More than a quarter of the way through the regular season the surprised continue to mount up as teams hit their midseason strides.
Although no teams are unbeaten after six weeks there are still a pair of winless clubs, each of which almost broke its maiden this past Sunday.
Leading for much of its game against San Diego, Oakland trailed the Chargers, 28-24, with less than two minutes remaining and in the midst of a drive that could lead to a game-tying FG or game winning TD. Needing about 15 yards for that tying FG, rookie QB Derek Carr, with plenty of time remaining, threw an ill-advised deep pass that was picked off, and sealed the Raiders’ fate.
Jacksonville recovered an onside kick in the final minute after pulling to within 16-14 in Tennessee but had a 55 yard FG attempt blocked to preserve the Titans’ win and send the Jaguars to a 0-6 record.
But the biggest surprise of the week was Dallas’ 30-20 win at Seattle. The Cowboys improved to 5-1, tying them with NFC East Division rival Philadelphia and AFC West leader San Diego for the best record in the NFL.
The Cowboys continued their commitment to running the football with NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray, even after falling behind 10-0, something prior editions of these Cowboys would have abandoned.
Perhaps Jerry Jones was playing the role of the sly fox when, prior to the start of this season, he uttered comments to the effect that the fans should not expect too much of his team this season. Hmmmmm.
Due to byes both Arizona and Denver are also just 1 loss teams at 4-1.
One other team has just a lone loss that could, or should, have been a win. After exchanging field goals in a pair of time consuming drives that started overtime, Cincinnati and Carolina were tied at 37 as time was about to expire. Normally reliable Mike Nugent missed a 36 yard FG.
The tie moved the Bengals to 3-1-1 but kept them atop the AFC North in which no team has a losing record. But the team in last place might be a surprise to many.
It’s not Baltimore as the Ravens improved to 4-2 following a 48-17 win at Tampa Bay that was marked by Baltimore leading 38-0 at halftime as a result of QB Joe Flacco tossing 5 touchdown passes, four of which came in the first quarter.
Rather, the third and fourth place teams were decided in the season’s first rematch between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Recall that in the season’s opening week the Steelers led 27-3 at halftime at home.
Cleveland, in the first game for new coach Mike Pettine, rallied in the second half to forge a 27-27 tie before Pittsburgh got the game winning FG to extend Pittsburgh’s record against Cleveland with Ben Roethlisberger as starting QB to 18-1.
No such drama in the rematch. After the Steelers got a first quarter FG for a 3-0 lead the Browns outscored Pittsburgh 21-0 in the second stanza for a 21-3 halftime lead en route to a 31-10 win.
Brian Hoyer continues to entrench himself as Cleveland’s starting QB, much to the frustration and chagrin of rookie Johnny Manziel and his supporters. The win improved Cleveland to 3-2 and dropped the Steelers to 3-3.
Will this be a successful season for the Browns, whose season win total was pegged at 6.5?
Recall the Browns started 3-2 last season before dropping 10 of its last 11 games. But Hoyer was injured after leading Cleveland to 3 straight wins following a 0-2 start.
As the above illustrates, it promises to be yet another unpredictable NFL season with many twists and turns still to come.
Once again, only two teams, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, have byes this week.
Here’s a look at the 15 games that will be played in week 7.
NY Jets +9.5 at NE (46): A pair of convincing wins has New England in its familiar perch atop the AFC East. In Tom Brady the Jets are facing their sixth straight top tier QB. Divisional familiarity often results in basic game plans given the short preparation time. UNDER
Cincinnati +3 at Indy (49.5): Statistics show Cincinnati has the more efficient passing game, averaging 12.4 yards per completion (Colts are at 11.3). Even without top receiver AJ Green last week the Bengals passed for 320 yards. This suggests the Bengals will be able to trade points with the Colts and their elite QB Andrew Luck. OVER.
Tenn +4 at Washington (46): The Titans have QB issues with starter Jake Locker still questionable so journeyman Charlie Whitehurst might again get the start. Both teams have first season coaches with Washington arguably having the more talented roster with a decided WR edge. WASHINGTON.
Miami +3.5 at Chicago (49): Chicago is 3-1 SU on the road but has lost both home games. This is only the second time Chicago has been favored, the first being in their opening home loss to Buffalo. Both teams have flaws although Miami has shown a better ability on offense to establish a running game. MIAMI.
Cleveland -4.5 at Jax (45.5): In past seasons this would qualify as a huge letdown spot for the visitors as Cleveland is off of one of the biggest wins in the history of the “new” Browns franchise following a 31-10 rout of Pittsburgh. The Jaguars have started to show signs of improvement. Prior to last week’s win over the Steelers, each of Cleveland’s first four games was decided by a FG or less. JACKSONVILLE.
Seattle -6.5 at St. Louis: With the Rams hosting San Francisco on Monday night there is no widely available line for this game as we go to press. Expect Seattle to be about a TD road favorite. The Rams have not been as strong on defense thus far as had been expected, and they are likely to have been involved in a very physical game against the 49ers. SEATTLE
Carolina +7 at GB (49.5): Green Bay’s defensive vulnerability has been against the run, an area on offense in which Carolina has been average at best. Carolina’s defensive weakness has been against the pass and, as QB Aaron Rodgers again demonstrated in Miami last week, that area is the strength of the Green Bay offense. GREEN BAY.
Atlanta +7 at Baltimore (49): Both QBs Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are upper tier and Atlanta’s offense is likely to perform better than it did last week. Baltimore is unlikely to match last week’s 48 point outburst but the Falcons’ pass defense ranks number 29 and has allowed over 300 passing yards in 4 of 6 games. OVER.
Minnesota +4 at Buffalo (42.5): Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater looked very much the rookie in last week’s 17-3 home loss to Detroit, tossing a trio of interceptions. Both teams have bottom 10 offenses but top 10 defenses. Combined, the Bills and Vikings have played 9 UNDERS and just 3 OVERS and both offenses have been more adept at running the football than in the passing game. UNDER.
New Orleans +3 at Detroit (49.5): Detroit is likely to again be without star WR Calvin Johnson but should have RB Reggie Bush back. The Saints will be without TE Jimmy Graham but will have had the Bye week to prepare for his absence. The extra time should benefit the Saints whose head coach Sean Payton remains on the NFL’s most highly regarded offensive minds. NEW ORLEANS
KC +5 at San Diego (44.5): San Diego is 5-1 both SU and ATS while although the Chiefs are just 2-3 SU they are 3-1-1 ATS. Both offenses have excelled at avoiding turnovers. KC coach Andy Reid has excelled after a Bye week and these teams played a pair of 3 point games last season, both won by the Chargers. KANSAS CITY
NY Giants +6 at Dallas (47.5): The Giants lost WR Victor Cruz for the season but have had success at this venue with 4 straight wins (3 as underdogs) prior to an opening week loss here last season. Following the old adage of buy low and sell high, this sets up as a nice spot for the underdog. NY GIANTS.
Arizona -3.5 at Oakland (44): The Raiders are 3-2 ATS and did show many positives in their first game under interim coach Tony Sparano. With a tough upcoming schedule, including their next two games on the road, this is Oakland’s best chance for a win until after Thanksgiving. At a FG or more the points worth taking. OAKLAND
SF +7 at Denver: San Francisco is off of Monday’s game at St. Louis and is expected to be about a TD underdog in a game in which Denver QB Peyton Manning may tie or surpass Brett Favre’s record of 509 TD passes. It won’t come easy as the 49ers have the NFL’s No. 2 defense that is very well balances (3 vs. the run, 4 vs. the pass). UNDER.
Houston +4 at Pittsburgh (44.5): The Steelers showed further signs of an overall decline with their lopsided loss at Cleveland. Houston’s outstanding defensive lineman, JJ Watt, remains the most impactful defensive player in the league. The Steelers have a huge edge at QB with Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick and they also have the better rushing game. PITTSBURGH.
Last week: 6-6-1 (w/o MNF)
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]