As the season reaches the halfway point, two things are very clear on the NFL landscape: Eli has replaced brother Peyton as the best QB in the Manning household and the Tennessee Titans are a bettor's delight at 7-0 straight up and against the spread. The Titans dropped Peyton and the Colts to 3-4 on the season with 25 unanswered points in the second half Monday night for a 31-21 win and four-game lead in the AFC South.
Eli Manning is a better quarterback than Peyton Manning.
The proof is in the pudding. Eli led the New York Giants to a hard-fought 21-14 win Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers (-3 at home) to improve to 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS. Peyton’s Indianapolis Colts lost 31-21 to the Tennessee Titans (-4 at home) on Monday night to fall to 3-4 SU and ATS. The Steelers (5-2 SU, 3-4 ATS) are just one game up in the AFC North, but Tennessee (7-0 SU and ATS) has opened a four-game lead on the rest of the AFC South.
Here are some of the key numbers for both Manning brothers thus far:
- Eli: Nine TDs, four INTs, six sacks, 61.4 percent completion rate
- Peyton: Ten TDs, nine INTs, nine sacks, 61.1 percent completion rate
It’s easy to say that Peyton’s numbers would be much better if it weren’t for that tricky knee surgery that led to a staph infection and a second procedure. But he is what he is at this point in time, planting awkwardly and throwing with less power. Eli’s now the one throwing crisp passes and showing poise in the pocket. And the way things are going, he’ll be the only Manning playing quarterback in the playoffs.
This is not good news for the New England Patriots. Tom Brady also developed an infection after his knee operation and had to go for a second surgery. Brady’s torn ligaments are a much more serious concern than Manning’s bursa sac, so it’s hard to say whether he’ll even be an improvement over Matt Cassel (seven TDs, six INTs) when he returns next year.
Cassel did fairly well on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams with a 21-for-33 performance for 267 yards and a TD strike. He also threw two picks in a 23-16 victory; the Pats (-9) are back on top of the AFC East at 5-2 (3-4 ATS), but they’re still in a dogfight for the division title after wins by the 4-3 New York Jets and the 3-4 Miami Dolphins.
This cloud of mediocrity hanging over the AFC is doing handicappers no favors. Most of the typical betting splits were useless in Week 8. Home teams and favorites were 7-7; home faves were 6-6, and home dogs were 1-1. The under was the only play to make a profit at 7-6-1. On the season, away favorites remain the choice of discerning bettors at 20-15, or 57.1 percent.
The problem with away faves is that there aren’t enough of them. We even had to cheat a little to include the San Diego Chargers (-3) in this week’s twosome, as they were the officially designated road team for their matchup at New Wembley Stadium with the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees has to be considered the best quarterback in the league these days, especially after throwing three TD passes to three different receivers in a 37-32 win. The Saints are alive in the tough NFC South at 4-3 SU and 5-3 ATS, while San Diego threatens to become just another AFC casualty at 3-5 SU and 3-4-1 ATS.
The only “true” away fave this week was Washington. The ‘Skins (-7) cashed in at Ford Field against the Detroit Lions, but just barely in a 25-17 final. Jason Campbell was masterful, going 23-for-28 for 328 yards and a career-best 127.4 QB rating. Washington (6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS) had a difficult time in Lions territory, though, settling for four field goals and needing an 80-yard punt return TD from Santana Moss for the winning score. Kudos to the Lions (0-7 SU, 2-5 ATS) for playing tough in their third straight close loss (2-1 ATS).
Before we go, a moment of silence for the Houston Texans’ streak of overs. The Texans (-9) did their part by dropping 35 points on the Cincinnati Bengals, but Cincinnati could only muster a pair of field goals to fall short of the posted total of 45½. That leaves the 7-0 ATS Titans as the only perfect play left in the NFL. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.