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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Inside The Points - Week 1
Fritze Schlottman
September 11, 2004

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and that seems to apply to the Sports Gods as well. Of the 16 games to open the season the opening lines had two road favorites, one pick, and (after the Dolphins were adjusted away from being a home favorite), and 13 home favorites. This has been bet up to 12 home favorites and 4 road dogs. Hmm, something’s a miss here.

The average total of all games is exactly 41 so there’s no built-in bias towards either the over or the under (yet). Also, there is no bias with actual over/under results over the past three seasons: Week 1 (2001) went under, Week 1 (2002) went over, and the first week of (2003) was right on 41. Handicapper Andy Ishko had an interesting analysis of opening week. He looked at all the opening games from the 1990 season on and found that home favorites’ record ATS was 66-61-5, home dogs 38-30-3, home pick 2-1, road favorites 30-38-3, road dogs 61-66-5 and road picks 1-2. Home favorites were covering exactly 50% of the time ATS. To think that they will cover at a rate of 75% SU is a stretch.

So what are the Gods telling us? Well, it didn’t take them very long to decide its chalk hunting season. Does anyone really believe home favorites will go 12-4 straight-up (SU) this week? In Week 1 of the 2003 and 2002 seasons, home teams went 10-6 SU. In 2001 the road teams went 8-7 SU (Houston wasn’t in the league in 2001). Obviously we should be looking for good road dogs and maybe some upset specials/money-line action to start the season.

Indianapolis at New England (Early Game)

Vegas Line
New England -3.5
Total 42 (bet up to 45)

Predicted Outcome
NE 28, IND 21

Records
IND
SU (0-0-0)
ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)
OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

NE
SU (0-0-0)
ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)
OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

IND Side

The Colts are 3-5-1 over their last nine games ATS as a road dog on opening day and covered their opening game in 2003. Indy was 9-6-1 ATS overall, 5-2-1 on the road, 3-0 as a dog, and 4-2 on grass in 2003. Further, the Colts were 3-0 as a road dog, 3-2-1 vs. their conference, 6-0 vs. playoff teams and 4-0 ATS in their first 4 games of last season.

NE Side

The Patriots were blown out of the stadium in their road opening game of the 2003 season against the Bills. But they are 6-3-1 ATS in their last 10 opening games as a home favorite. In 2003, New England was 13-2-1 ATS overall, 8-0 at home, 8-1 as a favorite, 11-1-1 on grass, 7-0 as a home favorite, and 5-1 vs. their conference. As good as that was, the Patriots were 7-0 vs. playoff teams and 2-1-1 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

IND Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: ROAD (72%), DOG (77%), GRASS (73%), ROAD DOG (82%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

NE Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: HOME FAVORITE (62%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        IND     NE  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
1/18/2004 IND 14 NE 24 306 98 208 349 112 237
11/30/2003 NE 38 IND 34 370 98 272 282 56 226
10/21/2001 NE 38 IND 17 484 179 305 385 123 262
9/30/2001 IND 13 NE 44 322 82 240 336 177 159

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, the expected total of this game is 43.75 and the line opened at 42 indicating that the lines maker was taking away the under but the money is coming in on the over. This makes sense as the total lines trends are decidedly in favor of the over. The Patriots have won the last four meetings by an average score of 36-20 indicating that these games are high scoring where both defenses (especially the Colts) struggle.

Using 2003 statistical averages, both sides would be expected to score 21 points on a neutral field thus making New England a -4 favorite (3 for home and one for the favorable surface) for the game. Handicapping the game using 2003 statistics I get New England -8 (four for the base plus three for home field and one for the surface advantage). The line on the game is 3.5, so it looks like an early edge to the Patriots.

If I were to play the game, I like the over better than either side. My guess is that the officials will be hyper conscious of the treatment WR Marvin Harrison receives from the Patriots secondary. As the impetus for the new five yard rule come out of last season’s playoff game between these two teams, the zebras will make it a point to call it and send a message that the rule will be enforced (at least for now). Again, this favors the over in this contest.

Fundamentally, I think the Patriots have improved since last season while the Colts spent their money signing QB Peyton Manning. The Colts also have some serious injuries. While betting against the Super Bowl winner certainly has been profitable in the past, I think that New England wins this contest by touchdown with the game going over 45.

Tennessee at Miami (Early Game)

Vegas Line

TEN -3 (Moved from MIA -3)

Total 40.5

Predicted Outcome

TEN 20 MIA 17

Records

TEN

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

MIA

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

TEN Side

The Titans have covered their last two openers but are 2-4 as road favorites in their last six opening week games. The Titans were 8-7-1 overall last season, 3-4-1 on the road, and 6-5-1 as favorites. Tennessee was 8-5 on grass 1-2-1 as road favorites, 3-3 vs. their conference, and 3-1 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

MIA Side

The Fish didn’t cover their opening contest last season and are 1-0 as home dogs in openers. Miami was 7-9 vs. the spread last season, 1-7 at home, 3-2 as a dog, and 3-9 on grass. As bad as that was, the Dolphins were 2-4 vs. their conference foes, 2-4 vs. playoff teams, but 3-1 ATS in their first four games.

TEN Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE (62%)

MIA Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE (61%), 1 ST 4 GAMES (61%)

Recent Meetings

        TEN     MIA  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
11/9/2003 MIA 7 TEN 31 324 101 223 224 59 165
9/9/2001 MIA 31 TEN 23 315 105 210 307 82 225

Commentary

Like the Colts/Patriots game, weather may play an important part in this game. There’s some talk about moving the game from Florida to Atlanta to get out of the path of the next hurricane to smash south Florida. The Titans would dearly love to avoid a hot, windy, rainy, sloppy field where both teams are limited on offense. On the other hand, the Dolphins would love to play in slop and take their chances on defense. I already like the under on this game, but if it’s moved to a dome and on turf, I like it a lot less. On the other hand, if this game’s played in a controlled climate, I like my Titans +2 ticket a lot more. If they move the game, jump on the Titans. If they play it in South Florida, I’m jumping in on the under.

Arizona at St. Louis

Vegas Line

St. Louis -9 (bet up to 10.5)

Total 44 (bet up to 45)

Predicted Outcome

STL 34, ARI 14

Records

ARI

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

STL

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

ARI Side

ARI has not covered its last 3 opening games and is 7-9-2 in its last 18 opening road games as an underdog. Last season, ARI was 6-10 ATS overall, 0-8 ATS on the road, 6-10 ATS as an Dog, 0-4 ATS on turf, 0-8 ATS as a Road Dog, 2-4 ATS against their division, 2-3 against playoff teams and 1-3 in their first 4 games of the season. In other words, they were horrid in this situation in 2003.

STL Side

The Rams have not covered their last 4 opening games and are 2-7 in their last 9 as home favorites in opening games. St. Louis was 9-6-1 ATS overall, 6-1-1 ATS at home, 7-5-1 as a favorite, 7-3-1 on turf, 6-1-1 as a home favorite, 2-3-1 vs. their division and 2-1-1 in their first 4 games of the 2003 season. So aside from opening games, some very favorable trends in 2003.

ARI Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (61%)

STL Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: HOMEFAVORITE (60%), 1 ST 4 GAMES (65%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        ARI     STL  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
11/23/2003 STL 30 ARI 27 358 166 192 415 117 298
9/28/2003 ARI 13 STL 37 161 36 125 401 133 268
12/15/2002 ARI 28 STL 30 378 129 249 366 66 300
11/3/2002 STL 27 ARI 14 235 64 171 415 192 223

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, the expected total on this game is 45.5. The average of the past four games is STL 31 ARI 20.5 for a total of 51.5 and a spread of 10.5. Handicapping the game I get STL -14 (10 for points plus three for home field advantage plus one for surface advantage).

In part I of my series on handicapping, I described a winning strategy that was based on betting on winning teams and betting against losing teams. Arizona qualifies unquestionably as a losing team. The only games in this series when ARI kept this contest close is when they rush for over 100 yards. Looking at the Cardinals’ offense, I can’t see how the red birds are going to get there. They start the season with a new coach, a new starting quarterback, a new runningback, and two new wide receivers from a year ago. St. Louis doesn’t have a great defense, but there are so many new pieces to the Cardinals’ attack that I would expect them to struggle with consistency on offense early. Turnovers by the Card’s offense may be the difference between covering and not covering in this game.

The Rams have their problems on the offensive line…nothing new here. The Rams have not had a dominate front for three years now. Not since their Super Bowl year has St. Louis been able to open up running lanes or protect their quarterback. If this was a game against Carolina, that would be more of a problem. But the Cardinals year after year are at the bottom or within the bottom five teams in sacks. ARI’s defense has ranked #26 or worse each of the last four seasons. In 2003, the Cardinals allowed more than 29 points per game. I don’t see how the Rams will do less damage than Arizona’s average opponent. I like the Rams and the over in this game.

Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets

Vegas Line

Jets -4

Total 38

Predicted Outcome

NYJ 21 CIN 14

Records

CIN

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

NYJ

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

CIN Side

The Bengals have struggled opening up on the road. The failed to cover the last two games but are slightly better (4-5) as road dogs in their last nine opening situations. Last season, Cincinnati was 9-6-1 ATS overall, 5-3 on the road, 7-4 as a dog, and 4-2 as a road dog. The Bengals were 5-1 vs. the conference and 2-2 in their first 4 games.

NYJ Side

The Jets are not very good home favorites in opening games (1-4) and they lost their home opener last season ATS. NYJ was only 5-8-3 ATS overall, 3-4-1 ATS at home, 2-2-1 as a favorite and 1-2 as a home favorite last season. In 2003, the Jets had a winning record ATS (3-2-1) against their conference but were only 0-3-1 in their first four games.

CIN Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (61%)

NYJ Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS : HOME (62%), FAVORITE (62%), HOME FAVORITE (69%), VS. CONFERENCE (63%)

Recent Meetings

        CIN     NYJ  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
12/16/2001 CIN 14 NYJ 15 248 120 128 309 113 196

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, I come up with an expected total of 41 which is a whopping three points over the posted total line. However, all the major total trends are pointing towards an under game. I hate it when the Sports Gods cheat like that!

Again using 2003 statistical averages, I make the Jets a one-point favorite on a neutral field and a four point favorite at home. The lines maker is right on the number once again. Handicapping the game using 2003 stats I get base Cincinnati -2 adjusted to NYJ -2 after home field advantage and surface advantage.

Bengals QB Carson Palmer will be making his first start in this game. While he’s looked good in practice and in the preseason, he’s still not been under this kind of pressure. He’s going to make mistakes in his first start and he’s going to turn the ball over.

The Jets finally have a healthy Chad Pennington at QB. When he’s healthy and on the field, NYJ is a strong playoff team. I think the huge advantage at the quarterback position is worth at least a touchdown. I’ll take the Jets and the under in this game.

Jacksonville at Buffalo

Vegas Line

Buffalo -3

Total 35

Predicted Outcome

BUF 17 JAX 14

Records

JAX

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

BUF

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

JAX Side

The Jaguars are freaks of nature on opening day covering the last five season openers. They are 2-1 as road dogs in their last three opening contests and 6-3 overall on opening day. In 2003, Jacksonville was 7-9 ATS overall, 3-5 on the road and 5-7 as a dog. The Jaguars were 3-4 as a road underdog, 2-4 vs. their conference, and 1-3 in the first four game of last year’s campaign.

BUF Side

Buffalo blew out the Patriots at home on opening week of the 2003 season. On opening day they are 6-3 ATS over their last nine games as home favorites. Last season, the Bills were 7-9 ATS overall, 4-4 ATS at home, and 2-2 as a favorite. Moreover, the Bills were 2-1 as a home favorite, 2-4 vs. their conference, and 1-3 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

JAX Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

BUF Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: HOME (62%)

Recent Meetings

        JAX   BUF    
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
9/14/2003 BUF 38 JAC 17 287 95 192 371 43 328
10/18/2001 BUF 13 JAC 10 247 115 132 317 98 219

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, I make this a 35 point game (right on the total). The only total trend on either side is Buffalo’s short-term trend (14 unders in 2003) towards unders.

Using 2003 statistical averages, I would make the Bills a one-point favorite on a neutral field. Add in the three points for home field advantage and another point for surface advantage and the Bills should be -5. This probably reflects the public’s opinion that Jaguars are a team on the rise while Buffalo has had off the field problems this summer. After handicapping the game, I have it as even on a neutral field for a handicapped line of BUF-4.

I don’t like this game either as a side or as a total. Both sides have dominating defenses and questions on offenses. If you put a gun to my head, I’d hit the under but both offenses are capable of turning the ball over multiple times and points off turnovers will decide this contest. Winning the game and the over or under depends entirely how often and where these turnovers occur.

San Diego at Houston

Vegas Line

Houston -4

Total 44

Predicted Outcome

SD 21 HOU 20

Records

SD

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

HOU

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

SD Side

The Chargers did not cover their game last season but were 8-6 as road dogs on opening weekend over their last 14 games. In 2003, they were 6-10 ATS overall, 3-5 on the road, 5-9 as a dog, and a poor 1-5 vs. their conference. To make matters worse, San Diego doesn’t start very fast having a 1-3 ATS record in their first four game of last season. Bad, very bad.

HOU Side

The Texans have covered their only two opening games, once as a home dog and once as a road dog. Houston was 9-7 ATS overall last season, 6-2 ATS at home, 1-0 as a favorite, and 1-0 as a home favorite. They were also 3-3 vs. their conference and 2-2 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

SD Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

HOU Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE, 1 ST 4 GAMES

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

SD     HOU
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
9/15/2002 HOU 3 SD 24 267 124 143 118 89 29

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, I make the expected total 43.5 giving a half-point edge to the under play. Houston has two over trends in play taking away that initial advantage.

Using 2003 statistical scoring averages, the game is a dead-heat on a neutral field making the Texans -4 (three for home field and one for a surface advantage). Handicapping the game I get SD with a six point edge as a base minus four for home field advantage and surface advantage for a handicapped line of SD -2.

The Chargers really need this game. SD will be big dogs in all of their divisional games and there may not be a better opportunity to get a road victory all season. Houston has struggled to stop the run giving up 148 rushing yards per game and a 4.5 yards per carry average. Running is all the Chargers can do averaging 134 yds/g in 2003 and 5.2 yards per carry. Beware the dog that can run the ball. I’ll take the Chargers in an upset.

Tampa Bay at Washington

Vegas Line

Washington -1.5

Total 41

Predicted Outcome

TB 21 WAS 17

Records

TB

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

WAS

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

TB Side

The Buc’s covered their game last season but are only 4-6 in the last ten opening games as road dogs. Coming off their Super Bowl season, the Buc’s struggled ATS last season (5-9-1). Tampa was 4-4 on the road, 2-1 as a dog, and 4-9-1 on grass. In the three games where they were road dogs, the Buc’s were 2-1. Tampa was also 3-2-1 vs. their conference and 2-2 in the first four games of the 2003 campaign.

WAS Side

Washington did not cover their opening game of the 2003 season and is 5-6-2 week 1 over the last 13 games. The Redskins were 7-7-2 ATS last season, but only 1-5-1 ATS at home and 0-1-2 as a favorite (same record as a home favorite). Washington did have a positive record against their conference (4-2), but was a wash on grass (5-5-2) and in their first four games (1-1-2).

TB Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: ROAD DOG (60%), VS. CONFERENCE (71%)

WAS Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        TB     WAS  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
10/12/2003 TB 35 WAS 13 379 111 268 275 68 207

Commentary

Using 2003 statistical averages, I have the total on the game at 38 with Tampa Bay being a four point favorite on a neutral field. The total line is 41 and the trends also point to an under play. The mass changes on the Buc’s have probably moved the line closer to the NFL’s average reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the team’s likely performance.

Using the same scoring database, Tampa Bay would be a four point favorite on a neutral field. The Redskins get three points for home field advantage making the game a pick or a 1.5 point advantage towards the Buc’s. Handicapping the game I would make the Buc’s six point favorites if the Redskins hadn’t changed coaches in the offseason.

So, how many points is Joe better than Steve? In my mind, we won’t know the answer to that question for some weeks. It’s going to take a little time for the Redskins offense to jell. Injuries on the offensive line have slowed the development of Washington’s offense and I don’t think they will be polished week 1. My guess is that both offenses will sputter.

Tampa Bay has been flying under the radar all preseason. No one thinks of them as playoff contenders and no one talks about TB’s defense any longer. I think they ambush the Redskins and this game goes under the total.

Baltimore at Cleveland

Vegas Line

Baltimore -2

Total 37

Predicted Outcome

BAL 20 CLE 13

Records

BAL

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

CLE

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

BAL Side

Baltimore has failed to cover its last two season openers and are 4-4 in their last eight openers as road favorites. The Ravens were 9-6-1 ATS last season overall, 4-4 on the road, 7-3-1 as a favorite, and 9-5-1 on grass. Baltimore was 2-2 as a road favorite in 2003, 3-3 vs. their division rivals, and 2-2 in their first four games.

CLE Side

The Browns are horrid on opening day, losing their last five contests and are 0-3-1 in their last four opening games as home dogs. The Brownies were 6-10 ATS last season, a putrid 2-6 ATS at home, 4-7 as a dog, 6-9 on grass, and 0-3 as a home dog. Cleveland wasn’t good against their division as well (2-4) and in their first four games (1-3). The Browns haven’t won a home game in this series since 2001.

BAL Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: ROAD (67%), 1 ST 4 GAMES (70%)

CLE Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        BAL     CLE  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
12/21/2003 BAL 35 CLE 0 359 276 83 211 78 133
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

Commentary

Using the usual data base, I make the game a 39 total for a 2 point over play. However, the trends point to the under meaning the Sports Gods are once again taking away my trend advantage.

Baltimore would be a six point favorite on a neutral field making them a three point road favorite in this game. So, a slight one-point edge to the Ravens at first look. Handicapping the game, I have Baltimore as an 11 point favorite as a base -3 for a home field advantage for a net line of BAL -8.

The Ravens running game has crushed the Browns in the last four meetings. Keeping RB Jamal Lewis under 100 rushing yards isn’t realistic, but keeping him under 200 shouldn’t be this difficult. Looking at Cleveland’s defense, I just don’t see how they’ve made enough improvement to slow down Baltimore’s rushing attack. Even if they hold Lewis to 150 rushing yards, they still lose the game.

On the flip side, just how is Cleveland going to run the ball against a defense that gives up 91 yards per game on the ground? The Browns’ offensive weakness is that offensive line, a line that hasn’t gained more than 80 rushing yards in the last four games in this series. I don’t like road favorites, but the Ravens are just too good to pass up in this spot.

Detroit at Chicago

Vegas Line

Chicago -3

Total 38

Predicted Outcome

CHI 17 DET 14

Records

DET

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

CHI

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

DET Side

The Lions covered their season opener against the lowly Cardinals last season. While Detroit can’t win a road game SU to save their lives, they are a favorable 8-7 as road dogs in their last 15 opening week opportunities. The Lions were 9-7 ATS overall last season, 4-4 on the road, and 7-6 as a dog. Detroit was 4-4 as a road dog, 3-3 vs. their division, 3-3 on grass, and 2-2 in their first four games.

CHI Side

Da Bears have struggled opening day, having failed to cover their last three games. However, they are 7-7-1 in their last 15 as home favorites in week 1 action. The Bears were 8-8 vs. the spread overall in 2003, 6-2 at home, 3-1 as a favorite and 7-5 on grass. Chicago was 3-1 as a home favorite, 2-4 vs. their division, and 1-3 in their first four games.

DET Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: GRASS (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

CHI Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        DET     CHI  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
11/9/2003 CHI 10 DET 12 248 17 231 199 66 133
10/26/2003 DET 16 CHI 24 260 86 174 261 68 193
11/24/2002 DET 17 CHI 20 301 102 199 422 75 347
10/20/2002 CHI 20 DET 23 362 192 170 224 89 135
12/30/2001 CHI 24 DET 0 332 64 268 326 83 243
12/2/2001 DET 10 CHI 13 295 67 228 232 108 124

Commentary

Using my methodology I calculated a 40 total on this game giving the over play a two point edge. The only trend on the game is Detroit’s over on grass. But this series has a definite under trend with totals averaging only 31.5 points and a definite home trend with the side sleeping in their own beds (presumably) winning five of the last six contests straight up.

Chicago would be a 1.5 favorite on a neutral field making their calculated edge a -5.5, giving the Bears a quick 2.5 point edge. Handicapping the game, I come up with Bears -5.

Detroit is the sexy pick right now based on what is perceived as an improved offense while no one likes Chicago and their two rookie defensive tackles. I don’t like either team very much and think they will both struggle to win seven games with five wins far more likely. If I don’t like either team, I’m not going to fight the trends in this series. Chicago wins the game, but not buy much with the under being the better play.

Oakland at Pittsburgh

Vegas Line

Pittsburgh -3.5

Total 37.5

Predicted Outcome

OAK 20 PIT 17

Records

OAK

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

PIT

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

OAK Side

Oakland didn’t cover their opener last season and are 6-6 as road dogs in their last 12 openers. The Raiders were a disappointing 3-12-1 ATS last season, 1-7 on the road. They were 3-8-1 as a dog, 3-11-1 on grass, and 1-5 as a road dog. It wasn’t any prettier in their conference (1-4-1) and in their opening four games (0-4).

PIT Side

Pittsburgh covered their opener last season but are only 3-6 as home favorites in week 1. The Steelers were 8-8 ATS overall in 2003, 4-4 at home, 5-4 as a favorite, and 8-6 on grass. Pittsburgh was 4-4 as a home favorite, 3-3 vs. their conference, and 2-2 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

OAK Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (63%)

UNDER TRENDS: VS CONFERENCE (64%)

PIT Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        OAK     PIT  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
12/7/2003 OAK 7 PIT 27 161 122 39 399 133 266
9/15/2002 OAK 30 PIT 17 464 95 369 273 72 201

Commentary

Getting good numbers on this game is challenging given that the Raiders a) were starting QB de jour all last season and b) quit on the head coach after he called them the dumbest team in America after a penalty-filled loss. But based on last season’s numbers, I handicap this game as PIT -6.

I think both teams are better than they were a season ago and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit of both made the playoffs this season. How much better? We’ll learn more on Sunday.

I have no basis for either side or the total on this game and wouldn’t play this and the ATL/SF game unless my life depended on it. The Sports Gods punted on this game both on the sides and the total when the line came out. I don’t have a strong play on this game, but I think that last season’s debacle in Oakland probably has soured the public on the Raiders. Therefore, let’s take the contrarian play against John Q. Public and take Oakland in an upset.

Seattle at New Orleans

Vegas Line

Seattle PK (moved to -1.5)

Total 44 (moved to 45)

Predicted Outcome

NO 27 SEA 24

Records

SEA

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

NO

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

SEA Side

The Seahawks covered their game last season and are 2-0-1 as road favorites in week 1. Seattle was 8-7-1 vs. the spread last year, 3-4-1 on the road, and 6-4 on turf. The Seahawks were 1-2 as road favorites, 2-1-1 vs. the NFC, and 2-2 in their first four games of last season.

NO Side

The Saints did not cover their opener last season and their record as a home dog in week 1 is 4-3 in their last seven. New Orleans was 9-7 ATS last year, 4-4 at home, and 5-5 on turf. The Saints in 2003 were 1-1 as home dogs, 2-2 vs. the AFC, and 1-3 in their first four games.

SEA Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

NO Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: VS. PLAYOFF TEAMS (68%), VS. TEAMS >.500 (67%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

SEA NO
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
9/7/2003 NO 10 SEA 27 270 151 119 359 103 256

Commentary

No rhyme or reason to this game in Vegas. The handicappers are all over the board on this one. I know some touts that have SEA as their play of the week and some that have NO. Looking at their stats, there’ve virtually no difference between the teams on offense or defense. Both offenses have down the field passing games and top 5 running backs, both defenses have question marks. The Seahawks can stop the run a little bit better which gives them a slight edge in my handicapping formula. But, if I can’t tell the difference between Team A and Team B, give me the home field advantage and the points! My guess is that SEA will be a field goal favorite by Sunday.

What I do know is that this is going to be a track meet. I really can’t make much of a case for either defense stopping the opposing offense. All the long-term trends also point to an over play. My recommendation would be to play over the total and stay away from either side in this game.

Atlanta at San Francisco

Vegas Line

Atlanta -3.5

Total 44.5

Predicted Outcome

SF 24 ATL 21

Records

ATL

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

SF

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

ATL Side

The Falcons have covered their last six openers, but are 0-2 as road favorites in openers. ATL was 6-9-1 vs. the spread last season, 4-4 on the road, and 1-1 as favorites. The Falcons were 1-2 on grass, 2-4 vs. their conference, and 1-3 in their first four games of 2003 without Vick in the lineup.

SF Side

The ‘Niners covered their opener easily a year ago at home, but have no record as home dogs in openers since 1978. SF was 7-7-2 ATS last season, 5-3 at home, 4-2-2 as dogs. The 49ers were 6-6-1 on grass, 2-0 as home dogs, 3-3 in their conference, and 1-2-1 in their first four games of the 2003.

ATL Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

SF Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: HOME DOG (73%)

Recent Meetings

        ATL     SF  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
10/14/2001 SF 37 ATL 31 342 88 254 517 187 330
9/9/2001 ATL 13 SF 16 241 134 107 429 105 324

Commentary

It’s almost pointless to come up with a number on this game. The 49ers have way too many changes on offense as they will start a new QB, RB and two new WRs from a year ago. ATL will be in their first season in running the West Coast offense, the 4-3 defense and Vick has a hamstring injury that’s kept him out of preseason action. So you can take all the stats from years past and flush them because they aren’t going to tell you anything.

San Francisco has a huge home field advantage over East Coast teams. Maybe it’s the travel and maybe it’s the good weather, but the visitors always seem to struggle at 3Com or whatever the new sponsor/name of the stadium is now.

The 49ers will be able run the ball and use play action to take advantage of the Falcons porous secondary, but they’re limited by their own lack of talent and by QB Tim Rattay’s own injury problems. On defense, San Francisco doesn’t have anyone that could catch Vick if he got in the open field and Falcons’ HC Jim Mora was the defensive coordinator for SF last season so he should be familiar with their system and personnel.

This sets up for a game where SF pound away with the running game, eating up clock while the Falcons get big plays. I don’t have any idea where this game will land, so I will sit back, watch, and learn for next week.

Dallas at Minnesota

Vegas Line

Minnesota -3.5

Total 42

Predicted Outcome

MIN 24 DAL 17

Records

DAL

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

MIN

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

DAL Side

The ‘Boys have not covered their last two season openers and are 4-3 in road dog openers since 1978. Dallas was 9-6-1 vs. the spread last season, 4-4 on the road, but 2-3 as a dog. The Cowboys were 8-3-1 on turf, 2-3 as a road dog, 3-3 vs. their conference and 3-1 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

MIN Side

The Vikings have an impressive record in openers (covered their last two games) but are .500 as a home favorite in openers (5-5). Minnesota was 8-8 ATS last season, 5-3 at home, but only 4-7 as favorites in 2003. The Vike’s were 7-4 on turf, 2-3 as home favorites, 3-3 vs. their conference, and 4-0 in their first four games last year.

DAL Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: ROAD (65%), ROAD DOG (60%), VS. CONFERENCE (64%)

MIN Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: VS. CONFERENCE (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (67%)

Recent Meetings

NO RECENT MEETINGS.

Commentary

This is one of those unstoppable force vs. the immovable object games were the high-powered Vikings offense that averaged 30 points per game at home in 2003 takes on a Dallas defense that only gave up 17 points on the road last season. On the other side, there’s no doubt what the Cowboys offense will score as Minnesota surrenders 17.5 points at home while the ‘Boys score 16 points on the road.

Here is one of those games were I think the new 5 yard contact rule is going to come into play Week 1. Vikings WR Randy Moss already cries foul on every incompletion and he’s really going to whine when he thinks the Cowboys physical corners bump him off his routes or grab him out of a break. Dallas HC Bill Parcells is going to be right there to plead his own case. If the zebras don’t let the Cowboy’s defenders impede Randy, this could be an ugly game where the Vikings stand back and throw down the field every down. On the other hand, if Moss blows up and starts to pout, the ‘Boys can win this game. If this game was played in November, I may have a different opinion, but I think Minnesota gets the calls and wins by a touchdown or more.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia

Vegas Line

Philadelphia -8.5

Total 41

Predicted Outcome

PHI 21 NYG 13

Records

NYG

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

PHI

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

NYG Side

To my surprise, the Giants (who never seem to cover) have won ATS in their last two openers. Equally surprising, they are 6-1 as road dogs in openers since 1978. The G-Men were 3-11-2 ATS last season, 2-4-2 on the road, and 2-5-1 as dogs. The Giants were 2-4-1 as road dogs, 1-5 vs. their division, 0-3-2 vs. playoff teams, but 2-2 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

PHI Side

The Eagles always seem to get off to a slow start, having lost ATS their last three openers. Since 1978, they are only 2-5-1 as home favorites as openers. Overall, Philly was 11-5 ATS last season, 4-4 at home, 6-4 as a favorite and 8-4 on grass. Additionally, the Eagles were 4-4 as a home favorite, 4-2 vs. their division, but only 1-3 ATS in their first four games last year.

NYG Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

PHI Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: HOMEFAVORITE (67%)

UNDER TRENDS: VS. DIVISION (60%)

Recent Meetings

        NYG     PHI  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
11/16/2003 NYG 10 PHI 28 361 109 252 376 62 314
10/19/2003 PHI 14 NYG 10 339 180 159 134 87 47
12/28/2002 PHI 7 NYG 10 461 213 248 209 65 144
10/28/2002 NYG 3 PHI 17 342 103 239 422 299 123
12/30/2001 NYG 21 PHI 24 408 119 289 354 113 241
10/22/2001 PHI 10 NYG 9 238 96 142 215 96 119

Commentary

I handicapped the game and make the Eagles a ten-point favorite. On the other hand, this is a serious under series where PHI averages 17 points and NYG averages 10 points.

I don’t see a lot of changes in New York. Yep, this looks exactly like a four win football team to me. The Giants’ offensive line is junk and QB Kurt Warner will have Eagles coming at him from the stands on the blitz. Worse case scenario is that Warner’s knocked out of the game, but he’s definitely going to be rattled by the pressure if he stands in the pocket and holds onto the football. The Giants need to run the football and keep the game close, which is possible given how badly Philadelphia played against the run last season. If New York can control the clock, they can keep it close.

The Eagles are a different case. Fundamentally, this offense has to be better with WR Terrell Owens in the lineup. If McNabb and Owens have chemistry and Philadelphia can deal with NYG DE Michael Strahan, this game could get ugly. My guess is that Philadelphia scores a little more than the average in this series and NYG is just about right at 10-13 points with the game going under the total.

Kansas City at Denver

Vegas Line

Denver -3

Total 45.5 (up to 48.5)

Predicted Outcome

KC 31 DEN 28

Records

KC

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

DEN

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

KC Side

The Chiefs have covered their last two opening contests and are 4-3 as opening road dogs since 1978. For the 2003 season KC was 10-6 vs. the spread, 4-4 on the road, 1-1 as a dog, and 10-5 on grass. Furthermore, the Chiefs were1-1 as road dogs, 2-4 vs. their division, 4-1 vs. playoff teams, and 4-0 in their opening four games of last season.

DEN Side

The Broncos really get up for opening day as they have covered their last four openers. Denver is 10-6 as home favorites on opening day since 1978. For last season, the Broncos were 8-8 ATS overall, just 3-5 at home, 6-5 as a favorite, and 7-7 on grass. Denver was 3-5 as a home favorite, but a whopping 6-0 vs. their division, 3-3 vs. playoff teams, and 3-1 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

KC Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

DEN Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: HOME (60%), FAVORITE (60%), HOME FAVORITE (61%)

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

Recent Meetings

        KC     DEN  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
12/7/2003 KC 27 DEN 45 444 63 381 508 270 238
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

Commentary

Bombs away! If there ever was an over series this is it. In the two games last season, these two clubs averaged 60 combined points per contest.

Kansas City doesn’t look like they’ve improved a lick on defense while their first-string offense has been lighting teams up. Denver’s offense never really clicked on offense in August, but that Chiefs’ defense can make any quarterback look good.

Using 2003 statistics, I made Denver a three-point favorite. I don’t think the Broncos’ offense is as good as it was a year ago without RBs Clinton Portis and Anderson in the line-up. I also don’t think that highly of Denver’s new receiving corps as there seemed to be a lack of chemistry between QB Jake Plummer and his targets in the preseason. But make no mistake, the Broncos are going to score against the Chiefs but I just don’t know that they can keep up with the pace set by KC. That’s enough to put me on Kansas City and the over in this game.

Green Bay at Carolina

Vegas Line

Carolina -3

Total 42

Predicted Outcome

GB 24, CAR 21

Records

GB

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS AWAY (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U AWAY (0-0-0)

CAR

SU (0-0-0)

ATS (0-0-0), ATS HOME (0-0-0)

OVER/UNDER (0-0-0), O/U HOME (0-0-0)

Trends

GB Side

The Packers haven’t covered their last two openers and are 2-1-1 as road dogs in openers. Overall, Green Bay was 10-6 vs. the spread last season, 5-3 on the road, 2-1 as the dog, and 9-4 on grass. The Cheeseheads were 3-3 vs. their conference, 3-1 vs. playoff teams, 2-1 on Monday Night, and 2-2 in their first four games.

CAR Side

The reigning NFC champions did not cover their home opener last season and are 0-3 as a home favorite week 1. For a winning team, the Panthers didn’t cover the spread very often having a 6-10 ATS overall record last season. Carolina was a paltry 2-6 ATS at home, 2-9 as a favorite, and 3-8 on grass. The Panthers were 1-6 as a home favorite, 1-5 vs. their conference, 5-3 vs. playoff teams, and 2-2 in their first four games of the 2003 season.

GB Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: NONE

CAR Total (1998-2003)

OVER TRENDS: NONE

UNDER TRENDS: 1 ST 4 GAMES (74%)

Recent Meetings

        GB     CAR  
Date Away Home Total Rush Pass Total Rush Pass
9/29/2002 CAR 14 GB 17 298 99 199 332 139 193
9/30/2001 GB 28 CAR 7 383 75 308 169 36 133

Commentary

I make this game as Carolina -1. I am concerned about taking the Packers in this contest and that concern is centered around GB’s offensive line. Carolina has the best front four in football and maybe the best front seven. Green Bay’s offensive line can handle them, if they were healthy, and they’re not. Too many injuries to the big boys may signal trouble for Favre and the cheeseheads. But I think Green Bay is so balanced on offense that Carolina can’t shut down GB’s running game and then tee off on the Packers signal caller. It may not be pretty at times, but the Packers are going to move the football.

As demonstrated by their ATS record, Carolina has a hard time putting teams away. Maybe it’s their grind it out offense, but all the Panthers’ contest are three point games. So, I can figure on this game going down to the wire. If it comes to overtime, if the Packers get the ball, they’ll win if Favre doesn’t throw it to the wrong team. If it’s a three point ball game…just give me the damn points!