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Cnotes Week # 15 NFL Best Bets 12/13-12/19 !

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On 12/13/2011 07:06 PM in NFL
Falcons Host Jaguars On Thursday Night Football

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons both rallied back from large deficits on Sunday and hope to build on their big wins when they square off at the Georgia Dome on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons (8-5) can take another step toward returning to the playoffs with their fourth win in five weeks while the Jaguars (4-9) will try to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

Game time is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. (ET) with television coverage provided by NFL Network. Atlanta opened as a 10½-point favorite according to the Don Best odds screen and has already been bet up to -11½ at some sportsbooks with the total sitting at 42½.

The Falcons are the defending NFC South champions but remained two games behind the New Orleans Saints (10-3) for the division lead since each team won last week. Atlanta outscored the Carolina Panthers 24-0 in the second half of a 31-23 road victory behind 320 passing yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Matt Ryan. Two of the touchdowns went to rookie wide receiver Julio Jones, who finished with three catches for 104 yards.

Jacksonville had a similar comeback but did most of its damage in the second quarter of a 41-14 home win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jaguars trailed 14-0 early in the second before scoring 28 unanswered points to take a 28-14 halftime lead. Their defense played outstanding the rest of the way as well, failing to allow a point after the intermission.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew continued his drive for the NFL rushing title and now leads the league with 1,222 yards on the ground for Jacksonville. Jones-Drew had 85 yards on 27 carries against the Bucs and scored four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving.

The Falcons had given up 95.2 rushing yards per game heading into the game against the Panthers but surrendered 157 to them on 23 carries. Still, Atlanta did pick off rookie QB Cam Newton twice and will face another rookie here in Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars.

Gabbert threw two interceptions in the win over Tampa Bay, but he also threw two touchdown passes and had 217 passing yards, the second-highest total of his young career. He will need to help balance out the offense again to give his team a chance against the Falcons.

Jacksonville has seen the ‘over’ cash twice since defensive coordinator Mel Tucker took over as interim head coach for Jack Del Rio. Atlanta had seen the total go ‘under’ in its previous eight games before Sunday, and the team is 1-3-1 against the spread in its past five.

The Jaguars have won three of the four head-to-head meetings since Jacksonville joined the NFL in 1995, but Atlanta has covered the spread in three of the games. The most recent matchup was just over four years ago in Jacksonville, a 13-7 Jags victory as 10-point favorites.

All four of the games stayed below the NFL betting total.
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12/13/2011 07:09 PM
Houston Texans Take On Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Had you told an average NFL betting fan at the start of the year that the Carolina Panthers would be using rookie Cam Newton as their starting quarterback, that would have been expected. However, had you told that same fan that in Week 15, he was going to be going against another rookie, TJ Yates for the Houston Texans, they probably would have told you that you were crazy.

That's exactly what the case will be this week though, as Houston tries to improve its playoff positioning when it takes on the Panthers at Reliant Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, and there will be regional television coverage on FOX.

The Texans (10-3 SU, 9-3-1 ATS) have locked up a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history. If the playoffs were to start today, they would be the No. 1 seed in the AFC as well. Considering the fact that all three of the other 10-3 teams in the AFC are on the road in Week 15, this is a glorious opportunity for the team to potentially seize control of its own fate for that top spot in the conference once and for all.

Last week finally looked like it would be the week in which the Texans started to show chinks in the armor. Alas, down six points with just over two minutes to play, Yates drove the team 80 yards and hit Kevin Walter on a six-yard TD pass on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals to lock up the team's first 10-win season, its first AFC South crown, and its first postseason bid.

Yates hasn't been great in his three games calling the shots in the Lone Star State, but the rookie has done what he had to do. He has thrown for 558 yards and three scores against just one INT.

The real kudos goes out to this defense, which is holding teams down to just 274.9 YPG, the best mark in the league. Houston hasn't surrendered more than 19 points in a game since an October 16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Since that point, the team is 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS.

If there were really any chances left to get into the playoffs, the Panthers (4-9 SU, 7-6 ATS) blew them last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. They let Matt Ryan throw four TDs, three of which came in the second half en route to a 31-23 Falcons win. A Carolina victory would have left the team two-games back of the final Wild Card slot in the NFC with three games to go, but instead the team has been mathematically eliminated.

Still, that doesn't deter from how good this offense has been this year. The Panthers rank No. 5 in the league in total offense at 398.8 YPG, and that's thanks to the play of Newton.

The rookie has thrown for 3,573 yards and 15 TDs and has rushed for 554 yards and 13 TDs. He is one of the three rushers on this team to account for at least 550 yards on the ground, and he, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to almost surely combine for at least 2,000 rushing yards this year.

The injury front is rather quiet for Carolina. Jordan Gross didn't play against Atlanta with an ankle injury, and he is considered day-to-day for Week 15. Houston, on the other hand, will still be sweating out the hamstring injury to Andre Johnson. The former Miami Hurricane sat against Cincinnati, starting his second stint out of the lineup with a hamstring problem. Gary Kubiak has already stated that he is going to take his time bringing Johnson back into the fold, and we have to imagine that that will be enhanced now that the Texans have locked up their playoff spot.

There have only been two meetings between these teams since the Texans came into existence, and both finished in favor of Houston. The Texans won 34-21 in Charlotte in 2007 and 14-10 here at Reliant Stadium in 2003. They covered both spreads.

Houston opened up Week 15 favored by 6½-points on the NFL betting lines. The total has opened at 46½.

A cloudy day with a 40 percent chance of showers in the Bayou City will have the Reliant Stadium roof closed for this one.
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12/13/2011 07:10 PM
New York Giants Seek Revenge Vs. Washington Redskins

The New York Giants look to keep pushing towards the NFC East Division title when they host the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Giants (7-6) suddenly find themselves in control of their own playoff destiny following a wild 37-34 road win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

New York assumed control of the NFC East after coming back from a 12-point deficit in the final 3:14 to beat the Cowboys (7-6), ending a four-game losing streak. The Giants now hope to avoid a letdown and avenge a 28-14 road loss to the Redskins (4-9) in the season opener.

New York opened as a 7-point favorite for the rematch with Washington after losing the first meeting as 2 ½-point road ‘chalk.’

The Giants continue to ride the arm of quarterback Eli Manning, who was finally able to cash in on his fourth-quarter heroics again with a victory for the first time since beating the New England Patriots in Week 9. Manning tied a single-season record for most touchdown passes in the fourth quarter when he tossed No. 14 to tight end Jake Ballard to pull within 34-29. Then running back Brandon Jacobs scored the game-winning touchdown with 46 seconds remaining to complete the rally.

Manning has thrown for at least 250 yards in 11 straight games, averaging 384.3 in his past three. While he has tossed interceptions in the last six games, he has found a way to overcome them and keep his team alive late in the game. During New York’s four-game skid, three of the games were decided by seven points or less.

Two of the six losses by the Giants this year have been by 14 points or less, including the earlier setback to Washington. That is also just one of two games in which Manning did not throw at least one touchdown pass. He did run for the first score of the game but later threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

The Redskins are coming off a 34-27 home loss to the New England Patriots, coming up just short in falling for the eighth time in nine games. They are 1-8 since their bye week following a 3-1 start, but have gone 3-1 against the spread in their past four with the ‘over’ cashing each time.

Washington kept pace with the Patriots due to the strong running of RB Roy Helu, who finished with 126 rushing yards on 27 carries. But the team had no answer for New England Rob Gronkowski, as he made six catches for 160 yards and scored two touchdowns to set the NFL single-season record for scores by a tight end with 15.

Redskins QB Rex Grossman threw one pick and also fumbled in the end zone, which was recovered by the Patriots for the first touchdown of the game. Grossman has turned the ball over in every game he has played this season, but the first meeting with New York remains the only game that he was not picked off in.

Game time is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (ET) with television coverage provided by FOX. The weather forecast for East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday calls for sunny skies and a high temperature of 40.
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12/13/2011 07:12 PM
Miami Dolphins Head North To Face Buffalo Bills

The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are both holding on to the dimmest of playoff hopes this year, and the two will meet in an AFC East tussle in Week 15. The NFL betting lines will be on the board for this one until 1:00 (ET) on Sunday afternoon, when regional TV coverage gets started on CBS.

It seems amazing that Buffalo (5-8 SU, 5-7-1 ATS) still has a shot of getting into the playoffs despite losing six straight games. The defeats seem to be getting worse and worse as well, as the Bills were trounced last week by the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium, 37-10. They are only 1-5 ATS during this losing streak.

It's hard to really mention much of anything that has been good on this losing streak. The offense is only scoring 12.8 PPG, and the defense is conceding 32.3 PPG on this run.

It should come as no surprise that the numbers for Ryan Fitzpatrick have gone downhill severely over the last few weeks. After posting six games out of seven with a quarterback rating of at least 88 and a completion percentage of greater than 60 percent to start the season, the Harvard grad has only completed more than 60 percent of his passes in three of his last six, and he has had four games with a QB rating between 31 and 52.

With Fred Jackson out of the lineup and on injured reserve, there just aren't any consistent weapons on offense. CJ Spiller was averaging 5.5 YPC when he took over for Jackson as the starter, and since that point, he has just 184 yards on 45 carries, an average of a tick over 4.0 YPC.

The Dolphins (4-9 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) came out this week and announced they will be replacing Tony Sparano as their head coach for next season. Considering the fact that Sparano was rumored to be run out of town after last season, this was really one of the worst kept secrets in the league.

There is a serious question whether Miami is going to take these last three games seriously or not. The team has been without starting quarterback Chad Henne for months, and now, Matt Moore is probably out of the fold with a head injury that he suffered last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

JP Losman, a former Bill, came in and went 6-of-10 for 60 yards after the Eagles game was relatively out of hand, and he could be called into starting duty this week.

The good news is that the Miami defense really has played well for the majority of the season. After allowing over 500 passing yards to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 1, the team has settled down and allowed an average of just 311.2 YPG and 17.3 PPG. Last week's 26-10 loss was the first time that the Dolphins had allowed more than 20 points in a game since Week 4.

With the injury situation to Moore unclear, this game is off the Week 15 NFL odds board.

The Bills were romped 35-8 on November 20 when these teams met in South Beach. That win gave the Dolphins a 5-2 SU and ATS edge in this series dating back to the 2008 season.

One would think that the Dolphins would struggle on the road in December, especially against cold weather teams. However, they have covered seven in a row and 11-of-13 on the road in December.

Expect temperatures to be around the freezing mark on Sunday, as highs are only in the mid-30s. There isn't a threat of rain, but cloudy conditions are expected.
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12/13/2011 07:14 PM
Slipping Dallas Cowboys Meet Troubled Tampa Bay

That loud boom you heard Sunday night just might have been the Dallas Cowboys' season blowing up. Just a few minutes away from taking a two-game lead in the turbulent NFC East, Dallas fell victim to a late rally by the New York Giants and now enters Week 15 in a must-win situation on the road.

Compounding the situation is the Cowboys will have to go the rest of the way without rookie halfback DeMarco Murray who needs surgery on his right ankle after suffering the injury early in the loss to the Giants.

If there's any good news in the short-term, it's that Dallas will be facing the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Saturday night. The Cowboys' current two-game slide pales in comparison to the seven-game losing run the Bucs are currently riding.

Dallas opened as a touchdown favorite at Raymond James Stadium, with the Don Best odds screen listing 46½ for the total.

The Cowboys seemed to be in control Sunday night when Tony Romo tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game to give Dallas a 34-22 lead with under six minutes remaining. Miles Austin had returned to the receiving corps for the first time in five weeks, catching one of Romo's two fourth-quarter scoring strikes, and Felix Jones stepped in for the injured Murray to record a nice 16-carry, 106-yard linescore on the ground.

All appeared well in Big D.

Eli Manning then went to work, however, rekindling some of the fourth-quarter magic he'd shown several times earlier this season. An 8-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short TD pass to Jake Ballard brought the Giants within five points, and a three-&-out for the Cowboys offense gave the ball back to New York on its 42 with more than two minutes to go.

Six plays and a two-point conversion later, the Giants were back in front to stay at 37-34.

Dallas still had a great shot to tie the game on a Dan Bailey field goal with just a second left, and Bailey's initial kick was good. But the Giants had called timeout, and the ensuing try by Bailey was blocked by New York defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Once again, a pesky timeout had cost the Cowboys. On the three-&-out series before New York's final touchdown, Dallas failed to force the Giants to use their last TO when the Cowboys elected to pass on third-&-five instead of running the ball.

Jason Garrett now has to answer questions about that play just as he did the week before when an ill-advised Dallas timeout played a role in the overtime loss at Arizona. At least the Cowboys head coach will only have five days to put up with the questions before Saturday's contest in Tampa.

The questions will get much tougher if Garrett and the 'Boys can't beat the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is in an extremely stinky state right now, with a capital P-U.

Let's start with 31 turnovers for the Bucs, 20 of those interceptions and 18 of that number tossed by Josh Freeman whose QB rating sits 27th on a list of 32 NFL signal callers. Tampa turned it over a whopping seven times in Sunday's 41-14 thrashing at the hands of Jacksonville, Freeman tossing two picks and losing a fumble as part of his miserable afternoon.

As impotent as the offense has been, the defense has been even worse. Tampa Bay has surrendered more points than any team outside Indianapolis, and allowed more yards than all but three teams – the Giants, Packers and Patriots, all of which have the offenses to make up for defensive shortcomings.

Freeman is nursing a sore shoulder and is listed as probable for Saturday's tilt. The defense has been battling injuries for much of the season, with backup safety Larry Asante questionable for this game due to a bad hamstring.

Dallas and Tampa Bay have split their last six meetings straight up, with the Cowboys winning the most recent matchup in 2009, 34-21 as 5-point road favorites. That cover left Dallas on a three-game cover streak in this series, though neither team enters this game having won many friends at the window. The Cowboys have failed to beat the spread in four consecutive outings, all as favorites in the 4½-7 point range, and are just 4-8-1 ATS on the season; the Bucs have dropped three straight against the spread and are 4-9 in that department this year.

The NFL Network begins its game coverage at 8:20 p.m. (ET) with the kickoff coming nine minutes later. It should be a nice evening for football in Tampa where forecasters are calling for partly cloudy skies and a game-time temp in the upper-60s.
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12/13/2011 07:16 PM
Tennessee Titans Travel To Take On Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts host the Tennessee Titans Sunday in a division rivalry game with plenty at stake for both teams.

Tennessee is currently a 6½-point favorite on the Don Best odds screen. Sunday’s game will be televised nationally on CBS and is set to kick off at 1:00 p.m. (ET).

Currently tied with the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals at 7-6 straight up and one game behind the 8-5 New York Jets, the Titans are still alive in the AFC Wild Card race, but they’ll need to win out. Indianapolis is trying to avoid becoming just the second team ever to finish with an 0-16 record, and they have the opportunity to play spoiler to a hated division rival at home. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Colts this Sunday.

Tennessee (7-6) had a two-game winning streak snapped at home by the New Orleans Saints last week. The Titans’ defense did a good job in containing the Saints’ prolific offense to just 22 points, and quarterback Jake Locker led the offense to first-and-goal on the five-yard line in the game’s closing seconds; but New Orleans held on and picked up the 22-17 win.

If there was any question that Chris Johnson is the X-factor of Tennessee’s success and failure, it has been answered over the last six games. The Titans are 3-3 SU (3-2-1 ATS) in that span. Johnson rushed for 130, 190 and 153 yards in the three victories; in the three losses, he rushed for 64, 13 and 23.

On the season, Tennessee is 4-0 SU and ATS when Johnson rushes for 100 yards, and 3-6 SU and 2-6-1 ATS when he doesn’t.

Indianapolis (0-13) scored a touchdown as time expired last Sunday to bring the final score against Baltimore to 24-10; irrelevant to their winless record, but very relevant to bettors as it earned the Colts a backdoor cover as a 16 ½-point underdog. The Colts also scored a touchdown with 2:12 remaining against New England to get a late cover as a 20-point underdog the week before.

While backers may appreciate the 2-0 ATS run after the Colts went 2-9 ATS in their previous 11 games, neither game instilled much confidence that the Colts have a win up their sleeve in 2011. Dan Orlovsky was totally ineffective at quarterback before Baltimore let up in garbage time late.

For Indianapolis to keep this one close, the defense will need to put forth its best effort. The Colts managed to contain Johnson to just 34 yards when the teams met back in October, but Tennessee still won, 27-10. Orlovsky has shown signs of life in the fourth quarter of two straight games, and if the defense keeps it close, the Colts could have a chance.

The total has gone ‘under’ in 11 of the last 13 meetings between Tennessee and Indianapolis. Both teams have trended towards the ‘under’ in recent games as well, as the total has gone ‘under’ in each of Tennessee’s last five games and in four of Indianapolis’s last six games. The total is for this Sunday is currently set at 41.
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12/13/2011 07:17 PM
Ravens, Steelers Take AFC North To The Wire

The 2011-12 NFL playoffs are right around the corner, and here at DonBest we are taking a look at how the races shape up with just three weeks left to play.

We'll start in the NFC where, at least at the top, things are fairly cut and dried. The Green Bay Packers have already clinched their division title at 13-0, and will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC with just one more win or a loss by the San Francisco 49ers somewhere along the way. The Niners are the No. 2 seed at 10-3, but after this past week's loss, stand even with the 10-3 New Orleans Saints.

San Francisco currently holds the tiebreaker edge on the Saints due to its record in conference play. As long as the 49ers don't lose more games in conference play now than New Orleans does through the end of the year, San Fran would get the first round bye if the two teams finish even, while the Saints would be stuck with the No. 3 seed and have to play in the first round of the playoffs.

That being said, the 49ers at least know they have their division title under wraps. New Orleans isn't quite there yet, but can do so this week with a win and a loss by the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta and New Orleans play each other in two weeks at the Superdome in the Big Easy, and the Falcons have to win that game plus get a heck of a lot of help to get back in front of the division.

In the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are both 7-6, and both know they control their own destiny to win the division since the teams play each other in Week 17. The Philadelphia Eagles are still in it for now, but if both New York and Dallas win this weekend, Philly will be eliminated from postseason contention.

The chase for the two Wild Card spots is tough in the NFC. Right now, the Falcons and Detroit Lions hold those spots at 8-5, but the runner-up in the NFC East along with the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are all still in the thick of the fight. Detroit still has a brutally tough schedule with games against Oakland, San Diego and Green Bay, and finishing 9-7 or even 8-8 isn't out of the question.

The Bears are struggling right now to score points, and though they are only a game back, they probably don't have much of a chance to get the job done. Considering the fact that the loser of the NFC East race will have at best a 9-7 mark, the door stays open there as well. Seattle and Arizona play each other in Week 17, and the winner of that game very well could end up snaring that last Wild Card spot in the conference.

In the AFC, things at the top are as complex as could be. The Houston Texans are the top seed right now at 10-3, but no one in the conference controls its own destiny for home field advantage throughout the playoffs quite yet. The Texans have clinched their division title, putting them in the playoffs for the first time in team history, while the New England Patriots clinched the AFC East last week.

The race between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will come right down to the wire in all likelihood. These two teams are both also 10-3, but Baltimore has the tiebreaker having beaten Pittsburgh in both meetings this year. Both teams can clinch a playoff spot with a win this week or some help.

In the AFC West, the Denver Broncos continue to impress with a one-game lead plus the tiebreaker for the time being over the Oakland Raiders. The San Diego Chargers are two back and definitely still in it, but need a lot of Denver losses in a hurry to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

Denver can't quite clinch the division on Sunday with a win over the Patriots, but it can get quite close, especially if the Raiders continue to slide when the Lions come to the Black Hole.

Assuming that neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore collapse down the stretch, that only leaves one more playoff spot to be had. Right now, the New York Jets own it at 8-5 by themselves, and the only reason they have it is because they had a nearly perfect week last week. The Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and the aforementioned Raiders all lost, which eliminated a four-way tie.

All of these teams have a very tough schedule left, starting this week. New York has games left with the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins, and likely won't be favored in any of those games. The Bengals travel to St. Louis this week before finishing up with home dates against the Cardinals and Ravens. The Titans have three divisional games left, as they take on Indy, Jacksonville and Houston. Oakland still has to face Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego.

The Chargers aren't totally out of the Wild Card hunt either. If they can upset the Ravens this week, they could be just a game back with road games left at Detroit and at Oakland.
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12/13/2011 07:19 PM
Chicago Bears Host Charging Seattle Seahawks

The Chicago Bears may have literally fumbled away their playoff chances last week but will look to rebound Sunday when they host the surging Seattle Seahawks in the home finale at Soldier Field. The Bears (7-6) have dropped three straight games since quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand while the Seahawks (6-7) have won four of five to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Game time is scheduled for 1:000 p.m. (ET) with television coverage provided by FOX. Chicago opened as a 4-point favorite according to the Don Best odds screen with the total at 35.

The Bears are coming off a disheartening 13-10 overtime loss on the road against the Denver Broncos last Sunday. They became the latest victims of Denver QB Tim Tebow, who won his sixth game in a row by rallying the Broncos back from a 10-0 deficit in the final 2:08.

Chicago running back Marion Barber helped Denver’s cause not once, but twice, as he failed to stay in bounds on the team’s final possession in regulation and then fumbled in OT after he had put the Bears into kicker Robbie Gould’s field-goal range. Barber is filling in for the injured Matt Forte, who is out with a sprained right knee.

Offensively, Chicago struggled for the second consecutive game, with the team scoring just one touchdown against the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs combined. Bears QB Caleb Hanie has thrown for progressively less yards in his three starts since taking over for Cutler, as offensive coordinator Mike Martz has gone with a more conservative game plan to limit mistakes. Hanie threw three interceptions in each of his first two starts, but he did not throw one against Denver. He has been sacked 15 times.

Seattle has been heading in the opposite direction following a 30-13 rout of the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks covered the spread as 9-point home favorites and have enjoyed the benefit of playing four of their past five games at CenturyLink Field. Two of their last three road games have resulted in losses.

Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch has been the catalyst behind the team’s offensive success, averaging nearly 118 rushing yards over the last six games. Lynch has scored at least one touchdown in eight of the past nine games he has played in, but he was virtually non-existent in a 35-24 playoff loss at Chicago back in January. He rushed for two yards on four carries a little more than one week after exploding for 131 yards on 19 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown, in a 41-36 upset of the New Orleans Saints.

The Seahawks did beat the Bears 23-20 on the road last year during the regular season, and they are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games against NFC opponents. The ‘over’ is 18-6 in their past 21 games overall and has cashed in the last six meetings with Chicago. The total has gone ‘under’ in two consecutive games for the Bears overall after going ‘over’ in four straight.

The weather forecast for the Windy City on Sunday calls for abundant sunshine and a high temperature of 45.
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12/13/2011 07:21 PM
Fading Cincinnati Bengals Visit St. Louis Rams

The youth of the Cincinnati Bengals could finally be catching up to them as they visit the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Cincinnati is between 6-6½ point road favorites at Don Best with a low total of 38½. CBS will have the interconference matchup at 1:00 p.m. (ET) from Edward Jones Dome.

The Bengals (7-6 straight up, 7-5-1 against the spread) were looking good for a playoff spot after opening the season 6-2 SU (7-1 ATS). Quarterback Andy Dalton was playing anything but like a rookie and holdout Carson Palmer wasn’t missed in the least and subsequently shipped to Oakland.

Things have changed dramatically the last five games with a 1-4 SU mark (0-4-1 ATS). A tough schedule is largely to blame playing division foes Pittsburgh twice and Baltimore once. However, Cincy also lost to a Houston team playing with its third-string quarterback and needed a comeback to beat Cleveland (23-20) as 6½-point home favorites.

The Texans game was last Sunday and the Bengals blew a 9-point lead with under six minutes remaining. The 20-19 final went ‘over’ the 37 ½-point total. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Cincinnati’s last five games (allowing 26 PPG) and an NFL-highest 10-3 on the season.

Dalton is still under Rookie of the Year consideration with his 82.1 quarterback rating, but he’s averaged just 162 passing yards the last two weeks. More big plays are needed from him and receiver A.J. Green (891 yards). However, both are battling the ‘rookie wall’ as they get used to the longer NFL schedule compared to college.

Veteran running back Cedric Benson is a good guy to rely on. He’s averaging 83 YPG on 4.5 per carry over the last three weeks. There are some offensive line issues with guard Bobby Williams (ankle) out for the year after getting injured last week. Right tackle Andre Smith (ankle) missed last game and is currently listed as questionable.

Defensively, Cincinnati is hurting at cornerback with Leon Hall (Achilles) gone for the season and veteran Nate Clements playing with a hamstring injury and losing a step at age 32. Houston’s rookie quarterback T.J. Yates threw for 300 yards last week in just his second career start.

This is a must-win for the Bengals, trailing the Jets by one game for the last wild-card spot. Tennessee and Oakland are also 7-6 SU as well. Home games follow against Arizona and Baltimore, neither a gimme.

The Rams (2-11 SU and ATS) have been one of the most disappointing teams in football. Their ATS mark is a league-worst as even winless Indy (4-9 ATS) got a couple of fortunate covers the last two weeks.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat after another bad loss on Monday night, 30-13 at Seattle as 9-point underdogs. ESPN picked that game before the season figuring both would be competing for the NFC West. St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was also a national draw after being the top offensive rookie last year.

Bradford started struggling towards the end of last season and it’s continued into a sophomore slump (70.5 quarterback rating). He’s been battling a sore ankle for a number of weeks, causing him to miss the San Fran game (26-0 loss) two weeks ago. He probably wouldn’t even have played Monday night except backup A.J. Feeley (thumb) was also hurt.

The Oklahoma product Bradford will try to play this week and Feeley is listed as questionable. If both can’t go, then the starter could be newly signed Kellen Clemens or Tom Brandstater. The latter has never played in an NFL game.

It’s hard to imagine the offense being any worse no matter who is at quarterback. The 11.8 PPG is an NFL-worst with both the run and pass struggling. No team has given up more sacks, which is a big reason why Bradford has had problems.

Running back Steven Jackson (895 yards) is still talented and running hard, but he’s averaging just 47 YPG the last four weeks and 3.0 per carry. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been stubborn in not utilizing his best asset enough, with the 324 team rushes tied for 24th.

McDaniels’ game-plan this week should be to give the ball to Jackson 25-30 times, especially with the unsettled quarterback situation. However, there is no indication he will do that and points should be at a premium once again.

St. Louis is 1-5 SU and ATS at home. Cincinnati started 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS on the road before losing the last two at Pittsburgh (35-7) and Baltimore (31-24) as 7-point ‘dogs each time.

These teams haven’t met since 2007 with Cincinnati winning 19-10 at home. The Rams did cover as 10-point ‘dogs and are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings overall.

Weather is not an issue playing in the dome.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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12/13/2011 07:22 PM
New Orleans Saints TD Favorite At Minnesota Vikings

Nobody has to tell Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints how important it is to gain home-field advantage for the playoffs. Roughly 11 months after winning Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints found themselves in Seattle to begin the playoffs last season, and were embarrassed by the Seahawks in a 41-36 upset as 10½-point favorites.

New Orleans has all but guaranteed itself there will be no road trips to begin this year's postseason, but the Saints want more and prefer to avoid the first round of the playoffs altogether.

Payton & Co. can take one small step towards reaching that goal with a victory this Sunday in Minnesota against the Vikings (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX). Oddsmakers like their chances in the matchup with the Saints favored by seven.

The Saints own a two-game lead over Atlanta in the NFC South and can wrap up the division with a win this week plus a Falcons loss. That would at least put New Orleans at home for one postseason game. Securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC will require some help.

New Orleans is presently tied with San Francisco for that spot, each squad sitting 10-3 in the standings. The 49ers have a home date with the Steelers on Monday night followed by road games in Seattle and St. Louis; the Saints will be home to meet Atlanta and Carolina the last two weeks of the campaign.

It all begins on the offensive side of the ball for the Saints. Directed by Drew Brees, New Orleans ranks at the top of the charts in total yards and passing yards, eighth in rushing and second in scoring at just under 32 points per contest.

Brees himself is having a fantastic season, third in QB rating (105.9) and on pace to break Dan Marino's record from 1984 for passing yards (5,084). Averaging over 330 yards per game so far, Brees needs less than 240 each contest the rest of the way to top the 27-year-old record.

Favorite target Jimmy Graham is fifth in the NFL with more than 1,100 yards receiving, and leads all tight ends in that category. Graham had an MRI on his back earlier this week after experiencing spasms in last week's 22-17 win at Tennessee. He's currently listed as probable on the Don Best injury report.

Rookie tailback Mark Ingram is questionable with a toe injury that has cost him three games this season. Ingram missed last week's contest and leads the team with 474 yards rushing, but his absence has been picked up before by Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, each with more than 400 yards on the ground in the 'running back by committee' approach that also includes Chris Ivory. Sproles has 74 receptions as well, second on the team behind Graham's 80.

All of those numbers are bad news for a Minnesota defense that should play right into the hands of Brees and his mates. The Vikings do rate near the top of the league in fewest rushing yards allowed, but that's primarily because the pass defense has yielded so much ground. Led by Jared Allen's NFL-best 17.5 sacks, Minnesota does have a decent pass rush, but it hasn't been enough to stop teams from throwing on this unit.

The Vikings have surrendered the most passing touchdowns in the NFL (26) and are tied for the fewest picks (6). Only the Buccaneers and Colts have given up more points than Minnesota.

The scoring deluge hasn't been entirely on the defense's shoulder the last two weeks which have seen the Vikings turn the ball over nine times compared with just two takeaways. Rookie QB Christian Ponder was responsible for four of Minnesota's six turnovers in last Sunday's 34-28 road setback to the Detroit Lions. Ponder's fumble early in the first quarter was recovered for a Lions TD, and a second quarter interception was returned for another score.

Joe Webb eventually relieved Ponder, but head coach Leslie Frazier has said he'll stick with his Ponder for this game despite that performance as well as a minor hip injury.

Ponder and the offense might also have a huge weapon return this week with running back Adrian Peterson upgraded to probable on the injury report. Peterson suffered a high-ankle sprain nearly a month ago against the Raiders and has missed the last three games.

Minnesota all but owned this series before the 2009 season began, the Vikes winning seven of the eight battles from 1995-2008. That dominance ended in the NFC Championship played at New Orleans in late-January 2010 when a late interception thrown by Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre helped force overtime. The Saints, favored by four, triumphed 31-28 in that game and were 5½-point favorites in Sept. 2010 when they eked out a 14-9 home victory.

Sunday's NFL betting total started at 51 and has since fallen a tad to 50½. The 'over' has been a winner seven of the last 10 head-to-head meetings, with one 'push.' A string of five 'overs' was broken in last season's matchup.

Just in case the roof collapses again at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the game is held outdoors in the Twin Cities, a clear but cold forecast is in the offering. Sunday afternoon's high in Minneapolis is currently set at 38ºF.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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