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A Handicapper's Guide to the First Six Weeks of AFC Football, 2007...By Jay Graziani
New England (6-0 SU, 6-0 ATS): Can the line be set high enough for a team that has beaten every opponent this season by at least 17 points? Pats should come back to earth and it will likely be worth betting against them at blown-up lines the rest of the way. Recommendation: Strong Underperform.
Pittsburgh (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS): Second only to the Pats in scoring differential, mostly on the strength of their defense. Second in the NFL in points allowed and near the top in points scored. Likely still underrated by the public considering how they have been playing, although some definite weaknesses in the passing game that might improve upon the return of Hines Ward. Recommendation: Neutral.
Cleveland (3-3 SU, 4-2 ATS): The Browns have been a surprise on offense, but a disappointment on defense. Probably a bit overrated and they face some tough games with Pittsburgh and Baltimore coming up on the road. Recommendation: Underperform.
Indianapolis (5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS): Colts have failed to cover either of their road games and the schedule so far has been light. As usual, the Colts are likely to remain overvalued in the near term, but might be worth backing later in the year, particularly if they drop tough games against Jacksonville (twice) or New England. Recommendation: Neutral.
Jacksonville (4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS): A strong team that seems to maybe have solved its running game issues; Jacksonville should perform well down the stretch. Although any value left will disappear if they take the Colts down on Monday night. Recommendation: Neutral.
Tennessee (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS): While Vince Young gets all the hype, fans often fail to realize that the Titans sport the 4th ranked defense in points and 6th best defense in yardage. The passing game is poor, but the league's 6th-ranked running game can carry the offense. With a fairly easy schedule ahead of them the next 6 weeks, Tennessee should definitely have a chance to improve their record, and if Vince Young is out the spreads may drop enough to be bettable, considering the serviceable backup in Kerry Collins. Recommendation: Strong Outperform.
Buffalo (1-4 SU, 3-2 ATS): Sure, they got the surprising almost-win against Dallas, but this team hasn't shown much all year besides some average rushing ability, and it doesn't look to get better anytime soon. Recommendation: Strong Underperform.
Kansas City (3-3 SU, 3-2-1 ATS): Kansas City is below average but has pulled out some surprising (and lucky) wins. They face a moderately difficult schedule and don't have much going for them other than a solid defensive secondary, despite beating the spread thus far. Look for that to change in the near term. Recommendation: Underperform.
Houston (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS): A fairly average team thus far, but with potential to break out as players start coming off the injury report. Should be fairly valued the next few weeks. Recommendation: Neutral.
San Diego (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS): Offense has struggled and defense has taken a step back from last year. Will L.T. break out? Addition of Chambers may help the passing game, but this team faces a tough schedule in the coming weeks. Recommendation: Neutral.
Oakland (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS): Another average team who has performed close to expectations. Definitely some winnable games in the next few weeks, but they should start to really struggle as the season wraps up. Recommendation: Neutral.
Cincinnati (1-4, 2-3 ATS): They might not be able to field a defense, but the Bengals are still the 4th ranked offense by yardage, 6th by points. Those numbers will translate into wins eventually. They dropped their three road games by a combined 16 points. Good chance to start backing them while they have fallen out of public favor, as at least 5 of the next 6 games are winnable. Recommendation: Outperform.
Miami (0-6 SU, 1-3-2 ATS): Miami is 13th in the league in points per game and, while 28th in the league in points allowed, have been able to defend the pass effectively. They have been playing better than their record would indicate, but face a difficult schedule in the near-term. The quarterback situation has been problematic, but the return of Trent Green should provide a needed spark to this team, and we will likely see some juicy spreads given their competition over the next few weeks. Recommendation: Outperform.
New York Jets (1-5 SU, 1-4-1 ATS): Not much to like about this team, who ranks near the bottom in almost all offensive and defensive categories. A quarterback change might help, and the lines from here on in should be generous, but this team doesn't have much going for it right now and is tough to back. Recommendation: Neutral.
Baltimore (4-2, 1-5 ATS): The offense is terrible and getting worse. Sure, the defense looks good, but they haven't exactly faced a lot of scoring powerhouses, shutting down the 31st and 32nd ranked offenses the past two weeks. Not a good team to back in the coming weeks as their schedule starts to get real, real tough. Recommendation: Underperform.
Denver (2-3 SU, 0-5 ATS): Denver has been pathetic against the spread, though fundamentally they have been playing decently enough. And the return of Javon Walker, along with the possibility of keeping Travis Henry on the roster through the end of November, points to a turnaround for this team. Recommendation: Strong Outperform.
Recommendation for Weeks 7-12:
Strong Outperform: Tennessee, Denver
Outperform: Cincinnati, Miami
Underperform: Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore
Strong Underperform: New England, Buffalo
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