NFL Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/14/2013
The old cliche' "always take the Jaguars and 27 points" rang true again in Week 6 as Jacksonville rather predictably -- at least to me -- did cover the biggest spread in NFL history in losing 35-19 at Denver. It's rather hard to believe that Jacksonville held Denver to its fewest points of the season, but it was pretty clear that the Broncos were not taking that game too seriously no matter what the players said to the contrary. They still went “over” the total for the sixth straight game.
I really hope both the Broncos and Chiefs are unbeaten when they meet for the first time in Week 11 as it would match the NFL's top offense against what its best defense this season (Chiefs are No. 1 in scoring defense). Kansas City hasn't allowed more than 17 points in a game and had 10 sacks in Sunday's 24-7 win over Oakland. The Chiefs are only the seventh team this century to reach 10 sacks.
Frankly, they likely have a better chance of being unbeaten for that Denver game than the Broncos do. Kansas City hosts Houston this week, Cleveland next and then is at Buffalo. That could mean the Chiefs get to tee off on T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden and Thad Lewis. Denver could lose this week at Indianapolis in the Peyton Manning homecoming game. Then the Broncos have to face Robert Griffin III and Philip Rivers, just a slightly better trio of QBs than Kansas City will. Denver and K.C. are the only unbeatens left, and it's only the second time that two teams in the same division have started 6-0. It might be smart to take Kansas City now at +400 to win the AFC West at Bovada before those odds get shorter. Denver is -800.
The Broncos do get back star linebacker Von Miller from suspension this week, which will only help a very questionable defense. Denver is +450 on BetOnline to go 16-0.
Quarterback Musical Chairs
A lot of quarterback news to get to. The Texans' Schaub was injured in Sunday's rather shocking home loss to the Rams. Peter King said it was one of the most surprising results he has seen in years, and I tend to agree. How does Houston lose by 25 points at home to a very mediocre team? I'm a bit surprised that Coach Gary Kubiak has a job today -- he won't after the season barring a huge turnaround. Schaub might miss this week with an ankle injury, but Texans fans should be careful what they wish for (some cheered when he was hurt). Yates had two picks in relief of Schaub, including one returned for a score. That's the fifth straight game it has happened to Houston. If the Texans are routed this week by the Chiefs, and K.C. is an opening seven-point favorite, I could see Kubiak getting the hook because then Houston is on the bye.
There's definitely a QB controversy in Philadelphia after Nick Foles looked terrific in Sunday's win at Tampa Bay. In a little more than six quarters since starter Michael Vick went down with his annual injury, Foles has completed 38-of-56 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception. The Eagles were 1-3 in games Vick started and finished but have now won two straight under Foles. They can take over sole possession of first in the NFC East with a win over Dallas this week. Philly opened as a 2.5-point favorite. Coach Chip Kelly hasn't yet said who would start this week if Vick returns to health, but considering Vick is in the last year of his contract, I'd be shocked if it's not Foles so Kelly can determine if he's in his future plans. The Cowboys lost their best defensive player, DeMarcus Ware, for 3-4 weeks with a quad injury, and it's looking like running back DeMarco Murray won't play again Sunday, either. Four of the Cowboys’ next five games are away from home, where Dallas is 0-2, so jump on the Eagles now at +160 to win the division. Dallas is the -175 favorite.
The Buffalo Bills continue to be a laughingstock at quarterback. Former practice squad player Thad Lewis actually was pretty solid in Sunday's overtime loss to Cincinnati, going 19-of-32 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also suffered a foot injury and is “iffy” for this week. The Bills are so hard up at the position with E.J. Manuel hurt that they signed Matt Flynn on Monday.
Jacksonville starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert will miss a second consecutive game because of a left hamstring strain. Chad Henne, who threw for 303 yards and two interceptions against the Broncos, will make his second consecutive start and fourth overall this year.
Week 7 Enticing Underdogs
I hit on two of my three underdog picks last week, the Jaguars in Denver and the Giants at +7.5 on Thursday night in Chicago. I missed on the Redskins at +5.5 at Dallas.
Jacksonville (+7.5) vs. San Diego: The Jags' cover on Sunday was their first of the season, but this is exactly the type of game the schizophrenic Chargers would lose. They will be on a short week and will play at 10 a.m. Pacific time across the country. I'd only take this line if both top Jaguars receivers, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, play. They were injured a bit on Sunday, but it looks as if both have a good shot to go this week. Jacksonville is +250 on BetOnline to go 0-16 this year.
Tampa Bay (+8) at Atlanta: The Falcons are probably about to quit on the season at 1-4 and without star receiver Julio Jones for the rest of the year. Roddy White might not play Sunday against the Bucs, either. Tampa is probably glad to be on the road -- their facilities have had a MRSA problem this season.
Cleveland (+10.5) at Green Bay: The Packers are ravaged at wide receiver. Randall Cobb will miss at least a few weeks, and James Jones might miss this week too. That leaves Aaron Rodgers with only Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin, although it will certainly sign someone this week. The Browns might have won a fourth straight game Sunday if Weeden hadn't made a stupid backhand pass to running back Chris Ogbonnaya that was picked off late in the loss to Detroit.
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