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Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 8 NFL Predictions: October 31, 2010

UPDATE #3: I have wanted to add the TB/CAR game to the card all week, but I am leaving it off to see if the OVER trend continues in week 8.  However, that game is screaming for taking the UNDER.  Both teams have abysmal offenses.  Neither team is averaging over a TD from long drives and neither team is even close to the league time of possession average.  I'll leave it as a strong lean and we'll see how it shakes out on Sunday.

The early Halloween Edition picks for next week are posted.   A handful of undervalued favorites are on the card and I bought the half point on KC and SD.    Check here for the latest odds. 

I have done some preliminary research into the trends up to this point in the season which I will talk about in full detail after week 8 in my mid-season review.   The second half of the season is shaping up nicely.

Carolina Panthers vs St Louis Rams: STL -3
I held off on this game all week to see how S-Jax would do with his finger injury.  It turned out to be a minor 20-minute outpatient surgery and he can easily play with the pain.  He didn't practice all week but had this to say to the media, "Absolutely. I will definitely be out there."  The injury is on his left hand, but he usually carries it in his right.  Nothing against Ken Darby, but S-Jax is a premier back and one of the reasons I like STL in this matchup.  He should be able to put up some nice numbers against a susceptible CAR run defense.  STL should also have a nice advantage stopping the run as Williams is out this week.

Neither team will have a big edge passing the ball, but one of the biggest reasons I like STL in this spot is their play on the line of scrimmage.  Matt Moore is going to see some pressure on Sunday, and Bradford should have enough time to make some plays down the field.  Even if CAR do move the ball between the 20s, they have the worst red zone offense in the entire NFL so expect John Casey to score more points than Steve Smith.  Having said that, CAR is horrible on third down and averaging two field goals a game from long drives.  If I was making the line for this game I'd have STL favored by at TD instead of a FG.  They are getting better on both sides of the ball as the season goes along and coach Spags is finally seeing some fruits of his labor.  Prediction: Bank STL -3. 

Washington Redskins vs Detroit Lions: DET -1
WSH are coming off a turnover-filled game to take on DET on Sunday in their second straight game on the road.  They opened as slight underdogs, but as of today most people have DET favored by a field goal.  This was a soft opening line and it should be closer to -5 or -6.   WSH could have some success stopping the run and getting off the field on third down, but these advantages won't be enough to win them the game. 

To beat DET they will need to put up points.  We'll see if DET has improved their back seven on defense because D-Mac might be able to make some plays happen down the field.  He currently leads the league in long passes down the field, but this stat is very misleading.  This offense is god awful on third down, can't produce points from long drives, and have one of the worst red zone offenses in the NFL. Mcnabb will need to overcome these lowly trends facing a stacked defensive line.  He'll wish he had his old legs back after this one.  He will also hope this game doesn't come down to a field goal because their kicker is only 13-18 on the season.

For DET they should be getting franchise quarterback Matt Stafford back from his shoulder injury.  He'll be returning to a high powered offense with a lot of weapons to choose from.  Despite the four interceptions from Hall in week 7, DET should have a big advantage in the air.  They are good in the red zone, efficient on third down, and should get good starting field position from the return game.  One big area they will need to improve is their discipline.  They rank dead last with the Cowgirls in penalties per game.  On the bright side, DET have already played four good teams and haven't been blown out in any of them.  Prediction: Bank DET -1. 

Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs: KC -7, OVER 44
Everyone that thought BUF would take BAL to overtime put up your hands.  This is the reality of the NFL today.  Teams are not separated by as much as some people think.  This is one of the reasons I rarely pick a side based on the names on the jerseys or take a double digit favorite. 

Having said all that I will drop seven points and take KC at home in this matchup.  I loved KC in a teaser last week and in hindsight I should have taken them straight too.  I waited all week to see if I could get them at  -7 but it never happened.  This week we are able to get them at -7 and there are many good reasons to jump on them now.

To start, they are the #1 ranked rushing team in the league.  The worst?  The Buffalo Bills.  I expect KC to control this game from the start and they should be able to put up a nice amount of points.  BUF rank near the bottom in red zone and third down defense.  Matt Cassel will have a lot of time to find his receivers because BUF have problems getting to the QB and KC do a good job with protection schemes.   KC also have one of the most feared return games in the NFL.  It won't matter if they have a short field or long field, KC will be able to have their way on offense.  Another huge edge they will have is home field advantage.  BUF is coming off a tough road loss in overtime against one of the top teams in the AFC.  Their reward?  Travel to KC and play in one of the toughest road stadiums in the league.  Both teams are well coached, disciplined, and average in turnover differential so I'd be surprised if either team beats themselves.  The KC kids are one of the pleasant surprises of the 2010 season and they will continue to roll in week 8.  Prediction: Bank KC -7.

Tennessee Titans vs San Diego Chargers: SD -3
Most people will see this pick and stay as far away as possible.  The Chargers are the AFC version of the Dallas Cowboys.  A team filled with great talent and a PhD in finding ways to lose.  Last week against the Pats they once again shoot themselves in the foot with inexcusable mental errors. 

So what is there to like about them this week against a gritty and talented Titans team?  To begin with, the Titans are not the Patriots.  NE's defense is improving and Belichick and Brady know how to pull out tough wins on the road.  I don't expect TEN to be able to go into SD and pull off the same feat.  PHI was having their way with TEN until they exploded for an improbable 4th quarter comeback.   They will need to pray to the football gods for a repeat of that performance.  SD have an underrated defense and will cause huge problems for the TEN passing game.   Chris Johnson is a threat, but they don't have enough of an edge running the ball to solely rely on him for the win.   They will also have big problems stopping the lethal SD passing attack.

As long as Gates is on the field, healthy or not, he draws a lot of attention to himself.  He is also unstoppable in the red zone.  It doesn't matter who his receivers are because if Rivers has one on one coverage, he will find you.  They still rank high in all the important offensive and defensive categories despite their losses.   They are a much better home team than road team and they are in a must-win situation. Unlike their twin-team Dallas Cowboys, this team has leadership. They are not a team that is going to lay down and quit in a man-up situation.   TEN will put up a good fight, but this is not a favorable spot for them to be in. Prediction: Bank SD -3.

Seattle Seahawks vs Oakland Raiders: OAK -1
In what is probably the biggest surprise of week 7 the Oakland Raiders went into Denver and absolutely destroyed their division foes.  It was the highest score OAK have achieved in franchise history.  However, this is not the reason I'm taking them in week 8.  They have been quietly improving all season long.   The only important category they rank near the bottom in is penalties.  This is a monumental achievement for a perennial laughing stock.  McFadden gives them a dynamic dimension in the backfield and Campbell only needs to play average for them to move the sticks. 

SEA's only advantage in this game will be pressure on the quarterback.  They have done an underrated job disrupting opposing QB's and that should continue on Sunday.  The problem they will have is putting up points.  They are decent driving the ball and converting third downs, but they rank near the bottom in red zone offense and points from long drives.  This tells us that they struggle to make plays when they need them and can't put together any consistency.  Due to this they also have problems winning time of possession and it will start to catch up with them.  They might have gone into Chicago and pulled out a nice road win, but they matched up really well against a QB/offense that liked to hold the ball too long.  Both teams are improving, but in this one the home team holds the edge.  Prediction: Bank OAK -1. 

Green Bay Packers vs New York Jets: OVER 42
Last week was not a good week to play the unders.  This has been a strange year for totals because unders are usually a sharp angle.  Even with all the necessary indicators they are still underperforming.  This is great news for the public because they love to play the over.  As mentioned in my week 7 review, I have begun to do some back-checking into this and have found a few trends unique to 2010.  To give an example, week 7 was the highest weekend average in over 20 years.  The average total per game was 52.6 points.  Based on what I've researched so far, I expect the books to make an adjust for the lines going forward.  

Going with this 2010 trend I've picked out GB vs NY as the best bet for an over in week 8.   It has many of the same variables as the CIN/ATL matchup in week 7.   Both teams have great advantages on offense.  NYJ own an enourmous edge on the ground with one of the best 1-2 punches at RB and running behind one of the best run-blocking lines in the NFL.  Sanchez has continued to develop and is making plays in the passing game.  Holmes should start to become more of the offense as he gets acclimated with Sanchez and this is a team averaging 17 points a game from long drives.  This ranks near the top of the league.  With all the injuries that GB have on defense, they are struggling to get off the field on third down.   

Normally I wouldn't play an over when the NYJ defense is involved, but a closer look reveals that they are having some problems on that side of the ball.   They are surprisingly bad in red zone defense and getting off the field on third down.  They are also giving up a lot of yards in the air.  Granted much of this is because Revis either hasn't been in game shape or hampered with an injury, but even without him this is a defense that should be limiting the pass more than they have.  Rodgers is proving that they can move the ball up and down the field even without Finley in the lineup.  They have been great in the red zone this year and should be able to put points this weekend.  Helping the over is another key factor.  Both teams will have advantages in the return game giving both offenses good field position to work with.  Prediction: Bank O42.
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