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NFL WEEK 9

   by Larry Ness - 11/06/2004

Week 9 of the season marks the half-way point of the 17-week NFL schedule. There has been much recent discussion regarding the effects of enforcing the "no-chuck" rule this year (see recent USA Today cover story) and its impact of the passing game. NFL QBs are completing nearly 61.0 percent of their passes in 2004, a figure if maintained, would be an all-time single-season high....

The number of pass plays covering 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards are higher than they've been in 10 years and this comes on the heels of the 2003 season, in which league passing yards finished at its lowest total in 11 seasons! While all this is happening it should be pointed out that after eight weeks, teams that have featured 300-yard passing games are just 16-21 SU and a pathetic 12-24-1 ATS!...

So what's the real story? While passing numbers are definitely higher, RUNNING the football effectively is still the key to winning (and COVERING!) in the NFL. Just look at these numbers as the season hits its mid-point....

Despite the increase in passing effectiveness, there have been 75 100-yard rushing performances through Week 8. Through eight weeks of the 2003 season, there had been just 58!...

Teams with 100-yard rushers are an impressive 61-14 in those games, including a remarkable 24-1 over the last three weeks! The pointspread record of teams with 100-yard rushers is 57-16-2 or a winning percentage of 78.1 ATS! Again, compare that to 300-yard passing games, where teams cover 33.3 percent of the time....

There's more! Look at the record of teams when they out-rush their opponents, it's 74-31 SU and 77-34-4 ATS! When a team has more rushing attempts in a game than its opponent its record is 90--23 SU and 93-26-4 ATS!...

These numbers show that any talk regarding the increased importance of the passing game in the NFL for 2004 is just that, T-A-L-K!...

Do teams playing under .500 football still have a chance at this stage of the year? Records show that since adopting a 16-game schedule in 1978, there have been 36 teams that have overcome 3-4 starts to make the postseason, including the Green Packers of 2003. That means that Cleveland, Dallas and Kansas City are still 'alive'....

It gets more difficult if you are 2-5 through seven games. Just three teams (over the same period) have come back from 2-5 starts to make the postseason. That makes it highly unlikely that Tennessee (3-5 now but 2-5 after seven games), Arizona (2-5), Buffalo (2-5), Chicago (2-5), Cincinnati (2-5), Tampa Bay (2-5) and Washington (2-5) need make any playoff plans....

Week 9 games....

NY Jets at Buf Bills....The Bills game last week vs the Cardinals was the first turnover-free game played a Ralph Wilson Stadium since 1973! The Bills allow just 97 YPG rushing and have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this year. Of course, the Jets had TWO 100-yard rushers last Monday night vs the Dolphins, including Curtis Martin who averages 114 YPG himself and has five 100-yard games in 2004. The Jets beat the Bills 16-14 in the Meadowlands in Week 5.

Phi Eagles at Pit Steelers....The Eagles are the league's lone unbeaten team at 7-0 and also own the NFL's longest current road winning streak at nine straight (8-1 ATS). The Steelers knocked off the Pats last week ending New England's 21-game winning streak (18 straight in the regular season). The Steelers' "Big Ben" goes for his sixth straight win, which would tie former Pittsburgh QB Mike Kruczek's record of 6-0 to open a career! Duce Staley faces his ex-teammates for the first time and with four 100-yard games in his last five, must be chomping at the bit to get at a Philadelphia defense allowing 4.8 YPC!

Was Redskins at Det Lions....The 'Skins have yet to score 20 points in ANY game this year (the only team in the last 25 years to go an entire season without scoring 20 points in a game was the '92 Seahawks) mainly because Brunell owns an NFL-low QB rating of 52.4! This game matches Washington's No.1-ranked defense ((252.3 YPG) vs Detroit's last-ranked offense (249.3 YPG).

Dal Cowboys at Cin Bengals....Dallas had 41 rushing attempts last week (most by 11 this year) and will try to run vs the Bengals' NFL-worst rushing defense (155.4 YPG). While Cincinnati allows the most rushing yards of any team, it is the Dallas defense that owns a league-high 4.9 YPC! The Bengals are just 1-9-1 ATS their last 11 games, dating back to the team's final four games of 2003.

Oak Raiders at Car Panthers....Raiders made Super Bowl in 2002 and then went 4-12 last year. The Panthers made the Super Bowl in 2003 and at 1-6 in 2004, are well on their way to matching or surpassing the Raiders' 'fall'! Oakland's lost 13 straight road games (2-11 ATS) and its current five-game overall losing streak in 2004 (0-5 ATS) matches Carolina (2-3 ATS) for the league's longest current streak.

Ari Cardinals at Mia Dolphins....The Cardinals have lost 17 straight on the road (3-14 ATS) and have NEVER beaten the Dolphins (0-8 all-time). Miami's 12.5 PPG scoring average is a league-low, as is the team's minus-14 turnover ratio (tied with Oakland). Arizona has played much better this year (excluding last week at Buffalo!) and if the Cardinals are to ever win away from home, this could be it?

KC Chiefs at TB Bucs....Can the Chiefs recover from their 1-4 start? The last two weeks they've scored 101 points (more than three teams have scored all year) and ran for 11 TDs (only SD has more than 11 rushing TDs as team in 2004!). Here, they take on Tampa Bay which owns the NFL's second-best defense (266.1 YPG). Brian Griese is completing 70.1 percent of his passes with four TDs and just one interception plus a QB rating of 104.9 since taking over. Can that really last?

Chi Bears at NY Giants...Kurt Warner has just four TD passes in seven games but he's also thrown just TWO interceptions as the Giants have opened 5-2 with Tiki Barber looking like Priest Holmes! Craig Krenzel of Chicago is 1-0 as an NFL starter (does a win over SF count?) but he'll face a Giant defense here that leads the NFL with 18 takeaways! Note, the Giants are nearly a double-digit favorite and lost OUTRIGHT to Detroit (28-13) as a seven-point favorite at home in Week 7.

Sea Seahawks at SF 49ers....Rice re-visits the city that made him famous and Dennis Erickson hosts the team he coached from 1995-98. The 49ers own an NFL-best .659 winning percentage in November since 1994 but this year's team is a "horse of a different color"! The Seahawks beat the 49ers in Seattle 34-0 in Week 3. Will Seattle be looking ahead to its game at St Louis next week? Even if the Seahawks are, will it matter?

NO Saints at SD Chargers....SD is one of the league's BIGGEST surprise teams (have already surpassed last year's win total!) and you can give Drew Brees the league's comeback player of the year award right now (although I'm not sure the NFL has one!). Brees has been great (67.0 percent / 14 TDs and 3 INTs / QB rating of 106.8) but give DC Wade Phillips some credit too as the Chargers have gone from 25th in rushing defense in 2003 to FIRST in 2004 (81.5 YPG). Not much to say about the 3-4 Saints which means they'll likely WIN!

NE Patriots at StL Rams....Pats trying to avoid the team's first two-game losing streak since Weeks 15 and 16 in 2002! This is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI won by the Patriots, 20-17. I'm not sure Martz has ever recovered from that loss. Pats lost last week but kept one streak alive, they've scored first in 15 consecutive games (12 straight in the regular season). Bulger is 15-1 SU as a starter at home for the Rams and if Corey Dillon can't go again (missed last week at Pitt), the Pats may be in trouble?

Hou Texans at Den Broncos....Break up the Texans! The team that could NEVER win consecutive games is now looking for a three-game winning streak! Houston's defense has not allowed a TD in its last SIX quarters. What's up with the Broncos? They entered that Monday Night game with the Bengals at 5-1 but are now 5-3! Plummer's 499-yard game last week came in a 13-point loss (Denver led 14-3!).

Cle Browns at Bal Ravens....Jamal Lewis is back and it's against the team he had TWO, 200-yard games against last year. It is also the team that held him to just 57 yards rushing in a Week 1 Cleveland win (20-3)! Baltimore NEEDS a big game from Lewis as with Boller at QB, the Ravens rank dead-last in passing with an average of 122.3 YPG. The Ravens the ONLY team in the league to average more rushing yards than passing yards! Cleveland's new QB Jeff Garcia has a QB rating of 106.3 in the team's three wins and a 52.9 rating in the team's four losses.

Min Vikings at Ind Colts....The Vikings have gained at least 300 yards in an NFL record 36 straight games as well as averaged at least 4.0 YPC in an NFL record 17 straight games! However, the Vikings are off a 34-13 loss to the Giants and are well aware of last year's collapse! Speaking of collapsing, the Colts enter this Monday-nighter on a two-game losing streak of their own. Minnesota ranks first in total offense while the Colts rank second plus are the league's top-scoring team at 31.1 PPG. Culpepper is the league's top-rated passer and Manning is second.

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