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NFC betting notes: Week 8
NFC betting notes: Week 8
NFC betting notes: Week 8
By TED SEVRANSKY
Teddy’s NFC Tidbits
Welcome to Teddy’s weekly look at the NFL. Teddy spends every Sunday typing furiously at his laptop as he watches the games, giving you the key info that the box scores and game recaps simply don’t have. This week: NFC tidbits from around the league.
With Joey Galloway at least somewhat healthy and back on the field, all of a sudden this offense looks like a potent strike downfield type of unit. Jeff Garcia is playing out of his mind right now, scrambling out of pressure and looking very much like the same QB who led the Eagles out of obscurity into the playoffs two years ago. So why can’t this team score touchdowns in the red zone? Five tries inside the 25 yard line, four field goal attempts and one stopped on downs. It’s a failure in the running game, something that could improve if Cadillac Williams ever gets healthy enough to contribute. On 20 rushing attempts today, the Bucs longest gain was seven yards.
This defense is head and shoulders better than they were earlier in the season now that their defensive line is healthy once again, largely stuffing the Panthers running game. The pass rush was there, led by Darnell Dockett and Bertrand Berry, the same duo that caused 19 knockdowns of Tony Romo a few weeks back. And, with the improvement of the pass rush all of a sudden, this talented secondary is locking down opposing receivers. If only that secondary could tackle. With Anquan Boldin healthy again (40 screws and seven titanium plates in his head) catching touchdowns, this offense looks remarkably potent as well. And, for a team that has struggled mightily to show up for early start East Coast games for the last decade, getting off to an early 10-0 lead was a huge step in the right direction, even though they couldn’t sustain that lead.
The loss of punter Matt McBriar (on injured reserve) has had an enormous impact on one of the key elements of handicapping that never gets much attention – field position. The Cowboys lost the field position war throughout the game, repeatedly starting drives from inside their own 20 yard line while allowing their opponent to start from near midfield. McBriar was a master at turning the field around with his long punts changing the field position dramatically. The play calling from Jason Garrett with a backup quarterback was remarkably predictable – run, run, pass and punt; again and again. Brad Johnson looked very, very old for the second consecutive week, proving once again that teams who skimp on the backup quarterback position are simply asking for trouble. Watching him play, it’s hard to believe that this QB led his team to a Super Bowl title earlier this decade, because he’s just awful now.
Philly spent big free agent dollars acquiring cornerback Asante Samuel from New England this past offseason. Last year, Philly ranked dead last in the NFL in defensive interceptions. This year, the Eagles entered this game with a +5 turnover margin, and Samuel made a great interception to negate a scoring opportunity. He's a legitimate impact player on the defensive side of the football. Then Lito Sheppard made an amazing interception in the end zone, saving a touchdown against them. Along with Sheldon Brown, this cornerback trio might be the best in the league.
Detroit is dead last in the NFL in third down conversions. They have no running game to put themselves in manageable down and distance situations, and their downfield passing game has been spotty at best. Rudi Johnson was the leading rusher with 21 yards on eight attempts, and more than half of those yards came on a single 11-yard rush. That being said, we’re seeing a different energy level on offense since Dan Orlovsky took over for the semi-injured Jon Kitna at quarterback. In 81 pass attempts over the last three weeks, Orlovsky hasn’t thrown a single interception. The Lions scored points in the first quarter for the first time this year here in their seventh game, but only because of a Redskins turnover and a huge third down penalty against Washington to keep the drive alive. In other words, their initial first quarter points of the season came only via their opponents screw-ups. Still, after trailing by first half margins of at least 21-3 in five of their first six games, a 7-3 first quarter lead is a step in the right direction for a winless team.
The Panthers' two losses this season came in the only two games in which they failed to reach 100 rushing yards. In the first quarter here, Carolina was still looking for its initial first down of the game and was held to two rushing yards. John Fox even tried to use some of the Wildcat formation that is sweeping over the NFL these days, gaining their longest rush (seven yards) of the game with Jake Delhomme lined up as a blocking wideout. One thing we know about Fox – he won’t abandon the run, even when it’s not working, and that faith in his running game was huge here as they gradually wore down the Cardinals defense, leading to a huge second-half comeback.
This defensive line is very soft, unable to stop power rushing attacks. Will Witherspoon simply got run over for the Patriots first touchdown. But their relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks from Jim Haslett’s blitzes is having a positive effect. The longest pass allowed in the first half was an 18 -ard screen pass dump-off, and they only allowed one pass of longer than 20 yards all game. Wide receiver Donny Avery has officially become an ‘impact’ player halfway through his rookie year. Avery is the deep threat that makes this offense click, scoring on the Rams longest pass play of the season to give St Louis a much-needed answering score. Stephen Jackson missed the game, but frankly, he wasn’t missed all that much. Backup Antonio Pittman kept the chains moving with 83 yards on 19 carries, the same type of numbers that Jackson was putting up. Marc Bulger has declined markedly – poor throws, poor decision making, not seeing the field well and horrific footwork make for a very bad combination for any $75-million quarterback.
Jason Campbell hasn’t thrown an interception all season long, and he lost his first fumble of the year here. He's a quarterback who clearly takes protecting the football seriously yet, for some reason, Jim Zorn still doesn’t seem ready to unleash his star quarterback. It makes no sense to me – this offense could be dynamite with a consistent downfield passing game opening things up for the league’s leading rusher, Clinton Portis. And, facing the dismal Lions secondary, trailing before halftime, why wouldn’t Zorn attack downfield relentlessly? As soon as they opened up the offense in the third quarter – boom – a big play touchdown to Santana Moss to take a lead that they never relinquished.
Now we’re seeing missed extra points to go along with the missed field goals that have be-deviled this team all season long. Memo to Sean Payton: don’t skimp on paying a kicker or it’ll inevitably cost you! They were forced to go for it on fourth down and two from the red zone, up six points, because Payton didn’t trust his kicker to hit a field goal from inside 40 yards. We’re seeing a lot more power rushing out of this offense with Deuce McAllister healthy and Reggie Bush out of action. It fits the offense well – power rushing combined with downfield passing leaves opposing defenders guessing. Now that Marquis Colston is healthy, this offense doesn’t seem to be lacking at all, even without Jeremy Shockey contributing. Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and backup tight end Billy Miller give Drew Brees more than enough weapons to work with.