By now, you’re aware of how San Francisco’s 36-26 win over Arizona ended. A defensive fumble recovery was allowed to stand even though it appeared one of the 49ers’ players was touched as he was on the ground pushing the football forward to a teammate who scored as time ran out. The play was allowed to stand and no extra point was attempted due to a rules change implemented last season related to touchdowns at the end of regulation.
The play received nationwide attention due to the pointspread implications as the new legalized sports betting environment has made this a topic of great interest. Games are now scrutinized to a greater degree than ever before and conspiracy theorists crop up at the slightest hint that game (and pointspread) outcomes are being influenced by factors with the ability to exert such control.
Of course we’re talking about the combination of officiating and the replay review system. Add into the mix the fact that the NFL rule book is way too complex and detailed for a fairly simple game and the NFL will be facing increased speculation of whether the NFL is truly a sport or has become, in effect, a reality TV show.
That something is possible does not make it a fact but the NFL needs to be aware of the perception of potential chicanery exists. The NFL needs to examine the current state of the game and take measures to make it more watchable and eliminate as much as possible the impact officiating has on outcomes.
Here are this week’s selections:
Dolphins +10.5 at Browns: Miami had covered five straight before last week’s home loss to Buffalo and have been much more competitive than the team that lost each of its first four games between 20 and 49 points.
Despite their 4-6 record three of Cleveland’s wins have been by 14 points or more. Although Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been competent the lack of a running game is a major concern (over 84 yards just once).
Cleveland has played excellent pass defense. Playing a third straight home game the Browns can continue to build momentum if they are not caught looking ahead to next week’s quick rematch with Pittsburgh. BROWNS
Steelers -6.5 at Bengals: Following an 0-3 start, Pittsburgh got its first win of the season in a Monday night 27-3 home rout, holding the Bengals to a season low 175 total yards. At 5-5, the Steelers are just one game out of the second Wild Card and four of their final six foes have losing records.
Both offenses have struggled to run the football although the Bengals are off their two best efforts of the season. But the Steelers have a huge defensive edge, allowing 1.7 fewer yards per play. The trade to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has paid immediate dividends and galvanized the entire defense.
Cincy QB Ryan Finley should face much pressure which could result in multiple turnovers. STEELERS
Panthers +9.5 at Saints: After a four-game winning streak, Carolina has lost three of four and owner David Tepper called out his team for its recent poor play.
The Saints’ have a feast or famine scoring profile, scoring 30 or more points in six games while tallying 13 or less in the other four. Carolina’s displayed the better overall running attack but current starting QB Kyle Allen has regressed greatly, tossing nine interceptions in his last four games.
Still, this is a Division rivalry and the Panthers have a strong defense. PANTHERS
Jaguars +3 at Titans: Tennessee’s off its Bye while Jacksonville returned from its Bye with a one-sided loss at Indianapolis, limited to 29 rushing yards on just nine carries.
Since becoming the starter, QB Ryan Tannehill has fared well directing the offense that includes a win over Kansas City prior to the Bye. The defense has been more consistent than Jacksonville’s, especially against the run.
Tennessee has also been much better at both avoiding and forcing turnovers, which can be a key factor in what should be a very physical AFC South game decided in the trenches. TITANS
Packers +3.5 at 49ers: This attractive matchup has major implications for the playoffs in the NFC. A Green Bay win would tie the Pack with the Niners with two losses along with the Saints and Seahawks pending their results.
The Niners have looked shaky the past few weeks, barely getting by Arizona twice sandwiched around their lone loss, to Seattle. Green Bay is off its Bye which allowed several banged up Packers to heal.
Veteran QB Aaron Rodgers rates the edge over Jimmy Garoppolo. The Packers have played a much tougher schedule, facing foes that are a combined 49-43 vs. the rest of the NFL as compared to San Francisco’s foes that are a combined 37-53. PACKERS
Seahawks +1.5 at Eagles: Seattle returns from its Bye. The Eagles returned from their Bye with a competitive 17-10 loss at New England but dropped to 5-5, a game behind Dallas in the NFC East where just the Division winner likely makes the playoffs.
Usually stronger at home, Seattle’s won all five road games, a fact reflected in early line movement towards the Seahawks. Philly ends a three game homestand facing the No. 24 defense. Their own defense has been better against both the run and the pass.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson will have his moments. But overall, the Eagles field the more talented team and the price is right. EAGLES
Last week: 4-2