’ angles, let’s not forget a key long term angle that supports a play on the Rams in this spot. Teams that are 0-4 SU or worse, coming off their bye week, as an underdog of six points or more are a truly phenomenal long term against the spread. They spend two weeks hearing about how much they stink – from friends, family, the local media – and then these winless teams off a bye tend to take out some of their frustrations upon their opponent. Throw in a coaching change in St Louis and we can clearly see that the Rams are poised for their single best showing of the season; a major step up for a team that has now lost eight consecutive games dating back to last year, the most recent seven defeats all coming by 17 points or more. With Marc Bulger back behind center for Jim Haslett’s squad here, look for the Rams to be competitive throughout, just as winless Cinci was in Dallas last week. Take St Louis.
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