Mission: Catch Pats

Aug 7, 2007 8:01 AM

EDITORS NOTE: This is the fifth in an eight-week series of NFL teasers offering pertinent news and notes. GamingToday’s 2007 pro football preview edition featuring writers Andy Iskoe, Jim Feist, Richard Saber, Denny The Dog and a cast of thousands will be published Sept. 4, two days prior to the season opener.

This week: AFC East

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are facing an uphill battle with the improved Jets and new look Dolphins chasing the loaded New England Patriots.

Heck somebody in this division has to fall. They can’t all win. So by process of elimination, the Bills are the choice to descend.

J.P. Losman solidifed himself as the No. 1 QB, but Willis McGahee has headed off to Baltimore. The defense is still the strength, especially when the cold weather kicks in around late November, all of December and perhaps January if the Bills should make the playoffs.

The Bills had a streak of seven straight point spread covers from Nov. 5 to Dec. 17 that included playoff teams Indianapolis, San Diego and the Jets.

The -5 turnover ratio was not good, but that included a -8 in matchups with New England and Chicago. Take those away and the season ATS mark would have been a stellar 12-4. In other words: The Bills keep games close.

The Bills figure to put up their best effort for Game 3 at home with Tennessee. Don’t expect the starters to see much action other than the game with the Titans.

Bills vitals:

Last year: 7-9 SU, 10-6 ATS.

O/U: 9-7 under

Turnover ratio: -5

2006 exhibition (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS):

BUF (+3) 13-14 at Carolina (35)

BUF (-3½) 31-44 v CINCY (34.5)

BUF (-3½) 17-20 v CLEVE (34.5)

BUF (+3) 20-13 at Detroit (35)

2007 exhibition slate: Aug 10, at New Orleans; 17, ATLANTA; 24, TENNESSEE; 30, at Detroit.

Miami Dolphins

The addition of LB Joey Porter (Steelers) and QB Trent Green (Chiefs) along with top draft picks WR Ted Ginn, Jr (Ohio St) and QB John Beck (BYU) makes the Dolphins better than last year on paper.

The sudden departure of Nick Saban for Alabama was a jolt new coach Cam Cameron hopes to ease with a friendly persona.

For Miami to reach the playoffs, something not done in years, a big improvement must be made in results within the division. Last year, the Dolphins were a brutal 1-5 ATS in matchups with the Jets, Patriots and Bills.

Saban failed miserably with his Daunte Culpepper experiment and Ricky Williams spent the year on grass and in the CFL.

If RB Ronnie Brown lives up to his No. 1 draft status two years ago out of Auburn and if Green can stay healthy, the Dolphins could be one of the surprise teams in the NFL.

Still it’s defense is where the Dolphins truly excel. DE Jason Taylor and LB Zach Thomas are fixures in an already unit.

Add Porter to the mix and Miami’s front seven is the best in the division.

The third exhibition game, Tampa Bay at home, has become a rivalry in recent years. Look for the Dolphins to focus on that game, while the others are just for working out the kinks.

Dolphins vitals

Last year: 6-10 SU, 6-10 ATS

O / U: 10-6 under

Turnover ratio: +2

2006 exhibition (2-2, 2-2 ATS): MIA (-1½) 26-31 v Jax (33)

MIA (+3) 13-10 at T.Bay (35)

MIA (+5) 10-19 at Carolina (36.5)

MIA (+3) 29-9 v St. Louis (35.5)

2007 exhibition slate: Aug 11, JAX; 16, at Kansas City; 25, TAMPA BAY; 30 at New Orleans.

New England Patriots

If there is a dynasty these days in the NFL, it’s the Patriots. Winners of three Super Bowls in six years, New England added WR Randy Moss to become a 5/2 favorite at both Caesars Palace and the Hilton for a fourth ring.

If Moss can stay healthy and happy, he figures to give Tom Brady a big weapon in a passing attack that has been diverse since the ex-Michigan QB took over from Drew Bredsoe and led the Pats to their first Super Bowl title in 2002.

Not that last year was bad. New England was 14-5 SU, 11-8 ATS and a solid +10 in turnover ratio.

The UNDER was 11-8.

Last year, New England was 8-2 ATS away from Foxborough, and closed with a 5-1 run at the end of the year.

Bettors should note preseason Week 4, a home game with the NY Giants. The Pats lost last year in preseason 31-23 and the matchup carries a lot of weight in New England, where the Giants still have a large fan base from their days at the Yale Bowl.

Don’t expect a repeat of the 119 points New England scored in preseason last year off a slate that includes defensive powers Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Carolina.

Patriots vitals:

Last year: 14-5 SU, 11-8 ATS

O/U: 11-8 under

Turnover ratio: +10

2006 exhibition (2-2, 2-1-1 ATS)

NE (+3) 23-26 at Atlanta (35.5)

NE (-3.5) 30-3 v Arizona (37)

NE (-4) 41-0 v Washington (35)

NE (+3½) 23-31 at Giants (34.5)

2007 exhibition slate: Aug 10, at Tampa Bay; 17, TENNESSEE; 24, at Carolina; 30, NY GIANTS.

New York Jets

Many things went right for the Jets, coming off a berth in the playoffs that came out of nowhere.

The often injured QB Chad Pennington has resurrected his career. First-year coach Eric Mangini became "Mangenius" and the GangGreen somehow profited from a season without Curtis Martin.

In the offseason, the Jets were able to lure RB Thomas Jones away from NFC champ Chicago.

The Jets only had a turnover ratio of -1, but made the most of their breaks. At home, the Jets were +6 and closed 4-1 ATS.

The longest preseason road trip is 90 miles to Philadelphia. The opener is home to Atlanta, which should create a media frenzy in New York regarding the Michael Vick situation.

Then two weeks later, comes the annual showdown with the Giants, who won last year 13-7.

Jets vitals:

Last year: 10-7, 11-6 ATS

O/U: 10-7 over

Turnover ratio: -1

2006 exhibition (2-2, 1-3 ATS)

NYJ (+3½) 3-16 at TBay (33.5)

NYJ (+3½) 27-14 at Wash (33)

NYJ (+4) 7-13 v NYG (36.5)

NYJ (-5) 20-17 v Philly (32.5)

2007 exhibition slate: Aug. 10, ATLANTA; 18, MINNESOTA; 25, at NY Giants; 30, at Philly.

Next week: The AFC South