Without Brady, Patriots Set as Betting Underdogs on Road at Cardinals

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The New England Patriots have more intrigue than usual entering their daunting matchup against the Arizona Cardinals in the first Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season.

The Patriots, ahead of backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo making his first NFL start in place of suspended Tom Brady, are 6.5-point underdogs against the host Cardinals with a total of 45.5 points at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The line has shifted since reports that All-Pro TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), along with LT Nate Solder and RG Jonathan Cooper, did not travel on the Patriots’ flight to Arizona on Friday, although there is the possibility they have stayed back for treatment. New England has not been an underdog by this large a margin since Brady was out with a knee injury in 2008.

The Patriots are 3-4 straight up and 3-4 against the spread in their last seven games as a road underdog according to the OddsShark NFL Database. Garoppolo, a third-year NFLer, did not throw an interception in the preseason, but he might be hard-pressed to keep that up against a talented Arizona pass defense that includes All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson and FS Tyrann Mathieu.

If Gronkowski, who is officially listed as questionable, is unable to play, the next TE up for the Patriots is Martellus Bennett, a former starter with the Chicago Bears. The Patriots’ concerns on the offensive line also raise questions about whether they will be able to limit disruptions by Cardinals OLB Chandler Jones, whom New England traded away last season.

Arizona is 8-2 SU but only 2-8 ATS in its last 10 home games vs. AFC teams, and was also just 3-6 ATS last season at University of Phoenix Stadium. Quarterback Carson Palmer, RB David Johnson and veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald have their work cut out for them against what was a top-10 defense last season and has playmakers such as OLB Jamie Collins and CB Malcolm Butler.

Who will generate a pass rush for New England in the Sunday Night Football matchup remains in question, since Jones is gone and DE Rob Ninkovich is suspended for testing positive for a banned substance.

The Cardinals are 20-4 SU in Palmer’s last 24 starts, as well as 7-0 SU in their last seven September games. The total has gone over six of the last seven times that New England was listed as an underdog. The total has gone under in four of the last five Patriots-Cardinals games.

WATCH: Seahawks’ Paul Richardson pulls in absurd touchdown catch against Lions

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It took until the first round of the playoffs, but we may finally have our winner for catch of the year.

On 4th and goal at the Lions’ 2, Russell Wilson lobbed up a pass to Paul Richardson, who was completely covered by Tavon Wilson.

Richardson stuck out his left hand and pulled in a miraculous grab to give Seattle the lead.

[Watch the rest of the second half from Seattle on NBC Sports Live]

Simply amazing.

 

Seahawks, Texans are the betting favorites for Saturday’s Wild Card games

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The Seattle Seahawks’ sporadic scoring output is something to consider when looking at the big point spread against the Detroit Lions. The Seahawks are listed as eight-point favorites against the Lions in their NFC wild card matchup set for Saturday at CenturyLink Field, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Seahawks are 7-0 straight-up in their last seven home games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone and the Lions are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven road games. However, Seattle scored 10 or fewer points four times at home this season, and none of those instances came against a premier defense.

The Lions, 9-7 SU and 8-8 ATS, are coming into the playoffs on a three-loss skid. One boon to the Lions’ chances is that the Seahawks, without free safety Earl Thomas, have been hopeless at stopping deep passes. Quarterback Matthew Stafford should be able to hit a few deep shots to the likes of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and T.J. Jones in order to compensate for a nearly nonexistent running game. That could help the Lions, who are 0-8 SU in their last eight playoff games, make it interesting.

The Seahawks, 10-5-1 SU and 7-8-1 ATS, have never lost at home in the playoffs during the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson era. One can reasonably expect they will find some of their familiar postseason form. Seattle’s pass protection and run blocking has been problematic, so there could be opportunities to disrupt Wilson’s timing. Otherwise, WR Doug Baldwin and TE Jimmy Graham could have big nights.

The total has gone under in eight of the Lions’ last 10 games. The total has gone over in five of the Seahawks’ last six games in the playoffs.

Elsewhere, the Houston Texans are listed as four-point favorites against the Oakland Raiders in Saturday’s AFC wild card matchup.

The Raiders, 12-4 SU and 10-6 ATS, will have rookie third-stringer Connor Cook become the first NFL QB to get his first career start in the playoffs. With Cook playing instead of Derek Carr (broken fibula), Houston might not have to honor the deep pass threat and can thus commit to containing RB Latavius Murray and limiting the damage on short-range passes to WR Amari Cooper and WR Michael Crabtree.

The fact erratic Brock Osweiler is back in at QB might account for why the Texans, who are 9-7 SU and 6-9-1 ATS, are not a bigger favorite against a hobbled team. The Raiders simply haven’t stopped anyone when teams have schemed to slow down edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. If Osweiler can curb his tendency to be overaggressive and allow WR DeAndre Hopkins and RB Lamar Miller to have opportunities, the Texans should be able to move the ball steadily.

Keep in mind, though, that the visiting team has gone 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four editions of this matchup. The total has gone over in seven of the Raiders’ last 10 games.  The total has gone under in nine of the Texans’ last 12 games at home.