Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Randall the HandleFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Titans (0-0) at Steelers (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This is a classic case of perception versus reality. The reality is that Pittsburgh enters this season with a very young and inexperienced offensive line, a battered quarterback coming off of knee surgery and a squad that lost its starting running back to injury, plus its best receiver and top linebacker to free agency. While the Titans tend to be underwhelming, they made some wise moves in the off-season, bolstering protection for QB Jake Locker and forming an O-Line that should open some holes for shifty RB Chris Johnson. In addition, they brought in OC Dowell Loggains to simplify things for the offence after ousting Chris Palmer’s complicated system. Pittsburgh is rarely an easy out on its own turf, but a converted touchdown is a fraudulent line here, based on pedigree and nothing else. It should also be noted that the Steelers have covered just four of the past 14 when giving away points. A converted touchdown is far too many to spot here. TAKING: TITANS +7
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Bengals (0-0) at Bears (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cincinnati is this year’s sleeper pick for many pundits. While the Bengals appear to have the personnel to seize the AFC North, we’re going to still hold court for a while. Much of the high expectations come on the heels of a 7-1 finish for the Bengals last season. A closer look reveals that Cincy was 3-5 before going on that run, a set that did not have them facing off against a playoff-bound team except for the season finale with Baltimore when all starters had the day off as playoff positions were already decided. The Bears themselves did not make the post-season. However, they matched Cincinnati’s 10-6 record, but did not qualify for the post-season having resided in the tougher NFC conference. The Bears beefed up protection for QB Jay Cutler. With RB Matt Forte’s elite skills, Brandon Marshall’s receiving talents and a Chicago defence that remains a force, spotting a mere field goal here appears cheap. TAKING: BEARS –3
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Seahawks (0-0) at Panthers (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Slow starters, the Panthers have limped into the past two seasons at 1-5 and 1-6 respectively. If they want to contend this season, that will have to change. What better opportunity to make such a statement than to take on one of the NFC’s favoured teams on Carolina’s own turf? There’s no denying the talent level on the Seahawks but let’s not forget that they are a much better home team than they are travelers. Finishing dead last in pass attempts last year, the Seahawks went out and snagged WR Percy Harvin, but he hurt himself in the pre-season and is out indefinitely. This is a passing league and that’s an area the Seahawks will need to improve in. In his third year, QB Cam Newton has all the physical tools to excel. If he’s matured mentally, Carolina can make some noise in the NFC. The Panthers finished strong last year, sweeping all four December contests. With a capable roster, they can pick up where they left off. TAKING: PANTHERS +3½
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Patriots (0-0) at Bills (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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With the turmoil surrounding Buffalo’s quarterback situation, it’s easy to give the Patriots the nod here. But New England has issues of their own as its top five receivers from last year are not in the lineup and concerns remain with New England’s offensive line. E.J. Manuel will get the start for the Bills. The rookie was sidelined for much of the pre-season so expect a heavy dose of running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in what the Bills hope will be a conservative and controlled pace. Divisional double-digit road faves are always a dangerous proposition. TAKING: BILLS +9½
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Falcons (0-0) at Saints (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Are the Saints ready to take down the division favourite, fueled by the return of coach Sean Payton? The Saints were undefeated in their dome in 2011 under Payton. Against the offensive prowess of these Falcons, this will be no easy task. The Saints’ defence was a weak unit that allowed in excess of 7,000 yards last year. Ex-Cowboys coach Rob Ryan was brought in to repair this leaky unit and word out of training camp is that the players have bought into his system. In an amped-up Superdome, with the Saints extra motivated to put last year’s Bountygate season behind them, we’re comfortable spotting the field goal. TAKING: SAINTS –3
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Bucs (0-0) at N.Y. Jets (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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J-E-T-S spells circus. No doubt, the entire football world is down on Gang Green, yet this one opened with the Bucs as a 3-point choice and, as of yesterday, still has not moved. Hmmm? If nothing else, the Jets can play defence under Rex Ryan’s tutelage. Early in the season, before the defence wears down, that can be an effective way to keep an anaemic offence within striking distance. Tampa could be improved, but are they ready to be giving away road points and can Josh Freeman return to 2011 form? Seeing will be believing. TAKING: N.Y. JETS +3
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Chiefs (0-0) at Jaguars (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Andy Reid takes over in Kansas City and a revival of this franchise is expected. However, this is still a team that won just two games last year and the transformation will not happen overnight. QB Alex Smith comes over after being bumped out of San Francisco. Smith is serviceable, but he’s not going to wow anybody. He also doesn’t have the 49ers defence to bail him out, either. The Jaguars made some much-needed coaching changes of their own and having star running back Maurice Jones Drew back in the lineup after missing much of last season should keep this one competitive throughout. TAKING: JAGUARS +4
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Dolphins (0-0) at Browns (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Having wallowed in less than mediocrity for the past several years, many are quick to discount the Browns. However, things may be changing. Cleveland’s defensive unit is an unheralded group that is capable of stymieing better offences than the Dolphins bring to town. The Brownies’ offence has been its anchor, but hope has arrived on Lake Erie as OC Norv Turner appears to have QB Brandon Weeden in a comfort zone. There is enough talent and protection around Weeden to get this offence brewing. The Dolphins are unsettled at a number of key positions and just needing the Browns to win in order to cover seems like the prudent play. TAKING: BROWNS Even
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Vikings (0-0) at Lions (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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While coach Jim Schwartz found his way to the playoffs in 2011, his team is a combined 12-36 in his other three seasons in Motown. Yes, they have superstar WR Calvin Johnson. But they don’t know how to use him as the Lions threw a league-leading 740 passes last year, 69 more than the second-place Patriots, but threw for only 22 touchdowns. Minnesota manhandled Detroit last year, winning by seven on this field and by 10 at the Metrodome. Vikes were 10-6 a year ago compared to Detroit’s feeble 4-12 mark. Nothing much has changed and we’re taking a bunch of points. Sounds good to us. TAKING: VIKINGS +5
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Raiders (0-0) at Colts (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Like everyone, we believe Oakland is in for another long year. It will be difficult to walk up to the betting window and ask for them. We get that. However, do we really want to trust an Indianapolis team whose fluff is better than its stuff, especially in this price range? Despite their impressive 11-5 record a year ago, the Colts were actually outscored on the season by 30 points. They ranked poorly defensively, including run stopping, where they ranked 29th. If Oakland can do anything here, it may be on the ground with RB Darren McFadden. That should keep it close enough for a cover. TAKING: RAIDERS +9½
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Cardinals (0-0) at Rams (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Rams are getting rave reviews out of training camp this year, but pre-season is not the real season and improvement takes time. The Rams may have finally provided some talent for QB Sam Bradford to throw to, but there is a learning curve for rookie receivers in this league and it won’t come especially easy against Arizona’s fine defensive backfield. The Cards have been grounded the past couple of seasons by poor quarterbacking. Veteran Carson Palmer may not be flashy, but he puts up solid numbers and has a top WR in Larry Fitzgerald. Rams to win by a margin here is asking for a lot. TAKING: CARDINALS +4½
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Packers (0-0) at 49ers (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Green Bay’s exiting game last year was an embarrassing playoff affair with this 49ers team that ran up nearly 600 yards on the Packers’ defence. That sting has lasted these past nine months and the Pack would like nothing more than to exact revenge against their newest rival. Under the watchful eye of DC Dom Capers, we expect Green Bay’s defence to better. It has to be as they’ll face the Redskins next week, another team that uses the read-option offence. More of a concern is protection of QB Aaron Rodgers and the ferocious San Francisco defence. Line feels a bit too light with strong home team. TAKING: 49ERS –4½
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Giants (0-0) at Cowboys (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cowboys made few changes to last year’s roster, but did make an important coaching change with Rod Marinelli taking over defensive line duties. With Dallas’ athletic defence, Marinelli’s schemes should be able to disrupt a Giants passing game that has undergone some personnel changes. The Giants’ signature pass rush may not be the effective unit that we’re used to seeing after much of its personnel have moved on to other locales. Despite star talent littered throughout its roster, Dallas hype has been toned down this year. We see that as a good thing for what might be a dangerous Cowboys squad. TAKING: COWBOYS –3½
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Eagles (0-0) at Redskins (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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In the NFL, teams draft, prepare and focus upon their divisional opponents. While the Eagles were projected to do well last year and the Redskins were not, the exact opposite occurred. Now the roles are reversed and we expect the Eagles to fare a lot better than they did a year ago. Washington torched their divisional foes last season, sweeping the two-game set by a combined 58-26. However, Philadelphia QB Michael Vick did not play in either contest and with a healthy and spirited Vick leading the way against a hobbled and possibly rusty RG3, points being offered can’t be ignored. TAKING: PHILADELPHIA +3½
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Texans (0-0) at Chargers (0-0)FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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We have little doubt that the Texans will contend this year. It is unknown if the Bolts will again be dolts. With new management, coaches and a few new players in place, things have to get better in San Diego. QB Philip Rivers was considered among the league’s best not long ago, but a porous offensive line and some lame-brained decisions have tarnished his status. Overlooked is the Chargers’ stellar defence, a unit that ranked ninth in the league despite being an overworked bunch. A Monday night home opener against a highly ranked team could allow the Chargers, namely their offence, to get off on the right foot. We’ll give them a slight lean here. TAKING: CHARGERS +3½

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday, September 8

Mike O'ConnorFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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PITTSBURGH (-7) 24 Tennessee 16FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Titans should be an improved team this year and it all starts for them in the trenches. After being decimated by injuries last year on the offensive line, they are a much improved group this year. Not only did they bring in a very good guard in Andy Levitre from the Bills, but they drafted one as well with the 10th overall pick in Chance Warmack. With these upgrades and a return to health for much of the rest of the line, I expect a better performance in the run game. RB Chris Johnson does not get much in the way of yards after contact but when given a seam, as I expect he will more this year, he can still be very dangerous. New import Shonn Greene can get some of the tougher yards near the goal-line or on third and short. The biggest difference that we can expect to see as a result of improvement in the offensive line is from Jake Locker. If they can offer some degree of protection, he can be effective. As with most QB’s, his rating is significantly better when afforded time to throw. The Titans have talent at the WR position and after losing TE Jared Cook in the offseason, they quickly signed Delanie Walker from the 49ers as his replacement. I also expect improvement in their defense, as new assistant Gregg Williams joins DC Jerry Gray in an attempt to get the talent that they have on the defensive side to play up to their potential, especially in the front seven. DT Jurrell Casey and DE Derrick Morgan are both young and talented and should continue to improve. S Bernard Pollard will provide an upgrade in both talent and leadership in a secondary that suffered from a lack of both last year.
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Pittsburgh is now in the second year of OC Todd Haley’s offense, but are implementing a zone blocking scheme to improve a rushing offense that finished 28th in the league last year in compensated yards per attempt. The offensive line is in transition with a scheme change, position changes, and players returning from injury. That makes for a difficult task for Steeler RB’s. What makes it more difficult is that rookie RB Le’Veon Bell, who was the Steelers best back in camp and was being counted on, will be out for a while with an injury. That leaves Isaac Redman and Felix Jones as the primary backs with Jonathan Dwyer recently cut. Also leaving the Steelers in the offseason is WR Mike Wallace who stretched defenses with his vertical speed. I expect the Steelers to lean on the short passing game early in the season. On defense, the Steelers appear to remain solid even after losing key contributors. The biggest loss is the departure of LB James Harrison to division rival Cincinnati but the Steelers have talented young players in 1st rounder Jarvis Jones and 4th year player Jason Worilds as replacements. If the Steelers can generate more turnovers (-12 in turnover differential last year) to go along with their defensive strength from a yards per play perspective (6th last year in compensated defensive yards per rush, 2nd in compensated defensive yards per pass) they will be very difficult to beat.
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My ratings have this game lined at -7.63 so there is no real value in this game in my opinion. I don’t have any situations that apply to either team. Match-up differentials predict Tennessee will have the ability to run the ball with some effectiveness on offense with a limited passing output. For the Steelers, projections show a good passing matchup, with limited rushing success. I don’t have much of an opinion on this game, but given the modest ratings difference I will lean with the Steelers minus the points. STEELERS 24-16
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Kansas City (-4) 24 JACKSONVILLE 17FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This is an interesting game to open the season between two teams that were among the worst in the league last year. Kansas City is a team widely perceived be have made significant improvements in the offseason. Bringing in new HC Andy Reid, along with former 49ers QB Alex Smith gives the Chiefs immediate upgrades in two of the most important areas on the team. Keep in mind that this is a talented roster with six Pro-Bowlers in 2012, even though they finished the season only 2-14. The Chiefs actually finished with the 6th ranked rushing offense by my metrics after an incredible season from RB Jamaal Charles. He should once again have a very good year as he is a great fit for Andy Reid’s offense. This season he will likely be used out of the backfield catching more passes and rushing less often. The offensive line should be better with the addition of #1 pick RT Eric Fisher and an improving young group. The WR group is a question mark outside of Dwayne Bowe, with Donnie Avery coming over from Indianapolis and A.J. Jenkins from the 49ers. With a pass offense that I had rated 31st in the league I expect a much better performance in 2013. The Chiefs also had a league worst -24 turnover differential and a 25.71% fumble recovery rate, also worst in the league. Improvements in coaching and at QB, along with some regression to the mean will produce a very different product in 2013. Defensively, this is a team with very good talent that underperformed terribly in 2012. New DC Bob Sutton comes over from the Jets and will attempt to improve a defense that ranked 28th against the run and 29th versus the pass.
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Jacksonville finished 29th or lower in rush and pass offense, as well as in defensive pass ratings in 2012. They were only about average in rush defense in 2012, but overall they were a terrible team. Like the Chiefs, the Jags finished with a record of 2-14. The difference is that improvements here won’t be as immediate as they will be in Kansas City. The lack of talent on both sides of the ball is an issue, but with a new analytics department helping to make smart, informed decisions, this is a team that will improve. The first smart move that they made was hiring former Seahawks DC Gus Bradley as their HC. Bradley helped to build one of the strongest defenses in the league in Seattle and will bring his multiple brand of physical defense to Jacksonville. I expect improvement but it will be gradual as the team learns new schemes on both sides of the ball and will play some younger players right away. In fact, it appears as if the Jaguars are prepared to play two rookies in the secondary (CB Gratz and SS Cyprien) who had some rough moments in the preseason. Offensively they are sticking with QB Blaine Gabbert, who has not been very good, if he recovers in time from a broken bone in the base of his throwing hand thumb. They should have RB Jones-Drew back and an offensive line that should be improved with #2 overall pick RT Luke Joeckel. I do like some of what Jacksonville and new OC Jedd Fisch showed in the preseason, utilizing an up-tempo offense and keeping defensive personnel groupings on the field. Unfortunately for Jacksonville their best receiver Justin Blackmon is suspended for the first 4 games and as a result will not be available here.
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My ratings in this game favor the Chiefs by around 7 points so there appears to be some value on Kansas City. I don’t have any situations on either side here but I believe that the Chiefs are on a faster track to being a better team than the Jaguars right now. Based on my match-up metrics the Chiefs will have the ability to both run and pass the ball effectively while the Jaguars will have problems scoring regardless of QB. The rating system that I use for match-up significance shows the Chiefs qualifying based on the projected offensive and defensive numbers and that is enough for me to lean to the Chiefs. CHIEFS 24-17
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CAROLINA (+3.5) 23 Seattle 20FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Seahawks surprised a lot of people last year but I had them rated highly and was successful in taking positions on the Seahawks in the right spots at the correct numbers. They are clearly no longer under the radar and have been a little inflated in this spot. There is both talent and relative stability on offense for the Seahawks as QB Russell Wilson is in his second year in the system after being a revelation to many last year. Key OL spots are secure at LT with Russell Okung and C Max Unger but much of the rest of the line is below average. OC Darrell Bevell has incorporated a West Coast offense with zone-blocking and read-option principles effectively with the skill position players to make it happen. Russell Wilson is the real deal and directed my 4th ranked passing efficiency offense in 2012 as a rookie. I expect him to approach that level this year but possibly take a little bit of a step back as teams have had all offseason watch tape and prepare. Missing newly acquired WR Percy Harvin hurts to start the season but they already have a solid position group at WR. The RBs are also very good with Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and rookie Christine Michael as they look to improve on an already very good #5 ranking in 2012. The defense has some true strengths but also clear areas of improvement. The Seahawks finished 2012 with only my 22nd ranked rush efficiency rating so this is an area where they struggled a bit. They brought in several defensive lineman in the offseason including former Dolphin DT Tony McDaniel (who was not very good), DE Cliff Avril from the Lions (who is a decent pass rusher but not very good against the run and has been battling both foot and hamstring injuries this preseason) and DE Michael Bennett from Tampa Bay (who was actually pretty good as both a pass rusher and run defender). DE Chris Clemons started practicing this week but it is unknown how or if he will play in this game and 2012 1st round draft pick DE Bruce Irvin is suspended for the first 4 games. There have been some changes here but they must improve defending the run to win this division. Their well-documented pass defense is very good and finished 2012 with my #3 rating.
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Many are predicting that there are good things in store for the Panthers this year. I am personally not in that camp but this is a team with a dynamic quarterback, a decent running game and potential on the defensive line. There are some teams that tend to outperform their stats and the New England Patriots represent the golden example of this. There are other teams that tend to underperform relative to their stats and the 2012 Carolina Panthers were that team. After starting just 2-8 they proceeded to end the season on a 5-1 run, however three of those wins were against the Eagles, Chargers, and Raiders. The other two wins were against divisional foes - the Falcons at home and in the last game of the season in sort of a meaningless shootout at New Orleans. Yet their stats tell a different story as my schedule adjusted ratings had them #10 in offensive efficiency and #8 in defensive efficiency. They also ranked #6 in fumble luck with a 63.6% recovery rate and +2 in turnover differential so to some degree they also had positive luck on their side in 2012. I don’t expect that to continue in 2013. In addition, I have their coaching staff rated in the lower 10% and a quarterback that while quite capable athletically has yet to show the hard to quantify ability to lead his team and win close games (2-12 in games within a 7 point differential). There have not been all that many changes this year and sometimes it may just come down to the attitude and the tone that the head coach sets with a team. There are clearly some strengths with a strong and athletic defensive line, an all-world LB in Luke Kuechly, and some talent at the offensive skill positions. However, a weak and injured offensive line that has been shuffled a bit recently coupled with a poor secondary is not the makings of a good football team.
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This is one of those interesting games to handicap as the ratings clearly favor the Seahawks (I have them as almost a 6 point favorite here) but the spot is a good one for the Panthers. They are the beneficiaries of a good Week 1 system that plays against the Seahawks here and is 40-64. My match-up numbers show clear advantages for the Seahawks as well, especially regarding the ability of Seattle to pass the ball. However, Week 1 ratings are always suspect and a lot happens in the offseason. It is also interesting to note that the Seahawks are starting at 10:00AM PST as they are playing across the country and generally speaking Seattle historically is not a good road team. Week 1 is always tricky, especially in determining accurate ratings as so much is unknown and a large number of assumptions need to be made. That being said, I have more confidence in the system, which is specific to Week 1, the Seahawks poor road numbers, sky high expectations, and a general contrarian approach in selecting the Panthers in this game. PANTHERS 23-20
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INDIANAPOLIS (-9.5) 28 Oakland 17FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Raiders are not a very good team and they already have a lot of problems as they enter the 2013 season. Revisiting 2012, they were much better off with a competent QB in Carson Palmer and as a result were my 17th rated offensive passing unit despite being just the 25th rated rush offense. This year they will be starting 3rd year QB Terrelle Pryor in Week 1 at Indianapolis. This is clearly a tremendous downgrade at the most important position on the team. The Raiders like his mobility behind a poor offensive line and he will likely provide more than Matt Flynn would have been able to because of it. He also expands the playbook with the likelihood of more read-option plays. The downside is that he is limited as a passer at this stage in his career and has a lack of real offensive tools to work with. In addition to that, the Raiders lost their best offensive lineman and backside protector when LT Jared Veldeheer was lost for the season with a torn triceps. His current replacement is rookie Melenik Watson who is moving from the right to the left tackle spot. He played in only 19 games in college, including 8 in junior college. On defense, the Raiders brought in several defensive backs in CB’s Tracey Porter, Mike Jenkins and safeties Charles Woodson and Usama Young. They also spent their first round pick on CB D.J. Hayden. This should be an improved position group based in part on the additions but also in part based on their 24th ranked pass efficiency rating in 2012.
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Andrew Luck enters his second season with the Colts with a new offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton- who was his OC at Stanford) as Bruce Arians left to become the HC of the Cardinals. It is a change in scheme featuring a power run game and shorter route trees and is in contrast to the vertical passing system that was utilized last season. The rest of the offense will have more catching up to do than Luck as he is already familiar with the new system. The Colts rush offense last year ranked 23rd and their pass offense 19th. I like the moves that they made in the offseason for the most part as well, upgrading their OL with former Lions RT Gosder Cherilus and LG Donald Thomas from the Patriots. The also shored up their secondary, bringing in CB Greg Toler and SS LaRon Landry from the Jets. Their DL was also bolstered with some under the radar moves, adding NT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Ricky Jean-Francois and drafting LB Bjoern Werner. This is the second year in DC Greg Manusky’s system, although there are a number of new starters that need to make the transition. They finished 2012 near the bottom in just about all defensive statistical analysis that I run so there is only room for improvement here.
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My ratings on this game favor the Colts by 11.12 points so it appears there is some value on Indianapolis. Match-up analysis supports this assumption as the Colts will pass the ball well against a revamped secondary that should struggle to generate a consistent pass rush. Drawing back once again to the third preseason game, this new Colts defense held the Browns starters in the first half to 5 possessions that included 4 punts and a fumble, 4 1st downs, 109 total yards and 0 points. Again, it is only the preseason and it means very little but it supports the reports out of Indianapolis that the Colts defense has been much better in practice than last year. The Colts also appear to be getting healthy just in time, as LT Costanzo, RB Bradshaw, RG McGlynn, and both TE’s Fleener and Allen may be ready for Week 1. COLTS 28-17
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BUFFALO (+8.5) 21 New England 28FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Patriots open the season with a lot of changes to their team in 2013. On offense, significant losses include WR Welker, and TE Hernandez, who are players with unique skill sets that are not easily replaced. If we count the loss of WR Brandon Lloyd, New England enters Week 1 missing 56.9% of its overall offensive passing production. The players that have been brought in are largely unproven and will lack solid communication with Tom Brady, especially early in the season. WR Danny Amendola is a good player when healthy, but that has been the problem. The same goes for TE Rob Gronkowski who is working his way back from injury and just started practicing so his availability/productivity for Week 1 is still in question. On defense, the 2012 Patriots played the run well but were terrible against the pass, ranking 27th in the league. The front 7 is strong with a core of young players that are improving. The real problem is the secondary and I don’t see it getting much better this year, although some changes have been made. However, the Patriots still have a strong core with QB Tom Brady and a coach that knows how to exploit his opponents weaknesses while playing to the strengths and personnel of his team.
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The Bills meanwhile are in the midst of change with a brand new coaching staff, new QB, and new schemes and philosophies on both offense and defense. That magnitude of change will take some time to take root, but there is talent on the roster, along with an upgrade in the coaching department. HC Doug Marrone comes over from the college ranks and brings along his OC from Syracuse, Nathaniel Hackett. His previous NFL experience was OC with the Saints from 2006-08 where he was part of several very good offensive seasons. New DC Mike Pettine comes over from the Jets where he learned and applied defensive philosophy and scheme under HC Rex Ryan. The QB situation is a problem as E.J. Manuel just started practicing after having a minor knee procedure a couple of weeks ago, but it looks like he will make the start. As far as personnel changes, the biggest loss for the Bills this year is their best offensive lineman, Andy Levitre going to the Titans. They also lost top CB Stephon Gilmore to injury for the next six weeks or so and have a hobbled and disgruntled S Jarius Byrd in an unsteady secondary.
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I don’t have a significant difference in my ratings from what the current spread is and the uncertainty around the QB situation and the Buffalo Bills in general makes me cautious. From a purely match-up perspective this game is a disaster for Buffalo. The Patriots, even with a new receiving corps, still have Tom Brady and should be able to exploit a shaky Buffalo secondary. On the other hand, the Bills strength on offense is clearly their running game and that plays perfectly into the strength of the Patriots defense. I do like the fact that Buffalo DC Pettine is intimately familiar with the Patriots offense as former DC with the Jets and has assisted in some game plans that have given the Patriots trouble in the recent past. That, coupled with the fact that the Pats may struggle early on with QB to new, young receiver coordination gives me enough reason to lean the Bills way given the teams familiarity and the large number. The Bills also qualify in a Week 1 situation that is 54-29, while the Patriots qualify in a couple of situations that play against them and are 40-64 and 3-16. PATRIOTS 28-21FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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CLEVELAND (-1) 20 Miami 17
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The Dolphins enter 2013 going into the second year of HC Joe Philbin’s charge with both offensive and defensive systems having a year of experience. They also brought in new players that they believe better suit the philosophies that those schemes look to carry out. On offense I expect improvement from QB Ryan Tannehill who directed a passing offense that finished 21st in pass rating efficiency in 2012. He has new weapon WR Mike Wallace on the outside who is a bit overvalued but can help to stretch the defense with his vertical speed. He, along with former Ram WR Brandon Gibson, will provide new targets that will help upgrade the passing game. The loss for the season of new TE Dustin Keller will hurt as he was counted on in the passing game. The Dolphins also lose RB Reggie Bush who had some big moments but overall graded out at about average in 2012. He will be replaced by recent draft choices Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas as they hope to improve on their run efficiency rating of 18th in 2012. There are some changes on the offensive line as well as LT Jake Long left for St. Louis and the Dolphins brought in former Falcon Tyson Clabo at RT. There are some concerns about Long’s replacement, Jonathan Martin, but Clabo is a good player and should be an upgrade on the right side. On defense, the Dolphins brought in a couple of free agent linebackers (Ellerbe, Wheeler) and corners (Patterson, Grimes) to improve the second and third levels. The Dolphins are very good and improving on the DL with the addition of DE Dion Jordan and will look to improve upon a #9 run defense rating in 2012. New CB Brent Grimes played well in preseason and they are hopeful that he and former Brown CB Dimitri Patterson, along with several early round draft picks will improve a pass defense that finished 2012 ranked #18 by my metrics.
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The Browns had a busy offseason bringing in a new coaching staff with some big names and reputations. New HC Rob Chudzinski comes over from the Carolina Panthers where he spent the last two years as offensive coordinator. He brings in new OC Norv Turner (Chargers HC for the past 6 years) who will attempt to utilize a vertical attack in combination with a strong running game for an offense that rated out at #26 overall in 2012. Even after an impressive showing which created a lot of buzz in the preseason I have doubts that QB Brandon Weeden is the answer, although the change in scheme and coaching should help. The Browns have a very good offensive line but young skill position players that will need time to develop in a new system. The addition of WR Davone Bess from the Dolphins is an under the radar move that I like as he will have to play a bigger role with WR Josh Gordon suspended for the first two games. Defensively, the Browns do have talent and it will be up to new DC Ray Horton (formerly of Arizona) to maximize the collective ability of this group like he did with the Cardinals. Free agent acquisition LB Paul Kruger will join Jabaal Sheard and rookie Barkevious Mingo to improve a pass rush that was not very good last year. If they can improve in this area as I expect they will, the coverage on the back end will get better. The Browns finished 2012 ranked 19th against the run and 16th versus the pass. I expect improvement both offensively and defensively this year but any increase in yard based performance may be offset by a regression to the mean in some key turnover statistics. The Browns finished 2012 with a positive turnover differential overall (+3) and much of that can be attributed to luck as they finished second best in the league with a 66.7% fumble recovery rate. A reversion to near 50% would reduce scoring by about 19 points and potentially cost them several games.
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My ratings are almost exact on this game versus the current number as I have the Browns favored by .93 points. Match-up analysis shows an improved Miami passing game being able to move the ball with some effectiveness against a talented but new Cleveland defense. Ratings suggest limited overall rushing productivity for everyone involved and the game could simply come down to Miami being more established with their schemes. I do have a 41-19 situation that plays on Cleveland so based on that I will lean with the Browns. BROWNS 20-17FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Cincinnati (+3) 20 CHICAGO 19
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The Bengals have gotten a lot of notoriety recently with their appearance on Hard Knocks and a lot of buzz about being the best team in the division. We will see how that plays out but I have the Bengals finishing third in the division this year. Their ceiling is only as high as their quarterback will take them even with a lot of talent surrounding him offensively along with a very good defense. Despite having one of the best receivers in the game in A.J. Green, a good offensive coordinator, and other weapons around him, Andy Dalton ranked 22nd last year in overall passing efficiency adjusted for strength of schedule. In comes rookie RB Giovanni Bernard and TE Tyler Eifert to expand the offense and offer more options in formations in an effort to create mismatches. However, the offensive line has some injuries (LT Whitworth – offseason knee surgery, RT Andre Smith had a left knee tweak in the third preseason game) and outside of RG Kevin Zeitler, the line is not that talented. The Bengals ranked 13th in rush efficiency last year and my numbers forecast a similar middle of the pack finish in 2013. Defensively, they have a very talented front seven with strength, speed and depth. The addition of former Steeler LB James Harrison will provide veteran leadership and perhaps some additional teeth to a defense that finished 17th in my defensive rushing efficiency metric in 2012. Surprisingly, the Bengals finished 2012 ranked #6 in pass defense with significant contribution from former Cowboys CB Terence Newman. The influx of some young talent in the secondary should compensate for any anticipated drop-off in Newman’s play.
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In a move that was a bit surprising the Bears fired former HC Lovie Smith after posting a 10-6 record in 2012. This type of move speaks loudly about what the organization thinks of the talent that the Bears have and how that talent has not come together to play to the organizations expectations. New HC Marc Trestman is known as a smart, creative, analytics driven coach after leading the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL to two consecutive Grey Cup Championships and winning Coach of the Year in 2009 (59-31 overall record). He works well with quarterbacks and has a reputation for being an offensive guru. That ability should serve him well as he attempts to optimize the potential that Jay Cutler has shown in flashes at various points in his career. One of the main points of emphasis is on reducing interceptions as the Bears are 32-8 when Cutler throws one or fewer interceptions and 2-14 when he throws two or more. He will have help by bringing in former Saints OL/interim head coach Aaron Kromer. Improvements have been made to a bad offensive line both through the draft and free agency. Former Saints LT Jermon Bushrod now provides an upgrade at a key spot on the offensive line, with former Jet LG Matt Slauson sliding in next to him. The right side it appears will have two rookies with RG Kyle Long and RT Jordan Mills taking over and they have shown well in preseason, particularly Long. WR Brandon Marshall is dealing with a hip injury and may not be recovering as quickly as he expected which could turn into a real problem for the team. Chicago finished 2012 #16 in my rush efficiency ratings and 22nd in the pass metric. Defensively, the Bears have good players at every level of the defense and new DC Mel Tucker will have a lot to work with. The Bears finished 4th overall in my defensive ratings in 2012.
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My ratings on this game show Chicago favored by 3.83 points and I have situations that go both ways. From a match-up perspective, there is no real edge with the Bears showing a very slight rushing and passing advantage. I am curious to see what Trestman’s new offense looks like in NFL real time but based on the research I have done there will be gradual improvement and Jay Cutler recently made the statement that he may not know the full offense by years end. That tells me this offense is a work in progress. One of Andy Dalton’s best subsets is to play on the road where he is 11-5 ATS while Cutler has historically not been good in this spot, going just 12-23 ATS. Although those are not real significant situations and there is negligible line difference, I will lean with the Bengals plus the points. BENGALS 20-19
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DETROIT (-5) 27 Minnesota 20FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Vikings were a playoff team in 2012 going 10-6 and losing in the Wild Card Game to the Green Bay Packers. Interestingly they are not getting much respect entering this season. They had my #1 ranked rushing attack behind, in my opinion, the greatest season ever by a running back in Adrian Peterson. They also had a good rush defense, finishing 4th in my ratings. In previous versions of the NFL that would have been the formula to success, and to a much more limited degree it still is, as their 2012 season provides evidence. However, a strong passing game is critical to deep and sustained success and this is where the Vikings have problems on both sides of the ball. QB Christian Ponder is a limited player, and even with the benefit of having opposing teams gear up to stop Adrian Peterson, he still finished with the 26th rated passing offense in the NFL. Preseason is certainly non-predictive when it comes to regular season projections but there is some value to it. In the second preseason game against the Bills where a Ponder led offense was only able to lead his team to 3 points in 5 series he made the statement that the Bills were doing some things on defense that were “ a little hard for us to identify”. That is not the statement that you expect from a quality NFL QB and is a bit telling. In addition, FB Jerome Felton has been suspended for the first three games and that is a significant loss to the rushing game. When lining up in an I formation with Felton as the lead blocker, Peterson averaged 7.25 yards per carry. Without Felton in a two back set, his YPC went down to 3.8. As far as the WR’s go, they lost Percy Harvin and gained Greg Jennings from Green Bay and drafted WR Patterson from Tennessee in the first round. Defensively, they are a bit banged up on the line with DT’s Kevin Williams and 1st round pick Sharif Floyd working their way back from injuries heading into Week 1. The defensive backfield also looks like a work in progress to me as they finished 2012 14th and are working younger players into the mix at some new spots.
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The Lions are another team that has shown flashes of potential but have not shown the ability to close or finish games. They went just 3-8 in 2012 in games with a 7 point or less differential. They have made some changes this year, most notably with the addition of RB Reggie Bush on offense and S Glover Quin, DE Isreal Idonije, DE Jason Jones and DE Ziggy Ansah on defense. Meanwhile of note they lost DE Cliff Avril, and several not very good offensive lineman. That being said there will be some uncertainty early on the OL with several new pieces but I expect gradual improvement. The Lions finished 2012 with my 20th rated rushing attack and 12th rated passing numbers. Outside of Calvin Johnson they were limited in 2012 as he had more than twice as many receptions and three times as many yards as the second leading receiver (Brandon Pettigrew) on the team. They are worried about their #2 and slot receivers once again in 2013.
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My ratings favor the Lions by about 6.5 points here so I think that the line is a bit low. I also have a 41-19 situation that plays on the Lions and a negative 7-36 situation that plays against the Vikings. Additionally, matchup analysis shows the Lions with a clear ability to pass the ball against the Vikings secondary. The Vikings should be able to run the ball some on Detroit as well but I expect a good effort from the Lions defensive line with the ability to control the line of scrimmage. Again, preseason doesn’t mean much , but in the Lions 3rd preseason game against the Patriots with starters playing against maybe the best offensive line in the league they dominated the line of scrimmage. They held the Pats to 32 yards on 18 carries with two sacks and 2 holding penalties in the first half. I like the Lions. LIONS 27-20
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NEW ORLEANS (-3) 33 Atlanta 27FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Falcons were an overrated team last year and my ratings show that they were an average team from the line of scrimmage. They benefitted from a +12 turnover differential and had a 64% combined fumble recovery rate which is more likely to regress back to around 50% this year. They had the 8th worst adjusted rushing numbers but the 6th best passing numbers on offense. Defensively, they had the 23rd ranked pass defense and the 24th ranked rush defense, adjusted for strength of schedule. This is a bad team with a really good passer, WR and TE combination. I don’t see them getting any better this year, especially early in the season. The offensive line has been shuffled a bit in the offseason as they lost their best offensive lineman Tyson Clabo to Miami. They will now see what 2nd year player Lamar Holmes can do, after starter Mike Johnson was lost to injury and placed on IR. Along with a new center (2nd year player Peter Konz) and substandard talent on the rest of the line, I expect more pressure on Matt Ryan this year and less running room for new RB Steven Jackson. Defensively, they lost their best pass rusher in DE John Abraham and brought in a declining but still marginally effective pass rushing replacement in Osi Umenyiora. The rest of the DL are average; DC Mike Nolan will have to scheme to generate sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The problem is that he also did a lot of that last year, mixing coverages and pressure, and was successful early until teams started to figure out some of what he was doing. The additional issue this year is lack of experience in the secondary. With two rookies (Trufant, Alford) playing what may be significant roles, sending extra pressure while taking numbers out of coverage is a recipe for disaster.
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The Saints had a strange year in 2012. They lost their head coach for the season in the bounty scandal and decided to implement a defensive scheme with personnel that was not suited for the change. Despite those issues, they ended up in my final ratings four places below the Atlanta Falcons overall. I expect some offensive improvement for the Saints this year, particularly with an increased emphasis on the running game (I still had them rated #12 in rush offense last year). They finished with the 5th rated passing offense even without the expertise of Sean Payton as they performed at a high level so there may be some marginal improvement. On defense, they can only improve. They finished historically bad, giving up more yards than any team in NFL history and second worst last year in points allowed. My adjusted ratings had the Saints as the 31st ranked team against the run and the 30th versus the pass. Just bad. As a result, DC Spagnuolo was fired and former Cowboys DC Rob Ryan was brought in. Things will change but we are dealing here with scheme change and marginal personnel. That’s not a good combination. Rob Ryan’s defenses have not ranked well historically overall but I still see his style of play working better than the former regimes. However, this will still not be a good defense in the near term, especially after they lost three key defensive players in DE Kenyon Coleman, LB Victor Butler, and LB/DE Will Smith.
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My line on this game is New Orleans -3.57 and there are a couple of situations that benefit the Saints here (a 41-19 situation for New Orleans and a 7-36 situation that plays against the Falcons). Matchup analysis shows that New Orleans will run well against the Falcons, and pass even better. The Falcons should be able to do much of the same. There will be a lot of points scored here, and as a result we have a high total at 54 and I would still lean Over. From a purely psychological standpoint, I believe that the Saints will have an edge here with their leader back opening the season at home with a brand new start. The Saints have been practicing with a renewed focus after last year’s debacle and should have a strong home field advantage in this spot. SAINTS 33-27SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Tampa Bay (-3) 21 NY JETS 16
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I expect the Buccaneers to be improved this year although they faded down the stretch in 2012. This is a team with talent going into the second year of HC Greg Schiano’s systems that was hurt by injuries on the offensive line and terrible play in the secondary. Both have been improved and upgraded this year. Although he is criticized widely and does need to cut down on his turnovers, QB Josh Freeman’s passing offense finished in the upper half (15th) of the league in 2012 by my metrics. Again, this was the first year with a new head coach and new offensive coordinator (OC Mike Sullivan who is respected in league circles) and scheme changes take time to develop. I expect improvement this year with a better offensive line, very good skill position players and a better understanding of the system. Tampa finished with my 14th rated rush offense last year and if G Carl Nicks can get healthy (he is on the active roster), this unit should also improve. Defensively, the Bucs finished with the #1 rated rushing defense and I believe will get better with the addition of rookie DT Akeem Spence, who has impressed in camp. The secondary is where the real improvement should come, however, as a complete overhaul took place. Tampa had the 26th rated pass defense by my metrics last year, but the additions of CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson should make a huge difference. Coupled with last year’s first rounder S Mark Barron now in his second season and with more leadership on the back end, this secondary can be very good.
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The Jets, on the other hand, seem to be in a downward trend with no real signs of recovery. Expectations are very low for the Jets this year but there may be some hope for them moving forward. After a horrible performance in 2012 that got progressively worse as the season wore on, the Jets made major changes to the coaching staff as well as the organization this offseason. GM Mike Tannenbaum was let go and former VP of football administration for the Seahawks John Idzik was brought in. In a strange move, HC Rex Ryan was retained due to his relationship with owner Woody Johnson, but most of the coaching staff was released. In another unusual move, New OC Marty Mornhinweg who is known for his passing offense, was brought in to take fired Tony Sparano’s place. There are now also new pieces on the offensive line and a new QB in rookie Geno Smith. With QB Sanchez injuring his shoulder in preseason it looks like the Jets have found a convenient transition to the rookie. Because there are so many changes on offense – likely new QB, new OL pieces, new system; and a true lack of talented skill position players this is an offense that will struggle. Defensively, the Jets have a chance. Their defensive line is young and talented, their LB’s have gotten more athletic with an increased ability to cover in space, and their secondary may benefit from the addition of 1st round pick Dee Millner (although he has not impressed in limited action in preseason and has been injured).
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These appear to be two teams headed in different directions and my ratings reflect those differences. I have this game lined at Tampa Bay -5.4 so there appears to be some value on the Bucs -3.5. I don’t have any situations that apply here, however my match-up metric qualifies this as a good spot for a play on the Buccaneers. It is also noteworthy that CB Darelle Revis was a Jet for his entire career and spent the past 4 seasons with HC Rex Ryan. Because of that he is intimately familiar with his defensive scheme, adjustments, calls, etc. There is no question that a lot of that information has been communicated to the Bucs staff, although the Jets have had all offseason to counteract and game plan with full knowledge of what Revis could offer. Not sure how that translates on the field, but in a game where I see an improved team with a lot of talent versus a team in full transition mode with limited talent at a short number, I like the Bucs. TAMPA BAY 21-16
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SAN FRANCISCO (-4.5) 28 Green Bay 21SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This is a rematch of the 2012 NFC Divisional Round playoff game that really put QB Colin Kaepernick on the map. Green Bay was not prepared to stop the read option and Kaepernick gashed them for 181 yards and two TD’s on the ground and 263 yards and 2 TD’s in the air. The Packers have been hard at work all offseason studying the pistol and read option as they open with two teams that use it extensively, the 49ers and the Redskins. It will be interesting to see how the Packers will defend it, and it is a certainty that the 49ers will have created a scheme that will take advantage of an anticipated defense of the read option. The Packers enter 2013 with stable offensive and defensive systems and coaching continuity. Unfortunately, injuries along the offensive line have once again struck the Packers. Projected starter at LT Bryan Bulaga suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season, necessitating the use of rookie David Bakhtiari in that critical position. That was a big loss. It also appears that there is a new RT with Don Barclay taking over for Marshall Newhouse. The Packers also lost RB DuJuan Harris as he reinjured his knee in his first real action back in the third preseason game. HC Mike McCarthy had plans to use Harris in an increased role of importance this year and now will rely more on rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. The Packers are hoping that WR’s Reggie Cobb (biceps) and Jordy Nelson (knee surgery) come back strong for Week 1. The Packers finished 19th in rushing and 7th in passing efficiency in 2012. Defensively, the Packers have talent but have been set back in preseason by injuries primarily in the secondary that appear to be mending (outside of Hayward) in time for this game. The Packers finished 2012 ranked 25th against the run and 11th versus the pass. They also ran into some bad luck in the turnover department as their fumble recovery rate was only 33.3%.
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The 49ers come into this game after losing in the Super Bowl with a very good team once again. They finished 2012 as the best team in the league by my ratings and now enter year three of the Jim Harbaugh era with QB Colin Kaepernick entering the season for the first time as a starter. The offseason brought some change as they lost some depth on the DL , and a starter in the secondary (FS Dashon Goldson). They drafted S Eric Reid from LSU as Goldsons replacement, and brought in DT Glenn Dorsey for additional depth on the line. The biggest acquisition of all is the addition of WR Anquan Boldin from the Ravens. With WR Michael Crabtree going down with an injury and Mario Manningham on PUP and out for at least the first 5 weeks, Boldin is key to the passing success of the 49ers in 2013. Most importantly, the offensive line returns intact with elite level talent at several positions and continuity within the scheme. The 49ers finished 2012 with my #1 rated offense overall, and 4th rated defense. They did, however, benefit from a fumble recovery rate of 65.7%.
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I have the 49ers favored by 7 points in this game and my matchup ratings show a significant advantage for the 49ers in the run game. The Packers will be forced to play a one dimensional game as they will not be able to run the ball, with some success in their ability to pass. The 7-36 situation is in play here and plays against the Packers. I like the 49ers. 49ERS 28-21
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ST. LOUIS (-4.5) 26 Arizona 17FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cardinals bring in new QB Carson Palmer this season from the Raiders where he was able to pass for over 4,000 yards and bring an otherwise bad offense to a respectable level. He is a big upgrade over any other QB that was here last year but I don’t really like the marriage of Palmer’s skill set and Arians vertical philosophy. First of all, the Cardinals OL is not very good, especially after losing 1st rounder Jonathan Cooper for the season. This has caused a domino effect of shuffling players and positions with marginal talent, and that is not a good combination. Especially with a relatively non-mobile QB; although Palmer does stand in the pocket and have functional awareness. There are some weapons at the skill positions with WR’s Fitzgerald and Floyd, and an average new RB in former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield. I use a metric that calculates a projected QB turnover rate and Carson Palmer rates in the Top ten for the 2013 season, meaning that he is more likely to turn the ball over more frequently than 78% of other QB’s in the league. Defensively, the Cardinals played well in 2013, ranking 13th against the run and 9th versus the pass. They have a new DC after Ray Horton departed for the same position with the Browns, and bring in former Eagles DC Todd Bowles (10 games) who does not inspire confidence. New OC Harold Goodwin, who is the brother of 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin, takes over without any previous OC experience.
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The Rams come into 2013 looking to build upon a solid first year under HC Jeff Fisher who is 12-5 ATS in season openers. They finished 2012 strong winning 4 out of their last 6 games to end the year and look to carry that positive momentum into 2013. The Rams added some players and have a return to health for several others on their offensive line. Of note, LT Jake Long comes over from Miami to solidify the backside protection and TE Jared Cook comes over from the Titans and will provide another good receiving option in the passing game. First round pick Tavon Austin will add an electrifying element to this offense and special teams. The Rams finished 2013 in the middle of the pack with both their run and pass units despite being hit hard by injuries on the OL. Defensively, the Rams have a very good defensive line that led the league last year in sacks. They have a solid base to build upon with a #7 rush defense rating and #15 pass defense rating in 2012.
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This game offers the largest difference between my line and the prevailing line as I have the Rams as nearly a 9 point favorite here. Matchup analysis shows the Rams with the ability to run with some success and a significant offensive passing advantage. I don’t have any systems in play here but I will lean with the Rams based on the line differential. RAMS 26-17
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DALLAS (-3.5) 28 NY Giants 24FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Giants enter 2013 off a disappointing 9-7 season that saw them lose three out of their last five games and miss the playoffs in 2012. Some changes have been made entering this season personnel-wise, mostly on the defensive side. They lose some depth and experience on the DL with DT’s Rocky Bernard , Chris Canty and DE Osi Umenyiora moving on but they hope that those losses are offset by the addition of DT Cullen Jenkins from Philadelphia, the return of a healthy Shaun Rodgers at DT, and rookie Damontre Moore at DE. There are also some changes in the secondary entering this season with the loss of S Stevie Brown to injury in the preseason. He will be replaced by his former teammate at Michigan, Ryan Mundy, whom the Giants like and don’t expect much drop off from. The Giants enter 2013 with a renewed focus on improving their run defense. They gave up an average of 129.1 rushing yards per game last year and ranked just 26th in my run efficiency ratings. They weren’t far behind, ranking 25th in pass efficiency so improvement is expected on the back end as well. Offensively, they are dealing with injuries along the offensive line and have shuffled a rotation of players that will need to gel quickly. They also hope they can see a return to health of their WR’s with Victor Cruz recently out with a heel injury and Hakeem Nicks coming off an injury shortened 2012. The Giants had a balanced attack in 2012 finishing 7th in rushing and 9th in passing efficiency offense.
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The Cowboys are in a similar position, entering this season off of a disappointing 2012 where they finished 8-8 and had a chance to win the division in the final game against the Redskins. They have made some adjustments offensively with an increased emphasis on the run game and a switch in play calling duties to OC Bill Callahan. They are moving to a pure zone blocking scheme this year and also, like the Giants, have had injury issues and some shuffling along the OL this preseason. They hope to improve upon a 19th rated rush unit in 2013. Reports are that WR’s Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have been playing lights out in practice and that Tony Romo has made some adjustments to his mechanics. The Cowboys finished 11th in 2012 in my offensive pass ratings. Defensively, they are moving to new DC Monte Kiffin’s Tampa style 4-3 and have a return this year of some LB’s that should fit well in this scheme in Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. The Cowboys finished 2012 20th against the run and 21st versus the pass.
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There is an interesting home/road dichotomy in this game as Tony Romo is 19-30 ATS at home and just 11-25 ATS against the division while Eli Manning is 45-27 ATS away and 27-16 ATS as a road dog. I have the Cowboys favored here by 3.35 points and there are a few situations on the Cowboys (54-29, 41-19 and a negative 7-36 situation that plays against the Giants). My matchup calculations show both teams moving the ball well in the pass game with limited rushing success. In spite of the QB angles I like Dallas in this spot. COWBOYS 28-24
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Philadelphia (+3.5) 28 WASHINGTON 27SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Eagles enter 2013 with a host of changes beginning with a brand new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes and some new personnel in key spots, particularly the secondary. HC Chip Kelly takes over a team that disappointed in 2012 finishing just 4-12. Kelly is new to the NFL but had a huge amount of success as both offensive coordinator at New Hampshire (1999-2006) and OC and then HC at Oregon (2007-2012). As HC his overall record at Oregon was 33-3. He will bring creativity, innovation, and speed to the Eagles offense this year and the fact that Bill Belichick has a great deal of respect for him and sought him out as a consultant in the past says a lot. He hired Pat Shurmur (formerly of the Rams) as OC to assist him in implementation and execution of his offense. His choice for DC was Billy Davis who has previous DC experience with the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 and 2010 and had been the LB’s coach for the Browns in 2011,2012. Davis will be multiple in his approach but will utilize more 3-4 alignments which will require some adjustment. Offensively, the Eagles are a team with a lot of potential. They have a very good offensive line with players that seem to fit the scheme well. They have a dynamic running back in LeSean McCoy and a quarterback with a skill set that should work well in this offense. They lost WR’s Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn in the preseason so they are a bit thin at WR, but have enough talent in spite of those losses with Jason Avant, DeSean Jackson and some good tight end receiving options. Defensively, the Eagles may be a work in progress but noteworthy acquisitions include OLB Connor Barwin, NT Isaac Sopoaga, and CB Cary Williams. Much of the secondary will be new and lacking in talent so there will be some growing pains. The CB position in particular is thin and may be exposed in coverage early. This should be an interesting team to watch as they may have some luck related regression potentially moving back towards the mean. The Eagles finished in the lower 25% of teams with a 38% fumble recovery rate in 2012. I expect Kelly to limit risk for Michael Vick in the passing game as he has had 45 turnovers in the past two years and is projected to be 8th in QB turnover risk by my metrics in 2013.
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The Redskins are a team that benefitted from a new and dynamic offense in 2012 that took the league by storm. QB Robert Griffin performed unbelievably well as a rookie and orchestrated my 8th rated passing offense. This style of offense is truly synergistic as the pass and run are both optional and interchangeable, as the pass opens the run; the run clears way for the pass. Griffin is a talented but fragile QB and after last season there are legitimate concerns about his durability. Especially after hearing of Dr. James Andrews’s concerns, and with no preseason action in 2013, I would expect a scaled down version of what the offense looked like last year. With sensitivity regarding the manner in which Griffin was injured in the playoffs last season, it is reasonable to assume that there won’t be as many assignment based risks given to the franchise QB , at least in the early part of the season. Without the true threat of run that Griffin presented last year the offense could be somewhat neutered and as a result not as effective. There are clear rules in regards to the ability of the quarterback to run that every team has studied this offseason. It is currently understood that only when the QB drops back does he have passer protection and he is treated as a running back in all other circumstances, including when he slides down the line and either fakes or delivers an option. In addition, there will likely be a defensive player assigned to the QB in this style of offense, regardless of what he does. This dynamic nature of this offense truly depends on the health of Robert Griffin. Defensively, the Redskins were hurt by injuries to LB Brian Orakpo and DE Adam Carriker and finished with my 21st rated run defense. This year Orakpo is back but they lose DE Jarvis Jenkins and LB Rob Jackson to suspension for the first four games. They also will likely have two rookies playing significant roles in the defensive backfield in CB David Amerson and S Baccari Rambo. And just as the Eagles may be able to expect some fumble regression, the Redskins will be looking at just the opposite. They finished 2012 third in the league with a 65.79% fumble recovery rate in 2012.
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My line on this game is Washington -6.5 so there does appear to be some value on the Redskins. Matchup analysis suggests plenty of points with a greater than average number of plays and offensive production on both sides. I’m not sure how Griffin will be compromised athletically so I am reluctant to recommend the Over 51 here. However, I do have a Week 1 system that plays on the Eagles and is 54-29. I also like the unknown element that the Eagles possess so in spite of the line difference (initial ratings are a bit unreliable), I will lean with Philadelphia in an upset. EAGLES 28-27.
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SAN DIEGO (+3.5) 20 Houston 23FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Texans enter the 2013 season after a great first half of 2012 followed by a disappointing late season. After an 11-1 start they went just 2-4 the rest of the way including the playoffs. They never did seem to be the same team after getting thrashed by the Patriots on Monday night, seemingly losing their confidence. That sort of performance leads me to believe that this is a clearly talented, but not particularly mentally strong team. Or at least they were last year. Notable offseason changes are mainly on defense, losing LB Connor Barwin and gaining FS Ed Reed who may help in that regard. They did also draft talented WR DeAndre Hopkins who apparently performed well in camp before suffering a concussion in August. If he is well enough to contribute, his addition along with TE’s Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham could take some coverage away from WR Andre Johnson (who looked very good with 7 receptions for 131 yards in the first half of the Texans third preseason game). This is a good offense overall that benefits from a good play call mix and run/pass balance. Last year they finished 19th in rush offense and 14th in my pass efficiency metric. On defense they are very good with possibly the best defensive player in the game in DE J.J. Watt. They also have a return to health of LB Brian Cushing and skilled players in the secondary. Stability remains on the coaching staff which employs sound schemes on both sides of the ball. They were just above average overall in my defensive ratings in 2012, ranking 15th versus the run and 12th against the pass. Luck may not be with them this season as a regression from their 7th ranked fumble recovery rate is possible.
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The Chargers are another team with regime change entering 2013, as Norv Turner was let go and Mike McCoy (formerly OC of the Broncos) was brought in. McCoy, along with new OC Ken Whisenhunt (formerly HC of the Cardinals) bring aboard a new offensive philosophy that will look to take advantage of personnel strengths while minimizing weaknesses. Given what amounts to a below average offensive line, the scheme will likely shift towards a quick passing based offense with more reliance on the running game. The offensive line was a big part of the problem last year as River was sacked once every 11.9 dropbacks which was worst in the NFL. That ratio actually increased in preseason game #2 with 12 dropbacks and 3 sacks. In preseason game number three Rivers threw for just 3.9 yards per attempt. Again, it’s only preseason but it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the protection group. Making things worse is the fact that the team lost starting WR Danario Alexander, leading receiver Malcolm Floyd was injured (he looks to be OK for Week 1 but he has not had much practice time) and WR Eddie Royal suffered a bruised lung and a concussion. They do get back WR Vincent Brown after missing last year due to injury and like rookie Keenan Allen from Cal. All this – (new coach and scheme, poor OL, missing receivers) translates into a passing attack that should struggle early. In fact, Rivers projects as 9th worst among current

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Minnesota Vikings at Detroit LionsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: Detroit LionsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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It's our feeling the Lions will exceed season win-total expectations by the oddsmaker, and the Vikings will far short. Together, they form a nice play in this Week One matchup with Detroit looking to avenge a pair of series losses last year. Granted, history has been on the Vikes' side in this fray, with Minny sporting an 11-3-2 ATS mark the last sixteen meetings. But this will be a season of payback for the Motor City men, who were swept in all six division contests in 2012. Remember: the 4-win Lions outgained 12 opponents last season. Minnesota, meanwhile, allowed 13 YPG more than they gained on the season in last year's run to the playoffs. Detroit improves on its 7-3 ATS mark in season openers, including 4-1 ATS home, while the Vikings dip to 2-9 SUATS in road-opening division duels. We recommend a 1-unit play on Detroit.

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John RyanFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis RamsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: St. Louis RamsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The simulator shows a high probability that the Rams will win this game by more than 5 points. I suggest adding a 0.5 amount using the money line to the 5* amount using the line. So, if you are playing a $100 per star unit, the wager $500 on the line and $50 using the money line. The SIM shows that the Rams will have their run defense in top form and will hold Arizona to fewer than 75 rushing yards. In past games, Arizona is 4-10 ATS the past three seasons and 45-90 ATS since 1992 when the have gained fewer than 75 rushing yards. Rams are a solid 5-2 ATS the past three seasons and 44-20 ATS since 1992 when they have allowed 75 or fewer rushing yards. Take the Rams.

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Bryan LeonardFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Minnesota +4.5FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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There has been a highly publicized opening week trend out there going against teams who made the playoffs last year against non-playoff participants. The basic reason is that those teams are overrated in the public eye and a playoff team from one year is not guaranteed to return the previous season. But that has already been factored into this line as the vast majority feel Minnesota will take a step back this year. So from our perspective it's the Vikings who are the underrated team in this matchup. We always like to write down the current lines before the preseason starts and track the line movements. The Lions opened up as a 3 1/2 point favorite in this contest, now they are sitting in the 5 to 5 1/2 point range. What has happened in the preseason to make the Lions two points better in the betting markets? In our opinion not a single thing. We still have the overhyped Lions who continue to make the same costly mistakes in which they've made over the past few seasons. Overrated and undisciplined is not qualities we want in backing a divisional favorite.
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Minnesota is getting no love this offseason as the season win number has been bet slightly down, but that has now moved Minnesota into the bargain territory. They aren't nearly as flashy offensively as the Lions but they get the job done. Also the Vikings have played very well in Detroit winning outright and cashing 3 of the last 5 meetings. Since both teams play in a dome the Lions don't have the usual home field edge they have against non-dome squads. At 3-6-1 as a divisional home favorite the past decade the Lions have not proven themselves to be worthy in this role.

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Jack JonesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Kansas City Chiefs -3½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Kansas City Chiefs finally have a head coach and a quarterback. Those are two key ingredients that have been missing for years on Kansas City. Andy Reid is one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history. Alex Smith completed over 70 percent of his passes in San Francisco, but an injury cost him his job as Colin Kaepernick took over and never looked back. Both Reid and Smith will be playing with a chip on their shoulder this season, starting in Week 1.
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The good new for Smith is that, like in San Francisco, he won’t have to do it all on his own. That’s because the Chiefs owned the league’s No. 5 rushing attack last season at 149.7 yards per game. With a healthy Jamaal Charles, this ground attack will be potent again in 2013. The Chiefs have also upgraded along the offensive line, selecting tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick. This offense will finally live up to its potential with the combination of Reid calling the plays, and Smith and Charles executing them.
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Kansas City also has one of the best young defenses in the league. Unlike the Chiefs, the Jaguars are still a mess offensively. Jacksonville ranked 29th in the league in total offense last season at 299.2 yards per game, and 30th in scoring offense at 15.9 points per game. The Jaguars are still relying on Blaine Gabbert under center. He has yet to prove himself as a worthy starter in this league. Plus, he’s just returning from a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.
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Jacksonville had zero home-field advantage last year, going 1-7 at home while getting outscored by a whopping 14.8 points per game. The fans just aren’t all that excited about this team, which is why the attendance is down. Plays on favorites (KANSAS CITY) – first 2 weeks of the year, after closing out last season with 3 or more straight ATS losses are 57-26 (68.7%) ATS since 1983. Bet the Chiefs Sunday.

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Chip ChirimbesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh SteelersFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Pittsburgh Steelers -7FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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After what have seen from the Steelers the last season and through preseason this is a tough 'number' to lay. Tennessee is coming off a disappointing 6-10 season while Pittsburgh was at 8-8 missing the playoffs and being out-player throughout the preseason. The Steelers have won 10 straight home openers. The Steel Curtain has won four the last six meetings and are looking for revenge off last years 26-23 defeat.

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Joseph D'AmicoFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ersSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: San Francisco 49ers -4½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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San Francisco hammered Green Bay for 45 points and 579 yards in January's meeting. It marked the second consecutive year that the 49ers lit up the Packers. This matchup brings a San Fran defense that finished 2nd in the NFL LY in points and only yielded 3.7 YPC. The stop- unit gave up a league-low, 294.4 YPG a year ago. On offense, Colin Kaepernick has Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and Frank Gore at his disposal. Green Bay hasn't had a 100-yard rusher in a league-high 43 games. The one thing an opponent must do to compete with San Fran is run the ball successfully. I don't see rookie, Eddie Lacy doing that here behind a vulnerable OL that yielded 51 sacks (a league-high) on Aaron Rodgers LY. Jim Harbaugh is 12-4-1 ATS at Candlestick. The 49ers are 5-1-1 ATS their L7 games played in September, 15-6-1 ATS their L22 games played at home, and 7-3 ATS their L10 played in Week 1. Take San Francisco.

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Steve MerrilFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Oakland Raiders vs. Indianapolis ColtsSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Oakland Raiders+10½FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Oakland is a team in transition, but at least they may be headed in a better direction. The Raiders have a new offensive coordinator in Greg Olson who has installed his downhill power-running game scheme to fit RB Darren McFadden. The team feels that Terrelle Pryor fits Olson’s system so he will get the start at quarterback. McFadden’s ability to run the ball will take a lot of pressure off Pryor which will make the Raiders’ offense balanced and less predictable. The Raiders’ defense has a lot of new starters so it’s going to take time for all of the pieces to come together. The good thing for Oakland in this game is the fact they will be facing a mediocre Colts’ offense that also has many new parts. The Raiders’ defensive leaks may not be exposed to the fullest in this opening game.
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Indianapolis made the playoffs last season, but they were a phony playoff team and their 11-5 regular season record was not indicative of their on-field play. Indianapolis was the only team to make the post-season with a negative point differential (-30). Nine of their eleven wins came by 7 points or less with six of those wins coming by 4 points or less. Indianapolis will be an overvalued commodity this season.
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Both teams have major question marks coming into the 2013 season. However, in this particular game, there’s a lot of value in playing against the overrated Colts. They were a fraudulent team last season, and they simply have no business laying this many points, no matter who the opponent is. The Raiders have a solid running back in McFadden, and QB Pryor is also mobile enough to keep plays alive with his legs. This isn’t the best looking NFL game on the betting board, but there’s too much value on the road underdog to pass up. Take the big points with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday afternoon.

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Vegas ConnectionFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Seattle Seahawks at Carolina PanthersSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Carolina PanthersFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Two things of note one its a surface switch for Seattle and a time zone adjustment pacific coast to eastern. Carolina won 4 of last 5 top end year. C Newton should do much better in his 3rd year. Panthers spring the mild surprise on Seattle.

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Jim FeistFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville JaguarsSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Jacksonville JaguarsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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A pair of clubs that only had two wins each last year will meet here on Sunday. The good news is one team will start the season with half the wins they had all of last year. Andy Reid takes the Chiefs helm after a long career at Philadelphia. Gus Bradley also starts new as the Jags head coach. The Jags hope a full, healthy season out of RB Muarice Jones-Drew will make a difference for a stagnant offense. Surprisingly, Jacksonville has done well in season openers, going 12-2 ATS in week one the last 14 seasons. Jacksonville has also covered its last four straight at home. Not a lot to hang your hat on with these two clubs, but I'll take the home team here as a four-point dog. Can't really see why the Chiefs are laying this many even with Andy Reid at the helm. Jags like opening day and I'm taking them here again.

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Sam MartinFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Minnesota Vikings at Detroit LionsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Prediction: Minnesota VikingsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Can't trust the Lions as a home favorite against the Vikings this Sunday noting they were a not-so-perfect 0-6 against the spread last year against division foes. That includes a pair of outright losses against these Vikings - dropping a 20-13 decision as a similarly-priced 3.5-point home favorite as well as a ten-point loss as three-point road chalk in Minnesota. Lions just 2-6 straight up here in Detroit last season, and while Calvin Johnson and company have big name value, that doesn't necessarily translate into wins and ATS covers. Take the points as we give the Vikings a decent chance at taking this game outright, and and even better chance of going down to the wire.

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Rob VincilettiFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans SaintsSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Atlanta Falcons +3FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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These plays have done well long term and we post one every Sunday. Atlanta fits a solid early system we use the plays on Divisional Dogs in the first few weeks of the season. Atlanta has covered the last as road dogs and will look to get the sour taste of last seasons NFC Championship game out of their mouths. They have Tony Gonzalez back for one more run at the Super Bowl and Steven Jackson as their lead back. The Saints were a mediocre last season and will have to make big strides on Defense this year if they are going to Compete for the division title. Both teams can and will score, this game will come down to defense and Intangibles. Atlanta has gained alot of seasoning getting their first playoff win and having played in some big games which will bring them much needed poise in big spots like these. Based on the system we will back the Falcons and the points.

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Nick Parsons

LA Dodgers vs. Cincinnati
Pick: Cincinnati

Back in May the Dodgers lost eight-straight. They're now 83-58 after yesterday's loss to the Reds. LA has been the "hottest" team in the league since before the All Star break, but has started to show a few cracks in the armor. A loss today would be its fourth in a row, its worst streak since the infamous slide at the start of the season.

The Reds are 81-62 and are gunning for the series sweep.

When taking into account a number of different factors, I definitely feel that the home side offers considerable value in this matchup.

Clayton Kershaw (14-8, 1.89 ERA)

Kershaw was fortunate to get a win in his last start in Colorado on Monday night, giving up five runs over just five innings of work. In all the southpaw gave up the five earned runs off 11 hits with a walk and four K's.

Recent performance is always a factor that handicappers will look at, whether that be a team or a specific part of what that team is doing. In this case, we'll concentrate on just a single player.

The Dodgers' ace simply hasn't been at his best of late, so don't let his season long numbers fool you. He's lasted just 10 2/3's innings total over his last two combined starts and has allowed a ghastly seven runs in that span (lost his previous outing).

Homer Bailey (10-10, 3.42 ERA)

Bailey's 10-10 record is obviously not indicative of his overall play this year. Remember, he's already thrown a no-hitter.

Most recently he dominated the Cardinals on Tuesday, scattering two hits with one walk while striking out eight over seven scoreless frames in his team's eventual 1-0 victory.

The big right-hander has not allowed a run over his last 14 1/3's innings of work.

Note that Bailey also had a strong start vs. the Dodgers back on July 26th, giving up two runs over seven innings.

The Bottom Line

Bailey is in fact 5-0 over his last seven outings, sporting a minuscule 1.27 ERA in the last four.

One other player to keep your eyes on today is the Reds' Todd Frazier who is hitting .400 this month. Also make sure to track Cincinnati's Shin-Soo Choo who sports a massive .484 average over his last eight games.

In fact, you'll also want to watch for Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips today; Votto has reached base in all nine plate appearances with four hits and five walks so far in this series, while Phillips is 8 for 19 off Kershaw.

From my point of view, not only does the home side have the better starter on the bump, but it also clearly has the hotter lineup at the plate.

This is the very definition of "great line value".

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Matt Fargo

New England vs. Buffalo
Pick: Buffalo

It is no secret that the Patriots have owned this series against Buffalo as they have lost to the Bills only once since 2004. New England is once again picked to win the AFC East after another superb season a year ago as well is it being a weak division yet again. The Patriots have been so good for so long that they have become a very publicly bet team and therefore, we see a lot of value on the other side a lot of times and that appears to be the case here. This is a new Buffalo team with new coaches, some new exciting players and higher expectations. Many are saying the Bills will be going nowhere but I feel they have a chance to surprise some with a solid year. This is one of those teams that is definitely an unknown but the only place they can go is up. Yet we are catching a number where it seems Buffalo is actually going down. Undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel was supposed to get the start for the Bills and because of that, the line went up a big amount. But fellow rookie quarterback EJ Manuel recovered from "minor" surgery on his left knee on Aug. 18. He has took in practice this week and the Bills announced that he will start in the opener yet the line has not dropped because of it. This is a very talented offense that possesses a lot of athletes. The Bills have impressive speed and playmaking ability with running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and multiple weapons in tight end Scott Chandler and receivers Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin. They are facing a Patriots defense that was pretty average a year ago and there are some questions about whether or not they will stay at that level or even fall down some. Tom Brady is still on of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but New England has question marks at receiver and tight end. With Rob Gronkowski unlikely to play, their top three passing options will be newly signed Danny Amendola and undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld. That could be an issue if you ask me and any problems with the Bills secondary will not be as bad as originally thought. The Patriots defense puts Buffalo into a solid situation where we play against favorites in a divisional matchup that allowed 5.4 yppl or more last season. This situation is 47-20 ATS (70.1 percent) over the last 10 seasons.

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Bruce Marshall

Arizona vs. St. Louis
Pick: Arizona

Do the Rams really believe that they can replace star RB Steven Jackson (who skedaddled to Atlanta in free agency) with the combination of Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead? Preseason work hardly indicated as much as the Rams “O” looks like it could be dangerously imbalanced this fall.  Which would put more of a burden on 4th-year QB Sam Bradford, whose back-and-forth efforts to date have hardly suggested he is ready to ascend to elite status anytime soon.  He’s also looking for a new safety blanket after his favorite target, WR Danny Amendola, moved to New England in the offseason.  Would rather take a lead with the Big Red, as sources say the tone in the desert seems completely different under new HC Bruce Arians than in the last couple of years of Ken Whisenhunt's regime.  Although red zone efficiency was a concern in August, Carson Palmer looks a decent bet to solve the QB woes that have endured since Kurt Warner's retirement.  Todd Bowles’ "D" looked mighty impressive in preseason, too.

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Scott Spreitzer

Green Bay at San Francisco
Prediction: Under

San Francisco is short-handed on offense in this one with a banged-up receiving corps, including the loss of Michael Crabtree. Anquan Boldin will look to fill the void, but it should take a little time for Kaepernick and Boldin to develop the type of rhythm the former Nevada QB had with Crabtree. I also expect to see a strong defensive game plan from the Packers, who'll likely crash their DE's from the perimeter and look to bring a LB over the top to slow Kaepernick, setting the tone for a lower scoring game than many expect. Today's total is more than a FG higher than the total posted for their playoff meeting in January and I'm recommending a play on the Under on Sunday.

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Andy IskoeFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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NY Jets +3.5FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Nobody likes, much less loves, the Jets. And for good reason. Team Turmoil has replaced the Tim Tebow circus with another QB controversy that has coach Rex Ryan on the hot season after leading this team to the AFC Title game in his first two seasons only to fall to 8-8 and 6-10 in the two seasons since. Rookie QB Geno Smith gets the start while erstwhile starter Mark Sanchez recovers from an injured shoulder. There are few quality receivers and an unproven running game. But Tampa Bay is not in much better shape. Yes, RB Doug Martin is the real deal. But QB Josh Freeman has his own share of critics and coach Greg Schiano's penchant for employing collegiate tactics has not sat well with opponents and even some members of his own organization. Nobody wanted the Jets last season when they opened at home against Buffalo. Though favored by a FG over the Bills, the Jets' 48-28 rout confounded and confused the experts. But only for a few days. The Jets may start this season the same way but do not figure to have many days of success going forward.

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Cajun SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh SteelersSERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Pittsburgh Steelers -7FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Pittsburgh Steelers qualify in a league-wide system that has already cashed this season with Denver rolling past Baltimore on Thursday night. Based on our research we found that in season openers AFC favorites have done quite well against non-division opponents. In Game 1, play ON an AFC favorite of 5.5 to 8.5 points with a total of thirty-five or more points when facing a non-divisional foe. With the Broncos win on Thursday the system record now stands at 16-0 SU and 14-2 ATS. Play the Steelers on Sunday

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