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Inside the Points - Week 10
By Fritz Schlottman
November 7, 2003
 

Atlanta (1-7) vs. New York Giants (4-4)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
Giants 27, Falcons 14

Trends

ATL Points For = 16, Points Against=30
NYG Points For = 20, Points Against=21

        ATL     NYG  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/13/2002 ATL 17 NYG 10 313 67 246 306 113 193
10/8/2000 NYG 13 ATL 6 238 13 225 255 104 151

Motivation

The Giants have won two straight after enduring yet another slow start. When the Giants were slumping, they were outgaining their opponents, but 11 turnovers and poor special teams' play in three games did them in. In the last two weeks, they haven't had as many mistakes. They've won and covered both games. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that when Collins has time to throw, doesn't make mental mistakes.

The Falcons have thrown in the towel on this season. The Atlanta's reserve secondary will be making its second start, whoever starts at QB for the Falcons this week probably shouldn't be in the NFL, and their defense is giving up an average of 418 yards per game. ATL HC Dan Reeves had a stay in New York, but he probably hates his own players and management more than any of the Giants right now.

Opinion

The handicappers' opinion is that the Falcons may have put this season on the self already. All the signals are there. There are problems with the owner (who's taking out advertisements in the local paper apologizing to the season ticket owners), with the lame-duck Head Coach, and in the locker room. With all the distractions, you wouldn't think that the Falcons would get up for this game. That said, this is the first time the Falcons have been double-digit underdogs this season.

Vegas thinks this line is about a point or two too high. The sportsbooks are doing this knowing that if the point spread were single digits, they would get no money on Atlanta. At least this way, some of the wise guys will be playing the dog.

Atlanta's problems start and end on defense and continue to get burned every week. QB Donovan McNabb, who had been struggling all year, put up over 300 yards against them last week, by far his best game of the season.

The Giants also have problems. Turnovers and poor special teams' play continue to haunt this team. This last week, the G-men were +4 turnover margin against the Jets and they still struggled to score points. The Giants are settling for too many field goals and not playing well in the red zone. Last week, the defense collapsed late in the game, blowing a two-touchdown lead in the final five or six minutes. Given the Giants inconsistencies, it's hard to make them a 10-point favorite over anyone.

Seattle (6-2) at Washington (3-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 44
SEA 24, WAS 20

Trends

SEA Points For = 24, Points Against=18
WAS Points For = 19, Points Against=24

        SEA     WAS  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/3/2002 WAS 14 SEA 3 324 84 240 259 146 113
11/4/2001 SEA 14 WAS 27 275 60 215 369 230 139

Motivation

The Redskins have a really bad attitude right now, starting with the owner and going straight on through the organization to the coaching staff and the players. The players don't like or understand the system, the Owner and Head Coach are actively subverting one another, and the local media are circling the locker room like buzzards waiting for the first heads to roll.

Opinion

Where to begin with the Redskins? The Redskins didn't seem to care much about beating their hated rivals the Cowboys last week. You didn't see HC Steve Spurriur throwing his visor, he's lost that swagger, and you don't see him sniping at his quarterback or the press; further signs that there are chemistry issues on this team. 'Vegas thinks this is another case of a lame-duck Head Coach playing out the string.

The offensive line isn't playing well, and that's being very mild. QB Patrick Ramsey is taking a terrible beating, and his teammates aren't helping pick him up. That doesn't seem to jive. Both tackles (Samuels and Jansen) have played much better in the past (like Pro Bowl caliber), but seem disinterested this year. A lot of the handicappers think that Ramsey (or Spurriur) and his offensive line are not very fond of one another and the big guys don't really seem to care if he gets creamed or not.

Washington's offense can't find a rhythm or identity. The running game disappears, even when it's working. Even WR Coles has struggled lately.

Washington doesn't get any pass rush and their defense is getting run on. Vegas is even using the term "stupid" to describe them. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to play defense in the NFL, but when you have that many talented players missing assignments, looking lost, confused, and getting killed by play action passes, either there's no commitment to winning, they aren't buying into the system, or they're playing out the string.

Seattle can't put teams away. The Seahawks drop passes, miss tackles, and always seem to be playing better than the result. This is a team that can't put together a drive, but they're still winning ball games. Even with their problems, the sportsbooks think the Seahawks are better than the Redskins are right now.

Arizona (3-5) at Pittsburgh (2-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37
PIT 20, ARI 17

Trends

ARI Points For = 14, Points Against=27
PIT Points For = 18, Points Against=25

No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

The Steelers are coming off yet another loss in a "must-win" game. Vegas thought two weeks ago that Pittsburgh would come out with a maximum effort, and they didn't. Last week, the wise guys were sure the Steelers would me motivated against the Rams, and they weren't. This week, it's really do or die for Pittsburgh.win this game or kiss their season good-bye. The Cardinals, coming of two home wins and on the road this week, look like the perfect victims.

Opinion

The Steelers have played terribly their last five games. The Cardinals are coming off back-to-back games at home.

The Cardinals have looked much better the last two games. They are not turning the ball over and RB Marcel Ship has energized the running game. He's had over 300 yards the last two games. Arizona's big offensive line has been wearing down the opposing defenses. That said, the Cardinals have been terrible on the road this season. They've gotten blown out by an average of 17 points in each of their away games.

There's a Steelers' theory floating around the sportsbooks this week. The premise is that sometimes a Head Coach stays a year or two too long. A Head Coach has a window of opportunity were players buy into a system, but if they don't win a championship; the guys begin to have doubts. As time goes buy, those doubts grow in the minds of players and the HC loses the team.

For example, Tony Dungy is a great coach, but he was at Tampa too long. They needed him to move on in order to get their rings.

Under HC Bill Cowher, the Steelers have always played hard in every year, until this season. In 2003, Pittsburgh has lost five straight games and showed no sense of urgency against the Rams and didn't play well against Seattle either when they really needed a win to get their season back on track. They have the second ranked total defense in the league and their record is 2-6. If defense wins games, how is this team 2-6? The poor decisions on offense have killed this team so far, but if they can snap out of their slump this week, they can make up a lot of ground in their division with their soft upcoming schedule.

Chicago (3-5) at Detroit (2-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
CHI 24, DET 17

Trends

CHI Points For = 17, Points Against=27
DET Points For = 16, Points Against=26

        CHI     DET  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/26/2003 DET 16 CHI 24 261 68 193 260 86 174
11/24/2002 DET 17 CHI 20 422 75 347 301 102 199
10/20/2002 CHI 20 DET 23 224 89 135 362 192 170
12/30/2001 CHI 24 DET 0 326 83 243 332 64 268
12/2/2001 DET 10 CHI 13 232 108 124 295 67 228
12/24/2000 CHI 23 DET 20 286 105 181 240 100 140
9/24/2000 DET 21 CHI 14 401 147 254 274 80 194

Motivation

This is a revenge game for Detroit, who were dominated in the windy city earlier this year. The Lions only scores in that game came on a kick return and a late garbage touchdown.

Chicago is playing with confidence right now. The running game is working and QB Chris Chandler is a huge upgrade at QB.

Opinion

Chicago has been playing much better football than the Lions. They came back and beat the Raiders and gave the Seahawks all that they could handle. The Bears have beaten both the Chargers and the Lions in recent weeks.

A lot of the success can be attributed to the Bear' offensive line. They were a mess earlier this season, having injuries tackle to tackle. Now that the offensive line is healthy, Chicago has found a running game. The "A Train" Anthony Thomas has been in good form lately. He's had three 100-yard days over the past five games. The Bears can run and throw the football right now, two things the Lions haven't been able to do.

Detroit got a win last week only because the Raiders played worse, no small accomplishment. The Lions receiving corps can't catch the ball and had numerous drops again last week. Detroit's secondary is a complete disaster. The running game has been MIA all season long. Vegas is surprised to see the Lions come out as chalk this week and the line has been marching steadily towards the Bears.

Houston (3-5) at Cincinnati (3-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 45
CIN 24, HOU 21

Trends

HOU Points For = 17, Points Against=28
CIN Points For = 19, Points Against=22

        HOU     CIN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/3/2002 CIN 38 HOU 3 268 82 186 390 127 263

Motivation

Houston comes off a big win against the Panthers. Now they go on the road to Cincinnati where the Bengals' playoff hopes took a huge hit in last Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. Given how weak the AFC North is relative to the AFC South, the Bengals still have a shot at winning their division if they can win this game while the Texans have an outside shot at a wildcard slot. Vegas thinks Cincinnati will be the more motivated side this week.

Opinion

The Texans are coming off a win over Carolina and the Bengals are coming off a loss at Arizona. Houston RB D. Davis is probable with a muscle injury and bruised ribs.

Houston is a difficult team to figure out. Playing without David Carr, they beat the Panthers who played a pretty good ball game. QB Banks played an error free game, which is unusual given his personal history of fumbling. With Carr in the line-up, Houston can go down the field. Vegas is very high on rookies WR Andre Johnson and RB Davis. Add WRs Corey Bradford and Jabbar Gaffney and TE Billy Miller to the mix and the Texans can really stretch the field. Houston is no longer are an easy out on anyone's schedule.

This is the second week in a row as a chalk for the Bengals. The Bengals didn't get anything going against the Cardinals. Cincinnati's defense couldn't handle the Cardinals offensive line and got pushed off the line of scrimmage in that game.

The Bengals are playing for their playoff lives. As late as early last Sunday, people were talking about Cincinnati as a playoff team. If they lose this week, they'll be talking about next year. Expect a huge effort at home this week. The Bengals may go after them on the ground, but they have more than enough weapons at wide receiver to get the passing game going.

Tampa Bay (4-4) at Carolina (6-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 34

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 28

TB 21, CAR 7

Trends

TB Points For = 21, Points Against=23
CAR Points For = 20, Points Against=17

        TB     CAR  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/14/2003 CAR 12 TB 9 397 60 337 258 171 87
11/17/2002 CAR 10 TB 23 314 67 247 231 63 168
10/27/2002 TB 12 CAR 9 226 71 155 130 110 20

Motivation

Revenge game for the Buc's who were beaten in overtime after having two field goals and an extra point blocked. In Tampa's up and down cycle, they're coming off a loss making this their "up" week.

Opinion

Vegas thinks the Buc's have taken the first eight games lightly this year. Tampa figures that as long as they're .500 or better after eight games they're in good shape. There is a track record for this. Oakland was 4-4 last year and went to the Super Bowl. New England was 3-5 the year before that. Tennessee got off to and slow start and Baltimore struggled early the year they won the Super Bowl.

Both these teams should bring their "A" game this week. Carolina doesn't want to lose three straight games and Tampa doesn't want to fall below .500. Expect a hard-hitting defensive game.

Tampa is allowing only 282 yards per game. However, over 100 of those yards have come on the ground. That was Carolina's game plan earlier this season and there's no reason RB Stephen Davis shouldn't see the ball early and often. Tampa will go after the Panthers' questionable secondary with their passing game. Vegas likes the Buc's now that every game is important.

Miami (5-3) at Tennessee (6-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 38

TEN 21, MIA17

Trends

MIA Points For = 20, Points Against=12
TEN Points For = 28, Points Against=21

        MIA     TEN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/9/2001 MIA 31 TEN 23 307 82 225 315 105 210

Motivation

Miami has been a much better road team this year. This is a complete reversal from prior seasons were the Dolphins were unbeatable at home early in the year and lost far too many road games.

Tennessee comes off a bye week. Expect some rust on Tennessee's offense. The Titans were playing very well before their week off and will take some time to get their timing back.

Opinion

Miami has been poor at home and undefeated on the road. Then again, Adelphi Coliseum is one of the hardest venues for visitors.

Tennessee was on fire going into the bye week. The Titans won and covered their last three before their week off and their offense was putting up over 30 points per game. The history is that bad teams play better and good teams struggle after a week off. It just seems hard for teams to get that momentum back after a bye week.

Miami will have to rely on their defense yet again. When Miami gets sacks and turnovers, they win games. When they don't, the Fish struggle. The Dolphins offensive line has played exceptionally poorly recently and will be challenged by the Titans defensive ends. Miami won't be able to run on the Titans defense, setting up a crucial match-up in the trenches when Dolphins QB Brian Griese drops back to pass. Vegas doesn't think the Dolphins offensive line can hold Tennessee out the entire game.

Indianapolis (7-1) at Jacksonville (1-7)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 44.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
IND 27, JAX 14

Trends

IND Points For = 29, Points Against=18
JAX Points For = 18, Points Against=26

        IND     JAX  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/21/2003 JAC 13 IND 23 289 73 216 266 152 114
12/29/2002 JAC 13 IND 20 272 126 146 266 154 112
9/8/2002 IND 28 JAC 25 307 104 203 343 118 225
9/25/2000 JAC 14 IND 43 533 93 440 286 97 189

Motivation

A revenge game for Jacksonville who were beaten by ten points on the road earlier this year. The Colts are coming off a big win against the Dolphins in Florida and may be looking past this game.

Opinion

If this line were over seven points, the handicappers would be all over the Jaguars. At six points and Jacksonville not covering spreads while the Colts are 6-2 ATS, the lean is towards the Colts. As Indy TE Marcus Pollard put it, "You have to be Ray Charles" to see that Manning is in the zone these days.

The handicappers aren't going to step in front of the Colts train this week unless the line moves past seven. Indy is just playing too well not to take them in this game.

Cleveland (3-5) at Kansas City (8-0)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
KC 24, CLE 17

Trends

CLE Points For = 14, Points Against=16
KC Points For = 32, Points Against=16

        CLE     KC  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/8/2002 KC 40 CLE 39 411 59 352 470 194 276

Motivation

The Chiefs are coming off a bye week. They've had a while to feel pretty good about themselves and 10 points is a big number to cover in that situation.

Opinion

The Chiefs haven't played well, but they win on special teams and Kansas City doesn't make mistakes. Against Buffalo, they broke out of that run, routing the Bills on a Sunday night.

Ten is a lot of points for a team to lay coming off a bye week. Up until the Bills game, Kansas City hasn't been blowing teams out. A touchdown or less has decided four of their last five wins. They went into the bye with a lot of momentum and now they will have to get that rhythm back.

The Browns play everyone close. All their games seem to come down to the last quarter. The Browns have all sorts of problems on the offensive line; neither QBs Couch nor Holcombe can stay healthy because the offensive line is playing so poorly. RB William Green has been suspended. The Browns should get three offensive linemen back this week, so they may play better.

Double digits is just too many points for Vegas' taste. Coming off bye week is just too risky. The Browns need this game and they've had two weeks to prepare. The money's on Cleveland this week.

Minnesota (6-2) at San Diego (1-7)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 47
MIN 30, SD 17

Trends

MIN Points For = 28, Points Against=19
SD Points For = 17, Points Against=27
No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

The Vikes are coming off two home losses were their defense played poorly while the Chargers continue to deal with the fires, injuries, mistakes, and other plagues that have afflicted this team.

Opinion

The Vikings, still licking their wounds and in a foul mood, go out on the road against the league's worst secondary. The Chargers defense is giving up big plays, just the kind of team Moss and Culpepper need this week. The Vikings need one of their other receivers to step up and take the heat off Moss who's faced constant and obvious double coverage. Well, obvious to everyone except Culpepper who's had trouble reading defenses lately. Minnesota may have auditions at the other receiver position in hopes that one of these guys can do the job this week.

On offense, look for the Chargers to go at the Vikings on the ground. The Vikings gave up over 260 rushing yards against the Packers. The Chargers QB situation is a crapshoot. With either Brees or Flutie in the line-up, San Diego will play conservatively. Flutie has no arm, but he can read defenses while Brees is the better athlete, but is making far too many mistakes. Flutie will probably get the start as Brees has no confidence right now and he's probably lost his coach and teammates.

Minnesota isn't playing well on defense either. The last two weeks they've given up 450 yards. Blame a lot of that yardage on terrible tackling and playing out of position. The Giants don't have the best offensive line and they pushed Minnesota's defense around and the Packers went right after the Vikings slow linebackers and defensive ends. The Vikings defense has really benefited from playing bad teams early and good teams that have been banged up. This game probably will go over the total as Minnesota will be motivated to avenge two straight losses and the Chargers should have big plays with the running game.

Buffalo (4-4) at Dallas (6-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 31
DAL 17, BUF 14

Trends

BUF Points For = 18, Points Against=19
DAL Points For = 21, Points Against=16
No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

Opinion

You wouldn't think all the wise guys would be lined up behind the Bills this week, but there it is.

Buffalo is a good defensive team. They are currently ranked third in the NFL. A year ago, the Bills in their first six games averaged 34 points against. In their final 10 games, opponent's scored only 18 points per game. This year, more of the same (18 points against). Buffalo are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Chiefs before their bye week and have had two weeks to stew over the loss and get better. They should be motivated this week. The Bills personnel on defense is much better than a year ago, so that 18 point average may be lower by the end of the season.

Dallas has benefited from a soft schedule so far. Four of their six wins have come against the 2-6 Lions, the 2-6 Jets, the 3-6 Redskins, and the 3-5 Cardinals. Their other two wins (Giants and Eagles) have come on the last play of the game. Dallas had a huge yardage advantage in last week's game, outgaining the Redskins 400-213. But four turnovers signals that all's not right with the Cowboys. The last time the faced a good defense, they were shut out by the Buc's.

Four points is too many for Vegas, take the Bills.

New York Jets (2-6) at Oakland (2-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 38

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 33
NYJ 20, OAK 13

Trends

NYJ Points For = 15, Points Against=16
OAK Points For = 17, Points Against=23

        NYJ     OAK  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
1/12/2003 NYJ 10 OAK 30 287 120 167 399 127 272
12/2/2002 NYJ 20 OAK 26 274 32 242 411 98 313
1/12/2002 NYJ 24 OAK 38 410 136 274 502 215 287
1/6/2002 NYJ 24 OAK 22 302 94 208 337 119 218
12/10/2000 NYJ 7 OAK 31 300 10 290 330 180 150

Motivation

Neither team is going to make the playoffs. At least Jets HC Herm Edwards hasn't lost his team, they continue to play hard. Oakland threw in the towel weeks ago and seem to have no interest in putting out an effort for the remainder of this season. This is a revenge game for the Jets who lost in the playoffs to Oakland a year ago.

Opinion

The Jets have won two games all year and they're a three point away favorite against the struggling Raiders. Oakland just isn't doing anything this year. Their QB situation keeps getting worse. The sportsbooks know they aren't going to get any Raider money this week unless they put up a pretty attractive line and a three point spread against the visiting Jets is pretty tempting.

Then there's the morale problem. DB Charles Woodson came out and blasted his head coach for being an egomaniac. You didn't hear that kind of talk last season when the Raiders were winning. Woodson isn't playing like the Pro Bowl corner he was a few years ago and Vegas wonders if this popping off is a symptom of other problems. Also, you don't see a lot of injured players hurrying to get back on the football field. The Raiders that have minor injuries are sitting out games. DT John Parrella has missed three games, DT Dana Stubblefield probably won't play with a minor ankle injury, and DL Sam Williams won't play as well. Offensive linemen Frank Middleton, Linclon Kennedy, and Brad Badger probably will miss the game. This team's attitude is lousy and they're more than happy to stand in street clothes on the sidelines.

The Jets are playing hard every week-they just aren't winning. They're still playing with some fire, with QB Chad Pennington moving the ball team and RB Curtis Martin getting a 100-yard rushing game.

The wise guy's are either on the Jets or off this game entirely.

Baltimore (5-3) at St. Louis (5-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
STL 28, BAL 13

Trends

BAL Points For = 22, Points Against=18
STL Points For = 29, Points Against=18
No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

Both teams are 5-3 and in the playoffs right now. Baltimore has won their last two games at home and now go on the road against a Rams team that was spanked last week in San Francisco.

Opinion

The Ravens have to happy to be 5-3 considering they're starting a rookie QB. Boller hasn't been great, and that may be his best this year. Boller's nearing the end of the college season and his divisional opponents have seen him once this year. He's wearing down and now the opposition have film on him. Boller's QB ranking is 62.3 and all the Ravens are asking from him is not to turn the ball over, and they may be the best they can hope for.

Without a passing game, the Ravens are very dependent on RB Jamal Lewis. The Rams defense is very good at home, and Lewis can't run away from them on the turf. The St. Louis defenders are undersized and extremely fast. If the Rams can take away the only thing the Ravens do well on offense (running), Baltimore is in a world of hurt

St. Louis is one of those teams that can't be beaten at home and can't do anything right on the road. The Rams love their dome and have one of the league's best home field advantages. Their receivers look much faster on turf and the Ravens don't have the fastest defensive backs even when their starters are healthy, which they aren't...bad match-up. Even during their Super Bowl year, Baltimore's defense could be vulnerable to the pass.

Vegas like the Rams this week.

Philadelphia (5-3) at Green Bay (4-4)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
GB 21, PHI 20

Trends

PHI Points For = 24, Points Against=18
GB Points For = 24, Points Against=18
No recent regular season meetings between these two teams.

Motivation

Green Bay needs to keep winning, while Philadelphia knows they're in a dog fight with the Giants and the Cowboys. The Packers may have lost some of that home field mojo this season, but it's buck season in Wisconsin and the home fans will be properly lubricated for this game.

Opinion

Everyone had the Eagles dead and buried after two weeks, and you look up after nine games and they're 5-3. They've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, although the games weren't pretty. QB Donovan McNabb had a pretty decent game last week and he looks a little more accurate. It's easy to ignore last week's result because it came against the Falcons, but it's progress none the less.

The Eagles have been an incredible road team. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, they've played 28 road games. In 26 of those games, they've either won or lost by three points or less. The time to bet against the Eagles has been at home, not on the road.

Green Bay is the better of these two teams, but Vegas hesitates to lay points against the Eagles.