October 2007

NFL Football: Week 7 Surprises/Upsets

Those NFL dogs just keep barking: 5-8 SU and 7-6 on Sunday, stretching their record on the season to 54-43-5 ATS (55.67 percent).

Some dogs barked more loudly than others. Technically, the Bears (+5.5) were the biggest upset of the week, beating the Eagles 19-16 at the Linc on an improbable 97-yard drive for a touchdown, all in the last two minutes. But we’ve seen the 2-4 Eagles pull the el foldo on more than one occasion.

The bigger surprise saw Denver (+4) beat Pittsburgh 31-28 at Invesco Field. The Broncos brought some extra horseshoes; despite being outplayed, they got the duke on the strength of Tim Crowder’s 50-yard fumble recovery and Jason Elam’s last-second field goal from 49 yards out.

The Dolphins nearly topped all those surprises. No, they didn’t come close to beating New England (-15.5), but they did score 21 points in the fourth to nearly complete the matador cover. Final score: Miami 49, NE 28.

NFL Week 7: Is 43 too old to be playing pro football?

When 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde led the Carolina Panthers to victory last week, he became the oldest starting QB to win a game in NFL history. But it also took a pair of injuries to Jake Delhomme and David Carr for Testaverde to get another shot at NFL glory.

It’s very rare someone gets to strap on the pads at age 40 or above – Atlanta’s Morten Andersen is 47 and threatening to break George Blanda’s record of playing in the NFL at age 48. But kicking doesn’t take nearly the toll on the body as lining up under center.

Even regardless of ability, the NFL shuns the older set. The escalating veteran’s minimum contract keeps kickers like Andersen sitting by the phone waiting for a desperate team to call (hello, Falcons), and the dressing room can be a lonely place for a 40-something surrounded by people nearly half his age. Still, it beats mowing the lawn.

NFL Odds: The Comeback Cowboys?

Losing to the New England Patriots hasn’t taken too much starch out of the Dallas Cowboys. They’re still getting pretty short Super Bowl odds at 15-2; only New England (even) and the Indianapolis Colts (4-1) are in better shape heading into Week 7.

If the Cowboys and Patriots meet again at the Super Bowl, things will be a little different by then. For one, Tank Johnson will be there. The former Chicago Bears defensive tackle signed with Dallas last month and should be eligible to return from his league suspension for Week 10’s matchup against the Giants.

Then there’s wide receiver Terry Glenn. He remains out of commission following last month’s knee surgery, but expects to be back before the season is over. Glenn was a close No. 2 to Terrell Owens for Dallas last year with 26.6 DPAR; adding him and Johnson to this lineup would give the Cowboys a premium comeback opportunity against the Pats.

NFL Week 5: Jets at Giants; Falcons at Titans

It’s hard to feel sorry for an NFL quarterback. But I still feel bad for both Eli Manning and Chad Pennington – especially Pennington. All he’s done is post a 90.1 career passer rating, and 105.8 this season. But the Jets’ run game is stalled, the defense is the worst in the league, and they’re facing a Giants’ team (-3.5) that has pulled itself out of the mire and won two in a row. As for Manning, at least he got a helping hand in the form of RB Derrick Ward, who had better at least split carries when Brandon Jacobs returns.

I don’t feel sorry for Vince Young. Right now, he’s a good QB with a good head on his shoulders, but he’s starting to get the star treatment after some high-profile wins on TV. Joey Harrington has the better numbers. Really. Watch out for the Falcons as 8.5-point road dogs.

NFL Week 6 Picks

The NFL lines are getting tighter than a drum. But there are a few games on the Week 6 schedule that are unlike anything we’ve seen yet this season. Those are the matchups where the statistics are less likely to stick.

For example, the game we’ve all been waiting for: New England at Dallas. This will be the first real test for the Patriots, yet they’ve already climbed from 5-point favorites at the open to 6.5 points. I suppose it boils down to whether you believe in Tony Romo’s first four games, or his fifth against Buffalo.

I’m also looking at Miami getting five points against Cleveland. These two teams are performing at almost exactly the same level after five weeks, but the Browns have squeezed two wins out of it, while the Fish are 0-5. I’ll “buy low” on the Dolphins here; Cleo Lemon handing off to Ronnie Brown should cash in against defense-poor Cleveland.

Week 6 Odds: What is up with the Dallas Cowboys?

How ‘bout them Cowboys?

So Tony Romo had a bad night at the office. Sure, you could look at the negatives: five interceptions, a lost fumble and a 49.9 passer rating. But how about the positives? How about two TD passes and 309 yards through the air? How about keeping it together and leading Dallas to two scoring drives in the dying stages? Those things will keep happening; five-pick performances will not.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys improved from 10th to sixth in the NFL in defensive efficiency, holding the Bills’ offense to a field goal. And they did it without CB Anthony Henry, who missed the game with a high ankle sprain.

Monday night also presented Nick Folk to the world. The Dallas coverage units aren’t too good, but Folk is now 10-for-11 on field goals this season. This is a pretty good team to be getting 6.5 points at home, even against the mighty New England Patriots.

NFL Week 5: Panthers at Saints; Dolphins at Texans

The Saints are laying three points at home? Well, Carolina’s defense has been brutal this year, 26th in the NFL in efficiency and especially awful against the pass. But the Saints have been near the bottom of the league in every aspect of the game. They have no talent in the trenches, and it would seem all David Carr needs to do to win Sunday is hand the ball to DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams. Then again, that’s what I thought last week against Tampa Bay, too.

The Dolphins-Texans matchup has a bit more mustard on it. Miami’s defense is vastly underperforming at No. 29 overall, but the offense is starting to click in its first year under head coach Cam Cameron. Ronnie Brown is back on the radar screen after two excellent weeks, so if the Fish (+6) have Trent Green pepper the field with short passes, they have a solid chance to finally win a game.

NFL Week 5: Browns at Patriots; Chargers at Broncos

Tom Brady is human after all. Did you see that interception he threw Monday night against the Bengals? Horrible.

He’ll need to throw about six of those against Cleveland if the Browns are going to have any hope of winning this week. The question is how big the spread is going to be. We were anticipating something just over two converted touchdowns at press time. The Browns are 3-1 ATS this season and have already upset both Cleveland and Baltimore.

We were also still doing the math on the Chargers-Broncos before the line went up. This is the mirror image of the Browns-Pats matchup: a combined 1-7 ATS. It looks like Denver will be a very small favorite at home, but the Chargers are starting to get their run game in order, which is doom for the Broncos. They let Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith romp for 216 yards in Sunday’s 38-20 loss. Yikes.