NFL's biggest betting mismatches: Week 16
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 three of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 16:
Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions (+3.5, 50.5)
Falcons’ ball-hawking defense vs. Lions’ turnover troubles
One of Atlanta’s biggest strengths is its ability to capitalize on mistakes. The Falcons are one of the best teams in terms of creating turnovers, intercepting 18 passes (fourth in the NFL) and recovering nine of their 13 forced fumbles. That was on full display in last week’s blowout of New York, picking off two passes and forcing – and recovering – one fumble.
Atlanta’s plus-9 turnover ratio is the mirror image of Detroit's minus-9 turnover ratio. The Lions have coughed up the ball 11 times on fumbles and QB Matthew Stafford has thrown 15 interceptions – five of those coming in the last three games. Stafford was picked off three times in a loss to Arizona last weekend and two of those wayward passes found their way back to the end zone. Detroit has allowed 10 non-defensive touchdowns this season.
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys (-1, 51)
Saints’ quick-strike offense vs. Cowboys’ time of possession
With a defense that rivals Swiss cheese in terms of holes, the Saints rely on out-gunning their opponent on offense. New Orleans hung 41 points on Tampa Bay last week and rank fourth in the NFL in scoring (27.8). That quick-hitting approach has New Orleans sitting among the bottom of the league in time of possession, holding on to the ball for an average of just 28:17 – 27th in the NFL.
The Cowboys are a different team with RB DeMarco Murray in the backfield. Dallas has won three in a row since its top rusher returned from a foot injury, hogging the ball for an average of 32:24 during that stretch - fifth best in the NFL. Murray is getting stronger with every carry and is in line for a huge day versus a Saints defense that has been gashed for big yardage on the ground. The Cowboys’ best shot at beating the New Orleans is to lean on Murray and keep Drew Brees and Co. off the field.
Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans (-9.5, 43.5)Vikings’ RB Adrian Peterson vs. Texans’ sliding rushing defense
The game plan for Minnesota is simple: Give the ball to Peterson and get out of the way. Stopping that game plan is much harder. Peterson is in pursuit of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record and will no doubt get the lion’s share of the play calls Sunday. It’s no secret but Peterson is flirting with that Barry Sanders level of play. Defenses know it’s coming but can’t do anything to stop it.
Houston was once the most feared run stuffers in the league but has softened on defense in recent weeks. The Texans allowed Indianapolis to march for 124 yards last week, watched the Patriots rumble for 130 yards the game before that, and surrendered 106 yards to the Lions on Thanksgiving. Injuries to key players, like LB Brian Cushing, have left gaps in the run stop and opposing backs have been able to find the edge and explode for big gains. The last time “All Day” took on Houston, he rushed for 139 yards and a score back in Nov. 2008.