NFL Week 14 Preview
If you’re an NFL player, you can’t just wolf down whatever you like this holiday season. That cranberry sauce might cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The league suspended six players on Tuesday for violating the league’s steroid policy – three of them from the New Orleans Saints, including running back Deuce McAllister. The accused claim their positive test for Bumetanide (a diuretic that can be used as a masking agent) came from a weight-loss pill called StarCaps that did not list that ingredient on the label. Tough noogies, says the NFL. All six are out for the remainder of the regular season.
While the players weigh their legal options (both against the league and StarCaps), bettors will be paying extra close attention to the Saints as they prepare to host the Atlanta Falcons – who also have a key player in hot water for the first of our Top 3 NFL betting games for Week 14. For current lines, visit sports.bodog.com.
Atlanta at New Orleans
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
Atlanta: 8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS, Under 7-5
New Orleans: 6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS, Over 7-4-1
Here are the Bumetanide Boys in question:
New Orleans: RB Deuce McAllister, DE Charles Grant, DE Will Smith
Atlanta: DT Grady Jackson
Jackson is the only one of the seven players implicated in this mess to avoid suspension – good thing for the Falcons, who are ranked No. 21 in the league in defensive efficiency and need Jackson’s 345-pound frame plugging up the middle. New Orleans has the No. 12-ranked rushing offense in the league with Pierre Thomas (4.6 yards per carry) as their primary running back; now that Reggie Bush (knee) is back in action, McAllister’s absence only hurts New Orleans from a depth perspective.
The tougher blow for the Saints is on defense. Grant (triceps) was already on injured reserve, but Smith is the best pass rusher on a front seven that is ranked No. 25 in adjusted sack rate (5.4 percent on 24 sacks). His absence plays directly into the capable hands of Falcons QB Matt Ryan (91.2 passer rating); he’s only been sacked 13 times this season, and should have free rein to wreak havoc in the Superdome. Atlanta was a 3-point road dog (even money) as the suspension hit the newswires.
Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX
30% chance of rain/snow, 35 degrees, 10mph winds
Philadelphia: 6-5-1 SU, 7-5 ATS, Under 6-6
New York: 11-1 SU, 10-2 ATS, Over 7-4-1
Minutes after the StarCaps fiasco, the Giants suspended wideout Plaxico Burress for four games after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh on Friday night. Burress wasn’t seriously wounded, but he faces weapons charges, and the Giants also save a big chunk of change by taking him out of the equation. Burress was the team’s top receiver last year with 70 catches; he has only 35 this season, missing Week 5 to suspension and most of the last two games to a hamstring injury.
Again, this is a relatively minor depth issue for the Giants. Their offense leans considerably toward the run, and QB Eli Manning (91.3 passer rating) has consistently spread the ball around to six different targets. Domenik Hixon (26 catches at 14.3 yards a pop) has already moved seamlessly into Burress’ starting spot as the Giants put their 7-0 SU and ATS streak on the line against the No. 6-ranked Philly defense. New York is 3-0 SU and ATS in its last three against the Eagles.
Dallas at Pittsburgh
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX
40% chance of snow, 25 degrees, 10mph winds
Dallas: 8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS, Over 7-5
Pittsburgh: 9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS, Over 7-5
Dallas is bucking the bad-news trend this week by activating CB Adam Jones, who was reinstated by the league after his latest off-field suspension. Jones hasn’t been quite the defensive stopper he was in Tennessee, and the Dallas Morning News says he’ll be limited to nickel and dime situations against the Steelers. But Jones will also return punts. Special teams have been one of the Cowboys’ worst attributes this year, and Jones (12.9 yards per return in 2006, but just 5.0 yards this year) figures to be an upgrade over Patrick Crayton (9.9 yards per return this year).
Pittsburgh is coming off an impressive 33-10 win at New England (-1), with the Steel Curtain defense holding the Patriots to 1-for-13 on third down. Playing in what should be nasty conditions at Heinz Field will give the Steelers D an even bigger role in the outcome of Sunday’s matchup. Pittsburgh has won the last three encounters with Dallas (dating back to 2000) at 2-1 ATS.