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Inside the Points - Week 17
By Fritz Schlottman
December 25, 2003
 

The handicappers where limited in their commentary this week. With the holidays, they covered the early (Saturday) games with the intent of revisiting the NFL schedule on Friday. Readers that are interested in games not covered can drop me a line and I will pass on any thoughts they share.

Buffalo (6-9) vs. New England (13-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 34

Prediction

Total Points = 31
NE 24, BUF 7

Trends

BUF
Points for = 16, Points Against = 16.5
O/U =2/13 (Away =2/5)

NE
Points for = 21, Points Against = 16
O/U = 7/7/1 (Home =3/4)

        BUF     NE  
Date Away Home tot rush pass tot rush pass
9/7/2003 NE 0 BUF 31 319 104 215 239 105 134
12/8/2002 BUF 17 NE 27 390 78 312 275 92 183
11/3/2002 NE 38 BUF 7 331 65 266 422 114 308
12/16/2001 NE 12 BUF 9 310 98 212 335 129 206
11/11/2001 BUF 11 NE 21 241 68 173 205 134 71
12/17/2000 NE 13 BUF 10 347 178 169 331 189 142
11/5/2000 BUF 16 NE 13 315 141 174 189 89 100

Motivation

New England has plenty of motivation. Since being bombed 31-0 opening weekend, the Patriots have gone on to post a 12-1 record. They still haven't clinched home field advantage and need a win or a Kansas City loss to close the deal.

Buffalo's season has gone the exact opposite direction from that opening game. With all the additions on defense, it's been the offense that let the Bills down this year. The loss of WR Peerless Price didn't look that significant last summer, but the Bills never recovered.

Opinion

I don't think the Patriots have forgotten the 31-0 beating they took at the hands of the Bills Week 1. Since that time, New England has just one loss, a three-point defeat at Washington.

This has revenge written all over it. New England has not yet clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so they have something to play for even without the revenge angle. They need a Chiefs loss or a victory to wrap up the AFC's number one slot.

Vegas doesn't see the Bills scoring many points on the Patriots' defense. QB Drew Bledsoe hasn't played well all season. He's averaging 5.4 yards per pass attempt. Buffalo's offensive line woes certainly haven't helped. The Bills quarterbacks have been sacked 47 times this season. New England has only given up one offensive touchdown in their last five home games. The Patriots have also won four of the last six in this series. Vegas like the Patriots to spank the Bills this week.

Seattle (9-6) vs. San Francisco (7-8)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 44.5

Prediction

Total Points = 47
SF 27, SEA 20

Trends

SEA
Points for = 25, Points Against = 21
O/U = 5/9/1 (Away = 4/3)

SF
Points for = 24.5, Points Against = 21
O/U = 7/8 (Home = 3/4)

        SEA     SF  
Date Away Home tot rush pass tot rush pass
10/12/2003 SF 19 SEA 20 333 147 186 261 111 150
12/1/2002 SEA 24 SF 31 507 80 427 299 142 157
10/14/2002 SF 28 SEA 21 334 123 211 351 161 190

Motivation

Seattle needs a victory over the 49ers and a Packers or a Vikings loss to make the playoffs. San Francisco is out of the playoffs, but would like nothing better than to thwart the Seahawks' chances.

A funny thing about teams struggling to make the playoffs.... The public sees them as good teams that have had the ball bounce against them this year while Vegas sees them quite differently. The wise guys just sees them as not very good football teams that deserve to struggle.

Opinion

The gun is loaded and pointed at the Seahawks' heads. Both the Packers and the Vikings are favored this week. Seahawks HC Mike Holmgren may have his job on the line here.

Seattle has only one victory on the road this season. QB Hasselbeck has been upgraded to probable and will likely start this week. That's' good, because the Seahawks offense is going to need to score points. Seattle's defense has really struggled down the stretch and the 49ers offense has gotten hot.

SF has been on a roll. Over the past three weeks, they've scored 50, 38 and 31 points. Even the Owens injury may help SF out. It's not that he was the most liked player on the team and Vegas isn't sure too many of his teammates are shedding tears over his injury. After he got hurt last week, the other receivers stepped it up and they should have good games against a very questionable Seattle secondary.

Both teams can put up lots of points. Vegas thinks this game will be won by whichever team plays defense this week. Given the way the NFC West plays on the road vs. at home, the pros are on the 49ers this week.

Philadelphia (11-4) vs. Washington (5-10)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 40.5

Prediction

Total Points = 44
PHI 24, WAS 20

Trends

PHI
Points for = 23, Points Against = 19
O/U = 9/5/1 (Away = 3/4)

Eagles' last five games have gone over.

WAS
Points for = 19, Points Against = 23
O/U = 8/6/1 (Home = 4/3)

        PHI     WAS  
Date Away Home tot rush pass tot rush pass
10/5/2003 WAS 25 PHI 27 261 121 140 307 49 258
12/15/2002 WAS 21 PHI 34 320 110 210 292 86 206
9/16/2002 PHI 37 WAS 7 451 168 283 179 89 90
12/16/2001 PHI 20 WAS 6 287 63 224 362 155 207
11/25/2001 WAS 13 PHI 3 186 94 92 240 155 85
11/26/2000 PHI 23 WAS 20 289 171 118 326 44 282
10/8/2000 WAS 17 PHI 35 275 79 196 407 141 266

Motivation

As unlikely as it sounds, the Eagles can still lose the NFC East title to the Dallas Cowboys. With a loss to the Redskins and a Cowboys victory on Sunday, the Eagles will have moved from home field advantage throughout the playoffs to going on the road as a wild card team in two weeks. Needless to say, the Eagles have some incentive to win this game while the Redskins' playoff hopes died a long time ago.

Opinion

Not a game Vegas likes very much. Neither team can stop the run, which leads the handicapper's to believe that both teams will pound the football in a short, low-scoring game. On the other hand, both defenses are so dreadful that both teams could march up and down the field quickly on one another.

The feeling around the sportsbooks is that this is an inflated line. Eagles should be favored by four points, but you are seeing six, six and a half and sevens out there.

Washington is not a team that can easily take advantage of Philly's greatest weakness (rushing defense). Teams have run all over the Eagles the last two months of the season. On the other hand, the Redskins are not a good running team. Washington's had only one game with a 100-yard rusher. But, this may be the Redskins best opportunity to get a second. The Pros think Washington may run the ball well enough here to keep the game close.