Lines for Your Late Games Today in the NFL



San Diego needs Ryan Mathews to have a big game in order for them to beat Seattle.

Seattle (-6) at San Diego (O/U 44.5) – The two former AFC West foes hook up in an inter-conference match-up in Southern California. The Chargers have to bounce back from a tough loss in Arizona last Monday where they surrendered a double-digit lead late in the game. While they are on the short week, the Seahawks have had ten days since they beat Green Bay in the season opener.

Look for the Seahawks to get after Philip Rivers early and for Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to get the play-action going as soon as they can. San Diego needs to establish a running game if they are to have any chance today.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in seven of Seattle’s last nine games… San Diego is 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games against Seattle… The Seahawks are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at San Diego…

The Pick: I like the Seahawks to cover today and I like the UNDER.

Derek Carr will have his hands full in dealing with the Texans' defense.

Houston (-3) at Oakland (O/U 40) – The Raiders and their rookie QB Derek Carr lost a tough game at New York last Sunday and now open their home schedule against a Texans team that beat Washington 17-6. Both teams will look to establish running games in an effort to slow the pass rush. Look for Arian Foster to be a major player today.

Trends: Houston is 5-13 against the spread in their last 18 games… The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Oakland’s last 12 games at home… The Texans are 0-5 straight up in their last five road games… The Raiders are 1-4 straight up in their last five games at home.

The Pick: I love the UNDER today and I like Oakland and the points.

NY Jets (+8) at Green Bay (O/U 46) – The Packers look to bounce back from their loss in Seattle and will have a typically excited crowd in Lambeau Field against a Jets team that could have easily lost at home to the Raiders. I look for Aaron Rodgers to have a big day against a poor Jets’ secondary if the rebuilt offensive line can hold up.

Trends: The Jets are 1-4 straight up in their last five games on the road… Green Bay is 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games at home… The total has gone OVER in five of the Jets’ last seven games on the road… The Packers are 18-6-1 straight up in their last 25 games at home.

The Pick: Give me the OVER and I like the Packers to cover.

Kansas City (+13) at Denver (O/U 51) – The Chiefs were a mess last week in a loss to Tennessee and now they have to go into Denver facing 0-2 straight in the face. It won’t get any better today.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in five of Kansas City’s last six games on the road… Denver is 5-1 straight up in their last six games against Kansas City… The Chiefs are 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 games on the road in Denver… The Broncos are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at home.

The Pick: Take the OVER but take the Chiefs to getting all those points.

Chicago (+7) at San Francisco (O/U 48.5) – The Bears loss last week at home to Buffalo was demoralizing and now they are banged up at their best position which is receiver. The Niners will take advantage of a poor Chicago defense today.

Trends: The Bears are 0-5 against the spread in their last five games on the road in San Francisco… The 49ers are 9-1 straight up in their last ten games… The total has gone OVER in five of the Bears last seven games against the Niners… San Francisco is 5-0 straight up in their last five games against the Bears at home.

The Pick: I like the OVER and I’ll take the Niners to cover.

How Seattle Wins Super Bowl XLVIII

I think you''ll see Russell Wilson on the outside edge a lot in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The biggest game in all of football is just days away now and rather than just give you a general breakdown of the game I’m going to give you a look at how both teams win Super Bowl XLVIII. I’m going to do this by focusing one team at a time in terms of the line, over/under possibilities and the general gameplan. I took good hard look at how the Denver Broncos win and cover the three-point spread on Wednesday. Today, I’m focusing on the Seattle Seahawks.

The National Football Conference Champion Seattle Seahawks enter Super Bowl XLVIII as three-point underdogs. As I mentioned Wednesday, I think that is in large part due to the way Denver played versus how Seattle played in their respective conference championship games. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Seattle has struggled recently on offense and Russell Wilson in particular.

How Does Seattle Cover the Spread?

Lynch may be a decoy early on in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Common thinking by anyone who covers the National Football League will tell you that Seattle must run the ball well early and often. That accomplishes two things for the Seahawks. Most importantly, it means they are advancing the ball and collecting first downs. Secondly, but perhaps just as importantly, running the ball well means keeping Peyton Manning on the sideline wearing a visor. Or in this year’s case, a stocking cap.

I tend to think a little differently though. Look for Seattle to come out with hard play-action meaning, you’ll see Wilson being very emphatic with his fakes to Marshawn Lynch. Denver will already have safeties and linebackers thinking run so their first step will be forward. The only way this is successful of course is if Wilson is completing the passes.

I also think you’ll see Wilson on a lot of designed roll-outs and bootlegs because this could really cause Denver problems. The Broncos have faced both San Diego and New England so far in the playoffs and those teams have very traditional, drop back passers. Russell Wilson can be a nightmare on the edge because of his ability to run with the ball.

The Broncos haven’t seen much of this in 2013 and I have to believe that Pete Carroll and his offensive coaches want to take advantage of that. I’m not suggesting that Seattle abandons Marshawn Lynch at all but I think it will be wise to open up the defense a bit which in turn opens up running lanes for Lynch. In other words, pass the ball to set up the run.

On the other side of the ball, Seattle must guard against being spread out which is what I think Denver will do. They cannot allow clean get-aways from the line of scrimmage from the Broncos’ receivers and whoever guards Julius Thomas must be able to handle his size and speed.

Pay attention early on Denver’s opening drives to see how Seattle is playing the receivers. If Manning is having timing issues because wideouts are getting knocked off their routes then that could really open defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to bring more pressure. Carroll and Quinn both know that getting to Manning is not easy. That said, it isn’t impossible and teams that typically have good outside edge rushers give Manning fits.

As I mentioned Wednesday, the over/under is 47 and if you like Seattle to win then you like the under. Seattle must keep Denver in the low 20’s to have a legitimate chance because the Broncos can play pretty good defense too. I also have to believe you love getting the three points.

Like the Broncos, the Seahawks have gone under in their last five games. Seattle is also 3-6 against the spread in their last nine meetings with Denver. The last time these two teams met, Denver won 31-14. The quarterbacks were Matt Hasselbeck and Kyle Orton so there isn’t much use in a comparison.

Looking Back and Ahead in the National Football League

You might not like Richard Sherman but he doesn't care and those that came before him don't either.

It’s Tuesday and the temperature in my world will likely not get out of single digits today but such is life. Makes the hot days in the summer worth it I guess. Today I’m taking an early look at some of the storylines from this past weekend’s NFL Championship Games and will briefly look ahead to the Super Bowl as well.

The Richard Sherman Blow-Up

Those of you that read my stuff regularly know that I’m an old school guy when it comes to sports. That said, you’d think I’d be all up in arms over Richard Sherman of the Seahawks going crazy after Seattle won the NFC Title.

I don’t mind Sherman talking trash because I understand its part of the game now. Doesn’t mean I like it, but I “get it” so to speak. What turns me off about not just Sherman but other guys as well, is when they want to put all of the focus on them rather than the team.

Sherman didn’t need to run over to Michael Crabtree and taunt him the way he did. That was classless as was the choking gesture which I still don’t get. Seattle was at home and the number one seed so how did the Niners choke?

Sherman is a tremendous player and he will make for some great sound bites over the next two weeks that’s for sure.

Welker and Belichick were both wrong in my opinion and need to move on.

Welker’s Pick, errrrr, Block

New England Head Coach Bill Belichick said Wes Welker’s ‘block’ of Aqib Talib was dirty. The block knocked Talib out for the rest of the game and as expected, Peyton Manning attacked his back-up at will.

I feel both Belichick and Welker are wrong here. There is no question in my mind that Welker committed the same types of blocks while he played in New England so Belichick needs to stop right there.

As far as Welker, it was a clear pick-play across the middle and the fact he went low should have drawn an immediate flag. Furthermore, with his concussion history, Welker is lucky that he didn’t take a more substantial knee to the head.

Going low in that part of the field should not be allowed. Defenders in that case are truly defenseless against such moves.

Early Thoughts on SBXLVIII

As of right now, the long-range forecast for New York/New Jersey on Super Bowl Sunday is a high of 37 degrees with a 60% chance of precipitation. Roger Goodell claims he will be sitting outside too. If he makes it a half I’ll be impressed….

This will be the first time since 1980 that the number one scoring offense takes on the number one scoring defense. Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships right? Does that still mean anything today?

Seattle’s Pete Carroll has the opportunity to join Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson as the only coaches to win both an NCAA Title and a Super Bowl Title.

Early analysis tells me that the biggest factor in the game will not be Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson. Look for Denver’s Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball to be the keys. If they have any success running the ball then that will make Peyton Manning that much more dangerous and will keep the Seattle defense off balance.

Should Denver struggle to run the ball, which isn’t impossible against the NFL’s best defense, then Manning could face serious pressure all evening.

Picks for the AFC and NFC Championship Games

Bill Belichick is still pursuing that elusive fourth Super Bowl title.

This is the weekend that I really believe fans of all four teams despise the most. They might not realize it now but they will. This weekend is unique because fans in Denver, New England and San Francisco have been here many, many times while fans in Seattle have not.

Getting here is a great accomplishment, but losing on the cusp of going to the Super Bowl really is the worst feeling a fan can have in my opinion. It’s even worse than losing the Super Bowl because at least you can say you’re team got there. Speaking of, let’s who I have getting there….

New England at Denver (-4) – After opening at -6.5, the line has gradually come down this week. A lot of bettors have been on the New England bandwagon and with good reason. Tom Brady and Bill Belches have had a great deal of success against Peyton Manning and now they have a running game that could keep Manning on the sidelines.

Whether you’re a fan or not, the one thing you have to admire about the Patriots is how they can morph into something different on a game-by-game or even season-by-season basis. Last week against Indianapolis they scored over 40 points yet Tom Brady didn’t have a single touchdown pass as the running game overwhelmed the Colts.

Brady and Company will be enticed to go back to throwing the ball a bit with Denver cornerback Chris Harris out for the season now with an ACL injury but it will be hard not to stick with what got them here which is pounding the football. The New England offensive line has been outstanding in the running game and if they have any weakness it comes in pass protection which leads me to believe they will be run-first on Sunday.

The Denver gameplan is simple. Use the weapons you have in Eric Decker, the Thomas’s and Wes Welker and force New England’s hand in terms of who it is they want to take away. Don’t discount the running game with Knowshon Moreno though either. Defensively, the Broncos must stop the run first and actually force Tom Brady to beat them with his arm.

I told you earlier this week that the over/under of 56.5 will go the way of the over and I’m sticking to that. Good weather is expected and I see lots of scoring. The Pats 4-4 record on the road this season worries me a bit and they are 4-11 against the spread in their last 15 games in Denver. The Broncos were 7-1 at home but they are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the Pats.

As much as I’d like to take Denver I just can’t go against Brady and Belichick here. Take the Pats getting the 4.5.

Carroll has built a monster in Seattle but can they get past San Francisco in the NFC Title game?

San Francisco (+3) at Seattle – This game started at the same line you see here and I don’t see it changing. This will be an absolute war and I think calling it a ‘war of attrition’ is not wrong. Whoever comes out on top will need the extra week to recover in time for the Super Bowl.

The Niners enter as the hottest team in the league when you really think about it but the specter of what has happened to them in their last two visits to Seattle looms large. San Francisco was outscored 71-16 in their last two trips to the Pacific Northwest. Jim Harbaugh and his Wal-Mart pants will no doubt use this as motivation in an effort to strike early and get the crowd quieted down.

Both teams will push their running games on each other and each will find little success. That means the quarterbacks will have to win the game with their arms and legs. I look for more rushing yards from Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson on scrambles out of the pocket than I do on designed runs. Both men will also be forced to make plays down the field with the passing game and the opportunities must be taken when given the chance.

The over/under 39.5 is very tempting in terms of the over but I’m not biting. I see a 20-17 type game here which fits the under and that’s where I’m going. The 49ers are 0-5 against the spread in their last five trips to Seattle while the Seahawks are 4-1 straight up in their last five games against the Niners. The Seahawks have been a team destined to get to the Super Bowl all season but the recent struggles of Russell Wilson concern me.

I also think this the game Anquan Boldin was acquired for because no one catches the ball in tight coverage the way he does and the presence of Michael Crabtree can’t be overlooked either. Take the 49ers getting the three.



NFC Predictions for the NFL’s Second Half

Can Romo and the Cowboys hang on to win the mediocre NFC East?

The National Football Conference is much more balanced than it’s’ counterpart the AFC. There are certainly favorites at the top but I think you’ll see more teams involved in the final push for the playoffs in the NFC as the top teams take aim at each other. Check out a few predictions for the second half of the season.

NFC EAST – Trying to figure out who will emerge from this division may be like trying to solve the great mysteries of the world. Dallas sits atop at 4-4 but can’t get out of their own way when it comes to getting wins in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys have blown leads in their last two games. Philadelphia is 3-5 but has a revolving door at quarterback due to injuries. If Nick Foles can stay healthy, don’t count them out.

The Redskins and Giants are 2-5 and 2-6 respectively. I look for the G-Men to actually finish ahead of Washington because New York is playing defense again and that is something that the ‘Skins are sorely lacking. Look for either Dallas or Philly to emerge but this is clearly a one-playoff team division.

NFC NORTH – This division could and should go right down to the wire. We can go ahead and put a fork in Minnesota because at 1-6 they are going nowhere especially with an unsettled QB situation. That leaves Green Bay (5-2), Detroit (5-3) and Chicago (4-3). All three of these teams will tangle with each other down the stretch.

The question is who emerges? I have to go with the Packers because they have the best balance on offense and defensively, they’ll get Clay Matthews back as well. The Lions rely too much on their front seven defensively and on the arm of Matthew Stafford on offense. Chicago will push but I don’t see them lasting long with issues on defense and a less than 100% Jay Cutler. Look for Green Bay to take the division and the Lions to grab a wild-card.

I think the Saints and Drew Brees will hang on to win the NFC South.

NFC SOUTH – The Saints have a firm grasp on the division as of right now but there are challenges ahead. The only competition New Orleans faces is from Carolina who is two games back. Atlanta and Tampa Bay are already looking ahead to 2014. The Panthers and Saints will hook twice in a three week span in December. I look for those two games to decide who wins the division.

November offers a tough stretch for New Orleans as they’ll travel to Seattle and host San Francisco. The December slate has the two games with Carolina but also dates with St. Louis and Tampa Bay. For Carolina, they have San Francisco and New England the next two weeks but then the schedule gets easier save for the two dates with the Saints.

I like New Orleans to win the South but I’m not totally sold on the Panthers making the playoffs. Their wins have come against some of the weaker teams in the league and I’m just not convinced they’ll hang with the big boys.

NFC WEST – The West is likely to come down to a matter of three dates remaining on the schedule. On December eighth, the Seahawks (7-1) will travel to San Francisco (6-2) to play the Niners. Seattle already defeated San Francisco back in week two. There are two other dates that may come into play however and those are the final two of the season.

Arizona (4-4) plays week 16 at Seattle and then hosts San Francisco in week 17. The division title could very well be settled by then especially if Seattle wins at San Francisco but I have a feeling the Cardinals are not going to go quietly.

My gut feeling tells me that the 49ers and Seahawks will tie for the division title with one obviously taking the wild-card. Arizona will threaten but will fall just short of a playoff spot.

Late-Game Action Has My Attention in the NFL Today

Russell Wilson again leads the Seahawks against an opponent facing long odds.

Seattle has already been the scene of a huge a line when Jacksonville visited the Pacific Northwest. That’ll be the case again as winless Tampa Bay comes calling. I’m looking at that one and a few other of today’s late games in order to increase the positive slips this week.

Tampa Bay (+17) at Seattle – So you’re the Buccaneers and you are winless on the season. You have a rookie QB starting and you have you to travel to the complete opposite end of the country. Awaiting you is one of the top teams in the league in the nosiest stadium in the NFL. Oh, and you really don’t like your coach either.

If ever there were a situation to fall in love with a pick this is it. Also working against the Bucs is the fact that Seattle is coming off a narrow Monday night win in St. Louis that most of the Seahawks’ players agreed they deserved to lose. Tampa Bay is 1-5 in their last six games against the spread on the road and even though 17 is a big number in the NFL I’m all over it. Take the Seahawks’ to cover.

I just don't see Campbell and the Browns ending their streak against Baltimore today.

Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland – Here’s the stat you need to know; the Ravens have defeated the Browns 11-straight times. There, what are you going to do with that? Something has to give right? Can the Ravens keep the streak alive or is it time for the Browns to finally put an end to the misery?

While Baltimore is not what they were at the end of last season, they still remain a threat on both sides of the ball. I can’t see Jason Campbell doing too much in terms of beating the Ravens’ defense so he’ll need to take care of the ball and let the skill guys do the work. Cleveland is 0-5 against the spread in their last five home games against the Ravens so take Baltimore to cover today.

Pittsburgh (+7) at New England – The Steelers are essentially playing a must-win game here in Foxboro because should they fall to 2-6 it’ll take a miracle to catch Cincinnati in the AFC North. New England is being pursued by the Jets and Dolphins but I don’t think it will be a fruitful endeavor.

The Pats have an incredibly good record in the second half of seasons under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has dominated the Steelers during his time in the league. That doesn’t bode well for a Steelers’ team that starts slow and then struggles to play catch-up especially on the road. Pittsburgh is 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 at New England. Both teams are dealing with injuries but I think the Pats will cover.

Philadelphia (+3) at Oakland – I don’t think either of these teams will be sniffing the playoffs come late December but I do think the Eagles with Nick Foles at QB can make some noise. Foles will get the start in Oakland and I really think he makes the Eagles’ offense go better than Mike Vick does.

The Raiders play fairly good defense and they’ll challenge Foles to beat them by trying to shut down LeSean McCoy and the Eagles’ 2nd ranked rushing attack. Offensively for the Raiders they need two things to happen. QB Terrelle Pryor has to take care of the ball and the running game behind Darren McFadden needs to churn out some positive yards.

With Foles in play, I love the Eagles here.

Trades, Free Agency Change 2014 Super Bowl Odds Already

Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin
The trade of Percy Harvin has already impacted the odds of both teams in terms of getting to the Super Bowl.

I’ve been telling you for the last several weeks that in order to place money on a strong pick for the 2014 Super Bowl in New York that you really need to study free agency and the NFL Draft. When players change hands, it isn’t just one team that is affected, it’s two. Already we’ve seen some odds on potential Super Bowl favorites change over the last 24 hours due to two trades. Both of these trades occurred just hours before the official start of the NFL’s calendar year.

In one case, the Minnesota Vikings sent Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks picks that included a first-rounder as part of the deal. While not every sports book moved the Seahawks off their most recent odds, some did. I saw some that listed Seattle at 7 to 1 on winning the Super Bowl and after the trade, I saw the number change to 5 to 1.

Those that chose to stay on their current odds with Seattle cited Harvin’s injury history and potential problem as a head case. This is after all why the Vikes dealt him. As I mentioned, free agency and trades don’t change one team’s fortunes, they will essentially change both. In one case, the Vikings went from 20 to 1 to win the Super Bowl to 25 to 1 after the Harvin trade.

Anquan Boldin
Boldin instantly moved the odds for San Francisco to get to the Super Bowl.

The other big move made on Monday was the Baltimore Ravens sending Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round draft choice. This move was simply a matter of trying to get something rather than nothing. Boldin was not going to take a pay cut and the Ravens were wise to at least get something for him. Otherwise he would have been released and Baltimore would have gotten nothing for him.

Many have suggested the 6th round in return for arguably the best player of the NFL playoffs was perhaps a ‘family discount’ between the Harbaugh brothers. I don’t see it that way though. Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome need something for Boldin if he wasn’t going to stay so he took the offer.

The Niners were one of the teams that moved favorably on most Vegas boards following the deal. In one particular instance, they went from 7 to 1 to 5 to 1 in terms of winning the Super Bowl. Baltimore meanwhile, dropped even though the Ravens were already considered the seventh or eighth best team before the deal. As of this writing, the Ravens have lost Boldin through the trade, Paul Kruger to the Browns and Danelle Ellerbe to the Dolphins in free agency.

Look for Miami to jump significantly now that they have not only signed Ellerbe, but signed free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace as well. With Wallace out of Pittsburgh and James Harrison released earlier this week, look for the Steelers move from their current 18 to 1 to closer to 25 to 1. I say that because Rashard Mendenhall may also sign elsewhere too.

The major issue with free agency is just how much does it really change a team’s fortunes? We’ve seen teams like Washington and Philadelphia spend like crazy on free agent acquisitions and big names but the result has been far from successful. This is why it’s so important to see not only who a team signs but what is the expectation? Is the guy a plug-in starter or is he nothing more than depth? These are questions you need answers to in order to make an informed wager.

Of course the draft coming in April will also require your due diligence in terms of viewing just where guys end up and how they impact a team’s odds on winning the Super Bowl. Don’t just throw your money at the sexy pick here people, due some work and you’ll find it can pay off.