Redskins ripe prey for Lions


An NFL team plagued by poor quarterback play gets booed by the home fans and the coach finds himself on the hot seat. For a change, that's not a description of the Detroit Lions, only because coach Jim Schwartz is too new to the job.

The situation with the Washington Redskins might be more unsettled. Fans are fed up with coach Jim Zorn and past the point of impatience with quarterback Jason Campbell -- and the Redskins actually won last week.

Will this be the week the Lions, losers of 19 in a row, finally break through with a win? Vegas Insider handicapper Mark Franco says it could be so, and he's siding with Detroit as a 61/2-point home underdog against the Redskins.

Schwartz is 0-2 with the Lions, who have lost to Minnesota and New Orleans, two of the NFC's top teams. Washington seems closer to being among the league's worst.

"This is a new Detroit team with a new coaching staff. Just 20 of the 53 players on the Week 1 roster were on the team last season," Franco said. "One edge for the Lions is that Schwartz should outcoach the hapless Zorn, and another edge is the Lions are the more physical team.

"I'm calling for a Detroit cover and a possible outright win. My feeling is the motivated Lions will play at a high level."

Detroit will need rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford to mature in a hurry. Stafford has one touchdown pass, five interceptions and a league-low rating of 40.5. He can lean on one of the league's top receivers, Calvin Johnson, if he can connect with him.

"I'm looking for improvement from Stafford. I believe he can make some big plays in his third start," Franco said.

Campbell also has only one touchdown pass in two games.

"The Redskins' dysfunctional offense could not score a touchdown last week at home against the lowly St. Louis Rams," Franco said. "Campbell will never be a guy who can lead a team, and Zorn's play-calling is abysmal."

Franco (Francosports.com) used Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston and Minnesota as his top five plays.

Franco's analysis of the rest of today's Week 3 schedule:

Tennessee at N.Y. Jets (-21/2): Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will get another big test against the Titans. Will the Jets' defense continue to play so well? I'm not sure. Tennessee, 13-3 last season, is still searching for its first win, and coach Jeff Fisher is 17-7 against the spread as an underdog since 2006. I don't have a strong opinion on this one.

Jacksonville at Houston (-31/2): The Jaguars looked bad last week in a home loss to the Cardinals, and I don't see it getting much better here against a potentially explosive Texans offense. My only concern is Houston not being able to stop Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jacksonville running attack. Houston has covered three straight and five of six in this series. I like the Texans to win and cover.

Kansas City at Philadelphia (-81/2): The Eagles are coming off a blowout loss to New Orleans. They will be without quarterback Donovan McNabb again, and have a few other key injuries. We will see Michael Vick at some point in the game, but who knows how effective he will be. The Chiefs let a win get away versus Oakland, and they need to run the ball to be effective against the Eagles. I don't like either side here with all the injuries Philadelphia is dealing with, so I'll pass.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-131/2): Not much has changed in Cleveland as its offense is still the worst in the NFL, scoring one touchdown in two weeks. Going against one of the best defenses the AFC has to offer will not help. The reason this has blowout written all over it is the new offensive firepower Joe Flacco and the Ravens are showing. There is no doubt Baltimore is far ahead of the Browns on both sides of the ball.

I am willing to lay the big chalk here as the Browns are 0-4 ATS in their past four as double-digit underdogs, and Baltimore is 8-1 ATS as a favorite in its past nine. The Ravens won and covered both games last season. Lay the points.

N.Y. Giants (-61/2) at Tampa Bay: The Giants allowed big rushing plays last week and still came away with a win because of Dallas turnovers. Tampa Bay fought hard after falling behind at Buffalo.

The past 10 meetings between these teams have gone under the total, including a 24-14 Giants win in the 2007 playoffs. Both teams want to run the ball, which will favor the Giants. The under is 6-1 in the Buccaneers' past seven games at home against an opponent with a winning record.

Eli Manning and the Giants' passing game could give the depleted Tampa Bay secondary problems. The Buccaneers will win a few games, but this happens to be a poor matchup for them. The Giants could be in a little bit of a flat spot and they have some major injuries now. Under the total (451/2) is the way to go.

Green Bay (-61/2) at St. Louis: The Packers played a poor second half last week, and it cost them. The Rams were in the game at Washington, and they could slow down the Packers' offense. If Marc Bulger is able to make the right reads and get the ball out in time to his receivers, St. Louis can stay in it. I'm not willing to lay the points with the Packers on the road, so this is a slight lean to the Rams.

San Francisco at Minnesota (-7): In a battle of undefeated teams, one of the keys will be the progress of Brett Favre and the ability of the Vikings' offense to show more than the running game. When you have the best in the business in Adrian Peterson, you don't have to do much more, but I think the Vikings let it loose this week.

The 49ers will not be able to run on one of the best fronts in the league, so I don't see Shaun Hill making many big passing plays. Frank Gore had two monster runs last week to pad his stats, but Minnesota will make it a point to shut down Gore. Minnesota wins and covers in Favre's first home game.

Atlanta at New England (-41/2): There are several intriguing matchups on the schedule, but none juicier than Matt Ryan and the Falcons traveling to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. Brady has looked average the past two weeks, and New England cannot run the ball. Brady continued to overthrow his receivers last week, and the Falcons will bring pressure just like the Jets did.

The Patriots have not lost back-to-back games since 2006, a string of 41 games, but coach Bill Belichick is 3-11 ATS in his past 14 at home. I like the road 'dog with a possible outright win for Atlanta.

Chicago (-21/2) at Seattle: The Seahawks are banged up with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck likely out, but backup Seneca Wallace is capable. He started eight games last season and played well at home. The Bears came back to beat Pittsburgh last week but now are on a rare West Coast trip. Chicago's Jay Cutler has 17 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions on the road in his young career. I like the home 'dog that should be a small favorite.

New Orleans (-6) at Buffalo: The Saints are no question the best offensive team in the league, but the eye-opener for me is the way new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has turned around that unit. The Bills' offense is improving and they should have some success moving the ball. New Orleans is 7-1 ATS as a road favorite since 2006. This is a tough one to call, but we should see a high-scoring game, and the Saints are on a 17-6 run over the total. The total of 52 is the highest on the board.

Miami at San Diego (-51/2): The Dolphins are off their Monday night choke job against the Colts, a game in which Miami dominated the clock. The Chargers have some defensive injuries and it's showing, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson is out again. I have no opinion on the side, but look for both offenses to produce and for this to hit near the total of 44.

Pittsburgh (-31/2) at Cincinnati: The Steelers can't run the ball and it's not going to get better here against the Bengals, who are coming off a victory at Green Bay. Willie Parker has had some nice rushing games versus the Cincinnati defense, but count on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make the difference for the Steelers once again. I'll take a look under the total (37).

Denver (-11/2) at Oakland: The Broncos, off to a surprising 2-0 start, won 41-10 in Oakland last year. This line has moved with money coming in on Denver. I was one of many who thought the Broncos would not be a good team, but I have to side with them and quarterback Kyle Orton over the Raiders' erratic JaMarcus Russell, who despite having a strong arm is one of the worst passers in the league. New coordinator Mike Nolan has made a difference for the Denver defense. I'm backing the Broncos.

Indianapolis at Arizona (-21/2): The problem for the Colts is stopping the run, and we know the Cardinals are a passing team first and foremost. Kurt Warner had a great game last week and will be looking to throw a lot against the Indianapolis secondary. I see both offenses clicking, so look over the total (481/2).

Compiled by Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans.

 

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