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There are a couple of interesting trends that will have an effect on a bundle of games this weekend.
One trend is highly logical: Since 2002, when the current league scheduling format was invented, teams coming off late-season byes have benefited immensely.
Over the previous 11 seasons, teams off a Week 10 siesta have had a mark of 24-6 ATS the next week against teams that played the week before. This week, that means paying extra attention to the Browns, Chiefs, Patriots and Jets, all of whom are on the road.
Now here’s a trend that’s a little below the radar: Backup QBs are 20-20-1 ATS this season, but a startling 13-5 on the road, perhaps because of inflated lines for home guys. This week that applies to Cleveland’s Jason Campbell and also Green Bay’s Scott Tolzien, who’s making his NFL starting debut.
It’s a bonus for the Browns at Cincinnati. They benefit from both trends. And one more thing: All across the map, except for Denver, it looks like it will be wet for Sunday’s games.
Anyway now for a closer look, with point spreads and odds provided by the LVH SuperBook:
PRO FOOTBALL – SUNDAY, NOV. 17
New York Jets (5-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Bills by 1 (41)
Facts: The Jets won their Week 3 meeting in the Meadowlands 27-20 thanks in part to eight sacks of EJ Manuel and despite an absurd 20 penalties… NYJ’s Geno Smith had a passer rating of 27.5 in that game, the second worst for a winning QB this year… The Bills have rallied to overcome double-digit deficits three times, including 20-6 to NYJ, but lost each game… Jets PK Nick Folk is 23-for-23 on FG tries. Last season he was 21-for-27 for a success rate of 77.8 pct. that ranked 28th in the league.
Analysis: The Jets, coming off a coveted Week 10 bye and in the second wild-card slot, are getting back standout receivers Santonio Holmes (probable, hamstring) and Kellen Winslow (probable, knee). Buffalo will be without its top two targeted receivers in Stevie Smith (groin) and Robert Woods (ankle). That makes for a tough matchup for the Bills, who probably will be leaning a lot more on the running game that will have to go against a refreshed defense that’s yielding a league-low 3.1 yards a rush.
Forecast: Jets 26, Bills 13
Atlanta Falcons (2-7) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Falcons 1½ (43½)
Facts: Last season, four QBs had their worst day of the season against Atlanta. This year, three have had their best… Preseason AFC South favorite Atlanta is listed at 2,000-1 to win the Super Bowl. TB is off the board in part to protect Bucs fans from themselves… In Week 7, the Falcons beat the Bucs 31-23 but gained only 18 rush yards on 18 carries… One reason for Atlanta’s rotten performance in a 33-10 home loss to Seattle last week was that its average starting field position was the 18… Tampa Bay will be down to its fourth-string running back, Bobby Rainey, who had a 31-yard run and a TD on Monday.
Analysis: Both teams are on a free fall from mediocrity, despite Tampa Bay’s winning streak. But almost assuredly, someone’s got to win. If it’s the Bucs, can they bring the same energy to this game that they did for the MNF cameras last week? If it’s Atlanta and its league-worst running game, how will the Falcons make headway against a defense that allowed Miami two ground yards last week. Plus, on top of WR Julio Jones already lost for the season, and with WR Harry Douglas (knee) and TE Tony Gonzalez (toe) both questionable, who’s left? The vote here is for the Bucs and the hard-charging Rainey.
Forecast: Buccaneers 19, Falcons 17
Detroit Lions (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Lions by 2½ (47)
Facts: The Steelers are 11-2 vs. Detroit since 1976, including 8-0 in Pittsburgh. The Lions haven’t won there since 1955, when both teams finished last in their conferences… Since Detroit ended its record 26-game road losing streak in 2010, it has gone 11-11 on the road… Matt Stafford, the league’s No. 7-rated passer, has led the Lions to the top of the NFC North. At this time last year, they were last… Ben Roethlisberger is closing the gap on Ryan Tannehill for most sacked QB, with 35. Tannehill has 37.
Analysis: The Steelers are feeling good about themselves after beating Buffalo last week 23-10 and seeing that AFC North front-runner Cincinnati is on a two-game losing streak. But still, Pittsburgh seems ill-equipped to deal with Stafford, sensational WR Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Detroit offense, not to mention Detroit’s brutes along the defensive line. Making it tough to stop Stafford is the fact he’s been sacked only 10 times on 383 drop-backs, by far the lowest rate in the league. On the other hand, Pittsburgh has only 16 sacks, fifth worst.
Forecast: Lions 34, Steelers 21
Washington Redskins (3-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Eagles by 3½
Facts: The Eagles, who are 5-1 on the road, look to snap a record 10-game home losing streak (0-10 ATS, too)… Philly, with Michael Vick at QB, had 263 rushing yards on 49 carries in its 33-27 win to open the season in Washington. No other team has had more ground yards in a game this year. But now Nick Foles (16 TDs, 0 INTs) is in charge… This game pits the only two QBs to have a perfect passer rating in a game the past three seasons. Foles did it two weeks ago in Oakland; the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III did it in a win vs. the visiting Eagles last year.
Analysis: Washington’s obvious weakness has been its defense, which has had a league-high three games without forcing a three-and-out, including the loss to Philly. It doesn’t help that the Redskins’ secondary is soft and the team has the oldest roster in the league. On the other hand, one of these days Foles is going to be unmasked as only a middle-of-the-pack passer. (Two of his TD passes last week were underthrown ducks). But probably not this week when the Eagles can stick to the ground. Not to mention, there’s no bigger fumbler in the league than RG3, who has lost control nine times.
Forecast: Eagles 34, Redskins 2
Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Chicago Bears (5-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Bears by 3 (46)
Facts: Baltimore has lost its past three road games to teams with losing records – Cleveland and last-place Pittsburgh and Buffalo… The Bears have scored 23 total points in their past three games vs. Baltimore… The last time the Ravens didn’t have at least two sacks in a game was Week 9 last year at Cleveland… Ravens QB Joe Flacco had no pass play longer than 18 yards last week on 36 throws. He tried fleet Torrey Smith 14 times, but connected on only five occasions... Baltimore seems to be set up nicely for a closing run with a three-game home stand starting next week; Chicago plays four its next five on the road.
Analysis: Chicago’s Josh McCown takes over for battered QB Jay Cutler again, which isn’t all bad, considering McCown guided the Bears to a 27-20 victory in Green Bay two weeks ago and led a ferocious attack in the second half at Washington in a 45-41 loss a week earlier. The problem for the Bears is their defense is in shambles, especially with the absence of turnover-maker Charles Tillman (IR), in addition to LB Lance Briggs and two other starters. Baltimore, meanwhile, showed promise in the first half against Cincinnati before going into its Four Corners offense. Maybe this week they don’t let up on the gas.
Forecast: Ravens 27, Bears 24
Cleveland Browns (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Bengals by 6½ (46)
Facts: The Bengals had 134 penalties yards in their overtime loss at Baltimore last week, the fourth highest total by anyone this season…The record for fewest rushing TDs in a season is one, set by Brooklyn in 1934. That’s how many the Browns have through nine games…Cincinnati held the Ravens to a long drive of 28 yards on Baltimore’s final 11 possessions last week, but still lost in OT, 20-17… Cincinnati PK Mike Nugent, who wasn’t allowed to try a 50 yard FG in overtime last week, is 3-for-4 from 50-plus this season… The Browns are 4-3 since the trade of RB Trent Richardson.
Analysis: This is a rematch from Week 4 when the Browns stifled the Bengals 17-6 and held WR A.J. Green to 51 yards on seven catches, a considerable achievement considering Green has a streak of five 100-yard games working. For Cleveland, as long as Brandon Weeden isn’t behind center, success follows. First it was Brian Hoyer, who was 2-0 before getting hurt, and now Campbell has had a couple of games with a 100-plus passer rating, including a game against KC, which has the league’s top defensive passer rating. In fact, Campbell’s reading of 105.4 reading against the Chiefs is the best anyone has done. Take the points.
Forecast: Bengals 24, Browns 22
Oakland Raiders (3-6) at Houston Texans (2-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Texans by 7 (42)
Facts: Two seasons ago, Oakland won 25-20 in Houston as a 4.5-point dog. But Texans WR Andre Johnson, who’s caught five TD passes from Case Keenum the past two weeks, didn’t play in that one. … Houston’s top-rated defense held Arizona to 41 second-half yards last week in the desert, but still lost 27-24… The Raiders’ average starting field position last week was its 41, and it still lost 24-20 at NYG… Raiders backup QB Matt McGloin has been taking a lot of practice snaps if Terrelle Pryor (questionable, knee) can’t go.
Analysis: Oakland offered so much hope early on behind the legs and arm of revitalized Pryor, who was the NFL’s eighth-rated passer through five weeks. He’s now 30th and over his past four games has 1 TD throw and 8 INTs. Thus, no longer do the Raiders see themselves as a playoff dark horse. On the other side, it appears Houston will get back coach Gary Kubiak who missed last week’s contest after suffering a mini-stroke during a game two weeks ago. He might get to coach from the press box. Although both teams are heading South, the Texans will have the emotional boost in this one, plus the better QB.
Forecast: Texans 31, Raiders 20
Arizona Cardinals (5-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Cardinals by 7 (41½)
Facts: The Jaguars ended a streak of nine straight double-digit losses last week with their 29-27 victory at Tennessee, but still haven’t scored a home TD since before last Christmas... In 2009, the Cardinals won in Jacksonville 31-17 as a 3-point underdog… This is Arizona’s first game on the road in five weeks, after three at home wrapped around a bye… Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still insists Rashard Mendenhall is the team’s bell cow at RB despite his 3.1-yard norm on 105 carries and two crucial fumbles that cost Arizona spread-beating wins vs. Houston and San Fran. Sidekick Andre Ellington has averaged 7.2 a run.
Analysis: The Jaguars have to be on a high after their first win for new coach Gus Bradley. But how is he going to get a running game that ranks tied for last in the league at 2.8 yards a carry to push around a Cardinals rush defense that has allowed the third fewest ground yards in the league. Also, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer, who often throws like he’s got his helmet on backward, has been cleaning up his play and isn’t the team’s worst enemy anymore. Since Arizona also is on the cusp of joining the wild-card fray, it’s the Cardinals with the greatest motivation. Especially in front of a half-empty stadium.
Forecast: Cardinals 30, Jaguars 17
San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Miami Dolphins (4-5)
Time: 1:05 p.m. PST
Line: Chargers by 1½ (45½)
Facts: Teams off MNF games, such as Miami this week, are 5-12 ATS the next week vs. a team on regular rest… The Dolphins have the third-worst offense in the league, but it’s still the best of the Florida teams… This is the Chargers’ third game in five weeks playing back East, and fourth overall this year (2-1 SU/ATS), but at least the kickoff was recently shifted from the dreaded early Sunday time slot… The Dolphins had 2 yards rushing on 14 carries last week in Tampa Bay, the third time this year a team averaged less than a yard a carry. It happened to Miami in Week 1 at Cleveland.
Analysis: Things appear to be spiraling out of control in Miami, especially with the Incognito/Martin saga stealing headlines. It’s hard to believe that earlier this season Miami became the first team in 22 years to win its first two games as a road underdog on the way to a 3-0 start. Now the Dolphins have lost 5 of 6, had the fewest ground yards in a game since Dallas had 1 against Washington in 2007 and can’t keep QB Ryan Tannehill on his feet. San Diego’s Philip Rivers and his mates certainly are in better spirits here.
Forecast: Chargers 31, Dolphins 14
Minnesota Vikings (2-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-1)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Seahawks by 12½ (45½)
Facts: Teams are 10-11 ATS as a double-digit choices this year, including a 1-3 mark for Seattle… Ex-Vikings WR Percy Harvin returns to Seattle after missing the first 10 weeks after hip surgery… Since Seattle had six 3-and-outs vs. St. Louis three weeks ago, the Seahawks have totaled one since in victories over Atlanta and Tampa Bay… Previously benched Minnesota QB Christian Ponder is expected to get his fourth straight start despite dislocating his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for the pylon last week in a 34-27 home win vs. Washington.
Analysis: The Vikings go into this one with a QB who is’s one hard landing from needing smelling salts and has a prolific RB in Adrian Peterson (groin strain). That’s not how you enter a game in Seattle, where the Seahawks have won 12 in a row and rode a season-high 145-yard rushing effort by Marshawn Lynch at Atlanta last week. And while Seattle will get to work in Harvin, Minnesota might be ready to sit veteran WR Greg Jennings (questionable, Achilles).
Forecast: Seahawks 30, Vikings 13
San Francisco 49ers (6-3) at New Orleans Saints (6-3)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Saints by 3 (47½)
Facts: The Saints, 14-0 SU/ATS at home in 2011 and 2013 with Sean Payton in charge, have given foes their worst loss of the season five times this year, including last week’s rout of Dallas, 49-17… San Fran was held to 151 yards in its 10-9 home loss to Carolina last week, its worst total since getting 133 in a 9-3 win over Minnesota in 2006... 49ers boss Jim Harbaugh is 2-0 vs. the Saints, but New Orleans won the previous six meetings… Last season, in QB Colin Kaepernick’s second career start, San Fran won in the Dome 31-21 as a 3-point choice against a Saints team that had started 0-4 but had won five of its previous six.
Analysis: San Francisco and Kaepernick averaged 1.6 yards a drop-back last week against Carolina’s second-rated defense and couldn’t get its running game going. That’s going to be different against a Saints team that allows a league-worst 5.0 yards a carry and who played like gangbusters in prime time last week in their rout of Dallas, helping DC Rob Ryan get revenge on the team that fired him last offseason. San Fran has an NFL-best 15 rushing TDs, only two off last year’s total. They should find nice going and make Kaepernick’s play-action a lot more effective than it was last week.
Forecast: 49ers 27, Saints 21
Green Bay Packers (5-4) at New York Giants (3-6)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Giants by 5 (42)
Facts: Green Bay will be starting its third straight different QB. This time alum Jeff Tolzien takes charge in place of Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) and Seneca Wallace (groin). Tolzien threw for 280 yards as an emergency fill-in last week vs. Philadelphia… Last year in the Meadowlands, NYG beat the Packers 38-10, the team’s worst loss in Rodgers’ seven years as a starter… TV analysts have been flabbergasted how Tolzien often throws off his back foot. Tolzien’s backup is Matt Flynn, who was just cut by Buffalo after not being able to beat out fourth-string undrafted rookie QB Jeff Tuel.
Analysis: This will be the third time in four games the Giants will be facing a third-string QB, having recently defeated the Vikings and Josh Freeman and Philly rookie Matt Barkley, who was making his first start. The other passer was Oakland’s 30th-rated Terrelle Pryor. New York also suddenly rediscovered its run game with Andre Brown gaining 115 yards last week vs. Oakland. He’ll be going against a Packers defense that quit last week vs. Philadelphia, allowing the Eagles to kill off the final 9-plus minutes on a 15-play drive that included only one pass.
Forecast: Giants 30, Packers 14
Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-1)
Time: 5:30 p.m. PST
Line: Broncos by 8 (49½)
Facts: Denver, which has the league’s top-rated offense, is the only team in the league not to face a defense rated in the top 10. In fact, their previous six foes are all ranked 22nd or worse… When KC coach Andy Reid was in Philly, his Eagles were 15-0 off byes, counting the postseason, when facing a team that played the week before. Three wins came as an underdog… The Broncos were 8-0 “over” this season until last week’s 28-20 victory over San Diego… The last time the Chiefs were 9-0, they were beaten in Cincinnati 24-19 by a 4-5 Bengals team… KC has the most takeaways and fewest giveaways for a +15 turnover differential. Last year, the Chiefs tied for fewest takeaways and most turnovers and finished at -24… Police blotter: Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe was arrested early this week (speeding, pot), but that won’t stop KC from letting him play.
Analysis: All eyes are on the sore ankle of Broncos QB Peyton Manning, which will make an immobile QB even less mobile. (FYI: No. 2 guy Brock Osweiler has thrown seven passes in his two-year career, with a long of 7 yards.). And he’ll be going against a Chiefs defense that has the most sacks in the league (36), but only one its past two games. What gives there? This will be a stern test for a Chiefs unit that has the league’s top defensive passer rating, but faced backup QBs in four of their past five games. The thinking here is that KC’s soft underbelly is their rush defense through the middle. Two weeks ago, Buffalo gouged the Chiefs for 241. In Week 2, Philly had 260. This could be a big game for Denver RB Knowshon Moreno. If Manning can stay on his feet ...
Forecast: Broncos 27, Chiefs 13
PRO FOOTBALL – MONDAY, NOV. 18
New England Patriots (7-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Time: 5:40 p.m. PST
Line: Panthers by 2½ (46)
Facts: This marks the first appearance of MNF cameras in Charlotte since 2008. The last 11 times a team coming off a Monday home drough of at least four seasons, are 10-1 ATS when the bright lights return. Included is St. Louis’ spirited 14-9 loss behind backup QB Kellen Clemens vs. Seattle three weeks ago as a 13.5-point underdog… This is the third time this year the Panthers are catching a team off a bye. They are 2-0 SU/ATS, including last week’s 10-9 upset victory in San Fran. The Patriots, meanwhile, are 0-3-1 ATS coming off their previous four byes… The Patriots were a 6-point pick when the line was first posted this summer.
Analysis: Now that the nation is paying attention, maybe the Panthers and combustible QB Cam Newton will burst into flames and quit acting like a title contender. Or maybe, just like last week, the Panthers will come through with a rousing win. As QB Tom Brady and the Patriots have shown, this team is more offensively challenged than in past year. This also will be the highest-rated defense NE will have faced. In Week 5, Brady had his worst game of the past four years in a 13-6 loss at Cincinnati, which has the league’s fourth-rated defense.
Forecast: Panthers 28, Patriots 16
Last week: 7-6-1 ATS, 7-7 SU
Season total: 71-73-3 (.493); 87-60 (.592).
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].