And now, there is one.
With New England’s overtime loss Sunday night in Denver the Carolina Panthers remain the last undefeated team in the NFL with an 11-0 record. The Panthers last flexed their collective muscle on Thanksgiving Day with a decisive, defensively propelled 33-14 win in Dallas.
The Panthers’ path to perfection, at least for the regular season, is paved with all five remaining games against teams currently with 6-5 records or worse with four of those games versus NFC South Division rivals, including two games against 6-5 Atlanta, the lone upcoming foe with a winning record. Carolina also will face 4-7 New Orleans, 5-6 Tampa Bay and the 5-6 New York Giants.
Despite their perception as a team lacking flash, pizzazz or being especially dominant in any phase of the game, Carolina’s plus 127 points differential is second only to New England’s plus 135. The Panthers have scored 332 and only Arizona (355) and New England (347) have more. And in allowing 205 points only Minnesota (194) and Cincinnati (193) have allowed less.
The Panthers being unbeaten this deep into the season is a surprise but is their success in general really a surprise? Sure, their projected season Wins Total was just 8.5 prior to the season. And they did win the NFC South last season with a 7-8-1 record. But let’s also recall that a season earlier, in 2013, the Panthers also won the NFC South with a 12-4 record. And despite the losing regular season last season Carolina did host, and win, its opening Wild Card Playoff game, albeit against an Arizona team playing its third string QB.
Still, the success of the Panthers must be taken seriously. They win because they do three very important things very well. Carolina ranks third in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 139 yards per game. The Panthers are second in the league in yards per play defense, allowing just 4.7 ypp. And they also value the football, averaging just 1.1 giveaways per game, seventh best in the league.
Running the football enables a team to control the clock, which comes in handy in late game situations when trying to protect a lead or move down the field for the final scoring opportunity. Playing great defense is often what makes a contender a champion. And avoiding turning the football over prevents the opponent from gaining added possessions and hence added opportunities to score.
In addition to being 11-0 on the field Carolina has also rewarded its backers handsomely to the tune of a 9-2 ATS record.
That 9-2 ATS record ties them with Minnesota for the second best record against the points. The only team with a better pointspread mark is Cincinnati, 9-1-1.
Minnesota has also been the best Totals play this season with their mark of 9 UNDERS, 1 OVER and 1 push. Had you parlayed the Vikings with the UNDER all season you would have cashed that parlay 7 times and cashed a ticket with a cover and a push one other time (vs Oakland).
Only in their losses to San Francisco and Green Bay have the Vikings failed to cover the pointspread and only their second victory over Detroit has a Vikings game gone OVER the Total.
Week 13 is at hand and that means all teams will be playing their final game of the third quarter of the season. Once this week’s game have concluded teams will have just 4 games left to make a run at the Playoffs with much still left to be decided, especially with the two Wild Card teams in each conference and the teams that will win the weak AFC South and the even weaker NFC East.
Here’s a look at the full slate of 16 games to be played this week.
Thursday – Pro Football
Green Bay Packers -3 at Detroit Lions (47): Green Bay remains the more talented team. In danger of falling into the muddled Wild Card mix with a loss, the Packers are priced low enough to back in what should be a fully focused effort against a team they still match up well against. GREEN BAY.
Sunday – Pro Football
San Francisco 49ers +7 at Chicago Bears (43): San Francisco is tied with Dallas for the worst record in the NFC although the Niners have been more competitive lately. But those efforts have largely come at home. On the road the 49ers are 0-5 SU, 1-4 ATS with 4 of those 5 losses by more than 14 points. CHICAGO.
Cincinnati Bengals -7 at Cleveland Browns (43.5): Cleveland is off of Monday night’s game vs Baltimore and continues to be plagued by off the field issues and an inability to run the football. The Bengals won the earlier meeting 31-10. They still have the better defense and have been much better at avoiding turnovers. CINCINNATI.
Jacksonville Jaguars +2.5 at Tennessee Titans (43): Tennessee has been competitive in several of their losses, four of which have been by a FG or less. Ironically, both of the Titans wins have come on the road. They’ve held 4 of their last 5 foes to 90 or fewer rushing yards after allowing over 115 in 5 straight games. The team continues to play hard and ultimately those efforts are rewarded when facing similarly talented teams in favorable conditions. TENNESSEE.
Houston Texans +3 at Buffalo Bills (41.5): Buffalo is off of 3 straight road games and will also play the next two weeks on the road. Houston is off a pair of home games and hosts New England next week, making this a potential flat spot in which they enter this game a bit overconfident to face a team playing to save its season. BUFFALO.
Baltimore Ravens +4.5 at Miami Dolphins (44): Often when teams are essentially playing out the string with the Playoffs little more than a remote possibility the offenses tend to open things up with more passing plays. The change at OC may also spur the Dolphins to take a more aggressive approach to play calling. OVER.
Carolina Panthers -7 at New Orleans Saints (49.5): Despite their weak defense the Saints still have a potent offense that was held in check on the road in Houston last week. This is a spot in which the Panthers are likely to struggle as they face a defense likely to show improvement in their second game following the firing of former DC Rob Ryan. NEW ORLEANS.
Seattle Seahawks -1 at Minnesota Vikings (41.5): The Seahawks are playing their first road game in over a month with a Bye followed by three straight home games. In many ways the Vikings are following a similar path to the top of the NFC as did Seattle several years ago with a solid defense, a strong running game and a heady quarterback with much upside. MINNESOTA.
Arizona Cardinals -5.5 at St. Louis Rams (43): The Rams have lost 4 straight including 37-13 to Chicago in their lone home game in this stretch. The Cardinals have a huge edge at QB with Carson Palmer having an MVP type season. Their ability to shut down the run while facing below average quarterbacking combined with revenge and a desire to follow up a dull effort all point to the visitors laying under a TD. ARIZONA.
Atlanta Falcons +2.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (46): Tampa won the first meeting a month ago, 23-20, despite the Falcons outgaining the Bucs by 206 yards and 2.2 yards per play. That effort provides value in this spot as Atlanta was clearly the better team in all but final score and this line reflects more than a 10 point reversal from that first meeting. Prior to that loss the Falcons had won 5 of 7 in the series with 4 of the wins by more than a TD. ATLANTA.
NY Jets -1 at NY Giants (45): Both teams have multiple flaws on both sides of the football and this could be a game marred by turnovers. The Jets have the better running game and the Giants the better passing game and the better big play potential. The Giants have played better than their record with late game meltdowns proving costly. In what should be a tightly contested game the preference is to side with the better QB. NY GIANTS.
Denver Broncos -4.5 at San Diego Chargers (43.5): San Diego, when healthy, has an offense on a par with the best although the running game leaves much to be desired. But that means QB Philip Rivers and the passing game will be relied upon to compete here and that could result in an entertaining, high scoring game that has a reasonable Total. OVER.
Kansas City Cheifs -3 at Oakland Raiders (44): Oakland continues to show steady improvement and will be a fashionable pick to make the Playoffs in 2016. This has been a road dominated series over the past decade with the visitor 7-3 ATS at both venues. This game will probably be split with the public on the Chiefs and the pros on the Raiders. The public is not always on the wrong side in Vegas. KANSAS CITY.
Philadelphia Eagles +10 at New England Patriots (48.5): The banged up Patriots are only concerned with winning and not necessarily interested in, or possibly capable of, winning by margins. The Eagles have several extra days to rest and prepare after losing badly on Thanksgiving. When it looks too obvious a play the value is in going the other way. PHILADELPHIA.
Indianapolis Colts NL at Pittsburgh Steelers: The teams’ defensive stats are similar which may be a surprise given the contrasting reputations of both teams units with both teams well below average. The Steelers have scored at least 30 points in 3 straight games while allowing at least 35 in two of those three and showing an inability to fully protect late leads. OVER.
Monday – Pro Football
Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) at Washington Redskins (42): Dallas’ offense has been fairly limited with Romo sidelined which translates into limited big play ability and an inability to sustain drives. Still, the rivalry aspect of this game makes a call to lay more than a FG dangerous. Dallas defense has generally played well given the issues with their offense. UNDER .
NFL Last Week: 9-6-0
NFL Season: 83-87-5
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]