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Inside the Points - Week 14
By Fritz Schlottman
December 5, 2003
 

Washington (4-8) at New York Giants (4-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 36.5
WAS 21, NYG 16

Trends

WAS
Points for = 19, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 7/4/1 (Away = 3/2/1)

NYG
Points for = 16, Points against = 22
Over/Under = 4/7/1 (Home =1/5)

        WAS     NYG  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/21/2003 NYG 24 WAS 21 456 124 332 399 129 270
12/8/2002 NYG 27 WAS 21 447 132 315 316 111 205
11/17/2002 WAS 17 NYG 19 166 60 106 299 88 211
10/28/2001 NYG 21 WAS 35 353 157 196 388 42 346
10/7/2001 WAS 9 NYG 23 180 56 124 310 135 175
12/3/2000 NYG 9 WAS 7 290 29 261 305 141 164
9/24/2000 WAS 16 NYG 6 394 110 284 261 93 168

Motivation

It would be wrong to attach the term "motivated" to either of these teams.  Nevertheless, when these teams met in D.C. earlier in the year, Jim Fassell's club captured a 24-21 win in overtime as a 1 1/2-point underdog. The 45 combined point slipped 'over' the 44-point total. Washington will want some measure of revenge for that loss.

Opinion

Two teams that had high hopes coming into this season that are now playing out the string.  Vegas refers to these teams as "dead dogs", teams that underperform after their bubble bursts.  You saw it last week when the Giants came out flat against the struggling Bills.  Then again, the Redskins have lost seven of their last eight games after starting 3-1.  So the question the handicappers are asking themselves is "Who's flatter this week?"

The consensus among the pros is that the Giants are the reigning King of the dead dogs.  Over the past four games, they've managed just seven points against Atlanta, ten against the Eagles, 13 on the road at Tampa Bay and seven points last week at home against the Buffalo Bills.  New York's offensive line is a complete mess and they will probably play with at least four and maybe five reserves starting.  Their secondary has been torched and will likely get hammered again as they will be starting two reserve cornerbacks.  The Giants can't stop taking stupid penalties and turning the ball over.  As much as Vegas loathes the Redskins and their ATS record against NFC divisional opponent's, they just can't lay points with a really bad and unmotivated Giants team.  At least the Redskins are showing signs that they still care, they've covered three of their last four games ATS while the G-Men have failed to cover four of their last five contests.  With bad weather likely on the East Coast, it's the Redskins and Under.

Cincinnati (7-5) at Baltimore (7-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 47
BAL 27, CIN 20

Trends

CIN
Points for = 22, Points against = 22
Over/Under = 5/7 (Away = 2/4)

BAL
Points for = 25, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 8/4 (Home = 4/2)

        CIN     BAL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/19/2003 BAL 26 CIN 34 303 59 244 391 110 281
12/1/2002 BAL 27 CIN 23 381 73 308 247 148 99
11/10/2002 CIN 27 BAL 38 372 123 249 325 162 163
12/23/2001 CIN 0 BAL 16 281 150 131 305 157 148
9/23/2001 BAL 10 CIN 21 203 67 136 382 64 318
11/5/2000 BAL 27 CIN 7 174 44 130 378 142 236
9/24/2000 CIN 0 BAL 37 94 4 90 391 176 215

Motivation

Battle for the AFC North crown.  If the Bengals win, they hold the tiebreakers and have a game in hand with three to play.  If the Ravens are victorious, they control their own fate. This is also a revenge spot for the Ravens who lost the first meeting this season 26-34.

Opinion

Not a game Vegas likes very much.  Baltimore is 11-1 in the series as a host, but those were very different Bengals teams.

The Bengals are the only team that will play three consecutive road games.  The last two weeks they've beaten Pittsburgh on the road and San Diego last Sunday.  Still, Cincinnati has won road games this year where they've failed in the past by running the ball and not turning over the ball.  Over the last three weeks, they've only committed one turnover.

Baltimore's high scoring run (88 points over the past two Sundays) is not entirely indicative of their offensive play.  The Ravens defense has been very opportunistic.  Baltimore's has gotten seven turnovers in the last two games and have scored two touchdowns on defense and several more on special teams.

Both runningbacks (especially Lewis) could have monster games.  The Ravens have rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the last seven games in this series.  Even if the weather is bad, 150 rushing yards for Lewis isn't out of the question.  Cincinnati will mix up their offense, using their newly found running game to open up the Ravens secondary on play-action.

Weather could affect this game.  There's a chance of snow, rain, and high winds. Still, with both of these offenses on a roll, Vegas like the Over even if weather conditions are less than perfect.

Dallas (8-4) at Philadelphia (7-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 36.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 30
PHI 21, DAL 9

Trends

DAL
Points for =18, Points against = 17
Over/Under = 6/6 (Away = 2/3)

PHI
Points for = 20, Points against = 17
Over/Under = 6/5/1 (Home =4/1/1)

        DAL     PHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/12/2003 PHI 21 DAL 23 292 119 173 232 122 110
12/21/2002 PHI 27 DAL 3 146 68 78 359 114 245
9/22/2002 DAL 13 PHI 44 304 123 181 447 153 294
11/18/2001 PHI 36 DAL 3 213 132 81 227 98 129
9/30/2001 DAL 18 PHI 40 242 181 61 276 131 145
11/5/2000 DAL 13 PHI 16 295 204 91 357 129 228
9/3/2000 PHI 41 DAL 14 167 67 100 425 306 119

Motivation

Philly (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) is the hottest team in the NFC with seven consecutive victories and nine wins in its last 10 outings. The Eagles are off a 25-16 win at Carolina as a 1 1/2-point underdog. The Eagles will also be looking to avenge a 21-23 loss earlier this season in Dallas. The Eagles are 11-3 ATS in divisional revenge games.  Dallas (8-4 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) is looking to bounce back after getting smoked by the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day. Miami ran away from the 'Boys at Texas Stadium, 40-21, as a three-point underdog.

Bottom line: the team that wins this game probably wins the NFC East Division.

Opinion

Teams are figuring out the Dallas defense.  You saw it against the Patriots and again last Sunday when Miami was waiting for the Cowboys' blitz.  The Boy's defense is on the small side and the handicappers have seen them start wearing down.  Forty points by the NFL's 27th ranked offense (Miami) on Thanksgiving after holding seven of the previous nine opponents to less than 18 points was shocking.  Suddenly, teams are finding success running the ball against Dallas, where the Cowboys were stoning opposing runningbacks earlier this season.

On the road Dallas doesn't score on good defenses.  Vegas saw it against Tampa Bay (a 0-16 shutout) and at New England (a 0-12 shutout).  Quincy Carter isn't there yet as a quarterback that can be depended on to carry a football team on the road against a powerful defense.

The Eagles play smart.  They don't take stupid penalties (offsides, illegal procedure, roughing the kicker and personal fouls) and they don't turn the ball over on offense.  QB Donovan McNabb has thrown just one interception in their last five games.

Bad weather on the East Coast may affect this game.  Still, Vegas thinks the Eagles have the juice to cover the 5-½ spread in a low-scoring game.

Oakland (3-9) at Pittsburgh (4-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 33
PIT 20, OAK 13

Trends

OAK
Points for = 18, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 4/7/1 (Away = 2/4)

PIT
Points for = 18, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 7/5 (Home =5/1)

        OAK     PIT  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/15/2002 OAK 30 PIT 17 464 95 369 273 72 201
12/3/2000 OAK 20 PIT 21 390 117 273 311 199 112

Motivation

Two more dead dogs playing out the string.  The Steelers are coming off a crippling loss in the final 0:13 to the Bengals.  However, that "dumbest team in the league" crack by the Raiders head coach after last Sunday's game may backfire this week.  As low as theses squads have gone you'd think they'd have bottomed out before that remark, but Vegas thinks the Raiders and the Steelers will hit a new low this week.

Opinion

It's hard to believe that a Raiders-Steelers game would get so little coverage.  But with all the great match-ups the Pros haven't spent a lot of time on this contest.

The Steelers haven't won a home game since opening day, and that was against the Cardinals who can't stay within 17 points of anyone on the road.  To make matters worse, the Steelers have lost three of their last five home games by 20 ½, 27, and 14 points ATS.  Their once mighty run offense has disappeared this year, as Pittsburgh has topped the 100-yard rushing mark only three times this season.

The Raiders troubles are well known.  They didn't score a touchdown against the Broncos last week and QB Mirer was 13 of 30 passing.  Neither team deserves your money and the handicappers are off this game.

San Diego (2-10) at Detroit (4-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 40
DET 23, SD 17

Trends

SD
Points for = 19, Points against = 28
Over/Under = 8/4  (Away = 4/2)

DET
Points for = 16, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 4/8 (Home =2/4)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

Another yuck game.  The Lions are off a big Thanksgiving win over the visiting Packers and the Chargers got a last second cover at Kansas City to piss-off the betting public.

Opinion

Surprisingly, Vegas has an opinion on this game.  As bad as the Lions are, and this is only the second game all season where they've been chalk (the first being opening day against the Cardinals-for obvious reasons).  Vegas is behind the Motor City Kitties this week.

The Lions have won their last three home games straight up and ATS.  They've beaten Oakland 23-13, Chicago 12-10, and the before mentioned Packers 22-14.  Detroit is 7-1 ATS off a Thanksgiving victory and 16-3 as hosts off a home win.

San Diego, on the other hand, has not played well on the road this season, as you'd expect from a bad football team.  The Chargers lost most recently at Denver 8-37, Chicago 7-20, and Miami 10-26.  Needless to say, when a team is averaging just a tick above eight points on the road since the middle of October and losing these games by big margins, you're not going to find a lot of takers among the handicappers this week.

Chicago (5-7) at Green Bay (6-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 34
GB 20, CHI 14

Trends

CHI
Points for = 18, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 5/7 (Away = 1/5)

GB
Points for = 24, Points against = 21
Over/Under = 6/6 (Home = 3/3)

        CHI     GB  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/29/2003 GB 38 CHI 23 361 181 180 380 187 193
12/1/2002 CHI 20 GB 30 304 74 230 396 181 215
10/7/2002 GB 34 CHI 21 380 45 335 457 124 333
12/9/2001 CHI 7 GB 17 189 50 139 352 167 185
11/11/2001 GB 20 CHI 12 262 43 219 368 100 268
12/3/2000 GB 28 CHI 6 330 104 226 304 81 223
10/1/2000 CHI 27 GB 24 370 178 192 364 44 320

Motivation

Both teams are in the playoff hunt and within two games of the struggling NFC North leading Vikings.  Win, and your playoff dreams live another day.  Lose and it's time to think about next year.  The Packers have owned this series since the early 90's, and the Bears will look to avenge the most recent 38-23 beating earlier this season.

Opinion

Believe it or not, the Bears are still in the playoff hunt.  After a terrible start were they were out-played, out-manned, out-gained, and manhandled they've turned their season around to come within two games of the NFC North Divisional lead. In fact, they are just two missed field goals from being on a 6-0 run, 9-0 ATS (a two point loss to Detroit and another two point loss to the Rams) and tied with Minnesota for the divisional lead.  The offense isn't turning the ball over and they're making enough first downs to get a little field position and the defense has stepped up.  Even QB Kordell Stewart is playing better now that he's back in the line-up (he's 2-9 ATS in his last 11 games).

Vegas just doesn't get the Packers.  The handicappers had thought that Green Bay had settled on running the ball to win games.  The week before the Lions' game GB had 243 yards rushing against the 49ers and the week before that they gained 190 on the road at Tampa Bay.  The Lions struggle on defense, so the pros had thought that the Packers would run the ball down their throats.  And yet, the Packers only ran the ball 16 times against the Lions. 

Vegas doesn't think Favre's thumb is still not right.  That bad thumb has led to a -12 turnover margin over the past seven games.  In the last five games the Packers have had 190, 66, 92, 136, and 258 passing yards.  The two games where they passed for more than 150 yards were in a dome (Minnesota and Detroit) and the three bad games were outside in bad weather.  The projected temperature for this week's game is 32 degrees.  Vegas doubts Favre will be able to grip the football this week.  Moreover, in the four times the Packers have been more than a four-point favorite they are 1-3 ATS.

The Bears have a much better defense than the Lions.  In the last six outings, Chicago's D is only allowing an average of 11.8 points.  Only the high flying Rams have put up more than 15 points.  Of course two of those games were against the Lions, one against the visiting Cardinals, and one against the visiting San Diego Chargers, three of the worst teams in the league.  The Bears are just permitting 90 yards on the ground in that period.  On the other hand, Chicago gave up 200 yards rushing against the Broncos with an average of 9.5 yards per carry. 

Vegas has no idea what to do with this game.  They don't especially like either side.  Given the weather, Favre's thumb, and the fact that the Bears still are the NFL's worst offense the Under is probably the play this week.

Seattle (8-4) at Minnesota (7-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 52

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 67
SEA 34, MIN 33

Trends

SEA
Points for = 26, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 5/6/1 (Away = 4/1)

MIN
Points for = 25, Points against = 24
Over/Under = 7/4/1 (Home = 3/3)

        SEA     MIN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/29/2002 MIN 23 SEA 48 381 159 222 443 192 251

Motivation

The Vikings are in free fall with nowhere soft to land.  Their defense, that had been playing so well earlier this season, has completely collapsed since the bye week and the Minnesota offense hasn't gotten back any of the momentum they had in the first half of the season.

Is this 2002 all over again?  The Seahawks' offense exploded in the second half of 2002 and they look to be doing the same this season.

Opinion

Fifty-two points is a huge line in the NFL, but it may not be nearly enough here.

The Pros think this should be a game of big plays and a must start for fantasy players.  Seattle has scored twenty or more points in their last eight games and they've score 35 or more points in their last three games.  On the other hand, the Vikings' defense has given up twenty or more points in six of their last seven games and 28 points or more in five of those contests.  The most recent defensive meltdown was on the road against the Rams were Minnesota gave up a whopping 48 points.  The Seahawks defense has had their own problems on the road giving up 35 points to the Packers, 27 points to the Bengals and Redskins, and a 44-point butt-kicking to the Baltimore Ravens.

Last team with the ball may win this game, Vegas is all over the Over in this contest.

Houston (5-7) at Jacksonville (3-9)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 46

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37
JAX 24, HOU 13

Trends

HOU
Points for = 17, Points against = 24
Over/Under = 8/4 (Away = 5/1)

JAX
Points for = 16, Points against = 22
Over/Under = 7/5 (Home = 4/2)

        JAX     HOU  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/28/2003 JAC 20 HOU 24 339 110 229 342 79 263
11/17/2002 JAC 24 HOU 21 272 78 194 321 122 199
10/27/2002 HOU 21 JAC 19 242 81 161 290 126 164

Motivation

Revenge game for the Jaguars.  They lost earlier this season in Houston on a last second, fourth down one-yard dive over the top by Texans QB David Carr.  That loss was the first NFL start for Jaguars' QB Leftwich.  The Jaguars signal-caller threw five interceptions in that game.

Opinion

Another game the handicappers like.  The Jaguars defense has played lights-out the past month.  In the past three games, they've allowed 10 points to the high-powered Titans, 13 points to the Jets with Pennington at QB, and just 10 last Sunday against the Buc's. 

Houston has all sorts of injury problems on offense.  QB David Carr (shoulder) probably shouldn't be playing this week and RB Davis is beat up.  Houston has been terrible off a win and a cover this year, 0-7 ATS over the last seven games.  Although they spent little time on this contest, the wise guys are still backing the Jag's here.

Indianapolis (9-3) at Tennessee (9-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 46

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 49
TEN 28, IND 21

Trends

IND
Points for = 28, Points against = 21
Over/Under = 8/4 (Away = 4/2)

TEN
Points for = 26, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 5/7 (Home = 1/4)

        IND     TEN  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/14/2003 TEN 7 IND 33 291 127 164 236 53 183
12/8/2002 IND 17 TEN 27 389 92 297 348 119 229
11/3/2002 TEN 23 IND 15 378 80 298 198 121 77
1/16/2000 TEN 19 IND 16 305 78 227 309 197 112

Motivation

Tennessee comes off a loss to the Jets.  They were flat in that game and probably got caught looking ahead to this contest.  On the other hand, the Colts had a heart-breaking loss to the Patriots after failing to find the end zone with four tries from the one-yard line.

This is a revenge game for Tennessee who where beaten in Indianapolis 33-7 earlier this season.  The winner of this battle will likely win the AFC South Crown and home field advantage.  The loser is a wild-card team and will have a hard road to the Super Bowl.

Opinion

This is a huge game for both teams.  A Colts win and they have all the tiebreakers going for them plus a one game lead in the division with three to play.  Most likely, it will clinch the AFC South Division for Indianapolis (and a whole lot of home field advantage).  On the other hand, if the Titans win then they have a one game lead with three to play and Tennessee would have their fate in their own hands.

After Monday night, Vegas knows Steve McNair isn't close to 100% right now.  There were several situations were the Titans QB could have taken off and made a first down (or touchdown in one instance) and instead chose to throw the football into coverage.  He's playing tentatively with that bad calf and it's affecting his decision-making.  The question becomes, is a 70% McNair good enough to keep defenses honest?  Supposedly, the doctors have said that rest or  playing on that leg doesn't matter right now.  He can't hurt it any worse, but doesn't have enough time remaining in the season to heal completely.

Gun to their heads, the wise guys like the Titans here.  As good as both offenses are, the difference lies with the D's.  Indianapolis has allowed 21 or more points in seven of their last nine contests and 28 or more points in three of their last four games.  Tennessee has been able to hold seven of their last ten opponents to less than 20 points.

Tampa Bay (5-7) at New Orleans (6-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
NO 24, TB 17

Trends

TB
Points for = 19, Points against = 15
Over/Under = 4/8 (Away =3/3)

NO
Points for = 21, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 6/6 (Home =3/2)

        TB     NO  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/2/2003 NO 17 TB 14 362 56 306 257 124 133
12/1/2002 TB 20 NO 23 283 34 249 238 102 136
9/8/2002 NO 26 TB 20 333 72 261 368 118 250
12/23/2001 NO 21 TB 48 364 157 207 271 41 230

Motivation

Tampa Bay moved into the Dead Dog column with their listless 10-17 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday night.  Vegas had been expecting a maximum effort from the defending Super Bowl champs in a must win game.  But, after a bad effort in the first half, the Pros bailed out at half time.

The Saints are still in the hunt at 6-6.  They are coming off a late win over the Redskins and will be playing with confidence this week.

Opinion

The handicappers wouldn't be surprised if the Buc's crumbled this week.  Teams with high expectations coming into a season that are eliminated from the post season have a bad habit of sleep walking through their remaining games.  During the past three games, Tampa has been averaging one touchdown per contest.  That's not enough offense to compete with the Saints here.  New Orleans has scored 20 or more points in six of their last seven games and eight of the last 11 contests.

Looking at the match-ups, which side would you rather have?  The Saints will start Brooks, McAllister, and Horn.  McAllister already has 1,393 rushing yards (5.1 avg.) and eight rushing TDs.  The Buc's as a team have only five rushing TDs all year.   Keenan McCardell, a 12-year veteran, is not a number one receiver and you'd be hard-pressed to name any other Buc's WR.

The Saints M.O. is well known. they've beaten up on bad teams and lost to good teams.  In 2003, they've beaten Houston, Chicago, Atlanta (twice), Tampa Bay, and Washington while losing to the Eagles, Seahawks, Titans, Colts, and Panthers (twice).  Sorry Buc's fans, Tampa now falls into the bad category.

Arizona (3-9) at San Francisco (5-7)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 45
SF 31, ARI 14

Trends

ARI
Points for = 13, Points against = 28
Over/Under = 6/6 (Away = 4/2)

SF
Points for = 20, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 4/8 (Home = 2/4)

        ARI     SF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/26/2003 SF 13 ARI 16 314 221 93 255 106 149
12/21/2002 SF 17 ARI 14 184 108 76 358 106 252
10/27/2002 ARI 28 SF 38 420 151 269 357 105 252
10/1/2000 ARI 20 SF 27 365 126 239 345 130 215

Motivation

Both teams coming off dreadful losses.

Opinion

The commentary on this game lasted about five seconds.  SF can't beat anybody on the road but play well at home and no one in their right-mind would ever put cash on the Cardinals playing outside their desert nest.

Arizona has lost by at least 13 points AU in 9 of their last 10 away games.  Last week in Chicago, the Card's only score (a field goal) came on a 13-yard drive.  In that game they had nine first downs while giving up 25 to the hosts.  SF has covered their last the home games by 21, 24, and 12 points.

New York Jets (4-7) at Buffalo (5-7)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 36.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 33
NYJ 20, BUF 13

Trends

NYJ
Points for = 19, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 5/7 (Away = 4/2)

BUF
Points for = 16, Points against = 16
Over/Under = 1/11 (Home = 0/6)

        NYJ     BUF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/12/2003 BUF 3 NYJ 30 233 118 115 193 53 140
11/24/2002 BUF 13 NYJ 31 325 155 170 258 88 170
9/8/2002 NYJ 37 BUF 31 266 73 193 384 142 242
12/30/2001 BUF 14 NYJ 9 375 140 235 368 192 176
10/7/2001 NYJ 42 BUF 36 335 162 173 473 162 311
10/29/2000 NYJ 20 BUF 23 337 51 286 338 86 252
9/17/2000 BUF 14 NYJ 27 279 91 188 354 80 274

Motivation

Both teams coming off a victory.  The Bills beat the Giants in a battle of NFL underachievers, while the Jets ambushed the Titans at home.

Opinion

With QB Drew Bledsoe still feeling dizzy after a hit that took him out of last week's victory, the bettors are all over the Jets.  Discounting the 24 points the Bills put up on an unmotivated Giants squad, Buffalo is averaging 7.6 points per game in five of their last six outings.  That's two touchdowns in five games.

Meanwhile the Jets offense keeps steaming along.  New York has scored 24 or more points in four of the five games since Pennington returned.

This is another East Coast game where weather could be a factor.  The line's really short this week, but the Bills are on an 11 game Under streak.  Pray for snow and ice as the Pros go with the Jets under the total.

Miami (8-4) at New England (10-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 43
NE 27, MIA 16

Trends

MIA
Points for = 20, Points against = 15
Over/Under = 4/8 (Away = 1/5)

NE
Points for = 21, Points against = 17
Over/Under = 6/6 (Home = 2/3)

        MIA     NE  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/19/2003 NE 19 MIA 13 326 97 229 332 59 273
12/29/2002 MIA 24 NE 27 359 256 103 332 116 216
10/6/2002 NE 13 MIA 26 319 137 182 245 37 208
12/22/2001 MIA 13 NE 20 368 58 310 313 196 117
10/7/2001 NE 10 MIA 30 297 209 88 149 80 69
12/24/2000 MIA 27 NE 24 310 47 263 348 37 311
9/24/2000 NE 3 MIA 10 253 99 154 210 56 154

Motivation

Both teams are coming off big wins.  If the Patriots win this game, they probably run the table, as they don't play a winning team for the remainder of the regular season.  That possibly means home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Miami is desperate to stay ahead of the Bengals/Ravens and the Broncos for the final AFC wild card spot.  Getting their starting QB back was a huge lift for the Dolphins last week.

Opinion

The Dolphins in the cold and snow of New England? Forget about it.  Vegas is well aware of Miami's problems playing on the road in December and they expect nothing less than a loss this week.  New England is 15-4 ATS in December while the Dolphins are 5-20 ATS in December divisional play.

Vegas thinks this will be a tightly contested game that may come down to turnovers and special teams just like the previous game when New England won the first meeting in overtime on a bomb by QB Tom Brady.

The biggest edge in this game may be coaching.  Vegas has the highest regard for and gives a big edge to Patriots' HC Bill Belichick.  This guy loses a starter every week and he's able to plug another player in without any drop-off in performance.   On the other hand, when you drop Dave Wannstedt's name, the pros just roll their eyes.  The Patriots are very well coached and don't make the kind of mistakes that let visitors come in and steal a win. The Dolphins, on the other hand, can struggle with execution.   New England is only allowing 3 ppg. in their last three home games and if the Dolphins are sloppy with the football, they won't score either.

Weather could affect this game.  Miami is the better running team and would seem to have the advantage on a sloppy field.  However, New England's rush defense is so solid, and Miami's offensive line so weak that the Dolphins may struggle to run the football on the Patriots in any conditions.  As it stands on Thursday, the edge goes to the Patriots.

Kansas City (11-1) at Denver (7-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 45

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 51
DEN 27, KC 24

Trends

KC
Points for = 30, Points against = 18
Over/Under = 7/5 (Away = 3/3)

DEN
Points for = 23, Points against = 17
Over/Under = 5/7 (Home = 2/4)

       

KC

   

DEN

 

Date

Away

Home

Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/5/2003

DEN 23

KC 24

261 133 128 469 176 293
12/15/2002

KC 24

DEN 31

494 185 309 482 197 285
10/20/2002

DEN 37

KC 34

305 162 143 507 141 366
12/16/2001

DEN 23

KC 26

396 137 259 335 94 241
10/7/2001

KC 6

DEN 20

297 42 255 300 197 103
12/17/2000

DEN 7

KC 20

424 264 160 291 66 225
9/24/2000

KC 23

DEN 22

294 49 245 342 145 197

Motivation

Last gasp for the Broncos. A Chiefs victory and they wrap-up the AFC West title and the Broncos will have two teams ahead of them for the final AFC Wild Card spot with three games to play.  A Denver win means that they have a shot at being tied for the final playoff spot if the Dolphins lose at New England and no worse than a game back with three to play regardless.

Opinion

No consensus among the handicappers on this game.  Some say that Denver is over rated and shouldn't even be favored over the 11-1 Chiefs while others look at the series record (home team always wins) and the game earlier this season and say that the Chiefs are lucky to be leading the AFC West.

Both teams will try and control the game on the ground.  Both runningbacks (Portis and Holmes) are rated equal, but the edge goes to Denver's rush defense (2nd ranked defense in the NFL).  Both teams have injuries at the linebacker positions, but the Chiefs' defense (27th in the NFL) has struggled more.

Funny how many thought QB Jake Plummer looked uncomfortable in cold weather.  His critics remember his career with the Cardinals and before that with Arizona State, but conveniently forget that Plummer is an Idaho native and has certainly seen his share of cold weather and snow.  Vegas was not at all surprised that Plummer struggled, the Pros don't think he's a good quarterback in any conditions.

That said, the public has run the Broncos up to a three point favorites over an 11-1 Chiefs teams meaning that the average bettor sees this as a battle between two equal teams; Vegas doesn't.  Since QB John Elway retired, the Broncos have as many playoff wins as the Lions and the Jaguars and yet they get a lot more respect from the general public.  Getting three points (and no less than three points), the pros (gun to their heads) like the Chiefs in this game although they will probably not have any action on this contest.

Carolina (8-4) at Atlanta (2-10)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 41

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 39
CAR 26, ATL 16

Trends

CAR
Points for = 19, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 7/4/1 (Away = 3/2)

ATL
Points for = 18, Points against = 27
Over/Under = 6/6 (Home = 5/1)

        CAR     ATL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/28/2003 ATL 3 CAR 23 361 193 168 267 144 123
11/24/2002 ATL 41 CAR 0 122 71 51 426 149 277
10/20/2002 CAR 0 ATL 30 205 101 104 393 187 206
11/25/2001 ATL 10 CAR 7 247 96 151 239 145 94
9/23/2001 CAR 16 ATL 24 359 89 270 377 121 256
10/29/2000 CAR 12 ATL 13 209 30 179 281 97 184

Motivation

Getting QB Vick back is a huge lift for the Falcons.  Meanwhile, the Panthers are in the midst of another second half slump.

Opinion

Vegas has no opinion on this game. How much is rusty QB Michael Vick worth to a linesmaker?  Atlanta, without Dunn at runningback, and their NFL worst defense is only a one-point underdog at home to a Carolina Panthers team that is among the NFC's best. Just on the face of it, you'd have to like Carolina.  But, with all the questions concerning Vick's return, the wise guys will sit and watch this one.

St. Louis (9-3) at Cleveland (4-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 49
STL 26, CLE 23

Trends

STL
Points for = 28, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 8/3/1 (Away = 3/2/1)

CLE
Points for = 16, Points against = 18
Over/Under = 5/7 (Home = 2/4)

Motivation

Looks like one of those flat-spots to Vegas.  The Rams are off a big win last week against the Vikings and play Seattle for the AFC West Division Crown next week.  They might be looking past Cleveland and their anemic offense this Monday Night.

Opinion

Not a game Vegas has a lot of interest in with all the other great wars this week. The Browns have the worst home field advantage in the league and have been a major disappointment to the handicappers and their fans this season.  Cleveland has drawn lots at QB the entire season because neither Couch nor Holcomb has done anything to deserve being named the starter.  The Browns have only scored more than 14 points in two of the home games this season.  Meanwhile, the Rams have the 6th rated offense and have scored 30 or more points in seven of their last ten games.  On paper it looks like a miss-match, but on the road and in a bad spot the Rams may come out flat.  Unless something drastic changes, Vegas is taking a pass on this game.