Against the Spread: Week 2

<p>In his second installment, Chris Shepard takes a look back at the game between the Patriots and the Colts to see how well he fared, while using that to influce this weeks rendition of Against The Spread. Take a peek at Chris's take on how well the New England Patriots will fare against the Arizona Cardinals, from a predictor's perspective. </p>

By Chris, the Impaler

On April 22, 2004 Arizona Cardinal defensive safety and US Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman was killed in action by what was reported as 'friendly fire' on a road in Afghanistan near the town of Sperah, at that point in the war 110 US soldiers had been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom, 39 in action; last week that number went over the 1000 persons dead plateau. While most of those soldiers died fighting for our great nation, our soldiers generally do not turn down a $3.6 million NFL contract in 2002 to join the Army. The question is would you have made the same decision if given the opportunity?

I wouldn't. It is not that I don't have the mettle to fight for this country, but more that I'd love to set my family up for life with a sweet NFL contract rather than fight a war (as it appears many other players in the NFL decided as well). Yeah, that and I am not a hero.

Tillman made, after the 9/11 attacks, a decision that was both selfless and heroic. Granted these words are bandied about in the media so often that they now fail to capture the imagination as anything more than a pedestrian description of a person's action during an event of consequence.

In the post millennium world is it possible that there are too many heroes rather than not enough? Or is it that we are so desperate for heroes that when a real one comes along we freak out and lump them in with everyone else?

In either case, if you ask his youngest brother, Rich Tillman, "Pat is just dead, he's just f'n dead."

This weekend our own "heroes", the New England Patriots, 2004 Champions of the World (well really the US since they don't play other countries), travel to Sun Burn Stadium for the Arizona Cardinals' home opener dubbed "Pat Tillman Day'. A day slated for remembering a modern day hero by the US Armed Forces, politicians looking for a campaign edge, coaches, players (old and new), fanatics and the National Football League.

If you watch the game on Sunday, take a look on Arizona's uniforms and look for the patch they'll be wearing to commemorate Tillman's ultimate sacrifice for his, mine and your country. This Sunday's tilt is more than another game in the desert for Denny Green's Cardinals. It is both a day of public mourning as well as rejoicing for a hero. And don't think for one sun drenched moment that the Spirit of Pat Tillman won't turn this ordinary football team into something larger than the game or themselves. Whether you bleed Cardinal Red or Patriot Blue, never discount the power of a fallen soldier.

I am probably not the only one who noticed that the Patriots had a difficult time plugging the holes in the run defense. Especially, when an almost over the hill RB ran roughshod over a Patriots Defense that allowed 202 yards rushing against the Dolts! Moreover, the fact that last year the Patriots allowed 6.25 points per home game was eclipsed by the Colts' 24 points, and on the road the Pats give up more than double that.

This week on the surface it looks like a banged up Cardinals OL and underwhelming offense is the salve that will cure the DL line woes. Bill Belichick is definitely concerned about his team's run defense, but a weak Arizona OL, injured Marcel Shipp/Anquan Boldin and then a bye week should give the Patriots some time to cure the ills that ails. But will they cover against the spread?

Meanwhile, last week the public loved the Rams at home against the Cardinals and that drove the number all the way up to 11 points by kick-off. However, while the Cardinals lost their opener 17-10, Cardinal QB Josh McCown completed 18-of-29 passes for 181 yards in his first career season-opener and fourth career start (9th game overall) and Emmitt Smith, the N-F-L's career rushing leader, had 87 yards and a TD against the Rams. First round pick and one time Denny Green ball boy, rookie Larry Fitzgerald, led the Cardinals with 70 yards receiving.
If you do not have a television package that allows you to tune into every single game on the NFL card, I'll mention something that is not readily apparent when you read the stat sheet from the game. One play changed everything. Linebacker James Darling had a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown called back when LeVar Woods got flagged for holding late in the fourth quarter. This was equal to a fourteen-point swing that eventually cost the Cards an upset in St. Louis.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants has installed the Patriots as an 8-point road favorite, but that line will probably go down, as the money loves home cooking. Gamblers will have to lay -3.80 on the line if they want to back the 1-0 defending champions. Cardinals' backers will earn +3.10 return on their money line investment. The over/under is listed at 42 and after last weekend's debacle we won't be looking at the total in this game.

Last week we discussed the system play regarding the winners of the Championship Game. I should have also mentioned that it works for the loser of the Championship Game as well. Over the past five seasons the loser of the title game also loses the following season home opener. Carolina made that six when they lost to the Green Bay Packers on national television on Monday night.

Part two of this system play states that while the winner of the Championship game usually wins and covers their first game of the new season (the Pats pushed) they lose their next three games outright and then win the fifth game of the season, to start 2-3. However, after last week's game I think we are going to abandon this system in favor of the Pat Tillman factor.

The heat should also play a factor as temperatures at Sun Devil stadium are forecasted for a dry 109 degrees. If you are going to the game you should note that there is a list of acceptable items including diaper bags (but only if they're accompanied by a baby) and empty personal misters. Prohibited items include box cutters, coolers and long poles (obviously the Impaler won't be going to this game).

Those looking to increase their fun on the Arizona game should note that the Cardinals were 6-2 as a home dog last year while the hometown hero's are only 3-4 as a road favorite over the past three years. Last week home cooking was 2-1 against the number as Miami was the only home dog that did not cover. However, we all know the 16 game win streak the Patriots have been on, but it is just that, a winning, not a covering, streak.

Week 1 Recap

A quick review of last week's column shows that we were dead on with the 3-point margin of victory.

But the faithful, though, don't want to sweat out the game. Why pick the hard ones? Consider that Patriots-Colts tilt will feature two of the leagues best kickers (QBs, RBs, and WRs as well) and while the spread squats at 3 points it means that the best probable outcome for Patriots' backers dropping a dime on the line is a push. I hate to say it, but this game has vigorish all over it so we'll eschew the side play for a total play.

While the total play (under 45) put a 440 unit dent in the envelope for the Hurricane Ivan emergency Ketel One fund, we realize that hindsight is better as foresight and that the under 45 opinion was not a good decision.

Week 2

Impaler Perspective: Spirit of Pat Tillman +8 for 440 units
Impaler Perspective: Spirit of Pat Tillman for 200 units to win on the ML.


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