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Inside the Points - Week 16
By Fritz Schlottman
December 19, 2003
 

Atlanta (3-11) at Tampa Bay (7-7)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 38.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 33
TB 23, ATL 10

Trends

ATL
Points for =17, Points against = 27
Over/Under = 6/8 (Away =1/6)

TB
Points for =18, Points against = 14
Over/Under = 4/10 (Home =1/6)

        ATL     TB  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/21/2003 TB 31 ATL 10 136 29 107 316 132 184
12/8/2002 ATL 10 TB 34 181 68 113 421 150 271
10/6/2002 TB 20 ATL 6 243 70 173 327 74 253
11/5/2000 TB 27 ATL 14 283 59 224 267 126 141

Motivation

Tampa Bay still has playoff aspirations while Atlanta is playing out the string. The Buc's need some help if they're to make the post season, but as long as there's hope, this Tampa team should play hard.

The Falcons are another matter. Rather than responding to the firing of HC Dan Reeves, Atlanta rolled over and died last week. No reason to expect them to be motivated this week to face an opponent that has their number.

Opinion

Vegas just loves the Buc's here. Tampa Bay isn't dead and buried quite yet so they will have a motivational edge. They have a match-up advantage in a series were Tampa has not lost and has covered by margin.

Last week was the first time this season that Tampa Bay won and covered two consecutive games. The defending champs destroyed a Texans team (398 - 107 total yards edge). This was also the first time the Buc's had rushed for more than 100 yards in two consecutive games in the last five games.

Then there's the defense. Tampa Bay is number three in yards allowed while the Falcons are 32nd and last in most categories. Atlanta's offense did nothing last week. The Falcons scored only seven points and Vick completed just six passes.

The handicappers were surprised this game didn't come out at 10 points and are jumping all over the short number.

Kansas City (12-2) at Minnesota (8-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 55

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 55
MIN 31, KC 24

Trends

KC
Points for =30, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 9/5 (Away =4/3)

MIN
Points for =25, Points against = 22
Over/Under = 7/6/1 (Home =3/4)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

KC is fighting for home field advantage while the Vikings will be playing for the NFC North title.

Opinion

The Vikings are very hard to figure out at home. When they look good, they look very good and when they look bad, they're horrible. You have to wonder how the Giants came into the Metrodome and blew them out to start the Vikings downward spiral.

No consensus among the handicappers on this game. Some look at the statistics and can demonstrate that the Vikings have the better offense and defense. Kansas City isn't a great turf team and it's the Chiefs third road game in their last four contests.

Those that like the Chiefs can also look at the same numbers and show the huge advantage KC has on special teams. Then there's the X factor, or Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper. Minnesota's signal-caller has been inconsistent, and that's being kind. He's thrown a lot of interceptions this season, mistakes that have cost his Vikings games, like last week were a 4th quarter interception in the end zone finished them against the Bears.

'Interesting to see how Ken White has changed the way Las Vegas does business. White took over Las Vegas Sports Consulting a little more than a month ago. Since that time, the numbers put up by the casinos have changed. It's been some time since you've seen a 55 as a NFL total. It looks like LVSC is starting to handicap games against players' tendencies, in this case the obvious over in this contest. Know that you're going to pay a tax to the casino on obvious plays from here on out.

New England (12-2) at New York Jets (6-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 35

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 33
NE 20, NYJ 13

Trends

NE
Points for =21, Points against = 15
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =4/3)

NYJ
Points for =17, Points against = 18
Over/Under = 5/9 (Home =1/6)

        NE     NYJ  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/21/2003 NYJ 16 NE 23 294 147 147 329 65 264
12/22/2002 NYJ 30 NE 17 216 97 119 393 108 285
9/15/2002 NE 44 NYJ 7 432 163 269 200 32 168
12/2/2001 NE 17 NYJ 16 264 73 191 282 119 163
9/23/2001 NYJ 10 NE 3 308 107 201 238 111 127
10/15/2000 NYJ 34 NE 17 249 51 198 294 164 130
9/11/2000 NE 19 NYJ 20 293 100 193 330 59 271

Motivation

Could be a flat spot for the Pats. They've clinched the AFC East title and may be thinking about getting some players rested and healthy for a playoff run. With the Jets scoring six points in each of their last two games, New England may be looking past this game.

Opinion

Not a game Vegas wants to play this week. New England has won ten straight games and are on a 11-1-1 spread run. They weren't great on offense in the snow against Jacksonville but got a couple of 4th quarter drives off interceptions to put that game out of reach. New England's due for a let down, and after wrapping up the AFC East, they may be flat this week.

If the Jets were a better play, Vegas would be looking at the dog in this spot. Unfortunately, New York hasn't exactly sizzled on offense or defense lately. The Jets have scored 6 and 6 points in their last two games and have only had one 100-yard rushing day in the last four weeks. Hard to back a dog that isn't scoring points and isn't stopping opposing runningbacks. The pros are passing on this game.

Miami (8-6) at Buffalo (6-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 32

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 35
BUF 21, MIA14

Trends

MIA
Points for =19, Points against = 16
Over/Under =5/9 (Away =1/6)

BUF
Points for =17, Points against = 16
Over/Under = 2/12 (Home =0/7)

        MIA     BUF  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/21/2003 BUF 7 MIA 17 313 166 147 118 41 77
12/1/2002 MIA 21 BUF 38 300 270 30 431 161 270
10/20/2002 BUF 23 MIA 10 287 132 155 294 132 162
1/6/2002 BUF 7 MIA 34 289 202 87 250 39 211
11/25/2001 MIA 34 BUF 27 364 101 263 422 127 295
12/3/2000 MIA 33 BUF 6 333 133 200 196 160 36
10/8/2000 BUF 13 MIA 22 254 120 134 254 76 178

Motivation

Should be a big rivalry game, but the Dolphins may be distracted by the media circus following their late season dive. Think vultures circling a wounded prey and you have a pretty good picture of Miami's locker room this week. It's still a big game for the Bills who are playing much better football the past few weeks and would like nothing better than to finish off the fish off this week.

Opinion

A big move on the point spread with all the money coming in on Buffalo. The Bills nearly took the Titans to overtime but a dropped pass cost them. Regardless, Buffalo's offense is playing better and there are no signs that this team has quit.

Meanwhile, it's hard to see how Miami will come out of Monday night's game with their heads held high. They desperately needed to win and didn't get it. With the loss to Philadelphia, the media has speculated on the fate of the HC all week and Dave W. seemed to be pointing a finger at the defense after the loss. A divided locker room is not what you want when you absolutely need to go on the road and get a win.

Now the Dolphins have to go into Buffalo where there may be a foot of snow. The Bills defense will take away RB Ricky Williams and then where does Miami go for yardage and points? Buffalo will take this game very seriously as the rivalry still runs hot in upstate NY. Funny things can happen in the snow. It can be 6-0 or 20-30 depending on how well both teams secure the football. However, if the wind is up off the lake, this game will definitely go under the total.

Baltimore (8-6) at Cleveland (4-10)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 36

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 35
BAL 21, CLE 14

Trends

BAL
Points for =24, Points against = 19
Over/Under =9/5 (Away =4/3)

CLE
Points for =16, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 7/7 (Home =3/4)

        BAL     CLE  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/14/2003 CLE 13 BAL 33 393 343 50 175 60 115
12/22/2002 CLE 14 BAL 13 275 146 129 256 63 193
10/6/2002 BAL 26 CLE 21 409 201 208 433 62 371
11/18/2001 CLE 27 BAL 17 350 108 242 232 95 137
10/21/2001 BAL 14 CLE 24 321 113 208 219 88 131
11/26/2000 CLE 7 BAL 44 461 247 214 112 28 84
10/1/2000 BAL 12 CLE 0 348 188 160 230 23 207

Motivation

Baltimore never recovered from their opening minute interception last week in Oakland. Now it's the Bengals that have the tie breakers and the Ravens will be desperate for a victory this week.

The Browns will be motivated by the loss of the old Browns franchise for some time. Ravens owner Art M. lives in infamy in this town and passions amongst the franchise and the Browns' fan base still run hot and deep. To make matters worse, Ravens RB Jamal Lewis embarrassed Cleveland by setting a NFL single game rushing record in the first meeting this year.

Opinion

All you have to do is look at the rushing yards allowed by Cleveland in this series and you know that Vegas is high on Baltimore this week. The Ravens need the win, so motivation won't be an issue. Cleveland has not shown that they can contain him, yet alone stop, RB Jamal Lewis (seven straight 100-yard rushing games). Lewis set a NFL single game rushing record in the last meeting. Finally, the Browns are not a very good home team. They've beaten Atlanta, Oakland, and Arizona at home this season, no quality team amongst them

The Browns were outplayed badly last week in Denver, even if it didn't show up on the scoreboard. Cleveland lost first downs 11-28; total yards 275-417, and had the football for less than one third of the game. Cleveland has scored more than 20 points twice this season. If Baltimore jumps on top, it's game over.

Washington (5-9) at Chicago (6-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 35

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 31
CHI 17, WAS 14

Trends

WAS
Points for =18, Points against = 22
Over/Under =7/6/1 (Away =3/3/1)

CHI
Points for =18, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 6/8 (Home =4/3)

        WAS     CHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/23/2001 CHI 20 WAS 15 293 89 204 237 112 125

Motivation

A completely meaningless game. The Bears look like they're still trying to get to the .500 mark while the Redskins quit last week in Dallas.

Opinion

Nobody liking the Redskins around the sportsbooks this week. Washington clearly tanked last game, losing 0-27 at Dallas. If they aren't going to get up for the hated Cowboys, why should Washington get up for a game on the road in Chicago?

It's hard to understate just how bad the Redskins were against the Cowboys. QB Hasselbeck felt the heat of the Cowboys' blitz, completing just six passes. The Redskins managed just eight first downs in that contest. On the other hand, the Bears are living on the mistakes of others. Looking at their last few games, they've managed just one legit touchdown drive over the past two games and their rushing game has disappeared. The Redskins can't stop anyone from running the ball down their throats so Rex Grossman will not have to carry this team on his back. No reason to expect lots of scoring in this contest. The under may be the play here.

Cincinnati (8-6) at St. Louis (11-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 54.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 51
STL 31, CIN 20

Trends

CIN
Points for =23, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =3/4)

STL
Points for =28, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 9/4/1 (Home =5/2)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

The Bengals control their own destiny, but now they have to play on the road in a very difficult spot. St. Louis is fighting for home field advantage. If the Eagles drop a game and the Rams run the table, you have to like St. Louis' chances of making the big dance. If the Rams lose this contest then you have to think Eagles as the NFC representative.

Opinion

The Bengals are playing well down the stretch again. HC Marvin Lewis has done a great job getting the prevailing losing attitude out of Cincinnati. As this team has begun to believe in themselves, they've played better, especially on the road. They are 7-2 in their last nine games and have had several good road wins.

That said, Cincinnati hasn't played many games on turf and in a dome. In bad conditions last week, they gave up over 500 yards on defense to the 49ers who don't exactly light it up outside the bay area. The Bengals will need a much better defensive performance this week against the Rams who can score quickly at home.

The Rams struggle to win on the road, but they hammer visiting teams in the dome. This St. Louis team is built to play on turf and indoors where they can use their speed to the best advantage.

Vegas doubts if the Bengals can score with the Rams this week, especially if St. Louis' defensive ends are healthy. The Bengals offensive line is big and Cincinnati should have a lot of success running the ball, but St. Louis' speed rushers and the crowd noise are going to give the visitors fits when they have to set up in pass protection. Vegas looks for DE Little to have another big game is he's fit this week.

Detroit (4-10) at Carolina (9-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37
CAR 20, DET 17

Trends

DET
Points for =16, Points against = 24
Over/Under = 5/9 (Away =3/4)

CAR
Points for =19, Points against = 19
Over/Under = 7/6/1 (Home =4/2/1)

        DET     CAR  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/15/2002 DET 7 CAR 31 122 73 49 385 75 310

Motivation

Everyone is quite aware of the Lions road woes. Carolina may be flat after wrapping up the NFC South title.

Opinion

Okay, we are getting a little silly with the line. Detroit is a bad road team, but Carolina, with that offense, laying over 10 points against anyone is nuts. Vegas is playing to the public perception in this game, John Q. Public may be on the Panthers but the wise guys are taking the points and the Lions here.

The Panthers got a last moment field goal to beat the Cardinals last week. That win was their seventh victory by three points or less. Now, with nothing left to play for, the books expect the Panthers to cover 10 points. The handicappers are saying, "Go fish!" The sharp money is coming in on Detroit this week.

New Orleans (7-7) at Jacksonville (4-10)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 41
JAX 24, NO 17

Trends

NO
Points for =22, Points against = 21
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =3/4)

JAX
Points for =17, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 8/6 (Home =4/3)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

New Orleans has an outside shot at a playoff spot if they win out and get help. Jacksonville hasn't quit and is still playing tough.

Opinion

The handicappers think the wrong team's favored in this game. The pros have been very impressed with the Jaguars despite their 4-10 record. Over the past six weeks, they've played very well. They had a 10-3 road loss to the Titans, beat the Indianapolis Colts at home, beat the Tampa Bay Buc's, and shut out Houston. The Jaguars defense has played great, RB Fred Taylor is on a roll, and Jacksonville have upgraded their receiving corps throughout the season.

The Jaguars went toe-to-toe with mighty New England last week. Two short touchdown drives of 3 and 35 yards off interceptions distanced the Patriots from the Jags. Jacksonville outgained the Patriots in that game but failed to get the victory.

Jacksonville is at home where they have three straight SU and ATS wins. Much easier for QB Leftwich this week as the Saints defense is a step-down in class from New England.

Only nine yards on offense separates these two teams while the Jag's have a big edge on defense. Jacksonville may be able to shutdown McAllister and force Brooks to beat them on his own. Meanwhile, Taylor should have a big game against the 26th best rushing defense.

The Saints never seem to play well in big games. This contest is as big as it gets; New Orleans needs this game or their slim playoff hopes are extinguished. They're on the road and Vegas thinks QB Aaron Brooks will have one of those games where he turns the ball over 3-5 times.

New York Giants (4-10) at Dallas (9-5)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 35

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37
DAL 27, NYG 10

Trends

NYG
Points for =15, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 5/8/1 (Away =4/2/1)

DAL
Points for =18, Points against = 17
Over/Under = 7/7 (Home =4/3)

        NYG     DAL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/15/2003 DAL 35 NYG 32 309 53 256 403 107 296
12/15/2002 DAL 7 NYG 37 377 157 220 241 104 137
10/6/2002 NYG 21 DAL 17 316 104 212 340 91 249
12/9/2001 NYG 13 DAL 20 245 125 120 289 102 187
11/4/2001 DAL 24 NYG 27 358 93 265 324 86 238
12/17/2000 NYG 17 DAL 13 225 99 126 145 75 70
10/15/2000 DAL 14 NYG 19 311 203 108 269 76 193

Motivation

The Giants canned their HC this week, although he will play out the string. Dallas wants to wrap up a playoff berth this week and have a week to get ready for a wild card game.

Opinion

This season just can't end soon enough for New York. They are on a 1-9-1 ATS slide and a 0-6 SU run. The Giants offense has evaporated, scoring below 14 points in nine of their last 11 games. Hard to feel good laying big chalk with Quincy Carter at the helm, but then again no one in their right mind is going to be on the Giants these last two weeks.

Tennessee (10-4) at Houston (5-9)

Vegas Line

Total Points = No Line

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = No Line

Trends

TEN
Points for =26, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =4/3)

HOU
Points for =15, Points against = 23
Over/Under = 8/6 (Home =3/3)

        TEN     HOU  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/12/2003 HOU 17 TEN 38 535 114 421 458 91 367
12/29/2002 TEN 13 HOU 3 277 140 137 224 28 196
11/10/2002 HOU 10 TEN 17 251 142 109 233 68 165

Motivation

Tennessee will rest McNair one more week. The Titans signed O'Donnell for this game. Houston has it's own injury concerns. No opinion is Vegas until the dust settles and the pros know for sure who is going to play.

Opinion

See above.

San Diego (3-11) at Pittsburgh (5-9)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 37
PIT 20, SD 17

Trends

SD
Points for =19, Points against = 27
Over/Under = 9/5 (Away =4/3)

PIT
Points for =17, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 7/7 (Home =5/2)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

Meaningless game.

Opinion

No interest around town on this game. Both SD and PIT are dead dogs playing out the season. Impossible for the pros to determine if either team's motivated to play hard this week. The Steelers couldn't manage 100 rushing yards against the 32nd ranked Jets defense last week. The Chargers played hard on offense with Drew Bres (363 yards) having one of his better outings last Sunday but two good games out of he Chargers is a lot to ask. Another pass by the pros.

San Francisco (6-8) at Philadelphia (11-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 39

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 48
PHI 31, SF 17

Trends

SF
Points for =24, Points against = 20
Over/Under =6/8 (Away =3/4)

PHI
Points for =22, Points against = 17
Over/Under =8/5/1 (Home =5/1/1)

        SF     PHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/25/2002 PHI 38 SF 17 403 98 305 343 107 236
12/22/2001 PHI 3 SF 13 244 117 127 292 79 213

Motivation

Another could have, should have game. This sets up nicely for the underdog. The Eagles are off a Monday night game were they whipped the Dolphins. The Eagles are on a 8-0 SU run and feeling pretty good about themselves. Philly returns home to face a struggling football team expecting an easy win. The Eagles come out flat and the underdog gets the upset.

The only problem is, San Francisco is that underdog. On the second game of a two game road swing, the 49ers haven't shown they can beat anyone on the road all season.

Opinion

San Francisco is scoring; they just aren't winning football games. The 49ers have scored 88 points in the last two contests and are averaging almost 500 yards a game. They whacked the Cardinals at home, but fumbled away their chances in Cincinnati last Sunday. What's new? The 49ers haven't played well on the road all season. They are giving up 34 PPG in their last 5 non-divisional road games while the Eagles have held 7 of their last 8 opponents to less than 18 PPG. Another pass by the pros.

Arizona (3-11) at Seattle (8-6)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 43.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 58
SEA 41, ARI 17

Trends

ARI
Points for =14, Points against = 29
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =5/2)

SEA
Points for =25, Points against = 21
Over/Under = 5/8/1 (Home =1/5/1)

        ARI     SEA  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
9/14/2003 SEA 38 ARI 0 286 93 193 323 130 193
11/10/2002 SEA 27 ARI 6 337 111 226 406 151 255
9/15/2002 ARI 24 SEA 13 347 249 98 426 81 345

Motivation

Oh lord, should this game be another road slaughter; please care for the families of the fallen Cardinals.

Opinion

Difficult to lay big chalk in the NFL, but the handicappers are all over the Seahawks this week. It's not so much a vote of confidence in the Seahawks as it's a play against the Cardinals on the road.

What can you say about this Arizona squad this season? They are 0-7 on the road and 13 points or more has decided all seven of those games. They lose to San Francisco 50-14, the Cardinals lose to Chicago by 25, Cleveland by 38, Pittsburgh by 13, Arizona lose to Dallas by 17, St. Louis by 24, and lose to the Detroit Lions by 18 points. The Cardinals gave a great effort last week and my not have anything left in the tank for this game. Now they go on the road with an untested quarterback against a Seahawks team desperate for a victory.

Seattle can throw the ball deep and the Card's have a lot of problems covering receivers deep. The artificial turf increases the speed edge for the Seahawks. Seattle may have some weather to deal with, but Vegas doesn't think it will matter in the end.the Cards on the road are simply dreadful.

Denver (9-5) at Indianapolis (11-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = No line

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = No Line

Trends

DEN
Points for =24, Points against = 18
Over/Under = 7/7 (Away =3/3)

IND
Points for =29, Points against = 20
Over/Under = 9/5 (Home =4/3)

        DEN     IND  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
8/25/2003 DEN 23 IND 28 42 24 18 50 6 44
11/24/2002 IND 23 DEN 20 285 113 172 344 128 216
1/6/2002 DEN 10 IND 29 219 115 104 335 151 184

Motivation

Denver is in the driver's seat for the final playoff spot. But going into the dome on a Sunday night isn't exactly the best place to be when you really need a road win.

Opinion

Vegas is waiting on the status of RB Clinton Portis before issuing an opinion. If he's good to go, the pros like the Broncos. If Portis sits or is limited, then the wise guys think the Colts will carry the day.

Green Bay (8-6) at Oakland (4-10)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 44.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 40
GB 27, OAK 13

Trends

GB
Points for =26, Points against = 21
Over/Under =8/6 (Away =4/3)

OAK
Points for =17, Points against = 22
Over/Under =4/9/1 (Home =2/4/1)

No recent meetings.

Motivation

A lot depends on what the Vikings, Buc's, and Seahawks do this weekend. Minnesota holds the tiebreakers over the Packers if they beat the Cardinals next week. The Packers must assume that the Viking will win that game. If the Vikings beat the Chiefs, then Green Bay is playing for the final wild card spot. The Packers beat Tampa and Seattle head-to-head so a victory here puts them in the playoffs if Tampa and Seattle lose (and they probably won't). If the Packers win, they close out Tampa, but the Seahawks are still alive with a win. On the other hand, if the Vikings lose, Minnesota drops to 8-7 and if the Packers win this Monday and again against the Broncos next week, they are the NFC North camps.

Opinion

The Raiders shot their final volley last week against the Ravens. Oakland took advantage of early Ravens' mistakes to score 10 easy points on 1 yard total offense on the Raiders first two drives of the game. Oakland has just 12 first downs average the last three games. Unless Green Bay implodes like Baltimore before them, Vegas thinks they win and cover.