NFL parity is alive and well!
The Broncos and Seahawks have been dominant in their respective conferences, but even they’ve been tripped up. Actually, Indianapolis inflicted the first loss on both juggernauts.
The Colts topped Seattle, 34-28 in October, with an impressive 11-0 fourth quarter comeback despite getting outgained 423-317. QB Russell Wilson passed for 210 yards and ran for 102.
Then the Colts had another October showdown with unbeaten Denver and a 39-33 win with 121 yards rushing plus forcing three turnovers. That was the game Indy lost Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne. In those two games the Indy defense held the Seahawks and Broncos to a combined 7-28 on third down.
Every team has flaws that can be exploited. The Patriots are well ahead in the AFC East again, but can’t stop the run after losing NT Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and top LB Jerard Mayo, all done for the year with injuries. The Pats are on a 46-22 run OVER the total.
The Bengals look so good all around, but often have conservative play-calling and sloppy mistakes. Cincinnati lost back-to-back OT games at Miami and Baltimore and are 35-17-1 UNDER the total in December.
Even the juggernaut slayer Indianapolis, a team that also won at San Francisco, got steamrolled by the Rams (38-8) at home and at Arizona (40-11) and have been forced to bench newcomer Trent Richardson, a bust they gave away a first round pick for.
New Orleans has the flashy, high powered offense behind QB Drew Brees and a revamped defense for first-year DC Rob Ryan, but they still seem built to play indoors at home. The Saints are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 home games. They lost at the Jets (26-20) and just got smoked at Seattle (34-7).
Remember that for the playoffs come January, knowing the Super Bowl is outdoors in the New York area cold in February.
The season is also littered with flops. The Vikings, Redskins, Falcons and Texans were expected to be better. Each was out of it at the halfway point of the season. The Rams had high hopes but have disappointed, and even the Browns had a decent start with a terrific defense before crumbling with QB injuries.
Oddsmakers make adjustments on teams all during the season, such as four years ago when the Saints and Colts began red hot. After starting 6-0 SU/ATS, the Saints went 2-8 ATS to end the regular season, often as a double digit favorite. That’s what can happen to public teams, either popular or ones with a flashy offense like the 2009 Saints and 2007 Patriots.
This season oddsmakers had to adjust Denver on totals, a high flying group that started 8-0 OVER. After opening the season with totals set at 48 in two of their first three games, the last month Denver has ranged from 50 to 57 and has finally started to go UNDER.
Normally we are at the time where some teams have mentally and physically packed in the season, especially ones poorly coached.
Houston lost 10 in a row after that 2-0 start and then fired HC Gary Kubiak. The Redskins went from a division title last year to last place. They are a dejected group that has been a money-burner (3-9 ATS run). And do you think it’s fun to play for the Falcons, whose over/under projected win total in August was 10!
Teams that need to be watched closely as on the bubble for packing it in might be the Giants, Jets, Browns, Bills, Titans and Raiders. Pro players have pride and know the score. Taking out their frustrations on a powerhouse team is not uncommon.
The good teams aren’t that much better from year to year than bad ones. Parity and the salary cap have leveled the playing field and schedules are longer, all of which makes it that much harder to dominate.
The 1962 Packers enjoyed a 10-0 start on the way to a 13-1 season, ending in a 16-7 win in the championship game over the Giants as one of Vince Lombardi’s best teams. Green Bay came close to running the table, except for a surprising Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, 26-14.
Even NFL Davids can be gunning for Goliath this time of the season – if they haven’t already packed it in.
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]