As we reach the Thanksgiving holiday the NFL regular season hits the home stretch with just 5 games remaining for each team.
Playoff spots are yet to be decided and all teams in contentions shall face multiple challenges as the path to the postseason comes into focus.
There is a tendency too often read too much into a single game’s results especially a team’s most recent.
When two good teams meet, one will lose. And when two bad teams meet, one will win. A loss by one good team to another should not necessarily cause you to downgrade that loser.
Likewise, a win by a bad team is not a reason, in and of itself, to upgrade that team’s Power Rating. Of course there are always mitigating factors that should be considered, such as injuries or weather.
Rather than upgrading or downgrading those teams based upon that result, a more prudent course would be to see how such teams respond in the next game following a disappointing loss or satisfying win.
A typical NFL season always has its unique twists and turns and story lines and this season is no exception.
There is the possibility that an NFC team will make the playoffs with as few as 5 wins. New Orleans entered Monday’s game against Baltimore as the leader in the NFC South with a 4-6 record, only slightly ahead of 4-7 Atlanta.
At the same time a team with 11 wins could miss the playoffs. Philadelphia and Dallas are tied atop the NFC East at 8-3 and will play each other twice over the next three weeks. It’s quite possible each will finish with 11 or 12 wins.
Green Bay is 8-3 atop the NFC North with Detroit a game back at 7-4. In both divisions the second- place finisher could well make the playoffs as a wild card.
And then there is the NFC West where Arizona is first at 9-2 and quite likely to make the playoffs. That means that either Seattle or San Francisco, both 7-4, could miss out after playing for the NFC Championship last season.
Things are almost as muddled in the AFC although with a much lower degree of success, save for New England. The Patriots are 9-2 and riding a 7-game winning streak with 6 of the wins by more than two touchdowns.
Naturally, the one close win in this stretch was a narrow two-point win over the 2-8 New York Jets that was saved by a blocked Jets FG as time expired. The Patriots lead Miami by 3 games in the AFC East.
All four teams in the AFC North have winning records with Cincinnati’s 7-3-1 record just a half-game ahead of both Cleveland and Pittsburgh (7-4) who could have been joined by Baltimore. The Ravens were 6-4 before Monday night’s game at New Orleans.
Indianapolis has a 2-game lead over Houston in the AFC South and is the clear favorite to be that Division’s only playoff team.
Denver has not been sharp over the past month and at 8-3 have just a one game lead over both Kansas City and San Diego in the AFC West. The Broncos face a challenge with a Sunday night showdown in Kansas City as they seek to complete a season sweep of the series after defeating the Chiefs way back in Week 2.
It promises to be another exciting finish to the season with many more surprises in store over the next five weeks.
Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, here’s a look at the full slate of Week 13 games that starts with a tripleheader on Thursday.
Chicago +6.5 at Detroit (47): Now behind Green Bay in the NFC North and with no Playoff spot assured despite a 7-4 record, look for a more aggressive and energized Lions team to put pressure on Chicago QB Jay Cutler who has had turnover issues of his own throughout the season. DETROIT.
Philadelphia +3 at Dallas (54): Philly has benefited from multiple special teams and defensive scores this season. The indoor conditions take the elements out of the equation and that should allow both offenses to flourish against defenses that are average at best but vulnerable to quality passing attacks which both offenses possess. OVER.
Seattle +1 at SF (40): The home team has had great success in the series, winning 5 straight and 10 of the last 11. Both NFC West powers rely more on defense than offense this season. The short line suggests that Seattle is the better team, but history says the value is with the home team. SAN FRANCISCO.
Washington +10 at Indy (51): Washington has fared well defending the run which could force the Colts to again be too one dimensional. That could lead to mistakes that result in wasted scoring opportunities for the host. Despite the 3-8 record, Washington has only been truly blown out twice all season. WASHINGTON.
Tennessee +6 at Houston (42.5): Ryan Fitzpatrick is back as starting QB for Houston after backup Ryan Mallett was lost for the season last Sunday. Houston won the earlier meeting a month ago, 30-16 as 3.5 point road favorites. Houston’s strength is on defense and they get to face rookie QB Zach Mettenberger who made his first start in that earlier loss. HOUSTON.
Cleveland NL at Buffalo: The Bills have been vulnerable to the run, allowing at least 125 yards in four-straight games prior to Monday after not allowing more than 86 in their first 6 games. The Bills have gone UNDER in 8 of their first 10 games. Both defenses rank in the top ten on a yards per play and points allowed basis. UNDER.
San Diego NL at Baltimore: Both offenses are led by top-tier QBs who have shown repeated big play ability. Normally this would be a good spot to take the Chargers but their recent lack of ATS success is reason for caution. Thus, the better approach would be to expect both offenses to outplay the defenses. OVER.
NY Giants -1 at Jacksonville (44): The Giants are 3-8 with 6-straight losses but their last 3 losses were all competitive against Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle. The players are still playing hard and the G-Men do have the talent edge over 1-10 Jacksonville. Against the Jags the Giants should not run out of gas in the fourth quarter. NY GIANTS.
Cincinnati -3.5 at Tampa Bay (44): There is always danger in backing a road favorite, especially in a third straight road game. But the Bengals are an experienced team seeking a fourth straight trip to the playoffs. Of their 7 wins, 6 have been by at least a TD, including all 3 road wins. CINCINNATI.
Oakland +7 at St. Louis (43): St Louis has played well over the past month, overcoming numerous defensive injuries but still managing to contain offenses better than Oakland’s, including Denver’s just two weeks ago. The Rams are averaging just 16.0 points per game over the last 5 which sets this game up nicely to be a low scoring contest. UNDER.
New Orleans NL at Pittsburgh: The Saints’ Drew Brees is an elite QB. But so is the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. The situation is more critical for the hosts as New Orleans as regardless of Monday’s results they still control their own destiny with games against each of their NFC rivals in the season’s final four weeks. PITTSBURGH.
Carolina +2.5 at Minnesota (43.5): Minnesota continues to show modest week to week improvement behind rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater while the Panthers are regressing behind their QB, Cam Newton. Carolina has extra rest following its Bye but has now lost 5 in a row and are 1-7-1 following a 2-0 that led to false expectations. MINNESOTA.
Arizona -2 at Atlanta (44.5): Atlanta lost at the gun to Cleveland as head coach Mike Smith again failed to exercise proper clock management. The Falcons have the better overall talent on offense but Arizona’s has melded into a much better team. They rebounded well following their first loss of the season, at Denver, are better coached and 16-2 SU since the middle of last season. ARIZONA.
New England +3 at GB (58.5): This game could go off with the highest total of the season but often expected shootouts turn into games that are managed more conservatively with neither coach wanting to give the opposing offense additional possessions. And weather conditions, especially wind, are always a concern late in the season. UNDER.
Denver PK at Kansas City (49.5): Kansas City’s game plan should be to try to limit the number of possessions for QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos and the Chiefs have a running game capable of controlling clock. They have run for over 100 yards in 8 of 11 games, including 133 in the first meeting. UNDER.
Miami NL at NY Jets: The Jets have been effective at running the football, rushing for over 110 yards in 8 of their first 10 games. The passing game has been a concern, as have turnovers. Jets will be playing with no pressure as likely small underdogs. New York kept Miami out of the playoffs with a season ending win at Miami and did end last season on a 3-1 win. NY JETS.
Last week: 7-5-1
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]