And then there were none. But still there are two. Let’s explain.
Both unbeaten teams lost on Sunday as Cincinnati was waylaid at New England, 43-17, and Arizona was similarly waxed, 41-20, in Denver, putting an end to their dreams of an unbeaten season after 3-0 starts and leaving no teams unbeaten after five weeks of play.
Both the Bengals and Cardinals returned from byes that may have halted the positive momentum each had gained in winning their first three games. But Denver was also off a bye and the Broncos showed no signs of rust after its mini-vacation.
Two teams still remain winless. Oakland stays at 0-4 as a result of its bye although the Raiders’ streak may remain intact when they return this weekend to host San Diego.
Jacksonville threatened to earn its first win with a competitive effort in a 17-9 home loss to Pittsburgh. At 0-5 the Jaguars still have three chances to avoid matching last season’s 0-8 start. And it might come this Sunday at Tennessee where last season’s first win occurred in a 29-27 upset.
This season is shaping up as one of parity with no clear cut favorite although a pair of teams that started the season with losses has each reeled off four straight wins. One was a playoff team last season and the other has been the definition of parity – or mediocrity – for the past three seasons.
The former is the San Diego Chargers who, after failing to hold a late lead in an opening week 18-17 loss at Arizona, have reeled off wins over Seattle, Buffalo, Jacksonville and the New York Jets. Three of the wins have come at home but the win at Buffalo came a week after upsetting the Super Bowl champs.
After last season’s success that included a road playoff win at Cincinnati, the Chargers might be poised to take that next big step. We’ll know more in a few weeks as San Diego embarks on a stretch of three straight Divisional games beginning with a potential flat spot at Oakland and followed by a home game against Kansas City and a road game at AFC favorite, Denver.
The latter team is none other than Dallas. After three straight 8-8 seasons the Cowboys began this season with a home loss to San Francisco that was not as close as the final score of 28-17 might suggest. But the ‘Boys followed that loss with a pair of road wins at Tennessee and St. Louis and then a pair of home wins over New Orleans and Houston.
These last two victims are considered by many to be playoff caliber teams. We will also learn more about Dallas over the next month as the Cowboys are at Seattle this Sunday and then play three home games. The first two are against division rivals the Giants and Washington and then hosting a near playoff team from last season that started this season 3-0, Arizona.
Might we see a San Diego vs. Dallas Super Bowl? The odds say it is very unlikely but this is the NFL. The change in the composition of the playoff field is nearly 50 percent from season to season with an average 6 or 7 of the dozen teams that make the Playoffs one season failing to make them the next.
As we have seen over the past decade, once you make the playoffs anything can happen. A team seeded 4, 5 or 6 in its conference has won 5 of the last 9 Super Bowls.
We have our first rematch of the young season this week when the reincarnated version of the Cardiac Kids, the Cleveland Browns, host division rival Pittsburgh. The Browns are 2-2 with all 4 games decided in the final moments and each game decided by 3 points or less.
Kansas City and New Orleans are the only teams with Byes this week,.
Last week: 7-7 (w/o MNF)
Season record: 40-34-1.
Indy -2.5 at Houston (46): Defensive lineman J J Watt remains Houston’s best player and he will challenge Indy QB Andrew Luck who, well on his way to elite status, still is prone to the interception. Monitor this line as getting a FG would make this a solid play. HOUSTON.
Denver -7.5 at NY Jets (46.5): The 1-4 Jets may have hit their season low last week in a 31-0 loss at San Diego in which they were held to 151 yards. Old school handicapping would take the team that nobody wants, the Jets. But this is a new era and Peyton Manning would like to atone for his most recent trip to the Meadowlands. DENVER.
Pitt +2 at Cleveland (47): All four of Cleveland’s games have gone to the wire including the opening week meeting of these teams. The Browns appear to be on the way up while the Steelers continue a recent downturn. Still, the preference is to back the more accomplished team. PITTSBURGH.
Jacksonville (+6.5) at Tenn (44): The status of Tennessee QB Jake Locker keeps this game off the board on Monday. Despite an 0-5 record the Jags have been competitive in 3 of those losses. Likely to be an underdog of close to a touchdown, the points would be worth taking. JACKSONVILLE.
Chicago +3 at Atlanta (53.5): Both teams’ defenses are below average. Chicago is 2-0 on the road and the Falcons are 2-0 at home. The fundamentals suggest this should be a higher than expected scoring game. OVER.
GB -3 at Miami (49.5): The Packers lead the NFL in forcing 2.6 turnovers per game. That suggests that if Green Bay can get the lead the Dolphins will have trouble playing from behind while QB Aaron Rodgers has the ability to overcome a second half deficit. GREEN BAY.
Detroit (-2.5) at Minn (44): The status of Minnesota rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater keeps this game off the board on Monday although he is expected to play with the Lions about a FG road favorite. The Vikes do have extra rest after playing last Thursday and Detroit star WR Calvin Johnson and RB Reggie Bush are questionable. MINNESOTA.
Carolina +7 at Cincy (44): Cincinnati has continued its amazing play at home and is now 11-0 both SU and ATS in regular season home games dating back to the end of 2012. Expect an intense effort following their embarrassing loss in front of a Sunday night national TV audience. CINCINNATI
NE -3 at Buffalo (45): The Pats are not as bad as they looked against the Chiefs nor as good as they were against the Bengals. But they do enter this contest with some much needed confidence and should have success against a foe they know very well. NEW ENGLAND.
Baltimore -3 at Tampa Bay (43): The Ravens defense has been stout against the run but vulnerable to the pass. Tampa Bay ranks No. 28 both in total offense and pass offense and rank 30 in total defense, suggesting a poor matchup for the hosts. BALTIMORE.
San Diego -7 at Oakland (43): Just prior to that blowout in London the Raiders did take the Patriots to the wire in New England. A dull effort by the Chargers here would not be a surprise with two more Divisional games on deck – at home to Kansas City and then at Denver. OAKLAND.
Dallas +8.5 at Seattle (47.5): The Cowboys were forced to use noise combating techniques in last week’s home win over Houston so they will be prepared for the “Twelfth Man.” Both offenses are adept at running the football which, combined with the play of both defenses, could limit scoring. UNDER.
Wash. +3.5 at Arizona: The Arizona defense, even with injuries, will be the best unit on the field and the offense, behind any QB, is pedestrian at best. Thus most scenarios play out with this being a low scoring game with both teams ranking in the top ten in rushing defense. UNDER.
NY Giants +2.5 at Philly (50): Even with their decline in offensive productivity 4 of the Eagles 5 games have produced over 50 points. And the Giants have scored at least 30 points in each of their last 3 games as the offense has clicked. OVER.
SF -3.5 at St. Louis (43.5): The Rams are off of their two best offensive efforts of the season.
Having already lost at Arizona in Divisional play and with Seattle a main threat, this game is very important for the Niners who have played well even with the supposed internal turmoil. SAN FRANCISCO.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]