NFL Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/29/2013
New York Giants: NFC East Champions. Certainly didn't think I'd be writing that this season just a few weeks ago, but now it is seems very plausible because the division is so bad. New York has won two straight after winning 15-7 at Philadelphia on Sunday to end an eight-game road losing streak.
Eli Manning didn't have huge numbers but didn't throw a pick for the second straight game, so that's something. The Giants defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past 10 quarters. New York (2-6) is just two games behind first-place Dallas in the East, and clearly the Cowboys are a very flawed bunch after gagging away another potential win Sunday in Detroit.
Now, I realize the Giants' two wins have come against bad Vikings and Eagles clubs, but you can only beat who is on the schedule. New York gets to recharge during this bye week before starting a three-game homestand against the Raiders on Nov. 10. You have to like the Giants' chances there. Dallas should win this week as 10.5-point favorites against visiting Minnesota but seems likely to lose the following at New Orleans. So the Week 12 game Cowboys-Giants game at MetLife Stadium conceivably could be for first place. New York is +1000 on Sportsbook.ag, and that might be worth a few dollars. Someone has to win the division, and it's not going to be the Redskins or Eagles.
The one thing this mini-winning streak has done is almost assure that New York won't deal receiver Hakeem Nicks before Tuesday's trade deadline. That increases the leverage of what the Browns will ask for Josh Gordon. Probably the biggest possible deal before Tuesday may involve Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. He'll be a free agent after this season, and clearly Minnesota needs to look toward the future. Jay Glazer tweeted Sunday that the Vikings are "willing to trade Jared Allen for the right price.'' Titans receiver Kenny Britt also could go to some receiver-needy team like San Francisco, Indianapolis (especially in the wake of Reggie Wayne's injury) or New England.
Receivers Go Down
It was a rough week to be a No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL. Miami lost Brandon Gibson to a torn patellar tendon, the Buccaneers lost Mike Williams to a hamstring and the Lions saw Ryan Broyles tear his Achilles'. All three are done for the season. It's the third straight year that Broyles has suffered a season-ending injury, including at Oklahoma. He didn't even hurt it on a pass play but while fair catching a punt Sunday against Dallas.
The Lions should be one of those teams calling about Gordon. Calvin Johnson is magnificent, as he showed with his stunning 329 yards against the Cowboys, but Detroit has little else at the position. The team is hoping Nate Burleson can return after this week's bye from his broken arm. The upside of that accident: Burleson is receiving free pizzas for a year from DiGiorno. Burleson was hurt while fetching pizzas; his car crashed when he went to stop them from sliding off a seat.
Meanwhile, in quarterback news, it appears that Michael Vick will have to sit out this week after suffering yet another injury in Sunday's loss to New York. So if Nick Foles isn't healthy from his concussion, it's Matt Barkley time for the Eagles. Barkley has looked totally overmatched thus far with a rating of 42.6 in two games of relief. Philly still opened as a 2.5-point favorite this week at Oakland. If it's indeed Barkley, who doesn't seem a good fit in Chip Kelly's offense (which is struggling big time right now as it is), jump big on the Raiders there.
In Houston, Matt Schaub isn't recovered from his ankle injury, and Case Keenum will start against visiting Indianapolis, which is a 2.5-point favorite. Keenum played pretty well in his first start at Kansas City on Oct. 20. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III left Sunday's loss to Denver early, but it was just for precautionary reasons. He'll play Sunday against San Diego. That opened as a “pick'em”.
Week 9 Enticing Underdogs
Perhaps I should stick with choosing three underdogs each week as I went with only two on Sunday and missed on both: Jaguars +17 vs. San Francisco and the Redskins +13.5 at Denver. The Jags at least scored their first home TD of the season -- too bad the game was in London.
Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina: Yes, the Falcons looked really bad on Sunday in their 27-13 loss at Arizona. Steven Jackson returned for the Falcons but did nothing, so Matt Ryan had to throw the ball a season-high 61 times, and he was sacked four times and picked off four. However, I do think Roddy White will return this week (as will left tackle Sam Baker), and Jackson should be better once he shakes off the rust. The Panthers have won three straight but against terrible competition. Atlanta should be able to stay within a touchdown.
Pittsburgh (+7) at New England: All the early money is on the Pats, so I'm presuming this gets to 7.5, which is where I love it. Pittsburgh still stinks on offense but remains pretty good on defense, Terrelle Pryor's record-setting run on Sunday aside. Tom Brady doesn't look right for the Pats, who are vastly overrated. Pittsburgh will pound the ball on that New England defense missing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo to keep it a close game.
Tampa Bay (+17.5) at Seattle: Obviously, the Seahawks will win this game but it's a short week for them while the Bucs had a few extra days to prepare after losing last Thursday. Seattle will start yanking guys like Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch late in the third quarter, allowing Tampa Bay to only lose by two touchdowns.
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