Against The Spread

<p>We have taken the bold step of adding a talented writer experienced in talking about game matchups to our assortment of insider contributors. <b>Chris Shepard</b>, known as &quot;the Impaler&quot;, has agreed to write about the team he loves to follow and the sport he knows a lot about.</P> <p>We welcome Chris with his first column here on and look forward to his knowledgeable matchups and breakdowns all season long.</p>

I his future columns, Chris will bring you the odds of that weeks matchup, and review the results of the previous week as the season progresses. Feel free to take issue with The Impaler's analysis, by letting him know how you feel in the forums.



Patriots Season Win Totals Regular 2004 Season
10.5 (O -$1.40/U+$110)
by Chris, the Impaler

Eating lunch in July at the Subway across from the Razor is the place to overhear Patriots' walk-ons and their molls chatting about their dreams for making the practice squad and perhaps a spot on special teams. Much like politics, a walk-ons future is uncertain and the end is always near.

By August 31 at 4 PM the roster is trimmed to a maximum of 65 players and players have a good idea where they are on the depth chart. Almost as much fun as wondering who will make the cut is the giddy kick in the yarbles of another foray into the vast land of Tagliabue.

While looking back at the previous year is some indication of how a team will perform in the current year, there is no guarantee that the Patriots that cashed in a bookie burning 14-2 against the spread in 2003 (and hit on the Over 10 total in wins) will do so again this year. Remember that parity rules in the NFL and past performance is no indication how a team will fare in the current year.

For a stone cold online gambler there is nothing worse than losing your bankroll in the first few weeks and chasing on high-risk low odds parlays hoping to make back a heftier return on your initial sports investment. In week 1 the field against the bookmaker is as even as it is going to get. As each game passes these probability and outcome mavens will nail you with the hook. This is one of the reasons I love betting season totals. You get a tremendous value (16 games) for your units.

However, before you drop a dime on the season win totals for the Patriots this year, you will need to pay attention to know the league rule changes for 2004. A glance at Paul's manual shows that there is one huge rule change that will probably affect the record of last year's champs. No, I don't mean that a team circle jerk in the end zone after a TD will cost them 15 yards. This rule is significant but it is nothing compared to the illegal contact rule (5 yard penalty).

In two out of the last three Championship games (as well as a certain playoff game against the Colts), the Patriots defensive backs were accused of jamming receivers at the line adversely effecting the ability for the WRs to get downfield. This year DBs are not allowed incidental contact with a receiver after they are five yards down the field. Whoa! This will change not only passing yards per game, but also scoring (for you total bettors). The benefits for smaller receivers like Marvin Harrison, Santana Moss and Dante Hall are immeasurable while big receivers like David Terrell, Randy Moss and TO have visions of a 20 TDs season dancing in their heads.

I don't see the Patriots' offense as better than last year. However, the Pats did attempt to improve on their ground game that ranked 27th going into this year we see a substantial change at running back. Picking up Corey Dillon and dealing Smith is similar to trading your Camry for a Maxima; they're both excellent commuting cars but they won't get that hot chick in the BMW Z8 Alpina on the Route 128 parking lot moist.

Another potential problem I see is on the OL. Substantial losses of Damien Woody and Mike Compton will put pressure on the line and may not help the Patriots run woes. Of course, if something happens to QB Brady (his shoulder surgery was an apparent success and Brady has said he feels no ill effects from the injury) and bettors have to rely on roster exempt Rohan Davey to carry the team. If that happens then Patriots' backers will have a long season ahead of them.

There are even more than a few questions facing the Patriots defense. What is of grave concern to me is how the defense will hold up this year without big Ted Washington plugging the gap? It seems that Belichick has an affinity for Shy-town and has added DT Keith Traylor but he will play the NT position while #1 draft pick Vince Wilfork should help stop the run.

While LB Roosevelt Colvin has recovered from last season's debilitating hip injury, Patriots fans have not had a good chance to see this Monster of the Midway in action. Or was his success largely due to his work with Brian Urlacher? Linebacker's coach, Jimmy Ryan, departed for the Raiders, is now replaced with Kent St. HC Dean Peas.

Let's take a deeper look at the Patriots schedule and see what hazards might lay ahead on their road to 11 wins. This year the hook is dangled in front of us so we need to play Kreskin and look into our crystal to see if we will impale or be impaled. This season will be characterized as win one/lose one.

In week one, the Patriots D is sure to get tested against the triple threat of Harrison, Manning and James in the home opener. We'll know a lot more about the strength of the off-season moves on defense after this game. However considering that the last game of last year and the first game of this year for the Colts are the Patriots, this game will come down to a field goal. Advantage: Colts.

The next game has our hometown hero's traveling to Arizona where Bruschi has always played well. How last place Arizona had the misfortune of drawing last year's champs is strange, but they did. While Arizona is improved I think it is safe to say that it is Advantage: Patriots. After the disadvantageous week 3 bye the Patriots travel in week 4 to the house of horrors that Patriots backers know as Ralph Wilson Stadium where history will probably repeat. Advantage Buffalo.

Week 5 the Patriots host their annual slugfest with downward spiraling Miami Dolphins. With pot smoking RW retired, questions about HC Wanstadt's tenure and a tangled net on offense I conclude that it is Advantage Patriots.

Fresh off a low scoring win, the schedule gets infinitely more difficult as the Patriots host my team to win the big dance this year, the high flying Seattle Seahawks with HC and Patriots Big Dance nemesis Mike Holmgren. In his sixth year at the helm, his team has all the skills to pay the bills. Seattle wins this one and leaves the hometown crowd scratching their heads as to how the 2003 Champs have a losing record. Advantage Seattle.

The Patriots should be able to vent their frustration against a classic week 7 AFC match-up and take the Jets to get back to playing .500 football. Advantage Patriots.

After a three-week home stand, it is time to get back on the road and go back down to Catsup field and score a victory in late October. While most of the country will be looking toward another match-up that following week between an Elephant and a Donkey, this might be the fiercest test for the Patriots. It will be tough for the Patriots to win in Week 8. Advantage Pittsburgh.

Then it is on to Frontierre dome where Belichick will once again out coach his counter part Mike Martz. Advantage Patriots. On November 14 the Patriots will exact their pound of flesh from the Bills and beat Buffalo at home. Advantage Patriots. The newspaper headlines will note that the Patriots are above .500 for the first time this season.

A trip to Kansas City and Arrowhead in November is a lousy draw for the Patriots and I don't see the Patriots surviving with their scalp. Advantage Kansas City. It is back to .500 when the defensive minded Ravens fly into town to feast on the carrion left behind from the Buffalo carcass left over from the previous home game. This game will be decided by a field goal, but probably not the way the faithful hope. An already thinned OL definitely gives Advantage to Baltimore.

Weeks 13-15 will have restored faith to all of New England as I see the Patriots running the table against Cleveland, Cincinnati (preseason revenge?) and a still unimproved Miami Dolphins. Advantage Patriots. In the penultimate game of the regular season, the Patriots travel to Giants Stadium to play the Jets. Since it is quite difficult to beat the same team twice in a season we'll give the Advantage Jets.

Returning home for the last game the Patriots might squeeze the Wild Card with a home victory against one of the worst teams in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers. With everything on the line, Belichick boys win and just miss the wild card due to a formula that is more complex than calculus.

Conclusion: Record 9-7, Under 10.5 wins (+110)

Good luck to all.

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