Hot Reads - Week 8

  Posted 10/28 by Jeff Pasquino, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

Welcome to "Hot Reads". The general purpose of this column will be to collect some of my thoughts and observations throughout the NFL season as we go along - from waiver wire comments, how to get the most out of the Footballguys site, or anything else football related that comes to mind. It will mostly be a free-flowing, stream of consciousness - that means that there's no predicting what I might talk about in a given week. So...welcome to my world...

There's Some Scary Teams Out There

So last week I did some heavy math for everyone to enjoy (See Week 7 Hot Reads - A BCS (of Sorts) for the NFL), and one of the outcomes was that the bottom teams were really down there - Kansas City, St. Louis and Tampa Bay were the lowest three on the combined rankings.

I may have to add some college teams, possibly some UFL clubs to really quantify just how bad things are in the NFL right now.

Watching the early games with my son on Sunday, I couldn't help but notice how big the scores were getting - on one side of the scoreboard. Four out of six games had 20 point leads before the fourth quarter, and there was no sign of anyone letting up. New England? They wanted to put on a show in London. Indianapolis? They still had Peyton Manning under center with a huge lead, which blew my mind. San Diego and Green Bay were all joining in the fun as well, and I soon turned my attention to the calculator and awaited the crossing of the century mark by these four blowouts. With these final scores:

  • Green Bay 31, Cleveland 3
  • San Diego Chargers 37, Kansas City Chiefs 7
  • Indianapolis Colts 42, St. Louis Rams 6
  • New England Patriots 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7

The margin of victory averaged over 30 points a game, with a total margin of 122. That's incredible. None of these teams could get to double digits, and it appeared that a minor miracle would be needed to have any of them visit the end zone more than once. Adding up all four losing squads' points doesn't even get them to within a touchdown of the four teams they played (23 points).

Of course two blowouts followed that same day with the Jets shutting out Oakland 38-0 and the Bengals topping Chicago 45-10. The Bears can be given the benefit of just having a bad day, but overall the other five losing teams seem destined to struggle to put together any wins going forward.

You have to know that the guys at NFL Headquarters cannot be happy with this situation. Sure, most fans will watch any football at all, but when you start to look at the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots", several things start to become very clear. First, the blowouts will likely continue all season. So much for parity this year. Second, the amount of watchable games is diminishing rapidly. Every contest between a winning team and these "have nots" are likely to get minimal ratings at best, and that is never good for the league as a whole and the owners and advertisers. Finally, the good games that will happen (yes, they still do) are going to be fewer and harder to find. The benefit to the NFL is that there are 32 teams and at least 20 of them are capable of putting up very good quality efforts, so when two of them square off it is likely to make for a great spectator event. Witness Minnesota - Pittsburgh, Atlanta - Dallas, New Orleans - Miami, Arizona - Giants and also Houston - San Francisco. Five out of 12 may not seem that great, but at least there's watchable football out there and several possible playoff previews each weekend.

Also - give thanks for the "Flex Scheduling" option that NBC and the NFL worked out. There's no way that Minnesota - Carolina or Dallas - Washington can be your prime time contests in December now. Look for both of those to be changed well before Christmas.

So Who Gets The Candy?

Enough about the bad teams - or at least directly. Let's take another look at the NFL schedule, this time from a different perspective.

Okay, I lied. Let's mention these bad teams one last time: Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Kansas City, Washington, Carolina and Tennessee are the bottom six from my BCS rankings last week. Hard to argue with most of those. Add in Cleveland to this group for a not-so-Fab 7 and I will go out on a very thick limb and say this - When a good team faces any of these teams, they will win this season. Bold, I know. But let's see what happens if we assume that a Top 20 team will beat these seven teams every time. Who benefits the most?

The seven teams mentioned above have 65 more games left on the schedule. First the good news - they only play one another three times, so avoid those games on TV at all costs. Next, exactly six teams play one of these teams once, so Baltimore, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England and Philadelphia do not get much help from the rest of the schedule. Ten teams get two contests against suspect clubs (Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, both New York teams, Pittsburgh and San Francisco) so that's about average across the board.

Now comes the benefactors from these weaker teams. Denver, Jacksonville, Miami, Oakland and Seattle all get three games against these teams, so look for Denver to build a big lead in the AFC West and Seattle and Miami to make good playoff pushes. Three more teams get four games as "virtual byes", with Arizona, Atlanta and San Diego all getting soft schedules the rest of the way.

So who gets the biggest boost? Well, we've not mentioned one team so far - the New Orleans Saints. While no team gets five games off, the Saints go one better with six. That's right - six games against teams that may struggle to find the end zone with a map, a compass and a sherpa. The Saints do have Atlanta twice, New England and Dallas yet to play, two divisional games each against Tampa Bay and Carolina along with trips to St. Louis and Washington. Can you say "NFC Top Seed"?

And Then There Were Three...

Speaking of New Orleans, there are still three teams without a loss so far this year. Since I've spent time looking at the schedules, I thought I would take a quick look and see if and when the Saints, Colts and Broncos might drop a game.

Denver should lose first, simply because they have some tough matchups in November. Should they beat the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, they get to come home for a huge game on Monday Night Football against Pittsburgh. If somehow they are still undefeated, San Diego visits two weeks later and the Giants head to Denver the next week. Somehow I think they lose one of those.

Indianapolis is next, and they have a decent shot to continue their run into December. A home and home series in November against Houston poses some challenges, but their pass defense is doing so well this season that it is hard not to like Indy in both. San Francisco does visit on Sunday, and they cannot be overlooked either.

Let's take it a little further for both teams. If both Denver and Indy go undefeated for the next six weeks, the Broncos travel to Indianapolis in Week 14. CBS has all their fingers and toes crossed for that matchup - but something tells me so does NBC. If both teams are 12-0 after 13 weeks, expect a battle between those networks over that Week 14 contest.

Lastly, I've already talked enough about the Saints. 16-0 is a distinct possibility given their schedule, and I would not put it past them to go for that record. Even if they start resting their players at 14-0, Tampa Bay and Carolina are hardly going to stand in their way for the last two weeks. I'd have to put their odds of going undefeated at about 8-1, which would drop to about 3-1 if they beat New England at home on Monday Night Football on November 29th.

That will do it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this window into my world. Until next time...