Every year it seems inevitable, some NFL team will lose their starting quarterback due to injury for a substantial amount of time before the regular season event commences. This year is no exception. As a matter of fact, during the last week alone, we’ve witnessed two such unfortunate mishaps. Dallas’ Tony Romo sustained a broken vertebrae last week at Seattle, and will be lost for at least half the season. Then just yesterday, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome knee injury during practice,and it will definitely sideline him for the year, besides quite possibly jeopardizing his playing career.
After a typical NFL season with all sorts of surprises and countless ups and downs, we end up with four teams left standing who many would list as the four best teams in the NFL. New England pounded Indianapolis with the running game as LeGarrette Blount ran wild for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns, giving the rest of the NFL the blessing of not having to listen to Jim Irsay any more this season. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning and the Broncos took care of business against upstart San Diego last night to set up another Peyton Manning/Tom Brady matchup for a trip to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, on the NFC side, San Francisco took care of Cam Newton and the Panthers while Seattle won a slugfest against Drew Brees and the Saints.
Anyone looking forward to next week already can check out the early NFL odds at online sportsbooks as Denver is a 5-point favorite at home versus New England and Seattle is a 3.5-point favorite at home versus San Francisco. Not only do we have 4 excellent teams, but we have some serious rivalries as well which makes these games even more interesting and also complicated to pick. We have the Manning/Brady matchup, though now Manning is wearing Denver orange. Can Tom Brady and the Pats take another championship run away from Manning in a season where Manning shattered the record books? Does New England’s new-found running game alter the analysis here?
Also, with Seattle and San Francisco we have one of the more physical and bitter rivalries in the NFL, with a deeper rivalry between coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll as well that’s been going on since their Stanford/USC days. Seattle has owned the 49ers in Seattle and has frankly overpowered them. But San Francisco has improved dramatically from early in the season with Colin Kaepernick playing much better. Also, Russell Wilson hasn’t been playing quite as well, and look for the 49ers to stack the box and dare Wilson to throw deep. We’ll see which young quaterback emerges this week.
Regardless of the results next week, we should have an epic Super Bowl on our hands with contrasting styles, as the AFC has two traditional teams with classic drop-back passers while the NFC teams feature younger, more mobile quarterbacks. This should be fun!
LSU vs. Alabama, 8:00PM ET
This shouldn’t be the typical LSU-Alabama defensive slugfest for four quarters. The Tigers have had communication issues in their defensive backfield all season, which has led to some big plays for the opposition, and their pass rush has been inconsistent as well. On the other side, the Tide’s secondary is thin and the defense as a whole hasn’t looked as dominant as it has in recent years. But perhaps the biggest difference in this year’s matchup compared to recent meetings is that LSU finally has a quarterback capable of making plays down the field. Zach Mettenberger has given the Tigers a true vertical passing game and with that, scoring shouldn’t be an issue in this one. FREE PICK: OVER 54.5
Houston vs. Central Florida, 7:00PM ET
Despite being 7-0 and 4-0 in conference play, Houston has received no love from oddsmakers. That’s been great for bettors, however, as the Cougars have covered the number in all but one game this season (last week versus South Florida when they won but failed to cover as a 19-point favorite). Houston is 5-0 against the spread in its last five road games and 4-0 ATS in its last four games following a bye week. The Cougars are also 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games overall, 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in November and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a straight up win. Take the points. FREE PICK: HOUSTON +12.5
Cowboys vs. Saints, 8:30PM ET
When teams are able to generate pressure from the interior of their defensive line and push the pocket into Drew Brees’ face, he struggles. That’s what happened last week when the Jets shocked the Saints in East Rutherford. That said, the Cowboys don’t employ Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson or Quinton Coples on their defensive line, so Brees and the Saints should have a bounce back game on Sunday night. New Orleans is 20-6 against the spread in its last 26 home games, 5-2 ATS in its last seven games versus NFC opponents and 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games in Week 10. The Saints are simply a different team at home and should win this one by a touchdown-plus. FREE PICK: SAINTS -7
Raiders vs. Giants, 1:00PM ET
Let’s see, neither of these teams can run the ball with much success and both defenses have been downright brutal this season – smells like an over to me. The Raiders allowed Nick Foles to throw for seven touchdown passes last week and while Eli Manning is in the midst of another down season, he should pick apart Oakland’s ragtag secondary. The over is 4-1 in the Giants’ last five home games and 5-2 in the Raiders’ last seven games in November. This one should sail over. FREE PICK: OVER 44
I was pretty surprised to see NFL insider Pete Prisco discussing the spreads for the NFL games this weekend. He usually sticks with purely football analysis, but here he gets into the lines as well.
Like most people, he thinks the spread on the Denver-Baltimore game is pretty high. The Broncos were favored by 9 or 9.5, but now the line has come down in many places to 7.5, which makes a little more sense.
It may have just been a harmless answer to a question, but Adrian Peterson is feeling pretty confident these days. Peterson said he will eventually break Emmitt Smith’s all-time career rushing record. Not only did he say he would break the record, Peterson said he expected to break the record in Week 16 of the 2017 NFL season. Apparently he didn’t do the math, as so far his current pace would have him getting the mark in the 2019 season.
Now, we live in an age where every comment becomes a major news story, as 24-hour cable sports networks and millions of blogs need to generate content. Still, a bit of humility would serve Peterson well. First, he should focus all of his comments on his team, not in individual goals. Next, he should stay as far away from numbers as he can. It will become a very big distraction. He should focus on his health and his game, and then say the numbers will take care of themselves.
Still, if you’re a betting man, Peterson’s obsession with his yardage totals has to be a consideration as you consider NFL odds for the upcoming football season. Football bets such as the NFL odds for the player who will get the most rushing yards this season are very interesting and can vary greatly from year to year. Peterson is a huge favorite, and if you pick him you have to love his attitude. Also, you have to be wary of betting against him considering his attitude.
Frankly, I think that particular bet is way too risky, as injuries usually have a huge impact on final numbers, and running backs get hurt a lot. I’m still partial to working the NFL odds on a game to game basis. With that in mind, I love the idea of games where Peterson faces defenses that have trouble stopping the run. Many people are still skeptical of the Vikings and Christian Ponder, but a healthy Peterson makes them a tough out in every game they play. I like them as road dogs against teams like the Packers who don’t remember how to tackle.