Each week, we break down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 10:
San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3, 47)
Philip Rivers’ swagger vs. Bucs' bad pass defense
Philip Rivers has never had an issue with confidence before, wearing that shit-eating grin on the sidelines most Sundays no matter if the Bolts are winning or not. But, the Chargers’ cocky QB did need a little pick-me-up after losing three in a row. That boost came in the form of Kansas City and an 18-for-20 passing day for Rivers last Thursday.
With a bit of swagger back, Rivers takes aim at the Buccaneers’ porous pass defense, which ranks last in the league after allowing 321.1 yards through the air per game. Tampa Bay made Oakland QB Carson Palmer feel like it was 2005 again, watching the aging arm pass for more than 400 yards and four TDs. Palmer did, however, get picked off three times. But c’mon, it’s Carson Palmer.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (-6, 44.5)
Dolphins' retooled run game vs. Titans' terrible ground defense
The Dolphins are trying to get their groove back on the ground after having the turf pulled out from under them in recent weeks. Miami had a couple big rushing days – like 263 yards versus Oakland in Week 2 – to start the year but has since slowed down. The Fins are mustering just 3.8 yards per carry – 28th in the NFL – and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman isn’t happy about it. He’s shaking up the depth chart and focusing on the running game versus Tennessee, which is the perfect opponent to roll over.
The Titans have been road kill against the run all season, allowing 141.6 rushing yards per game (30th in the NFL). Tennessee was gashed by Chicago RB Matt Forte last weekend, allowing the Bears star to rumble for 8.6 yards per carry. Teams have gone for the throat against the Titans, calling more than 46 percent of their plays on the ground.
Houston Texans at Chicago Bears (-1, 39.5)
Texans’ care taking vs. Bears’ scoring defense
The enigma that is the 2012 Chicago Bears was broken down by SI.com’s Kerry J. Byrne this week, with the finger pointing mostly at how far the defense has carried this team. Chicago’s stop unit causes chaos all over the field, averaging an insane 3.5 takeaways per game. The Bears are nearly averaging a defensive TD per game and came away with scores from Corey Wootton on a blocked punt and Brian Urlacher off an INT versus Tennessee last week.
However, if you don’t give away the ball, how is Chicago supposed to make those big plays? Houston may have this already figured out. The Texans protect the football like a teenage daughter and rank tops in the league in giveaways per game (0.8). They’ve only fumbled the ball twice and QB Matt Schaub has been picked off only four times, including clean sheets in the past two outings.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-11.5, 41)
Steelers' speedy injuries vs. Chiefs’ new DC
Injuries are the great equalizer in the NFL, and with the Steelers suffering multiple mishaps to their speediest players, Pittsburgh could be in slow motion Monday night. The Steelers will be without road runners KR Chris Rainey and WR Antonio Brown and RB Jonathan Dwyer is nursing a groin injury which held him out of Week 9. The loss of those horses could have Pittsburgh leaning heavily on smash-mouth RB Isaac Redman. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s awful tough to cover all those points when you're slowly creeping down the field and keeping the clock on the move.
Kansas City should see a little more life on defense this Monday with head coach Romeo Crennel handing the stop unit over to Gary Gibbs. Crennel is dodging media criticism with the move, but letting Gibbs call the shots could shake things up with the assistant looking to make a name for himself. We’re not saying Kansas City – which sits 17th in total yards against and 30th in points allowed – is suddenly going to be a brick wall. But anything is better than the first nine weeks of the season.