Michigan Moves on Harbaugh; Ramifications are Many

Harbaugh
Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh has many things to consider but for right now, Michigan's offer cold have a ripple effect.

Well, there it is. The University of Michigan is doing their absolute best to bring home Jim Harbaugh. By now you probably already know what the contract offer looks like, six years and $48 million, but there’s a lot more to this story now than just the money.

Here’s a look at the ramifications of just the offer being thrown out there.

For Harbaugh – This offer immediately makes NFL teams prizing his services take notice. At eight million per year, it’s not out of the range for an NFL team to pay, but it does make it a little harder.

It’s believed that Oakland Raiders’ Owner Mark Davis will pay this much and more in an effort to get Harbaugh to come across the bay. There’s even a report Davis was willing to pay Jon Gruden as much as $16 million so eight is a drop in the bucket.

Harbaugh is clearly in the cat-bird seat while this unfolds. His team is out of the playoffs so his focus can pretty much be wherever he wants it to be. I expect the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins to be in play for him.

Don’t forget that Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross is a Michigan Alum with an endless bank account.

Hackett
Michigan Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett did the right thing by going after Harbaugh now but will it work?

For Michigan – The school has obviously made it known they are no longer willing to be the punching bag for Michigan State and Ohio State and anyone else beating the Wolverines these days. This kind of money says only one thing; “We want success now.”

The problem is dealing with the letdown of a potential Harbaugh pass. The only way that pain is tempered is if Michigan goes and gets a current head coach of a program that no one sees coming. A guy like Gary Patterson or Mark Helfrich or Kevin Sumlin.

Regardless of who it is, anyone not named “Jim Harbaugh” will be a letdown to the vast majority of the fan base.

For Other College Coaches – If you heard a loud ring coming from Tuscaloosa, Alabama last night that wasn’t just yours ears. That was Nick Saban’s agent calling Alabama to demand a raise.

There’s no way that Saban is going to be paid less than a guy who has won very little at the collegiate level and especially way less than he has. This effect will be a trickle-down one too. Guys like Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio will also be looking for raises.

Even if Harbaugh goes in another direction and leaves Michigan hanging, those numbers aren’t going to go away. There isn’t a college coach in America who hasn’t had his eyes pop out from that offer.

For the 49ers – If I’m owner Jed York and I see how in demand my coach is and he has one year left on his deal, I’m increasing the price for his services. Common thought was that it might take a couple of third-round picks to get him out of his final year.

Now? I’m asking at least a first-round pick and then the negotiations can begin from there. York can’t let him go for nothing.

My Prediction: I honestly believe Michigan means a lot to Harbaugh but he’s not coming back. He’s spent nearly all of his coaching career on the West Coast and appears to be very vested in his family and their wishes.

This doesn’t mean he won’t listen to the Jets or Dolphins but right now I think Harbaugh either stays in San Francisco or goes across the bay. The lure of the Super Bowl title is too much for him to ignore.

Is Tonight the Night the Raiders Break Through?

Sparano
Sparano
Tony Sparano is looking for that first win of the season in Oakland as the Chiefs come to town.

The Oakland Raiders host the Kansas City Chiefs tonight looking for their first win while in college football there are two key conference games worth your time.

Kansas City (-7.5) at Oakland (O/U 43) – In their last 10 meetings, the Chiefs own a 6-4 advantage over Oakland but they are separated by just two points per game in that stretch. Oakland is of course the only remaining winless team in the NFL while Kansas City is 7-3 and tied atop the AFC West with Denver.

Two things to think about here; any time the spread goes over a full touchdown you have to pay close attention to the underdog especially at home. Secondly, we have to wonder if the Chiefs aren’t ready for a letdown.

They’ve won five in a row and are coming off of a very emotional statement win over Seattle. Against almost any other team on the road I’d strongly consider that second point but I’m not so sure in this case.

If the Raiders can protect Derek Carr they may have a chance, otherwise, forget it.

Key Injuries: KC WR A.J. Jenkins OUT/Shoulder… OAK CB Carlos Rogers OUT/Knee

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Chiefs last nine trips to Oakland… The Raiders are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine games at home… The Chiefs are 5-0 straight up in their last five contests… Oakland is 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games at home against the Chiefs.

The Pick: I like the Raiders getting the points but KC to win. Take the UNDER as well.

Trickett
Clint Trickett plays his final home game for the Mountaineers tonight in Morgantown.

Kansas State (+2) at West Virginia (O/U 57.5) – The Mountaineers own a home victory over Baylor and a near victory over TCU. With that in mind, K-State Head Coach Bill Snyder knows this will be no picnic for his Wildcats in Morgantown.

Behind QB Clint Trickett, WVU has little problem moving the ball and scoring but that had a bit of a hiccup last week in Austin as the Longhorns held them to just 16 points. The Wildcats’ offense isn’t too bad either ranking 20th nationally in scoring and their defense is also in the top 25 as well.

This game is ultimately about bowl positioning. The Wildcats feel they can still climb into that upper echelon of bowls if they finish 10-2 while West Virginia hopes to raise its’ bowl profile as well.

Trends: Kansas State is 4-1 straight up in their last five games on the road… WVU is 4-2 in their straight up in their last six games… The total has gone OVER in five of the Wildcats’ last six games on the road… The Mountaineers are 3-6 straight up in their last nine games at home.

The Pick: I love the Wildcats getting the points and take the OVER too.

North Carolina (+6) at Duke (O/U 66.5) – The Blue Devils had everything in place for another ACC Coastal Division title. They had just one loss and had their final three games at home against conference opponents. Phase one did not go well as the Devils lost to Virginia Tech 17-16. All is not lost however because now they have a very average Tar Heels team coming in tonight followed by a woeful Wake Forest team in the finale.

UNC won’t roll over though because a win makes them bowl-eligible and this after all is a rivalry game. It isn’t what it is on the hardwood but it still is for serious bragging rights.

Trends: UNC is 5-11 against the spread in their last 16 games on the road…The Blue Devils are 1-8 straight up in their last nine home games against the Tar Heels… The total has gone OVER in four of North Carolina’s last five games on the road at Duke… The Blue Devils have gone 4-1 straight up in their last five games.

The Pick: Duke rides its’ defense and covers. Take the OVER tonight.

Odds for the AFC West Division in 2014

Manning
Manning
Peyton Manning and the Broncos are the clear favorites in the AFC West.

Our trip through the eight NFL divisions ends here.

Denver -300 – Last we saw the Denver Broncos they were getting steam-rolled in MetLife Stadium by the Seattle Seahawks. With Peyton Manning back and a host of potentially dangerous upgrades on defense, the Broncos are a strong favorite to get back to the Super Bowl from the AFC. Because Denver was beaten so badly by Seattle, the defense getting stronger seemed obvious but I think the equally important issue was upgrading the offense that was stymied in Super Bowl XLVIII.

I’m concerned about the running game for the Broncos. Montee Ball has missed time after having his appendix removed and I’m not sure about the depth there. I think the’ll be fine in the regular season but the playoffs will be a different story. Denver’s schedule is brutal out of the gate. They open Indianapolis and Kansas City at home, travel to Seattle and then have Arizona after the bye week. They also play six of their final nine games on the road.

Season Projection: 12-4

Mathews
Ryan Mathews needs another solid campaign for the Chargers this season.

San Diego +500 – QB guru Ken Whisenhunt left for the Titans’ job and now Philip Rivers has to show he can play QB at a high level without Whisenhunt or Norv Turner who was with him for years. Ryan Mathews looked much better last year as a pro running back and the emergence of Keenan Allen at wideout will help Rivers as well.

The Chargers were decent against the run last season but they were 30th against the pass and that is not going to get things done especially when they have to play Peyton Manning twice. If San Diego can find ways to create consistent pressure on the quarterback then they could be more of a threat than most of us think. The Chargers have two tough opening games at Arizona and then home to Seattle. The last five games however are not easy either with trips to Baltimore, San Francisco and Kansas City mixed in with home games against New England and Denver.

Season Projection: 8-8

Kansas City +600 – The Kansas City Chiefs were 2nd in passing, 4th in rushing and 2nd overall last season offensively. Defensively, they were 31st overall and dead last in pass defense. While the offense doesn’t seem to have too many issues, the defense is an entirely different question. Andy Reid and the front office addressed the troubles by adding defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Phillip Gaines with their first two picks.

A lot of people think the Chiefs will take a step back this year and I can see that happening but I can also see this team being just as competitive as well. Alex Smith won’t win a ton of games by himself but he won’t lose many either. If the defense comes around, they could challenge in the West. The schedule features an incredibly tough four game stretch through most of September. They play at Denver, at Miami home with New England and at San Francisco. Can they survive that?

Season Projection: 9-7

Oakland +1800 – In most seasons, it’s bad enough just having to discuss the Raiders and their on-field shortcomings but now there is speculation they might not even be in Oakland much longer. That’s not good for anyone on the field or in the stands. I have zero faith in Matt Schaub and and perhaps even less that Darren McFadden can stay healthy.

Besides divisional opponents Kansas City, Denver and San Diego, the Raiders also have to travel to Seattle and New England. I just don’t think this team is going to do very much and you probably don’t either.

Season Prediction: 4-12

Overall: Don’t overlook the Chiefs but take Denver and run here.

Raiders face Chiefs on Sunday in Battle of AFC Rivals

The AFC West has been dominated the past two seasons by the Denver Broncos. However, this season, the division has seen a resurgence of the Kansas City Chiefs and signs of life by the Oakland Raiders.

The two archrivals meet on Sunday in what could prove to be an entertaining game. Kansas City is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS, while Oakland is 2-3 SU and 3-1-1 ATS. The two teams are a combined 7-2-1 ATS.

The current line has Kansas City favored by 9 points on sites like sportsbooks.com, topbet and betonline with the over/under point total on 40.5.

The Chiefs opened last Sunday as 10.5 point favorites at home, but following Oakland’s upset on Sunday night over the San Diego Chargers the line on Monday reopened at 9.5 and has stayed between there and its current 9. The total opened on 41 and has been bet down just a half point, but be sure to check Bovada and the previously mentioned other sites for the latest in line and point total moves.

Last season, the Raiders won both meetings with Kansas City 15-0 in Oakland and 26-16 in Kansas City. The Raiders are 5-1 SU and ATS over the past six head to head meetings with Kansas City. However, Andy Reid was not coaching Kansas City for any of those six games.

Oakland overall is 5-0-1 ATS in its past six games, while Kansas City is just 1-5 ATS in their past six games versus divisional opponents.

Terrelle Pryor returned last week for Oakland following a missed week due to a concussion. He had 221 yards passing and two touchdowns in their 27-17 win against the Chargers.

Kansas City’s defense will be a tough match for Pryor and the Oakland offense. The pass rush from Kansas City is very strong and Pryor will be rushed in the pocket most of the game.

Justin Houston has 8.5 sacks for Kansas City and two other players have four apiece. Defensively, the Chiefs are the best in the league against the pass. This will make it even more difficult for the Oakland offense since their running game is nearly non-existent.

Oakland’s defense must look out for Jamaal Charles the Chiefs running back. Charles is averaging close to 80 yards on the ground and another 50 in the air per game.

This game is a tough call. The underdog has covered in 11 of the past 12 meetings between the two teams. The Raiders were underdogs against San Diego and won outright.

Kansas City is 4-1 ATS, but the Raiders with Pryor starting are 3-0-1.

I like the Raiders and the points, with the total cashing out on the UNDER.

Raiders lose Game, but find a New Quarterback

As was expected by most, the Oakland Raiders were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts to start their 2013 NFL regular season 21-17.

The Raiders have new players and coaches this season and are trying to turn around a program that was once respected by opponents.

Oakland lost to the Colts by just 4 points, thanks in part to Terrelle Pryor their new starting quarterback.

Pryor was a 2011 third round pick in the Supplemental draft. On Sunday, new head coach Dennis Allen announced Pryor would start over Matt Flynn, who the Raiders had brought in from Green Bay.

During the offseason Flynn, a backup to Aaron Rodgers, was brought in to be the Raiders starter. However, early on in the preseason Pryor was given a chance to play when Flynn did not impress his coaches. Pryor did not have pressure on him, as the expectations were not high. Pryor proved he could play, and was given the chance on Sunday by Allen.

In Sunday’s game, the Raiders quickly fell behind by 14 points and the Oakland coaching staff could not hide Pryor by having him hand off the ball or throw short passes to the flat.

If they wanted to win, the Raiders would have to open the game up behind the air and scrambling abilities of Pryor.

Pryor was able to hit 19 of his 29 passes for 217 yards and even more impressive were his 112 yards rushing on just 13 carries.

While playing at Ohio State, Pryor was revered for his athleticism. He showed it early and often versus Indianapolis in game 1 Sunday. However, it was not enough as the Raiders went down to defeat.

Nevertheless, Oakland may have found the foundation upon which to build around and upon on offense, with Pryor.

Oakland has a great deal of work to do to return to the elite status they held once as one of the best teams in the NFL.

However, if Sunday was any indication, the excitement amongst the Raiders fan base has jumped a few notches.

Pryor was making just his second start in the NFL and became the first quarterback in Oakland franchise history to rush for over 100 yards.

Pryor was the last player that Al Davis the late former team owner drafted and one of just a handful who survived the massive overhaul that Reggie McKenzie the new General Manager orchestrated during the off season,

For now, that decision by McKenzie looks like a good one.

QB Questions As the NFL Regular Season Draws Near

Pryor
Pryor
Pryor, now #2, may get the starting nod for the Raiders in the season opener.

The third week of the National Football League preseason is in the books and what that essentially means is that most of the game’s top players and starters will not be seen again until week one of the regular season. Week four of the preseason is nothing more than a final opportunity for those guys who are battling for final roster spots.

That doesn’t mean I can’t focus on some of the major questions facing quarterbacks as the preseason comes to an end (thankfully).

Quarterback Issues in Oakland, New York and Buffalo – Quarterback controversies in the preseason are as common as a laugh at Rex Ryan press conference. What do you know? That’s what we have in this case as the Jets are facing a serious issue at quarterback. Ryan inserted Mark Sanchez into the game this past weekend in the fourth quarter only for him to get hurt.

It was a foolish and reckless decision by Ryan who will not be the head coach of this team next year barring a miracle. Sanchez’ competition is rookie Geno Smith who was rushed back from an ankle sprain. All Smith did was throw three interceptions in the first half against the Giants. In doing so, he basically handed the job to Sanchez. If you told me Ryan was ‘forced’ to put Sanchez in late in the game, I wouldn’t disagree with you.

Manuel
Manuel played well enough to be named the starter but will he be ready for week one?

In Buffalo, E.J. Manuel has been on the shelf for two weeks following a minor knee surgery. That was thought to give veteran Kevin Kolb a line on the starting job. Well, not so much. Kolb suffered a concussion on Saturday against Washington and reports are surfacing that this could be a much more serious head injury than previously thought.

With only rookie Jeff Tuel remaining, the Bills signed Matt Leinart and picked up Thad Lewis in a trade with Detroit. There is no guarantee that Manuel will be ready for the opener so what was once so promising a start for these Bills may be yet another troubling season in Buffalo.

Out west, Oakland was thought to have its’ man in Matt Flynn but then again Seattle thought that about Flynn as well last season. Now the Raiders aren’t so sure. This week, ironically against the Seahawks, Flynn will not get the start. Terrell Pryor gets the nod in what the Raiders are calling more of a ‘rest’ for Matt Flynn.

I’m not buying that. I think this is a major opportunity for Pryor who runs better and is more mobile which is huge considering the Raiders’ porous offensive line. Pryor won’t see many of the starters from Seattle’s defense but make no mistake that a good performance from him may garner a start in the opener.

I’d be absolutely out of my mind if I didn’t mention one other quarterback situation where there is no controversy for the starting position. The controversy here is who will be the back-up in New England? Head Coach Bill Belichick normally keeps only two quarterbacks on the roster and while both Tim Tebow and Ryan Mallett have been equally bad this preseason, which direction will Belichick go?

Tebow did not see the field in the third preseason game which isn’t totally abnormal but still factors into what Belichick might be thinking. I don’t think you’ll see Tebow cut when the first round of cuts are due by tomorrow. That doesn’t mean he will make the team however. Tom Brady will more than likely not play in the final preseason game so I expect Mallett and Tebow to get the bulk of the snaps. Even if Tebow plays well, that doesn’t guarantee a roster spot.

Seahawks Trade Matt Flynn to Raiders

With the emergence of star rookie QB Russell Wilson last season, the Seahawks didn’t end up having much use for Matt Flynn, but maybe the Raiders will.

According to ESPN.com, the Oakland Raiders acquired Flynn in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks for two draft picks – a 2014 fifth-round pick and a conditional pick in 2015.

There’s no question that the quarterback position has been problematic for the Raiders in the last few seasons and with Carson Palmer reportedly being sent in a trade to Arizona, it looks like it’s a position that needs to be filled by a capable starter. And the Raiders think Flynn might be their guy.

“Matt is a tough football player, and a talented quarterback,” said Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. “He will get the opportunity to compete to be a starter with the Raiders. I believe Matt has that potential, but I also know he hasn’t had enough experience. We’re going to let him compete and battle, and see what happens.”

After putting up impressive numbers in a few starts with Green Bay when filling in for Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn’s stock went through the roof and he received a sizable $26 million contract from Seattle. However, after Russell Wilson won the starting job with his performance in preseason, Flynn spend almost all of 2012 on Seattle’s bench.

We’ve seen what he can do in a good offense in Green Bay, but it’s hard to be sold on him as a premier starting quarterback, since we haven’t seen him play much in the last year. And let’s not forget that the Raiders don’t even half have the amount of offensive weapons that Green Bay, or even Seattle has.

But considering that Oakland didn’t have to give up to much to acquire him, the trade certainly has more upside than downside. However, if Flynn doesn’t work out at the position, unfortunately, Oakland doesn’t have a lot of other options. So, it appears that in that way, the Raiders are putting a lot of stock in Flynn as well.

Terrelle Pryor will also be competing for the job after getting limited playing time in 2012. Pryor has shown some promise, but like Flynn, hasn’t gotten many regular season game snaps. He threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns last season, but only completed 47 percent of his throws.

We’ll have to see how training camp and the preseason play out, but the acquisition of Flynn will more likely help the Raiders, who are currently listed at 75/1 to win the 2013 Super Bowl by Bovada. They’ll certainly need to improve in many more ways to be a true contender this year.

Broncos, Niners Favorites for Super Bowl XLVIII

San Francisco may have fallen at the final hurdle on Sunday night, but bookmakers have installed the team as joint favorites (with Denver) to win next year's Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.

Before the dust has even settled on the spectacle that was Super Bowl XLVII, bookmakers have released odds relating to Super Bowl XLVIII, to be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2, 2014.

Sunday night’s game in New Orleans proved to be something special. From the opening anthems – including a poignant performance by the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir – through Beyonce’s love it/hate it halftime performance, from a 34-minute power outage to the confetti raining down on the champions, this was a Super Bowl that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

San Francisco and Baltimore put on one heck of a display, with the Ravens jumping out to a 28-6 lead on the first play of the second half, before San Francisco mounted another unthinkable comeback. It came down to the last seconds of the game, with the Ravens managing to hold off the Niners, ultimately going on to lift the Lombardi Trophy.

But football betting is fickle, and before the Ravens can even enjoy the sweet taste of victory, bookmakers are putting a new spin on things and offering odds on next year’s super event.

As it stands, Denver and San Francisco have been installed as the favorites to follow in Baltimore footsteps next season.

After a long and tough season, San Francisco almost made good on 9/1 preseason odds this season. The Northern California side advanced to the Super Bowl – and came within touching distance of a win – having been eliminated at the conference championship stage last season.

Odds makers believe Jim Harbaugh’s side will do even better next year, assigning the team 7/1 odds of winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The Niners will again be in search of Super Bowl victory No. 6, tying that record achieved by Pittsburgh.

The Niners are not alone though. Denver has also been assigned 7/1 odds of winning it all next season.

After a season that showed Peyton Manning – the eventual runner up in MVP voting – still has it and that the Broncos are stacked with talent, bookmakers like the Mile High City side to improve on this year’s conference championship appearance. A win would secure Denver’s third Super Bowl championship.

Third on the bookies’ list is perennial Super Bowl favorite, New England. By the time Super Bowl XLVIII rolls around, it will have been nine years since the Patriots last hoisted the Lombardi trophy aloft, but Brady and Co. are still expected to make noise this coming season.

New England is 15/2 to win next season’s Super Bowl, which puts the side marginally behind the odds (11/2) assigned to the team ahead of this past season.

Another perennial favorite takes the number four spot on the NFL Futures list. Green Bay is considered 10/1 to win the championship. The Packers were not as dominant as some expected this season, but with Aaron Rodgers under center there are few that wouldn’t expect the Wisconsin side to contend at the very least. Another Packers-Niners playoff clash wouldn’t go amiss either.

The top five is rounded out by a pair of sides with 12/1 odds: Baltimore and Seattle.

Baltimore may have won it all on Sunday night but bookmakers believe that the “Team of Destiny” used up most of its luck during the 34-31 victory over San Francisco. But then again, the bookies took a big hit thanks to Baltimore’s horrendous play ahead of the post season that saw the team 28/1 to win the Super Bowl after Week 15. There’s no way the bookies want the Ravens to win again.

It’s hard to imagine Baltimore won’t get a deal done that keeps Joe Flacco under center, but without Ray Lewis – and perhaps Ed Reed (retirement?) – the side will have a few spots to bolster if it’s to make a push.

Meanwhile, Seattle is a surprise entrant in the top five (which is actually a top six). Behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks were certainly one of the surprise packages this season, but most will be questioning whether Pete Carroll’s side can repeat this season’s success. Odds makers apparently believe they can.

The NFL Futures’ Top 10 is rounded out by Houston (14/1), Atlanta (18/1), New Orleans (18/1), and Pittsburgh (18/1).

Elsewhere on the Futures list, bookmakers expect Kansas City – this season’s worst team – to improve under the tutelage of Andy Reid. The Chiefs are considered 50/1 to win Super Bowl XLVIII, which makes them tied for 22nd place on the list.

Jacksonville is expected to be the league’s worst team next season. The Jaguars have odds of 150/1 to win it all. Buffalo and Oakland are second worst on the list, with odds of 100/1.

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl XLVIII

Denver Broncos 7/1

San Francisco 49ers 7/1

New England Patriots 15/2

Green Bay Packers 10/1

Baltimore Ravens 12/1

Seattle Seahawks 12/1

Houston Texans 14//1

Atlanta Falcons 18/1

New Orleans Saints 18/1

Pittsburgh Steelers 18/1

Chicago Bears 20/1

New York Giants 20/1

Dallas Cowboys 25/1

Washington Redskins 30/1

Indianapolis Colts 33/1

Cincinnati Bengals 35/1

Detroit Lions 35/1

Minnesota Vikings 35/1

Philadelphia Eagles 35/1

San Diego Chargers 35/1

New York Jets 40/1

Carolina Panthers 50/1

Kansas City Chiefs 50/1

Miami Dolphins 50/1

St. Louis Rams 50/1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 50/1

Arizona Cardinals 66/1

Cleveland Browns 66/1

Tennessee Titans 66/1

Buffalo Bills 100/1

Oakland Raiders 100/1

Jacksonville Jaguars 150/1

Odds supplied by Bovada

Broncos Visit Raiders For Thursday Night Football

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos secured the AFC West title last Sunday and now look towards a higher seeding.

Denver secured a second consecutive AFC West title with a 31-23 win over Tampa Bay last Sunday.

The victory would ultimately prove redundant, at least in terms of winning the division, as San Diego fell to Cincinnati making it impossible for the AFC West’s other three sides to take the title. Denver wasn’t about to risk it though.

Thursday night sees the Broncos make the trip west to the Bay Area to take on the Raiders in a divisional game that will have no bearing on the division. But like last week, Denver will not be risking anything.

In Search of Home Field

With the matter of the division wrapped up, Denver (9-3, 4-2 home) will now look to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.

Currently Houston (11-1) sits on a two-game lead atop the AFC with New England and Baltimore joining Denver at 9-3. For the Broncos, securing home field, at least for the divisional portion of the playoffs, could make a huge difference, especially considering the advantages that come with being acclimatized to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.

Catching Houston might be out of the question, although Denver’s run in is slightly easier than the Texans’, but that number two spot is certainly up for grabs. In order to secure it, the Broncos will first need to beat an Oakland (3-9, 2-4 home) that has little to play for.

The Raiders’ miserable season was confounded by a 20-17 loss at home to Cleveland last week, a fifth consecutive defeat for the Northern California side. At this rate, the Raiders could well be looking at the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, although Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Kansas City will ultimately have a say in that.

Denver is a perfect 4-0 against the AFC West this season, while the Raiders have cobbled together a 1-2 record, with three left against divisional rivals. Oakland might want to consider trying to finish second in the division just for bragging right (sort of) over Kansas City and San Diego.

Looking for an Edge

In a rivalry that began way back in 1960, Oakland leads the all-time head-to-head series 60-44-2. Things have been much different since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995 though, with Denver taking 24 of 35 games in total. The Broncos have won the previous two encounters between the two sides, including a 37-6 drubbing of the Raiders back on Sept. 30.

Oddsmakers have the Broncos as 10½-point favorites on the road. With a 7-4-1 ATS record this season, Denver covering the spread might seem like a slam dunk but bettors should beware.

Although Oakland has posted a 3-8-1 ATS record, the Raiders have only lost only once at home this season by a margin of more than 10 points, a 38-17 rout by New Orleans. That suggest the spread could be a little too high. Furthermore, the Raiders have covered the spread three times this season, nothing to boast about, but all of those have come when considered an underdog.

The over/under opened at 51 and has subsequently fallen to 48½. The Broncos have seen the total go over in eight games this season, while Oakland has seen an even split between over and under.

The Broncos have breached the 30-point mark in seven of the last nine games and will have a good shot at doing likewise this week as they face the worst defense in the league in terms of point allowed (31.3 points per game). But Denver will need Oakland to score some points to topple 48½, and that’s something the Raiders struggle doing – to the tune of 1936 points per game, 23rd in the league. That being said, three of the last five games between the sides have exceeded this week’s required total.

Upsets Muddy Waters Further in NFL’s Week 2

Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal in the final seconds handed an upset victory to the Arizona Cardinals over the New England Patriots.

After some surprise results during opening week, Week 2 saw a further six teams win in upset fashion. Arizona’s victory over New England was undeniably the headline of Sunday’s play, but wins for the likes of St. Louis, Seattle and Miami have made for intriguing watching.

The overall result is that 19 teams now sit at 1-1, including some names you might not have expected. This doesn’t include Denver and Atlanta who will square off on Monday Night Football tonight. One of those two teams will also be 1-1 come Tuesday morning, providing a tie is avoided, of course.

The early picture in the NFL is often unclear, but 2012 is looking murkier than any season in recent memory.

Week 2 Upsets

Arizona (2-0) effectively beat New England (1-1) when Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal attempt with seconds left on the clock and the Cardinals leading 20-18. The Patriots – who entered the season favorites to win the Super Bowl ­– will look to rebound from the surprising loss with a trip to Baltimore (1-1) next weekend. Could the Pats be 1-2 one week from now?

Ex-Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri made a 53-yard field goal in the dying seconds, sending Indianapolis (1-1) to a 23-20 win over Minnesota (1-1). It may have been an upset – the Vikings were favored by three – but it’s hard to consider the win a surprise.

Miami (1-1) followed up Week 1’s dire performance from rookie QB Ryan Tannehill with a winning effort against Oakland (0-2). The fact that the Raiders were favored by three on the road speaks volumes for the Fin’s performance last week. Beating the spread by 19 points was the icing on the cake.

Despite the offseason turmoil and last week’s loss, New Orleans (0-2) entered Sunday as three-point favorites in Carolina (1-1). The Saint trailed for much of the game, but there was still a sense the game was theirs for the taking. That is until Drew Brees was intercepted in the final minute.

St. Louis (1-1) played tough against Detroit in Week 1 but got no love from oddsmakers as Washington (1-1) arrived in the Gateway City. The visiting Redskins were favored by four but fell in a fairly high-scoring affair.

Finally, another NFC West side toppled another NFC East team. Seattle (1-1) took advantage of early turnovers and proceeded to outlast a Dallas (1-1) team that looked a million miles from the team that beat the Giants in the season opener.

Winning Starts

Five teams now sit at 2-0 with the winner of Denver-Atlanta matchup set to join them.

Of these five, Houston is the only side that looked a ‘guaranteed’ 2-0 ahead of the season. Wins over Miami and Jacksonville are hardly a surprise, and in the weakest division in football, the Texans are all set to run away with it.

San Francisco sits at 2-0 by way of its win over Green Bay (1-1) in Week 1. Few expected Detroit (1-1) to achieve anything at Candlestick Park this weekend – the team hasn’t won there since 1975 – but the win at Lambeau field was a huge surprise.

Of course, Arizona’s win over New England was completely unexpected, and many were actually surprised the Cards knocked off Seattle last week. If Arizona had been 0-2 this weekend, nobody would have batted an eyelid.

Both remaining 2-0 teams were somewhat unknowns heading into the season. San Diego has looked solid so far but against lesser competition. Philadelphia has played ugly but scraped victories over Cleveland and Baltimore, a good sign heading forward.

Slip Sliding Away

Six teams finished Week 2 with a 0-2 record, and a mountain to climb. While some of these were somewhat predictable (Cleveland, Jacksonville), some come as a surprise, particularly the New Orleans Saints.

Despite the whole bounty scandal, few would have expected the Saints to drop its opening games. With Washington and Carolina on the schedule, New Orleans looked good to take at least one, if not both, of these. The question that now has to be asked is how much of this slip is to do with the improvement of both Washington and Carolina – few would argue that both have shown improvement over last campaign – and how much is down to the Saints missing Sean Payton on the sideline? A win over winless Kansas City could kickstart the Saints’ season.

Oakland and Kansas City were both part of the to-close-to-call AFC West, but after two weeks neither looks like a threat to Denver and San Diego. They’ll have to make do with beating each other up.

Finally, the jury’s still out on Tennessee who has come up against two tough teams in Houston and San Diego. That being said, Detroit and a second outing against Houston are on tap next. A 0-4 Titans team is easy to picture right now.

 

Notes: Seven of Sunday’s 14 games went OVER with five going UNDER and two breaking EVEN. The Giants-Bucs game was the highest scoring at 34-41 (75 total points). Houston-Jacksonville and Dallas-Seattle were the lowest scoring games, both finishing 27-7 (34 total points). Tampa Bay was the only losing side to beat the spread.