Several NFL teams with weak resumes still have an opportunity to chart a path to the playoffs and make some noise.
Someone has to win the NFC North. Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota are starting fresh with six games remaining, logjammed atop the division at 5-5.
The Bears are poised to grab the division lead today as 8-point road favorites against the dismal St. Louis Rams.
The Vikings are 2-point road underdogs to the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose chances of reaching the postseason are slipping away. But the Jaguars could have a big say in who wins the NFC North, as they play all three contenders by season’s end.
The Packers are looking forward to a Monday night track meet in the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, who are 21/2-point favorites.
So who do the oddsmakers project to win the race?
The Las Vegas Sports Consultants’ math models favor Green Bay by the narrowest of margins over Chicago, with Minnesota third.
LVSC oddsmaker Jason Been said he agrees with those numbers and picks Packers coach Mike McCarthy to prevail.
“I believe the Packers have the easiest schedule of the three, and McCarthy gets them ready to perform well on the road,” Been said. “The biggest differences for me are quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ rapid maturity and running back Ryan Grant’s improving health. The running game is even more critical late in the year.”
• OFFICIATING REVIEW — It’s worth reviewing the train wreck that occurred at the end of the San Diego Chargers-Pittsburgh Steelers game last Sunday. This is not rocket science.
A touchdown on Troy Polamalu’s fumble return was incorrectly taken away from the Steelers, who won 11-10 as 4-point favorites. It was a ridiculous ruling by the officials.
Laugh all you want at the NHL, but it’s the only league that gets instant replay right. Controversial plays are reviewed in a television war room at the league offices in Toronto, quickly and correctly, with the decision relayed back to the on-ice officials.
Why can’t the NFL develop a similar setup?
Just think, no more refs ducking under a drape with confusion to follow. Every play should be reviewed from upstairs.
Most coaches can’t manage timeouts, let alone try to figure out when to challenge a play. Losing challenges costs teams timeouts. A full complement of timeouts at the end of the game creates more exciting finishes.
Also, if the red flag is flying around all day, proving the officiating crew to be inept, why should a team ever run out of challenges?
The referee should wear an earpiece and get his marching orders from the league offices. Most importantly, the correct call gets made.
And can we please dispense with the nonsense about the length of games? Why are the league and the television networks in such a panic to have something we enjoy so much end so fast at the expense of getting the proper result?
Brian Blessing, project manager for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can be reached at email@example.com. Listen to the LVSC oddsmakers on “Sportsbook Radio” at 4 p.m. weekdays on Fox Sports Radio (920 AM). Visit vegassportsconnect.com for more odds information.BETWEEN THE LINES
BY MAL VAN VALKENBURG/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Three reasons to like CHIEFS (+3) over BILLS
• The Chiefs have covered in three of their last four games.
• The Bills have lost their last four games and could be flat after losing a close game Monday.
• The Bills have averaged only 18 points in their last three games and in road games this season.
Three reasons to like PATRIOTS (+1) over DOLPHINS
• Matt Cassel is getting comfortable with the offense as the Patriots have averaged more than 400 yards in their last three games.
• The Dolphins’ Wildcat offense will have less shock value because the Patriots have seen it.
• The Dolphins have struggled with teams such as the Raiders and Seahawks. The Patriots will provide a tougher test.
LAST WEEK: 2-0