Minnesota coach Brad Childress fired

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The holiday season begins with the second firing of the season — on Monday morning beleaguered Minnesota coach Brad Childress was let go following his team’s uninspired home loss a day earlier to Green Bay .

Ironically, it was a similarly one-sided loss to Green Bay that resulted in Dallas ’ firing of coach Wade Phillips two weeks earlier. Under the leadership of interim coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have responded with a pair of solid wins.

At 3-7, the outlook for making the playoffs would appear bleak but the ‘Boys have the talent to win out and 9-7 might just be good enough to earn a wild card. But the odds are against it.

Aside from the disappointing play of many teams considered to have been contenders back in August, perhaps the biggest on-field story of this season remains the large number of high scoring games as reflected in the imbalance between overs and unders.

Through Sunday, the overs lead 91-66 (58 percent). That’s not the entire story. The season started with just 11-4 for the unders.

Scoring is indeed up this season. The first 159 games had produced an average of 44.3 points. This is the highest average in more than 30 years but is not an entirely new phenomenon. Just two seasons ago, the average total points per game was 44.1

Thursday 

Patriots -7 at Lions (51): The short week of preparation usually benefits the more talented team. Although the Lions are improved, the Patriots are the more complete team. But their defense is vulnerable and the Lions have been able to put points on the board. Even with the high total, this game should be played at a more up tempo pace. OVER.

Saints -3 at Cowboys (50): Saints QB Drew Brees has a huge edge over Dallas ’ Jon Kitna. But the ‘Boys have talent edges at most other positions and have started to play with passion under their new coach. It’s hard to believe but Dallas ’ win over Detroit was its first home win of the season. COWBOYS.

Bengals +9 at Jets (44): Cincinnati enters this Thanksgiving night tilt playing like turkeys, owning the longest current losing streak (7) in the NFL. The Jets continue to win ugly and their highly touted defense allowed Houston to overcome a 23-7 fourth quarter deficit. The Jets have not played well enough to warrant such huge favoritism. BENGALS.

SUNDAY

Vikings +3 at Redskins (42): Last week’s pathetic performance at home against division rival Green Bay was the death knell to any postseason chances the Vikings may have harbored. Contrast the Vikings’ plight to the performance of the Redskins, winning at Tennessee in OT. That win should serve to energize the home team. REDSKINS.

Steelers -6½ at Bills (43): The pressure is all on Pittsburgh to keep winning. The Bills are playing for the future and should still be enthused to play well after winning two in a row following their 0-8 start. The dog becomes more attractive if the line moves up but even at less than a full TD, the Bills may be considered as a live pup. BILLS.

Titans (NL) at Texans: At Tennessee , QB Vince Young is injured and perhaps out for the season. Lightly tested and little known Rusty Smith (rookie from Florida Atlantic) is expected to start at QB. The Titans have seen their playoff hopes fade in a hurry following three straight losses. The situation is just as bad in Houston, losers of four straight. TITANS.

Jaguars +8½ at Giants (46): After two straight losses, questions arise about whether the Giants will have another second half swoon that has been prevalent under coach Tom Coughlin in all but the Super Bowl season of 2007. The Giants may be hard pressed to just get a win against a feisty Jags team playing above their talent level. JACKSONVILLE .

Panthers +11 at Browns (38): Carolina remains on course to earn the top draft choice next April as the NFL’s lone 1 win team. Cleveland continues to improve notwithstanding last week’s tough late loss in Jacksonville . Normally the first way to look would be at taking double digit dogs. But with major issues at both QB and RB for a team averaging under 12, a case cannot be made for taking those points. BROWNS.

Bucs +7½ at Ravens (41): The believers remain slow in coming to the support of Tampa Bay , but the 7-3 record remains what it is. Excluding their losses, the Bucs victims are a combined 17-46 against the rest of the league! At 7-3, the Ravens are tied with Pittsburgh in the AFC North. RAVENS.

Eagles -3½ at Bears (42): Both teams are 7-3 and riding 3-game win streaks. The Bears are winning with a solid defense, allowing the fewest points in the league and have had several extra days to rest. The Eagles have become a potent offensive team with QB Michael Vick, but are off emotional back-to-back games against division rivals. BEARS.

Packers (+2½) at Falcons (48): This could be a preview of the NFC Championship game at Atlanta . Both teams have also won 4 in a row. The Packers have been much more potent at home where they average 12 points more per game than on the road. Atlanta ’s defense compares favorably in many statistics, including defense against the run, a weakness of the Green Bay offense. FALCONS.

Dolphins +3 at Raiders (38): Miami ’s QB situation is uncertain with former starter Chad Henne possibly available to replace Tyler Thigpen, who performed poorly in the Dolphins’ 16-0 loss to Chicago last Thursday. These teams have identical 5-5 records but the Raiders have played much better football over the course of the season. RAIDERS.

Chiefs -1 at Seahawks (44½): Chiefs appear to be the more solid of these two teams and have generally showed more consistency in their play. Seattle has made strides under first season coach Pete Carroll and had played well at home prior to their last home game, a 41-7 loss to the Giants. KC has lost its last four road contests. SEAHAWKS.

Rams +4 at Broncos (45):  Denver has the much better stats, including a more mature passing game with QB Kyle Orton putting up big numbers. St. Louis rookie QB Sam Bradford is on pace for Rookie of the Year honors, but the Rams are winless in four road games. Weather could be a factor and that would work to the disadvantage of the Rams, on the start of a three game road trip. BRONCOS.

Chargers +3½ at Colts (54): These long time AFC powers collide but with lesser records than expected. Both teams continue to put up solid offensive stats with their defenses not as bad as often portrayed. In fact, San Diego was allowing just 273 yards per game before Monday, best in the league. The Colts have not been blowing teams away the past two seasons and San Diego plays their best ball over the second half. CHARGERS.

Monday

49ers (-1) at Cards (40): It’s too bad that the NFL’s flex scheduling policy for late season Sunday night games does not extend to Monday nights as well. Put bluntly, this matchup is a stinker between a pair of 3-7 teams. Arizona should be motivated to avenge a pair of losses to the 49ers last season and coach Ken Whisenhunt continues to enjoy an edge over his SF counterpart, Mike Singletary. ARIZONA .

 

last week                     since Oct 25                     PCT

6-8-1                             27-27-1                            50.0

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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