Each week, Jason Logan breaks 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 16:
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (+2.5, 43)
Cowboys’ third-down offense vs. Redskins’ third-down defense
The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot – again – with another late-game collapse versus the Packers last weekend. Dallas’ issues are stacked to the roof of AT&T Stadium but perhaps the most glaring problem is its inability to convert on third down. The Cowboys have converted just 35.22 percent of their third downs this season and went a dismal 2-for-9 on third down in the loss to Green Bay. Quick three-and-outs are killing an already weak defense, and the offense hasn’t been able to pick up that slack.
Washington is maybe the only other team in the NFC with more internal issues than the Cowboys at this point. However, the Redskins proved they're going to fight to the finish with a close loss to Atlanta Sunday. The defense isn’t where it was last season but Washington is still doing a good job ushering teams off the field on third down. The Redskins have limited foes to a 34.71 percent success rate on third down and have been even stingier in recent outings, dropping that number to 29.73 percent over the last three games.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (-7, 45)
Colts’ rushing defense vs. Chiefs’ RB Jamaal Charles
We’re usually a little more subtle when it comes to our weekly mismatches but after the day Charles had last week, the Chiefs’ multifaceted RB deserves respect. Charles threw a wrench in many fantasy football playoff matchups with his five-touchdown performance versus the Raiders. He caught all eight passes thrown his way for 195 yards and tacked on an additional 20 yards on the ground.
Charles has history with the Colts, racking up 226 yards rushing and a score in last year’s loss to Indianapolis. The Colts defense is among the worst at stopping the run - 128.9 yards against per game – and has been exposed by pass-catching backs all season. Most recently, Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard had a big day with 99 yards on the ground and another 49 through the air versus the Colts in Week 14.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions (-10, 49)
Giants’ short secondary vs. Lions’ towering targets
New York’s secondary is in shambles with key corners and safeties causing traffic jams in the trainer’s room. The Giants’ two somewhat healthy CBs, Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, have a tall task ahead of them Sunday. Amukamara and McBride stand just 6-foot and 5-foot-9 respectively and will try to slow down a Detroit receiving corps that could double as an NBA frontcourt.
Forget about Calvin Johnson and what his freakish 6-foot-5 frame can do. The Lions also boast beanpoles in 6-foot WR Nate Burleson, 6-foot-6 WR Kris Durham, 6-foot-5 TE Brandon Pettigrew and 6-foot-7 TE Joseph Fauria. New York has record only 29 sacks on the season and will give Matt Stafford plenty of time to toss jump balls to his towering targets Sunday afternoon. Add “Megatron” to the mix, who has a total of 191 yards and two TDs in two games versus N.Y., and it makes New York's nickname - The Giants - seem a bit misleading.
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-3, 56)
Bears’ big passing plays vs. Eagles’ bending to big plays
It doesn’t matter who’s under center for Chicago – Jay Cutler or Josh McCown – the Bears’ passing attack is doing big things. Over the past three games, Chicago has averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt – tops in the NFL during that span. Cutler let it rip for 265 yards and three TDs in his return under center versus Cleveland last weekend, picking up a healthy 11.9 yards per pass completion, including a 45-yard TD strike to Alshon Jeffery.
The Eagles got knocked on their ass in Minnesota last Sunday, allowing Vikings QB Matt Cassel to pass for 382 yards and two touchdowns. The pass defense has been slipping recently, hemorrhaging big gains and dropping to a league-worst 291.6 yards passing allowed per game. Philadelphia’s opponents have averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempts and 13 yards per completion over the last three contests. Poor tackling has led to an average of 146.6 yards allowed after the catch – fourth worst in the NFL.