Courtesy of Jim Feist
NFL parity is alive and well in 2014! The Chiefs had a terrific run, storming into first place...until the 0-10 Raiders stunned them, 24-20. Jacksonville has had another miserable season, but the lone victory during a terrible start was in mid-season against Cleveland, 24-6 -- the same Browns team that has been contention for a division title all year. Even the laughable Jets found a way to thump the Steelers, 20-13, and nearly pulled off a win at the Patriots as a big dog, a 27-25 defeat, missing a last second field goal.
Every team has flaws that can be exploited. The Broncos were running away with the AFC West, until losing 2 of 3 with various injuries to key offensive players. The schedule certainly didn't help, as that came during a three-game road trip, a grueling scheduling stretch.
New Orleans has the flashy, high powered offense behind QB Drew Brees and a revamped defense for second-year DC Rob Ryan, but they still seem to be a team built to play indoors at home. The defense has taken a step back and they continue to struggle on the road, losing at Dallas, Cleveland, Atlanta and Detroit.
The season is also littered with flops. The Panthers, Vikings, Redskins, NY Giants and Texans were expected to be better and but were out of it at the halfway point of the season. The Rams have had high hopes the last two years with a slew of draft picks, but have been maddeningly inconsistent because of quarterback play. How many teams with losing records can say they beat the Broncos, 49ers and defending champion Seahawks? Only the Rams can. Of course, they have trouble with the bad teams, for some reason.
Oddsmakers make adjustments on teams all during the season, such as five years ago when the Saints and Colts started red hot. After starting 6-0 SU/ATS, the Saints went 2-8 ATS to end the regular season, often as a double digit favorite. That's what can happen to public teams, either popular teams or ones with a flashy offense like the 2013 Broncos, 2009 Saints and 2007 Patriots.
This season oddsmakers had to adjust to the total for the Patriots and Packers, two teams that got off to slow offensive starts in September but then caught fire. The Patriots are on a 58-27 run over the total and when these teams met last month the total was 58, the highest in the NFL all season.
Normally we are at the time of the pro football campaign where some teams have mentally and physically packed in the season. It's been a lost season or one with higher expectations and players, especially ones on poorly coached teams, can just go through the motions. That can show up on the scoreboard and at the wagering window.
Last year Houston lost 10 in a row after a 2-0 start and then fired their coach. The Redskins went from a division title in 2012 to last place last season, a dejected group that was a money-burner (3-9 ATS run). And do you think it's fun to play for the Jags, Raiders or Jets down the stretch of this lost campaign?
Teams that need to be watched closely as on the bubble for packing it in might be the Giants, Jets, Bucs, Bears, Titans and Raiders. Pro players have pride and know the score. Taking out their frustrations on a powerhouse team is not uncommon. The good teams aren't that much better from year to year than bad ones. Parity and the salary cap have leveled the playing field and schedules are longer, all of which makes it that much harder to dominate.
The 1962 Green Bay Packers enjoyed a 10-0 start on the way to a 13-1 season, ending in a 16-7 win in the championship game over the Giants as one of Vince Lombardi's best teams. They came close to running the table, except for a surprising Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, 26-14 (trailing 26-0 to the fired up Lions). Even NFL David's can be gunning for Goliath this time of the season - if they haven't already packed it in.
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