Cardinals Hope to Follow a Path Set by the 1990 New York Giants

Stanton
Stanton
Drew Stanton takes control of the Cardinals now with the season ending injury to Carson Palmer.

The best team in professional football right now is the Arizona Cardinals. They host one of the better teams in pro football right now in the Detroit Lions coming up on Sunday. Ironically, the guy who will start at quarterback for the Cardinals actually spent most of his career in Detroit.

My how things can change in the National Football League.

Drew Stanton now finds himself at the helm for the second time this season but this time it’s different. This time it’s for good because Carson Palmer went down on Sunday with what appears in all likelihood to be an ACL tear. This ends the season for the veteran.

Stanton has seven career starts in the NFL. Three of come this season when he started in place of a dinged up Palmer and went 2-1 during that stretch. Stanton’s other four career starts took place over a two-year period in Detroit where he went 2-2.

His overall career stats are not very good. His completion percentage is just 53.6% and he has thrown eight touchdown passes to nine interceptions. There are a couple of glimmers of hope here for Cardinals’ fans though.

In his three starts this season, he has thrown three TD passes and has zero interceptions. That’s a good thing but the bigger thing is that he’s being tutored by Head Coach Bruce Arians who has a very good track record of working with quarterbacks.

From Ben Roethlisberger to Andrew Luck to Carson Palmer, Arians has made each guy just a little better than he had been previously. This is all that the Cardinals need from Stanton too. He just needs to be a little bit better than he typically is.

Hostetler
Jeff Hostetler took over for Phil Simms late in the season and led the 1990 Giants to a Super Bowl title.

The situation in Arizona is very similar to what happened with the 1990 New York Giants. For those not old enough to remember, the Giants were 11-2 and were playing Buffalo in the old Meadowlands in their 14th game of the season.

Phil Simms, who had already won a Super Bowl four years earlier, was marching the Giants towards a second when he broke his foot against the Bills.

Most assumed the Giants could not survive with a back-up QB entering what was sure to be a rough road through the playoffs. Jeff Hostetler was that back-up and he would lead the G-Men to an improbable 5-0 stretch that included a win at San Francisco (led by Joe Montana) and then a one-point win in Super Bowl XV over the Bills.

What strikes me as similar is that both the Giants of 1990 and these Arizona Cardinals are built on defense. That doesn’t mean they don’t have offensive weapons because they do, but their success starts with defense.

In most cases, both Hostetler and Stanton would be referred to as “game managers” whose only job was to make sure the offense didn’t make mistakes and turn the ball over. I think there was truth about that with “Hoss” and there will be some truth about that with Stanton but don’t expect Arians to just abandon the passing game.

He will ride Andre Ellington’s legs for certain but he will not strip Stanton of his ability to throw the ball deep as he did on Sunday.

Will the Cardinals follow the steps of the ’90 New York Giants? It’s hard to say because these really are different eras of professional football. You can be sure though that the fans in the desert are hoping for the same exact result.

Odds to Win the NFC East Division for 2014

McCoy
McCoy
LeSean McCoy and the Eagles should win the NFC East behind a dynamic offense.

Today begins my journey through the six divisions of the National Football League as I look at the odds for each and give you my winner. First up, the NFC East.

Philadelphia Eagles +125 –  The Eagles made the playoffs in Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first season and it wasn’t behind Michael Vick who is now with the Jets. It was behind Nick Foles who played tremendously and got the Eagles a home playoff game where they were beaten by the New Orleans Saints. Gone from the team is DeSean Jackson who is now with the rival Redskins.

To make up for his numbers the Eagles brought in Darren Sproles who should provide an amazing compliment to LeSean McCoy. If the defense improves, the Eagles could be viable contenders in the NFC. The schedule features the AFC South and NFC West so it’s the extremes in that case.

Record prediction: 10-6

New York Giants +300 – The Giants have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and I for one thought Tom Coughlin would be out of a job after they started 0-6 last season. Coughlin is back but things are different on the offensive side of the ball where more of a West Coast offense is installed. It’s really pretty simple for there; Eli Manning has to take care of the football a lot better than he has in recent years.

Jason Pierre-Paul looked good in the team’s first two preseason games and that’s good because they need him to anchor the defensive line. The secondary is upgraded and should be better as well. The G-Men get Indianapolis, San Francisco and Arizona at home but do have to go to Seattle. If the running game is clicking then good things are on the horizon.

Record Prediction: 9-7

RGIII
Can RGIII handle the transition to Jay Gruden's new offense?

Washington Redskins +375 – The ‘Skins welcome new head coach Jay Gruden whose number one job is keeping Robert Griffin III healthy. We shouldn’t see nearly as much read-option if any at all which means RGIII is going to be more of a pocket passer. What will help that transition is Alfred Morris running the ball well again. DeSean Jackson should help balance the offense as well.

Defensively, there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball but it can’t be utilized unless the front seven can get to the quarterback. Trent Murphy, defensive end from Stanford should help in that department. The second half of the schedule is brutal with trips to Indianapolis, San Francisco and the Giants but they do finish with Dallas and Philly at home.

Record Projection: 8-8

Dallas Cowboys +400 – If I had looked at the Cowboys back in the spring I might have said this team had a chance to compete in the NFC East but then Sean Lee was lost for the season and then Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games. Toss in a few other injuries and you’ve got a defense that could rival last year’s in terms of ineptness.

Offensively, the Cowboys will ride only as far as Tony Romo can take them and I think his health is a serious question mark. Jason Garrett knows they have to run the ball to keep Romo healthy and his defense off the field. The question is, will he be able to do that? It’ll be tough with all the ‘toys’ that Romo has to play with but if he wants to win, he’ll have to.

Dallas has a favorable schedule with only a trip to Seattle being the toughest out of division road trip.

Record Projection: 6-10

Overall Thoughts: I don’t know how you can go in any other direction here other than the Eagles. I can see a scenario where the Giants start pounding opponents with their running game but I don’t think it’ll be enough.

Giants Short Chalk on the Road at Washington

The New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins in a matchup of two teams that odds makers had as the top contenders for the NFC East in the start of the NFL season.

However, at this point both teams are virtually eliminated from the post season. New York would need to win out and then get lots of help from other teams to have a shot at a wildcard or the NFC East title. New York is 4-7 SU and ATS.

Washington is even worse off. The Redskins are 3-8 SU and ATS and their odds of grabbing a playoff berth are far, far less.

The meeting on Sunday in the nation’s capital, or close to it, will feature two rivals that are coming off losses. It is the first of two games the two will play head to head over their final five games of the season.

The Redskins struggled Monday night and suffered a humiliating loss to the San Francisco 49ers 27-6.

New York lost last Sunday to Dallas 24-21, after they rallied to tie only to see Dallas drive the length of the field and kick a game winning field goal.

At this time, the Giants are favored on Bovada and topbet by 1.5 points, while the point total on betonline and sportsbook.com is currently 45.5.

On topbet and Bovada the line opened at 2 or even as high as 2.5 but with Washington as the favorite. However, their dismal showing on Monday night had the bookmakers flip and repost the line with New York as a short chalk.

Washington also showed little if any ability to score and that was reflected in the total points for this matchup. The line opened at 48.5, but has been bet down on betonline to just 45.5.

Dating to 2010, Washington is 5-0 ATS head to head with New York. However, in its last three games of this season, Washington is 0-3 ATS.

New York has been the favorite in each of their last 12 head-to-head meeting. Since 2009, New York is 16-21-1 ATS as a favorite.

New York’s offense has struggled this season especially Eli Manning. The Giants quarterback has 14 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions.

Andre Brown returned to running back in November from injury. His presence has helped the maligned running game and given Manning another target in the passing attack.

Many people have scrutinized and criticized the play of Robert Griffin III the Redskins quarterback. He had an ACL tear in the playoffs last season, but returned to play this season, but has not been the same as he was last season.

Even though Washington has covered their past five games with New York, this game feels different.

With the problems Griffin III has faced with media and fans, this matchup leans in favor of New York.

Pick: New York 21-17

Manning and Brady Renew Acquaintances Plus Other NFL Action

Brady
Brady
Brady and the Patriots welcome Denver and snow could be in the forecast as well.

The Broncos and Patriots may be the highlight of the NFL schedule but there are two other games I really like on this weekend before Thanksgiving. Take a look at Indy and Arizona as well as Dallas visiting the Giants for more action.

Indianapolis (+2) at Arizona – Cardinals’ Head Coach Bruce Arians welcomes the Colts to Arizona. It was the Colts who Arians helped get to the playoffs last season while coach Chuck Pagano dealt with his leukimia treatment. Arians has the Cardinals at 6-4 and in the hunt for a playoff spot. The NFC West is Seattle’s to lose right now but that won’t happen. Arizona is currently tied with San Francisco for second in the division.

The Colts come to the desert with a 7-3 record and a strangle-hold on the AFC South. Their most recent game saw them come back from a second half deficit to defeat Tennessee. Indy has still not gotten anything out of Trent Richardson since trading for him back in September, but Donald Brown has done a great job running the ball.

For Arizona it’s about playing great defense and not turning the ball over on offense. The Colts are 4-1 straight up in their last five games against Arizona and will be looking to pad their AFC South lead. I like Arizona to make some big plays behind their defense and cover in this one.

Manning
Eli Manning must take care of the ball in order to beat Dallas.

Dallas (+3) at New York – Right now the NFC East is led by Philadelphia at 6-5. Behind them is Dallas at 5-5 and then the Giants at 4-6. If you had told me five or six weeks ago the Giants would still have a shot for the division title I’d have said you were crazy. That’s exactly where we find things today which makes today’s game in MetLife Stadium so crucial.

The Giants’ defense has made tremendous strides during their four-game winning streak. They have moved up to seventh in the league in stopping the run which means they’ll make the Cowboys one-dimensional early. If Dallas finds itself having to throw at will, that usually means a few mistakes from Tony Romo.

The Cowboys are 8-17 against the spread in their last 25 games at New York. The over/under of 46 has me thingking over because I can see both teams benefiting from some turnovers. With Dallas having issues in the secondary I like the Giants to cover.

Denver (-2.5) at New England – I don’t know the last time the Patriots were an underdog at home but it can’t have happened very often in the last ten years. New England finds itself in that situation tonight hosting 9-1 Denver and Peyton Manning.  At 7-3, the Patriots have lost two games this year on the final play of the game despite having lesser talent than in previous years.

The Broncos come in after beating previously unbeaten Kansas City last week at home in Denver. They were able to keep Peyton Manning upright and clean as they completely diminished the Chiefs’ pass rush. Bill Belichick will find more creative ways to get Manning’s jersey dirty tonight because if he doesn’t it will be a long night for his defense.

The Broncos are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against New England. Tom Brady owns the head-to-head record against Manning and I think you’ll see Brady put the ball in the hands of his backs and slot receivers. This game has all the hallmarks of a New England victory in my opinion. The over/under is 53 and I like the under. Expect both teams to play well defensively.

Thoughts From Sunday’s Action in the National Football League

Chiefs and Broncos
Chiefs and Broncos
I expect the Chiefs to play better in two weeks when the host the Broncos.

I’ll get this off my chest right away. The officiating in the Denver-Kansas City game Sunday night was embarrassing yet it’s exactly what the league offices want. If you watched the first half of the Broncos 27-17 win over previously unbeaten Kansas City then you should know what I’m talking about. There were at least a half dozen defensive holding or defensive pass interference calls in that half and while some were legitimate, some were not.

It didn’t stop there though. You probably heard that the Chiefs’ vaunted pass rush was held without a sack and that Peyton Manning had nary a grass stain on his uniform. Much of the credit is going to the Denver offensive line but how about a tip of the hat to the referee and umpire? The offensive holding that took place and was never called was further proof that the National Football League wants offense plain and simple.

This game comes on the heels of the NFL floating an idea to protect the quarterback even more b7 2017. At what point does it end? Are we headed for just nothing more than a 7-on-7 drill? It’s obvious the NFL wants to increase viewership through offense which also means fantasy football players benefit as well.

I’d have a lot more respect for the league if they just came clean and said this is exactly what they are going for but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Brooks
Brooks' hit on Brees was about as borderline as it gets.

The NFC West is just another week or two away from being claimed by Seattle who moved to 10-1 on the season with a convincing win over Minnesota Sunday. That might not really be the story though as San Francisco has now dropped into a tie with Arizona at 6-4. The two teams have one meeting remaining and that’s in the final week of the season.

The 49ers played about as well as you can in the SuperDome Sunday without actually winning. They dropped a very difficult 23-20 game to the Saints and it wasn’t without controversy. As New Orleans drove for the tying field goal, Niners linebacker Ahmad Brooks caught Drew Brees high around the shoulder and neck area. Brees fumbled and it was recovered by the Niners.

The flag came out however and Brooks was hit with a personal foul. The Saints got a new life and took advantage of it. Right now, San Francisco is looking at nothing more than a wild-card because Seattle isn’t going to fall apart down the stretch. The problem is that the 49ers could be competing with as many as six teams for one of those two wild-card spots.

Their schedule looks favorable as they have games left with St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Atlanta plus a home game with Seattle who could be resting players by then for all we know. Regardless, the Niners have work to do if they hope to return to the playoffs.

If you needed any more proof that a quarterback is vital to a team’s success then look no further than Green Bay. The Packers have lost three straight (most recently Sunday against the Giants) without Aaron Rodgers and can expect to be without him at least one more week which is a home game against Minnesota.

Speaking of the Giants, they are now 4-6 after starting 0-6 on the season. They are by no means out of the NFC East race either as Philadelphia sits at 6-5 and the Cowboys are just a game in front of them at 5-5. New York split the season series with the Eagles and they have a game remaining with Dallas on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Don’t count the G-Men out just yet.

At 0-4, These Four Teams Face Long Seasons

Schiano
Schiano
Greg Schiano is putting his coaching tenure in Tampa Bay on the back of a rookie quarterback.

I think a lot of us saw an 0-4 record for Jacksonville before the season started, but I’m pretty sure none of us saw the abominations that have become the Giants, Steelers and Buccaneers. Why are they here and can anything turn these teams around?

Tampa Bay – It’s one thing when you have a quarterback controversy when the team is around .500. It’s another one entirely when the team is winless and the former quarterback and head coach are at odds. That’s where the Buccaneers find themselves this week as they sit at 0-4 while Greg Schiano and Josh Freeman trade barbs.

While the Bucs are a respectable 12th in total defense, the offense is 31st and ahead of only Jacksonville. Rookie Mike Glennon is the quarterback for now and the rest of the season according to Schiano and that decision will greatly impact his job. If Glennon plays well and gets the Bucs back to respectability at 8-8 or so by season’s end then Schiano might survive. Otherwise, I think he and Freeman will be looking for work elsewhere.

Pittsburgh – Many thought the young offensive line would take time to come together and that’s been slower than expected. With the savior at running back Le’Veon Bell missing the first three games and team MVP Heath Miller missing the first two, the team was already behind the eight-ball. Ben Roethlisberger has turned the ball over six times in the last two games and while he can’t be blamed for all of those, he must take better care of the ball.

The defense has actually been a problem as well with poor tackling, poor coverage and the worst stat of all being they have zero takeaways. Pittsburgh has always been a stable franchise so don’t expect radical change during the season despite the fact they have some guys who they could part with as they are pending free agents. They will try to make a run in the average AFC North, but I don’t like their chances.

Coughlin
Could the Giants brutal start cost Coughlin his job?

New York Giants – In past years, we would have all sat back and waited for the Tom Coughlin-led Giants to put everything together and make another late season run to the playoffs. I don’t see it happening this year though. The offensive line is struggling to give Eli Manning time to throw and the running game is non-existent as well.

On defense, the G-Men are struggling big time. They have surrendered an amazing 36 points per game through the first four weeks of the season and even though the NFC East may come down to a champion with an 8-8 record, there is just too much work to be done. If any of the four winless teams could make a run I’d say it’s this one but I believe this is the swan song for Tom Coughlin who has had a great run in New York.

Jacksonville – When you rank dead last in the NFL in offense and you rank 22nd in the NFL in defense, there’s a good chance your team is going to be without a win. Throw in very poor quarterback play and I give you the Jags of 2013. Factor in that the schedule they have faced in the first four weeks featured to unbeatens in Kansas City and Seattle but also 3-1 Indianapolis. Only the Raiders provided a chance to win a football game for the Jags.

Assuming Jacksonville is the worst of the 0-4 group, they’ll have plenty of options when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around and I would have to think that quarterback will be the number one thing on their list. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne just aren’t going to get it done consistently in the NFL and the franchise needs someone desperately to come in and light a fire under the team and the fan base.

0-2 NFL Teams; Playoff Shot or No?

Manning
Manning
If Eli Manning can eliminate the turnovers then I think the Giants have a great chance to recover from 0-2.

Over the last four seasons, 30 teams in the National Football League have started 0-2. Of those 30 teams, not a single one ended up making the playoffs. With that in mind, there are currently eight teams that still have a goose egg in the win column. Do any of these teams have a shot at break the current streak? Maybe… Here’s a look.

New York Giants – of all the teams currently sitting at 0-2 the G-Men might be in the best position to right this ship. Eli Manning has seven interceptions through two games and we know about the fumble issues of David Wilson, but despite those issues, the Giants were in both games against Dallas and Denver.

If the defense can get a little healthier and Manning can take care of the ball then I expect this team to make a serious run especially in a division that suddenly doesn’t look so tough.

Washington Redskins – RGIII is not RGIII and I don’t care what anyone tells me. He looks extremely tentative and is consistently throwing off of his back foot. That tells me his confidence level in the surgically repaired knee is not very high. Receiver Pierre Garcon suggested that the bulky knee brace is limiting him and could be right but either way, a third straight loss could send Griffin III to the bench for Kirk Cousins.

The other issue for the Skins is defensively where they have been torched by Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks. If that doesn’t improve dramatically then they have no chance.

Minnesota Vikings – The Purple People-Eaters opened with two divisional games on the road and had chances to win both but failed. Other than his first run of the season, Adrian Peterson has been pretty well held in check. When that happens, the pressure falls on Christian Ponder who is just too darn inconsistent.

The Vikes will have opportunities to get back into the race with both Detroit and Chicago still having to visit the Twin Cities. If they can get Peterson going again then I like their chances.

Newton
Newton needs to find the form he had his rookie year and he needs to do it quickly.

Carolina Panthers – It’s amazing how razor-thin the line can be between a coach keeping or losing his job. Ron Rivera’s Panthers lost an extremely tough game to Seattle at home and then lost to Buffalo in the final seconds when someone in the secondary blew the coverage leaving the Bills’ Stevie Johnson wide-open.

For whatever reason, Cam Newton just hasn’t looked like the guy who set the NFL on fire in his rookie year. Despite the fact Tampa may be in similar trouble, four losses loom on the horizon with two games against Atlanta and New Orleans each. I don’t see it happening and that means so long Ron Rivera.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This is already turning into a train wreck. Darrel Revis says he has issues with Head Coach Greg Schiano and Schiano has a QB that seems lost in a contract year. I really don’t see much hope for the Buccaneers rebounding.

Cleveland Browns – The Browns once again look pretty good on defense but the offense is just not good. It appears Brandon Weeden will miss this week with a sprained thumb so that means Jason Campbell who looked horrible in relief of Weeden on Sunday. Because the division is weak, I can’t rule them out but they need to get going now.

Pittsburgh Steelers – For the first time since 2002, the proud Steelers are 0-2 and this isn’t a case of losing a couple of close games to good competition. The offensive line is young and at times completely over-matched. Ben Roethlisberger has little if any time to throw and the running game has suffered without rookie Le’Veon Bell who is currently hurt to save it.

Because of a still good defense and Roethlisberger I give them a chance, but it’s a slim one simply because of how poor they have been offensively.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Do I really even need to comment here?

Manning Brothers to Meet Sunday on the Gridiron

Week 2 of the NFL regular season has a fascinating matchup between two strong teams both expected to reach the post season and two brothers who have won three Super Bowl titles between – two for Eli and one for Peyton.

On Sunday, the Denver Broncos visit the New York Giants, with Peyton Manning leading the way for Denver and brother Eli for the Giants.

Not only does the game have intriguing story lines between the Manning brothers, but odds that are not often seen. The Giants are the underdogs and it’s the first time in 2 full seasons the Giants are a home ‘dog.

Denver opened the NFL season on Thursday Night Football with a convincing 49-27 thrashing of Baltimore to give the Broncos a 1-0 SU and ATS record. Denver has had three extra days to prepare for this matchup with New York.

The Giants on the other hand literally fumbled and intercepted their game away to Dallas on Sunday night 36-31. The Giants are 0-1 SU and ATS and turned the ball over six times in their loss to Dallas.

Peyton is 2-0 SU in the two games he has played against his brother, but both were played when Peyton was an Indianapolis Colt in 2006 and 2010.

The latest line on sportsbook.com has Denver as a 4.5-point favored, while on topbet the over under points total was last at 55.5 points.

The line is at 4.5 put has touched as high as 5.5, but is sitting comfortably on 4.5. The point total has hovered between 55 and 55.5 the entire week.

Over the past 12 games in the regular season, the Broncos have a record of 10-2 ATS, while during the same stretch of games, the Giants are 5-7 ATS.

The Giants are 6-5 SU in the 11 head-to-head encounters with Denver.

The last meeting between the two was in 2009 with Denver taking the win 26-6 at Denver.

Offensively the Broncos are often time unstoppable unless they shoot themselves in the foot. Last week, Peyton Manning had seven passes for touchdowns. One big difference this season is the presence of Wes Welker who was signed as a free agent. He caught two of Manning’s seven touchdowns.

New York will look to control Denver but knows better than trying to stop them completely. Against Dallas, the defense allowed only 331 yards. Dallas had two of its four touchdowns on returns, so the defense for New York was adequate.

Offensively the fumbles by David Wilson and three interceptions did the Giants in. No turnovers and they may have a chance, turn the ball over against Denver and you lose, it is as simple as that.

Prediction: Broncos 38 Giants 31

Points: Over

Re-Visiting NFC Win Totals

Rodgers
Rodgers
The firepower of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense should get them 'over' the top.

Earlier this week I re-visited win totals for the AFC and today I’m doing the same for the NFC. You’ll note a couple of significant changes. Let’s get to it.

NFC EAST

Dallas 8.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Over, Today: Under I really thought this could be the year that Dallas could put it together and make the playoffs but I’ve seen too many issues offensively in the preseason.

New York 9 (-115 over/-115 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under The Giants backfield is a mess with Andre Brown down with a broken leg for the next 4-6 weeks. I’m not sure there enough behind the front four defensively either.

Philadelphia 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under I think Michael Vick will have a bounce-back year but I worry about his health and the shots he’ll take in this offense. The defense is a major concern as well.

Washington 8.5 (+105 over/-135 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over I think the ‘Skins are the class of the division on both sides of the ball. RGIII will learn to play smarter and the defense is much improved from last year.

NFC NORTH

Chicago 8.5 (-120 over/-110 under) First Time: Under, Today: Under The Bears could have two rookies starting on the O-line and you can’t replace the leadership of Brian Urlacher. Cutler is in a contract year and is just too up and down for my liking.

Detroit 8 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Even, Today: Over The Lions suffered from some really bad luck last season and lost a lot of close games. The front four has to stay healthy for the defense to be effective. I’m drinking the kool-aid with Detroit.

Green Bay 10.5 (-115 over/-115 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over Green Bay has a stable of capable running backs now and JerMichael Finley has had an excellent preseason. The team will overcome any defensive short-comings with a big offense.

Minnesota 7.5 (-105 over/-125 under) First Time: Under, Today: Over The Vikings can go only as far as Christian Ponder can take them with all due respect to Adrian Peterson. The defense will be OK, but health will be huge on both sides of the ball. I’ll take them to get to eight wins.

Ryan
Ryan and the Falcons should reach double-digit win totals again this year.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta 10 (Even over/-110 over) First Time: Over, Today: Over The only way this team doesn’t win more than ten games is an injury to Matt Ryan. Other concern is getting to the QB which must get better. Too many weapons offensively not to like this team.

Carolina 7 (-135 over/+105 under) First Time: Under, Today: Even Cam Newton will be better this year and the addition of Ted Ginn, Jr. will help offensively and on special teams. The division and cross-conference schedule is a bear though.

New Orleans 9 (-145 over/+115 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over With an improved defense and an offense with weapons galore, this team will ride Drew Brees to a big season on what I call the “Sean Payton Revenge Tour.”

Tampa Bay 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) First Time: Over, Today: Over This is the last chance for Josh Freeman or else he’ll be looking for work elsewhere in 2014. The Bucs will ride Doug Martin and an improved defense to get to eight or nine wins.

NFC WEST

Arizona 5.5 (Even over/-130 under) First Time: Over, Today: Over The Cards’ defense will be opportunistic with a lot of good athletes making plays. Carson Palmer will do well in Bruce Arians’ offense if he can stay healthy behind a weak O-line.

San Francisco 11 (-120 over/-110 under) First Time: Under, Today: Even The Niners will be very good again but there is just something that troubles me and I can’t put my finger on it. With an improved division and several trips East I think they win 11.

Seattle 10.5 (-135 over/+105 under) First time: Under, Today: Over I think 11 is the number for the Seahawks who will do good things on both sides of the ball but I think their maturity in some areas is still lacking. Getting home-field advantage should be their number one priority.

St. Louis 7.5 (-130 over/Even under) First Time: Over, Today: Under I’m just not sold on Sam Bradford and I have no idea who will run the ball for the Rams. The defense will get to the quarterback but the lack of consistency on offense worries me.

Unmissable Week 17 NFL Games

Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins will look to cap an outstanding season with a NFC East championship.

After 16 long and grueling weeks, the NFL serves up an intriguing Sunday of football this coming weekend.

Five teams in the NFC will be looking to fill two remaining playoff berths, whilst those six sides confirmed over in the AFC will be looking to improve seedings where possible. Here’s Casino Review’s look at those games no to be missed.

 

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins

Bless the schedulers that have made this rivalry clash the final game of the regular season.

Dallas (8-7, 4-3 road) travels to Washington (9-6, 4-3 home) in a winner takes all matchup that will decide the NFC East champion, on Sunday Night Football.

The Redskins defeated the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, on Thanksgiving, and will be looking to sweep the Dallas side and secure the division championship and a No. 4 berth.

Dallas has seemingly risen from the ashes of a disastrous early season to be streaking at the right time. Granted, the Cowboys fell in overtime to the Saints last weekend, but the Cowboys need only one win to advance to January play.

In theory, both sides could be headed to the postseason. If Dallas wins, Washington can still take the final Wild Card slot, but that means Minnesota, Chicago, and the Giants all need to lose too. That’s a lot of stipulations to go the way of the Redskins though.

Odds: The Redskins are favorites (-3½) at home, with the over/under still to be confirmed.

 

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers / St. Louis Ram @ Seattle Seahawks

Seattle’s 42-13 smackdown of San Francisco last Sunday ensured the NFC West will be decided on the last day of the season.

San Francisco (10-4-1, 5-1-1 home) will secure the division with a win over Arizona (5-10, 1-6 road) or a Seahawks loss. Seattle (10-5, 7-0 home) will leapfrog the California side with a win over St. Louis (7-7-1, 3-3-1 road) and a Niners loss.

You’ll need to channel surf between the two, but both look like they could be offensive blowouts. Even if this doesn’t prove the case, this is still the most interesting NFC West race in years.

Odds: San Francisco is a huge favorite (-16½) over Arizona, with the total at 38½. Seattle is a big favorite (-10½) also, with the total at 46½. The question here is: will Seattle go over the total without any assistance from St. Louis?

 

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

Green Bay (11-4, 4-3 road) can secure the No. 2 seed with a win, or a San Francisco loss. That’s not why people will be watching this one.

Adrian Peterson is 208 yards shy of the all-time record for rushing yards in a season – a record currently held by Eric Dickerson – and has an outside chance of breaking that mark this weekend. In a year that saw Calvin Johnson surpass Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards, that would be something else.

Meanwhile, and more importantly, Minnesota (9-6, 6-1 home) can secure a Wild Card berth with a win. In a season where the Vikings were ranked 29th by bookmakers ahead of the season, that’s something altogether outstanding.

A Vikings loss opens up the possibility of Chicago, the Giants, and the loser of the Cowboys-Redskins game taking that final playoff spot.

Odds: Green Bay is three-point favorites, with the over/under at 46½.

 

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts

Both of these sides are locked into the AFC Playoffs but this one will have implications in terms of seeding.

Having led the AFC for the entire season, Houston (12-3, 6-1 road) finds itself holding on to the No. 1 seed by the skin of the teeth. A loss at home to Minnesota this past weekend means that the Texans are in a virtual tie with Denver, and only a game ahead of New England.

Anything less than a win opens the gate for Denver or New England to take the No. 1 seed. In fact, if the Texans lose and both their rivals win, Houston will be hosting Cincinnati in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and the Bengals are in the sort of form that no teams wants to come up against.

Odds: The Texans are favorites (-4) on the toad, with the over/under still to be confirmed.

 

Week 17 Schedule

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Tampa Bay @ Atlanta | NY Jets @ Buffalo | Baltimore @ Cincinnati | Chicago @ Detroit | Houston @ Indianapolis | Carolina @ New Orleans | Philadelphia @ NY Giants | Cleveland @ Pittsburgh | Jacksonville @ Tennessee; (4:25 PM ET) Kansas City @ Denver | Green Bay @ Minnesota | Miami @ New England | Oakland @ San Diego | St. Louis @ Seattle | Arizona @ San Francisco; (8:20 PM ET) Dallas @ Washington