Ness Notes: Monday, Jan 4

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."

NFL Week 17 recap: As I always like to do, I'll start at the bottom. The Jacksonville Jaguars opened the 2020 season by upsetting the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 at home in Week 1 and proceeded to lose their next 15 games, capped by Sunday's 28-14 loss at Indy. It also deserves a mention that while the Jags finished with the NFL's worst record, their 7-9 ATS matches that of the 14-2 KC Chiefs, who finished with an NFL-best record but also a 7-9 ATS mark. As it so often is, the point spread is a great 'equalizer.' The win by the Colts allowed them to earn the NFL's seventh and final seed, despite the fact that they were one of four AFC teams to finish 11-5 (love those tiebreakers). The Colts have to consider themselves fortunate, as the NFL added a third wild card team for the 2020 season. Over in the NFC, the Chicago Bears lost 35-16 at home to the Packers but were able to get that 'lucky' No. 7 seed with their 8-8 record. The Arizona Cardinals 'fell flat' in LA against the Rams losing 18-7 and also finished 8-8 but lost to Chicago in a tiebreaker. Ok, let's now start at the top and work down.

The KC Chiefs will open their defense of their Super title as the AFC's No. 1 seed and get the lone bye in the divisional round of the playoffs in two weeks. The 13-3 Buffalo Bills won the AFC East for the first time since 1995 and got the AFC's No. 2 seed.  Pittsburgh opened the season 11-0 but finished 12-4. However, it was good enough for the AFC's No. 3 seed, while Tennessee's 41-38 win over Houston earned them the No. 4 seed, as the 11-5 Titans captured the AFC South division in a tiebreaker over the Colts. Baltimore finished the season on a five-game winning streak and at 11-5 earned the No. 5 seed, while the 11-5 Browns have the No. 6 seed, ending the NFL's longest postseason drought (last made the playoffs in 2002). 

Green Bay matched its 13-3 record from the 2019 season but unlike last season when the 49ers, Packers and Saints all finished at 13-3, the Packers have the NFC's top record and get the No. 1 seed and that opening weekend bye. The 12-4 Saints edged the 12-4 Seahawks (via a tiebreaker) to capture the No. 2 seed (Seattle is No. 3) and the No. 4 seed goes to 7-9 Washington, which won the NFC 'Least.' The TB 'Bradys' finished 11-5 and will make the franchise's 1st playoff appearance in 13 years. Brady had four TD passes giving him 40 on the season. Tampa Bay's first playoff game in 13 years could be a lucky 13, as Tampa Bay earned the coveted No. 5 seed, giving them a wild card matchup with 7-9 Washington. The LA Rams gutted out an 18-5 win at home with John Wolford at QB against Arizona, earning the No. 6 seed with a 10-6 record. I'll have much more on the wild card weekend matchups in Thursday's Notes (Saturday games) and Friday's Notes (Sunday games).

FIVE of last season's eight division-winners failed to repeat in 2020, with only Baltimore (14-2 winner of the AFC North last year) making the expanded playoff field in 2020 at 11-5. No team fell harder than the Pats, who had won 11 straight AFC East titles (17 of the last 19) but finished 7-9 in 2020. San Francisco won the NFC West with a 13-3 record last season and led the Chiefs by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter of last year's Super Bowl (would lose 31-20), but finished an injury-ravaged 2020 season with a 6-10 record. Houston entered the 2020 season having won the AFC South FOUR times in the previous five years but finished 4-12, while the Eagles won the NFC East last season at 9-7, only to end the 2020 season at 4-11-1 (last in the NFL"s worst division). Minnesota was a wildcard team in 2019 (10-6) but will be sitting the postseason out in 2020, after a 7-9 season. With two extra playoff spots available in 2020, there are SEVEN teams in the current playoff field which sat out the 2019 postseason. In order of best records, that list includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Indianapolis in the AFC, as well as Tampa Bay, the LA Rams, Chicago and Washington in the NFC. The 'unluckiest' team to miss the 2020 postseason field has to be the 10-6 Dolphins, who tied the Buffalo Bills for the best ATS record among all 32 teams (Bills and Dolphins were both 11-5). In case anyone was wondering, the Dallas Cowboys ended the season with the league's worst ATS record at 5-11 (Cowboys were 6-10 SU). Home teams went 7-9 SU and 9-7 ATS, with home dogs going 3-7 SU but 7-3 ATS. The Week 17 games averaged 52.4 PPG with 10 overs and six unders. I'll calculate regular season Y-T-D numbers in Thursday's Notes.

Tuesday's Notes will be a BKB-only edition, checking in on the new AP poll (released Monday afternoon) in CBB and games played from Friday-Monday. Tonight concludes the second week of NBA action (opened Dec 22) and I'll offer some early reflections.

Good luck...Larry

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.