Eight weeks remain of the regular season and three teams are still unbeaten: Carolina, New England and Cincinnati. Yet it is not how you start, it is how you finish.
In every season since 1987, at least one team with a .500 or worse record through eight games has qualified for the post-season. Last year, the Carolina Panthers accomplished the feat and advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after a 3-4-1 start.
Over the past seven seasons, 15 teams started 4-4 or worse and rebounded to qualify for the postseason. Eight of those teams, including the 2014 Panthers, won at least one playoff game.
Six teams – Atlanta (6-3; 6-10 in 2014), Carolina (8-0; 7-8-1 in 2014), the New York Jets (5-3; 4-12 in 2014), Oakland (4-4; 3-13 in 2014), Tampa Bay (3-5; 2-14 in 2014) and Tennessee (2-6; 2-14 in 2014) – have already matched or surpassed their win totals from last season.
In Week 10, four more teams – Jacksonville (2-6; 3-13 in 2014), Minnesota (6-2; 7-9 in 2014), the New York Giants (5-4; 6-10 in 2014) and Washington (3-5; 4-12 in 2014) – can also match their 2014 win totals.
MyClubBetting handicapper and Lindy’s Sports UK Editor Simon Milham takes a look at the betting trends and some of the best bets ahead of Week 10 of the 2015/16 NFL season. The odds are correct at the time of writing and are industry average.
(Handicap is denoted by +/- for the home team)
BUFFALO at NEW YORK JETS
(-2.5, Total Points 42.5)
The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets may not catch the unbeaten New England Patriots in the AFC East, but both are firmly in the hunt for a playoff wild-card spot.
Both had easy home wins last week – Buffalo (4-4) took care of Miami, while the Jets (5-3) saw off Jacksonville.
Since 1997, the Bills have only once won on back-to-back trips to New York (in 2006 and 2007) and they won last year’s road trip 43-23.
It is never easy for a team to turnaround on such a short week, but with little travelling involved, this is not such a factor as normal for the road team.
Of course, the hype will be about Bills head coach Rex Ryan, who coached the Jets and 34 players he coached remain on the roster. While they had a few losing season, the Jets’ players, particularly those on the defensive side of the ball, enjoyed being coached by the flamboyant Ryan.
Buffalo may have issues at the tackle position, with Seantrel Henderson (illness) and Cyrus Kouandjio (knee) listed as questionable to start, but playmakers DE Mario Williams (calf), WR Sammy Watkins (ankle) and RB LeSean McCoy (shoulder) – who has 9,620 yards and is on pace to reach 10,000 career scrimmage yards – all likely to play.
The cornerback position for the New York Jets is going to be an area of concern, as Antonio Cromartie (thigh) is doubtful to start and Dee Milliner (wrist) is questionable. Safety Calvin Pryor is also missing.
Bills’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor currently ranks third in the AFC in passer rating (108.9) and is on pace to join Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly (101.2 in 1990) as the only players in club history with a rating of 100+ in a season.
With a solid running game – Karlos Williams leads the team with five rushing touchdowns – and a now-healthy receiving corps, we think the Bills can match the Jets blow for blow. TE Charles Clay could cause a few problems for the Jets and he may be value to score a TD at any time at around 3.25.
There should not be too much in it and we take the Bills with the points on offer.
VERDICT: BUFFALO 24 NY JETS 20
BEST BET: BUFFALO +2.5 @ 1.91
DETROIT at GREEN BAY
(-11.5, Total Points 47.5)
Another week, another set of changes for the Detroit Lions. Hours after a 28-19 home loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan.
They promptly tanked 45-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs at Wembley. The deathly silence in the locker-room after the sorry defeat was palpable. Never say these players do not care.
Still, four days later, owner Martha Ford, citing her family’s disappointment in the franchise’s 1-7 start this season, fired team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.
Yet coaching and leadership is not the issue. Those on the field have no excuses.
QB Matt Stafford is on pace for his worst statistical season in passing yards (2,083 through eight games), and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is on pace (13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) to be his worst since 2012 (20 touchdown, 17 interceptions).
In addition, the Lions still have the worst rushing attack in the league by almost 15 yards, gaining 69.62 yards per game on the ground (the Browns are second worst at 84 yards per game).
Green Bay have lost their last two games and will be fired up to beat a division rival they have not lost to at Lambeau Field since 1991.
All the statistics point to an easy win and with the handicap less than two touchdowns, this looks an all-too-obvious bet, which means we should be wary. Most of the money will pile on the Packers and though caution is advised, we should still follow that route.
VERDICT: DETROIT 17 GREEN BAY 35
BEST BET: GREEN BAY -11.5 @ 1.91
MIAMI at PHILADELPHIA
(-6.5, Total Points 47.5)
With a 3-5 record after being spanked by Buffalo last week, the Miami Dolphins face a must-win game to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
The same old problems appear to plague them: lack of depth on the offensive line (particularly weak at the tackle position), inconsistency at quarterback and so-so play from their defensive line, which will have to step up now that DE Cameron Wake is done for the season with a knee injury.
While QB Ryan Tannehill is on pace to pass for a career-best 4,474 yards and may join Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (six) as the only Dolphins with multiple 4,000-yard seasons, he is still a dink-dunk passer, who gets rattled. His bets games have come when he is given the opportunity to air the ball out, but these have been few and far between.
They are still having trouble stopping the run. The Bills gained 420 yards on only 51 plays (8.2 yards per play). They were 8-of-13 on third down, including Sammy Watkins’ 44-yard touchdown and running back Karlos Williams’ 38-yard score.
This team has talent and does not lack for effort since Dan Campbell took over as interim head coach four games ago (his Dolphins have since gone 2-2).
Philadelphia (4-4) running-backs Ryan Matthews (409 yards) and DeMarco Murray (390 yards), despite carrying knocks, are expected to start. They can become the first Eagles teammates to each rush for at least 800 yards in the same season. QB Sam Bradford has 2,061 passing yards and is on pace to be the first quarterback in franchise history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in a season.
The Eagles are just a game behind the 5-4 Giants in the putrid NFC East and are coming into this on the back of an overtime win in Dallas.
Philadelphia believe they have turned a corner offensively, yet Bradford has thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions this year (10) and this is a winnable game for Miami, who receive a 6.5-point start. Miami has never lost three consecutive games in Philadelphia and this could be one of the shocks of the weekend.
VERDICT: MIAMI 27 PHILADELPHIA 23
BEST BET: MIAMI +6.5 @ 1.91
MINNESOTA at OAKLAND
(-2.5, Total Points 44.5)
For all those old enough to remember, this is a repeat of Super Bowl XI (1977), which the Oakland Raiders won 32-14. Minnesota has won one of the last six at the home of the Raiders and four of the last 14 meetings overall.
Oakland lost a 35-38 last-second heart-breaker at Pittsburgh, while Minnesota scraped by the St Louis Rams 21-18, but they lost QB Teddy Bridgewater to a concussion, which could keep him out of this week’s clash.
Minnesota (6-2) are tied with Green Bay at the top of the NFC North about their record is padded with some very narrow wins and aside from Denver, they have not faced a team with a winning record. Indeed, their opponents have gone a combined 15-33.
At 4-4, Oakland are in the thick of the AFC Wildcard hunt and while their pass defense ranks 32nd, their 8th-ranked stout run defense may be able to keep tabs on Adrian Peterson. We see Oakland winning this outright with a bit to spare.
VERDICT: MINNESOTA 17 OAKLAND 27
BEST BET: OAKLAND -2.5 @ 1.91
DALLAS at TAMPA BAY
(-1.5, Total Points 43)
The Cowboys hold a 13-3 record over the Buccaneers including a 3-2 record at Tampa. While they have not managed to win a game since BQ Tony Romo broke his collarbone, and while they were unfortunate to go down in overtime to Philadelphia last week, they really need to win here as they stand at 2-6, three games behind the 5-4 New York Giants in the NFC East. A win on Sunday is imperative and they can get it against the 3-5 Bucs.
To do so, they must control the trenches and allow RB Darren McFadden to inch closer to his second career 1,000-yard rushing season. McFadden has 333 yards in his past three games. Their six-game losing run has to end soon, so why not in Tampa? Since McFadden took over as the primary running back, the team has averaged over 4.9 yards per carry. That also owes much to the promotion of new starting left guard La’el Collins who has opened up huge holes.
Dallas face one of the best run defences in the league yet the Cowboys appear to have found their mojo over the last couple of weeks and they will need to control the clock with the ground game.
Tampa has been getting great production from rookie QB Jameis Winston, who has passed for 1,897 yards and is in pace to join Andrew Luck (4,374 in 2012) and Cam Newton (4,051 in 2011) as the only rookie quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 4,000 yards passing.
Yet the Tampa defense is far from the finished article. They are a young group who make plenty of mistakes. Tampa is the second most penalized team in the NFL this season, and they have turned the ball over 14 times in eight games.
We see the Cowboys winning in a dogfight and keeping their season alive.
VERDICT: DALLAS 19 TAMPA BAY 17
BEST BET: DALLAS +1.5 @ 1.91
NEW ENGLAND at NEW YORK GIANTS
(+7, Total Points 54.5)
The Giants will host the Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowls XLII & XLVI, which the Giants won 17-14 and 21-17, respectively. And how we laughed.
We could be laughing on the other side of our face on Sunday, though, as the Giants attempt to hand the Super Bowl champions’ their first loss of the season.
That is not something we contemplate happening in a clash that is invariably close. Nine of the last 10 meetings have been decided by eight points or less and while their three consecutive losses have come by four points or less, the Patriots have not lost four consecutive games to the Giants.
Bill Belichik’s team has failed to cover the handicap in the last four games against the Giants, but this is the seventh straight game they have been favoured by a touchdown or more and they are 5-21 against the handicap this term.
While New England romped to a 27-10 win over washing ton last week as a 14-point jolly, the Giants bounced back from their wild 52-49 loss in New Orleans, taking care of Tampa 32-18 as a 1.5-point road favourite.
The killer stat for us is the Giants’ record against the pass this season – they are 31st, allowing over 307 yards per game. That should be interesting going against Tom Brady, who will no doubt relish putting up some gaudy numbers and banishing a few ghosts. History can go out of the window.
VERDICT: NEW ENGLAND 41 NEW YORK GIANTS 23
BEST BET: NEW ENGLAND -7 @ 1.91
OTHER HANDICAP PREDICTIONS
CAROLINA -5.5 over Tennessee: Panthers lost three straight meetings with Tennessee, but are unbeaten and this looks like a miss-match. They should get it done and may just about cover. Panthers 27-17
CHICAGO +7 at St Louis: Bears QB Jay Cutler is justifiably maligned and the Rams’ running game will cause too many problems in a relatively low-scoring clash. The Bears may just keep within the spread. Rams 22-17
PITTSBURGH -4.5 over Cleveland: An odd line – we have the Steelers as a TD favourite, so caution is advised. Still, we take the hosts to cover. The Browns may not get totally manhandled in the second half… for once. Steelers 27-17
JACKSONVILLE +5.5 at Baltimore: The 2-6 Ravens are rested after their upset win over San Diego, but the problems remain. Jags are improving, despite what their abysmal record suggests. Ravens 28-24
NEW ORLEANS -1 at Washington: The Saints don’t play defense. The Redskins can’t do anything offensively. We like the Saints defense less than we do the Redskins’ attack. Which does not say much. Saints are outdoors but they could win ugly. Avoid. Saints 23-19
KANSAS CITY +5.5 at Denver: Chiefs could expect a backlash after the Broncos lost to Indianapolis, but Andy Reid’s tinkering on the offensive line seems to have helped. Chiefs can make a fist of this. Broncos 27-23
SEATTLE -3 over Arizona: A semblance of normality returns to the NFC West as the Seahawks roll to an easier-than-expected victory over the upstart Cardinals. Seahawks 31-13
HOUSTON +10.5 at Cincinnati: Texans have won five of the last six against the unbeaten Bengals, but the pressure of remaining unbeaten and taking an over-matched opponent too lightly may see the Bengals struggle a bit. A garbage-time TD and could see the Texans keeping within the spread. Bengals 31-24
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