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Inside the Points - Divisional Week
By Fritz Schlottman
January 9, 2003
 

Green Bay (11-6) at Philadelphia (12-4)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 42

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 45
GB 24, PHI 21

Trends

GB
Points for =28, Points against = 20
Over/Under =10/7(Away =5/3)

PHI
Points for =23, Points against = 18
Over/Under = 9/6/1 (Home =6/1/1)

        GB     PHI  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
11/10/2003 PHI 17 GB 14 307 241 66 282 92 190
9/17/2000 PHI 3 GB 6 236 79 157 171 85 86

Motivation

Philadelphia is still smarting from the home loss that put them out of the playoffs last season. Green Bay looks like the charmed team this year.

Opinion

History has show that home teams win two-thirds of this round's games. If Vegas is going to take a shot at one underdog to win straight up, they're putting money on the Packers this week.

The loss of Westbrook is a significant blow to the Eagles. Not only was he the best of their three runningbacks and the Eagles' leading ground-gainer, but he is one of the better kick returners in the league. Special teams was Philadelphia's big edge in this match-up, but with Westbrook on the sidelines that edge is gone.

Vegas doesn't think weather will be a factor in this game; both teams are used to playing in bad conditions. Their game earlier this year was played on an icy field. The Eagles fans will make it tough on the Packers, but the new stadium doesn't seem to have the same intimidating effect Veterans Stadium had on opposing teams.

Green Bay's big edge is their running game. The Packers had 241 rushing yards against the Eagles defense in the first meeting. Had Green Bay not had a -3 turnover margin in that contest, they probably would have won that game by margin. Even getting three turnovers, the Eagles had to win the game on a last minute touchdown pass.

Vegas thinks this game will come down to a field goal with the Packers covering the five-point spread or winning the game outright.

Carolina (12-5) at St. Louis (12-4)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 45

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 51
STL 30, CAR 21

Trends

CAR
Points for =21, Points against = 19
Over/Under =9/7/1 (Away =4/4)

STL
Points for =28, Points against = 21
Over/Under =10/5/1 (Home =5/3)

        CAR     STL  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
12/23/2001 STL 38 CAR 32 402 97 305 412 215 197
11/11/2001 CAR 14 STL 48 146 31 115 493 337 156
12/3/2000 STL 3 CAR 16 237 68 169 278 99 179
11/5/2000 CAR 27 STL 24 268 90 178 426 31 395

Motivation

Carolina comes off a blow out home victory over the Cowboys while the Rams have had a week to lick their wounds after blowing home field advantage and a 10 points lead at Detroit.

Opinion

Vegas is looking for a track meet; both sides should score plenty of points.

Carolina played a perfect game last week against the Cowboys. The Panthers had a no turnover, no penalty game against the visitors last Saturday. That will not happen two weeks in a row. The crowd noise in STL will be deafening and there will be several procedure penalties when Carolina's linemen do not hear the snap count. The Panthers are going to have to find a way of not being flagged excessively and make plays when penalties put them in obvious passing situations.

Carolina will run the ball to limit their mistakes and to beat up on a Rams team that isn't solid against the run. The sportsbooks think Stephen Davis may get 30 carries in this game and well over 100 rushing yards if the Panthers can keep the contest close.

Keeping this game close into the fourth quarter is not going to be easy. The Rams just don't win at home; they blow teams out of the building. Built to play on the turf and under the dome, STL receivers have a very favorable match-up against a questionable Panther's secondary. Carolina has one of the best front sevens in the NFL and they will challenge the Rams league's highest paid offensive line by bringing the heat on Bulger. STL's QB isn't mobile and teams have been able to rattle him if they can get pressure. The trade off for blitzing is that you put your secondary in man coverage. That worked last week when Quincy Carter was the opposing QB, it may not work as well this Saturday. Should be a game of big plays as Bulger either gets creamed and fumbles or hits a number of big plays down the field.

CAR is 1-4 ATS on the road in the last five games and 3-10 ATS in their last thirteen overall. The Rams are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games and averaging 34 points under the dome. Guess who Vegas likes this week?

Indianapolis (13-4) at Kansas City (13-3)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 49.5

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 51
KC 27, IND 24

Trends

IND
Points for =29 Points against = 20
Over/Under =10/7(Away =5/3)

KC
Points for =30, Points against = 21
Over/Under =10/6 (Home =5/3)

        IND     KC  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/25/2001 IND 35 KC 28 373 194 179 415 101 314
9/3/2000 IND 27 KC 14 386 119 267 280 74 206

Motivation

The Colts come off a huge win over the Broncos to prove that they can win a playoff game while the Chiefs had the week off.

Opinion

Hard to find a serious handicapper around Vegas that likes the Colts this week. First, and perhaps most importantly, home field advantage is working against Indianapolis. Teams that play in domes do not fare well when they have to play outdoors in the elements. Indianapolis is accustomed to playing in perfect, climate-controlled conditions under the roof. Arrowhead will be anything but ideal this week. It's going to be cold and windy on that field. Vegas expects kickoff temperatures in the teens with winds blowing 15-20 mph and gusting. That seems a bit nippy for Hell, and the big, red hole is exactly were Indianapolis will find themselves. Arrowhead is easily one of the loudest, most disruptive venues in the NFL on any given Sunday. Arrowhead on a day where the Chiefs play their first playoff game in six years is going to be a madhouse. QB Manning may as well forget the gyrations and the audible calling because his teammates will never hear him.

The second reason the pros like the Chiefs is the manner in which the Colts beat the Broncos. Vegas was expecting a little more effort out of Denver who disintegrated on defense early and were never in that game. The Colts were way up for that contest and could do no wrong, scoring touchdowns on their first four drives. It will be difficult for Indy to come out with the same effort two weeks in a row. Meanwhile, the Chiefs all saw what the Colts offense could do when everything clicks and the handicappers don't expect Kansas City will take Indianapolis lightly.

Finally, the Chiefs running game gives KC an edge. Indianapolis may run the ball early to keep the explosive KC offense off the field, but Vegas doesn't think there's any way the Colts defense will even slow down Priest Holmes. One touchdown the Chiefs runningback is a lock, two major scores is a real possibility, and three isn't out of the question.

The Chiefs are 4-3 in their last seven games which make KC an unattractive side. But, KC are 8-0 at Arrowhead and 6-2 ATS at home and that is more encouraging. More importantly, the Chiefs have the NFL's second ranked offense and the Colts have the third ranked offense and neither squad has played well on defense at times this year. Vegas likes the Chiefs (a 6-1 consensus among the analysts) and the Over in this game.

Tennessee (13-4) at New England (14-2)

Vegas Line

Total Points = 37

Predicted Outcome

Total Points = 27
NE 17, TEN 10

Trends

TEN
Points for =27, Points against = 20
Over/Under =9/8 (Away =5/4)

NE
Points for =22, Points against = 15
Over/Under = 7/8/1(Home =3/5)

        TEN     NE  
Date Away Home Tot Rush Pass Tot Rush Pass
10/5/2003 TEN 30 NE 38 411 70 341 354 161 193
12/16/2002 NE 7 TEN 24 365 238 127 176 56 120

Motivation

Tennessee lost at New England earlier this season. The Titans come off a very physical victory over the Ravens where both McNair and George were dinged.

Opinion

The most important factor in this game may be the weather. There's cold weather and then there's cold weather, but players will not be accustomed to the possible three to five degrees above zero and minus nine wind chill they will experience this week. The Patriots may be uncomfortable, but the Titans will be miserable. Hand warmers, space on the heated bench, and thermal underwear will be hot commodities on the Tennessee sidelines.

The Patriots defense is tough enough, but in these conditions they are nearly impossible to score against. The Patriots are 4-0 against playoff teams, 13-2-1 ATS (number one ATS this season) and have three home shutouts this season (BUF 31-0, MIA 12-0, DAL 12-0) and limited Cleveland to three points. Defense got New England to the playoffs and the defense will have to come up big again this week. Under is 5-1 in the last six Patriot home games. One handicapper said that giving New England HC Bill Belichick

two weeks to scheme on defense in bad weather is like giving the Soviets two months to fortify Stallingrad.

Tennessee got unhealthy quickly last week with injuries to McNair and George. Both should play, but big hits in brutally cold weather on bad shoulders and legs just hurt that much worse. Tennessee would like to run the ball under these conditions, but it's doubtful that George's shoulder can survive 20 carries. The Titans are going to have to mix in their runningbacks and keep New England's defenders honest. George had only 35 yards in the first meeting.

The Titans are not the best bet here. Tennessee was 2-3 vs. playoff teams and just 2-5 ATS their last seven games. First game between these two squads was a pick-em this week the spread is seven points. Vegas likes the Patriots, but likes the Under better.