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Inside the Points - Week 4
By Fritz Schlottman
September 26, 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 England (2-1) at Washington (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 41
WAS 24, NE 17

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Under is 11-5 in the Patriots last 16 overall.

Motivation

Both teams are 2-1 and leading their divisions.  Both teams will need a win to remain on top this week.  Washington comes off a tough loss and New England comes off a win.

Opinion

The wise guys have noted that Washington QB Patrick Ramsey has shown some flashes of brilliance this year, but Head Coach Steve Spurrier has shown a conservative approach as well.  WR Laveranues Coles has made a tremendous difference in this offense.  His speed and play-making ability has opened up the passing game and teamed with Rod Garner they have a great receiving combo and that has really helped Ramsey.  Combined with an impressive runningback by committee with Ladell Betts and Trung Canidate carrying the ball, Vegas thinks the Redskins are solid on offense.

On the other hand, New England has all sorts of problems on defense with injuries.   S Lawyer Milloy was cut, Ted Washington broke his leg and he's out, LB Rosevelt Colvin is done for the year, LB Ted Johnson is out this game, and LB Mike Vrabel is doubtful, also CB Ty Law is questionable.  They could have six starters out on defense and all three starting linebackers.

And the Patriots' injuries don't end on offense.  QB Tom Brady has an elbow injury on his throwing hand.  (It's been said to swell up like a grapefruit after a game) and the center of his offensive line is banged up.

Big point swing in this game since it opened.  Washington began the week as 1-˝-point favorites and the line moved quickly.  The Redskins are three point favorites around town.  All the money is coming in on Washington in this contest.

Kansas City (3-0) at Baltimore (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 45

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 47
KC 27, BAL 20

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Over is 6-2 in Baltimore's last eight games overall.
Over is 13-6 in Chiefs' last 19 games overall.

Motivation

Both teams are that the top of their divisions.  Both teams are coming off a convincing road victory.  RB Priest Holmes returns to Baltimore.  The last time he was in town Holmes was losing his starting job to Jamal Lewis.  Both runningbacks should be motivated for this game.

Opinion

This has been the break out season for he Chiefs so far.  The defense is much improved and the special teams are outstanding. DE Vonnie Holiday has been a huge addition and the young secondary has a year under its belt.  Dante' Hall is the most dangerous return man in the league right now.  That said, there's still a number of doubters among the handicappers.  One of the better known has openly said Baltimore will win this game.

But, Baltimore has problems.  They've been very fortunate to have faced both the Browns and the Chargers, and neither team can stop the run.  The bookies want to know what's going to happen when RB Jamal Lewis can't run the football and they have to throw the ball?  They have their doubts that QB Kyle Boller is going to make any plays.  If KC can stop the run, and Boller has to throw it's thought that the Baltimore offense will struggle much like they struggled against the Steelers in Week 1.  Vegas thinks you will see that again this week.

Philadelphia (0-2) at Buffalo (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points =41

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 44
BUF 24, PHI 20

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Under is 11-2 in Bills' last 13 games overall.

Motivation

Both teams are coming off a loss. Philadelphia is coming off a bye week.  The Eagles were supposed to challenge for their conference title and a loss would put them squarely behind the eight ball.  Buffalo will be looking to reestablish themselves as the favorite in the AFC East and a Super Bowl contender.

Opinion

Vegas thinks this is the earliest must-win situation that the handicappers can remember.  The Eagles dropped two home games and looked bad in doing so. 

Philadelphia were thought to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders and many expected they would pick up where they left off when QB McNabb returned from injury last season.  That hasn't happened.  Now Philly goes on the road, they can't run the ball, and they're facing 0-3. 

The Eagles defense is really banged up and they're down to six defensive linemen, one of which is an undrafted rookie.  Philly has only two natural defensive ends and their best two players in the secondary are expected to miss the game. 

Philadelphia's offense has been taking a lot of hits in town over the past two weeks.  The criticism isn't of McNabb, but the wise guys don't think much of what he's working with.  No running game, no speed at wide receiver, poor tactics, so it's all on QB Donovan McNabb's shoulders.  The wise guys think he has to start making some plays with his legs.  The Eagles really need him to run the football to win this ball game.

The sportsbooks have noted that Buffalo's running game remains missing in action. RB Travis Henry is questionable for the game and his health and availability will go a long ways in determining who wins this game.  The professionals think the Buffalo defense is very solid despite the rushing yardage they gave up last week.  However, Vegas noticed that the Bills' offensive line struggled against the Dolphins pass rush last Sunday.  The sportsbooks are expecting the Eagles to throw everything and the kitchen sink at QB Drew Bledsoe.

Tennessee (2-1) at Pittsburgh (2-1)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 44

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 45
TEN 24, PIT 21

Trends
        TEN     PIT  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
1/11/2003 PIT 31 TEN 34 430 99 331 324 67 257
11/17/2002 PIT 23 TEN 31 378 121 257 357 45 312
11/25/2001 PIT 34 TEN 24 405 81 324 377 130 247
10/29/2001 TEN 7 PIT 34 214 57 157 405 133 272
11/5/2000 PIT 7 TEN 9 364 148 216 167 74 93
9/24/2000 TEN 23 PIT 20 372 85 287 364 115 249
1/2/2000 TEN 47 PIT 36 337 140 197 433 138 295

Over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings.
Over is 14-7 in Steelers' last 21 games overall.

Motivation

Oh, yea.  Lots of motivation here as both teams have simmered for months following their controversial overtime playoff game.  A big, late game comeback by the Titans was aided by several questionable calls by the game officials including a penalty on the winning field goal.  The Titans kicker took a dive after missing his first attempt and the officials called a roughing penalty on Pittsburgh.  Tennessee won the game on the re-kick.  Pittsburgh still feels they were cheated out of their opportunity to meet Oakland in the AFC Championship game.  For their part, Tennessee views this game as an old AFC Central rivalry despite the move by the Titans to the new AFC South.

Opinion

The handicappers have mentioned that his injured finger has effected McNair's deep ball.  He doesn't have that tight spiral.   McNair also can't scramble with the injured knee.  But his ability to play through injury is a huge inspiration for this team

The Titans took advantage of the banged up Saints defense and now the Oakland win looks less impressive as well.  However, Tennessee has won 12 of their last 14 games and their only losses have been a one-point loss to the Ravens and the blow out loss and Indy this season.  The handicappers have always thought that the Titans were one of the mentally toughest teams in the league.  Something you look for in a good road team.

The wise guys think the Titans defense is the key to this game.  Their defensive line is one of the best in the game.  They manhandled the Saints last week and they should handle the beat up Steelers offensive line this week.  Vegas thinks that this will be a very tight game, coming down to the last possession.

Cincinnati (0-3) at Cleveland (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 38.5
CLE 23, CIN 14

Trends
        CIN     CLE  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/17/2002 CLE 27 CIN 20 350 102 248 382 140 242
9/15/2002 CIN 7 CLE 20 357 156 201 265 75 190
11/25/2001 CIN 0 CLE 18 191 84 107 249 78 171
10/14/2001 CLE 14 CIN 24 400 199 201 211 34 177
10/29/2000 CIN 12 CLE 3 240 179 61 182 54 128
9/10/2000 CLE 24 CIN 7 318 111 207 354 105 249

Under is 4-2 in the last six meetings.
Under is 5-0 in Cincinnati's last five games overall.
Under is 7-3-1 in the Browns last 11 overall.

Motivation

First leg of the Battle of Ohio.  The Bengals are coming off two straight loses while the Browns pulled one out of the fire on the road at San Francisco.

Opinion

RB Corey Dillon was injured again last week.  He remains day-to-day is two injuries.  If he can't play or can't play well, Vegas thinks the Bengals have little chance in this game.

QB Kelly Holcomb will not play with a fractured leg.  The sportsbooks think QB Tim Couch isn't much of a downgrade, he's certainly capable, and he's had good games.  He's in a great position win back the support of the team, the coaching staff, and the Browns' fans with a victory.

Couch got this opportunity because the Browns really have done nothing on offense this year.  But, they played three really aggressive defenses so far this year.  Indianapolis was very aggressive, Baltimore blitzed a lot, and San Francisco blitzed just about every down.  The pros think Cincinnati doesn't have the personnel to do that.  They can't get a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  Vegas thinks Couch should light up the Bengals' secondary.

San Francisco (1-2) at Minnesota (3-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 47
SF 27, MIN 20

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Motivation

T.O. fragged his teammates and the 49ers coaching staff in the press for the first time this season following the loss to the Browns.  He was upset with the play calling in the red zone and the offensive line's poor pass protection.  The Vikings haven't recorded their first Randy Moss incident of the season.  Both Culpepper and Moss are questionable for this game, but the sportsbooks think both will play this week.

Opinion

The handicappers are of the opinion that this Minnesota offensive line is as good as any in the league.  They simply grind down the opposing defenses with their physical style of play.  The weapons Minnesota has at wide receiver and runningback look a lot better with that big offensive line on the field.

The Vikings have been very fortunate so far this season.  They held off the Lions' late charge on three separate drives in the fourth quarter.  But, their luck may be running out. Injuries are starting to take their toll.  Culpepper and Moss are hurting and the other wide receiver D'Wayne Bates is also hurt.  Minnesota's runningbacks are all banged up.  With all their skill position players having some kind of injury, that has to have some kind of effect on this team.

SF has come up short the last two games.  This is not a team that will accept losing.  Vegas thinks the 49ers have a situational advantage in this game.

Atlanta (1-2) at Carolina (2-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 36

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 38
ATL 31, CAR 27 

Trends
        ATL     CAR  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/24/2002 ATL 41 CAR 0 426 149 277 122 71 51
10/20/2002 CAR 0 ATL 30 393 187 206 205 101 104
11/25/2001 ATL 10 CAR 7 239 145 94 247 96 151
9/23/2001 CAR 16 ATL 24 377 121 256 359 89 270
10/29/2000 CAR 12 ATL 13 281 97 184 209 30 179
9/17/2000 ATL 15 CAR 10 262 108 154 284 59 225

Over is 8-3 in Falcons' last 11 games overall.
Over is 4-2 in Carolina's last six games overall.

Motivation

Atlanta has owned this series.  They outscored the Panthers 71-0 in the combined two games last year and have won the last six meetings.  The Panthers should be looking for a little payback this week.  The Falcons just got smoked by the Buc's last week at home and didn't look very good on offense or on defense.

Opinion

Atlanta's faced a number of top defenses this year.  Vegas is of the opinion that QB Doug Johnson's having trouble making the right reads.  He's missing open receivers, not looking off receivers, and missing the hot receiver.  That may have something to do with the defenses he's faced.  Still, Atlanta's a very good road team.

Carolina is a much better offensive team this year and given the two embarrassing losses to the Falcons last year and the bye week, they should be focused this Sunday. 

The handicappers' analysis is that the Panthers' defense looks tough, but they're not very good against the pass and the public's perception is that they're better than they really are. In short, Vegas thinks this Panthers' team is one of the most over-rated in the league.  Their defense is rated 25th in the NFL and the offense is rated 30th.

The other problem is on offense.  Despite being better than 2002, Vegas has noted that the Carolina offense hasn't had a lot of success and if it wasn't for RB Stephen Davis they wouldn't have a touchdown this year.  Most of the wise guys are lining up behind Atlanta in this game.

Arizona (1-2) at St. Louis (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 45

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 45
STL 31, ARI 14

Trends
        ARI     STL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/15/2002 ARI 28 STL 30 378 129 249 366 66 300
11/3/2002 STL 27 ARI 14 235 64 171 415 192 223

Under is 3-1 in the last four meetings.
The over is 7-3 in the Cardinals' last 10 games overall

Motivation

The Cardinals are coming off a huge win over the Packers and the Rams are coming off two consecutive close defeats.

Opinion

Both teams are really beat up.  RB Marshall Faulk will miss some time with the hand and knee injuries.  A lot of the Cardinals secondary players are banged up and most of their back-up wide receivers will miss this game.

Despite the upset last week, the Cardinals are as bad as it gets in the NFL.  Vegas has them below the Lions, Jaguars, Texans, and Bengals in their power ratings.

However, the Rams aren't the same team they were a few years ago.  The handicappers note a number of problems: St. Louis don't have balance on offense (especially without Faulk in the line-up); they don't have depth at the third and fourth receiver positions; the Rams have no running game; they aren't putting up big numbers on offense; and their defense has blown leads in the last two games.  In short, Vegas is using this game as a citywide bitch session. 

But as much as they hate St. Louis, none of the handicappers wants to put down money against them in this game.  The Cardinals are too unreliable for their money.

Jacksonville (0-3) at Houston (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points =39

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 36.5
HOU 20, JAX 17

Trends
        JAX     HOU  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/17/2002 JAC 24 HOU 21 321 122 199 272 78 194
10/27/2002 HOU 21 JAC 19 290 126 164 242 81 161

The last two meetings have played over.

Motivation

Both teams need to win the game.  The victor has hope for the remainder of the season.  The loser will try and avoid an embarrassing season.  Both teams are coming off consecutive losses.

Opinion

Vegas has no interest this game.  Both teams are too unreliable to get much support.

They think Houston is capable of putting up the great effort, although they are very inconsistent.  The Texans have enough defense that they can jump up and bite someone.

The Jaguars have had a tough start of the season.  They faced three really good teams and now they step down in class.  They have good personnel on the defensive side of the ball and the handicappers think they may show something this week.  However, they may come out flat after facing bigger games in each of their first three weeks.

San Diego (0-3) at Oakland (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points =43

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 41
OAK 28, SD 13

Trends
        SD     OAK  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/8/2002 OAK 27 SD 7 291 65 226 393 67 326
10/20/2002 SD 27 OAK 21 333 172 161 390 37 353
12/15/2001 OAK 13 SD 6 274 68 206 299 91 208
11/18/2001 SD 24 OAK 34 250 152 98 381 88 293
10/29/2000 OAK 15 SD 13 224 29 195 228 83 145
9/3/2000 SD 6 OAK 9 255 76 179 233 67 166

Under is 13-3 in the Raiders' last 16 overall.

Motivation

The Raiders have won five of the last six meetings.  Coming off an embarrassing loss to Denver on Monday night, Oakland will be desperate for a win.  The Chargers are just plain desperate after being out of the first three game by the start of the fourth quarter.  Both teams need a win right now to save their seasons.

Opinion

The public perception of this Raiders team has gone straight down after the Monday Night game.  Now, everyone is down on this team, including the bookies.  The public thinks they're down the media thinks they can't compete.  But some handicappers are looking at the game against the Titans.  They note that the Raiders were in that game until they end and so they may be being judged a little harshly.

The question is if the Raiders can stop RB LaDainian Tomlinson.  Last year, San Diego came into Oakland, pounded the ball at the Raiders defense, and walked out with the victory. Monday night, Clinton Portis and the rest of the Broncos RBs ran the ball well against the Raiders.  Vegas is expecting that Oakland may make some adjustments this week.

Without David Boston, San Diego has zero passing game.  He was suspended after being sent home from practice this week. That makes the Chargers one-dimensional and no matter how bad Oakland is playing right now, Vegas thinks they'll handle the Chargers.

Dallas (1-1) at New York Jets (0-3)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 37.5
DAL 20, NYJ 17

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Under is 11-6 in Dallas' last 17 road games.
Over is 6-2 in Cowboys' last eight games overall.
Under is 8-3 in Jets' last 11 games overall.

Motivation

Dallas Head Coach Bill Parcells coached the Jets and 11 of their current players.  New York QB Vinny Testaverde had his best years with Parcells, so the Cowboys' Head Coach should know what the Jets QB can and cannot do. 

Also, there's still a lot of bad blood between the Jets management and Parcells.  They begged him to come back and coach the Jets, but he said he was retired for good.  Now Parcells leads the Cowboys back into the Meadowlands.  Jets management will want this game badly.

Opinion

Vegas thinks this is a must win game for the Jets.  But the handicappers think the biggest factor is this game is the relationship between Bill Parcells and Vinny Testaverde.  No one should know the Jets' quarterback's strengths and weaknesses better than Parcells.  Testaverde had his best years under Parcells.  With a week extra to prepare, Vegas thinks the Cowboys will challenge Testaverde to make the throws he's most uncomfortable with.

The Jets can't run the ball and they can't stop the run.  In their first three games they've been outrushed by 103, 146, and 82 yards.  You're in a lot of trouble if you're getting beaten by a large margin in the running game.  A lot of wise guys like the Cowboys in this game.

Detroit (1-2) at Denver (3-0)

Vegas Line
Total Points =44

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 44
DEN 27, DET 17

Trends
No recent previous regular season meetings between these teams.

Motivation

The sportsbooks think this is a classic "sandwich" game.  Denver may be flat after their big win against the Raiders and get caught looking forward to the Chiefs' game.  There's talk already that RB Clinton Portis may sit this one out.  He has a rib problem, but could play if needed. If that happens, it's a sure sign that the Broncos aren't taking the Lions seriously and they may struggle early despite their overwhelming talent advantage.

Opinion

The opinion around town is that Detroit is a terrible road team.   They only cover about a fourth of their road games.  The handicappers think Denver can beat this team by three touchdowns at home if they wanted to, but won't.   On Monday night, Denver played the perfect game.  They won't have the motivation to do that again.  The handicappers think Denver will win, but they may sleepwalk through this game.

Indianapolis (3-0) at New Orleans (1-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 48
IND 27, NO 21

Trends
        IND     NO  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/18/2001 IND 20 NO 34 339 77 262 378 157 221

The Colts' last five games overall have played under.
Over is 11-6 in Saints' last 17 home games.

Motivation

The Colts will look to go 4-0 while the Saints always seem to play better in front of the home crowd.

Opinion

The Saints are really banged up.  They had 23 rushing yards and 11 first downs at Tennessee.  Half of their defensive starters may miss this game.  On the other hand, the Colts have injury problems on their offensive line and may be without three starters.

The sportsbooks' opinion is that the Colts have a decent running game so far.  Maybe they're a little conservative, but their showing more balance on offense.  Also, Vegas thinks Indianapolis is coming together on defense.  Playing the cover two zone, they've really shut down opponents so far.

On the other hand, the wise guys think the Saint's offense is due for a breakout game.  They were embarrassed against the Titans last week and that may get them fired up for this night game on national television. 

With New Orleans known for being a drinking town with a bad football habit, the home supporters may be properly lubricated well before the opening kickoff.  The handicapper's are staying as far away from this game as they can get.

Green Bay (1-2) at Chicago (0-2)

Vegas Line
Total Points = 41.5

Predicted Outcome
Total Points = 43
GB 27, CHI 16

Trends
        GB     CHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/1/2002 CHI 20 GB 30 396 181 215 304 74 230
10/7/2002 GB 34 CHI 21 457 124 333 380 45 335
12/9/2001 CHI 7 GB 17 352 167 185 189 50 139
11/11/2001 GB 20 CHI 12 368 100 268 262 43 219
12/3/2000 GB 28 CHI 6 304 81 223 330 104 226
10/1/2000 CHI 27 GB 24 364 44 320 370 178 192

Under is 5-2 in the Packers' last six overall.
Under is 12-5 in Bears' last 17 games on turf.

Motivation

Big rivalry game for both teams.  Playing on Monday night on national television with the Bears opening remodeled Soldier Field and both teams coming off a loss and needing a win makes this is a very big game for both squads.

Opinion

Everyone in Vegas is behind the Packers in this game.  As one said, "Chicago can't beat the Packers on their home field even when Green Bay has nothing to play for.  QB Bret Favre just eats up this Bears team.  What will a pissed-off Favre do to them this week coming off a loss to the Cardinals?"  Vegas expects the Bears to come out and play with emotion, but in the end, they don't have enough playmakers to stay with the Packers through four quarters of a football game.