November 11, 2012
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ATLANTA FALCONS (8-0) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta -2.5 & 53.5
Opening Line & Total: Falcons -2.5 & 53.5
The Falcons are not only trying to keep their unblemished record intact on Sunday in New Orleans, but they are also seeking revenge from the Saints recent dominance in this series.
The Falcons are looking to snap a four-game losing streak against the Saints. Their last trip to New Orleans was particularly ugly, with Drew Brees and the offense hanging 45 points on Atlanta in a 45-16 Saints victory. The unbeaten Falcons have a different look this year, with a much more wide-open offense and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's unique looks on defense. The Saints had struggled to contain anyone all season until the Eagles came to town with their decimated offensive line on Monday night. The Atlanta offense poses a much bigger challenge with the team's many weapons. Since joining the Saints, Brees is 10-2 versus the Falcons, throwing for 26 TD and 303 YPG. And in the past two seasons, New Orleans has enjoyed playing in pass-heavy shootouts as this one promises to be, going 7-0 ATS at home versus teams averaging 235+ passing YPG. The Saints are also 13-3 ATS in domes and 12-4 ATS after an ATS win in the past two seasons. The Falcons will have no answer for now-healthy TE Jimmy Graham, and Brees will also exploit the one-on-one matchup of star WR Marques Colston going up against Falcons CB Asante Samuel who stands six inches shorter than Colston.
Atlanta has a great passing offense (278 YPG, 8th in the NFL), and will certainly try to throw the football all over New Orleans' secondary allowing 295 passing YPG (4th-most in NFL). QB Matt Ryan is just 2-5 in his career versus New Orleans, but he attempted 52 passes in both meetings last year, racking up 724 yards and 3 TD. He has frequently targeted all three of his great receivers -- WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez -- but he may look at White just a little more than usual. In five career games in New Orleans, White has 578 receiving yards (116 per game) and three scores. Jones also had a great game at the Superdome as a rookie last year, catching eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons don't have to be one-dimensional though, because the Saints have an even more generous rushing defense, allowing a league-high 177 rushing YPG. This is great news for Michael Turner, who had just 11 carries in last year's lopsided loss in New Orleans. A closer game should allow him to post numbers similar to what he did in 2009 and 2010 at the Superdome when he carried the ball 50 times for 265 yards (5.3 YPC) and 2 TD in those two games. There are no significant injuries to the Falcons offense, but three key defensive players are all questionable in LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), S Charles Mitchell (calf) and DT Peria Jerry (knee).
Brees leads the NFL with 2,549 passing yards (319 per game) and only Aaron Rodgers has surpassed his 22 TD. Brees continues to lean heavily on his top two receivers, WR Marques Colston (626 rec yds, 6 TD) and TE Jimmy Graham (387 rec yds, 5 TD). Both have had plenty of success against Atlanta's secondary, which currently ranks 14th in the NFL with 229 passing YPG allowed. Colston had 15 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown in last year's series, while Graham has found the end zone in all three career meetings with the Falcons, totaling 150 receiving yards. The Saints have the third-worst rushing offense in the league (81 YPG), but they could find some holes in Atlanta's 24th-ranked rushing defense (128 YPG). RB Darren Sproles (foot) will not play, but Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory combined for 136 rushing yards on 23 carries (5.9 YPC) in last week's win over Philadelphia. Before committing two turnovers against the Eagles, New Orleans had just four giveaways over its previous five games. The Falcons have not forced a turnover in two straight games, so ball protection shouldn't be a big issue in this game.
DENVER BRONCOS (5-3) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Denver -4.5 & 47.5
Opening Line & Total: Broncos -5 & 48
Sizzling-hot Denver tries to extend its winning streak when it pays a visit to Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
The Broncos have won three in a row overall and two straight on the road, SU and ATS. QB Peyton Manning has looked like the Peyton of old over the past five games, completing 76% of his passes for 316 YPG, including 15 TD and just 3 INT during that span. The Panthers' season was going down the toilet before an upset win in Washington last week. Their porous defense had its best effort since Week 1, holding the Redskins to 337 yards of offense and 13 points. QB Cam Newton managed the game well, but was underwhelming again, completing 13-for-23 throws for 201 yards- but no turnovers-against Washington's league-worst secondary. The Panthers finally snapped their long win streak, but they are still 3-2 ATS in their past five games, with the ATS victories coming as a 2-point loss at unbeaten Atlanta, a 1-point defeat at 7-1 Chicago and an 8-point win at Washington. The defense has allowed just 17.8 PPG on 292 total YPG in the past four weeks, which is less than what Newton is gaining on his own in the past three games with 295 total YPG. And in the history of the Panthers franchise, they are 12-2 ATS (86%) in home games versus excellent offensive teams averaging at least 375 YPG since 1992.
Manning hasn't faced the Panthers since 2007, but his numbers against them in two starts are pretty pedestrian for his standards: 57.8% completions, 548 passing yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. For the first time since 2004, Manning has tossed 3 TD in five straight games, helping him to take the NFL lead in both passer rating (108.6) and completion percentage (69.5%). Manning has quickly built a great rapport with both of his starting receivers, Eric Decker and a Demaryius Thomas. Decker has 7 TD grabs in his past five games while Thomas has 95 receiving YPG for the season, good for 4th-most in the NFL. Decker has been bothered by a thigh injury, but he is expected to start on Sunday. While Denver's passing attack is in great shape, the ground game has been inconsistent, ranking 18th in the league with 107 rushing YPG. In the past three road games, the Broncos have managed just 65 rushing YPG on 2.9 yards per carry. Fumbling has been a huge problem for Denver, as it has lost 10 fumbles already -- K.C. is the only NFL team with more (15). Defensively, the Broncos rank in the top half of the NFL in both passing defense (221 YPG, 10th in league) and rushing defense (104 YPG, 12th in NFL). They have forced 12 turnovers this year, but half of those came three weeks ago in San Diego when Philip Rivers had six miscues.
Newton has not thrown the football well during his team's three-game home losing streak, completing just 51% of his passes for 616 yards (6.4 YPA), 1 TD and 4 INT. It would help if he had the kind of running game the Panthers showed off last season, when they ranked third in the NFL with 151 rushing YPG. This year, they have just 116 rushing YPG (12th in league), as the team tinkers with the workload of both DeAngelo Williams (3.7 YPC) and Jonathan Stewart (3.8 YPC). The return of No. 2 WR Brandon LaFell, who sat out last week's game with a concussion, will surely take attention away from top wideout Steve Smith and give Newton another reliable target. The defense is making strides, especially in terms of pressuring the quarterback, tallying 10 sacks in the past two games. The Panthers also have seven takeaways in the past four games, something they will need to do more of against a turnover-prone Broncos club.
DALLAS COWBOYS (3-5) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Philadelphia -2 & 44.5
Opening Line & Total: Eagles -1.5 & 45
NFC East foes desperate for a victory clash on Sunday when the Cowboys visit the Eagles.
Both these teams are fighting for NFC East survival, as Philadelphia has lost four straight games and Dallas has dropped four of five. Philly swept the Cowboys a year ago, including a convincing 20-7 win in Big D on Christmas Eve. Dallas also managed just seven points in its previous matchups with the Eagles a year ago. QB Tony Romo was just 18-for-35 for 203 yards in the first game, then was injured in the first quarter of their second matchup. Eagles QB Michael Vick has torched Dallas since joining the Eagles, posting a 109.7 passer rating (6 TD and 2 INT) in three starts against them. Both of these teams are in dire straits, but the Eagles should be able to take care of business at home. Road favorites, excellent offensive team (>=370 YPG) against a poor defense (335 to 370 YPG) after 8+ games are just 27-58 ATS (32%) since 1983. The Eagles are also 16-5 ATS (76%) facing teams with 375+ total YPG in the second half of the season since 1992.
Romo suffered a back strain on the last play of the Week 9 loss to Atlanta, but is expected to start on Sunday. He has thrown for 299.3 yards per game this season, but has just 10 TD and 13 INT. In his past 10 games versus the Eagles, he has a mediocre 5-5 record, 2,240 passing yards, 13 TD and 11 INT. With top RB DeMarco Murray (foot) still out, the Cowboys have all but given up trying to run the football. They have failed to surpass 85 rushing yards in six of the past seven contests, attempting just 35 carries (for 84 yards, 2.4 YPC) in the past two weeks combined. On the other side of the ball, Dallas has stopped opposing air attacks very well, allowing just 206 passing YPG (5th in NFL). The Cowboys are a mediocre 15th in rushing defense (107 YPG), but have held each of their past six opponents to less than 125 yards on the ground.
Vick was sacked seven times in last week's 28-13 loss in New Orleans, and the offensive line doesn't expect to improve anytime soon with RT Todd Herremans placed on IR after suffering a dislocated bone in his foot. He joins LT Jason Peters (Achilles) and C Jason Kelce (knee) on the sidelines, plus RG Danny Watkins (ankle) might not play on Sunday either. RB LeSean McCoy has been slowed by an illness, but he expects to start on Sunday. The last time Dallas visited Lincoln Financial Field, McCoy rushed for 185 yards on 30 carries (6.2 YPC) and 2 TD. On the defensive side of the ball, Philly has allowed 135+ rushing yards in each of its past four games, and has forced just four turnovers in the past six contests combined.
HOUSTON TEXANS (7-1) at CHICAGO BEARS (7-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Chicago -1.5 & 40.5
Opening Line & Total: Bears -1.5 & 42.5
A pair of one-loss teams collide on Sunday night when Houston visits Chicago.
This matchup will pit two of the NFL's elite defenses, a Texans team that hasn't lost SU on the road, and a Bears team that's unbeaten SU at home. Chicago continues to force an incredible number of turnovers -- 28 takeaways through eight games -- including five more in Tennessee last week. Houston, which runs a conservative, run-heavy offense, has just six giveaways on the season. The Texans have been outstanding defensively this year, allowing 20 points or more than 325 yards of offense in a game just twice. This is essentially a pick 'em game, and home teams are 25-3 straight-up in non-conference games over the past 10 seasons when coming off a game in which they beat the spread by more than 21 points. Also, underdogs (or pick) after a win by 10+ points against opponent after a playing a game where 50+ total points were scored are 23-55 ATS (29%) in the past five seasons.
Texans RB Arian Foster continues to carry his offense with 770 rushing yards (5th in NFL) and a league-high 11 total touchdowns. Houston's 138 rushing YPG ranks eighth in the league, but backup RB Ben Tate (hamstring) might not play. TE Owen Daniels (back) and WR Kevin Walter (groin) are also listed as questionable, but both are expected to play and help out QB Matt Schaub. The Houston signal caller has been locked in all year, posting a 96.8 passer rating with 1,918 passing yards (7.7 YPA), 12 TD and just four interceptions. But after absorbing just three sacks over the first five games, Schaub has been dropped seven times in the past three contests. His top wideout Andre Johnson has been outstanding over the past three weeks with 25 catches for 279 yards, but he has a tough matchup against CB Charles Tillman on Sunday. Defensively, the Texans have been outstanding against both the run (82 YPG, 2nd in NFL) and pass (204 YPG, 4th in league). They have not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season, and DE J.J. Watt has been unbelievable with 10.5 sacks and 10 passes defensed.
The Bears are looking for a seventh straight win for the first time since 2006, but only one of their victories so far has come against a team with a winning record. The league-high 28 takeaways and seven defensive touchdowns have aided the Bears in giving up just 15.0 PPG (2nd in NFL). They also have 25 defensive sacks (3rd in league), but the offense has allowed 28 sacks (3rd-most in NFL). Despite hitting the turf so often, QB Jay Cutler has played very well in his past five games, throwing for 1,132 yards (226 per game), 9 TD and 2 INT. But he has been very reliant on just one man, WR Brandon Marshall, who has 59 of the team's 149 catches (41%) and 797 of Chicago's 1,774 passing yards (45%). Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has said his club will double-team Marshall on every single play. If that happens, the Bears should be able run the football with Matt Forte, who has 376 rushing yards on 5.3 YPC in his past four games. He's also a capable receiver with 20 catches for 179 yards this season.