With the exception of Carolina and Green Bay, who had last week off, the season is already one quarter complete. The surprises and disappointments continue.
Denver and Seattle continue to look as though they are on a collision course to the Super Bowl but before using ink to mark them in as the combatants in New Jersey next February remember that a lot of football remains to be played.
And although the Seahawks and Broncos look like the class of the NFL the key to their success should be remaining healthy. Injuries are such a determining factor in how far teams can go. If you look back over the years you will very often find that the teams that make it to the Super Bowls are ones that are the most fortunate in avoiding injuries at key positions.
In addition to Denver and Seattle three other teams will have gone unbeaten through the season’s first quarter. New England and Kansas City are both 4-0 as will be the winner of Monday night’s game between Miami and New Orleans.
Looking at the early season disappointments the number of winless teams dropped by just two this past weekend and one was assured of happening barring a tie between winless Pittsburgh and Minnesota in London. The Vikings looked very good in controlling the contest from start to finish behind backup QB Matt Cassel. Starting in place of injured Christian Ponder, Cassel may have earned the starting nod following the Bye week.
Washington also won for the first time by overcoming an early 14-0 deficit in Oakland to hold the Raiders scoreless over the final three quarters in a 24-14 win.
But the losing continued for Jacksonville, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay. All three lost on Sunday to join Pittsburgh at 0-4. The Jaguars and Giants lost by 34 and 24 points respectively.
Tampa Bay grasped defeat from the jaws of victory by seeing an early 10-0 lead evaporate when Arizona scored 13 fourth quarter points to win 13-10. But that’s what bad teams do. They seem to continually allow winnable games to get away. Good teams tend to extend leads whereas bad teams find it hard to maintain leads or come from behind.
The chances for any of that winless quartet to make the Playoffs is slightly above zero and it would be interesting to see what price a Sports Book would offer in a proposition bet for any of this group making the Playoffs. Again, the chances are slightly above zero but are not at zero. Still, betting the “yes” would not be recommended, even given the storied history and tradition of the Giants and Steelers, each winners of two Super Bowls over the past decade.
Through Sunday favorites are 31-29-2 ATS. Double digit favorites are now 2-5 ATS with Denver and Seattle accounting for both covers. Denver’s cover was this past Sunday against Philadelphia but the Broncos are also credited with a point spread loss against the closing line of 16.5 in last Monday’s 37-21 win over Oakland. And therein lies a “problem” with some ATS stats. Line moves, which have been much more frequent and volatile in recent seasons, give rise to variances in reported results.
Denver was between a 14 and 15 point favorite for much of the week prior to that game against Oakland. But late money on Monday on Denver pushed the line up to as high as minus 17 before settling at most books at 16.5. Thus even though the line closed at a number that would show Denver as a point spread loser for many people, who bet the game prior to Monday afternoon, not only recorded Denver as an ATS winner but, more importantly, actually cashed a ticket on the Broncos.
Totals results were even through Sunday with 61 games going OVER and 61 staying UNDER. Interestingly the average total points scored per game has been 45.56 and the average posted closing Total has been 45.53. Usually there has been a point, or more, discrepancy between those two averages.
Tampa Bay will have to wait at least one more week for its first win of the season as the Buccaneers join Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Washington on the sidelines this week with Byes.
Here’s a look at the 14 games that comprise Week 5’s schedule.
Buffalo +4 at Cleveland (41): Both teams are off of home upset wins over Playoff teams from last season. Each has a rookie head coach and inexperienced QB directing the offense. Cleveland has the fundamentally better defense whereas the Bills have more playmakers on offense. At more than a FG the preference is for the underdog in a game between a pair of evenly matched teams off to better than expected early season starts. BILLS.
KC -3 at Tennessee (39½): Both teams are +9 in turnover margin. Kansas City’s better rushing offense is offset by the Titans’ much better rushing defense. Both teams rank in the top 5 in allowing the fewest yards per pass completion. At a combined 6-1-1 ATS both of these are “Play On” teams which suggest the value is with the home underdog. TENNESSEE
Baltimore +3 at Miami (43): Baltimore followed its huge home win over Houston with a sloppy loss at Buffalo in which QB Joe Flacco was picked off 5 times. Miami is off of Monday night’s game in New Orleans in which an upset win would have the Dolphins 4-0. Baltimore has generally fared well after a poor effort and despite the poor game against the Bills still had a chance to win in the waning minutes. BALTIMORE.
Jax +11½ at St Louis (41½): Jacksonville is looking like a bad team of historic proportions. They actually led Indianapolis 3-0 in the second quarter on Sunday but 37 points later were on the wrong end of the 37-3 final. St Louis steps down in class and has had extra time to prepare after losing at home to San Francisco last Thursday. Expect the Rams to be very aggressive on both sides of the football. ST LOUIS.
New England (+1) at Cincy (44): This is a second straight road game for the Pats at a team that made the Playoffs last season, making this a tough scheduling spot. The Pats also suffered a season ending injury to DT Vince Wilfork which should prove costly against a talented Cincy offense seeking to rebound from last week’s poor effort. CINCINNATI.
Seattle -2½ at Indy (43): It took a while for the Colts to snap out of their funk in a letdown spot at Jacksonville following their huge win at San Francisco a week earlier but Indy ultimately routed the lowly Jags. Seattle was also in a tough scheduling spot and trailed Houston 20-3 at the half but rallied to force OT and then kicked the winning FG, holding the Texans scoreless after halftime. Seattle is 4-0 both SU and ATS which makes it tough to fade them when laying under a FG even on the road. SEATTLE.
Detroit +6½ at Green Bay (52): Detroit is still prone to mental and emotional lapses which makes it tough to expect sustained success. The Packers have had a couple of strong running games that makes their offense even more potent and QB Aaron Rodgers has the edge over Detroit’s Matthew Stafford in a game that should feature plenty of scoring. GREEN BAY.
N. Orleans +1 at Chicago (47½): The Bears have gone OVER in all 4 games with a much improved offense but also a defense that is down from last season. The grass surface could work against the Saints who rely on speed. And we’ve yet to see New Orleans display the high powered offense that defined coach Sean Payton prior to last season’s suspension. CHICAGO.
Philly+2½ at NY Giants (54½): Both teams have lost to Denver and Kansas City. The Giants have been a major early season disappointment. The Eagles were expected to need some time for things to click with a new coach and system, suggesting there is more upside to the Eagles and more problems for the Giants. PHILADELPHIA.
Carolina -2 at Arizona (42): Three of the Cardinals’ first 4 games were on the road and they did win their lone home game vs. Detroit. It may be asking too much for Carolina to come through as a road favorite as was the case in week two when the Panthers blew a late lead in Buffalo. ARIZONA.
San Diego -5 at Oakland (44): Both teams have played better than expected with their combined 6-1-1 ATS record. San Diego has one of the league’s top offenses but also has the NFL’s worst defense, allowing 6.7 yards per play. Oakland should have Terrelle Pryor back at QB but RB Darren McFadden is, to the surprise of very few, injured once again and listed as questionable. The Chargers rarely win easily and two of the Raiders losses have been on the road at Denver and Indianapolis. OAKLAND.
Denver -7 at Dallas (55½): Against their lone common opponent, Denver defeated the Giants by 18 points on the road whereas Dallas with Tony Romo struggled to win at home by 5 despite benefiting from 6 Giants turnovers. Laying a TD on the road is often dangerous but when you score as much as Denver does it’s more like laying a FG in most other games. DENVER.
Houston +7 at SF (42½): Houston has the talent to win any time it takes the field. Although both teams are 2-2 SU the Texans are 0-4 ATS. Both teams have similar ypp stats that show average offenses and top 5 defenses. But in a battle of wills and wits the Niners have the edges both on the field and on the sidelines. SAN FRANCISCO.
NY Jets +8½ at Atlanta (44): The Jets have issues at QB with rookie Geno Smith continuing to make more mistakes than big plays. But the Jets also have an outstanding defense, ranking second in both in yards per game (283) and yards per play (4.3). The situation favors the hosts but the combination of the Jets anemic offense and stout defense makes the Total the better opportunity. UNDER.
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]