Monday, September 23, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 4: Giants vs Chiefs

New York Giants vs Kansas City Chiefs: KC -4* (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is one strange point spread. In the look-ahead line out of Vegas, the Chiefs were -4 point favorites. The line was slightly adjusted when it re-opened at -4.5, but sharp money has come in on the Giants.

UPDATE: Just as I was posting this, Pinny moved this line to -4 to fall in line with the rest of the board. Personally, I grabbed it at -3.5, but I'm still going to recommend it at the current number.

I tweeted this out earlier today, but what was with all the bets coming in on New York in Week 3? Granted, the blowout was surprising, but outside of Eli Manning and that receiving group, there isn't a lot to like about this team.

75% of the early action is on KC.

When the Chiefs have the ball

First of all, let's start with the big negative about this KC offense - Eric Fisher. Against the Eagles he allowed a sack, a hit, and two hurries. He was also flagged for two penalties. He's the fifth lowest right tackle in the league according to Pro Football Focus, and he's been equally inept in pass protection as he is in run blocking.

The good news is the Giants defensive line isn't what it used to be. It wasn't any good last year either, as both Tuck and Pierre-Paul had down years. Now without Umenyiora, they're waiting for someone to step up. Thus far, it hasn't happened.

Beyond that, they have one of the worst groups of linebackers in the league.

Yet, their worst problem is the pass defense. Amukamara hasn't developed as hoped, and he can't stay healthy. Corey Webster isn't the same as he used to be, and he's still injured. Stevie Brown, their big bright spot, was lost to injury before the season. The only positive in the bunch has been Aaron Ross.

So how do the Chiefs want to attack this unit?  The same way they've been playing through three weeks. They'll continue to rely heavily on Jamaal Charles and take opportunities in the passing game as they come. Alex Smith is frustrating to watch because he rarely takes any chances. Last week, Smith only completed one pass beyond 10 yards. In 47 dropbacks, he only attempted four such passes.

But it's exactly this kind of cautiousness that is a big reason for the 2013 turnaround. The turnover differential has been a huge bonus this season.

Fasano is still banged up, but they do have a full compliment of receivers in Bowe, Avery, and McCluster. The Giants will likely double Bowe, so Avery might be in for another big week.  His speed has added a new dimension to this offense.

When the Giants have the ball

The Giants are in the bottom five in the NFL in sacks given up. The Chiefs are in the top five for sacks. Tamba Hali is second in the NFL in QB disruptions. Justin Houston has been just as terrorizing on the other side. Dontari Poe has been a beast to handle in the middle.

Eli has fantastic weapons at wide receiver, but how much will that matter if the can't get any protection? Eli looks shell-shocked after three weeks of the season. He was sacked seven times last week, six of which came by the second quarter. He saw pressure on 45% of dropbacks. In those 14 plays he took seven sacks, scrambled once, and had six throws - one of which was completed and one intercepted.

Will Beatty and Justin Pugh were pylons on the outside. Center David Bass and RG Chris Snee missed practice on Wednesday. David Diehl just practiced for the first time in five months. In the nutshell, the offensive line is a complete disaster right now.

The Giants would be wise to lean more on the run game, especially after David Wilson looks a bit better recently. Yet, the Chiefs defense has great run stoppers. Derrick Johnson is excellent on the second level, and Eric Berry is an excellent in the box defender.

The slim glimmer of hope for the Gmen is the health of Brandon Flowers. He's sitting out practice after aggravating his knee and his status is up in the air. The problem is Sean Smith is an excellent one-on-one corner and Dunta Robinson was a nice offseason pickup.

If the Giants offensive line wasn't so bad, I'd likely take a pass on this game, but with the current state of affairs I don't see how Eli will have enough time to sustain drives and put up enough points to cover this line. There's simply too much pressure on him to carry the team, and that's compounded by a defense that can't shut things down on the other side of the ball.

Bottom Line

The Chiefs do have some injury concerns this week, but they should be healthier for the Giants than they were for the Eagles. It helps that they had extra days to rest and prepare.

Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense certainly isn't anything to get excited about. That said, they continue to be efficient and take care of the ball. Not much about the Giants defense scares me, so I like KC's early season success to continue.

The big advantage I like is when the Giants offense is on the field. The offensive line has been a problem all year and now they have to go up against some deadly pass rushers. Bob Sutton is sure to scheme some pressure blitz packages that will give Eli trouble. New York couldn't take advantage of a porous Panthers secondary, and now they face a group that can matchup against most receiving groups in the NFL.

Adding in a wild Arrowhead stadium, and I see no other option than the Chiefs here.

NFL Pick: KC -4*.