LINES THAT MAKE YOU GO "HUMMMM"
A 2-7 record has the Carolina Panthers' front office sharpening its ax.
Special teams coach Brian Murphy was fired Monday on the heels of GM Marty Hurney's termination in late October. And head coach Ron Rivera is rumored to be next up on the chopping block, leaving the entire staff walking on egg shells heading into Sunday's home tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Oddsmakers opened this NFC South showdown anywhere from Carolina -1.5, to a pick 'em, to Tampa Bay -1.
The Bucs continue to get little respect from the books, but have the attention of bettors after posting a 7-2 ATS mark through the first nine games of the schedule. Tampa Bay is coming off a 34-24 win over San Diego in Week 10, with help from its defense, and is averaging more than 37 points per game during its current three-game winning streak.
The Panthers fell 16-10 to the Buccaneers in the season opener, failing to cover as 3-point road favorites. Carolina's offense doesn't have the firepower to keep pace with Tampa Bay's budding scoring attack, averaging only 18.1 points on the year and scoring two touchdowns or less in five games this season.
It wouldn't surprise me if a few resumes turned up in the Panthers' office copy machine this week.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3, 41)
This total first caught my eye in the weekly NFL opening line report. And, after the injury to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, this number is once again our focus.
The 46-point opening total was the largest number set for a clash between the Ravens and Steelers at least as far back as 2001, but the total has dropped to 41 points with Roethlisberger leaving Monday's game against the Chiefs with a shoulder injury.
Early reports said Roethlisberger suffered a separated shoulder but the team denied that news and told the media their QB has a sprained shoulder instead. He was officially ruled out Wednesday morning, leaving Pittsburgh to turn to back Byron Leftwich Sunday night.
Books have dropped the number but 41 is the second-highest total these teams have faced in their last 25 meetings (16-8-1 over/under). The spread has also made a dramatic swing, going from its opening of Pittsburgh -3.5 to Baltimore -3 as of Wednesday morning.
Toledo Rockets at Northern Illinois Huskies (-10.5, 63.5)
Toledo has proven itself one of the most dangerous teams in college football. The Rockets have made a name for themselves, taking the fight to top-level competition over the years.
This week, Toledo (8-2 SU, 6-4 ATS) takes on Northern Illinois (9-1 SU, 8-1-1 ATS) in a battle of MAC West giants Wednesday night. The Rockets are getting 10.5 points from oddsmakers against a Huskies squad that's won nine straight since losing the season opener.
Toledo got caught looking ahead last week, losing to Ball State, but has the offensive swagger to cover the double-digit spread. Last year, The Rockets lost a 63-60 shootout with the Huskies on a touchdown in the dying seconds. They're 9-4-1 ATS in their last 14 meetings with NIU and the underdog has covered in seven of the last 10 games between these conference rivals.
Utah State Aggies at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (+3, 70.5)
Books are giving the points to the 20th-ranked Bulldogs and their high-flying offense versus a dangerous USU program at home Saturday.
The Aggies own one of the best defenses in the country, allowing only 13.5 points per game. However, Utah State has faced a softer schedule featuring some less-than-threatening offensive attacks.
Louisiana Tech is tops in the country in total yards (576.5 per game) and is averaging 53.4 points - second only behind BCS favorite Oregon. While their defense may be horrible, the Bulldogs' potent playbook always gives them a chance to win.
La Tech is 5-2 ATS in its last seven contests with Utah State, winning six of those meetings straight up going back to 2005.