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NFL Go-Against Teams
by Al McMordie - 12/08/2010
Winning at football requires hard work analyzing games, matchups and statistical angles. All the effort is certainly worth it when you can turn a profit each weekend against the books. Another angle to examine each week in the NFL is not so much who to bet on, but who to bet against. It can be just as profitable to find teams that won’t cover the number as those that will. We are at that point in the NFL season where some teams are highly motivated, but others are supremely disappointed.
That can mean teams that begin to pack it in mentally, which can show up on the scoreboard – and at the wagering window. Here’s a look at some teams that have one thing, or several things, missing and it has caused them to perform poorly against the number.
Texans: Houston is one of those teams that had high expectations after starting the year 2-0, including that big win at home over the rival Colts. But it really has been all downhill from there, on a 3-7 money-burning ATS run. The main reason is the young pass defense has been brutal all year, not just on that miracle TD loss on the final play to Jacksonville.
They come off another frustrating loss, blowing a fourth quarter lead at Philadelphia, failing to cover again. "We're playing a lot of people," Gary Kubiak said this week. "We're playing some new faces back there (in the secondary). We've got to keep doing that. We've got a safety issue right now. We've got three safeties on this team. We've lost two in the last couple weeks (Dominique Barber and Torri Williams), so that's something we've got to address.” More bad news is that defensive end Mario Williams has been playing with a sports hernia. A combination of key injuries and bad play can really deflate a team down the stretch.
But keep this in mind: The Texans finished 3-1 in 2007, and 3-1 in 2008 to close with 8-8 records in Gary Kubiak's second and third seasons. And they won their last four games last season to finish 9-7 to earn their first winning record. By the way, Houston is on a 6-3 run over the total with a terrific offense but terrible pass defense.
Raiders: Here’s another bubble team to watch. Everyone is in contention in the wild, wild AFC West and the Raiders have been talking a great game since August about having a strong season. Yet, their run defense is awful and the quarterback play has been poor between Gradkoswki and Jason Campbell. Both have had their moments but, overall, both have been below average QBs.
They certainly didn’t look like a team interested in playing football after getting blown out by the Steelers and Dolphins (though looked great last week at San Diego). Still, Oakland's defense gave up 68 points in those two losses after giving up 54 the previous four. Reports last week noted that the Raiders defensive coordinator, John Marshall, was heard yelling at his players in a meeting. Making matters worse is the schedule, which is very difficult.
Vikings: Minnesota is in an unusual position in that it has every reason to pack it in (and did several times in midseason), but made a coaching change. Teams like the Vikings and Cowboys that fire their coach in the middle of the campaign need to be watched closely. If the players didn’t care for the fired coach, they can come in with a new attitude for the new guy. We've seen this when Dallas started 4-0 against the spread after Jason Garrett took over for Wade Phillips. Of course, if the players don’t like the new guy, then that team can be just as big a go-against.
The Vikings got a win at Washington in Leslie Frazier's first game as coach, 17-13, and then blew out Buffalo last week, so all things are positive thus far for Frazier.
Lions: Detroit started the year with an excellent spread mark, despite few wins. But you have to wonder if they are wearing down because of injuries and bad defensive play, now down to their third string QB (Drew Stanton) after injuries to Matt Stafford and Shaun Hill. The Thanksgiving loss to the Patriots at home put Detroit on a 0-3 SU/ATS run, though the Lions snapped that ATS losing streak with a narrow 1-point ATS win last Sunday in a 24-20 loss at home to Chicago (as a 5-point dog). Still, Detroit lost that game straight-up, and it's been another disappointing season in Motown.
Cardinals: Arizona doesn’t have a difficult schedule down the stretch, but it’s still hard to find reasons to back this dispirited bunch. The defense is terrible and the punchless offense worse. Did this team really win the NFC just two seasons ago? Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made the Pro Bowl last season, but he wouldn't argue with anyone who said he is not playing up to that level this year. The QB play has been putrid. The Cardinals' front seven was awful in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Perhaps coach Ken Whisenhunt stated the obvious when he said this week, "I'm grasping at straws trying to find something that works." After opening the season with a win, Arizona has gone 2-9 against the number, and is at the lowest point at any time during Whisenhunt's four years. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.