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There are some peculiar lines this week, which usually are well-set traps.
For instance, what’s with the Packers being only a 14½-point pick against Jacksonville? Is it possible that the travel-weary, banged up Jaguars, a team with as bad an offense as the league has seen the past seven years, can keep up with defending quarterback Aaron Rodgers?
And then there’s that game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and unbeaten Falcons. That the Eagles are favored probably has a lot to do with the fact HC Andy Reid has never lost a regular-season game after a bye week. But this year he’s facing a team that has the best record in the league and also is on a bye.
Hmmm, just something to mull over. Also, here’s the weekly heads up about bye teams.
Last year teams were 4-2 ATS coming off a Week 7 breather and facing an opponent that played the week before. But in the nine years previous, rested teams were only 9-17 in Week 8 games, by far the worst mark for any bye week.
Thus, keep that in mind when considering Denver, Kansas City, Miami and San Diego.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s games:
PRO FOOTBALL SUNDAY, OCT. 28
New England Patriots (4-3) vs. St. Louis Rams (3-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT (game in London)
Line: Patriots -7 (47)
Facts: The Rams are following the overseas itinerary Tampa Bay used last year by arriving in London early in the week. The Bucs, 4-2 at the time, then lost to Chicago 24-18, triggering a 10-game losing streak. • The Patriots, who beat Miami 27-17 in London in 2009, arrived Friday. • In Super Bowl 36, NE beat St. Louis 20-17 in the Superdome as a 14-point underdog. • Rams WR Danny Amendola (questionable, shoulder) hopes to return. He was the league’s top receiver when hurt Oct. 4.
Analysis: The Patriots’ experience in global travel should play dividends against a team that likely spent too much time checking out Big Ben (the clock) and Buckingham Palace. St. Louis has shown vast improvement, but were somewhat exposed last week by Green Bay QB Rodgers in a 30-20 loss. Now comes Tom Brady. Plus, no team is better than getting QBs to fumble than the Patriots, so there’s a good chance Sam Bradford will have extra happy feet in the pocket.
Forecast: Patriots 28, Rams 14
Indianapolis Colts (3-3) at Tennessee Titans (3-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Titans -3½ (47)
Facts: In their Week 15 meeting last year, the Colts staggered the visiting Titans 27-13 as a 6½-point underdog, crippling Tennessee’s playoff hopes. Indianapolis had 205 rushing yards, second most the Titans yielded in a game last year. • Tennessee RB Chris Johnson had 195 rushing yards in a 35-34 win in Buffalo last week. That’s a significant upgrade for a team that totaled a league-low 117 through the first three weeks. • Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck keeps his job another week.
Analysis: Indianapolis RB Donald Brown (questionable, knee), who missed the past two games, was a full-go in practice Thursday and expects to return. In that upset victory last year, he had a career-best 161 yards on 16 carries. Also, the Titans were fortunate to escape Buffalo with the win, scoring on a fourth-down pass in the final minutes. The Titans also benefited from three short fields, a rarity considering they had none the previous four games. This week Tennessee will have to work harder for its points.
Forecast: Colts 23, Titans 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Green Bay Packers (4-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Packers -14½ (45½)
Facts: The Packers are the heaviest favorites since the Ravens were a 16-point pick against Indy in Week 14 of 2011, winning 24-10. • In the Jags’ only game at Lambeau in 2004, they beat division-winning GB 28-25 as a 3½-point underdog. • Green Bay was 4-1 ATS last season as a home double-digit choice. • Jacksonville converted only one of 15 third-down tries last week in a 26-23 OT loss in Oakland. That was the worst performance by anyone since the Jags were 0-for-9 in Week 2 vs. Houston.
Analysis: It can’t get much worse for the Jags, who will be without last year’s rushing champ, Maurice Jones-Drew (out, foot), and have an ailing QB in Blaine Gabbert (questionable, shoulder). After all, even when healthy this offense was on pace to be the most anemic in the league since 2005. And then all the travel the past two weeks. Sheesh! Surely the Pack will be able to withstand the likely absence of WR Jordy Nelson (questionable, hamstring) and standout CB Charles Woodson (out, collarbone).
Forecast: Packers 30, Jaguars 9
San Diego Chargers (3-3) at Cleveland Browns (1-6)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Chargers -2½ (44)
Facts: The Chargers are in their first “jet lag” game. Since 2007, SD is 1-7 in the early Sunday time slot in the east. From 2003-06, though, the Chargers were 11-3 in this spot under old boss Marty Schottenheimer. • Browns RB Trent Richardson (questionable, ribs) was ineffective and benched in last week’s 17-13 loss at Indy. • San Diego is coming off back-to-back losses after blowing double-digit leads, including the Week 6 meltdown vs. Denver in which the Chargers squandered a 24-0 halftime edge.
Analysis: The Chargers aren’t what they were two years ago, when ranked No. 1 on the offensive and defensive charts, yet still didn’t make the postseason. Now those rankings are 24/13, but the team still is No. 1 in at least one category – fewest rushing yards allowed per game (71.2). If Richardson can’t/won’t carry the offensive load for Cleveland, the Browns could turn one-dimensional behind rookie QB Brandon Weeden.
Forecast: Chargers 24, Browns 10
Atlanta Falcons (6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Eagles -2.5 (46)
Facts: When these teams met in Atlanta in Week 2 of 2011, it was the only game the past three years in which both teams squandered double-digit leads. Atlanta won, 35-31. FYI: Philly QB Michael Vick threw an INT and fumbled three times. • Both teams are off a bye, just like in 2008, when the host Eagles beat the Falcons and then-rookie QB Matt Ryan 27-14. • Andy Reid’s Eagles are indeed unbeaten after bye weeks in the regular season since 1999, but that doesn’t count a 24-21 loss to NE in Super Bowl 39.
Analysis: Atlanta’s pass defense has been sensational this season, holding the league’s second and third-ranked QBs (Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III) to their worst passer ratings of the year. The same for Philip Rivers. So, what does that mean for Vick, the league’s No. 27 thrower? On defense, the Eagles no doubt will bring added energy under new coordinator Todd Bowles, who was 2-1 as interim head coach in Miami last season. But it won’t be enough to rattle an Atlanta team that doesn’t make mistakes.
Forecast: Falcons 27, Eagles 23
Seattle Seahawks (4-3) at Detroit Lions (2-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Lions -2 (43½)
Facts: Both teams are feeling the scheduling pinch: The Lions, coming off a 13-7 Monday Night Football loss in Chicago, are 1-4 ATS on short rest under HC Jim Schwartz the past three years. Seattle will be in its first jet-lag game of the season. • All of the Seahawks’ losses have been by 7 or fewer. In their division-winning season in 2010, each of their 10 defeats were by at least 10 points. • The Lions have had only one first-half offensive TD, fewest in the league.
Analysis: Although Seattle’s Russell Wilson is the only one of the five rookie starting QBs with a winning record, he’s been largely miserable in road games with a passer rating of 55.6, including last week’s 38.7 rating in San Francisco. How bad is that? He’d have been better off statistically throwing all this passes into the upper deck. As for Detroit, that 13-7 loss was misleading. The Lions reached Chicago’s 13, 3 and 1-yard lines before self-destructing.
Forecast: Lions 20, Seahawks 10
Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New York Jets (3-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Jets -2 (41)
Facts: For the fourth time in the past three years, the Jets are facing Miami after meeting the Patriots. After last year’s trip to New England, New York returned home to drum the Dolphins 24-6 as a 7-point pick. • In its Week 3 meeting in Miami, the longest game of the year (4 hours), the Dolphins rushed for 185 yards on 43 carries in a 23-20 OT loss. Other teams with 40-plus rushes this season are 11-2 SU, 12-1 ATS. • Teams coming off a bye and playing on the road this year (such as Miami here) are 5-0 ATS.
Analysis: Just about everything that could go wrong for Miami did in that Week 3 meeting. They blew a 10-point second-half lead thanks largely to two missed FG tries inside the 50 and a pick-6 thrown by Ryan Tannehill in his third game. Plus, Miami’s average starting field position was the 18, matching its worst launch point of the past 6 seasons. With a little better fortune, Miami should roll, especially if converting on 10 third-down tries again.
Forecast: Dolphins 24, Jets 20
Carolina Panthers(1-5) at Chicago Bears (5-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Bears -7½ (43)
Facts: The Bears beat the Lions on Monday Night Football 13-7, but didn’t cover despite a plus-4 turnover margin.• Chicago had 224 rushing yards in its 34-29 home win vs. Carolina last year (Matt Forte 205). On the other hand, Carolina had 543 yards of total offense in that game against a Bears defense that didn’t give up 400 in any other outing. • Panthers WR Steve Smith, a longtime Bears nemesis, had 181 yards on eight catches last year. In 2005, he had 12 for 218 and TD’s in a 29-21 playoff victory.
Analysis: Despite the Panthers’ awful start and QB Cam Newton & Co.. losing three stalwarts to injury– LB Jon Beason, CB Chris Gamble and center Ryan Kalil – Carolina should enter this game with a dose of confidence after watching tape of how it moved at will against the Bears last season. And now that Carolina’s GM has been fired, no one’s job should be considered secure. For this week, the Panthers overachieve against a Bears team with a beat-up QB (Jay Cutler, probable/ribs) on a short work week.
Forecast: Panthers 19, Bears 17
Washington Redskins(3-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Steelers -4½ (47½)
Facts: It looks like third-teamer Jonathan Dwyer will be carrying the rushing load again for Pittsburgh with Rashard Mendenhall doubtful (Achilles) and Isaac Redman questionable (ankle). Dwyer had 122 yards in a 24-17 win over Cincinnati last week. Pittsburgh’s longest run of the season was 19 until his 32-yarder. • The Redskins and rookie QB Robert Griffin III are 3-1 ATS on the road this year. • Pittsburgh was 10-for-16 on third-down conversions last week to improve its NFL-leading success rate to 53.8%.
Analysis: The Steelers famously have made life miserable for rookie QB’s especially the past two years, going 6-0, allowing an average of 9.8 points a game and totaling 9 INTs. To make matters worse for RG 3, he’ll be facing a 3-4 defensive scheme for the first time in the pros. And he’ll be doing so at Heinz Field, where wind currents and fan noise can make for a lousy day.
Forecast: Steelers 23, Redskins 14
Oakland Raiders (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)
Time: 1:05 p.m. PDT
Line: Chiefs -1½ (41½)
Facts: Oakland is the only team not to cause an enemy QB to fumble. • Last season there were five games in which officials marched off 24-plus penalties. Two involved the Raiders and Chiefs. • There could be a Peyton Hillis (probable, ankle) sighting this week in the Chiefs’ backfield, which would complement RB Jamaal Charles. • KC is holding steady with the league’s worst turnover differential at -15. In 1983, the Raiders were -13 and won the Super Bowl.
Analysis: The Raiders have won five in a row in Kansas City since 2007, but otherwise have gone 11-29 in road games, so it’s hard to identify these guys as road warriors. Especially with workhorse running back Darren McFadden averaging only 3.1 yards a carry, a serious drop from his 5.4 average in 2011. Meanwhile, Brady Quinn will make his home debut as KC’s starting QB and he had to be salivating while watching Jacksonville score 23 points against Oakland’s defense last week.
Forecast: Chiefs 34, Raiders 24
New York Giants (5-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-3)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Giants -2½ (47½)
Facts: Dallas opened the year with a 24-17 win in the Meadowlands as a 3½-point underdog, with DeMarco Murray running for 131 yards behind a line spearheaded by center Phil Costa. Neither is expected to play Sunday. • Giants WR Hakeem Nicks (probable, foot/knee) missed the opener. In Dallas last season, he had 8 catches for 163 yards in a 37-34 win. • Dallas ’ Tony Romo has 8 TD throws and 9 INTs. The last Super Bowl-winning QB with a negative margin was NYG’s Phil Simms in 1986 (21/22).
Analysis: Dallas not only will be missing Murray and Costa (doubtful, ankle), but leading tackler Sean Lee as well. And it’s not like backup RB Felix Jones is sturdy enough to last through stretching. New York meanwhile, plays its best ball on the road and is unbeaten in the JerryDome, winning slugfests of 33-31, 41-35 and 37-34, which sort of makes that O/U total look low. The Cowboys shouldn’t expect to reach 30 this time around, though, if backup center Ryan Cook can’t hold his own.
Forecast: Giants 38, Cowboys 19
New Orleans Saints (2-4) at Denver Broncos (3-3)
Time: 5:30 a.m. PDT
Line: Broncos by 6 (55½)
Facts: Saints first-string interim coach Joe Vitt, his suspension over, takes over from Aaron Kromer, who is on a two-game winning streak. • QB Peyton Manning has led Denver on 14 second-half TD drives this season, compared with four in the first half of games. • This is the highest O/U since the Lions and Saints were at 59 in last year’s wild-card round. New Orleans won 45-28. • NO’s 347 first-half yards at Tampa Bay last week were the most in the first two quarters of a game this year.
Analysis: It’s a matchup that might be unfair. The Saints, who are on pace to have the worst defense statistically in league annals, will be going against a QB who might be the best student of the game in history. And, he’s had an extra week to prepare. As they say, what a waste of a good bye week. New Orleans, which gave up 513 yards to Tampa Bay last week, might never make Denver punt.
Forecast: Broncos 49, Saints 28
PRO FOOTBALL MONDAY, Oct. 29
San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Arizona Cardinals (4-3)
Time: 5:40 a.m. PDT
Line: 49ers by 6½ (37½)
Facts: Last year when Arizona hosted SF, the Cardinals won 21-19 despite a -3 turnover differential. Over the past two seasons, all other teams have a cumulative 1-30 mark with such a margin. • Arizona has yielded 29 sacks its past four games, three more than any other team has given up all year. • On Arizona’s last 10 short fields, it has only 1 TD and 3 FGs. • In SF’s 13-6 win over Seattle last Thursday, the Seahawks’ average starting field position was their 15. That’s the worst starting point for any team since the Steelers’ norm was their 15 at San Fran in 2011.
Analysis: Did the sprained finger on 49ers QB Alex Smith’s passing hand heal sufficiently over the team’s extended break? He’s not listed on the injury report, but his production has suffered the past two weeks as he’s dropped from No. 1 to No. 8 on the passer charts. Now he’ll be going against a unit that has the league’s second best defensive passer rating and will have the prime-time home edge. Considering the Cardinals held the Vikings to 43 net air yards last week, Smith could be in more trouble. But probably not enough to cost SF a victory.
Forecast: 49ers 16, Cardinals 14
Last week: 7-5-1 ATS, 9-4 SU
Season total: 47-54-3 (.465) ATS; 53-51 (.504) SU.
Idle: Bills, Ravens, Bengals, Texans
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