December 16, 2012
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Sportsbook.ag NFL Sunday
NEW YORK GIANTS (8-5) at ATLANTA FALCONS (11-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta -1.5 & 51
Opening Line & Total: Falcons -1.5 & 51.5
Following a thorough beatdown in Carolina last week, Atlanta looks to get back on track Sunday when it returns home to face a Giants team that also crushed them the last time these clubs met.
The Falcons suddenly look very shaky after getting manhandled at Carolina. They still own the best SU record in the NFC, but they're just 1-3-1 ATS over their past five contests. New York is hoping this will be a replay of its playoff matchup with the Falcons at home last January. The Giants were in Matt Ryan's face all day in that game, holding the Falcons to 247 yards in a lopsided 24-2 victory, their fourth straight win in this series by a combined score of 116 to 57. New York has clearly snapped out of its offensive slump, averaging 35.3 PPG over three games since its bye week, but they could be without top RB Ahmad Bradshaw who is questionable with a knee injury. The G-Men have also forced seven turnovers over those three games. This figures to be a tight game throughout with both teams showing off great passing offenses. And as good as the Giants defensive line has been, they have zero sacks in each of their past two road games. The Falcons have done a great job of recovering quickly from poor performances recently, going 17-4 ATS after a loss and 10-0 ATS after a double-digit defeat under head coach Mike Smith.
New York QB Eli Manning has been outstanding since the bye week, throwing for 788 yards (8.0 YPA), 8 TD and just 2 INT in the three games. He has also loved playing against Atlanta in his career, throwing for 1,144 yards (286 YPG), 10 TD and 5 INT in the past four meetings, all Giants victories. In last year's playoffs, Manning completed 23-of-32 passes for 277 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Two of those went to Hakeem Nicks, who finished the day with 115 receiving yards. Nicks still isn't close to 100 percent because of his lingering knee injury, as he has not reached 80 yards in a game since Week 2. His teammate Victor Cruz is finishing the year strong though, catching 16 passes for 261 yards and 2 TD over the past three games. Atlanta's pass defense is just average, allowing 235 passing YPG (16th in NFL). If Bradshaw cannot start, the Giants will rely on rookie David Wilson to carry the workload. Wilson is coming off his best game of the season, compiling a team-record 327 all-purpose yards with three touchdowns in the 52-27 win over New Orleans. He rushed for 100 yards and 2 TD on just 13 carries (7.7 YPC) last Sunday, and now he has the good fortune of facing another poor defense, as the Falcons rank 23rd in run defense (127 YPG).
Ryan has thrown a whopping 87 passes in his two career meetings with New York, but completed just 50 of those throws (58% completion pct.) for a paltry 5.4 YPA. However, the Giants are a horrible pass defense, allowing 253 YPG (sixth-most in NFL), and their pass rush has been shaky with one sack or less in three of the past four games. If they can't put pressure on Ryan, he will have a field day throwing to WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones. White has gained 604 yards with 4 TD in six games at Georgia Dome this year while Jones had 77 total yards in last year's playoff loss in New York. TE Tony Gonzalez caught eight passes last week, but he hasn't scored a touchdown versus a team besides the Saints since Week 5. Atlanta's running game has been suspect this year (87 YPG, 5th-fewest in NFL), gaining just 68 rushing YPG in the past five games. But the Giants rushing defense isn't good either, ranking 22nd in the NFL with 123 rushing YPG allowed. One thing New York does very well though, is create turnovers, ranking 2nd in the league with 34 takeaways.
DENVER BRONCOS (8-5) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Denver -3 & 48
Opening Line & Total: Broncos -3 & 48
Sizzling-hot Denver puts its eight-game win streak on the line when it visits Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
The Ravens are in trouble, losing two straight, and getting beat by back-up quarterbacks both times. Now they face MVP favorite Peyton Manning, who has beaten them eight straight times when he was with the Colts. The Broncos had some issues in the red zone last week, scoring only 26 in Oakland, but they're still averaging 29.8 PPG and 402.6 YPG over their past 10 games (9-1 SU, 7-3 ATS). The good news for Baltimore is that its offense will now be run by new OC Jim Caldwell, Manning's former head coach, who will use a lot of hurry-up sets. The Ravens could also have LB Ray Lewis (triceps) back in the lineup for the first time since Week 6, and possibly LB Terrell Suggs (biceps) on the field as well. Baltimore sure needs them, considering it has allowed 400-plus yards in four of its past eight games. Manning will be only the second top quarterback the Ravens have seen this year; Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 30 in Baltimore in September. Teams coming off a game in which they scored and gave up more than 23 points on the road are 9-4 ATS since the midway point of this season and 77-37 ATS in the second half of the season since 2008. The Ravens have covered six of the seven games these teams have played each other since 2000, and they're 5-0 (both SU and ATS) at home against the Broncos during that same time frame, winning the five games by an average margin of victory of more than 17 points per game.
Manning's numbers during the eight-game ride are pretty impressive: 70% completions, 2,313 yards (289 YPG), 19 TD, 7 INT. He has also been excellent in his past eight starts versus the Ravens, throwing for 2,022 yards (253 YPG), 14 TD and 6 INT in these eight victories. And usually Baltimore has a top-notch defense, but this year's injury-depleted unit allows 376 total YPG (9th-most in NFL). A big reason for Manning's success this year has been the playmaking ability of Demaryius Thomas, who entered this week fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,197), second in 20-yard gains (23) and third in Yards After Catch (448). Teammate Eric Decker's 790 receiving yards and 8 TD have also been a huge help. Although the Broncos rank 20th in the NFL in rushing offense, they have found great success since Knowshon Moreno has taken over for injured Willis McGahee. Moreno has carried the football 72 times over the past three games, gaining 273 yards (3.8 YPC) on the ground plus another 88 yards through the air. He should be able to find holes in Baltimore's 25th-ranked run defense (130 YPG). The one Achilles heel for Denver's offense has been turnovers, as it has committed 23 turnovers this season. The Ravens are certainly capable of making plays, piling up 12 takeaways over the past six games.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco was rumored to have clashed with ousted offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, so he should be much more comfortable under Caldwell, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach. Caldwell is expected to implement a faster pace of offense, similar to the first three games of the season when Flacco led his team to 98 points. He has been considerably better at home this season (100.7 rating, 8.7 YPA, 11 TD, 4 INT) than on the road (75.3 rating, 5.9 YPA, 7 TD, 5 INT), and has also been solid in two career starts versus Denver, completing 34-of-50 passes for 371 yards (7.4 YPA), 1 TD and 0 INT in two lopsided wins (30-7 in 2009 and 31-17 in 2010). Flacco's top WR Torrey Smith has also been much better in Baltimore (19.3 yds per catch, 6 TD) than on the road (15.8 YPC, 1 TD), but he'll likely be staring across the line of scrimmage at shutdown corner Champ Bailey for most of the afternoon. That could allow WR Anquan Boldin to continue his hot stretch of 159 receiving yards and 3 TD over the past two games. Denver's defense is solid throughout though, allowing just 216 passing YPG (7th in NFL) and 94 rushing YPG (6th in league). But Ravens RB Ray Rice has run roughshod over this defense in two career meetings, rumbling for 217 yards (4.3 YPC) and three touchdowns. The Ravens protect the ball very well, especially at home where they have totaled five giveaways in six games. But Denver has produced 39 sacks (T-2nd in NFL) and forced nine turnovers in the past five games.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-4) at CHICAGO BEARS (8-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Green Bay -3 (-115) & 43
Opening Line & Total: Packers -3 (even) & 43
Surging Green Bay looks to wrap up the NFC North with another win over struggling Chicago on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Packers have beaten the Bears five in a row SU and four straight ATS. When these teams met in Week 2, the Packers held Chicago to just 168 yards of offense, intercepted Jay Cutler four times and sacked him seven times in a 23-10 win. Chicago will be without LB Brian Urlacher, but it appears that Cutler (neck) will be able to start. The Bears are 1-4 (SU and ATS) in their past five games having just gotten knocked off 21-14 at Minnesota. The Packers have had protection issues, but have managed to patch their line well enough to win seven of their past eight games, including two in a row. Although WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) is out, star LB Clay Matthews Jr. (hamstring) is expected to return to the field for the first time since Week 9. The Packers have absolutely dominated this series with Aaron Rodgers under center, going 8-2 (SU and ATS) with Rodgers throwing for 244 YPG, 16 TD and 8 INT. On the flip side, Cutler is 1-7 in his career versus Green Bay with twice as many INT (16) than TD passes (8). He has also been sacked 31 times this season and Matthews Jr. is one of the best pass rushers in the league. This trend is also pretty telling: Mike McCarthy is 15-1 ATS in a road game where the total is between 35.5 and 42 points as the coach of the Packers.
Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown in last week's 27-20 win over Detroit, marking the first TD-less game he's had since Week 3. Rodgers did run for a score though. For the season, he has thrown for 3,297 yards (254 YPG), 29 TD and 8 INT. In the Week 2 win over Chicago, he completed 22-of-32 passes for 219 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, but he took five sacks. Although Rodgers won't have the services of Nelson, he still has three great receivers to throw to in Randall Cobb (team-high 777 rec. yds), James Jones (team-best 9 rec. TD) and Greg Jennings, who finally appears to be healthy. Jennings has been outstanding in his past three meetings versus Chicago (21 catches, 346 yards), which includes the 2011 NFC Championship at Soldier Field. The Bears do have an excellent pass defense though, allowing just 206 YPG, good for 6th-best in the NFL. Chicago's run defense has been suspect though, allowing more than 110 rushing yards in each of the past seven games (141 rush YPG) including back-to-back 170-yard games. This could be an area of trouble, as the Packers ground game has picked up the pace, averaging 136 rushing YPG in the past five contests. Although Chicago has the most takeaways in the NFL (35), the team has forced just five turnovers over the past four weeks, and Green Bay has only one multi-giveaway game in the past nine contests.
Cutler is not having a great year, posting an 80.9 passer rating with just 2,495 yards (208 per game), 16 TD and 13 INT. But his pass protection has been better in his past four games, where he's taken just three sacks, a huge improvement from the 28 sacks suffered in the first eight games of the year (3.5 per game). He continues to rely heavily on WR Brandon Marshall who already has 101 catches for 1,342 yards and 9 TD, piling up two straight 160-yard efforts. But Week 2 was the only game he failed to either score a touchdown or gain 70 yards, as the Packers held him to two catches for 24 yards. Chicago ranks a woeful 27th in passing offense (193 YPG), but has the ninth-best rushing offense in the league with 122 YPG and eight games of 110+ rushing yards. With Michael Bush (ribs) questionable, Matt Forte may have to take on a bigger workload than usual. Forte (834 rush yds) ran for 85 yards on just 13 carries (6.5 YPC) in Minnesota last week, but has not enjoyed facing Green Bay in his career, rushing for a mere 466 yards over nine games (52 YPG) with just 1 TD and 3.5 yards per carry. The Packers defense has been average this season, allowing 117 rushing YPG (15th in NFL) and 235 passing YPG (17th in league). The team had hoped S Charles Woodson (collarbone) would return for this showdown, but he is now expected to miss Sunday's game.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-3-1) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New England -5.5 & 46.5
Opening Line & Total: Patriots -6 & 48.5
San Francisco tries to hand New England a rare December home loss when the teams meet Sunday night in Foxborough.
This will be a matchup of arguably the NFL's best offense and best defense. The Niners have held their past four opponents under 300 yards of offense. They're 3-1, SU and ATS, since inserting Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback. The Patriots are coming off a 42-14 hammering of Houston, marking their seventh straight victory and 13th straight win in December. But they'll have a short week to prepare for Kaepernick. They have had issues against the NFC West, getting upset by Arizona and Seattle this season, but the Pats have now won 20 straight December home games. This is not a good matchup for the Patriots, who have struggled versus elite NFC defenses. The 49ers allow just 14.3 PPG and 277 total YPG to host teams this year, and they have dominated AFC East teams, beating the Bills, Jets and Dolphins by a combined score of 106 to 16. New England beat Buffalo and New York by a combined nine points at home this year, and edged Miami by seven on the road just two weeks ago. Also, good defensive teams (14-18 PPG) against an average defensive team (18-23 PPG) after 8+ games, after allowing 3 points or less in the first half of the last game are 25-5 ATS (83%) in the past five seasons.
Kaepernick has completed 69% of his passes with a 100.1 passer rating as a starter, and has added 174 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Although San Francisco likes to pound the football, it will certainly allow Kaepernick to use his arm against New England's 29th-ranked passing defense surrendering 276 YPG through the air. WR Michael Crabtree has 25 more catches (66) than any other teammate, and TE Vernon Davis creates huge matchup problems with 5 TD and 11 gains of 20+ yards this season. However, San Francisco's strength is running the football where it averages 162 rushing YPG and 5.3 yards per carry, both which rank second in the NFL. Frank Gore has carried the football more than 200 times (211) for the seventh straight season, averaging a healthy 4.9 YPC and scoring seven touchdowns. The Patriots do have a strong run defense though, allowing just 101 rushing YPG this season (8th in NFL). But they are also reliant on making big plays, as New England leads the AFC with 34 forced turnovers this season. The Niners rarely make mistakes though, with just 12 giveaways all season. Only the Patriots (10 giveaways) have fewer miscues in the entire NFL.
The big news in New England is that TE Rob Gronkowski (broken forearm) is practicing, and has a slim chance of playing on Sunday night for the first time since Week 11. But even if he doesn't suit up, the Pats have plenty of very capable receivers (WRs Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, and TE Aaron Hernandez) to catch passes from the sizzling Tom Brady. New England's star signal caller has completed 63% of his passes for 1,988 yards (284 YPG), 19 TD and just 1 INT during his team's seven-game win streak. A big part of his success is due to an offensive line that isn't letting him be touched very often. Brady has taken just seven sacks in these seven games, four of which came in Miami. However, the 49ers have the best pass rusher in football in DE Aldon Smith, who leads the league with 19.5 sacks. Although the Patriots rank fifth in the NFL in passing offense, they are also extremely capable of running the football with 140 YPG (7th in league). RB Stevan Ridley has 1,082 rushing yards and 10 TD, but the 49ers give up just 91 rushing YPG and 185 passing YPG, numbers which both rank second in the NFL.
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