With seven weeks of the NFL season in the book, what do we know at this point? Just that there are a lot of unknowns in the league right now. A handful of contenders are starting to seperate from the chasing pack. Only a few teams can really be written off so far and even they are capable of causing upsets on their day. With that in mind we were able to find five big takeaways from the NFL this weekend and have presented right here if you would care to keep on reading.
1 – Underdogs Battling
For the first six weeks of the season, favourites were yet to win a week against the spread. The closest they came was in Week 4 when they finished at 6-6-3 (and 11-4 head to head). Going into the Falcons-Giants game, it looked as though the favourites would pick up their first win of the season but a late touchdown and two point conversion gave the Giants the cruellest of backdoor covers and ending the week in a tie.
While most weeks have been relatively even when it comes to picked against the spread, the underdogs have just shaded the favourites to this point, holding a 46-57-4 advantage on the season so far. Next week sees a couple of close games on the early line, with the Saints-Vikings, Ravens-Panthers and the 49ers-Cardinals all sitting at a point or less at the time of writing.
2 – Happy Travels
It was a good week for road teams, two weeks after the visitors were blitzed 12-3 in the head to head market, they bounced back with a respectable return in Week Seven. It all began with the Broncos blitzing the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football before the road teams dominated the day games. While the Titans’ were a de facto road team in London, they did manage to hold their own and pick up a cover (let’s not start on Mike Vrabel’s play call on the decisive two-point conversion).
Going into the Sunday night game, road teams were 8-4 head to head and 10-2 against the spread. That number is undoubtedly impressive but when you consider some of the teams that were travelling this week, it does give it some context. Minnesota, New England and the Rams were all road favourites who not only won but covered. The home teams won in the final two primetime games but the Giants ridiculous backdoor cover made it a very profitable week if you backed the away sides. One road underdog next week that does present an interesting option is the Cleveland Browns who face Pittsburgh after the two sides tied in Week 1 and all bar one of the Browns games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
3 – Time to Go Unders
When the Buccaneers fail to go over the points line, you know it was a (relatively) low scoring week. All five of Tampa’s previous games had gone over the total line, but they fell half a point short of the 49.5 point total in their 26-23 overtime win against Cleveland. Just four games hit the over this weekend, all of which had totals in the 40’s. It looks as though the over/under lines are catching up to the plethora of points being scored around the league right now.
Perhaps the cruelest under of the weekend though was in Kansas City, the Chiefs were up 45-10 late in the game, they were inside the red zone and passed up a chip shot field goal attempt on fourth down, keeping the total below the final line of 56.5. This week the biggest total comes from the Packers-Rams game and that does warrant a second look, even with the Packers struggling this season they should be good for at least 20 points and the Rams are a juggernaut.
4 – Detroit’s Big Streak
Remember in Week 1 when the Lions were run out of their own building by the Jets on Monday Night Football? It would have been reasonable for a person to expect the Lions poor run to continue, given it is the Lions after all. What is somewhat surprising though, is the fact the Lions have been one of the more consistent performing teams against the spread since then.
While they sit third in the NFC North with a 3-3 head to head record, they have covered the spread in every game since that nightmare in the season opener. Their streak began with a 30-27 loss in San Francisco but as +6 underdogs, if you took the points you would be celebrating. Their other head to head loss in this run came in Dallas but having only gone down by 2 points, they were able to cover the +3 line. With their next game at home against Seattle, it will be worth watching to see if they Lions can make it six games in a row where they cover the line.
5 – Where is the Love?
Is it fair to feel a bit dirty for using a line from a 15 year old Black Eyed Peas song to introduce this point? Ok good, moving past that, the Giants might be feeling a bit hard done by as they have been favoured a grand total of 0 times so far this season. Of course, when you watch them play you can kind of understand why. A week after they were destroyed by the Eagles at home, they went down to the Falcons on Monday Night Football and with Eli Manning continuing to get crushed by opposing defenders, they may struggle to produce much going forward.
Buffalo hasn’t been favoured either but when you’re an unknown going into the season, have a couple of bad performances and are on your third quarterback, it does kind of make sense. As they prepare to take on the division leading New England Patriots, Buffalo find themselves at +14 going into their Monday night showdown. That number at least looks reasonable and not an automatic bet against the Bills. Even if they do pull off a miracle upset next week, it’s hard to see them being favoured anytime soon.