Sunday's NFL Action
September 22, 2013
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GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-1) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Green Bay -3 & 49
Opening Line & Total: Packers -1 & 48.5
Aaron Rodgers tries to build upon a record-setting day when his Packers visit the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.
Rodgers threw for a career high and team-record-tying 480 yards in a 38-20 blowout of the Redskins in Week 2. He threw two of his four TD passes to WR Jordy Nelson, while WR James Jones had 178 receiving yards and WR Randall Cobb finished with 128. Top RB Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry of the game, but backup RB James Starks replaced him with 132 rushing yards, the team’s first 100-yard rusher in a span of 45 games. Cincinnati is 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings, but beat Green Bay 31-24 in 2009. The Bengals were able to defeat the Steelers 20-10 on Monday night thanks in large part to rookie RB Giovani Bernard's two touchdowns and a sustained ground game that helped Cincy keep the football for 35:34. The Packers are 10-2 ATS (83%) after allowing 6.5 or more yards per play in their previous game over the past three seasons, but are just 4-7 ATS (36%) in their past 11 road games. Cincinnati is a subpar 6-15 (29%) at home where the total is at least 45.5 under head coach Marvin Lewis, but is also 21-10 ATS (68%) coming off a double-digit win under Lewis.
The Packers are lighting up the scoreboard with 33.0 PPG, 483 total YPG and 382 passing YPG, numbers that rank first or second in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers has a 127.2 passer rating (2nd in NFL) by completing 70% of his passes for 813 yards (10.3 YPA), 7 TD and 1 INT. Four Packers receivers already have 10+ catches apiece, led by WR Randall Cobb's 16 grabs for 236 yards, 107 of which have come after the catch. WR Jordy Nelson is averaging 19.6 yard per catch on his 10 receptions, including four gains of 20+ yards and three touchdowns. WR James Jones and TE Jermichael Finley both have 11 catches, with Finley finding the end zone twice. With RB Eddie Lacy likely to miss a couple games with his concussion, RB James Starks is the only viable option to run the football for this team. Although he averaged 6.6 yards per carry last week, the Bengals are very tough to run on, allowing a mere 63 rushing YPG on 2.8 YPC this season. On the defensive side of the ball, Green Bay has been lit up for 718 passing yards (359 YPG), a number higher than it should be due to hamstring injuries to two starters in the secondary, FS Morgan Burnett and CB Casey Hayward. Neither player is expected back on the field this week. The Packers' run-stop unit has been serviceable though, allowing 99 rushing YPG on 3.9 yards per carry.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton has played well to start the season, completing 65% of his passes for 279 YPG (7.2 YPA), 3 TD and 2 INT. He's taken only one sack, which will be a key against Packers pass-rushing-monster LB Clay Matthews. Dalton has leaned heavily on top WR A.J. Green, targeting him on 35% of his dropbacks. Green has responded with 15 catches for 203 yards and two scores. WR Mohamed Sanu is the only other wideout with at least five catches, but has gained just 6.6 yards per reception on his nine grabs. Dalton has also relied on his talented tight-end duo of rookie Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham, as the pair has combined for 19 catches and 214 yards this season. The Bengals have tried to pound the football with reliable RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, giving him 36 carries, but Green-Ellis has just 2.8 YPC with that heavy workload. Shifty rookie RB Giovani Bernard has been much more productive with 60 yards on 12 carries (5.0 YPC) despite his longest gain being a mere eight yards. Although the Bengals' front seven hasn't given up a lot of yards, especially on the ground, the unit has produced just two sacks in two games. They are expecting to triple that number against a suspect Packers offensive line that has allowed 57 sacks in the past 18 contests (3.2 per game).
HOUSTON TEXANS (2-0) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Houston -2.5 & 44.5
Opening Line & Total: Texans -1 & 44.5
After winning on the last play for two straight weeks, the Texans are hoping there won’t be as much drama on Sunday when they visit the Ravens.
Houston was able to eke out a 30-24 overtime win versus the Titans in Week 2, and although star WR Andre Johnson took a shot to the head late in the game, he has passed all his concussion tests and appears to be on track to start on Sunday. The Ravens, who escaped with a 14-6 home win over Cleveland last Sunday, also have a key offensive player questionable with RB Ray Rice’s hip flexor strain. Baltimore won the first six meetings in this series (4-2 ATS), but Houston ended that skid last year with a 43-13 shellacking, outgaining the Ravens 420 to 176. The Texans have thrived in evenly-matched games, going 8-0 ATS when the line is +3 to -3 over the past three seasons, but Gary Kubiak is just 5-15 ATS (25%) in games played on turf as the Houston head coach. Baltimore is 26-12 ATS (68%) in home tilts after allowing 75 rushing yards or less in its previous game since 1992. However, home teams where the line is +3 to -3 after scoring 14 points or less in their previous game are just 37-71 ATS (34%) in the past five seasons.
The Texans have not been playing their best football, but QB Matt Schaub has had a strong start to the season, completing 65% of his passes for 644 yards (6.9 YPA), 6 TD and 3 INT. His two most-used receivers have been WRs Andre Johnson (NFL-high 29 targets) and rookie DeAndre Hopkins (19 targets), who have combined for 405 receiving yards in the two games. In last year's blowout of Baltimore, Schaub threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns with Johnson catching 9-of-10 targets for 86 yards. But Schaub has also leaned on his tight-end tandem of Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham for a combined 21 targets this year, leading to 14 receptions for 148 yards and five touchdowns. While the air attack is in good hands, there is a bit of a running back controversy in Houston with RB Ben Tate (8.2 YPC) greatly outperforming All-Pro RB Arian Foster (3.7 YPC), outgaining Foster but getting less than half (18) of the carries that Foster does (37). However, Foster was more efficient in last year's meeting with Baltimore, rumbling for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries (5.2 YPC), while Tate gained 47 yards on 10 carries (4.7 YPC). The one negative for the offense on Sunday is that All-Pro LT Duane Brown is questionable with a turf toe injury. Although Houston has allowed 26.0 PPG so far, the defense hasn't played all that badly, allowing just 312 passing yards on 5.3 YPA and 199 rushing yards on 3.8 YPC. The defense is hoping former Ravens FS Ed Reed can make his debut with the team after missing the first two games with a hip injury.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco was downright horrible in last year's loss to the Texans, completing 21-of-43 passes for 147 yards (3.4 YPA), 1 TD and 2 INT. Flacco has had his moments so far this season, but his numbers aren't spectacular at 59% completions for 573 yards (6.0 YPA), 3 TD and 2 INT. He's done a nice job with ball distribution though, as five Ravens have already garnered a dozen targets. WR Torrey Smith has been his go-to receiver with 22 targets, resulting in 11 catches for 177 yards. With No. 2 WR Jacoby Jones out with a knee injury, WR Marlon Brown has filled in nicely with eight catches for 110 yards and two scores. Two veterans the team picked up during training camp, WR Brandon Stokley and TE Dallas Clark, have eight catches each. RB Ray Rice had a tough day against Houston's defense last year, totaling 54 yards on 14 touches. He actually had a much better yards-per-carry average (4.7) than yards per catch (2.4) in that loss. Rice hasn't done much this year either with 4.0 yards per catch and 2.9 yards per carry. If he is unable to go, RB Bernard Pierce will handle the rushing load. Pierce actually has three more carries than Rice this season, but has averaged a paltry 2.8 YPC. After being gashed for 510 yards and seven touchdowns by the Broncos in Week 1, Baltimore's defense was a lot more nasty against the Browns, holding them to 259 total yards and six points. However, three key defenders are all listed as questionable for this game due to injuries, DT Brandon Williams (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion) and LB Arthur Brown (pectoral).
CHICAGO BEARS (2-0) at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (0-2
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Chicago -2.5 & 40
Opening Line & Total: Bears -2.5 & 40
The Steelers hope to finally get into the win column when they host the unbeaten Bears on Sunday night.
The start of the year has been very different for these two clubs. Chicago won its first two games behind some late-game heroics from QB Jay Cutler, while Pittsburgh's offense has looked sloppy, producing a total of 19 points in losses to Tennessee and Cincinnati. The last time these two teams met was in 2009 when the Bears hosted the Steelers in what ended in a 17-14 win-and-cover in favor of Chicago. Cutler threw for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in that win over the Steelers. Cutler takes way more chances now that WR Brandon Marshall is in town. Marshall’s presence is a complete game changer that really opens up Chicago’s offense for RB Matt Forte to run. Over the past three seasons, Pittsburgh is just 8-18 ATS (31%) when playing on a grass field, but is 19-8 ATS (70%) in home games after losing to a division rival since 1992. The Steelers have won their past two home games against Chicago.
Last week, Cutler threw a touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett in the front left corner of the end zone to put Chicago up one with just 10 seconds to go in the game. It was the second come-from-behind victory for the Bears, who topped the Bengals after being down 10 points in the third quarter. So far this season, Cutler has been on fire under a new Marc Trestman-led coaching staff, completing 68% of his passes for 534 yards and five touchdowns. Cutler has also thrown three interceptions, but he has been great when the Bears need him most. WR Brandon Marshall has been Cutler’s go-to receiver, much like he has been in recent years, with 15 receptions for 217 yards and 2 TD this season. Cutler has also established a liking for TE Martellus Bennett, who played for the Giants last season. So far this year, Bennett has 10 receptions for 125 yards and three scores, but he's listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury. Chicago’s defense has struggled so far this season as they have allowed 51 points and 690 yards in two games, but they did get an interception return for a touchdown from Charles Tillman against the Vikings last week, one of six takeaways for Chicago in two games.
Pittsburgh has now lost its past two games, and in the process the offense has looked ugly. The Steelers didn’t get on the board against the Titans in their opener until there was 1:23 remaining in the game, which made it a meaningless score. Against the Bengals last Monday, the Steelers were tied 10-10 at half but could not put any points on the board in the third and fourth quarters. So far this season, QB Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t looked like himself as he has thrown for 442 yards (6.3 YPA), 2 TD and 2 INT while completing a pedestrian 58.6% of his passes (7th-worst in NFL). With RB Le’Veon Bell still out with a foot injury, the Steelers have completely lacked any resemblance of a running game. Felix Jones is the team’s leading rusher this season with just 37 yards on 10 carries. No player on Pittsburgh has had a carry of at least 15 yards on the season. One positive for the Steelers has been the play of CB Ike Taylor on the defensive side of the ball. Last game, Taylor was able to hold Bengals star wideout A.J. Green to just six catches for 41 yards after his dominant opening week performance in which he had 162 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh has done a tremendous job stopping the run (2.7 YPC allowed), and has allowed just 229 total YPG this year despite not forcing a single turnover yet.