That the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are two of the three remaining NFL teams at 3-0 entering Week 4 isn’t a big surprise (it’s the fewest unbeaten clubs through three weeks since 2002 realignment). That the Arizona Cardinals are the third is a shocker. The old adage is that a 0-3 club will not make the playoffs, and, in fact, that has happened just three times since 1990 and not since the 1998 Bills.
But what are the chances of a 3-0 club reaching the postseason? According to the NFL, 75.7 percent of teams (84 of 111) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs. That’s probably a surprisingly low number to people.
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Bovada offers a special on whether all three unbeaten clubs will make the 2012 playoffs, with “yes” the -175 favorite and “no” at +145. Really, you are betting on Arizona, which is 3-0 for the first time since 1974.
The Texans, 3-0 for the first time, are in the worst division in football – the other three clubs start first- or second-year QBs – and will win the AFC South guaranteed. Houston already has a two-game lead and is a whopping -5000 division favorite at Bovada.
Back in the preseason, the NFC South was essentially a dead-heat odds-wise between the Saints and Falcons. But that division also looks over. Atlanta already holds a two-game lead and is three up on New Orleans. The Falcons, 3-0 for the first time in eight years, are now -600 favorites to win that division.
Meanwhile, the NFC West has been the surprise division – two years ago Seattle won this then-joke of a division with a 7-9 record. Defense has taken hold in the NFC West. Its teams are a combined 8-4, the best mark for any division. And all four could well have winning records as the Rams probably should have won in Detroit in Week 1. San Francisco is the -250 favorite with Arizona at +350 and Seattle at +550 to win the division.
Arizona’s immediate schedule sets up nicely: vs. Miami this week, at St. Louis, vs. Buffalo and at Minnesota. Winning all four isn’t impossible but 2-2 seems the worst-possible scenario. Winning division and conference games are key to potential playoff tiebreakers down the road. But I would take no that all the all three 3-0 teams making it. Arizona’s offense is still pretty terrible and the team just lost starting running back Beanie Wells for two months. The Cardinals are averaging 2.8 yards per rushing attempt as it is. Kevin Kolb and John Skelton aren’t going to win games for you, and there’s only so much that Arizona defense can do. The breaks will start to even out. Cards probably finish 9-7 and just miss out.
Bovada offers playoff props individually on two 1-2 teams: Packers and Patriots, the two preseason Super Bowl favorites. Green Bay is -250 yes and +195 no, while New England is -400 and +300, respectively.
For what it’s worth, these two also had the easiest schedules in the NFL entering this season in terms of 2011 opponents’ winning percentage. But the SOS rarely means much, and teams like the Cardinals, Vikings (good) and Steelers, Saints (bad) have shown why. The Pack’s odds to make the postseason aren’t as short as New England’s because Green Bay plays in a much, much tougher division and still has five combined games left vs. the Bears, Vikings and Lions. The Pats haven’t played an AFC East game yet and could easily sweep those six.
I would still take yes on both. Green Bay really is 2-1, although its offense has looked off. The Patriots, with a kicking break here and there, would be 3-0. Certainly, however, neither can afford to lose this week.
Of course, the Pats and Packers have arguably the two best quarterbacks in football. And quarterbacks are slicing up defenses at a record rate as the NFL has had its highest-scoring three-week span in history. Last season, the Packers defense set an NFL record by allowing 4,796 passing yards (299.75 per game). New England was right behind, allowing 4,703 (294.0). Bovada offers a prop on whether any team will allow an average of 300 passing yards per game for the 2012 season, which would be a first (if you don’t round up Green Bay’s 2011 average). Yes is the -130 favorite and no at -110.
Right now, four teams are allowing more than 300 yards a game: Miami (307), Tennessee (313), Washington (337) and Tampa Bay (353) – ironically, the Packers lead the NFL in pass defense at 125 ypg. You only need one team to reach this mark to take yes here, and I do believe the Bucs are the club. To finish with 4,800 passing yards allowed (300 on the dot), Tampa Bay would have to allow about 288 per game from here on out.
The Bucs are committed to stopping the run under Greg Schiano (No. 1 against) and the pass defense is suffering. Tampa Bay still has to face quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III (this week), Drew Brees (twice), Matt Ryan (twice), Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick (if healthy and starting then).
Finally, I couldn’t have gotten the Week 3 highest-scoring team more wrong as I went with San Diego against visiting Atlanta. No team scored fewer than the Bolts’ three points. The Titans shockingly won the prop with 44 vs. the Lions. The Sportsbook.ag favorite this week, as it was last, is the Saints at +450. I’m not sure why Green Bay, which faces New Orleans, isn’t an option. Since the Pack aren’t, I like Detroit at +1200 at home vs. Minnesota. Matthew Stafford will play after leaving last week’s game injured and the Lions can throw the kitchen sink at the Vikes with Detroit on a bye in Week 5. The Lions scored 34 at home vs. those Vikings in 2011.
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