This NFL handicapper points out the important things he learned from Week 4 on the NFL odds. It was the first week where certain teams had 'byes,' catching a break, unlike us.
No One in the NFC South Is That Good
Some people thought that the Atlanta Falcons would have a bounce-back year and resemble the team that won 13 games two seasons ago. Some people thought the Carolina Panthers would again be a contender after emerging as the division champ last season. There were those who felt that the New Orleans Saints could have NFC Championship potential and there were even some optimists who felt that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be the most improved team in the NFL.
But as we finish up September, it’s become clear that nobody in the NFC South is going to contend for a Super Bowl. The Saints again fell flat on the road, this time getting thumped in Dallas. The Falcons fell to 2-2 after getting rolled up by a rookie quarterback in Minnesota. And the Carolina Panthers were blown out for a second straight week by an AFC North team. And as bad as Tampa Bay looked through the first three weeks, they’re just one game out of first place.
This division is a combined 6-10 ATS in September. Only the AFC East (5-9-1) was worse in the opening month.
The Ravens Are Pretty Good
They were written off after a listless Week 1 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals but they’ve pieced together a three-game winning streak since. Even without Ray Rice, they’ve managed to find some balance with their offense. In Week 1, Flacco threw the ball 62 times. In the last three weeks combined, he’s attempted 91 passes. Better yet, he’s completed 68% of his passes in that span with six touchdowns and one interception. They are second in the NFL in points differential, which is a strong indicator of how good a team is. This looks like a top three or four team in the AFC right now.
Philip Rivers Is The Best Quarterback In The AFC Right Now
Forget Peyton Manning, if I need to win a game this week, I’m taking Philip Rivers. Some people thought he was a fluke after being named Most Improved Player last season but he’s carried it right over. Over his last three games, he’s completed 74.2% of his passes with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s posted a quarterback rating of 124.2 or higher each time.
The Chargers only loss on the season was an 18-17 shortcoming in Arizona in Week 1. By the way, the Cardinals are one of the league’s still undefeated teams at 3-0.
Steelers Are The League’s Most Unpredictable Team
How the hell does anyone handicap the Pittsburgh Steelers these days? In Week 1, they were laying -5.5 versus the Cleveland Browns and were blowing them out of the water. Then the Browns came back in the second half, gave the Steelers a scare and covered easily. So in Week 2, the Steelers were a +2.5-point road dog in Baltimore facing a rival whom they normally play three-point games against. So lots of people took them with the points only to watch them get blown out 26-6. Then they go to Carolina in Week 3 to face what we thought was a stout Panthers team, getting three points. They not only covered but easily won outright, crushing the Panthers 37-19. And then in Week 4, when they were expected to have a gimme against the feeble Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Steelers lose outright at home as a seven-point favorite.
They’re laying 6.5 points in Jacksonville for Week 5 and while that should be another game that looks easy to predict on paper, nothing with the Steelers is predictable right now.