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Cleveland is giving up 125 yards per game on the ground and is ripe for another long Sunday afternoon. Now that running back Rashard Mendenhall seems healthy for the first time this season, it is the perfect week to get him going. If not, look for Jonathan Dwyer to take over and bull his way to 100 yards. Regardless of who is toting the rock, it will take pressure off Batch.
Skinny: Head coach Mike Tomlin has to get the Steelers to forget last week’s home setback to the rival Ravens and the fact that they are two games behind in the division. Take care of business against the Browns — a game the Steelers should win — remain in the playoff picture and start preparing for next week’s redemption showdown in Baltimore.
Great take from Dave Tuley---will be adding them throughout the day
Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Spread: Bengals minus-8
Public consensus pick: 55 percent picked Bengals
SuperContestants: 92-81 in favor of Raiders
Public perception: The public isn't likely to back the Raiders off their 38-17 loss to the Saints. The public is also getting to know the Bengals a lot more with them being the only team within striking distance of the Colts and Steelers for the last AFC wild-card spot, plus A.J. Green's touchdown streak at nine games.
Wiseguys' view: The wiseguys haven't touched the fave since it's gone over a touchdown (advance lines were lower), except it is a prime candidate to tease down the favorite. There also hasn't been a rush to buy back on the Raiders.
Tuley's Take: The Bengals have looked good the past two weeks against the Giants (when I had them) and the Chiefs (when I did not), but they are still a .500 team that I don't feel should be laying more than a touchdown against anyone. So, I'll put my faith back in the Raiders to play more like they did against the Falcons and less like they did against the Saints. The pick: Raiders.
ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski has watched Palmer closely on tape and is lukewarm on his performance, giving the Bengals the nod in the trade.
"Carson has been very uneven this year," Jaworski said in a conference call. "I see some absolutely phenomenal throws where you say, 'There is the old Carson Palmer.'
"Then I see errors in judgment and decision-making which means he's pressing and trying too hard. I see mistakes that normally a veteran quarterback would not make."
Cosell, who like Jaworski bases his analysis on watching game tape, said that before suffering an elbow injury, Palmer was a rarity in that he was a "power thrower with great accuracy."
Since the injury, which Palmer rehabilitated without surgery, Cosell said he "does not quite drive it the same way at the intermediate and deep levels that he did back in those years. But I will also say that his arm is fine. There's not a throw that he can't make right now."
Palmer's 11 interceptions include touchdown returns of 55 yards by Malcolm Jenkins last week against New Orleans, 79 yards to Asante Samuel in a 23-20 loss to Atlanta and one to Ahmad Black in a 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay after the Raiders had gotten within three points in the fourth quarter.
Broncos hurting with no rushing game---against the pass defense
The Broncos are No. 19 in rushing this year — but No. 2 in scoring — in part because their quarterback, Peyton Manning, is one of the best passers of all time.
"I know they were No. 1 in the league in rushing last year," Manning said. "I know (coaches) Eric (Studesville), Mike (McCoy), (Dave Magazu) and Clancy (Barone), the guys in charge of the run game, they're still on us to do better. Anyone on the offensive line would like to see us near the top."
When McGahee learned through an MRI exam Monday that he would not play again this season unless the Broncos advance to the AFC championship game, it hurt. It especially will hurt the Broncos in
their attempts to keep opposing nickel defenses off balance. McGahee may have been 11th in the league with 735 yards rushing overall through 10 games, but he had the fifth-most yards against nickel packages, which means packages with an extra or fifth defensive back.
"To say we're not going to miss Willis would not be telling the truth," Manning said. "He's that good of a player."
The Broncos are expected to replace McGahee in the starting lineup with Knowshon Moreno or Lance Ball, who are better pass protectors against the blitz than rookie Ronnie Hillman, the most explosive runner of the three.
In an effort to acclimate to West Coast time, Ravens coach John Harbaugh had his players sleep in later and held meetings and practices later in the day on Wednesday and Friday. The Ravens were practicing until roughly 3:30 Friday afternoon before heading out to fly to San Diego.
Time will tell if it works.
"It's something we did homework on, we did research on," Harbaugh said. "Dr. David McDuff here is an expert in that, has written a couple of books on sleep studies and energy cycles and things like that. We try to act like we know what we're talking about as coaches, but we take good advice when we get it.
"So, we're trying to work our way onto West Coast time. We're trying to be at our best at 1 o'clock Pacific Standard Time out there in San Diego. That's what we're hoping for, so that's why we're doing this."
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Open: Pick, 48, Move: -1, 51
If the conference-leading Atlanta Falcons hope to continue their winning ways, they'll have to derail one of the hottest teams in the league when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a matchup of the top two clubs in the NFC South. Some books even had Tampa Bay as the favorite earlier in the week.
“We opened this game a pick ‘em and now have this one Atlanta -1.5,” says sportsbooks. "And 86 percent of the money is on the Falcons.”
The Bucs have played over the total in seven consecutive games and bettors have driven the number up to 51 after it opened at 48.