NFL Lines Movement and Public Betting Report for Week 5

Denver at Baltimore

Opening line: Baltimore -7, 39
Current line: Baltimore -7, 38.5

The Sharps have not forced any significant movement this week with the public only slightly favoring the Ravens.  It is a match-up that feature the league’s leading defense in yards allowed going up against the league’s most prolific pass offense.  Look for UNDER action to force the line further down as we getting closer to kick-off as the Raven D looks to win out.

Jacksonville at Buffalo

Opening line: Buffalo -1,40.5
Current line: Jacksonville -1, 41

Jacksonville should be riding high after their victory last week while Buffalo has looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The line shifted early after Buffalo was the announced favorite, since then 61% of public likes JAX for the victory.

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Opening line: Indianapolis -8, 44
Current line: Indianapolis  -7,45

The game has crossed below the crucial 7.5 line with lots of late money heading toward Kansas City pushing the line down.  Do not expect the public to buy into Kansas City at anything under -7, with a 1-9 record against the Colts over their last 10 and 0-4 at Indianapolis. 54% of the public is still likes the Colts with 72% taking the OVER.

St Louis at Detroit

Opening line: Detroit -3, 43
Current line: Detroit -3, 42.5

These are not last year’s Rams.  Going from 1-15 to already winning 2 games and tied for the NFC West lead, Sam Bradford has turned the franchise around.  Just do not expect to buy St. Louis on the road, 54% of the public is still leaning Detroit at home with 68% liking the OVER.  In 3 games as a starter, Shaun Hill has lead Detroit to the league’s sixth best offense averaging over 400 yards per game.

Atlanta at Cleveland
Opening line: Atlanta -3, 41
Current line: Atlanta -3, 41.5

Allowing just 15 points per game, the Falcons have fast become one of the league’s best defenses.  Cleveland still gets no respect from the betting public as their 1-3 record with all 3 losses by a total of 12 points.  Jake Delhomme could return this week for Cleveland, but that has done little to move the line or the betting public, 74% like Atlanta to cover the 3 with the OVER taking 56% of the action.


Tampa Bay at Cincinnati
Opening line: Cincinnati -7, 38
Current line: Cincinnati-6.5, 38

The public is backing Cincinnati with 68% liking the cover even with Tampa Bay coming off their early season bye.  Look for the points to climb closer to kick-off as Cincinnati may be hitting their offensive strides as Carson Palmer threw for 371 yards last week in defeat.  The public is currently 50-50 on the total.

Chicago at Carolina
Opening line: Chicago -3, 36
Current line: Carolina -1, 33.5

Jay Cutler is out!  The line has dramatically shifted following Cutler’s inability to return from a concussion.   The Bears are having all kinds of protection issues, surrendering 10 sacks last game and injuring two quarterbacks while the Panthers…continue to go with Jimmy Clausen.  The public still likes the dog and the Bears defense with 57% on the Bears.

Green Bay at Washington
Opening line: Green Bay-3, 44
Current line: Green Bay -2.5, 44

The public is betting heavily on the arm of Rodgers with 71% taking the Packers at -2.5 and the OVER.  Aaron Rodgers is coming on his fewest pass attempts of his career and going up against the league’s second worst pass defense.  The line has actually moved down heading into Sunday’s game….

New York Giants at Houston

Opening line: Houston -3, 47.5
Current line: Houston -3, 47.5

The line has seen no movement this week.  Betters like Houston at home with 76% taking the -3 despite Schaub having to deal with a patch-work receiving cast.  Look for Eli to put up big numbers going up against the league’s worst pass defense.

New Orleans at Arizona

Opening line: New Orleans -6.5, 46.5
Current line: New Orleans -7, 45

The Saints are clearly the better team and public has little doubt the Saints will cover the 7 on the road.  The sharps drew the line down early on the announcement of Max Hall as the starter, but square money has brought 67% of the public back on the over.

San Diego at Oakland
Opening line: San Diego -5.5, 44.5
Current line: San Diego -6, 45

Coming off one of the teams most dominating performances in all of franchise history, the public likes the Chargers to continue the trend in Oakland.  70% of the public is taking the spread as San Diego has won 13 in a row against Oakland with an average margin of victory of 14.4.

Tennessee at Dallas

Opening line: Dallas -6.5, 42
Current line: Dallas -7, 41.5
Winners of their last 5 coming off a bye, the public likes Dallas to make it 6 with 56% taking the -7.  The public is also betting big on the OVER, 65% like plenty of points.  It seems the spread and the points are running counter to each other for this game, an OVER plays on Chris Johnson running for over a 100 yard which has translated into a win each time this season for Tennessee.  However, a strong performance by Johnson negates a potential Dallas win or cover.

Philadelphia at San Francisco
Opening line: San Francisco-3, 38
Current line: San Francisco -3.5, 38

The absence of Vick as the starting quarterback put the 0-4 49ers as favorites at home with 64% of the public backing the line.  The last prime-time game the 49ers played in was week 2 against New Orleans; it was that game that gave the nation a glimpse at the 49er potential.  2 losses later and their 0-4…the two quarterbacks, Kolb and Smith will most likely be leading inept offenses with a defensive struggle by default.

Minnesota at New York Jets

Opening line: New York Jets -4.5, 37.5
Current line: New York Jets-4, 39

The return of Moss to the Vikings…I expect the public to way in huge with a dramatic line shift as kick-off approaches.  The OVER has already increased in the last 12 hours with sharps pushing the line up and 65% of the public backing the new Minnesota offense.


5 Reasons Why Texas Could Upset Oklahoma Saturday Afternoon

Texas vs. Oklahoma

The Longhorns should be in panic mode after suffering an embarrassing home loss to the unranked UCLA Bruins last week. Another loss would prove disastrous for the Longhorn faithful. This week’s match-up against the Sooners should certainly give Texas and the betting public hope. Oklahoma certainly has not looked like “world beaters” in their 4-0 start and Texas has more than enough on both sides of the ball to not only cover but win outright.

1. Playing down to their competition

Three of Oklahoma’s first four games have all been decided by 7 points or less. This would not be such an alarming trend if the opponents were better. In week 1 it was a 7 point victory over 95th ranked Utah State Aggies. In week three it was 3 point victory over 30th ranked Air Force. Last week, it took a botched punt by Cincinnati and an onside kick recovery to narrowly beat the 60th ranked Bearcats by 2. Team captain Travis Lewis said in response to all the close games, “All I care about is we’re 4-0.” He is right the Sooners are undefeated but the Longhorns will easily be the best team they have faced this season. The Sooners will be in for a long afternoon if they are counting on poor special teams, onside kick recoveries, and late game interceptions to decide this game.

2. Poor Sooner D

This is certainly not the defense we have come to expect from a Bob Stoops team. The Sooner D has been downright awful this year. Teams are averaging 421.2 total yards per game which is worst in the conference and just remember the teams they have played this season and this stat is even more appalling. They rank 93rd against the run, allowing over 177 yards per game and in the 4th quarter this team totally collapses. Another reason why they are constantly playing close games, the Sooners are being outscored 41-10 in the 4th quarter.

3. Texas can still play D

It is hard to ignore the 34-12 defeat to UCLA last week and the 264 yards rushing yards allowed and talk about how good the Texas defense is. Well, despite the teams poor showing last week, Texas is still 2nd in the nation in total yards allowed at 227.8 per game. Against the run, Texas is the best in the nation, allowing only 44 yards per game. The biggest threat Texas may have is not from anything the Sooner offense can do, although, quarterback Landry Jones has put up big numbers with his 1221 yards passing, 64.5 completion percentage and 9 touchdowns. The biggest threat may come from an inconsistent Longhorn offense which has struggled to be mediocre in recent weeks. A bad Oklahoma defense should help, but first downs and ball control will be key to protecting the Texas defense.


4. Run it, Run it, and Run it some more

Since 1998, the team that has rushed for more yards has won the game. We now have our formula for success. The question remains, which team has a better chance of rushing for more yards? Texas has gone with a running back by committee, not so much by choice, but by necessity. In each of the Longhorns first 3 games, they have used a different running back and all failed to rush for over 70 yards. Oklahoma will counter with DeMarco Murray. In the first week of the season, Murray rushed for a career best 208 yards against Utah State. Since then he is averaging 3.3 yards per carry and 76 total yards a game.

So who has the advantage? The edge goes to Texas on the strength of the nation’s leading rush defense. DeMarco Murray should see little in the way of positive yardage all day. No matter who gets the start for the Longhorns, their rushing offense should also get a needed boost facing the 93rd ranked rushing defense.

5. Secondary Support

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones might be the best individual player on the field on Saturday. He has thrown for over 1,200 yards, completes well over 60% of his passes and has 9 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. He has led an offense that has put up over 30 points a game, but doing so against far lesser competition. Expect the secondary of Texas, lead by stand-outs Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams to make life very difficult for him along with Ryan Broyles. The 6th ranked Longhorn defense is only allowing 128.8 passing yards a game. I highly doubt he will be held in check that much, but with a total defensive effort, the Oklahoma offense could look very anemic.

Arizona vs. Nebraska Holiday Bowl Spread, Picks, Odds, Score Prediction


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2009 Holiday Bowl Point Spread: Nebraska Cornhuskers (40) vs. Arizona Wildcats (PK)

In a matchup of two of the better defensive squads in the nation, Nebraska and Arizona will square off in San Diego at the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday night. Ironically, the last meeting between these two schools occurred 11 years ago in this bowl game. On that night, Arizona escaped with a 23-20 victory.

Nebraska (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS)

The 20th-ranked Cornhuskers will try to rebound from a last-second defeat to Texas in the Big 12 title game. The top defensive player in the nation will suit up for the final time in a Nebraska uniform. Heisman Trophy finalist Ndamukong Suh is a dominant defensive lineman. He recorded 4.5 sacks against the Longhorns to gain plenty of national attention. For the season, Suh has 12 sacks to pace a Cornhuskers defense that is second in the country in scoring defense.

The Nebraska offense never could find a rhythm during the regular season. The unit is 102nd in the nation in total offense. Junior quarterback Zac Lee struggled in his first season as a starter. He passed for only 13 touchdowns and was picked off three times against Texas.

The club’s ground game has fared better. Junior runner Roy Helu Jr. is having a solid season. He has rushed for over 1,100 yards while averaging more than five yards per carry in 2009. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini is finishing up his second season at the school. The Cornhuskers finished 9-4 in his debut campaign a year ago.

Arizona (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)

The 22nd-ranked Wildcats have also relied on its defense this season to go bowling. Arizona is 21st in the country in total defense. Junior defensive lineman Ricky Elmore leads the Pac-10 in sacks with 10.5.

While Nebraska’s offense has some issues, the Arizona attack is pretty respectable. The Wildcats are 40th in the nation in total offense. Sophomore quarterback Nick Foles had a solid campaign in his first year as a starter with 19 TD strikes and eight interceptions. At wideout, sophomore Juron Criner paced the squad in receiving yardage (580) and touchdowns (9) during the regular season.

In the backfield, the Wildcats have a pair of capable backs. Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby have both rushed for over 500 yards this season. Grigsby (7.5 yards per carry) has been banged up in 2009 after a 1,000-yard campaign in 2008. He has been limited to just 26 carries over the last nine games but is expected to play through a shoulder injury on Wednesday.

On special teams, the Wildcats are a dangerous squad. Arizona is in the top 11 nationally in both punt and kick return average. After a slow start, Arizona head coach Mike Stoops has built some momentum for the Wildcats program. After failing to record a winning season in his first four years at Arizona, Stoops is in a bowl game for the second straight year. His overall record at the school is 33-38.

Arizona vs. Nebraska Holiday Bowl Prediction:

Arizona 24 – Nebraska 20

Jets at Bills Week 13 NFL Thursday Night Picks & Betting Preview

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The Week 13 Thursday night NFL game features two division rivals that are already out of the playoff picture in the AFC. The 5-6 New York Jets are traveling to Buffalo to play the 4-7 Bills with the visiting Jets as 3 point favorites. The last time these teams played, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had his worst game of the 2009 season. Sanchez went 10 for 29 with 5 interceptions in a 16-13 overtime loss at home. I do not expect Sanchez to have a similarly atrocious game, but wins will be difficult to come by in the team’s final 5 games as teams will force Sanchez to beat them through the air.

Mark Sanchez is responsible for 20 turnovers this season, 17 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost. The man simply cannot protect the football which is why this team has lost 6 of their last 8 games. It has become a pretty simple formula to beat the Jets, put 8 guys in the box, contain the running attack of Jones and Washington and make Sanchez beat you on the outside. Up until this point, his record since week 3 says he is certainly not up to the task. With a quarterback rating of 62.1, a completion percentage ranking near the bottom of the league at 53.5%, and only 10 touchdowns, Sanchez has struggled keeping and sustaining drives to protect his defense. Ranking 24th in third down conversions at 35.8% and with their time of possession slowly dropping each week to an average of 17:48 in their last 3 weeks, the defense has shown signs of fatigue.

The Jets can no longer rely on solely their defense to win games. The offenses inability to score points, protect the football, and control the clock has become too much to put on the defense. In the last 3 games, Jets opponents are averaging 30 more yards per game, 2 more first downs, 5 more plays, converting 50% of their red-zone opportunities, and giving up 3 more points a game. Knowing this, the Jets still have a 6th ranked defense in points allowed at 17.7 and a 2nd ranked defense in yards allowed at 283.6 yards per game. Impressive statistics taken individually but things are trending in the wrong direction. As season continues and unless Sanchez gets much better, expect these stats to continue to fall by season’s end.

In spite of everything Mark Sanchez did to gift wrap a win for the Bills in week 6, it still took Buffalo overtime to finally come away with the victory. The Bills are just terrible enough to go out and lose to anybody on any given day. Ranking 23rd in yards allowed a game at 365.6 and a league worst 32nd against the run should give Jets fans plenty of hope that they can win this game. Thomas Jones even ran for a season high 210 yards in the loss. Combine this with an offense that ranks 26th in points scored and Jets fans optimism should grow. However, the Bills are playing their second straight game at home which its importance cannot be understated. New quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is coming off his best game as a starter going 17 for 26 with a touchdown and an interception. The team also got its first win for interim coach Perry Fewell in beating a decent Miami Dolphins football team.

This season New York is 5-6 ATS while Buffalo is 6-5 ATS. Digging deeper in the trends we find that in their last 8 games, the Jets are 2-6 ATS. In head to head matchups, the Jets are also 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games when playing Buffalo. The O/U for the game is currently sitting at 36.5 points. The Jets have a 5-5-1 O/U record while the Bills are 5-6, neither record are all that reassuring for betting the points. For Buffalo, their recent poor performance on offense has resulted in the total going UNDER in 5 of their last 7 games.

Jets vs. Bills Week 13 Thursday Night Pick: It is a tough pick and one I am not putting much money on but I am going to bet against Mark Sanchez and pick Buffalo. I think Sanchez will be just bad enough and overshadow the Bills poor run defense to pull off the upset. In the O/U, I will take the OVER as Fitzpatrick will take advantage of Jet turnovers and short fields to score enough points to cash the ticket.

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Patriots vs. Saints Monday Night Football Pick and Betting Preview

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Monday Night Football will host the marquee game of the week when the New England Patriots travel to New Orleans to play the Saints. The line currently has the Saints favored by 1.5 points, essentially making this game a pick’em. With how these teams score points, there is no way that 1.5 points will decide the outcome of this game. New Orleans will be looking to continue their pursuit of perfection while the 7-3 New England Patriots will look to win out the rest of the season in hopes of hosting a playoff game or two in January.

I believe William Dillard said it best; it is all about “location, location, location.” It is hard to argue against New Orleans and their perfect 5-0 record at home when compared to New England’s 1-3 mark on the road. It is not a huge surprise to see a team improve in most statistical categories when playing at home. New Orleans is clearly not the exception to this rule. They gain 40 more yards at home when compared to the road at 440 yard per game, average more first downs, complete almost 10% more 3rd downs at 52.4%, and Drew Brees is a lot better. On the road, Brees has thrown for 1191 yards with 9 touchdowns and 6 interceptions this season. At home, he has thrown for 1555 yards with 13 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. Defensively, all of this looks almost identical to the offense but its inverse. Opposing teams gain fewer yards and first downs, and convert the leagues 5th fewest 3rd downs at 31.7%. New England’s continued struggles on the road this year will only serve to magnify these stats.

New England is 1-3 on the road. The only when came in London when playing Tampa Bay. In their 3 road defeats, opponents have torn apart their defensive secondary. The Pats are ranked 6th in the league pass defense of 187 yards per game, but that number jumps to well over 230 yards when playing on the road. Expect Drew Brees to pick this secondary apart at home, as he throws for 75 more yards when returning to the Superdome bringing his average up to 305 per game. At home New Orleans will attempt to stretch the field significantly. Their yards per completion and yards per attempt both rise significantly as 40% of all of Brees’ pass attempts go over 21 yards.

The Patriots have also suffered from a lack of “killer instinct” on the road. In all 3 road loses, New England has scored a combined a 10 points in the second half of all of those games with all 10 coming against Indianapolis. New Orleans averages a league best 36.9 points per game. So it would be in New England’s best interest to solve this problem or face being run of the Superdome like the New York Giants did in their week 6 trouncing 48-27.

New England’s only advantage on the road is the hope that Drew Brees continues his fairly pedestrian effort in recent weeks. If we ignore the outstanding performance of Brees last week against Tampa Bay, in weeks 7 through 10, he hit his mid-season slump with only 6 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. However, he busted out of that little slump in a big way last week with 3 touchdown passes to 0 interceptions and the team has still managed to remain perfect in all of those less than stellar games. Outside of a Drew Brees meltdown, it is looking awful difficult for New England to pull off this upset. Reggie Bush is expected to return for the Saints while New England’s ground game will be without Fred Taylor with an ankle injury.

This season New England is 5-4-1 ATS while New Orleans is 7-3 ATS. In head to head matchups, New Orleans is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing New England. Following the points, the O/U is at 56. This year New England is 4-5-1 O/U while New Orleans is 6-4. Neither record is all that reassuring for betting the points but when following the recent history of when these teams play, the total has gone OVER in 6 of New Orleans’s last 7 games when playing New England.

Patriots vs. Saints MNF Pick: New Orleans will cover the 1.5 points as Brees will put up big numbers. I’m always a little wary of picking the O/U especially at 56 but if you are a trend bettor, the trend is for this game to go the over according to recent history.

Chicago Bears at SF 49ers NFL Thursday Night Prediction

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In the first Thursday night NFL football game of the 2009 season, the 4-4 Chicago Bears travel to San Francisco to take on the 3-5 SF 49ers. Four short weeks ago this looked like a marquee match-up for the NFL Network. Both teams were sitting at 3-1 and poised to be potential playoff contenders after the first quarter of the season. Now, the Bears are sitting at .500, losers of 3 of their last 4, while the 49ers, losers of 4 straight, are starting to lose sight of the suddenly surging Arizona Cardinals. The Bears and the 49ers are looking at week 10 as their first “must win” game of the year or running the risk of losing control of the entire season.

For the Bears, the first 4 games hardly resemble what we have seen in the last 4 following the week 5 bye. Starting the season with an abysmal 4 interception performance in week 1 against Green Bay, Jay Cutler led the Bears to 3 straight victories. His quarterback rating in those 3 games was 104.7, 126.4, and, 100.4. Cutler had thrown for 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception, completing over 70 percent of his passing attempts in the victories. The team was averaging 30 points per game in those wins and the Bears finally had their pro bowl quarterback. The normally stout Chicago defense was impressive early in the year even without Brian Urlacher anchoring the middle. Opponents were averaging 19.25 points per game through the first 4 games and rushing for less than 80 yards per game. The defensive line was constantly bringing pressure, accounting for no less than 2 sacks per game, with a season high of 5 sacks against the Lions in week 4. It was a collective effort as the team had +4 turnover margin during their winning streak entering the bye.

Any momentum that did exist from Chicago’s 3 game winning streak was certainly gone by week 6 and anything resembling that same swagger has failed to return. The Bears are giving up more points, 28.25 and scoring far less, 16.25 in their last 4 games. Jay Cutler has reverted back to throwing too many interceptions, at least 1 in his last 3 games, and his quarterback rating is 77.25 in his last 4 games with 2 games being in the mid 60’s. The Defense is struggling to stop anyone from scoring, giving up more than 40 points twice and recording only 2 total sacks in the last 4 games. The end result is a total offense ranked 18th and a total defense ranked 15th in the league.

The 49ers, although sharing the same record as the Bears early on in the season at 3-1 before slowly and systematically self-destructing in the last 4 games, were never as good as their record indicated. I do not care who you are in this league, if you do not have quarterback, you cannot win on a consistent basis. The 49ers have failed to find a reliable player to lead them under center for the better part of a decade now. They started the season with Shaun Hill as their starter before switching to Alex Smith in the middle of week 7. Combine this with a very sub-par offensive line which has given up a 28 sacks already this year, tied for 28th in the league, and it is easy to see why this team is struggling so mightily.

Shaun Hill remains a back-up quarterback who found himself as a starter on a team with no real answer at the quarterback position. He was asked from the onset to only throw when necessary but when in doubt, run the ball behind Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. It was an offensive philosophy based on one of the few teams strengths in Frank Gore, but also based on the lack of confidence in Hill to throw the football. This over reliance on Gore made the 49ers very predictable as the season wore on; teams were often putting that 8th man in the box to stop the running attack and daring Hill to beat the one on one match ups. The 49ers are currently 22nd in the league in rushing and 22nd in the league in passing as Hill could never consistently expose match ups on the outside during his 6 games as a starter.

It would be week 7 at Houston before Singletary had seen enough in Hill. Hill was only completing 57% of his passes during starts and only once, week 1, did Hill ever throw for more than 200 yards in a game. At half time of the Houston game Hill was 6 for 11 with 45 yards before being benched for Alex Smith. Smith came in and has played decent football in his first game and a half, finishing the Houston game with 3 touchdowns, something in which Hill had not done in any game all year. Against Indianapolis, Smith was a respectable 19 for 32 for 198 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Smith imploded the following week with 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles in a combined effort of poor play on his part and equally poor play from his offensive line which gave up 4 sacks and lost starting left tackle Joe Staley for 6 weeks.

Enter Thursday Night football. Neither of the two teams really have any identity half way into the season. Chicago is average or worse both offensively and defensively this year. The 49ers want to run the ball but can’t and they still do not yet know what they have in Alex Smith as he makes his 3rd start of the season. The advantage Chicago has is that Cutler has been a pro bowl caliber quarterback and the 49ers secondary has been giving up huge chunks of yardage, allowing 241 yards per game, 24th in the league. On the flip side, Cutler has not played well on the road this season. The Bears are 1-3 on the road with some truly forgettable performances by Cutler. In Cutler’s 4 road games, he threw 4 interceptions against Green Bay, 1 in Seattle, 2 in Atlanta, and 3 in Cincinnati, totaling 10 interceptions to 7 touchdowns. While the 49ers secondary has game planned better in recent weeks, allowing 0 passing touchdowns in the last 2 games.

In the end, the advantage goes to the 49ers at -3. Even though Alex Smith remains an unknown commodity in the league after 5 years, he has averaged 2 touchdowns per outing this season and the 49ers are at home for the 2nd consecutive week. On a short week, don’t underestimate the importance of home-field advantage against a weak road opponent.

Thursday Night Football Pick: SF 49ers -3

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Monday Night Football Steelers at Broncos Pick

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How is the Denver Broncos beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night football an upset? I’m not totally sure either, but according to the Las Vegas Sports Consultants and handicappers alike, it would be an upset for 6-1 Denver Broncos, who are 4-0 at home this year, to pull off the victory. The line currently stands at Pittsburgh -3. The safe bet, the smart bet, the easy money bet for Monday night is to take Denver +3 points.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that continues to get by solely off their past reputation. The run heavy, ground and pound offense attack we have been so accustomed to hearing about from the media is in no way backed by reality. This dominating Pittsburgh rushing attack is 20th in the league in total rushing yards and 21st in attempts this season. Only once this year has Pittsburgh had a running back run for over 100 yards in a game. Week 4, Rashard Mendenhall ran for 165 yards against the 27th ranked run defense of San Diego. Denver’s defense is ranked 3rd in the league while their rushing attack is a respectable 14th in the league.

The once #1 ranked all everything Pittsburgh defense has also developed a number of holes through 8 weeks of the season. Pittsburgh is ranked 16th in the league in passing defense and for a team that believes to get by on attitude and intimidation, teams convert 43% of all 3rd downs, ranking 27th in the league. In comparison, Denver is ranked 6th in the league in pass defense and allows only 33% opponent 3rd down conversion rate, also good for 6th in the league. On the road, opponents are also finding it easier to put points on the board against Pittsburgh, averaging 20 points per which ranks 12th in the league. A decent number, but not the 11 points allowed per game that Denver is averaging at home, which of course is where the game is being played Monday night.

When has a 5-2 record ever been considered overrated? Easy, the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers became overrated when 4 of their 5 victories have come against teams with a combined record of 7-22. The unimpressive Pittsburgh schedule includes wins against the one-win Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, and the Detroit Lions. The two losses Pittsburgh suffered both came on the road to teams with winning records, the 4-3 Chicago Bears and the 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals. The 6-1 Denver Broncos continue to remain the antithesis of Pittsburgh in almost every way with 4 of their 6 wins coming against teams that are either leading or tied for their respective division leads, Cincinnati, New England, Dallas, and San Diego.

I fail to see how Pittsburgh is the favorite coming into this game. Thus far, Denver has proven to be better in almost every major statistical category and that margin in only magnified by the fact that the game is being played at Invesco Field. Maybe handicappers just see this as a bad match-up for Denver? How? I am not entirely sure at this point. Kyle Orton surely will not be the problem. He has thrown for 9 touchdowns to only 1 interception, completing 64% of his passes, and has a rating of almost 96. The Denver running duo of Buckhalter and Moreno probably will not do much this week against Pittsburgh as the Stealers are ranked #1 against the run, but I am not expecting this game to turn on Denver’s running game. The game will be decided by the continued smart and efficient play of Kyle Orton, the dominating 3-4 defense of Denver which ranks 1st in total yards allowed, 3rd against the rush, and 2nd in points allowed.

Do not expect this game to be close. In the end, the Denver Defense will wear down the Pittsburgh front five. Roethlisberger has had a hard time staying on his feet this year, his willingness to hold onto to the football combined with some bad offensive line play has forced 20 sacks this year, tied for 9th most in the league. Mike Nolan is very aware of this and with a defense that already ranks 2nd in the league in sacks, expect Elvis Dumervil to lead a heavy pass rush most of the game.

As I said in the opening, the safe bet, the smart bet, the easy money bet Monday night is to take Denver and the +3. Pittsburgh is in no way good enough to beat Denver on a neutral site let alone at Invesco Field. Be smart with the bank roll but do not be afraid to bet big on this game.

Monday Night Football Pick: Denver +3
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Cowboys at Eagles Sunday Night Preview and Pick

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Sunday Night football finally gives sports fans a game to circle on their TV Guide. The top two teams in the NFC East, Dallas and Philadelphia will meet for the first time this season. The last time these two teams hooked up was in Philadelphia last December. It was a game that Dallas fans would love to forget. 44 points allowed, 5 turnovers, and another December loss added to Romo’s resume. This Sunday, Dallas again travels to Philly with both teams sitting at 5-2, collectively playing their best football of the season.

The week 6 bye for the Cowboys could not have come at a better time. The team was fortunate to be 3-2 at the time after a lucky win against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. At the time there was just something wrong in “Big D”. Romo was receiving criticism for not putting the ball in the end zone, throwing too many interceptions and of course, questioning his decision making abilities. The defense had also failed to provide any spark for the team. The Dallas defense took 3 weeks to record their first sack and it recorded only 2 interceptions through the first 5 games. It was a collective disappointment early on.

Week 7 was a new start for the Cowboys certainly they did not resemble much of what we saw in earlier weeks. We quickly learned that Romo has a new favorite target in Miles Austin who has lead the team in receiving in each of the last three games. Austin followed up his 251 yard performance against Kansas City with a 171 yard against Atlanta, with the team going 3-0 when he is a starter. Second, the defense is playing much more aggressive. They got after Matt Ryan in week 7, recording 4 sacks and forcing 2 interceptions. Against Seattle, the team recorded an additional 3 sacks and 2 turnovers. Lastly, and this is further reinforced by the dominating win against Seattle, Dallas is finally putting up points in bunches, averaging 37.5 in their last 2 games. Tony Romo has thrown for 6 touchdowns in the past 2 games and 0 interceptions in his last 3 games. All of which leads to an offense that ranks 5th in total yards and is 2nd in the pass.

It certainly is the right time for Dallas to be playing their best football as the Eagles come in playing equally impressive in recent weeks. The 5-2 Philadelphia Eagles enter this Sunday night contest also playing some of their best football of the year. It seems a long time ago when the Eagles flew into Oakland and got embarrassed by the Raiders 13-9. The team now seems poised to make a second half statement with the return of Brian Westbrook from a concussion, the emergence of new big play threats in DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy to spread the offense, along with a healthy Donovan McNabb leading the team.

Similar to the Dallas bye in week 6, Philadelphia got a nice dose of reality the same week in their defeat to the Oakland Raiders. Since then, they have soundly defeated two divisional opponents, Washington and New York. In the two victories, the team has scored 27 and 40 points while going up against two of the league’s top 5 yards allowed per game defenses. In both games McNabb has remained a model of efficiency, throwing for 4 touchdowns against 0 interceptions, needing only 48 attempts. A major difference from the 46 attempts he threw in the defeat to Oakland. The Eagles defense also stepped up much of the year, ranking 8th in total yards, 8th in points allowed, and 2nd in the league in sacks.

So do the Eagles cover the -3 line? The answer is, yes. The home field advantage is the deciding factor that pushes this game in the Eagles direction. At home Philadelphia is 3-1 this year with their only loss coming to the best team in football, New Orleans. In each of their 3 victories, opponents have scored less than 17 points in each game, averaged more than 2 turnovers per game, and the defense has recorded almost 3 sacks per game. Combine this with the fact that Dallas has a tendency to play much less focused in road games, averaging 10 penalties per game in their last two road contests.

It’s a tough pick this week, certainly one I would not put a large chunk of the payroll on. The teams are separated by 6 points in total points scored this season and 3 points in points allowed. However, when crunching the numbers, the home field advantage emerges as our great equalizer, giving the Philadelphia Eagles the edge this week. If you bettors need a little more ammo for Philadelphia, Dallas is 3-7 in their last 10 games against division opponents.

Sunday Night Pick: Philadelphia -3

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Eagles vs. Redskins Monday Night Football Preview & Pick

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The 3-2 Philadelphia Eagles travel to Washington to play the 2-4 Redskins on Monday Night. The match up certainly does not have the on the field appeal that the schedule makers hoped for nearing the mid-point of the season. The Eagles leave the West coast after a truly atrocious performance against the Oakland Raiders last week. They managed only 9 points on 3 field goals, becoming the first team in nearly 3 years to not score a touchdown against the Raiders. I am all about giving credit where credit is due, but this is the same Raiders team that lost by 20, 23, and 37 points in the previous 3 weeks. If there ever was a team going in the wrong direction it was the Raiders.

The Washington Redskins on the other hand, are just bad on and off the field every week. They rank 29th in points scored, averaging 13.2 points per game, failing to score a touchdown in 2 of their last 3 games. They do not have a quarterback in which they trust as Jason Campbell was finally benched last week against the Chiefs. He was 9 of 16 for 89 yards and an interception before giving way to Todd Collins. The Redskins play calling has been under the microscope since week 1. Jim Zorn was finally “relieved” of his playing calling duties after last week’s loss. All of this has come about as the team has lost 3 of their last 4 games to some of the worst teams in football; Detroit, Carolina, and Kansas City. It really is an impressively bad resume only 6 games into the season.

The trendy pick for many cappers out there will be the Washington Redskins for the simple fact that they have proven to keep games close. With the exception of last week’s 8 point loss, the outcome has been decided by 6 points or fewer in all Redskins games year to date. The betting line is currently Philadelphia -7 points, so late money will be flowing away from the Eagles as kickoff nears. Do not buy into this trend. Philadelphia has enough weapons on both sides of the ball to win this game but 2 touchdowns. Donovan McNabb will be playing his third game back from injury. By now, the rust or nerves, or any other non-tangible excuse should be eliminated. Andy Reid will continue to open the playbook even more as any lingering doubts about McNabb’s health should be eliminated.

The latest injury wire that could affect the game plan is the questionable status of Albert Haynesworth. The Redskins are 24th in the league in rushing defense and his absence or limited play does not bode well for the ‘Skins. The Eagles are 30th in the league in rushing attempts and 26th in total yards this year. Brian Westbrook has struggled this season with only 184 yards on the ground and a single touchdown. A healthy dose of Westbrook combined with the absence of Haynesworth will mark his break out performance of the season.

The Monday Night pick this week is Philadelphia -7. The Eagles are a far better team than what they showed last week and the Redskins are exactly what they show us every week, a bad team.

MNF Pick: Philadelphia -7

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ESPN Thursday Night FSU vs. UNC Preview and Pick

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Be sure to check your emotions at the door before you even think about dropping a dime on any game…ever. Pundits, bettors, and even handicappers alike, all thought that Florida State would somehow come out and beat a vastly more talented Georgia Tech team last week based on raw emotion. The whole “win one for the Gipper” or in this case, Bowden is usually the kiss of death. Emotion will only get you so far, talent will take you the rest of the way. If you’re one of those who believe Florida State is somehow going to dig deep and find that magical win this week, think again.

Florida State has been a tough team to figure out this season to say the least. Early on you were not exactly sure which Florida State team was going to get off the bus. After all, this is the same team that beat BYU 54-28 and played Miami down to the last second. However, I believe the real Florida State team is the one who lost to South Florida 17-7 and just recently gave up 49 points to Georgia Tech.

Florida State has any number of problems and most of them reside on the defensive side of the ball. In ACC play, Florida State is 0-3, giving up an average of 35 points per game. The secondary has proven to be the achilles heel, allowing almost 250 yards per game, far outpacing any other team in the ACC. North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates should have a nice night tossing the pill around. He hasthus far had a marginal year with 7 picks and 6 touchdowns. Expect North Carolina to air it early and often against the sub par FSU secondary.

As bad as the FSU defense has been, their offensive passing attack has played quite well. Quarterback Christian Ponder has proven to be a good decision maker throwing for 9 touchdowns with only 1 interception with almost 1800 yards passing. The kid can make plays, but the strength of the North Carolina’s defense matches perfectly Florida State’s passing attack. North Carolina’s secondary has only given up 125 yards per game this season, the best in the nation. I don’t expect Ponder to be held to those numbers, but I do foresee them causing enough problems to limit Ponder’s ability to get the big play.

Betting Florida State to win or cover just does not make sense. There is no telling what you get and if you follow trends at all, the trend is a Florida State team that is snowballing to a level of embarrassment in the ACC. They have lost 3 games in a row, can’t defend the pass and just gave up over 400 yards on the ground to Georgia Tech last week. The lone aspect of Florida State’s team is Christian Ponder but expect North Carolina’s secondary to be equally up to challenge in shutting down the high powered offense. Numbers don’t lie so the pick is North Carolina to cover -2.5.

Pick: North Carolina -2.5

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