Ness Notes: Friday, Nov 13

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."

Philip Rivers (308 passing yards) outplayed Ryan Tannehill (147 yards) and Indy's top-rated defense shut out the Titans in the second half, leading the Colts to a 34-17 win Thursday night in the first game of Week 10. The Colts moved into a first-place tie with the Titans in the AFC South. Both teams are 6-3 and will meet again Week 12 at Indianapolis. Before getting to my NFL midseason update and Sunday preview, how about a shout out to Rivers? He entered the game with 61,358 passing yards in his 17-year career, needing just four yards to pass Marino. He finished the night 29-of-39 passing for 308 yards, putting him at 61,666 yards for his career. The only other QBs with more passing yards than Rivers are either in the Hall of Fame or will be first-ballot Hall of Famers at some point; Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and record-holder Drew Brees. Rivers is also just the SIXTH quarterback in league history to throw 400 career TD passes and for at least 60,000 passing yards for a career.

AFC 2020 midseason update: The KC Chiefs won their final six regular season games in 2019 and then behind Patrick Mahomes and an offense that averaged 39.0 PPG, won three straight playoff games to capture the franchise's second-ever Super Bowl title (first came in the 1969 season). The Chiefs are 8-1 (6-3 ATS) through Week 9 of the 2020 season and this Mahomes 'kid' is proving he may just have a future in this league (2,687 passing yards with 25 TDs and one INT in 329 attempts / QB rating of 115.9). However, as Week 10 dawns, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers who are the NFL's lone team without a loss, opening 8-0 (6-2 ATS). Pittsburgh knows a little about winning Super Bowl titles (Steelers have won SIX) but the team entered 2020 off back-to-back non-playoff seasons. "Big Ben," coming off a season in which he had missed the final 14 games after elbow surgery, has rebounded nicely. He's completing 68.1% for 1,934 yards with 18 TDs and just four INTs (101.8 QB rating). Kudos also goes to the Pittsburgh defense, which is allowing 20.1 PPG (3rd) on 317.4 YPG (6th). Pittsburgh owns a two-game lead over the 6-2 Ravens, who went 14-2 in 2019. Speaking of defense, the Ravens are holding opponents to an NFL-low 17.8 PPG. Questions surround the Ravens this season, as they've failed to come through in losses to KC (31-20) and Pittsburgh (28-24), BOTH at home. QB Lamar Jackson has taken 'the heat' for those losses but with last Sunday's win at Indy, he matched Dan Marino's 25-5 record as a starting QB to open one's career (in the Super Bowl era). The AFC North owns the NFL best combined record of any division, going 21-10-1 (.672) and note that last-place Cincinnati (2-5-1), owns a 6-2 ATS record, same as 8-0 Pittsburgh.

The only other NFL team with more than SIX wins is the Buffalo Bills, who are 7-2 but just 4-5 ATS. Looking closer, the team's ATS record should NOT be a surprise, as the Bills have outscored opponents by a meager NINE points on the season! Compare that to the NFL's two eight-game winners. KC owns a league-best plus-103 point differential, while Pittsburgh ranks second at plus-74 points. Still, Bills fans HAVE to be excited, as Buffalo owns a 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Dolphins (5-3) in the AFC East plus the post-Brady Pats are struggling at 3-5. New England has won 11 straight division titles (17 of the last 19) but Buffalo is 4-0 in division play so far, putting the team in a good position to capture its first AFC East title since 1995. As for the AFC South, the Houston Texans, who have won the division in FOUR of the last five years, are just 2-6. The Colts and Titans, who have already opened Week 10 play last night, are currently tied atop the division at 6-3 (see recap above).

On to the NFC: San Francisco, Green Bay and New Orleans all went 13-3 in 2019. The 49ers and Packers earned the top-two seeds (via tiebreakers) and met in the NFC championship game, with the Niners crushing the Packers, 37-20 (the game was a no-contest, with San Francisco leading 27-0 at the half). The 49ers led the Chiefs 20-10 midway through the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl but KC 'exploded' for 21 points in a five-minute span to win by 11 points. Here in 2020, while the Packers and Saints each sit atop their respective divisions at 6-2, the injury-riddled 49ers are 4-5, which leaves them in last-place in the NFC West. The West owns a collective 20-13 (.606), second to only the AFC North's mark (see above), as Seattle's 6-2 mark claims the top-spot, while the Cards and Rams are just one game back at 5-3. The Packers are 1 1/2-games up on the 5-4 Bears in the North, while the Saints are just barely ahead of the 6-3 Bucs in the South, they are 3-0 in division play, including 2-0 against the Bucs! That leaves just the NFC East, which has reclaimed its one-time title as the "NFC Least" in 2020. None of the four teams own a winning record, as the division checks in with an NFL-worst 9-24-1 (.279) record. The 3-4-1 Eagles, who won the division at 9-7 in 2019, are again atop the division, followed by 2-6 Washington plus the 2-7 Cowboys and Giants. All four teams have been outscored by their opponents, with the division checking in with a collective minus-191 point differential (NFC West has the best point differential of any division at plus-144). NFC East teams are 14-20 ATS but it could be worse if not for the 2-7 Giants checking in at 6-3 ATS, somewhat mitigating the Cowboys' NFL-worst ATS mark of 1-8.

Sunday's Week 10: The Chiefs (8-1 / 6-3 ATS) are on their bye week, as are the Cowboys (2-7 / 1-8 ATS), Falcons (3-6 / 4-5 ATS) and Jets (0-9 / 2-7 ATS). The NFL's lone unbeaten team, the 8-0 Steelers (6-2 ATS) will host the 2-5-1 Bengals, who despite their record, match the Steelers with a 6-2 ATS mark. "Big Ben" has not been able to practice this week (close COVID contact) but Pittsburgh is prepping as if he will play. Pittsburgh is favored by seven points and the over/under is 46 1/2. The SNF matchup features the 6-2 Ravens, playing at the 3-5 Pats. This would have been a 'classic' matchup in 2019 but "NOT so much" in 2020. Baltimore is favored by seven points and the over/under is 43 1/2. The 7-2 Bills are in the Arizona desert to play the 5-3 Cards, a game which features a QB showdown between Josh Allen (2,587 passing yards and a 19-5 TD/INT ratio plus 241 yards rushing with 5 TDs) vs Kyler Murray (2,130 passing yards and a 16-7 TD/INT ratio plus 543 yards rushing with 8 TDs). The Cards are favored by 2 1/2-points and the over/under is 56 1/2. 6-2 Seattle is hoping to extend its division lead over the 5-3 Rams in the NFC West when the teams meet in LA (Rams are a two-point choice and the over/under is 54 1/2). Lastly, the 49ers and Saints each went 13-3 in 2019 but it's a 'tale of two cities' in 2020, as the 4-5 Niners are in last-place in the NFC West, while the 6-2 Saints sit atop the NFC South after earning a season sweep of the Bucs with last Sunday's 38-3 rout. The Saints are favored by 10 points and the over/under is 49.

Good luck...Larry

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