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Between the 20s in the NFL

   by ASA - 10/02/2006

Highest Total
According to the Sports Books: Green Bay at Philadelphia (48 total).

In Reality: New England at Cincinnati (46 total). This game should be a shootout. Cincinnati is averaging over 28 points against three pretty good defenses in Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and have yet to hit its stride on offense. The Bengals finally have wideouts Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry all on the field at the same time to go along with Carson Palmer and Rudi Johnson. Look for New England to rebound from a poor showing against Denver to put up some impressive numbers. Tom Brady should have a big game and look for Laurence Maroney – with Corey Dillon questionable – to have a breakout performance after the Bengals allowed Willie Parker to run for 133 yards and two scores. These two teams have gone over the total three of the last four meetings, and have gone over by an average of over 12 points a game.

Lowest Total
According to the Sports Books: San Diego at Baltimore (33 total).

In Reality: San Francisco at Kansas City (40.5 total). This game will feature very little offense and a lot of defense. The Kansas City offense has not been even close to the unit it has been in recent years and the absence of Trent Green from the lineup will make things even harder for the KC offense. With Damon Huard at QB, expect the 49ers to stack the line in order to slow down Larry Johnson. The Chief defense, which is eighth in the league in total defense and third against the pass, should be able to neutralize the San Francisco offense. Starting tight end Vernon Davis is out and starting running back Frank Gore is nursing a rib injury. Alex Smith won’t be enough to get this offense going.

Largest Spread
According to the Sports Books: Green Bay (+11) at Philadelphia

In Reality: Arizona (+7) at Atlanta. The Falcons will rebound from their poor showing Monday night against New Orleans in a big way against the Cardinals. The Atlanta running attack won’t stopped for two straight weeks, as the Arizona stop unit is allowing over 105 rushing yards a game. The trio of Mike Vick, Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood will build on Atlanta’s 225 rushing yards per game average. Meanwhile, this game could be the going-out party for Kurt Warner. He was almost ousted from his starting post earlier this week and this game will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Warner has thrown four interceptions and fumbled five times in the last two games and should be due for a few more turnovers against an aggressive Atlanta defense.

Most Impactful Injury
Shaun Alexander’s broken foot: The biggest injury heading into this weekend’s action has to be the broken foot suffered by Alexander. This injury marks the first game Alexander has ever missed as a pro and it came at an inopportune time. While Alexander hasn’t really gotten going yet this season, just the threat of him would mean extra preparation for the Chicago defense. The Bears have one of the top defenses in the league and the Alexander injury means Chicago can now devote more time toward stopping Seattle’s four-wide passing set. Alexander’s absence has had only a minimal effect on the point spread, though, as the line has moved no more than a point on most boards.

Most Glaring Mismatch
Philly passing game vs. Green Bay secondary: Donovan McNabb has proven once again that he does not need a star wideout to be successful as he leads a Philly offense to 307 passing yards a game. He has torched opposing ways by evenly distributing balls to wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Meanwhile, the Packers are 31st in the league in pass defense at over 300 yards allowed per game. Charles Woodson looks like he’s lost numerous steps and safeties Nick Collins and Marquand Manuel are horrible in coverage. Green Bay has allowed no less than 252 passing yards in each of its three games and have done so against Chicago, New Orleans and Detroit offenses that aren’t exactly known for their aerial assaults.

Most Important Player
Tom Brady: Brady and the New England passing attack has struggled at times this year but Brady and his new collection of receiving options are starting to gel. The Patriots went to a no-huddle, hurry-up offense late against Denver and saw enough success that they might return to it this week against Cincinnati. New England hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2002 and if Brady can return to his old Pro Bowl form, the underdog Patriots have a very good chance to not only cover the 6-point spread against the Bengals, but to win outright.

Most Influential Unit
Buffalo special teams: Bobby April and his special teams unit has been one of the best in the league over the last few years and this year is no different. It is sixth in the league in kick return average, eighth in punt return average, fourth in punts inside the 20 and first punts blocked. Buffalo and Minnesota should play to a low-scoring affair and in low-scoring games, special teams are often the unit that make the most difference.

Potential Upset of the Week
HOUSTON (+3.5) over Miami: The Texan defense has been horrible but Daunte Culpepper and the Miami offensive line can make any defensive unit look good. Culpepper is 22nd in the league in quarterback rating and owns a 1:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The offensive line has also been poor, allowing a league-high 16 sacks and opening few holes for Ronnie Brown, who is averaging just 3.4 yards a carry in totaling a measly 190 yards in three games. On the other sideline, David Carr boasts the top quarterback rating in the entire NFL with Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds providing quality weapons for Carr. The Dolphins struggled mightily to beat a horrible Tennessee team 13-10 at home last week. They’ll struggle even more to beat Houston. The Texans pick up their first win of the season in this one.

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