A lot happened this last week in the NFL but just because its behind us doesn't mean we leave the lessons learned behind. Let's examine some takeaways heading into Week 17.
NFL Week 16 Recap: What Bettors Learned
There’s increasing separation between contenders and pretenders as Week 16 of the NFL season is in the books. In fact, several of the so called ‘playoff favorites’ proved to be highly vulnerable, with the likes of New England, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay all losing SU and against NFL odds on Sunday. A fifth potential serious contender, Cincinnati is a four point underdog in Denver on Monday Night, expected to lose as well. All five of those teams are in trouble moving forward, in my opinion. Here’s why.
Yes, New England has the best record in the AFC. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company have six Super Bowl appearances and four rings; a team that truly knows what it takes to win in January. But the Patriots are an injury riddled mess, injuries that a bye week won’t solve. Their offensive line is in shambles, their receiving corps decimated, their defense depleted. Making the Super Bowl is about staying healthy as much as any other factor, and the Pats are a disaster area in that regard. And let’s not forget that the Pats have lost in Foxboro in the playoffs three times in the last six years while riding a long term 4-11 ATS run in their last 15 playoff games.
Pittsburgh is still very much alive to reach the postseason despite Sunday’s loss at Baltimore, but the Steelers defensive breakdowns and red zone woes will likely doom their fate. The Steelers can’t win a tiebreaker to make the playoffs over KC, so they’re rooting hard for the Jets to lose at Buffalo in Week 17. That’s certainly possible, but Pittsburgh’s inconsistencies have been consistent enough to make me reluctant to call for them to win three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl.
As for Cinci, I have very little interest in asking Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton to win three playoff games for me. That duo isn’t 0-fer their careers in the postseason by accident. And while Dalton enjoyed the best statistical season of his career before getting hurt, he still made enough horrific decisions and terrible throws in tight games to make me very reluctant to expect a perennial postseason loser to change his stripes this year. Bottom line: I don’t trust that Dalton coming off a thumb injury and a long layoff is going to step right in to the postseason mix and dominate.
While Seattle has enjoyed a strong turnaround following their 2-4 start, the Seahawks are trying to do something that history tells us is nearly impossible to do. There have been 49 previous Super Bowls. A team has made it to the Big Game three straight years a grand total of twice during that entire half century span – the Dolphins in the early 70’s and the Bills in the early 90’s. I’m a big admirer of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, but this year’s Seahawks team isn’t as good as last year’s version, and they’ll have to go on the road three times just to get there. Nope, can’t expect the Seahawks this year.
And Green Bay really isn’t that good; a team with more fraudulent wins than any other team this year. By my notes, they’ve been outplayed in five of their ten victories this year, and their most impressive wins all came back in September. The ‘real’ Green Bay team is closer to the one that got blown out in Arizona on Sunday than the one who beat Seattle and KC at home on national TV three months ago; a team with notable weaknesses on the offensive line and their receiving corps, bad news for elite QB Aaron Rodgers.