Seattle (-7.5) at Carolina
Weather Factor: 24mph wind
Coach John Fox of the Panthers has Vinny Testaverde listed as probable on the injury report, despite the fact that he hasn’t practiced for three straight days with “general soreness.” Fox has left us guessing up until gametime other times this season as to who will start at quarterback. When that has happened, the QB who practiced usually got the starting nod. That trend points toward undrafted rookie free agent Matt Moore attempting passes vs. an opportunistic Seattle defense. Even if Testaverde starts, the Seahawks should win the turnover battle. His 44 y/o arm could certainly float a couple passes into the 24mph wind that end up in the hands of a Seattle defender. The windy conditions will hurt Seattle also, however, as they are clearly a pass-first-run-second offense. Also, Seattle is without it’s best receiver, DJ Hackett. The Seahawks have overcome the loss of Hackett the past two weeks with a combination of stellar play by QB Matt Hasselbeck and 9 interceptions from the defense(that’s not a typo). Seattle does have something to play for, as a win will guarantee the 3rd seed in the NFC playoffs over Tampa Bay. The Seahawks flaws are obvious, but the Panthers have more. With a big advantage at the QB position, and something to play for, they should pull out the victory. Revenge for a 2005 NFC championship loss to Seattle is the only thing fueling Panthers pride in this contest. Last I checked, Matt Moore did not play in that game.
Take the Seahawks -7.5 points and hope that coach Fox sticks to his musical QB pattern and starts the rookie. I’m sure that DE Patrick Kerney is licking his chops hoping for the same.
Atlanta (+12.5) at Tampa Bay
Continuing with our it’s-usually-a-good-idea-to-bet-against-the-backup-quarterback theme, QB Chris Redman is the starter for the Falcons Sunday. Last season he…wait a minute, where did he play last year?…oh yeah, he was selling insurance for a living. On the road, against a number 4 ranked Buccaneers pass defense that has allowed only 13 passing touchdowns, this little piece of backup QB trivia doesn’t bode well for Atlanta’s chances. Judging from the plethora of verbal jabs aimed at former head coach Bobby Petrino in the wake of his sudden departure, it is true that many Falcons players will be juiced to perform in their first Petrino-less game. The Buc’s should still have the emotional edge in this game, however, as a win will clinch the NFC south crown and a playoff game at home. Meanwhile, the Falcons are just playing out the string. Also, the city of Tampa is looking forward to the return of fiery leader Jeff Garcia, who hasn’t thrown an interception in 9 of the 10 games he played this season. He missed the last two contests with a back injury, but has practiced all week with his signature mobility returned. Tampa should win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and Garcia is likely to outplay Redman.
Take the Buccanneers -12.5 points and hope that the Falcons fall behind in the game early. If Atlanta has to come from behind, the opportunities for turnovers could lead to a Tampa defensive touchdown, and in turn, a blowout.