Free Sports Picks
Free predictions and opinions on today's games from Team SBS's expert handicappers and also several guest handicappers.
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New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Eagles -3
New York won their 3rd-straight game last week with a 37-10 pounding of Kansas City. Philadelphia pulled the upset with a 26-10 victory over Miami last Sunday.
New York's recent success has been partly based on their ability to control the game with their running game. RB Shonn Greene has been pounding the inside of defenses and moving the chains. This has enabled QB Mark Sanchez to make plays off of play action, his best attribute. Philadelphia has allowed 4.4 yards-per-carry and look for the Jets to continue pounding the rock throughout the game. RB LaDainian Tomlinson has contributed mostly as a receiver but will still get some carries. For all the criticism he hears, Sanchez has a very impressive 21-11 TD/INT ratio and has been playing very well during the winning streak. The Eagles much-talked about secondary has had their struggles and has to be aware of WR Plaxico Burress in the red zone. The Eagles have 42 sacks and will blitz but the Jets defused that strategy last week against the Chiefs with screen passes.
Eagles QB Michael Vick returned last week and was effective. RB LeSean McCoy is clearly the centerpiece of the offense but tends to be underused. The Jets run defense has played better in recent weeks and they will be totally focused on McCoy. They know if they contain McCoy, they put the ball in Vick's hands. Philadelphia has done a great job of spreading the ball around as five players have between 45-49 receptions. New York's secondary has also been playing well but lost S Jim Leonhard for the year with a knee injury. Former 1st-round bust OLB Aaron Maybin leads the Jets with six sacks and has found a role as a situational pass rusher. New York will look to contain Vick in the pocket and force him to make throws into tight windows.
Philadelphia looked good last week but has been very hit-and-miss all year. New York is firmly in the playoff hunt and need a win to stay in contention. Another fact it is hard to overlook is the Eagles' 31 TOs. The Jets should win this game and are getting a FG to boot. We'll take the better team with something to play for.
Take the Jets
Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos
Line: Broncos -3.5
Chicago dropped their second-straight game in the absence of QB Jay Cutler, 10-3 to Kansas City last Sunday. Denver roared to their 5th-straight victory with another come-from-behind-win, 35-32 over Minnesota last week.
The Bears offense is going nowhere fast with QB Caleb Hanie under center. He has thrown three picks in each of his first two starts and has a passer rating of 40.8. The Broncos pass defense was weak early in the season but like the rest of the defense, has come on in the last two months. The Bears lack a go-to receiver and Hanie has had trouble reading coverages. RB Matt Forte suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee last week and while doubtful, may suit up. However, he will be severely hampered and likely won't be a factor. He is also the team's leading receiver by 19 catches over WR Johnny Knox. Backup RB Marion Barber III is a between-the-tackles pounder who lacks big-play ability. The Broncos run defense and pass rush will be greatly aided if rookie OLB Von Miller (thumb, check status) can return. He and DE Elvis Dumervil have combined for 17 sacks.
Denver's offense has been prone to slow starts and face a very good defense this week. However, they lead the league in rushing behind a reborn RB Willis McGahee (182-886-4) and QB Tim Tebow (5.7 yards-per-rush). They will continue to run the ball all game even if Chicago stops them early. Tebow had his best passing effort last week and that phase of his game is slowly getting better. He has developed a quick chemistry with WR Eric Decker and hit WR Demaryius Thomas for two long scores last week. The Bears have allowed 260 yards-per-game through the air and Tebow should be able to find open receivers. As usual, his accuracy will be a question but he does have the ability to make some top throws. Chicago averages only two sacks per game but DE Julius Peppers (8 sacks) will have to be accounted for.
Denver is tied for the division lead and is on a 6-1 SU/ATS run. Their defense has been very impressive in recent weeks and the offense has found ways to score, especially late in games. The Bears defense is a proud unit but we feel they will tire as their offense just can't sustain drives with Hanie under center. We look for the Broncos to pull away late and get the home cover.
Take the Broncos
Week 10New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
Line: 49ers -3.5
New York won their 3rd-straight game and six in their past seven with a hard-fought 24-20 win over New England last Sunday. San Francisco moved to 7-1 with a 19-11 victory over Washington last week.
New York won last week despite of the absence of RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring). That shows how valuable QB Eli Manning is to this offense. The 49ers are amongst the league's best at run defense but RB Brandon Jacobs physical style will be a test for them. San Francisco's pass defense isn't nearly as good as their run defense as their best defensive players play in the front seven. Manning has done a great job of spreading the ball around (5 players with 23+ receptions) and limiting mistakes (15-6 TD/INT ratio). The 49ers have a good pass rush but the Giants O-line have limited opponents to fewer than two sacks per game.
San Francisco's offense rests on the shoulders of RB Frank Gore. He ranks among league leaders with 782 yards rushing while the Giants have allowed 127 yards-per-game on the ground. Clearly the 49ers will run the ball frequently and the Giants need to focus on Gore, even if it means bringing a safety into the box. While QB Alex Smith has an impressive 10-2 TD/INT ratio, the 49ers passing game doesn't scare anyone. What will scare them is New York's pass rush, which leads the league with 28 sacks (9.5 by DE Jason Pierre-Paul). WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis are the only players with more than 15 catches. New York has issues in their secondary but you couldn't tell by the way they bottled up the Patriots last week. They may double Davis on occasion to force Smith to look outside the hashes.
This is a very good spot for the Giants historically, even though it is their 2nd-straight road game. They are 5-0 ATS vs. the 49ers, 12-3 vs. the NFC West and 15-7 ATS as a road underdog. The Niners offense isn't built to come from behind while Manning has led five 4th-quarter comebacks this season. The Giants could win the game and they are getting more than a FG. Look for Manning to be the difference in another New York road cover.
Take the Giants
Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins
Line: Dolphins -4
Washington lost for the 4th week in a row last week, dropping a 19-11 decision at home to San Francisco. Miami won for the first time this year with a dominating 31-3 victory over Kansas City last Sunday.
The Redskins scored their lone TD last week with 1:10 left, another sign how bad this offense is. They only average 90 yards-per-game on the ground as the absence of RB Tim Hightower is really felt in this area. Rookie RB Roy Helu caught 14 passes last week as QB John Beck is the new “Captain Checkdown” of the NFL. Beck completed 30 passes last week but none were for more than 17 yards. Look for Miami to crowd the middle and to force Beck to beat them through the air. The Dolphins allow less than four yards per carry and their front seven should handle Washington's running game. Miami has had their struggles in pass defense but get a break this week as Beck, a former Dolphin, just won't throw the ball deep. Miami's improving pass rush should give the O-line trouble as well.
The Dolphins were very effective on the ground and through the air last week as QB Matt Moore continues to get better in this offense. With RBs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas both healthy, Miami should be able to run the ball effectively against a defense that allows 4.5 yards-per-rush. WR Brandon Marshall and TE Anthony Fasano both came up large against KC and Moore needs Marshall to duplicate that performance this week. Marshall remains the big-play threat of this offense as well as Bush, a threat in space on short passes. The Redskins have a decent pass rush and Moore will have to make quick decisions to avoid the sacks that have hurt this offense this year.
Over the past two years, Miami has been a terrible play at home but we'll take them here. With all of the injuries on offense and the weak QB play of Beck, Washington's ability to score points is limited. The Dolphins will be able to sustain drives with their running and short passing and we feel they will get another win and cover this week.
Take the Dolphins
Week 6Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Line: Bears -3
Minnesota won their first game of the year, 34-10 over Arizona last Sunday. Chicago was overwhelmed in a 24-13 loss at Detroit on Monday night.
There is no secret as to what the Vikings game plan will be on offense: run, run, run and run some more. Chicago has allowed 350 yards on the ground in their last two games and now must deal with RB Adrian Peterson. Look for Peterson to get the ball frequently as Minnesota needs to establish the run early to help a sagging QB Donovan McNabb. Always much more effective with a working ground game, look for McNabb to move the ball with shorter passes before testing the secondary deep. McNabb has been sacked 11 times this year but the Bears have been inconsistent with their pass rush.
Chicago's offense has been very up and down this season as QB Jay Cutler (18 sacks) has been on the run for most of it. The O-line has been terrible in pass protection and now face the unenviable task of dealing with DE Jared Allen and his 8.5 sacks. Look for Allen to be a thorn in the offense all game. The running game faces a tough test as the Vikings run defense has perked up with the return of DT Kevin Williams. Look for the Vikings to stack the box in an effort to slow down RB Matt Forte. If Cutler has to throw often, it could be a long day for the Chicago offense.
Minnesota has been in most of their games this season but hadn't strung four good quarters together until last week. They accomplished that against Arizona and now face a Bears team with issues on both sides of the ball. We see Allen and Peterson playing key roles in a big divisional road cover for the visitors.
Take the Vikings
Week 5San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Line: Chargers -3.5
San Diego handled Miami 26-16 last week. Denver was blown out by Green Bay 49-23 last Sunday.
The Chargers are slowly finding balance on offense despite the fact they throw for 300+ yards per game. RB Ryan Matthews is improving on his so-so rookie year and gives HC Norv Turner more options. He is also developing as a pass receiver. QB Philip Rivers should do well against a defense that was shredded by QB Aaron Rodgers last week. The Broncos defense has improved over last year but still has a long ways to go. CB Champ Bailey (check status) missed last week's game and his absence would further weaken a subpar pass defense. Rivers has had turnover issues this year but shouldn't be harassed by this defense. Rookie OLB Von Miller has four sacks and look for the Chargers to pay extra attention to him.
Denver's offense has been struggling this season as they can't get their ground game going. RB Willis McGahee is the lead back but he is on the downside of his career. This has forced QB Kyle Orton to the air in obvious passing situations and the results have been mixed (8-6 TD/INT ratio). San Diego is allowing less than 200 yards through the air and should handle an offense devoid of a deep threat. The Chargers 3-4 front will be geared to stopping McGahee first. If successful, look for several blitzes to force Orton into quick throws.
The Broncos are 2-13 ATS in their last 15 games hosting divisional opponents. If they get behind early, the crowd will be chanting “Tebow, Tebow” and that will continue to have an unsettling effect on Orton. The Chargers have struggled in the early part of the season over the last few years but have started 3-1 this year. Look for them to stay focused and build on their early division lead. Take the Chargers
Week 4Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams
Line: Redskins -1.5
Washington was edged out 18-16 by Dallas on Monday night. St. Louis trailed 21-0 after the 1st quarter in a 37-7 slaughter by Baltimore. It was the Rams third-straight loss by double digits.
The Redskins will want to test one of the leagues' worst defenses on the ground (174 yards-per-game) as well as take their shots deep (252 yards-per-game allowed per game). Look for RBs Tim Hightower and rookie RB Roy Helu to find running lanes against a defense that has to overplay the pass. The Rams have five CBs on IR and made rookie WR Torrey Smith look like HOFer Jerry Rice last week. QB Rex Grossmann is having a decent season and his accuracy will come into play here as the Rams aren't forcing quick throws. TE Todd Heap and WR Anthony Armstrong are off to slow starts but could be factors in this game. The offense has to be aware of DE Chris Long (3 sacks) but St. Louis hasn't blitzed much as they need to protect their corners.
The Rams have been playing catch-up on offense most of the year and have been without RB Steven Jackson for a large chunk of it. He had only four touches last week as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Look for the Redskins to focus on Jackson and force St. Louis to throw. QB Sam Bradford has had a rough go of it as he has been sacked 12 times and has little to work with in the passing game (2 TD passes). Washington has had their problems vs. the pass but the return of SS LaRon Landry aids that cause. With RT Jason Smith having pass-blocking issues, look for OLBs Brian Orakpo and rookie Ryan Kerrigan to get their shots at him.
The Redskins are far from a dynamic offense but they have speed on the outside, an accurate QB and a decent running game. The Rams have Bradford and an ailing Jackson and little else on offense. Washington's defense is allowing 100 fewer yards per game and we feel they can bottle up Jackson. Conversely, Grossmann should have time to test the defense deep with WR Santana Moss and Armstrong.
Take the Redskins
Week 3Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers
Line: Panthers -3.5
Jacksonville was blown out at home by the New York Jets last week, 32-3. Carolina dropped to 0-2 with a 30-23 loss to Green Bay on Sunday.
The Jaguars have been getting good production from RB Maurice Jones-Drew (42-185-1) on the ground this year and now face a defense that will be missing their second starting LB lost to injury. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert will make his first start against a defense that has surrendered 590 passing yards in two games. Look for Gabbert to open the game with safe throws before testing a leaky defense that allowed four TD passes of 49, 55, 70 and 84 yards against the Packers and Cardinals. Carolina's defense has had no answers this year, a perfect team for a rookie to get his first start against.
For as bad as the Panthers have been on defense, their passing game has lit it up. QB Cam Newton has topped 400 yards in both of his starts but the Jaguars have played better defense vs. the pass than his first two opponents. However, Jacksonville has been even better vs. the run. They haven't allowed a RB to reach 50 yards and are allowing only 3.2 yards-per-rush. Carolina was supposed to have a strong ground game but it hasn't materialized as of yet. Newton is the leading rusher as RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are both averaging less than 3.0 yards-per-carry. Newton has been sacked eight times and thrown four picks, so there have been mistakes with all the passing yards.
This game features two diametrically opposed teams. Carolina is playing a run'n'gun offense with lots of yards and lots of mistakes. Jacksonville relies on the running game and hope to put Gabbert in favorable situations against a very poor pass defense. This could be a close game and we like Jones-Drew to be the deciding factor in a road cover for the Jaguars.
Take the Jaguars
Week 2St. Louis Rams at New York Giants
Line: Giants -5.5
St. Louis was beat up on the field and on the scoreboard in a 31-13 home loss to Philadelphia last week. New York continually stumbled in a 28-14 loss to Washington last Sunday.
The Rams will be without RB Steven Jackson, WR Danny Amendola and RT Jason Smith this week and QB Sam Bradford is dealing with an injured (throwing) right index finger. On the flip side, the Giants expect to get starting DEs Justin Tuck and Matthias Kiwanuka back for this contest. The Rams don't have a dynamic passing game but did get 150 yards from scrimmage from backup RB Carnell Williams. Look for New York to key on Williams and let their pass rush harass Bradford into mistakes. The Giants don't have a great secondary but this team shouldn't hurt them deep.
The Giants made several mistakes last week but many were of the self-inflicted kind. RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for only 19 carries last week. Look for that total to double vs. the Rams. QB Eli Manning should do well against a secondary that lost their only impact player in FA over the summer. WR Hakeem Nicks is nicked up but will play. This could be an opportunity for WR Mario Manningham to shine. The Rams have a decent pass rush, while the Giants are developing a revamped line. This may force Manning into some checkdowns but look for him to test this secondary with medium-to-long range throws all game.
St. Louis is really banged up on offense and their defense isn't good enough to compensate. New York is generally their own worst enemy, but the return of Tuck should galvanize the pass rush and Manning should put up good numbers on a mediocre secondary.
Take the Giants
Week 1Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears
Line: Falcons -2.5
Atlanta finished 13-3 last season and was the No.1 seed before being blown out by Green Bay in the playoffs. Chicago also won their division and advanced to the NFC Championship Game before also losing to the Packers.
The Falcons ranked 16th in yards gained last season but 5th in points scored. Their inability to stretch the field was exposed in the loss to the Packers, so they added rookie WR Julio Jones to the offense. While Atlanta will certainly attack the Bears on the ground with RB Michael Turner, look for QB Matt Ryan to test their Cover 2 scheme deep. Chicago's defense must be concerned with the deep pass and that will open up things underneath for All Pros TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Roddy White. The Bears front seven is aging but they remain formidable. The Bears struggle when their corners have to stay with receivers for too long and we see Ryan making some big plays in this matchup.
Chicago is a pass-first offense under OC Mike Martz but they were actually more successful last season when they ran the ball more often. Martz will want QB Jay Cutler to test the Falcons' 22nd-ranked pass defense of 2010. However, the Bears have new starters all over their O-line and it is still a work in progress. Atlanta added DE Ray Edwards in the offseason and he'll be matched up with rookie RT Gabe Carimi. Cutler was sacked a league-high 56 times last season and we feel Edwards and RE John Abraham will be able to pressure him consistently in this game. The Bears dispatched their most reliable receiver TE Greg Olsen to Carolina and that leaves Cutler with a bunch of No.2 and No.3 receivers.
Atlanta rose to new heights last season and wasn't happy with their performance in the playoffs. We feel the combination of Ryan and Turner will keep the pressure on the defense and force Cutler and the offense to play catch-up. The line is less than a FG and we like Atlanta to get the road cover.
Take the Falcons
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