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NFL Juggernauts and Fading Has-Beens

   by Jim Feist - 12/14/2013

NFL parity is alive and well in 2013! The broncos and Seahawks have been dominant in their respective conferences, but even they’ve been tripped up. Actually, the same team – the Colts – inflicted the first loss on both juggernauts.
The Colts topped Seattle, 34-28 in October, with an impressive 11-0 fourth quarter comeback despite getting outgained 423-317. QB Russell Wilson passed for 210 yards and ran for 102.
Then the Colts had another October showdown with unbeaten Denver and has a 39-33 win, punching Denver in the chops with 121 yards rushing and forcing 3 turnovers. That was the game Indy lost Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne. In those two games the Indy defense held the Seahawks and Broncos to a combined 7-28 on third down.
Every team has flaws that can be exploited. The Patriots are running away with the AFC East again, but can’t stop the run after losing NT Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and top LB Jerard Mayo, all done for the year with injuries. The Pats are on a 46-22 run over the total. The Bengals look so good all around, but often have conservative play-calling and sloppy mistakes, losing back to back OT games at Miami and Baltimore. The Bengals are 35-17-1 under the total in December.
Even the juggernaut slayer Indianapolis, a team that also won at San Francisco, got steamrolled by the Rams (38-8) at home and at Arizona (40-11) and have been forced to bench newcomer Trent Richardson, a bust they gave away a first round pick for.
New Orleans has the flashy, high powered offense behind QB Drew Brees and a revamped defense for first-year DC Rob Ryan, but they still seem to be a team built to play indoors at home. The Saints are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 home games. They lost at the Jets (26-20) and just got smoked at Seattle (34-7). You need to keep that in mind for the playoffs January knowing that the Super Bowl is outdoors in the New York cold in February.
The season is also littered with flops. The Vikings, Redskins, Falcons and Texans were expected to be better and but were out of it at the halfway point of the season. The Rams had high hopes but have disappointed, and even the Browns had a decent start with a terrific defense before crumbling with QB injuries.
Oddsmakers make adjustments on teams all during the season, such as four years ago when the Saints and Colts started red hot. After starting 6-0 SU/ATS, the Saints went 2-8 ATS to end the regular season, often as a double digit favorite. That's what can happen to public teams, either popular teams or ones with a flashy offense like the 2009 Saints and 2007 Patriots.
This season oddsmakers had to adjust to the Denver Broncos on totals, a high flying group that starts 8-0 over. After opening the season with totals set at 48 in two of their first three games, the last month Denver totals have been between 50-57 – and have finally started to go under.
Normally we are at the time of the pro football campaign where some teams have mentally and physically packed in the season. It's been a lost season or one with higher expectations and players, especially ones on poorly coached teams, can just go through the motions. That can show up on the scoreboard and at the wagering window.
Houston lost 10 in a row after that 2-0 start and then fired their coach. The Redskins went from a division title last year to last place this season, a dejected group that has been a money-burner (3-9 ATS run). And do you think it’s fun to play for the Falcons down the stretch of this lost campaign? Their over/under projected win total back in August: 10!
Teams that need to be watched closely as on the bubble for packing it in might be the Giants, Jets, Browns, Bills, Titans and Raiders. Pro players have pride and know the score. Taking out their frustrations on a powerhouse team is not uncommon. The good teams aren't that much better from year to year than bad ones. Parity and the salary cap have leveled the playing field and schedules are longer, all of which makes it that much harder to dominate.
The 1962 Green Bay Packers enjoyed a 10-0 start on the way to a 13-1 season, ending in a 16-7 win in the championship game over the Giants as one of Vince Lombardi's best teams. They came close to running the table, except for a surprising Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, 26-14 (trailing 26-0 to the fired up Lions). Even NFL David's can be gunning for Goliath this time of the season – if they haven't already packed it in.

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