Friday, September 30, 2011

Week 4 NFL Predictions: Quick Hits Edition

Time once again to tour the rest of the schedule for some quick hits on the games I passed on.










CAROLINA @ CHICAGO
One of the most dangerous aspects of CAR is their youth and change of direction.  A key trait of young teams in a new program is their desire to get better.  If they have a QB who can move the ball they become a lethal threat for backdoor covers (the main reason why I teased down GB instead of laying the 10 points a couple weeks ago).  CHI has the edge on special teams and on defense, but sharps haven't jumped on them thanks in large part to their lackluster offense. The lack of line movement during the week tells the story.

TENNESSEE @ CLEVELAND
In a surprising stat, TEN have passed the ball more than most of the NFL after 3 games. They are getting solid play from both of their lines at the point of attack and forcing teams to kick field goals instead of touchdowns. They are also their own worst enemy too--near the bottom in penalties and yards-per-point. CLE don't have as much going for them. They've played 3 bad opponents and still rank low in many important categories.  I know what to expect from TEN, but CLE is still a mystery at this point.  Home field advantage should help this week, but there are too many unknowns here for my liking.

WASHINGTON @ ST LOUIS
This is one of the more interesting games to handicap this week.  I was high on STL before the season started and then they suffered a handful of critical injuries.  Bradford is better than Grossman, S-Jax and Amendola might return, and I might be adding this to the card after I see the final injury report.  The big advantage in this game is WSH's legitimate defense against a struggling STL offense. STL only have 26 points from long drives this year--among the worst in the NFL.  If they get healthy it could even the playing field as they gun hard for their 1st win of the season.  Public are on WSH, sharps are taking a pass.

NY GIANTS @ ARIZONA
If you've been following my blog since the preseason you'll know that I'm nowhere near as high on Kevin Kolb as the rest of the football universe is.  I've seen every snap he's taken in PHI and there were many aspects of his game I wasn't sold on. Now in a new system you're seeing those flaws stick out like a sore thumb. In this matchup we are seeing two teams that mirror each other in a lot of ways.  Both are having big problems on their offensive line, converting 3rd downs, and controlling the clock.  Will NY suffer a letdown after their big divisional upset in PHI?  Will we see the Kolb that's full of promise and upside? Or the Kolb who holds the ball too long and forces throws into heavy coverage?  The same could almost be said for Eli.  The public are heavy on NY, but the sharps pounced on ARI +3 when the line opened. 

DENVER @ GREEN BAY
This is game I kept a close eye on during the week. DEN was hoping to get a lot of guys back last week, but it looks like they'll return to face the Packers instead. DJ Williams, Dumervil, and Bailey will significantly help this defense. Moreno should play on offense. Due to this I decided to pass on including GB in a teaser.  Bringing them down to -6 or -6.5 looked good at first, but Orton can move the ball and GB's defense has been far too soft late in games this season.  At the same time everything on paper suggests a blowout!  GB rank near the top on both the offensive/defensive line play, red zone, points from long drives, ball control, and 3rd down conversions.  I'll be kicking myself if GB win by 20.

NEW ENGLAND @ OAKLAND
This is far and away the toughest game to get a read on this week. I've come very close to adding NE to the card thanks to the line movement, but a few key things are holding me back. 1) OAK is confident and at home. 2) They should be able to pile up the running yards  3) Brady could be facing a lot of heat going up against a tough D-line. On the flip side, Brady could easily put up 3 touchdowns against a weak secondary and put the game out of reach.  The public love NE here, sharps liked OAK at +6 and +5.  A good case can be made either way.  Everyone liked the total to go 'over'.  I'm taking a pass because this will tell us a lot about both teams. 

MIAMI @ SAN DIEGO
Much like the DEN/GB game, this was one I was hoping to add to a teaser this week.  Yet there are some troubling signs with my AFC favorite SD Chargers. Gates and Sanders are out, Floyd, Mathews, Jammer, and Jackson are banged up. They can't get off the field on 3rd down and can't stop people in the red zone. Their yards-per-point ratios are bad on both offense and defense. This doesn't mean I'm writing them off, but they are not the well-oiled machine I expected them to be just yet.  But I could regret not playing this game because as many band-aids as SD has, MIA need life support.  They rank near the bottom in so many categories it's too many to list. I think their season is already done and the Tony Sparano clock is a tickin' time bomb. If you like MIA, you already missed the +9 opener.

NY JETS @ BALTIMORE
If I had a lean in this game it would be on BAL. I think both teams are overrated, but I'm not convinced that Sanchez has a long-term future in this league.  He continues to hurt his team week in and week out.  Even when he has a good game he makes 2 or 3 throws that just make you scratch your head--and they usually happen without getting pressured! I give the edge to BAL thanks to Ray Rice and home field advantage, but I don't feel strong about it. Ultimately I think this line should be BAL -3, so if you're leaning NY there is some value there. Nothing stands out here--filp a coin.

INDIANAPOLIS @ TAMPA BAY
The Colts are in prime-time in back-to-back weeks!  Too bad they don't have flex scheduling for MNF.  TB don't have the edge in this game as much as the point spread would leave you to believe.  If Painter starts (and it looks like he will) I think there is some small value on IND.  As bad as he is, I think he's better suited for this offense than Collins at this time. TB impressed me with their gritty divisional win against ATL, but I'm far from sold on them as a playoff team. Freeman continued to look up and down in the win and I don't expect consistent performances from this young defense.  In fact their D has given up 57 points from long drives in 3 games!  That ranks 26th in the league.  The public seem to think this will be a cake-walk blowout.  I have my doubts about that.  The sharps haven't really touched this one either.

Week 4 NFL Predictions: Player Props of the Week

I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just props and carry a large degree of variance. They are intended more as fun for those looking for extra action on the games. All the following props can be found at  5 Dimes.

More to come on game day.



McCoy U118.5 rush+receiving yards
McCoy rush+receiving -24.5 vs Gore
Hightower U100.5 rush+receiving yards
AJ Green O55.5 receiving yards
Peterson O97.5 rushing yards
Mathews O35.5 receiving yards
Gronkowski U5.5 receptions

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4 NFL Predictions: October 2, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE: Foster is expected to start vs PIT which only strengthens the play on HOU.  I'm still waiting on other injury updates and line movement before I add a couple more picks this week.

Buffalo Bills vs Cincinnati Bengals: BUF -3
The Buffalo Bills are the new darling of the AFC and maybe even the entire NFL.  They slayed the dragon in week 3 and beat NE for the first time since 2003!  I'll forgive them for busting up two of my teasers if they can cover for me in week 4.

So how much of the hype is legit?  This is a team that got dominated in the first half by both OAK and NE this year.  The comebacks were impressive and the beat down they laid on KC was good too, but a lot of people are expecting a return to earth against CIN in a letdown spot.

I'm not subscribing to that theory for a few reasons.  First of all, this BUF offense is hummin' right now.  Could CIN's defense give them the biggest test to date?  Possibly, but they'll need to play great for 60 minutes to do it.  In 3 games, BUF has put up a whopping 72 points from long drives.  If you're scoring at home that's 2nd in the NFL behind NE.  This isn't an offense that is getting lucky breaks or overperforming their stats.  They've earned most of the points they've got.  That is impressive when you consider that Fitzpatrick is the quarterback!  I'll be the first to admit that I wrote him off as nothing more than a Rex Grossman clone. When he was in CIN he couldn't even complete a pass.  Do I think he's a legitimate pro-bowler?  Well not so fast my friends.  This could be an early season hot streak that fizzles out at any point, but for our purposes I'm on the train for one week. Fred Jackson has emerged as the bonafide starter at RB and Steve Johnson is putting his name on the map.  They've controlled time of possesion, dominated in the red zone, and demonstrated great mental toughness. 

The next reason I'm not buying into the letdown talk is due to their head coach Chan Gailey.  Even when they were losing games last year I repeatedly talked about how much they respect their coach.  They played hard for him and stayed discipline despite having no hope for the season.  That commitment hasn't wavered this season and they are finally reaping some rewards.  Gailey said he wants to see how his team handles "properity" now.  This isn't a fat-cat team that knows that they'll be in the playoff like the other contenders around the league.  Motivation will be high to continue their streak and improvement in the coming weeks.  I know they celebrated their win like it was the Super Bowl and Thurman Thomas was interrupting press conferences to hand out hugs, but young teams strive to get better and that's what I see happening when they travel to CIN.

Finally, you must consider who their opponent is.  CIN might have the worst home field advantage in the league as two-thirds of the stadium isn't even full anymore.  If you were a fan could you blame them?  Dalton might be good down the road, but he's not there right now.  Last week he threw 2 bad interceptions in the 4th quarter to seal the loss.  BUF's defense isn't that great, but how good do you need to be when its the Bengals?  What does it say when they've played 3 weak opponents and rank near the bottom in red zone and third down efficiency?  In the last 2 weeks CIN is 1 for 21 on third down!  It's no wonder they only have 27 points from long drives this year.  Dalton put up some good numbers against DEN, but those yards were deceiving.  He simply makes too many bad decisions and doesn't have the level of communication and timing with his receivers that's needed to succeed.   The news gets worse as the Cedric Benson appeal looms over the team.  I like Bernard Scott so there shouldn't be that big of a dropoff, but it's an unnecessary distraction to a team trying to put this stuff behind them.

I'm not about to crown BUF with a playoff spot just yet, but I do like them to continue winning for at least one more week.  I'm a little surprised at this line.  Prediction: Bank BUF -3.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Houston Texans: HOU -3
By the time I'm writing this the line has already moved to -4 at most books.  As I said in my other post, it's up to you to play it or not, but I believe HOU have the clear advantage in this matchup.


To start with, we've all seen the 2011 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The rules have definitely worked against their aggressive approach to defense and they are the oldest team in the NFL.  I wrote in my season win totals article that their formula should be good enough for another good year, but I can't deny that they are having problems out of the gate.

Even in their shutout win against SEA their offense didn't do anything special.   In fact their points to yardage ratio is near the bottom of the league so far.  Yes that might be skewed by the BAL game, but their offensive line is in worse shape than it was last year and that's saying something!  If it wasn't for Big Ben masking a lot of their problems I'm not sure where this team would be.  The entire right side of the O-line left the IND game at one point!   This is having a huge impact on pass protection and the running game.  Neither are in sync this season and Ben must be thankful he has a home-run hitter like Wallace to bail him out.

This HOU defense had their own problems against NO last week.  It was a good test and learning lesson for them, but I don't expect them to be giving up those kind of points the rest of the year.  Brees can do that to any defense in the Superdome.  Wade Phillips wasn't going to turn them into the Steel Curtain over night.  Learning this scheme is a process and last Sunday was another step along the way.  For the most part I've liked what I've seen.  Guys like Manning and Joseph are making plays, Ryans and Cushing are healthy and active, and Williams has transitioned much faster than people expected.  It should be a much different story when they go up against PIT's leaky offensive line.  This will be the first time PIT has faced a quality opponent since week 1.  Winning ugly just isn't going to cut it in this game.

On defense, it's taken 3 games for the PIT to get a turnover and it came against Curtis Painter! They are average in almost every important statistical category so far.  That is almost equivalent to watching the Colts without Peyton. It's just not right!  I know I'm making it seem like this will be a cake-walk for HOU, but I don't think it will be.  I do think that HOU have the edge on both sides of the ball though.  That is how much respect I have for this Texans team. Would things be better if Foster was in the lineup?  Without a doubt.  Most of Foster's TDs last year came from inside the red zone--an area that HOU has struggled in this year.  He is slated to practice in full this week, but given the setbacks he's had with that hamstring, who knows if he'll be able to go or be effective once he's in there. Thankfully Ben Tate brings his own mojo to the table.  If he's the guy on Sunday I have complete faith that he'll move the sticks and give HOU the balance needed to keep PIT honest. Their O-line is a unit that's played a lot of games together and that kind of continuity will pay dividends against good defenses.  It's almost impossible to shut Andre Johnson down and PIT's corners don't matchup well against him either.

In the end the HOU pass rush and big play ability on offense should be too much for this PIT team to contend with.  Prediction: Bank HOU -3.

Detroit Lions vs Dallas Cowboys: DET +2
This game technically opened at DAL -3, but barely anybody saw that number.  It was immediately pounded into shape and the vast majority of us are looking at DET +2 or +1.5.  Either line is good as I think this should be closer to a pick em.  If you are on the fence, DET is in the perfect teaser window and you can have them at over a touchdown.

Amazingly, the books still haven't put out a line for DET that I haven't liked.  We have to ask ourselves, is this team a legitimate contender or is this just a hot streak and no better than a playoff bubble team?  I'm with the former.  I still think they have a chance at upsetting GB for the division, but they'll need to continue winning games like this to stay in the race.  Thankfully for them they come into this game with a sizable advantage in many key areas.

The obvious difference between these teams is their production in the red zone on both offense and defense.  It's no secret that Stafford is on the cusp of a breakout season and he has weapons all over the field.  Pettigrew is taking advantage of mismatches over the middle.  Defenses are having trouble with deciding who they want to take out of the game.  Johnson has the big-play ability and continues to make plays despite the coverage.  Best can break a long run or pass at any point.  Even though he hasn't done great between the tackles, he doesn't allow linebackers and safeties to cheat.  He's even doing a good job picking up blitzes on third down. Burleson and Young are always going to see single coverage and both have stepped up this year.  It won't be a blowout because DAL's defense has played much better than people thought they would at this stage of the year.  The playmakers are being given the opportunity to roam and make plays.  But Jenkins and Newman are both a far way from where they want to be health-wise and have their work cut out for them this week.  DET rank near the top in red zone efficiency while DAL's defense ranks near the bottom.  The one concern I would have for DET's offense is on their O-line.  The tackles didn't play very well against MIN and that might be a problem when you have a guy like Ware on the other side.  Look for Stafford to get the ball out quick or dump off to Best in these situations. 

Who knew this would be the case, but DET's defense actually has the edge on this DAL offense.  With Austin out and Bryant hurting, we all saw how much this affects Romo's ability to make plays.  Give him credit for battling through pain and stringing together some drives, but he did it in spite of the guys around him.  The offensive line had a bad game and now they face one of the best D-lines in all of football.  Jones was effective on the outside vs WSH, but this is where DET's linebackers thrive.  Durant and Levy have the speed needed to contain the edges.  Wright and Houston have been underrated players this season even thought Delmas and Spievey have been up and down at safety.  Collectively they should be able to handle a depleted and injured DAL receiving corps.  If DAL hope to win this game, they'll need some big plays to keep up with DET and they'll need much better production in the red zone--another area where these teams rank polar opposite in the stat sheet.

In fact, DAL is underperforming considerably in the yardage to points ratio on both sides of the ball.  DET is in the positive in both accounts.  If I was setting the lines, I would probably make DET the slight favorite in this one, but I'll gladly take the points and roll with the road dog.  Prediction: Bank DET +2.

Minnesota Vikings vs Kansas City Chiefs: MIN -1.5
This game is a deceiving one at first glance.  KC is at home coming off a nail-biting loss to the heavily favored Chargers.  MIN have choked 3 straight games and now travel on the road with a winless record.  I can understand a lot of people going with the home dog in this situation, but despite MIN's 2nd half performances, I can't ignore a mismatch when I see it. I think MIN should be favored by a field goal in this game.

Both teams are winless, but both have played relatively difficult schedules.  This makes it a bit easier to interpret the stats thus far.  The biggest mismatch that leaps off the page is Adrian Peterson vs KC's shaky run defense.  Last week they went away from AP in the 2nd half, but coaches and players have both indicated that won't happen again vs KC.  This is not what you want to hear if you're a fan of the Chiefs.  With Berry out for the year, stopping the run is going to need to be more of a collective effort.  What's worse is KC is giving up far more points than their yardage would indicate.  Allowing teams to score TD's instead of field goals and giving up points due to turnovers and short fields are not winning ingredients.  In 2011, KC simply haven't been able to stop anybody on third down or in the red zone.  Mcnabb might be past his prime, but his offense should be able to put up some points.   Harvin was sick last week and he should be good to go here.

It doesn't get any prettier for the KC offense.  Without Charles, they are relying on an over-the-hill Jones and out-of-position McCluster.  I like McCluster as a specialty player, but not as a feature back.  This experiment isn't going to work out well.  Cassel played better last week in the 2nd half, but this was against a relaxed SD defense.  This offense didn't even get a 1st down until the 3rd quarter of the game!  In 3 games they have a combined 20 points from long drives.  That is tied for 2nd worst in the league only behind SF.  It shouldn't come as a surprise that KC rank near the bott om on 3rd down and time of possession.  This week they'll have to contend with the likes of Jared Allen who is making his first trip back to KC since he left.  The O-line was an area that was supposed to be a strength for KC, but they've been average to start the year.  Without a reliable running game, this is going to put extra strain on pass protection.   This offense just can't figure things out and no one is even sure who exactly is calling the plays.

MIN actually believe they are a good team while KC know they are done for.  This should show up on the final scoreboard on Sunday.  Prediction: Bank MIN -1.5.

Atlanta Falcons vs Seattle Seahawks: ATL -4.5
This could be the last time I side with ATL this season. I have 5 ATS losses this regular season, and 3 have come at the hands of the Falcons.  I bet on them vs CHI and TB and against them vs PHI.  So far their performances just haven't made a lot of sense.  It is largely the same group that returned from last year, they have continuity on the coaching staff and at QB, and they added a playmaker on each side of the ball. 

Yet the stats don't lie.  They sit at 1-2 and should probably be 0-3.  Both their offensive and defensive lines have been subpar, they can't control the clock, and only have 3 more points than SEA from long drives.  Abysmal!  Their only saving grace is that their schedule has been much more difficult than SEA.  Therefore these numbers are a little bit skewed.  SEA's defense has been pretty good so far, but how much is that saying?  Their D-line has been pretty pathetic and it's not like they've gone up against good offensive lines.  At the same time SEA's home field advantage is for real and I won't be shocked if ATL's offense struggles a bit on Sunday.  The good news is they won't need many points to get ahead.  20-24 points might be enough for the win and the cover.  The no-huddle offense has worked for ATL and they might go back to it a bit more until they get their line settled down. 

But this play has more to do with fading SEA than it does riding ATL.  Tavaris Jackson is garbage and Marshawn Lynch isn't much better.  Sure Sidney Rice returned to the lineup and had a good game, but you could have a lineup of pro-bowlers and I'm not sure Jackson would be able to make it work.  He'll probably be running for his life in this one as Okung hasn't played very well at LT.  This is a very young offensive line still trying to find their way.  I'm not even going to go through the numbers because SEA simply ranks near the bottom of almost every meaningful offensive statistical category.  Laying 4.5 points on the road is a lot, but I'm much less worried about a back door cover since SEA isn't the kind of team that can easily move the ball when they need to. 

Take one last chance on ATL and fade the home team.  Prediction: Bank ATL -4.5.

My thoughts on the rest of the week 4 schedule.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 4 NFL Predictions 2011: Teaser of the Week


As a rule of thumb it's best to only include teams in teasers that cross the critical numbers and limit them to 2 teams per.  There are always exceptions to the norm, but this method provides the most value. 

Check out the Sportsbook Review Football Teaser Odds Chart to find out what book will offer you the best value.

New Orleans Saints -1 & Philadelphia Eagles -2.5
A lot of places are keeping PHI at -9 to keep them out of the teaser window.  Teasing them down with a 6.5 point tease is an option at less value, or you could substitute PHI for DET if you can find DET at +1.5 or better.  

The only reason I'm not taking NO -7 is due to the fact that they haven't been a great road team since winning the Super Bowl.  Outside of that, I like everything about this matchup for NO.  

Colston is back which gives Brees another option in the passing game.  He can now spread the ball around to Henderson, Graham (tied for the league lead in big plays among tight ends), Moore, and Meachem.  Three receivers have 20+ targets this year.  Throw in 3 running backs who are getting the job done and I don't see any way how JAX keep them under 20 points. JAX can't rush the passer whatsoever and even if they could they are going up against one of the better O-lines in the league. Sproles has been better than expected and adds an X-factor to this offense as well.  JAX's defense isn't a poor group, but they haven't faced anything like this in 2011.  


I don't think Gabbert has what it takes to come from behind either.  They have been absolutely pitiful getting points from long drives and controlling the clock.  In fact, NO has over 3 times as many points from sustained drives than JAX.  MJD is running well, but he won't be much use if they are down multiple scores.  No one outside of Mike Thomas is getting a lot of targets and Gregg Williams knows how to attack a rookie QB.  


In the other matchup the Eagles have attempted to fix a couple of their problems on defense. Out are Coleman and Mathews, in are Allen and Rolle.  I was a huge fan of Nate Allen last year until he got a serious knee injury.  He isn't all the way back from that yet, but he can't be much worse than Coleman at safety.  Mathews might have potential down the road, but he's just not ready for prime-time yet.  Rolle seems to have a better grasp on the scheme at this point, but he'll need to prove it on the field this Sunday.  I knew PHI would have problems to sort out to start the year, but I didn't think it would cost them games given the level of coaching and talent throughout the rest of the lineup.


Yet, in this game we have the single worst offense in the NFL coming to town.  SF rank dead last in points from long drives per game and now Gore is less than 100% with an ankle injury.  They will still try to run the ball against a soft run defense, but at some point in this game Alex Smith is going to need to make plays.  How is that going to happen?  Edwards is out and Crabtree is an enigma.  Their best chance is to attack over the middle with Davis, but that is only going to work so many times. The biggest concern SF will have is how to handle PHI's defensive front.  This mismatch will dictate a lot of the play.


I give credit to Harbaugh for keeping his team out on the East coast this week in an attempt to get acclimated to the time zone, but they'll need more than coaching gimmicks to come away with a win or a cover.  His defense has played very well on 3rd down and in the red zone, but these stats have come at the expense of a relatively weak schedule. Maclin will be suit up despite a hamstring issue this week and there are too many weapons to account for over the course of 60 minutes.  Vick's hand is messed up, but PHI only need about 20 points to take care of business.  Given the way McCoy is running this year, PHI is no longer the one-dimensional pass-happy team they were in year's past.  They have triple the amount of points from long drives and controlled time of possession in all 3 of their games.  PHI desperately need the win to get back on track and a lowly SF team came along at just the right time.  Prediction: Bank NO -1 & PHI -2.5.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week 3 NFL Predictions: Monday Night Football Edition

One of the only books carrying the WSH/DAL game right now is 5 Dimes.  I don't usually post plays that aren't widely available, but if you aren't signed up at this book I don't know what you are waiting for! I'm posting this early so you know to grab it as soon as it becomes available.  I like anything above +3 and I would even consider playing this at +3 too.

Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys: WSH +4.5
This line offers tremendous value. The line should pop up at more books over the weekend, but some might wait until they know Romo is playing for sure.  Right now he is listed as "questionable", but I expect him to play and the line to stay within this range.

To begin with, DAL shouldn't be favored by more than a field goal even with their guys healthy.  When you consider who is banged up and out of this game this line just baffles me.  Austin is already ruled out and Bryant and Jones join Romo on the "questionable" list. Costa is listed as "probable" with a sprained MCL, but he was limited in practice and the last thing Romo needs is an injured center.  But he's not the only offensive line injury this week.  Week 2 starter Derrick Dockery is out this game and a rookie will take his place. Newman and Jenkins are slated to play at cornerback, but they are new in this system and not 100% healthy just yet.  There will be a rust/timing issue there.

What all this adds up to is a tough test for the home team.  NFC East games are usually competitive by nature regardless of who's on the sidelines, but WSH has rid itself of bigtime distractions this year (Mcnabb/Haynesworth).  The team is finally on the same page and aligned with the same goal.  Harmony in the locker room is a very underrated aspect of success.  I'm not about to crown Shanahan as a genius or nominate Grossman for the player of the month, but things seem on the up and up for this squad.

Not many people were high on WSH entering the year thanks in large part to Rex Grossman. It's hard to blame them because I think he's a glorified backup too.  But there was universal agreement that this defense should be very good.  It's early, but so far so good.  London Fletcher has taken this unit by the balls and really stepped up as the leader.  They are throwing a lot of confusing looks at opposing offenses with guys like Orakpo and Kerrigan.  Bowen was a nice addition up front and gets his first chance against his old team.  Landry is questionable, but says he will play.  Collectively, they should have some nice success against a beat up DAL team.  The offensive line will need to play above their heads to keep Romo upright. It would help a lot of Jones was healthy so he could alleviate some of the pressure, but you have to wonder about his effectiveness given his shoulder injury.  Those are going to be tough yards inside.  Not having Austin will hurt the big play ability and it's doubtful Bryant will be at full strength.  This means we'll be seeing a lot of Witten, and even he is playing with injured ribs!

I anticipate a much more even matchup on the other side of the ball. Grossman has played well for the most part, but he is only required to limit his mistakes to be effective. Hightower and Helu are good enough to keep DAL honest and possibly off-balance.  Helu's carries could increase as he gets more comfortable with the scheme. Moss has a great history against DAL and there's little doubt that he'll be up for this one. Cooley has been non-existent so far, but he will draw attention to himself and open up opportunities for others.  The big challenge will be accounting for Ware every play.  The guy is usually good for a game-changing play or two per game.  If it becomes more than that then WSH could be in trouble. 

In truth, I think WSH can win this game outright.  I'll gladly take the points, but DAL is too banged up to be this favored.  At worst I expect a nail-biter--in which +4.5 points will come in handy.  Roll with the divisional dog in prime-time.  Prediction: Bank WSH +4.5.

2011 Week 3 NFL Predictions

UPDATE: Week 2 is in the books and laying off STL turned out to be the right choice.  In week 3 there are a lot of ugly games on the schedule.  Right now ATL is the only game I can add to the card because I'm waiting on line movement for the remaining picks.  The books have added the hook to many games because public perception is in overdrive.  11 of the 13 games on the board are seeing 75% action on one side!

UPDATE (Tuesday PM): Only 3 games on the board thus far to go along with 2 teasers.  More picks will be added pending line movement.

I've also had a lot of feedback this month inquiring about games not on my card.  I will put a quick hit report out this Friday covering all the games I didn't pick.  I'll include what I didn't like about it (the game itself, the line, etc) and I'll also add which way the pros are leaning based on the information I've gathered.  If it gets enough interest I'll continue with it in subsequent weeks.  Contact me and let me know your thoughts.  I'll continue to answer questions if you want to talk about a game in more detail, disagree with me, etc. 

Week 3 Predictions
Week 3 Monday Night Football
Week 3 Quick Hits
Week 3 Teasers 
Week 3 Player Props

2011 Week 3 Market Watch

UPDATE (Sunday PM): Most of the day is in the books and I got back on track with a 4-1-1 ATS Sunday.  ATL had a chance at a late cover with 1st and goal at the 5, but give TB credit for a strong divisional win.  I was already locked in with the DEN game, but sorry if you passed on the pick late in the week.  In the end I was right about TEN as that line was a clear overreaction from the BAL game. 

I'm regretting not including OAK, but that's the way it goes sometimes.  Big favorites were the losers of the day as my teasers crashed and burned.  Brady with 4 picks and Vick breaks his hand!  Ouch.

The public and the pros also had nice days getting back up over .500.  I think linesmakers are having trouble pricing these favorites.  I should have some early week 4 picks up late tonight or early tomorrow as usual. 

Market Watch

Public Consensus Top 5 Picks

BAL -4
PIT -10.5
GB -3.5
CAR -3.5
ATL +1.5

Record to date: 7-7-1

Hilton Contest Consensus Top 5 Picks

PHI -6.5

OAK +3.5
MIA +2.5
MIN +3.5
BAL -4

Record to date: 7-6-2

Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 3 NFL Predictions: Quick Hits Edition

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

My quick hit thoughts on the rest of the board...








JACKSONVILLE @ CAROLINA
Many people overlooking JAX in this one. Their defense hasn't been bad and they should give them a chance to win.  Lewis will return to give Gabbert a nice passing option in his 1st career start. Gamble is expected to play, but he's nursing an ankle injury.  CAR already lost Davis and Beason which has seriously downgraded their LB corps.  Despite all the glitzy headlines for Newton, CAR have dramatically underperformed in their yardage to points ratio and turnovers/penalties are a concern.  CAR will be jacked by a hopeful home crowd though.  The public are on CAR huge.  I lean toward JAX and the points, but I don't feel strongly about it.


MIAMI @ CLEVELAND
Sharps like CLE at anything under -3, but they would flip to MIA if the line moves to a field goal. Public like MIA.  I believe MIA is the better team and it's temping to take them, but I can't right now.  I don't like what I'm seeing or hearing out of their camp.  Henne and Sparano both on the hot seat.  Daboll came from CLE, but it's a new system so his insights will be minimal.  His offense is underperforming and players are openly confused.  Davis is out on defense which will make life easier for McCoy.  The only clear edge I see in this game is home field advantage, yet that is where MIA has had most of their success recently.

SAN FRANCISCO @ CINCINNATI
Big sharp money is on CIN, but news late in the week regarding Benson and Simpson have raised the red flags. I'd be surprised if the line moved to -3. CIN also lost Shipley for the season in week 2.  This leaves them thin at WR because Green will play with a hurt toe. CIN's offense has been miles better than SF's thus far, but SF are getting points from special teams/turnovers. Smith had a concussion and Edwards is out. Gore has got nothing on the ground despite being healthy.  Crabtree will return, but not at 100%.  CIN couldn't sell out their home opener.  Stay away from this game.

NY JETS @ OAKLAND
Depending where you look, this game could be -3 or -3.5. At -3 NY will see most of the action.  At -3.5 there is a greater chance of balance as the home team looks appealing with the hook. No surprise that the public are big on NY even with the hook. OAK's defense has been very leaky this season giving up a ton of points from long drives.  They have a bunch of playmakers and scrubs mixed together.  OAK is missing receivers, NYJ are missing Mangold (a HUGE loss). A rookie center replaces him. I have a strong lean on OAK and I might add it to the card today or tomorrow.

ARIZONA @ SEATTLE
Ugly game here.  Pros love the critical numbers. They'll play ARI at -3 and SEA at +3.5.  Wells pulled a hammy in practice and might not be able to go. Kolb is overrated, but he's better than Jackson. Rice will play with an injured shoulder.  ARI's defense is god awful so SEA have a chance--especially with their home crowd.  Neither team know how to control the clock or score on long drives. Most of ARI's points have come from big plays. Nothing in this game would surprise me. Skip it.  If you do play it get the best number.

WASHINGTON @ DALLAS
Not much to say here. I'll update things tomorrow after the final injury reports come out.  5 Dimes has this game at WSH +5.  If this number sticks tomorrow I'm going to play it. DAL is in trouble this week with all their injuries and WSH's defense can keep it close.  It's also a national TV game with two divisional rivals.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Week 3 NFL Predictions: September 25, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Check here for my thoughts on the rest of the week 3 schedule.

Denver Broncos vs Tennessee Titans: DEN +7
UPDATE: Despite participating in limited practice this week, Dumervil is out and Bailey and DJ Williams aren't expected to play even though they are "questionable".  This obviously hurts the defense and downgrades this play.  Feel free to buy back on TEN or skip it altogether.  But for the record, I still believe TEN is overrated, shouldn't be laying 7 points no matter who the opponent is, and I won't be surprised if DEN still cover.

Before the season started TEN was favored by 4.5 points in this matchup.  So what has changed?  TEN's win over BAL was definitely impressive, but is this enough for a 2.5 point swing up to a critical number?

I'm not buying it and there are already hints that the line will move back down.  I still maintain that TEN is headed for a sub .500 record.  They not that much better than DEN.

Are there some good things going on in TEN?  Absolutely.  Guys like Britt, Cook, and Finnegan have been standouts thus far.  CJ will snap out of his early season slumber sooner or later.  And Hasselbeck hasn't gone down with an injury yet.

Yet, this is where the good news ends.  They come out completely flat to open the season and get manhandled by JAX despite a very deceiving final score.  Give them credit for coming out fired up against BAL last week, but this is a deviation from the norm.  I expect them to come back to earth this week with a lot less motivation.  The embarrassment from week 1 and the David vs Goliath from week 2 are both gone.

Digging into the numbers, it's clear that TEN is going to grind out a lot of games this year.  Their offensive points and defensive points allowed from long drives remains average, they underperform in their yards to points ratio, and their depth becomes a concern at the first sign of injury. 

TEN will score some points against DEN's defense.  Bailey will likely get the "questionable" tag on Friday's injury report so there will be opportunities in the air if he's out .  Britt is emerging as a serious threat and should garner double coverage.  Cook is an underrated tight end and is quickly developing a nice rapport with Hasselbeck. CJ should continue to improve enough to move the sticks and possibly break one.  But DEN is getting a lot of guys back from injury this week.  I waited until Wednesday to see who was back at practice before releasing this play and Williams and Dumervil were both back in action.  These are huge additions back in the lineup and along with Von Miller should be able to slow down TEN enough to keep this close.  I know it's only CIN, but DEN held them to 1 for 11 on 3rd down last week without their injured guys.

On offense, DEN also welcome back Moreno and Lloyd back to practice this week.  A guy like Kyle Orton needs all the weapons he can get to make this offense go.  I've never been high on him, but he is what he is--a competent QB who can run an offense.  Moreno had people excited this year due to his offseason improvements, but once again he's underperformed and gone out with injuries.  Still, it's better to have him in there to compliment McGahee and give John Fox the kind of balance he wants.  Lloyd is the most critical piece here because he's really taken his game to a new level over the last 12 months.  With a legitimate threat down the field, things open up for the sudden bright spot Eric Decker.  Royal won't be missed given how well Decker has played this season.

Stats-wise, DEN have done a bit better than TEN with their point from long drive production and points to yards ratio.  Nothing really stands out from either team though which is what we should expect from two teams not expected to make the playoffs.  The main concern for DEN is their turnover ratio and penalties.  If they continue to be bad in those areas than this pick is going to look foolish come Monday morning.  But given the guys they are getting back I am confident things will regress to the mean.  These teams aren't as far off as the line would suggest.  There is absolute value in this line and I'm rolling with the dog.  Prediction: Bank DEN +7.

Houston Texans vs New Orleans Saints: NO -4
This was a line that opened at -5.5, but early money quickly bet it down.  I was hoping it would go all the way down to 3, but the market has settled at -4.  I think there is still value at the current price.

The Texans are without a doubt right up there with the Lions as the "sexy" picks out of the gate.  I strongly believe that a much larger percentage of the general betting public is savvier these days than they have been in years past.  Combined HOU and DET are 4-0 ATS in 2011. I believe that streak is about to come to an end for one of them.

I like HOU a lot. I picked them to win the AFC South before there was any news about Peyton's injury and believe they will be a team to be reckoned with when all the dust settles, but so far they haven't been tested all that much.  They beat up on a frazzled IND team in week 1 and won a gritty game vs MIA in week 2.  But let's not get carried away.  Matt Schuab is good, but he's not Drew Brees.  Andre Johnson is as good as they come, but he can't match the wealth of receiving options that NO have right now.  Arian Foster was foolishly inserted back into the lineup last week and re-aggravated his hamstring.  Ben Tate has been given the green light to carry the load and while he hasn't disappointed any fantasy owners yet, he also can't match the versatile dynamics of the NO running game.

A closer look at this HOU offense reveals a hidden concern.  Against two inferior opponents they have only been able to muster 23 points from long drives.  They have also been very bad with their red zone scoring efficiency and pedestrian passing numbers.  Given how good their offensive line is these stats are a bit surprising.  That test will get all that much harder as DE Will Smith returns to the lineup for the Saints after serving a two game suspension.  They are also expecting to get Porter back in the secondary.  Now NO's defense isn't about to morph into the 85' Bears anytime soon and their stats might warrant a red flag, but keep in mind that they got shredded by an explosive GB team in week 1.  Most teams see their biggest improvement in weeks 2 and 3 and I anticipate a strong showing by the home team on Sunday.  This defense is designed to play with the lead so Gregg Williams can dial up the pressure and make teams one-dimensional.  And despite the numbers surrendered by this unit so far this year, they've actually allowed far fewer points on the board than the yardage would indicate (a very overlooked stat). 

And speaking of leads, this is where I expect NO to have the advantage.  It's not easy to go into the Superdome and come away with a 'W'.  Drew Brees might have lost Colston to an injury, but did anybody notice last week?  Payton knows how to scheme anybody open whether it's Henderson, Meachem, Moore, or the now emerging Jimmy Graham.

If the passing attack wasn't loaded enough, NO also throw out 3 legitimate running backs at you that can do damage in a variety of ways.  Thomas (20 touches so far) and Ingram (27 touches) make up the power run game while the dynamic Sproles (21 touches) is the perfect change of pace runner that is a matchup nightmare.  He might even be better in his role than Reggie Bush was.  In both weeks he's proven to be the "X-factor" that no one can account for. MIA managed to put up over 150 rushing yards last week and if Carpenter knew how to kick field goals, it would have been a much closer game than the final score suggested. 

All this doesn't mean I expect a blowout.  Wade Phillips has drastically improved HOU's defense and it doesn't resemble what we saw in 2010 whatsoever.  They've completely shut down IND and MIA, but then again they are supposed to do that.  It will be a whole new animal when they travel to NO.  HOU has blitzed the 2nd most times over the first two weeks, but I think that number will drop on Sunday as Sean Payton and Drew Brees know how to counter pressure much better than most teams.  I'm looking forward to this one as it features two playoff caliber teams from each conference, but in the end NO need the win more and should come away with the win and the cover. Prediction: Bank NO -4.

Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: DET -3 
This line has moved to -3 at enough of the prominent books (Bookmaker, DSI, Intertops, CRIS, etc) to include it on the card.  If you don't have it buy the hook if you can.  If not, keep an eye on line movement throughout the week.

The hype for the Detroit Lions is officially out of control.  The last time DET was favored in MIN was exactly 30 years ago to the day.  The same kind of excitement surrounded the team heading into 2010, but that went dead as soon as Stafford went down with an injury.  This season, not only is Stafford back and in complete control of the offense, but the additions they've made on defense has worked out great so far.  They whipped up on TB on their own turf in week 1 and absolutely demolished a down and out KC team in week 2.

Plan the parade route?

Not so fast my friend.  Let's see how they do against an elite team first, but we can definitely make plans to cash them this week against MIN.  I was a little surprised that the sharps haven't pushed this line higher, but MIN is at home, played much better last week, and will be playing desperate ball to save their season. These are all valid reasons to be concerned about this game.

At the same time, what I really like about this DET team this year is how they've handled a couple key situations.  First in week 1 they managed to close out TB despite a 2nd half comeback. Normally DET would find ways to lose that game. That's just what losing organizations do.  I know it's just one game, but that was a good test to start the season.  Second, they killed who they were expected to kill in week 2.  It would have been very easy for DET to go into that game feeling very good about themselves given all the press clippings and hoopla on ESPN.  Yet, they didn't mess about and took care of business.  What was most impressive was that they didn't take their foot off the gas in the 2nd half.  This all might equate to a false sense of confidence, but I'm willing to bank on the fact that this DET team is different than years past. 

In this matchup I expect to see more dominance from DET's defensive line.  Given the way that passers are having their way with defenses this year, you can't underestimate how important a pass rush is worth right now.  The fact that they don't need to rely on blitzes takes a lot of pressure off the back 7 in coverage.  This gives new middle linebacker Stephan Tulloch a lot of opportunity to be a playmaker all over the field.  His addition has done wonders for the face of this defense.

MIN will once again rely heavily on Peterson to carry the load and he will have a good day.  The challenge for MIN will be whether or not they can keep up with DET's offense.  If they get down by a couple scores then McNabb will be a sitting duck.  Almost three quarters of his passes come from play-action, but that becomes ineffective in obvious passing situations. Three of DET's four defensive backs had interceptions last week.  How much better is McNabb than Cassel?  Does he have better receiving options?   What about MIN's offensive line?  In short, this offense is in big trouble.  DET's front four is one of the best conditioned fronts in the NFL and they will wear down MIN over the course of the game.

Now the fun part.  Which component of this DET offense will MIN want to shut down?  Jahvid Best had one of the best games of his short career last week.  He was simply outstanding in both the run game and the pass game. Scheffler and Pettigrew are also matchup problems over the middle.  This is what happens when defense try to key in on Calvin Johnson.  Making matters more difficult for MIN is the spread offense that DET like to employ.  Even guys like Titus Young are becoming playmakers in the 4 wide set.  Nate Burleson said he wants to be the black Wes Welker.  I wouldn't hold my breath on that, but he's a great #2 option for Stafford and piled up over 100 yards last week.  Good luck trying to cover all these guys.  Even if DET's offensive line is average, I don't know many teams that can lineup sideline to sideline against this group.  This task will be even more difficult if nickel back Chris Cook can't go due to his groin injury.  Pro-bowler Kevin Williams returns from suspension, but he won't be 100% due to a lingering foot injury.  Lastly, don't sleep on kick returner Stephan Logan.  He's a dynamic weapon that hasn't had a chance to return anything this year and Ryan Longwell isn't noted for his big leg.

For two weeks in a row MIN played solid in the 1st half only to fizzle out and blow it in the 2nd.  That has to wear on a team that had higher hopes than this.  Meanwhile, the new winning attitude in DET has the organization jacked up and eager to improve.  The new veteran leadership has dramatically improved the depth throughout the lineup.  Are they a well-oiled machine yet?  Far from it.  But the wheels are moving the right direction and it won't be long until the market over-adjusts for their hot start. As long as Vegas offers me reasonable lines, I'll continue to take them.  I picked MIN to go "under" in the season win totals and tagged DET to go "over".  This is how I expect the script to play out on Sunday.  Prediction: Bank DET -3.

Atlanta Falcons vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: ATL +1.5
This NFC South matchup features two teams that had to comeback in the 4th quarter last week.  I give credit to TB for sticking with Blount despite being down 17 points and it was a big gut-check for a young defense needing some confidence.  ATL's comeback was a lot more impressive because of the opponent and the circumstances.  Matt Ryan had a ton of pressure on him to avoid a 0-2 start up against ATL ex-superstar Mike Vick.  They also overcame a 10 point 4th quarter deficit against a defense that was weaving havoc on them for the entire game.

It's still very early, but some stats are beginning to trickle in and some interesting numbers stand out.  ATL was able to get it's red zone offense into gear against a quality defense while TB is still sputtering. Through two games TB's offense ranks near the bottom of the league in red zone deficiency even though they've done a nice job maintaining drives down the field.  There are some troubling signs on defense as well. TB has given up 47 points from long drives (55+ yards) which is 2nd worst only to OAK (48).  ATL's defense is near the middle of the pack despite facing better opponents.  I mentioned in the preseason that this particular stat is going to loom large this year due to the new kickoff rule.  I realize the sample size is still extremely small, but these numbers are unquestionable red flags for a TB team hoping to stay in the divisional race.

ATL have enough balance on offense to keep this young defense off-balance.  Michael Turner continues to be the stick that stirs the drink and it's only a matter of time before Julio Jones has a breakout performance.  Roddy White is expected to draw most of the attention from Talib this week so this could be the game where Jones busts out. Tony Gonzalez showcased to the league that his playing days aren't over just yet and if he can continue to produce like that then opposing defenses are going to continue having trouble matching up with all these weapons.  The O-line has had it's fair share of problems thus far, but TB's scheme doesn't pose the same kind of threat that CHI and PHI has. I also don't expect any kind of emotional let-down after the Vick-Bowl.  TB is a divisional rival and ATL must keep an eye on NO as well.  Mike Smith is a quality coach who knows how to get his players ready week in and week out. 

On defense, ATL's defensive tackle Peria Jerry finally made an impact this season.  Injuries have slowed his progression thus far, but this first-round pick from 2009 turned some heads in the preseason and it looks like it's spilling over into the regular season as well. His production is critical if ATL hope to improve upon their pass rush from last year.  With Edwards and Abraham on the outside, Jerry will continue to get favorable one-on-one matchups inside.  This unit did give up a ton of yards against PHI and didn't show much mojo against CHI, but every defense in the NFL is struggling at this point as scoring is sky high across the board.  Nothing in the numbers suggest any reason for concern just yet.  The good news for ATL is that TB have gotten off to a slow start in both games this year and will once again be playing in front of an unfilled stadium.  Freeman continues to be efficient with the ball, but already has 2 INTs in 2011. He only had 6 all of last year. A regression to the mean was inevitable and he faces a better ATL defense than he did last year.

ATL's win on Sunday could be the kind of game that springboards their season.  The NFC South race is going to come down to the Falcons and the Saints and the first sign of separation from the rest of the division begins this week.  Prediction: Bank ATL +1.5.

Baltimore Ravens vs St Louis Rams: BAL -4
I waited on this game to see what the line did.  Instead of sticking around -3.5 or -3 it went up to -4.  This will tell you what the pros think and the public is pounding the Ravens for the 2nd week in a row.

Without a doubt they were the biggest disappointment from week 2. I believe they are an overrated team, but I expected better from them in TEN.  I also would have taken STL in this one if they didn't have so many injuries.  I almost pulled the trigger on them last week against NY, but as you saw they are struggling mightily without guys like Jackson, Amendola, and Bartell.  They got even worse news when Cadillac went down with a hamstring pull.  Both RB's might return, but how effective will they be?  The skill positions for STL are decimated and too much is being placed on Bradford.  I'm sky high on his talent and potential, but his receivers are dropping balls and Kendricks hasn't been as good as he looked in the preseason.  Through two games, they've only managed 19 points from long drives.  Sims-Walker and Norwood are good depth guys, but neither strike fear into opponents as go-to starters.

Flacco continues to be an inconsistent and overrated QB, but BAL don't need him to be Tom Brady to win this game. They will rely heavily on Ray Rice and with good reason. There isn't much this guy can't do.  He was one of the few bright spots for a BAL team that was otherwise flat in TEN.  He'll be pounding the rock out of the backfield behind Leach and catching balls out of the flats and split out wide creating mismatches with linebackers and/or safeties. Even if you maintain your gaps Rice doesn't usually go down at first contact.  Evans is out of this one which means there will be even more emphasis on the run.  STL improved their defense in the offseason and they will be aggressive with Flacco.  The good news is they won't need to win this in a shootout.  The Ravens offense should be able to string together enough drives to let their defense win this. 

John Harbaugh was 15-1 in letdown situations so last week was an anomaly.  This is a big bounce back situation against an inferior banged up Rams team. Prediction: Bank BAL -4.

Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears: GB -3.5
I've added this game to the card despite laying the hook.  I waited all week to see if we would get some action on the home underdog.  There is a good faction of sharps on Vegas who prefer CHI in these spots, but not this time around.  In fact there are signs the line is moving the other way.  This says a lot.  I never feel entirely comfortable laying the hook, but keep this in mind--in games with a low spread, the team that wins outright usually covers the spread too.  This shouldn't undermine getting the best line and ensuring value, but it's just as important not to let a half point keep you off a game you feel strongly about too.

GB do have some injury concerns.  Mathews, Woodson, Finley, and Williams are all probable, but they missed practice time. Collins went on IR and creates a hole in the secondary.  Yet, it's a good sign that none of these key players are questionable.  The return of Williams is going to give an already challenged CHI offense more to worry about.  There isn't any way to spin the fact that these CHI receivers are garbage.  I'm sure they wouldn't look near as bad if Cutler actually had time to throw.  Even though Carimi is a work in progress, his loss compounds the issues they have on the O-line.  In fact, he could hurt Forte's production more than Cutler's because he's so highly touted in run-blocking.  GB's pass rush hasn't been as good without Jenkins this year, but Capers is smart enough to attack that line without a pro-bowler laden lineup.  CHI will have opportunities to make things happen because GB have given up a ton of yardage this season, but they key in this game is keeping up with Rodgers.

In their loss to CHI last season, GB were still in a position to win and cover the game in spite of their mistakes.  A fumble on the final drive killed their chances and they committed a season high 18 penalties!  Now that Finley is back in the lineup and Starks has emerged as a legitimate option in the run game, I don't foresee this CHI defense being able to contain GB's offense.  Jordy Nelson came out this week and said they will need "long drives to beat the Packers this week".  This is something GB has excelled at over the last couple of seasons.  This year they already have 57 points from long drives!  This is an area that CHI is horrible at.  Under Martz they haven't been able to sustain long drives or maintain the ball enough to control the clock.  Big advantage GB here!  If GB can get the lead they will ultimately make CHI one-dimensional the same way that Brees did last week.

The only thing CHI have going for them is home field advantage and the revenge factor from last season.  We can thank these factors for keeping the line relatively low.  In reality, GB should be favored by more.  Prediction: Bank GB -3.5.

Week 3 NFL Predictions: Player Props of the Week

Early props for week 3.  I'll add more throughout the week assuming they are released in time.

I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just props and carry a large degree of variance.  They are intended more as fun for those looking for extra action on the games. All the following props can be found at Bodog and 5 Dimes.




O6.5 300 Yard Passers in Week 3
Tom Brady O300.5 Passing Yards
AJ Green O57.5 Receiving Yards
R Gronkowski -15.5 Receiving Yards vs Chandler
B Tate -15.5 Rushing Yards vs Ingram
E Manning U232.5 Passing Yards
Celek U3 Receptions
Burleson O57.5 Receiving Yards
Best +24.5 Rush/Receiving Yards vs Peterson 

Best O85.5 Rushing/Receiving Yards

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Week 3 NFL Predictions 2011: Teasers of the Week

As a rule of thumb it's best to only include teams in teasers that cross the critical numbers and limit them to 2 teams per.  There are always exceptions to the norm, but this method provides the most value. 

Check out the Sportsbook Review Football Teaser Odds Chart to find out what book will offer you the best value.

New England Patriots -2.5 & San Diego Chargers -8.5
The entire betting community is in love with the Patriots right now.  Can we blame them?  The books are in a tough spot because what line is too high?  They've consistently inflated the line and NE continue to cover.  Opening at -9 isn't a surprise because it keeps them out of the critical teaser window, but enough sharp money has come in on BUF to bring it down to -8.5 and -8 at many places.  I feel much more comfortable teasing them down on the road against an inspired divisional rival than playing them straight.


In this matchup I'm looking for BUF to fall back to earth a bit.  There is a lot of buzz surrounding their 2-0 start, but how impressive is that record really?   They beat up on a dismal KC team and had to make a big-time rally in the 2nd half to overcome OAK.  Sorry, but I'm not a buyer just yet.


Have they improved?  Sure.  Dareus is a nice addition to the defense, they love playing for Chan Gailey, and the offense is overperforming everyone's expectations.  Fitzpatrick is playing smart, Jackson is running for a contract, and they are creating and maximizing all their opportunities.  But let's stop there.  This defense already ranks near the bottom in 3rd down percentage and red zone efficiency.  I don't care how skewed the stats are after 2 games.  That kind of production is not going to fly with the New England Patriots.  The key to knocking off Belichick's crew is to get them off the field on 3rd down and limit them to occasional field goals instead of touchdowns.  Without good pressure up front I don't see either of these two things happening on Sunday.  NE's line has had a couple of weeks to gel and I don't foresee major breakdowns there.  Even if BUF do manage to disrupt Brady's game, they'll run with the hurry-up offense to keep BUF's defense on it's heels (worse if McGee remains out).  Hernandez is out this week which will give us a slightly different look and you can bet that Ocho will be a bit more involved in this one.


The only chance BUF has is creating turnovers and putting enough points on the board to keep it interesting.  There is a slimmer of hope because NE's defense has been killed in the yardage department so far and BUF is putting up gaudy numbers of its own.  Thus far BUF have 52 points from long drives!  I don't care who their opponents were, that is impressive for this cast of characters.  (WR Steve Johnson didn't practice today due to a groin injury).  At the same time, NE have been stingy in the points department.  A sign of a good defense is having a big plus in the point-yardage differential.  This means they are forcing field goals and/or creating turnovers and/or stops on 4th down.  I could see BUF covering if they get some breaks, but it's more likely they get a back-door cover.  I prefer to tease them down and avoid any of those concerns.


Meanwhile the Chargers take on a team in complete disarray.  KC have already lost 3 of their core young players (Moeaki, Berry, Charles).  If that isn't enough to suck the life out of you I don't know what is.  Making matters worse, coach Haley didn't get them ready for the regular season like he said he would.  He was highly criticized for his handling of the team in the preseason and thus far it hasn't paid off.  Cassel looks ordinary and adding Breaston hasn't done anything for the passing game.  Jones and McCluster will take over the running duties and should be able to get some decent production, but this game rests on Cassel's shoulders.  If they have any hope they'll need him to manage a flawless game.  That's a tall task going into SD.  


I'm not sure how much more analysis is needed after you look at what is being said out of both camps.  The KC coaches and players are saying all the right things to the media, but putting on a brave face isn't going to mask this situation.  On the flip side, coach Turner said that their loss to NE was very encouraging.  I don't believe that this was just "coach speak" because SD easily could have won that game (or at least covered) if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot.  They went toe to toe with Brady and made it a heck of a show.  I realize some will say that these mistakes are typical SD blunders, and they could be right, but I've watched this team closely since training camp opened and believe they won't get off to the same slow start as previous seasons.

One of the least talked about aspects of this SD team is the play of 2nd year player Ryan Mathews.  He's been stellar through 2 games and is getting overlooked due to Tolbert. With both running so well, defending this offense might become impossible.  NE took away Gates with double coverage last week, but you saw how that benefited Vincent Jackson.  Defenses will continue to struggle with how they attack this crew, but as long as Rivers is at the helm they'll find the open guy and exploit the soft areas in the scheme. 


Coach Haley's seat is getting hotter each week and GM Scott Pioli doesn't mess around.  It's not out of the question that he axes Haley if the product on the field doesn't play better soon.  To start with, they can try scoring more points.  So far they have 10 through 2 games. I think this could be a blowout, but at worst I see a double digit win.  A 14+ point spread is just too high regardless of the opponent.  It just takes 1 big play early for the line to become out of reach.  A pick-six, a return TD, a blown coverage etc.  Suddenly you need SD to score 24 unanswered points just to cover.  It's smarter to tease them down.  Prediction: Bank NE -2.5 & SD -8.5.

New England Patriots -2.5 & Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5
In the other teaser I really like PIT going up against another deflated team--the Indianapolis Colts. The reason I'm not laying the 10+ is because there is still a lot of veteran talent in this IND lineup.  You can bet they will be playing for pride on national TV at home on Sunday night.  

The problem becomes Kerry Collins and the running game.  We are already 3 weeks into the season and IND remains shell-shocked at life without Peyton. Collins is a very bad fit for this scheme and he's playing behind a shaky offensive line. His timing is way off and doesn't have the necessary pocket savvy to avoid the rush. This could very well be a blowout because Addai and company have next to no shot at keeping this PIT defense honest.  Labeau can sit back in zone and pick off Collins all night long or they can force him into quick decisions by attacking the line of scrimmage.  Either approach will work.  Last week Collins had 6 plays inside the red zone and they only managed 4 yards.  Enough said? 

Stacking the deck against IND is the fact that this defense isn't designed to grind out close games.  Peyton not only influenced the personnel decisions on offense, but they geared the defense for him too.  They are built on speed and schemed to play with a lead.  PIT's power offense is a bad matchup for this group.  Mendenhall can play downhill smash-mouth football and limit the effectiveness of Mathis and Freeney.  They still haven't found a reliable replacement for Session in the middle either.  With all the turnovers and short fields, it's no wonder that IND is giving up a lot more points than the yardage suggests.  But compounding the problem is their 3rd down efficiency.  Losing to HOU was one thing, but losing to the Browns at home was much, much worse.    

I don't know what else to say.  I could go on and on about how bad IND really is without Peyton, but it's nothing you haven't already heard.  Like BUF, I anticipate a spirited effort and I might even go as far to say this will be IND's "last stand".  If they get blown out again this ship is officially sunk and the only thing left to decide is whether or not they get Andrew Luck.  I don't like teasing down road favorites, but I have to make an exception here.  Fade the Colts until further notice.  Prediction: Bank NE -2.5 & PIT -4.5.


Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 & Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5
I was very tempted to include NE with PHI, but it's never a good idea to have the same team across the card no matter how good the game looks.  Feel free to mix and match any of these teaser options however you see fit though.

PHI has opened at -9, but they've dropped into the teaser window at enough books to add it to the card.  You can always do a 6.5 point tease too if you want to.  You would be giving up some value, but a winning play is a winning play.

PHI have shuffled their linebacker deck by moving Chaney to the middle and Mathews to the outside in an attempt to limit the run. Mathews just wasn't using his hands enough to get off blocks.  We'll see how it works out against two quality running backs, but it can't be much worse than what we've seen so far!  The problem for NY is it will take a lot more than a running game to pull off a win this week.  They lost Hixon for the season and Manningham is out with a concussion!  It is unbelievable how many injuries this team has had in 2011.  I expect PHI's defense to get to Manning and rattle him enough to get him confused.  Once they fall behind, this game could get out of hand.  I don't like most quarterbacks trying to pass on this defense--especially a pick machine like Eli!

It looks like Vick will play (which is a bit disappointing because Kafka would have given us serious value in the line).  NY's injury-riddled defense will be exploited.  Perhaps the most underrated aspect of PHI's "dream team" is Shady McCoy.  He's propelled himself into the discussion of best backs in the league.  He cuts on a dime and has an explosive first step.  He's always had the talent, but he's finally putting it all together at the right time.  NY is undermanned at linebacker so McCoy will be lined up in the flat and targeted on swing passes numerous times on Sunday.  In reality, PHI can attack this defense any way they want.  Cornerback is the last position you want to have problems with when you face this receiving corps.  D-Jax, Maclin, Smith, Avant, and Celek will have a field day against a crew of backups and band-aids.  In fact, I expect Smith to have his number called a number of times just to stick it to NY.  There's no doubt he circled this game when he signed with the rival Eagles this offseason.

The big challenge on offense will be whether or not PHI can keep Vick upright and off the medical stretcher.  That is never an easy task when you have guys like Tuck lining up against you, but PHI's O-line hasn't done nearly as bad as people think.  A lot of Vick's sacks have come from holding the ball too long.  They might have a few drives stalled due to pressure, but it won't be enough to contain this offense.  Prediction: Bank PHI -2.5 & PIT -4.5.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Week 2 Market Watch

UPDATE - Sunday PM:  After 5 straight winning weeks I hit my first speed bump of the year.  1-3-1 on sides and 1-0 on the teaser.  

Tough breaks this week! I expected the PHI defense to close that one out after dominating the 1st 3 quarters and Vick's concussion didn't help.  BAL was the big surprise of the week. SD didn't step up and deserved to lose.  Holley begins to celebrate prematurely and gets tackled at the 1 yard line giving us a push with DAL instead of a win!

Such is life in the early weeks of the NFL.  I'm a little surprised the pros are struggling out of the gate as much as they are.  We'll see how they adjust next week.  I might have a play for Monday Night Football along with week 3 early picks later tonight or early tomorrow.

Market Watch

Public Consensus Top 5 Picks

BAL -5.5
DAL -3
GB -10
HOU -3
PIT -14

Record to date: 4-5-1

Hilton Contest Consensus Top 5 Picks

DAL -3

BUF -3
BAL -5.5
ATL +2.5
WAS -3.5

Record to date: 3-5-2

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Week 2 NFL Predictions: Player Props of the Week

UPDATE: Added 3 props for the MNF game.

Early props for week 2.  I'll add more on Saturday assuming they are released in time.

I would not wager more than a half unit on any of these because at the end of the day they are just props and carry a large degree of variance.  All the following props can all be found at Bodog.





PHI O2.5 False Starts
Vick O55.5 Rushing Yards
Ocho Cinco U45.5 Receiving Yards
Cadillac Williams O55.5 Rushing Yards 
OAK U8.5 Penalties
U2.5 Special Teams TDs in Week 2
O6 300 Yard Passers in Week 2

Manningham O67.5 Receiving Yards 
Kendricks O32.5 Receiving Yards
Kendricks O2.5 Receptions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 Week 2 NFL Predictions

Week 1 is in the books and things got off to a good start with a 3-1 ATS hit.  NE took care of business on MNF for a 2-1 record with the teasers.

ATL and PIT were definitely two of the bigger surprises of the week, but I'm not about to panic on either team. In the market watch, both the public and pro consensus picks went 2-3 for week 1.  I was a little surprised so many sharps took STL against PHI, but sometimes they outsmart themselves trying to find "value".

The bookmakers have made some interesting adjustments and shaded the line on a bunch of teams. I still have 1 more play I'm looking to add, but it depends on line movement.  There should also be another handful of player props added on Saturday.

Week 2 Predictions 
Week 2 Teaser 
Week 2 Player Props
Week 2 Market Watch

Week 2 NFL Predictions: September 18, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans: BAL -5.5
The line is beginning to move, but I like this at anything less than a touchdown.

BAL likely goes down as one of the biggest surprises from week 1 of the 2011 season.  They are a solid team, but great enough to plaster PIT off the field?

A lot of people will look at their win over PIT and say that the 7 turnover differential inflated the perception of BAL this week.  Keep in mind that BAL were dominating that game before any of those turnovers and were well on their way to a convincing win without the gifts from Big Ben.  Give BAL's questionable offensive line a lot of credit for giving Flacco more than enough time to find the open receivers. 

That said, I don't think BAL are world-beaters and I still maintain that they won't be a Super Bowl contender this year.  The good news for us is that none of that matters in week 2.  The Ravens have the benefit of traveling to TEN to take on one of the worst teams in the AFC South.

Don't pay much attention to the final score of the TEN/JAX game because it isn't indicative of how things played out between the 20s.  JAX had almost double the amount of plays and time of possession.  I said before the season started that I didn't like what was going on in TEN and I'm not at all surprised that they struggled out of the gate.

Matt Hasselbeck is still a long way from mastering this new system and his timing with his receivers was off all day.  Chris Johnson didn't look like the multi-million dollar man as he is still getting up to speed on the blocking schemes and reading the holes.  The O-line didn't block well either and the tight ends made numerous errors as well.  TEN couldn't sustain drives, get off the field, or stop the run.  JAX piled up 153 rushing yards on 47 carries.  Adding insult to injury TEN couldn't create any pressure on McCown when they sent 5 or more rushers.  Do you think they miss Jim Washburn and Jason Babin?

In other words, the Titans were absolute garbage in a game that was ripe for the picking.  Munchak is telling his players not to panic and that they didn't really lose the physical battle, but the eye in the sky never lies.

Look for Rice to blow through holes on Sunday thanks to free agent pickups Vonte Leach and Bryant McKinnie.  Time of possession will be another big factor as TEN struggle to get points from long drives.  In fact, points from long drives has become more important than ever thanks to the new kickoff rule.  You can only get fluky big plays from Kenny Britt so many times and it isn't very often that Ed Reed is healthy.  Sprinkle in a little bit of Ngata and Suggs and you have a full blown crisis for Matt Hasselbeck.  Some might say that he caught some breaks given the injuries that BAL suffered in the secondary, but the Ravens boast enviable depth at the cornerback position.

This play has more to do with fading TEN than it has to do with an endorsement of BAL, but it doesn't hurt that Harbaugh has his troops on the same page to start the year. It's going to be a long afternoon for TEN and company.  Prediction: Bank BAL -5.5.

Dallas Cowboys vs San Francisco 49ers: DAL -3
We could see a line move here off the 3, so the sooner you get it the better.

I'm a little surprised that DAL is only laying 3 against the lowly 49ers.  I wasn't shocked that they played the Jets tough and covered the line, but I stayed away due to their leaky secondary (Newman could return this week).  Since DAL played well in a prime-time game, I fully expect the public to be all over America's Team of yester-year as well.  So far 91% of the early action is on DAL and you've seen increased juice in the line.

A closer look at the SF/SEA game will reveal that it was a much different game than the final score indicated.  Two late return TDs by Ted Ginn Jr put it out of reach, but up until that point it was a battle of inept offenses trying to win a field goal battle.  SF only managed 6 points from long drives and 8 first downs.  In contrast, all of SEA's points came from long, sustained drives. The most disconcerting thing about the SF defense was the fact that they let a guy like Tavaris Jackson get into a groove.  SF did bottle up the run and registered 5 sacks, but how much is that saying against a lowly SEA offense?

Don't get me wrong, I do like Jim Harbaugh and he's already changed the "culture" of the 49ers camp.  Whether it is using the lack of respect from national highlight shows, giving the team Mondays off, or installing a vocabulary of "us" and "we" instead of "I", sooner or later he'll get this ship turned around.  The only problem is that transition isn't going to happen against the Cowboys. 

This unit will be severely tested as they face the likes of Bryant, Austin, Jones, and Witten.  This group of skill players put up 400+ yards of offense and 6.1 yards per play against a good NY defense in a hostile and emotionally charged atmosphere.  Bryant was shut out in the 2nd half as he suffered from cramps, but he put on quite the show as the rest of the league took notice of a star in the making.  This kid has some of the best hands of any young receiver in the game and will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses as a compliment to Austin.

SF is going to have to figure out where they want to roll double coverage because Witten still remains Romo's favorite target over the middle.  With such a lethal passing game, defenses won't be able to stack the box and Felix Jones could put up some gaudy numbers once his O-line rounds into form.  And speaking of the offensive line, this group is more agile this season and provides better opportunities for Jones down near the goal line.  Additionally, the screen game will continue to be a favorite play call for Jason Garrett.   

To have any chance in this one SF's offense will need to repeat their mistake-free play from week 1 and then some.  Smith, Gore and company didn't give up any sacks or commit any turnovers, but you can bet that Rob Ryan is going to dial up a boatload of pressure to test Harbaugh's new system.  If SF fall behind by 10-14 points on Sunday, it's going to be a tall task coming back.  DAL was humiliated on national TV and will determined not to start the season 0-2.  I expect Romo to be on his best behavior after his embarrassing implosion vs the Jets.

This might be the last time the 49ers have a winning record in 2011.  Prediction: Bank DAL -3.

San Diego Chargers vs New England Patriots: SD +7
NE burned the books once again in week 1 as both the pros and the public were behind them against MIA. Year after year the sportsbooks inflate the lines for NE and year after year they continue to cover.  SD didn't make as many people happy with their non-cover against MIN.  Like usual, SD got down early from a special teams play, but unlike SD of recent memory, they battled back with a dominating performance in the 2nd half to avoid a 0-1 start.

This kind of comeback is the sign of a championship team and part of the reason why I like them to win the Super Bowl this year.  Norv Turner went out of his way to tweak his preparations for 2011 in order to avoid the perennial slow start and thus far it's paying off.

I think it's a little crazy for the books to favor NE by a touchdown in this game, but they do have a few trends going for them.  The Pats are 9-0 in season openers in Gillette Stadium, they continue to cover inflated lines, and SD is a West Coast team traveling across country to the East Coast.

That said the Chargers are not your typical West Coast bottom-feeders such as SF, OAK, SEA, ARI, and so on. SD is a team built for a deep run and boasts an all-star caliber offense and defense.  Last week against MIN they put up two touchdowns from long drives compared to a field goal from MIN.  They held Peterson in check for most of the day and limited McNabb to one of his worst professional games of his career. 

On the flip side, NE looked every bit the Super Bowl contenders people thought they would be and Brady is already in mid-season MVP form.  MIA's defense was supposed to be more disruptive against a questionable offensive line, but Brady answered the test with over 500 yards of passing and 4 touchdowns.  Game, set, match.

However, a closer look reveals some concerns for NE.  Chad Henne put up over 400 yards passing himself and despite the scoreboard, the Pats continued to let MIA stick around with 17 points from long drives.

I believe Rivers and company are going to exploit NE's defense somewhat and put up a nice chunk of points themselves. Tolbert and Mathews had great games to open the season and this one-two punch will cause problems for NE. Tolbert did suffer a knee injury, but all reports indicate that he'll be good to go.  On the outside, Rivers has two big receiving targets that he can rely on in Jackson and Floyd and it's impossible to roll coverage against them without getting burned by Gates over the middle.  MIN repeatedly blitzed on Sunday hoping to disrupt the timing and comfort in the pocket, but Rivers is a strong tough quarterback who is willing to take a hit and shrug off defenders in order to complete a pass. This is an offense that can attack you in so many different ways.  They can control the clock and pound the rock or they can go no-huddle and beat you with the vertical game. 

Don't get me wrong.  NE will put up points.  Brady is too good and too smart to be held in check for 60 minutes, but his skill position options aren't as good across the board as SD's.  Welker and Branch can move the sticks, but they are still without a receiver who can stretch the field deep.  Green-Ellis and Woodhead are shifty backs who can pick up a first down and find soft zones over the middle.  But one good game from the offensive line isn't going to silence the critics.  It's always smart to fade a team that loses it's starting center, and that looks like it will be the case after Dan Koppen went out with an ankle injury.  SD have playmakers up and down their defensive lineup and should be able to slow down Brady a lot better than MIA did on Monday night. 

I think the Chargers win this game straight up, but if the books want to give me 7 points I'll gladly take them.  Prediction: Bank SD +7.


Houston Texans vs Miami Dolphins: HOU -3
Including HOU to the card is not for the faint of heart.  This would be the 4th "public play" I have for the week 2 which is always reason to be a bit nervous.  Having said that, I cannot ignore the value in this line.  At anything more than 3 I would take a pass.

Before the season started I identified a handful of teams that I thought would start the year strong.  HOU is one such team after making important changes to their defense along with the hire of Wade Phillips.  Keep in mind that their offense is so explosive that they only need an average defense to win games.  This unit has the chance to achieve that and more. 

The defense was dominant in week 1.  That's not saying much because IND quit in the 1st half, but it's an encouraging sign for a group that needs all the positive reinforcement it can get.  Transitioning to a new scheme doesn't magically happen overnight.  Many wondered how Mario Williams would adjust to the OLB spot, but in week 1 he only had to drop into coverage twice in 44 snaps.  Beyond that he was a force all over the field lining up on both sides and registering sacks in the 3-point stance and once upright.  He also had a QB hurry and a forced fumble in the win.  Ryans and Cushing are finally back healthy and will only improve this defense as the weeks go along.  It won't matter whether MIA wants to attack them in the air or on the ground, HOU is equipped to handle both.

Speaking of MIA's offense, can someone please explain to me what is going on with them?  I knew that they were changing to a pass-first offense, but 400+ yards from Henne?  Bess, Marshall, and Fasano were all impact players in the air.  It's unknown whether that was a by-product of a leaky NE defense, soft coverage, or a step forward from Henne.  I imagine it was a combination of all the above.  Bush offers more variety in their scheme, but they are still going to face challenges with the traditional run game. Daniel Thomas was back at full practice today, but his addition has largely been overblown this year and I'm not sure how often he'll be left in on passing downs due to HOU's aggressive blitz scheme.

MIA have a lot of talent sprinkled throughout the lineup, but their main problem will continue to be consistency.  That was on full display as Brady completely dismantled their coverage on MNF.  That came as a bit of a shock given the pedigree of this defense.  It is supposed to be a top 5-10 group, but there are a lot of things to fix before the high-powered Texans offense comes to town.  Working on a short-week, MIA needs to figure how to stop the running game.  HOU's offense all starts on the ground with their punishing zone-blocking scheme.  There is outstanding continuity on this offensive line and you could plug any running back in there and get good production.  Foster practiced in full on Wednesday, but Tate is still expected to get most of the load.  With Kubiak, you never really know.

What we do know is that Schaub is lethal with the play-action pass.  Johnson and Daniels will continue to get targeted the most, but there is enough top-tier talent across the board to keep any defense off balance.  MIA is still a big mystery, but we know what we are getting with HOU.  Ride them until the books adjust. Prediction: Bank HOU -3

Philadelphia Eagles vs Atlanta Falcons: PHI -2.5
We could see the line move to 3.  

If you have been following my blog since the preseason you'll notice a trend developing here.  Including the exhibition games, PHI is 4-1 ATS in 2011.  I'm going to continue to ride them as long as their main guns are healthy and as long as Vegas continues to undervalue them.

It is true that ATL was favored in this game when bookmakers set the lines during the offseason, but PHI should be favored by more than a FG in my opinion.  The ironic thing about this team is despite all the hype regarding the "Dream Team", it hasn't manifested in a lot of respect from the betting community yet.  It was absolutely crazy that the sharps didn't back PHI after the free agency period and the majority of the pros sided with STL.

Did week 1 change their mind?   We shall see on Saturday when the consensus picks come out.

As for the matchup, both teams bring a lot of continuity into 2011 with stable coaching staffs, the same quarterbacks, and veteran lineups--all important ingredients to start the post-lockout season.  Yes PHI brought in new line coaches, moved Juan Castillo over to the defensive side, and have new starters from free agency and the rookie draft, but the important aspect of all these additions is the high level of veteran talent.  The transition into Reid's system isn't going to be as rocky as many of the so-called "pundits" are predicting.

Last season PHI compeltely dismantled an ATL team that was playing at the top of their game and they did it with an inexperienced Kevin Kolb at quarterback.  Now they face off after taking a much different approach in the offseason.  Both lost to the Packers in the playoffs.  ATL decided to add more firepower by drafting Julio Jones in an attempt to go toe to toe with GB's offense, while PHI went out and acquired two pro-bowl cornerbacks and two pro-bowl defensive linemen.

Which strategy do you think will be more successful?

ATL will want a lot more balance on offense this game than they had in week 1 so you can expect a lot of Turner/Snelling in an attempt to keep Vick off the field and keep the game close. In week 1 ATL only got a measly 6 points from long drives after dominating this category in 2010.  As you saw with STL, the last thing you want to do is fall behind against PHI.  Once you are forced to throw you are faced with the uphill climb against Asomugha and Samuel while trying to keep guys like Cole, Jenkins, and Babin out of your backfield.  Against STL, the defensive line had 5 sacks and that's all without any blitzes.  Jim Washburn has already been a huge asset to this defensive unit and if they can continue to get that kind of production without blitzing, opposing teams are going to have a very tough time finding open receivers down the field.  Last week, ATL's O-line gave up 5 sacks of their own without CHI blitzes.     

I think ATL's defense is a whole lot better than they showed against CHI, but how do you defend PHI's offense?  PHI had little trouble scoring 3 touchdowns from long drives in week 1.  Jackson keep the safeties honest as a deep threat, Maclin, Smith, and Avant are all crisp route runners on the short and intermediate routes, and then you have star-in-the-making Shady McCoy out of the backfield (McCoy has 391 rushing yards and 4 TDs in his last 3 dome games). If all that breaks down Vick just takes off for a 20 yard gain.  ATL will take a page out of the Spagnuolo playbook and blitz from Vick's blindside, but I'm not sure it's a plan that can work for 60 minutes.   Abraham, Jerry, and Edwards are going to need huge games up front to give ATL a chance.

It should be a great game in prime time and ATL will be better, but in the end Vick's return to ATL as a starter will be a triumphant one.  Prediction: Bank PHI -2.5.