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 17:
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-3.5, 45.5)
Redskins’ first-half defense vs. Giants’ slow starts
A big part of the Redskins’ downfall this season was the early holes the team dug itself. Washington’s defense couldn’t stop opponents from jumping out a quick led, putting pressure on Robert Griffin III to air it out and taking the bite out of a running game that ranks among the best in the NFL. The Redskins allowed opponents an average of over 17 points in the first half and that’s been even worse recently, giving up an average of 23 points in the first two frames the past three outings.
However, the Giants may let the Redskins off the hook in Week 17. New York takes a while to get things going on offense, scoring only 8.4 first-half points per game on the year – lowest in the NFL. Turnover troubles have snuffed out plenty of scoring drives for Eli Manning & Co. The G-Men did manage to put 13 points on the board in the first 30 minutes versus Detroit last week but are averaging 4.3 first-half points the last three games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-13, 47)
Bucs’ offensive penalties vs. Superdome crowd
The Saints are a completely different team in the Big Easy and a lot of that has to do with the environment. The Superdome crowds are not only giving New Orleans some extra energy on offense but have helped the defense limit opponents to just 15.4 points per home game – third lowest – compared to 22.4 points per road game.
The Superdome faithful narrowly missed the record for the loudest indoor crowd earlier this month and will be a bug in the ear of Bucs’ rookie QB Mike Glennon all game. Tampa Bay has been one of the least disciplined offensive lines in the NFL, getting flagged for delay of game nine times – tied for most in the NFL – for a total of 40 yards lost this season. The Buccaneers have also been whistled for 15 false starts and 23 holds equaling 227 yards lost – second most in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers (-9.5, 45)
Chiefs’ bench vs. Chargers’ playoff push
Andy Reid is toying with the idea of resting his starters against the Chargers in Week 17, and by the looks of this spread, oddsmakers are expecting the Chiefs head coach to do just that. Reid told the media he could play his backups Sunday, much like he did when he was on the sidelines in Philadelphia. With Kansas City inked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, there is no need to risk injury in the finale.
The Bolts, on the other hand, are hoping for a Xmas miracle. San Diego can make the postseason cut with a win over Kansas City and losses to the Ravens and Dolphins. However, those games kickoff at 1 p.m. ET and the Chargers could know their fate ahead to this 4:25 p.m. ET start. San Diego already has a win over the Chiefs in Arrowhead, stealing a 41-38 victory on a TD in the dying moments back in November.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (+7.5, 52.5)
Eagles’ run defense vs. Cowboys’ RB DeMarco Murray
The Eagles may have dodged a bullet with the back injury to Dallas QB Tony Romo heading into this win-and-in NFC East showdown. But, on the other hand, Philadelphia may face a caged beast in the form of Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray. Murray is pissed with his role in the Dallas offense, after watching his dominant first-half efforts go to waste due to careless play calling in the second half. He’s second in the NFL in yards per carry - 5.4 ypc – and is 10th in the NFL in total yards on the ground despite sitting 19th in rushing attempts.
Sure, Murray has taken advantage of all the space Romo creates but he will be going up against an Eagles defense that ranks 30th in the league - 392.7 yards against per game. Philadelphia has been bullied by runners in its six losses this season, including giving up three rushing TDs to the Vikings’ third-stringer two weeks ago. Murray will get plenty of touches and could take a season’s worth of frustration out on the Eagles Sunday night.