Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM
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.
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!
NOTE: Get the NFL Week #3 Sunday Night Football Game Preview- that's Pittsburgh at Indianapolis- plus lots more in Sunday's edition of Jim Sez.