Twelve of the NFL’s 32 teams have reached their midway point in terms of games played, and the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders.
That was pretty much the theme of Week 8. The Giants edged Dallas to create some serious distance at the top of the NFC East. Chicago remained 1.5 games up in the NFC North. Arizona started 4-0 but is back where it belongs at 4-4 after getting crushed by the class of the NFC West, San Francisco. Atlanta went into Philly and hammered the Eagles, improving to 7-0 while sending Michael Vick and company to 3-4. The Falcons could mathematically clinch the NFC South by Thanksgiving.
In the AFC, the joke of a logjam at the top of the East is no longer a thing. New England has taken control with a two-game streak, highlighted by a 45-7 thrashing of St. Louis in London. Peyton Manning and Denver sit atop the West after pummeling New Orleans and watching San Diego put up a hilarious six points against Cleveland.
Will order continue to be restored in Week 9? Let’s take a look at the numbers to find out (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag).
3 – Consecutive games with a touchdown reception for Raiders’ wideout Denarius Moore. The last Oakland player to have TD catches in four straight was Tim Brown in November and December of 2001. The Raiders may have to air it out some more because they have the NFL’s 28th best rushing attack (85.1 yards per game) while Tampa Bay boasts the league’s sixth best rushing defense (ironically, also 85.1 ypg). This week’s closest spread has Oakland as a one-point home favorite.
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11 – Touchdowns, compared to no interceptions, thrown by Aaron Rodgers during Green Bay’s current three-game winning streak. All three of those wins, one of which was a 42-24 rout at Houston, have come by at least nine points. The most lopsided spread of Week 9 has the Packers as 11-point home favorites against Arizona.
20 – Times Vick has been sacked in seven games this season after being dragged down 23 times in 13 contests last year. Of course, the Saints may not be able to capitalize on a reeling Philadelphia offense. New Orleans is dead last in the NFL in total defense, giving up an outrageous 474.7 yards per game. The host Saints are three-point favorites.
22 – Dropped passes by the Lions so far this season, tied for the most in the NFL. Even Calvin Johnson has contributed to that number. A slumping “Megatron,” who had 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, has caught only a single TD pass through seven games. Detroit is a four-point road favorite against Jacksonville.
50 – Wins for Mike Smith as head coach of the Falcons. Last week’s victory over Philadelphia broke a tie with Dan Reeves. Atlanta is 7-0 for the first time in franchise history heading into a Sunday night showdown against Dallas. The Falcons are four-point home favorites.
132.0 – Jay Cutler’s fourth-quarter QB rating, the best such mark in the entire NFL. Interestingly, his overall rating of 78.9 is way down at No. 23 in the league. The Bears came back from 12 points behind in the final frame last week against lowly Carolina and — given their recent offensive struggles — they may be in for another close one at Tennessee. Chicago is a 3.5-point road favorite.
18-7 – Combined postseason record of Eli Manning (8-3) and Ben Roethlisberger (10-4). Sunday isn’t a playoff game, but it may feel like one — and not just because the Giants and Steelers are two of the NFL’s more storied franchises. New York is looking to pull away further from the rest of the division and Pittsburgh is trying to overcome a vulnerable Baltimore squad in the AFC North. The Steelers are allowing only 182.6 passing yards per game, fewest in the league. They are 3.5-point road underdogs.
7-0 – Peyton Manning’s career record in seven starts against Cincinnati. In those games Manning has 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. As for this season, the future Hall of Famer has 14 TDs and only one pick in his last five outings. The Broncos are four-point road favorites against the Bengals.
0 – Combined seasons of experience, prior to this one, for the quarterbacks and head coaches of the Dolphins and Colts, who are facing each other on Sunday.
9 – Baltimore’s current winning streak against Cleveland, from where the franchise moved prior to the 1996 season. The Ravens are 3.5-point road favorites at the Browns.
176.9 – NFL-high rushing yards per game allowed by the Bills. Their Sunday opponent, Houston, leads the NFL with 35.4 rushing attempts per contest.
18 – Combined margin by which five of Carolina’s six losses have come. They are three-point road underdogs against Washington on Sunday.
1532 – Combined rushing yards for Adrian Peterson (775) and Marshawn Lynch (757), the league’s top two rushers. They are facing each other on Sunday. Lynch’s Seahawks are five-point home favorites against Minnesota.