Ness Notes: NFL 2021 With Eight Weeks To Go

by Larry Ness

The NFL's first-ever 17-game schedule (over 18 weeks) began back on Sep 9th, when the defending champions Bucs eked out a 31-29 win over a Dallas Cowboys team coming off a 6-10 season. Raise your hand if you predicted that through Week 10 of the season, the Bucs would be 6-3 (3-6 ATS), while the Cowboys would be 7-2 (8-1 ATS).That's just ONE of the many surprises that the 2021 NFL season has delivered.

Consider this. FOUR teams entered Week 10 with a record under .500 and defeated a team that began the week in first place or tied for first. The Dolphins started things off with a 22-10 win over the Ravens last Thursday and then on Sunday, it was Washington 29-19 over Tampa Bay, Carolina 34-10 over Arizona and Minnesota 27-20 over the LA Chargers.

Thirteen teams have either four or five wins, the most-ever through Week 10, and every team has lost at least twice. Twelve of the AFC's 16 teams are .500 or better, keeping playoff hopes alive for more teams than usual. The guys at FiveThirtyEight.com are reporting that 22 of 32 teams have a 20-plus percent chance of making the playoffs. My mom's favorite saying was, "It's too much for my pinhead brain," and I think I'm right there with her.

The playoff format will be just like last season. Only the No. 1 seeds in the AFC and NFC will get a bye, with the other three division winners hosting the three teams with the best record among no-division winners. Here's how the playoffs would begin if the postseason were to begin today (Nov 17th). Giving a second shout to my mom, today would have been her 92nd birthday.

8-2 Tennessee (South) would be the AFC's No. 1 seed, followed by division winners 6-3 Buffalo (East), 6-3 Baltimore (North) and 6-4 Kansas City (West). The three other qualifiers would be 5-3-1 Pittsburgh, 6-4 New England and the 5-4 LA Chargers (win tiebreakers over the 5-4 Raiders and Bengals). 8-2 Green Bay (North) would be the NFC's No. 1 seed, followed by division winners 8-2 Arizona (West), 7-2 Dallas (East) and 6-3 Tampa Bay (South). The three other qualifiers would be the 7-3 LA Rams, 5-4 New Orleans and 5-5 Carolina.

Comparing last year's playoff field with the one through Week 10 of 2021, we find that the Browns and Colts would be replaced by the Pats and Chargers this season in the AFC. Over in the NFC, 2020 playoff teams like Seattle, Washington and Chicago, would be replaced by Arizona, Dallas and Carolina. Taking a closer look at the current playoff field, the Bills own the best point-differential (+145), 47 points higher than Ariona and New England's plus-98. The worst point differential of the 14 teams belongs to the Steelers, who are minus-8 points (only team with a negative point differential).

I guess it's not a surprise that Pittsburgh owns a 3-6 ATS record, as do the Bucs and Ravens but the worst ATS mark belongs to the 3-7 Chiefs. Residing at the top of the ATS 'food chain' we have 9-1 Green Bay and 8-1 Dallas plus 7-3 Arizona and 7-3 Tennessee. Speaking of ATS records, my last NFL update gave records thru Week 4. Here's what I wrote. 

"Home teams went 132-123-1 two seasons ago (2019), the worst record since the advent of the 16-game schedule. Then, in 2020, home teams had a losing record for the first time in history, going 127-128-1. One could argue that empty and partially-empty stadiums played a role in that. However, that situation no longer applies in 2021 and after four weeks, home teams are just 30-33 (.476) SU and even worse ATS, going 28-35 (44.4%). You may be wondering about that 64th game but back in Week 1, the Saints had their home opener against the Packers moved to Jacksonville, creating a neutral-site situation." 

Let me get you up to speed through all games played through Week 10.Entering 'lucky' Week 11, the NFL has played 150 games. All but three have involved a home team. The exceptions are the two London games and the Week1 game played between the Packers and Saints that was moved from New Orleans to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Ida. Home teams remain sub-.500 SU, going 71-75-1 (.483). For those of you who may be betting on these games, home teams are a 'money-burning' 61-85-1 ATS or 41.7% (Ouch!). There have been years in which home dogs were seen as 'money in the bank' but home dogs are only 17-35 (.327) in 2021, although they are close to .500 ATS (25-27, .481). If one likes to play NFL totals, the numbers support playing the under. There have been 83 Unders, 65 Overs and two pushes. That's a 56.1% edge to the under.

Good luck...Larry

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