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'Never say never' with NFL

Oct 14, 2008 5:07 PM

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |


The NFL is truly far better than reality TV.

No fewer than five games were decided in the waning moments of the fourth quarter or in overtime. Baseball icon Yogi Berra’s oft quoted witticism "it ain’t over till it’s over" plays out frequently in pro football. Perhaps there was no greater example than in the Bears-Falcons game in which the lead changed twice in the final 11 seconds.

The week began with four winless teams and that group was cut in half. Both St. Louis and Houston scored in the final seconds of their games at Washington and against Miami respectively. Detroit saw its chances at a first victory end when Minnesota got a field goal with nine seconds remaining to win 12-10.

Both St. Louis and Detroit covered as double-digit underdogs to improve what has been a remarkable record this season. Underdogs of 10 points or more are now a perfect 9-0 ATS with five winning outright.

What this demonstrates is just how evenly spread out the talent is in the NFL. Talent-wise, there is not that great of a difference between the best and worst teams in the league.

Often front office and other management and coaching decisions regarding the deployment of that talent is what enables some teams to go 13-3 and others to go 3-13. But results this season should serve as reminders to favored teams not to take any opponent lightly.

The fifth exciting finish came in Arizona where the Cards blocked a Dallas punt after one minute of overtime, marking the first time in NFL history that a game ended with a blocked punt returned for a TD.

At 4-2 Arizona has a two-game lead in the weak NFC West, putting them in position for at least the time being to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought. Arizona last made the postseason in 1998, which in turn followed a drought that had started in 1983.

Arizona, Atlanta, Jacksonville and Philadelphia enjoy their byes this week.

Titans -7 at Chiefs (35): Both teams are off byes. This week’s edition of musical chairs finds Brodie Croyle back behind center for the Chiefs, whose lone win came at home over Denver and was in convincing fashion. The Chiefs have long been a solid play as home underdogs. CHIEFS.

Chargers PK at Bills: The Chargers played their best all around game of the season Sunday night in manhandling New England although the running game has been barely average this season. Excellent special teams make the Bills a very dangerous foe. A bad scheduling spot with San Diego playing in London next week. BILLS.

Steelers +3½ at Bengals: The status of Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer was up in the air early in the week. Pittsburgh is off a bye and may have RB Willie Parker back. The Steelers won both meetings last season by double digits and have also won the last seven in Cincy, covering each time. STEELERS.

Ravens +3 at Dolphins (36½): Baltimore’s defense will be by far the best to face Miami’s gimmicky offense that features RB Ronnie Brown and should be prepared to limit its effectiveness. At the same time, Baltimore’s own offense is severely limited and will also face an improved Miami defense. UNDER.

Cowboys +7½ at Rams: Dallas must rely on backup QB Brad Johnson for the next month after starter Tony Romo broke a finger in their OT loss at Arizona. The St. Louis coaching change had an immediate positive impact. The Cowboys clearly have the superior talent on both sides of the ball and should be prepared to give a fully focused effort here. COWBOYS.

Vikings +3 at Bears (38): Six weeks into the season and Minnesota’s offense is still struggling. Chicago’s offense has actually outperformed the Vikes, averaging nearly a TD more per game. Both teams excel at defending the run. Prior to last season’s shootout, the four prior meetings in Chicago produced 38 points or less. UNDER.

Saints +3 at Panthers (44): Carolina’s ineptitude in Tampa last week was one of the more surprising performances of the young season. New Orleans plays in London next week, but is off of a dominating home win over Oakland. We can expect a much better all around effort from the Panthers this week. PANTHERS.

49ers +12 at Giants (46): The Giants have been statistically the most dominant team in the NFL, but it must be recognized they’ve largely played a weak schedule following an opening game win over Washington. San Francisco has struggled against the better teams, but double-digit underdogs are 9-0 ATS this year. 49ERS.

Lions +8 at Texans (47): Houston rallied in the closing seconds against Miami to get their first win of the season last week. Detroit has some QB concerns, but Houston is allowing nearly 32 points per game. Then again, so are the Lions. And neither defense has been adept are causing turnovers. OVER.

Jets -3 at Raiders (42½): After faring poorly against the Raiders for many years, the Jets have won the last three meetings. QB Brett Favre has also had some big games against Oakland while with Green Bay. This would normally be a good spot to play the home dog, but there are too many distractions with the Raiders. JETS.

Browns +8½ at Redskins (41½): Even in losing to St. Louis, the Redskins dominated in total yards 368-200. The defense has played well all season and will face the league’s bottom-ranked offense. And despite their woes on offense, Cleveland’s defense has played well and ranks in the top half of the league. UNDER.

Colts +1 at Packers (47½): Their frantic final five-minute rally to win at Houston two weeks ago may have signaled the immediate resurgence of the Colts as they made a very good Baltimore defense look woeful in last week’s 31-3 rout of the Ravens. Green Bay’s defense is suspect but the Colts’ stop troops are no bargain either. OVER.

Seahawks +5½ at Bucs (NT): Seattle again travels cross country to the East Coast where they have already suffered one-sided losses at Buffalo and the New York Giants. Tampa Bay is the better team, especially on defense, and catches the Seahawks in their most vulnerable position. BUCS.

Broncos -3 at Patriots (46½): The Monday night game. The absence of QB Tom Brady has had a negative impact on the defense which has struggled. Struggling Denver is off two road games, while the Pats return home after a pair of contests on the West Coast. This gives a clear scheduling and an emotional edge to the hosts. PATS.