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by Larry Ness - 10/17/2010
I opened last week's NFL Notes with the following statement, "It's almost impossible to believe that after four weeks of the 2010 season, the NFL's lone unbeaten team is the 3-0 KC Chiefs." The Chiefs acquitted themselves well at Indy last week but fell 19-9 to the Colts. So unlike last year when the Saints opened 13-0 and the Colts 14-0 (or as in 2007 when the Pats went 16-0 in the regular season and were 18-0 before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl), there is not a single unbeaten team in the NFL after five weeks. I read somewhere that it marks the first time that's happened since the 1970 merger but I don't remember where I saw it.
Four winless teams played last week and only the Lions won. Detroit avenged its home loss from last year (it was St Louis' lone win in 2009) by routing the Rams 44-6. Buffalo, Carolina and San Francisco all lost last Sunday (plus failed to cover) but only the 49ers will play in Week 6 (Bills and Panthers have a bye, as do Bengals and Cardinals). Regular readers know I've been playing a little game of "going against" unbeaten teams since Week 3 (when there were eight 2-0 teams and eight 0-2 teams) in this column, while "playing on" winless teams. Going against KC last week plus playing on Buffalo, Carolina, Detroit and San Francisco left us 2-2 ATS but a very profitable 16-7 or 69.6% ATS since Week 3. The only play in Week 6 would be on the 49ers, who are seven-point home favorites over their Bay area rivals, the Raiders (good luck).
A quick look at the standings show that four of last year's eight division winners own sub-.500 records through five weeks. The Bengals won the AFC North at 10-6 last year but sit at 2-3 and the Chargers, who won the AFC West at 13-3 in 2009, are also just 2-3. The Vikings went 12-4 in winning the NFC North in 2009 while the Cowboys won the NFC East at 11-5 but both teams enter Week 6 at 1-3 and ironically will meet in Minnesota. As of Saturday at 12 noon ET, the Vikings are favored by 1 1/2-points. How much trouble is the loser of this game in? How about the losing coach? Will he have a job come Monday?
The AFC South is the most competitive division, as all four teams are 3-2 entering Week 6. The AFC East (Jets are 4-1 and Pats 3-1) and AFC North (Ravens are 4-1 and the Steelers 3-1) may be the NFL's two-toughest divisions. The Ravens travel to Foxboro to play the Pats, who they beat 33-14 at New England in last year's wildcard round. The Pats have won seven straight games coming off a bye week and are favored by 2 1/2-points. The Jets travel to Denver where they are 3 1/2-point favorites vs the Broncos. Tim Tebow made big news during the draft (I still contend he'll NEVER be an NFL QB!) but it's Kyle Orton making his headlines on the playing field. He's got 1,733 passing yards after five games, a pace that would give him 5,546 yards on the season, breaking Dan Marino's record of 5,084 yards set back in 1984. As for the Steelers, Big Ben makes his return from a four-game suspension, as Pittsburgh host the Browns (Pitt is favored by 13 1/2 points).
The Lions broke their 10-game overall losing streak in their Week 5 win over the Rams but Detroit will now try to end its ever-growing 23-game road losing streak in The Meadowlands vs the suddenly rejuvenated 3-2 Giants (off back-to-back wins of 17-3 over the Bears and 34-10 over the Texans). The Lions are getting 10 points. The defending Super Bowl champs are 3-2 and in third-place in the NFC South (Falcons are 4-1 and the Bucs, 3-1) but the Saints remain the lone winless pointspread team in the NFL, posting an 0-5 or 0-4-1 ATS mark (some pushed and some lost on the team's season-opening Thursday night game vs the Vikings). The Saints visit the surprising Bucs on Sunday and are laying four points.
The Saints are one of five road favorites in Week 6. Home dogs have been real "money-makers" though the season's first five weeks, going 17-12 SU but 19-10 (65.5% ATS). Joining the Bucs in getting points at home this week are, the Rams (plus-8 1/2) against the Chargers, the Broncos (plus-3 1/2) vs the Jets, the Redskins (plus-3) vs the Colts on Sunday night and the Jags (plus-3) vs the Titans on Monday night. Home teams were 7-7 SU and ATS in Week 5 and are now 43-33 SU and 36-39-1 ATS on the season. Week 5 was the highest scoring one of 2010 so far, as games averaged 45.6 PPG (nine of 14 games went 'over'). Week 1 saw 11 of the 16 games stay 'under' (one considered a push) but since then, over bettors are 35-25 (58.3%) the last four weeks. The Y-T-D numbers are 39-36-1 in favoring the over.
As I mention each week, an age-old axiom says you need to run the ball to win in the NFL and for those who believe in that, the following numbers will support that belief. Teams with the most rushing yards in a game are 53-23 SU and an equally impressive 50-25-1 ATS. Teams who have run more times in a game own an even higher winning percentage, going 61-13 SU and 56-17-1 ATS (three games have seen both teams with the same amount of rushing attempts). Teams with 100-yard rushers are 22-10 SU and ATS in those games on the season. Teams with 300-yard passers have gone a pathetic 7-19 SU and 8-18 ATS after going 3-14 SU and 4-13 ATS the last three weeks. I'll continue to update these numbers weekly, throughout the remainder of the season.
Have a great weekend and good luck...Larry