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 7:
Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins (-1, 50)
Bears’ fast first quarters vs. Redskins’ slow starts
The Redskins’ 1-4 start to the season can be blamed on a lot of things: RG3’s wonky knee, a porous defense, Dan Snyder’s inability to feel feelings. But the finger should be aimed strictly at Washington’s flat starts. The Skins are constantly giving opponents a head start, giving up an NFL-worst 10 points in the first quarter this season. And they’re last in the league in first-half points allowed as well, spotting foes 19 points in the first 30 minutes of action.
Chicago hasn’t been that great at slowing down teams in the first two frames – giving up an average of 18.2 first-half points – but is at least offsetting that by scoring a league-high average of eight points in the first quarter and sitting behind only Denver in terms of first-half production, scoring 17 points per first half this year. Both the Redskins and Bears have tightened up on defense in the last two quarters, so this one could be decided by halftime.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5, 54.5)
Cowboys’ damaged defensive line vs. Eagles’ high-octane offense
The Cowboys may have won the game versus Washington last Sunday night, but Dallas suffered big losses on the defensive line, a spot that was already thin heading into Week 6. The Cowboys were without DEs DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie at practice this week and DT Jason Hatcher was limited, adding to the many MIA members of the Big D defensive line. The Cowboys subs stood tall against the Redskins but face a different pace in the Eagles’ attack this weekend.
Philadelphia’s non-stop offense could have an already depleted Dallas depth chart running on empty early in Lincoln Financial Field Sunday. The Eagles not only run one of the fastest paces in the NFL under new head coach Chip Kelly, but are healthy on the offensive line – a perk they didn’t have against Dallas last season. The Eagles finally seem comfortable in their new system, totaling 67 points in wins the past two weeks.
Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (-10, 46.5)
Browns’ rotten run defense vs. Packers’ default rushing attack
The Browns have been a surprise this season, entering Week 7 with a 3-3 mark. The defense is getting the pat on the back – ranked seventh in yards against – but those stats are a bit misleading heading into this Sunday’s game in Green Bay. Cleveland has been beat up on the ground this year, especially in the last two games. The Browns gave up 118 yards to Detroit last week and 155 yards in a win over Buffalo two weeks ago. Cleveland, which sits seventh in run defense, has allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL, watching opponents rumble into the end zone eight times.
The Packers’ potent air attack had its wings clipped with injuries to WR James Jones and Randall Cobb last Sunday. Green Bay is slowly starting to lean more and more on its ground game, with rookie RB Eddie Lacy rushing for 219 yards in his last two games since returning from a concussion. In fact, over the last three weeks, only two NFL teams have run for more yards per game than the Cheese Heads, who average 167.3 pick-ups on the ground during that span. With the passing game missing some key weapons, expect even more handoffs against a fragile Browns defense.
Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5, 55.5)
Broncos’ broken offensive line vs. Colts’ LB Robert Mathis
The Broncos had issues on the offensive line before the season even started. Center Dan Koppen was lost for the year, then tackle Ryan Clady went down with a foot injury. Denver was doing OK patching up those holes before T Orlando Franklin left Week 6 with multiple injuries. That leaves the Broncos’ pass protection very thin against a jacked-up Colts defense, looking to spoil Peyton Manning’s Indy homecoming.
The one player looking to do the most damage versus Denver is Manning’s former teammate, LB Robert Mathis. The NFL sack leader – with 9.5 QB kills – has watched No. 18 operate plenty of times from the sideline. Manning isn’t the most mobile QB in the league, in fact he’s probably the least. Indianapolis has done a good job getting to opposing passers and could exploit a thin Broncos offensive line Sunday night.