Ness Notes (NFL): 4 Games Complete; A Baker's Dozen To Go

by Larry Ness

The NFL's first-ever 17-game schedule (18 weeks) is 64 games into the 2021 season after four weeks. 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.

What's also notable is how almost each of the four weeks have been so similar. Home teams were 7-8 SU (6-9 ATS) in Week 1, 8-8 SU (7-9 ATS) in Week 2, 8-8 SU (8-8 ATS) in Week 3 and 7-9 SU (7-9 ATS) in Week 4. How are home dogs doing? They've gone 8-14 SU but are small winners ATS, going 12-10. For over/under bettors, there have been 26 overs and 38 unders. The 64 games have averaged 47.0 PPG. Again, check out the consistency. Week 1 games averaged 46.6 PPG and Week 2 games 45.5 PPG but then Weeks 3 and 4 saw exactly 768 points in the 16 games, averaging 48.0 PPG. The highest scoring game of the current season occurred in Week 1, when San Francisco won 41-33 at Detroit for a total of 74 combined points. There have been three other games in the low-70s. The lowest scoring game of the season came last Sunday, when Cleveland won 14-7 at Minnesota (21 points). 

Some AFC random thoughts: The Bills are 3-1 and the class of the AFC East. After a 4th-quarter collapse in Week 1 at home to Pittsburgh, Buffalo has won three straight (3-0 ATS), scoring 118 points while allowing 21. Buffalo has two shutouts (35-0 at Miami and 40-0 at home to Houston) in its first four games. The last team to do that was the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 (note: Baltimore won the Super Bowl that season). The AFC North and AFC West have three-way ties at the top. The Bengals, Browns and Ravens are 3-1, with the Steelers sitting in last-place at 1-3 in the North. As for the West, the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders are 3-1, while the five-time defending AFC West champs (Chiefs) are in last-place at 2-2. The South looks like it will be the weakest division in the AFC, as Tennessee leads at 2-2, while Houtson (1-3), Indy (1-3) and Jacksonville (0-4) are a combined 2-10. The Jags are the lone winless team in the NFC and one may ask, "How are you liking the NFL these days, Urban?"

Some NFC random thoughts: The NFL's lone unbeaten team is the 4-0 Arizona Cardinals (I bet most people called that!), who play in the highly competitive NFC West. The Rams are 3-1, while the Seahawks and 49ers are 2-2. The defending Tampa Bay 'Bradys' sit atop the NFC South at 3-1 but two of those wins have come via a made FG vs Dallas in Week 1 and a missed FG by New England in Week 4, both on the game's final play. Hence, Tampa Bay's 1-3 ATS record. Can you say, "the Bradys are lucky to NOT be 1-3?"Joining Tampa Bay at 3-1 in the NFC South is Carolina, which is also 3-1 ATS (who wouldn't take Darnold over Brady?). The Saints, without Drew Brees, are averaging 144.0 YPG passing (31st) and sit at 2-2. The Falcons are 1-3 and may just ask for 'asylum' after Sunday's game with the Jets in London. The Packers lead the NFC North at 3-1 (3-0 SU and ATS after that debacle at Jacksonville against the Saints in Week 1). I doubt the Packers will be tested this season, as the Bears are 2-2, the Vikings 1-3 and the Lions 0-4, joining the Jags as the NFL's only two winless teams. Let's NOT forget about the division that earned the moniker NFC 'Least' in 2020.  Washington won the division last season at 7-9 and are 2-2 to open 2021. However, both wins have come via 'miracles' (see the ending of the team's games against the Giants and the Falcons!). Speaking of the Giants, they are 1-3 and the Eagles are also 1-3, 0-3 since beating the Falcons in Week 1. However, "How 'bout dem Cowboys!" Dak is healthy and so is Zeke. Dallas lost on the game's final play at Tampa Bay in the 2021 Season Opener but has then ripped off THREE straight wins and is currently the NFL's lone unbeaten ATS team (4-0). I'm sure most came into the season thinking, "I'm gonna bet on Dallas in every game, it's a "sure thing!" And so it goes...

Good luck...Larry

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