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Inside the Points - Week 1
By Fritz Schlottman
September 3, 2003
 

This is a weekly view of the upcoming games considering the perspective of the sportsbooks to see how their information about teams and trends can be relevant to your fantasy football team. There are probably a few of you who feel that the gaming industry should give to you for a change. This view is interesting and different from fantasy football since it considers the teams and games as a whole first considering trends and motivations and only later the players – almost the exact opposite from when you decide your weekly starting players.

If you would like a detailed introduction to this new weekly feature at The Huddle please click here.

New York Jets (0-0) at Washington (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 38.8
NYJ 20.3, WAS 18.5

Trends
1999 WAS 27 (A) NY 20 (H)
WAS Stats: 333 Total Yards- 96 Rush-237 Pass
NY Stats: 337 Total Yards-142 Rush-195 Pass
The Jets tend to play more defensive games (under) on national television and the Redskins also play slightly more defensive. The national games traditionally under-perform the established lines.

Motivation

Oh , I don’t know…there may be some hard feeling left over from having Redskins Owner Dan Snyder sign the Jets top receiving threat, guard, kicker and kick returner. Jets General Manager Terry Bradway has been openly critical of Snyder’s signings and valuation of talent. Redskins wide receiver Laveranues Coles took a parting shot at Jets team management as well as New York’s defensive backs on the way out. Jets QB Chad Pennington simply said that he felt the team’s receiving corps was as strong or stronger without him (Coles). Feel the love.

Opening night on national television qualifies as a big game no matter who the opponent is. Both sides should be motivated.

Opinion

Vegas isn’t excited about this game. If there is a favorite it’s based on the Jets ability to run the ball against a very suspect Redskins defensive front.

The Jets, with Pennington out injured, will probably want to test a very vulnerable Redskins run defense. Both Redskins starting defensive tackles are questionable. Last year’s starters Daryl Gardener (replaced by Brandon Noble who will miss the year) and Dan Wilkinson are no longer with the squad. This squad features a rotation of Martin Chase (New Orleans), Lional Dalton (Denver), Jermaine Haley, Bernard Holsey, and Del Cowsette- hardly household names. Starting DE Bruce Smith means putting three liabilities against the rush on the field at the same time.

Running the ball against the Redskins should be a no-brainer…that is if the Jets didn’t have their own problems. G Tom Nutten abruptly retired after being signed from the Rams. Brett Smith, a left tackle had to make a late switch to right guard. The unit lacked chemistry in preseason and they’re thin at the tackle position, but the lack of cohesiveness is more of a concern on opening night. Expect the Jets to pound the ball at the center of the Redskins line then throw play action deep if the Redskins are forced to bring up their safeties.

The handicappers still aren’t sold on Redskins QB Patrick Ramsey. Many think that with time he can become an average NFL quarterback, but that the pressure of opening the season may get to him this week. Ramsey looked rough through the early part of training camp. Handicappers question his footwork and lack of quick decision making. Ready or not, Ramsey will have to carry the load as the Redskins are expected to go after the Jets questionable secondary.

Added on September 5, 2003

Oakland (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 46 (65.60 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 48.70
Oakland = 24.74
Tennessee = 23.96

Trends
1/19/2003:              TEN 24 (A) OAK 41 (H)
TEN Stats: 312 Total-138 Rush-174 Pass
OAK Stats: 375 Total-89 Rush-286 Pass
9/29/2002:              TEN 25 (A) OAK 52 (H)
TEN Stats: 430 Total-43 Rush-387 Pass
OAK Stats: 464 Total-90 Rush-374 Pass

Motivation

These two teams are very familiar with one another after meeting twice last season.  The Titans will be motivated to avenge their two big loses last season (including a playoff loss).  Allowing 93 in two meetings is not a good thing.

Having gotten their butts-kicked last year, the Titans will be very motivated not to lose three straight games against the AFC champions with 12 months. On their home field, they may be too hyped up.

Opinion

Tennessee has a weakness in the secondary.  It isn't the starters, it's they guys they bring in to cover the third and fourth receiver.  If Raiders QB Rich Gannon gets time to sit in the pocket and pick the Tennessee secondary apart, another 45 point game is probable.  Titans DE Jevon Kearse must play over his foot injury and get pressure on Gannon or DE Kevin Carter will get double teamed all evening.  Tennessee running back Eddie George has had big games against the Raiders in the past and needs a solid game to keep the potent Oakland offense off the field.  The Titans have to score touchdowns when they get their chances.  Field goals will kill them in this high-scoring game.

Baltimore (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 40 (50.36 percentile-Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 40.98
Pittsburgh = 23.28
Baltimore = 17.70

Trends
12/29/2002:            BAL 31 (A) PIT 34 (H)
BAL Stats: Total-422-Rush-114-Pass-308
PIT Stats: Total-351-Rush-175-Pass-176
10/27/2002:            BAL 18 (H) PIT 31 (A)
BAL Stats: Total-360-Rush-67-Pass-293
PIT Stats: Total-283-Rush-110-Pass-173
1/20/2002:              BAL 10 (A) PIT 27 (H)
BAL Stats: Total-150-Rush-22-158
PIT Stats: Total-297-Rush-154-Pass-143

Motivation

A divisional game that both teams want to win desperately.  The Ravens have lost three straight to the Steelers and their defense has played poorly in all three.  The Steelers are one of the few teams that can consistently run on the Ravens defense.  Baltimore have struggled to run against the iron curtain defense.

Opinion

The key to the game will be how well the Ravens' rookie quarterback handles the Steelers blitz.  Baltimore will depend on Kyle Boller, starting his first game and on the road in a tough place to play, recognizing the blitz and capitalizing on it to make big plays down the field.  Pittsburgh's secondary is questionable against the pass and opportunities for long scores should present themselves.  The Steelers, on the other hand, have to get pressure on the Baltimore rookie.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers need much better play from their offensive line.  The right side, in particular, has struggled all preseason.  T Todd Fordham will be making his first start with the team and G Kendall Simmons is suffering through adult diabetes.  If QB Tommy Maddox gets time, then the battle moves down the field where WRs Burress and Ward will lock up with Baltimore corners Chris McAllister and Corey Fuller.

Minnesota (0-0) at Green Bay (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 47 (68.49 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 49.98
Green Bay = 29.56
Minnesota = 20.42

Trends
12/8/2002:              MIN 22 (A) GB 26 (H)
MIN Stats: Total-316-Rush-191-Pass-125
GB Stats: Total-328-Rush-124-Pass-204
11/17/2002:            GB 21 (A) MIN 31 (H)
MIN Stats: Total-425-Rush-218-Pass-207
GB Stats: Total-367-Rush-71-Pass-296
12/30/2001:            MIN 13 (A) GB 24 (H)
MIN Stats: Total-302-Rush-199-Pass-103
GB Stats: Total-213-Rush-56-Pass-157
10/21/2001:            GB 13 (A) MIN 35 (H)
MIN Stats: Total-377Rush-196- Pass-181
GB Stats: Total-234-Rush-74-Pass-160

Green Bay has won nine of the last 10 games on their home field.

Motivation

Both teams will be motivated by playing a big, divisional game to start the season.  Packer QB Brett Favre, for some reason, struggles against the Viking defense in the Metrodome, but he lights up the visitors on home turf. He has had a running war of words with a succession of Minnesota defensive tackles including current defensive leader Chris Hovan.  The underdog Vikings have won the last two games against the Packers in the dome and lost the last two in Wisconsin.

Opinion

The consensus among the professional handicappers is that the Packers are one of the league's most overrated teams while the Vikings have been overlooked since losing their starting running back.  One of them has come out and said that Minnesota will win the very weak NFC North division.  The Vikings have been their own worst enemy taking sacks, bad penalties, and making too many turnovers.  If they can make less mistakes they will have a very potent offense.

On the other hand, if Favre gets time to throw he should have a big game against the questionable Minnesota secondary.  Look for WR Donald Driver to have a big game on Sunday.  Vikings WR Randy Moss has traditionally had big games against the Packers as well.  In 10 games against the Packers, Moss has caught 49 passes for 976 yards and nine touchdowns.

Houston (0-0) at Miami (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 34 (34.56 percentile-Low)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 31.63
Miami = 22.76
Houston = 8.87

Trends
No regular season history.  Miami has 11 consecutive wins to open the season.

Motivation

The Dolphins have crushed the opposition early in the season.  The Texans need to show they made progress and are no longer an expansion team.

Opinion

The speculation centers around if the Texans can score against the Dolphin's defense and exactly how badly will Miami pound Houston QB David Carr.  One handicapper's guess is that without the aid of a defensive touchdown/huge special teams play/turnover deep in Dolphin territory the Texans offense would be worth a field goal and would struggle to get into the end zone.  On the other had, the Dolphins will score around 24 points if the game isn't played in a hurricane.  Dolphins DE Jason Taylor almost certainly will end the week leading the league in sacks.  The Texans will run the ball and eat up clock in hopes of keeping the game close and getting a break.  When the Dolphins throw, it will be down the middle against the Texans weak safeties.

Denver (0-0) at Cincinnati (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total  = 43 ½ (59.94 percentile-Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 44.24
Denver = 26.10
Cincinnati = 18.14

Trends
No recent history between these teams.

Motivation

The Bengals will want this game.  A new head coach brings hope to a city and team that has struggled for a decade.  Losing the opener would deflate what little optimism there is.

Opinion

Cincinnati need to limit its turnovers, run the ball, and play keep away from the Broncos.  The Bengals defense is very questionable and won't hold up if Denver keeps getting the ball and a short field.  Cincinnati should crowd the line of scrimmage to take away the Bronco running game and for QB Jake Plummer to make quick decisions.

St. Louis (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 45 ½ (64.9 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total =45.55
New York Giants = 23.55
St. Louis = 22.00

Trends
9/15/2002:              NYG 26 (A) STL 21 (H)
NYG Stats: Total- 394-Pass-291-Rush-103
STL Stats: Total-352-Pass-260-Rush-82
10/14/2001:            NYG 14 (A) STL 15 (H)
NYG Stats: Total-332-Pass-235-Rush-97
STL Stats: Total-315-Pass-274-Rush-41
11/12/2000:            NYG 24 (H) STL 38 (A)
NYG Stats: Total-348-Pass-213-Rush-135
STL Stats: Total-397-Pass-256-Rush-141

Motivation

Last year's loss to the Giants set the stage for a disappointing 2002 campaign.  The Rams will be eager to prove their back to their "greatest show on turf" form.

The Rams have won seven of the last nine meetings and lead the series 25-10.

Opinion

The Giants are going to go right after Rams QB Kurt Warner.  They'll stunt, blitz and overload one side of the formation to rattle the St. Louis quarterback.  If the Rams can protect their quarterback, they'll have a change to make big plays.  WR Bruce and Holt have to beat New York DB Will Allen and Will Peterson (who will play a physical game) on the line of scrimmage and force the St Louis receivers off their routes.

The Rams also need to get heat on the quarterback.  With the Giants starting two new offensive linemen, the St. Louis defensive ends need to produce.  If not Toomer and Hillard make take advantage of the Rams weak secondary.

Vegas questions whether the sharp preseason play of QB Kurt Warner will continue.  He still looks nervous in the pocket.

New England (0-0) at Buffalo (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 46 ½ (67.05 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 41.88
New England = 21.50
Buffalo = 20.38

Trends
12/8/2002:              BUF 17 (A) NE 27 (H)
BUF Stats: Total-390-Rush-78-Pass-312
NE Stats: Total-275-Rush-92-Pass-183
11/3/2002:              NE 38 (A) BUF 7 (H)
BUF Stats: Total-331-Rush-65- Pass-266
NE Stats: Total-422-Rush-114-Pass-308
12/16/2001:            NE 12 (A) BUF 9 (H)
BUF Stats: Total-310-Rush-98 -Pass-212
NE Stats: Total-335-Rush- 129-Pass-206
11/11/2001:            BUF 11 (A) NE 21 (H)
BUF Stats: Total-241-Rush-68-Pass-173
NE Stats: Total-205-Rush-134-Pass-71

New England has won 16 of the last 17 games they've led at half time.

Motivation

A big, opening game between divisional opponents.  The timing is odd in that these two teams usually play their games in bad weather late in the season.  The Patriots have dominated this game the last few seasons, something that will stoke the fires of Bills and former Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe and S Lawyer Milloy.

Opinion

Vegas is nervous about this game because it's being played in early September and all the data is from games played in November and December.  Having Milloy change teams the week of the opener also adds to the uncertainty.

Bufffalo has gotten blown out of these games early.  They trailed last year's meetings 17-0 and 21-0 and had to give up their running game early and push the ball down the field.  Bledsoe threw the ball 72 times against Buffalo last season.  The Bills offensive front will have to quickly recognize the number of looks they'll get early and not miss assignments.

New England may not be able to run the ball against the improved Buffalo defense.  Look for them to spread the formation and throw underneath.

San Diego (0-0) vs. Kansas City (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total 46 ½ (67.05 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 45.83
Kansas City = 26.34
San Diego = 19.49

Trends
12/22/2002:            SD 22 (A) KC 24 (H)
SD Stats: Total-383-Rush-148-Pass-235
KC Stats: Total-376-Rush-53-Pass-323
10/13/2002:            KC 34 (A) SD 35 (H)
SD Stats: Total-465-Rush-153-Pass-312
KC Stats: Total-319-Rush-88-Pass-321
12/23/2001:            SD 17 (A) KC 20 (H)
SD Stats: Total-329-Rush-165-Pass-164
KC Stats: Total-323-Rush-120-Pass-203
11/14/2001:            KC 25 (A) SD 20 (H)
SD Stats: Total-324-Rush-65-Pass-259
KC Stats: Total-378-Rush-208-Pass-170

The Chiefs have won six straight at home in this series.

Motivation

A big divisional game to start the season so both teams should be motivated.

Opinion

With both teams talking about how they spent the off-season working on their defensive problems has Vegas concerned that this will not be as high scoring as the numbers would indicate.

The Chargers will want to protect their weak defense, and the secondary in particular.  To keep them off the field, they'll pound away with the running game.  When they do pass, they'll go right to WR David Boston who should over match the pathetic Chiefs secondary.

Kansas City will do the opposite.  Hoping to cut down on the wear and tear RB Priest Holmes receives, they'll throw the ball early and often and hope to take advantage of the Chargers weakness.  The Chargers were 32nd against the pass last year and may not be better this season.

Chicago (0-0) at San Francisco (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 40 (50.36 percentile-Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 40.88
Chicago =17.21
San Francisco = 23.67

Trends
10/28/2001:            SF 31 (A)  CHI 37 (H)
SF Stats: Total-350-Rush-83-Pass-267
CHI Stats: Total-364-Rush-135-Pass-229

Motivation

Opening day for the 49ers.

Opinion

Vegas just can't figure out what the Bears were thinking when they signed QB Kordell Stewart to be their opening day starter.  As one put it, "It's as if they never watched a %$&* football game the last five years."  Chicago's offensive line is already in taters and none of the handicappers expect that the Bears will be able to run the ball.  One has already come out and said that this team will finish last in their division.  If they can throw, the Bears will go after 49ers CB Mike Rumph.  Rumph gets the start because Jason Webster his hobbled with a knee injury.  WR Terrell Owens typically gets off to a slow start each season.

Indianapolis (0-0) at Cleveland (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 46 (65.60 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 48.9
Cleveland = 26.16
Indianapolis = 22.74

Trends
12/15/2002:            IND 28 (A) CLE 23 (H)
IND Stats: Total-417-Rush-143-Pass-274
CLE Stats: Total-349-Rush-87-Pass-262

The Browns have not won an opening game since rejoining the league.

Motivation

Browns home opener.  They have thirty players will less than three years in the league and may be a little too tight in the beginning.

Opinion

The Browns defense will be dreadful this season, but they may have one of the League's best passing games so expect a shoot out if LT Barry Stokes can hold of Colts DE Dwight Freeney.  Stokes hasn't started at tackle for two years.

The Colts will go after CB Anthony Henry who has struggled all last season and into the preseason.  The Browns have struggled to generate a pass rush so Colts QB Payton Manning should have time to find him and attack.

Jacksonville (0-0) at Carolina (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 35 (36.58 percentile-Below Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 36.96
Jacksonville = 18.69
Carolina = 18.27

Trends
No recent regular season history.  Current Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio and front office staff were with the Panthers last season.  The Jaguars have won both previous games in this series.  The Panthers have won five of their last six games last season

Motivation

Del Rio will have his team pumped to play his former employers.

Opinion

Vegas just doesn't get the numbers on this game.  Take away the home field advantage and the lines makers are saying that this is a game between two evenly matched opponents.  Somehow, the handicappers don't get that.  They have the Panthers as one of the better teams in the NFC and the Jaguars as one of the bottom teams in the AFC.

Vegas loves the Panthers defense in this game, but they can't figure out how their offense is going to score points.  On one show they couldn't name the Panthers starting quarterback.  They think this will be a very low scoring game.

Atlanta (0-0) at Dallas (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 36 (38.30 percentile-Below Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 36.33
Atlanta = 19.11
Dallas = 17.22

Trends
11/11/2001:            DAL 13 (A)  ATL 20 (H)
DAL Stats: Total-303-Rush-96-Pass-207
ATL Stats: Total-201-Rush-46-Pass-155

Atlanta has lost four in a row in Dallas, but the Cowboys have lost thee straight openers.

Motivation

Home opener for Dallas with a new Head Coach.

Opinion

Vegas is high on the Cowboys this week.  They're looking for the Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells will make a statement somehow, some way and win the game easily.  Several have said that the Dallas defense is underrated with the Falcons defense is overrated.

The Falcons offensive line was terribly inconsistent in the preseason.  Not a dominate group, they struggle to open holes for RBs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.  If the Falcons can't run the ball then Dallas will lay siege on Falcons QB Doug Johnson.  If Johnson gets time, he'll go straight down the field to WR Peerless Price who should be open against the Cowboys weak corners.

The Falcons will Blitz Cowboys QB Quincy Carter.  If they can take advantage of a limited Dallas offensive line, they can rattle the signal-caller and force mistakes.  The Falcons linebacker are too good for the Cowboys to run with a lot of success.

New Orleans (0-0) at Seattle (0-0

Vegas Line
Total = 48 (71.39 percentile-Exceptionally High)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 48.02
Seattle = 25.07
New Orleans = 22.95

Trends
No recent regular season games.  The Saints are a very good road team with a 16-8 record since Jim Haslett became head coach.  The Seahawks are just 7-20 in home openers.

Motivation

Seattle home opener.  The Seahawks need to get off to a fast start as they have struggled early the past few seasons.  The Saints play well early then fade late in the season.

Opinion

The handicappers are down on Aaron Brooks this week.  They suspect that he's still banged up.  Already inconsistent, they've been critical of his play.  He's inconsistent despite having had one of the league's best rushers in the huddle over the years. 

Good things are expected from the Saints running game as the Seahawks are still questionable against the rush.  Losing DT Chad Eaton and CB Shawn Springs has set back the Seahawks plan to improve the defense.  CB Marcus Trufant should struggle in the opener against either WRs Joe Horn or Donte Stallworth.

Vegas is expecting big things from the Seahawks this week.  Holmgren will be looking to make a statement and to get away from last year's slow start.  The offense and the passing game in particular should be humming with the only question being if the Seahawks defense can stop anyone.  QB Matt Hasselbeck is on a roll having two 400 yard passing games and four 300 yard passing games at the end of last season.  Their only question is if they can get enough tackle play to keep the pass rushers out.

Arizona (0-0) at Detroit (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 39 (47.75 percentile-Average)

Predicted Outcome
Total =44.36
Detroit = 24.64 points
Arizona = 19.72 points

Trends
12/8/2002:              DET 20 (A)  ARI 23 (H)
DET Stats: Total-203-Rush-51-Pass-152
ARI Stats: Total-313-Rush-133-Pass-180
11/18/2001:            DET 38 (A)  ARI 45 (H)
DET Stats: Total-478-Rush-49-Pass-429
ARI Stats: Total-417-Rush-89-Pass-328

The Cardinals have won the last five meetings.  However, they are 1-10 in their past 11 opening games.  Detroit has won its last three opening games.

Motivation

The Lions will want to get off to a fast start at home with a new coach.

Opinion

Vegas loves the addition of RB Orlandis Gary to the Lions.  Many think he is a better running back and suits the system better than starter James Stewart.  The consensus among the handicappers is that the Lions will make a step forward this season while the Cardinals may be the worst team in football.  Look for the Lions to throw deep and often against the Card's thin secondary.

The Cardinals experience at quarterback and running back can't be ignored.  QB Jeff Blake and RB Emmitt Smith have seen it all before and won't be rattled by opening on the road.  Blake is coming off a concussion suffered in the final preseason game.  The Cardinals will pound the ball at the Lions and ease their inexperience receivers into the game and hope to keep their defense off the field.  Vegas thinks this will be a higher scoring game than most anticipate.

Tampa Bay (0-0) at Philadelphia (0-0)

Vegas Line
Total = 36 (38.30 percentile-Low)

Predicted Outcome
Total = 33.65
Philadelphia =17.45
Tampa Bay = 16.20

Trends
1/19/2003:              TB 27 (A)  PHI 10 (H)
TB Stats: Total-308-Rush-49-Pass-259
PHI Stats: Total-312-Rush-80-Pass-232
10/20/2002:            TB 10 (A)  PHI 20 (H)
TB Stats: Total-207-Rush-81-Pass-126
PHI Stats: Total-269-Rush-159-Pass-110
1/12/2002:              TB 9 (A)  PHI 31 (H)
TB Stats: Total-258-Rush-63-Pass-195
PHI Stats: Total-334-Rush-148-Pass-186
1/6/2002:                                PHI 17 (A) TB 13 (H)
TB Stats: Total-236-Rush-71-Pass-165
PHI Stats: Total-296-Rush-111-Pass-185

Motivation

The Eagles will certainly be motivated for this game.  After beating the Bucs three times in the preceding 12 months, the Eagles got pounded at home in the layoffs. Even if McNabb wasn't healthy for the game, they lost badly at home nonetheless. 

Psychologically, the Eagles can't lose this game.  Losing back-to-back games against the Super Bowl champions would be a huge blow to the team.  Motivated and maybe too motivated.  The pressure is going to be on Philadelphia

Opinion

The Eagles will come after the Buc's quarterback with the blitz.  Tampa is going to have to prove that they can run the ball o the road.  The Bucs have averaged less than three yards a carry in the past three meetings.  This may be a very low scoring game.