Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Check here for the latest odds. 

Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts: IND -7
CIN is coming off a heart-breaking loss to PIT this week and now get to travel to IND as their reward.  If you listened to the players before the game they were all in agreement that the PIT game was do or die to save their season.  They will head to IND emotionally deflated and this isn't a team that I see coming back strong.  T.O. and Ocho can now turn more of their attention to reality television and padding stats.  The only advantage they will have in this game is running the ball.  Yet Benson doesn't look like the same player we saw a year ago.  They aren't as committed to the run game as a team either.  CIN might try to do so to keep Peyton off the field, but once they fall behind that game plan will go out the window.

IND is also coming off a tough loss to PHI.  However, their season is far from over and they will be fighting hard to keep pace in the division.   Peyton should have a LOT of time to throw because CIN's pass rush has been terrible this year.  I expect a huge game from the league's best QB and Tamme has filled in nicely for Clark.  Peyton loves to use the tight end so this has been a significant sigh of relief for the Colts.   IND also rank near the top in red zone/third down offense and points from long drives.   Even without a real running game they manage to control the ball more than the opponent.   IND is very tough to beat at home and it doesn't help CIN that they must travel on a short week.  Look for Peyton and company to get back to their winning ways in a smackdown.  Prediction: Bank IND -7.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Denver Broncos: OVER 42
In my weekly total sure to go wrong I like this AFC West game to go over 42.   Both teams have monumental advantages on offense in this game.  KC's run game is going against one of the league's worst run defenses.   DEN's high flying passing attack will have a big edge against a below-average KC pass defense.  DEN have trouble getting consistent pressure on the QB which should give Matt Cassel enough time to move the chains when necessary.  Both teams are also scoring more than the league average from long drives.  Both also rank near the bottom in red zone defense.  If these factors aren't enough to play an over, I'm not sure what is.  Logic hasn't seemed to help much when it comes to totals this year, so if they don't start turning around soon I might just have to start picking them with darts.  Prediction: Bank OVER 42.

Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TB -6.5

Last week I was on the fence about the NO/CAR game.  CAR played them tough earlier in the season and they were playing at home.  None of that seemed to matter as they got blown out and put three different QB's on the field.  I won't be passing on them again this week.  TB showed that they are indeed improved this year and came away with a moral victory in ATL.  When they kick off this game at home on Sunday they will have the benefit of hot cheerleaders to distract a disinterested CAR team.

Between the lines, the only chance CAR have in this game is on special teams.  They should be able to get some nice starting field position, but they have a league worst 5 points per game from 60+ yard drives.  Given their problems at QB and RB I have no idea how they will generate offense.   They do matchup ok on defense, but TB is an ascending team.  Freeman and Blount should be able to do enough to get a lead and I'd be shocked if they ever look back.  TB is in the middle of the road in key categories while CAR sit near the bottom.   The last thing I have to say about CAR is.....with the 1st pick in the 2011 draft.....  Prediction: Bank TB -6.5.

St. Louis Rams vs San Francisco 49ers: STL +6
This NFC West matchup features two teams coming off a bye.  The 49ers have been a mess all season so I have no reason to believe they are about to turn the corner anytime soon.  That ship sailed a long time ago and many people drowned on that journey.  In stark contrast, I really like the direction STL are going this season.  Bradford is playing a lot better than I thought he would and coach Spags finally has that defense playing better.  

Both teams will want to establish the run and whoever has more success will likely win the game.  Thankfully for STL they have the edge in this category.  Both running backs are elite studs, but STL have had better success stopping the run this year.  This could leave the game up to the quarterbacks.  Niether passing game have a clear advantage, but who would you have more faith in?  Alex Smith is still nursing a shoulder injury and I'd be surprised if he played. Right now he seems more concerned about his differences with coach Singletary.  Troy Smith has never thrown for more than 200 yards in a game.  Do I need to say more?   The only advantage SF will have in this game is home field.  That isn't enough for me to take them at -6.  I'm rolling with the road team who should keep it close, if not win it outright.  Prediction: Bank STL +6. 

New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers: PIT -4.5
I waited on this game to see how significant the injuries would be and also to see which direction the line moved.   It opened at -4 for PIT so there hasn't been that much movement.  Right now 60% of the public is on NE, but sharps took the early line on PIT.  I tend to agree with the sharps on this game.  There are a number of reasons I like PIT to cover.

First of all is how the Pats have looked since shipping Moss out of town.  I'm not saying Moss is the same dynamic playmaker he was in years past, but this current group of receivers are not striking fear into anybody.   They should have an advantage in the air vs an overrated PIT pass defense, but I think most of the damage will be done in the short-passing game.  NE have little chance to have success on the ground so I expect a lot of spread sets with Brady in the shotgun. Unfortunately for NE they will need to have a lot of long drives because they do not have an edge in the return game.  They have been good in the red zone and third down %, but so is PIT's defense.  The main problem for NE will be can they keep up with PIT's offense for the entire game?

Things will not be easy for PIT either.  They lost key guys on the offensive line last week and this unit wasn't exactly playing great before that.   Normally this would make me nervous, but NE do not have a pass rusher that scares anyone.  They will need to generate a pass rush with a collective effort, but PIT will be able to counter this with a strong running advantage and Ben's escapability.   NE's defense is improving, but they still remain god awful in red zone defense and on third down.  CLE drove the field on them 6 or 7 times.  I don't expect a repeat of that game, but PIT will have enough success to establish a healthy lead.  Another problem for NE is that PIT is number one in the league in turnover differential.  PIT have also stayed disciplined this season. What it all means is that NE will have to earn all of their points.  There won't be many gifts handed to them.   If the NFL only had two quarters I'd give NE a chance to cover, but I don't see them hanging around for a full game.  Prediction: Bank PIT -4.5.