Five weeks of regular season National Football League action offers plenty of evidence to evaluate which teams are on the rise, what squads have been severely weakened by injuries, and what organizations are in the dumper.
Two teams remain undefeated after five weeks of play, one in each conference, they are the NFC’s Los Angeles Rams and AFC’s Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams own 5-0 won/loss marks. The Chiefs are 5-0 both straight-up and against the point spread. The Rams are 3-1-1 versus the line, having lost as a road favorite last week in Seattle and pushing on the spread in a home Thursday night meeting against the Minnesota Vikings.
A winning team has factors working against them continuing to beat the point spread. When the public sees the best, like the Rams or Chiefs, they will bet them heavy and the books will be forced to put up point spreads that hinder their chances for a point spread win. That is why teams that dominate point spread results early in a season, most often subsequently have a losing streak against the point spread even if they keep winning straight-up.
The Rams are likely to lose a game straight-up before they beat another point spread, and the perfect Chiefs have more than their hands full this week when they meet the Patriots in New England on Sunday night.
The Houston Texans have not looked as good as expected while compiling their 2-3 record, and eyes are now on Deshaun Watson who came out of the win over the Cowboys with injuries that could limit his practice time this week. Their opponent this Sunday is the Buffalo Bills, whose two victories this season have come against highly regarded teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans.
The New York Giants played yo-yo with the lead in the final minute last week at Carolina, finally losing by virtue of a 63-yard last play of the game Panthers field goal. The loss drops the Giants to 1-4, and what was advertised as an explosive new offense with the addition of Saquon Barkley and the return of Odell Beckham Jr., has fizzled in front of booing fans. In Eli Manning’s 15-year career the Giants have had five losing campaigns, and worst still, four of them have been registered in the last five seasons.
Perhaps the Giants should have chosen Manning’s replacement instead of Barkley with the second pick in the draft.
Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders are also 1-4 this season. The defense has not plugged the hole left by the departure of Khalil Mack, and the offense appears out of sync while Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr have not yet established a healthy working relationship. This week, the Raiders are in a perfect spot from a motivational standpoint when they host the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks may prove to be in the bottom five this season. They still have Russell Wilson at quarterback, but the defense that marked their greatness is gone and the offensive line remains a major liability.
An NFL season is not like a dance, where you leave with the lady you brung. In the NFL, the teams that earned you profits over the first half of the season are not the same teams likely to beat the point spreads later. The best teams will carry point spreads that are plotted to bring their record, if only against the line, near .500.