Sunday's NFL Action
December 28, 2012
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Sportsbook.ag NFL Betting Odds
HOUSTON TEXANS (12-3) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Houston -7 (-105) & no total posted yet
Opening Line: Texans -7 (-105)
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano makes his return after a three-month absence due to leukemia when his playoff-bound Colts try to salvage a series split with the struggling Texans.
Not many would have expected this scenario three weeks ago, but it's the Texans who are actually the team that has something to play for in this one. Houston still has to win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Colts are locked into the No. 5 seed. Houston is 6-1 SU and 4-3 ATS on the road this season. These teams just met in Houston in Week 15, with the Texans jumping out early and hanging on for a 29-17 win. They outgained the Colts 417-272 in the game. RB Arian Foster had 165 rushing yards in that victory, but missed most of last week's loss to Minnesota because of an irregular heartbeat. He reportedly had been cleared medically to re-enter that game, which wound up being a 23-6 home defeat. Most teams would not try to win when their playoff seeding is locked up like the Colts, but this team wants to prove it can beat an elite squad like the Texans. Indy has had little trouble dispatching of Houston in the past, winning all 10 home meetings since the Texans' inception. And the club will no doubt be inspired by the courageous fight against cancer its head coach just endured, and that alone should be enough to propel the Colts past struggling Houston. They also have the revenge factor working, as they are an impressive 31-14 ATS (69%) since 1992 when revenging a loss where the opponent scored at least 28 points.
The Texans can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but a loss could make them the No. 3 seed and force them to play again next week. Their offense really sputtered, both with and without Foster, last Sunday against the Vikings. Their six points were a far cry from their average of 27 PPG this season and Foster (1,328 rush yards, 2nd in NFL) was held to 15 yards on 10 carries. But he has destroyed the Colts in his career, averaging 164 rushing YPG, including 165 yards just two weeks ago. His Houston squad still averages 134 rushing YPG, while the Colts give up a hefty 139 rushing YPG on 5.1 yards per carry. Indy was gashed for 352 rushing yards on 8.0 YPC by the Chiefs last Sunday. The Colts pass defense is pretty average (236 YPG, 7.1 YPA), and will need to find a way to slow down Texans star WR Andre Johnson who leads the AFC with 1,457 receiving yards. Johnson caught 11 passes for 151 yards in the game versus Indy two weeks ago. Despite the offensive talent, Houston is a dreadful 25.5% on third downs in December, going 1-of-11 in the loss to Minnesota last week.
Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano will return to the sidelines for the first time since Week 3. He has big shoes to fill though, as the Colts are 8-2 SU under interim coach Bruce Arians. But they have been shaky in the past two games, losing by a dozen points to Houston and then nearly falling to lowly Kansas City, pulling out a late TD for a 20-13 victory. Andrew Luck surpassed the 4,000-yard passing plateau last week, establishing a new NFL rookie record for a single season. Despite the gaudy yardage, Luck has thrown more incomplete passes than completions in the past four games. Two weeks ago in Houston, he connected on just 13-of-27 throws for 186 yards and 2 TD. He was also sacked five times against the excellent Texans defense that is anchored by DL J.J. Watt who has 20.5 sacks this year, two off the NFL single-season record. Houston did a nice job on star WR Reggie Wayne (107 catches) two weeks ago limiting him to 14 yards on three catches. The Texans pass defense has been OK (228 pass YPG allowed), but that's nothing compared to Houston's run-stop unit's 99 rushing YPG allowed (4.2 YPC). Turnovers could also play a big role in this game, as Houston sits at +14 for the season while Indianapolis has a minus-14 turnover ratio.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-4) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (9-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Green Bay -3.5 (-105) & 46
Opening Line & Total: Packers -3 (-120) & 47
Green Bay tries to complete a perfect December when it visits playoff-hopeful Minnesota on Sunday.
The Packers can clinch a first round playoff bye with a win, while the Vikings can clinch a postseason berth with a victory. The Packers have trounced the Vikings of late, beating them five in a row SU (4-1 ATS). That included a 23-14 victory at Minnesota earlier this month at Green Bay, a game in which the Packers were desperately looking for a workaround with their patchwork offensive line. Green Bay has also won all three of its games since then, including last week's 55-7 blowout of Tennessee. The Vikings' best hope is once again Adrian Peterson, who had 210 rushing yards in the Week 13 loss to the Packers. But Minnesota has won all three games since that defeat. All signs point to the Packers actually trying to win this game with the remote possibility of earning the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye. Green Bay has won five straight SU (4-1 ATS) in this series and is a perfect 4-0 (SU and ATS) in December. Adrian Peterson will likely get his yards and celebrate an amazing 2,000-yard comeback season, but Aaron Rodgers has been incredible in his past three trips to Minnesota, throwing for 340 YPG, 9 TD and 1 INT. Also, good road teams (+3 to +7 PPG differential) facing average teams (+/- 3 PPG differential) after allowing 17 points or less in two straight games are a whopping 26-4 ATS (87%) in the past 10 seasons.
Green Bay has some good news on the injury front, as it appears both WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and RB Alex Green (concussion) will return to the field this week. However, the status is still uncertain for WR Randall Cobb (ankle). There is nothing uncertain about how well Aaron Rodgers plays indoors, as he has thrown for 288 YPG, 14 TD and 2 INT in his four dome games in 2012. Even with the uncertainty surrounding Cobb and Nelson, Rodgers can still lean on WRs James Jones and a finally-healthy Greg Jennings as reliable options to throw the football to. Jones has 13 touchdowns this season and Jennings has owned the venue formerly known as the Metrodome, catching 14 passes for 299 yards and 4 TD in his past two trips to Minnesota. The Packers backfield has been a walking wounded this year, but veteran Ryan Grant was a great find on the waiver wire, as he racked up 114 total yards in last week's 55-7 laugher over Tennessee. The Vikings defense is not easy to run against though, as they allow 108 rushing YPG on 3.9 YPC, and just stuffed a great Texans run defense, holding them to 34 yards on 16 carries.
Peterson did not play during the final drive of last week's win in Houston due to a sore abdomen, but he will start on Sunday. He needs just 102 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for the season, and he has always run well against Green Bay (11 G, 1,243 yards, 113 YPG, 5.6 YPC, 8 TD). It also makes more sense for Minnesota to run the football with its team average of 5.4 YPC, which is nearly as good as its paltry 5.6 YPA from QB Christian Ponder. The second-year pro has been awful against the Packers in his young career, completing 45% of his passes for 528 yards (5.8 YPA), 3 TD and 5 INT in three meetings. With top WR Percy Harvin (ankle) out for the season, Ponder will look mostly for TE Kyle Rudolph who has four touchdowns over the past six games. Green Bay's pass defense is strong, surrendering just 218 passing YPG (6.0 YPA) this season. And it will be even stronger if S Charles Woodson (collarbone) is able to return to the field this week, which looks like it could happen.