NFL Key Sunday Previews


By Jim Hurley:

We know that you've noticed:

In all, there are eight divisional battles on this NFL Week #3 schedule- many of 'em being true blood-and-guts rivalries that date back (seemingly) hundreds of years- and so it really feels like the "good ole days".

Hey, all you need to say is Packers-Bears, Giants-Eagles, Jets-Raiders and you get the idea- how 'bout closing your eyes for a moment and just focusing on the music the NFL Films guys used to play in the background?

You know what we're talking about.  

Still, as we head into NFL Week #3 play, there remain a couple of important questions:

First off, will we continue to see loads of scoring?

Remember we told you in a recent Jim Sez column that NFL games are averaging 47 points a game through the first two weeks of action and check it out: 

This NFL Week #3 card has just three games with an over/under price of more than 47 points- see New England at Buffalo (54 points and up from an opening line of 50 ½), Houston at New Orleans (53 points and up slightly from an opening price tag of 52 ½) and the New York Giants at Philadelphia although this one is in a "circle" in many locals (48 points right now).

Now remember that scoring's been upped to a large degree because of kick and punt returns for touchdowns- who can forget San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. scoring via each route in his team's Week #1 win/cover against Seattle?- and so there figures to be better tackling and overall better organization on kick/punt coverages the deeper we get into this current campaign. Still, we'll see if that holds true here in Week #3.

One other question pertaining to NFL scoring at this current pace: The weather's bound to go bad in some locales this weekend:

Keep in mind it's been just about picture-perfect weather out there plus- and betcha didn't know this factoid- we've already had eight NFL games (out of 32 games or one-quarter of 'em in all) played in domed stadia and there will be four more games played in domes here on the final Sunday in September (see New Orleans, Minnesota, St. Louis and Indianapolis) but don't be shocked if there's some foul weather in places such as Buffalo, Philadelphia and/or Chicago.   

Now, here's a look at some of the top NFL Week #3 Sunday afternoon showdowns ...

GREEN BAY (2-0) at CHICAGO (1-1)- 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Remember the date? It was January 23rd of this year when the Green Bay Packers extinguished the Super Bowl dreams of the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field with a 21-14 hang-on-for-dear-life victory and now the Pack's back in the Second City and they want to deliver an encore blow- hey, Chicago's tattered O-line took a couple more hits this week with the announcement that rookie RT Gabe Carimi (right knee sprain) is expected to be sidelined for several weeks and already this blocking wall- and QB Jay Cutler -- has been walloped to the tune of 11 sacks in season-opening games against Atlanta/New Orleans. P.S., keep in mind last year the Bears surrendered a league-worst 56 quarterback sacks.

Cutler was sacked six times in last Sunday's 30-13 loss at 4-point fav New Orleans and so either more shotgun calls here or a ground-first mentality must rule ... hey, it was odd seeing the always-boastful Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz take a few hits this week as he claimed he "had a bad day" in terms of play-calling in the game at the Superdome.

Quickie stat fact on the Packers here: Their vaunted defense allowed 419 aerial yards to New Orleans QB Drew Brees in the opener and 432 passing yards to Carolina's rookie QB Cam Newton in last week's 30-23 non-cover win ... just sayin'!

Spread Notes- Green Bay has notched pointspread wins in 12 of its last 16 overall games dating back to the middle of last year and that features a four-game spread winning streak in the glorious post-season away run at Philadelphia, at Atlanta and at Chicago along with the Super Bowl win/cover versus Pittsburgh. Note that the Packers are 20-11 ATS (against the spread) in all divisional games during the five-plus year reign of head coach Mike McCarthy. Meanwhile, Chicago is a tasty 8-4 ATS in the underdog role dating back to the start of last season and that includes the 20-17 outright upset at 3-point Green Bay early in 2010 and, of course, the aforementioned 21-14 loss as 3 ½-point home underdogs in last year's NFC Championship Game.

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1) at PHILADELPHIA (1-1)- 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Okay, so we get it, we get it! The Eagles have made it clear that concussed QB Michael Vick (429 yards passing and 122 yards rushing so far this 2011 season) will indeed play here after getting kayoed late in the third quarter last Sunday Night in that rollicking 35-31 loss in Atlanta but now the $64,000 question is do the Giants have the bodies to slow him down ... or is this gonna be Philly's seventh straight win in this series?

No doubt the Las Vegas pointspread this week has shown the volatility of this Vick injury- in many venues the game has gone from 7 ½-to-9 or even 9 ½ points with the Birds the heavy-duty chalk-eaters and so that's why it's only been a little laughable that Giants S Antrel Rolle (among others) has had so much to say- why weren't they chirping last December after surrendering 28 points in the game's final 7:28 en route to a devastating 38-31 home loss to Philadelphia?

Paging Philly's DeSean Jackson and his 65-yard punt bring-back of a Matt Dodge boot for the game-winning score with no time left. Let's just say that if new Giants P Steve Weatherford punts it in Jackson's general direction in this particular tilt it could have G-men head coach Tom Coughlin popping his lid!

Spread Notes- Believe it or not, Philadelphia is just 16-17 ATS at home dating back to the start of the 2007 season but take note that the Eagles have covered the last six consecutive games against the Giants including the 23-11 win as 4-point road dogs in the 2008 NFC Divisional Playoff round. On the flip side, the Giants have failed to cover eight of their last 11 games dating back to last season and NYG's a crummy 3-6 spreadwise in divisional play dating back to late 2009.

NEW ENGLAND (2-0) at BUFFALO (2-0)- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe Buffalo Bills WR Stevie Johnson said it best when he hinted his club won't be able to change anyone's mentality "until we beat these guys".

After all the Patriots have made it into the post-season in seven of the past eight years while the Bills have gone a whopping 11 straight seasons without a playoff berth- and now chuck into the mix the fact New England's won the last 15 in a row SU (straight-up) versus Buffalo- and so there's some major ingredients poured into the pot here and we're haven't yet uttered a word about Pats mega-star QB Tom Brady (see 940 yards passing with 7 TDs and 1 INT through in season-opening wins against Miami and San Diego).

Simply stated, Brady- who sports a 17-1 career mark against the Bills- is really in rhythm these days and that really holds true with his tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez but note the latter has a knee injury that may KO him here and so this could be a two-Gronkowski tilt (see back-up TE Dan) and keep a close eye on whether Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (also 7 TDs and 1 INT thus far this season) can get his active TE Scott Chandler into the mix here. Chandler's already nabbed three scoring strikes but may get the "shadow" treatment when/if the Bills get into the red zone here.

Spread Notes- New England has notched pointspread wins in 13 of its last 18 head-to-head showdowns with Buffalo and that includes last year's spread split (a 38-30 non-cover home win by the 14 ½-point favored Patriots and later a 34-3 Pats' win/cover as 7 ½-point road favorites). The Bills are a rotten 6-12 ATS in AFC East games dating back to the start of the 2008 season and note Buffalo's an ugly 1-8 vig-wise in divisional home games during this time span although note that includes a 2008 "home" game played in Toronto versus Miami as was an '09 tilt against the New York Jets.

Now, here’s a quick-hitter game preview of tonight’s prime-time tilt:

PITTSBURGH (1-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (0-2) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Not real sure that the NFL – and the folks at the peacock network too – wouldn’t want a “do-over” here as what once appeared to be a marquee matchup with lots of sex appeal has been reduced to the rubble of what now constitutes this 2011 Indy Colts campaign.

The recent neck surgery underwent by Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning – his third operation in recent months – has hamstrung the Colts badly as fossil-like QB Kerry Collins (388 yards passing and 2 TDs through the season’s first two games but lots of mistakes/turnovers) just hasn’t been the answer but the question here is will the Steelers head into this clash overconfident – and partly because they come off last Sunday’s 24-0 win against Seattle?

If you’re looking for specific Pittsburgh defensive strategy here, than look for lots of attention to be paid Indianapolis WR Reggie Wayne (11 receptions for 172 yards) and so the best bet for the Colts might be attempt to spread the field (as the Green Bay Packers did in last year’s Super Bowl) and try to gauge the Steelers with runs/traps/draws because a mano-to-mano approach ain’t likely gonna work here!

On the flip side, no doubt that Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger took a slew of hits in last weekend’s aforementioned shutout win against the Seahawks and so expect Mike Tomlin’s crew to run it 70 percent of the time here with RB Rashard Mendenhalll getting 25-or-so totes here.

Spread Notes – Pittsburgh has split its first two pointspread verdicts this year but did you know the Steelers have covered 14 of their last 22 overall games dating back to late in the 2009 season? Meanwhile, Indianapolis is 0-2 vig-wise for the first time since the 2002 season (note that the Colts finished that year at 6-11 against the Las Vegas price tags) and note Indy’s 17-20 ATS at home in all games since winning that lone Super Bowl back in the 2006 campaign. In all, these teams have squared off four times since 2002 and they’ve split the spread verdicts and that includes Pittsburgh’s 21-18 triumph at 9 ½-point favored Indianapolis back in the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff round.


The Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders – that’s five teams in all – are the only National Football League guys still standing with 2-and-oh ATS (against the spread) records through the first two weekends of action and we would have bet our bottom dollar that nobody out there would have correctly forecast the league’s five undefeated spread sides while heading into NFL Week #3 action.

Are we correct?

Still, we wanted to know who the hottest NFL spread sides were dating back to last year and here are the findings:
Atlanta’s covered eight of its last 11 games overall and did you know the Falcons are an electric 7-3 spreadwise as betting favorites during this time span? …

Cincinnati heads into the Week #3 clash against San Francisco now riding a five-game spread winning while dating back to the final three games last year and the Bengals own a pair of outright upsets during this time (a 34-20 triumph against 8-point road fav San Diego last year and the season-opening 27-17 triumph over 7-point home fav Cleveland here in 2011) …

Detroit has notched seven consecutive pointspread wins as the Lions venture into Minnesota as the rare road favorite here in Week #3.The Motown gang owns four outright upset wins during this span including this year’s season-opening 27-20 victory at 2 ½-point fav Tampa Bay …

Green Bay is a haughty 12-4 spreadwise in its last 16 overall games – that’s a .750 winning rate, folks – and the Packers are 7-3 ATS away during this fantastic spread run …

New England’s covered seven of its last nine overall games since late 2010 and that includes covering 4-of-5 AFC East games with the lone exception to the rule being the 28-21 AFC Divisional Playoff loss to the 9-point road underdog New York Jets …
And Pittsburgh is a sporty 7-3 versus the vig in its last 10 games and the Steelers are also 6-1 against the odds in their last seven home games. Nice stuff from this AFC North squad! …

NOTE: We’ll tackle all the College Football weekend re-caps including LSU’s blockbuster 47-21 win at West Virginia and Oklahoma State’s rousing come-from-behind 30-29 win at Texas A&M plus get our Monday Night Football Preview too – that’s Redskins-Cowboys – in the next edition of Jim Sez.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be winning big-time with NFL Week #3 action along with the final regular-season weekend of Major-League Baseball and so please make sure you're all aboard for all the action right through Super Bowl XLVI on February 5th. Hey, it's gonna be a great ride! Just remember to call our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else go online right here for the NFL, NCAA Football and MLB winners!


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