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Tennessee’s top-ranked defense (261.0 ypg) has surprised many this year. The Titans haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game and they’re pretty salty against the pass, ranking second in the league with an average of 172.0 yards allowed a game.
Cleveland is barely averaging more than 200 yards passing per outing. Colt McCoy hasn’t topped 213 yards in any game this season and has a 54.1 completion percentage.
The Browns are averaging 5.7 yards per passing attempt. Pat Shurmur wants the ball out of McCoy’s hands as quickly as possible to avoid sacks. All this adds up to Peyton Hills and Benjamin Watson being the team’s leading receivers with 10 catches apiece.
The Titans have an emerging secondary that should shine Sunday. Third-year corner Jason McCourty is coming into his own and Cortland Finnegan looks like his old self after a down season in 2010.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5, 44)
Niners front seven vs. Eagles offensive line
The state of the Eagles offensive line has reached Code Red. Mike Vick said the only way he was coming out of a game was on a stretcher. Unfortunately, that might happen sooner than later.
San Francisco’s secondary is suspect but the team is tied for sixth in opponent completion percentage at 57.1. That speaks volumes about the pressure being generated up front.
The Niners’ eight takeaways and plus-6 turnover differential are tied for tops in the NFC. Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman are quickly becoming the NFL’s best interior linebacker tandem and they can blitz from anywhere on the field.
Philadelphia will want to run the ball more to protect Vick. The Eagles are second in the league in rushing but the 49ers run defense has allowed just 62.7 yards per game thus far.
And don’t worry about the 49ers traveling across the country in back-to-back weeks. They spent the week in Youngstown, Ohio, adjusting to the Eastern Time zone.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears (-6, 43.5)
Panthers’ motivation vs. Bears’ motivation
Turmoil is brewing again early in Chicago. There is already a sense of desperation but the motivation edge in this matchup favors the visitor.
Ron Rivera coached for the Bears under Dave Wannstedt for two seasons and then Lovie Smith from 2004-2006. He was also drafted by the Bears and played on the 1985 Super Bowl team.
“I’m not going to downplay it. People say it’s just another game. No, it’s not,” Rivera said about the matchup. “They’re all big, but this has a little personal meaning for me because it’s Chicago.”
Rivera knows Smith’s tendencies and vice versa. But since Rivera has been gone for so long he should have the advantage.
Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo, who has come under heavy scrutiny recently, traded Greg Olsen to the Panthers before the season started.
“To say this game doesn’t light your fire a little more with everything that happened would be a lie,” Olsen said.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-3, 42)
Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Ravens rush defense
Rex Ryan isn’t even attempting to hide the fact that the Jets won’t be able to run on Baltimore Sunday night.
“Are you going to run it against Haloti Ngata over and over and against Ray Lewis? We’ll probably have to throw it more than we want,” he said.
After saying that Shonn Greene was going to get 300-plus carries this year, New York has somehow transformed into a pass-first team. The Jets have thrown the ball 62 percent of their snaps so far, which is more than any three-game stretch since Ryan took over.
Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have combined for 196 yards on 58 attempts this year, equating to 3.4 yards per carry. It looks like there’s a good chance rookie Colin Baxter will start at center again for Nick Mangold.
“Anytime we make you one-dimensional, then we can pretty much get after your quarterback the way we dictated," Ray Lewis said. "We really pride ourselves on stopping the run.”
Action throughout the week has the NFL Week 5 lines dancing like Chaz Bono. We talked to Jay Rood, sportsbook supervisor for the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas, about the biggest line moves heading into Sunday:
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars – Open: 47, Move: 44.5
The total for this southern showdown is tumbling with money flooding in on the under. Rood believes this number could come back up a bit with public action liking to wager on the over.
“New Orleans may be a bit more conservative on the road,” he says, and Jacksonville really only has one option in Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars best unit is their defensive unit.”
This spread has flipped, making Cleveland a slight underdog against Tennessee. Rood believes the move has more to do with bettors fading the Browns than liking the Titans.
“Cleveland keeps playing tough and bettors keep going against them,” he says.
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs – Open: Pick, Move: Chiefs +3
Rood says he’s currently dealing 2.5 for this game, but could see the line moving to -3 Vikings. With the majority of money on Minnesota, he’ll be cheering for Kansas City to come through at home Sunday.
“We’re hoping KC can pull off one of those second-half comebacks that everyone else has done against the Vikings,” he says.
Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams – Open: Rams -2, Move Rams +2.5
One-sided money on the Redskins has flipped this spread heading into the weekend. Bettors seem to be discounting St. Louis after a poor showing against Baltimore last week. However, Rood reminds them that Washington is playing back-to-back road games after a tough loss in Dallas Monday.
“We’re going to be big on the Rams winning,” Rood says. “I think that is going to be an ongoing theme for the rest of the season.”
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks – Open: Seahawks +6.5, Move: Seahawks +4.5
Maybe it’s the Seahawks’ home-field edge or the Falcons’ poor start to the season, but sharps bought the home side earlier in the week. The public is still expecting a turnaround from Atlanta, but Rood isn’t so sure.
“Seattle is in the process of getting all the new guys to come together,” he says. “Jackson and Rice looked good last week. And they have that great home advantage.”
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders – Open: 52.5, Move 55
Rood says one-sided money on the over is driving this tall total through the roof. New England’s high-powered offense is the biggest case for the over, but so is Oakland’s explosive rushing attack that can break big gains off with Darren McFadden. Rood may even add on a half point, just to see if he can draw money on the under.
“We have a little more room to play with when the totals are this high,” says Rood. “We can move a lot more freely than if we were dealing with a 35 or something.”
THE STORY: Rex Ryan is happy to tell anyone who will listen that he has the best defense – and best team, for that matter – in the NFL. The brash coach of the New York Jets will be staring at an opposing defense that is equally unwavering in that belief when his team pays a visit to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. The Ravens carry a swagger on defense like few other teams, and much of that is due to Ryan, who was an assistant coach and defensive coordinator with Baltimore for 10 years before taking over the Jets.
TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET
LINE MOVES: The spread has remained steady at 3.5 while the total has moved from 40 to 42.5.
ABOUT THE JETS (2-1): New York suffered its first loss due to its inability to stop the run at Oakland. The Raiders gashed the Jets’ defense for 234 yards on the ground, including 171 by Darren McFadden. It was the highest rushing total allowed by the Jets since Ryan took over prior to the 2009 season. They are ranked 31st in the league against the run. QB Mark Sanchez suffered a broken nose in throwing for a career-high 369 yards, but only 19 of those went to WR Santonio Holmes. Holmes has caught a TD pass in six straight games against Baltimore.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (2-1): Baltimore’s defense almost pitched a shutout last week, and it was complemented by a record-setting offensive performance in a 37-7 dismantling of the St. Louis Rams. Joe Flacco threw for three touchdowns and a career-high 389 yards and the Ravens amassed a franchise-best 553 yards. Rookie WR Torrey Smith caught three TD passes in the first quarter alone as Baltimore bolted to a 27-0 halftime lead. Ray Rice rushed for 81 yards and had 83 yards receiving, giving him 409 yards from scrimmage in the first three games. The Ravens had five sacks and limited the Rams to 244 total yards.
WEATHER: The forecast in Baltimore is calling for a 24 percent chance of showers and winds reaching speeds up of up 10 mph. Game-time temperatures will dip into the high 40s.
1. Ravens LB Ray Lewis needs a half-sack to reach 40 for his career, which would make him the first player in league history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
2. Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson became the third player in NFL history to score 160 touchdowns, joining Jerry Rice (208) and Emmitt Smith (175).
3. Baltimore has won the last six meetings with the Jets. That includes a 10-9 win last season in which the Ravens held New York to 176 yards of offense – the lowest output under Ryan.
* Road team is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Jets are 1-6 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Over is 4-0 in Ravens last four games overall.
* Over is 20-7 in Jets last 27 games overall.