Dallas fails

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last week                     since Oct 25                     PCT

6-6                                 13-12                                 52.0

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

With a thud that can probably be heard halfway around the world, the Dallas Cowboys are 1-7 and tied with Carolina for the worst record in the NFC. Only Buffalo’s 0-8 start is worse and the Bills at least have been very competitive, losing each of their last three games by exactly a field goal.

Dallas has been non-competitive for most of their past 3.

The NFL regular season has officially passed the midpoint as Monday night’s clash between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati was game number 130 of the 256 game regular season schedule.

That this has unfolded as a season of parity may be best illustrated that through 8 or 9 games, each of the NFL’s 32 teams has lost at least twice. Contrast that to a season ago when New Orleans started 13-0 and Indianapolis 14-0 before losing.

The explosion in scoring continued on Sunday with 9 of the dozen games going OVER the closing totals with just two UNDER and the Chicago/Buffalo game pushing at 41. In Week 1, UNDERS were 11-4 edge with a push. Now, the OVER leads 67-45.The recent historical range has been between 47 percent and 54 percent OVER. Currently OVER is hitting at a 55 percent clip and 60 percent since Week 2.

Underdogs continue to hit at slightly more than 60 percent success against the spread (71-50, ignoring pushes and pick ‘ems). In an unusual occurrence, the lines maker was right on last week in making Chicago a 3 point favorite over Buffalo with a closing total of 41. The final score was Chicago 22, Buffalo 19.

It cannot be overemphasized how important it is to shop around for the best available line, especially with the great number of competitively priced games we see every week. The final set of byes occurs this weekend as Green Bay, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego are off after playing nine straight weeks.

This week features eight divisional contests of which four are rematches of games played earlier this season.

THURSDAY

Baltimore +1½ at Atlanta (43): Both teams are playing solid football and at 6-2 are on a path to the playoffs. The stats give Atlanta the edge on offense and Baltimore the edge on defense but neither edge is huge. Atlanta has actually shown a better ability to run the football and is allowing fewer rushing yards per game defensively. Baltimore has a decided statistical edge defending the pass. Both teams are a perfect 4-0 at home and just 2-2 on the road. Atlanta is in a favorable spot, playing a third straight home game. ATLANTA.

SUNDAY:

Cincinnati +8½ at Indy (47): Cincinnati will face a banged up Indy team off of a loss at Philadelphia. The Colts do have slight overall edges but defensively they have been considerably more vulnerable against the run. Cincy has been more vulnerable to the pass and that plays to the strength of the Colts’ offense, directed by QB Peyton Manning. As long as he is healthy, the Colts have a chance to win any game. Since the start of last season, Indy has won 19 of 24 regular season games, but nine have been less than this line. CINCINNATI.

Houston +1 at J’ville (49½): Although both teams are 4-4, Houston’s performance is considered disappointing while Jacksonville’s is being called a pleasant surprise. Both teams have solid rushing attacks with Houston’s Arian Foster quickly rising to the level of the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew as an elite back. Houston QB Matt Schaub rates an edge over David Garrard. Both teams own home wins over division powerhouse Indianapolis this season. On balance, the Texans have more ways to win and with their better balanced offense facing a similarly weak defense, rate the edge. HOUSTON.

Tenn (pick ‘em) at Miami (41½): Miami has the overall statistical edges on both sides of the football although the Titans have demonstrated the better rushing offense. Miami has played a grueling first half schedule as 6 of their 8 foes made the playoffs last season and a seventh finished 9-7. Tennessee is certainly on a par with many of those foes and is expected to debut newly acquired WR Randy Moss for this contest. The situation calls for the better effort from the hosts. MIAMI.

Minn (pick’em) at Chicago (40½): Minnesota totally dominated Arizona last week but needed OT to win 27-24 after rallying to tie the Cards with a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes of regulation. Poor special teams play allowed Arizona 2 TD’s but the late rally could be the spark the Vikings need to get back into contention. Trailing both Green Bay and the Bears, a win here is vital to Minnesota’s hopes of returning to the playoffs. Chicago also needed a fourth quarter rally to defeat winless Buffalo. MINNESOTA.

Detroit +2 at Buffalo (42): Detroit will likely start Drew Stanton at QB after starter Matthew Stafford once again injured his shoulder. Buffalo’s offense has shown the better ability to run the football but its defense is weaker at defending the run. The overall statistics do show Detroit as the more mature team, outscoring foes by nearly 2 points per game but with a 2-6 record. This may be Buffalo’s best chance to avoid a winless season. At the same time, this may also be Detroit’s best chance to end its 24-game road losing streak. OVER.

N.Y. Jets -3 at Cleveland (38): The interesting angle to this game is that Cleveland coach Eric Mangini coached the Jets from 2006 through 2008 and was canned after a winning season in 2008, his second such 9-7 campaign. Clearly the Browns are improved and their recent success has kept this line several points lower than would have been expected a month ago. The Jets are the much more complete team with a positive statistical profile that includes edges in the running game on both sides of the football and a significant overall edge on defense. N.Y. JETS.

Carolina at Tampa Bay (NL): In Week 2, Tampa Bay won 20-7 at Carolina as 4 point underdogs. Since that game, Tampa is 5-3, Carolina 1-7 and averaging just 11 points per game. Look for Tampa to be about a 10 point favorite as Carolina likely will start rookie Jimmy Clausen who has struggled in his few prior starts. At 5-3, Tampa has been both outscored and outgained on the season which makes laying any significant points a risky prospect. At the same time 6 of Carolina’s 7 losses have been by double digits. UNDER .

K.C. (pick’em) at Denver (42): Denver is off their bye following a disappointing 2-6 start. Since starting 6-0 last season, the Broncos have gone 4-14 since and the enthusiasm surrounding the hire of Josh McDaniels as coach has long since waned. Kansas City let a win slip away at Oakland last week and there could be some carryover here against another long time division rival. Statistically the Chiefs enjoy a huge edge in the ground game, but the situation does favor Denver. That bye week should prove productive. DENVER.

St. Louis +5½ at S.F. (38½): Both teams are off byes that followed wins. Each has performed statistically better on defense than on offense although St. Louis has shown the greater improvement over last season behind rookie QB Sam Bradford. San Francisco remains very much alive in the NFC West despite a 2-6 record. The Rams are actually tied for the division lead at 4-4 with Seattle! The 49ers routed the Rams twice last season, but now the Rams should be competitive throughout and might pull the outright upset. ST. LOUIS.

Seattle NL at Arizona: These teams met just three weeks ago in Seattle with the host Seahawks winning 22-10. QB Matt Hasselbeck was out last week for Seattle and his replacement, Charlie Whitehurst, had a rough time in his NFL debut against the Giants. The uncertain QB situation keeps this game off the boards on Monday but Arizona is likely to be a slight favorite no matter who starts for the Seahawks. Arizona was outgained at Minnesota last week, 507-225, scoring twice on special teams’ plays. This handicaps very much as low scoring with offenses ranked numbers 30 and 31. UNDER.

Dallas +13½ at N.Y. Giants (45): Three Monday nights ago, the Giants defeated Dallas 41-35 in a game not remotely as close as the final score might suggest. The G-men knocked out QB Tony Romo in the second quarter of that game and the Giants scored 31 straight points. As poorly as the Dallas defense played that night, it played even worse in their next two games, losses to Jacksonville and Green Bay by a combined 80-24 score. Expecting Dallas to suddenly play to its potential is often referred to as playing the “due” theory. After they fail and you play them again, it’s the “due due” theory. N.Y. GIANTS.

N.E. +4½ at Pittsburgh (44): Pittsburgh played at division rival Monday night while New England was shocked at Cleveland, losing 34-14. Here the Patriots will face one of the most physical defenses in the league. Following such a loss you can be sure coach Bill Belichick and his staff will make several key adjustments. He’s also likely to devise a game plan that maximizes time of possession. The Steelers will be similarly content to run the football. UNDER.

MONDAY

Philly -3 at Washington (42): McNabb Bowl II takes place in our nation’s capital six weeks after the ex-Philly QB led the Redskins to a 17-12 upset win over his former team. McNabb was pulled late in the last contest, a 37-25 loss at Detroit, in favor of journeyman Rex Grossman. At 4-4 the ‘Skins could pull even with the Eagles with a win here and hold the tiebreaker edge over their division rivals. QB Michael Vick is in great form for the Eagles. Washington is improved but its suspect defense, allowing 393 yards per game (next to last), should again allow the Eagles to have more scoring opportunities. PHILADELPHIA.

 

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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