Things are coming into focus insofar as which NFL teams are among the best in the league and which are at the bottom. As well, we have more information to assist us in determining which teams’ changes in performance from last season are real or illusory.
New Orleans got its first win of the season Sunday night as Drew Brees tossed 4 TD passes, three more than he needed to break the tie he shared with the great Johnny Unitas for throwing TD passes in 47 straight games. The Saints are now 1-4 but are a better team than that record suggests. Their road to return to the playoffs remains difficult.
San Francisco rebounded from their upset loss at Minnesota in Week 3 with a pair of resounding wins over AFC East teams. After winning 34-0 at the Jets two weeks ago, the Niners routed Buffalo at home 45-3 this past Sunday. And given the Vikings’ overall 4-1 start, San Francisco’s loss to the Vikes does not look as bad today as it did when it occurred.
As impressive as San Francisco has been, they have a clear challenger for early season supremacy in the NFC. Atlanta is 5-0 following a comeback win at Washington. They are a league best 3-0 on the road. Also off to solid starts in the NFC are Chicago and Arizona, both 4-1.
Green Bay is just 2-3 following their come from ahead loss at Indianapolis last week. As much as the defense has struggled its been the offense that has been sputtering.
Houston was 4-0 heading into Monday night’s game at the Jets in which they were close to double digit favorites. The Texans appear to be the clear class of the AFC. Baltimore has very quietly fashioned a 4-1 start to its season with their lone loss by a single point at Philadelphia.
Only two other teams in the AFC have winning records. Both New England and San Diego are 3-2. Based on early season performance the strength of the league seems to be in the NFC. In interconference play NFC teams are 15-6 straight up and 12-9 ATS against AFC teams.
Scoring dropped a bit this past week as the 13 games played through Sunday night produced an average of just 40.4 total points per game. For the season games are averaging a total of 46.2 points per game yet there have been more UNDERs (39) than OVERs (37).
Underdogs are 43-29-4 ATS heading into Monday night’s game yet double digit underdogs are just 2-3 ATS.
The average margin of victory in games has been 11.7 points with 14 games decided by 21 or more points. At the same time there have been quite a number of competitive games with 24 of the first 76 games (31.6 percent) decided by 4 points or less.
Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans have their Byes this week.
Here’s a look at the 14 games that will comprise the schedule for Week 6.
Steelers -6 at Titans (43½): The stats clearly point to the Steelers as the far better team but they continue to suffer injuries to key personnel. It’s tough to recommend the Titans even as home underdogs as they’ve allowed at least 30 points in all 5 games. Interestingly, the Steelers have also allowed 30+ on the road. OVER.
Bengals -3 at Browns (44): The Browns are the league’s lone remaining winless team (0-5) and this game would seem to be their best chance for a win until December. BROWNS.
Colts (NL) at Jets: The Colts have the better QB in this game as rookie Andrew Luck was again impressive in leading his team to a last second home win over Green Bay last week after trailing 21-3. It was a win dedicated to their ailing coach. In almost all areas the Colts are performing better than the Jets. COLTS.
Chiefs (NL) at Bucs: Kansas City QB Matt Cassel was injured in their 9-6 loss to Baltimore last week and backup Brady Quinn likely gets the start in his place. Tampa Bay will be perhaps a FG favorite as they return from their Bye week. The Chiefs should be better than 1-4 with their fourth ranked offense (that includes 182 rushing yards per game) and their tenth ranked defense. Something is missing. BUCS.
Raiders +8½ at Falcons (48½): When Atlanta coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan were in their first season, the Falcons won 24-0 at Oakland in a midseason game, their only meeting during the Smith/Ryan regime. Atlanta is a much better team today than in 2008 and they are 26-7 SU and 22-12-1 ATS at home during their tenure. Oakland’s previous trip east this season resulted in a 35-13 loss at Miami. FALCONS.
Cowboys +4 at Ravens (44): Dallas’ rushing offense has been impotent, gaining a total of just 128 rushing yards in their last three games after rushing for 143 in their opening game win over the Giants. They did not rush for more than 50 yards in any of these last 3. Fundamentally both teams are solid defensively. UNDER.
Lions +5 at Eagles (48): Philly has a solid defense that’s been able to bailout a turnover prone offense. After splitting a pair of 2 point games the Eagles should be focused for their best effort against a team whose own mistakes should enable the Eagles to extend their margin. EAGLES.
Rams +4 at Dolphins (38): Both teams have shown greater improvement on defense while their respective offenses continue to develop. The situation favors the Dolphins who return home after two road games to face a team off of two home games. But laying more than a FG with the Fish seems to be a bit too risky. UNDER.
Patriots -4 at Seahawks (44): Seattle is in its best role, playing at home and getting points They are also in a favorable scheduling spot, playing their lone home game in a 6 week span, with a pair of road games on deck following the past two weeks on the road. SEAHAWKS.
Bills +4½ at Cardinals (42½): Nobody wants the Bills after they’ve lost their last two games by a combined 66 points. Buffalo steps down in class here as those two losses were to heavyweights New England and San Francisco. The time to buy is when everyone else is selling. BILLS.
Vikings (NL) at Redskins: This game was off the board at the start of the week due to the injury to Washington QB Robert Griffin. The Vikes have won outright both games in which they’ve been underdogs. The Redskins have been favored twice this season and have lost both games outright. VIKINGS.
Giants +6 at 49ers (45): The Giants proved in their win at Carolina that they can overcome scheduling negatives and injuries. But they are facing the best team they’ve met this season. The line is closer to a TD than a FG despite all the positives for the Giants may suggest that the hosts will avenge that NFC Championship game loss, and in a big way. 49ERS.
Packers (NL) at Texans: Assuming there are no significant injuries on Monday night, Houston likely will be favored by slightly under a TD as they host the 2-3 Packers. The Texans are a team on the rise while many suggest the Packers are a team in decline, with a leaky defense for a second straight season. The Texans could be flat after a Monday nighter. The Packers are still a talented team. PACKERS.
Broncos +3 at Chargers (50½): These teams are statistically even in many areas with the major differences being San Diego having the better rushing defense and the Denver offense, directed by QB Peyton Manning, having the much better passing attack. Of concern for the Denver defense is that they’ve had just four takeaways all season. The Chargers are 9-2-1 ATS against Denver since. CHARGERS.
Last Week: 6-7
Andy Iskoe and his Logical Approach is one of the most popular statistical breakdowns in sports betting. Andy is also a longtime baseball and football columnist at GT. Contact Andy at Andy[email protected]