If someone told you that after nine weeks of play one of the New York teams would be 4-5 and the other 1-7 your response would likely have been along the lines of “well, everybody expected the Jets to tank the season but the Giants are legitimate contenders and their 4-5 start has to be considered a disappointment.”
That would have been a reasonable response – but wrong. The Jets are the 4-5 team and easily could be 5-4 or even 6-3. In last Thursday’s 34-21 win over Buffalo they “looked like a real football team.”
Despite the dire predictions the Jets have played hard for coach Todd Bowles and while making the Playoffs remains a longshot (the still have a game against New England) the Jets have already exceeded their Season Win Total for some bettors (it dropped to as low as 3.5). Players do not tank. Ownership and management might.
Check last week’s results with the 1-7 Giants. Final Score: LA Rams 51, NY Giants 17. These are two of the most surprising teams of the 2017 at the midpoint, but in two totally opposite directions.
Coming off an 11-5 season in which they made the Playoffs and returned much of last season’s team, especially on defense, the New York Giants started this season with 5 straight losses. Meanwhile the Rams have not had a winning season since going 12-4 in and in the 13 seasons since have managed an 8-8 record just twice – and those were in 2004 and 2006. Last season’s 4-12 record was their worst since going 2-14 in 2011.
Of the 6 NFC teams to make the Playoffs last season none is currently leading its Division and all four current Division leaders did not make the 2016 Playoffs (the LA Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans and Philadelphia). Of last season’s Division winners Dallas and Seattle are 5-3, Green Bay is 4-3 and Atlanta is 4-4.
Of that group Green Bay is most vulnerable to missing the Playoffs with QB Aaron Rodgers likely out for the season and Division rival Minnesota (6-2) playing so well. Detroit and the Giants were the NFC Wild Cards last season. The Giants are contenders but what they are contending for is the first draft choice in next season’s draft with their 1-7 record. Detroit was just 3-4 heading into Monday night’s game at Green Bay.
It is quite possible, if not likely, that perhaps as many as 4 NFC teams that made the Playoffs last season will miss out this season with the Giants a virtual certainty and Detroit, Green Bay and Atlanta in need of strong second halves. But even the other two teams that made last season’s Playoffs – Dallas and Seattle – are currently in second place in their Divisions.
In the AFC Kansas City, New England and Pittsburgh are all leading their Divisions and looking as though each will return to the Playoffs. Of the other three AFC Playoff teams from last season all are struggling and only Miami is at .500 with a 4-4 record.
Ready to make the Playoffs after more than a season’s absence are Buffalo, Jacksonville and Tennessee. Each are 5-3 through the first half of the season and a 9-7 record could earn an AFC Wild Card or the AFC South Title (in the case of the Jags and Titans). If that trio can split their final 8 games they could well make the Playoffs as only one other team, Miami, has as few as 4 losses.
Seven AFC teams have 5 losses and they, too, have to be given a chance for the Playoffs with a strong second half.
Seattle -5.5 at Arizona (42): Drew Stanton gets his second start at QB for the Cardinals and that could result in an improvement over his debut. Especially if the running game can duplicate last week’s strong 167 yards effort. Seattle’s play all season does not suggest a comfortable win against a Divisional foe, especially on the road on natural grass. ARIZONA
Minnesota -2 at Washington (42.5): Minnesota has held its last 5 foes to under 162 net passing yards while also playing strong defense against the run. Washington has struggled to run the football over the past month. After averaging 130 rushing yards in their first 4 games the Redskins have averaged 67 ypg in their last 4, failing to reach 100 yards in any of them. Both teams face 6-2 Division leaders next week so there is no scheduling edge here. MINNESOTA
Green Bay NL at Chicago: The fundamentals and recent play do not suggest a high scoring contest, especially from Chicago’s perspective. The Bears’ offense has been limited all season while the defense is much improved. Green Bay’s offense is considerably weaker without Rodgers, a fact that has been reflected in the pointspreads since he was injured, reflecting his tremendous value. UNDER
Pittsburgh -10.5 at Indianapolis (43.5): QB Jacoby Brissett is making steady progress and the job is his for the rest of the season with Andrew Luck placed on IR. Double digit favorites are 9-2 SU this season but just 4-7 ATS. But 10 of those double digit favorites were home teams. The only double digit road favorite this season was in Week 1 when the Steelers won 21-18 at Cleveland as 10 point chalk. Indy has its Bye next week and has covered 3 of 4 home games this season. INDIANAPOLIS
LA Chargers +4 at Jacksonville (41): Both offenses have excelled at avoiding turnovers and whereas the Chargers rate nicely in many of the factors I consider keys to success the Jaguars are atop my list and as such remain playable at home in this price range. For the first time since becoming a chic pick to make a major move upwards, the stats finally support the hype for the Jags. JACKSONVILLE
NY Jets NL at Tampa Bay: Tampa has lost 5 straight following a 2-1 start. The Jets continue to exceed expectations and would be the preferred look here if getting at least a FG. More likely this game comes closer to pick ‘em but with a Bye next week and their play improving on a game to game basis the scales tip ever so slightly to the visitors. NY JETS
Cincinnati +5.5 at Tennessee (40.5): Right now these are both “play against” teams which suggests a more prudent approach would be to look at the Total. With neither offense having shown much recent consistency and with both defenses performing better than the league average a lower than expected scoring game makes sense, especially if this Total ticks up to 41. UNDER
New Orleans -2 at Buffalo (46): Both offenses can run the football and have excelled at avoiding turnovers. And both defenses are allowing a league average 5.3 yards per play. It’s tempting to lay the short price with the Saints who are 5-1 ATS in their 6 game winning streak. But Buffalo is unbeaten at home and 3-0-1 ATS in those wins which include an upset of Denver as underdogs. UNDER
Cleveland NL at Detroit: Prior to Monday night Detroit had rushed for over 100 yards just once in 7 games. Detroit has this game sandwiched between Division games at Green Bay and Chicago which could produce a less than full focused effort for 60 minutes. Cleveland is still playing hard and winless teams this deep into the season can be taken lightly which is dangerous from a wagering perspective. CLEVELAND
Houston +11.5 at LA Rams (46.5): Watson’s injury occurred last Thursday, giving Tom Savage only one full day of practice with the starters. We should see a better effort from the Texans offense here and while an upset win would qualify as a major upset a competitive effort from a team that made the Playoffs the past two seasons with mediocre QB play would not. HOUSTON
Dallas +3.5 at Atlanta (50.5): Dallas is 5-3 and still has two games with Division rival Philadelphia so a Division title and the top NFC seed is still attainable. The defense struggled at times but the Cowboys have held five of eight foes to under 20 points, including the last three. They are playing confident football. Atlanta is not. And this is the first time this season the Cowboys are underdogs. DALLAS
NY Giants +1.5 at San Francisco (41.5): Rookie C J Beathard has not been the answer for the 49ers though to be fair there is not much talent around him. The nice thing about betting the NFL is that you don’t have to bet every game. But if you want to try to have the winner here, the Giants have the talent edge and should have something to prove this week on the West Coast, at least to themselves. NY GIANTS
New England -7.5 at Denver (46): New England’s offense has been rather ordinary over the past month. In their first r games the Pats averaged 32.5 points per game. Over the last 4 the average has been just 21.8 ppg. Unlike the Giants, who perhaps were taken lightly and set the tone for the following three weeks as well, Denver will not overlook the Patriots and an upset win here would not be a surprise. DENVER
Miami +9 at Carolina (40): Aside from a 20 point win at winless San Francisco and a 17-3 win at Tampa Bay two weeks ago the Panthers’ other 4 wins have been by 6, 3, 3 and 3 points. To be fair, one of those 3 point wins was at New England. Considering the many close games in which each has been involved, laying nearly double digits seems to be a bit pricey. In going 2-2 SU at home, their 2 home wins were by 6 over Buffalo and last week’s 3 point win over Atlanta. MIAMI
Last week: 5-7