Over 45, Syracuse at Boston College - BC's going with a freshman at QB after losing Paul Peterson last week. That's usually good for an extra defensive touchdown. Syracuse will need it too because I don't see them scoring a lot of points here. BC needs this game to take the Big East and earn their first ever BCS bid. The Orangemen need this game to become bowl eligible. 45 is still a little high (a 31-14 game?) so I'm more interested in buying this down in a teaser with one of the below selections. Yahoo
Viginia Tech -3.5 vs Virginia - Tech has two games left, this one and an ACC showdown at Miami. At the most important part of their season's schedule, the Hoakies have been playing at their best. They are coming off a 55-6 ripping of Maryland last Thursday night to earn their sixth straight victory. QB Bryan Randall looked especially strong last week. The Cavs, meanwhile, have been up and down this season. The real strength of their defense is at linebacker but there are holes that talented teams like FSU and Miami have been able to exploit. VTU is the third ranked team Virginia will face this season. The Cavs are 0-2 so far against the top 25 and they're also on the road in a state rivalry. I really like this game. Yahoo
Iowa St. -4.5 vs Missouri - I've run out of time, but ISU takes the Big 12 North with a win today while Mizzou has lost 5 in a row and is already looking towards next season.
The Colts' two starting guards sat out last week's win at Chicago and it looks as though they will both miss this game too. Backups Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott will be forced to start again for Indianapolis but this time they will face a much different set of defensive tackles in Detroit's Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson. Unlike Chicago's DTs Tommie Harris (300 lbs) and Ian Scott (305 lbs), Rogers (345 lbs) and Wilkinson (335 lbs) get the job done with three additional cheeseburgers behind them. Still, teams have been able to run to the outside of Detroit's front seven and I expect with those stretch plays Indy uses, Edgerrin James should have another good day.
Even though it's a short week for both teams, the advantage should go to the Colts since they had an easy second half of last week's game. Minnesota's come from behind victory against the Lions wasn't so leisurely.
Something from ESPN's scouts (Insider) to else to look for during the game:
The Lions are struggling in third and long situations because Harrington has a tendency to look for Roy Williams in these situations. Defenses know it, and they are rolling their coverage that way. With the Lions not running the ball well, it will be important for them to get positive yardage on first and second down so they have more third and short yardage, where they have the option to run or pass.
Dungy's defensive squad have been better lately, thanks in part to an improved and more balanced pass rush from Dwight Freeney and Raheem Brock.
Finally, anyone disappointed with Brandon Stokely's 1 catch performance from last week shouldn't be worried about this matchup. After Dry Bly and Fernando Bryant at cornerback, there is a significant drop off in depth. Also noteworthy is that the Lions secondary is made up of smaller players who rely on their quickness and instincts. Reggie Wayne and Marcus Pollard should benefit in the red zone because of that.
While the line has gone all the way to 9 in some places, I think Detroit, who's usually good on turkey day, is playing for their season and should keep things close for a while. But it's bad news to go against Manning, even at -21.
BEARS - COWBOYS:
I think having a short week to prepare may actually help Drew Henson. Maybe there's going to be more of a sense of 'just go out there and play' tomorrow than there would be under normal circumstances. Obviously, Parcells isn't going to throw the entire playbook at him, even if he had two weeks to prepare. But like an un-iced kicker trotting out onto the field with the play clock winding down past 15, it may be good for Henson to get in there like this on the short week.
Against Billy Volek a couple of weeks ago, the Bears really came out after him with constant pressure. After halftime, the Titans starting hitting deep throws to Drew Bennett because he could out-jump the single coverage Chicago was leaving on him. As a result, the Bears had to back off the blitzing and Tennessee had more success moving the ball downfield. Volek ended up throwing for over 300 yards, but he never really looked confident doing so. I think everyone agrees Chicago will start the game with the same philosophy in order to see how the young Cowboy quarterback reacts. The question will be if Drew can hit enough passes to get the Bears to back off a bit.
Depsite the final score of last week's game at Baltimore, Dallas actually lead 3-0 at halftime. Having already lost Jamal Lewis, the Ravens changed their philosophy during the break and came out in the third quarter throwing the ball well against the Cowboy defense. Chicago will have to do the same if they want to create anything consistent on offense. And anyone who has ever started a game at quarterback in the OSU/UM series comes into the NFL with more experience than most others, so I'm not one to go against the Bears on the road just because of Craig Krenzel. He's not losing games for them, he's not the one winning them either.
There are a few interesting side-plots to this matchup. Two of the most obvious are 1) the Jones brothers and 2) the OSU (Krenzel) - UM (Henson) connection. I think Drew was already playing baseball by the time Craig was the Buckeyes' starting QB, so this is probably the first time they've faced each other.
This is one of those weaknesses vs weaknesses games that will probably end up having more scoring than most imagine. I think the Cowboys will take it though.
UPDATE: I mentioned that Henson and Krenzel never faced each other in college and that is a fact. But they did square off in the Michigan high school football circuit.
PFBW's Whispers. Nothing too important here. We're getting into that time of year where we know a cow is a cow, but we just want to know if the cow is gonna show up on Sunday. What? ...The few things of note are that Jimmy Smith intends to play for another 3 years. Norv Turner has Al Davis' support. Dan Morgan's career may be over. Chad Pennington's return is at the earliest, Dec 5th. And Mike Alstott hasn't been running timid since his come back from his knee injury.
It's way too late to pick up players like Julius Jones, Nick Goings, and Deion Branch. But if you have them, don't be afraid to start them in the coming weeks. I've said a few times that Branch would be among the league's leaders had he not been injured. Carolina has some favorable matchups that they will be able to run on, and he Cowboys will not only want to look at what Jones can do, but they also don't have other options at RB. Especially if they end up having to play Drew Henson.
Jamal Lewis may miss this week's and next week's game.
Some possible implications from Clemson and South Carolina's removal from bowl consideration here. I'm a little disappointed that USC (not the Reggie Bush one) won't be around to bet against during bowl week.
More bowl talk here at the USA Today. And the Sports Prof weighs in as well. Somehow, the simple solution (one championship game following all the bowls) seems to escape the BCS and the NCAA.
Sports Filter pointed me to this research about icing kickers in pressure situations. Apparently, over the last two seasons in the NFL it has shaved a 10% probability off the success rate of "pressure" kicks.
Ahman Green's ribs aren't fractured. They (the Packers, not the ribs) don't have a timetable for a return yet, but there is relief the news wasn't worse.
Mike Tice is making Jacksonville prepare for Randy Moss. "25 plays, mostly in 3 WR sets" is what he says. I'm still skeptical, but this return is on pace based on the original timetable.
Leftwich is eager to start this week. Nothing official yet from the coach.
An important article about how the Chargers played on Sunday and what their coach thinks of it. San Diego did not look very good in their 23-17 victory at Oakland. They turned the ball over in the red zone, missed two field goals, and were fortunate that Ronald Curry dropped an easy TD pass with four minutes left. Tomlinson was the deciding factor in the game. He came through with some nice runs in the 4th quarter to keep the clock moving. This story shows me that the Chargers aren't sitting back, content with their record.
How good was the weather yesterday on the Beach? I was 16 Arizona Cardinal points away from hitting a five dollar, 15 team - 7 point tease parlay card. That's just two Josh Scobey touchdowns and two Shaun King conversions from a remarkable ending to an already profitable day. Oh well, I still made out well ahead- essentially going 7 for 7.
With bye weeks over, injuries will play as important a role as any other factor down the stretch. Keep an eye on those banged up superstars.
Jake Delhomme went 12/25 despite having a broken thumb in his throwing hand. Rodney Peete did come in and finish the game. At least for now, it looks like Jake will be playing through the pain.
Jeff Garcia did not play in the second half of the Browns loss to New York. He separated his shoulder. Kelly Holcomb went 4/10. Garcia said, " "I was not 100 percent. I couldn't squeeze the football." He's got an MRI today.
Drew Henson came in for the Cowboys after Vinny suffered a 'shoulder injury.'
AJ Feeley had an injured hip and created one of my favorite highlight shots of the weekend when he was limping off after a play and a teammate gave him a congratulatory pat on the butt causing AJ to scream out in pain.
Matt Hasselback sat out in favor of Trent Dilfer. Matt has a thigh injury and probably would have started if he was playing well.
Jamal Lewis left yesterday's game in the first quarter and never returned. He's got an MRI today but he thinks he'll play next week vs the Pats.
Ahman Green injured and then re-injured a rib problem yesterday. He's day to day.
Chris Brown sat out the Titans win at Jacksonville with turf toe. A smart move by Jeff Fisher. I expect Brown to be questionable for the rest of the 2004. He expects to play next week.
Curtis Martin suffered a knee injury half-way through yesterday's game. He played some after that, but Lamont Jordan finished the game. Martin's probable for next week.
LT looked good, not great against the Raiders yesterday. He says he's at 90%.
Julius Jones not only played, but played a lot yesterday. He looked a little tentative at times, but on the whole I expect him to get a lot of carries over the remaining 6 weeks.
Plaxico Burress left the Steelers' game with a hamstring injury that may force him to miss time. This one will probably take all week to decide.
Torry Holt was forced out of his second straight game, but this time because of a knee injury. Mike Martz is turning into Steve Spurrier and claims that the Bills were going after their knees. He also said that Holt should be fine.
Koren Robinson's suspension is set for 4 games, but he missed yesterday's game because he was suspended by his team for violating a team rule. That's 5 total. He sucks.Story
Randy Moss practiced today and Coach Tice is waiting to see how he feels tomorrow to speculate further.
The Ravens will get back Jonathan Ogden, but won't have Deion Sanders or Chris McAllilster. That worries me a bit. The Cowboys' only experienced WR is Keyshawn, so Baltimore will look to pressure Vinny today. A Cowboys win could be the surprise of the day and I'd consider excluding them from my teaser card. Parcells has also announced that Julius Jones will dress and backup Eddie George.
Breaking news, Shaun King will start for Arizone today. I like this play. King has experience in Carolina from his days with the Bucs.
There's something frightening about this week's picks because too many just seem too obvious. Nonetheless, after getting burned (despite going 3-1) by the Anthony Davis injury and Big Ten showdown in Iowa yesterday, a rebound is in order.
There are a lot of games with a lot of big lines, so I'm looking at just a few straight up, and then one precise 7 point teaser.
San Diego (-3.5) at Oakland - I would imagine many consider this line a little low. The Chargers handed Oakland a 42-12 loss just three weeks ago. The Raiders have some injuries on defense, specifically at linebacker, that will prohibit them from containing Antonio Gates. Both teams are coming off their bye weeks, so there is a little bit of variable that goes with that. I wouldn't discount buying this down to 3 just to be safe. Hank reports Marty is 22-7 all time against the Raiders.Yahoo - ESPN
Atlanta (-3) at New York - Another late game, road team here. The Falcons are 3-1 on the road so far and 14-13-1 since 2001. If minus three is all they're giving me, then a large number of people must think that Eli is going to come into this game poised, confident, and accurate. Did anyone see the game the Falcons played against the Bucs last week? All the talk of what Rod Coleman brings to Atlanta's defense is for real. So as long as he doesn't get into another car accident on the way to the game, go with the Falcons. Yahoo - ESPN
Buffalo (+1) vs St Louis - I can't believe how easy the Rams' schedule has turned out to be this season. Considering Seattle's struggles, the best team in the NFC South may indeed be the Cardinals. Martz's team is 2-1 on the road this year, but those wins were against SF and Seattle (that game they should have lost). I read somewhere that Buffalo is a cold, miserable place and these two teams could not be any more ideologically different. The Rams gave up 122 to Corey Dillon two weeks ago and 176 to Shaun Alexander last week. Both are strong runners who look to use their strength to break runs 15 yards at a time. In cold November games, go with the defensive team that runs well. Yahoo - ESPN
7 point teaser of the day - Colts (to -1), Ravens (to -1), Jaguars (to +4), Over in the Denver/NO (to +40). Take a picture.