Buffalo Bills Betting: Who carries the Ball with Jackson, Spiller Injuries?

cj-spiller-injuryThe Buffalo Bills have been a surprising team early on, boasting a respectable 4-3 record, which puts them second in the AFC East behind New England (5-2). Unfortunately, Buffalo’s chances of continuing their solid play took a huge hit with major injuries to both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

Playing against the Minnesota Vikings, Jackson was the first to go down when he suffered a groin injury in the first quarter. This gave Spiller a chance to finally have the feature-back role to himself. Things started off very well as the former first-round pick took his first carry for 53 yards. But he was carted off the field following the play after breaking his collarbone.

Some have called Spiller’s injury season-ending, while other reports suggest that he could possibly be back before the season ends. As for Jackson, his injury is expected to keep him sidelined for a month. This leaves two gaping holes in Buffalo’s running game since Spiller leads the team in carries (69) and rushing yards (287) while Jackson is a close second in carries (68) and yards (234). So now that the Bill’s top two running backs are out, who will carry the ball now?

Anthony Dixon

anthony-dixon-billsA 6’1″, 233-pound running back, Dixon spent his first four seasons riding the bench in San Francisco. Due to the lack of playing time, the Mississippi State product only tallied 460 rushing yards on 148 carries. And he was mostly used in short-yardage situations, as his career 3.4 yards-per-carry average suggests. But now that both Jackson and Spiller are out for extended time, Dixon gets a real chance to shine.

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, to get back in that workhorse role and show people what I can do,” Dixon told the Buffalo News. “I want to show people what I could do in college and high school. I feel like I really didn’t get labeled right coming out of college. People tried to do something else with me, make me somebody that I really wasn’t….put me in short-yardage, say I couldn’t run routes or I ain’t got hands. I don’t see what they’re seeing. I’m ready for the opportunity.”

This is the chance that Dixon has been waiting on ever since he was drafted. And the fifth-year back could definitely do some damage, as he showed against Minnesota last Sunday by rushing for 51 yards on 13 carries and adding 3 catches for 15 yards. However, it will take a lot for coaches to look past the limiting labels that Dixon discussed – i.e. only a short-yardage guy, no pass-catching skills.

Bryce Brown

bryce-brown-billsIf people aren’t so high on Dixon taking over for Jackson/Spiller, it’s because Bryce Brown has finally been pulled off the inactive list. The Bills gave up a conditional fourth-round draft pick for Brown because their ownership believes in him. There’s good reason for this too, given that Brown was once the number one-ranked high school running back. And he’s extremely fast for a 6’0″, 220-pound back, boasting a 4.4 forty time.

When given the opportunity to start two games in place of the injured LeSean McCoy in 2012, Brown responded by delivering over 370 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, the party quickly ended when he turned in dud performances of 6 yards and 34 yards in the following two games. By the time McCoy returned, Brown was relegated back to his rarely used duties.

But this isn’t to say that there’s not plenty to like about Brown. He’s a good receiver and can break huge runs on the outside – two things that Dixon isn’t known for. And the only reasons why he’s been kept on the inactive list all season is because A) he didn’t have a role with both Jackson and Spiller, and B) he can’t play special teams.

The likely scenario here is that Brown will play most of the downs thanks to his receiving and running abilities. However, we can expect a healthy dose of Dixon too in the right matchups due to his power and great ball security. Will it all be enough to replace Spiller and Jackson? Maybe not, but there’ll still be teams with worse rushing attacks.

4 NFL Playoff Spots up for Grabs in Week 17

drew-breesLast weekend saw a few teams sew up NFL playoff spots and/or division titles. The Denver Broncos (12-3) are looking the best now since they clinched both the AFC West title along with a first-round playoff bye. Of course, this weekend’s game against Oakland is by no means a rest-your-starters situation because Denver must win to lock up home field advantage.

And why is this the case? Because the AFC East champion New England Patriots (11-4) hold the tiebreaker over the Broncos. If they can beat the Bills at home and Denver loses against Oakland, they’ll grab home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. However, if New England loses, they could be out of a first-round bye.

Both the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) and Indianapolis Colts (10-5) have a chance at unseating New England for the second first-round bye. Cincinnati, which clinched the AFC North, has to beat a playoff-desperate Baltimore team and have New England lose. Indianapolis needs to beat the Jaguars, plus have both Cincy and New England lose.

Rounding out the five AFC teams that have already secured a postseason spot is the Kansas City Chiefs (11-4). They have no chance of winning the AFC West (swept by Denver), and are locked in as the AFC’s number five seed. So if they feel like it, Kansas City could rest their starters against San Diego.

The NFC picture is a lot murkier at the top. Only three teams have clinched playoff berths, and nobody has wrapped up a first-round bye or division title. So far, we only know that the Seattle Seahawks (12-3), Carolina Panthers (11-4) and San Francisco 49ers (11-4) are assured of a postseason bid.

russell-wilsonSeattle is in the driver’s seat of NFC home field advantage, but they must beat the Rams to secure this edge. If they lose, everything opens up at the top because Carolina could gain NFC home field advantage if they beat the Falcons, the Niners win at Arizona, and Seattle loses against St. Louis. For San Francisco to grab home field advantage and unseat Seattle for the NFC West title, they must win, have Seattle lose, and have Carolina lose or tie.

What we’ve discussed so far only covers the teams that are guaranteed a playoff spot. There are four remaining postseason bids left, which we’ll discuss below.

Last AFC Wild Card Spot – Four teams are still alive for the last AFC Wild Card berth. Due to a myriad of tiebreakers, all of these teams need help in making the postseason, and you can check out the scenarios here. Baltimore holds a tiebreaker over Miami (current sixth seed), but San Diego holds the tiebreaker over Baltimore, and Miami holds the tiebreaker over San Diego. In short, it’ll be interesting to see how this playoff-hunting triangle plays out. As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, well, they need all three of the aforementioned teams to lose, plus a victory this weekend.

karlos-dansby-interceptionLast NFC Wild Card Spot – The final NFC Wild Card slot is a much simpler matter because only the Saints and Cardinals are chasing after it. Assuming New Orleans wins against Tampa Bay, they are in. But if they lose, Arizona makes the playoffs with a victory over San Francisco.

NFC East Title – The Dallas Cowboys got a dramatic, come-from-behind victory over Washington to set up a huge game this weekend. Now, they’ll play the Philadelphia Eagles at home for the NFC East crown. The winner goes to the playoffs and grabs home field in the first round, while the loser will be watching on TV next week.

NFC North Title – Just like the East, this is another win-or-you’re-out scenario. Chicago plays Green Bay at home, with the victor grabbing the North title and a playoff spot.

NFC South Title – This one is between Carolina and New Orleans. If Carolina wins, they capture the South title. But if they lose and New Orleans wins, the latter clinches the South and a playoff bid.

NFC West Title – Seattle must win to secure themselves the West title. However, if they lose, then San Francisco could step in and take the West crown with a victory over Arizona.

No Gronk, No Problem as Patriots will lean Heavily on Vereen

shane-vereenThis week brought terrible news for the New England Patriots as they found out that Rob Gronkowski is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. So while Gronk now focuses on his February cameo in the “Entourage” movie, New England has to find a way to replace one of the NFL’s top two tight ends.

This is certainly no easy task either, when you consider that the 6’6″ pass-catching machine racked up 592 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 7 games this season. But if there’s anybody capable of softening this blow, it’s running back Shane Vereen.

Vereen has no doubt had his own injury struggles, missing eight games with a wrist injury. But when he’s on the field, he has been an incredible weapon for the Patriots. Vereen is the guy whom Tom Brady looks to when plays break down or there’s good down-field coverage. Brady had this type of target when Kevin Faulk was on the team a few years ago. But Vereen seems to be even more talented and is great at picking up yards after the catch.

shane-vereen-1Sure, the California product won’t generate any eye-popping rushing stats. After all, he has just 186 rushing yards on 38 carries in 2013. But his receiving stats are certainly notable since he’s hauled in 40 catches for 373 yards and a TD – all within five games’ work. Vereen’s last performance against Cleveland was especially impressive because he caught 12 balls for 153 yards, and added a touchdown run.

When Shane Vereen is on the field, it really forces defenses to keep an eye on him in the passing game. The end result is that there’s one less safety or linebacker dropping back in the secondary. Even when the opposition is focusing on Vereen, he has the ability to turn a short catch into a long run, as evidenced by the 50-yard play he made against Cleveland late in the third quarter.

Considering everything that we’ve discussed so far, you can’t count out New England’s offense down the stretch based on Gronk’s season-ending injury. It certainly isn’t good that their star tight end has been put on the shelf. But you also shouldn’t suddenly start betting against the Patriots when it comes to point spreads or live wagering. After all, Vereen is going to be picking up a lot of this slack throughout the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.

New England Patriots Running Back Situation Murky at Best

stevan-ridley-fumbleThe New England Patriots are arguably coming off their biggest win of the season – a 34-31 overtime thriller over the Denver Broncos. Based on the rest of the division, they’re all but guaranteed to win the AFC East at this point and have a pretty soft remaining schedule. But despite all of the positive signs, there’s definitely trouble brewing in Foxborough. For whatever reason, the Patriots just can’t seem to find a running back who’s capable of carrying the load.

Now, based on talent alone, Stevan RIdley appeared to be that guy when the season opened. After all, the third-year back out of LSU was coming off a year where he rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he started 2013 off on a sour note after fumbling twice in the first game – one of which was narrowly ruled to have hit the ground first. The fumble that did count was enough to convince Bill Belichick to bench his star running back while Shane Vereen took over.

Vereen got hurt, though, which left Ridley in a committee with Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount. Things would remain this way until a few more weeks into the regularshane-vereen season, when Ridley took over as the lead back again. Unfortunately, he’s now lost a fumble in three straight games for the Pats. His latest one was returned by the Broncos for a touchdown, thus relegating Ridley to the bench for the rest of the game.

So where does this leave the Patriots’ running back situation right now? It’s really anybody’s guess because all four RB’s should get playing time moving forward. Vereen is considered the lead passing back, while Bolden backs him up and sometimes carries the ball. Blount is the other early-down back besides Ridley, and he’s put up 374 yards on just 82 carries. So this power back is likely to remain heavily involved moving forward too.

Of course, the Pats will remain a pass-first offense, using the run to balance things out. But you still have to wonder about New England when you’re considering them for regular or live wagering opportunities. They’re a very good football team with plenty of weapons and Tom Brady under center. However, they are also a team that’s failed to establish a reliable running back who’s guaranteed to gut tough yards out – without fumbling in the process.

Ed Reed cut Loose after ripping the Texans

ed-reed-cut-houstonIn his 12-year NFL career, Ed Reed has proven to be one of the greatest safeties of all-time. And after winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens last year, he was expected to bring this greatness to the Houston Texans. However, the 35-year-old was more of a bust than anything, and now he’s been cut loose by the Texans after some controversial comments.

Following Houston’s 27-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Reed said that his team was “outcoached and outplayed” during Sunday’s game. When asked if he still believed this on Monday, the nine-time Pro Bowler confirmed his assertion that Houston was outcoached. Reed also added that the offense “can’t keep going three and out, and put your defense back on the field.”

A large reason for Reed’s comments may have come from the fact that he was left out of the starting lineup for the Cardinals game. And he played just 12 snaps throughout the entire four quarters.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to those who’ve been watching the Texans all season since Reed has continually gone downhill. He began 2013 with some minor injuries, and when he did play, it wasn’t exactly inspiring. So when you combine Reed’s lack of playing time with his negative comments about the coaching staff, it was a fairly easy decision for Houston to let him go.

ed-reed-cut-houston-1This is yet another blow to the Texans dismal season, which began with Super Bowl aspirations. In fact, Reed was brought in as a missing piece to a team that had most of the components needed for a strong defense. He signed a three-year, $15 million deal in what was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions.

But for the few million that he received before getting cut, all Reed provided was 16 tackles in seven games. Gone was the ball-hawking safety who’d piled up 61 interceptions and seven touchdowns through his first 11 seasons in Baltimore.

So what’s the next stop for this aging safety who quickly wore out his welcome in Texas? Well a return to the Ravens isn’t out of the question since Reed carved out a very successful career here. A contender like New England wouldn’t be a surprise either since Stephen Gregory is out, and Bill Belichick might be looking for a veteran replacement. The New York Jets could be another possibility because Reed’s former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, is always looking to add good defensive players to the Jets.

As for the Texans, they are looking towards next season with a 2-7 record. Case Keenum has officially taken the starting QB job from Matt Schaub. And Arian Foster has been put on the injured reserve list since there’s little reason to keep trying to play him. All in all, this has been a nightmare for a team that went 12-4 in the 2012 regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs, losing to New England 41-28 in the Divisional round.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 9 (Oct. 31st, 2013)

matt-staffordNo game last week was more exciting than the 1-point thriller between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. With just 42 seconds left, Matt Stafford led an 80-yard, game-winning drive that was capped off by his 1-yard QB sneak. Stafford used some trickery to pull off this sneak since he yelled that he was going to stop the clock, then called hike and put the ball over his lineman’s head for the go-ahead score. Oh yea, and did we mention that Calvin Johnson also tallied the second-most receiving yards ever with 329 in this game?

Unfortunately, none of the other games from Week 8 were this dramatic, but several contests had a large impact on our power rankings. That said, here are the rankings for Week 9.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-0); beat Cleveland 23-17, retains same ranking – This was far from Kansas City’s best performance of the year. After all, they let journeyman quarterback Jason Campbell pass for 293 yards and two touchdowns on them. But on the bright side, Alex Smith had a pretty good game against a tough Browns D as he threw for 225 yards and two scores of his own. Plus, the most important thing is that KC won yet again.

2. Denver Broncos (7-1); beat Washington Redskins 45-21, retains same ranking – The final score of this game certainly doesn’t tell it all. The red-hot Redskins were actually winning by a score of 21-7 in the middle of the third quarter. However, the Broncos came stomping back by scoring the final 38 points of the game. Denver overcame three interceptions by Peyton Manning to turn this contest into a route.

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-1); beat St. Louis 14-9, retains same ranking – Seattle’s game against the Rams was a little close for comfort. They made a goal-line stand after stuffing Daryl Richardson on 3-and-1 and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw an incompletion on 4-and-1. There were some concerns on offense for the Seahawks too since they only gained 135 yards of total offense. But they still got the important road win.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-1); beat Buffalo 35-17, retains same ranking – Not surprisingly, Drew Brees was able to pick apart the Buffalo defense as he finished with 332 yards and five touchdowns. Plus the defense played its role by sacking Thad Lewis four times, intercepting him once and forcing the beleaguered QB into two fumbles.

5. Indianapolis Colts (5-2); bye week, retains same ranking – The Colts got a week to rest after an incredible first half of the season, where they beat Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. Based on their resume, we can’t see moving them down during a bye week.

6. San Francisco (6-2); beat Jacksonville 42-10, retains same ranking – It may be the middle of the regular seasoncolin-kaepernick, but this game had the feel of a preseason blowout. Most of the starters were resting in the fourth quarter, and Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore both split four touchdown runs.

7. Green Bay Packers (5-2); beat Minnesota 44-31, retains same ranking – The Packers ran a rare run-heavy attack against the Vikings and it worked to perfection. Eddie Lacy saw the bulk of these carries after rushing for 94 yards and a TD on 29 attempts. One interesting side note here is that Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson tied an NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (6-2); beat New York Jets 49-9, moves up one spot – Cincinnati’s defensive line harassed rookie QB Geno Smith all day, before he was finally benched in the fourth quarter with the game out of hand. Marvin Jones turned in his second stellar performance in a row after catching eight passes for 122 yards and four touchdowns. Thanks to Jones, Andy Dalton threw for a career-high five TD passes.

9. New England Patriots (6-2); beat Miami 27-17, drops one spot – The Patriots had an anemic first half that saw them down 17-3 to the Dolphins at home. However, they got the running game working in the second half and halted Miami from doing anything else on offense. The only reason they move down is because Cincinnati blew out the team that the Patriots lost to last week.

10. Detroit Lions (5-3); beat Dallas 31-30, moves up two spots – Maybe it’s just euphoria following that incredible comeback, but it feels like the Lions should move up a couple of spots. With weapons like Reggie Bush and Johnson, they have the ability to score on any possession.

11. San Diego Chargers (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Few people expected San Diego to have a winning record after last season’s disaster. Now they travel to Washington in what’s a very important game for their Wild Card playoff hopes.

12. Dallas Cowboys (4-4); lost to Detroit 31-30, drops two spots – It’s amazing how dez-bryantclose the Cowboys were to being 5-3 and holding a commanding two-game lead over the NFC East. They’re still in control of the East, but it can’t feel good after how they lost. Plus Dez Bryant’s sideline outbursts aren’t helping matters either.

13. Chicago Bears (4-3); bye week, retains same ranking – Chicago comes out of the bye week and into a tough matchup with Green Bay. And next week, they face off against Detroit in another critical division game. Things don’t look good with Jay Cutler out for a while!

14. Arizona Cardinals (4-4); beat Atlanta 27-13, moves up three spots – Teams definitely have to take the Cardinals seriously – especially the defense. They shut down a Falcons team that figured to get a huge boost with Steven Jackson back in the lineup, and intercepted Matt Ryan four times.

15. Baltimore Ravens (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – Will the defending champs fight back or are they down for the count? These next two weeks will tell a lot as Baltimore travels to Cleveland, then plays Cincy at home.

16. Carolina Panthers (4-4); beat Tampa Bay 31-13, moves up three spots – Carolina took care of business during a three-game stretch that included Minnesota, Saint Louis and Tampa Bay. They might be able to notch yet a fourth win in a row if they can beat Atlanta at home this week.

17. Miami Dolphins (3-4); lost to New England 27-17, drops three spots – It’s sad to see such a promising start go down the drain. The Dolphins just couldn’t put together two good halves and pull off the upset. Miami has now lost four straight games, and the bleeding might not stop since they face a super-tough matchup in Cincinnati this week.

18. New York Jets (4-4); lost to Cincinnati 49-9, drops three spots – New York follows geno-smith-jetsup a big overtime win over New England with a demoralizing loss to the Bengals. Geno Smith has truly been Jekyll and Hyde from one game to the next. He’ll try to be the former as New York hosts an even tougher New Orleans team this week.

19. Tennessee Titans (3-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Titans have three things working in their favor coming out of the bye week. They’ve got a healthy Jake Locker (1), and both the Saint Louis Rams (2) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3) are coming up on their schedule.

20. Oakland Raiders (3-4); beat Pittsburgh 21-18, moves up six spots – Oakland dominated the ground and jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead, with some help from a record-setting run by Terrelle Pryor. He bolted 93 yards for a touchdown, which set a record as the longest quarterback TD run in NFL history.

21. Atlanta Falcons (2-5); lost to Arizona 27-13, drops three spots – Just when the Falcons seemed like they were turning the corner and moving forward, they hit a big stumbling block at Arizona. Andre Ellington lit them up for 154 yards on 15 carries while Matt Ryan threw four picks.

22. Cleveland Browns (3-5); lost to Kansas City 23-17, drops one spot – Cleveland actually isn’t a bad team when they don’t have Brandon Weeden under center. They gave a valiant effort on the road against the league’s only unbeaten team.

23. New York Giants (2-6); beat Philadelphia 15-7, moves up five spots – This game was a bore to watch, and New York kept faltering in the red zone. However, they did enough to pick up their second win in a row.

24. Washington Redskins (2-5); lost to Denver 45-21, drops one spot – Anybody who was watching this one saw a pretty competitive contest that only got away from the Redskins in the last 10 minutes or so. The defense turned in a solid effort by intercepting Peyton Manning three times.

25. Houston Texans (2-5); bye week, retains same ranking – If the Texans are hoping to stop their three-game losing streak, it’ll definitely be a tall order. They face Indianapolis at home this week and Arizona on the road in Week 10.

26. Buffalo Bills (3-5); lost to New Orleans 35-17, drops one spot – Buffalo’s season is turning sour due to some key injuries. They certainly aren’t the same team without a healthy EJ Manuel and CJ Spiller.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5); lost to New York Giants 15-7, drops five spots – Michael Vick could only go four series before having to sit down and rest his ailing hamstring. Neither Matt Barkley nor Nick Foles look capable of running Chip Kelly’s read option.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5); lost to Oakland 21-18, drops one spot – The Steelers actually had a chance to put themselves in the AFC North race. However, this loss to Oakland may have put the nail in he coffin on their hopes of a division title or playoff bid.

29. Saint Louis Rams (3-5); lost to Seattle 14-9, retains same ranking – If not for Kellen Clemens’ two first-half interceptions, the Rams might have pulled out a huge win. Even with Clemens’ INT’s, St. Louis was just a yard away from a season-defining victory. Zac Stacy (134 YDS last game) actually gives this team something to look forward to.

30. Minnesota Vikings; lost to Green Bay 44-31, retains same ranking – Christian Ponder didn’t do much to dissuade the Vikings from starting Josh Freeman when he comes back from a concussion.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; lost to Carolina 31-13, retains same ranking – It seems like Tampa Bay could win a game at some point this season. But when?

32. Jacksonville Jaguars; lost to San Francisco 42-10, retains same ranking – Maybe playing the Broncos tough a few weeks ago was just a fluke.