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 13:
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-4, 45)
Titans’ soft second halves vs. Colts’ comebacks
Titans fans saw Week 11’s second-half collapse coming a mile away. After building a 17-6 halftime cushion, Tennessee was outscored 24-10 in the final two frames, burning bettors with a 30-27 loss as 2.5-point home underdogs. Those soft second halves have been the norm for the Titans, who are allowing an average of just 8.8 points in the first half (fourth lowest) but have hemorrhaged 16.7 in the second half over their last three games – second most in the NFL.
The Colts are the NFL’s equivalent of Michael Myers from those Halloween movies. Just when you shoot them in the face, run them over with a truck and blow them up in a warehouse explosion, they come back from the dead to stab you in the heart. Indianapolis has been outscored 92-13 during the first quarter in its last four games but is limiting opponents to only 8.2 points in the second half this season. It’s never over until it’s over with Andrew Luck & Co.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-8.5, 41.5)
Bucs’ dual-threat doom vs. Panthers’ Cam Newton
Most teams have trouble containing Carolina QB Cam Newton. The Panthers dual-threat QB has tacked on 379 yards and five rushing TDs to his improving passing stats and is coming off a 51-yard, one-TD rushing performance in the win over Miami last weekend. Newton is relying more on his arm this season but still is a danger to explode for massive gains when plays break down or the Panthers throw an option wrench at opponents’ defense.
The Bucs know far too well what Newton can do, allowing him to scramble for 50 yards in a score in their Week 8 loss to Carolina. But that’s not an isolated incident. Tampa Bay has been burned by running QBs all year. It allowed Geno Smith to rush for 47 yards on six carries in Week 1, chased Russell Wilson around for 36 yards and a score in Week 9, and even allowed Eagles QB Nick Foles to find the end zone on the ground in Week 6.
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-3, 46)
Falcons’ taste for turf vs. Bills’ Toronto troubles
Earlier this week, we highlighted the fact that Buffalo plays four of its final five games away from Ralph Wilson Stadium, including this makeshift home game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. That trip to T.O. might as well be in Atlanta, taking away the Bills cold-weather edge versus the turf-loving Falcons. Atlanta plays in the Georgia Dome and has faced the elements only three times this season – at Miami, Carolina and Tampa Bay. The Falcons lost all three SU and ATS, averaging just over 15 points in those outdoor games.
Not only does Buffalo miss out on throwing that nasty upstate New York November weather at Atlanta but the Bills have been terrible in their short history of these “home games” north of the border. Buffalo is a dismal 1-4 SU and 1-3-1 ATS in Toronto, including a blowout loss to Seattle last season. Atlanta also marks the Bills’ first Toronto opponent to call an indoor stadium home. That can’t be good for a Buffalo team that is 5-1 ATS at home but only 1-4 ATS on the road.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+1, 46)
Giants’ punter Steve Weatherford vs. Redskins’ poor punt returns
Lost in the Giants’ last-second loss to Dallas was the solid performance of punter Steve Weatherford, whose kick placement handcuffed the Cowboys dangerous return game. Weatherford punted five times for an average of 54.6 yards per kick – and that was against some nasty winter wind at MetLife Stadium – keeping two within the 20-yard line and spanking the snot out of one for 65 yards. No wonder the NFL “randomly” drug tested Weatherford following Sunday’s game.
Weatherford’s right foot could have another monster day against the woeful Washington special teams. The Redskins rank in the basement in terms of punt return yards, averaging only 6.2 yards per return and have topped out at 34 yards in terms of biggest return. The Redskins have the lowest average starting field position in the league at 22.74 and will be lucky if they start their sputtering offense beyond the 20-yard line Sunday night.