Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Handicapping is never a chicken dinner in the National Football League pre-season, but as I have noted many times, the money belongs to those who do the work to find the edges, and I proved that again last night as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) crushed the Kansas City Chiefs, 25-0, as a 10-unit play. Without getting too high on myself on the basis of a single winner, I want to explain what put the Bucs in the winner's circle.
Successful handicappers know it is necessary to examine every single detail-however small-on each game, weight them and then try to put the puzzle together to produce a winner. With Tampa Bay, it all began with the number.
Kansas City opened as a 2-point favorite in some books, -1 in others but the money poured in on Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers became a steam play at a pick'em two days before the game and then moved all the way out to Tampa -2 ½ and -3. Nothing is an accident-most of all big line moves. There was something behind the money and my first task was to find out what it was.
Two telephone calls revealed a source in the Kansas City training camp slipped up and said the Chiefs were going to treat the game as a regular practice and there would be no emphasis on winning. If one team is practicing and the other intends to play a game, the choice is an easy one.
A Reason Haley Is 1-8 In Pre-Season
On a personal note, I have yet to figure out how it is easier to teach technique etc. in a losing effort. There has to be an upside to winning, does there not? But I guess there is a reason KC coach Todd Haley is 1-8 in exhibition games.
For the record, the football world will get to see the season if Haley can cut the mustard. His Chiefs went 10-6 last season after he went 4-12 in his first season. The Chiefs' schedule was very light last season but his success in 2001 has landed him a major upgrade that finds KC playing consecutive games at New England, at home against Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at the New York Jets and at home against Green Bay.
Just call it "Killer's Row".
A mere reminder for those toying with going over the 8 wins bookmakers predict Kansas City will have this season. But I digress.
With Kansas City "practicing"-and I am still trying to figure out this one-the issue was never in doubt. When it was over the Chiefs had a total of six first downs, 137 yards of total offense (86 rushing and 51 passing) and converted 1-of-10 third down tries. The fact starting quarterback Matt Cassel did not play had little relevance.
The bottom line was simple.With digging for the reasons for the big line move on Tampa Bay, the truth was revealed and it translated into an impressive 10-unit winner. The bottom line for the 67,577 who paid to see the game in Kansas City was a migraine headache, a big dose of disgust and an urge to ask for their money back.
How To Win In NFL Pre-Season
I have released three games in this pre-season and have gone 2-1 in them, winning two 10-unit plays and losing a 3-unit contest. There was a reason I used each game and am repeating here the predictions and the comments that accompanied each release.
Friday, August 12
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) -2 ½ over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (0-0)
Prediction: Tampa Bay by 7-10
Tampa Bay 25, Kansas City 0 (W)
Comments: Tampa Bay has been the most heavily bet team this week, starting out as a 2-point underdog, getting steam status as a pick'em and at this moment is the -2 ½ favorite. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman opens for the Bucs and will play about 1 ½ quarters, followed by his backup, Josh Johnson who will play a half-quarter. Third stinger Rudy Carpenter will play the second half. Kansas City quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn says Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Ricky Stanzi will all play. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley is 1-7 in pre-season play while the Bucs' Raheem Morris is 3-5.
Thursday, August 11
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (0-0) -3 ½ over Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0)
Prediction: New England by 9-10
New England 47, Jacksonville 12 (W)
Comments: Jacksonville comes into this game forced to start rookie Blaine Gabbert at quarterback because of injuries to starter David Garrard (back) and back-up Luke McCown (undisclosed). His back up will be veteran Todd Bouman who just five days ago was riding a tractor on his farm. It is just a bad situation for Jacksonville and this is more a play against the Jaguars than it is a play on New England whose starting unit will play longer than usual in the first game because coach Bill Belichick says it needs the work.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (0-0) -3 over Seattle Seahawks (0-0)
Prediction: San Diego by 6-7
Seattle 24, San Diego 17 (L)
Comments: This is again a go-against play. Seattle comes into this game with a new quarterback, four new starts on its offensive line and has not had the time to even get into rhythm. The Chargers had the best offense and the best defense in the NFL last season-plus the best pass defense-and have had decent practices. The situation works heavily against Seattle, who will start the newly acquired Tavaris Jackson (formerly with the Minnesota Vikings) at quarterback.
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Weather Could Be Factor Tonight
Here are the weather forecasts for tonight's five games:
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans (60% chance of rain)
Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns (70% chance of rain)
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers (60% chance of rain)
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (50% chance of rain)
Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams (played in dome)