One of the trickiest challenges for late-season football bettors is determining how large a window you should look through to clearly see team quality.
Everybody knows teams can yo-yo from one week to the next. You can’t assume the New York Giants will no-show at Indianapolis (CBS, 1 p.m. ET) just because they lost to Tennessee last week 17-0. These are the same Giants that posted a 40-16 blowout the week before.
Will the New York Jets hang tough for four full quarters vs. Green Bay (FOX, 1 p.m. ET)? They did that two Sundays ago in Buffalo with a big rally, but wilted at the end last Saturday vs. Houston.
Lately, we’ve been seeing inconsistency with many of the top playoff contenders. The Los Angeles Rams haven’t played to their pricing very often for three months. Same is true for the Kansas City Chiefs over the last six weeks, and the New Orleans Saints over the past month.
One way VSiN is trying to get a better read on teams is by focusing on just the last four games in our “drive point” tabulations. Those are counts of points scored and allowed ONLY on drives of 60 yards or more. We send out weekly updates in our Wednesday emails. This week, we only looked at the last four games rather than season-to-date.
There are three Sunday games matching playoff contenders going head-to-head. Let’s quickly study recent drive form for those six teams.
*Houston (10-4) at Philadelphia (7-7): The Texans are drifting from past perceptions on both sides of the ball. The offense is driving more successfully (69 total drive points scored the last four games), but the defense isn’t as stingy as advertised (66 drive points allowed, including 22 to the Jets and 21 to the Colts). Philadelphia did spring an upset over the Rams last week, but has scored just 45 drive points the past month while allowing 60. A big turnover edge (3-1 apiece vs. the Rams and Cowboys) has trumped its drive deficiencies.
*Pittsburgh (8-5-1) at New Orleans (12-2): Neither team has a positive recent differential! Pittsburgh is -11 (59 scored, 70 allowed) amidst some tough travel, while the Saints are dead even (36-36), with a disappearing offense but a growingly intimidating defense.
*Kansas City (11-3) at Seattle (8-6): The Chiefs are still getting the best of the scoreboard in shootouts (109-93 in just four games) even as the market over-prices them. Seattle has the best recent differential in today’s discussion, with 68 drive points the last month compared to just 40 allowed.
As you handicap games being played on Dec. 23, you must make important decisions about how much to weigh what’s happened recently versus what you remember from September and October. Which versions of each team will show up NOW?