At the halfway point, who are the real contenders?

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As if you hadn’t noticed, the 2014 NFL season is flying by. In fact, more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams, 18 to be precise, will play their eighth of the 16 game regular season this week. The other 14 teams are those that have already had their bye week or will do so this week.

As the midpoint of the season arrives there have been many surprising, and in some instances shocking, developments that have given rise to numerous questions, the answers to which will begin to be answered in coming weeks.

Who are the real Cincinnati Bengals – the team that started the season 3-0 or the team that has lost twice and tied once since?

Are the New Orleans Saints’ struggles for real? The Saints have lost all four road games but also struggled in their two home games, including an overtime win over lowly Tampa Bay.

Are the Detroit Lions for real? Has the change in coaches from Jim Schwartz to Jim Caldwell made that much of a difference for a team that has had some of the NFL’s best talent in recent seasons but has consistently under achieved?

Are the Dallas Cowboys for real? Has it simply been a sustained commitment to the run behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines that has elevated the ‘Boys to contender status following their 6-1 start?

Through the first 105 games of the season, heading into Monday night’s affair between Houston and Pittsburgh, a look at the NFL’s betting landscape shows home favorites are 35-38-2 ATS and home underdogs are 13-15. The lone home pick ‘em game went to the road team.

Thus, home teams overall are 48-54-2, for 47.1 percent winners and a net loss of 11.4 units. That translates into the slimmest of profits, 1.2 net units, for road teams that are hitting at 52.9 percent.

The lone London game prior to this week’s game between Atlanta and Detroit saw favored Miami win and cover. Thus favorites and underdogs are each 51-51-2 ATS, which would have produced a loss of 5.1 net units by blindly betting on either all favorites or all underdogs. Double digit favorites are 3-4 ATS.

Underdogs have won 34 of the 104 non-pick ‘em games Straight Up (32.7 percent and in line with both the long term rate of 33.2 percent and the rate over the past six seasons of 32.1 percent).

Favorites have won SU but lost ATS in 16 of 104 games. At 15.4 percent that rate is somewhat below the long term rate of 16.4 percent and the last six seasons rate of 17.2 percent of the time that the point spread does come into play.

The OVER is 56-48-1 for Totals players with an average score of 29.5 to 16.7, resulting in a winning margin of 12.8 points and 46.2 total points per game, which is slightly lower than last season’s record high average of 46.8.

The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, both coming off of losses, are the teams with byes this week.

Thursday

San Diego +7.5 at Denver (50.5): Denver’s only home loss last season was to San Diego and their two wins were both competitive contests, winning by 8 in San Diego and by 7 at home in the Playoffs. The Broncos deserve to be solid favorites but Chargers coach Mike McCoy, as he did last season, uses the knowledge gained from being a Denver assistant two seasons ago to keep this game very competitive once again. SAN DIEGO.

Sunday

Detroit -3.5 vs. Atlanta (47): The second game this season in London. Atlanta’s seemingly large edge on offense results more from their early season efforts than current form. The Lions have a huge defensive edge that has been consistent right from the start. And although after missing the last two games due to injury, star WR Calvin Johnson is traveling to London with his status listed as questionable. DETROIT.

Minn +3 at Tampa Bay (42): Despite the absence of RB Adrian Peterson, can run the football, averaging 120 rushing yards per game. Their passing offense ranks dead last but will be facing Tampa’s last ranked passing defense. When an impotent offense plays a yielding defense it is preferable to take the offense when getting the points. MINNESOTA.

Chicago +7 at New England (49.5): The Patriots have overcome some early season struggles but also has struggled to run the ball, also held to under 90 yards in 5 of 7 games. Both teams’ passing games are developing with Chicago QB Jay Cutler and the Pats’ Tom Brady both in the upper tier of signal callers. Each team has played more OVERS than UNDERS and the matchups suggest this game should be high scoring. OVER.

St. Louis +6 at KC (43.5): This could be a letdown spot for both teams as the Rams are off of their home upset of Seattle and the Chiefs just won at San Diego. But it is an especially tough spot for St. Louis which is off of a pair of Divisional home games and has a pair of Divisional road games on deck after this first of three straight road games. The Chiefs have both the better defense and the better rushing game. And although they are just 3-3 straight up, they are 4-1-1 ATS. And they excel at protecting the football. KANSAS CITY.

Seattle -4 at Carolina (44.4): The Seahawks have controlled the ground game on both sides of the football. But the defense ranks No. 29 in forcing just 0.8 takeaways per game. Carolina’s weakness on both sides of the ball is in the rushing game, which plays into Seattle’s strengths. Carolina hosts Division rival Carolina next week while Seattle returns home for a pair of non Divisional contests. The spot sets up well for a focused effort from the visitors. SEATTLE

Buffalo +3 at NY Jets (41): The Jets have also played 6 straight games against top tier quarterbacks, losing all 6. Buffalo QB Kyle Orton is not in that class and the Bills are also dealing with key RB injuries. Given how their tough recent schedule has given the betting public a strong negative perception, it would not surprise to see the Jets go on a short term pointspread winning streak. NY JETS.

Miami -5 at Jacksonville (43): Jacksonville got its first win last week, scoring a pair of late touchdowns to extend its narrow 10-6 lead in a 24-6 home win over Cleveland. Miami was very impressive in its 27-14 win at Chicago. The Dolphins have the better statistical profile across the board. Yet the Jags are showing solid improvement, especially on defense. After allowing at least 33 points in each of their first four games, the Jags have allowed 17, 16 and 6 points in the last three. UNDER.

Houston -2 at Tennessee(43.5): Barring any key injuries Houston is expected to be just under a FG road favorite. Despite having the best defensive player in the game, J J Watt, the Texans entered Monday night allowing 397 yards per game. But they also have been forcing 2.3 takeaways per game. Both offenses are above the NFL average in yards per pass completion and both defenses are worse than average in yards per rush allowed. OVER.

Baltimore +2.5 at Cincinnati (46): The Bengals continue to suffer from injuries on both sides of the football and have the number 31 defense, allowing 416 yards per game. The Ravens lead the league in allowing just 14.9 points per game. They have the edge at QB, a solid edge in rushing offense and a huge edge in rushing defense as well as playing with revenge. BALTIMORE.

Philly +2.5 at Arizona (48): The Cards have yet to allow more than 90 rushing yards in a game this season. But their offense has been unable to run the football. Both teams had rookie head coaches last season when Philly won at home 24-21, failing to cover by the hook. With the extra week to prepare and running an atypical NFL offense the Eagles have an excellent chance to win outright and will be even more attractive if the line goes to a FG. PHILADELPHIA.

Indy -3.5 at Pittsburgh (48): Steelers off of Monday night’s home game and likely to be about a FG home underdog. The Indy defense has been aggressive and their 21 sacks has them tied for third best. Contrast that to the Steeler defense that recorded just 9 sacks prior to Monday. The Colts have already won twice on the road and in Andrew Luck they arguably have the better QB than the current version of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. INDIANAPOLIS.

Oakland +7 at Cleveland (43): The Browns are off of their lowest points (6) and yardage (266) efforts of the season. Surprisingly, their offense has been much better than expected but their defense has performed much worse. The Browns have allowed over 125 rushing yards in every game this season. Whether the Raiders can take advantage of that weakness is a concern. But it does suggest a game plan that lends itself to a lower than expected scoring game. UNDER.

GB +1.5 at New Orleans (54.5): Saints step up in class here against a fellow Super Bowl contender that is just 2-2 on the road with the most recent win being that last second 27-24 win at Miami. This game will tell us much more about the Saints than it will about Green Bay. Although the Saints finally failed to cover in the overtime win over the Bucs, they have now won 19 straight games with head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines. NEW ORLEANS

Monday

Washington +10 at Dallas (49.5): Despite a 2-5 record Washington has been blown out only once, in that 45-14 home loss to the Giants a few Thursday nights ago. However they do have 2 losses by exactly 10 points and another by 11, which makes it tough to either lay or take the key number of 10. The Cowboys are third in the NFL in total offense and Washington is sixth. And the possible change at QB for the visitors from Kirk Cousins to Colt McCoy could provide an added spark following McCoy’s second half performance last week. OVER.

Last week: 6-8 (without MNF)

Season: 54-49-2

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]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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