The 2010 season continues to unfold with as many new questions arising as there are old questions being answered after three weeks of play. Last week saw several teams in desperate need of a win coming through with a pair of those teams avoiding being winless heading into their Byes which begin this week.
Although only three games have been played, the NFL, in its infinite wisdom, has seen fit to again begin the process of giving teams a week off not yet a quarter of the way into the season. Hence Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa Bay will be on the figurative sidelines this week as the other 28 teams complete the first quarter of their regular seasons.
Dallas and Minnesota each got much needed wins heading into recess and each are now 1-2. Kansas City has to be concerned about losing momentum after their surprising 3-0 start. Tampa Bay heads into their Bye after returning to reality following a one sided loss to Pittsburgh that followed their 2-0 start.
Heading into Monday night’s Green Bay at Chicago contest this past week saw three home underdogs win outright. Kansas City was a home puppy against winless San Francisco and won in convincing style 31-10. St. Louis got their first win of the season against Washington. And San Diego’s September woes under coach Norv Turner continues as the Chargers were upset in Seattle.
Four other road favorites took care of business with Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each getting the "W." Whether it is reflective of parity or perhaps just because it’s early in the season, this past week saw half of the 16 games featuring road favorites with all but the Eagles and Steelers favored by a FG or more.
Through the season’s first 47 games, the pointspread has come into play just 7 times (15 percent) with one game ending in a PUSH. That’s within a game of where the historical percentages suggest a favorite will win the game but lose to the pointspread.
Home underdogs are 12-8 ATS with 10 of the 12 covers also being straight up wins. When looking to back home underdogs, especially in a competitive price range (+4 and less) be sure to keep in mind the option of also playing that home underdog on the money line.
Totals results are almost even with 22 OVERs, 24 UNDERs and 1 PUSH prior to Monday night’s game.
Here’s a look at the 14 games to be played this week. The pointspreads and totals cited are representative of a handful of books that had posted week 4 lines as of Monday morning.
Denver (+6½) at Tennessee (Over/Under 42): Despite being outgained by 200 yards, Tennessee was never really threatened by the Giants once they grabbed the lead in the third quarter of their 29-10 win. Tennessee plays sound, fundamental football with a strong running game. Denver QB Kyle Orten passed for 476 yards in last week’s loss to Indianapolis. Denver’s defense appears to be weaker than last season following the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan who had a huge impact in his lone season before parting company with current management. Both teams have shown the ability to score and this Total is reasonable. OVER the Total.
Baltimore (+1½) at Pittsburgh (34½): Pittsburgh has been very impressive in winning their first 3 games without QB Ben Roethlisberger relying on a steady low risk offense and an outstanding defense. Baltimore’s offense has not been impressive thus far but the defense continues to remain the strength, even though Cleveland had a huge day running the ball last week. Fundamentally this handicaps as a defensive battle but 6 of their last 7 meetings have produced at least 37 points. Looking at Pittsburgh’s defense being healthier than last season and Baltimore’s defense missing some key personnel, the expectation is that the Ravens’ strength is more vulnerable than Pittsburgh’s. PITTSBURGH.
Cincinnati (-3½) at Cleveland (38): Cincinnati recovered from their poor opening week effort in a loss at New England to defeat both Baltimore and Carolina the past two weeks. Cleveland is 0-3 but has been competitive in all three losses, even leading in the fourth quarter of each. The Browns played well at the end of last season and that has carried over even though the results have not yet shown up in the win column. That could change here as the Browns are a more disciplined team and seem to have developed a strong running game to ease the burden on backup QB Seneca Wallace who has started the past two games in place of the injured Jake Delhomme. Despite the criticism, Cleveland coach Eric Mangini did have 2 of 3 winning seasons with the Jets so he seems to be able to get his players to buy in to his philosophies. CLEVELAND.
Detroit (+14) at Green Bay (47): Green Bay is off of Monday night’s game in Chicago. Detroit remains winless but has been competitive in all 3 losses, not conceding defeat even when trailing by a margin. Unfortunately Green Bay has dominated the series of late, winning 9 straight and 17 of 20. They’ve covered 8 of the last 10 and have won 4 of the last 5 by more than 21 points. That’s a huge gap to close in one off season, especially since the Packers appear to be even stronger this season. But laying double digits is dangerous so perhaps the better alternative is to expect Detroit to continue to play hard in the fourth quarter when they could score even though trailing big. OVER the Total.
Carolina (+13½) at New Orleans (45): Judging from their first three games, Carolina is in for a long season and the prediction in this column that Carolina would be a playoff team will rank among the worst penned in over a decade. The offense is anemic and turnover prone even though there are two solid running backs. The defense is average and will be called upon to keep the Panthers in games until they get better QB play. The Saints’ aggressive defense should not help matters and more turnovers are likely. But asking a team to win by two touchdowns is asking a lot in the NFL. The Saints have slowed their pace of play this season and Carolina’s best chance to stay competitive will also be to slow down the pace and give the Saints a heavy dose of running. UNDER the Total.
San Francisco (+7) at Atlanta (42): The preseason hype surrounding San Francisco is a distant memory as the 49ers have started 0-3, failing last week to win despite being favored on the road at Kansas City. The offense has been a weakness and early Monday morning the Niners made a change at offensive coordinator. Atlanta is off of a very satisfying overtime win at nemesis New Orleans and is ripe for a letdown against a team they may take lightly. This game presents the classic case of a team nobody wants playing against a team now back in fashion. The Niners are a better team than they’ve shown thus far and will be eager to atone for the 45-10 whipping imposed on them at home by the Falcons last season, their worst home loss in more than two decades. SAN FRANCISCO.
Seattle (-1½) at St. Louis (38½): Both teams have to be pleased with their starts. Seattle is 2-1 but it’s been special teams and key defensive plays that have caused the good start. The offense is averaging just 284 yards per game. The Rams played well in losses to Arizona and Oakland before putting it all together in a solid 30-16 win over Washington this past Sunday. Rookie QB Sam Bradford is looking comfortable and playing with poise although the offensive line remains a concern as is the injury to RB Stephen Jackson who is listed as questionable at press time. Both coaches come from defensive backgrounds and with the Seahawks and Rams still having holes to fill on offense, a low scoring game seems in the offing barring multiple breakdowns on special teams. UNDER the Total.
New York Jets (-4½) at Buffalo (37): The Jets have rebounded from their opening loss to Baltimore with a pair of solid wins over division rivals Miami and New England. Buffalo’s offense came to life last week in a 38-30 loss at the Patriots after making a change at QB to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Both meetings last season were low scoring and 4 of the last 6 have produced 32 or fewer total points. UNDER the Total.
Indianapolis (-8½) at Jacksonville (46½): The Colts have won two in a row after dropping their opener at Houston. Jacksonville has done the reverse, losing badly at San Diego and to Philadelphia after an opening win over Denver. The Jags will be the unpopular side in this game but they’ve given their division rival Colts fits in recent seasons. Although they’ve lost 4 of the last 5 meetings, the 4 losses have been by 4, 2, 7 and 3 points. Colts QB Peyton Manning has a knack for making key plays late but the familiarity the Jags have with this foe keeps this competitive even though the Colts probably get the win late. JACKSONVILLE.
Houston (-3½) at Oakland (44): This game will test Houston’s ability to rebound following their loss to Dallas which came after a pair of season opening wins. Oakland is capable of staying close but in the fourth quarter, as they showed against the Redskins, the Texans finally are playing with confidence. HOUSTON.
Arizona (+9) at San Diego (46): Arizona was fortunate to defeat Oakland last week with an offense that has been struggling all season. The retirement of QB Kurt Warner has had an even bigger negative impact than expected. This game presents a similar scenario with Arizona possessing many of the same limitations as did the Jags. Don’t be surprised by another one sided win by the Chargers in this matchup of the defending champions of the NFL’s two weakest divisions meet. The main difference is that the host still has an offense run by an elite QB. SAN DIEGO.
Washington (+6½) at Philadelphia (43): The eagerly awaited return of Washington QB Donovan McNabb to the scene of his many accomplishments is perhaps secondary to the story of how his supposed replacement, Kevin Kolb, has been benched in favor of Michael Vick. WASHINGTON.
Chicago (+3) at New York Giants (43½): Chicago is off of Monday night’s home game against Green Bay. But the situation sets up favorably for the Giants as they have a tough road game at Houston on deck and a loss here could mean a 1-4 start to their season. N.Y. GIANTS.
New England (Pick ‘em) at Miami (45): Through 3 weeks it is clearly looking as though the Patriots will be involved in many high scoring games this season with a high powered offense and a porous defense. The last 4 meetings, and 5 of the last 6, have produced at least 43 total points. And this is the weakest New England defense of the period and Miami’s strongest offense. OVER the Total.