‘Titans’ battle for AFC supremacy

October 30, 2007 4:10 AM
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LAST WK SEASON PCT
6-6 38-44-3 42.9

Clash of the Titans. The latest Game of the Century. These are just two of the many phrases that will be spewed forth over the next several days leading up to Sunday’s eagerly awaited game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

As impressive as the Colts were in their win, New England was even more impressive in their total domination of Washington. The Pats were up 52-0 in the fourth quarter before the Redskins got a late touchdown to avoid being shut out.

There are not enough superlatives to describe how dominant the Patriots have been and they have covered the point spread in all 8 of their wins. The Colts are a rather modest 5-2 ATS in winning their first 7 games. Indy’s average margin of 17.4 points per game would label the Colts as a super team by almost any measure. And they are the defending Super Bowl champions. But their margin is barely two thirds of New England’s average margin of 25.5 points per game.

While most attention is paid to both teams’ outstanding offenses, the defenses are equally as dominant. The teams rank 3 and 4 in fewest average yards allowed with both allowing under 275 yards per game.

Who will win this mammoth encounter? Stay tuned for our preview of this contest shortly.

Here’s a look at the 14 games that will be played this weekend.

Sunday

Washington —3 ½ at New York Jets (35): Normally this would be a good spot to look at the home underdog but the Jets are a mess with their QB controversy that may finally see Kellen Clemens replace Chad Pennington at QB. The Redskins remain a conservative team and their defense is much better than they showed last week against "The Machine." UNDER the Total.

Green Bay at Kansas City (No Line): Green Bay is off of Monday night’s game in Denver while Kansas City is off of their Bye. The Chiefs may come a small favorite here considering their recent run of four wins in five games. The offense has been slow to develop but the defense has been sound. The running game is virtually non-existent. Both defenses are the better balanced units. UNDER the total.

Arizona +3 ½ at Tampa Bay (37): Arizona is off of their Bye week while Tampa Bay lost a tough one point game to Jacksonville on this field last week. The Buccs have adjusted to losing several running backs and QB Jeff Garcia is having a fine season, finally throwing his first pick of the season last in last week’s loss (he threw 3). They are a much improved team and with veteran Kurt Warner at QB in place of injured Matt Leinart the Cards have a real shot at winning the NFC West. ARIZONA.

Carolina +4) at Tennessee (36): Despite playing in different conference the Panthers and Titans have faced five common foes in their seven games to date. Carolina is 2-3 straight up and against the spread, eing outscored 118 to 78. Most telling may be Tennessee’s competitive effort in a 22-20 loss to Indianapolis, the same team that handled the panthers 31-7 last week. Tennessee’s woes as a favorite are a concern but the Titans have a strong defense and the team as a whole is playing with greater confidence each week. TENNESSEE.

San Francisco +3 at Atlanta (37): They don’t get much uglier than this contest. The 49ers have lost five straight following their 2-0 start and Atlanta has won just once in seven games. The Falcons are off their Bye and Joey Harrington should return at QB with Byron Leftwich having been injured in his first start of the season. Atlanta has yet to top 103 yards despite a pair of solid runners. On balance Atlanta does have the better offense while the defenses are similar statistically. And San Francisco is making their second cross country trip in three weeks. ATLANTA.

Jacksonville +3 ½ at New Orleans (40): Despite relying on untested QB Quinn Gray, Jacksonville won at Tampa Bay last week and now plays a second straight road game against an NFC South foe. Of note is an improved Saints rushing defense that has held six straight foes under 100 yards. Still, the Jags are the better team overall and have covered in their two previous games as underdogs against teams not nicknamed the Colts. JACKSONVILLE.

Denver at Detroit (No Line): Denver is off of Monday’s game against Green Bay and Detroit is off of their 16-7 win in Chicago. At 5-2 Detroit is halfway to QB Jon Kitna’s "guaranteed" ten wins. Detroit is unbeaten in three home games while the Broncos have struggled to their three wins and did not cover a point spread until their win over Pittsburgh two Sunday nights ago. They are stepping down in class here, and face a second straight NFC foe. DENVER.

Cincinnati +2½ at Buffalo (43 ½): This game pit’s a pair of teams headed in opposite directions. Buffalo is on the rise with three wins in four games (and the loss was that one pointer to Dallas a few Monday nights back). Other than scoring 24 against Dallas, the Bills have not scored more than 19 points in a game. Cincinnati has not allowed fewer than 20 points in any of their six games since week one. OVER the Total.

San Diego at Minnesota (No Line): This game is off the boards with both of Minnesota’s quarterbacks questionable. San Diego has shown signs in recent weeks of returning to their dominant form of last season. They’ve won their last three games by an average score of 35-9. They’ll be happy to just escape with a narrow win. MINNESOTA.

Seattle +1 at Cleveland (47): At 4-3 it’s time to start taking Cleveland as a serious threat to challenge for a Wild Card. They should have success against Cleveland’s league worst defense, allowing 410 yards per game. Note that all seven of Cleveland’s games have gone OVER the Total. Make it eight. OVER the Total.

New England —5 at Indianapolis (57): The Game of the (blank). Fill in whatever word you choose and you still might not reach the heights to which the hype for this game will reach between now and kickoff. Imagine. An unbeaten Super Bowl champion nearly halfway into the next season as a home underdog! But New England is THAT good and has been THAT dominant. To be fair, the Colts have played the far more difficult schedule. Against other than Indy the Colts’ seven foes are 27-16. Against other than the Pats, New England’s eight foes are just 24-26. Both teams have outstanding offenses and top five defenses. In fact, the Colts rank number one in the league, allowing just 4.6 yards per play. Of course, prior to last week’s game against the Pats, Washington was the league leader in that category. A 52-7 romp dropped the Redskins several notches. New England is playing with an attitude and will be focused for this game as the Colts have now defeated the Pats three straight times after losing six straight to their rivals. The most recent win was Indy’s come from behind 38-34 win in last season’s AFC Championship game. As attractive and tempting as the points are, until some team: ANY team: can demonstrate an ability to even contain the Pats (averaging 41 points per game through half a season) prudence suggests a continuation of that bulldozer. It’s risky trying to predict that THIS will be the week they are finally tested. NEW ENGLAND.

Houston +3 at Oakland (42): Both teams played their best football early in the season and each has lost three straight entering this match up. After scoring at least 20 points in each of their first four games (a feat they failed to accomplish in their final 9 games of 2006) the Raiders have scored 14 or less in their last three games. As a result both offenses have been inconsistent. With both pass defenses statistically above average this shapes up as a game of field position and more field goals than touchdowns. UNDER the Total.

Dallas —3 at Philadelphia (46): Dallas is rested following their Bye and has played far better football than the struggling Eagles. Philly has had problems on offense but their defense has kept them in games, allowing no team more than 21 points in a game this season. The straight up game winner is 14-1-1 against the line in this series since 1999, Philly coach Andy Reid’s first on the sidelines. His Eagles have won 12 of the 16 meetings. PHILADELPHIA.

Monday

Baltimore +7½ at Pittsburgh (37): This game pit’s the league’s top two defenses against one another and each defense ranks in the top five against both the run and the pass. Baltimore routed the Steelers in both meetings last season and have coverer the last four in the series. Pittsburgh has a solid edge on offense, including the league’s top ground attack, averaging 159 yards per game. The key for the Ravens is to not fall too far behind early as their offense is not made to play catch up, making the first half UNDER a possible play. Expect Baltimore’s extra week of preparation, and their familiarity with the Steelers, to result in a close game. Even when the Steelers won the Super Bowl two seasons back, they played a pair of games against the Ravens decided by 1 and 3 points. BALTIMORE.