NFL Handicapping: Teams that Could be Different Down the Stretch
by Trevor Whenham - 11/7/2013
For serious bettors there is nothing better — and by that I mean profitable — than change. The betting public starts to get set in their ways when it comes to expectations of teams once a season is half over or more. Teams that have a good chance of playing significantly different than those expectations can create major value for bettors who are willing to look beyond the typical expectations. Now that we are beyond the halfway point in the NFL, it`s a good time to look for teams that could have different second halves than what they have enjoyed so far. Here are four that stand out:
On The Rise
The story coming out of the last Texans’ game against the Colts is their second-half collapse. They were up by 18 at the half but were outscored 24-3 in the second half to lose the game. While it was a loss, and an ugly one, I take something different from that game. The team was caught off guard by the collapse of Gary Kubiak, and it obviously got to them. I’m willing to give them a mulligan for the second half. In the first half, though, this was a team that looked much different from what we have seen during much of this horrifying season. They were very sound defensively, and they made Andrew Luck extremely uncomfortable. Offensively, Case Keenum played with swagger that we haven’t seen all year, and he finally did what the team had refused to do all year — recognize that Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers alive and a weapon that should be used. This team has been disjointed and unfocused, but they have plenty of talent. They needed something to shake things up a bit and get them back on track, and now they have two — the emergence of Keenum, and the illness of Kubiak. The second half is quite kind in terms of schedule — Arizona, Oakland, and two games against Jacksonville are more than manageable. This is not a playoff team by any means, but they are going to be much better than the 2-6 squad they have been so far.
If you ask most people, they would say that the Bears are overachieving at 5-3 and that they are going to come back to earth. I’m not buying it. They are playing very tough football and have really taken to new coach Marc Trestman. They will soon have Jay Cutler back in action, and, remarkably, I am actually viewing that as a positive for this team. They showed a lot of toughness bouncing back from a loss to beat the Packers in Green Bay. In the second half they have manageable games against Baltimore, St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, and they have their three toughest opponents — Detroit, Dallas and Green Bay — all at home. This is a team that is at least going to match their 5-3 record from the first half, and more than that is more than possible.
Look Out Below!
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have shown some progress this year, and they would be doing even better than their 4-4 record if they were better in the clutch — three games have been lost late. While I like the new coaching regime and am optimistic about this team this year, I expect them to face real problems in the second half. The biggest issue is just the schedule. Starting with Denver this week, they also face challenging games against the Chiefs twice, the Bengals, perhaps the Giants if New York can get on track, and the Broncos again. The way this team is playing right now, I just don’t see four games they can win remaining. Frankly, three wins would be a bit of a surprise.
Kansas City Chiefs
This one is a no-brainer. These Chiefs have gone 9-0, and they quite simply are not going to go 16-0. I’m not one of those guys who is negative about this team or who discounts what they have accomplished so far. Sure, they have played a shocking number of backup quarterbacks, but the defense is more than legitimate, the offense does enough to win, and the coaching staff has firm control of the team. Still, with two games against the Broncos and one against Indianapolis the team is going to lose — and likely more than once. They are a very good team with a bright future, but they can’t help but regress from their current high levels of performance.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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