NFL Week 1: ‘Bettor’ men won

Sep 14, 2004 9:08 AM

Several NFL teams did not look all that sharp in Week 1, while other teams played well in losses. When two good teams meet, one has to lose and when two bad teams meet one of those bad teams has to win.

Sadly the 2004 season begins without one of the best sports handicappers ever to set foot in Las Vegas. Mentor and teacher to many of us in the handicapping profession and friends to all of us on both sides of the counter, Mike Lee passed away last week at the age of 55 following a massive stroke.

There is hardly a person who has been in Las Vegas for more than even a few months who has not heard of Mike and his many accomplishments in the field including some wins in major handicapping contests and the publishing of works that have become ”˜bibles’ in the sports handicapping field.

Lee made all who met him feel like a close friend and was a pillar of integrity and honesty in the sports handicapping community.

Back to business. Road teams won six of the first 15 games, with nine decided by a touchdown or less. Minnesota’s 35-17 win over Dallas was the week’s largest rout and 18 of 30 teams failed to score more than 20 points. Home favorites were 5-5-1 ATS and home underdogs were 2-2.

It usually takes a few weeks for one-sided results to develop. When that occurs it’s often a good bet to go the other way over the balance of the season as the results will tend towards the break even mark.

"Over/under" results were similarly in balance with "under" holding an 8-7 edge through Sunday night’s action.

Opening week showed that the players were pretty sharp in the games where pointspreads moved more than a point from the opening to closing numbers. Using the famed Stardust as a guide, four games showed such movement, with money coming in on the Jets, Detroit, Seattle and Minnesota. All four teams won and covered.

What did save the day for the sports books was Cleveland’s upset of Baltimore. The Ravens were an expectedly popular play. In the elite high roller football contest at the Las Vegas Hilton, 40 percent of the contestants had the Ravens as one of their top five picks.

Here’s a look at Week 2 games.

Sunday

Broncos (-3) at Jaguars (41½): Denver’s preference for musical running backs seems to have worked again with Quentin Griffin looking brilliant in last week’s win over Kansas City, making the trade of RB Clinton Portis for CB Champ Bailey look great. Jacksonville was a fortunate winner on the game’s final play in Buffalo in what was a defensive struggle throughout. UNDER.

Steelers (+4½) at Ravens (36 ½): Pittsburgh managed under 250 yards of offense in their win over Oakland and was outgained by more than 100. Baltimore was shockingly inept in the loss at Cleveland. The Browns took away the running game of Jamal Lewis, while the Ravens could do little throwing the ball. Ravens have historically had trouble scoring points against the Steelers. PITT.

Texans (+3) at Lions (43½): Detroit broke its record 24 game road losing streak by surviving a late rally by Chicago but also lost WR Charles Rogers to injury. Houston might have suffered from overconfidence in losing their opener at home to San Diego. Both teams have developing offenses that still are prone to mistakes. Both defenses appear improved. UNDER.

Colts (+2½) at Titans (47): Indianapolis looked better in losing at New England than did Tennessee in winning at Miami. The Colts out yarded the Patriots, running for over 200 yards and averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. Tennessee did run the ball well at Miami and QB Steve McNair was not asked to do much. Peyton Manning has the better set of receivers with which to come from behind if necessary. INDY.

Chicago (NL) at Green Bay: Chicago arguably outplayed Detroit in last week’s loss while Green Bay is coming off their Monday night game in Carolina. Four turnovers proved costly to the Bears but the defense played very well. The Packers have dominated the Bears over the past decade and have currently won and covered seven straight in the series. All seven wins were by more than a touchdown. GREEN BAY.

Redskins (-3) at Giants (42): Washington played Joe Gibbs football last week and earned a hard fought win. The running game excelled with new RB Clinton Portis doing the bulk of the damage. The Giants were overmatched in their loss at Philadelphia and most of their yards came while trailing by double digits. The Giants may try to emphasize the running attack, something the Redskins also prefer. UNDER.

49ers (+7) at Saints (43): San Francisco played gamely in rallying to almost defeat Atlanta. New Orleans appeared listless in its home loss to Seattle and needs a win here to avoid an 0-2 start with both games at home. Frisco QB Tim Rattay was banged up in the loss to the Falcons and Saints (at least on paper) have the far better talent. Saints coach Jim Haslett is under pressure to produce. A loss here could cost him. NEW ORLEANS.

Rams (+2½) at Falcons (46): St. Louis appeared to take last week’s win for granted against Arizona but escaped with a narrow win despite outyarding the Cards by nearly 200. There is value here with the Rams still being the more talented team. Atlanta QB Vick put up rather ordinary stats against the Niners and the fake turf benefits the Rams. Atlanta still has to answer questions about the defense. ST. LOUIS.

Panthers (NL) at Chiefs: Carolina is off the huge Monday night game while the Chiefs lost at Denver. KC had success moving the ball on the ground. Carolina has a solid defense but should have trouble stopping a balanced KC offense. The Chiefs still have trouble stopping the run but this is a spot that calls for the home team at one of the league’s toughest places for visitors to win. KC.

Seahawks (NL) at Bucs: The status of Seattle RB Alexander keeps this game off the boards as the week starts. The Seahawks were effective in winning at New Orleans and did little to tarnish the high expectations. Tampa Bay had trouble running the ball in the loss at Washington, but is still expected to rely more on defense. UNDER.

Browns (+4) at Cowboys (38½): Dallas showed some good things in the loss at Minnesota. The matchups here suggest the Browns might not be able to exploit the Cowboy defense as effectively as did the Vikes. Cleveland played outstanding defense against a Baltimore team that embarrassed them badly last season. Some sort of letdown would not be a surprise. Parcells does not want an 0-2 start. DALLAS.

Patriots (-8) at Cards (41½): Arizona played respectably in the loss at St. Louis but allowed 27 first downs and was outgained by nearly 200 yards. The Rams indifference was what kept this game close. New England’s strong defense is well known but the offense gets very little credit. Against high powered Indianapolis, Tom Brady and the Pats threw the ball more than twice as often as they ran. NEW ENGLAND.

Bills (+3½) at Raiders (37 ½): Both teams are off of narrow FG losses in their openers. Oakland played reasonable well in rallying from a double-digit deficit but four turnovers proved costly. Buffalo’s defense continued its fine play from last season in shutting down Jacksonville most of the game but failed to make the critical stop late. The Buffalo offense still needs time to learn coach Mularkey’s offense. OAKLAND.

Jets (-3) at Chargers (45): The Jets were impressive in winning their opener with a totally balanced offense, running and passing each for 219 yards. San Diego prevailed in a back and forth game in Houston. It must be noted that the Chargers played mistake free football while the Texans committed four turnovers. The Jets excelled last season at not turning the ball over. JETS.

Dolphins (+3½) at Bengals (39): It might be a long, long season in Miami as coach Wannstedt may have already panicked by replacing QB Jay Fiedler at halftime in which his team trailed just 7-0. Fiedler was not sharp but you have to wonder about the lack of confidence message sent to the players. Cincinnati played hard in the loss at the Jets and continues to believe in coach Marvin Lewis and his plan. CINCY.

Monday

Vikings (+3½) at Eagles (48): The addition of Terrell Owens to Philadelphia has already made a difference. Owens and QB Donovan McNabb have already developed timing and chemistry. Minnesota was explosive in the opener at Dallas and this game might be a preview of the NFC title game. It certainly has the potential to be the most entertaining Monday night game of the season. OVER.

Last week: 9-6

Season: 9-6