NFL football – Green Bay we knew, 49ers never a clue

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The NFL season has just about reached its midpoint as eight teams have already played half of their 16 game schedules. Another 22 teams join that group this week.

Only two have lost fewer than two games. While unbeaten Green Bay is no shock, the other team may be a surprise to many. At 6-1 San Francisco already has a huge four game lead in the NFC West.

That margin should only increase in coming weeks as “second place” Seattle is just 2-4 and the Niners have played only one Divisional game thus far, making their record even more impressive.

The problem facing San Francisco is that it might not be that advantageous to clinch a Playoff spot too early as complacency could set in if they rest some of their players down the stretch. Fortunately the incentive for a No. 1 or 2 seed, which carries with it an opening round Bye, should prevent the Niners from facing a decision to rest players until the last week or so.

At 6-2, Detroit could end up with the second or third best record in the NFC but would have to settle for a Wild Card. The Lions would likely finish second to the Packers in the NFC North. But heck, the Wild Card turned out well for baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals!

The Giants enter the eighth game of their season atop the NFC East at 5-2, a full two games ahead of both Dallas and Philadelphia.

New Orleans holds a half game lead in the NFC South at 5-3 over both Atlanta and Tampa Bay, each of whom are 4-3 after already having their Bye weeks.

In the AFC, Pittsburgh has the conference’s best record at 6-2 following their win over New England this past Sunday. But at least four other AFC teams will enter next week’s action with only 2 losses, including a pair of teams in Pittsburgh’s division.

Because they’ve already had their Bye weeks, both Baltimore and Cincinnati, each 5-2, trail the Steelers by just a half game in the AFC North and each will face Pittsburgh over the next two weeks. In the AFC East both Buffalo and New England are tied at 5-2.

If San Diego won at Kansas City on Monday night they would sit atop the AFC West at 5-2 while a loss would tie the Chargers with both Oakland and the Chiefs at 4-3.

Houston’s 5-3 record is good enough to lead the weak AFC South where Tennessee has the only other winning record (4-3) and Indianapolis sits with the league’s worst record, 0-8. Miami is the league’s only other winless team at 0-7.

After going 3-9 straight up teams returning from Bye week went 5-1 this past Sunday. Of the five winners only the New York Giants failed to cover the spread in their 20-17 win over Miami. New England was the only straight up loser and despite being favored, the Patriots lost to 5-2 Pittsburgh.

The “extreme” reaction to the poor performance by the first dozen teams to return from Bye generally failed to acknowledge that those team were, by and large, weak teams and/or facing winning teams upon their returns.

Some have tried to draw a connection between those poor performances and the effects of the lockout and/or changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that required teams to give players four consecutive days off during the Bye week.

It appears, however, that those factors have less to due with performance following Byes than does the quality of the teams returning.

The gap between OVERS and UNDERS continues to narrow after Sunday produced just 4 OVERS and 8 UNDERS. Heading into Monday night there have been just 7 more OVERS (60) than UNDERS (53) in addition to a pair of pushes.

The first two weeks saw the OVER go 22-8 in addition to the two pushes.Things often tend to even out in many statistical areas during a full season.

Only four teams have Byes this week – Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville and Minnesota.

Here’s a look at the 14 games that will be played.

SUNDAY

Falcons -7 at Colts (45): The Colts have started to show modest signs of improvement behind backup QB Curtis Painter and last week at Tennessee gained 399 yards, including rushing for over 150 yards for a second straight week. Atlanta has been inconsistent on offense and the defense has been below average. Rust may be an issue. COLTS.

Bucs +8 at Saints (51): The Saints have had trouble stopping the run but that’s a weakness of the Bucs, who may have RB LaGarrette Blount back after missing the last few games. Expect the Saints to rebound in a big way with the combination of revenge, last week’s loss and a Tampa defense considerably down from last season. SAINTS.

Browns +10½ at Texans (41): Surprisingly both teams’ defenses have been strengths as each is allowing under 300 ypg. Those defensive stats suggest laying double digits may be ill advised, especially if Peyton Hillis is available which would bolster the Browns’ ground attack. BROWNS.

Jets +1½ at Bills (44): The Jets are the more talented team although Buffalo has arguably played the better football with both losses each by a FG. The Jets have lost all three road games this season, each to a winning team. The Jets and Bills are averaging a combined 54 points scored per game, plus the OVER is 11-3 combined. OVER.

Dolphins +5½ at Chiefs (40): Both teams have been able to run the football but have offenses that are below average overall with passing games that are well below league average. Six of Miami’s 7 games have stayed UNDER the total. There’s little to suggest that either team is capable of big plays or sustained drives. UNDER.

49ers -3½ at Redskins (37½): At +10 the Niners have the league’s second best turnover margin. Washington got off to a strong start but a multitude of injuries have taken a severe toll, especially along the offensive line and in the running game. Although San Francisco is the better team this is a tough spot with cross country travel combined with a rare role as a non Division road favorite. REDSKINS.

Seahawks +12½ at Cowboys (43): Seattle continues to have problems with a rushing offense (77 ypg) and total offense (284 ypg) that are second worst in the league. Dallas is the better team, both statistically and in terms of talent, but rarely played to that level, even in their wins aside from two weeks ago. Still, after being embarrassed in front of the nation we should expect a strong bounce back especially in the running game. COWBOYS.

Broncos +8 at Raiders (45): This is a rematch of an opening Monday night game that saw Oakland pull a minor upset, winning by a FG in Denver as 3 point underdogs. Oakland has played better than expected and its aggressive defense should again pose problems to Tim Tebow much as did those of Detroit and Miami. RAIDERS.

Bengals +3 at Titans (41): Both teams just played lowly Indianapolis with Cincinnati faring considerably better statistically on both sides of the football. The Bengals have won 3 of 4 road games and have performed better overall against the four teams each has faced this season. BENGALS.

Rams (NL) at Cardinals: Backup QB AJ Feeley directed the attack and the status of starter Sam Bradford is uncertain for this week keeping this game off the boards at virtually every book early in the week. Arizona should be about a 4 to 5 point favorite regardless of who starts for the Rams. Both teams are 1-6, but the Cards are healthier and better suited for the natural grass surface. CARDINALS.

Giants +8½ at Patriots (52): The Giants have the NFL’s third worst rushing offense. Both teams have been able score, combining for 54 per game while allowing over 46 and have played 9 OVERs and 5 UNDERs. Despite the high total, the pace of this game and the matchups favor offense over defense. OVER.

Packers -5½ at Chargers (53): San Diego’s defense has been much stronger against the pass than the rush, holding 5 of 6 foes to under 180 passing yards prior to Monday night while allowing a modest 122 rushing ypg. The Chargers remain as talented as any team in the league and getting them as a home underdog, even against the perfect Pack, is very tempting. It’s the first time the Chargers will be regular season home underdogs since 2007. CHARGERS.

Ravens +3 at Steelers (42): Pittsburgh has been more productive on offense with edges in both running and passing the football, but those edges are slight. The Ravens are second in the league in forcing an average of 2.3 turnovers per game. Conversely, the Steeler defense ranks dead last in forcing just 3 turnovers all season. This will be a typical hard hitting, physical game. UNDER.

MONDAY

Bears +7 at Eagles (48): It’s an old adage that a team never is as good or as bad as it looks following an extreme blowout. The most recent evidence came just last week as New Orleans followed their 62-7 win over Indianapolis with an upset loss at winless St. Louis. The teams have met each season since 2007 with the Bears winning 3 of the 4 games, all of which were decided by 5 points or less. And the Bears were underdogs in each of the 4 games. BEARS.

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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