Stranger things keep happening in NFL

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To say this has been a most unusual season would be an understatement with both the number of teams that have greatly exceeded expectations and those dramatically falling short.

When the coming action is complete all teams will have played 10 of their 16 regular season games as the final four to have Bye weeks have them this week.

One measure of how unusual can be found by looking at the number of teams that have already topped their Season Wins Total or are assured of falling short or are within one game of meeting those fates.

Nearly one quarter of the league – seven teams – have already locked up their fates or are within one win or loss of doing so using the SWTs from the Westgate here in Las Vegas.

The New York Jets, at 4-6, have already exceeded their SWT of 3.5 as have the 7-2 LA Rams (SWT of 6).

At 1-8 the New York Giants can at best go 8-8 and thus will fall short of their SWT of 9, having already earned at least a push for UNDER bettors.

At 8-1 Philadelphia has the best record in the NFL and returns from its Bye this week to play at Dallas on Sunday night. Their SWT closed at 8.5 after opening at 8, insuring a win for all OVER backers with one more victory.

Indianapolis was expected to miss QB Andrew Luck for perhaps a week or two at the start of the season but Luck has been shut down for the entire season after not taking a snap. The Colts’ SWT was 8 and at 3-7 is one loss away from earning at least a push for UNDER backers.

The Colts’ AFC rival, Jacksonville, was pegged at 6.5 and at 6-3 are one win away from earning a win for OVER backers, an accomplishment they are expected to achieve this week as the Jags are 7-point favorites at winless Cleveland.

New Orleans’s SWT was 8 and at 7-2 the Saints can guarantee OVER bettors at least a PUSH with a home win this week over Washington.

To put this into some sort of perspective, although the short NFL schedule makes the comparison unrealistic, with six games remaining to be played those seven teams will have had or might have their Season Win Total results determined with more than a third of the season remaining to be played. That would be akin to a baseball team’s result being determined at the end of July or an NBA team having its result determined around the start of March.

As just noted, Byes come to an end this week and the final four teams to enjoy their off weeks are Carolina, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and San Francisco.

Here are previews of the 14 games to be played in Week 11.

Thursday

Tennessee +7 at Pittsburgh (44): Tennessee struggled against a quality team they faced on the road, losing 57-14 at a healthy Houston in Week 4. The short week works in favor of the Steelers who are showing signs of putting things together on offense and have a defense that has held 7 of 9 opponents to 18 points or less. PITTSBURGH

Sunday

Detroit -3 at Chicago (42): Chicago has already pulled a pair of home upsets, defeating Pittsburgh and Carolina and had a chance to beat Atlanta in Week 1. The Lions could be looking ahead to the Vikings which could translate into a sloppy effort. The Bears have been able to run the football and play decent defense so the Total may offer the best value. UNDER

Kansas City -11 at NY Giants (43.5): The natural inclination is to back the Chiefs who are battling for the top seed in the AFC. But there clearly has been too much compensation in this line for the Giants’ recent play. Still, Kansas City will be satisfied with a win by any margin and the Giants do have the talent, if not the coaching or desire, to put forth a competitive effort as they did in their games prior to the last two weeks. NY GIANTS

Tampa Bay NL at Miami: Both teams have struggled to run the football. Tampa has also failed to top 200 passing yards in 3 straight games. Both defenses have been below average which would normally suggest a high scoring game but for the deficiencies in both running games. The coaching edge remains with Miami’s Adam Gase and in what is one of the least attractive games this week the preference would be to lay the short number with the hosts who have the more talented roster. MIAMI

Baltimore -2.5 at Green Bay (38.5): Baltimore remains a solid defensive team, especially against the pass, that should be well prepared to face the still inexperienced backup. The Ravens have shown a decent ability to run the football but they’ve lost 5 of 7 games since starting 2-0. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh rates the coaching edge over the Packers’ Mike McCarthy which is often magnified by the additional time to prepare. BALTIMORE

LA Rams +2.5 at Minnesota (46): It’s easy to make a case for either team in what could be a Playoffs preview. Perhaps the scheduling dynamics can give greater support to the hosts. This is Minnesota’s first home game since Week 7 and with their next 3 on the road their next home game will be in Week 15. The Rams have the better offense, the Vikes the better defense and when those two collide the defense generally prevails. MINNESOTA

Arizona -1.5 at Houston: Houston’s injuries, impacting both sides of the football, have shown to be too much to overcome. As such, the wagering approach is to back the “lesser of the two evils” and back the underdog with the fresh QB for which Houston may have difficulty preparing due to a lack of recent regular season activity. ARIZONA

Jacksonville -7.5 at Cleveland (38): Jacksonville is clearly the better team but their relative inexperience with success makes it tough to lay significant points on the road. With both teams being able to run the football the game is often shortened with fewer possessions, making the prospects for a low scoring game better than expecting the Jags to cover or in backing a winless team that has covered only two spreads. UNDER

Washington +7.5 at New Orleans (51): According to several measures these teams have played the two toughest schedules to date. Which makes looking at the underdog getting more than a TD an attractive option. The Redskins are better than their 4-5 record would suggest and in addition to their win at Seattle those also won at the Rams and competitive (though non-covering) losses at Kansas City and Philadelphia. WASHINGTON

Buffalo +4 at LA Chargers (43.5): The preference is to back the Chargers but they tend to be involved in close games that go to the wire, more often than not resulting in losses. Yet 2 of their 3 wins have been by more than 4 points, including a 21-0 shutout of Denver on this field in their last home game. In fact, this will be only the Chargers’ second home game since Week 4 and they next play in Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Bills are 1-3 on the road. LA CHARGERS

Cincinnati +2.5 at Denver (40): Cincinnati has not performed much better at 4-5 ATS. Their supposedly strong running game has been held under 100 yards in 8 of 9 games. It would be nice to take the Bengals at more than a FG but that number may not be reached. The recent play of both teams suggest more of a defensive struggle than an offensive explosion, barring defensive scores. UNDER

New England -5.5 vs. Oakland (50.5) at Mexico City: Oakland has committed more turnovers than the opponent in 6 of 9 games. Both teams have played 2 games in which the turnovers were even. The Pats are 4-0 away from home (3-0-1 ATS) and continue to make the key plays on both sides of the football, something that cannot be said for the Raiders. NEW ENGLAND

Philadelphia -3.5 at Dallas (48): While QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense has gotten most of the accolades their defense has been excellent. The Cowboys will be prepared to exploit some of the vulnerabilities of the aggressive Philly defense. At 5-4 Dallas does not even control a Wild Card and as such might take a very aggressive approach to this game which makes for an attractive take with a quality home underdog. DALLAS

Atlanta +3 at Seattle (45): Despite Seattle’s strong home field the 2 of Seattle’s 3 home wins have been by a FG and the third was their blowout of lowly Indianapolis in which they trailed at the half. And they lost their last home game to Washington. Last week’s win over Dallas may have been the ‘buy’ signal for the Falcons who face the them they knocked out of the Playoffs last season and are seeking revenge. ATLANTA

Last week: 3-10

Season: 70-72-3

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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