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NFL Week 7 notebook

   by Larry Ness - 10/22/2005

(Random Thoughts)

The 2005 NFL season has completed six of its 17 weeks, roughly one-third of its year. Here's some random thoughts (my therapist prefers the phrase "thoughtful commentary!") on the season-to-date.

Who'da thunk that the New York Giants would be the league's highest scoring team at 29.8 PPG or that the Indianapolis Colts would be the league's stingiest team, allowing 9.5 PPG. However, I wouldn't expect those 'numbers' to last, as the Giants are only 12th in total offense, while the Colts are 11th in total defense. Expect that old term "regression to the mean" to come into play and for these two teams to fall back to the pack.

Al Davis made the phrase "Just win baby" popular back in the days when the Raiders were a competitive team. The phrase also applies to handicapping the NFL, as teams that win SU, regularly win ATS. The SU winners of the NFL's first 88 games have gone 72-13-3 ATS, or 84.7 percent ATS. Do you think that's high or low? Actually, it's just about the norm.

Long time Las Vegas handicapper and good friend Andy Iskoe (The Logical Approach), has done an exhaustive 17-year study on NFL pointspreads that covers every NFL regular season and playoff game from 1988 through 2004 (a total of 4,223 games). I'll cut to the recap.

Favorites won and 'covered' 46.1 percent of the time, underdogs won SU (naturally covering) 32.8 percent of the time and favorites won SU but failed to cover 16.5 percent of the time. Ties, pushes and pick'ems accounted for 4.5 percent of the games played. Andy's study concluded that, eliminating the 4.5 percent of ties, pushes and pick'ems, that in 82.7 percent of all games, the SU winner of the game also covers the pointspread.

How are home teams doing? Actually, pretty good. Home teams have gone 57-31 SU and 49-36-3 ATS. Home dogs are just 9-12 SU but 13-8 ATS. Since home teams are 57-31, the formative years I spent at Ohio U allowed me to conclude that conversely, road teams must be 31-57. That's a winning percentage of just .352 and that seemed low, so I checked on it.

In fact, it's very low. Road teams went 111-145 in 2004, a winning percentage of .434. Visiting teams have topped .400 in FIVE of the last six seasons, falling below the .400-mark in just 2003 (.387). There is a long way to go yet in 2005, but I'll keep an eye on this. The worst winning percentage for road teams in any year since the 1970 merger was the 1985 season, when visiting teams went 80-144 (.357).

Here's a few notes from one of my NFL preview articles.

The 2004 season may be best remembered as the year Peyton Manning re-wrote the record book with his passing exploits (he threw a record 49 TD passes while compiling a single-season record 121.1 passer rating). However, running the football effectively was still the key factor when it came to winning games, both SU and ATS.

Teams that outrushed their opponents in a game last year finished 183-72 SU (.718) and 171-78-6 ATS (that's a winning percentage of 68.7 percent). Teams with the most rushing attempts in a game 'covered' at a better than 70 percent rate! There were 179 100-yard rushing games in the 2004 season. The previous single-season high was 151 such games in 2003. Teams that featured a 100-yard rusher went 134-45 SU and 127-49-3 ATS. That's winning percenatges of 74.9 SU and 72.2 ATS. A quick comparison shows that teams with 300-yard pasing efforts went 36-45 SU in 2004 and a pathetic 29-50-2 ATS (36.7 percent)!

How are things going in 2005? Teams with the most rushing yards in a game are 69-18, a winning percentage of .793. They are 61-23-3 ATS, or 72.6 percent. Teams with the most rushing attempts in a game are 76-10, a winning percentage of .884. They are 66-17-3 ATS, or 79.5 percent. Those are some pretty impressive numbers.

However, after a record 179 100-yard rushing games in 2004, there have been just 43 through the season's first six weeks. At that rate, there would be just 122 on the year, a significant drop-off. That being said, the SU and ATS records of teams with 100-yard rushers are even better than they were last year. Teams featuring 100-yard rushers have gone 37-6 SU (.860) and 31-11-1 ATS (73.8 percent).

As far as the passing game goes, it seems as if the entire league has followed Peyton Manning's declining passing numbers. Manning passed for 4,557 yards in 2004 with 49 TD passes. Through six games in 2005, he has 1,314 yards and nine TD passes. At this rate he'd finish with 3,504 yards and 24 TD passes. There were 13 individual 400-yard passing games in 2004 but the 2005 season has seen just ONE, Marc Bulger's 442-yard effort versus the Giants in Week 4.

There have been just 24 300-yard pasing games through the season's first six weeks, a rate that would keep this year's total well below last year's 81 300-yard efforts. However, teams are winning at a much better rate when their QBs pass for 300 yards. They are 14-10 SU (.583) and 12-11-1 ATS (52.2 percent). Remember, last year's numbers were 36-45 SU (.444) and 29-50-2 ATS (36.7 percent).

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