NFL Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 10/21/2013
You can now cross off the Chicago Bears as a threat to win the NFC North, much less the Super Bowl. No team was perhaps hit harder by injuries in Week 7 than the Bears.
It was bad enough that Chicago's defense was terrible in a 45-41 loss at Washington, but the team's two most indispensible players were lost for likely six weeks: quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. Cutler suffered a torn groin muscle (ouch!) in the second quarter when he was slammed to the ground on a sack by Chris Baker. Backup Josh McCown looked good in Cutler's place by going 14-for-20 for 204 yards with a touchdown, but there's a reason McCown has been a career backup. The Bears have struggled mightily the past two seasons when Cutler has sat out with an injury. Jordan Palmer will be McCown's backup. Yikes.
Briggs, the quarterback of the defense in place of the retired Brian Urlacher, has a shoulder injury. Briggs was hurt on a one-yard run by Robert Griffin III in which Briggs wasn't even in on the tackle. He got hurt trying to twist and extend away from Logan Paulsen's block. Following Briggs' exit, Washington ran 27 plays, gained 234 yards and scored touchdowns on three of four drives.
The Bears are off this week and a half game behind Green Bay in the division; those two face off in Chicago's first game off the bye on Monday, Nov. 4. The Pack are now -225 Bovada favorites in the division, and they are all but a lock to win it. Green Bay didn't make it out of Week 7 unscathed, either. Tight end Jermichael Finley remained in intensive care on Monday because of a neck injury, but apparently he has movement in all extremities, so that's good. Finley took a hit to the head from Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson. How long he will be out isn't yet known, but I think it's safe to say he won't play this week at Minnesota (which opened at +6, but that could change depending on what happens in Monday's game against the Giants).
It truly was a devastating week for several teams. The Rams lost Sam Bradford for the season to a torn ACL in Sunday's loss to Carolina. Too bad as Bradford had been playing pretty well this season although the Rams weren't going anywhere. Kellen Clemens is now the team's starter barring some sort of move. Scarily, there's talk the Rams might look into Tim Tebow.
The Eagles' Nick Foles suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to Dallas -- Foles was playing like garbage before he got hurt. That could mean the Eagles may have to start rookie Matt Barkley this week against the Giants if Michael Vick isn't ready to return from his own injury.
The Colts definitely look like an AFC contender after handing Denver its first loss of the season on Sunday night in the Peyton Manning homecoming game. However, that win was very costly as the team lost leading receiver Reggie Wayne to a torn ACL. Wayne has played in 189 straight games, the most among active players. According to ESPN, Wayne has been targeted 245 times over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL. Wayne had 38 catches for 503 yards and two scores this year. Indy's Super Bowl odds improved to 14/1 at Bovada with the win. The Broncos remain 3/1 favorites even though they don't even lead their own division right now. Kansas City (14/1) does. Just think, if the playoffs started today the Broncos would be on the road in a wild-card game.
The Houston Texans played Kansas City tough in Week 7, losing 17-16 to put one more nail in Coach Gary Kubiak's coffin. Houston lost linebacker Brian Cushing for the season to a broken leg in that one.
Finally, another team going nowhere, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, lost starting running back Doug Martin for the season to a torn labrum. I am dead serious when I say we could see two 0-16 teams in Florida this season. I don't see a sure win on the Bucs' schedule -- they are +6.5 this week against Carolina on Thursday night -- or on Jacksonville's. Too bad they don't play one another.
Week 8 Enticing Underdogs
Rare losing week on the dogs in Week 7 as I hit only on Tampa Bay at +8.5 at Atlanta and missed on Jacksonville at +7.5 against San Diego and Cleveland +10.5 at Green Bay. The Browns were on the Green Bay seven-yard line near the end of the game with a chance to cover, but of course Brandon Weeden threw four straight incompletions. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, only covered because Greg Schiano chose to kick a field goal with his team down two touchdowns with five minutes left and then another with the team down 11 with 1:55 remaining. Why would he do that on the first one? It was still a two-possession game. I'll take it, though. I only like two dogs this week.
Jaguars (+16.5) vs. 49ers: So why would I take the home Jaguars when they have yet to score a touchdown in three home games so far? This game isn't in north Florida but London (which the Jaguars will be full time within five years). Obviously I am not predicting upset here, but I can't imagine the 49ers are going to be too into this game. Jags should score late to only lose by two touchdowns. Frank Gore has already said the 49ers can't look past the Jaguars, which means the 49ers are looking past the Jaguars.
Redskins (+13.5) at Broncos: Washington scored its most points since 2005 in Sunday's win over Chicago, and Griffin III really looked like his 2012 version for the first time this year as noted by his 84 yards rushing on 11 carries. Washington gashed the Bears 209 for rushing yards, and that Denver defense isn't very good. Skins won't win but should stay within 10.
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