2004 Season NFL Football Past Picks
October 18, 2004
This pick was released to clients on December 31, 1969 at 9:00PM ET.
Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Monday 10/18 09:05 PM Eastern
1 unit on St. Louis -6.5 (-110) (risk 1 to return 1.91) RESULT: WIN
Tampa Bay is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these two teams. What happened to the Greatest-Show-on-Turf? St. Louis used to always dominate at home but in their last five home games, they have actually only covered the spread once. Does St. Louis deserve to be a 6.5 favorite here? Probably not. Yes, they had an incredible comeback last week (we were on them) but that was a rare occurance. St. Louis didn't really deserve to win that game. They still have their problems which include not running the ball enough. Mike Martz hates to run the ball, despite having Marshall Faulk. He does it reluctantly and usually after he gets pressure from others based on losing games in which he throws the ball 40+ times. He won't have that pressure this week. He feels vindicated by winning last week based on his passing game. My guess he'll be throwing a lot this game as a result but with Martz you never know. I think this game will come down to this one stat: how much do the Rams run it.
Marc Bulger finished last game 24 for 42 for 325 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. But that was really two separate games. Before Seattle went into prevent defense in the second half, Bulger was 8 for 14 for 52 yards and and two picks. The Bucs are weak statistically in most areas. They are ranked 31st in the league in rushing offense, 18th in passing offense and 24th in rushing defense. The one place they excel is against the pass where they are 3rd in the league. Normally you'd see an opponent take advantage of these figures and run the ball about 40-50 times. This is not a normal opponent, however. As I've mentioned, Mike Martz has never seen a pass play he didn't like - make that love. The Rams have an explosive offense-ranked 4th in passing offense and 4th overall. But their defense is another story. The Bucs are getting nearly a touchdown here going against the league's fifth-worst defense. Just what they need right now. The question is whether Tampa can contain the Ram's scoring.
Marc Bulger's banged up and is officially probable. He'll play. WR Joey Galloway and RB Charlie Garner are out for the Bucs. These key injuries along with Keenan McCardell's holdout have really hurt Tampa Bay's offense this year. The biggest injury here is to rookie Chris Simms, forcing the maligned Brian Griese into the starting QB role for Tampa Bay. Griese has gotten a bad rep in this league but he isn't that horrible. He won the game for Tampa last week after replacing Simms in the first quarter. He was 16-19 and was a prime reason his team upset the Saints. As bad as many think he is (especially in Denver), he has thrown 77 touchdowns in this league. In his four season in Denver, he threw for over 3,000 yards in two of them. He was doomed in Denver now matter how well he played as any quarterback who followed John Elway would have been. Griese isn't a super-star but his is no slouch, either.
Both of these teams are off upset wins as underdogs. How do these teams perform in games following these upset wins? Tampa Bay is 5-1 ATS while St. Louis 2-12 ATS following a straight-up win as an underdog. St. Louis qualifies for a trend involving home favorites that has covered 85% of the time over the past three years but most of the trends and angles point towards Tampa Bay in this one. Teams off back-to-back straight-up wins vs. an opponent of a straight-up road win as an underdog in which they scored 18+ points are 21-7 ATS. Visiting underdogs of over four points that are off a win when facing a team that scored 17+ points as an underdog last game cover the spread over two thirds of the time. After starting 0-3 ATS, the Rams have covered the spread the last two weeks. But, during the month of October, home favorites of 3.5 to 10 points that have covered the spread two out of three weeks fail to cover the spread 7 out of every 10 times. Tampa Bay's strength has always been defense. They are 13-4 ATS when facing excellent offensive teams (those averaging >6 yards/play) and 27-11 ATS vs. teams averaging 7 or more passing yards/attempt since 1992. Over the same span, St. Louis is just 1-10 ATS in home games versus good defensive teams (
The Bottom Line
This could be Brian Griese's last chance to salvage his NFL career. He's had time on the bench to reflect and learn. He now gets the chance to pull off a major upset on Monday night. I think he plays well. As I mentioned, I think this one comes down to decisions by Martz. If he takes advantage of one of the best running backs of all time versus a poor rushing defense, the Rams control this game and cover fairly easilly. If the Rams get behind and Martz gets nervous, he'll resort to his pass-happy ways and Tampa Bay will have a chance to cover and maybe even win. The team that scores first here could decide this one. To get nearly a touchdown with a team ranked 3rd in the league in defense is a blessing. In addition, I think St. Louis is a bit overrated. But, the bottom line is that the Rams are just too strong. They have the better players and they have a bit of momentum. Martz makes me nervous but I'm going to lean slightly here on the Rams to cover the spread. I'm going to assume he will run the ball enough to win. With this offense, I can see the Rams jumping out in this one to a 10 or 14 point lead and if that happens, I think Tampa Bay will have a tought time coming back. If it goes to -7, I'd consider backing off.
*St. Louis -6.5 (-110) vs. Tampa Bay (risk -55 to win 50)