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NFL Weekly Picks - Week 3
By Bob Cunningham
September 18, 2003
 
STRAIGHT-UP
Last Week -- 8-8 (50%)
Overall -- 17-15 (53.1 %)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 6-9-1 (40%)
Overall -- 12-18-2 (40%)
PREMIUM PICKS*
Last Week -- (none)
Overall -- 1-0 (100%)

Last week was a big one for favorites -- only five underdogs covered the pointspread, and four of those won their games outright -- which means the oddsmakers are better at this stuff than I am. But the season is still in its infancy, and one thing about the NFL can always be counted on: its unpredictability is, uh, predictable.

If Baltimore RB Jamal Lewis can proclaim that he's going to set an NFL single-game rushing record, then go out and actually achieve the feat with 295 yards against Cleveland, does that mean the Browns' opposing QB this week, San Francisco's Jeff Garcia, is going to throw for 600 yards?

Ya never know.

PREVIEW - WEEK 3 (Sept 21-22)

NEW YORK JETS at NEW ENGLAND Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Patriots favored by 6 1/2

Records: Jets 0-2 (0-1-1 ATS), Patriots 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Jets have won three straight at New England, including a 30-17 triumph last December, and have covered six straight ATS at Foxboro.

Game Summary: Will the real Patriots please stand up? Not sure which result was more shocking, the loss at Buffalo or the victory at Philly, but this is the Pats' home opener and I'm just not sure how good this team is. The Jets are having troubles establishing their offfense, but have had good success in this series and in road division games under coach Herman Edwards. An upset pick, right out of the gate.

Prediction: JETS, 23-20 *(premium pick)

Jets:
The running game is a priority, so look for plenty of RB CMartin. The passing game may hit for enough big plays to swing the upset.

Patriots:
All the key compo-nents in the passing game are good plays, and the defense makes sense as well.

Jets:
QB Chad Pennington (out)

Patriots:
LB Ted Johnson (out)

PITTSBURGH at CINCINNATI Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Steelers favored by 4 1/2

Records: Steelers 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Bengals 0-2 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Pittsburgh rolled at Cincinnati last season, 34-7 and has won 5 of the last 6 meetings overall.

Game Summary: Cincy's defense played extremely well in an unexpectedly close loss at Oakland, and Pittsburgh's pass defense was exploited at KC. Still, the Steelers are unlikely to stumble here.

Prediction: STEELERS, 31-14

Steelers
:
Main offensive players, including RB AZereoue, are recommended. RB JBettis only in largest leagues.

Bengals:
QB JKitna a decent sleeper in larger leagues. RB CDillon and WR CJohnson are sound options.

Steelers:
LB Joey Porter (doubt)

Bengals:
RB Corey Dillon (prob)
WR TJ Houshmandzadeh (ques)

JACKSONVILLE at INDIANAPOLIS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Colts favored by 7 1/2

Records: Jaguars 0-2 (1-1 ATS), Colts 2-0 (2-0 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Colts swept season series a year ago, but Jaguars covered ATS in both meetings.

Game Summary: Colts would appear to outclass Jax in terms of talent, but new coach Jack Del Rio has the Jags playing hard and this is the type of game when the Colts often struggle -- because they're supposed to cruise.

Prediction: COLTS, 27-22

Jaguars:
QB MBrunell isn't likely to excel until WR JSmith returns. RB FTaylor only legit play this week.

Colts:
They're at home, and that means you play all of the principals, as well as the Indy D.

Jaguars:
WR Jimmy Smith (out, suspension)
WR/KR Jermaine Lewis (injured reserve)

Colts:
none

KANSAS CITY at HOUSTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Chiefs favored by 7 1/2

Records: Chiefs 2-0 (2-0 ATS); Texans 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: First meeting between the teams. Kansas City has covered five straight September road games ATS.

Game Summary: Although prohibitive favorites, this game will show us a lot about KC, because it's a road test against a respectable defense, and the Chiefs still need to prove they can win under adverse circumstances. My general rule is to stick with home underdogs between 7-10 points, because historically they cover ATS better than two-thirds of the time.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 24-19

Chiefs:
Still tricky to figure which WRs are reliable as plays. TE TGonzalez and RB PHolmes are obvious. Ditto QB TGreen, and the KC defense is worth a play this week.

Texans:
I'd skip QB DCarr, but taking shots with WRs CBradford and AJohn- son worthwhile risks.

Chiefs:
RB Priest Holmes (prob)

Texans:
none

NEW ORLEANS at TENNESSEE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Titans favored by 4 1/2

Records: Saints 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Titans 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Both teams have played much better at home than on the road this season (not earth-moving news, but relevant).

Game Summary: The status of QB Steve McNair is everything, and I look for him to tough another one out. It's the defense, seeking to rebound from a poor showing at Indy, that will rise up and harass Saints QB Aaron Brooks into mistakes, and decide this one.

Prediction: TITANS, 23-13

Saints:
QB ABrooks is not a sure thing, but still worthy in most leagues. WRs JHorn and DStallworth are good plays, and RB DMcAlister a must.

Titans:
Don't be afraid of the defense/special teams - they should bounce back. WR DMason ultra-reliable in yardage leagues.

Saints:
none

Titans:
QB Steve McNair (prob)
TE Frank Wycheck (doubt)

MINNESOTA at DETROIT Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Vikings favored by 3 1/2

Records: Vikings 2-0 (2-0 ATS), Lions 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Detroit has covered ATS in 5 of the last 7 meetings, including 3 in a row at home.

Game Summary: I will often lean toward the Lions as home 'dogs, especially in division games, but Minnesota' defense is showing such drastic improvement, it's tough to do this time. Then again, Detroit's offense is better, too, last week's results not withstanding. I smell an upset.

Prediction: LIONS, 30-24

Vikings:
RB MWilliams the clear choice for now. WR DBates also a good pick for this match-up. Avoid the Minn. teams.

Lions:
My first instinct was that QB JHarrington would be huge in this one... Get the WRs involved, and TE MRicks, but ignore the running game for now.

Vikings:
RB Michael Bennett (out)
TE Byron Chamberlain (out, suspension)

Lions:
RB James Stewart (injured reserve)

TAMPA BAY at ATLANTA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bucs favored by 4

Records: Bucs 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Falcons 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Tampa Bay is 4-1 straight-up and ATS in its last five at Atlanta, and swept the season series a year ago by margins of 24 and 14 points.

Game Summary: This is obviously not a good matchup for the Falcons, and without QB Michael Vick and with a banged-up defense, plus factoring in that the defending champs will likely enter this game with an even bigger chip on their shoulders than Atlanta, spells trouble down in Joe-gia.

Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 23-10

Buccaneers:
Fantasy-wise, the offense is a mess. WR KJohnson and K MGramatica are the only sure plays. And of course, the defense.

Falcons:
RB TJDuckett scored twice last week, so play him while he's hot. WR QMcCord will start, but is not a favorable option.

Buccaneers:
WR Joe Jurevicius (out)

Falcons:
QB Michael Vick (out)
WR Brian Finneran (out)

NEW YORK GIANTS at WASHINGTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Redskins favored by 2 1/2

Records: Giants 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Redskins 2-0 (1-0-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The underdog has covered in this series 7 of the last 10 meetings.

Game Summary: I gave serious thought to going with the host Redskins here, but I'm playing the circumstances card, as it were. That means I believe both teams coming out of this game 2-1 makes more sense to me than the G-Men being 1-2 and the Skins a perfect 3-0. Short week and road trip a factor for the Giants? Shouldn't be, this early in the campaign.

Prediction: GIANTS, 27-17

Giants:
The Giants have their own "big 3", KCollins, AToomer and TBarber, and they're each every week plays. I like the defense this week as well.

Redskins:
WRs LColes and RGardner are the only sure plays. QB PRamsey worthwhile only in large leagues.

Giants:
none

Redskins:
none

GREEN BAY at ARIZONA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Packers favored by 7 1/2

Records: Packers 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Cardinals 0-2 (0-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Green Bay won each of its only two appearances at Arizona, neither coming within the last three years however.

Game Summary: With the Packers' defense coming off a solid effort but still banged up, this one might turn into a shootout. Arizona was so bad last week, there's nowhere to go but up, so I'm sticking with my home underdog philosophy, assuming a healthy QB Jeff Blake for the Cards.

Prediction: PACKERS, 31-27

Packers:
QB BFavre and RB AGreen are easy picks, and WRs JWalker and AFreeman should also put up numbers. Despite the matchup, be wary of the Pack's defense.

Cardinals:
QB JBlake, assuming he starts, could put up numbers similar to Week 1 at Detroit. WR ABoldin a good play.

Packers:
WR Donald Driver (doubt)
WR Robert Ferguson (ques)

Cardinals:
QB Jeff Blake (ques)
WR Kevin Kasper (ques)
WR Larry Foster (ques)

ST. LOUIS at SEATTLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Seahawks favored by 3

Records: Rams 1-1 (0-1-1 ATS), Seahawks 2-0 (2-0 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has covered in each of the last three meetings; Seattle won last season at home in convincing fashion, 30-10.

Game Summary: I still believe the Rams are Super Bowl contenders, once they get the bugs out, but Seattle looks like the real deal right now. Going with the hot hand is usually prudent, and that's the pick here. If Seattle fails to generate a pass rush, however, I'd look for the Rams skill players to decide it their favor.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 24-16

Rams:
QB MBulger, RB MFaulk and WRs THolt and IBruce remain mainstays. Skip the rest.

Seahawks:
QB MHasselbeck now an every-week starter, like RB SAlexander and WR KRobinson. WR DJackson, coming off a solid game, also is a strong play. And the defense is on a roll.

Rams:
none

Seahawks:
DB Shawn Springs (out)
DL Chad Eaton (out)

BALTIMORE at SAN DIEGO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Even

Records: Ravens 1-1 (1-1 ATS), Chargers 0-2 (0-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Chargers have had the best of this series in recent years, winning the last two meetings, but the most recent game was 1998. Baltimore has covered 16 of its last 21 on the road ATS within the AFC.

Game Summary: Here's going out on a limb -- Baltimore RB Jamal Lewis won't break his own single-game rushing mark. Instead, I have confidence that the Chargers will suck it up after two dreadful efforts and get it done at home against a rookie QB.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 17-14

Ravens:
RB JLewis remains the only sure play (other than the D), although I also like WR TTaylor and TE THeap.

Chargers:
As good as Baltimore's defense is, it can be hit for the big play. WR DBoston likely a game-time decision, but if you can verify he'll play, he's due for a decent effort. Otherwise, only RB LTomlinson is a given.

Ravens:
WR Frank Sanders (prob)

Chargers:
WR Reche Caldwell (out)
TE Stephen Alexander (ques)

CLEVELAND at SAN FRANCISCO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: 49ers favored by 7

Records: Browns 0-2 (0-2 ATS), 49ers 1-1 (1-0-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Browns covered ATS in the only previous meeting of the last decade (so I guess that really isn't worth noting).

Game Summary: I'm surprised the Browns are having offensive issues -- it's the defense which I expected to be their downfall. The Niners should have won at St. Louis, and they look solid all-around. I believe the Browns are better than their record, but keeping it close is the most they can hope for realistically.

Prediction: 49ers, 30-17

Browns:
QB KHolcomb might give way to TCouch is things don't get better quickly, so beware. WR DNorthcutt an OK sleeper pick. RB WGreen may find the going difficult.

49ers:
Don't assume RBs KBarlow and GHearst will rumble. The Browns will adjust to last week's poor defensive effort. QB JGarcia and three WRs are strongest plays.

Patriots:
none

Eagles:
DL Jerome McDougle (doubt.)

BUFFALO at MIAMI (Sun. night) Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Dolphins favored by 3

Records: Bills 2-0 (2-0 ATS), Dolphins 1-1 (1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Buffalo swept the season series a year ago, winning both games by double-figure margins.

Game Summary: This may be the most unpredictable rivalry in the NFL. The Bills love facing Miami, handling them twice a year ago. And this game represents a chance to show a national TV audience that the Bills are a legit contender. The Dolphins may be the better team, long-term, but the Bills will be psyched for an upset... and they'll get it.

Prediction: BILLS, 21-18

Bills:
The main weapons on offense - QB DBledsoe, RB THenry and WR EMoulds - are regular plays, and the defense is a good play as well.

Dolphins:
RB RWilliams and WR CChambers have to be in there, but QB JFiedler should be considered only in the largest leagues. Stick with the defense.

Bills:
none

Dolphins:
QB Brian Griese (out)
WR Oronde Gadsen (injured reserve)

OAKLAND at DENVER (Mon.) Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Broncos favored by 5

Records: Raiders 1-1 (0-2 ATS), Broncos 2-0 (2-0 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Oakland is 3-1 straight-up and ATS in its last four against the Broncos, and routed them 34-10 at Denver a year ago.

Game Summary: If QB Jake Plummer is sidelined, the Broncos would be forced to go with Steve Beuerlein, which means the Raiders defensive front could focus on pressuring the QB and not be concerned with the scramble. This is the type of game a veteran team like the Raiders is accustomed to winning, and it's an opportunity to even out the division some.

Prediction: RAIDERS, 27-20 *(premium pick)

Raiders:
QB RGannon, RB CGarner and WRs JRice and TBrown are all good to go. TE DJolley also a wise play in TE leagues.

Broncos:
In larger leagues, either QB is a decent start as long as you know which one to choose. RB CPortis and WR RSmith are obvious. TE SSharpe always seems to step it up when the game is nationally televised.

Raiders:
WR Jerry Porter (out)
DB Rod Woodson (out)

Broncos:
QB Jake Plummer (ques)
RB Clinton Portis (prob)