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Close Calls - Week 5
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NCAAFB - 4th Quarter Covers

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in Week 5 of the NFL regular season.

New England Patriots (-3½) 19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 (54½): Week 5 was expected to open with a shootout between great passing offenses going against struggling pass defenses. After a slow start, 10 points in the final four minutes of the first half put New England up 13-7 and at least kept popular ‘over’ bets in play. The third quarter didn’t feature a change of pace as the Patriots settled for another field goal, leading 16-7 to sit ahead of a favorite spread that reached as high as -5½ before sliding downward Thursday afternoon and evening. New England fumbled on a Tom Brady sack in Tampa Bay territory late in the third quarter, but the Buccaneers couldn’t take advantage with a missed field goal.

Tampa Bay had the same result on its next possession, going 84 yards but watching Nick Folk miss from just 31 yards with about six minutes remaining in the game to all but lock up the ‘under.’ The Patriots were forced to punt and Buccaneers backers had renewed hope as Jameis Winston led a touchdown drive just ahead of the two-minute-warning. Folk made the extra point for a two-point deficit. Tampa Bay had just one timeout remaining as they had to try the onside kick. New England recovered and started in great field position, eventually adding a 48-yard field goal for the five-point final margin. The Buccaneers threatened in the final seconds getting one play from the New England 19-yard-line but there was confusion on the routes towards the end zone for an incomplete pass that had little chance as the spread results were mixed depending on the timing.

Los Angeles Chargers (+3) 27, New York Giants 22 (46): In a battle of competitive 0-4 squads, the Giants took an early 9-0 lead with a safety and a touchdown run before injuries started to pile up for the offense. The Chargers managed a field goal in the final seconds before halftime to lead 10-9 before both teams managed touchdowns late in the third quarter to leave Los Angeles up by one as a slight underdog heading into the final frame. The Giants delivered a big play strike for what will wind up as Odell Beckham’s last touchdown of the season with a 48-yard catch and run to lead 22-17, missing going for two with still more than 13 minutes to play. The Chargers managed to climb back within the underdog spread with a field goal just after the five minute mark and then managed to steal the win with a 3rd-and-7 sack of Eli Manning at the 11-yard-line that led to a fumble recovered by the Chargers. Three plays later, the Chargers took the lead 27-22, a score that clinched a narrow win for the ‘over’ and the defense intercepted Manning just across midfield in the final minute to seal the first win for the franchise as the Los Angeles Chargers.

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Cincinnati Bengals (-3) 20, Buffalo Bills 16 (39½): The Bengals had a severe production edge in this AFC clash, but with three costly turnovers, it was Buffalo with the lead 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Cincinnati responded with an early fourth quarter touchdown drive to lead by four, just past the home favorite spread. A marginal punt coupled with a strong return and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set the Bills up at the Cincinnati 12-yard-line with about 10 minutes remaining. The Bengals held Buffalo to a field goal, still leading 17-16, though now on the wrong side of the spread. Andy Dalton survived another close call for a turnover and the led the Bengals into the red zone with Randy Bullock hitting from 29 yards with just over three minutes remaining to restore the four-point advantage. Cincinnati’s defense stepped up with a 1st down sack and then intercepted Tyrod Taylor on a forced 3rd-and-long throw to wrap up the win and narrow cover, as well as keeping the game just ‘under’ a low total.

Miami Dolphins (-1) 16, Tennessee Titans 10 (41½): This game featured awful offense as while the Dolphins scored 10 points in the first quarter, they did so on a 19-yard drive for a field goal and with a fumble return touchdown. The Titans behind Matt Cassel added a field goal in the second quarter on a drive of -3 yards and despite back-to-back false starts to go from the Miami 1-yard-line to the Miami 11-yard-line, the Titans added a touchdown pass from for the first offensive touchdown of the game more than halfway through the third quarter. Two punts on each side followed before the Dolphins got the ball back just before the end of the third quarter. Jay Cutler and Jay Ajayi delivered a touchdown drive for a 16-10 edge with about 10 minutes remaining, but the extra-point was missed to leave the door open for the Titans. Tennessee had three possessions the rest of the game and managed a total of just 36 yards, never even getting across their own 40-yard-line.

Indianapolis Colts (-1) 26, San Francisco 49ers 23 (44): The Colts had a 16-6 edge heading into the fourth quarter as the favorite and ‘under’ wagers appeared to be in good shape. San Francisco managed an early fourth quarter field goal to trim the margin to seven points, but Jacoby Brissett led a six-play touchdown drive to answer for a 23-9 edge. It took less than two minutes for a struggling 49ers offense to find the end zone to get back within seven points and the defense forced a punt. On a 14-play drive, the 49ers eventually connected on 4th down in the red zone, scoring a touchdown with just 20 seconds on the clock with the extra-point sending the game to overtime. An improbable ‘over’ also connected with the late score regardless of the overtime scoring. Looking for a touchdown on the first possession of the extra session, Brissett was intercepted on a 1st down play in the end zone, his second overtime interception of the season. Only needing a field goal, the 49ers were called for a critical holding penalty just past midfield and eventually had to punt. 49ers' backers were looking for a tie, but the Colts got a big run by Marlon Mack to reach field goal range and Adam Vinatieri delivered a game and spread winning kick from 51 yards.

Philadelphia Eagles (-6) 34, Arizona Cardinals 7 (44½): The spread result in the NFC tilt offered little drama as the Eagles had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led 31-7 in the third quarter. One more touchdown would push the game ‘over’ with about 21 minutes to go, but the Cardinals failed going for it on 4th down in Eagles territory at about the 11 minute mark. Philadelphia then burned more than nine minutes of clock to reach the two-minute-warning, putting in a 28-yard field goal that kept the game just ‘under.’ Arizona looked like they delivered a meaningless score late to hit the ‘over,’ but a 28-yard J.J. Nelson catch and run into the end zone initially ruled a touchdown was reversed on replay review, with the ruling a fumble before crossing the end zone with the ball going out of bounds for a touchback.

Seattle Seahawks (+2½) 16, Los Angeles Rams 10 (46½): This division battle was scoreless after the first quarter, but offense picked up with 20 points in the second quarter for a 10-10 tie at halftime. The Rams botched two scoring chances in the third quarter with a missed field goal and an interception in Seattle territory as the Seahawks took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter, closing as a slight underdog, but with the game at just +1 or even much of the week. The Rams had another interception and a fumble near midfield in the fourth quarter and Seattle added another field goal to effectively seal the cover on the closing line with just over a minute remaining. Jared Goff connected for two big plays to give the Rams a shot, getting 2nd-and-10 from the Seattle 20-yard-line with 35 seconds to go. Three incomplete passes ended the threat.

Green Bay Packers (+2½) 35, Dallas Cowboys 31 (52): The Cowboys led 21-6 early, but just 21-15 through three quarters with the Packers bizarrely missing on two Mason Crosby extra-points. Green Bay took the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter to complete an 88-yard touchdown drive, leading 22-21 as a very slight underdog. The Cowboys answered with a quick field goal to lead by two and forced a 3-and-out. With about 10 minutes remaining in the game, Dak Prescott was intercepted with Damarious Randall delivering a 21-yard return to put the Packers in front 28-24, failing going for the two-point-conversion. Dallas delivered a 79-yard drive that took nearly nine minutes of clock and included consecutive overturned replay reviews on a critical 1st down pick up. With just over a minute remaining, Prescott scrambled into the end zone to put Dallas up by three. Rodgers and Aaron Jones were able to get the Packers into field goal range and with 11 seconds left the Packers got the win on a Davante Adams catch as the Packers escaped with another win in Dallas.

Minnesota Vikings (-3½) 20, Chicago Bears 17 (41): The line on this game came out late in the week at -2½ but quickly reached -3½ with news that Sam Bradford would return for the Vikings. Bradford didn’t last long, but Case Keenum played well in relief and after a 3-2 edge at halftime with a clear ‘under’ trajectory the Vikings had two third quarter touchdowns surrounding a Chicago touchdown on a fake punt pass from Pat O’Donnell as the ‘over’ was back in play with the Vikings up 17-9. Mitch Trubisky delivered the Bears to his first touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter on a deflected pass caught by Zach Miller and with a nifty two-point-conversion play the rookie quarterback tied the game himself. The Vikings reached Chicago territory just ahead of the two-minute-warning, but had to punt and on 1st down, Trubisky had a big rookie mistake with an interception setting the Vikings up at the Chicago 28-yard-line. With some kicking woes this season, the Vikings made a bit of an effort to find the end zone, but eventually were close enough to burn the rest of the clock and allowed Kai Forbath to connect from 26 yards for the win. The field goal confirmed the ‘under,’ but left most on the Bears still collecting at +3½.

  
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