Arizona, Giants, Titans are in the NFL playoffs

Dec 9, 2008 5:06 PM

Pigskin Picks by Andy Iskoe |

last week

Arizona, the New York Giants and Tennessee clinched their divisions this past weekend, claiming the first three of the 12 playoff berths that will comprise the field for the Super Bowl Championship.

Just three games remain for the other nine spots to be filled and most have playoff implications for one or both teams.

It looks as though it will take at least a 10-6 record to earn a Wild Card in both conferences, meaning the teams currently with at 7-6 must win their remaining three games to have a shot. Teams at 8-5 wins need to win at least twice.

Currently there are eight teams in the AFC battling for the six playoff spots, including the NY Jets, Miami and New England tied atop the AFC East with 8-5 records. The two 9-4 teams, Baltimore and Indianapolis, are in second place in their divisions and do control their playoff fates.

The loser of Monday’s Tampa Bay at Carolina will be the lone 9-4 team in the NFC and in control of the first Wild Card. Dallas and Atlanta are tied for the second Wild Card with 8-5 records.

As suggested last week, double-digit dogs continued their decline this past weekend posting a 1-3 ATS mark. The season total for such underdogs is now 18-7. This "trend" started the season 9-0 through six weeks and was 17-1 through 11. Over the last three weeks, however, the double-digit dogs are just 1-6 ATS.

Using the closing line at the Hilton, 9½-point underdogs are just 1-6 ATS this season. Stated another way, dogs of greater than 9 are a decent, but not overwhelming 19-13 ATS.

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

Saints +3 at Bears (44): The Saints like to throw the ball and their own defense is vulnerable to the pass. This should be played at an up-tempo pace with several big plays on offense as well as on special teams. OVER.

Packers -2½ at Jaguars (45½): It’s hard to back a favored Packers team just 2-4 on the road with the two wins coming at winless Detroit and at 2-11 Seattle. The Jags have the better overall talent and are positioned for an improved effort at home. JAGUARS.

Lions +16½ at Colts (45½): Detroit gets closer to imperfection at 0-13 and the Lions do not figure to win here against a Colts team riding a six-game winning streak and playing with need. The better option may be the total as the Lions don’t figure to suddenly become a scoring machine. UNDER.

Redskins -6½ at Bengals (36): Washington has a solid defense and a conservative offense that rarely turns the ball over. Yet the largest win margin has been just eight points. The Skins have rushed for less than 100 yards in four of their last five games. UNDER.

Bucs +2½ at Falcons (NT): NFC South teams were 22-2 at home prior to Monday after the Saints defeated Atlanta last week. Tampa won the earlier meeting 24-9 as Falcons rookie QB Matt Ryan was making his first road start. Needless to say he’s made considerable progress. FALCONS.

49ers +6½ at Dolphins (43): The Niners have shown marked improvement since Mike Singletary took over as coach, but the cross country travel is a negative. Star RB Frank Gore was banged up in the win over the Jets and is questionable. Miami is playing its final home game. DOLPHINS.

Seahawks -3 at Rams (43½): Seattle won the earlier matchup at home 37-13. Something has to give as the two offenses are ranked 27 and 29 while the defenses rank 29 and 30. Despite the presence of a pair of weak defenses, the offenses still have to execute their plays repeatedly in order to score. UNDER.

Bills +7 at Jets (42): Buffalo began the season 4-0 but has gone 2-7 since. After taking control of the division following an upset of previously unbeaten Tennessee, the Jets have lost two straight as a favorite. The Jets won the earlier meeting 26-17 in a game that was statistically even. This is historically a competitive series. BILLS.

Titans -3 at Texans (44½): The Titans wrapped up the AFC South title last week and could clinched the AFC’s top seed next week at home against Pittsburgh. Houston has played well after starting 0-4, winning three in a row and six of nine. Tennessee won the first meeting 31-12, but the game was statistically close. TEXANS.

Steelers +1 at Ravens (NT): This is for the lead in the AFC North. The Ravens are 5-1 at home, losing only to powerful Tennessee by a FG in midseason. Pittsburgh is 5-1 on the road. Both teams have tough road games on deck. Ben Roethlisberger appears banged up while Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is just not playing like a rookie. RAVENS.

Broncos +7 at Panthers (NT): Denver has regained its winning form with four wins in its last five games including three on the road. Carolina was 6-0 at home prior to last Monday’s game with Tampa Bay. Denver is 3-0 vs the NFC South teams and Carolina is 3-0 vs the AFC West. Both teams have been effective on offense over the past month. OVER.

Chargers -4½ at Chiefs (47): The Chargers are one of this season’s biggest busts. The Chiefs are better than their 2-11 record and gave San Diego a tight ball game earlier this season. The Chargers are just 1-5 on the road and have just played three straight at home. CHIEFS.

Vikings +3 at Cardinals (49): Arizona has wrapped up the NFC West title while Minnesota clings to a one-game lead over Chicago in the NFC North and thus plays with the greater need. Arizona is just 3-5 outside the NFC West. Minnesota has the far better defense. VIKINGS.

Patriots -7 at Raiders (40): The Patriots were dull in their win at Seattle last week. Oakland has extra rest after last Thursday’s ugly loss at San Diego, but that may not be much of an edge. The Raiders have shown very little progress since the start of the season. New England still has an huge edge in talent, coaching and chemistry. PATS.

Giants +3 at Cowboys (44): The Cowboys are playing with the greater need just to make the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Giants have clinched the NFC East, but have only a one game lead for the top NFC seed. Both teams are dealing with distractions. The Giants are slightly better statistically, but Dallas is 5-1 at home. The Giants are 5-1 on the road, but Dallas is healthier and has RB Marion Barber expected back. COWBOYS.

Browns +14 at Eagles (38): Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel is all but gone after the season. The Giants’ other loss this season came in Cleveland’s other Monday night performance but that came at home. It’s hard to see the Browns putting forth a similarly inspired effort here especially with so much at stake for the hosts. EAGLES.