Most people didn’t expect the Dallas-Miami game to be the best of the three on Thanksgiving, but it definitely provided the most drama and action. The Green Bay-Detroit game was not as close as the score suggested (due to a Detroit touchdown with ten seconds to go), and the Harbaugh Bowl showcased some great defense but was a little short on thrills. Still, a football filled Thursday is something to be thankful for. Let’s see what we’re having for leftovers this weekend:
The Eagles have proven to be one of the most frustrating and underwhelming teams in the league this year, as the ‘Dream Team’ has stumbled to a 4-6 record, and any hopes of making the postseason are rather dim. They did manage to save their season last week, as Vince Young led them to a win against the Giants. It is somehow fitting that they would lose to Arizona and their back up quarterback, and then take a win from a tough New York team with their own back up QB. Such is the way things go in the NFL sometimes. Still, the Eagles have many holes, and they will likely be without Michael Vick once again. Perhaps equally important, they will probably be without Nnamdi Asomugha as well, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The Eagles are already without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back there, so the Patriots receivers could have a lot easier a day than they may have feared. As inconsistent as Philly has been, the Patriots have looked mighty impressive the past two weeks in convincing wins over the Jets and Chiefs. With a cushy remaining schedule, if the Pats can win on Sunday, they could have a clear pathway to a number one seed in the AFC. It doesn’t hurt their cause that Tom Brady is on pace to break a few records this season, or that Rob Gronkowski has emerged as the best tight end receiver in the game (although Jimmy Graham may take issue with that statement). Still, the Pats are firing on all cylinders, and their defense is also showing signs of improvement. Although New England are giving up a heap of passing yards, they have kept opponents to 16 points or less in their past two games, and under 25 since week 3. That basically indicates that they are a good example of a ‘bend but don’t break’ defense. And in the end, yards allowed don’t show up on the scoreboard, points do. Ultimately, the Pats are healthy at the skill positions, and playing some great football. Vince Young looked average at best last week, and even against a weaker defense, he is certainly no Michael Vick. While I was a big believer in Philly at the start of the year, even a win against New York isn’t enough to win me back over. The Pats should have no trouble taking down the Eagles and ending any hope they had of the playoffs. The Patriots are 4-0 ATS versus teams with losing records, and are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 as a road favorite. Meanwhile, Philly is 1-7 ATS in their last 8 home games, and 4-9 ATS in their last 13 overall. New England will simply overpower the Eagles this week as they continue to separate themselves from the pack in the AFC.
This is my biggest slam dunk of the weekend, plain and simple. Indy have totally checked out, and even coming out of a bye week, I just can’t see them getting up for this one. The Panthers meanwhile, even though they are way out of playoff contention, are trying to prove that they are a legitimate team with playoff aspirations next year. With Cam Newton at the helm, I wouldn’t bet against it. This isn’t even so much about Carolina being better than their record indicates (which is true), but more about the Colts just being that bad. Take a look at these numbers: 3, 7, 10, 7. Those are the amount of points Indy has scored in the past 4 games. Their best offensive effort was for 24 points, and that was only one of two times they cracked the 20 point mark. They got totally shut down by a very mediocre Jaguars team two weeks ago, and at this point it would behoove them to continue to lose quite frankly. Their best bet at turning this franchise around is getting the number one pick and taking Andrew Luck, or trading it for a couple of top draft picks. Curtis Painter is awful, they have absolutely no run game, and their defense is pretty soft as well. I fully expect Newton to absolutely go off against the Colts both with his arm and his feet, and Steve Smith to have a huge day himself. The Panthers looked amazing in the first half against Detroit last week, and if they can play another half as good as that this week, they won’t need to fear a wild comeback like they experienced against the Lions. This line seems extremely generous to the Colts, as I would have positioned it closer to a touchdown. Carolina are an impressive 6-0 ATS as a road favorite, and are 8-2-1 ATS as a favorite of a field goal or less. On the other hand, Indy are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games, and 0-5 ATS in their last 5 as an underdog. There are about 20 more stats that involve the Colts being 0-for-something, and they won’t be putting anything in the win column after this week. The Panthers should cruise to an easy win here, as the Suck for Luck campaign forges on.
It may initially appear a little strange to be taking Seattle in any game where you are giving up points as well, but the Seahawks have actually played quite well as of late. Last week they made easy work of the Rams, winning 24-7, and the week before they upset the Ravens 22-17. Even the week before at Dallas they kept things competitive. Now they get to face a Redskins team that continues their steep drop towards obscurity. After winning 3 of their 4 first games, Washington has now lost 6 straight. Those losses include being shut out by the Bills, getting hammered by Carolina, and losing to a Miami team that had 1 win on the season before that game. Needless to say, the Redskins are not a good team. Some of the blame has to fall on Mike Shanahan. His indecision at quarterback has led Rex Grossman to take over once again as starting quarterback, despite throwing for 7 interceptions in his last 3 games, compared to 2 touchdowns. Shanahan’s even greater sin is his refusal to acknowledge who his best running back is. Despite Roy Helu showing by far the most promise and potential for the Redskins, Shanahan first insisted that Tim Hightower get the bulk of the work, and now insists that Ryan Torain get the rock, despite the fact that Torain gets about as many yards per carry as I would. There is something to be said for not letting a defense prepare, but there is also something to be said for being confusing for the sake of it, rather than helping to improve a young, talented player. Seattle on the other hand are making the most of their limited talent. Marshawn Lynch continues to find the endzone despite modest yard per carry totals. Tarvaris Jackson has been solid though unspectacular. And the receiving crew has been getting the job done without a lot of flash or sizzle. The other reason I like Seattle’s chances in this one is the 12th man. Seattle’s home is one of the toughest to play inside of in the entire NFL. A big part of the win against Baltimore was the fact that they were at home. Seattle are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 against fellow NFC opponents, and have lost only 1 in their last 8 ATS overall. The Skins, conversely, are 1-5 ATS as an underdog and overall. In what is likely to be a bit of a snoozer, the Seahawks should come away with a relatively easy victory.
While games in the NFC West are generally pretty low quality and dull as a pair of kindergarten scissors, we must go where the value takes us, and in this case its in St.Louis. I’ve been one of the bigger Rams apologists around this season, but at some point one needs to simply admit what the numbers suggest: the Rams stink. After a season full of hope and promise last year, Sam Bradford has regressed considerably in his sophomore season. Steven Jackson remains a stalwart in the rushing game, but it is tough to rely on your run game when you are consistently playing from behind. The Cardinals have actually had a pretty decent 4 weeks. They lost to San Francisco last week, but there is nothing shameful in that, and the previous two weeks they defeated Philadelphia (in Philly!) and these very same Rams. The week before that they lost a heartbreaker to Baltimore. These results suggest that the Cards are good enough to hang around with and sometimes beat some quality competition. Other than what can only be considered a fluke win against New Orleans, the Rams have been soundly thrashed around this entire season. Although Kevin Kolb’s status for this game remains up in the air, the fact that he has practiced this week, albeit in a limited fashion, suggests that he will give it a go. If its John Skelton again, things get a little more dicey, but I believe that the Cardinals will lean on Beanie Wells heavily regardless of who the quarterback is, and there isn’t much the Rams defense will be able to do to stop him. This is nothing more than a pride game for both teams, as the 49ers have all but clinched their division and there is no hope of a wildcard team coming from the NFC West, but any time a divisional game is played, it means something to the players. From prior weeks, all indications are that the Cardinals simply care more, as the Rams have looked mentally checked out for some time now. The Rams are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 against the NFC, 1-5 versus teams with a losing record, and 2-9 ATS in their last 11 overall. Not even a strong game from Brandon Lloyd will be enough for the Rams in this one, and the fact that we are getting an extra 3 points of wiggle room in this one is reason enough to go with Arizona, who should take a low scoring affair by a field goal.