NFL: Early Angles

NFL: Early Angles

NFL Early Angles
By Josh Jacobs

There’re some interesting facts and figures to point out heading into Week 8’s 1:00 p.m. EDT games. Specifically, four contests have separate but pivotal themes, ranging from stats and trends between three AFC pairings to a high point spread on a historical plateau.

Can you remember the last time the Jets were favored by an astronomical, 13 points in their home battle against the limping Chiefs? And how will Oakland, a team that’s already gone through a season worth of ups and downs, negotiate an early 1:00 p.m. EDT clash on the East Coast? These are all good questions to raise but not the easiest to answer.

Double-Digit Dog

Let’s be frank before diving any deeper into this matchup; the Jets are not a good team. With that said, can we justify or reason with books installing them as a 13-point home favorite even if they’re about to throw down on the gridiron versus the degraded Chiefs?

Maybe the 13 points has to do with the fact that the Chiefs are 0-3 straight up and 1-2 against the spread on the road this season. Or maybe its Kansas City’s 4-14 ATS mark in the last 18 games versus the AFC East on the road. Either way support for such a skyscraping spread can be partially attributed to the condition of this team.

Kansas City ranks 29th worst with 257.3 yards per game of offense under its belt. The team has been through a quarterback talent search since the opening week. Signal callers Damon Huard, Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle have combined for an unimpressive 1,020 passing yards with only four touchdowns and eight interceptions.

On top of running back Larry Johnson’s legal problems, three touchdowns have matched his three fumbles on the season. Combine the offensive problems with giving up a 31st worst 402.2 YPG on defense (ranked worst against the run as well, 207.2 YPG allowed) and there’s no hiding the fact why the Chiefs are 1-5 on the season.

After losing a frustrating contest in Oakland last week (16-13 in OT), the Jets are hoping that QB Brett Favre finally begins to settle down, becoming less erratic from week-to-week. The crafty veteran field general has thrown eight interceptions in his last five outings, and went from averaging a completion percentage of 71 in the first five games to slipping up last week with completing just 55.3-percent of his passes.

Maybe it’s the fact that Kansas City will be missing RB Johnson for the week because of two accusations of assault combined with the fact that the team can’t hold back the worst of offences. Whatever the reason, expert handicapper Marc Lawrence put it perfect. “The Jets haven’t laid this many points since Bill Clinton served his first term as a US president back in 1993.”

Time Zones

When Oakland gears up to meet the defensive juggernaut in Baltimore bettors must be warned that teams coming over from the West Coast to the East in a 1:00 p.m. EDT game have not fared well this year (0-8 SU, 1-7 ATS and 0-9 SU and 2-7 ATS including the Seattle loss in Tampa in Week 7 at 8:15 p.m. EDT).

Call it jet lag, decompression or whatever other condition that might affect teams when crossing time zones, there’s just no way of hiding the fact that West to East Coast travel (or vise versa) is cause for concern. The usual guideline here is that the “average Joe” needs about a day or more to recover from jet lag per time zone traversed.

It all started in Week 1 when Seattle traveled into Buffalo for a 34-10 pounding and has since come full circle with San Diego getting trashed in Buffalo by the score of 23-14 last week. There’s no way of skipping around this situation, West Coast teams are struggling mightily in these early East Coast starts.

As for these two teams taking the field, we can contribute to the fact that fading Oakland might be in order here. The Raiders are coming off a dramatic (or traumatic) win over the Jets last week with kicker, Sebastian Janikowski sealing the OT deal with a 57-yard, down the pipe kick through the uprights.

Of course the help of New York’s QB Favre throwing two picks and WR Laveranues Coles catching just four passes for 51 yards helped keep this game in close proximity, but the combination of Oakland’s RBs Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden racking up 132 yards (equating to an almost even 35:39 of possession) helped the team’s cause.

Oakland is 1-7 ATS in its last eight versus Baltimore and 0-4 ATS in the last four games played on the road versus the Ravens.

Bodog.com has installed Baltimore as nine-point home favorites with a total set at a low 36.

AFC East Rivals

Since most books opened Miami as a slight, one-point home favorite, Thursday has now brought a swap in the line movement. Sportsbetting.com has now listed Buffalo as the one-point visiting favorite with a total of 42½.

The Bills have the upper hand in the last four head-to-head meetings, while covering an extraordinary seven times in the last eight clashes against the Dolphins (a 2007 meeting resulted in a push). So, is this the week we witness Miami putting an end to their AFC East freefall against Buffalo or does this contest result in business as usual?

The first trend that spells F.A.D.E. is the Dolphins’ 6-22-2 ATS record in the last 30 versus AFC East opponents. More firepower for a Bills SU win and to cover the spread is their eye opening performance on the field. This is a team who’s got slinger Trent Edwards boarding on a 100 QB rating (98.8), completing close to 70-percent of his passes (69.7%) while giving up a league, second best two interceptions on the season.

Miami has been losing production in the run game since the Wildcat play was implemented as a way to boost yard production. The ‘Fins have now dropped to the No. 17 spot in the NFL, averaging 4.1 YPG but have fumbled only five times without losing the ball once (only three teams have avoided losing the ball on a fumble).

With the Bills steamrolling through the season, could this be another guaranteed trip to the bank (on the Bills of course)?

Off a Bye Week

Among three other teams coming off a bye week are the well rested Eagles. For starters, head coach Andy Reid has been highly successful in this spot, especially with QB Donovan McNabb at the helm. In the last nine games off bye weeks, Philadelphia with a healthy McNabb are 9-0 SU and 8-1 ATS.

The difficult part for the Eagles to confront may be an Atlanta team that looks to be turning the organization around behind signal caller, Matt Ryan (1,164 passing yards with five TDs). Remember that the Falcons finished 2007 with a 4-12 SU record, a combined 51-60 record dating back to 2001 and finishing with an end of the season record over .500 in just two seasons over a seven year period.

But Ryan and RB Michael Turner (597 rushing yards with six trips into the end zone) have revitalized Atlanta for a 4-2 SU and ATS record this season. However, the Falcons are 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine meetings against the Eagles.

Before Philly entered the bye week a crushing, 40-26 victory over San Francisco gave the team added confidence. Something of concern when backing the Eagles in this spot is a 4-9 ATS stretch in the team’s last 13 home games. We don’t have to go back to far in a 23-17 loss against Washington to see this trend in affect.

Some good news coming out of Philadelphia is that pivotal back, Brian Westbrook looks to be set for a return from broken ribs.

Most books have installed Falcons as 9½-point visiting ‘dogs, with a total now sitting at 45.

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