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Seeing Titans perfect shows parity

Nov 4, 2008 4:57 PM

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

last week
NFL
PCT
4-9
67-61-1
52.3

The bell curve that is the NFL finally has just one member at each extreme as Tennessee improved last week to 8-0, while Cincinnati’s upset of Jacksonville leaves Detroit alone at 0-8.

This illustrates how difficult it is for any team to go through an entire season unbeaten or winless in this age of parity.

Preseason expectations were quite low for Atlanta in the wake of the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal and the abrupt departure of first-season coach Bobby Petrino. Yet new coach Mike Smith and rookie QB Matt Ryan have led the Falcons to a 5-3 record, already exceeding the 4½ wins projected at Las Vegas sports books.

Expectations for Baltimore were not much higher than Atlanta with a season win total posted at 6. B-more went 5-11 last season after going 13-3 in 2006 and it cost longtime head coach Brian Billick his job. Yet the Ravens are also 5-3 under the leadership of first-year coach John Harbaugh and rookie QB Joe Flacco.

Double-digit dogs did it again as Detroit covered last week in Chicago to bring the point spread record of underdogs getting 10 points or more to 13-1 this season. Interestingly, underdogs getting between 7½ and 9½ points – more than a touchdown but less than double digits – are just 6-14 ATS.

The final set of byes occurs this weekend as Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Washington are on the sidelines. And the NFL Network gets back into the mix as they begin a series of Thursday night telecasts starting with Denver at Cleveland.

Here’s a look at the 14 games:

Broncos +3 at Browns (48): Denver has dropped three of its last four, failing to score more than 19 points in five straight games. Both teams have problems defensively. OVER.

Jaguars -6 at Lions (44½): If ever there was a perfect spot for the Lions to get their first win of the season, this might be it. Jacksonville is off of their second straight dull effort. The Lions continue to play hard and should actually be the more confident of the two teams. DETROIT.

Titans -3 at Bears (39): Both teams rely primarily on defense and a strong ground game on both sides of the ball. This matchup should be very physical with yards and points very tough to come by. UNDER.

Bills +4 at Patriots (43): Buffalo’s fast start is a memory, while New England has overcome the loss of QB Tom Brady to be tied with the Bills at 5-3. The Pats have put up the better rushing stats and have won seven straight over the Bills. With a chance to seize control of the division, class and experience take precedence. PATS.

Saints -1 at Falcons (49½): New Orleans is rested

and does present the toughest offensive challenge that Atlanta has

faced. Falcons off a dominating 24-0 victory at Oakland in which the Raiders gained just 77 total yards and 3 first downs. We should see plenty of big plays on offense from each. OVER.

Rams +8 at Jets (44½): St. Louis has regressed the past few weeks after a pair of strong efforts following a coaching change. There are just too many negatives to back the Rams here, allowing 140 yards per game more defensively than they gain on offense. With the Jets’ much improved defense against the run, this looks one-sided. JETS.

Seahawks +9 at Dolphins (43): My how the fortunes of these teams have changed. Seattle is 2-6 as a result of major injuries to key offensive starters. Miami has quadrupled its single win of last season to stand 4-4. Seattle’s troubles traveling cross country have been well-documented, but this spread is too huge to back Miami. SEAHAWKS.

Packers +3 at Vikings (45): Green Bay won the first meeting, 24-19. Minnesota has the better rushing offense and defense but its QB play has been below average. Green Bay has now defeated Minnesota five straight times, but will host long-time rival Chicago next week. Vikes off 41 and 28 point efforts their last two games. VIKINGS.

Panthers -8½ at Raiders (38½): Carolina is physical and enter this game rested following a bye. Oakland is far from the league’s least talented team, but is clearly its most dysfunctional. Although it’s always risky to lay significant points on the road, it’s hard to find reasons that the Raiders will be competitive against a better foe. PANTHERS.

Chiefs +13½ at Chargers (47): This is a key game that may well determine the rest of the season for the rested Chargers. The Chargers are an extremely talented team that’s struggled against lesser foes, including Kansas City, in recent years. Following their bye, expect a fully focused effort against a vulnerable foe. Blowout. CHARGERS.

Colts +3 at Steelers (40): Indy QB Peyton Manning has yet to show he is 100 percent healthy and must face a physical, well-balanced Pittsburgh defense that is ranked third against the rush and first against the pass. The Steelers offense is averaging less than 300 yards per game but will be content to run and eat clock, UNDER.

Giants +3 at Eagles (43½): It’s hard to knock the Giants and their ability to win on the road (13-1 away from home since early last season). Both teams have excelled at defending the run and avoiding turnovers on offense. Combined, these teams are allowing less than 280 yards per game. UNDER.

Ravens +1½ at Texans (41): Baltimore has a huge edge defensively – No. 1 against the run and No. 4 against the pass. The Ravens have the better rushing offense and own two road wins this year. RAVENS.

49ers +9½ at Cardinals (46): Arizona’s offense has been solid behind the passing of QB Kurt Warner. New 49ers coach Mike Singletary was clearly displeased with his team in his first game. The Niners lost five straight, but the Cards have not covered the last six times when favored by a TD or more going back a decade. 49ERS.