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NFL Weekly Picks - Week 6
By Bob Cunningham
October 9, 2003
 
STRAIGHT-UP
Last Week -- 7-7 (50%)
Overall -- 38-36 (51.4%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 4-9-1 (46%)
Overall -- 27-43-4 (38.6%)
PREMIUM PICKS*
Last Week -- 1-0
Overall -- 2-3 (40%)

As I indicated in last week's write-up, I'm taking a break. Those of you who have followed my picks this season need one, too. I'd love to devise some sophisticated excuse for my prognosticating performance -- you know, something like aliens having taken over my body for all of September and shooting laser pulses into my brain to force me to utter team names without any diligence... but the truth is I'm simply engulfed in a major slump, worst one I've suffered in 13 years of forecasting football.

I mean, things are going so bad that Tampa Bay went to the trouble of squandering a 21-point lead with four minutes remaining Monday night just to assure I miss my pick. The Raiders got it started with their collapse Sunday -- against the pathetic Chicago Bears, no less! Incredible.

OK, for this week's picks I'm using the consensus of all of you who submitted your predictions to me (thank you kindly). Majority rules in terms of predicted winner, and I'll average your submitted scores to arrive final forecasts. Games with a clear consensus will be marked as priority picks.

To clarify further, the "Game Summary" will be my take on each game, but the actual prediction will come via the readers.

Let's see just how smart y'all are...

PREVIEW - WEEK 6 (Oct. 12-13)

MIAMI at JACKSONVILLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Dolphins favored by 3 1/2

Records: Dolphins 3-1 (3-1 ATS); Jaguars 1-4 (2-3 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Dolphins have never defeated Jacksonville, having lost both meetings including a 62-7 shellacking in the 2000 playoffs.

Game Summary: After a sluggish start, the Dolphins defense has settled in to be among the NFL's elite as expected. Jacksonville got its first win last week, over San Diego, but is in flux on both sides of the ball. Miami figures to have a decided edge.

Your Prediction: DOLPHINS, 24-13 (premium pick)

Dolphins:
This is a decent week for Miami's passing attack. QB JFiedler an option in big leagues. WR CChambers the only legit choice among receivers. RB RWilliams and defense/ST are musts.

Jaguars:
RB FTaylor is on a roll, but don't count on big numbers this week. WR JSmith an OK play. Forget the rest.

Dolphins:
none

Jaguars:
WR Jermaine Lewis (injured reserve)

NEW YORK GIANTS at NEW ENGLAND Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Patriots favored by 3

Records: Giants 2-2 (2-2 ATS), Patriots 3-2 (4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Giants are 1-0 straight-up on the road, 1-2 at home this season.

Game Summary: The Patriots are coming off an impressive come-from-behind victory over Tennessee, the Giants a lackluster home loss to Miami. Game should be decided by Giants' offense versus Patriots' D, neither of which have been overly impressive of late.

Your Prediction: PATRIOTS, 25-21

Giants:
Not a particularly good matchup for the passing game, but RB TBarber should fine running room.

Patriots:
QB TBrady will be throwing a lot, which bodes well for WR TBrown but not for Pats RB, including MCloud.

Giants:
K Matt Bryant (out)

Patriots:
RB Kevin Faulk (ques)
LB Roosevelt Colvin (injured reserve)
LB Ted Johnson (out)

HOUSTON at TENNESSEE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Titans favored by 10

Records: Texans 2-2 (2-2 ATS), Titans 3-2 (3-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Houston held the Titans to 17 points or fewer in both meetings a year ago, splitting ATS.

Game Summary: Can't envision the Titans slipping enough to lose this one outright, so the question becomes associated with the final margin. Tennessee offense has found going rough against Houston before, and this clash may be no different.

Your Prediction: TITANS, 22-14 (premium pick)

Texans:
QB DCarr might do OK against injury-plagued Tenn. DB corps, which means WRs CBradford and AJohnson (and JGaffney, too) are sleeper plays only.

Titans:
QB SMcNair and WR DMason are weekly starters, but don't expect huge numbers. RB EGeorge and WR JMcCareins are go's in deeper leagues.

Texans:
RB Stacey Mack (prob.)

Titans:
DB Samari Rolle (out)

OAKLAND at CLEVELAND Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Browns favored by 3

Records: Raiders 2-3 (0-5 ATS), Browns 2-3(2-3 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: 0-for-5 ATS says a lot for Oakland. This is the Raiders' first visit to Cleveland in a dozen years.

Game Summary: Assuming the Raiders aren't going to go 0-16 ATS this season, this looks like a generous number -- they get three points against a very inconsistent Browns club. For whatever reason, Browns QB Tim Couch is a lot better on the road than he is at home.

Your Prediction: BROWNS, 24-20

Raiders:
WR JPorter is expected to return, but don't expect big numbers for another week or two. RB CGarner may be the best Raider play.

Browns:
Expect a big dose of RB WGreen, but not as much from the passing attack. Cleveland D an OK play while its hot.

Raiders:
WR Jerry Porter (prob)

Browns:
none

CAROLINA at INDIANAPOLIS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Colts favored by 5

Records: Panthers 4-0 (2-2 ATS); Colts 5-0 (5-0 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Panthers have won both of the previous meetings, the last one in 1998.

Game Summary: Classic battle of irresistible force (Colts offense) against immovable object (Panthers defense). I tend to favor defense, and I also believe the Colts, working on a short week and coming off an emotional Monday night road win against Tampa Bay, will have to guard against a letdown. Good candidate for upset special.

Your Prediction: COLTS, 23-19

Panthers:
Don't be afraid to stick with the defense, even against the potent Colts. And RB SDavis is, of course, a no-brainer.

Colts:
Stick with the stars, and go with the Colts defense/ST as well. WR RWayne a decent sleeper pick. He's played well of late.

Panthers:
WR Kevin Dyson (out)
DL Kavika Pittman (out)

Colts:
RB Edgerrin James (ques)
WR Brandon Stokley (ques)

KANSAS CITY at GREEN BAY Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Packers favored by 1 1/2

Records: Chiefs 5-0 (4-1 ATS), Packers 3-2 (3-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Chiefs have won the last two meetings, but both were at KC and the last was five years ago.

Game Summary: What needs to be gauged is how the Chiefs will respond to their emotional victory over the Broncos -- will there be a let-down of sorts. The Pack is usually tough at home, especially when NOT a prohibitive favorite.

Your Prediction: PACKERS, 26-24

Chiefs:
Play all the usual suspects, including the Chiefs defense/ST... unless the two are separate categories, in which case the D can be benched.

Packers:
QB BFavre, RB AGreen and WR DDriver are certain plays. I also like TE BFranks, but other pass receivers a crapshoot.

Chiefs:
none

Packers:
DB Bryant Westbrook (injured reserve)

PHILADELPHIA at DALLAS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Even

Records: Eagles 2-2 (1-3 ATS), Cowboys 3-1 (3-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Eagles have won the last four meetings by an average of four touchdowns per game.

Game Summary: Admittedly, I've been slow to react and accept changings of the guard in the NFL this season, but I just don't put Dallas in the same class as the Eagles -- yet. I'm guessing some order will be restored in the NFC East after this one.

Your Prediction: EAGLES, 20-17

Eagles:
Based on recent history, I like the Eagles to have a big game, but Philly has too many contributors to be valuable fantasy-wise. RB BWestbrook a definite sleeper at worst. Play the D.

Cowboys:
Expect QB QCarter to return to Earth, and I'm not keen on RB THambrick either. WRs JGalloway, TGlenn and ABryant are all risky plays.

Eagles:
LB Jerome McDougle (ques)
DB Bobby Taylor (ques)
DB Troy Vincent (ques)
DB Brian Dawkins (doubt)

Cowboys:
TE Jason Witten (ques)

TAMPA BAY at WASHINGTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bucs favored by 2*

Records: Bucs 2-2 (2-2 ATS); Redskins 3-2 (2-2-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has won 8 of the last 10 meetings, both straight-up and
ATS. Every one of Washington's five games this season has been decided by a field goal or less.

Game Summary: The big question in this one is how Tampa Bay will recover from its gut-wrenching come-from-ahead loss to Indy on Monday night. If the defense rebounds, as I expect it will, the Bucs should survive this one.

Your Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 21-18

* Estimated spread.

Buccaneers:
You can retain confi-dence in the D, and RB MPittman is a decent play as well. The passing game is less certain.

Redskins:
Only WR LColes is a reasonable offensive play. The defense is a decent bet to keep the game relatively low-scoring.

Buccaneers:
RB Mike Alstott (injured reserve)
WR Keyshawn Johnson (ques.)
WR Joe Jurevicius (ques)
LB Shelton Quarles (ques)

Redskins:
DL Brandon Noble (injured reserve)

CHICAGO at NEW ORLEANS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Saints favored by 5 1/2

Records: Bears 1-3 (1-3 ATS), Saints 1-4 (2-3)

Stats Worth Noting: The Saints have won 6 of the last 8 meetings, including two at New Orleans in that span.

Game Summary: The Saints are favored, which is news right there, but the theory here is that they're well equipped to beat the league's other have-nots. Chicago had a nice little comeback against Oakland last week, but who among you believe they're capable of winning on the road to create a winning streak?

Your Prediction: SAINTS, 28-21

Bears:
RB AThomas and WR MBooker are the only sure plays.

Saints:
RB DMcAllister is a lock. WR JHorn is a sound play. QB ABrooks and TE EConwell may surprise.

Bears:
TE John Davis (out)

Saints:
DB Dale Carter (probable)

BUFFALO at NEW YORK JETS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bills favored by 3

Records: Bills 3-2 (2-3 ATS), Jets 0-4 (0-3-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Jets have won three of the last four meetings, including a sweep last year.

Game Summary: If anyone has figured out the Bills, please let me know. Dominant early in the season, Buffalo needed OT just to hold off Cincinnati at home last week. Still, the Bills are 3-2 while the Jets are winless, generating no offense to speak of.

Your Prediction: BILLS, 23-16

Bills:
I keep predicting a rebound week for QB DBledsoe and I'm still waiting. WR EMoulds' health a concern, along with RB THenry. The Buffalo defense/ ST is a sound play.

Jets:
No running game and no pass protection equal problems. I'd avoid the whole darn mess if I had any Jets.

Bills:
WR Eric Moulds (doubt)
RB Sammy Morris (out)

Jets:
QB Chad Pennington (out)
LB Marvin Jones (injured reserve)

PITTSBURGH at DENVER Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Broncos favored by 7

Records: Steelers 2-3 (2-3 ATS), Broncos 4-1 (4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: none.

Game Summary: The key for Pittsburgh will be holding Denver to less than 30 points. The Broncos have surpassed that mark in 3 of their 4 wins, and the Steelers have yielded the figure in all three of their defeats.

Your Prediction: BRONCOS, 33-20

Steelers:
The Pittsburgh passing attack should do well, including RB AZere-oue catching balls out of the backfield.

Broncos:
Even against Pitt. run defense, RB CPortis is a go. QB JPlummer and WRs RSmith and ALelie are good plays, as is TE SSharpe.

Steelers:
none

Broncos:
none

BALTIMORE at ARIZONA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Ravens favored by 5 1/2

Records: Ravens 2-2 (2-2 ATS), Cardinals 1-4 (1-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: none

Game Summary: With the Steelers struggling and the Browns unpredictable, Baltimore has a chance to seize control of this division in the next few weeks. The Cardinals just seem over-matched virtually every week -- can't imagine that offense doing much against the Ravens defense.

Your Prediction: RAVENS, 22-10 (premium pick)

Ravens:
RB JLewis should come up big again, but none of the rest of the Ravens offense is reliable enough to strongly consider. The defense is an obvious play.

Cardinals:
Forget 'em all, includ-ing RB MShipp and WR ABoldin.

Ravens:
none

Cardinals:
RB Emmitt Smith (out)
WR Bryant Johnson (doubt)
WR Jason McAddley (out)
K Bill Gramatica (ques)

SAN FRANCISCO at SEATTLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Seahawks favored by 3 1/2

Records: 49ers 2-3 (1-3-1 ATS), Seahawks 3-1 (2-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The 49ers have won each of the last three meetings by seven points, including a sweep in 2002.

Game Summary: This game marks the return of WR Terrell Owens to Seattle for the first time since the infamous Sharpie incident last season, when Owens signed the football with a felt pen after scoring. Revenge may, indeed, be a sufficient motivating factor.

Your Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 28-19 (premium pick)

49ers:
Seahawks D is improved but Niners should still be able to score. QB JGarcia and WR TOwens are musts, WR TStreets a good sleeper, and RB GHearst decent play.

Seahawks:
RB SAlexander tends to have big games at home on national TV. QB MHasselbeck and WRs KRobinson and DJackson good to go. Lay off the defense.

49ers:
TE Eric Johnson (out)

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

ATLANTA at ST. LOUIS (Monday) Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Rams favored by 12

Records: Falcons 1-4 (1-4 ATS), Rams 2-2 (2-1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Rams have won 3 in a row by an average of 24 points.

Game Summary: These former division rivals make for an entertaining matchup on the rug, although not as juicy as ABC envisioned when the game was first introduced to the MNF schedule. The Falcons don't appear ready to be able to hang with the Rams' lethal attack.

Your Prediction: RAMS, 34-17

Falcons:
QB DJohnson a decent sleeper choice, because Atlanta may fall behind early. RB WDunn better than RB TJDuckett, and WR PPrice also a go, as is TE ACrumpler.

Rams:
Rested and with a history of big numbers in this series, go with all the key skill players, including WR DLooker in deeper leagues. RB LGordon a great play if you can verify his health.

Falcons:
QB Michael Vick (out)

Rams:
RB Marshall Faulk (out)
DB Jason Sehorn (out)