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by Larry Ness - 09/18/2010
The Saints and Vikings opened the 2010 NFL regular season on September 9, a rematch of last year's NFC championship game which the Saints won 31-28 in overtime. This game was nothing like last year's shootout, as the Saints prevailed 14-9. It's somewhat ironic that 2010's first game fell "right on the number." The Saints opened a 4 1/2-point favorite over the Vikings, climbed as high as 5 1/2 and closed in most places at minus-five. Garrett Hartley missed two FGs for the Vikings, including a 32-yarder with just over nine minutes to go in the game which would have given the Saints the ATS win.
However, one should keep in mind the following percentages. The pointspread matters in only about 17 percent of all games. In roughly 83 percent of the games, the team that wins the game also covers the spread. Favorites win and cover just under 48 percent of all games while underdogs win outright (and thus obviously cover), just over 31 percent of the time. About FOUR percent of games either end in pushes or are pick 'em games, which leaves the 17 percent of all games in which the favored team wins but by less than the pointspread.
Week 1 of NFL 2010 ended with a MNF doubleheader (now a tradition since it moved from ABC to ESPN). The Ravens won 10-9 at the Jets (Mark Sanchez has been quoted this week as saying, a 15-1 season wouldn't be all that bad!) in the early game and then the Chiefs upset the Chargers 21-17 in the 'nightcap.' The NFL's lone unbeaten preseason team was the 49ers but San Francisco lost 31-6 at Seattle, in Pete's Carroll's "return debut" to the NFL. Mike Shanahan won his first game as Washington's new head coach, as the Redskins beat the hated-Cowboys 13-7 (Romo's last-play TD throw to Roy Williams was negated by a holding call). Chan Gailey, the NFL's third "new" head coach in 2010, saw his Bills lose 15-10 at home to the Dolphins.
Home teams finished 12-4 SU and 10-5-1 ATS, as home dogs went 5-2 SU and ATS. After an unusually high scoring preseason, the average game in Week 1 of the regular season totaled just 36.8 PPG. Under bettors had a profitable week, as just four games went over, one 'pushed' and 11 stayed under the total. The Pats' 38-24 win over the Bengals was the week's highest scoring game while Baltimore's 10-9 MNF win at the NY Jets was the lowest scoring contest. Week 1's best rushing performance and its best passing performance came in the same game, Indy at Houston.
Arian Foster, who spent most of last season on the practice squad for the Texans, ran for a team record 231 yards and scored three TDs to lead Houston to a 34-24 victory over the defending AFC champion Colts. Foster had the NFL's second-best opening weekend rushing performance since 1933, topped only by OJ's 250 yards for Buffalo in 1973 against New England. The Colts came into the game with 15 wins in 16 games in the series, plus owned the NFL's longest active postseason appearance streak at eight in a row. Peyton Manning completed 40-of-57 passes for 433 yards and three TDs, the fourth-highest opening weekend passing yards total since 1933!
Four players topped 100 yards rushing in Week 1, as Chris Johnson (2,006 yards last season) had 142 yards for the Titans, Rashard Mendenhall had 120 yards for the Steelers and Michael Vick had 103 yards for the Eagles, joining Foster. Most know that Vick missed the entire 2007 and '08 seasons after his involvement in a dog fighting ring came to light. The Eagles signed him last preseason and after serving a four-game suspension, he played in 12 regular-season games for the team primarily as an option in the wildcat formation. Vick is just the third Eagles QB to throw for at least 175 yards and run for at least 100 yards in the same game since 1960 (Donovan McNabb in 2002 and Randall Cunningham in 1990 are the others). Vick now has 10 career 100-yard rushing games.
The motto "run the ball to win" in the NFL is a time-honored fact. Teams which featured 100-yard rushers in Week 1 went 3-1 SU and ATS while the teams with 300-yards passers, Jay Cutler of the Bears threw for 372 yards and Carson Palmer of the Bengals threw for 345 yards joining Manning, went 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS. I'll follow these numbers all season, as I will these factoids. Teams which won the rushing 'battle' went 12-4 SU and 11-4-1 ATS in Week 1 games. Teams which owned the most rushing attempts in Week 1 games were 13-3 SU and 11-4-1 ATS.
Moving on to Week 2. Surprisingly, there are just two matchups this week featuring 1-0 teams. The Titans host the Steelers at 1:00 ET and the Redskins host the Texans at 4:15 ET. The week's marquee matchup features the Patriots at the Jets at 4:15 ET. If the Jets open 0-2 at home, can they really expect to make the 2010 postseason? The Pats own the longest active home winning streak with 10 consecutive home wins but the Vikings can match them with a home victory over the Dolphins on Sunday. The Lions extended the NFL's longest active road losing streak to 21 straight in Week 1 with that controversial loss at Chicago but will be home this week vs the Eagles (Vick makes his first NFL start since December 31, 2006). The Rams lost their 13th straight home game last Sunday 17-13 to the Cards, despite Sam Bradford setting an NFL record for most pass attempts (55) by a rookie in a Week 1 game. St Louis plays at Oakland on Sunday. The Lions/Eagles game and Rams/Raiders game are the only two Week 2 meetings between winless teams.
Five of last year's eight division winners have opened 0-1 in 2010. The Cowboys (NFC East defending champs) will host the Bears and the Vikings (NFC Central champs) will host the Dolphins in Week 2, looking for their first 2010 win. The Pats (AFC East champs) were the lone AFC division winner from last season to win in Week 1. The Bengals (AFC Central champs) will host the the Ravens on Sunday, the Chargers (AFC West champs the last four years) will host the Jaguars and then on Sunday night, it's "Manning Bowl II," as the Colts (AFC South champs) host the Giants. Cincinnati, San Diego and Indianapolis all get home games (as do both NFC teams) in trying to avoid an 0-2 start. MNF this week features the Saints at the 49ers.