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Parity? Not to Pats

Oct 12, 2004 8:08 AM

After nearly one month of the NFL season, clearly New England, Philadelphia and Indianapolis appear to be the class.

Quite a number of other teams are off to surprisingly strong starts and we continue to see NFL parity not marked so much as "on any given Sunday" but rather "an any given season." Any team can rise from obscurity and challenge for the playoffs, or go in reverse.

Amongst the teams off to surprisingly strong starts are both New York entries (Jets and Giants), Atlanta, Detroit, Denver and Pittsburgh. The Jets remain one of just three unbeaten teams and are favored to remain that way heading into next week’s "showdown" against New England. The Pats are also favored to remain unbeaten although they face a tougher test this week against Seattle. The Jets host San Francisco.

Philadelphia is the other unbeaten team. The AFC East is also home to the only two winless teams (Buffalo and Miami). Barring an overtime tie, either the Bills or the Dolphins will notch their first victory when they meet this weekend in Buffalo.

Miami is burdened with more QB problems as both Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley were injured in Sunday’s loss at New England. Not to mention an injury to placekicker Olindo Mare. Given the poor performance of the Miami offense one could sarcastically question if those QB injuries are such a bad thing.

After four weeks in which "unders" cashed to the tune of 60 percent, there was more balance in Week 5. With the Miami/New England and Carolina/Denver game pushing the total in most sports books, there were five "overs" and six "unders" in Sunday’s other games. Scoring remains down slightly from recent seasons with teams combining to produce 39.5 points per game.

Road underdogs continue to be money making propositions with an ATS record of 27-19-2 through last Sunday. Road favorites also continued their strong early season results, covering two of three on Sunday and raising their ATS record to 15-9-1.

History suggests that the so-called home field advantage will return as the season progresses, with the end results close to 50-50. There’s no law that says this has to happen, but history is a strong force to contradict and we can look for better performances from home teams (both favorites and dogs) in coming weeks.

Here’s a preview of Week 6 games with Arizona. Baltimore, Indianapolis and the New York football Giants having byes.

Saturday, Oct. 17

Dolphins (NL) at Bills: Both teams are winless and barring an overtime tie one of these teams will finally taste victory. Buffalo has been the steadier team with three of their four losses by three points or less. New England was the first team this year to tally more than 17 on Miami. Each offense has struggled. UNDER.

49ers (+10) at Jets (42): The 49ers needed an amazing comeback last week to force OT against Arizona, hitting a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and a couple of two-point conversions. This is a rough scheduling spot for the Jets after having played a pair of divisional games and three more such games over the next three weeks. 49ERS.

Seahawks (+4) at Pats (42): The Patriots have now won 19 straight games and show no signs of letting up. Even though they were shorthanded at receiver last week they used a solid running game and strong defense to defeat Miami. Seattle’s early soft schedule may have masked some defensive problems when the Seahawks blew a 27-10 fourth quarter lead last week to the Rams. The Pats now 15-3-1 ATS during their win streak. PATRIOTS.

Panthers (+7½) at Eagles (41): Carolina was dominated in the stats in their loss at Denver but managed to hang in and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia is unbeaten and rested following the bye. The Eagles defense has played better than expected given the turnover in personnel. Carolina is still a solid defensive team that bends without breaking. PANTHERS.

Bengals (+2½) at Browns (39½): The teams are a combined 2-7 ATS, which evidences their underachievement. Neither has scored more than 24 points in a game and only once has each side topped 20. Part of the reason is that both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks. Both have 11-point losses to Pittsburgh, but Cleveland’s edge may come a better effort against Baltimore and playing on their home field. BROWNS.

Packers (NL) at Lions: After 24 straight road losses, the Lions have won both road games this season. Green Bay is off a Monday nighter against Tennessee. Detroit’s offense continues to struggle. Green Bay has the better ground game but the problems on artificial turf are well chronicled. The Lions have been efficient in preventing points. UNDER.

Redskins (-1½) at Bears (35): It’s been a tough return to the NFL for Joe Gibbs. The Washington defense has played better than expected and no foe has scored more than 21 points in five games. But the offense has been anemic, averaging just 14 per game. Chicago is rested and has generally played well under new coach Lovie Smith. The teams have combined to go "under" in seven of their nine games. UNDER.

Texans (NL) at Titans: Houston continues to play better on offense than on defense. The late rally last week against Minnesota forced overtime and resulted in the fourth "over" of the season. Tennessee’s offense had yet to score more than 17 points heading to the Monday game with Green Bay. The Titans enter a favorable phase of their schedule. TITANS.

Chargers (+6) at Falcons (42): Atlanta has been very impressive on defense and even in defeat last week held Detroit to just 227 total yards. San Diego’s improvement has been most noticeable on offense. The Chargers have scored at least 27 points in four of their five games and now play their first game on phony turf this season. Atlanta’s defense should dictate the flow of this game. UNDER .

Chiefs (-1½) at Jags (42½): Kansas City is rested and should be healthier for this game than any during the season. Jacksonville played its first poor game during last week’s loss at San Diego. The offense put up strong stats but most of those came while trailing by double digits for much of the game. CHIEFS.

Steelers (+3) at Cowboys (39): Pittsburgh’s 4-1 start is an indication that the Steelers are on the road back to the playoffs. Dallas has struggled early on and perhaps suggests that last season’s postseason appearance was due more to coach Bill Parcells’ intangibles than to talent. Dallas has yet to score more than 21 points in any game. UNDER.

Broncos (-1½) at Raiders (43½): After being swept by Oakland in 2002, Denver’s recent domination of the Raiders resumed last season with a Broncos sweep. Denver has now won 14 of the last 18 meetings as coach Mike Shanahan relishes his chances to stick it to his former employer. Oakland QB Kerry Collins has struggled in his two starts tossing three picks apiece in losses to defensively suspect Houston and Indianapolis. OVER.

Vikings (-3½) at Saints (50):Minnesota finally got a road win after six straight losses but made it interesting by blowing a 21 point second half lead in Houston. Both defenses will be tested by the passing games of each offense. Look for an expected shootout. OVER .

Monday, Oct. 18

Bucs (+7) at Rams (42½): St. Louis staged an improbable comeback in last week’s win at Seattle, overcoming a 17-point deficit in the final six minutes before winning in OT. That might be the kick start the Rams need to finally play up to their awesome offensive potential. Tampa Bay continues to struggle running the ball and the QB situation remains somewhat unsettled with backup Brian Griese perhaps winning the starting job. RAMS.

Last week: 7-6

Season: 38-34-1