We were 2-3 last week, bringing our season record to 9-9 (50%). This week, we're going to look at the
"Efficiency Top 10."
As those of you who have read the college edition of Vegas Vice throughout the season know, we often look at a team's offensive and defensive "yards per point" (YPP). This statistic tells us whether a team is efficient. In the NFL, on the average, a team will score a point for every 16 yards it gains. A team that averages 10 yards a point is an efficient offensive team. Conversely, a defense that permits a point for every 10 yards given up is a poor defensive team. Taking the difference between a team's offensive efficiency and its defensive efficiency yields a positive net YPP differential.
From the chart, we can see why the
Rams are undefeated and have been winning by such huge margins. St. Louis is the most efficient team in the league on both offense and defense. However, its record has been compiled against teams with a combined record of 8-33, and none of the teams the Rams have played is in the Efficiency Top 10.
This Week's Picks
Arizona (plus 3) Over New England
This play is based largely on the cluster injuries
has suffered at the linebacker position. Here is the injury report: LB Ted Johnson -- out, LB Ted Bruschi -- questionable, LB Vernon Crawford -- doubtful, LB Marty Moore -- doubtful, LB Bernard Russ -- questionable. The Patriots also have other injuries: RB Terry Allen -- questionable, WR Troy Brown -- questionable, RB Chris Floyd -- doubtful, RB Harold Shaw -- doubtful. Jake Plummer is out for
, but QB Dave Brown is a competent replacement, and we think the Cardinals will be pounding the ball up the middle and throwing short passes to the running backs to attack the depleted linebacker corps. We think both of these teams' coaching staffs are among the worst in the NFL, and we'll play on the home underdog against mediocre New England, which is 5-2 straight up but only 2-4-1 ATS.
Tampa Bay (minus 2 1/2) Over Detroit
We like the fact that
is switching to Eric Zeier this week, since we are not a big Trent Dilfer fan. The Tampa Bay defense is one of the best in the NFL, permitting a point for every 18.5 yards (which ranks the team third in the
also has major injury problems this week, with RB Rivers and WR Moore out and WR Crowell questionable for the game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions also have cluster injuries at the defensive back position. Tampa Bay is relatively healthy, and this is a must-win game for it if the team wants a shot at the NFC Central title. The Lions lost at home to a
Charger team that has a defense similar to that of Tampa Bay. We think Tony Dungy will look at the films from that game and try to pressure Charlie Batch. Without his speedy wide receivers, Batch is looking at a long day.
Green Bay (minus 5) Over Seattle
This Monday night affair has a great story line -- Mike Holmgren returning to
, where the weather forecast (as of the writing of this column) is for rain and snow with temperatures in the low 30s.
is a dome team and will have trouble coping with the weather. Seattle also has cluster injuries at the wide receiver position, where Charles Jordan and Mike Pritchard are both questionable and Charlie Rogers is probable. We all know that Joey Galloway is still holding out. With Seattle's passing game hampered by both the weather and the lack of speed at wide receiver, we'll see Ray Rhodes' Packers "stacking the box" with eight players to shut off Seattle's running game. Brett Favre plays well in any weather, and we just hope that conditions are not so miserable that they limit Green Bay's scoring since we need to cover the spread of almost a touchdown.
Indianapolis (minus 3) Over Dallas
We are not impressed by
, particularly when it is on the road. Against the
New York Giants
Eagles, the Cowboys could muster only one touchdown. However, the team's defense is solid (second in the NFC in defensive YPP). We like
, which is an up-and-coming team likely to be in the
within three years. While Deion is a solid pass defender (even if he can't tackle), the Cowboys' other top cornerbacks, Kevin Smith and Kevin Mathis, are both listed as questionable for the game, as is safety George Teague. This could be a problem for the Cowboys, because Jim Mora will do whatever is necessary to get Marvin Harrison away from Deion's coverage, including putting him in the slot or putting him in motion. We think Peyton Manning is quickly becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and we think the home field advantage will help him. The Colts are 4-1-1 ATS, and they'll probably win and cover this game.
Tennessee (plus 3) Over St. Louis
Call us stubborn, but in our 20-plus years of following the NFL, it's our experience that teams rarely maintain their intensity for a full season. As we noted above, it's tough to argue with St. Louis' statistics this year. Nevertheless, this is the first winning team St. Louis will be facing this season.
is 5-1 this year and has both Neil O'Donnell and Steve McNair available for this game. It's interesting to note that the quarterbacks the Rams have faced this year are either rookies (Tim Couch), backups (Jeff Garcia and Tony Graziani) or starters that have subsequently been benched (Scott Mitchell and Jeff Blake). The Rams have also been aided by turnovers early in the game, which has enabled them to jump out to big leads that are almost impossible for bad teams to overcome. We think Jeff Fisher will play this game conservatively and try to get to the fourth quarter with a close score. The Rams have not had any close games this year, and we don't know how they will react to such a situation. The "public" will be all over the Rams, and the game may move to 3 1/2 by game time -- in which case I'll be betting even more on the Titans.
Barry Lieberman is the general counsel for a Las Vegas gaming company and an associate of James Padinha. He's been an amateur gambler for more than 20 years.