The furore over the NFL's use of replacement officials reached a head this week as mistakes changed the outcome of two matches. Richard O'Hagan has all of the details and a look forward to this week's games now that the dispute is finally over.
"The howler which ended the Seattle-Green Bay game on Monday night was a huge one, giving the Seahawks a touchdown when the ball had clearly been intercepted in the end zone by a Packers player. It was enough to give the Seahawks a 14-12 victory and it is estimated that the decision caused a swing of between $150m and $250m in betting markets around the world."
As Edmund Blackadder once said, no-one likes a gloater, but for the past three weeks we have been warning that it was only a matter of time before the replacement officials being used in the NFL made a mistake that altered the outcome of a game, and this past weekend they made two. We hate to say we told you so.
The howler which ended the Seattle-Green Bay game on Monday night was a huge one, giving the Seahawks a touchdown when the ball had clearly been intercepted in the end zone by a Packers player. It was enough to give the Seahawks a 14-12 victory and it is estimated that the decision caused a swing of between $150m and $250m in betting markets around the world.
It was an error so big that it overshadowed another game-changing decision in Tennessee on Sunday night, when the officials erroneously enforced a penalty against Detroit at the Lions' 44 yard line instead of the Titans' 44, moving the ball 12 yards closer to the Detroit goal and allowing Tennessee to kick the game winning field goal.
Then, late last night, the NFL dramatically reached agreement with the regular officials, which will see the immediate return of the men who know what they are doing - or at least we hope they do.
On to tonight's game, which sees Baltimore host Cleveland. They beat New England in the late game on Sunday so have had a very short week. The star of that performance was wide receiver Torrey Smith, who posted career-high figures despite the death of his younger brother in a traffic accident on the morning of the game. It is not known if he will suit up for this match, but even without him the Ravens should be too strong for a Browns side who seem hell-bent on recording the NFL's second ever winless season, so inept has their play been.
On Sunday the game of the day will be the Giants' visit to Philadelphia. The Eagles have played in fits and starts this year and coach Andy Reid has made it clear this week just how tenuous Michael Vick's hold on the starting quarterback role is after last weekend's loss to Arizona. The Giants have not been without their problems either, but the reigning Super Bowl champs should still be good for a 7-12 point win at odds of around [3.0]
Quietly, Houston Texans have become one of the teams to beat in this league. One of three unbeaten sides left in the NFL, they were far too good for Peyton Manning's Broncos at the weekend. Their defence terrorised Denver's offensive line whilst Houston quarterback Matt Schaub finished the game with part of an ear missing after a brutal hit from Denver's Joe Mays which earned the linebacker a one game ban and $50,000 fine. They should be too good for Tennessee, but the NFL has been a close one this year and the Titans are a better side than their record suggests, so back them at [6.4] instead in this week's Recommended Bet.