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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (6-5) at DENVER BRONCOS (8-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Denver -7.5 & 51
Opening Line & Total: Broncos -6.5 & 50.5
Denver tries to extend a long win streak when it faces a Tampa Bay team that leads the NFL with an 8-2-1 ATS mark on Sunday.
The Broncos are in search of their seventh SU win in a row, though they've failed to cover in their past two games. Both of these teams have red-hot quarterbacks. Peyton Manning has a 108.2 rating, 294 passing YPG, 15 TD and 5 INT during the win streak, and the running game didn't miss a beat with Willis McGahee out, as Knowshon Moreno ran for 85 yards on 20 carries at Kansas City. For the Bucs, Josh Freeman has a 104.1 passer rating, 16 TD and 3 INT over Tampa's past seven games, but the Bucs defense hasn't held up of late. They've allowed 400-plus yards of offense in three of their past four, and four of their past six games. A struggling defense is never what you want when you visit Manning. Favorites are 82-44 ATS (65%) in non-conference games over the past 10 seasons when coming off a win against a division rival. The Broncos are 8-1 ATS since the start of last season when gaining an average of 8+ passing YPA, which is a number Peyton Manning should have no trouble reaching against a Bucs defense that's given up more passing yards than any NFL team in the history of the game.
Freeman has played pretty well in his past three road games, leading his team to 35.0 PPG in the three wins and throwing for 757 yards (252 YPG), 8 TD and 2 INT. Top WR Vincent Jackson (959 rec. yds, 7 TD) has been strong in the past two games with 190 yards on 11 catches. He is very familiar with the Denver defense having played in San Diego for seven seasons before coming to the Bucs. But he has been limited, big-time, by future Hall of Fame CB Champ Bailey over the past eight meetings, catching just 28 passes for 380 yards (47.5 YPG) and 1 TD during these matchups with the Broncos. Tampa needs to get RB Doug Martin back on track to stay in this game. Martin had just 50 yards on 21 carries (2.4 YPC) in last week's loss to Atlanta, a huge drop from the 148 rushing YPG on 6.1 YPC he averaged during his team's four-game win streak preceding the Falcons defeat. But no matter what the game plan is, Tampa knows it will have to be sharper than usual, as Denver ranks fifth in the NFL in passing defense (210 YPG allowed) and ninth in rushing defense (99 YPG). The Bucs have done a good job with ball protection though, committing just four turnovers combined in the past six games.
Manning has been outstanding in the thin air, posting a 110.2 passer rating and a 13-to-1 TD/INT ratio in his five home starts. He's had identical 101.9 ratings in two career meetings with Tampa Bay, but hasn't faced the Bucs since 2007. One player Manning doesn't have to worry about on Sunday is Tampa's top cornerback, Eric Wright, who was suspended four games for using performing-enhancing substances. That should allow both WRs Demaryius Thomas (1,015 rec. yds, 6 TD) and Eric Decker (685 rec. yds, 8 TD) to have huge games against a Bucs passing defense allowing a league-high 315.5 passing YPG. The running game could certainly struggle more this week though, as Tampa Bay leads the NFL with 81.5 rushing YPG allowed, holding eight of 11 opponents under 100 rushing yards this year. Another problem area is that Denver's offense has not had a single turnover-free game in 2012. The Broncos have 21 giveaways this season, including 14 over the past seven contests. The Bucs have generated 11 takeaways in the past five weeks, so they are perfectly capable of doing some damage here.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-8) at DALLAS COWBOYS (5-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Dallas -10.5 & 44
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -9 & 43
The banged-up Eagles limp into Dallas on Sunday night trying to earn their first win since September.
The Cowboys have a chance to finish the season sweep of their rivals who have dropped seven straight games and are 1-9-1 ATS this season. Dallas gets extra rest coming off a Thanksgiving Day loss, while Philly has a short week and will not have QB Michael Vick and RB LeSean McCoy available as they recover from concussions. Philly's top WR DeSean Jackson (ribs) is also out for the season. Dallas has a ton of defensive injuries, but it appears that top RB DeMarco Murray (foot) will return to the field for the first time since Week 6. The Cowboys pulled away from the Eagles in Philly in their Week 10 matchup, taking advantage after Vick went down and was replaced by rookie Nick Foles. Dallas got two defensive touchdowns and a punt return TD in the fourth quarter of a 38-23 win, with Foles turning it over twice in the fourth and having another pick-six called back on a penalty. There's not much going right for the Eagles, but they can take solace in the fact that Dallas has not covered a spread at home this season, going 0-5 ATS and getting outscored 26 to 22 on average. The Cowboys are also 6-20 ATS (23%) as a favorite in the past three seasons. And recent NFL history shows that road teams after being beaten by the spread by 35+ points total in their past five games, in weeks 10 through 13, are 32-8 ATS (80%) in the past five seasons.
Foles is coming off a strong performance against Carolina, completing 16-of-21 passes (76%) for 119 yards, 0 TD and 0 INT. He also took just one sack for the entire game. As happy as the Eagles coaching staff was to see this great accuracy, they were tickled pink about the way Bryce Brown filled in for the injured McCoy. Brown rushed for 178 yards on just 19 carries (9.4 YPC) with two touchdowns, coming from 65 and 5 yards out. However, he did lose two fumbles and gained just 2.8 yards per catch with 11 yards on four receptions. With McCoy and Jackson both out, Brown will once again be the focal point of this offense. When Foles drops back, he will be looking mainly for WR Jeremy Maclin, who has 376 yards and 4 TD in the past six meetings with Dallas. The Cowboys' defense has been sound in both areas, ranking ninth in the NFL in passing defense (218 YPG) and 13th against the run (111 YPG). However Washington was able to rush for 142 yards on 4.7 YPC and throw for 295 yards and 4 TD in its Thanksgiving Day win in Big D. Notable injuries to the Dallas defense include LBs Sean Lee (toe, out) and Bruce Carter (elbow, out), NT Jay Ratliff (groin, doubtful), CB Orlando Scandrick (hand, out) and S Charlie Peprah (foot, questionable).
Tony Romo has been up-and-down in his career versus the Eagles, winning six of 11 starts and throwing for 2,449 yards (223 YPG), 15 TD and 11 INT. He posted a 122.1 passer rating three weeks ago in Philadelphia, completing 19-of-26 passes (73%) for 209 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. This season Romo has been much worse at Cowboys Stadium (72.7 rating, 6 TD, 12 INT, 18 sacks) than on the road (102.8 rating, 10 TD, 3 INT, 8 sacks). He may not have the services of WR Miles Austin (hip), but he has plenty of weapons left, mainly WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten. Bryant caught three passes for 87 yards and a TD in the Week 10 meeting, and Witten has 49 receptions over the past five games, including eight against Philly. Murray has faced the Eagles just once in his career, rushing for 74 yards on just eight carries (9.3 YPC). If he's unable to carry a full workload, Felix Jones showed he's plenty capable of running over this Philly squad, rushing for 71 yards on 16 carries (4.4 YPC) and catching three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown in the Week 10 meeting. The Eagles defense has been decent in 2012, allowing 228 passing YPG (14th in NFL) and 118 rushing YPG (18th in NFL). But they have failed to force a single turnover in the past three games, a big reason why they have allowed 99 points during this span.