Entering the second half of the season, there’s surprisingly little we know about the best team in the NFL. That’s because we don’t know who it is. My rankings have the Broncos on top, but they aren’t clearly better than the Colts, and neither is that far ahead of the Pats, Ravens, or Eagles. And if you’re a believer in head-to-head games being super informative, then maybe you’d put the Pats ahead of the Broncos despite New England having played worse in a lot of other games. Maybe the Eagles should be ahead of the Colts, although they’ve gotten by on special teams and now have to get by with Mark Sanchez. Maybe the one-loss Cardinals should be #1, although they lost convincingly to the Broncos. So maybe this will be the week that brings a little clarity to the league, or maybe at least the playoff picture.
We won’t learn too much about the top teams this week unless there’s a major upset. The Colts and Pats are on their bye weeks while Denver gets Oakland, Baltimore gets Tennessee, and the Eagles get the Panthers. But we might learn about the playoffs. According to 538, 10 of the 13 games this week will swing various teams’ playoff chances by over 40%. A couple of those are fairly limited, like Seahawks-Giants which affects a number of teams but primarily Seattle. But some are going to have implications all over, like Miami-Detroit.
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As always, we need to look at the .500 teams as well. The Saints-49ers game will go a long way towards telling us if New Orleans is the team of the first quarter or the second quarter of the season, and if San Fran is going to pull things together or not. Buffalo-Kansas City will have one team heading towards the top and the other struggling to make the playoffs.
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There’s a potential dearth of high-scoring games this week. Luigi really only has Bears-Packers up there, while the over/unders would include Saints-49ers and Raiders-Broncos (where you can expect the scoring to really only be on one side). So I’ll take this space to remind you that the models don’t know that Dallas-Jacksonville is in London, and they’re giving the Jags home field advantage. If Romo can’t play though, that might be about a fair trade-off.
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We’re on to Simmons’ picks, and I have to say I enjoyed this one more than most weeks thanks to some good reader emails. The Andy Dalton/Shawshank email was good, as was the Harbaugh/Shyamalan one. Don’t quit your day job Bill – just let everyone else do the writing.
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And finally we have the SuperContest picks. Thanks to Cleveland, everyone already has a win in the bank. Let’s hope they don’t all go 1-4. Luigi is going with Cleveland +6, Oakland +11, Giants +9.5, Eagles -6, and Buffalo +2. Yoshi 2 is swapping in Jacksonville +6.5 for the Eagles. And Yoshi 1 is going with Tennessee +9.5, Oakland, Giants, Cleveland, and Chicago +7. So a lot of underdogs this week. Hopefully we see some covers.