First off, apologies for the lack of column last week. This column is written every Friday, however last week was taken up by the wedding of the best running back in Ireland, while the weekend was spent getting skint in London seeing the future Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys dismantle a hapless Jaguars outfit. Anyhow let’s back on the horse this weekend!
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ WAHSINGTON REDSKINS
This is a sneaky matchup in terms of points. Robert Griffin III returned for Washington last time out against Minnesota and did well, engineering five scoring drives. Meanwhile, Josh McCown was drafted back in under centre for the Bucs last time and also did well, finishing with 340 all-purpose yards. OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 kicks off this week’s treble.
The usual Alfred Morris stat gets rolled out each time Griffin makes his return from any injury problem but it’s worth highlighting. With Griffin under centre, Morris has 4.86 yards per carry as opposed to 3.69 yards per carry without him. The threat of the read option with the former Baylor Bear calling the shots allows more room for Morris and he should run well. Griffin should also go well against a Tampa defence that has allowed a 103.7 passer rating to opposing QB’s – third worst in the NFL.
Washington’s defence has been badly affected by injuries with pass-rusher Brian Orakpo and top cover man DeAngleo Hall done for the year. Bashaud Breeland has been a rookie success, but David Amerson has been poor and big targets Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans could have success.
OVER 45 PTS @ 10/11 opens this week’s bet, with a scoreline somewhere in the region of 27-24 either way predicted here. V-Jax to score the first touchdown at 9/1 makes do.
HOUSTON TEXANS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS
Not the most attractive match on this week’s NFL slate, but we’re here to make money. Ryan Mallet is in at quarterback for Houston, but he has to take on a Cleveland defence that hasn’t given up more than 17 points over last three games. Coming off the back of a huge divisional win in Cincinnati, a 3 point spread at home looks to small for this Browns team. CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next on the slip.
Over the last 5 games, the Browns unit has allowed only five touchdowns, while intercepting 10 passes and sacking the quarterback 12 times. Joe Haden has rediscovered his shutdown cornerback status and with an immobile quarterback under centre, it could be a long afternoon for the Texans offence.
Cleveland’s success on offence has come on the ground. The Browns ran it an NFL-high 52 times last week, with Crowell, Tate and West all getting involved. Brian Hoyer has been the stereotypical game-manager getting the ball out quickly, until the Browns take the Lamborghini out of the garage next week, with Josh Gordon’s return. Houston are allowing 4.38 yards per carry to opposing backs so expect plenty of the three-headed monster this week.
CLEVELAND -3 PTS @ 10/11 is next with a low-scoring Browns win in the region of 21-14. Ben Tate went in first last week, he’ll do again this week at a price of 9/1.
DENVER @ ST LOUIS
St Louis has finally generated a pass rush from it’s heralded linemen over the past two weeks, sacking the opposing trigger man 11 times over the last 2 games. However the Rams take on Peyton Manning under a roof, and that spells trouble for St Louis. DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 rounds off this week’s selections.
Manning and co bounced back from their loss to the Pats, with a win over the Oakland Raiders last week. Despite their pass rush success the last fortnight, expect Peyton to know this and a gameplan to revolve around getting the ball out quickly to a host of playmakers. Also as we mentioned the game is indoors. Manning has played three games indoors over the last two seasons with Denver, where he threw for 1200 yards (8.45 YPA) and an 11:2 TD-to-INT ratio.
Shaun Hill is under centre for the Rams, with coach Jeff Fisher finally losing patience with rookie Austin Davis, after a drop-off in play the last few months. Hill has played a total of 73 offensive snaps since the end of the 2010 season and is knocking on a bit – turning 35 by season’s end.
DENVER -9 PTS @ 10/11 with Denver handling St Louis by a score of 31-17. Touchdown machine Julius Thomas once again will do for first touchdown at 11/2.
- Minnesota has given up 55 receptions to running backs, good for 6th most in the NFL. They go up against the best pass-catching back in the league tomorrow in Matt Forte. Big day expected for the former Tulane man.
- Mark Ingram has been straight balling, finally showing his Heisman-winning talent despite a bum shoulder. He’s rushed for over a tonne his last 3 games, and now goes up against a Bengals D that was gashed to the tune of 169 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against a previously-terrible Browns running attack.
- Carolina allowed Mark Sanchez to pass for 300+ yards last week. They get Matt Ryan this week with the Falcons finally getting the monkey off their back and winning on the road for the first time in over two years. Expect a big day for Matty Ice.
- Two runners who should have plenty of touches – Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. The last 4 games the New York Giants have allowed 680 yards and four scores on the ground, while Marshawn Lynch is all the Seahawks have on offence at the moment. Pair that with Kansas City’s top ranked pass defence, it could be tough-sledding for Russell Wilson in Arrowhead.
- Litmus-test for Mark Sanchez this week. On the road at Lambeau against a white-hot Green Bay squad. Will the real Mark Sanchez please stand up? It’s a tough ask for the former Jet, as he’ll be going toe-to-toe with the best player in football at the moment Aaron Rodgers. A-Rod has video game numbers at home – he’s not thrown a pick at home since December 4th 2012, and has 15 td’s already this year at Lambeau. Green Bay will win this football game.