For a while there, the NFL was actually appearing as if it was going to settle down into somewhat of a routine… and maybe even be predictable.
The games are literally anybody’s these days. Consider the results of Week 10: Seven underdogs won outright. In addition, the Titans nearly beat the Ravens, the Bills almost toppled the Colts, and the Rams lost in the last seconds at Seattle.
The only clear favorites to play that way were Philadelphia and Dallas. Against the spread, underdogs were 11-5 with three other games controlled early by ‘dogs before the favorites rallied. I mean, someone explain to me the logic of the Jets winning at New England or Atlanta falling at home to Cleveland, or… well, you get the point.
But despite all the weirdness, I actually bounced back decently from my Week 9 debacle to go 11-5 ATS. So there is at least some hope down the stretch.
On to Week 11…
2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON: Straight-Up – 88-56 (61 percent); ATS – 71-66-7 (52 percent)
LAST WEEK: Straight-Up – 9-7; ATS – 11-5
OVER/UNDER: 78-64-2 for the season, 9-7 last week.
BUFFALO (3-6) at HOUSTON (3-6)
Line: Texans favored by 2 (total points line is 36½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bills 5-4, Texans 4-5
Strongest Trend: The Bills are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 against teams with losing records.
Last Meeting: Buffalo won at home, 22-7, in September of last season.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo played tough, but lost at Indianapolis Sunday, 17-16. The Bills are tied with Miami for third in the AFC East.
Texans Status Report: Houston completed a shocking season series sweep of Jacksonville last weekend with a 13-10 triumph at Jacksonville.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Anthony Thomas, WR Lee Evans. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – QB J.P. Losman, K Rian Lindell, Bills defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – QB David Carr, RB Wali Lundy, Texans defense.
Game Summary: The Bills are playing their second straight game on the road, and that could end up being the difference. But the stats point toward Buffalo, as does the current trend favoring underdogs and the Bills’ decisive win over Houston in the last meeting 14 months ago.
Prediction: BILLS, 17-14
NEW ENGLAND (6-3) at GREEN BAY (4-5)
Line: Patriots favored by 6 (total points line is 44½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Patriots 4-4-1, Packers 4-5
Strongest Trend: New England is unbeaten straight-up and ATS on the road this season. The Packers are 1-3 ATS at home.
Last Meeting: Green Bay won at New England, 28-10, in 2002.
Patriots Status Report: New England lost a second straight game for the first time since ’02, dropping a 17-14 decision at home to the New York Jets. The Patriots remain atop the AFC East, but their lead over the Jets was reduced to a game.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay won at Minnesota Sunday, 23-17, and is tied with the Vikings for second in the NFC North – four games behind Chicago.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – RBs Corey Dillon and Lawrence Maroney, WR Reche Caldwell, TE Ben Watson, Patriots defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, WR Donald Driver, TE David Martin. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – RB Ahman Green, WR Greg Jennings, K David Rayner.
Game Summary: It’s tempting to play the history card, which says never to go against Brett Favre at Lambeau Field in cold weather. But the Patriots are one of the few teams who positively won’t be intimidated by the conditions. Between my strong belief that the Pats won’t lose three straight and their unscathed road record going in, the evidence is overwhelmingly in New England’s favor.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 27-17
CHICAGO (8-1) at NEW YORK JETS (5-4)
Line: Bears favored by 7 (total points line is 38)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bears 6-2-1, Jets 6-3
Strongest Trend: The over has prevailed in eight straight Jets home games plus 10 of the last 12 Chicago road tilts.
Last Meeting: The Bears won at home, 20-13, in 2002.
Bears Status Report: Chicago throttled the New York Giants at the same Meadowlands stadium last Sunday night, 38-20, and sports the NFC’s best record.
Jets Status Report: Visiting New York stunned New England, 17-14, Sunday.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – RB Thomas Jones, WR Muhsin Muhammad, TE Desmond Clark, Bears defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman, K Robbie Gould. QUALITY STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – WR Laveranues Coles. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – RB Leon Washington, Jets defense.
Game Summary: Chicago gets the nod based on the numbers, but the Jets aren’t getting much respect from oddsmakers, and I believe they will be enough of a test to stay within a TD. The Jets defense has holes, but is opportunistic – it could force some Rex Grossman mistakes and make things very interesting.
Prediction: BEARS, 23-20
MINNESOTA (4-5) at MIAMI (3-6)
Line: Dolphins favored by 3½ (total points line is 34)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Vikings 4-4-1, Dolphins 2-6-1
Strongest Trend: The home team has won the last six meetings.
Last Meeting: Minnesota won at home, 20-17, in 2002.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota has dropped three straight including Sunday’s 23-17 home loss to Minnesota. The Vikings are tied with Green Bay for second in the NFC North.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami’s 13-10 home win over Kansas City last week was its second straight. The Dolphins are tied with Buffalo at the bottom of the AFC East.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – Vikings defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – WR Chris Chambers. Dolphins defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Joey Harrington, RB Ronnie Brown (check injury status), WR Marty Booker, TE Randy McMichael, K Olindo Mare.
Game Summary: The Dolphins appear to be looking to put together a winning streak comparable to last year’s season-ending six-game skein. They have momentum, and Minnesota comes in on a skid. So why am being pulled toward the Vikings? Because the numbers – primarily, Minnesota’s league-best run defense – point that direction. And remember, logic hasn’t been prevailing. But which logic do I ignore? Doh!
Prediction: DOLPHINS, 20-13
PITTSBURGH (3-6) at CLEVELAND (3-6)
Line: Steelers favored by 3½ (total points line is 37½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Steelers 3-6, Browns 5-4
Strongest Trend: The Steelers have won the last five meetings, covering ATS in each.
Last Meeting: Pittsburgh romped at Cleveland on Christmas Eve last year, 41-0.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh snapped a three-game losing streak with a 38-31 victory over visiting New Orleans last weekend. The Steelers are tied with the Browns at the bottom of the NFC North.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland pulled off a significant upset last week, beating Atlanta on the road, 17-13.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller, Steelers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – WR Santonio Holmes, K Jeff Reed. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – TE Kellen Winslow. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – RB Reuben Droughns, WRs Joe Jurevicius and Braylon Edwards, K Phil Dawson, Browns defense.
Game Summary: Pittsburgh has been forecast to go on a roll by many, including me, and the first step (okay, second) is to put together consecutive quality efforts. Look for the defense to step up this time and secure a quality win over a rival which the Steelers have dominated in recent meetings.
Prediction: STEELERS, 24-7
ATLANTA (5-4) at BALTIMORE (7-2)
Line: Ravens favored by 4 (total points line is 40)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Falcons 5-4, Ravens 5-4
Strongest Trend: none.
Last Meeting: Atlanta won at home, 20-17, in 2002.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta dropped its second in a row, losing at home to Cleveland, 17-13, but remaining within a game of front-running New Orleans in the AFC South.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore rallied at Tennessee for a 27-26 win Sunday. The Ravens have opened a four-game lead over Cincinnati in the AFC North.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – QB Michael Vick, TE Alge Crumpler. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – RB Warrick Dunn, Falcons defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, RB Jamal Lewis, WRs Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, K Matt Stover.
Game Summary: If QB Michael Vick can take better care of the ball as he attempts to carry his squad on his shoulders, the ride would be smooth more often than not. But his carelessness with the ball has cost the Falcons at least two games this season… and against the Ravens, that’s certainly a problem which needs addressing. I actually believe the upset could happen here, but Baltimore has been so steady in recent weeks I can’t buck the trend in good conscience.
Prediction: RAVENS, 27-20
CINCINNATI (4-5) at NEW ORLEANS (6-3)
Line: Saints favored by 3½ (total points line is 51)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bengals 3-5-1, Saints 6-3
Strongest Trend: The Bengals are 12-3-1 ATS on the road since 2004.
Last Meeting: Cincinnati prevailed at home, 20-13, in 2002.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati lost its third in a row Sunday, squandering a 21-point lead en route to a 49-41 home loss to San Diego.
Saints Status Report: New Orleans was outlasted at Pittsburgh last weekend, 38-31. The Saints hold a 1-game lead in the NFC South over Atlanta and Carolina.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson, WR Chad Johnson, K Shayne Graham. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – Just about every other skill-position player. QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, RBs Reggie Bush and Deuce McAlister, WR Marques Colston, K John Carney. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS - WRs Joe Horn and Devery Henderson.
Game Summary: My upset special… but not because of anything having to do with the Saints. I just have confidence that coach Marvin Lewis can rally his troops while the team still has a chance to make the playoffs, and that explosive offense is one of the few which can beat the Saints in a shootout. Should be close either way. For the record, my numbers indicate a close Saints win, so this is an instinct pick.
Prediction: BENGALS, 35-27
TENNESSEE (2-7) at PHILADELPHIA (5-4)
Line: Eagles favored by 13 (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Titans 5-4, Eagles 5-4
Strongest Trend: Four of the last five meetings have been decided by a TD or less.
Last Meeting: Tennessee won at home, 27-24, back in the 2002 season-opener.
Titans Status Report: The Titans blew a big early lead and lost at home to Baltimore a week ago, 27-26. They are last in the AFC South, a game behind Houston.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia cruised to a 27-3 home rout of Washington. The Eagles are tied with Dallas for second in the NFC East, a game back of the New York Giants.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – RB Travis Henry, WR Drew Bennett. QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, TE L.J. Smith, K David Akers, Eagles defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – WRs Donte’ Stallworth and Reggie Brown.
Game Summary: Weirder things have happened, of course, but there’s nothing among the numbers and trends to indicate the Titans have any realistic chance here.
Prediction: EAGLES, 28-10
OAKLAND (2-7) at KANSAS CITY (5-4)
Line: Chiefs favored by 10 (total points line is 34½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Raiders 4-4-1, Chiefs 5-3-1
Strongest Trend: The Chiefs have covered ATS in nine of their last 10 home games.
Last Meeting: The Chiefs won at home, 27-23, slight more than a year ago.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland’s defense played well, but offense was inept in a 17-13 home loss to Denver Sunday.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City was bested at Miami last weekend, 13-10. The Chiefs are third in the AFC West, two games behind co-leaders Denver and San Diego.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – None. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – RB Lamont Jordan, WR Randy Moss. QUALITY STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – RB Larry Johnson, K Lawrence Tynes, Chiefs defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – QB Trent Green, WR Eddie Kennison, TE Jason Dunn.
Game Summary: Even with the Kansas City QB situation up in the air between returning starter Trent Green and able sub Damon Huard, and the absence of injured TE Tony Gonzalez, the Chiefs should prevail at home against an Oakland squad that is the NFL’s worst offensively. The rivalry factor, however, points toward a potentially close game.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 22-13
WASHINGTON (3-6) at TAMPA BAY (2-7)
Line: Buccaneers favored by 3 (total points line is 33½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Redskins 3-6, Buccaneers 4-5
Strongest Trends: Tampa Bay is 3-9 ATS in its last 12 as a favorite.
Last Meeting: The Redskins won at Tampa Bay, 17-10, in the NFC wild-card playoffs last January.
Redskins Status Report: Washington was humbled at Philadelphia Sunday, 27-3.
Buccaneers Status Report: Tampa Bay jumped out to an early 7-0 lead at Carolina Monday night but didn’t find the endzone again in a 24-10 loss.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – TE Chris Cooley. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – RB Ladell Betts, WR Santana Moss, Redskins defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – WR Joey Galloway, TE Alex Smith, Buccaneers defense.
Game Summary: The Redskins’ main rushing threat, Clinton Portis, is gone for the year with a broken hand. Veteran QB Mark Brunell has been benched in favor of untested youngster Jason Campbell. Washington is a mess… and I like the Redskins to win this one anyway because Ladell Betts is an able replacement to Portis and the Bucs are plagued by an inept offense riddled with missing parts and a defense that has under-performed virtually all season. A mini-upset pick.
Prediction: REDSKINS, 20-17
ST. LOUIS (4-5) at CAROLINA (5-4)
Line: Panthers favored by 6½ (total points line is 44½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Rams 5-3-1, Panthers 3-5-1
Strongest Trend: Carolina is 14-4 ATS its last 18 regular season after November 1.
Last Meeting: The Panthers won at home, 20-7, in 2004.
Rams Status Report: For the second time this season, St. Louis lost to division-rival Seattle in the last seconds, falling 24-22 on Sunday at Seattle. The Rams are tied for second with San Francisco in the NFC West, two games behind Seattle.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina cruised past visiting Tampa Bay Monday night, 24-10. The Panthers are tied for second with Atlanta in the NFC South, a game behind New Orleans.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, RB Stephen Jackson, WR Torry Holt, K Jeff Wilkins. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – WRs Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – QB Jake Delhomme, RB DeShaun Foster, WR Steve Smith, K John Kasay. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Keyshawn Johnson, Panthers defense.
Game Summary: The short week for preparation could hurt Carolina, but the Panthers are home for both games and have the superior defense. The Rams are traveling half the continent for the second week in a row and might be emotionally flat after the tough defeat at Seattle.
Prediction: PANTHERS, 24-17
DETROIT (2-7) at ARIZONA (1-8)
Line: Cardinals favored by 2½ (total points line is 45½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Lions 3-6, Cardinals 2-7
Strongest Trend: The home team has won and covered ATS in the last six meetings.
Last Meeting: Detroit won at home, 29-21, last season.
Lions Status Report: Detroit lost at home to San Francisco a week ago, 19-13.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was beaten at home by Dallas, 27-10, for its eighth consecutive defeat.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Jones, WR Roy Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – WR Mike Furrey, K Jason Hanson, Lions defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – WR Anquan Boldin, K Neil Rackers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Matt Leinart, RB Edgerrin James, WR Larry Fitzgerald (check injury status), Cardinals defense.
Game Summary: Honestly, does anyone outside of Detroit or Phoenix care? Does anyone inside Detroit or Phoenix care? If this was Piston-Suns, or even Tigers-D’backs, we might take a look. Anyone for Red Wings-Coyotes?
Prediction: CARDINALS, 23-20
SEATTLE (6-3) at SAN FRANCISCO (4-5)
Line: Seahawks favored by 4½ (total points line is 42½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Seahawks 3-6, 49ers 5-4
Strongest Trend: Seattle has won the last six meetings.
Last Meeting: The Seahawks romped, 41-3, at home last December.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle edged visiting St. Louis, 24-22, at home Sunday to seize a two-game division lead over the Rams and San Francisco.
49ers Status Report: The 49ers upset host Detroit last Sunday, 19-13, for their second victory in a row.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE - RB Maurice Morris or Shaun Alexander (check Alexander’s injury status), WR Darrell Jackson, TE Jerramy Stevens. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Seneca Wallace, WR Deion Branch, K Josh Brown, Seahawks defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore, MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – Any TE, 49ers defense.
Game Summary: Don’t look now, but San Francisco can put itself in a contending position in the NFC West with a victory. The 49ers are playing well, albeit against weaker opposition, but the defense has especially made strides and the Seahawks remain banged up. The return of Alexander could be key, but either way I expect San Francisco to give the Seahawks a tussle for the full 60 minutes.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 20-17
INDIANAPOLIS (9-0) at DALLAS (5-4)
Line: Colts favored by 1½ (total points line is 48½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Colts 5-3-1, Cowboys 5-4
Strongest Trend: The Colts have won the last three meetings. No other significant trends.
Last Meeting: Indy won at home in 2002, 20-3.
Colts Status Report: Indianapolis became the first team in league history to start consecutive seasons with nine straight victories when it held off Buffalo at home on Sunday, 17-16. The Colts have a four-game lead over Jacksonville in the AFC South.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas whipped host Arizona Sunday, 27-10, and is tied for second in the NFC East, a game off the pace.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – QB Peyton Manning, WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, K Adam Vinatieri. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – RB Joseph Addai. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Tony Romo, RB Julius Jones, WR Terrell Owens. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – RB Marion Barber, WRs Patrick Crayton and Terry Glenn (check injury status), TE Jason Witten, K Mike Vanderjagt.
Game Summary: Plenty of close calls for the Colts lately, and it catches up to them at Big D. Dallas has the big-play weapons on offense to keep pace, and the defensive balance to keep Peyton Manning and company comparatively in check. The homefield edge is big here, but the Cowboys’ defensive balance (especially their run-stopping talents) will make the most difference. Another mini-upset selection.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 31-17
SAN DIEGO (7-2) at DENVER (7-2)
Line: Broncos favored by 2½ (total points line is 42)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Chargers 6-3, Broncos 4-5
Strongest Trend: The Broncos have won five of the last six, and seven of the last nine meetings.
Last Meeting: Denver won at San Diego, 23-7, last New Year’s Eve in the ’05 regular season finale.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego rallied from a 28-7 deficit at Cincinnati Sunday to score a 49-41 victory and keep pace with the Broncos atop the AFC West.
Broncos Status Report: Denver won at Oakland, 17-13, for its seventh win in eight games.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – WR Keenan McCardell, Chargers defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – WR Javon Walker, K Jason Elam, Broncos defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jake Plummer, RB Tatum Bell, WR Rod Smith.
Game Summary: This showdown for AFC West supremacy breaks down as close as you might expect with contestants sporting identical records. There’s one thing, though, that separates these two. The Chargers still need to demonstrate an ability to win the tough road tests under adverse conditions. Yes, they rallied at Cincinnati last week. And they deserve a lot of credit for that. But they were horrible in falling behind in that game, demonstrating a level of defensive ineptitude that would never plague the Broncos on their worst day. At Denver, in the cold, the Broncos have the edge.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 23-17
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-3) at JACKSONVILLE (5-4)
Line: Jaguars favored by 3 (total points line is 37½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Giants 5-4, Jaguars 5-3-1
Strongest Trend: The Giants are 3-9 in their last dozen Monday night appearances.
Last Meeting: The Giants won at The Meadowlands, 24-17, in 2002.
Giants Status Report: New York, after taking an early lead, was eventually buried by Chicago at home Sunday night, 38-20. The Giants’ lead in the NFC East was cut to one game.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville inexplicably lost to Houston for the second time this season, dropping a 13-10 decision at home Sunday.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, TE Jeremy Shockey. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – K Jay Feely, Giants defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Fred Taylor, K Josh Scobee. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Maurice Drew-Jones, WRs Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones, Jaguars defense.
Game Summary: A tough game to analyze, but one pattern that has been fairly constant is Jacksonville’s propensity for playing well on national TV, especially at home. Given no other clear indicators, that one works for me.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 24-19