J-E-T-S, Jet$, Jet$!

Oct 19, 2004 7:48 AM


Six weeks down in the NFL season and three teams remain unbeaten. That number figures to drop by one this week.

Barring an overtime tie, either New England’s 20-game winning streak or the New York Jets perfect 5-0 start will end as the AFC East co-leaders square off in Foxboro. Philadelphia has a chance to improve to 6-0 as well, visiting Cleveland.

Last week’s battle of winless teams left Miami as the only team yet to earn a victory this season. The Dolphins are on pace to their worst season in franchise history and, while they have many legitimate reasons to explain their difficulties, weak management and coaching is to blame.

Strong starts by Denver, Indianapolis, Minnesota and Philadelphia are not surprises, but the 5-1 starts by Atlanta and Pittsburgh and the New York Giants 4-1 start are surprising to many. Much football still has to be played, but teams that have been able to play more than a month without losing more than one game put themselves in solid positions to make the playoffs.

Home favorites continue to struggle against the point spread. After going just 4-6, home favorites are now 23-34-1 ATS (40 percent). Home underdogs also continue to show losses at the betting windows and are now 10-17-1 ATS (37 percent) after a 1-2 weekend. The history of the NFL suggests these patterns should reverse in coming weeks.

The "unders" continue to outpace "overs" in the early part of the season. Through Sunday, the results show "unders" leading 49-36 with two pushes. There has yet to be a weekend with more "overs" than "unders." This seems to go against the preseason notion that enforcement of the chuck rules would increase scoring.

Through the first 87 games of the 2004 season, the average number of total points has been 40.1, with the usual line for "over/under" at 41.1. The wagering public has been pretty sharp in identifying the "under" trend. Of the 68 games in which the closing total was different from the opener at the Stardust, 42 of the moves have been to "under" and 26 to "over."

Houston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington have Byes this week. Here’s a look at the 14 games that will be played.

Sunday, Oct. 24

Bills (+6) at Ravens (31): Baltimore is rested following its bye, which was preceded by a win in Washington in which the offense did not score a TD. Both teams are clearly stronger on defense. Both rely much more on the run. UNDER.

Lions (+6½) at Giants (41): Both teams are off to winning starts although Detroit was given a dose of reality last week in its 38-10 loss to Green Bay. The Lions offense managed just five first downs and 125 yards. The Giants are rested and have won four in a row, allowing 41 total points. The Lions have excelled at protecting the football and have lost just four turnovers all season. UNDER.

Eagles (-7½) at Browns (41½): The Eagles showed no signs of rust in easily handling Carolina following a bye. Cleveland is showing improvement on offense as QB Jeff Garcia gets more comfortable. All five of Philly’s wins have been by double digits and the Eagles have shown a great ability under coach Andy Reid to win and cover on the road. EAGLES.

Jaguars (NL) at Colts: Indianapolis has won and covered four straight games since its opening game loss at New England. Included in this run is a 24-17 win at Jacksonville. Jags QB Byron Leftwich was banged up in last week’s win over Kansas City but it is the defense that has keyed the early season success. The Colts are rested following a bye. COLTS.

Titans (NL) at Vikings: Tennessee was shocked at home last week by defensively aggressive Houston and its season is on the verge of falling apart. The Titans are 2-4, but three losses have been at home. Minnesota was without WR Randy Moss in the second half at New Orleans, but still moved up and down the field. Tennessee will not be facing as tough a defense and QB McNair should put up points. OVER.

Chargers (+3) at Panthers (42): Carolina has faced four playoff teams from last season and lost to improved Atlanta. San Diego is better as well, but this is a tough spot. Chargers making a second straight cross country trip, which will have shortened preparation time.Despite the injuries, the Panthers will benefit from drop in class. PANTHERS.

Rams (NL) at Dolphins: The Rams should be solid favorites. Tough to make a case for the Dolphins, who have shown no improvement on offense. The defense continues to play well and will keep Miami competitive. UNDER.

Bears (NL) at Bucs: Prior to Monday, the Bucs have not scored more than 20 points in a game and allowed more than 17 points once. Chicago has competed with defense. Only one of the five games has featured more than 36 total points. UNDER.

Falcons (+3½) at Chiefs (44½): Atlanta already has a three game lead in the NFC South. Chiefs are in the cellar of the AFC West. Not quite yet panic time in KC, but the 1-4 start includes an 0-2 home record. This game is crucial for the Chiefs with Indianapolis visiting next week. KC still has playoff caliber talent. CHIEFS.

Jets (+7) at Patriots (43½): It becomes increasingly difficult to go against the Patriots, who are 16-3-1 ATS during the winning streak and 18-3-2 going back to the second week of last season. The Pats defeated the Jets by just five and seven points last season and New York is better. The NY offense does not turn the ball over, having lost just four, and boasts a solid running game. JETS.

Cowboys (+4) at Packers (43½): Green Bay played loose last week and the result was a dominating win in Detroit that at least reverses the negative momentum that resulted from four straight losses. Dallas has played poorly in losing two straight home games as favorites. Both teams have strong passing attacks and defenses that have performed below expectations. OVER.

Seahawks (-7) at Cards (41): The Seahawks have to be credited with their comeback effort last week in New England that fell short. Arizona has been competitive in all four losses, but blew the game to the 49ers the week before its bye. Seattle is the better team and will be playing with an attitude after two straight losses. SEAHAWKS.

Saints (+3) at Raiders (44½): Oakland has allowed 30 points in each of the last three games. New Orleans has struggled defensively. Both teams have had a hard time stopping the run. Often that leads to success throwing the ball, which portends a shootout. OVER.

Monday, Oct. 25

Broncos (-5½) at Bengals (43½): Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer has not made the kind of progress expected of him when he was named the starter in the offseason ahead of Jon Kitna. This is only the third home game for the Bengals and their first Monday night game in more than a decade. The intangibles work both in favor of Cincinnati and against Denver. BENGALS.

Last week: 7-6

Season: 46-40-1