NFL Edition: A Midseason Tally

We're not the only ones having a bad year: Oddsmakers have not done a great job picking out this season's winners.
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Last week we were 1-4, bringing our season record to a miserable 12-16 (43%). This week we will take a look at how accurate the oddsmakers and bettors were in predicting how this NFL season would unfold. As can be seen from the chart below, which represents the final over-under on how many games each NFL team would win during the season, the answer is not very well.

Admittedly, many of the problems stem from the injury situation in the NFL, but there are a number of teams at the bottom of the list that are clearly overachieving.

Detroit

and

St. Louis

have already exceeded their predicted win total for the season, while

Denver

,

San Francisco

and the

New York

Jets cannot get to their predicted win total. The against-the-spread, or ATS, leaders at this point of the season are the

Indianapolis

Colts (6-1-1), the St. Louis Rams (6-2) and the

Chicago

Bears (6-2-1). The ATS underachievers are the

Cincinnati

Bengals (1-8), the

Green Bay

Packers (2-6) and the San Francisco 49ers (2-6).

This Week's Picks

Carolina-St. Louis (Over 48)

Since we are having trouble picking team winners, let's try some over-under bets. While this total of 48 is high by NFL standards, we have the top-rated offense in the Rams and the 8th-rated offense in the Panthers in a game that should see a lot of scoring. The Rams have an excellent rush defense, and Tim Biakabutuka is out for this game. This means

Carolina

will have to put the ball in the air to move against the Rams. The Panthers scored 33 points last week against a good

Philadelphia

Eagle defense, and Steve Beurlein appears to be in the groove. Despite two losses in a row on the road, the Rams offense is still operating in an efficient manner, and we expect the Rams to try to repeat their early season successful pattern of jumping out to a big lead. The Rams are averaging 33 points a game, and we think they can get their average in this game. If that occurs, we only need 16 points from the Panthers to win our bet.

Jets-Patriots (Over 37)

This play is based largely on the fact that the Jets will be starting Ray Lucas at quarterback. Lucas gives the Jets far more mobility than Rick Mirer does and, as a result, makes it very difficult for the Patriots to put in a successful defensive game plan. The Patriots are very predictable on defense: They blitz inexperienced quarterbacks. Bill Parcels knows this and will devise plays to specifically take advantage of the blitz, including slant passes to Keyshawn Johnson and quarterback draws.

New England

has averaged only 3.3 yards per rush, among the worst in the NFL. The team does pass well, however, and we expect to see the Patriots go "up top" on the Jets very often. Earlier this year the Patriots beat the Jets 30-28, and last year the teams averaged a total of 39 1/2 points in their two games. We don't see why this MNF line is so low, particularly since it does not appear that weather will be a factor in the game.

Jacksonville-Baltimore (Under 36 1/2)

The

Jacksonville

Jaguars are playing the best defense in the league under defensive coordinator Dom Capers. They have allowed just 33 points in their last five games. The popgun offense of the

Baltimore

Ravens should not disrupt that pattern. The only worry here is whether Jacksonville, which has scored 71 points in its last two games, will beat the total by itself. We think that the Raven defense, which is only giving up an average of 18 points per game, will be able to control the Jaguar offense sufficiently to keep this game under the posted total. The Jaguars have gone under the total in seven of their eight games this year. With the return of Fred Taylor, the Jaguars have an excellent rushing offense, and we expect Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin to try to pound the ball on the ground rather than expose QB Mark Brunell to injury by making him pass the ball frequently. Any game that features a lot of rushing will likely go under the total since the only thing that fully stops the clock in the NFL between offensive plays is an incomplete pass.

Buffalo (Minus 2 1/2) over Miami

Miami

looked awesome on defense last Sunday night. Thus, the line is less than 3 points. Since 1994, the

Buffalo

Bills have won five of the six regular season games against the Dolphins, all by at least 3 points. Jimmy Johnson admits that he has told QB Damon Huard that he does not want any interceptions, thus the game plan for the Dolphins is limited. This assures that the Dolphins will not get out to a big lead. We think this conservative offense will not be nearly as successful on the road as it is at home. The Bills' offense perked up notably last week with the return of Doug Flutie's favorite receiver Eric Moulds. Flutie also feels TE Dave Riemersma is critical to the Bills' offensive fortunes, and Riemersma is now healthy for the first time in many weeks. The Dolphins are 7-1 straight up and are due for a letdown. The Bills need this game desperately to keep pace with the Dolphins and Patriots and will play with a greater intensity than the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh (Minus 14 1/2) over Cleveland

We

hate

to lay 14 1/2 points in the NFL, but last week's results compel this wager. Before monsoon rains overtook 3Com Park last week, Kordell Stewart looked better than he had at any time this season, passing at will against the 49ers. We believe this will help his confidence going into this week's game.

Cleveland

fell flat on its face in what had to be the most important game of their season last week -- a revenge home game against the former Cleveland Browns, now the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, with retread QB Tony Banks, ripped apart the Cleveland defense for 41 points. Now, the Browns have to go on the road to play a

Pittsburgh

team that is trying to reestablish what was once the best home-field advantage in the NFL. The Browns have shown a propensity to be blown out of games this year when the game is no longer close, and we think that will be the scenario on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Chicago (Plus 6 1/2) over Minnesota

As noted in the chart above, the Bears have overachieved all season under new head coach Dick Jauron. The Bears are down to their third-string quarterback, Jim Miller. But Miller performed well last week in the starter role in leading Chicago to a victory over the Packers. The

Minnesota

Vikings have a short week to prepare for this game, and we are still not sold on the peripatetic Jeff George as a starting QB in the NFL. This is a major revenge game for the Vikings based on their 24-22 loss to the Bears earlier this season, but we think the grass field in Chicago will slow down the Vikings wide receivers and they will not be as effective as they are in the Metrodome. Viking RB Robert Smith is listed as questionable for the game on Sunday, and we hope he does not play since he will be fresh and his explosive speed adds more to the Vikings' attack than the bruising style of current starter Leroy Hoard. Check Smith's status before making this play on Sunday.

Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years, and welcomes your feedback at

barrylieberman1@prodigy.net.