NFL Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 11/12/2013
If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn't fire himself as the general manager after Sunday night's debacle in New Orleans, then he's never going to, and that's a shame for fans of the team -- but good for those betting against the Cowboys (hint: take the “over”).
There is certainly no shame in losing at the Superdome, because everyone does. But allowing a franchise-record 625 yards and an NFL-record 40 first downs? While only running 43 total plays on offense? That's flat-out embarrassing and led Jones to say publicly he perhaps made a mistake in firing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan this offseason. Ryan got the last laugh on Sunday as he's now in the same position with New Orleans.
I'm honestly not sure why Monte Kiffin still has a job as the Dallas defensive coordinator. It's the second time in three games the Cowboys have allowed at least 600 yards, and Drew Brees was just shy of becoming the fifth passer with 400 yards against Dallas this season. The only reason he didn't is because Sean Payton called off the dogs late and kept running the ball. Jones said Tuesday that there will be no changes to the coaching staff during this current Cowboys bye week. He noted they are 5-5 and tied for the division lead, and that's true. It's also the worst division in football.
Bovada offers a few coaching props this week, and Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is on there. He is even money to be the team's head coach for Week 1 next season and -140 not to. Dallas is exactly 21-21 since Garrett's first full season in 2011 but 16-2 against teams below .500 and 5-19 against those at .500 or above. I see no way Garrett returns, especially as I expect Dallas to lose at the Giants in Week 12. The Cowboys are +110 to win the division with the Eagles at +150 and New York at +500. Philly should win this week at home against Washington to take a half-game lead and then has a bye and home games against Arizona and Detroit. So the Eagles could get to 8-5 even though they have lost 10 straight at home. I now like the Eagles on that NFC East prop.
Garrett isn't the only coaching prop offered this week. Here are my thoughts on each:
Will Leslie Frazier be the Vikings head coach in Week 1 of 2014: “no” -300, “yes” +200. No chance. Minnesota may not win another game and looks to be slaughtered this week at Seattle when the Vikes see old friend Percy Harvin for the first time. This is a no for sure.
Will Dennis Allen be the Raiders' head coach next season: no -200, yes +150. He's only in his second full season, and the Raiders have showed some signs of minimal progress this year despite one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL. I think Allen comes back.
Will Mike Munchak be with the Titans in 2014: yes even, no -140. That loss Sunday to Jacksonville might have been the last straw for Munchak. Plus, he lost an ally in owner Bud Adams, who recently died. Munchak is a goner unless Tennessee somehow rallies to make the playoffs. I don't see that happening.
Will Rex Ryan be with the Jets in 2014: yes -140, no even. Ryan was the leading candidate before the season to be fired but now probably is back. He took control of the defense, and it has played at an elite level. Geno Smith has shown some good signs at times. The Jets have just one game left with a team over .500 and definitely could be a wild-card team. Ryan gets an extension.
Will Gary Kubiak be with the Texans in 2014: yes -140, no even. I'm shocked yes is the favorite here. Houston is the biggest disappointment in the AFC and will start anew next season with a coach and perhaps starting quarterback. Take no. The cleaning already has begun: future Hall of Famer Ed Reed was waived on Tuesday.
Will Mike Shanahan be with the Redskins in 2014: yes -140, no even. I like no here as well. I don't know how the Skins managed to blow last Thursday's game in Minnesota, but that pretty much ended their season. They could lose their next four: at Eagles, vs. 49ers, vs. Giants, vs. Chiefs. I'm not sure RGIII likes Shanahan much. Franchise QBs always win that tug of war. Shanahan is out.
Will Mike Tomlin be with the Steelers in 2014: yes -325, no +225. The Steelers are not the type of franchise to panic, and they just don't fire coaches. It looks like a few seasons of rebuilding in the Steel City, but Tomlin will return.
Will Ron Rivera be with the Panthers in 2014: yes -300, no +200. Five weeks ago, I would have said no. That big win Sunday over the 49ers almost assures Rivera is back now unless the Cats go in the tank the rest of the way. They have been a great second-half team the past two seasons, however. Rivera stays.
Will Mike Smith be with the Falcons in 2014: yes -400, no +250. Atlanta has been ravaged by injuries, so Smith will be spared.
Will Jim Schwartz be with the Lions in 2014: yes -500, no +300. The NFC North, a division the Lions have never won, is there for the taking with both the Packers and Bears on their backup quarterbacks. Schwartz is back.
The Bears got some bad news on Monday, ruling Jay Cutler out this week at least against Baltimore and top cornerback Charles Tillman for the rest of the season. Losing Cutler might not be such a bad thing as good as Josh McCown has looked. Losing Tillman is crushing considering the Bears are already without their best defensive lineman (Henry Melton) and linebacker (Lance Briggs).
The terrible Cowboys defense lost two linebackers for 3-4 weeks in Sunday's loss: leading tackler Sean Lee, the heart and soul of the D, and Justin Durant. Just what Dallas needed. The Bucs put starting running back Doug Martin on season-ending IR this week, and now backup Mike James is set to join him. He was off to a good start Monday night against the Dolphins before fracturing his left ankle.
Titans QB Jake Locker is done for the year, something I will look more at in the Thursday Colts-Titans preview. The Seahawks lost a member of that excellent secondary with Brandon Browner out several games with a groin injury. Packers backup QB Seneca Wallace injured his groin against the Eagles and likely is done for the year. Your new starting QB: Scott Tolzien.
Week 11 Enticing Underdogs
How great of a week was it! I not only hit on my three dogs, they all won outright: St. Louis +10 at Indianapolis, Jacksonville +13 at Tennessee and Tampa Bay +3 vs. Miami. That means no winless teams this season. I'm not going to reach for upsets just for the sake of doing so and I don't consider any game a true upset unless a team was at least a seven-point dog, and there are only two of those in Week 11.
Thus, the only game I like is Kansas City (+9.5) at Denver. I have little doubt the Broncos win the game, but Peyton Manning is dealing with an ankle sprain against the team leading the league in sacks and points allowed while coming off a bye. The Chiefs will stay within a touchdown -- presuming Dwayne Bowe isn't suspended for his idiotic arrest on Sunday night -- but take their first loss.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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