We established a long time ago that there are no sure things in the NFL, and staying healthy through an entire season is a concept which adheres to that rule.
I have a theory that the reduction of contact in pre-season has had some bad effects—particularly to offenses based around power-blocking schemes (like the 49ers). But it also may have an effect on injuries—we hear players talk all the time about the difference between being 'in shape' and being 'in game shape'.
Although most serious injuries, absent helmet to helmet contact, can be looked at as 'accidental', we have to be aware that NFL players have often conditioned themselves to thoroughbred fitness, and those horses are notoriously injury-prone themselves. I blame Reggie Wayne's knee injury on the artificial turf in the dome, but were his legs not as finely tuned as they are; were they my legs, for example, the strain would not have been so intense and the effect of the turf's lack of give not so pronounced.
Remember too, although NFL players have been able to increase their weight and their muscle mass exponentially, you cannot increase the strength or size of connecting tissue: ligaments, tendons, cartilage. You can stretch them and make them more flexible, but when you are forcing them to carry extra weight they were not designed to take, it's a recipe for injury.
A lot of teams have been severely hit, and week 7 added to the toll. The Bears, Patriots, Falcons, Packers, Texans, and Niners all face serious problems—and it's worth checking the status of key players before deciding who you're going to back this week.
Sure Things: Arizona (-2.5) vs Atlanta
I may be crazy to suggest betting on the Crads (half Card, half Crap) especially with Carson Palmer creaking at QB, but the Falcons' injuries have reduced their defense's ability to rush the passer, and although Arizona are lacking in weapons unless Larry Fitzgerald is fully-fit, they can win a low scoring game because their D is good and Atlanta's offense is also challenged. Cleveland, with Jason Campbell taking over at QB may be good enough to cover getting 7.5 in Kansas City, but I might consider the Chiefs there too.
Outside Bet: Green Bay (-9.5) 2.00 at Minnesota
I'm starting to look at teams covering wide spreads, and with the QB chaos in Minny, the Vikings are looking particularly vulnerable right now. Christian Ponder will get the start, after Josh Freeman looked awful in his purple debut, and then came up with concussion symptoms during the week. The Packers keep finding receivers, and running backs, and linemen, and linebackers no one's ever heard of, and plugging them in, and winning—and of course Eddie Lacy is running like a first-round draft pick that he wasn't.
Value Bet: Denver (-13) 2.00 vs Washington
Denver is a team I've advised avoiding against the spread a couple of times this season - and wrongly as it turned out - but this week they are at home, coming off a bad performance against Indy, and facing a team who just gave up 34 points to a Bears' offense led by Josh McCown and another seven to Devin Hester on a punt return. Mr. Shanahan, meet Trindon Holliday. Peyton Manning against the Skins' secondary is like Usain Bolt against the England rugby front row in a 200m race.
One To Avoid: San Francisco (-17) 'at' Jacksonville at Wembley
The Niners are capable of covering 17, but my thinking here is that they aren't necessarily an explosive team (speaking of injuries, have you seen them throw to any wide receiver other than Anquan Boldin lately?) and if it rains the way the forecast says it's going to, Wembley will not be conducive to a shootout anyway. When you look at the Jags, 17 isn't that huge a margin to cover, but I'd rather cover the game Sunday than worry myself about the spread.
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