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by Larry Ness - 11/20/2010
Michael Vick put on a clinic last Monday night as the Eagles decimated the Redskins, 59-28. Vick completed 20-of-28 passes for 333 yards with four TD passes and not a single interception. He also ran for 80 yards (on just eight carries) while tacking on another two Ds on the ground. "Jaws" couldn't contain himself throughout the game, repeating over and over again his favorite refrain that goes "points come from the passing game." The postgame comments on all the sports networks lasted into a Tuesday "love-fest" for Vick. I'm not 100 percent this rumor is true but I heard the NFL Network, which just completed its countdown of "the NFL's 100 Greatest Players," wants a recount, giving write-in candidate Vick the No. 1 spot (kind of like Lisa Murkowski in Alaska). As for me, I'm not saying anything until Sarah Palin weighs in. I'm betting she knows at least as much about football as she does about being president (maybe more?).
However, I digress. You may have heard that Vick's performance on Monday night made him just the third player in NFL history to pass for 300 yards with four passing TDs and two rushing TDs in a the same game. How impressive is that? Now before you jump on the Vick bandwagon, consider the two players he joined in that select group. I hope you're sitting down. Prior to Vick's MNF performance the only QBs to have accomplished what Vick did were NFL legends, Bill Kenney of the KC Chiefs (in 1983 vs the Buffalo Bills) and the never-to-be-forgotten Eric Hipple of the Detroit Lions (in 1981 vs the Chicago Bears). A good attorney would stop here and send his case to the jury. However, I'm no attorney and I like to talk too much (or in this case, write).
I'm a HUGE fan of Jaws, who is one of TV's best and most knowledgeable analysts. However, he is ignoring the facts when he rambles on about the passing game being the 'key' to winning in the NFL. Regular followers of this column know that every week I recap the SU and ATS records of teams which win the rushing yards 'battle' each week, as well as teams which run the ball more often than their opponents in a game. I also chart how teams do when they have a 100-yard rusher and how they do when their QB throws for 300 yards or more. For you New Yorkers out there, as Warner Wolf would say, "let's go to the video tape." Or in this case, the Ness data base, which is a manila folder stuffed with pages of yellow legal pads.
With all due respect to Jaws (you KNOW there's a 'shot' coming after that lead-in), but he's just not looking at the facts. There's an age-old axiom which says you need to "run the ball to win in the NFL" and the following numbers will support that. Teams with the most rushing yards in a game are 105-39 SU (.729) and an equally impressive 96-45-3 ATS (68.1 percent) after 10 weeks. Teams who have run more times in a game own an even higher winning percentage, going 114-25 SU (.820) and 104-33-2 ATS (75.1 percent) with five games ending with both teams having the same amount of rushing attempts. Teams with 100-yard rushers own records of 45-19 SU (.703) and 44-18-2 ATS (71.0 percent) in those games on the season. That's in stark contrast to teams which produce 300-yard passers, which are 25-32 SU (.439) and 21-35-1 ATS (37.5 percent).
You may have heard during MNF's telecast that 13 different QBs topped 300 yards passing in Week 10, the most in any week in NFL history. In four games, both QBs topped 300 yards (accounting for eight of those 300-yard efforts) so we had to have four winners and four losers. In the other five instances, those teams went 3-2 but 2-3 ATS. Matt Cassel of the Chiefs passed for 469 yards (Chiefs lost 49-29), the 10th 400-yard game by a QB this year. Matt Schaub passed for a season-high 497 yards for the Texans in the team's 30-27 (OT) Week 2 over Washington and McNabb topped 400 yards passing in that game as well with 426. In the other eight, 400-yard passing games this year, the QB who threw for over 400 yards saw his team win just ONCE. That came when Brett Favre threw for 446 yards in Minnesota's 27-24 (OT) win over Arizona. Doing the math, that's 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS! C'mon Jaws, the passing game leads to wins? On to other matters.
The Chiefs were the last unbeaten team to lose (Week 5 at Indy) and the Bills finally became the last team to earn a win last Sunday, edging the Lions 14-12. 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 were the only team left to play "on" and the team's ATS win wrap up this 'exercise 21-7-1 ATS (75.0 percent). I sure wish it had been more that just an exercise!
Week 11 began on Thursday night with the Bears shutting out the injured Dolphins, 16-0 in Miami. The Bears moved to 7-3 and took a half-game lead in the NFC North. All teams have played nine games entering Week 11 and all have had their byes, meaning everyone plays these last seven weeks. A look at the standings reveals that not a single NFC division winner from last year sits atop that division this season. The Cowboys are 2-7 and out of the race in the NFC East while the Vikings are not far behind, needing a win vs the Packers this week to have any shot at all. The defending Super Bowl champs are 6-3 (tied with the Bucs) one game back of the Falcons (note: no team has repeated as NFC South champs since the NFL went to its eight-division format in 2002). The Cards are two-time defending NFC West champs but even at 3-6, are not out of it in their division, as the Seahawks lead at only 5-4.
The AFC standings are a little different. The Pats won the AFC East last year and enter Week 11 tied with the Jets for the division lead at 7-2. As usual, the Colts are atop the AFC South (have won the division six times in eight years since 2002) but either the Colts or Pats will lose this weekend , as these two AFC powers meet this Sunday (more on that in a bit). The Chargers, who have won four straight AFC West crowns, are just 4-5 but not out of things yet, as KC and Oakland share the top spot at just 5-4. As for the Bengals, who won last year's AFC North? Cincy's lost six straight games since a 2-1 start and are "done for the season." The Bengals just can't 'close' games, as their point-differential is just minus-29, not indicative of a 2-7 team.
Following that theme, one could argue that the Jags are the "worst 5-4 team," having been outscored by 54 points this season. The Seahawks are 5-4 yet been outscored by 33 points and then there is Tampa Bay, which head coach Raheem Morris called "the NFC's best team" a few weeks ago. The 6-3 Bucs have been outscored by 18 points on the year, not indicative of "best team" status. At the other end of the spectrum are the 4-5 Chargers, who lead the NFL in total offense (420.2 YPG) and rank second in total defense (274.7) and have outscored opponents by 42 points! The Lions are 2-7, despite scoring 13 points more than their opponents in 2010.
Entering Week 11 home teams are 83-59 (.585) overall but sub-.500 ATS at 69-71-2 (two neutral games this year in London and Toronto). Home dogs got off to fast start but have 'cooled down' as of late, although they still own a money-making 26-19-1 ATS mark (57.8 percent). 'Over' bettors have dominated in three of the last four weeks (10-4 in Week 7, 10-3 in Week 9 and 11-3 in Week 10) and are now 83-60-1 (58.0 percent ) on the season (plus-17.0 net games!). There look to be three home dogs in Week 11, the Panthers getting 11 1/2-points from the Ravens (biggest home dog in 2010!), the Vikings getting three points vs the Packers and the Rams getting a FG from the Falcons (all lines as of 10:00 ET on Saturday morning).
Clearly, the week's marquee game is the Colts at the Pats, Manning vs Brady. One would think these teams are division rivals, as they seem to meet most regular seasons, not to mention their memorable playoff encounters. The Pats own the longest active home winning streak in the NFL at 13 in a row plus Brady has won 24 consecutive home starts in the regular season, one shy of Brett Favre's all-time record of 25. The Pats are favored by four points. This could be Brett's last-ever game vs the Packers and as mentioned earlier, the Vikings are three-point home dogs in a "must-win" contest.
SNF features the Giants and Eagles (both 6-3) with the teams coming in off very different results in Week 10. The Giants took a five-game winning streak into their home game with the Cowboys last week but fell behind 26-6 in a 33-20 loss. As for the Eagles, last Monday night they beat the Redskins 59-28. Philly set team records for total yards in a game (592), points in a half (45) and had the biggest lead after the first quarter for any NFL road team (28-0) since at least 1950. Then of course, there was Michael Vick (see above). Philly is favored by three points in a game expected to go to 3 1/2.
Let's close with those lovable Lions, who last week lost 14-12 at Buffalo, giving the Bills their first win of the 2010 season. The loss was Detroit's 25th straight on the road, breaking an NFL record Detroit had set themselves from 2001-03. While I noted earlier that the Lions have been highly competitive in 2010, that has not been the case for most of the time during the club's road losing streak. Unlike from 2001-03 when the Lions lost those 24 road games by an average margin of 7.1 PPG, in this current road skid they've lost by an average margin of 14.8 PPG. Detroit is at Dallas on Sunday, getting 6 1/2-points.
Free Play: Army + over Notre Dame (Saturday, 8 pm)