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San Diego needs spark in last 7 games of NFL season

Nov 11, 2008 5:05 PM

The NFL season is more than halfway complete and it’s about that time that we can start taking a look at possible playoff implications of upcoming games.

All teams have now played nine games. Byes are finished. And, there will be 16 games played each week for the next 7.

Tennessee remains the lone unbeaten team at 9-0 and has a three-game lead for the top seed in the AFC. Denver would also make the playoffs today with a one-game lead in the AFC West despite just a 5-4 record. The AFC playoff field would be rounded out by four teams that are 6-3 and co-leaders of their divisions – New England and the New York Jets in the East and Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the North.

Should this hold up (unlikely though that is) it would mean Indianapolis and San Diego – a pair of highly thought of teams last August – would be left out of the playoffs.

The New York Giants have the best record in the NFC at 8-1 but that is just a one-game lead over Carolina’s 7-2 mark for the top NFC seed. Arizona entered Monday night’s game against San Francisco with a healthy three-game lead in the NFC West.

Chicago and Minnesota were tied atop the NFC North with 5-4 records but with Washington, Tampa Bay and surprising Atlanta at 6-3 either the Bears or Vikings, but not both, would make the playoffs.

Obviously a one-game lead or deficit means virtually nothing with seven games still to play, but it is worth noting which teams are in control of their fates with less than half of the season remaining to be played.

In the coming weeks contenders will be facing one another, making for many meaningful games in November and December as the playoff field comes into focus.

Double-digit underdogs continue to be moneymakers this season as the record of these huge underdogs improved to 14-1 against the spread when Kansas City covered against and nearly defeated San Diego this past Sunday.

Arizona may have closed as a double-digit favorite Monday night against San Francisco and there could be as many as three double-digit dogs this weekend.

Thursday night pro football continues this week with an important AFC East showdown between co-leaders New England and the Jets.

Here’s a look at all 16 games this week:

Jets +3½ at Patriots (41): On the NFL Network. Pats QB Matt Cassel made his first start in 19-10 win over the Jets. That game was also Brett Favre’s second start as Jets’ QB. The key to this game may be the Jets’ run defense which has held five of their last six foes to 80 yards or less. JETS.

Broncos +5½ at Falcons (51): Both teams have winning records with high-powered offenses and below average defenses. Atlanta has one of the league’s top rushing offenses while Denver’s strength is it’s No. 3-rated pass offense. Both teams’ defenses have been equally vulnerable to both the run and the pass. OVER. (Pictured the Falcons' Lawyer and Milloy)

Raiders +13 at Dolphins (38½): It’s just hard to pull the trigger on backing the Raiders even with the outstanding record of double-digit underdogs. And, it’s tough backing Miami as well after only beating Seattle by 2. Miami’s ground game along with the Oakland "prevent offense" should portend a low-scoring contest. UNDER.

Ravens +6½ at Giants (42): These are both "play on" teams as evidenced by their combined 14-4 record and with each team sporting a 7-2 ATS mark. With both teams playing at such a high level, the preference is to take the points with a defensively strong underdog, especially as the line approaches a full touchdown. RAVENS.

Texans +9 at Colts (49): Indianapolis rallied for a 31-27 win in the first meeting last month. Houston backup QB Sage Rosenfels will again start and his miscues in the first meeting enabled the Colts to rally. Indy is 12-1 all time straight up against the Texans and now playing with a sense of urgency. COLTS.

Titans -3 at Jaguars (39): Tennessee is the better football team based on performance while Jacksonville may be the more talented team based on potential. Tennessee’s 9-0 streak began with a 17-10 home win over the Jags to start the season. The Jags make for an attractive home underdog in this spot. JAGUARS.

Bears +5½ at Packers (NT): QB Kyle Orton’s status was still uncertain early in the week. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers continues to improve and the Packers catch the Bears in a poor scheduling spot. Chicago starts a three-game road trip after not playing away from home in more than a month. PACKERS.

Eagles -9½ at Bengals (43): Philly should find this opponent more to their liking than the Giants. Especially since Bengals’ QB Carson Palmer will again be sidelined and lightly tested Ryan Fitzpatrick will start. Cincy is off a bye but there is little reason to expect much improvement from the league’s worst offense. EAGLES.

Saints -5 at Chiefs (48): KC coach Herman Edwards’ decision to go for 2 last week in San Diego rather than force OT was due to his concern over much of his defense being banged up. This is a good spot for the more talented Saints whose five losses have all been to teams with winning records. SAINTS.

Lions +14 at Panthers (39½): Detroit’s QB situation is a mess with recently signed Daunte Culpepper and inexperienced Drew Stanton both seeing action last week against Jacksonville. Carolina is unbeaten in five home games, but might take Detroit for granted with a divisional game at Atlanta up next. LIONS.

Vikings +3½ at Bucs (39½): Tampa is rested from the bye and presents more of a defensive challenge to Minnesota than did Green Bay. Tampa has won the last three meetings with the Vikings, each by double digits, although the teams have not met since 2005. Tampa Bay is playing the better football and is 4-0 at home. BUCS.

Rams +4 at 49ers (44): The Rams have lost six times by at least 17 points this season! The Niners have generally fared better against common foes both in and out of division. Frisco is favored for the first time in the last dozen games against the Rams. Neither offense can be counted upon to sustain drives without mistakes. UNDER.

Cardinals -3 at Seahawks (46): Arizona is making it a runaway in the weak NFC West. Seattle has been plagued by injuries all season and this would normally be a good spot, having been favored 10 straight times against the Cards. Seattle has been strong at home over the years and has won four straight on this field over the Cards. SEAHAWKS.

Chargers +3½ at Steelers (43): San Diego continues to underachieve and almost lost at home to Kansas City last week as a 15-point favorite. The defense ranks last in the league against the pass. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is banged up but expected to start. The Steelers have gone over the total in 21 of their last 27 home games. OVER.

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

Cowboys -1½ at Redskins (45): Washington has a 3-1 divisional record that includes a 26-24 road win at Dallas. The Cowboys have lost 3 of 4 as injured QB Tony Romo is expected back. Getting the better defense as a home underdog is the attractive option. REDSKINS.

Browns +5 at Bills: Monday night. Buffalo’s 4-0 start is a distant memory with losses in 4 of its last 5. Cleveland has blown late double- digit leads in two straight defeats. The Bills are fundamentally better than Cleveland and enjoy an edge on special teams. BILLS.