NFL football season unfolding in a wacky a manner

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The NFL continues to unfold in as wacky a manner as any season in recent memory. Some of the zaniness can be attributed to the effects of the lockout although the extent of that impact is greatly debatable.

Certainly there has been tremendous excitement as double digit leads have been routinely surrendered and spectacular plays are becoming the norm, along with astronomical passing stats being put up on a league wide bases.

As an example of the unusual play this season one need look no farther than Sunday night’s game between Baltimore and the New York Jets. The Ravens won 34-17 in game that had gone OVER the total of 43 by halftime when Baltimore led 27-17. The Total had risen all week but the game handicapped as an UNDER between a pair of defensive oriented teams with modest offensive potency.

Yet UNDER bettors never had a chance. A fumble return in the opening few minutes gave the Ravens an early 7-0 lead and was one of an incredible five touchdowns scored by the defenses or special teams, accounting, in effect, for 35 of the game’s 51 total points.

The offenses did pretty much what they were expected to do, amassing a combined total of 417 yards on 129 total plays. That’s an average of just 3.2 yards per play. The league averages this season, through 63 games, are 706 combined total yards, 127 total plays and an average of 5.6 yards per play.

Scoring remains at unprecedented high levels with the average game producing 45.6 total points. After 9 of 15 games went OVER heading into Monday night the season to date results show the OVER with a 37-24 edge. That’s more than 60 percent OVER for totals not ending in a push.

Home teams hold a slight 31-29-3 point spread edge over road teams with home underdogs contributing a nice 14-9-2 to that effort. Home favorites have a losing 17-19-1 ATS mark with the lone home pick ‘em, a loser (Arizona this past Sunday vs. the Giants).

Bye weeks begin this weekend with six teams getting the first opportunity to have extra time to evaluate their performance over the first four games and make adjustments.

On the sidelines this week are Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, St Louis and Washington.

Here’s a preview of the 13 games that will be played.

SUNDAY

Chiefs (NL) at Colts: The Colts have been unable to muster any semblance of an offense with QB Peyton Manning sidelined. KC QB Matt Cassel rates the edge over either of Indy’s substitutes QBs, Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter. Chiefs also have the better running game, weak though it is with Jamaal Charles out for the season. CHIEFS.

Cards +3 at Vikings (43): With a pair of divisional games on deck against rivals that made the playoffs last season, this will be the Vikes’ best chance for a win for quite some time. And the NFC West continues to be the weakest of the eight divisions. Four teams are already 3-9 SU and 4-6-2 ATS. VIKINGS.

Eagles -3 at Bills (48): NFL’s “Dream Team” is on the verge of living a nightmare at 1-3 and in the basement of the NFC East. Despite the first month’s results, Philadelphia is the better team and this line is half of what it was over the summer. Michael Vick rates him a huge edge over the gutsy but less talented Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Bills. EAGLES.

Raiders +7 at Texans (50½): Houston’s outstanding WR Andre Johnson is currently listed as doubtful for this contest. Still the Texans have an explosive offense that was held somewhat in check last week by Pittsburgh but the Texans still managed to win 17-10. Oakland’s offensive balance suggests this should be the high scoring game the odds makers expect. OVER.

Saints -6 at Panthers (51½): Though just 1-3, Carolina has been much more competitive than anticipated as rookie QB Cam Newton has performed well. The Panthers are 3-0-1 ATS thus far. Still, the Saints are a more complete team, even on defense. This should be a fast paced game which plays to the strengths of the visitors. SAINTS.

Bengals +2 at Jaguars (36): The Bengals lead the league in total defense, allowing just 276 yards per game. Jacksonville has one of the league’s least productive offenses and after exploding for 16 points in their opener have been held to 3, 10 and 10 points since. UNDER.

Titans (NL) at Steelers: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was banged up in Sunday’s loss at Houston and his questionable status kept the game off the board early in the week. Tennessee QB Matt Hasselbeck has shown leadership in his first season with the Titans and will be facing a Steelers defense that has forced just one turnover in four games. TITANS.

Seahawks +10 at Giants (41½): The Seahawks were game in last week’s loss to Atlanta and almost overcame a 27-7 deficit to win. The Giants have been vulnerable to the run the past two weeks and Seattle might try to similarly have running success to slow down the pace of the game in an effort to have this game decided in the fourth quarter. Double digit favorites have won 5 of 6 games this season SU, just 2-4 ATS. SEAHAWKS.

Bucs (NL) at Niners: This could be a meeting of 3-1 teams if Tampa defeated Indianapolis on Monday night. Barring significant injuries, San Francisco should be favored but by less than a FG. Neither team is explosive on offense. Both defenses have been of the “bend but not break” variety in that whereas they allow above average yardage, they are allowing less than the league average in points. UNDER.

Jets +9 at Patriots (50): New England has revenge on its mind for the playoff ouster by the Jets on this field last January. The Pats have the league’s top ranked offense (508 ypg) but also the NFL’s most permissive defense (478 ypg). The Jets have performed decently on defense, allowing just 310 ypg, but breakdowns elsewhere have caused their average points allowed to be nearly 24 ppg. OVER.

Chargers -4 at Broncos (48): Denver’s defensive weakness has been against the pass and the Chargers have one of the league’s top pass attacks led by QB Philip Rivers. It’s often tough to rely on the Chargers to play to their potential but as this is a divisional game. With a bye on deck we should get an effort in line with their talent edges. CHARGERS.

Packers -4 at Falcons: It’s hard to find fault with the Packers as they’ve started 4-0, with 3 point spread covers, and have played well on both sides of the football. Atlanta has not been nearly as impressive in their 2-2 start that could easily be 1-3 or worse. Atlanta will be motivated from what happened in the playoffs and has the talent to pull off the upset. FALCONS.

MONDAY

Bears +6 at Lions (47½): Chicago is just 1-3 ATS while splitting its first two games and has defeated the Lions in its last six meetings, including a controversial opening day win last season. This game has been circled on Detroit’s schedule for months. Detroit’s ability to make halftime adjustments is yet another sign of progress. The Lions’ letdown could come next week when they host San Francisco. LIONS.

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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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