NFL season

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For a number of teams, the NFL season comes down to just a single game to define their season.

In the AFC, Baltimore, New England and the New York Jets will reprise their playoff appearances of last season. That trio will be joined by Kansas City and Pittsburgh with only the champion of the AFC still to be decided.

A win by Indianapolis or Jacksonville loss will extend the Colts’ postseason streak to a record tying eight straight seasons. Should the Colts lose and Jags win, Jacksonville advances to the playoffs.

In the NFC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta are all assured of playing beyond this weekend. New Orleans is almost assured of joining them by either having defeated Atlanta on Monday night or beating Tampa Bay this Sunday.

Seattle-St. Louis is a virtual playoff game. The winner will claim the NFC West Title and host a wild card game next weekend. The loser is eliminated.

The NFL honchos likely have a rooting interest for St. Louis to win and at least bring an 8-8 record into the playoffs. A Seattle win would make them 7-9. The Seahawks have the fifth worst scoring differential in the entire league, having allowed 107 more points than they’ve scored through 15 games.

Green Bay can earn a wild card with a win at home against Chicago. Tampa Bay and the New York Giants have scenarios in which a wild card can be secured, but with help elsewhere.

The final week of the regular season always presents unique handicapping challenges. Half of this week’s games have no practical impact on the postseason.

Through nearly 16 complete weeks, underdogs have maintained a 120-109-5 ATS over favorites. The gap, though, is narrowing.

The OVERS own a comfortable 133-100 edge compared to the UNDERS regarding totals. Five have pushed. As these numbers suggest, scoring remains quite high with games producing an average of 44.6 total points per game. At this rate, 2010 will be the highest scoring season in more than 30 years, surpassing the average of 44.1 total points per game in 2008.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Here’s a look at the final 16 games of the regular season.

Raiders +4 at Chiefs (44): The teams are statistically similar with the major difference being the Raiders’ minus 5 turnover margin vs. the Chiefs’ plus 10. K.C. is allowing a league best 12.4 points per game at home. CHIEFS.

Dolphins +3½ at Pats (42): New England is likely to limit starters’ playing time rather than totally rest them. Miami has the chance to finish the season 7-1 on the road and 1-7 at home. Expect New England’s backups to play to win. PATRIOTS.

Titans +9½ at Colts (48½): After a 5-2 start, the Titans faded by losing 7 of 8 including their last four road games. With weather not a factor and the Colts just needing to win, the points are attractive. TITANS.

Jaguars -1½ at Texans (49): Houston will be playing for little more than pride and a chance to knock a rival out of the playoffs. Both teams have porous pass defenses but Houston has the better passing offense. TEXANS.

Steelers -6 at Browns (37½): The Browns have been held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games and not allowed more than 20 points in any of those games. The preferred option is a low score with the winner likely needing no more than 17. UNDER.

Bengals +10 at Ravens (43½): A win here would deny the Ravens the AFC North title and build momentum for Cincy headed into next season. The Ravens won the first meeting 15-10 in Week 2 in a game that was statistically even. BENGALS.

Vikings +7 at Lions (43½): Detroit is ending the 2010 season on a high note with three straight wins including back-to-back road wins that followed their record 26-game road losing streak. The season can’t end soon enough for the Vikings. LIONS.

Giants -4 at Redskins (44): Washington has shown spark the past two weeks since replacing Donovan McNabb at QB with journeyman Rex Grossman. Still, after a pair of bad losses, the preference is to back the team that has the stronger fundamentals. GIANTS.

Bears +6 at Packers (43): Green Bay lost the earlier meeting at Chicago, 20-17, despite thoroughly outplaying the Bears. Packers are playing with a greater sense of urgency and showed last week against the Giants they are a team to be reckoned with. PACKERS.

Cowboys +12 at Eagles (46): Dallas is likely to start third string QB Stephen McGee after Jon Kitna was injured in last week’s loss at Arizona. The Cowboys and Eagles have combined for 23 OVERs and just 6 UNDERs this season. OVER.

Bills +3 at Jets (37): The Jets are expected to rest QB Mark Sanchez and other starters. The Bills have scored 17 or fewer points in five straight games and have topped 19 once in last 9. UNDER.

Panthers +11 at Falcons (42): Atlanta won the first meeting 31-10 in Carolina just three weeks ago and there may be little the Panthers can do to prevent a similar one-sided loss even if the Falcons have nothing at stake. Even with a bye assured, Atlanta will not want to lose their edge. FALCONS.

Bucs +7½ at Saints (48): Tampa QB Josh Freeman has become the team leader in his second season. The Saints blew out the Bucs 31-6 in Tampa in mid-season. The Bucs have shown enough to suggest they will give a better effort here regardless of what this game means to the Saints. BUCS.

Rams -1½ at Seahawks (43): There’s little to recommend supporting either team with much confidence. It would be appropriate if this game ended in an overtime tie. Still, the home field could be decisive as the crowd figures to be energized. The Seahawks are 4-3 at home, the Rams 2-5 on the road. SEAHAWKS.

Cards +6½ at 49ers (38): Rookie QB John Skelton has provided a bit of a spark to what has been a lackluster Cardinals offense. The sudden firing of Mike Singletary has the 49ers in a state of disarray. Arizona is at least coming off of an upset win over Dallas. The generous points are worth taking. CARDS.

Chargers -3 at Broncos (48): A loss here would give San Diego its second 8-8 season in three years. Rookie QB Tim Tebow has played well the past two weeks, and we can expect the Broncos’ energy level will be considerably higher the disappointed Chargers. BRONCOS.

last week                 since Oct 25                     PCT

8-6                             71-58-2                           55.0

 

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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