Not that it’s all forgotten now, but Michael Vick is starting to outrun his hideous past as a con man who wagered on dogs being tortured. He is talked about mostly as one of the NFL’s most dynamic and unique quarterbacks.
Vick has escaped from the jail of constant public ridicule and scrutiny. In 2½ games, he has established himself as the leader of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ironically, the former quarterback of the Eagles for 11 years, Donovan McNabb, returns in the role of the ‘dog.
Vick and the Eagles are 6-point favorites over McNabb and the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Based on how each team played the past two weeks, McNabb would seem headed for a miserable homecoming.
McNabb has so far done little to make the Eagles regret letting him go to an NFC East rival. The Redskins (1-2) blew a 17-point lead in a loss to Houston before getting whipped 30-16 at St. Louis a week ago.
Meanwhile, Vick is opening a bag of tricks. He has used his cannonlike left arm to pass for 750 yards and six touchdowns and his quick feet and bursts of speed to rush for 170 yards.
None of it is a fluke, either. Vick can be that good pretty consistently, and he’ll have to be behind a bad offensive line. But it should not be forgotten the Eagles (2-1) followed Vick to victories over Detroit and Jacksonville, teams with a combined 1-5 record.
Washington is not much better, and, in fact, its defense allows 423.7 yards per game and ranks last in the league.
It feels like a stretch to ride the Redskins, yet trends point to the underdog. Washington has covered three straight games at Philadelphia, and the ‘dog is 5-1 against the spread in the past six games in this series.
There’s more: The Redskins are 8-1 ATS as division road ‘dogs; the Eagles are 1-6 ATS as division home favorites.
McNabb plus the points is the play.
Four more plays for Week 4 (Home team in CAPS):
■ Ravens (+1½) over STEELERS: It’s difficult to bet against Troy Polamalu and the Pittsburgh defense. But the Steelers can be beat with Charlie Batch at quarterback, so I’ll go with Joe Flacco.
■ BROWNS (+3) over Bengals: Something is wrong with Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati offense. The Bengals are 5-17 ATS in their past 22 as favorites. Cleveland has been hanging in every game, and Peyton Hillis offered an encouraging sign by rushing for 144 yards against the Ravens.
■ CHARGERS (-8) over Cardinals: San Diego ranks No. 1 in total offense and No. 4 in total defense. Arizona is 2-1 but could easily be 0-3. This should be a replay of Week 2, when Philip Rivers and the Chargers returned home after being upset and blew out a bad Jacksonville team by 25 points.
■ GIANTS (-4) over Bears: The pressure is on erratic Giants quarterback Eli Manning and embattled coach Tom Coughlin. If the Giants don’t come up big here, their season goes down the drain.
Last week: 4-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.