Last week we were 3-3, bringing our season record to 24-27 (47%). This week we are going to look at the "power ratings" of the NFL teams.
A power rating is given to each team by the oddsmakers, and professional gamblers keep their own set of power ratings. The point spread on a particular game is calculated by comparing the power ratings of the two teams that are playing and adjusting for the home team's home-field advantage, which is usually between 2 and 4 points. If there is no home-field advantage, such as in the
, the "line" on the game is usually the power rating differential -- although as we shall discuss in a few weeks, playoff game lines are different than regular season lines.
Here are the power ratings for each team with their straight-up record (SU) and their record against the spread (ATS):
This Week's Picks
Kansas City (minus 1) Over Minnesota
While the Vikings have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL, their defense stinks.
, which has one of the top-three offensive lines in football, will run the ball all day against the Vikings front four until
overcommits to the run, and then the Chiefs will use play-action passes to get the ball downfield. Look for tight end Tony Gonzalez to have a big day. Surprisingly, the Chiefs are averaging 23.8 points per game in Gunther Cunningham's conservative offense, while the defense gives up 17.6 points per game. The Vikings average 24.1 points per game but give up 20.8 points per game. Minnesota also gives up an average of 4.1 yards per rush and 5.7 yards per play. In the
game last Monday night, you could see the frustration on the faces of the Viking receivers, and we don't think the Viking ship will be righted off a short week of preparation in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL.
Philadelphia (plus 9) Over Dallas
Cowboys have played like two separate teams at home and on the road (5-0 ATS at home, 1-6 ATS on the road), we think the oddsmakers have made this impost too heavy for the Cowboys. The Cowboy offensive line has been decimated by injuries, with the best offensive lineman, Larry Allen, listed as doubtful this week, center Mark Stepnoski listed as questionable, and guard Everett McGiver and tackle Flozell Adams listed as probable.
The Eagle defense is solid, allowing an average of only 3.7 yards per rush and only 5 yards per play. While
quarterback Donovan McNabb is a rookie, his performance is improving weekly and the Eagles' ground game averages 4.3 yards per rush. Despite their poor record this year, the Eagles have a negative yard-per-point figure of only 0.8.
While Dallas upgraded its putrid kicking game with the addition of 43-year-old Eddie Murray, you can bet that Murray's leg is not strong enough to get the ball past the 10-yard line on kickoffs and the Eagles will be starting many of their possessions with good field position. The Eagles are still playing hard every week for first-year-coach Andy Reid, and we think they will put in a good effort in this game. Heavy rain is forecast for Sunday, which should keep the score down and make the 9 points even more attractive.
Carolina (plus 8) Over Green Bay
The key statistic in this game is the
Packers' porous run defense, which has allowed opponents an average of 4.1 yards per rush, including 132, 160, 149, 110, 137 and 91 yards in its last six games. The
Panthers have one of the most underrated runners in the league in Tim Biakabutuka, who averages 5.6 yards per rush. Unlike some other teams that have gaudy rushing averages, the Panthers also have a good passing game. Donald Hayes, Muhsin Muhammad and Wesley Walls (who is listed as probable) are all good receivers and quarterback Steve Beuerlein is completing passes at a 59% rate.
Carolina's problems this year have been on defense, where the team is giving up 23.6 points per game. Brett Favre is apparently healthy again, but running back Dorsey Levens is questionable for the game. Last week, his replacement, rookie DeMond Parker, had an excellent game, but Parker is no Levens. The weather forecast for Green Bay on Sunday is for temperatures in the high 30s with a chance of rain or snow. We think the Panthers can trade points with the Pack as long as the weather is not frigid, and we would not be surprised by a straight-up upset by the Panthers.
Carolina-Green Bay (over 41 1/2)
The reasons for this pick are contained in the write-up above. We think this will be a high-scoring game, with the teams trading points back and forth. Check the weather forecast before the game to make sure that the wind is less than 10 miles per hour. If it is, and the temperature is in the upper 30s, these teams will score a total of 50 points.
Jacksonville (minus 8 1/2) Over Denver
Jaguars have the right attitude to cover this point spread on
Monday Night Football
. The team's defense allows an average of only 4.5 yards per play -- the second best in the NFL (the
Ravens' defense is No. 1). In recent weeks, the offense has been in high gear, averaging 30 points per game in its last three games. Running back Fred Taylor returns from his injury this week, and the one-two punch of Taylor and James Stewart should wear down the thin Bronco defense. The Jags have to keep winning to stay ahead of the Colts for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
coach Mike Shanahan will begin looking toward next year now that the Broncos are officially out of the playoff race, and we can't see any way the Broncos can trade points with the Jaguars. Dom Capers, the defensive coordinator for the Jags, is one of our favorites because he does not play "prevent" defense when the Jags get a big lead. Like all successful defensive coaches, he attacks. We think this game will be over by halftime, with the Jags winning big.
Indianapolis (minus 1) Over New England and
Buffalo (minus 2) Over New York Giants
Once again, we are bringing down a line of a touchdown or more to a line where we merely need our team to win the game by less than a field goal. The
Colts could suffer a letdown in this game, but with Ernie Zampesi calling the plays for the
Patriots, we think the coaching edge in this game is at least 3 points in favor of the Colts. Indianapolis is rolling in high gear and needs to keep pace with the Jaguars to try to wrest home-field advantage for the playoffs. Thus we think that there is more than a 75% chance that the Colts will win this game. Drew Bledsoe has been inconsistent this year and apparently does not have a good quarterback coach to correct the flaws in his passing game. The Colts have been vulnerable to the run this year, but the Patriots do not have the running game to exploit this weakness.
New York Giants
surprised us last week and performed offensive miracles against the
New York Jets
. We don't think they can take that act on the road. The Giant defense, once the best in the league, is now leaking, and the loss of defensive back Jason Sehorn is a huge loss that will create opportunities for Doug Flutie to connect with his favorite receiver, Eric Moulds. We think
wins this game easily.
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, and welcomes your feedback at