Analyzing the Four NFL Teams That Were Bounced From the Playoffs

Harrison
Harrison
Despite being 37, James Harrison was the Steelers best pass rusher. Will he be back?

Now we get to the heart of the National Football League Playoffs. Next weekend, the Divisional Playoffs begin and for whatever reason this part of the playoffs has always brought the most excitement and the most thrilling games. I do not know why but over the last 20 years or so that’s just how it has played out.

The match-ups were finalized yesterday as Dallas and Indianapolis both won to advance. The Colts will travel to Denver where another Andrew Luck-Peyton Manning duel awaits. Dallas will travel to Green Bay where the “Ice Bowl” may very well be re-lived as temperatures are forecasted to be extremely cold as of this writing.

The half of the brackets were filled out on Saturday in wins by Baltimore and Carolina. The Ravens now travel to New England where they have been a thorn in the side of the the Patriots for several years now. Carolina will take their dinged up quarterback Cam Newton to Seattle where a crazy-loud crowd awaits.

Let’s address today however, the teams that are preparing for the NFL Draft and the offseason now.

In Arizona, fans can only ask “what might have been” had Carson Palmer or even Drew Stanton been healthy enough to play on Saturday. No disrespect to the young man, but Ryan Lindley isn’t an NFL quarterback and I’m not entirely sure rookie Logan Thomas is either. Head Coach Bruce Arians will no doubt look for depth at several positions, most notably at QB.

The Cards must also deal with the potential of Larry Fitzgerald moving on as it’s doubtful the team can afford him.

In Pittsburgh, the offense appears to be intact but the offensive line could use some upgrades. The defense is the biggest question heading into the offseason as the futures of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and James Harrison are in limbo. Polamalu and Taylor are likely done but the 37-year old Harrison claims he wants to return. Considering he was their most consistent pass rusher, it might not be so bad.

That said, the secondary in Pittsburgh is bad and that will be addressed in the draft and free agency. The biggest issue with the defense however is coordinator Dick LeBeau who at 77 might be ready to finally call it a career.

The Cincinnati Bengals dropped their fourth straight playoff game under Andy Dalton and while Marvin Lewis seems to have been in the Queen City forever, he still hasn’t won a playoff game either. Don’t be surprised if a change is made there. Sometimes you have to make a change to get over the hump.

In Dalton’s defense, he was without his top two weapons in A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham yesterday but the 0-4 playoff record and huge contract won’t care. The Bengals are in need of some change and it’s coming.

Lastly is the Detroit Lions who saw their biggest weakness come back to haunt them in Dallas as their offensive line was exposed at the worst possible time. The Lions’s offseason issues will begin with Ndamukong Suh who will be a free agent. The Lions must decide if the headaches he brings with his dirty play are worth the money.

Obviously the Lions need to shore up the offensive line but Matthew Stafford is starting to find himself in some dubious company as he might be the best QB not to win a playoff game.

All four of these teams are capable of returning to the playoffs next season especially if expansion from 12 to 14 happens as many expect, but all four must make significant changes in order to past the Wild-Card round.

Early NFL Lines as the Playoffs Come Into Focus

Murray
Murray
I expect the Cowboys to get DeMarco Murray involved early and often in Chicago.

Here’s an early look at your NFL Lines for week 14. Picks in BOLD

Dallas (-3.5) at Chicago – The Cowboys were humbled before a national TV audience on Turkey Day and now hit the road for another Thursday nighter. Look for them to get back to the running game in Chicago.

Baltimore (+3) at Miami – The Ravens dropped a stunner at home to San Diego and now travel to Miami where the Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot with these same Ravens. Best match-up here is the Ravens’ offense versus the Dolphins’ D.

Tomlin
Mike Tomlin's Steelers in a 'must-win' situation in Cincinnati on Sunday.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Cincinnati – It’s this simple for the Steelers; they have to win or the playoffs are all but out for a third straight season. The Bengals have won three-straight road games and will be happy to return home.

Indianapolis (-3) at Cleveland – Will it be Johnny Football or will Cleveland Coach Mike Pettine stay with Brian Hoyer? You can bet the Colts are prepping for both while their offense just keeps humming along behind Andrew Luck.

Houston (-4) at Jacksonville – If J.J. Watt doesn’t finish in the top three for league MVP then there’s a huge problem. He has scored five touchdowns this year and his play on the DL is only getting better. The Jags are coming off an amazing comeback win over the Giants though and will have some momentum.

NY Giants (EVEN) at Tennessee – You have my sympathies if you have to watch this game Sunday. The Giants and Titans are a combined 5-19 and have not won in 13 straight games.

Carolina (+9.5) at New Orleans – The Panthers have lost six straight and are no longer a threat in the brutal NFC South. The Saints got a much-needed win in Pittsburgh to stay even with Atlanta atop the division.

Tampa Bay (+9.5) at Detroit – The Buccaneers are better than their 2-9 record in my opinion. They’ve lost some tough games as evidenced by Sunday’s one-point loss to Cincinnati so I don’t think the Lions should treat this as a cakewalk by any stretch.

St. Louis (-2) at Washington – I’ll join the chorus in saying the Redskins are better without RGIII at QB right now. They just are, it’s that easy. The Rams might be the hottest team in the NFL and are coming off of a massive shutout over Oakland.

NY Jets (+4.5) at Minnesota – The Vikings have played well at home even in defeat and now the Jets come in with Rex Ryan on the hottest seat in the league.

Buffalo (+9) at Denver – Four weeks ago I would have said the Bills have a great shot to win this game because the Broncos really didn’t have a running game. Now that they do, Buffalo will have to respect that and in turn their pass rush will slow down.

Kansas City (+1.5) at Arizona – The Chiefs have dropped two-straight as have the Cardinals. This is a monster game for both teams in terms of playoff implications. A loss by Kansas City pretty much ends their chances of the postseason while a Cards’ loss brings Seattle right back into division title contention.

San Francisco (-7) at Oakland – The Raiders certainly led us on didn’t they? A week after beating Kansas City, they got throttled by St. Louis and didn’t score a point. The Niners need a win to stay alive in the NFC playoff chase.

Seattle (EVEN) at Philadelphia – A possible NFC Championship Game preview here? The Seahawks have suddenly turned on the defense and that’s not good for Mark Sanchez who can be a turnover machine.

New England (-3.5) at San Diego – Best game of the week features teams who right now would be in the playoffs. The Pats headed west immediately after losing to Green Bay so the time change and weather will not be a factor.

Atlanta (+11.5) at Green Bay – There is not a hotter quarterback on the planet than Aaron Rodgers, especially at home. The Falcons can score points but their defense is in for a long day at Lambeau.

Your Early NFL Lines Which Are Always Subject to Change

Reid
Reid
Andy Reid has the Chiefs rolling in the AFC West and now they head to Oakland for a Thursday night game.

Kansas City (-7) at Oakland – The Chiefs find themselves tied with Denver atop the AFC West at 7-3 although a home loss to the Broncos in week two gives Denver the edge. The Raiders are… The Raiders who haven’t won now in a calendar year.

Cleveland (+3) at Atlanta – The Browns laid a serious egg at home in losing to Houston Sunday while the Falcons have suddenly won two-straight and sit atop the NFC South at 4-6. If Brian Hoyer struggles to put points on the board in the first half, sound the Johnny Football alarm.

Tennessee (+10.5) at Philadelphia – This line could move substantially depending upon how the Titans did last night. Mark Sanchez came crashing back to Earth while getting buried in Green Bay Sunday. Look for the Eagles to get back to some normalcy at home.

Gray
I'm sure you all saw the performance of Jonas Gray coming didn't you?

Detroit (+5.5) at New England – The Lions put up a valiant effort in losing to the Cardinals in the desert and now face falling behind a hot Packers’ team in the NFC North. What more can be said for the Patriots who are getting it done in numerous ways?

Green Bay (-9.5) at Minnesota – Aaron Rodgers and the Packers take their high-scoring machine on the road to Minnesota where the Vikings are still struggling to find their way. What we have to be careful with here is the potential for a letdown.

Jacksonville (+14) at Indianapolis – I honestly don’t know what’s in the water in Jacksonville but it seems any QB that comes there just gets worse. The Colts will be ready for rookie Blake Bortles and they’ll be fired up after getting pounded by the Patriots.

Cincinnati (+2.5) at Houston – The Bengals may have saved their season with a big win at New Orleans and now face a Texans’ team that is suddenly just a game behind the Colts. Rookie Alfred Blue filled in for Arian Foster with a big day on the ground which helped Ryan Mallett in his debut.

NY Jets (+4.5) at Buffalo – The Jets ended their eight-game losing streak by beating the Steelers and now head to Buffalo where the Bills are clinging to life in the AFC at 5-5. A loss ends any chance of the Bills making the postseason while a win keeps them alive.

Tampa Bay (+6) at Chicago – Jay Cutler finally used the weapons around him to his advantage in beating Minnesota. Meanwhile the Bucs seem to be playing better and better and are getting good performances from young guys.

Arizona (+6.5) at Seattle – Let’s put it this way; the Seahawks cannot afford to lose. They are 6-4 while the Cardinals are 9-1. Not only would a loss end any reasonable chance at a division title but probably a playoff spot as well. Don’t forget, the Cards won in Seattle last year.

St. Louis (+5.5) at San Diego – At 4-6, you’d think the Rams would already be out of contention for the playoffs. Don’t tell them that though as they have played teams very tough in recent weeks and knocked off Denver this past Sunday. For the Chargers, they survived the Raiders but they’re looking up at both Kansas City and Denver in the AFC West.

Miami (+7) at Denver – The Broncos are dealing with injuries to both Emmauel Sanders and Julius Thomas and Miami is playing well. Can Ryan Tannehill survive the pass rush?

Washington (+7.5) at San Francisco – The Redskins seem near an implosion right now and a west coast road trip won’t help any.

Dallas (-3) at NY Giants – At 3-7, the Giants will be left to pay spoiler in the NFC East. Dallas is coming off a bye which had to be good news for Tony Romo.

Baltimore (+4) at New Orleans – Both teams will be looking for wins to stay alive in their respective divisions and the Saints are no longer infallible at home.

Monster Games in the NFL Today

Rodgers
Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers today as they host the Eagles at Lambeau.

Philadelphia (+6) at Green Bay (O/U 55) – Division leaders are set for a chilly showdown in Lambeau Field today as the NFC East leading Eagles hit the road to face the NFC North leading Packers. Philadelphia of course is now led by Mark Sanchez who has played well in a game and a half but now things get a little more serious.

The Green Bay defense isn’t without its’ problems, but they will get after Sanchez so he’s going to have be willing to take his check-downs. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers will be in the exact same boat as the Eagles come in off a game where they sacked Cam Newton eight times.

Look for both teams to ride the running game a little more than usual.

Key Injuries: PHI Nick Foles OUT/Collarbone… GB Guard T.J. Lang PROBABLE/Ankle

Trends: Philadelphia is 6-3 straight up in their last nine games against the Packers… The total has gone OVER in all five of Green Bay’s last five games… The Eagles are 2-4 SU in their last six games in Green Bay… The Packers are 6-13 against the spread in their last 19 games against the Eagles.

The Pick: I expect a close one today so take the Eagles getting the points and take the OVER.

Stanton
Drew Stanton takes over as the Cardinals host Detroit today.

Detroit (Pick’Em) at Arizona (O/U 41.5) – The big story here is obviously Arizona now being led by Drew Stanton. He’s facing the league’s top defense in the Lions who are riding their front seven to a successful season so far. Arizona’s defense is pretty darn good too and I expect a great match-up between Calvin Johnson and Patrick Peterson.

The one thing I’m really keeping an eye here is special teams. I say this because I have a feeling both teams will struggle to move the ball. Detroit has struggled in the kicking game and that could be an issue today.

Key Injuries: DET DT Nick Fairly OUT/Knee… ARI DT Ed Stinson OUT/Toe

Trends: Detroit is 7-17-1 against the spread in their last 25 games on the road… Arizona is 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home… The Lions are winless in their last five trips to Arizona… The total has gone OVER in five of Arizona’s last seven games when playing at home against Detroit.

The Pick: Take the Cards at home and take the UNDER.

New England (+3) at Indianapolis (O/U 58) – The last time these two teams saw each other, the Patriots were running over the Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoffs en route to the AFC Title game. This one is not without drama as well because the winner gains a serious leg up on the loser in terms of home-field advantage in the playoffs.

It’s easy to assume that both teams will throw the ball all over the field today but don’t be too quick to make that judgment. New England often sets up teams to think this and I have a feeling the Colts will do the same thing.Whoever becomes one-dimensional first will more than likely lose this game.

Key Injuries: NE DE Chandler Jones OUT/Hip… IND DT Arthur Jones OUT/Ankle

Trends: The total has gone OVER in five of New England’s last seven game at Indianapolis… The Colts are 1-4 straight up in their last five games against the Patriots… The Pats are 16-2-1 against the spread in their last 19 games on the road in Indy… Indianapolis is 7-1 SU in their last eight home games.

The Pick: I love the Pats getting the three and take the OVER.

Other Games

Seattle (Pick’em) at Kansas City – Take the Chiefs at home.

Cincinnati (+7.5) at New Orleans – Must-win for both, take the Bengals getting the points.

Early NFL Lines Offer a Few Road Favorites

Dalton
Dalton
Andy Dalton and the Bengals host Cleveland in a key AFC North game Thursday night.

Road favorites aren’t uncommon but this week we have three plus a “pick’em” game so you’ll need to do your homework and I’ll do my best to help later this week.

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati – The AFC North is a logjam and all four teams are above .500. I expect a great effort from the Browns who I like getting those points.

Dallas at Jacksonville (in London) – There is no line yet because of the situation with Tony Romo.

Miami (+3) at Detroit – This should be one of the best games of the day. Will a hot Miami team handle a rested Lions’ team getting Megatron and Reggie Bush back? I like the Fins getting the points.

Orton
Can Kyle Orton and the Bills upset the Chiefs this Sunday?

Kansas City (-1.5) at Buffalo – The Bills are one of the hardest teams to figure out this year especially at home. If Kyle Orton can get protection I like the Bills getting the points.

San Francisco (+4.5) at New Orleans – What a brutal loss for the Niners on Sunday. Now they have to play in New Orleans against the surging Saints. I like the Saints to cover.

Tennessee (+10) at Baltimore – The Titans no doubt paid attention to the Steelers’ destruction of the Ravens’ secondary. The problem is that Zach Mettenberger isn’t exactly Ben Roethlisberger so take the Ravens even giving ten.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at NY Jets – This is a situation where normally the Steelers play down to the competition. The Jets are reeling and their secondary is a mess as is their offense. Take the Steelers to cover on the road.

Atlanta (Pick’em) at Tampa Bay – Flip a coin here right? Personally I think Atlanta’s Mike Smith is a dead man walking so let’s see how his team rebounds following the bye. I like the Bucs to win at home.

Denver (-11) at Oakland – The Raiders get the honor of hosting Denver following the Broncos loss at New England. Tony Sparano has these guys playing hard but the talent just isn’t there. Take the Broncos to cover.

St. Louis (+7) at Arizona – In recent weeks, St. Louis has beaten Seattle and San Francisco so now they go for the trifecta. The problem for the Rams is that neither of those teams is playing as well as the Cardinals are. I like Arizona to cover at home.

NY Giants (+9) at Seattle – The Seahawks really disappointed me last week. Double-digit favorites over Oakland and they couldn’t close the deal. This week will be more of the same. Take the Giants and the points.

Chicago (+7) at Green Bay – The NFC North rivalry returns to the frozen tundra where the Packers are leading the division along with Detroit. The Bears have been a huge disappointment in recent weeks and Jay Cutler has struggled to the point where frustration has settled in. Take the Packers at home to cover.

Carolina (+5.5) at Philadelphia – Cam Newton is coming off of a poor performance at home in the loss to New Orleans while it looks like Mark Sanchez will get his first start in quite a while with Nick Foles out with a clavicle injury. The Panthers just haven’t proven any sort of consistency to me this year so I like the Eagles to cover.

Here’s Your Early Look at NFL Lines for Week Nine

Graham
Graham
A healthy Jimmy Graham would be a welcome sight for Saints' fans.

Tuesday means I’m giving you an early look at the National Football League schedule and who is favored and who is not. Here’s you’re sneak peek.

New Orleans (-1) at Carolina – The Saints got a much-needed win over Green Bay and now can take over first place with a win over the Panthers. Were the Saints in any other division, they may have been left for dead, but not this one.

San Diego (+2.5) at Miami – Very interesting game here with the Chargers getting ten days to prepare for a Dolphins’ team that has struggled offensively but is playing very well defensively. This is a monster game for both teams in terms of their respective divisions.

Jacksonville (+11.5) at Cincinnati – The Bengals appear to have righted their listing ship with a tight win over Baltimore on Sunday. They had gone 0-2-1 in their previous three games. Jacksonville got that all important first win over Cleveland but then was just awful in losing to Miami. A.J. Green may return for the Bengals as well even though I don’t think they’ll need him.

Tampa Bay (+6) at Cleveland – I think the Browns got a significant wake-up call after they beat rival Pittsburgh and then lost to Jacksonville. They got past the Raiders Sunday and now entertain the Buccaneers who are about as bad as it gets right now.

Washington (+2.5) at Minnesota – Depending on what happened last night in Dallas, we could see Robert Griffin III return, Kirk Cousins get another shot or maybe Colt McCoy again. The biggest thing about this game however might be the protests going on outside regarding the Redskins’ nickname.

Foles
Nick Foles and the Eagles look to bounce back in Houston.

Philadelphia (-2.5) at Houston – The Eagles hit the road again following a tough loss at Arizona on Sunday. The Texans will not be an easy challenge as they typically play well at home. If the Eagles can put the clamps on Arian Foster then they should win going away.

NY Jets (+9.5) at Kansas City – Rex Ryan wasted no time in announcing that Michael Vick would get the start against the Chiefs following Geno Smith’s brutal performance against Buffalo. Ryan is as close to a dead man walking as anyone could be right now so he needs to get something going immediately or he’s gone before the season ends.

Arizona (+4) at Dallas – The Cowboys played last night and barring an enormous injury things should be set up for the game of the week with the 6-1 Cardinals. The formula will be simple for Dallas; run the ball and limit the Cards’ offense. This should be a great game.

St. Louis (+9.5) at San Francisco – The Rams looked to be on the right track when they beat the Seahawks but then they played poorly in losing to Kansas City. Now they head to San Francisco where the 49ers are getting healthy and seem to be putting any issues with Head Coach Jim Harbaugh behind them.

Denver (-3) at New England – Stop me if you’ve heard this but Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are meeting once again an the media will do everything to not fall all over themselves. Actually this should be a great match-up where both QBs will need to find the mismatches at the line of scrimmage. Hard to believe the Pats are underdogs at home where Brady rarely loses.

Oakland (+15) at Seattle – I expected a bit more from the Tony Sparano-led Raiders but the talent just isn’t there. While I think the Seahawks still have some issues, they should roll over Oakland.

Baltimore (+1.5) at Pittsburgh – The Ravens beat the Steelers in week two and have a 2-2 divisional record. Pittsburgh is 1-2 in the division and still has two games remaining with Cincinnati. These two almost always play games to within a field goal and I expect this to be no different.

Indianapolis (-3) at NY Giants – The Colts look to rebound from their 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh while the Giants come off the bye week. You can pretty much pencil in a 300-yard passing game for Andrew Luck who seemingly does it every week, but now the Colts’ defense appears to be a weakness. Can the G-Men take advantage at home?

Odds to Win the AFC North for 2014

Dalton
Dalton
Andy Dalton has a lot to prove in 2014 following his new contract extension.

With the AFC East behind us, we’re heading North. Let’s go!

Cincinnati +200 – For a team that won the division and hosted a playoff game last year, there is a lot of doubt around these Bengals and much of that is about QB Andy Dalton. Fresh from signing a new contract, Dalton’s 0-3 record in the playoffs is a glaring stat. Enter new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson who I believe will make Dalton better.

The defense is good as Geno Atkins returns from his ACL tear, but they aren’t ‘great.’ Rookie DB Darqueze Dennard will help in coverage but the Bengals must adjust to a new defensive coordinator as Mike Zimmer now runs things in Minnesota. The schedule starts out well for the most part but Cincy plays five of their eight games on the road and that includes a three-game stretch on the road to end November.

Season Projection: 10-6

Shazier
Rookie Ryan Shazier has a lot of expectations upon him to help the defense in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh +200 – The Steelers enter 2014 off of back-to-back 8-8 seasons. The youth movement is clearly on in the Steel City as the receiving corps is younger than ever as is the defense in quite some time. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the key to this team’s chances. If he repeats the 16 games he played in last season then the Steelers have a great shot at the division.

Defensively, the Steelers are far from being the Steel Curtain of yore. So far through the preseason, they’ve given up more rushing yards than anyone. Rookies Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt will help but they also have to get pressure as well as the secondary is average at best. The Steelers’ schedule features four road games in five weeks between September 11th and October 12th. They finish the season with the final two at home though.

Season Projection: 9-7

Baltimore +275 – The Ravens didn’t make the playoffs following their Super Bowl victory the year before and in comes Gary Kubiak to run the offense. He will look to establish the run in order to create play-action opportunities for Joe Flacco. Ray Rice had a very down year last season and needs to rebound in order to help the offense.

Defensively, the Ravens are far from what they were several years ago and they have aged especially with Terrel Suggs and Haloti Ngata. There has been an infusion of youth in some spots but will that youth perform? Baltimore opens with two home games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. A few weeks later, they start a stretch of four road games in five weeks and in that run are return trips to both Cincy and Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 9-7

Cleveland +500 – Cleveland has settled on a quarterback and it isn’t Johnny Football. Head Coach Mike Pettine has decided to go with Brian Hoyer to start the season and it’s probably the safest way to go. The Browns play Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Baltimore in the first three weeks and then have a bye. If the Browns are 2-1 or 3-0 then I believe Hoyer keeps the job. 1-2 or 0-3 could usher in the Manziel era.

The defense is solid and probably underrated because of all the attention paid to the offense but they’re pretty good. They’ll be charged with keeping games close in order to help the offense and they’ll do that by creating pressure. I mentioned the opening three games but the end of the schedule isn’t great either with Indianapolis and Cincinnati at home and then finish with Carolina and Baltimore on the road.

Season Projection: 6-10

Overall: I can see scenarios where Cincy, Pittsburgh and Baltimore can all win the division but I think the Bengals are the surest bet.

Opening Lines for Wild-Card Weekend are Out

Foles
Foles
Can Foles carry the Eagles past the Saints in their Wild-Card match-up?

After a crazy week 17 in the National Football League the 2013 playoffs are finally set. Denver and New England have the week off in the AFC while Seattle and Carolina will enjoy the extra rest in the NFC. The Broncos and Seahawks have home-field advantage in their respective conferences. Without further ado, here’s a look at the opening lines for this coming weekend’s Wild-Card games.

Kansas City (+2.5) at Indianapolis – A couple of weeks back, the Colts went into Kansas City and thumped the Chiefs 23-7. They sacked Alex Smith five times and disrupted his passing all day. The Colts held the ball for 38 minutes while Donald Brown and Trent Richardson combined for 140 yards rushing. Now the scene shifts to Indianapolis where the Chiefs have to be thinking about the importance of getting out early to take the crowd out of the game.

KC was impressive in their loss to San Diego yesterday despite playing almost all reserves. Will the rest benefit the starters or will they be rusty? For the Colts the gameplan will be simple; run the ball and set up Andrew Luck with play-action. Defensively, it will continue to be about disrupting Alex Smith. Right now, I like the Colts to cover.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Philadelphia – The Eagles did what many thought they would do in defeating the Cowboys last night to claim the NFC East crown. I have to think most thought it would be a little easier than 22-20 though with Tony Romo not playing. Not surprisingly, the Saints took care of business at home over Tampa Bay to claim the final wild-card spot and now will travel to Philly.

This might be the most interesting game of the weekend because we already know Drew Brees is not nearly the same quarterback outside that he is inside. The real match-up however could be Rob Ryan’s attacking defense against Nick Foles. Can the young signal-caller make the right adjustments to beat the blitz? The X-factor in this one will probably be LeSean McCoy though who I expect to have a big game. Take the Eagles to cover.

Dalton
Can Dalton keep his hot streak at home going against San Diego?

San Diego (+7) at Cincinnati – On paper, this one looks all too easy doesn’t it? The Chargers will travel across the country to play a 10am Pacific Time game against a Bengals’ team that hasn’t lost at home and averages about 40 points per game in Paul Brown Stadium. The Chargers did show some resiliency yesterday in coming back from ten points down in the fourth quarter albeit against reserves of the Chiefs.

Back on December first, these two played a very competitive game in San Diego that saw the Bengals win 17-10. Cincy rode the running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and an n opportunistic defense in the victory. At first thought, I expect things to be similar yet it’s hard to argue with what the Bengals do at home. Right now I expect the Bengals to cover.

San Francisco (-2.5) at Green Bay – These two hook up again in the playoffs but this time the scene shifts to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The two teams opened the 2013 season at San Francisco where the Niners won a 34-28 game that was back and forth throughout. The Packers’ defense surrendered almost 500 yards of offense including over 400 yards passing to Colin Kaepernick.

Despite the shift in locale, what doesn’t change is a weak Packers’ defense. I’m not at all surprised that San Francisco enters as the only road favorite of the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers will have to carry the Packers to a shootout win if they have any chance but right now I like the Niners giving the 2.5 points.

An Early Look at Some Lines for Week 17 in the NFL

Foles
Foles
Nick Foles now has the upper hand with Tony Romo out for the game.

Here’s an early look at some key games for the final week of the National Football League season. Green Bay and Chicago currently have no line listed, thus that omission.

Baltimore (+6) at Cincinnati – The Bengals may have locked up the AFC North but they may still have something to play for against rival Baltimore. Should the Bengals win and the Colts lose, the Bengals would then host either the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins or Steelers. Should the Bengals lose and the Colts win, then they would host Kansas City.

In other words, it could all come down to what match-up Marvin Lewis and his staff prefer. This will determine how long he keeps his starters in the game. Both the Colts and Bengals play 1pm games so there will be lots of scoreboard watching by both teams.

Luck
How long will the Colts let Andrew Luck play on Sunday in preparation for the playoffs?

Jacksonville (+11) at Indianapolis – Right now, the Colts know they will be playing on opening weekend of the NFL Playoffs with New England and Denver securing the one and two seeds. With that thought in mind, how will Head Coach Chuck Pagano proceed in terms of resting his starters? I don’t expect to see Andrew Luck much more than a half and the same will be said for other key players on both sides of the ball.

Jacksonville has made tremendous strides in the second half of the season and will be a thorn in the side of Indianapolis whether the starters play or not. I really like Jacksonville getting those 11 points on Sunday.

NY Jets (+7) at Miami – Miami needs a win and then help from Baltimore and/or San Diego. A loss eliminates them regardless of what else happens around the league. The Jets have played decently the last couple of weeks and they have to be wondering if this isn’t the last time Rex Ryan will be on the sidelines as their head coach.

That issue aside, the Jets and Dolphins always seem to play great games whether in Miami or in New York. I love the Jets getting the touchdown here.

Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh – The Steelers offense is fresh from a 31 point output at Lambeau Field in Green Bay (they had a pick six in winning 38-31). Cleveland enters the finale against the their rival off of a bad loss against the Jets and seem to be playing out the string now.

The Steelers must win and then get help from Miami, Baltimore and San Diego. All three must lose in order for Pittsburgh to even have a shot at the postseason. Despite the poor season, Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger has had a monster season and will look to continue it against the Browns. He has only lost once to them in his career.

I like the Steelers to cover in this game.

Buffalo (+9) at New England – The Bills pulled off a bit of a shocker in beating Miami on Sunday. They had Thad Lewis at QB and were missing several other key players while Miami was playing for a playoff spot. Buffalo doesn’t exactly do well at New England in recent years and that’s a big reason for the big line.

The Pats are coming off a total dismantling of Baltimore in Maryland on Sunday. They are continuing to prove that they can do things without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. As of right now, I think this is a line where you go with New England. A great start could put pressure on Denver to win in order to claim home-field advantage. Both teams play at 425pm Eastern.

Philadelphia (-7) at Dallas – The line moved from Philly +4 to the current line almost immediately after the news that Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo was done for the season. Head Coach Jason Garrett still claims Romo is ‘day-to-day’ but mainstream thought is that Kyle Orton will be under center for Dallas.

Week 16 Offers More Big Games in the NFL

Green-Ellis
Green-Ellis
Look for the 'Lawfirm' to share carries with Gio Bernard in an effort to set up the passing game.

The National Football League has reached its penultimate week and there are no shortage of great games and great storylines for week 16. I’ve got a good feeling about these three games and each has some bearing on the playoffs. Enjoy!

Minnesota (+8) at Cincinnati – The Vikings have to be one of the more competitive 4-9-1 teams in NFL history. They play every opponent tough and last week hung a big loss on the Philadelphia Eagles who were one of the hotter teams in the league. The Vikings may run into a buzz saw when they head to Cincinnati today.

The Bengals were soundly beaten in Pittsburgh on Sunday night and looked bad in all three phases of the game. While they still control their own destiny for the AFC North title, they could find themselves out of the playoffs all together if they lose their final two games. What the Bengals have going for them is that they are unbeaten at home and that’s where they play their last two games.

Minnesota enters with a questionable Adrian Peterson and plenty of banged up players. The Bengals are 15-7-1 against the spread in their last 23 games while the Vikes are 4-10-1 straight up in their last 15 games. Look for an offensive explosion by the Bengals and I like them to cover.

Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald looks like he'll play against the Seahawks despite a concussion last week.

Arizona (+10.5) at Seattle – The Pacific Northwest is host to a game with playoff implications for both teams. The Seahawks can wrap-up home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win while an Arizona victory keeps them alive for a wild-card.

Both teams have injury issues but nothing too uncommon for this time of year. Percy Harvin is still out for Seattle while Larry Fitzgerald looks like he’ll play despite a concussion last Sunday in Tennessee. The Seahawks will look to establish the running game and then the play-action where Russell Wilson really excels.

The Cardinals will attempt to find some balance as well and must keep Carson Palmer upright in order for the Cards to have a chance. Arizona is 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five games but is just 2-6 ATS in their last eight trips to Seattle. The Seahawks are a solid 8-2 straight up in their last 10 games at home against the Cards.

I have to believe the Seahawks will win but I like the Cards getting ten and a half.

Chicago (+3) at Philadelphia – Jay Cutler made Head Coach Marc Trestman look pretty darn good last week as he led the Bears to a win in Cleveland with a big second half. Many felt Josh McCown had done more than enough to deserve the starting job but Trestman stuck to his word. Now Chicago goes into Philly where the Eagles are smarting from their loss to Minnesota.

Both the Eagles and Bears are in similar positions. They each have a game lead in their respective divisions but will need to keep winning in order to make the playoffs. Both also realize that the division title is the only way they make the postseason as the wild-card is not an option.

The Eagles will look to get LeSean McCoy as many touches as possible which could allow Nick Foles to thrive in the play-action. The Bears will do the same with Matt Forte and their big, athletic receivers. The Bears are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games on the road.

The Eagles are 2-10-1 ATS in their last 13 games at home. With both teams facing must-win games next week, I expect an absolute battle here. Because Philly just doesn’t do well at home recently, I like the Bears getting the three.