NFL Betting: Soft Schedules Down the Stretch
by Trevor Whenham - 11/20/2008
There is no such thing as an easy schedule in the NFL. Playing any NFL team is a real challenge, and a team can lose at any time. That being said, some teams certainly have comparatively easier schedules than others. That can obviously be an advantage to the team as they try to make the playoffs, and to bettors looking for soft spots. Here are five teams with relatively soft NFL schedules down the stretch:
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Tampa Bay - The Buccaneers are in very good position to make the playoffs. They have a one-game lead on the pack in the race for the wild card, and they are just a game behind the Panthers, if Carolina should fall back to earth down the stretch. Things look good for my man Jeff Garcia and his potent defensive teammates, too. They have a very winnable schedule. They play the Saints at home, and could certainly win that. Their non-divisional schedule should see them favored all three times. They play in Detroit next time out, then they host San Diego and Oakland. That leaves two divisional games, both on the road - at Carolina and Atlanta. Neither game will be easy, but Tampa Bay beat both of those squads handily in their previous meeting. At the very least, the Bucs should win 10 games thanks to their schedule, and 11 or 12 is far from impossible.
Buffalo - The Bills desperately need to find a way to stop the bleeding. It may already be too late - their strong start is just a distant memory, marred by concussions, mistakes, and loss after loss. They have no breaks from their division, though they do get the Patriots at home, and Miami in front of a friendly Toronto crowd. The other three games are a different story, though. Denver is their toughest game, and it's far from a lost cause depending upon which Broncos team shows up. That leaves Kansas City and San Francisco. The Bills should be able to win those games, and they desperately need to. Those are their next two games, so they would not only be in better shape at 7-5, but their confidence could be boosted. The schedule provides Buffalo's best chance of salvaging something.
Miami - The Dolphins could lose their last six games and the legend of Bill Parcells would still be further inflated. He took over a one-win team, cleaned house, made the savvy move to pick up Chad Pennington, hired an unproven coach, and led them to the heart of the playoff race and full respectability. Things don't have to stop here, though. The Dolphins have a schedule that could see them win enough games to make it back to the postseason. Only one of their three divisional games - New England - is at home. That is made up for, though, by a schedule that could only be easier if they played Detroit. In order, they travel to St. Louis, host San Francisco, and visit Kansas City. The Dolphins that we have seen so far this year are more than capable of winning all three of those games. One more win in their division and they would slap a zero on the end of their win total from last season.
Tennessee - No one could have reasonably expected the Titans to be undefeated at this point, and it's hard to believe that they will pull off the second consecutive perfect season. Their schedule should ensure that they have a nice fat win total by the end of the year, though. There are some tough spots - the Jets this week, and Pittsburgh and Indianapolis to finish out the year. The middle portion, though, should be a cakewalk - if they get to 11-0 they have a very good chance of being 14-0 when they host Pittsburgh. They start by hosting Detroit. Next up, they host the faltering Browns. They close out the underwhelming trio of games by traveling to Houston - a team they beat by 19 when they played earlier this year.
Indianapolis - The Colts have done an admirable job of turning around a lost season. 3-4 and out of the picture has turned into 6-4 and in the heart of he wild card picture thanks to three straight wins. Their schedule ensures that they will have enough wins to make the playoffs as long as they play reasonably well. Their next two games are on the road, but not exactly against formidable opponents - San Diego and Cleveland. Then they are at home for Cincinnati and Detroit. They end with a tough one against Tennessee, but before that they travel to the suddenly pathetic Jaguars. At the very least the team should win three of those last six, which might be enough. It's more likely that they end up with 10 or 11 wins, though, and that will be more than adequate. I would love to see a playoffs that didn't feature the Colts, but the schedule makers have conspired to crush my dreams.