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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - OCT. 22

By Joe Nelson
Posted 10/23/2012 at 12:41 PM

The only team in the NFC with fewer than two wins is the Carolina Panthers, a team many pegged for a breakthrough season. Most criticism falls on Cam Newton and he has struggled but do also consider that the early season schedule has been very tough. Carolina still has four games to go with the AFC West so this is team that can turn things around although a playoff run or improvement from last season is unlikely. The NFC South has been one of the tougher divisions in recent years but this season the South has been by far the weakest in the NFC despite featuring the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL. The South is a combined 11-13, while the East is 14-12, the West is 16-12, and the North will be 16-10 after Monday night.

 

There are only three teams in the entire AFC with a winning record so far this season and the wild card race could get very interesting with a lot more teams in the mix than expected. If the season ended today the Miami Dolphins would be a playoff team, winning tiebreakers over Pittsburgh and Indianapolis for the final wild card spot. The three teams with the worst records in the NFL last season; St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Minnesota, are all right in the thick of the playoff race as the Vikings and Packers would be the NFC wild card teams right now. While the Vikings have been a great story Minnesota will face a brutal final six games with the Packers and Bears twice as well as a road trip to Houston. The Colts might actually be the team with the best chance to make the playoffs among those three. Indianapolis has Tennessee, Miami, and Jacksonville the next three weeks and only has three games with teams that currently have winning records in the last 10 games.

 

There was little movement in the top of the national rankings last week in college football but there could be big changes this week. Undefeated Alabama hosts undefeated Mississippi State this week in the SEC and the annual Cocktail party will be a top 10 elimination game in Jacksonville this week. Along with Mississippi State, two other undefeated teams will be underdogs this week with Ohio State and Notre Dame both facing tough road games and Louisville, Oregon State, and Kansas State will be just very slight favorites this week and could be at risk. USC also has a tough road test in the Pac-12, with the huge game with Oregon lining up for next week. The SEC has Alabama/LSU next week as well as the paths to the title game should be much clearer in early November.

               

One of the very pleasant surprises this season in college football has been Duke, the Blue Devils reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994 last week and right now Duke would be the ACC Coastal division champion. Duke plays Florida State this week so things can turn sharply however. While they won’t be in the postseason Penn State has delivered a great run with five straight wins after a 0-2 start. The Lions have looked like arguably the best team in the Big Ten though some tough games are ahead. Also reaching bowl eligibility last week were Kent State and Utah State.

               

There were some wild finishes last week in college football with two teams deciding to go for two in overtime for the win, with both San Diego State and Louisiana-Monroe successfully converting on the bold calls. Monroe’s win ended a run of 15 consecutive ATS wins for Western Kentucky going back to early October of last season. Western Kentucky was only favored three times on the run, and never by more than 4˝ points. Monroe is now in control of the Sun Belt. Best of Luck, on to this week’s slate…

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