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In one of the more lower scoring matinees of this NFL season, the favorites and the dogs played to a near stalemate, with three contests landing at or within a half point of the number, while the house benefited by the lack of offensive productivity as 11 of the 16 contests failed to eclipse their closing totals.
The Steelers four-point victory over the Browns illuminated the importance of shopping the number as the line closed between 3 ˝ to as high as 4 ˝ in some spots, as Cleveland was foiled by a Ben Roethlisberger to Willie Parker four-yard touchdown pass with only 32 seconds remaining as the Steelers salvaged a 24-20 win.
Coincidentally, those that laid 3 points with the Buccaneers came up the identical 32 seconds short of cashing a winning ticket as the Redskins drove 80 yards in 14 plays to give their backers a push in falling 20-17. Left shaking their heads were those bettors that went under the total of 33 as the teams combined for 17 points in the last 9 ˝ minutes of the contest. Yet another spread decided by the slimmest of margins had the Dolphins gaining their fourth win with a 24-20 victory over the Vikings, in spite of failing to muster positive rushing yardage in finishing with -3 for the game. A 3 ˝-point dog, Minnesota scored as time expired and opted to go for the PAT which closed the gap to 4, instead of going for a 2 point conversion, which would have been the obvious decision had any time been remaining on the clock.
Two shutouts that proved detrimental to the house were the Bears whitewashing of the Jets, 10-0, and the Panthers blanking of the Rams 15-0, as St. Louis could manage only 111 yards of total net yards and Marc Bulger was sacked 7 times behind a line that failed to adjust to tackle Orlando Pace’s absence, who is out with an injury. Bettors opted to lay the points in anticipation of blowouts, though in both cases, the dogs went down fighting as both were within range of the number until the end, though Carolina did get a safety with just a shade over two minutes remaining which allowed Panther backers to breathe a sigh of relief.
Three minor upsets that dented the players’ bankroll had the Bills squeaking by the Texans 24-21, the Saints falling to the Bengals 31-16, and the resurgent 49ers defeating the Seahawks 20-14. Buffalo had their best offensive showing of the season as they racked up 403 yards of offense, while Drew Brees passed for over 500 yards, yet the Saints could manage only 16 points, largely due to a pair of errant passes that were picked off in the end zone. In San Francisco, RB Frank Gore ran for a franchise record 212 yards as the Niners pulled to within a game of the division lead.
Two contests that saw solid two-way action had Baltimore overcoming a 7-0 halftime deficit in pulling away to a 24-10 victory over Atlanta, while the Cardinals held off the Lions’ late charge as they prevailed 17-10 in securing only their second win of the year.
The upset of the day was reserved for the Titans as they rushed for 209 yards and went on to a 31-13 victory over the Eagles, who saw their playoff aspirations dashed not only by the loss that dropped them to .500, but with a season ending injury to Donovan McNabb. Quarterbacking duties will now fall into the hands of either A.J. Feeley or Jeff Garcia, depending on a decision that coach Andy Reid will likely make by midweek. A late fumble recovery and subsequent lateral resulted in a Tennessee touchdown with 20 seconds remaining giving the majority of over bettors some pre holiday cheer as the number opened at 41.5 and moved up decisively, closing as high as 45 in some spots.
The money mover of the day saw the Chiefs get by the Raiders, 17-13, in a non-spread covering win in which KC scored with just over three minutes remaining, and then held off a determined Raider team by killing a late drive. The Chiefs were as much as a 10-point favorite for most of the week, but a late surge of Raider money on game day triggered a drop in the line to 8. The late action wiped out what would have been a favorable result for the house, and the teasers were spared by virtue of the marginal Chief victory.
The game of the day saw Indy fall from the ranks of the unbeaten as Dallas overcame two Mike Vanderjagt errant field goal attempts in prevailing by a score of 21-14. Tony Romo once again looked like the real deal in completing 19 of 23, while Peyton Manning was under constant siege by the aggressive Dallas pass rush. Squares were all over Indianapolis while the sharps were on Dallas as the Cowboys lifted their record to 6-4.
In Denver, the Chargers overcame a huge third quarter deficit for the second week in a row as they defeated the Broncos 35-27 at Invesco Field. The game, which produced steady two-way action on both the side and the total, saw a 24-7 Bronco lead evaporate, the result of 4 late Charger scores, 3 of them by LaDainian Tomlinson. San Diego took a one-game lead in the competitive AFC West with a Charger Bronco rematch set for Dec. 10 in Southern California.
Monday night had the Jaguars once again asserting their home field dominance as they defeated the Giants 26-10. Bettors were once again undecided as to a clear choice on both the side and total, as Jacksonville upped their home record to 5-1, which includes a pair of shutouts. Tiki Barber was held to 27 yards rushing and the Giants fell into a tie with the Cowboys at 6-4, who they will meet a week from Sunday in the Meadowlands.
Week 11 was one of give and take as the players got their piece of the pie, but the house is still firmly in command. The home stretch is around the bend. Enjoy your holiday, and may the pigskin be with you.