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jimmythegreek
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NFL GREEK INSIDER WEEK 14

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On 12/08/2012 04:24 AM in NFL
Atlanta -3 over Carolina (bought half):
Atlanta (11-1) is usually led by an offense that ranks seventh in the league in scoring at 26.4 points, it was a superb defensive display that helped the team pull out a 23-13 win over New Orleans last Thursday. MVP candidate Matt Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for a season-low 165 yards and touchdown, but the Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times to lock up their second division crown in three seasons.

The Falcons, who sit 2 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in the conference standings, could potentially clinch a first-round bye and also home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win Sunday coupled with a few unlikely scenarios. While it's hard to make a case against the Falcons right now, their recent postseason efforts are hard to overlook. Atlanta hasn't won a playoff game since 2004, going one-and-done in its last three appearances. The Falcons have had their way with the Panthers (3-9) of late, scoring at least 30 points in winning each of the last five meetings. Ryan has 11 touchdowns to two interceptions for a 103.9 passer rating during the run, and Michael Turner is averaging 99.4 rushing yards with seven total touchdowns.

The first meeting of the season, though, came down to the wire. Atlanta drove 77 yards in five plays to set up Matt Bryant's 40-yard field-goal with five seconds remaining, lifting the Falcons to a 30-28 victory in Week 4. The loss at the Georgia Dome in September, was one of seven Carolina defeats by six points or less. The Panthers came up short again last Sunday, falling 27-21 at an emotional Kansas City team that played despite the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide a day earlier.

Cam Newton continued his impressive play with 232 passing yards and a season-high three touchdowns, and ran seven times for another 78 yards. Newton has eight total TDs - two rushing - and no interceptions over his last three games. Although Newton is playing well, the Panthers have allowed an average of 30.0 points in their last three losses. Things aren't about to get any easier after placing defensive end Antwan Applewhite and free safety Sherrod Martin on injured reserve Tuesday.

Look for Ryan to pick apart the Carolina secondary himself, and Michael Turner should have a nice day on the ground. The Falcons have way too much firepower and should cruise in a high scoring contest.
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12/08/2012 04:32 AM
Tampa Bay -7 over Philadelphia (bought half):
After a pair of losses, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have slid back to the edge of the playoff race. The Buccaneers should have a good a chance to improve their position on Sunday when they host the reeling Philadelphia Eagles, who are in the middle of their worst losing streak since 1968. The running game has been a big part of the Bucs' success this season, but they only ran for 71 yards in Sunday's 31-23 loss at Denver. Rookie Doug Martin was held to 56 yards on 18 carries after having just 50 on 21 in a 24-23 loss to Atlanta on Nov. 25.

Josh Freeman completed just 18 of 39 passes for his second-lowest completion percentage (46.2) of the season last week. Despite the pick in Denver, he ranks sixth in the NFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.88) and hadn't thrown an interception in five of his previous six games. Freeman has been particularly good in Tampa. He's averaging 9.12 yards per attempt with 10 TDs and two INTs, good for a 105.5 passer rating that's the NFL's third-best at home. There's an excellent chance Freeman will again play well at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Eagles have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 76.3 percent of their passes for nearly 10 yards an attempt in their previous six games, yielding 16 touchdowns without an interception for an astounding 142.4 rating.

Philadelphia (3-9) has given up 30 points or more in five of those contests after losing its eighth straight, 38-33 at Dallas on Sunday night. With the Eagles also second-to-last in the NFC with 20 sacks, coach Andy Reid decided to make yet another change by firing defensive line coach Jim Washburn and bringing back Tommy Brasher for his third stint with the team.

Quarterback Nick Foles completed 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown in a loss against the Cowboys, leading Reid to name him the starter even if Michael Vick can return from a concussion that's kept him out the past three games. Foles has thrown for 793 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has a passer rating of 73.3. Fellow rookie Bryce Brown rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Dallas while stepping in for starter LeSean McCoy, also out with a concussion. Brown ran for 178 yards and two scores a week earlier against Carolina.

His performance against the Cowboys was somewhat marred by his fumble with less than four minutes left - his third in two weeks - that the Cowboys' Morris Claiborne picked up and returned 50 yards for a touchdown.

Philadelphia is absolutely horrible as a pass defense. Not because of a lack of talent, mind you: they have a string of talented pass rusher, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha have oodles of talent. No, it's because no one on this defense appears to know what they're doing. The Bucs want to (and must) establish their running game to play well on offense. They don't have a passing attack that can sustain an offense, so they need their running game to sustain drives. The Bucs have failed to do so in the past two weeks, but they were outstanding in the weeks before.

The Eagles are a bad team in disarray. The kind of team that can maybe sometimes surprise an opponent, but also the kind of team that gets blown out. Look for Tampa Bay to put up plenty of points against Philly and get back to their winnign ways keeping their hopes alive for the postseason.


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12/08/2012 04:41 AM
Pittsburgh -8 over San Diego:
Ben Roethlisberger's return could help the Steelers (7-5) further tighten their grip on an AFC wild-card spot Sunday against San Diego, which is 0-14 all-time at Pittsburgh and will be eliminated from playoff contention with one more loss. It seemed the Steelers' playoff hopes were in trouble two weeks ago as they dropped two straight divisional games after losing Roethlisberger - and later backup quarterback Byron Leftwich - due to injury. But after a 23-20 win last Sunday in Baltimore, Pittsburgh (7-5) is within two games of the first-place Ravens in the AFC North and owns the final wild-card spot in the conference.

Pittsburgh's outlook appears even brighter with Thursday's news that Roethlisberger will start this game. He had missed the last three with a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. Roethlisberger said he felt "good" after practicing for the second straight day Thursday. Without Roethlisberger, last Sunday's game in Baltimore - where the Ravens had won 16 consecutive games - seemed like a daunting challenge for a Pittsburgh team using its third-string quarterback. Charlie Batch, who turned 38 on Wednesday, easily outplayed Joe Flacco while the Steelers' league-best defense lived up to its billing.

Pittsburgh will still need the Ravens to lose two more games to have any shot at the division title, but they don't see gaining home-field advantage in the playoffs as a necessity. While Roethlisberger is expected to take the field, veteran cornerback Ike Taylor's streak of 135 consecutive games played will definitely end after he fractured his right ankle on the second play against Baltimore. Taylor has started 119 games for Pittsburgh since 2003. The Steelers looked fine without Taylor as the league's top pass defense (166.7 yards per game) limited Flacco to 16-of-34 passing for 188 yards and sacked him three times. They got a boost from the return of safety Troy Polamalu, who hadn't played since Oct. 7 because of a strained calf, and he should receive more work this week as the Steelers gradually ease him back.

San Diego (4-8) is one loss away from uncharted territory - a losing season under Norv Turner. The Chargers have yet to beat a team with a winning record, and last Sunday's 20-13 home loss to Cincinnati marked their fourth straight defeat and second in a row where they squandered a fourth-quarter lead. Philip Rivers has struggled during the four-game skid with six touchdown passes compared to five interceptions while fumbling five times. The offensive line has had trouble over the last three contests, as Rivers has been sacked 14 times while the rushing game has all but disappeared, averaging 63.3 yards. That unit now could be missing tackles Jeromey Clary and Mike Harris and guard Tyronne Green due to injuries. Falling in Pittsburgh for the 15th time in as many regular-season trips would leave San Diego with its first losing season since going 4-12 in 2003.

Not helping this situation much at all was recent news this past week of Norv Turner and the coaching staff to not be returning next season given San Diego's underachieving over the past few seasons. Heading into Pittsburgh has been a difficult task for the highest of Turner's traditionally high-end teams, so for the rag-tag unit that's been wearing lightning bolts the last month it's an even harder proposition. Having Roethlisberger back in control on the home side will only enhance Pittsburgh's chances of marching toward at the very least a wildcard berth.

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12/08/2012 04:48 AM
NYJ/Jacksonville over 38.5:
Despite being benched during another dismal performance, Sanchez will be under center to start the Jets' road matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Sanchez seems unfounded, given he ranks last among current starting QBs in passer rating (71.4) and completion percentage (55.0) during a disappointing season for New York (5-7). Sanchez went 10 for 21 with three interceptions last week, forcing Ryan to turn to third-stringer Greg McElroy, who promptly threw a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland on his first career drive to help the Jets beat Arizona 7-6. Sanchez knows he's running out of chances to keep his job. The Jets rank 28th in the league in passing offense (193.8 yards per game) and 29th in total yards (308.9).

The Jaguars (2-10) allowed a season-best 112 passing yards last week against Buffalo, but they also gave up a season-worst 232 rushing yards in a 34-18 loss. Jacksonville is 31st in the NFL giving up 144.0 yards on the ground, and it will look to slow down a Jets rushing attack that compiled 177 yards last week, led by Shonn Greene's 104 on 24 carries. The Jaguars hope fullback and former two-time special teams Pro Bowler Montell Owens can give their own running game a boost with the rest of their backs banged up. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jalen Parmele and Rashad Jennings are all dealing with injuries, forcing Owens into a starting role. He carried seven times for 29 yards against Buffalo after Jennings suffered a concussion.

While Jacksonville's defense seems to be vulnerable to virtually all opponents they've challlenged as of late, they also have the ability to put up points in the process. Sanchez last looked impressive several weeks back in a win over St. Louis, so perhaps he can prove to Rex Ryan that he can perform efficiently under pressure when his long-term job could very well be on the line.

Best of luck to all in week 14
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