Sunday's Top Action
October 25, 2013
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WASHINGTON REDSKINS (2-4) at DENVER BRONCOS (6-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Denver -13 & 59.5
Opening Line & Total: Broncos -14 & 58
Two high-powered offenses collide on Sunday when the Broncos host the Redskins.
Washington QB Robert Griffin III accounted for 382 yards (298 passing, 84 rushing) of his team's 499 total yards in last week's 45-41 win over Chicago, and he'll need another big effort against a Denver team that has tallied at least 33 points and 400 yards in all seven games. However, the Broncos also allowed 39 points last week in Indianapolis to suffer their first loss of the season. These teams have split the past eight meetings (4-4 SU), but Washington holds the 6-2 ATS edge. The last time Denver covered against the Redskins was in a 38-16 win in 1998, back when John Elway led the offense and Harald "The Dutch Touch" Hasselbach played on the defensive line. Both teams have some positive trends, including Washington going 8-1 ATS (89%) versus poor passing defenses (235+ passing YPG allowed) in the past two seasons and tallying a 14-3 ATS (82%) road mark since 1992 after gaining 175+ rushing yards in a game. Since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos before last year, his team is 13-5 ATS (72%) when favored, and 6-0 ATS versus bad teams (25% to 40% win pct.), winning these games by an average score of 37 to 13. While both teams are relatively healthy, two key players in the secondary will not play on Sunday -- Redskins SS Brandon Meriweather (suspension) and Denver top CB Champ Bailey (foot).
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is finally 100 percent healed from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of last season, and has been let loose with running the football. After averaging 4.5 carries per game over the first four contests, he has rushed 20 times over the past two games, tallying 161 yards (8.2 YPA). Along with top RB Alfred Morris (472 rush yards, 5.2 YPC, 3 TD), Washington ranks second in the NFL in yards per carry (5.2) and fourth in rushing yards (142 YPG) this year. Griffin hasn't been as efficient throwing the football this season though, with an 83.4 passer rating (7.3 YPA, 8 TD, 6 INT), which is down considerably from his 102.4 rating (8.1 YPA, 20 TD, 5 INT) as a rookie. But he'll be throwing against a terrible Broncos pass defense, and mostly targeting top WR Pierre Garcon (40 rec., 466 yards, 2 TD) and emerging star TE Jordan Reed (26 rec., 298 yards, 2 TD) who caught nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown last week. While the Redskins' offense should put up plenty of points on Sunday, the defense will have to make major strides to keep the Broncos offense in check. Washington has allowed the fourth-most yards per play in the NFL (6.1) and its 30.7 PPG makes it the third-worst scoring defense in the league. Although the Redskins' third-down defense has been strong (36%, 8th in NFL), their red-zone efficiency has not (61%, 25th in league). Washington will need to force some Denver mistakes to keep the score down, but it has a positive turnover margin just twice this season. The Redskins have tallied just three sacks over the past two games, and will need to put pressure on Broncos QB Peyton Manning to have a chance here.
Manning couldn't lead his current team to a win over his old team last Sunday night, but he still nearly brought his team back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter, finishing 29-of-49 for 386 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT in the 39-33 loss. That puts Manning's incredible numbers this season at 72% completions, 2,565 passing yards (366 per game), 25 TD and 3 INT. He's been able to complete more than 35 passes to four different receivers with WR Wes Welker leading the team in catches (44), WR Eric Decker leading in receiving yards (627), TE Julius Thomas tying Welker for the league lead with eight receiving touchdowns, and WR Demaryius Thomas doing it all with 41 catches for 610 yards and 5 TD. The Denver ground game hasn't been great though, with 108 rushing YPG (16th in NFL) on 3.8 yards per carry (22nd in league). But RB Knowshon Moreno (413 rush yards, 4.3 YPC) has done a great job of finding the end zone with an NFL-high eight touchdown runs, while helping his team post the NFL's best red zone efficiency (79%). The Broncos also lead the league in points (42.6 PPG), yards (469 YPG) and third-down conversions (53%). The defense has been a much different story though. Denver has been outstanding stopping the run with a league-leading 77 rushing YPG allowed on 3.3 YPC (2nd in NFL). But no team has allowed more passing yards than the Broncos (320 YPG), and the loss of CB Champ Bailey will certainly hurt. They give up 28.1 PPG (6th-worst in NFL) and are below average in both red zone efficiency (59%, 20th in league) and first downs allowed (25th in NFL). Denver, which tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks last year, has been lacking a stud pass rusher, which is why it has a pedestrian 19 sacks this season (T-13th in NFL). But with LB Von Miller likely to play more snaps in his second game back from a suspension, the Redskins offensive line has to be ready to account for Miller coming off the edge.
DALLAS COWBOYS (4-3) at DETROIT LIONS (4-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Dallas -3 & 52
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -3 & 51
The surging Cowboys seek a third straight victory on Sunday when they visit a struggling Lions defense.
Detroit has allowed 420 total YPG since Week 3, but its offense has converted 44.2% of third downs (4th-best in NFL) and QB Matthew Stafford has been stellar (304 pass YPG, 15 TD, 4 INT). Dallas QB Tony Romo has nearly identical stats (287 pass YPG, 15 TD, 5 INT), but his team's defense has been stepped up big recently by holding the potent Redskins and Eagles offenses to 9.5 PPG in the past two games. The Cowboys are 5-2 SU in this series since 2003, but the Lions erased a 27-3 deficit (thanks in large part to two Romo pick-sixes) to win 34-30 in the most recent meeting in 2011. Both teams have some negative trends for this matchup though. Since 1992, Dallas is 5-22 ATS (19%) on the road after allowing nine points or less, and is 8-26 ATS (24%) away off two or more consecutive Unders since 1992. But Detroit is a dreadful 1-12 ATS versus excellent passing teams (completion pct. of at least 64%) over the past three seasons and 2-11 ATS off one or more straight Overs in the past two seasons.
The Cowboys have scored 28.6 PPG this season (3rd in NFL) thanks to the league's third-best red-zone efficiency (68%). The Tony Romo-led air attack ranks eighth in the NFL with 269 passing YPG, with a huge contribution from WR Dez Bryant who has 569 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns (tied for 3rd in NFL). With starting WR Miles Austin still slowed by a hamstring injury, rookie WR Terrance Williams has put together four productive games in a row, grabbing 19 passes for 320 yards and three scores. Although the Dallas rushing attack has a mere 83 YPG (24th in NFL), it appears that starting RB DeMarco Murray will be able to return to action this week after missing the win at Philadelphia because of a knee injury. Murray has rushed for 428 yards on 4.7 YPC and is a huge upgrade from backup RB Joseph Randle, who is averaging just 2.7 YPC on his 30 attempts. On defense, Dallas has been doing a great job of creating turnovers with seven takeaways over the past three games. But this aggressiveness sometimes leads to big plays, as the Cowboys rank 30th in pass defense (292 YPG) and 29th in total defense (394 YPG). The pass rush has been strong this season though with 3+ sacks in five of the seven games.
Like Dallas, Detroit also has a pass-first offense with 295 passing YPG (5th in NFL), but just 92 rushing YPG (21st in league). And also like Dallas, the air attack includes an elite wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, who already has more touchdown catches (6 TD in six games) than he did last year (5 TD in 16 games). Johnson's knee injury finally appears to be a thing of the past, as he busted out for season highs in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (155) in last week's 27-24 loss to the Bengals. RB Reggie Bush is also a key to this offense both as a ball carrier and receiver, as he has 426 rushing yards (4.4 YPC) and is second on the team in receiving yards with 305, totaling three touchdowns during his large workload. The Lions defense has generally struggled this season despite being on the field for just 28:22. They have given up the second-most yards in the NFL (397 YPG) and rank last in the league in yards per carry allowed (5.1 YPC). However, Detroit has stood tall when it has matter most with the NFL's fifth-best red zone defense (42%) and second-best defense on third downs (29.9%). But after generating 11 takeaways in its first four games, Detroit has forced just two turnovers in the past three contests. The pass rush has also been horrible recently with just four sacks over the past three games.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-3) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: New England -7 & 45
Opening Line & Total: Patriots -6.5 & 46
Slumping AFC East foes square off Sunday when the Dolphins visit the Patriots.
Miami has dropped three straight games (SU and ATS), but the past two have come by a combined five points. New England has lost two of three, with those two defeats coming by 10 total points. These slides can both be attributed heavily to poor quarterback play over the past three weeks with Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill completing just 55% of his passes with 5 INT, while Pats QB Tom Brady has a 51% completion rate, 5.5 YPA, 1 TD, 3 INT and 13 sacks taken. But Brady has thrown for 283 YPG, 11 TD and 2 INT during a six-game SU win streak (4-1-1 ATS) over Miami. He might also get his top wide receiver back with Danny Amendola, who missed last Sunday's overtime loss to the Jets with a concussion, but has been practicing all week and expects to play against Miami. Although the Dolphins are in a free-fall, underdogs with a winning percentage between 45% and 55% after being beaten by the spread by 28+ points in their previous three games are 31-9 ATS (78%) over the past 10 seasons. However, New England is 11-2 ATS (85%) off a division game since the start of 2011, winning these games by an average score of 35 to 15.
Miami QB Ryan Tannehill hasn't been great lately, but he still tossed three touchdowns in last week's 23-21 loss to the Bills. However, his Dolphins managed just 16 total points in getting swept by the Patriots last year, as Tannehill completed only 51.6% of his passes for 421 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. But while Miami's air attack has been average this season (235 passing YPG, 16th in NFL), its ground game has been dreadful with just 78 rushing YPG (25th in league). Although top RB Lamar Miller has a respectable 254 yards on 59 carries (4.3 YPC), backup RB Daniel Thomas continues to drag this offense down with a mere 3.4 yards per carry on his 39 attempts. A big reason why the Dolphins have just 313 total YPG this season (6th-worst in NFL) is because they have the fourth-worst time of possession (27:27), but have done a great job on capitalizing on their opportunities with a 72.2% red-zone efficiency (2nd in the NFL. Defensively, Miami has really done a solid job against the run by holding teams to 103 YPG on 3.8 YPC, but the club has surrendered 269 passing YPG (25th in NFL) and has been on the field for 32:32 (5th-most in league). During their six-game losing skid to the Patriots, the Dolphins have forced a total of just three turnovers while committing 12 miscues. Top pass-rushing DE Cameron Wake played limited snaps last week in his return from a knee injury, but he expects to play his typical workload on Sunday. Wake has 4.5 sacks during his team's six-game losing skid to the Patriots.
Patriots QB Tom Brady might finally have his full complement of receivers to use this week if WR Danny Amendola (concussion) is cleared to play. Amendola has logged just one full game all year, but has still been targeted 27 times, resulting in 16 catches. Speaking of targets, Brady wasted no time in getting star TE Rob Gronkowski back in the flow of things with 17 targets, but due to some poor passes, Gronkowski pulled in just eight of those attempts, but still managed 114 yards. He has also fared quite well against the Dolphins with 21 catches for 308 yards and 3 TD in his past four meetings. The Patriots are averaging just 5.5 yards per pass attempt (3rd-worst in NFL), and have been subpar in the red zone as well with a 45.8% conversion rate (26th in NFL), two areas in which a healthy Gronkowski should provide a big boost in. Having a slightly above-average ground game (116 rushing YPG, 13th in NFL) hasn't helped much, but top RB Stevan Ridley has run very well in two games since returning from injury with 146 yards on 31 carries (4.7 YPC) and three touchdowns. The Patriots' defense hopes that top CB Aqib Talib, who missed last week's game with a hip injury, can return to action, but New England's run defense is a bigger concern without LB Jerod Mayo (pectoral) and DTs Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and Tommy Kelly (knee). After allowing the Jets to keep the ball for 46:13 and gain 177 yards on 52 carries, the Patriots now rank second-to-last in the NFL in run defense (127 YPG) and seventh-worst in time of possession (31:36). One area this defense has thrived in has been forcing turnovers with 13 takeaways in seven games.
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