Ness Notes (NFL): Two weeks left

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. We are now entering Week 17 (two games left for each team) and there is lots to discuss about the 'state of the playoff picture.' However, since it's 100 percent likely that anyone reading this article is betting on NFL games, I won't 'bury the lead.' 

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 but with just two weeks to go, home teams are again struggling.

Here's the dope. Home teams are just 119-118-1 (.502) SU and a MONEY-BURNING 106-131-1 ATS (44.7%). Home dogs used to be considered 'money in the bank' but home 'puppies' are just 29-62 (.312) SU and 40-51 (44.0%) ATS. For those O/U bettors, I hope you've been playing 'the under,' as the tally is 131 unders, 107 overs and three pushes (that's 55.0% favoring the under). The best ATS teams are Dallas (12-3) and Green Bay (11-4), followed by Detroit and Indy at 10-5. The worst ATS records belong to Jacksonville (4-11), the NY Jets and Chicago (each 5-10) and Washington (5-9-1). The best 'over' teams are Minnesota, the NY Jets and Philadelphia, who are all 9-6. The best 'under' teams are Denver (3-12), followed by Jacksonville and Seattle, which are both 4-11. 

With two weeks left in the NFL regular season, the majority of NFL teams are already in or still vying for the 14 playoff berths (seven in each conference). There are only EIGHT teams that have been officially eliminated from playoff contention after Week 16. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks are already 'toast. Over in the NFC, FIVE teams have already clinched a playoff berth. The 12-3 Green Bay Packers, the 11-4 Dallas Cowboys, and the 11-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all clinched their respective divisions. The only division that is still up for grabs is the NFC West. The 11-4 LA Rams currently lead the 10-5 Arizona Cards in that division, but both the Rams and Cards have clinched a playoff berth. Just TWO spots are still up for grabs in NFC. The 8-7 San Francisco 49ers and the 8-7 Philadelphia Eagles would be the teams heading to the postseason if the season ended today. However, the 7-8 Vikings, 7-8 Falcons, the 7-8 Saints and even the 6-9 Washington FB Teams are still mathematically 'alive.'

It's quite a different story in the AFC, where only the 11-4 Kansas City have officially clinched a playoff berth. The Chiefs have now won the AFC West for SIX consecutive years!). Lining up behind the Chiefs, there are TWELVE teams that have a possibility for postseason play. The 10-5 Titans (AFC South), the 9-6 Buffalo Bills (AFC East) and the 9-6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) all currently lead their respective divisions, but NONE has clinched as Week 17 dawns. Sitting behind those division leaders, the 9-6 Colts, 9-6 Patriots and the 8-7 Miami Dolphins currently own the three wild card positions. The Chargers, Raiders, and Ravens are all tied with the Dolphins at 8-7 but wouldn’t get into the playoffs if the season ended today because of tie breakers. The Steelers are at 7-7-1, and the Browns and Broncos are both 7-8. While all three teams are still in the hunt, a loss in Week 17 would essentially end their chance of a postseason run. Are we having fun yet? 

Let me close with a 'shout out' to the late-John Madden. He won a Super Bowl and became the youngest coach to reach 100 career regular-season victories, a record he compiled in only 10 full seasons of coaching at the age of 42 (103-32-7, .750). He is arguably the greatest color commentator in broadcast history (12-time Emmy winner) and surely the most beloved. If you didn't 'LOVE' his TV commercials, then there is something wrong with you. I've never played Madden NFL, published by EA Sports/Electronic Arts, but I may be alone in that category (FYI...I've never-ever used an ATM machine). Rest in peace John.

Good luck...Larry

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

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