We’ve had a full month to assess all NFL teams. Some clubs will make adjustments and begin to fix problems. These are always teams that are well coached, or have significant depth with which to change things around. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers rested during their bye week with a 1-2 SU/ATS record. What’s wrong with the champs? Well, nothing, really, if you take a patient eye to the situation, which is what good handicapping is about.
The Steelers have had a brutal schedule, especially the last two games, losses at Jacksonville and at home to the Bengals. But there’s nothing to be concerned about. Their defense is 13th overall and a stout 5th against the run. The only concern is getting QB Ben Roethlisberger healthy, and you have to cut the kid some slack. He endured a traumatic summer motorcycle accident then had an appendectomy in September! This team will be fine, and should have beaten the Bengals if not for two late turnovers.
This is the time of the year for adjustments if things aren’t going right. Two years ago the Buffalo Bills were getting no ground game, until they decided to throw young RB Willis McGahee into the mix. McGahee jump-started the Buffalo running game, and the team was off and running, nearly making the playoffs after an 0-4 start. That same season the Patriots struggled a bit at times against the run, and during an October loss at Pittsburgh allowed 225 rushing yards. The Pats’ coaching staff then inserted veteran nose tackle Keith Traylor instead of starting rookie Vince Wilfork. The move made a key difference as New England’s run defense was much stronger and consistent. Here’s a look at some current weaknesses of teams.
Cardinals: What’s wrong with the great Arizona passing attack? It was No. 1 in the NFL last season. But this is a team that is overrated offensively. The addition of RB Edgerrin James is negated by the fact that their offensive line is terrible. They still have no running game to balance things out, which would make the passing game more effective. James is averaging 3.4 ypc.
In Sunday’s loss at Atlanta, 32-10, Arizona's lone TD was a 99-yard interception return by Adrian Wilson. QB Kurt Warner had another miserable game in Arizona's third straight loss and was promptly demoted to backup quarterback. Coach Dennis Green announced that rookie Matt Leinart will start next week against Kansas City. Warner was 11-of-20 for 128 yards with an interception and two fumbles. James was held to 41 yards on 20 carries as the Cardinals managed just 31 yards on the ground. Adding rookie Leinart could help long term, but won’t save them this season.
Ravens: What’s wrong with the Baltimore offense? Despite a 4-0 start, this is a flawed team. QB Steve McNair has not played well, with 5 TDs and three picks. Despite the comeback win over San Diego, the offense had 150 yards passing and 56 rushing. The offense is 10th worst in the NFL. Oh, their defense is tops, which explains the 3-0-1 under the total mark, a trend that is likely to continue. And the defense has faced some real bad offenses (Tampa Bay, Browns, Raiders), so don’t go running out and buy a futures ticket on this unbeaten team yet.
Raiders: What’s wrong with Raiders offense? Well, what ISN’T wrong with it! This offense just stinks, with coaches who have been out of the NFL for years and no quarterback. Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter have been sharing the time, but Walter showed he is not ready for the NFL: On Sunday against the Browns he was 9-of-23 for 68 yards! No change short of a young Daryle Lamonica returning is going to help this offense. Oakland is 5-31 SU, 9-26-1 ATS its last 36 as a dog and since losing the 2003 Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, the Raiders are 14-36-1 against the spread!
NY Giants: What’s wrong with the Giants pass defense? The team has a terrific, balanced offense ranked second in the NFL. But the pass defense has been awful, allowing 281 yards per game, third worst. They were lucky to beat the Eagles and were down 42-3 at Seattle before making the final score respectable. The Giants are allowing 30 ppg and are 2-1 over the total. Teams will continue to attack that weakness until they make changes. Good luck, as always. . . Al McMordie.
Al McMordie is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Al_McMordie.htm