NFL Week 6 News and Notes

NFL Week 6 News and Notes

NFL opening line report: Week 6

LAS VEGAS – Are the Arizona Cardinals legitimate?

Early bettors believe so. They’ve bet the Cardinals from +6 ½ home underdogs against Dallas down to 5½ or five depending on the sportsbook.

“I don’t agree with the move,” said Mike Seba, an oddsmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, whose company recommended Dallas -6 ½ to their many Nevada hotel clients. “I can understand less than seven, but not less than six.”

Perhaps this early Cardinals money is a reflection on what happened this past Sunday when Arizona destroyed Buffalo at home, 41-17, while Dallas struggled to put away Cincinnati, 31-22, failing to cover a huge 16½-point spread.

The public loves to play Dallas. The Cowboys are always popular in Las Vegas on parlay and teaser cards.

Dallas, though, seems to have a turn-it-on, turn-it-off mentality. The Cowboys haven’t looked sharp during the past two weeks losing at home to Washington and getting sloppy versus the Bengals after building an early 17-0 lead.

Tony Romo has committed at least one turnover in eight straight games. Terrell Owens is starting to get frustrated. That can lead to morale problems. Dallas only has one interception.

Kurt Warner has a higher passer rating than Romo, while throwing for more yards and fewer interceptions.

We’ve been down this road before with the Cardinals, though. Arizona has made the postseason once since moving to the desert from St. Louis in 1988. There has been one winning season in the past 23 years.

Still gung-ho on the Cardinals?

At least, the Cardinals are home. They have won eight of 10 games at University of Phoenix Stadium under second-year coach Ken Whisenhunt, including their past five.

The Cardinals’ defense has gotten healthier, too, with nose guard Gabe Watson and strong safety Adrian Wilson back in the lineup. Wilson is a key to Arizona’s scheming defense because of his versatility. He may be as important to Arizona’s defense as safety Bob Sanders is to Indianapolis’ defense.

Chances are the Cowboys may not put as much emphasis on this matchup as Arizona is. It’s a huge statement game for the Cardinals. Maybe this is one time where the public goes against Dallas.

Brian Westbrook continues to play havoc not only with fantasy football owners, but bookmakers as well. The good news is Westbrook appears over his ankle injury. The bad news is now he has two broken ribs and is questionable for Sunday’s road matchup against San Francisco.

LVSC sent out Philadelphia -5½ under the assumption Westbrook would play. That line would have to be reduced if Westbrook is out. The question is by how many?

“Westbrook used to be worth up to four points on the line,” Seba said.

That’s not the case anymore, Seba said. Now the adjustment could be worth just one or 1 ½ points. Some might argue for a bigger adjustment of two or 2 ½ points.

“I just look at it where Westbrook is never going to be healthy,” Seba said. “He’s not like he was two-to-three years ago.”

Carolina at Tampa Bay was the easiest NFL line to make this week, Seba said. Those teams are rated close to even so the Buccaneers were a consensus choice to open as 3-point home favorites.

As far as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese are treated like an entry. There’s really not a big difference between the two of them, Seba said. Both are worn-out, beat-up veterans with weak arms.

Green Bay-Seattle wasn’t a difficult line to make either. The Seahawks are 3-point home favorites in a battle of two of the most disappointing teams in pro football.

“The Packers are in the right division, but I’m not seeing any life with them,” Seba said.

Aaron Rodgers certainly hasn’t been the problem for Green Bay. He’s in the top-10 passer ratings and has thrown nine touchdown passes despite a sore right shoulder. Unfortunately for the Packers, they haven’t been able to escape injuries like during the past two seasons when they were relatively injury-free.

Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Roddy White were able to take advantage of Green Bay being without cornerback Al Harris, safety Atari Bigby and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, a very underrated player. In addition, star cornerback Charles Woodson is playing with a broken toe. He had problems covering White.

“Whichever team loses this game is finished,” Seba said.

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NFL Spread Sheet: Week 5 roundup

You don’t hear much from Tiki Barber anymore.

The Pro Bowler left the Giants in his prime, and before the team could lock the door behind him he was spraying coach Tom Coughlin, pretty much calling his former boss too hard on the players, and in particular too hard on Tiki Barber.

"[Tom Coughlin] robbed me of what had been one of the most important things I had in my life, which was the job I felt playing football,” Barber wrote in a book My Life in the Game and Beyond.

Now Tom Coughlin is not a guy who walks around with a whoopee cushion and a squirting flower attached to his lapel. He coaches football the old-fashioned way, and there is a one-way bus ticket available for anyone who is not with the program. Players’ non-guaranteed contracts allow coaches to be that way.

But New York’s garrison finish last season and subsequent Super Bowl victory over New England cemented Coughlin in New York for at least a few more seasons. The Giants have shown that 2007 was no fluke, and now sit at 4-0 in the NFC East.

There are minor distractions. Plaxico Burress blew off some meetings and got suspended and fined. But there is none of the full-scale rebellion talk that permeated the franchise a few years ago. The team is deep (the Giants amassed 523 yards in bullying the Seahawks on Sunday, which surely got Burress’s attention), has a confident quarterback in Eli Manning and the coach is in charge.

No comment, meanwhile, from Barber.

Don’t spend it yet

There are bad beats and there are real bad beats. Indy’s late cover against Houston doesn’t match Chris Duhon’s 38-footer at the buzzer which gave Duke a cover (but not the win) against Connecticut in the 2004 NCAA Basketball Tournament semifinals, but it was pretty bad if you had money on the Texans.

Houston, a 3-point dog, had it sealed, up by 17 with five minutes to go. But QB Sage Rosenfels turned the ball over three times, the Colts converted and Indy had the most improbable cover of the season.

The Colts would have been in a world of hurt without this win, as at the same time Tennessee was moving to 5-0 in the AFC South. Indy is an early 5 1/2-point pick at home against Baltimore; Houston is a rare winless (0-5) favorite, giving three at home to Miami. You have to figure that number will fade a bit toward Miami.

Patriots bounce back

OK, Pats fans. Put away those sharp objects. Maybe this Matt Cassel thing can work out after all. Cassel looked a little more comfortable last Sunday against the 49ers, and any time a road team without Tom Brady or Peyton Manning on the roster can put up 30 points, something is going right.

This game had the feel of an easy cover once New England bounced from an early 49er score. The Pats had the ball for all but 13 minutes of the first three periods, and a solid running game gave Cassel an extra fraction of a second in the pocket, something he obviously needs. Laurence Maroney, though, seems to be taking backward steps after showing some mettle in the playoffs last season.

In the early line New England gets 5½ Sunday night at San Diego, which leads us to …

What’s up with the Chargers?

Ok, we can agree that Shawne Merriman was a tough loss, but the rest of the defense isn’t that bad. Or is it? The Chargers are giving up 379 yards a game, and they’re dead last against the pass.

San Diego hasn’t seemed right since it lost to New England in AFC Championship last season and LaDainian Tomlinson spent most of the game alone of the bench with his helmet on. Miami held Tomlinson to 35 yards on 12 carries last Sunday, and a toe injury kept him from running the ball twice in a row for the whole game.

Maybe the window is shutting on these guys.

NFC South impresses

Because of parity and the fact that no team in the division has been dominant, it’s easy to dismiss the NFC South. No more. After Sunday’s game Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay were a combined 13-4-1 against the number this season.

Matt Ryan had a terrific game at Green Bay and Carolina took care of business by shutting out Kansas City. Crossover games are against the AFC West, which looks down this season. Still, with Washington, Dallas and the Giants clustered in a powerful East, don’t figure the South to pick up both wild card spots. This week Atlanta gets one point at home vs. the Bears, and the Bucs give one at home against Carolina.

Drought over in Arizona

The welcome mat is out and the walkway is lined with flowers for the Cardinals in the nuclear-waste NFC West. Arizona is 3-2 overall, 3-2 against the number, has a nice 147-120 edge in points and hits the pillow at night knowing that it’s highly unlikely any of its three division opponents will win nine games this year.

The upcoming schedule isn’t inviting – home against Dallas, bye, then at Carolina, but it’s the NFL and if you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough. Getting 5 1/2 at home vs. the Cowboys seems solid. The books say they see heavy money on Dallas every week, so the number should hold.

Madness to their method

If you don’t like wide receivers preening after catches and the likes of Chad 85, Joe Horn and Terrell Owens make your blood boil, blame Bill Polian. In part, anyway.

A caller to Boston sports radio said recently that the reason so many divas are at the wide receiver position is that WRs don’t get hit much. The rules don’t allow the defender to manhandle wideouts, enabling them to escape retribution. Polian, you may recall, screamed bloody murder when his Colts WRs were bloodied by Patriots defenders in an AFC Championship game a few years back, then got the competition committee to make illegal contact a point of emphasis for referees the next year (the rule up to that point had been enforced only sporadically).

But none of that explains former Oiler Bill “White Shoes” Johnson, one of the original WR divas. He celebrated touchdowns by dancing the Funky Chicken dance during his trips to the end zone during the 1970s, decades before the no-contact-after-five-yards-rule emphasis took place.

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Westbrook has 2 broken ribs
October 6, 2008

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook broke two ribs in the Eagles' 23-17 loss to Washington on Sunday, though he kept playing and finished the game.

Westbrook missed one game this season with an ankle injury, but it's too early to know if his latest injury will keep him out of Sunday's game at San Francisco.

``We just have to see,'' coach Andy Reid said Monday. ``We have to see how it all works out and exactly the pain level there. Right now, he's very sore, so we'll see how things go over the next few days.''

Westbrook had 84 total yards against the Redskins. He leads the Eagles (2-3) with 194 yards rushing and has six touchdowns, two receiving.

He said he was taking a wait-and-see approach, but that Correll Buckhalter should take his place in the backfield if the injury is limiting him too much later in the week.

``Do I want to be out there at 45 percent and not wanting to take a hit and hurting this team more than I'm helping it?'' Westbrook asked on his radio show on 950 ESPN. ``No. ... I wouldn't want to set the team back like that.''

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Garcia likely to start Sunday with Griese nursing a bum elbow

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese missed practice for the second straight day Thursday due to a right elbow injury, which made Jeff Garcia the favorite to start under center against the Panthers on Sunday.

Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was pleased with what he saw from Garcia, who took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense, and said the San Jose State product would be the team's signal caller if Griese's elbow doesn't improve.

"He (Garcia) had a good practice today," Gruden said. "He took all the reps for the most part, and Luke (McCown) took the backup reps. There's a certain functional ability that he has between the tackles, a creative element that he has. When he has it, you can tell he has it. And he had it today and I was really, really pleased with how he performed out there."

Griese, who underwent an MRI that revealed no structural damage to the elbow, was driven into the ground by Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey late in the third quarter of Sunday's 16-13 loss to Denver. Garcia, the Week 1 starter, took over for Griese in the setback.

Garcia, who hadn't sniffed the field since the season-opener against New Orleans, threw for 93 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 13-of-17 passing Sunday as Tampa Bay's comeback effort fell just short.

"Both guys can get the job done," said Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton. "It's just a matter of focusing in. No matter who is in there, we have full confidence in both guys."

The quarterback who led the club to an NFC South title last season, Garcia threw for 221 yards with a touchdown and an interception, connecting on 24- of-41 throws in the loss to New Orleans. He also sustained an ankle injury against the Saints and watched Griese lead the Bucs to a Week 2 win over Atlanta, the first of three straight victories for the Michigan product.

"I have not practiced at all during a week and then played at times during my career," Griese said. "It's not the way that you want to do it but it has happened before."

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Browns' Winslow in hospital
October 10, 2008

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness and could miss Monday night's game against the New York Giants.

Coach Romeo Crennel said Friday that Winslow was kept overnight at the Cleveland Clinic. Winslow practiced Monday but had been feeling ill for several days. The team sent him to the doctor Thursday for further tests and evaluation.

Crennel expects the 25-year-old player to be discharged later in the day, but said Winslow could be kept longer. Citing patient privacy laws, Crennel did not provide specifics on Winslow's illness.

``His arms and legs aren't falling off or anything like that,'' said Crennel, adding the Pro Bowler was questionable for Monday's game.

Crennel said he has spoken with Winslow, who has had to play through pain throughout most of his four-year NFL career.

``He's a competitive player,'' Crennel said. ``We all know he has had some injuries that he has had to deal with and he's played through them, and at times we've had to manage him so that he can play through them. We know that he'll be out there (Monday) if at all possible. If it's possible that he can be there, he'll be there.''

If Winslow can't play, Steve Heiden most likely will start and backup Darnell Dinkins will get more playing time.

Winslow has had four operations on his right knee, and following one of them needed surgery after he got a staph infection. He missed the 2005 season because of a near-fatal motorcycle crash.

Last season, Winslow had 82 receptions for 1,106 yards.

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Gross, Otah practice; Kalil doubtful for Panthers
October 10, 2008

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -The Carolina Panthers could have two of their three injured offensive linemen back for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay.

Left tackle Jordan Gross and right tackle Jeff Otah practiced for a second straight day Friday, while center Ryan Kalil missed his third straight workout and is listed as doubtful to play against the Buccaneers.

Gross and Otah are listed as questionable, but participated fully in Friday's practice. Gross missed last Sunday's win over Kansas City after being knocked unconscious a week earlier against Atlanta when he was kneed in the head. Otah sat out the win over the Falcons with a sprained right ankle.

Kalil injured his right ankle against the Chiefs. Geoff Hangartner is expected to start in his place.

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Westbrook ruled out for Sunday game

(AP) - All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook will miss his second game in three weeks when the Philadelphia Eagles visit San Francisco on Sunday.

Two-time Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews (back) and wide receiver Reggie Brown (groin) also won't play. Wideout Kevin Curtis is expected to see his first action this season after having surgery for a sports hernia.

"Brian wants to go. He's in the mind-set that he wants to play, but it's a decision that I've got to make," coach Andy Reid said Friday. "He's a tough nut and I know that. I've got to do what I think is best for him and the football team down the road. It made the decision a little easier for me than it is for him. Obviously, he wants to contribute and compete."

Westbrook leads the Eagles (2-3) with 194 yards rushing and has six touchdowns, two receiving. He should return on Oct. 26 after a bye week.

"I think the bye week will help him," Reid said. "I think it will take some of the sting out of that thing. If he were to get hit on it this week, it would slow down the process of healing."

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