After a relatively tame first seven weeks, the NFL season turned on its head in Weeks 8, 9 and 10. Bookmakers have been swimming in money the last three weeks, and Circa Survivor contestants have been dropping like flies. Entering Week 7, over 2,100 players remained in Circa’s game. At the close of Week 10, only 173 participants were still alive. That is a drop of over 90 percent.
We noted last week that with the extreme number of underdogs winning outright in Week 9, some turnaround for those teams was likely in Week 10 — and indeed it happened. Seven underdogs pulled outright upsets in Week 9. One of those seven, the Giants, took their bye in Week 10. Of the other six, five lost outright and one won straight up but failed to cover. Thus continued the NFL’s trend of what goes up must come down.
In the Circa Millions contest, the Top 5 consensus plays went 3-3, with two teams tied for the fifth-most selections. In the Westgate SuperContest, the Top 5 consensus went 2-3. Eight weeks remain before we fit a winner for a new blue overcoat at Circa and a championship ring at Westgate.
A few weeks back, we identified the all-or-nothing nature of the NFL this season, meaning teams are good or very bad, with few teams that are just average. Let’s revisit that as we enter the second half of the season.
The haves: Bills, Cardinals, Buccaneers, Packers, Rams, Ravens, Titans, Cowboys, Saints, Vikings, Chiefs, Patriots, Colts.
The have-nots: Giants, Dolphins, Jets, Texans, Falcons, Jaguars, Washington, Bears, Lions, Seahawks.
The middle of the road: 49ers, Steelers, Eagles, Panthers, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Bengals, Browns.
Certainly some of these teams can be graded a bit differently depending on one’s perspective, power ratings and other factors. But it does seem more balance has developed in the last three or four weeks. From a handicapping standpoint, the picture has become a bit more muddied. I like to use the eye test, matchups and injuries in my weekly assessment but also incorporate analytical data and the situational handicap when analyzing opponents. While the results have been pretty volatile lately, one must stick to his process and not panic. However, as we have pointed out from the beginning of the season, one must have the ability to adjust opinions or grades quickly — especially in contest play — as this league will roll right over someone who is too static or not quick enough to shift.
Last week our early look at the betting card was successful, as we pointed out three teams that went from winning outright as underdogs into the role of favorites the next week. The Titans, Broncos and Cardinals failed to cover the spread in that situation, and Denver and Arizona lost outright. This week we have four more such scenarios. The Dolphins upset the Ravens and are now favored over the Jets. The Panthers upset the Cardinals and are laying points to Washington. The Eagles took out Denver and are short favorites hosting the Saints. And the 49ers, after upsetting the Rams on “Monday Night Football,” are road favorites at Jacksonville. I will be looking at all these underdogs this week to keep the what-goes-up-must-come-down trend intact.