The season is only three weeks old and already quite a number of teams are in danger of playing out the string come November.
Half a dozen teams are 0-3 and the odds of making the Playoffs are very slim. It was not that long ago that the NFC East was considered the strongest of all eight Divisions they have two of the six winless teams.
Washington and the New York Giants are a combined 0-6 and both had visions of postseason play just a month ago. The Giants were totally listless in their 38-0 loss at Carolina on Sunday while the Redskins’ defense is making last season’s New Orleans defense seem like the 1985 Bears in comparison. The Skins are allowing 488 yards per game and it’s a balanced defense, ranking No. 30 against both the run and the pass.
Two other NFC teams also are winless and each was considered a marginal Playoff team in training camp. To be fair, both Tampa Bay and Minnesota have played two of their first three games on the road. Tampa Bay’s lone home game was a loss to a pretty good New Orleans team. But Minnesota’s home loss was to a Cleveland team seemingly in turmoil following the midweek trade of RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.
The other two winless teams are in the AFC. Jacksonville’s 0-3 start is not a surprise, but Pittsburgh’s start certainly is given the proud history and recent success of the franchise. Two of the three losses have been to likely Playoff contenders Cincinnati and Chicago. The other loss came at home in the opener to a seemingly improved Tennessee.
Six teams have also started 3-0 with Denver expected to have joined that group on Monday night, favored by more than two touchdowns at home against Oakland.
It’s not too surprising the New England, New Orleans and Seattle have started the season in perfect fashion and, to a lesser extent, Chicago’s 3-0 start is also not a shock.
Few experts expected Miami to be unbeaten after three weeks, especially after having to play its first two games on the road. Kansas City is the other 3-0 team, having already won more games this season than they did in all of 2012 when they went 2-14 and made changes at coach and QB. Like Miami, two of the Chiefs wins have come on the road.
Favorites enjoyed a winning week and now are 23-22-2 ATS for the season prior to Monday night. Pending Monday’s game double digit favorites are now 1-4 on the season after splitting on Sunday. Seattle covered as 20 point chalk in a 45-17 win over Jacksonville but San Francisco was upset at home by Indianapolis.
UNDER held a 9 to 6 edge vs. OVER heading into Monday night and hold a 25-22 edge in totals. In addition to a pair of games which ended in pushes, the point spread has mattered in 9 games where the favored team won by less than the amount by which it was favored. Yet all 9 of those came in the first two weeks of the season with Tennessee’s 3 point win over San Diego on Sunday the only game in which the outright winner did not cover the spread. The Titans earned a push for their backers when they rallied for a last minute TD.
Several games this past weekend saw major line movements that turned early week favorites into underdogs by kickoff time. Two of the moves proved correct as Baltimore, which opened as a 2½ home underdog to Houston, closed a 1½ point favorite and Detroit, which opened as 2½ point underdogs at Washington, closed as 1 point favorites. The week’s most severe swing saw Carolina open as 3 point home favorites against the Giants. But money poured in on the Giants who went off as 2½ point favorites. This move proved wrong as the Panthers routed the Giants 38-0.
The NFL goes international this week but the game is not as attractive as league honchos had hoped when the schedule was made. Perhaps cynics will dub it the “Toilet Bowl” as a pair of 0-3 teams will meet in London. Pittsburgh was expected to be the shortest of favorites versus Minnesota when the teams kick off at Wembley Stadium. San Francisco and Jacksonville will also play in London at the end of October.
This week also marks the start of the Bye weeks. Curiously only two teams will be on the sidelines Carolina and Green Bay have those Byes.
There’s a look at this week’s schedule.
49ers -3 at Rams (42½): Coach Jeff Fisher is bringing the Rams along nicely and has shown an ability to overcome short term adversity. All the pressure in this game is on the visitors. The short week of preparation usually favors the host and this host defeated and tied the 49ers in two meetings last season. ST. LOUIS.
Steelers -1 vs. Vikings 43½ (at London, England): The Steelers cannot run the football and although the defensive stats are solid they have not produced any turnovers. Pittsburgh is allowing under 300 yards per game, much better than the 430 ypg allowed by the Vikes. The Steelers have edges in coaching and at QB and thus rate the edge as the team more likely to end its winless skein. PITTSBURGH.
Ravens -3½ at Bills (43½): Buffalo’s C J Spiller has gotten off to a much better start than has the Ravens’ Ray Rice and with rookie QB E J Manuel have one of the better early season rushing games. Getting more than a field goal at home with an improving team is attractive. BUFFALO.
Bengals -4½ at Browns (41): Cincinnati won a wild, turnover laden game against Green Bay in what could be a signature win for the franchise in finally defeating an elite team. Now the challenge is to carry over that momentum against a Division rival that shocked much of the wagering world by winning on the road at Minnesota following its trade of last season’s No. 3 draft choice. Both teams’ strongest units are the defenses. UNDER.
Colts -9½ at Jaguars (43): This is a bad scheduling spot for the Colts who host powerful Seattle next week. Jaguars QB Chad Henne showed some positives last week in Seattle, albeit after Seattle had built a 31-0 lead. Still there is a greater likelihood for the Jags to show more improvement week to week than for the Colts. JAX.
Seahawks -3 at Texans (43): This would normally be a good spot to play the home underdog but the Texans have yet to show they can rise up against elite teams. Both offenses are well balanced and should provide most of the edges in this game. OVER.
Cards +2½ at Bucs (40½): Arizona seemingly has regressed. Tampa Bay has followed a similar path. Preseason expectations were higher for the Bucs and they have shown a better ability to run the football whereas Arizona has been weak against the pass, setting up matchup edges that favor the hosts. TAMPA BAY.
Bears +3 at Lions (48): For the season the Bears are being outgained by 52 yards per game whereas the Lions are plus 45 ypg. Detroit is expected to have RB Reggie Bush back after missing the game in DC. DETROIT.
Giants +3½ at Chiefs (44): Giants have been a resilient team over the years and their season is all but on the line here, making them a solid selection, especially after they greatly disappointed their backers last week. NY GIANTS.
NY Jets +4½ at Titans (38½): Both teams have shown a nice ability to run the football, averaging an identical 134 ypg and have been solid on defense, each allowing well under the league average of 351 ypg. Those are nice ingredients for a defensive battle. UNDER.
Cowboys -1 at Chargers (45½): The Chargers could easily be 3-0 but for a pair of last minute losses to Houston and Tennessee. At 2-1 the Cowboys are also just a play away from perfection, losing by a point at Kansas City. This game handicaps as one in which the offenses have most of the edges and a pair of QBs capable of the big play. OVER.
Redskins -3 at Raiders (47½): The Raiders may be better than predicted, at least based on their first two games. Given the defensive deficiencies it’s hard to make a case for laying points on the road with the ‘Skins. OAKLAND.
Eagles +10 at Broncos (58): Philly does have extra rest following last Thursday’s loss to Kansas City whereas Denver has one less day to prepare after playing Monday night. The total may not be high enough as the Broncos have been rolling opponents and the Eagles have both a quick strike offense and a yielding defense. OVER.
Patriots PK at Falcons (49½): The Falcons have had one of the strongest home fields in the NFL since the combo of QB Matt Ryan and coach Mike Smith arrived in 2008. If this game were later in the season the Pats would be in a favorable spot. But right now the edges very much favor the Falcons. ATLANTA.
Dolphins +6 at Saints (47): On balance the Saints are the better football team and have played very well at home over the past half decade. But there’s plenty of room for an improved Miami to compete all the way even if they ultimately fall short on the scoreboard. MIAMI.
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]