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NFL Circa 2004
by Larry Ness - 09/04/2004
In previewing the upcoming NFL season about a month ago I referred to a 16-year pointspread study that concluded that during the past 16 years, the SU winner of an NFL game was the ATS winner, 82.7 percent of the time! So what happens in the NFL season-opener between Indianapolis and New England? Naturally the Patriots, a three-point favorite, win 27-24!
Going back to that study for just a minute, the final results showed that favorites won and covered 46.1 percent of the time, favorites won SU but lost ATS 16.6 percent of the time, and underdogs won outright, 32.8 percent of the time. Ties, pushes and pick'ems accounted for 4.5 percent of the games.
The NFL turns 85 in 2004, its first televised game was 65 years ago, Monday Night Football celebrates its 35th birthday and overtime enters its 30th season! Former commissioner Pete Rozelle always dreamed of PARITY and somewhere he must be smiling. In 1970, the year of the AFL-NFL merger, only 31.9 percent of the games were decided by seven points or less. Over the last three years, that percentage has risen to 48.4!
Of the 40 division titles won the last six seasons, there have been just SEVEN repeat winners! In the 1998 and 2000 seasons, there were NO repeat winners! The NFC West has seen a different division-champ for EIGHT consecutive seasons!
Of the 12 playoff teams in 2003, just FOUR made the playoffs in the previous season! The last two defending Super Bowl Champions, New England in 2002 and Tampa Bay in 2003, each FAILED to even qualify for the playoffs in defense of their title! The last time the league featured a repeat Super Bowl champ, was in 1998 (Denver).
Even getting back to the AFC or NFC Championship Games has been nearly impossible. While the Philadelphia Eagles have made three consecutive trips to the NFC Title Game (where they've lost all three, by the way!), they are the exception not the rule! Since 1997, the 28 available title-game spots have been filled by 18 different teams!
So what do we make of all this as the first NFL Sunday dawns? Well there are many schools of handicapping used and each has its place. Whether you are a trends-and-angles guy, a statistical handicapper, an emotional handicapper, a fundamental handicapper or whatever, the right way to do it is to PRODUCE WINNERS!
It's time for me to put up or shut up!