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NFL Juggernauts and Fading Has-Beens
by Jim Feist - 12/14/2015
NFL parity is alive and well in 2015! The Jets had a surprising 4-1 SU/ATS start under their new coach....then came back to earth with a losing streak along with a 0-3-1 ATS run. Andy Reid's Chiefs were at the morgue after a 1-5 SU/ATS start, then rose from the dead on a 7-0 SU/6-1 ATS run to get back in it. The Packers looked like the team to beat in the NFC winning their first six games....then looked like Jacksonville during an ugly 0-3 SU/ATS slide.
And speaking of Jacksonville, the laughable Jaguars started 1-5...then beat the Titans in a Thursday night game to pull within a game of first place! Along the way they covered 4 in a row, off a 51-16 beatdown of Indy to pull within a game of first place.
Every team has flaws that can be exploited. The Patriots have had a great season, but injuries have slowed down their unstoppable offense. The Dolphins have been all over the map depending on which head coach was running the show. Seattle went from two-time NFC champs to one struggling behind a terrible offensive line this season. The Atlanta Falcons started 5-0 for their new coach, but since have stumbled badly on both sides of the ball.
The season is littered with flops. The Lions, Dolphins, Chargers, Colts and Saints were expected to be better. The Rams have had high hopes the last three years with a slew of draft picks, but have been maddeningly inconsistent because of quarterback play and an ultra-conservative offense. Note to Jeff Fisher: Have you heard of the forward pass? It is a part of the game, you know.
The fact is it's always like this, which is why we love the game. A year ago the Chiefs destroyed the Patriots on national TV then later beat Seattle, the two teams that ended up in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs, meanwhile, missed the playoffs despite beating the best of each conference.
Last season how many teams with losing records can say they beat the Broncos, 49ers and then-defending champion Seahawks? Only the Rams could, if you can believe that. Of course, they have trouble with the bad teams, for some reason. "Hey Jeff Fisher, ever hear of"...oh, I covered that.
Oddsmakers make adjustments on teams all during the season, such as six 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 2013 Broncos, 2009 Saints and 2007 Patriots.
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.
The 49ers and Ravens are dealing with lost seasons, the latter with much higher expectations. Two years ago Houston lost 10 in a row after a 2-0 start and then fired their coach. The Redskins went from a division title in 2012 to a train wreck the last three seasons. Dejected teams can often be money-burners, too. Do you think it’s fun in 2015 to play for the Browns, Jags, Ravens, Lions, 49ers and Saints down the stretch of this lost campaign?
Those teams need to be watched closely as on the bubble for packing it in, along with the Titans, who are already on their second head coach. 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.