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NEW YORK JETS (12-5) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-2)
Sportsbook.com Line/Total: New England -9 & 44.5
The Patriots and Jets meet for the season rubber match in New England with an AFC Championship Game berth on the line. The Jets dominated the second half and frustrated Tom Brady in beating the Pats 28-14 in Week 2, but New England crushed New York 45-3 in the Week 13 rematch as Brady threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers.
Since that drubbing, the Jets have won road games in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, whom they beat 17-16 on a last-second field goal last week. New York ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (148 YPG), and actually rushed for 152 yards in the 45-3 loss in New England. LaDainian Tomlinson (914 yards, 4.2 YPC, 6 TD this year) has gained 831 total yards and five touchdowns in seven career games against New England. The Jets’ passing offense has been inconsistent, with Mark Sanchez throwing just one touchdown and six interceptions in his past five games, including three picks at New England. The Patriots pass defense currently ranks third-worst in the NFL with 259 passing YPG allowed, but their 25 interceptions lead the NFL.
Speaking of interceptions, Brady has not thrown one since Week 6, an NFL-record run of 335 passes in a row without a pick. He has 36 TD and 4 INT for the season and has only lost one home game in his past 29 starts, a 33-14 defeat to Baltimore in last season’s playoffs. Brady is also 8-1 at home in his postseason career with his only loss coming against the Ravens. The Patriots also rank ninth in the NFL in rushing (123 YPG), but the Jets boast the third-best run defense in football (91 YPG). The Patriots have turned the ball over just once in the past eight games, while forcing 24 turnovers in those eight contests. They are a perfect 8-0 over this span, winning by an average score of 32 to 16.
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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (5-8) at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-6)
Sportsbook.com Line & Total: San Diego -9.5 & 44.5
Two California teams clinging to playoff hopes meet in a must-win situation for both teams on Thursday night. San Francisco is 5-8 and trails division leaders St. Louis and Seattle by one game. San Diego’s win over Kansas City last week put the 7-6 Chargers a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West standings. Both teams have major injury problems. In addition to RB Frank Gore on IR (hip), the 49ers’ top two linebackers, Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes, are both suffering hand injuries and are both listed as questionable.
San Diego has a slew of offensive injuries. WR Patrick Crayton (wrist) is out, TE Antonio Gates (feet) is doubtful and WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game. The good news is that WRs Vincent Jackson (calf) and Legedu Naanee (hamstring) will both play against San Francisco.
The 49ers are playing much better football recently, winning five of eight games after starting the season 0-5. Alex Smith will start at quarterback again for San Francisco after completing 17-of-27 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 40-21 win over Seattle. Smith, who missed the previous five games with a shoulder injury, is tasked with moving the football against the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL. San Diego is only allowing 173 passing YPG with only one game of surrendering 300 passing yards.
Despite Gore’s injury, San Francisco has rushed the ball well in its past three games with 453 yards on 4.7 yards per carry. Brian Westbrook has 190 rushing yards in the three games and also caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown against Seattle last week. Rookie RB Anthony Dixon has also thrived in his increased role, gaining 147 yards on 37 carries (4.0 YPC) since Gore got hurt. TE Vernon Davis is now healthy and a much bigger factor in the offense with Alex Smith throwing him the football. Davis has nine catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games.
The Chargers are also hot, winning five of their past six games (SU and ATS). After rushing for just 21 yards in a loss to Oakland, San Diego ripped off 207 rushing yards in the win over Kansas City, while holding the NFL’s top rushing offense to 48 yards on 17 carries. Mike Tolbert (16 rush, 66 yds, TD) and Ryan Mathews (16 rush, 65 yds, TD) had nearly identical numbers against KC, while Darren Sproles ran for 53 yards on just six carries. San Diego could have more success this week if Willis and Spikes are sidelined for San Francisco.
75% of action at Sportsbook.com is behind the home team Chargers against the spread.
The running game will be key if Gates and Floyd, the team’s top two receivers, are limited on Thursday. The duo has combined for 1,442 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns this year. Despite all the injuries in the passing game this season, San Diego still ranks second in the league in passing offense. QB Philip Rivers has thrown for 298 YPG with 26 TD and 11 INT and should have success against the 49ers’ 20th-ranked pass defense giving up 227 YPG. The Chargers have only won the turnover battle three times all season and have a minus-7 turnover ratio for the year.
Play Against - Home favorites of 3.5 to 10 points (SAN DIEGO) - after having won 2 out of their last 3 games, a marginal winning team (51% to 60%) playing a losing team in the second half of the season. (24-4 over the last 10 seasons.) (85.7%, +19.6 units.)
Play Under - Home teams where the total is between 42.5 and 49 points (SAN DIEGO) - after 1 or more consecutive wins against the spread, a marginal winning team (51% to 60%) playing a losing team in the second half of the season. (25-6 since 1983.) (80.6%, +18.4 units.)
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