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The midpoint of the NFL’s regular season has passed with all teams having played either 8 or 9 games, depending on the scheduling of their bye week.

Last week’s highlights included a drop in the number of unbeaten teams from four to three, a trio of overtime games, two of which were decided by touchdowns and three more games decided in regulation by a FG or less.

Last Thursday, Cincinnati remained unbeaten with a decisive home win over Division rival Cleveland, breaking open a game that was close at the half in a 31-10 win. On Sunday, New England and Carolina both remained unbeaten but Denver suffered its first loss of the season.

New England had a fairly easy 27-10 home win over Washington while the Panthers held on for a 37-29 win over Green Bay, nearly blowing a 37-14 lead five minutes into the fourth quarter. The loss was Green Bay’s second straight following a 6-0 start, coming a week after losing in Denver. The Packers were short road favorites in both losses.

Denver’s loss was at Indianapolis where they fell behind 17-0 but rallied to tie the score and did the same after falling behind 24-17. But the Colts got the game winning FG to win 27-24, ruining QB Peyton Manning’s second visit to Indy as a member of the Broncos. After a brilliant performance in last week’s win over Green Bay, Manning was not sharp, tossing a pair of interceptions.

Division and Wild Card races come more into focus as the second half of the season unfolds. Unbeaten Carolina, Cincinnati and New England have very comfortable leads in their Divisions and have their goals set on securing the top conference seed or at least a Bye in the opening round of the Playoffs.

Denver at 7-1 leads the AFC West with Indianapolis sits atop the AFC South in what may be the weakest Division in the NFL since Division realignment in 2002.

Aside from unbeaten Carolina leading the NFC South, the 5-4 Giants lead the East, 6-2 Arizona leads the West with Green Bay and Minnesota tied for the NFC North lead at 6-2.

The Wild Card races are shaping up differently in the two conferences. In the AFC only the Jets and Pittsburgh have 5 wins with Buffalo and Oakland the closest pursuers at 4-4. Nine of the 16 AFC teams have losing records including all 4 teams in the AFC South where Indianapolis has the lead at 4-5.

The situation is only slightly better in the NFC as Atlanta and either Green Bay or Minnesota, tied atop the NFC North, have 6 wins. No other NFC team has a winning record with Philadelphia, St Louis and Seattle each at 4-4. 7 NFC teams have losing records.

It could well take just 9 wins to earn the top Wild Card in the AFC with perhaps even 8-8 good enough to earn the second. In the NFC it appears as though it will take at least 10-6 to earn a Wild Card although two of the three 6 win teams – Green Bay and Minnesota – still have to face each other twice.

Since 2002’s realignment it’s been rare for both Wild Cards in a conference to have fewer than 10 wins, happening just 3 times in 26 possibilities.

In 2009 both AFC Wild Card teams had 9-7 records and in 2006 the two NFC Wild Cards were 9-7 and 8-8. In 2004 both NFC Wild Cards were 8-8.

The second half of the season should be just as exciting as the first 9 weeks have been with more surprises in store.

Perhaps the biggest story unfolding won’t begin to be answered until Week 17. Right now, Cincinnati has the look of a team that can win the Super Bowl in what would be its fifth straight trip to the Playoffs. But with its one and done record in each of the past four Playoffs there may not be Bengals believers until they get that first Playoff win, be it in a Wild Card game or a Divisional round game. The current odds of 10-1 or so would have looked very attractive in retrospect.

Here’s a preview of the 14 games marking the Week 10 schedule with Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego and San Francisco having Byes. Arizona, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City and Seattle return from their Byes.

Pro Football – Thursday

Buffalo Bills (+3) at NY Jets (O/U 43): The Jets have a banged up center and a running game that has gained less than 90 yards in 3 straight games after gaining at least 100 yards in 4 of the first 5. Former coach Rex Ryan returns with a solid knowledge of most of his former team’s strengths and weaknesses. BUFFALO.

Pro Football – Sunday

Detroit Lions +11.5 at Green Bay Packers (47.5): Green Bay has most of the edges in this game including being the second best team in the league in avoiding turnovers while facing the team ranking worst, turning the football over 2.5 times per game. GREEN BAY.

Dallas Cowboys +1.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (43): Both teams have above average running games that can eat clock and keep their defenses fresh. Tampa Bay has struggled against the Dallas defense in their last four meetings, averaging 13 points per game in their last 5 meetings. DALLAS.

Carolina Panthers -4.5 at Tennessee Titans (42.5): Had the Titans not won last week this would be a great spot to back them. But the Panthers continue to play fundamentally sound on both sides of the football. CAROLINA.

Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams (No Line): The Rams have one of the NFL’s best defenses and a strong running game with Todd Gurley having a great rookie season. Rather than back the Rams by laying the hefty price, support for them can be shown by playing the total. UNDER.

New Orleans Saints -1 at Washington Redskins (50.5): The Saints do have a big edge with QB Drew Brees but gets little support from the defense. The Saints have allowed 49 and 34 points in their last two games, both of which were at home, which makes it hazardous to lay any points on the road. WASHINGTON.

Miami Dolphins +6.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (46.5): The Eagles returned from their Bye with an OT win at Dallas in which they allowed Dallas to match them score for score four times in the second half to force the overtime. Often the best time to back a team is when they are at their lowest in public support. This is such a spot. MIAMI.

Cleveland Browns +4.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers (41): Under coach Mike Tomlin the Steelers are 8-0 SU vs the Browns with 6 double digit wins in which the Browns scored 14 points or less. Even with Big Ben sidelined the Steelers strong running game (133 ypg) controls the flow. PITTSBURGH.

Jacksonville Jaguars +6.5 at Baltimore Ravens (48): Both teams have had to rely on the passing game for the bulk of their offense as each averages less than 100 rushing yards per game. OVER.

Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders (No Line): This spot could be tough for Minnesota as they host Green Bay next week. Oakland has topped 30 points in three straight games which normally produces a ‘go against’ situation but the status of Teddy Bridgewater and next week’s foe adds support for the hosts. OAKLAND.

Kansas City Chiefs +7 at Denver Broncos (43): KC having the extra time to prepare for a familiar foe off a disappointing loss against whom it played well in their first meeting provides plenty of value with a generous spread that is appropriately priced. KANSAS CITY.

New England Patriots -7 at NY Giants (54.5): The Patriots have the edge on offense but an ever bigger one on defense, allowing a full yard per play less than the Giants. We’ve seen the Patriots’ approach this season and it’s resulted in an 8-0 start with every win by at least 7 points and 4 by at least 17 points. NEW ENGLAND.

Arizona Cardinals +3 at Seattle Seahawks (45): This game is more critical to Seattle who must still play at Arizona in Week 17. Their strong home field (28-3 SU since 2012) and a defense off of two dominating performances suggest laying a FG is not too steep a price to lay, even against a formidable Division foe. SEATTLE.

Pro Football – Monday

Houston Texans +11 at Cincinnati Bengals (47): At some point the line catches up with Cincy which, prior to the Cleveland game, had not been more than a 3.5 point favorite in their first 7 games. HOUSTON.

NFL Last Week: 6-6-0

NFL Season: 60-67-4

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [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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