Early NFL Lines as the Playoffs Come Into Focus

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.

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.

Three Late NFL Games Plus the Monday Night Game are Here for the Taking

Matt Ryan knows he and the Falcons are under .500 but they still lead the division heading into today's game with Arizona.

Arizona (-1.5) at Atlanta (O/U 44.5) – The Cardinals finally cam back to Earth last Sunday with a very humiliating loss to Seattle. Arizona was dominated in each facet of the game and now has to travel across the country to Atlanta where the Falcons are waiting.

Atlanta will know the fate of New Orleans when they kickoff so a win would give them a game lead in the NFC South should the Saints lose in Pittsburgh and the Falcons take care of business against Arizona.

The question is simply this; can Drew Stanton shake off last week’s poor performance? If he can, the Cards can maintain their lead in the NFC West but if not thing could start to unravel for them with Seattle breathing down their necks.

Trends: Arizona is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in six of Atlanta’s last seven games… The Cardinals are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games on the road in Atlanta… The Falcons are 5-0 straight up in their last five games at home against the Cardinals.

The Pick: Everything tells me to go with Arizona here but I’m not. Take the Falcons to win at home and take the UNDER.

Eddie Lacy may be the most important Packer on offense today against the Patriots.

New England (+3) at Green Bay (O/U 58.5) – This one is being touted as a potential Super Bowl preview as only the media can do it. I’m not ready to go that far just yet but it’s clear these are two of the better teams in football at the moment. Regardless of the elements, the Patriots are used to the same weather the Packers are so throw that out the window.

Look for both teams to establish the run by throwing early. Limiting pressure on their respective quarterbacks will go a long ways towards victory.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of New England’s last five games on the road… The Packers are 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five home games… The Patriots are 5-10-1 ATS in their last 16 road games… Green Bay is 5-0 in their last five games at home.

The Pick: This is the type of game where Bill Belichick and Tom Brady thrive at home but on the road? I’m not so sure. Take the Packers to cover with a late score and the UNDER is a good way to go here too.

Denver (-1.5) at Kansas City (O/U 49.5) – The Broncos are dinged up at key positions and have struggled in recent weeks but they put things together in time to come back and beat Miami in the fourth quarter last week. The Chiefs are coming off of a sobering loss to the Oakland Raiders which was their first win of the season.

With a difficult remaining schedule, that loss could prove especially costly if they drop this one at home today. Look for Andy Reid to get the running and play-action game going early. The real key is whether the Chiefs pass rushers can get to Peyton Manning.

Trends: Denver is 14-5 straight up in their last 19 road games… The total has gone UNDER in six of the Chiefs’ last eight games at home against Denver… The Broncos are 4-1 SU in their last five meeting s with the Chiefs in KC… The Chiefs are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home against the Broncos.

The Pick: Take the home dog Chiefs and the UNDER.

Monday Night

Miami (-7) at NY Jets (O/U 42) – The Jets are going back to Geno Smith at quarterback but I don’t think it really matters. Miami is really good defensively and unless the Jets run the ball well early I expect multiple turnovers from Smith.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in six of Miami’s last seven games on the road against the Jets… The Jets are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games at home… The Dolphins are 5-1 straight up in their last six games against the Jets… New York is 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven home games against Miami.

The Pick: That’s a huge number on the road and it scares me enough to take the Jets and the points although Miami wins and take the UNDER.

Monster Games in the NFL Today

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.

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.

Today’s Saturday Sports Bullets

Clayton Kershaw pulled off a double with his Cy Young and MVP wins.

Saturday has again rolled up on me and with so many things to discuss I figure it’s time to throw some more bullets your way with a variety of thoughts from around the sports’ world.

College basketball tips off this weekend so I know all of you are dying for my Final Four selections. Here goes; Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Wichita State
No surprises in the baseball voting with Clayton Kershaw grabbing both the NL Cy Young Award and the MVP. Mike Trout was the easy winner of the AL MVP as well. I have no issue with pitcher winning MVP. If he’s the most dominant guy on the field then so be it.

I have to wonder what Florida Gator fans are thinking. Will Muschamp is going to get this team to a bowl game. Even if they lose to South Carolina today and Florida State in the finale, they’re going to beat Eastern Kentucky which will give them six wins. Is this what Gators’ fans want?

Brady Hoke’s future is in the same boat. The team needs to beat either Maryland or Ohio State to get to a bowl game. Either way the only way Hoke’s job is saved is through a win at Ohio State and then a bowl win. Those things are unlikely to happen.

I think the Chicago Bulls have a serious problem with Derrick Rose. There’s no way he should be talking about his “after basketball life” the way he is. Then Thursday night he comes up lame again with a hamstring pull. I can’t see the Bulls wanting to invest another dime in him. After all, this is the city where Michael Jordan would have run through brick walls to beat the Washington Bullets.

Kobe Bryant made one of 14 field goal attempts last night in a loss to San Antonio. It was kind of a fitting scene as Bryant and Tim Duncan chatted a few times during the game. Duncan had another double-double going for 13 points and 11 boards. I applaud Bryant for coming back from his injuries but I really don’t know that he is helping the Lakers.

The NBA announced this week that when teams play on Christmas their jerseys will feature the players’ first names rather than their last. Not real sure why but OK.

You would think Frank Drebin is running things in Tallahassee the way they do business.

I’m paraphrasing a bit here but I loved the tweet from Fox Sports’ College Football Writer Stewart Mandel who wondered if the people of Tallahassee wouldn’t be safer in the hands of Frank Drebin. I couldn’t agree more. This is of course in response to the constant blundering of the Tallahassee Police Department when it comes to Jameis Winston and Florida State.

There are some great games on tap for the National Football League tomorrow. The Eagles play at Green Bay where the tundra is expected to be frozen a bit early this year. The Patriots play in Indianapolis and this game could go a long way towards securing home-field advantage. Two of the best teams in the NFL face off in Arizona where the Cardinals host the Lions. Unless you have the NFL Sunday Ticket, you’ll most likely be out of luck. Only about 19% of the nation will get this game.

Obviously there are some great college football games on tap today but I want to focus a Big 12 game for a second. Oklahoma will face Texas Tech today without QB Travis Knight. The Sooners were ranked number one in many preseason polls and now have three losses, two of which came at home. Don’t be a bit surprised if Bob Stoops is suddenly on the hot seat. Yes he wins games, but this is a “what have you done for me lately” market place. Alumni aren’t thrilled about losing to Kansas State and Baylor in Norman.



Several NFL Games for You to Think About for Tomorrow

Calvin Johnson returns in the nick of time as the Lions host the red-hot Dolphins.

I’m giving you some extra time to mull over these NFL games for tomorrow so consider carefully.

Miami (+3) at Detroit (O/U 43.5) – This is the most intriguing match-up of the week because Miami is red-hot and the Lions are winning close games and get back Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. The Lions have one of the best defenses in the league but now they face Ryan Tannehill is playing perhaps the best football of his career right now.

The Dolphins are playing great defensively as well illustrated by their 37-0 waxing of San Diego last week. This one may likely turn on turnovers and whether the Miami offense can handle the crazy fans sure to be in Detroit tomorrow.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Miami’s last 15 games… Detroit is 3-7 against the spread in their last 10 games at home… Miami is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road… The Lions are 1-5 in their last six games against the Dolphins.

The Pick: I love the Dolphins getting the three and I’ll take the UNDER.

Frank Gore has guaranteed a playoff trip for his Niners. Now he has to deliver.

San Francisco (+6) at New Orleans (O/U 49) – Could two teams be any different despite the fact they have the same 4-4 records? New Orleans leads the NFC South after winning two-straight while the 49ers are staring up in the NFC West standings at both Seattle and Arizona. Because their division is the worst in football, there is less pressure on the Saints to win this one.

San Francisco has to face the reality that falling another game behind the Cardinals would mean a division title is out of the question. Therefore they have to play well in order to beat the Saints in the Superdome. If they go with large doses of Frank Gore I think they can pull this one out but that’s always a big “if.”

Trends: The 49ers are 10-4 straight up in their last 14 games on the road… The total has gone OVER in four of the Saints’ last six games against San Francisco… The Niners are 5-10-1 against the spread in their last 16 games against the Saints… New Orleans is 7-2 SU in their last nine games against the 49ers.

The Pick: I like the Niners getting the points in a game of much needed urgency. Take the UNDER as well.

Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay (O/U 46) – This game was a “pick’em” game early in the week and frankly this one is tough to call because Atlanta can’t win on the road and Tampa can’t win at home. When Matt Ryan gets outside of the Georgia Dome his numbers slip dramatically so why should we think differently here?

I think the running game of Tampa Bay is the difference today.

Trends: Atlanta is 0-5 straight up on the road in their last five games… Tampa Bay is 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Falcons last six games at Tampa Bay… The Bucs are 0-5 SU in their last five home games.

The Pick: I like the Bucs getting the points and I’ll go with the UNDER.

Other Games I like This Week

Pittsburgh (-6) at NY Jets – Until the Steelers offense hits a speed bump I’ll take them to cover.

NY Giants (+10) at Seattle – In their last eight games against Super Bowl winning QBs the Seahawks are 8-0. Enter Eli Manning and take the Seahawks to cover.

Chicago (+7.5) at Green Bay – More than a TD dogs are tough to pass on but I will here because the Packers have Jay Cutler’s number. Take the Pack to cover.

Really Good Match-Ups in Your NFL Late Games

LeSean McCoy and the Eagles invade Arizona for a battle of 5-1 teams.

As is usually the case, the National Football League offers us some great games in the late time slots so let’s get to them.

Philadelphia (+3) at Arizona (O/U 48.5) – There are several god games on the Sunday schedule but I’m hard-pressed to find a better match-up than this one. Both teams are 5-1 but the Cards lead their division while the Eagles find themselves behind the surging Cowboys who are 6-1.

The match-up to watch is when the Eagles are on offense against the Cardinals’ defense. The secondary for Arizona is among the best in the league and they’ll depend on the front seven to limit LeSean McCoy and get pressure on Nick Foles.

Key Injuries: PHI Darren Sproles Quest-knee, ARI Calais Campbell, Quest-knee

Trends: Philadelphia is 6-2 straight up in their last eight games on the road… Arizona is 7-1 SU in their last eight games at home… The total has gone OVER in seven of the Eagles’ last 10 games when playing in Arizona… The Cardinals are 4-1-1 against the spread in their last six games against Philly.

The Pick: I like Philly getting the points and the OVER.

Andrew Luck has been red-hot and now plays a vulnerable Steelers' defense.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Pittsburgh (O/U 49) – The Colts enter this game as hot as any team in the league. They shut out Cincinnati last week and have beaten AFC North leader Baltimore as well. Andrew Luck has put himself in the MVP conversation with spectacular play.

The Steelers have been inconsistent all season winning every other game on the schedule to stand at 4-3. They won Monday night over Houston with a three-minute barrage that ended with 24-straight points. Outside of that, they didn’t play particularly well.

Key Injuries: IND Reggie Wayne OUT Elbow, PIT Marcus Gilbert Doubt Concussion

Trends: Indianapolis is 3-6 against the spread when playing on the road in Pittsburgh… The Steelers are 11-2 in their last 13 games against the Colts… The total has gone OVER in five of the Colts’ last seven games when playing in Pittsburgh… The Steelers are 7-3 straight up in their last 10 games.

The Pick: The Steelers tend to play to the level of their competition so I expect a good game but take the Colts to cover and I like the OVER.

Green Bay (+1) at New Orleans (O/U 56) – Remember when Packers’ Quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the fans to “R-E-L-A-X?” He was mocked by some for that but all he and the Packers have done since then is win. Winning has been important with good play of Detroit who is atop the division with them. Rodgers has been spectacular in the last few weeks and now he gets to go up against a Saints’ defense that has been abysmal through the first six games.

Last week, New Orleans blew a 13-point lead in the final four minutes to the Lions. Part of that was the defense and part of that was the offense. Drew Brees will be happy to be at home as the Saints have spent most of the early part of the season on the road.

Key Injuries: GB Sam Shields Doubtful Knee, NO Jimmy Graham Quest shoulder

Trends: The total has gone OVER in six of Green Bay’s last seven games… New Orleans is 8-1-1 against the spread in their last ten games at home… The Packers are 6-3 straight up in their last nine games against the Saints… The total has gone OVER in five of New Orleans’ last five games against Green Bay.

The Pick: Take the Packers because the Saints just haven’t proven anything to me yet and take the OVER.

Bonus Pick: Oakland (+6.5) at Cleveland (O/U 43.5)  Take the Browns to cover and the UNDER

An Early Look at Some Early Games in the NFL

Eddie Lacy has yet to really get it going the way he did last year.

Minnesota (+9.5) at Green Bay (O/U 50) – The good news for both teams is that they each won games last week. The bad news is that Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater has a gimpy ankle for the Vikes and the Packers gave up three sacks and nearly 400 yards offense.

Green Bay is 28th in defense so with all due respect to Aaron Rodgers and his “relax” comment, there are issues on this team. The Vikings have problems too and that’s why I would expect a sloppy game. As of right now, Bridgewater is a ‘go’ for Thursday night.

Trends: The Packers are 7-2-1 in their last ten games against the Vikings… Minnesota is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at Green Bay… The Packers are 0-3-2 ATS in their last five home games… The total has gone OVER in five of Minnesota’s last seven game at Green Bay.

The Pick: The Packers are too explosive on offense to lose but I like the Vikes and the points and I like the OVER.

Eli Manning appears to be getting on a roll as the Falcons come to town.

Atlanta (+4) at NY Giants (O/U 49) – The Giants just put 45 points on the Redskins last week and the Falcons are surrendering over 28 points per game. Overall, Atlanta is 30th in the league in total defense and I expect a hot Eli Manning and company to go right at them.

For the Falcons, Matt Ryan is going to have to have big numbers but his offensive line is severely banged up. So much so the Falcons had a tight end playing on the offensive line in Sunday’s game.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Atlanta’s last five games in New York against the Giants… New York is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games at home against the Falcons… Atlanta is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road against the G-Men… These two have split their last ten games with the Falcons winning most recently at home last year 34-0.The Pick: Take the Giants to cover and take the OVER.

Buffalo (-7) at Detroit (O/U 44) – The Bills announced on Monday that they are making a switch at quarterback as E.J. Manuel will sit while Kyle Orton gets the nod. Manuel has struggled and the switch isn’t a total surprise as the Bills have lost two straight since starting 2-0.

The Lions have their fans cautiously optimistic as they are 3-1 and find themselves atop the NFC North. The biggest concern right now is the health of Calvin Johnson who missed several series in the win Sunday over the Jets.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in five of Buffalo’s last six games… The total has gone UNDER in five of Detroit’s last six games against the Bills… Buffalo is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against the Lions… The Lions have lost three of the last four to Buffalo and all three losses were in Western New York.

The Pick: I like the Bills to cover and I like the UNDER as well.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Jacksonville (O/U 46) – The Steelers have to be kicking themselves after blowing a sure win against previously winless Tampa Bay while the Jags are 0-4 on the season. The good news in Jacksonville is that rookie Blake Bortles looked pretty decent in his first start and now he goes up against a defense surrendering 24 points per game.

The Steelers will need to ride their offense in order to protect the porous defense.

Trends: The Steelers have won four of their last six games in Jacksonville… The Jags are 1-7-1 against the spread in their last nine games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Pittsburgh’s last six trips to Jacksonville… The Jaguars have won just one game at home in their last 11.

The Pick: I like Pittsburgh to win but it seems to never be easy so I like the Jags getting the points and I like the OVER.

NFC Regular Season Win Totals

Can Matt Ryan lead the Falcons to a bounce back season in 2014?

Our friends at Bovada have released their numbers for NFL win totals and today I’m looking at the NFC.

Arizona 7.5 (-150 over/+120 under) –  The Cardinals have four of their final six games on the road and three of those trips are to Atlanta, Seattle and San Francisco. The middle of the schedule features winnable games against Washington, Oakland, Detroit, Dallas and St. Louis though.  OVER

Atlanta 8.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Falcons face a potential ‘murderer’s row’ in the final five games when they have Arizona, @Green Bay, Pittsburgh, @New Orleans and Carolina. Which Falcons’ team shows up in 2014? Last year’s version or the 2012 team that got to NFC Title Game? UNDER

Carolina 8.5 (+120 over/-150 under) – The Panthers have a stretch from late September through early November that includes the following; Pittsburgh, @Baltimore, Chicago, @Cincinnati, @Green Bay, Seattle, New Orleans and @Philly. If they can come through that stretch at 4-4 or better then the sky is the limit. UNDER

Chicago 8.5 (-155 over/+125 under) – Da Bears finish the season with five of their final eight games at home in Soldier Field. The first eight games is the real problem. They have road games at San Francisco, Carolina, Atlanta and New England. A 4-4 start is not the end of the world, but I still expect better. OVER

Dallas 7.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – Dallas has five of their last eight games away from Jerry World and that includes trips to the Giants, Eagles and Bears. The Cowboys do draw the AFC South which could net them three wins there against a weak division. UNDER

Detroit 8.5 (EVEN/-130 under) – The Lions will split their final eight games between the road and Ford Field but the task on the road is daunting. Their four away games are at New England, at Arizona and then they finish the season at Chicago and at Green Bay. A strong start is a must in the Motor City. UNDER

Clay Matthews needs to stay healthy if the Packers are going to win consistently.

Green Bay 10.5 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Pack has the benefit of five home games in their last eight but the opening half of the season features road games at Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and New Orleans. If they can comes through the first half over .500 then they are in excellent shape. OVER

Minnesota 6 (-150 over/+120 under) – For a young team with a new head coach, the Vikes could have done worse with their schedule. Besides divisional games on the road, they have St. Louis, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami and New Orleans. There are a couple of very winnable games there. OVER

New Orleans 10 (-115 over/-115 under) – The Saints will go marching on the road in four of their first six games but the destinations aren’t overly brutal. They’ll head to Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit where they will likely be favored in all four of those games.  UNDER

NY Giants 8 (-130 over/EVEN) – The G-Men have a very balanced schedule and get the benefit of the AFC South which could offer three wins plus they get the Colts at home. Other than a trip to Seattle, the road schedule isn’t too bad. OVER

Philadelphia 9 (-140 over/+110 under) – Philly finishes the season with four division games in their last five and three of those are on the road. They also have trips to San Francisco and Green Bay but the opening half isn’t too difficult. OVER

San Francisco 10.5 (-135 over/+105 under) – The Niners have four of their final six at home. One of those road games is at Oakland too so a strong finish is possible even tough two of the final six are against Seattle. They open their new stadium in week two against Dallas. UNDER

Seattle 11 (-115 over/-115 under) – The defending champs have a balanced schedule that includes potentially tough road games at San Diego, Carolina and Philadelphia but they get Denver and Green Bay at home. UNDER

St. Louis 7.5 (-155 over/+125 under) – The Rams could start 3-0 before starting a gauntlet of contests in the mid-season. They have the Vikes, Cowboys and Bucs in the first three then have Philly, San Fran and Seattle. UNDER

Tampa Bay 7 (-130 over/EVEN) – The Bucs have a stretch of three straight road games and then two more times they have back-to-back road games. With a very tough division and the AFC North, Lovie Smith’s job will be a tough one. OVER

Washington 7.5 (-130 over/EVEN) – The ‘Skins finish the season with three straight divisional games and they draw the AFC South which could bring a couple of wins. Back-to-back road games at San Francisco and Indy will be tough however. UNDER

NFC Division Winner Odds for 2014

In my eyes this is a make or break year for Tony Romo who has to produce the playoffs for the Cowboys.

As I told you on Friday, National Football League Training Camps open in less than two weeks so our time to start breaking down the favorites and long-shots is running short.

Today my focus is NFC Division odds.

NFC East

Philadelphia +125 – The Eagles enter 2014 with De’Sean Jackson in Washington but Coach Chip Kelly feels like the addition of Darren Sproles will help ease some of the burden of Jackson’s loss. Nick Foles proved last season that he is more than capable of being an NFL QB and I expect him to have a similar season.

NY Giants +300 – The G-Men look to bounce back from a disastrous where Eli Manning was nothing short of a turnover machine. Tom Coughlin has brought the Giants two Super Bowl wins but another poor season will send him packing. The offensive and defensive lines both need improvement.

Dallas +375 – The Cowboys’ historically bad defense got another blow when Sean Lee went down with a season-ending injury in OTAs. Despite his monster contract, I think Tony Romo is getting down to his final chances in Big D. If he can’t produce a playoff win then Jerry Jones patience will run even shorter.

Washington +450 – The NFL is more than curious to see how new coach Jay Gruden handles Robert Griffin III. RGIII has to prove he can stay healthy and that means being more of a pocket passer and running when it’s necessary. The defense must get more pressure  to help out the secondary.

PICK: Philadelphia

NFC North

Green Bay -110 – This could be a big year for Green Bay. Clay Matthews has to stay healthy as he has started to lose favor with the fans who are tired of seeing him on the sidelines. With Eddie Lacy in the backfield, I expect Aaron Rodgers to have a monster year.

Chicago +250 – The Bears will go only as far as Jay Cutler can take them. The offense is loaded with weapons so there are no excuses not to be great. With the offensive firepower, the defense doesn’t have to be great, they just need to be consistent.

Detroit +400 – New coach Jim Caldwell has one major goal for Matthew Stafford; make better decisions with the football. Like the Bears, offense shouldn’t be a problem. The defense has to create more consistent pressure because the secondary really hasn’t improved.

Minnesota +1000 – As I said Friday, I think Teddy Bridgewater will be the starting QB on day one. Whether that means success is unclear.

PICK: Green Bay

I think Lovie Smith will do wonders for the Buccaneers in year one.

NFC South

New Orleans EVEN – The defense improved greatly under Rob Ryan but how does Sean Payton replace Darren Sproles?

Atlanta +325 – Yes the Falcons had a lot of injuries last year but I didn’t think this team recovered from their NFC Title game loss the year before either. I don’t see a bounce back year.

Carolina +325 – The Panthers have lost Steve Smith to the Ravens but a good defense remains. Wide receiving experience is lacking and I think they take a step back.

Tampa Bay +550 – With new coach Lovie Smith aboard, I believe the only thing keeping this team from challenging for the division will be QB play. Luke McCown showed in Chicago he could be successful and I think he will be in Tampa as well.

PICK: Tampa Bay

NFC West

Seattle +130 – The only question is will the hunger remain?

San Francisco +140 – Speaking of hunger, will the 49ers ride it enough to overthrow the Seahawks?

Arizona +700 – Everything appears to be in place in the desert following a 10-win season. If Carson Palmer can stay healthy and avoid turnovers then I like their chances.

St. Louis +700 – 2014 will be a huge year for Sam Bradford. Yes, the division is the toughest in pro football, but he has to get the Rams to the playoffs or questions about his future will pile up.

PICK: Seattle

Latest Super Bowl XLIX Odds

Manning Brady
Manning Brady
The window is closing on both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Will either lead their teams to Super Bowl XLIX?

Now that our nation’s little foray in Brazil is over, we can turn our attention back to the type of football that I prefer. Believe it or not, we are about a month away from the Hall of Fame game which is the traditional kick-off to the NFL’s Preseason. The Buffalo Bills, who will be playing in that game against the New York Giants, report to camp two weeks from today.

Hard to believe, but are you ready for some football?

Here are the latest Super Bowl XLIX odds from our friends at Bovada. My best bets are in BOLD.

Denver 13/2 – Teams that have lost the previous Super Bowl rarely make it back but the Broncos are ‘all-in’ on trying.

Seattle 13/2 – We haven’t seen a repeat champion since the Patriots back near the beginning of this century. Can Seattle handle the crown which has brought many players (Sherman, Lynch, Wilson, etc) significant personal attention?

San Francisco 7/1 – Colin Kaepernick has a new deal, but will age catch up with the defense?

New England 9/1 – Speaking of age, when will Father Time finally force Tom Brady to the sidelines? I’m not sure, but his offensive weapons are still lacking a bit.

Green Bay 12/1 – How much will the defense be improved? If it makes a big jump, then this could be a sexy pick right here with Aaron Rodgers running the offense.

New Orleans 14/1 – How often does a head coach testify against one of his players? That’s what Sean Payton had to do in Jimmy Graham’s hearing. Will that be a factor this season and how do the Saints replace Darren Sproles?

Chicago 18/1 – Is Jay Cutler worth the monster deal the Bears signed him to? He has plenty of talent around him so there are no excuses.

Indianapolis 18/1 – Andrew Luck enters his third season and is 0-2 in the playoffs. In a weak division, he needs to get back and get a playoff win under his belt.

I like the future for Nick Foles and I think this could be a big year for him in Philly.

Philadelphia 25/1 – Like Green Bay, the Eagles have some appeal because of offensive firepower. Can the defense improve though?

Atlanta 28/1 – The question here centers on last year. Was it just an anomaly or a pattern of things to come? This team has a lot of holes to fill too.

Carolina 33/1 – The same could be said of the Panthers. Should we expect more of the same from them or will they revert back to a .500 or worse team?

Detroit 33/1 – Defense, defense, defense… If they can cover receivers and if Matthew Stafford can take better care of the ball then watch out. I have my doubts on both ends however.

Pittsburgh 33/1 – The youth movement has begun in the Steel City. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is there, they have a chance but the defense has to create more pressure.

Arizona 40/1 – The Cardinals won 10 games last year and missed the playoffs. They need splits with the Niners and Seahawks and great play from Carson Palmer.

Baltimore 40/1 – How long will Ray Rice’s suspension be and will it matter? He was very unproductive last year and has the defense improved at all?

Cincinnati 40/1 – This is all about Andy Dalton.

Kansas City 40/1 – Competitive, but I see a fall back year.

NY Giants 40/1 – Can Eli limit the turnovers?

San Diego 40/1 – Bolts need another good year from Rivers and a better effort on defense as well.

Cleveland 50/1 – How soon before we see Johnny on the field?

Dallas 50/1 – Loss of Sean Lee hurts an already bad defense.

Houston 50/1 – This defense will be fun to watch but the offense? Yikes.

Miami 50/1 – The Dolphins were right there last season and now they need to make the jump. Can they is the question especially without Mike Pouncey.

St. Louis 50/1 – Sam Bradford, this is it for you man.

Tampa Bay 50/1 – Lovie Smith will turn this team around immediately. Don’t be surprised to see them push for a playoff berth.

Washington 50/1 – Which RGIII will get this year?

Minnesota 66/1 – Teddy Bridgewater will start at QB on day one. You heard it here first.

NY Jets 66/1 – Personally, I don’t think Vick is going to help the development of Geno Smith but that’s just me.

Buffalo 75/1 – Loss of Alonso is a heart-breaker.

Oakland 100/1 – Is Ken Stabler returning?

Tennessee 100/1 – This team will be better under Ken Whisenhunt. Mark my words.

Jacksonville 200/1 – At least they have “cool” uniforms.