Five teams entered last week unbeaten and we knew at least one would, barring a tie, fall from those ranks as Denver hosted Green Bay Sunday night.
Denver impressively defeated the Packers to improve to 7-0 while Green Bay dropped to 6-1. Interestingly, the Packers are the only one-loss team in the league but would share that distinction if another of those unbeaten teams, Carolina, lost on Monday night at home to Indianapolis.
Cincinnati and New England did remain unbeaten as the Patriots were in control throughout in last Thursday’s 36-7 home win over Miami while the Bengals rallied from behind late in their game at Pittsburgh for a 16-10 win.
As a result the AFC has three Division leaders at 7-0 and each has a commanding lead in its Division as no second place team has fewer than three losses. In fact, the two teams currently holding the AFC Wild Cards are just 4-3 (Oakland and the Jets). Only one other AFC team has a non-losing record, Pittsburgh at 4-4. The other 10 all have losing records.
The Colts were expected to lose on Monday night at Carolina and if that indeed did happen Indy would be tied with Houston atop the AFC South with a 3-5 record.
Although you might think the NFC would be the opposite such is not the case. Only six NFC teams have winning records. Aside from Carolina and Green Bay, Arizona leads the NFC West at 6-2 with St. Louis in second with a 4-3 mark. Atlanta sits second behind Carolina in the NFC South at 6-2 while Minnesota is second behind Green Bay in the NFC North at 5-2.
The New York Giants lead the NFC East with a 4-4 record, the same mark as that of defending NFC Champion Seattle. Surging New Orleans is also 4-4 after going 4-1 following an 0-3 start.
The season is just past the halfway point and has unfolded as one of the “haves” and the “have nots.” More than one quarter of the league – 9 teams – have no more than two wins. Three of those teams were Playoff teams last season (Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit). A fourth was in the NFC Championship game just a season earlier (San Francisco).
Here’s a look at the 13 games to be played this weekend with Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston Kansas City and Seattle having byes.
Cleveland +10 at Cincinnati (46): Last season in a mid-season Thursday night game the Browns embarrassed the Bengals with a 24-3 upset win. Cincy did avenge that loss later last season in the rematch, 30-0, but the prime time stage should fuel an incentive to avoid a repeat. CINCINNATI.
Oakland +4.5 at Pittsburgh (48): With a rust filled game under his belt, Roethlisberger should perform better this week against an Oakland defense not as formidable as Cincinnati’s. Oakland also should have success against an improving but still vulnerable Pittsburgh defense. As such, the Total presents the most attractive option. OVER.
Jacksonville at NY Jets (No Line): The Jets defense played its worst game of the season against an improving Raiders offense. Now they step down in class against a struggling Jaguars offense. The matchups favor a bounceback from the Jets who should be favored by about a TD once the QB situation is clarified. NY JETS.
St. Louis +2.5 at Minnesota (40.5): Both teams have above average defenses that force opposing offenses to work hard and gain yards in chunks rather than big plays. These qualities set the stage for an old fashioned, physical, low scoring contest. UNDER.
Miami +3 at Buffalo (44): Buffalo plays its next three games on the road. This game is critical to both teams’ chances for a Wild Card. Prior to their first meeting, 9 of the prior 10 meetings had produced 44 total points or less with 7 failing to top 34 points. UNDER.
Tennessee +9 at New Orleans: The Tennessee defense has been inconsistent with several good efforts but also some ugly ones. Playing with confidence the Saints should be able to score against that defense with the Titans unlikely to trade scores. NEW ORLEANS.
Washington +14 at New England (52): Kirk Cousins has thrown two interceptions in four of seven games, setting the stage for extra Patriot possessions, which should lead to extending their lead. Laying double digits with the Pats is like laying a TD with most other teams as the Pats are averaging 35.6 points per game and winning by an average of 16.6 ppg. NEW ENGLAND.
Green Bay at Carolina (No Line): Green Bay has the much more potent offense and also has lost just four turnovers all season. Regardless of Monday night’s result the expectation is Green Bay will bounce back with a strong offensive performance with which the Panthers will be unable to consistently stop or keep pace. GREEN BAY.
Atlanta -4.5 at San Francisco (45): Atlanta has had trouble converting yards into points in their last four games so the 49ers’ defense could present a challenge as the Falcons play just their second game on natural grass this season. Their first such game was that 10 point effort in Tennessee. UNDER.
NY Giants -2.5 at Tampa Bay (47): Statistically, Tampa has the better rushing game and a solid edge in defensive yards per play. The Giants do lead the NFL with a plus 11 turnover differential but that is not enough to lay points on the road with a team that continually fails to finish games. TAMPA BAY.
Denver at Indianapolis (No Line): Denver is ripe for a letdown but letdowns often occur on offense as defense tends to travel well. Manning will also be motivated in his return to Indy to show the Colts gave up on him too soon and might have been better served by allowing him to start while also tutoring current Colts QB Andrew Luck. DENVER.
Philadelphia -2.5 at Dallas (44.5): Normally this is a spot to back Dallas but Matt Cassel has been just as ineffective as was Brandon Weeden in filling in for Romo. The bye should have allowed the Eagles to refine the aspects of their game that had been concerns. Dez Bryant and Cowboys may be forced to play from behind. PHILLY.
Chicago +4 at San Diego (49): With their seemingly imminent move to Los Angeles the Chargers have a limited home field advantage and there should be plenty of Chicago supporters in the stands. Considering the narrow margins of both teams’ recent games, getting more than a FG looms large. CHICAGO.
NFL Last Week: 11-2-0
NFL Season: 54-60-4
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]