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Inside the Points - Week 9
By Fritz Schlottman
October 31, 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.

New York Giants (3-4) vs. New York Jets (2-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 36

Giants 20, Jets 16

Trends

Giants

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 19

Avg. Points Against = 20

Jets

2-4-1 ATS

Avg. Points For = 15

Avg. Points Against = 16

No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Under is 3-1 in the last four meetings.
Under is 3-1 in Giants last four overall.
Under is 7-3 in the Jets' last 10 overall.
Under is 3-0 in the last three when NYJ are home.

Motivation

Battle of New York. Giants are coming of a big win on the road against Minnesota and the Jets are coming off a road loss at Philadelphia. The Jets are probably out of the playoffs while the Giants' chances of post season play are hanging by a thread.

Opinion

The Giants finally played a game where they didn't give the ball away multiple times. In the three previous games, New York turned the ball over 11 times. Against Minnesota, the New York offense didn't implode, running up 460 total yards. Over the last four games, the Giants have averaged over 400 yards on offense while holding each opponent below 300 yards. Vegas thinks the G-Men may be ready to go on another one of those second half winning streaks.

The Jets have some injury problems, especially on defense. DE John Abraham (groin), the Jets best defensive lineman (9 sacks) will not play. He is the Jets pass rush as demonstrated last week against the Eagles where he was credited with 2.5 sacks of Donovan McNabb. The Jets fragile rush defense continued it's poor play, giving up 194 rushing yards to the Eagles. If the Jets can't get pressure on Collins and they can't stop RB Tiki Barber, they're going to be on the field for long stretches in this game.

The handicappers' feel that if the Giants don't turn the ball over, they win this game easily. That said, Vegas is expecting that the G-men will make some mistakes, but will not lose the turnover battle more than one interception/fumble making this game a close, low-scoring affair.

Jacksonville (1-6) at Baltimore (4-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37

BAL 20, JAX 17

Trends

Jacksonville

2-5 ATS

Avg. Points For = 18

Avg. Points Against = 26

Baltimore

4-3 ATS

Avg. Points For = 22

Avg. Points Against = 18

        JAX     BAL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/20/2002 JAC 10 BAL 17 397 173 224 261 118 143
11/25/2001 BAL 24 JAC 21 305 75 230 361 115 246
10/28/2001 JAC 17 BAL 18 365 81 284 305 114 191
10/8/2000 BAL 15 JAC 10 348 95 253 194 56 138
9/10/2000 JAC 36 BAL 39 421 46 375 331 89 242

Motivation

A battle between two former AFC Central Division teams. Jacksonville has gone into the new AFC South, but both squads consider this a divisional game.

This is a sandwich game for the Ravens. Last week, they beat Denver at home, this week they face the struggling Jag's, next week they go on the road to St. Louis. Baltimore may be looking past this game. The last time that happened, the Ravens were ambushed by the Bengals 26-24.

Opinion

History in this series is squarely behind the Ravens. They've won the last five meetings in this series since 2000, but the games have been close. The victory margins have been 3, 5, 1, 3, and 7 points. The Ravens laying seven is clearly too many points, the handicappers like the Jaguars in this game.

Vegas also thinks that Jacksonville may have gotten the better of the two rookie QBs. Leftwich has made his share of mistakes, but he isn't being babied nearly as much as Boller has. Leftwich has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions (8-7) despite throwing three to the other squad last week. Boller has one more interception than touchdowns.

This advantage at QB is meaningful in this game. Of course, the Ravens can call on RB Jamal Lewis to carry the 32nd ranked pass offense most weeks. However, this week they face the Jaguars who are giving up only 3.1 yards per carry. If neither team can run the ball consistently, then it becomes a battle of the rookie quarterbacks and the one that makes less mistakes will likely lead his team to victory.

Oakland (2-5) at Detroit (1-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 38.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41

OAK 24, DET 17

Trends

Oakland

0-7 ATS

Avg. Points For = 17

Avg. Points Against = 23

Detroit

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 16

Avg. Points Against = 26

No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

Both teams will not make they playoffs and both teams are desperate for a victory. Detroit was embarrassed on the road last week at Chicago, getting hammered by the Bears and only scoring touchdowns on a kick return and a garbage score late in the game. Oakland comes off a bye week after falling one-yard short of scoring a tying touchdown at home against the Chiefs.

Opinion

Vegas loves the Raiders in this spot. As one of them remarked, the light went on in the offensive huddle when QB Rich Gannon went out of the game. Gannon will miss several more weeks with a shoulder injury and will be in no hurry to return with Oakland out of the playoffs. After the Raiders veteran QB left the game at the end of he second quarter, the Raiders offense came to life, outscoring and outplaying the Chiefs in the second half of that Monday night game.

If you had to start your first NFL game at quarterback, you couldn't ask for any better match-up than Detroit. The Lions are just pitiful in the secondary. Opposing QBs complete nearly 70% of their passes. Detroit run defense isn't much better, giving up 4.1 yards per carry. The Lions do not get much of a pass-rush (1.5 sacks per game) even at home and will struggle to cover the Raiders WRs, TE and RB Charlie Garner with their reserve DBs. The Pros expect the Raiders to spread the field and take advantage of the Lions secondary.

San Diego (1-6) at Chicago (2-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 38

CHI 21, SD17

Trends

San Diego

2-5 ATS

Avg. Points For = 17

Avg. Points Against = 27

Chicago

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 17

Avg. Points Against = 27

No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

San Diego will try and forget last week's debacle in Arizona. They've been on the road all week, practicing in Illinois. Concerns at home and a long road trip may drain them. Meanwhile, the Bears finally had a good win, beating Detroit worse than what the final score would indicate. Chicago has confidence in Chandler at QB and may be sky high for this game.

Opinion

The handicapping community is trying to gauge just how emotionally drained the Chargers are right now. San Diego will not make the playoffs, QB Drew Brees played just a miserable game on Monday night, they've had a short week to prepare for the Bears, and a long week on the road. All the intangibles point to a Chicago victory.

The problem is that Chicago isn't anywhere near as good as the Dolphins are. The Bears defense is in the NFL's bottom five and they aren't in the same ballpark with the Fish against the run. The Chargers have more talent of offense than Chicago has but their defense is equally poor. Situation says Bears; fundamentals point to the Chargers. Assuming that the Chargers won't be up for this game, Vegas' best play may be the Under.

Indianapolis (6-1) at Miami (5-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37

IND20, MIA 17

Trends

Indianapolis

5-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 29

Avg. Points Against = 18

Miami

5-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 20

Avg. Points Against = 12

        IND     MIA  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/15/2002 MIA 21 IND 13 432 143 289 342 163 179
12/10/2001 IND 6 MIA 41 254 84 170 366 183 183
11/11/2001 MIA 27 IND 24 289 65 224 375 134 241
12/30/2000 IND 17 MIA 23 293 99 194 434 258 176
12/17/2000 IND 20 MIA 13 327 132 195 272 140 132
11/26/2000 MIA 17 IND 14 353 144 209 253 82 171

Motivation

Big divisional game for both teams that may decide who gets a first round bye in the playoffs. Miami is coming off a Monday night victory over the Chargers and has had a short week to prepare. On the bright side, QB Brian Griese was an upgrade at the QB position.

The Colts can't remember the last time they've beaten the Fish. Three years is a career in the NFL. Last year, with the same cast on offense, Indy managed a combined total of 19 points against the Dolphins defense. That defense has improved this season.

Opinion

Vegas is solidly on the Under in this game. The total was inflated by Brian Griese's play on Monday night and the Colts ability to put up big points on bad football teams.

What has been overlooked is that these are two very good defensive football teams. Indianapolis, regardless if RB James and his beaten-up offensive line are healthy enough to contribute, will not be able to run the ball on the Dolphins defense. That puts a lot of pressure on QB Peyton Manning and WR Marvin Harrison, who have not responded well in similar situations against the Dolphins' secondary. On the other hand, history in this series demonstrates that RB Ricky Williams can and will run successfully against Indianapolis, but running the ball will shorten the game and narrow the winning margin. A three-point spread is just about right, but a 39-point total looks a bit too high.

New Orleans (3-5) at Tampa Bay (4-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 45

TB 23, NO 21

Trends

New Orleans

4-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 21

Avg. Points Against = 23

Tampa Bay

4-3 ATS

Avg. Points For = 21

Avg. Points Against = 23

        NO     TB  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/1/2002 TB 20 NO 23 238 102 136 283 34 249
9/8/2002 NO 26 TB 20 368 118 250 333 72 261
12/23/2001 NO 21 TB 48 271 41 230 364 157 207

Motivation

The Buc's roller coaster of a season continued last week. It was up against the Cowboys, who were beaten decisively, but it was down the week before when Tampa got hammered by the struggling 49ers. Meanwhile, the Saints continued to show improvement on offense, taking he Panthers to overtime before succumbing. New Orleans still can't play a lick of defense, setting up a high-scoring game this week.

Opinion

The handicappers are still wondering where the 39 total came from? Both teams score 21 points per game and give up 23 points per game so the total should be 44. Further, the series history is way over 39 points. The wise guy's only thought is that the sportsbooks are anticipating that the general public has caught on to the Buc's alternating good game-bad game cycle and after a good game against the Cowboys, they'll look for a bad game against the Saints. The public can do what they want; the pros like this game over the total.

Washington (3-4) at Dallas (5-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 40

DAL 24, WAS 16

Trends

Washington

2-3-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 19

Avg. Points Against = 24

Dallas

5-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 21

Avg. Points Against = 16

        WAS     DAL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/29/2002 DAL 14 WAS 20 352 151 201 186 38 148
11/28/2002 WAS 20 DAL 27 315 83 232 328 211 117
12/2/2001 DAL 20 WAS 14 277 81 196 337 215 122
10/15/2001 WAS 7 DAL 9 226 103 123 386 211 175
12/10/2000 WAS 13 DAL 32 270 79 191 314 242 72
9/18/2000 DAL 27 WAS 21 334 107 227 332 153 179

Motivation

With all the turmoil in Washington, it's really hard for the handicappers to get a fix on where the Redskins' heads are this week.

The battle between HC Steve Spurrier and Owner Dan Snyder erupted into civil war. Snyder took it upon himself to hire two "consultants" (or assistant coaches) without informing Spurrier. Joe Bugle is a good offensive line coach, but he probably shocked the crap out of Spurrier when he walked into the coach's meetings unannounced. To make matters worse, Snyder has been cutting players without the knowledge of his head coach. The most embarrassing incident of the week was when the Redskins special teams' coach was correcting a special teams' error and, unbeknownst to the coach, the player in question had been cut eight hours prior to the meeting! In retaliation, and perhaps knowing that his time with the Redskins is coming to an end, Spurrier has all but announced that he won't be running the ball any more this season and he cut his only back-up QB (Rob Johnson). Rumors connecting Spurrier and the University of Tennessee are rampant at the sportsbooks.

On the other hand, the Cowboys just have to get over losing to the World Champs. Dallas HC Bill Parcells will have his troops motivated for this big rivalry game and Parcells' record against NFC East competition far exceeds Spurrier's.

Opinion

With both Washington runningbacks out for this game and drama in the Redskins locker room and owner's box, Vegas is all over the Cowboys. Dallas owns this series and the winning margin in each of the Cowboy's recent victories was more than six points, exceeding this week's spread of four points. The Redskins have too much trouble and too many distractions to overcome the NFL's number one defense, especially if Washington won't even consider being balanced on offense. This game may not be as close as the public might expect.

Carolina (6-1) at Houston (2-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 40

CAR 23, HOU 17

Trends

Carolina

4-3 ATS

Avg. Points For = 20

Avg. Points Against = 17

Houston

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 17

Avg. Points Against = 28

No recent regular season meeting between these two teams.

Motivation

Carolina comes off an overtime victory over the Saints and the Texans come off a loss to the Colts.

Opinion

One word.OVER! The Texans now have a decent running game plus a big-time down the field passing game as well. Not having QB David Carr in the line-up is not deterring the wise guys. QB Tony Banks is a rocket-armed NFL veteran. As one of the veteran handicappers told me, when he (Banks) drops back to pass-one of two things will happen. Either he will complete a long pass setting up a short field (good for the over) or he will turn the ball over by fumbling or throwing the ball to the other team giving the Panther's a short field (good for the over). Carolina has one of the league's worst pass defenses and one of the league's best pass rushes. On the other side of the ball, Carolina has one of the NFL's best running games and the Texans can't stop opposing rushers.

Vegas believes this game may become a battle of big plays. Panthers' RB Stephen Davis should tear through the Texans defense and Banks should go over the top of Carolina's defense.

Cincinnati (3-4) at Arizona (2-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37

CIN 23, ARI 14

Trends

Cincinnati

5-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 19

Avg. Points Against = 22

Arizona

2-5 ATS

Avg. Points For = 14

Avg. Points Against = 27

        CIN     ARI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/3/2000 ARI 13 CIN 24 398 292 106 340 72 268

Motivation

The Bengals are coming off consecutive wins over the Ravens and the Seahawks. Cincinnati's passing game has really taken off as the Kitna to Johnson combination is finally lighting up NFL secondaries they way they did during the Bengals run in the second half of the 2002 season.

The Cardinals are coming off a home upset of the 49ers. Arizona was able to run the ball on the San Francisco defense, something the Tampa Bay Buc's were not able to do.

Opinion

Big-time flat spot for both teams. The last time the Cardinals won a game (Green Bay), the next week they only managed 13 points against St. Louis while giving up 37. The Bengals come off two big home upsets where they averaged 23 points against the Ravens and the Seahawks and now they go on the road to play a Cardinals team everyone is expecting them to handle easily.

Just playing the averages, a 39-point total looks about right. If both teams were coming off a bye week, you'd expect Cincinnati to score about 23 points and Arizona to score about 17 making the total 40. Throw out the opening game of the season, and the Card's are averaging 12 points per game. With both teams coming off an emotional victory, Vegas thinks a 37 total sounds a lot more realistic.

Pittsburgh (2-5) at Seattle (5-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 44.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 39

SEA 21, PIT 17

Trends

Pittsburgh

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 18

Avg. Points Against = 25

Seattle

2-5 ATS

Avg. Points For = 24

Avg. Points Against = 18

No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

Both teams are coming off bad losses. The Steelers don't have the personnel to be successful with their power running game, but QB Maddox looks like an arena QB playing in the NFL and having him drop back 40 times a game hasn't worked either.

Seattle got through the tough part of their season only to stumble against the Bears and get beaten by the Bengals despite outgaining them.

Opinion

For the second week in a row, the handicappers like the Steelers (actually like is too strong a word for the handicapper's feelings for the pathetic Pittsburgh offense and secondary. Hold your nose and bet would be more accurate).

Seattle has played "small" against inferior opposition winning by 1, 1, and 7 point margins in games they should have won by double-digits. Seattle is 2-5 against the spread and haven't covered their last five games, while the Steelers under Cowher are 13-4-1 as dogs in their last 18 games.

May I suggest a few stiff drinks before you go to the window with this ticket? You'll need a boost of courage to put money on Pittsburgh. Vegas notes that the Steelers offensive line, running game, QB, and secondary have been brutal this season. Looking at the fundamentals, Pittsburgh should be blown out of this game, but the Seahawks always find a way of playing down to their opposition. Why should that change this week? It's not a divisional game, it's not a revenge game, and there's no history between these ball-clubs. Without a compelling reason for betting Seattle, the handicappers are going Pittsburgh or staying clear of this game.

Philadelphia (4-3) at Atlanta (1-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41

PHI 28, ATL 13

Trends

Philadelphia

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 17

Avg. Points Against = 19

Atlanta

1-6 ATS

Avg. Points For = 16

Avg. Points Against = 31

        PHI     ATL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
1/11/2003 ATL 6 PHI 20 318 91 227 354 93 261
10/1/2000 ATL 10 PHI 38 502 191 311 200 61 139

Motivation

The Falcons' coaching staff sent a message to their defense this week by firing the entire secondary. The prevailing attitude seems to be, if the guys wearing the headsets are getting the ax at the end of the season, they're going to take a few of these bums with them.

The Eagles have to be feeling better about themselves. After an 0-2 start, Philly's won three of their last four games and are back in the playoff race.

Opinion

Absolutely no love for the Falcons at all around the sportsbooks this week. As one handicapper put it, "How is Kurt Kitner going to throw the ball against a secondary that has two Pro Bowl players back in the line-up?" Remember that Kitner was 9 for 29 against a pretty beaten-up Saints defense two weeks ago. If Vegas had put up a 14-point spread on this game the pros would still be betting the Eagles or passing entirely.

Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips may be switching back to a 4-3 this week, but the consensus among the wise guys is that Dan Reeve's and his coaching staff have already lost this team. Even QB Michael Vick isn't going to try and save them from the wrath of owner Arthur Blank. He's decided to take a powder and sit it out until December, effectively putting the last dagger into the back of his head coach.

St. Louis (5-2) at San Francisco (3-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = no line

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = no line

Trends

St. Louis

5-1-1 ATS

Avg. Points For = 29

Avg. Points Against = 18

San Francisco

4-3-1 ATS

Avg. Points For = 21

Avg. Points Against = 17

        STL     SF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/14/2003 SF 24 STL 27 278 88 190 390 148 242
12/30/2002 SF 20 STL 31 263 35 228 329 193 136
10/6/2002 STL 13 SF 37 313 88 225 386 179 207
12/9/2001 SF 14 STL 27 385 115 270 220 76 144
9/23/2001 STL 30 SF 26 424 115 309 232 116 116
10/29/2000 STL 34 SF 24 447 149 298 325 92 233
9/17/2000 SF 24 STL 41 529 140 389 401 111 290

Motivation-See Below

Opinion

No action on this game with San Francisco QB Garcia out of the line-up.

Green Bay (3-4) at Minnesota (6-1)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 49

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 43

MIN 23, GB 20

Trends

Green Bay

3-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 28

Avg. Points Against = 23

Minnesota

5-2 ATS

Avg. Points For = 28

Avg. Points Against = 19

        GB     MIN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/7/2003 MIN 30 GB 25 304 62 242 337 154 183
12/8/2002 MIN 22 GB 26 328 124 204 316 191 125
11/17/2002 GB 21 MIN 31 367 71 296 425 218 207
12/30/2001 MIN 13 GB 24 213 56 157 302 199 103
10/21/2001 GB 13 MIN 35 234 74 160 377 196 181
12/17/2000 GB 33 MIN 28 434 159 275 400 68 332
11/6/2000 MIN 20 GB 26 298 81 217 407 157 250

Motivation

On opening day, the Vikings dominated the Packers 30-25. Green Bay will want revenge for that loss, and more importantly, desperately needs a victory if they have any chance of reaching the playoffs this season. History is against them, however. Green Bay has been terrible on turf and in domes.

Opinion

The motivational handicappers desperately want to bet on the Packers this weekend. Green Bay has three big reasons to win this game: revenge, desperation, and the Vikings first loss of the season. As much as they want to jump on this game, that history is just too much to overcome. Had the winning margin of previous two games in the Metrodome been seven points or less, they'd have money on the Packers right now. But, Green Bay has been beaten by a combined score of 44-66 for an average Viking winning margin of 11 points and that's just too much to bet against. Some are sitting this game out, the others have money on the Vikings.

If the bad Karma in Minnesota wasn't enough to scare them off the Packers, then the Vikings offensive line pushed them over the top. Green Bay simply cannot stop the Vikings from running up and down the field on their defense. Minnesota outrushed the Packers by a whopping 92 yards in Wisconsin earlier this year. Minnesota laid 218 rushing yards on Green Bay's defense in last year's game at the Metrodome. The Viking have rushed for more than 150 yards in six of the last seven meetings. Given that history, all the smart money's on the Vikings this week.

New England (6-2) at Denver (5-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 36

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 30

NE 17, DEN 13

Trends

New England

6-1-1 ATS

Avg. Points For = 19

Avg. Points Against = 16

Denver

4-4 ATS

Avg. Points For = 23

Avg. Points Against = 17

        NE     DEN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/27/2002 DEN 24 NE 16 179 69 110 351 136 215
10/28/2001 NE 20 DEN 31 300 117 183 355 86 269
10/1/2000 NE 28 DEN 19 314 54 260 405 79 326

Motivation

The Broncos are just trying to survive until QB Jake Plummer can return. The Patriots are trying to keep pace with the Dolphins in the AFC East. New England has just one win in the last 10 games played in Colorado.

Opinion

Vegas thinks this game screams defensive battle. The Broncos have history on their side, but they're starting Danny Kanell at QB again this week. New England's played through their injuries, but have had no success against Denver. Nine of the Patriots last eleven away games have gone under. Without a quarterback, Vegas doesn't think Denver's getting there by themselves. All three of the Broncos home games this season have gone under. Since the Minnesota game, the Broncos are averaging 13 points per game. New England's scored 20 points or more only once in their last five games.