Patriots, Colts can clinch division this Sunday

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Just three weeks remain until the playoffs field is set as Division and Wild Card races continue to be sorted out.

No team has yet to clinch a playoff berth although several teams can do so this week. New England and Indianapolis can clinch division titles with wins over their main challengers.

Barring an upset win by Atlanta at Green Bay Monday night the winner of the NFC South will be guaranteed to finish with a record no better than 8-8 with a losing mark the more likely outcome.

Five teams enter the final three weeks at 2-11 meaning that at least that number of teams will finish the season with 5 or fewer wins, in line with historical norms that go back over 20 seasons. Two or three more teams could join that group with the Giants (4) and Washington (3) facing each other this week while Carolina (4) and Chicago (5) also in position to win fewer than 6 games.

This is being noted for readers to keep in mind when the season win totals for 2015 are posted next spring. The public generally looks for teams to play OVER their projected win total but often the greater values lay with looking to play the UNDER.

For many years this column has pointed out over the summer the historical results that show, despite the glowing preseason previews touted for the majority of the NFL’s 32 teams, on average 6 or 7 teams win 5 or fewer games. In most seasons no more than one or, at most, two teams will be projected to win 5 or fewer games.

 

Once the regular season ends each team’s opponents for the following season are set according to a formula put in place years ago. Within hours of the final week’s games this information is widely available on the internet or in the newspapers a day or two later. Although the sequence of the schedule is not determined until the spring the sites of the games are already set.

 Thus you can get a nice head start on preparing for next season within hours of the end of Week 17 and be in position to make plays when the Win Totals are first offered in the spring. Obviously coaching and personnel changes with be important factors to consider. But by getting a head start soon after this season ends will have you in position to strike early and at the best numbers.

Here’s a look at the full slate of games for week 15.

Thursday

Arizona +3.5 at St. Louis (40.5): Both teams’ defensive units are each team’s strengths and this handicaps as a physical game played between the twenties with offenses led by a pair of average quarterbacks. Arizona won the first meeting in a game that featured less than 600 yards of total offense. UNDER .

Sunday

Oakland +10.5 at KC (41.5): KC’s 5 game winning streak is a memory after three straight losses, falling to 7-6 and in danger of missing the Playoffs following a 7-3 start. The Chiefs still have a punishing running game, the better defense and will be motivated to exact revenge against the bitter rival and get back on track. KC.

Jacksonville +13.5 at Baltimore (45): The Jags are a young team with a lack of depth, facing the experienced Ravens who have excelled at stopping the run and have covered 3 of its last 4 games. The Jags have allowed 5 of their last 6 foes to rush for over 145 yards. BALTIMORE.

Pittsburgh NL at Atlanta: Both teams’ offenses are by far the best units on each team and the pristine conditions under the dome should enable both offenses to gain large chunks of yardage with their above average passing attacks. OVER.

Houston +6.5 at Indy (49.5): Houston leads the league in forcing 2.2 turnovers per game and the Colts average losing 2.0 turnovers per game. That contrast and the Texans’ ability to run the football should make for another competitive game in which the points will likely come into play. HOUSTON.

Cincinnati -1.5 at Cleveland (44.5): The Bengals are the more talented team but the loss of both coordinators following last season has been evident in the stats. Cleveland is well coached and won the earlier meeting, 24-3 in Cincinnati, holding the Bengals to just 165 total yards while gaining 368, including 170 on the ground. CLEVELAND.

Miami +7.5 at New England (48.5): New England bounced back from its loss at Green Bay with a stellar defensive effort at San Diego. Miami lost a crucial home game to Baltimore last week and must face a team that will be well prepared to exact revenge and maintain their hold on the top AFC seed. NEW ENGLAND.

Tampa Bay +5 at Carolina (43): The statistical profiles suggest these teams are very evenly matched but late season matchups often hinge more on current momentum and intangibles than on the raw numbers. CAROLINA.

Washington +6 at NY Giants (47.5): Aside from their hiccup at Jacksonville, when a 21-0 lead was blown, the Giants have handled the weak teams they’ve faced while falling to the better teams. The Redskins appear to have mailed it in for the season amid much internal turmoil. UNDER .

Green Bay NL at Buffalo: There’s no denying that Green Bay is the better team with one of the league’s top offenses and a defense that has been much improved since starting the season with a blowout loss at Seattle. But Buffalo’s defense has been among the best in the league all season. The Bills are 4-2 ATS as underdogs with 3 outright upset wins. BUFFALO.

Minnesota +7.5 at Detroit: The Lions won the first meeting at Minnesota, 17-3, and catch the Vikings on the road after 3 straight home games. Detroit’s offense has been sharp the past couple of games as WR Calvin Johnson appears back to full strength and RB Reggie Bush was back from injury last week. DETROIT

NY Jets -1 at Tennessee (42.5): The Jets are likely to have a new head coach and possibly a new GM and QB next season. With both teams out of contention and little on the line other than personal achievements this could turn into a wild and sloppy games with both offenses going deep into their playbooks. OVER.

Denver -3.5 at San Diego (51): Both teams are 6-7 ATS but San Diego is 4-3 ATS as underdogs with 3 upsets and is playing its final home game. The ‘hook’ could come into play in a game between AFC West rivals who really know one another very well. SAN DIEGO.

SF +10 at Seattle (38.5): Two weeks ago Seattle was impressive in winning at San Francisco and while the offense continues to be pedestrian the defense is playing at an elite level. The 49ers recent play has this line above the true gap between the teams which makes laying the points a risk not worth taking. The better option is to expect both defenses to repeat their efforts of Thanksgiving night. UNDER.

Dallas +3.5 at Philadelphia (56): Dallas is known for its history of late season swoons but this season’s edition has already shown it is difference, having already exceeded its season wins total (8) and is assured its first winning season since 2009 with its balanced offense that has finally remained committed to running the football. DALLAS.

Monday

New Orleans -3 at Chicago (54.5): Chicago is playing out the string and the future of second season coach Marc Trestman is uncertain. The offense has not fully utilized the talents of RB Matt Forte and the defense is as bad as it was last season. New Orleans has won two straight on the road but are just 1-3 both SU and ATS as road favorites this season. CHICAGO.

Last week: 7-8 (w/o MNF)

Season: 107-99-1.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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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