Historically, under the current NFL playoff format that includes two teams, roughly half of the field from one season does not make it back the following season. And that could be the case once again this season.
The only teams that made the playoffs last season and appear relatively “safe” to repeat are Denver, Indianapolis and New England in the AFC. And, only Philadelphia in the NFC.
Of the other three teams to make the playoffs in the AFC last season Cincinnati is in the best position to repeat. Although the Bengals lead the AFC North at 5-2-1, the other three teams – Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh – all have winning records.
Kansas City (5-3) and San Diego (5-4) still could catch 6-2 Denver in the AFC West although each has already lost once to the Broncos and much more likely in contention for a Wild Card against three teams in the AFC North plus Buffalo and Miami in the AFC East, both of whom are 5-3.
Arizona, the team with the best record in the NFC that did not make the playoffs last season, and two others that missed out are also on track to be playing next January.
At 7-1 the Cardinals currently hold the top NFC seed while 6-2 Detroit leads the NFC North and 6-3 Dallas is a half-game behind 6-2 Philadelphia in the NFC East.
Two teams that made the playoffs last season, Green Bay and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle, are 5-3 and are in good position.
Such is not the case for San Francisco, the team that played in the last three NFL Championship games. At 4-4 the 49ers have struggled on both sides of the football but may be getting some key defensive players back soon.
The other two NFC Playoff teams from last season, Carolina and New Orleans, play in the very weak NFC South where the Saints’ 4-4 record is good enough to lead the division and the Panthers are second at 3-5-1. Needless to say, barring some unprecedented chain of events, only the division winner will make the playoffs with most observers expecting that team to be New Orleans.
Thus, if we conclude that Denver, Indianapolis, New England and Philadelphia are the only teams in a position to be very likely to repeat their playoff appearances of last season, there will be perhaps as many as eight teams that missed out last season making the playoffs this season with Arizona, Dallas and Detroit in excellent position to be among that group.
Again, as the NFL designs and desires, much will be decided on the final week of the regular season when all games are divisional contests that are likely to determine which teams make the playoffs as wild cards.
Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego and Washington have byes this week.
Cleveland +6 at Cincy (44): Cleveland’s current momentum has resulted from wins over a pair of weak teams, Oakland and Tampa Bay. The short week and the Bengals current 12-0-1 SU regular season run at home suggests most of the edges are with the hosts. CINCINNATI.
Dallas -9 vs. Jacksonville (46) (at London, England): Dallas QB Tony Romo’s status keeps this game off the boards early in the week. Statistically both offenses are better at running the football than in the passing game. The Jaguars are last in the league in averaging just 15.7 points per game. UNDER.
Miami +2.5 at Detroit (43.5): The Lions have held 7 of 8 foes to under 80 rushing yards. The rest should allow RB Reggie Bush and WR Calvin Johnson to return from nagging injuries. These teams are evenly matched but Miami has a huge home Divisional rematch with Buffalo four nights later on Thursday. DETROIT.
KC -1.5 at Buffalo (42): The Chiefs are 3-0 against the AFC East. Buffalo also has a key Divisional game at Miami up next on Thursday night. It is also worth noting that after holding their first 6 foes to less than 90 yards rushing the Bills have allowed 158 and 175 in their last two games, although they did win both. KANSAS CITY.
SF +4.5 at New Orleans (49): Saints are 20-0 SU and 18-1-1 ATS mark at home with head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines. This line appears to be too high but the issues in the Niners’ locker room and the very ragged play of QB Colin Kaepernick suggest the current momentum of both teams might warrant this price. NEW ORLEANS
Tenn +10 at Baltimore (44): After losing at home to Cincinnati on Opening Day, the Ravens have won their next 3 home games by 20, 28 and 22 points. They should be back to that dominant form here after playing 4 of their last 5 games on the road. And they have their Bye next week. BALTIMORE.
Pittsburgh -4 at NY Jets (45): Each week the “wise guys” make a case for backing the Jets and this column has been guilty in some of those games. At 1-8 the Jets have little to play for and they catch one of the NFL’s hottest teams with an offense that is functioning at a high level. Jets have fared well statistically in the rushing game and on defense. UNDER.
Atlanta PK at Tampa Bay (45.5): Despite their 1-7 record, 5 of Tampa Bay’s losses have been by 6 points or less. One of those other losses was that Thursday night massacre in Atlanta in week 3 when the Falcons led 56-0 after 3 quarters. That embarrassment will be a huge motivating factor for the Bucs Falcons lost 5 in a row. TAMPA BAY.
Denver -11 at Oakland (48.5): Oakland ranks last in the league in total offense and number 31 in scoring. With as potent an offense as Denver’s, laying 11 is akin to an average team laying barely more than a FG. And with now just a one game lead over Kansas City, the Broncos should be well prepared to dictate the flow. DENVER.
St. Louis +7 at Arizona (43.5): Although known more for its defense Arizona has scored at least 23 points in 6 of its last 7 games. And Denver is the only team to score more than 20 points against Arizona this season. Only Philadelphia has rushed for more than 95 yards against the Cards (110). ARIZONA.
NY Giants +9 at Seattle (43): Prior to facing Indianapolis, the Giants’ 4 losses were all by double digits and were against teams that are a combined 25-8! Seattle’s only win by more than 10 points came in their opener against Green Bay (36-16). The Seahawks are on a current 0-4 ATS run. NY GIANTS.
Chicago +7 at Green Bay (53): The Bears have lost 4 of their last 5 games, including a 51-23 loss at New England before the Bye. Green Bay is 4-0-1 as a favorite. These teams are close statistically but the Packers do have significant edges on both sides of the football in avoiding and creating turnovers and on an overall yards per play basis. GREEN BAY.
Carolina +6 at Philly (48): Statistically the Eagles have a huge edge on offense and a slight edge on defense. But the Panthers have a major edge in turnover margin, plus 4 vs. minus 10. After going 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS at home last season, the Eagles are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS here this season. PHILADELPHIA.
Last week: 4-8 (w/o MNF)
Season record: 66-64-1.
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]