The gap between the very good teams and very bad teams in the 2009 version of the NFL was displayed with an exclamation point this past week. Half of the dozen games played on Sunday saw final margins of 28 points or more.
Double digit point spreads are becoming routine. This coming week already has 3 such games with one or two more favorites possibly reaching minus 10 before kickoff.
Over the past 6 seasons about one game in eight featured a double digit spread. Thus far in 2009 it’s down to under one game in seven.
We are rapidly approaching the midpoint of the season and it is clearly shaping up as one being as devoid of parity as possible, a season marked by a clear distinction of the classes with the haves and have-nots surrounding an ever shrinking class of average football teams.
Here’s a look at the 13 games to be played this week with Cincinnati, Kansas City, New England, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington having Byes.
Denver (+4) at Baltimore (Over/Under 41): Both teams return from Byes. The spot sets up well for Baltimore as they seek to end a three game losing streak while Denver’s momentum may have been slowed with the week off following their 6-0 start. Thus it’s hard to lay points into a team that is functioning as well as Denver has been. The Ravens are still a formidable defensive team that defends the run well. UNDER.
Cleveland (+13½) at Chicago (40½): Chicago returns home after squandering multiple scoring chances in Atlanta and then being blown out last week in Cincinnati. Cleveland continues to struggle on both sides of the football and they rank second to last in offense and dead last in defense. CHICAGO.
Houston (-3) at Buffalo (40): Buffalo returns home after a pair of road wins while Houston has also won two in a row. Houston has finally started to live up to potential on both sides of the football in recent weeks. HOUSTON.
Green Bay (+3) at Minnesota (47½): The much awaited return of Brett Favre to Green Bay is finally here. Favre’s Vikings outplayed Pittsburgh last week but miscues led to defensive touchdowns in their first loss of the season. The Packers are playing with revenge and compare more than favorably with the much more heralded Minnesota defense. GREEN BAY.
San Francisco (+11) at Indianapolis (45): Indy QB Peyton Manning is having one of the best seasons of his career as the Colts roll on, remaining unbeaten and now having won 15 straight regular season games. And the Colts are at home for the first time in a month. INDIANAPOLIS.
Miami (+3½) at N.Y. Jets (40½): This is a good spot for the Jets who are off of a needed win in Oakland and play with revenge for their Monday night loss in Miami a few weeks ago. N.Y. JETS.
St. Louis (+3½) at Detroit (43): This is must-see TV. The Rams have now lost 16 in a row and this should be their best chance to avoid matching the Lion’s full 0-16 regular season mark of last year. There’s an old saying, cleaned up for these pages, that says when bad plays bad take bad plus the points. ST. LOUIS.
Seattle (+9½) at Dallas (45½): Dallas got healthy with a solid win over Atlanta last week following their Bye. Seattle had the week off to regroup after having been blasted at home by Arizona. Both have more capabilities on offense than on defense, suggestive that this is more likely to be a shootout than a game of field position and punts. OVER.
Oakland (+16½) at San Diego (42½): The Raiders returned to their losing ways with a 38-0 home loss to the Jets. San Diego won impressively at Kansas City but their ground game was just average, though better than it had been in previous weeks. The Chargers needed a late rally to win at Oakland on the opening Monday night and should have an easier time here. Oakland figures to have their usual problems scoring so the Total is the better way to look. UNDER.
Jacksonville (+3) at Tennessee (44): Both teams are off Byes. Tennessee returns from theirs following a 59-0 loss at New England. If they have any pride whatsoever they will lay it on the line this week against a very beatable foe. It’s tough to lay points with an 0-6 team but that’s the preferred way to look under these circumstances. TENNESSEE.
Carolina (+8) at Arizona (43): It was against the Cardinals in last season’s Playoffs that Carolina QB Jake Delhomme’s woes began with turnover after turnover led to Arizona’s 33-13 win. Until the Panthers can find a cure for playing Santa Claus every week, they cannot be backed with confidence despite statistics that point to a competitive game. ARIZONA.
N.Y. Giants (+2½) at Philadelphia (45½): Philly took two of three from their Division rivals last season including a home Playoff loss that sent the Eagles to the NFC Title game after the Giants were the team to beat in the NFC all season. That makes for an attractive underdog in a key Divisional matchup. N.Y. GIANTS.
Atlanta (+9) at New Orleans (53½): Both teams have been entertaining to watch and each offense is led by a solid quarterback. The Saints’ Drew Brees is having another All Pro season while Atlanta’s Matt Ryan continues to improve in his second season. These Division rivals played a pair of 54 point games last season and this game should be even higher scoring, especially with the Saints’ league leading offense averaging 427 yards and 40 points per game. OVER.
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Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe