Patriots, as usual, have that Super Bowl look

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The mid-point of the regular season has passed for half of the NFL as 16 teams played their eighth game of the season this past week. The other 16 shall do so this week. The first few rematches have taken place and as November begins Divisional and Wild Card races are taking shape.

Cleveland remains the only team yet to win and the Browns had perhaps their last best chance for a win but blew several leads against the Jets in what turned out to be a 31-28 loss.

New England exacted big time revenge against Buffalo, the only team to have defeated the now 7-1 Patriots. New England has the look, once again, of a Super Bowl favorite. Heading into their bye this week the Patriots, known for their potent offense, happen to lead the AFC in fewest points allowed, showing their overall balance. Their win over the Bills has New England atop the AFC East with a three game lead over second place Buffalo.

The strength in the AFC is in the West where Denver and Oakland are tied at 6-2 with Kansas City a half game back at 5-2. Last place San Diego is 3-5 and the Chargers’ 27-19 loss at Denver on Sunday was their first loss by more than 6 points this season. Despite the loss San Diego has outscored their opposition by a dozen points this season.

No other AFC team has fewer than three losses with 5-3 Houston a game ahead of Tennessee in the AFC South and 4-3 Pittsburgh a game ahead of both Baltimore and Cincinnati in the AFC North.

Dallas, at 6-1, has the best record in the NFC, a half game better than 5-1 Minnesota. Seattle, atop the NFC West at 4-2-1, is the only other NFC team with less than three losses. The Seahawks are the only team in their Division with a winning record. Atlanta’s exciting win over Green Bay has the Falcons atop the NFC South at 5-3, the only team in that Division with a winning record.

The above recap can easily lead to the conclusion this season has unfolded with a small handful of very good teams and a significant number of very mediocre to bad football teams. Perhaps the fact that three games went into overtime last week with one of them producing the second tie game of the season reinforces that notion.

With half a season remaining much can change over the next two months and with less than half of the NFL with non-winning records the tightly bunched middle class of teams may well produce a team that right now looks nothing like a Super Bowl contender but gets on a hot run so typical of recent Super Bowl champions.

Although 13 teams have winning pointspread records through the season’s first eight weeks only four of them are more than two games above .500 ATS.

Dallas (6-1 ATS), Denver (6-2), Minnesota (5-1) and New England (7-1) are a combined 24-5 ATS with the Vikings still to play Monday night at Chicago where they were 4.5 point road favorites late Monday morning.

Five teams have been the biggest ATS losers thus far with Carolina (2-5), Chicago (1-6), Cleveland (2-6), Jacksonville (2-5) and San Francisco (1-6) a combined 8-28 ATS.

Historically most teams finish the season not far from an even pointspread record. It will be interesting to track those just noted nine teams to see if there is a regression to the mean and which of the four pointspread powerhouses lose money ATS over the second half of the season, and which of the five money burners reverse direction and provide profits over the balance of the season.

Of the latter group Carolina seems positioned to return to its winning ways of the past few seasons, bolstered by their impressive win over Arizona that followed the Panthers’ bye week after a 1-5 start both SU and ATS.

Denver might be the most vulnerable of the four pointspread darlings to show a decline over the second half of the season. The Broncos still have a pair of games with both Oakland and Kansas City and play five of their final eight games on the road.

Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England and Washington have byes this week resulting in a second straight week of just 13 games.

Here’s a preview of the Week 9 schedule.

Thursday

Atlanta -3 at Tampa Bay (O/U 51): In their combined 15 games the Bucs and Falcons have scored at least 30 points 8 times while allowing at least 30 points 8 times. The teams are a combined 11-4 to the OVER with the Falcons contributing 7 of those OVERs. Both teams rank in the bottom 8 in total defense and points allowed. OVER.

Sunday

Jacksonville +8 at KC (45.5): Rather than fire head coach Gus Bradley the Jaguars have gone the route of firing their offensive coordinator following last Thursday’s ugly loss at Tennessee. The Chiefs also have struggled with their running game and the defense could be vulnerable to surprises from a revamped Jaguar offensive game plan. It worked earlier this season with Buffalo. JACKSONVILLE.

Detroit NL at Minnesota: After winning 3 straight, all at home, the Lions lost at Houston last week and their offense was held to under 300 yards for the third time this season. The running game was held to under 100 yards for a sixth straight game. Now they face the NFL’s top defenses at a venue where the Vikings are 3-0 both straight up and ATS. MINNESOTA.

Philadelphia +3 at NY Giants (43): The Eagles have shown some vulnerabilities with 3 losses in 4 games following a 3-0 start. The defense which had played well early surrendered a double digit lead at Dallas and then allowed the Cowboys to march down the field in the first possession over overtime for the winning TD with the Eagle offense never having the football. The Giants are off their bye following a pair of wins and should be well prepared for this key game that will have the winner in second place in the NFC East. NY GIANTS.

Dallas -7.5 at Cleveland (47): The visiting Cowboys have won and covered 6 in a row following an opening week loss and its easy to make a case for the ‘Boys. Dallas has the best balanced offense in the NFL and a defense that has performed much better than expected. This line will likely be bet up during the week making this the “if it looks too easy…” game of the week. CLEVELAND.

NY Jets +3.5 at Miami (44): Miami is off its bye week which have come at the worst time following back to back wins in which the Dolphins ran for over 200 yards. That time off can be a momentum stopper as we have seen several times already this season. The Jets have also won back to back games following a very difficult schedule in their first 6. The Jets swept Miami last season in coach Todd Bowles first season as coach. NY JETS.

Pittsburgh +2.5 at Baltimore (43.5): Both teams return from byes. QB Ben Roethlisberger is likely to miss this game for the Steelers due to injury but WR Antonio Brown is expected to play. Backup QB Landry Jones will have benefitted from the bye week which followed a better than expected effort in their loss to New England. Despite their 5-11 record last season, Baltimore swept the Steelers last season, a fact that will have been well noted during practice this week. PITTSBURGH.

New Orleans -3 at SF (51): At 3-4 the Saints are very much in the mid-season Playoff picture. 49ers coach Chip Kelly seems ill suited for the NFL game in his second stint as head coach and may be brushing up his resume for a return to the colleges. The Saints have won 3 of 4 games since an 0-3 start and match up well against a defense that has declined significantly since the start of the season. NEW ORLEANS.

Carolina -3 at LA (44.5): The Rams are off a bye following their loss in London and have lost 3 in a row following a 3 game winning streak that offered Rams fans some early season hope. The Panthers have the better QB, the better running game and need to continue winning as they seek a fourth straight trip to the NFL Playoffs. CAROLINA.

Indianapolis +7 at Green Bay (53): Both teams are off losses although the Packers played better in losing at Atlanta than did the Colts in losing at home to Kansas City. All 3 of Green Bay’s losses have been to Division leaders with two of the losses by 1 point and a FG. The Colts play in the weak AFC South whose teams, including the Colts, are 47-94 SU and 57-81-3 ATS in non-Division games since 2013 including 9-12 SU, 8-13 ATS this season. GREEN BAY.

Tennessee +4.5 at San Diego (47): The Titans are improved this season and have won 3 of their last 4 games. They’ve been held under 100 rushing yards only in their opening week loss to Minnesota. They’ve rushed for over 210 yards twice in the last 4 games. That success works to shorten games and wear down opposing defenses. The Chargers are better than their 3-5 record suggests but their penchant for playing so many close games makes it tough to lay more than a FG, especially against a foe that can slow the pace of a game. TENNESSEE.

Denver +1 at Oakland (43.5): The early money has come in on the Raiders who opened Sunday night as 1 point underdogs. Oakland has won and covered all 5 road games this season but is has lost 2 of 3 home games and is 0-3 ATS. Both teams are 6-2 as they renew their long term rivalry that dates back to the AFL of the 1960’s. The gap between these teams is narrowing and Oakland has the edge at QB and at receiver. But Denver’s defensive edge is too much to ignore and should be the difference in this game. DENVER.

Monday

Buffalo +7 at Seattle (44): The Seahawks return home to face the Bills who have lost two in a row following a 5 game winning streak. Buffalo has the NFL’s best running game, averaging 5.0 yards per rush, a half yard per rush better than second best Miami. Seattle allows just 3.4 ypr. Seattle’s game plan should be to force Buffalo to throw the football, a phase in which the Bills rank ahead of only San Francisco. At 4-2-1 Seattle is contending with Dallas and Minnesota for the top seed in the NFC. SEATTLE.

Last week: 5-7

Season: 62-55-2

(does not include MNF result)

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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