NFL football’s Green Bay Packers leads growing gap in talent

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The midpoint of the 2011 season is approaching as eight teams will be playing their eighth game of the season this weekend.

Green Bay Packers remains the lone unbeaten team at 7-0 while three teams – Indianapolis, Miami and St Louis – are still winless. New England and San Francisco have suffered just a single loss and Baltimore may have joined that group with a win at Jacksonville on Monday night.

Jacksonville was one of three teams that had won just once this season. Arizona and Minnesota were the others.

The NFL regular season is again shaping up as having many very good teams and numerous bad ones with only a handful accurately described as mediocre. Remember that last season produced 13 teams with double digit wins and another 13 with double digit losses. Only six finished at or within one game of .500.

Interestingly, the average margin of victory is “just” 11.45 points, the lowest since 2006 (11.32). Heading into Monday night double digit favorites were just 5-7 ATS for the season.

Last Sunday produced the most balanced totals results for the season with 6 OVERS and 6 UNDERS. Scoring still is averaging more than 45 total points per game but has been declining over the past two weeks.

It can be argued that the best division this season is the AFC North in which last place Cleveland is 3-3 – the only last place team with a non losing record.

The worst division remains the NFC West. Aside from 5-1 San Francisco the other three teams are a combined 3-15 with “second place” Seattle already three games out of first. From a point spread perspective the Seahawks are 4-2 ATS and the Niners are 5-0-1. But Arizona and St. Louis, a combined 1-11 straight up, are a wallet depleting 1-10-1 ATS.

As a division the AFC South is 10-16 ATS. Houston (4-3 ATS) is the only team with a winning ATS record, leaving the Colts, Jaguars and Titans a combined 6-13 including 5-10 in non-division games.

Much has been made about the impact of byes this season. The record of the 12 teams with byes thus far posting a straight up record of 3-9.

Some are drawing the conclusion that due to the lockout byes are a negative this season and thus bettors should be looking to play against teams coming out of their off week if facing a team that played the week before.

But not so fast!

It must be noted that eight of the 12 teams have been underdogs and that lesser group went 1-7 straight up and 3-4-1 ATS. Four of the teams were favored with those going 2-2 both straight up and ATS.

In other words, most of the teams having byes thus far have been among the weaker teams in the league and/or have faced better teams upon their return.

The overall ATS record of 5-6-1 suggests that the byes have been neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. More importantly, 12 games is a very small sample from which to draw conclusions, especially “extreme” conclusions.

Returning from byes this week are Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Of this group only Philly has a losing record (2-4). The other five teams are 4-2 or 5-1.

Here’s a look at the 13 games to be played this weekend.

SUNDAY

Colts +9 at Titans (41½): Both teams are off of embarrassing losses this past week, being outscored by a combined 103-14. There should be improvement shown from both offenses and defenses with the offenses capable of inflicting more damage on the defenses than vice versa. OVER.

Jaguars +10 at Texans: Jacksonville figured to be about a 10 point dog following Monday night’s home game against powerful Baltimore. Houston had one of their best efforts in franchise history last week, winning 41-7 at Division rival Tennessee. And, the Texans return home after a pair of roadies. TEXANS.

Vikings +3 at Panthers (47): Christian Ponder performed well in his debut at QB for Minnesota in a 6 point home loss to powerful Green Bay. Cam Newton, Carolina’s rookie QB, continues his march towards being Rookie of the Year as he led the Panthers to their second win of the season. Minnesota is a more experienced and mature team than last week’s victim, Washington. VIKINGS.

Saints -11½ at Rams: The uncertain status of St. Louis QB Sam Bradford keeps this game off the boards early Monday. Regardless, New Orleans we figured would be a solid road favorite of at least 10 points facing the lowest scoring team in the NFL. The Rams have averaged just 9.3 points per game and have shown few signs of improvement. SAINTS.

Cards +13 at Ravens: Baltimore is off of Monday night’s road game in Jacksonville and has a short week of preparation. We felt the line would be close to two touchdowns. Cardinals failed to capitalize on a favorable spot last week, losing at home to banged up Pittsburgh. Arizona has now lost five in a row after struggling to defeat Carolina in their opener. RAVENS.

Dolphins +10 at Giants (43): Although the Giants do have a pair of double digit wins they are not constructed as a team capable of blowing out opponents. Miami’s offense has not scored more than 16 points since the opener. That suits the conservative bent of Giants coach Tom Coughlin just fine. UNDER.

Redskins +5 vs Bills (46): International Bowl II takes place in Toronto. The Bills are off of their bye and all six of their prior games have gone OVER. QB John Beck made his first start for Washington in last week’s loss in Carolina and played well enough to keep the job for at least another week. The ‘Skins 20 points were the most since Week 2. OVER.

Lions -3½ at Broncos: We expected the Lions to be favored by about a FG. The spot favors Denver as the Lions take to the road after three straight home games and have RB issues in addition to Matt Stafford’s injury. The Broncos were competitive in both home losses and now start Tim Tebow. BRONCOS.

Patriots -2½ at Steelers (51): Pittsburgh’s biggest test yet as its five wins have come against teams that are just 7-19 vs. the rest of the NFL. In defeating Dallas 20-16 before the Bye, the Pats scored fewer than 30 points for the first time in 14 regular season games That streak started with a 39-26 win at Pittsburgh last season. PATRIOTS.

Browns +9½ at 49ers (39): San Francisco’s offense has made great strides under first year coach Jim Harbaugh but the strength of the team remains the defense. Only one team has rushed for more than 90 yards. Cleveland has scored more than 17 points just once. The 49ers are 5-0-1 ATS. 49ERS.

Bengals -2½ at Seahawks (39½): Cincinnati rookie QB Andy Dalton has fared well directing the offense. But it’s been the defense that has keyed the success. RB Cedric Benson will miss this game for Cincy. Seattle ranks No. 31 on offense, 15 on defense. UNDER.

Cowboys +3½ at Eagles (51): Dallas leads the league in rush defense, allowing just 70 ypg. The offense rushed for 294 yards (41 percent of their full season total!) in last week’s blowout win over the Rams with backup RB DeMarco Murray gaining a franchise record 253. The teams have split their last 16 meetings. COWBOYS.

MONDAY

Chargers 3½ at Chiefs: KC has won three in a row and can catch the Chargers after San Diego blew a 21-10 halftime lead at the Jets. Again Chargers coach Norv Turner has to shoulder some of the blame. San Diego hosts Green Bay next Sunday. CHARGERS.

 

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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