NFL injuries

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Week one of the NFL season is almost fully in the books with just Monday night’s doubleheader to be played as we go to press. And the 2010 has unfolded with a typical number of upsets, disappointments and controversy. And, unfortunately, injuries. Injuries that are likely to keep several key players on the sidelines for an indefinite period of time.

No fewer than three starting quarterbacks were forced to the sidelines this past Sunday as Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb and Carolina’s Matt Moore each failed to finish their game. Stafford’s shoulder is expected to miss from two to six weeks with the likelihood of it being closer to six than to two. Moore and Kolb appear to have suffered concussions and recently enacted NFL policy is expected to keep both out for at least one game pending further medical examinations.

By nature football is a violent sport. And as the human species evolves the athletes who play the game are bigger, stronger and faster. And the force of the hits they deliver in the course of blocking and tackling have even greater debilitating effects, many of which take years or decades to be evident. Yet the NFL wants to increase the regular season schedule by two games in 2012. If there is one issue the players will balk on in upcoming negotiations this should be that issue. Especially as more and more injuries knock out players in coming weeks for multiple games if not the remainder of the season.

As to what happened in terms of wins and losses we don’t want to overreact to what occurred in week one.

At the same time we don’t want to fail to react either. All results have significance but as handicappers and bettors we must determine to what extent.

Remember, that when two good teams meet, one good team has to lose.

And when two bad teams meet, one bad team will win.

So backers of Minnesota, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Atlanta need not be panicked by opening game losses. And supporters of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay should wait a bit before making playoff plans.

In recent seasons more and more sports books have been extremely conservative in posting lines for the following week, often taking a wait and see approach concerning potential key injuries that could cause significant line movement. As a result many properties do not post lines prior to the time we go to press. Some properties post lines on some games but not others. Thus in the previews below lines shown are representative of those sports books that have posted them as of Monday morning.

Here’s a preview of the 16 games to be played in week two.

Kansas City (+3) at Cleveland (Over/Under 37): The Chiefs are off of their Monday night opener while Cleveland looks to make amends for failing to hold a lead they enjoyed for most of the game in their loss at Tampa Bay. The Browns outplayed the Buccs and now are at home to face a team on pretty much the same level as Tampa but with a day less to prepare. Both teams prefer the run to pass on offense and each is suspect on defense. But reliance on the running game tends to burn clock and lessen the number of possessions and turnovers which would portend a lower scoring game than average. UNDER the Total.

Buffalo (+13½) at Green Bay (43): This is our first double digit spread of the season after an opening week that saw no line that even reached 7. But the high favoritism for the Pack seems warranted. Buffalo was competitive in losing to Miami last week but the Bills showed that their offense is a weakness. They gained just 166 total yards. It took a while for Green Bay’s offense to get rolling at Philadelphia but the Packers were clearly the better team in their win over the Eagles. RB Ryan Grant was banged up and is likely out for this game. That could mean a game plan even more favoring the pass. If the Packers get out to an early lead it will be tough for the Bills to mount much of a comeback. Although the offense receives much of the attention Green Bay also has a solid defense. It’s dangerous laying doubles in the NFL but this is one matchup that matches up as an exception. GREEN BAY.

Baltimore (Pick’em) at Cincinnati (41): The Ravens played Monday night and thus will have one day less to prepare. But considering the familiarity these teams have with one another as division rivals that is not as much a hindrance as it might be against a team played less frequently. Cincinnati will seek to avoid an 0-2 start and should perform better than they did in their one-sided loss at New England last week. Baltimore will be prepared and motivated to makes amends for having been swept last season by the Bengals. Baltimore is the more complete team and has played well on the road under coach Jon Harbaugh and rates the nod barring any key injuries Monday night. BALTIMORE.

Pittsburgh (+5½) at Tennessee (38): Pittsburgh got a well earned OT win against Atlanta to open the season and mostly outplayed the Falcons. The defense was as strong as expected to overcome the absence of their suspended starting QB. Backup Dennis Dixon managed the game well and the Steelers used a solid running game to control the flow. Tennessee was impressive in routing Oakland with RB Chris Johnson again topping 100 rushing yards. QB Vince Young has become an effective leader. These teams opened 2009 with Pittsburgh winning 13-10 in overtime and this game may be played in a similar fashion with more emphasis on the ground game. UNDER the Total.

Philadelphia (-3) at Detroit (41): This likely becomes a battle of backup quarterbacks with Shaun Hill and Michael Vick replacing the injured Matthew Stafford and Kevin Kolb. Of the two Vick is the more experienced and his ability to run the football gives the Eagles an added element of diversity that may be tough to prepare for in just one week. Detroit was arguably denied a win in Chicago last week when Calvin Johnson’s catch was ruled a no-catch. But the Lions still showed problems on defense, allowing the Bears 463 yards. At the same time the Lions ran for only 20 net yards on 21 carries. The Eagles are the more talented team and will be playing to avoid an 0-2 start. Experience and proven class make the Eagles the preferred choice. PHILADELPHIA.

Chicago (+9) at Dallas (41): Both teams continued their offensive woes shown in the preseason. Each team was able to move the ball between the twenties but came up short in converting scoring chances in their opening game. Both the Cowboys and Bears played very well defensively last week albeit against teams that are suspect on offense. Dallas has the potentially more potent offense that suggests they can win by double digits. But until they address their offensive line issues laying such a high price is dangerous. It may be best to rely on the greater consistency shown by both teams’ defenses. UNDER.

Tampa Bay at Carolina (No Line): Carolina figures to be a solid favorite once this game is on the betting boards later this week. Tampa got a nice come from behind win over Cleveland to open the season while Carolina was beaten by the Giants in a game that featured 9 turnovers. Panther QB Matt Moore was banged up late in that contest but may start here if additional tests show he did not suffer a concussion as originally feared. The Panthers have the better overall talent and the more proven running game. Their defense also drops in class here as the Tampa offense does not compare to that of the Giants. CAROLINA.

Arizona (+7) at Atlanta (42½): Arizona struggled more than expected at St. Louis, scoring just 17 points despite 378 yards of offense. The problem was an inability to hold onto the football, losing 4 of 7 fumbles. The defense had some success against rookie QB Sam Bradford, picking off 3 of his 55 attempts. The Falcons lost a defensive struggle in Pittsburgh and their offense should fare better against the Cardinal defense. QB Matt Ryan is better than his Arizona counterpart Derek Anderson and the Falcon offense appears better balanced, especially if RB Beanie Wells misses a second straight game for the Cards. ATLANTA.

Miami (+6) at Minnesota (40): Miami was mostly unimpressive in their 15-10 win at Buffalo on offense although they clearly outplayed the Bills. The defense played very well but faces a real NFL offense this week. The Vikings have a few extra days of preparation following last Thursday’s loss in New Orleans. QB Brett Favre was tentative and should face less defensive pressure at home. The Vikes have a solid and stable defense while Miami’s is one still in transition from last season with key personnel turnover. This is a favorable spot for Minnesota to even their record as they hold a significant edge on offense and at least a moderate edge on defense. MINNESOTA.

St. Louis (+4) at Oakland (37½): Both teams lost their opening games but there was more to like about how the Rams played in their loss to Arizona than in how the Raiders looked in Tennessee. Sam Bradford showed signs of a very bright future in leading the Rams although he also looked like the rookie he is at times as well. Oakland’s defense allowed over 200 rushing yards, mostly to Chris Johnson, and that remains an area of concern from last season. This is one of those games between a pair of bad teams, one of which has to win. Getting more than a FG with a team that showed a number of positives both throughout August and again in their opener is the preferred play. ST. LOUIS

Seattle (+3½) at Denver (39½): Seattle’s one sided home win over San Francisco on Sunday was one of the more surprising results. Seattle didn’t play all that well, gaining just 242 total yards. But they took advantage of the 49ers’ youth and rust with the defense making some big plays early in the game to keep it close before they started scoring. Denver battled hard in losing in Jacksonville, answering Jacksonville’s early scores with scored of their own before the Jags got the game winner in the fourth quarter. This is a good spot to take the small favorite who played better than the final score showed against a team that did not play as well as the one sided score suggests. DENVER.

Houston (-3) at Washington (44): It’s a shame that both of these teams won on Sunday as the schedule set this up as a perfect letdown spot for each. Houston finally broke through against the Colts, winning for just the second time in 17 games in that series. Washington upset long time nemesis Dallas despite not scoring an offensive TD and benefiting from a Dallas offensive holding call on the game’s final play that likely would have resulted in a Dallas win. But the fundamentals suggest a low scoring contest with Washington’s solid defense challenging Houston’s offensive strength. Washington’s offense is not projected to be above average while Houston’s defense shows signs of improvement over last season. UNDER the Total.

Jacksonville (+8) at San Diego (45): San Diego is off of Monday night’s game at Kansas City and it remains to be seen if the Chargers continue their recent history of slow starts. San Diego starts the season with key players missing or no longer on the roster. Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew is the key to the Jags’ offense. QB Philip Rivers keys the Chargers offense that is thin at receiver and will rely on rookie RB Ryan Matthews to allow for a balance attack. San Diego is the more talented team but Jacksonville has enough talent to give the Chargers a challenge. And the Jags have played better early in the season in recent years than they have down the stretch. JACKSONVILLE.

New England (+1) at New York Jets (40): This should be a war as the teams do not like one another and have had a very intense rivalry over the past several seasons. The Jets are off of what should have been a very physical game against Baltimore Monday night while the Pats had a much easier than expected time defeating Cincinnati. QB Tom Brady looked sharp tossing the pigskin and the running game averaged over 5 yards per tote. There are still concerns about the Patriots’ pass defense which could enable Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez to have some success through the air. At the same time the Jets’ defense will face an above average offense for a second straight week, this one on short rest. OVER the Total.

New York Giants (+5½) at Indianapolis (47½): The Manning brothers square off for a second time in the NFL. Their first meeting came in the season opener of the Colts’ Super Bowl winning season of 2006 when the Colts won 26-21 at the Meadowlands, covering as a FG favorite. The Colts were soundly beaten last week by the Houston running game rather than the passing of QB Matt Schaub who attempted just 17 passes. The Giants had a solid win over Carolina, taking control after recess following a tight first half. Both teams have more questions on defense than on offense where both Mannings have plenty of solid receiving targets. The Giants have the better running game but the Colts’ Peyton is a more accomplished passer than younger brother Eli. OVER the Total.

New Orleans (-4) at San Francisco (44): New Orleans was fortunate to escape with an opening win last Thursday. After making it look easy with a TD on their first drive of the season, the Saints were mostly unimpressive in their 14-9 win over Minnesota. San Francisco was shocked in a 31-6 loss in Seattle, failing to cash in early and allowing the Seahawks to gain momentum and seize control of the game. The 49ers are an improved team and they should have one of the league’s top defenses. The concern is how really improved they are, playing in the very weak NFC West where they were 5-1 within the Division last season but just 3-7 outside. Still, we can expect a much sharper effort from the Niners as they play their home opener with a chance to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs who failed to cover their final 3 road games last season. SAN FRANCISCO.

 

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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