Dolphins And Giants Among Top Week 9 NFL 'Dogs
We’re looking for some more “live” NFL underdogs this weekend, and there appear to be several worth considering for the November 6-7 slate.
Although dogs and favorites are level through the first eight weeks of the 2011 campaign, there are some recent developments worth noting. In particular, home underdogs are beginning to stir, experiencing their second solid performance on the trot last weekend. Over the past two weeks, home dogs are 7-3 against the number.
Let’s see if the trend continues this weekend.
Following is a quick breakdown of this weekend’s NFL card, as we look for a few tasty underdog possibilities, plus a possible underdog parlay.
Atlanta at INDIANAPOLIS +7: Some sharp money showed up on the Colts last week at Tennessee but proved ill-advised as Indy fell to 0-8 with a 27-10 loss. The storyline at Lucas Oil Stadium is gradually shifting to coach Jim Caldwell’s job status and if the Colts might indeed keep losing and line themselves up for a chance to perhaps take Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the top pick in next April’s NFL Draft (which team prexy Bill Polian has already hinted). In the meantime the Colts at least return home, where they had both the Steelers and Chiefs on the ropes in their most-recent Lucas Oil outings. As usual, everything works easier for the Falcons when they can establish RB Michael Turner’s presence on the ground, opening things up for Matt Ryan to effectively use play-action and give him an extra tick to find Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez downfield. At home, Indy might be discounted enough to be worth a look this week.
TAMPA BAY +8 at New Orleans: The Saints are demonstrating some odd bipolar tendencies this season, uncharacteristic of past Sean Payton-Drew Brees New Orleans entries. What the Saints are also doing is bouncing back with a vengeance after defeats, which the Bears and Colts found out, painfully so, earlier this season. Trendlines at the halfway point in 2011 also show the Saints making a real fortress out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdeome, winning and covering their first three at home while scoring a whopping 43 ppg. It’s also a revenge game for New Orleans against the Bucs after losing 26-20 at Raymond James Stadium on October 16. Tampa Bay’s previous road pointspread prowess has suffered in the past couple of outings away from home (losses to the 49ers and vs. the4 Bears in London), the RB situation is dangerously depleted with Earnest graham now out for the season and LeGarrette Blount’s status still questionable, and QB Josh Freeman (7 TDP and 10 picks) seems to be enduring something of a “junior” slump. We’d be careful before backing the Bucs in this one.
CLEVELAND +11 at Houston: The Browns are sure not scoring any style points with their limited offense, which makes it difficult for the Cleveland to thread the needle and stay competitive, especially if falling behind. The Brownies are scoring just 10.75 ppg in their last four outings, with injury problems now mounting in the backfield and making it harder for 2nd-year QB Colt McCoy to generate any consistency with the attack. A lot more options offensively for Houston, and Wade Phillips’ schemes are working for the Texans defense. Even at this inflated price, not sure we want to trust a Browns team that’s covered just two of its last 15 road games.
NY Jets at BUFFALO +1½: Last year these meetings were a mismatch, with the Jets scoring 38 points on each occasion and winning easily. It might not be as easy in 2011 with Chan Gailey’s improved Buffalo in the thick of the AFC East race along with the Jets and Patriots. The question in Orchard Park is if the defensive renaissance last week against the Skins, in which the Bills registered a whopping nine sacks in a 23-0 win, is a “buy” signal for a stop unit that had not impressed previously. Or was it more a function of Washington’s myriad issues at the moment? The Bills have been tough to beat at home this season, beating Oakland, New England and Philadelphia, so they’re capable of scoring the mild upset.
MIAMI +4 at Kansas City: On the surface this spread looks a bit light, considering the Chiefs' 4-game win and 5-game cover streaks, and the Dolphins' 0-7 straight-up mark. But psychology suggests Kansas City might have a challenge after that rousing Monday night overtime win over the Chargers, and the pattern this season in the NFL is for such pointspread streaks to end much sooner than KC’s current string. The Dolphins could have won either of their last two games and have historically offered much better value on the road than at home for coach Tony Sparano (Miami 19-8 vs. the spread its last 27 away). Reggie Bush also got going with 103 yards rushing last week against the Giants. And note that the Chiefs have three very narrow wins in their current four-game upswing. Miami could be a “live” dog this week.
San Francisco at WASHINGTON +3½: After watching the Rams rise from nowhere to beat the Saints last week, we don’t want to dismiss any underdog, no matter how bad it has looked in recent weeks. However, it’s hard to make a case for the Redskins, on a 3-game straight-up and spread losing streak, struggling with John Beck at QB, and depleted elsewhere offensively with RB Tim Hightower and WR Santana Moss both sidelined. Washington also did nothing offensively last week against the Bills in a 23-0 loss and watched Beck get sacked a hard-to-believe nine times. Meanwhile, San Francisco continues to cruise and has yet to post a pointspread loss in seven straight games this season. We don’t have the stomach to strongly recommend the troubled 'Skins.
SEATTLE +12 at Dallas: Maybe Dallas bounces back strongly this week after last week’s 34-7 thumping at Philadelphia. After all, the Cowboys did rout the Rams by the same 34-7 score in their last home game. They have, however, been rather unreliable as home chalk lately. Seattle admittedly isn’t much, and Pete Carroll looks as if he is going to sink with his gamble on Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at QB. But the last time we dismissed the Seahawks on the road, they upset the Giants.
DENVER +8 at Oakland: The Broncos have lost and failed to cover four straight vs. Oakland and are 2-9 vs. the line in the last 11 meetings of this old AFC West rivalry. Moreover, the Broncos have been manhandled in the pits lately by the Raiders, who averaged 256 rushing yards the past three meetings. And Tim Tebow is hardly setting the NFL on fire with his work at QB. If there’s hope for Denver, it’s the Oakland offense will continue to struggle in Jason Campbell’s absence. Can Carson Palmer look as bad at QB in his second game wearing Silver and Black as he did in the first? Denver will also hope Darren McFadden’s foot injury keeps him out of the lineup this week. Tricky call on Denver here, although an anti-Raider vote until Palmer proves worthy isn’t too far-fetched.
CINCINNATI +3 at Tennessee: Underestimate the Bengals at your won risk, as with four wins and covers in progress, they rank as the surprise NFL team of the season. A rugged defense is helping to camouflage rookie QB Andy Dalton, who is improving by the week, and RB Cedric Benson is likely to return from suspension this week. As for the Titans, they’ve been erratic, although they did discover a bit of a ground game (finally) last week. Except it was Javon Ringer and not Chris Johnson doing damage vs. Indy. There’s a good case to be made for continuing to ride Cincy until further notice.
ST. LOUIS +3 at Arizona: Still some questions about QB Sam Bradford’s availability this week for the Rams, although they looked just fine with A.J. Feeley at the controls last week vs. the Saints. Steven Jackson also rumbled for his first 100+-yard rushing game (159 yards). Arizona, at 1-6, looks a very unreliable favorite, especially with QB Kevin Kolb still prone to mistakes, and the team perhaps in a collective funk after blowing a 21-point lead at Baltimore last week.
NY GIANTS +8½ at New England: Rematch of Super Bowl XLII, but not sure about the Patriots exacting revenge. Not with their ground game disappearing over the past two games (just 72 ypg rushing vs. the Cowboys and Steelers) and the defense still springing too many leaks, especially vs. the pass, where the Pats rank last in the league. The G-Men are 22-7 their last 29 as a dog for Tom Coughlin and can stay close as long as they continue their turnover-free ways of the past two weeks.
Green Bay at SAN DIEGO +5½: San Diego is hungry after back-to-back bitter losses at the Jets and Chiefs. But QB Philip Rivers (guilty of 11 picks and three lost fumbles thus far in 2011) needs to shape up quickly to give the Bolts a chance. Green Bay has given up plenty of yards in the air but Dom Capers’ defense has forced 16 turnovers to compensate. And Aaron Rodgers is on course to smash Dan Marino’s single-season pass yardage record. Still, the Chargers can hang around if they cut out the recent mistakes.
BALTIMORE +3 at Pittsburgh (Sunday Night): Worth noting that neither of these teams have swept the regular-season spread decisions in their AFC North rivalry since 2006, before either coach (Baltimore’s John Harbaugh or Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin) assumed their current positions. Now the Steelers are in revenge mode after that ugly 35-7 opening-week loss at M&T Bank Stadium. Ravens QB Joe Flacco has not inspired much confidence with his recent efforts, while Big Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers seem to have put their early-season issues behind them. Baltimore is tempting plus the points but we advise caution.
CHICAGO +8 at Philadelphia (Monday Night): All of the attention seems to be on the Birds after their last two wins and the renaissance of a defensive unit that was strafed in the first month of the season. But the Bears have been playing better lately, too, especially since Mike Martz’s offense began using shorter 3- and 5-step drops for QB Jay Cutler, and RB Matt Forte has been establishing a chop-busting infantry diversion. Chicago backers might like their chances getting over a full TD at the Linc.
Top dog recommendations: Miami, Cincinnati, NY Giants, Chicago.