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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Inside The Points - Championship Week
Fritz Schlottman
January 21, 2005

ATLANTA AT PHILADELPHIA

Vegas Line
PHI -4 TOTAL 38 (down from 42)

Predicted Outcome
PHI 21 ATL 14

Records

ATL
SU (12-5-0)
ATS (8-8-1), ATS AWAY (4-4-0)
OVER/UNDER (6-11-0), O/U AWAY (3-5-0)

PHI
SU (14-3-0)
ATS (10-7-0), ATS HOME (6-3-0)
OVER/UNDER (5-12-0), O/U HOME (3-6-0)

Recent Meetings

 

 

 

 

ATL

 

 

PHI

 

Date

Away

Home

TOTAL

RUSH

PASS

TOTAL

RUSH

PASS

11/2/2003

PHI 23

ATL 16

278

131

147

430

128

302

1/11/2003

ATL 6

PHI 20

354

93

261

318

91

227

Commentary

The weather reports for both of these games are pretty grim. Expect windy, cold (maybe six below wind chill) and snowy conditions at kickoff. The totals on both of these games have moved down more than a field goal. The heavy snow is expected on Saturday, but the bad weather conditions may linger into Sunday.

If there’s snow and especially if there’s a lot of wind, weather changes this game significantly. There’s a huge edge if you have a better running game and you’re used to playing in bad conditions. The Falcons have been the number one rushing team all year (167 yards per game), but nearly 1,000 of those rushing yards have come from the quarterback position. Atlanta won a big game in Green Bay a few years ago in these conditions, but Vick admitted that was the only time he’s played in this kind of weather. If Vick can get some footing, he’ll be a dangerous weapon by using his ability to dodge slipping and sliding defenders. If Vick can’t cut, that takes away a big part of his game and the Falcons offense.

Preparation is vital and if you’ve rarely played under these conditions you’re at a pretty significant disadvantage. The Falcons coaching staff themselves don’t have a lot of experience in getting teams ready for a big, foul-weather game while Philadelphia HC Andy Reid has had way too much experience preparing his team to play in the NFC Championship game (four straight losses). Reid is also 8-0 following a week off. Based on conditions and experience, I give the Eagles the coaching edge.

No team since the ’83 Raiders have won the Super Bowl with a team ranked outside the top ten in defense. Atlanta ranks 14 th and the Eagles are 10 th. If conditions are bad, tough defense matters that much more. I think the Eagles defense matches up better with the Falcons offense in bad weather. Atlanta’s motion game with their wide receivers doesn’t help their running game as much in slippery conditions. I don’t expect that the Falcons will be able to tie up Philadelphia’s defensive ends and a lot of Atlanta’s running game is based on pinning the ends with that motion and getting outside. If the game comes down to lining up and running the ball between the tackles, I think the Eagles have the edge on defense.

Atlanta ’s season ends here. Give me the Eagles to represent the NFC.

NEW ENGLAND AT PITTSBURGH

Vegas Line
NE -3 Total 34.5 (down from 37)

Predicted Outcome
PIT 16 NE 13

Records

NE
SU (15-2-0) ATS (12-3-2), ATS AWAY (6-2-0)
OVER/UNDER (8-8-1), O/U AWAY (5-3-0)

PIT
SU (16-1-0)
ATS (10-6-1), ATS HOME (6-3-0)
OVER/UNDER (9-8-0), O/U HOME (5-4-0)

Recent Meetings

 

 

 

 

NE

 

 

PIT

 

Date

Away

Home

TOTAL

RUSH

PASS

TOTAL

RUSH

PASS

10/31/2004

NE 20

PIT 34

248

5

243

417

221

196

9/9/2002

PIT 14

NE 30

343

63

280

283

74

209

1/27/2002

NE 24

PIT 17

259

67

192

306

58

248

Commentary

This is a very tough game to call. You have on one hand the number one rushing team (attempts) and a dominating defense (Pittsburgh had the league's top defense in allowing both the fewest points and fewest yards) in Pittsburgh and on the other hand you have Tom Brady who is 7-0 in the playoffs and probably the best bad-weather quarterback in football leading a Patriots team that is one of the NFL’s best against the run (They were second to the Steelers in fewest points allowed) . I don’t think that weather conditions matter as much in this contest for either the side or the total because I thought this would be a slugging match from the get go.

There’s no secret for what Pittsburg will do. They are going to line up and run the ball straight down New England’s throats. In the previous game this season New England allowed a season high 221 rushing yards to Pittsburgh while gaining a season low five yards on the ground. The Patriots were without RB Dillon in that game but it may not have matter had he been available, the Steelers were ahead 21-3 in the second quarter.

New England is more versatile on offense with Brady and their short passing game. He’s able to hit his backs and receivers on short routes underneath the opposition’s coverage and let them fall forward for an additional three to five more yards. On the other hand, I don’t think the Patriots offensive line matches up well with the Steelers defensive front seven. Looking at the two squads, I can’t see how the Patriots can line up and pound the ball between the tackles down the field consistently while I can see Pittsburgh doing just that. The Patriots are going to have to mix it up a little and take some chances down the field if the weather permits. If New England can’t keep the Steelers secondary honest, Pittsburgh is going to squat down on those short routes and try and get a game-changing turnover.

I think this is one of those nasty, smash-mouth football games where each team plays for field position, turnovers, and field goals. I like the under in the game and I also think there’s some value with the Steelers as well. Also, I’ll probably play the over on field goals.

Best of luck this week.