College and NFL Trap Game Report
by Trevor Whenham - 11/21/2007
There aren't many games in the college ranks that can even be considered as trap games because so may teams are finishing their seasons this week. Maybe that's a good thing considering the rough weekend we had last week with this report. There is one college game that qualifies, though, and three NFL games that are very interesting and worthy of further discussion:
Notre Dame (+3.5) at Stanford - The mere fact that I am suggesting any team could look past Notre Dame, let alone one as flawed as Stanford, is a sign of just how low the Irish have sunk in this dismal season. It's truly unbelievable. Notre Dame is coming in off a win, but they should only get credit for half a victory given that it was against Duke. Stanford has struggled in their last three after that stellar stretch of victories over USC and Arizona and a near miss against TCU. The program is definitely making forward progress in its first year under Jim Harbaugh, though. The best way for Stanford to cap what it has accomplished and build for next year is to win its biggest game of the year, and that is next weekend's season-ending Big Game at home against Cal. The Cardinal have to be licking their lips because that game is now very winnable. Cal is in a freefall, and they show no sign of salvaging their season. If there is one thing we have learned about Stanford it is that they can't afford to give less than full effort. If they get distracted and lose focus then they are in real trouble. Even against a team as troubled as Notre Dame, Stanford could be in trouble if they are thinking ahead to the Big Game.
Green Bay (-3) at Detroit - On the surface Green Bay should have no trouble focusing on this game. A win here against an old rival would all but clinch the division and a playoff berth. This game, though, will be a very good test of how much time the Packers are spending reading their press clippings. It seems as if everyone in the world is ignoring this game and looking ahead to the battle for NFL supremacy against Dallas next Thursday. If they are looking ahead to that game at all then Detroit is more than dangerous enough (when they want to be) to give Green Bay real troubles. As a further challenge, the emerging star running back, Ryan Grant, is limited and potentially out thanks to a mild ankle sprain that will be challenged by a short week of preparation. Green Bay will certainly need to be focused.
New York Jets (+14.5) at Dallas - Dallas' problems here could come from the same place as Green Bay's - looking ahead to next Thursday. It could even be worse for Dallas because they aren't playing a rival so the game has less meaning, and they could get complacent because they are so heavily favored. All they have to do, though, is ask the Steelers about what happens if you take the Jets for granted. They found out the hard way last weekend. Dallas struggled to cover a big spread against Washington last weekend, and could do the same if their minds are thinking of the team in green and gold instead of the one in green and white.
Buffalo (+8.5) at Jacksonville - Three weeks ago the Jaguars probably felt like the AFC South was beyond their grasp. Indianapolis was cruising along without a loss, and Jags' starting QB David Garrard was on the shelf. Since then, though, Indy lost two games and looked very mortal against Kansas City, while Quinn Gray filled in admirably at quarterback for Jacksonville. Now David Garrard is back, and a chance to beat Indianapolis and make the AFC South very interesting is only a week away. Before that, though, Jacksonville has to play Buffalo. Despite getting absolutely crushed by New England last weekend like everyone else has, Buffalo is a tough, feisty team. On paper, they shouldn't be - both their offense and defense are in the bottom third of the league. Somehow, though, they believe that they can win, and they often do. Their wins haven't come against particularly good teams, but at 6-3-1 ATS they have consistently exceeded expectations against all of their opponents. They could easily sneak out a cover against a fairly large spread here if Jacksonville is thinking ahead to future AFC South glory.