Sunday's NFL Action
September 27, 2013
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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (3-0) at HOUSTON TEXANS (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Seattle -3 & 42
Opening Line & Total: Seahawks -3 & 43
The Seahawks try to stay perfect with a tough road tilt against the reeling Texans on Sunday afternoon.
Seattle has thrown for an NFC-best 9.2 yards per pass attempt and pummeled its past two opponents (49ers and Jaguars) by a combined score of 74 to 20. Houston won each of its first two contests on the final play of the game, but despite holding the Ravens to 236 yards (4.1 per play) last week, the club still lost 30-9 as the result of a conservative offense and poor special teams. It also hurt that top WR Andre Johnson left with a shin bruise, making him questionable for Sunday. The home team has won big in both all-time meetings in this series with the Seahawks prevailing 42-10 in 2005 and the Texans rolling to a 34-7 victory in 2009 when Johnson caught 11 passes for 193 yards and 2 TD. Seattle has plenty of betting trends in its favor on Sunday. In the past two seasons, the club is 16-5 ATS (76%) overall, 11-3 ATS (79%) after a win, 8-0 ATS after gaining 6+ yards per play and 7-0 ATS versus a team with a winning record. But since 1992, the Seahawks are just 3-18 ATS (14%) off a home blowout win by 21+ points and 11-25 ATS (31%) on the road after a double-digit home win. Houston also has some favorable trends in the past three seasons, including 6-0 ATS at home following a loss, 8-1 ATS (89%) where the line is +3 to -3, and 21-8 ATS (72%) on a grass field.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson is coming off a phenomenal game in the 45-17 blowout over Jacksonville, completing 14-of-21 passes for 202 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT. He has completed 64.4% of his throws on the season and ranks third in the NFL in both passer rating (109.6) and yards per pass attempt (9.1). The Seahawks don't have a superstar receiver, but they do have great balance with 10 players having already caught multiple passes this season. WRs Sidney Rice (16 targets) and Golden Tate (15 targets) are usually Wilson's first two looks when he drops back, but TE Zach Miller has been nice safety valve with seven catches on his 10 targets, two of which have been in the end zone. But the Seahawks haven't possessed the football for 33:10 (6th in NFL) just by throwing. The ground game has chewed up 133 YPG (8th in league) thanks mostly to RB Marshawn Lynch who has carried the football 62 times (T-4th in NFL), but has a career-low 3.4 yards per carry this season. Backup RB Robert Turbin has been more effective with 4.4 YPC, but has only 12 carries with many of those coming after the game was no longer in doubt. Defensively, Seattle has just been incredible. In addition to forcing 10 turnovers, the unit leads the NFL in scoring defense (9.0 PPG), total defense (242 YPG) and passing defense (147 YPG), while allowing a mere 4.3 yards per play (4th in league) and a 32% third-down conversion rate (6th in NFL). Shutdown CB Richard Sherman will be tasked with stopping Andre Johnson while the defensive line will look for its third straight game with at least three sacks. The team has a pretty small injury list, but both LB Malcom Smith and S Jeron Johnson are questionable with hamstring ailments.
Houston's offense has been erratic this season, but the team still leads the NFL with a +139 yards per game advantage. QB Matt Schaub has posted some gaudy passing numbers (66.4% completions, 279 passing YPG and 6 TD), but he has also thrown four interceptions, with two of those returned the other way for touchdowns. Although he has the tendency to force-feed WR Andre Johnson (35 targets, 6th-most in NFL), he has also relied on two others frequently, rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins (26 targets, 18 catches) and TE Owen Daniels (20 targets, 12 catches, 3 TD). The Texans will try to be a run-first offense on Sunday, especially considering how great the Seahawks pass defense has been. RB Arian Foster takes the majority of hand-offs with 49, but has averaged a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry with just one touchdown. RB Ben Tate, on the other hand, leads all NFL running backs with 6.8 YPC, rumbling for 184 yards on his 27 attempts. Although Houston allowed 30 points last week, only 16 of those were offensive points as it was burned by a punt return touchdown and interception return TD. The Texans rank second in the NFL in both total defense (249 YPG) and first downs per game (14.7), frequently producing three-and-outs to put their offense back on the field. They have allowed a mere 4.3 yards per play (3rd in league) and place fifth in the NFL in both yards per carry (3.3 YPC) and yards per pass attempt (5.7 YPA). Houston has no major injuries on defense with FS Ed Reed making his team debut last week.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-2) at DENVER BRONCOS (3-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Denver -11.5 & 58.5
Opening Line & Total: Broncos -11.5 & 58.5
Two explosive offenses prepare for a shootout when the unbeaten Broncos host the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Philly's offense has piled up an NFL-best 7.0 yards per play and 6.6 yards per rush thanks to RB LeSean McCoy's 514 total yards. But the Eagles defense has allowed 438 total yards per game (3rd-worst in NFL) with a league-worst 35:35 defensive time of possession. Denver has assaulted its first three opponents with an NFL-leading 42.3 PPG and 487 YPG thanks to QB Peyton Manning throwing for 1,143 yards (381 YPG), 12 TD and 0 INT. Philly won the most recent meeting, 30-27 in 2009, but its past two trips to Denver have ended in lopsided losses of 49-21 and 41-16. The Eagles committed five turnovers and forced none in last week's home loss to the Chiefs, but they are 9-1 ATS after a game with a TO margin of minus-4 or worse since 1992. However, Philly has been a horrible wager in the past two seasons (4-14 ATS, 22%), including 2-10 ATS (17%) when coming off an ATS loss. On the other hand, the Broncos are 13-5 ATS (72%) in all games over the past two seasons, including 12-2 ATS (86%) as a favorite. But they also had turnover issues last week (minus-2 TO ratio), and head coach John Fox is just 6-16 ATS (27%) in his coaching career after a game in which his team had a TO margin of minus-2 or worse.
Philadelphia's sped-up offense has snapped off 198 plays (66 per game) this season, but has allowed 227 plays (76 per game) to its opponents. QB Michael Vick has been electric this year with 9.1 yards per pass attempt and 10.4 yards per carry, but he's also had too many negative plays, absorbing 11 sacks and turning the ball over four times (2 INT, 2 fumbles), including three giveaways last week against the Chiefs. He has relied heavily on RB LeSean McCoy who not only has 6.4 yards per carry (3rd in NFL), but also boasts 19.8 yards per reception (7th in NFL). Top WR DeSean Jackson is also having an incredible season with 359 receiving yards (2nd in NFL) on 18.9 yards per catch, and is starting to get some help from teammate WR Jason Avant who caught five passes for 87 yards and a touchdown last week. Although the defense has given up a ton of yards by being on the field so often, it has limited opponents to 3.98 yards per carry which is right about the league average. Philadelphia was able to generate five takeaways in its first two games of the season, and although it had none in Week 3, it did post a hefty five sacks. The one key injury to the Eagles secondary is S Patrick Chung who is questionable with a left shoulder contusion.
Denver's offense has been able to score at least 37 points in all three games due to great decision making by QB Peyton Manning who has absorbed just four sacks and has turned the ball over only once, losing a fumble against the Raiders last week. He leads the NFL in both yards per attempt (9.4) and completion percentage (73%) because he has so many excellent receivers to throw the football to. Four players already have 14+ catches this season led by the trio of WRs Demaryius Thomas (20 catches, 307 yards, 2 TD), Eric Decker (19 catches, 252 yards, 1 TD) and Wes Welker (19 catches, 190 yards, 4 TD). Manning has kept all three of these guys happy with 27+ targets apiece. TE Julius Thomas has also been outstanding with 194 receiving yards and 4 TD on his 14 grabs. But the Broncos aren't just a one-dimensional passing team. They have averaged a solid 3.9 yards per carry with the committee of RBs Knowshon Moreno (160 yards on 4.7 YPC), Montee Ball (99 yards on 3.2 YPC) and Ronnie Hillman (84 yards on 6.0 YPC) to average 112 rushing YPG, good for 14th in the NFL. Denver's run defense has been top-notch with 43.3 rushing YPG allowed and 2.3 YPC allowed, leading the league in both categories. However, opponents have been quick to abandon the run and take to the air, throwing for 327 YPG (3rd-worst in NFL) and 6.9 YPA on this Broncos secondary. Star CB Champ Bailey has yet to play this season because of a foot injury, but it's possible he could make his season debut on Sunday. Top LB Von Miller is still serving a suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and won't be eligible to return until Week 7.
CHICAGO BEARS (3-0) at DETROIT LIONS (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Detroit -2.5 & 48
Opening Line & Total: Lions -2.5 & 47.5
The unbeaten Bears try to dominate the Lions again on Sunday when the NFC North foes clash on Sunday at Ford Field.
Chicago is 9-1 SU in the past 10 meetings in this series, but Detroit is 4-1-1 ATS in the past six matchups, losing by two and six points last year. The Bears crushed the Steelers 40-23 on the road last week despite being outgained by 201 yards. They forced five Pittsburgh turnovers to increase their total to 11 takeaways in 2013. The Lions also won on the road, 27-20 at Washington, without top RB Reggie Bush (hip), who is probable to return in Week 4. QB Jay Cutler has 12 TD and 1 INT in this series since coming to Chicago, while Lions QB Matthew Stafford has struggled mightily with just 4 TD and 11 INT in this series. This matchup is difficult to handicap as both teams possess multiple glaring negative trends. The Bears are 0-8 ATS coming off a non-conference game over the past three seasons, and 3-19 ATS (14%) versus excellent offensive teams (6+ yards per play) since 1992. But in the past three seasons, Detroit is 0-10 ATS versus excellent passing teams (64% or better completion pct.) and 4-14 ATS (22%) after gaining 6+ yards per play in its previous game.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler has been very comfortable in new head coach Marc Trestman's offense this season, getting sacked only three times combined in three games. This great protection has led to a career-best 67.3% completion rate (5th in NFL) with 693 passing yards, 6 TD and 3 INT. WR Brandon Marshall is still Cutler's first look when he drops back, completing 20 of 27 targets to Marshall for 269 yards and 2 TD. However, three other players have also earned 20+ targets this season, RB Matt Forte (18 catches, 138 yards), WR Alshon Jeffery (13 receptions, 104 yards) and TE Martellus Bennett (12 catches, 135 yards) who has provided a reliable red-zone target with three touchdown grabs. The Bears have also done a decent job rushing the football with 105 YPG on 3.8 yards per carry. Forte has been the workhorse with 55 carries for 225 yards (4.1 YPC) and a pair of scores. On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago has stuffed the run nicely, ranking eighth in the NFL in both rushing defense (89 YPG) and yards per carry (3.6 YPC). However, opponents have thrown for 294 YPG (9th-most in NFL) on a hefty 8.5 yards per attempt (4th-worst in league). The pass defense also has to adjust to star CB Charles Tillman's groin injury that will prevent him from shadowing Lions stud WR Calvin Johnson like he usually does.
Detroit's offense will certainly benefit from do-it-all RB Reggie Bush returning to the field, but it will be missing No. 2 WR Nate Burleson for the next six weeks or so after he broke his arm in a car accident early this week. Burleson's absence will put more onus on WR Ryan Broyles, who is still recovering from last year's torn ACL, and WR Patrick Edwards, who missed last week's game with a sprained ankle, but does expect to return on Sunday. But the Lions have other perfectly healthy weapons in QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and RB Joique Bell (296 total yards, 3 TD). Stafford has taken just two sacks over the first three games, which has given him the confidence to throw for 1,020 yards (4th in NFL) on 8.4 YPA (5th in league) with 6 TD and only 2 INT. Although Stafford has been terrible versus the Bears in his career, a lot of that has to do with Johnson being limited by Bears CB Charles Tillman. Last season, Johnson set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards (123 per game), but gained only 106 yards (53 per game) against the Bears. With Tillman hurting, Stafford and Johnson could both enjoy a huge afternoon. Detroit has better offensive balance this year with both Bell and Bush capable of rushing the football, but the team is averaging just 75 rushing YPG (7th-worst in NFL) on 2.9 YPC (4th-worst in league). Detroit's defense has been below average in terms of total yards per game (366 YPG, 18th in NFL) and yards per play (5.7 YPP, 22nd in league), but has produced the best stoppage rate on third downs in the NFL, allowing opponents to convert a mere 26.5% of its third downs. The Lions have also done a nice job of making plays with seven takeaways (5 INT, 2 fumbles), but have only a half-dozen sacks on the season. Losing DT Jason Jones to a season-ending knee injury will hurt, but Detroit still has plenty of talent on its front line with three former first-round draft picks in DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley and rookie DE Ezekial Ansah, who recorded two sacks last week.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (3-0) at ATLANTA FALCONS (1-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Atlanta -2.5 & 50.5
Opening Line & Total: Pick 'em & 49.5
The Falcons look to get back to .500 while the Patriots try to stay undefeated when the two teams square off at Georgia Dome on Sunday night.
The last time New England and Atlanta played was in September of 2009 where the Patriots held a 445 to 257 yards advantage and prevailed 26-10. New England was a 4-point underdog in that game and was able to win-and-cover for the third straight time against Atlanta. The Falcons have allowed 296 passing YPG this season (25th in NFL), which doesn't bode well against a Tom Brady-led offense that could have TE Rob Gronkowski (back) for the first time this season. However, Atlanta also has a potent air attack (289 passing YPG, 7th in NFL) and will provide the first real test for New England's suspect secondary, which has faced three of the league's worst starting quarterbacks (Josh Freeman, Geno Smith and EJ Manuel). The Patriots are 39-16 ATS (71%) as an underdog under head coach Bill Belichick, but the Falcons are is 8-1 ATS in September home games under head coach Mike Smith. Although New England is 14-4 ATS (78%) coming off of a Belichick-coached game where his team allowed six points or less, Atlanta is 19-5 ATS (79%) after a loss under Smith.
The Patriots are 3-0 SU to start the season, but their offense hasn't played well at all, gaining just 4.5 yards per play (3rd-fewest in NFL) and scoring only 19.7 PPG (22nd in league). New England is coming off a 23-3 victory over the Buccaneers in which Tom Brady's receivers finally provided him with some competent play. Aaron Dobson had seven catches in the game for 52 yards while Kenbrell Thompkins was the recipient of two red-zone touchdown passes. WR Julian Edelman also chipped in with seven receptions for 44 yards, as he's tied for the NFL lead with 27 catches this year. Brady was 25-of-36 for 225 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT in the game, marking his 51st straight game with at least one touchdown pass. Many of those touchdown passes during his streak have gone to TE Rob Gronkowski who has an incredible 39 TD catches in 43 career games. The Patriots rushing offense really sputtered in Week 2 versus the Jets (24 carries for 54 yards), but chewed up 156 rushing yards as a team versus the Bucs, led by LeGarrette Blount's 65 yards on 14 carries and Brandon Bolden's 51 yards on just three rushing attempts in his season debut. One the defensive end, New England was near perfect, allowing just 323 yards of total offense against a weak Buccaneers team. For the season, the Patriots have allowed just 11.3 PPG (T-2nd in NFL) and 309 total YPG (T-8th in league), while forcing an impressive seven turnovers. With the offense beginning to get healthier and the Patriots still undefeated, it's interesting to see just how good this team will be in a couple of weeks when Gronkowski and top WR Danny Amendola (groin) return healthy.
Atlanta's defense has really struggled this season, allowing 24.7 PPG (T-19th in NFL) and 375 total YPG (23rd in league). They defense hasn't been able to get stops when it has needed to, both on third down (48% conversion rate, 5th-worst in NFL) and in the red zone (70% efficiency, T-23rd in league). Without RB Steven Jackson, who is out for a month with a thigh injury, the Falcons' backfield duo of RBs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling was very productive last week, combining for 139 yards on 29 carries (4.8 YPC). Snelling also caught four passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. QB Matt Ryan went 23-of-38 for 231 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the game. WR Julio Jones continues to give opposing defenses nightmares as he caught nine passes for 115 yards. He now has a league-high-tying 27 receptions for an NFL-best 373 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Jones also leads the league with 194 yards after catch, which has been key because fellow WR Roddy White is still dealing with a high-ankle sprain that has really limited his usually stellar production. TE Tony Gonzalez is also off to a slow start with just 11 catches for 93 yards and one touchdown, a big drop-off from his 2012 season when he caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight scores.