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NFL Weekend Outlook

   by Al McMordie - 11/04/2005

As we're crossing the halfway point of the NFL season, a lot of interesting battles are on the horizon with details that can help us against the spread. For instance, take a look at the wild and wacky NFC South division. Currently 3 of the 4 teams are tied for first place with 5-2 records: the Panthers, Falcons and Bucs.

Naturally, some of these teams will be scoreboard watching over the next few weeks, hoping to jump over the other. When you think of those teams, defense comes to mind. All play an aggressive, physical 'D'. In fact, there won't be as much of a logjam for first place come Sunday evening, as the Panthers and Bucs play each other in Tampa. Expect a defensive game, of course, with so much at stake, and notice that Tampa Bay is 6-1 'under' the total this season. Starting kid QB Chris Simms doesn't help to have a balanced offense, either, so he'll have to grow up in a hurry, or Tampa will compete with defense and a power running game, all of which often combine for low scoring games.

Last week the 49ers stacked the line with 7-8 men to stop the run and force Simms to pass. He couldn't. A year ago, Tampa Bay was 11-5 'under' the total and lost both times to the Panthers. Carolina won 21-14 at home (which went 'under'), and 37-20 at Tampa Bay (which went 'over').

The other dogfight division is the NFC East where EVERY team has a winning record. The Giants have it made this weekend with a game at San Francisco, while the Cowboys can sit back on their bye week and watch everybody else battle it out. The big division game is Sunday evening as the Redskins host the banged-up Eagles. Washington has been a beast at home, at 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS allowing just 13.7 ppg.

The Redskins are off an embarrassing division loss at New York, too, as they got smoked 36-0. They had trouble stopping the run, but catch a break this Sunday as the Eagles can't (or, more specifically, won't) run. It was interesting that new Washington WR David Patten was complaining this week about not getting the football enough. Patten called it "extremely frustrating, especially when you know you've been brought in to make plays and make things happen." Message to Patten: you were never the featured, nor the best receiver in New England (David Givens, Troy Brown and Deion Branch were all better).

Speaking of which, the big battle Monday night will be fascinating, with the hottest team in the NFL heading east to face its old nemesis in Foxborough. Look for the Patriots to run the ball at the Colts' undersized line, something the Rams and even Texans did with success the last two games. RB Corey Dillon ran for 144 yards when they last met in January. However, Dillon is not 100%, as he has a sore ankle. The only reason he was used against Buffalo so much last week was the hamstring injury to Patrick Pass. And if New England's secondary is as bad as it has been most of the season, then Peyton Manning will have a big night. He may exorcize those demons all by himself!

The Colts have won only two of 12 meetings with New England since quarterback Peyton Manning took control of the offense in 1998 (and none against Tom Brady). They are minus-23 in the takeaway battle. Turnovers will likely be the difference Monday. The Pats have been very poor this season at forcing turnovers, although they got two in the last game against Buffalo when Tedy Bruschi returned. All in all it should be a fun weekend of football! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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