Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sky Sports HD, 5.30pm)

The triple header of TV games in the UK on Sunday starts with the underachieving and rested Detroit Lions at the frustrating Philadelphia Eagles. Neither have come close to playing to their full potential this season. The 1-3 Lions have underwhelmed against three opponents, and whelmed against another (fortuitously beating St Louis at home on opening weekend). They have failed to cover the handicap in all four starts, although three of the four teams they have faced have winning records.

Philadelphia have faced a tough opening to their schedule and have covered the handicap just once in their 3-2 start (last week when losing 16-14 in Pittsburgh as 3.5-point underdogs). It has not been helped by their propensity for turnovers and had it not been for a few flits of fate, they could be staring over the precipice of an 0-6 start, having won their three games by a combined total of four points. And four points is the handicap they are asked to give up at BETDAQ, which is 1.5-points fewer than they opened up in Vegas on Sunday night. The money came in for the Lions, who are 7-2 against the handicap spread (ATS) in their last nine October games, but are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven road games. Furthermore, the Lions are 0-8-1 ATS against a team with a winning record and have lost seven of the last nine (one tie) to the Eagles, including their last six.

The Eagles’ defensive line has been much maligned this season, but they have encountered some decent offensive lines and protecting the quarterback is not the Lions’ forte. Expect the hosts to get good pressure up front this week.

Detroit’s heavy reliance on Calvin Johnson will continue and while the Eagles’ secondary has been relatively good, big-time receivers have put up decent numbers against them (Antonio Brown 7 catches for 88 yards; Victor Cruz 9/100yds; Larry Fitzgerald 9/114yds and a 37yd touchdown). Still, the Eagles are in a favourable spot here and they should be in control before the final quarter, providing Michael Vick is more careful with the ball and LeSean McCoy is an integral part of the gameplan. I’m buying the Eagles.

New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers (Sky Sports HD, 9.25pm)

The San Francisco 49ers have been waiting for this NFC Championship rematch since. San Francisco came out on top in a Week 10 battle at Candlestick Park in 2011 only to see the Giants get their revenge at Candlestick Park in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers are 10-2 at home in the Jim Harbaugh era and have beaten their last two opponents by a combined score of 79-3, but interestingly, the Giants have beaten the last six teams they have faced coming off a win.

The Niners are 5-point favourites on the BETDAQ handicap and the Unders/Overs points total sits at 44.5. You can also bet on the outright result, or Moneyline.

It is hard to go against the hosts, given that the Giants have not looked close to the team that won the Super Bowl last season, but they are an exceptionally good road team who tend to play to the level of their competition.

It is true that the Giants have had coverage struggles in their injury-depleted secondary, which has given the front seven less time to get to opposing quarterbacks. But on the flip side, San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith is nursing a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand, which may be a very significant injury.

For the Giants to have a chance of winning, their offensive line must do a better job of protecting Eli Manning, who was hit 12 times and was sacked six times in the NFC Championship game, which the Giants won 20-17. Manning can now be considered one of the elite passers, stepping out from the shadow of his brother, Peyton. Eli has thrown for at least 200 yards in 24 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NFL history behind Dan Fouts (45) and is on pace for a career-high 5,053 yards this season.

Given that we don’t know the full extent of Smith’s injury and how, if at all, the Niners’ passing game will be affected, it looks a game to watch. That said, rather than taking the handicap, a small play on the outright market, or Moneyline, makes some appeal, despite the restricted odds.

Green Bay Packers @ Houston Texans (C4, Monday, 1.25am)

The Packers are not in a position to exploit Houston’s average run defence, especially now that Cedric Benson, who supplied the ground game that had been missing last year, is ruled out for the season. If they could not win on the road in Indianapolis, it is tough to see them winning on the road a week later against one of the most efficient teams in the NFL.

And while the Texans’ running game does not seem to be the force it was last year, the Packers’ run defence is clearly no great shakes and Arian Foster could have a big game as the Texans grind their way to another boring win. The Packers’ safeties and linebackers are going to be severely tested.

Yet a significant injury could blunt the Texans’ defence. Brian Cushing, it can be argued, was as vital to this defence as J.J. Watt. Cushing’s versatility – speed to attack on the blitz and power to take on multiple blockers – allowed coordinator wade Phillips to do so much more against opposing attacks. With Cushing ruled out, it will be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers is accorded the time to pick his targets. His offensive line isn’t great, though, and with Benson out and Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings both nursing injuries, this doesn’t look a good spot for the Packers.

It would be no surprise to see the game settled by a field-goal margin – just as in their previous two meetings – but any time you can take the No.1 ranked team (in most polls) with just three points to overcome at home, despite playing off a short week, then the call seems obvious.

New England Patriots @ Seattle Seahawks

There have been one too many odd results for my liking this season; vastly superior teams have failed to cover handicaps or, in Pittsburgh’s case on Thursday night, lost outright to a team that had previously lost four of their five games each by 20 points or more. For whatever reason, some teams invariably have trouble with other teams, no matter how good or bad they are at any given point.

Take, for example, the Seahawks, who have invariably been a thorn in the side of the Patriots over the years and have won six of their last nine meetings (five of those in Boston). We all know that Seattle’s defence is solid. Likewise we know that New England’s attack is potent and multifarious, thanks an offensive line – the growing influence of left tackle Nate Solder crucial – which has paved the way for an effective running game, allowing one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game plenty of options. The pace of the Patriots’ attack and its origins was highlighted in my previous column; suffice to say, it is another weapon in their arsenal and crowd noise should not be a factor for Tom Brady.

The BETDAQ handicap of 3.5 points looks too low and I will be looking to recover my losses on Thursday’s Pittsburgh debacle by backing the visitors to gain a rare win over the Seahawks. But with some extremely odd results over the past few weeks, it would not surprise me if the Seahawks upset the odds.

The NFL betting Gods appear to have put a stone in our metaphorical punting shoes, so this edition of the Musical Time Out is dedicated to them, and their Vegas cohorts.

St Louis Rams @ Miami Dolphins

St Louis’ road woes are well documented. They are 5-30 in outdoor games dating back to 2006 and 1-9 in road games since the start of last year.

The loss of wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has been quarterback Sam Bradford’s security blanket, is massive for a Rams team that is already bereft of receivers, although I can’t fathom why former New York Giant Steve Smith has not been more of a focal point. He will now be given the opportunity to prove he is a very good pass catcher.

The Dolphins could be 4-1, having lost two games in overtime. History, as it was last week in Cincinnati, is with them again; the Rams have not won in Miami since 1976 and they have only ever beaten the Dolphins twice in 11 attempts.

Most handicappers will look at a team’s true ability through the lens of third-down and red zone efficiency. Miami are in the top third in the league in those categories on both sides of the ball. And these stats have not been chiselled out against the also-rams of the NFL, either.

While their offense hasn’t been slick or consistent with a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, he is getting good protection from the offensive line, which cannot be said for Bradford, who is likely to be under fire from Miami’s decent pass rush.

The Rams’ defence has not given up a touchdown since the opening drive of their Week 4 clash with the Seahawks but it is hard to see how the Rams will score points against one of the better defences in the NFL.

Throw in an emotional edge – both Zak Thomas and Jason Taylor are to be inducted in the Dolphins Ring of Honour, which will fire up the defence and the home crowd – in what looks a pivotal game for Miami with an easier part of their schedule to follow, and it looks a home win. However, it could come down to a field goal, which is why the Rams get the nod with that vital half-point.

Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins

This is another clash where, historically, the Vikings have the Redskins’ number (winning on five of the last seven occasions, including last season in DC).

Washington are sweating on the fitness of quarterback Robert Griffin III and his status means no lines were available at the time of writing.

However, the host Redskins should be field-goal favourites in my book, regardless of who plays QB (rookie Kirk Cousins is a perfectly good back-up).

It is their running game that will cause the Vikings problems; Alfred Morris has been one of the finds of the season. I’m not buying this sudden improvement from the 4-1 Vikings, who have beaten the likes of sad sack Jacksonville, Detroit (whom they always beat), San Francisco (whose number they historically have) and Tennessee, who are still a bad team, despite their win over Pittsburgh. They lost on the road to Indianapolis.

In theory, the Vikings should be favourites. The fact they are not, suggests the Vikings are not fooling the layers. Washington are better than their 2-3 record suggests and they should be at .500 after this.

Oakland Raiders @ Atlanta Falcons

Oakland have a horrible 3-9 record ATS in games played after their bye week since 2000. The Raiders are one of the poorest teams in the NFL right now and the fact that they travel to play a vastly superior Atlanta means the BETDAQ handicap line of 9.5 points is about right.

The Falcons showed a few flaws last week before overcoming Washington to remain unbeaten at 5-0, but Oakland are far more susceptible to the big play downfield than the Redskins are, and their defensive line should be manhandled, as it has been all season.

Roddy White and Julio Jones against this Oakland secondary is a scary prospect. This should not be in the vicinity of ‘close’.

Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets

Jimmy Savile has had more ringing endorsements this week than Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. And if head coach Rex Ryan had his way, he’d probably sooner play Savile.

Quite why he is sticking with the passer, who is struggling to complete more than 50% of his passes in each game says plenty of what he thinks about back-up Tim Tebow.

The Jets, despite lacking talent at the receiver position, played hard against Houston on Monday night, suggesting that Ryan has not yet lost the locker room. Furthermore, Ryan is 8-3 ATS at home, against a team coming off a win.

These teams have alternated wins and losses in New York in the past seven meetings. If you put faith in trends such as this, it is the Jets’ turn to win. It is also time for Sanchez to repay what little faith Ryan still has in him.

Back – Philadelphia Moneyline
Back – San Francisco Moneyline
Back – Over 44.5 total points NY Giants/San Francisco
Lay – Green Bay +3.5
Back – St Louis +3.5
Back – New England -3.5
Back – Washington Moneyline
Lay – Oakland +9.5
Back – New York Jets Moneyline
Back – New York Jets -3.5

Milham’s 2012 record:
Week 1: 7-5
Week 2: 7-6-1
Week 3: 5-8
Week 4: 10-3
Week 5: 4-9

Twitter: @simonmilham

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