NFL Football Column: Fantasy Impact
NFL Week 10
The Jags are now 0-4 at home (0-4 ATS too) and they have lost by a margin of 23 points. The season has gone downhill for the Jaguars since their win over Indy, and will be without Maurice Jones-Drew for a third straight game because of a foot injury. Jacksonville has not lost six in a row since a slide of that length spanning the 2002 and '03 seasons.
ATS: Colts -3
The Chargers' only two victories in their last six games have come over Kansas City, and they're averaging 14.3 points in those defeats. Despite their struggles, the Chargers are just one-game out of a wild-card spot, and are hoping to pull together to make the playoffs and keep Norv Turner off the hot seat. The Chargers have won eight of their last 10 games in which Philip Rivers has thrown fewer than two interceptions. If he can avoid throwing picks, Rivers has a chance to put up some big numbers Sunday. While the Buccaneers are third in the NFL with 13 interceptions, they're also allowing a league-high 321.1 passing yards per game. The Chargers are 8-1 all-time against the Buccaneers, including a 5-0 mark in Tampa.
All but counted out after a 1-3 start, Tampa Bay (4-4) has turned things around the past four weeks behind the explosive play of Doug Martin and Josh Freeman to close within one-half game of a playoff spot. Martin will be facing a San Diego team that ranks fourth against the run at 87.4 yards per game, but has allowed an average of 123.0 in its last two contests. Expect a close game here.
ATS: Chargers +3
The running game has been an area of concern for New Orleans, which is averaging 31.3 points in its victories, but Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram combined for 136 yards on the ground Monday against the Eagles. If New Orleans can build on that performance against a Falcons team yielding 127.5 rushing yards per game - second-most in the NFC behind the league-worst Saints (176.5) - it should open up things for Brees and the passing game. That said, this game comes down to who has the better defense, and that's the team in Red and Black.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will hope to have Stevie Johnson at his disposal after his leading receiver suffered a thigh injury against Houston. Johnson, who has four touchdown catches, didn't practice Wednesday but returned on Thursday. The Bills' rushing offense ranks sixth at 141.3 yards per game, but ran the ball a season-low 15 times for 74 yards at Houston despite having C.J. Spiller, who leads the NFL with 7.2 yards per carry. Spiller must be the focal-point of this offense for the Bills to have success. Period.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady is looking to keep the Patriots' league-best offense rolling after a bye week. Based on recent history, he should have no problem doing that against the struggling Bills. The Patriots are looking for a 12th straight home win in the series and a 23rd victory in the last 25 meetings overall. At the forefront of New England's running game is Stevan Ridley, who is on pace to become the first Patriot with 300 carries since Corey Dillon ran 345 times in 2004. Ridley's 89.5 rushing yards per game rank fifth and his 47 rushes for a first down are the most in the NFL. Ridley, who had 106 yards and two touchdowns at Buffalo in September, could be in for another big day. The Bills allow 169.5 rushing yards a game, the second most in the league, and an average of 5.7 yards per carry that's easily the NFL's worst. Look for another nice game from TE Rob Gronkowski here, as he has eight touchdowns in five career contests against the Bills and three straight 100-yard games.
Detroit (4-4) is last in the NFC North, but has a chance to move ahead of Minnesota (5-4) and over .500 for the first time since Week 1. The Lions have won three of four since a 20-13 home loss to the Vikings on Sept. 30. After being held to six receptions for 80 yards in the previous two games, Calvin Johnson caught seven passes for 129 last Sunday despite a sore knee. Matthew Stafford went 22 of 33 for 285 yards to become the second fastest to reach 10,000 passing yards, doing it in his 37th game. Mikel Leshoure could be the X factor here.
The Vikings may be forced to continue leaning heavily on Adrian Peterson with the passing game struggling, and the absence of Percy Harvin (ankle), the team leader with 62 receptions for 677 yards, won't help. Christian Ponder threw four TDs and no interceptions in the first four games, but he's been picked off eight times and thrown six touchdowns in the last five. The Lions are peaking and the Vikes are sinking.
Defensively, the Titans are third worst in the league at 30th, allowing 34.2 points per game as well as 414.2 yards per game. Matt Hasselbeck will cede QB duties back to Jake Locker this week. Locker must produce, as Chris Johnston will find the going very tough on the ground.
Likewise, Miami may need an especially big performance from Ryan Tannehill if Reggie Bush can't help boost a running game averaging only 74.2 yards over the last five. Bush has rushed for more than 69 yards once all season after ending last year with four consecutive 100-yard games. He could be helped by facing a Tennessee defense which ranks 30th in the league against the run, giving up an average of 141.6 yards.
The Giants look to get back on track before their bye week as they try to extend the Bengals' losing streak to five Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. New York led the league in plays of 20-plus yards through the first seven weeks, but have produced four such plays in the last two games. A slump by Eli Manning has been a major part of the problem. In addition, the Giants have averaged 78.3 rushing yards in the last three games compared to 150.0 in the first five, with starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw limited to 169 yards the past three weeks. Hakeem Nicks is qustionable for this one, which does nothing to help New York's chances.
There's little question the Bengals are in a slump, going 0-4 since a 3-1 start. The Bengals, who have led or been tied in the final quarter in three of their last four defeats, have dropped three in a row at home. Cincy will have to do a better job of protecting Andy Dalton after he was sacked five times Sunday. New York has 25 sacks, tied for third most in the NFL. The Bengals will try to keep Dalton upright long enough to get the ball to A.J. Green, whose 735 receiving yards are sixth most in the league. Green has caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games. The home team has won all eight matchups in the series. Make it nine.
For the first time since 2004, Peyton Manning has thrown three touchdown passes in five straight contests, and if he can get two more Sunday, he'll surpass Dan Marino's total of 420 for second most in NFL history. Although they've averaged 31.6 points over a 4-1 stretch, the Broncos could have trouble against a Carolina defense that has allowed one passing touchdown or less in seven of eight games.
The Panthers (2-6) have surrendered an average of 212.3 passing yards over their last four games, and haven't given up a 300-yard passing game since they faced the Falcons. Sporting the worst record in the NFC, Carolina hopes to carry some momentum from last week's victory after finally closing out an opponent. Carolina led in the fourth quarter in three of its previous four games but wound up losing. Cam Newton is beginning to show flashes of his sensational play from his rookie season by throwing for one touchdown and running in another to help his team break a five-game skid last week. It will take another great effort by Cam to keep this one within reach.
The Raiders are sitting at 3-5 and this will be a must win game for them. Darren McFadden left the game against the Bucs last Sunday and did not return. He will be listed as Doubtful for this game, but the Raiders have become a passing team now. The Raiders are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning record. The Ravens are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 home games. Carson Palmer should have a nice day.
Baltimore is still searching for ways to improve their defense. It might surprise you that Oakland actually brings the better offense AND the better defense in to this game. Joe Flacco must continue to spread the ball around, while Ray Rice must produce more explosive plays.
The struggling Jets try to turn things around Sunday against a Seattle team looking to extend its best home start in seven seasons. The Jets need to pick up the pace on both sides of the ball, as they rank 27th in the league with 317.4 yards per game and 24th with an average of 25.0 points allowed. They're also surely hoping to see Mark Sanchez take better care of the football - he's thrown five interceptions and fumbled six times in the last five games - as he faces Pete Carroll, his former coach at USC, for the first time.
Seattle is perfect at home. Russell Wilson is now playing at a higher level. Wilson has nine TD passes and no interceptions at home, where he's compiled a league-leading 120.2 passer rating. Marshawn Lynch continues to eat up yardage on the ground. Lynch could be in for a big day against a Jets defense surrendering 141.4 rushing yards per game to rank 29th in the NFL. As long as the 'Hawks keep it simple on offense and play good red zone defense, they should remain undefeated at home after this one.
Sam Bradford missed both meetings with the 49ers last season while recovering from a high left ankle sprain, but he has a 73.4 completion percentage and 100.3 rating with two touchdowns in two career starts versus San Francisco. Bradford could benefit from the return of favorite target Danny Amendola, who still leads St. Louis with 32 catches and 395 yards despite missing the last three games with a collarbone injury. St. Louis hasn't won in San Francisco since 2007, dropping four straight and six of the last seven there.Alex Smith, Frank Gore and the rest of the 49ers' offense look to take advantage of a this Rams team that hasn't forced a single turnover during a three-game losing streak. Defense has been a staple of coach Jim Harbaugh's squad that is allowing an NFL-low 12.9 points per game while giving up an NFC-best average of 271.4 total yards. Expect the 49ers to take care of business on Sunday.
Speaking of offensive line woes, right tackle Todd Herremans is likely out for the season. The Eagles offense is going to have to become so vanilla to make up for the porous line issues that Michael Vick and the Eagles might not get any better than their current rate of 16.6 points per game. Still, Philly is 5-0-1 ATS vs the NFC East in their last six tries and they should find a way to take care of business in this one at home, likely riding a nice game from LeSean McCoy.
Two of the NFL's top teams meet Sunday night at Soldier Field when the Texans try to prevent the Bears from winning seven straight games for the first time in six years. These teams are so equally matched and it could come down to who has more success in the passing game. Matt Schaub should have a slight advantage, even on the road, as the Texan passing game is often low risk and the Bears rely so heavily on the turnover. While his rushing yards may be squelched somewhat, expect Arian Foster to be more involved in the passing game as an outlet for his QB.
For as much attention as Chicago has drawn defensively, the Texans rank near the top of the league, allowing 286.1 total yards and 17.1 points. Houston has not allowed a rushing TD this season and will try to shut down Chicago's Matt Forte, who has scored in each of the last two games. Jay Cutler must play mistake-free and get good a solid contribution from Brandon Marshall. The Bears can not simply rely on their defense to win this one.
The Steelers haven't lost a home Monday night game in more than two decades. Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Steelers' 13-9 win at Arrowhead Stadium last season, has 31 TDs, six INTs and a 104.6 passer rating in his last 16 regular-season home games. Expect the Steelers to run the ball at will with whatever RB is healthy. It would be so easy to take the points here, but with Pittsburgh's defense playing much better, any points will be hard to come by for KC.
ATS: Steelers -12.5
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