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by Larry Ness - 11/05/2010
One doesn't need an advanced mathematics degree to figure out that Week 9 is the midway point of the NFL's 17-week schedule. End the season right now and not a single NFC division winner from last year would repeat. The Cowboys won the East last season at 11-5 but are in last-place at 1-6 entering Week 9 play (Giants lead at 5-2). The Vikings won the North last year at 12-4 but are currently 2-5 (Packers lead at 5-3 and even the Bears are 4-3). The Saints won the South at 13-3 (as well as going on to win the Super Bowl) but at 5-3, trail the Bucs and Falcons (both 5-2). The Cards have won two consecutive West titles but at 3-4, trail the 4-3 Seahawks and even the 4-4 Rams.
There is a little more 'sanity' in the AFC, where defending East champs (the Pats), own the NFL's best record at 6-1. The Colts (who else?) lead the South at 5-2 (won it last year for the sixth time in eight seasons at 14-2) but the Bengals are 2-5 in the Central (won it last year at 10-6) along with the Browns. The Ravens and Steelers are both 5-2. The Chargers are 3-5 in the West, trailing the 5-2 Chiefs and even the 4-4 Raiders (Chargers were 13-3 last season and have won four straight West titles).
The NFL expanded its playoff field to include 12 teams beginning in the 1990 season. Heading into the 2009 season, there had been 110 teams from 1991 through 2008 to follow a playoff appearance with another one the very next season. That’s an average of 6.1 per season. The 2009 postseason included six teams from the 2008 field and six teams that sat out 2008's postseason (right on the number!). Updating the numbers reveal that 116 teams have followed up a playoff appearance from the year before over the last 19 seasons (still 6.1 per). Turnover from year-to-year in the postseason is nothing new and things seem "right on pace" (or ahead of it) for 2010.
The Chargers won last week to get to 3-5 (3-5 ATS as well) and continue their 'head-scratching' season at Houston on Sunday. San Diego leads the NFL in total offense (426.9 YPG) as well as in total defense (260.0 YPG) plus has outscored opponents by 36 points. It's almost incomprehensible this team is 3-5. The only other NFL team to be below .500 while outscoring opponents is Detroit. The Lions are 2-5 but unlike the Chargers, are 6-1 ATS while outscoring opponents by 18 points. San Diego's opponent on Sunday (Houston), happens to be one of four, .500 or better teams which have allowed more points than they have scored. The 4-3 Texas are minus-27 points on the year, matching the negative point-differential of the Bucs, who own an even better mark, at 5-2. The 4-3 Seahawks are minus-17 points on the year and the 4-3 Dolphins are minus-16 points, rounding out the list.
The Chiefs were the last unbeaten team to lose (Week 5 at Indy) but with last week's 13-10 (OT) home win over the Bills, became just the 7th team in NFL history to open a season 4-0 at home (or better), the year after opening at 0-4 at home (or worse). Speaking of the Bills, the team's Week 8 loss leaves them as the only winless team remaining in the NFL. 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. The Bills are the only team left to play "on" and so far, this has been a very profitable 'exercise.' I've played some of these games but not all. I wish had played them all, as the record sits at 20-7 ATS (74.1%) pending Week 9's outcome on the Bills, who are getting three points vs the Bears.
Home teams are 67-49 (.578) on the season (had first neutral site game last week with Denver vs San Francisco in London) but remain below .500 on the year ATS (56-58-2). That includes an impressive 22-13-1 ATS record for home underdogs, a 62.9% winning mark. There was not a single home dog last week but that's hardly the case in Week 9, as the Texans are getting three points at home vs the Chargers, the Panther 6 1/2-points vs the Saints, the Lions four points vs the Jets, the Browns four points vs the Pats, the Seahawks seven points vs the Giants plus on MNF, the Bengals are getting five points vs the Steelers. Please note that the Bills are not home dogs (plus-three) vs the Bears, as that game is being played in Toronto (all pointspreads as of 12 noon ET on Saturday).
'Over bettors' saw their stretch of six consecutive winning weeks end in Week 8. From Week 2 through Week 7, there were at least two more overs than unders each week, as over bettors went a combined, 53-35 (60.2%). Week 7 games had averaged a season-high 52.6 PPG with 10 of the 14 games going over. However, last week's games averaged a more modest 41.7 PPG with eight games staying under and just five games going over. The record Y-T-D is 62 overs, 54 unders and one 'push.' That's a modest 53.4% advantage to over bettors or just 2.6 net games.
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 83-34 SU (.709) and an equally impressive 79-36-2 ATS (68.7 percent) after eight weeks. Teams who have run more times in a game own an even higher winning percentage, going 92-20 SU (.821) and 87-24-1 ATS (78.4 percent) with five games ending with both teams having the same amount of rushing attempts. Teams with 100-yard rushers own records of 39-16 SU (.709) and 39-14-2 ATS (73.6 percent) in those games on the season. That's in stark contrast to teams which produce 300-yard passers, which are 16-26 SU (.381) and 15-26-1 ATS (35.6 percent).