Week 1 KEY NFL Trends – Divisional Battles

Readying for the Hall of Fame game, it was a pleasure to see that my friends at Stat Fox have already hit the books. Hoping to be more consistent with my columns throughout 2010, here we go…

Sunda, September 9
MIAMI (-3/-115, 38) at BUFFALO
Miami made a big offseason acquisition to obtain wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Broncos to improve a pass offense that gained just 5.23 yards per attempt last season, 23rd in the NFL. The Dolphins will be visiting a Buffalo team that from all intents and purposes seems to be in rebuilding mode. Miami is a 3-point road favorite and has gone 10-2 ATS on the road vs. conference foes over the last two seasons. The Bills ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yardage last season but hope that Chan Gailey, their new Head Coach, can engineer a turnaround. The trend to consider in this game is that all divisional favorites of 3-points or less boast an incredible record 15-3 SU & 14-3-1 ATS (82%) since 2000 on kickoff weekend.

DETROIT at CHICAGO (-6½, 42½)
Considering that Detroit has only won two games over the last two seasons, and Chicago comes off a 7-9 campaign, the first in the Jay Cutler era, it’s unusual to see more optimism surrounding the Lions’ franchise. However, an offseason of encouraging young acquisitions along with the expected continued growth of Matt Stafford at quarterback has Lions fans thinking bigger in 2010. Chicago meanwhile, didn’t have a first or second round pick in April’s draft, and has put many of its eggs in two baskets, that of Cutler, and this past offseason prized acquisition, DE Julius Peppers. Realistically still, Detroit was 0-6 SU & 0-5-1 in division play a year ago and probably further away than people are giving credit for, at least out of the gate. Chicago won its final two games of 2009, both SU & ATS but will be fighting a trend that finds road underdogs of 3-1/2 points or more in divisional games of NFL’s opening week at 7-21 SU but 19-9 ATS (68%) since 2000.

Houston has its sights set on a first playoff berth in franchise history. The Texans seem to be right on the cusp of reaching that goal. However, unless something drastic changes this year, it would have to be as a wildcard, as the Colts remain the primary obstacle in winning the AFC South Division. Perhaps a win in the home opener can give HC gary Kubiak’s team the confidence and momentum it needs to become a contender. The Texans can score, and they come off a season in which they led the NFL in passing yardage. The Colts though do nearly everything well and as long as Peyton Manning is at quarterback, will always have a chance of winning the division. Indianapolis has won six straight games over the Texans and was 7-1 ATS on the road in the 2009 regular season. Keep an eye on this trend…All favorites of exactly 3-points boast a 29-10 SU & 21-12-5 ATS (64%) mark in Week 1 since 2000.

Most NFL experts believe that there will be a changing of the guard in the NFC West after two years of Arizona rule. The two most likely beneficiaries are the 49ers and Seahawks. San Francisco is the odds-on-favorite to win the division in 2010, coming off a season in which it went 8-8 but lost six games by a touchdown or less. HC Mike Singletary’s club was 9-4 ATS and among the league leaders defensively in several key categories. Their success will hinge upon the performance of #1 pick Alex Smith at quarterback, who may finally be ready to take over the club as the bonafide leader. Seattle is set at quarterback with Matt Hasselbeck, but he is aging and may not have all that much left in the tank. Off a 5-11 season, new head coach Pete Carroll has transformed the roster to his liking. How it does out of the gate is a big concern though. With San Francisco playing as a 2-point road favorite, recall the trend from earlier, divisional favorites of 3-points or less boast an incredible record 15-3 SU & 14-3-1 ATS (82%) since 2000 on kickoff weekend.

ARIZONA (-3½, 41) at ST. LOUIS
The NFC West Division is in head-to-head mode on Week 1, and the Rams have a chance to make a huge statement against an Arizona team that could be in a transitional year. The Cardinals are starting anew at quarterback after the retirement of Kurt Warner, and will be without a number of defensive contributors from their back-to-back division title teams as well. Perhaps a new start was in order anyway after HC ken Whisenhunt’s team allowed 90 points in two playoff games last January. The Rams hopefully hit rock bottom last year and will be on their way back up. With six wins in the last three years combined I don’t think things can get much worse. Getting better in division play is a must for them (8-22 ATS L5 seasons). St. Louis could be led by this April’s first overall draft pick, QB Sam Bradford. His early development will have a lot to do with how much ground this team can make up in 2010. Oddsmakers seem a bit leery of Arizona at this point, installing the Cardinals as just 3-1/2 point favorites. St. Louis will be look to get off to a better start than recent years, 1-10 ATS in the L3 September’s.

DALLAS (-3/-125, 43) at WASHINGTON
Donovan McNabb’s first season with Washington gets off to a potentially very interesting start when he and the Redskins host Dallas on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Of course, McNabb isn’t the only new face in town, as HC Mike Shanahan arrives after taking the year off from football following a great run with Denver. The Redskins were just 4-12 last season and failed to even win a single divisional game. They will be fired up to be taking on what it believed to be a Super Bowl favorite in Dallas. The Cowboys were finally able to get over the playoff drought that had stricken the franchise for 15 years, as they beat Philly in a wildcard game last January. The so-called monkey may be off Tony Romo’s back. Not only do these teams not like one another, but the fact that McNabb moved from a team that was an equal rival to Dallas makes this contest very intriguing. The road team is on a 5-1 ATS run in this head-to-head series.

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