SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-1) at NEW YORK JETS (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: San Francisco -4.5 & 41.5
Opening Line & Total: 49ers -3 & 40.5
The 49ers look to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they fly across the country to New Jersey to take on the Jets.
Last week's 24-13 defeat in Minnesota might have been a wake-up call for the 49ers, as San Francisco has now lost five of six ATS away from home. But despite that slip-up, this team hadn't had many issues coming east for early games under Jim Harbaugh, as they went 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS) in 1:00 starts last season. The Jets pulled out a comeback win in Miami last week, but this team is in trouble as their best player, CB Darrelle Revis (torn ACL) is done for the year. Their offense is struggling and their defense again looked ordinary last week, allowing 185 rushing yards to a one-dimensional Miami offense missing RB Reggie Bush for half the game. The Niners are 16-5 ATS (76%) off an upset loss as a road favorite since 1992, and also 8-1 ATS in the first half of the season in the past two years. And Jets coach Rex Ryan cannot handle good rushing teams (4.5+ YPC), going 3-11 ATS against these clubs since becoming New York's head coach.
San Francisco's biggest offensive weakness against the Vikings was self-inflicted, as the team committed an uncharacteristic three turnovers. The Niners gained just 89 yards on the ground, but attempted only 20 carries for a solid 4.5 YPC average. Frank Gore rushed for more than 5.0 YPC for the third straight week, leaving him with a 5.9 YPC average. He will be the focal point of this offense trying to chew up yards against the Jets weak run-stop unit allowing 149 rushing YPG (28th in NFL) and 4.6 yards per carry (27th in league). QB Alex Smith had his worst game of 2012 last week in Minnesota, throwing for just 5.8 yards per attempt and posting a season-low 81.1 QB rating. Two of his top three receivers, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, are averaging less than 10 yards per reception in this conservative passing attack, but TE Vernon Davis is the clear-cut favorite target in the red zone. His four touchdowns are tied atop the NFL league leaders, and including last year's playoffs, he has eight touchdowns during a five-game TD streak. The 49ers defense has not performed what it is capable of doing yet, ranking 11th in total defense (321 YPG) and tied for 11th in scoring defense (21.7 PPG). Last year they ranked fourth in yardage (308 YPG) and second in points allowed (14.3 PPG). Star LB Patrick Willis sprained his ankle in last week's game and is listed as questionable for Week 4. However, he has been practicing fully so the team expects him to be ready to play on Sunday.
The Jets offense has stalled since putting up 48 points versus Buffalo in Week 1. In two games since, they have just 33 points, while rushing for a mere 178 yards on 55 carries (3.2 YPC). Top RB Shonn Greene's poor 2.8 YPC average could allow the Jets to give more touches to second-year pro Bilal Powell, who has gained a solid 4.0 YPC on his 22 carries. But San Francisco is never an easy team to run on, putting the pressure on QB Mark Sanchez to gain yards through the air. Sanchez started slow last week (2 INT) in the OT win in Miami, but finished strong with 306 yards and a game-tying TD pass in the fourth quarter. What helped Sanchez was WR Santonio Holmes having a field day against the Dolphins, catching nine passes for 147 yards. The offense could be without two key players on Sunday as both TE Dustin Keller and WR Stephen Hill are questionable with injured hamstrings. Defensively, the Jets will try to get after the quarterback and force some turnovers. New York has prompted six opponents' miscues in its two wins, but failed to force a turnover in the loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-2) at ATLANTA FALCONS (3-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta-7 & 48.5
Opening Line & Total: Falcons-7.5 & 49.5
The unbeaten Falcons (SU and ATS) look for a sixth straight home win when division rival Carolina flies south to Atlanta on Sunday.
The Panthers have some serious issues coming into this game. They were hammered at home by the Giants last Thursday night, failing to generate a pass rush, cover anyone in the secondary, or stop the run. And Cam Newton continues to look less decisive in his second season. The Falcons, meanwhile, continue to play great overall and especially at home, where they've won five in a row at the Georgia Dome SU (3-0-2 ATS). They've also handled the Panthers four straight times overall (SU and ATS), as well as four in a row at home (SU and ATS). These teams are grossly mismatched, well more than the spread would indicate. The Falcons have scored exactly 31 points in each of the past four meetings (all wins), and their fast-paced offense in 2012 is more potent than that past two years' versions. And when the game figures to be high-scoring, Atlanta usually comes through, going 15-5 ATS (75%) in all games where the total is between 42.5 and 49 points over the past three seasons.
Newton is off to a terrible start in his second season, throwing for just two touchdowns and five interceptions. Those are the exact same numbers he had in last year's two meetings with Atlanta (2 TD, 5 INT) connecting on just 54% of his passes and posting a 56.9 QB rating. Newton has run for a mere 3.4 yards per carry this season and the Panthers ground game as a whole (96 rushing YPG, 19th in NFL) has also been much worse than last season (151 rushing YPG, 3rd in NFL). However, they should be able to chew up some yards versus a Falcons run defense allowing 129 rushing YPG (24th in league), especially with Jonathan Stewart's ankle finally close to 100 percent healed. WR Steve Smith was critical of the way Newton carried himself on the sidelines of the 36-7 loss to New York, and Smith will look to set a good example by building on his 1,066 yards and five touchdowns in 17 career games against Atlanta. Last year, Smith caught 11 passes for 191 yards in the two meetings.
Ryan has enjoyed great success in this series over the years, beating Carolina in six of the eight meetings while throwing for 226 YPG, 12 TD and just four picks. His top three receivers each have 15+ catches this season, as WR Roddy White has a team-best 244 receiving yards, TE Tony Gonzalez leads the team with 21 catches and three scores, and WR Julio Jones also has three touchdowns. When the Falcons most recently faced Carolina last December, this trio combined for 17 catches, 270 yards and three touchdowns (two by Jones and one by White). The success of the passing game has not translated to the ground, as Atlanta has gained just 90 rushing YPG (25th in NFL). Top two rushers Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers have combined for a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. However, the last time Carolina visited Atlanta last October, Turner rushed for 139 yards (5.1 YPC) and 2 TD. The Falcons have struggled to limit opposing rushing attacks, surrendering 129 rushing YPG (24th in NFL), but they have done a great job against the pass despite facing two great quarterbacks in a row (Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning). Atlanta ranks seventh in the NFL with 208 passing YPG allowed.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (0-3) at GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Green Bay -7.5 & 53
Opening Line & Total: Packers -7.5 & 54
Two teams desperate for a win will meet on Sunday when the winless Saints visit the 1-2 Packers.
These teams played a classic in the 2011 opener, a 42-34 Packers win that came down to the last possession, but so far in 2012 the teams have combined for one win. New Orleans hasn't missed Sean Payton on the offensive side of the ball, but they can't tackle, allowing 200-plus rushing yards in each of the past two weeks (including 273 to the Chiefs last week). Green Bay had serious problems in pass protection in last week's bizarre last-second loss in Seattle. The Packers have scored just 57 points on the season, but have faced three excellent defenses so far. The Saints might be the worst defensive team in the NFL. These squads have split the past six meetings with one another as the past three contests have totaled 61, 80 and 76 points. This type of high-scoring affair certainly favors New Orleans ,which is a more balanced offensive football team than the Packers who use just one main running back. Also, underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points with a poor first-half defense (14+ PPG) after a loss by 3 points or less are 36-12 ATS (75%) since 1983.
Drew Brees has thoroughly enjoyed facing the Packers in his career, throwing for 1,458 yards (365 YPG), 11 TD and 2 INT in four meetings. In last year's contest, he completed 32-of-49 passes for 419 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Six different players had at least four catches in that game led by WRs Devery Henderson (6 rec, 100 yds, 1 TD) and Marques Colston (6 rec, 81 yds), RB Darren Sproles (7 rec, 75 yds) and TE Jimmy Graham (4 rec, 56 yds, 1 TD). Brees (7 TD, 5 INT) has not been particularly sharp this season, with a 54.7% completion rate falling well below last year's record-setting 71.2% rate. The ground game has averaged a healthy 5.0 yards per carry, but New Orleans has rushed the football just 56 times, the lowest total in the NFC. Pierre Thomas (7.3 YPC) and Sproles (8.9 YPC) have both been tough to bring down, but Mark Ingram has just 79 yards on a team-high 27 carries (2.9 YPC). On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints are allowing a league-worst 215 rushing YPG and their 262 passing YPG allowed ranks 25th in the NFL. The one positive is that they've forced four turnovers in the past two games.
Like Brees, Aaron Rodgers also had a huge performance in last year's season opener, completing 27-of-35 throws for 312 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. The scoring passes, all in the first quarter, went to WRs Greg Jennings (7 rec, 89 yds, 1 TD), Jordy Nelson (6 rec, 77 yds, 1 TD) and Randall Cobb (2 rec, 35 yds, 1 TD). And also like Brees, Rodgers is off to a slow start with just 217 passing YPG, 3 TD, 2 INT and an 87.0 QB rating. These numbers represent a huge drop-off from last season when he finished with 310 passing YPG, 45 TD, 6 INT and an NFL-record-setting 122.5 QB rating. The Packers have the fourth-fewest rushing attempts in the league (63), which is why they have the fifth-fewest yards on the ground (78 YPG). The Green Bay defense has played pretty well, leading the league in passing defense (125 YPG). It has certainly helped that OLB Clay Matthews has six of his team's 12 sacks (T-3rd in league). Green Bay's run-stop unit has also improved greatly since allowing 186 rushing yards and 5.8 YPC in Week 1. In the past two games, the Packers are surrendering just 221 yards on 52 carries (4.3 YPC).
NEW YORK GIANTS (2-1) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Philadelphia -2.5 & 47.5
Opening Line & Total: Eagles -2.5 & 47
The Eagles look for yet another win over New York when the NFC East rivals clash on Sunday night.
Philadelphia has won seven of the past eight games (SU and ATS) versus the Giants, but the road team has won each of the past three meetings. Philly has already turned it over an NFL-high 12 times, nine by QB Michael Vick who's taking an absolute beating due to poor protection and his tendency to hold onto the ball. The Giants' secondary is banged up; good news for Philly with WR Jeremy Maclin (hip) likely to return. The Giants were without key offensive players in WR Hakeem Nicks, OT David Diehl and RB Ahmad Bradshaw but still blasted the Panthers in Carolina last Thursday night, 36-7. Both Nicks (foot) and Bradshaw (neck) are expected to return for this game. Look for Philly to bounce back after getting crushed in Arizona last week: The Eagles are 12-3 ATS under head coach Andy Reid when coming off a loss by 21 or more points. Also, non-favorites are 18-44 ATS (29%) on the road when coming off an upset win by 14+ points and facing an opponent that's coming off a road loss.
Eli Manning has a losing record (7-9) in his career versus Philly, but his numbers are pretty strong: 3,632 passing yards (7.2 YPA), 27 TD and 17 INT. He was on fire in his last trip to Lincoln Financial Field last September, completing 16-of-23 passes for 254 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT in a 29-16 win. Victor Cruz caught two of those TD passes, which included a 74 yard score in the opening quarter. Bradshaw also had a huge game in Philly last year, totaling 139 yards on 15 carries and five catches, while adding a touchdown. Because of his neck injury that kept him out of last week's game, Andre Brown also figures to get a good chunk of carries on Sunday. Brown rushed for 113 yards and 2 TD on 20 carries (5.7 YPC) in the 36-7 win at Carolina. Ramses Barden also turned in a stellar performance last week, catching nine passes for 138 yards. Barden will probably see much fewer than his team-high 10 targets with Nicks expected to return to the field. New York's defense has forced seven turnovers during its two-game win streak and held the opposition to 139 rushing yards on 42 carries (3.3 YPC). However, they have a multitude of injuries in the secondary, most notably S Antrel Rolle (knee) and CBs Jayron Hosley (hamstring) who are doubtful to play. CBs Prince Amukamara (ankle) and Corey Webster (hand) are also hurting, but are listed as probable.
Vick is 5-2 in his career against New York, throwing for 977 yards and 5 TD, while hurting the Giants more on the ground with 381 yards (6.8 YPC) and four touchdowns. Having Maclin back at his disposal will be huge, considering Maclin has 25 catches for 295 yards and 3 TD in four career meetings with New York. RB LeSean McCoy has also given the Giants fits with 619 total yards and 3 TD in six meetings. The Philly defense has been strong this season, ranking third in the NFL against the pass (173 YPG) and forcing six turnovers already. The run-stop unit held Arizona to 99 yards on 34 carries last week (2.9 YPC), and also stuffed the Giants when these teams last met in November, holding them to 29 yards on 17 carries. LB Akeem Jordan (hamstring) and S Colt Anderson (knee) are both questionable to suit up for this game.