NFL Preview: NFC East, NFC West

Fed an August diet of preseason games where motivation was questionable and lines and betting limits reflected a queasiness of confidence, you can't blame gridiron gamblers or the bet takers at The Greek Sportsbook if they're starved for some real NFL betting when the regular season starts this month.

Of course, you can't order without a betting menu and you can't (or shouldn't) bet the games without at least a brief analysis of the teams.

Here are thumbnail sketches of the NC East and NFC West teams. Numbers in parentheses indicate last year's straight up (SU), against the spread (ATS) and over/under (O/U) records:


DALLAS COWBOYS (9-7 SU, 7-7-2 ATS, 8-8 O/U): If the preseason is any indication, HC Bill Parcells doesn't have any more insight into how to handle Terrell Owens than Andy Reid did in Philadelphia. That's too bad because the Cowboys will be a contender if T.O. is a major contributor and probably won't make the playoffs if he's disruptive. Getting kicker Mike Vanderjagt was an upgrade but the schedule is difficult and Dallas resides in a very tough neighborhood. Bets and Pieces: The Cowboys are 12-7-1 as a favorite during the three seasons Parcells has spent in Dallas.

NY GIANTS (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS, 9-6-1 O/U): The decision to throw QB Eli Manning to the wolves in 2004 should pay dividends in his third full season with the Giants. But New York also needs to improve a defense that ranked 24th in the League last year. The schedule, which was just the 22nd toughest in the NFL last year is the fifth strongest this season. Bets and Pieces: The Giants are 9-4 as a home favorite the two years Tom Coughlin has been head coach.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (10-6 SU, 10-5-1 ATS, 8-8 O/U): There's good news and bad news in the nation's capital. The good news is that offensive coordinator Al Saunders' attack should be special. The bad news is that one of the key elements of that attack, RB Clinton Portis, injured his shoulder in the preseason. But thanks to a stingy defense and the best schedule in the division, the Redskins surely are in the mix. Bets and Pieces: Washington, which opens the Monday night season versus Minnesota, Sept. 11, is just 7-14 ATS on MNF.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (6-10 SU, 5-11 ATS, 9-7 O/U): The Eagles failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time this decade last season, partly because regulars missed a combined 53 starts. QB Donovan McNabb is healthy but Philly still doesn't have much of a running attack and the schedule, especially down the stretch, is no bargain. Bets and Pieces: The Eagles are 64-45-3 ATS, including 35-21 on the road, during HC Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 11-4-1 O/U): Re-signing rushing kingpin Shaun Alexander was pivotal but guard Steve Hutchinson, who helped Seattle lead the NFL in scoring and finish second in rushing has departed. QB Matt Hasselbeck (24 TD, nine INTs) returns and the team that was 10-0 at home last year also shored up a pretty strong defense (No. 7 in points allowed) by getting LB Julian Peterson from the 49ers. Bets and Pieces: Over the past eight seasons the Seahawks do not have a winning record in any of nine separate pointspread categories: ATS, Favorite, Underdog, Home ATS, Road ATS, Home Favorite, Home Underdog, Road Favorite or Road Underdog.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: A "wiseguy" pick last season, this may be the year the Cardinals actually realize their potential. Consider this: Arizona was the only NFL team to rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense last year. Add RB Edgerrin James and a soft schedule to the mix and HC Dennis Green could have Arizona threatening for a playoff spot. Bets and Pieces: Since 1998, Arizona is just 22-36-1 as an away underdog.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: The Rams have a new head coach in Scott Lineham and have changed both their offensive and defensive schemes but Marc Bulger has yet to get it done at quarterback and the defense, which ranked 30th in the NFL last year, must play more consistently if St. Louis is to match last season's six wins. Bets and Pieces: The Rams are 8-3 as a home underdog over the last eight seasons.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The numbers (last in both offense and defense) say that the Niners were the worst team in the NFL last year. Led by QB Alex Smith, San Francisco still is very young so it may take a few more years before the team is able to climb out of the basement. Bets and Pieces: The 49ers are just 15-27-2 as an away underdog the past eight seasons.

Third of four parts
Coming next: NFC North and NFC South