Congratulations to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They were able to do what winless Tampa Bay was unable to do a week earlier – leave the list of teams yet to win a game this season.
Tampa Bay had its chance for its initial win on Monday night when playing host to Miami.
Should Tampa Bay have won – or when/if Tampa Bay does get its first win – it’s almost certain there will be no champagne cork popping by members of the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only team to go 0-16 in NFL history. Tampa Bay did go winless in its debut season of 1976 but the NFL played only 14 games at the time.
One of the teams favored to contend for the Super Bowl, the Green Bay Packers, have been hit hard by the injury bug. First starting QB Aaron Rodgers was injured early in the Monday night game against Chicago. Then backup Seneca Wallace was knocked out early in last Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, which pressed third stringer Scott Tolzien into service.
But the issues on offense may not be the least of the Packers’ troubles.
Aside from the obvious, even more troubling for Green Bay may be the play of the defense in the fourth quarter. For a second straight week the defense was unable to make a stop when it mattered most, allowing the Eagles to run off the final 9½ minutes of the fourth quarter.
That was almost identical to the previous Monday night when the Pack allowed Chicago to run off 9 minutes of clock on an 18 play drive that resulted in a field goal that extended their lead to 27-20, leaving the Packers offense just 50 seconds and no time outs in a last gasp effort to tie the game, which, of course, failed. Compounding Green Bay’s defensive concern is that in Sunday’s loss to Philly the Eagles scored on pass plays of 55, 45 and 32 yards.
If the Playoffs were to start based on the current standings the Playoffs field would have a very interesting look.
In the AFC New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Kansas City would be the Division winners with Denver and the New York Jets earning Wild Cards. The Jets and Chiefs would be replacing Baltimore and Houston as teams that made the Playoffs last season.
In the NFC Seattle, New Orleans and Detroit are clear Division leaders with Dallas and Philadelphia tied at 5-5 atop the NFC East. The Lions, Saints and either the Cowboys or Eagles would be new to the Playoffs this season after having not made the post season last year. The two Wild Cards would be Carolina and San Francisco, meaning that this season’s NFC Playoff field would contain only two repeaters from last season (Seattle and San Francisco) with Atlanta, Green Bay, Minnesota and Washington not repeating their Playoff appearances of last season.
There’s still slightly less than a half season remaining but the current standings do illustrate how quickly fortunes can change from season to season with a 16 game schedule leaving very little room for error.
Just six teams have yet to enjoy their Bye weeks and two of them, Dallas and St. Louis, will be on the sidelines this week.
Here’s a look at the 15 games that will be played.
Colts -3 at Titans (42): Titans QB Jake Locker was injured last week and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to again start in his place. Indy QB Andrew Luck was picked off three times in one of his poorest efforts as a pro. Had the Colts not lost last week this would have been a perfect spot to play the home underdog Titans. But given the competitive nature of Luck and the fact that the Colts have already defeated three of the NFL’s elite teams plus the Titans again turning to a backup QB the preference is expect a fully focused effort from the visitors, even with a shortened week of practice. COLTS.
Falcons PK at Bucs (44): Regardless of Monday’s result we should get a spirited effort from the Bucs – either to build upon the momentum of a win over the Dolphins or in an effort to end its status as the only remaining winless team. NFL players have pride and whereas that same argument can be made for the Falcons in the midst of a disappointing season the motivation will be even greater for the Bucs. And, fundamentally, Tampa has the better defense against both the run and the pass and did outgain Atlanta in a 31-23 road loss last month. BUCS.
Jets +1 at Bills (41): Buffalo has lost 3 straight and 5 of 6 but did get starting QB EJ Manuel back from injury in last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. The Jets won the earlier meeting, defeating the Bills 27-20 at home in Week 3, with a 513 to 328 yards advantage. The Jets’ defense has been outstanding against the run, holding 8 of 9 foes to 90 yards or less. The pass defense has been a bit more permissive, as has Buffalo’s. The Jets have allowed 49, 28 and 38 points in its last three road games which should give Buffalo’s struggling offense cause for hope. BILLS.
Lions -2½ at Steelers (47½): The Lions are the more talented team but also the one more likely to commit the foolish penalty or make other mistakes. Pittsburgh’s defense, though aging, is still one of the best prepared units in the league and will have coverages designed to confuse Detroit QB Matthew Stafford. After dropping their first two home game back in September, the Steelers have won and covered their last two on this field. They do have the coaching edge and may catch the Lions a bit flat after Detroit completed a sweep of their series with Divisional rival Chicago last week. STEELERS.
Skins +3½ at Eagles (52½): Although he started slowly, RG III has started to show the form he displayed in leading the Redskins to the Playoffs last season and the game plans have been opened up more for him to use his natural talents. Philly QB Nick Foles has been brilliant the past two weeks and will face Washington for the first time as starter Michael Vick is still injured. This is a bigger game for the visitors who trail Division co-leaders Philly and Dallas by just one loss. And they are better prepared for the Eagles offense this time around. REDSKINS.
Chargers -1 at Dolphins (45): San Diego was outplayed early in its loss to Denver but did mount a rally in the second half that came up short. This is a tough scheduling spot for the Chargers who are making their third cross country trip in the last four weeks. Who did they anger on the NFL’s scheduling committee? That is somewhat offset by Miami’s shorter week of preparation. Miami’s defense has been respectable, allowing over 27 points just once. With the distractions largely behind them, the spot favors the hosts. DOLPHINS.
Ravens +3 at Bears (46½): Baltimore has failed to top 20 points in 4 straight games. Chicago may have backup Josh McCown at QB as starter Jay Cutler was injured again in last week’s loss to Detroit. The Bears, for the most part, contained a potent Lions offense despite dealing with defensive injuries. But their rushing defense has been vulnerable over the past month which should enable the Ravens to finally have offensive balance. The Bears are on a 1-5 ATS run and the Ravens have been in close games all season, making plus a FG or more attractive. RAVENS.
Browns +5½ at Bengals (42½): Cincinnati is still the most talented team in the Division on both sides of the football, although the play of QB Andy Dalton has been shaky the past two weeks. But those games were on the road and the Bengals are 4-0 both SU and ATS at home. This is the right spot for the Bengals to get back on track against a rested and confident Division rival. The Browns are a solid defensive team but the Bengals have the playmakers. BENGALS.
Raiders +6½ at Texans (43): Despite a statistical profile of an elite team, Houston is now 2-7 after losing a seventh straight game at Arizona. The Texans will play the rest of the season without RB Arian Foster who was placed on IR. But they may have coach Gary Kubiak back on the sidelines after missing last week’s game in the aftermath of his TIA incident a week earlier. Oakland may also be without QB Terrelle Pryor who was again banged up, this time in the Raiders’ competitive loss at the Giants. Play this at your own risk. RAIDERS.
Cards -6½ at Jaguars (41): Jacksonville topped 20 points for the first time in its win over Tennessee. Arizona has been a solid defensive team all season but their scoring defense reflects opportunities cashed in by opponents as a result of Cardinal turnovers – only the Giants have turned it over more times. Neither offense is inherently potent nor consistent, suggesting that both teams will have trouble finding the end zone. UNDER.
Chiefs +8 at Broncos (51): Denver QB Peyton Manning who was banged up in last week’s win at San Diego to such an extent that he was to undergo an MRI on his knees and ankles as we went to press on Monday. The expectation is that he will be listed as probable most of the week and will play. The 9-0 Chiefs are off their Bye and hold a one game lead over the Broncos in the AFC West. If Manning does not play, the UNDER is the preference. BRONCOS.
Vikings +13½ at Seahawks (46): Seattle will enjoy playing before its strong home crowd and do have a Bye up next. Although the Seahawks are just 1-3 ATS as double digit favorites this season this matchup is very favorable, especially given that the Vikings have not been able to run the football like last season. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch will be a force. SEAHAWKS.
49ers +3 at Saints (47): The Saints are now 5-0 both SU and ATS at home this season. The 49ers are still a stout defensive team and can run the football, characteristics well suited to keep the high powered Saints offense on the sidelines for extended stretches and conducive to a lower than expected scoring game. UNDER.
Packers +7 at Giants (43½): Green Bay is down to third string QB Scott Tolzien who made critical mistakes as the Packers tried to rally last week against Philadelphia. The Giants have won three straight after an 0-3 start but the G-Men have hardly been impressive in those wins. Still, they are just one loss out of the Division lead in the weak NFC East. GIANTS.
Patriots +2½ at Panthers (44½): The Patriots have been a dominant team over the second half of the season in recent years, having won 24 of 25 games after game 8 since 2010. Here they are catching points against a team off one of the biggest regular season wins in franchise history. PATRIOTS.