SUNDAY NFL TV PREVIEWS
The Notebook takes a look at the major NFL TV games of Sunday. Included is the Projected Vegas Score (PVS), the combination of the pointspread and over/under. Please note that this is not a Notebook prediction, merely to reflect what the betting markets are thinking.
Houston-New Orleans (1 ET, CBS)
PVS: New Orleans 28 Houston 24
I don’t want to overstate the importance of an interconference game on a team’s schedule, but at the very least this is a good opportunity game for Houston. They’re off to a 2-0 start with wins over Indianapolis and Miami, and the possibility of blowing away the AFC South early is out there for them. New Orleans looked very good in their win over Chicago, but they are beat up in the secondary, with both corner Tracy Porter and safety Roman Harper being question marks. Nor have the Saints solved their running game woes. So a big road win for the Texans is waiting to be taken. But Drew Brees is still a big factor to overcome, and Houston is beat up themselves in the linebacking corps right now with three starters, including Mario Williams, nursing hurts. It shouldn’t cost anyone any playing time, but if it costs even a split-second in the pass rush, Brees will beat the Houston blitz package. I think he does that often enough to get a win in a good game on Sunday.
NY Giants-Philadelphia (1 ET, Fox)
PVS: Philadelphia 29 NY Giants 20
Michael Vick went through full practice this week and looks to be a go for Sunday’s home game. The concussion Vick took on Sunday night underscored the problem Andy Reid is going to face in this game and throughout the season. He’s offensive line isn’t good enough to provide consistent production in a straight dropback passing style, and the Giants can exploit that with a healthy Justin Tuck, who was able to harass Sam Bradford on Monday night to the tune of 1.5 sacks. But if you roll Vick out, you expose him to hits. I expect Tuck to create problems in this game, but not enough for the Giants to get a road win. Philadelphia is running the ball well out of the conventional game with LeSean McCoy and Eli Manning isn’t getting the job done on the other side of the ball.
Green Bay-Chicago (4 ET, Fox)
PVS: Green Bay 24 Chicago 21
Jay Cutler’s demons come full circle at this game. The Chicago quarterback said earlier this week he didn’t know if he’d survive the season at this rate, as the pass protection around him has not improved from a porous 2010 performance. And it was a home game with the Packers in the NFC Championship Game that saw him leave with a knee injury to the derision of the home fans. Both teams are nicked up in the secondary. For the long-term it’s more serious for the Packers, as Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams have to be in lockdown mode for this defense to reach its full potential. But Cutler doesn’t have the receivers and won’t have the time to exploit any problems if Woodson and Williams appear to be adversely effected. Aaron Rodgers won’t have any such problems. The Pack wins this one decisively.
Pittsburgh-Indianapolis (8:20 ET, NBC)
PVS: Pittsburgh 25 Indianapolis 14
This Sunday night game suddenly looks like a bore unless you’re a Steelers fan, and if you’re a Colts fan, any Sunday looks like a reason to stay in church all day and appeal for mercy. The Pittsburgh defense should unleash its blitz packages and dominate this game start to finish. I’m still not really sold on the Steelers and winning this one won’t prove anymore than dominating a bad Seattle team last week did. But 2-1 is still 2-1, and that’s what Pittsburgh will be this one is over
THE MLB STRETCH DRIVE SUMMATION
There’s six days in the regular season, as baseball ends on a Wednesday for the first time I can ever recall and something I think is a good move to allow the playoffs to begin a week from today. Here’s a summation of where we’re at…
*Philadelphia and the NY Yanks have each clinched homefield advantage in their respective league playoffs, while the Phils (or anyone else in the NL) hold the World Series homefield due to the All-Star game result.
*Detroit has wrapped up the AL Central, while Texas has a solid five-game lead over the LA Angels in the AL West and will likely follow suit in the next day or two. If the Rangers don’t, a three-game series in Anaheim starts Monday. Both the Tigers and Rangers are tied for the #2 slot and homefield advantage in the Division Series.
*Arizona is six up in the NL West and clinches with one more win or one more San Francisco loss. Milwaukee is plus-five in the NL Central over St. Louis, while the Brewers lead the Diamondbacks by one game for the two-seed.
That leaves the wild-card picture, which has been juiced up by the collapses of Boston and Atlanta. Both are still in the lead, but are barely holding on. The Red Sox are up two games on Tampa Bay and three games on the Angels. The Braves are also two head, with the Cardinals right on their heels and the Giants in the rearview mirror at four out. Here’s the weekend agenda for these five teams…
Boston at NY Yanks: The Red Sox have turned into Yankee fans for the most part, as New York took three of four from the Rays earlier this week and goes to Tampa on Monday. But for three days, old hatreds prevail. Boston is a disaster anytime Josh Beckett or Jon Lester doesn’t pitch, and only Lester is in the rotation for this series. But how focused will New York be with everything wrapped up?
Toronto at Tampa Bay: We noted earlier this week how the Blue Jays aren’t going quietly and are fighting for a winning season. The Rays won’t have James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson on the mound in this series, so the opportunity does exist for Toronto to play spoiler, especially after they get finished with David Price tonight.
ChiCubs at St. Louis: If the Cubs were cohesive organization with pride and a semblance of pitching, we might view this as another spoiler opportunity. But this is the Cubs we’re talking about and the crowds should be out in force for St. Loo all weekend long.
Atlanta at Washington: Washington is a live dog right now, and playing well coming in. A terrific game Friday night when Tim Hudson faces Stephen Strasburg, while the Nats also throw underrated Ross Detwiler and comeback story Chien-Ming Wang. I’m looking for Washington to get two wins this weekend.
San Francisco at Arizona: It was once a big season-ending series to decide the NL West and I suppose technically it still could be. Either way, the Giants need to sweep, given their four-game deficit in the wild-card race and I certainly don’t expect that.
HOKE FACES FAMILIAR FOE
The Notebook previewed the major TV games in yesterday’s post, but there is one good game that slipped outside the ESPN family in the Noon ET window. Michigan hosts San Diego State, a game that’s good on the field and good with its storyline, as first-year Michigan boss Brady Hoke faces his former team and the players he recruited.
Hoke left a full cupboard behind in San Diego, to the point I’m actually a little disappointed in them so far, even with a 3-0 record. They struggled past Army and didn’t dominate Washington State the way I anticipated. But this could also be a case of those two opponents being better than the Notebook gave them credit for, so judgment is reserved.
San Diego State has the offensive weaponry to cause Michigan a lot of problems. Ryan Lindsey should move the ball up and down the field with the same ease that Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees did two weeks ago, only Lindsey isn’t as turnover-prone. Ronnie Hillman is outstanding, both running and catching the ball. I’m skeptical of the Aztec defense can slow down Denard Robinson though, and playing in Ann Arbor, that’s enough to give Michigan another hair-raising win.
Both teams move into conference play after this. For San Diego State in particular, things really heat up. They get a bye week, but after that it’s a five-day stretch with TCU and a road date at Air Force on a Thursday that will really tell us how good this team is. Michigan starts Big Ten action next week against Minnesota.
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