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NFL (Week 5)
by Larry Ness - 10/07/2006
The first two weeks on the 2006 NFL season saw plenty of low-scoring contests, as the games of Week 1 combined to average just 34.6 PPG and the games of Week 2 average 36.8 PPG. There were just 11 'overs' through the season's first two weeks, with 19 'unders' and two games that fell right on the total. Under players could have easily cashed on 21 of the 32 games played. However, there has been a noticeable scoring increase over the last two weeks, as well a sizeable increase in the number of "big plays."
The 'byes' began in Week 3 and despite the fact that Weeks 3 and 4 saw a combined total of just 28 games (compared to the 32 games played during Weeks 1 and 2), the number of scoring plays of 50-plus yards rose from just six in the first two weeks (three of those came on defense or special teams), to 16! Highlights from just this past weekend were Justin Miller's (NYJ) 103-yard TD on a KO return, Adrian Wilson's (Az) 99-yard interception TD, Marques Colston's (NO) 86-yard TD reception and Jerious Norwood's (Atl) 78-yard TD run.
Scoring rose as well, as the Week 3 games averaged 41.6 PPG and the Week 4 games averaged a season-high 46.4 PPG. As one would expect, more games went over as well, with eight of 14 games topping the total in Week 3 and nine of 14 games going over in Week 4. That's a two-week total in which 17 of the 28 games went over (60.7 percent), after the first two weeks saw just 36.7 percent of the games (not including the two pushes) go over.
Another thing to note after the season's first four weeks, is that favorites are not dominating as they did last year. The 2005 NFL season could have easily been called "The Year of the Favorite," as favorites finished 142-104-9 (one game closed pick) on the season, for a winning percentage of 57.7 percent. Road favorites finished an incredible 48-29-4 (62.3 percent), burying long-time 'home dog' bettors on the year.
However, things have been a little different through the first four weeks of the 2006 season. Taking out the Week 1 game between Cincinnati and Kansas City (Chiefs opened the favorite but a HUGE Sunday 'move' caused the Bengals to close as the favorite at most spots), favorites are just 29-30 ATS and road favorites, while going 15-8 SU are just 10-13 ATS. Home dogs seem to have their 'bite' back, as these last two weeks, home dogs have gone 4-8 SU but 8-4 ATS.
Entering Week 5, 13 teams have winning records and 13 have losing records, with six teams coming in at 2-2. Three of the 13 winning teams are unbeaten with Baltimore, Chicago and Indy all opening at 4-0. There are four winless teams among the 13 losing teams. Detroit and Tennessee are both 0-4 with Oakland and Tampa Bay sitting at 0-3. The three unbeatens are an impressive 9-3 ATS, while the four winless teams are an equally unimpressive, 3-11 ATS.
While it's every early, the Chiefs (1-2) are the lone winless team to have outscored their opponents (57-32), due to last week's 41-0 rout of the 49ers. The Seahawks, last year's NFC champs, are 3-1 but after three wins by three, 11 and 12 points, Seattle lost at Chicago last Sunday night, 37-6. That leaves the Seahawks outscored 83-78 on the season, despite a 3-1 record.
The old axiom that says a team must run the ball to win is still applicable in the NFL, circa 2006. Teams with the most rushing yards in a game have gone 43-16 SU (.729) this year (one game ended with both teams have the same amount of rushing yards) and 38-21 ATS (..644). Teams with the most rushing attempts in a game have done even better, going 48-11 SU .814) and 43-16 ATS (.729). However, 100-yard rushing performances are down slightly.
From 2000 season through the 2005 season there were 838 100-yard rushing games by NFL players, an average of 139.6 per season. Through the first four weeks of the 2006 season, there have been 30 games of 100-yards or more, a pace that would produce about 127 games of 100-yards or more. While that's not much of a drop, teams featuring a 100-yard rusher in a game have not been winning at quite the rate they were in this decade's first six years.
The six-year mark for teams with 100-yard rushers coming into this season stood at 635-201-2 (.759). The best years were in 2000 (95-22 .812) and 2005 (112-23 .830) with no season falling below a winning percentage of .700. Going into last week, teams with 100-yard rushers were just 13-8 (.619) but Week 4 saw teams with 100-yard rushers go 8-1, getting the year's total up to .700, at 21-9. Those teams have also gone 21-9 ATS in those games.
The Colts own the league's longest active winning streak heading into this week at five straight (3-2). They will host the Titans, one of 2006's four winless teams. Tennessee has lost seven straight games (2-5 ATS) going back to last year, as well as losing its last seven away from home, too (1-6 ATS). I guess it should come as no surprise that the Colts are favored, but 18 points is quite an impost! Tennessee's overall and road losing streaks are the second-longest active streaks in the league.
The Raiders own the league's longest active losing streak with nine straight losses (also 0-9 ATS) and the Texans own the league's longest road losing streak with nine loses in a row away from home (but 5-4 ATS). The Texans are off this week but the Raiders will be at San Francisco, where the 49ers are 3 1/2-point favorites. This game is fitting, as the 49ers and Raiders entered this season tied for the worst three-year record in the NFL at 13-35 (2003-05). Despite a 21-point outburst against Cleveland last week, the Raiders are averaging just nine PPG and own the NFL's 32nd ranked offense at 177 YPG. However, the 49ers allow 31.5 PPG, the most of any team in the league.
Chicago and Baltimore, the league's other two unbeatens play Buffalo and Denver, respectively. The Bears, looking to open 5-0 for the first time since 1986, host the 2-2 Bills in Chicago. The Bears are 10-point favorites and it should be noted that Chicago has held its last eight regular season opponents to under 10 points at Soldier Field (a total of 44 points for an average of 5.5 PPG!). The Ravens will be in Denver (Broncos are favored by four) on Monday night to face a defense that's allowed just one TD all season (but eight FGs). Baltimore owns a defense of its own though, ranking No. 2 in YPG allowed (219.0) and third in PPG allowed (8.3).
The Bucs and Lions, the league's other two winless teams, play at New Orleans and Minnesota, respectively. Tampa Bay, which is averaging just nine PPG, will start rookie Bruce Gradkowski against the rejuvenated Saints, who have already matched last year's win total of three, in their 3-1 start. The Saints are favored by 6 1/2 points. As for the Lions, they take on a 2-2 Minnesota team that's scored just three offensive TDs all year but will have the luxury of facing a Detroit pass D that's not only allowing 282 YPG passing but has yet to intercept pass, while allowing 10 TDs! The Vikes are favored by 6 1/2 points.
Other storylines this week include Matt Leinart (37-2 as a starter at USC) making his first NFL start at home vs the Chiefs, where the Cardinals are 3 1/2-point home dogs. The troubled Giants will host the Redskins in the Meadowlands (Giants are favored by 4 1/2 points), a game that features two of the NFL's oldest rivals (these teams have met every year since 1932 and still share the record for the league's highest scoring game, a 72-41 Washington win in 1966).
The defending champs (Pittsburgh) will be in San Diego on Sunday night to face the Chargers. San Diego is favored by 3 1/2 points over the 1-2 Steelers. Big Ben, who last year became the youngest QB to ever win a Super Bowl, entered the 2006 season witha 22-3 record as a starting QB during the regular season. In two games so far, Ben's got a QB rating of 34.3, after completing 49.3 percent of his passes with no TDs and five INTs.
As everyone knows, T.O. makes his Philadelphia return on Sunday, as the Cowboys take on the Eagles. No comment other than to say the Eagles are favored by two points.