There are three strong prevailing trends this season in the
NFC Underdogs – any underdog in any game – have gone 34-7-2
this season, even after suffering their first losing week of the season (2-3-1
ATS in Week 7).
Teams heading into the bye week are 1-13 ATS, discounting the
games where one pre-bye team faced off against another (0-2 ATS in Week 7).
And teams coming out of the bye are on a 7-2 ATS streak
heading into the Bears-Lions showdown on Monday Night (2-1 so far in Week
All three trends pass the ‘does it make any sense’ test. The
NFC underdogs trend has a relatively simple explanation. All the worst teams in the NFL are in the AFC
this year. Carolina, St Louis and Tampa
Bay – the three lowest rated NFC teams in my power ratings – all rank above the
likes of Jacksonville, KC, Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Tennessee and
Oakland. No surprise, then, that the NFC
has dominated interconference play thusfar.
And without any weaklings to beat up on, we’ve seen NFC favorites
struggle to build margins against their in-conference competitors.
The pre-bye trend of failure is an interesting one to
consider. There’s no short or long term
database history to support it, which means that many bettors are going to
conclude that it’s just ‘static’; a quick blip on the betting radar
screen. I’m not convinced that’s the
The NFL signed a new labor agreement with the players last
year. That labor agreement ensured that
every team gets four full days off during their bye, a stipulation that was NOT
in previous agreements. The prospect of
a four day vacation in the midst of a brutal six month stretch with no other
time off appears to be quite a distraction….at least so far.
Of course, the flip side of that is that after their four
day break, we’re seeing a renewed focus from the post-bye squads. And with so
many of those teams playing so poorly before the bye, it’s no surprise that we’re
seeing significantly better efforts in their first game back.
Do the trends hold any water? This week, I focused on five teams coming
into or going out of the bye week. Here are
This defense has spent most of the last month getting gashed
-- who can forget the 90 points they allowed in a six quarter span against the
Pats and 49ers! This game was no better;
the fourth straight week they’ve allowed 180+ on the ground. The Titans had two touchdowns on the board
before they faced their first third down try. No penetration from the front four. No contain from the linebackers. Poor coverage in the secondary. This defense needs some major schematic adjustments
during their bye week!
This offense is going to move the football against the
lesser defenses that they face -- good balance, strong running between the
tackles, and when Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't under pressure, he's a pretty good
decision maker in the pocket. Lots of
2nd and short situations thanks to Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller’s powerful
rushing, even behind a banged up offensive line. But every week, Fitzpatrick seems to make
three or four simply awful throws, the type of throws that make you grit your
teeth if you have a Bills ticket in your pocket; like the INT that cost them the
After this loss, the Panthers dropped to 1-9 SU in games
decided by seven points or less in the Ron Rivera/Cam Newton era; including
each of their last three ballgames. This
offense finished fifth in the NFL in scoring last year. This year, they’ve exceeded 14 points only
twice all year with most of the same personnel.
One major culprit? Poor offensive
line play. Against a four man rush, they
couldn't protect Cam Newton, and neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart
had any room to run.
This team lacks all sorts of fundamentals -- blocking and
tackling are not their strong points; not what you would expect to see from a
well-coached team coming out of a bye week.
Cam Newton was somewhat better at settling for checkdown routes today
than he was earlier in the season and this offense utilizes his running ability
extremely effectively. So why can't this
team score any points; it's baffling. A
team with this kind of balance and these kinds of playmakers should not be scoring
in the low teens week after week.
Talk about a no-show before the bye-week! Then again, maybe this is what Baltimore
really is right now. This defense came
into the game ranked in the bottom quartile of the NFL in both run yardage and
total yardage. They had Terrell Suggs
back in the lineup; the only true pass rusher this team has. Suggs got a sack and knocked away balls in
pass coverage downfield - you just can't do this stuff six months removed from
ACL surgery. He was amazing. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the other ten
defenders spent the afternoon getting gashed, unable to stop the run or the
pass while allowing six scoring drives (including four TD’s) in a 35 minute span.
Joe Flacco simply isn't the same QB on the highway as he is
in Baltimore. He's much more tentative
in the pocket, holds the ball too long, and his accuracy is problematic. This offense averaged three yards per play,
truly woeful numbers. Flacco started
7-20 with two INT's and zero third down conversions in the first half. His career numbers show a dramatic home/road split;
this year's splits are even greater. That’s
why the Ravens highest scoring game on the road this year matches their lowest
point total at home.
Anyone that thinks the NFL isn’t a quarterback driven league
needs to watch New Orleans for a game or two.
This defense remains a sieve; allowing the Bucs to gain a season high
513 total yards. With the game on the
line late in the fourth quarter, this defense gave up the tying TD pass twice;
one negated by a heel out of bounds; the other on a penalty. In other words, they got a little bit lucky
to escape with this win. The Saints are
getting very little from their backs these days; not a good running team
A great passing game without complimentary pieces can win
Super Bowls -- just look at the Packers two years ago for a recent, prime
example. And considering the fact that
the Saints early 14-0 deficit turned into a seven point halftime lead with four
consecutive tong touchdown drives, it's hard to count this team out completely
either for one reason and one reason only – Drew Brees is that good. Can't bet this team Under; Saints totals still
aren't high enough even after six consecutive 50+ point games to open the
Even though this offense torched the Ravens defense, I still
have questions whether Houston can trade points with the elite attacks of the
NFL. The Texans lack playmakers, plain
and simple; a slow, plodding ball control offense. But Houston’s defense is every bit as good as
advertised -- this team blows up the line of scrimmage and doesn't seem to
allow any open receivers downfield. No
team in the league bats down more passes at the line of scrimmage -- even when
they don't reach the passer, they're having a positive impact. Houston leads the league with 25 forced
'three and outs' this season after holding the Ravens to three plays or less on
seven different drives. Very well
coached football team, for sure!