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NFL Week 8

   by Larry Ness - 10/28/2006

The NFL's regular season contains 256 games and last Monday night's game between the Giants and Cowboys marked the 100th game of the 2006 season. The 2005 season became known as the "year of the favorite" as favorites cashed at a near-58 percent clip, while home underdogs had their worst year in memory. Home 'dogs' finished the '05 season at 29-48-4 ATS, just 43.3 percent.

Favorites are not having that kind of success this year, as through 100 games, favorites are 48-51-1 ((48.5 percent) and home dogs are getting their 'bite' back. The last two weeks home dogs have gone 8-5 SU and an excellent 10-3 ATS, giving them a year-to-date mark of 24-14 ATS, or a winning percentage of 63.2 percent! Next week is the mid-point of the season (Week 9 of a 17-week schedule) and I'll give a more detailed mid-season update.

Week 7 was the highest scoring week of the season so far, as games averaged 46.7 PPG (Week 4 had been the highest-scoring week at 46.4 PPG) and eight of the 13 games went 'over' the total. Adding in the Week 6 games, the last two weeks have seen over bettors go 16-9-1. Weeks 1 (34.6 PPG) and 2 (36.8 PPG) saw under bettors go 19-11-2 but over bettors have now caught up (mid-season tally next week).

"Run the ball and win" has been a staple of NFL football for years and that was clearly evident last week, as the teams with the most rushing yards in last week's games went 11-2 SU and 10-2-1 ATS. Of even more interest is the fact that the teams with the most rushing attempts for the game went 13-0 SU and 12-0-1 ATS! Again, I'll update the full-season totals on these numbers next week.

The Oakland Raiders ended their pointspread losing streak in Week 6, with a 13-3 loss at Denver (were 15-point dogs). Last week, the Raiders ended the NFL's longest losing streak (had lost 11 straight, going 1-10 ATS) by beating Arizona 22-9 at home. The home win also snapped the team's five-game home winning streak at five in a row (0-5 ATS), which was also the longest active streak of any team.

The Cardinals, who have now lost six straight games (2-4 ATS) since a Week 1 win over the 49ers (34-27), own the NFL's longest active losing streak. The league's longest active road losing streak belongs to the Texans (10 straight but 5-5 ATS), who will play in Tennessee vs the Titans this week (Tenn is favored by three points).

Miami remains the lone NFL team still searching for its first pointspread win this year. The 1-6 Dolphins beat the Titans in Week 3 (13-10 as 10 1/2-point favorites) but are now 0-7 ATS after last week's 34-24 home loss to the Packers. In that game, Miami QB Joey Harrington threw for 414 yards (the highest single-game total of any QB in 2006) and attempted 62 passes, a Miami regular season record! The Dolphins are off this week.

The Bears and Colts are both 6-0 and will enter Week 8 as the NFL's only two unbeaten teams. Both are 4-2 ATS and while there are no perfect pointspread teams at this point of the year, the 4-2 Rams, the 5-1 Saints and the 4-2 Vikings are all 5-1 ATS. All five are in action this week (see below).

There are 16 teams which are above. 500 at this point of the season (nine NFC / seven AFC), three teams at .500 (two AFC / one NFC) and 13 teams below .500 (seven AFC / six NFC). The Steelers (defending champs) are at 2-4 and own the distinction of being the lone team with a losing record to have outscored their opponents (144-125). The 4-2 Seahawks (121-142), the 4-3 Jets (147-173) and the 4-3 Panthers (123-128) all having winning records but have been outscored by their opponents.

In the case of the Steelers (beat KC 45-7), Jets (lost 41-0 to Jax) and the Seahawks (lost 37-6 to Chi), one good or bad game is the reason for the point-differential. However, the Panthers are a unique case. The Panthers' four wins have come by margins of two, three, eight and two points, while the team's three losses have been by margins of 13, three and three points!

Speaking of a team that "can't win the close ones," I submit for your consideration, Marty Schottenheimer's San Diego Chargers. The Chargers lost 30-27 last week to the Chiefs, as they dropped to 4-2. San Diego's other loss this year was also by three points, a 16-13 Week 4 loss in Baltimore to the Ravens. So what else is new? Believe it or not, the Chargers have now lost the last NINE times they've played in a game decided by four points or less (including the team's 2004 playoff loss to the Jets)! Kinda says something about Marty's coaching abilities, doesn't it?

Week 8 notes

The league's two 6-0 teams (Bears and Colts) are both in action this week but face very disimilar challenges. While the Bears are playing host to the 49ers and are a 16-point favorite, the Colts are in Denver to take on the Broncos, where they are a three-point underdog. The Bears are the second-biggest favorite of any team this year, as the Colts were an 18-point choice at home over the Titans at Indy in Week 5 (barely escaped with a 14-13 win).

The Colts' 6-0 start makes them just the ninth team in NFL history to open consecutive seasons at 6-0 (Colts opened LY 13-0!) but face their sternest test of the year. The Broncos are 5-1 TY and have allowed just two TDs all season, as well as only 44 poiints (7.3 PPG). Denver will also take the league's longest active home winning streak into the contest, as the Broncos have won 13 straight regular season games at Invesco Field (7-5-1 ATS).

As for the league's top-three pointspread teams, the Rams are in San Diego where they are 9 1/2-point underdogs to the Chargers, the Saints are at home to face the Ravens (Saints are favored by 1 1/2 points) and the Vikings will host the Patriots on Monday Night Football (Pats are favored by 1 1/2 points). As pointed out above, if the Rams can keep it close against the Chargers, they may just win.

As for the Saints, they are 5-1 for just the fifth time in team history and take on a Baltimore team with a great defense but a struggling offense. Jim Fassel was fired during Baltimore's bye week, after the Ravens had been held to two TDs or less in 14 of the 22 games since he was promoted to offensive coordinator. As for the Vikes, they'll face a New England team on Monday night that owns the league's longest active road winning streak, having won and covered its last five road games, outscoring the opposition 156-64!

The Eagles are 4-3 this year, with all three losses coming on the game's final play (is Andy Reid taking lessons from Marty?). Philadelphia hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, who will go with backup QB David Garrard. The Eagles are favored by 7 1/2 points. Garrard isn't the only backup QB playing this week, as Tony Romo takes over for Drew Bledsoe, when the Cowboys visit the Panthers in the Sunday Night game. The Panthers are favored by five points.

The Seattle/Kansas City game could feature two QBs making their first career starts. For sure, the Seahawks will start Seneca Wallace (Iowa State) and a late-week injury to KC's Damon Huard has the Chiefs possibly in line to start Alabama-rookie Brodie Croyle. The current line has the Chiefs favored by four points .

The Cardinals (losers of six straight) are in Green Bay to take on the Packers, who have lost all three games in Lambeau Field in 2006 (can you believe that one?). The Pack are favored by four points. Finally, the Barber-twins (Rhonde and Tiki) meet in the Meadowlands, when the Giants host the Bucs. The Giants (1-2 after Week 3), are now 4-2 and looking like the NFC's best team. They are favored by nine points.

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