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NFL Dogs: An Early Look

   by Bryan Leonard - 09/01/2007

While many publications are beginning to look at the best teams in the NFL, there is just as much money to be made betting AGAINST teams with weaknesses. A year ago in this same column I identified the Bills, Raiders and Vikings as potential go-against teams, ones with weakness that can be exploited. In 2006, those teams ended up going 3-9 against the spread as a favorite, and one (Raiders) went 6-10 ATS for the season. Here's a look at some NFL teams that appear to be moving in the wrong direction.

Bills: The late push to nearly make the playoffs in 2004 was a mirage. The Bills have gone 38-58 since 2001, fourth worst record in the NFL over that span. They are going the rebuilding rout, letting go of good veteran players the last few years. This offseason they dumped RB Willis McGahee and let CB Nate Clements walk.

Second year coach Dick Jauron got the team to overachieve at times last season, though they went 2-3 SU/ATS as a favorite and had a losing overall record. One of the biggest surprises of the 2006 draft was when the Bills selected Ohio State safety Donte Whitner with the No. 8 pick. Buffalo also surprised again by taking N.C. State defensive tackle John McCargo, who wasn't expected to go that high.

The secondary added rookies Ohio State cornerback Ashton Youboty and South Carolina safety Ko Simpson last season, and this year they add RB Marshawn Lynch to replace McGahee. This defense couldn't stop the run last season (28th) and the offensive line has big problems. The offensive line, with its $75 million infusion of alleged talent, looked like last year's poor group as the Tennessee Titans treated J.P. Losman and Marshawn Lynch like pinballs in Week 3 of the preseason.

Losman took a number of shots and by the end of the night his leg was wrapped to help alleviate the pain from a bruised thigh. As for the running game, Lynch carried nine times and gained nine yards and the Bills rushed for 26 yards in the first half. Lynch has 16 carries for 28 yards this preseason!

Defensively, the Bills were a mess against the run last season and they got rid of LB London Fletcher, LB Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements. That adds to other recent offseasons when the organization decided to let go of a lot of quality talents, losing WR Eric Moulds, S Lawyer Milloy and NT Sam Adams (cap casualties). The Titans had their way with Buffalo's first-string defense in piling up 218 yards in the first half. Tennessee's second-string offense drove 70 yards in nine plays for an early third-quarter touchdown with most of the Bills' starting group still in the game. It doesn’t make for a promising season when BOTH lines have holes.

Lions: Detroit GM Matt Millen was given some praise this offseason because he FINALLY took the right draft pick, taking WR Calvin Johnson with the No. 2 overall pick. But he didn’t get as much criticism as he should have for drafting Michigan State QB Drew Stanton in the second round. Stanton had knee problems, yet Millen went ahead and drafted him anyway (he could have gotten Stanton much later). Now, Stanton is gone for the season with a knee injury. How can you waste such a high draft pick on a guy with a bumb knee when so many other areas on your team need addressing? Detroit is 2-13 SU, 6-9 ATS its last 15 road games.

QB Jon Kitna will turn 35 in September and threw 21 TDs, 22 picks. Kitna didn’t play in Week 3 of the preseason because of back spasms and J.T. O’Sullivan was awful. Week 3 is when the starters play the most, yet the Lions got flattened 37-10. Millen is the guy who wasted a Top 10 pick on WR Mike Williams (whom they recently cut), and took Charles Rogers with the No. 2 overall pick. He upgraded the running game this offseason by trading for RB Tatum Bell and right tackle George Foster from Denver, but at a cost of trading away his best CB in Dre Bly. That’s moving sideways, and after a 2-14 season, moving sideways is not the right direction.

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