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NFL Weekly Picks - Week 7
By Bob Cunningham
October 16, 2003
 
STRAIGHT-UP
Last Week -- Your Picks were 10-4 (71%)
Overall -- 48-40 (54.5%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- Your Picks were 8-6 (57%)
Overall -- 35-49-4 (41.7%)
PREMIUM PICKS*
Last Week -- 2-2
Overall -- 4-5 (44%)

Last week's assistance was just what I needed. Thank you all kindly, those who participated.

What I learned from a week of utilizing reader predictions is that most of you are reluctant go out on a limb and pick upsets. You may have noticed that your consensus failed to pick even a single underdog as an outright winner. When it was all said and done, your picks looked like... well... David Dorey's picks! Except that my esteemed editor went 11-3 straight-up (nice goin' again, Sir).

Anyway, it's back to the weekly grind... and you being stuck with my personal predictions. For what it's worth, folks, had I used my own selections, I'd have matched your 10-4 straight-up but would have posted a 9-5 mark ATS. All that proves is that even blind squirrels occasionally find acorns.

Let's see if I can regain my formerly more consistent winning ways (geez, it seems so long ago)...

PREVIEW - WEEK 7 (Oct. 19-20)

NEW ENGLAND at MIAMI Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Dolphins favored by 5 1/2

Records: Patriots 4-2 (5-1 ATS), Dolphins 4-1 (4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Patriots have covered 5 straight ATS, the Dolphins 4 in a row. Miami has dominated the last two meetings in Florida.

Game Summary: It's all about defense, and the Dolphins' D is playing as well as most expected it to play at the season's outset. The offense is vanilla -- Ricky Williams left, right and up the middle -- but the formula is effective if basic. Not expecting any real surprises in this one, although I like the Pats to cover the number in this rivalry game.

Prediction: DOLPHINS, 23-20

Patriots:
Don't expect much from the passing game, and the RB situation is still cloudy. K Adam Vinatieri the only certain play.

Dolphins:
Here's a shocker - play RB Ricky Williams and the defense/ST, and skip the rest in all but the largest leagues.

Patriots:
LB Roosevelt Colvin (injured reserve)
LB Ted Johnson (injured reserve)

Dolphins:
WR Oronde Gadsden (injured reserve)
LB Junior Seau (ques)

BALTIMORE at CINCINNATI Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Ravens favored by 2

Records: Ravens 3-2 (3-2 ATS), Bengals 1-4(3-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Ravens have won the last three meetings dating back to a 21-10 Cincy upset at home in 2001.

Game Summary: Baltimore is getting no love from the oddsmakers, and that's fine by me. I acknowledge that the Bengals are improved, and headed in the right direction under new coach Marvin Lewis, but they're not yet in the Ravens' league defensively. It's early in the season, still, but Baltimore smells a division crown.

Prediction: RAVENS, 27-13 (premium pick)

Ravens:
RB Jamal Lewis and the defense are def-inites. The rest? Fuhgetaboutit, unless you're really feeling lucky.

Bengals:
Even though RB Corey Dillon is ready, I'd consider sitting him this week. Oddly, QB Jon Kitna is a better play if you believe Baltimore will win big. The Bengals defense/ special teams are worth a play in larger leagues.

Ravens:
TE Todd Heap (prob)

Bengals:
RB Corey Dillon (prob)

SAN DIEGO at CLEVELAND Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Browns favored by 5 1/2

Records: Chargers 0-5 (1-4 ATS), Browns 3-3 (3-3 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Cleveland won the last meeting, 20-16 in 2001, but the Chargers had won the three previous meetings. The home team has won four straight in this series.

Game Summary: Every week, I seek out upset opportunities. This year, I've been missing them. Last year, I nailed eight in 17 weeks (13-4 ATS). This one has the smell, because the Chargers have had two weeks to prepare and, well, head coach Marty Schottenheimer is better than this.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 24-17

Chargers:
A rested RB LaDainian Tomlinson should have enough room to run. QB Drew Brees and WR David Boston are decent plays.

Browns:
Expect the ground game's recent resurg-ence to continue, meaning William Green's numbers will be strong. The passing game is too tough to predict, although QB Tim Couch an OK sleeper pick. The defense is a better-than-average choice.

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

Browns:
TE Aaron Shea (injured reserve)

TENNESSEE at CAROLINA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Panthers favored by 2

Records: Titans 4-2 (4-2 ATS), Panthers 5-0 (3-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: none.

Game Summary: While running the ball and defense are a proven formula for success, it doesn't work every week. Tennessee has just the type of team to thwart the Panthers on both counts. Let's see... Carolina beat Indy, Indy whipped Tennessee... yup, it makes sense for the Titans to win here. The differ-ence in this one will be QB Steve McNair, as he often is.

Prediction: TITANS, 17-13

Titans:
Ignore the backs and stick with McNair and WR Derrick Mason, as well as the defense.

Panthers:
You have to stick with RB Stephen Davis, as long as he's healthy. But I can't recommend anyone else other than kicker John Kasay and the Panthers defense/ special teams.

Titans:
TE Frank Wycheck (prob)

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

DENVER at MINNESOTA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Vikings favored by 4*

Records: Broncos 5-1 (4-2 ATS); Vikings 5-0 (5-0 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Vikings have covered 4 of the last 5 meetings ATS, but last meeting was 1999.

Game Summary: Denver is the Vikings' stiffest test to date, but host Minnesota is well equipped to maintain their perfect mark. Regardless of which Denver QB plays, the Vikings will have Daunte Culpepper back, and have had an extra week to prepare.

Prediction: VIKINGS, 27-20

* Estimated spread.

Broncos:
QB Steve Beuerlein is an iffy play, but RB Clinton Portis could have a big day. The WRs, like their QB, are risky. TE Shannon Sharpe is safe. Kicker Jason Elam is a must, but skip the D/ST.

Vikings:
Randy Moss owners prefer Gus Frerotte, but Culpepper will do. RB Moe Williams the other good play here.

Broncos:
QB Jake Plummer (out)
LB Ian Gold (injured reserve)

Vikings:
RB Michael Bennett (out)

PHILADELPHIA at NEW YORK GIANTS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Giants favored by 2 1/2

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

Stats Worth Noting: Philly has won three of the last four meetings, losing at the Meadowlands last Dec. 28 in the '02 regular season finale.

Game Summary: Two of the more puzzling clubs in the NFL, so the deciding factor is homefield. The Giants' defense is probably enough to continue the struggles of QB Donovan McNabb, and I like the Giants' vertical game to exploit Philly's banged-up secondary.

Prediction: GIANTS, 16-10

Eagles:
Among the RBs, Brian Westbrook is the best play, but I'd suggest avoiding 'em all here. McNabb should be benched, so that leaves the defense/ST as the only sound play (that includes sitting K David Akers).

Giants:
QB Kerry Collins and WR Amani Toomer are good risk plays, and RB Tiki Barber is fine unless you have two others who are elite. Play the defense.

Eagles:
DL Jerome McDougle (ques)
DB Brian Dawkins (ques)

Giants:
none

DALLAS at DETROIT Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Cowboys favored by 3

Records: Cowboys 4-1 (4-1 ATS), Lions 1-4 (3-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The last two meetings have been low-scoring, ugly affairs each won by the Lions.

Game Summary: I have been known to like Detroit as a home underdog, and with the extra week to prepare for this one, I'm tempted again. But the Cowboys have been making me pay for my lack of belief in their improvement. I see nothing on the Lions' defense that leads me to believe they will slow the recent strong play of QB Quincy Carter, and the opportun-istic Dallas defense should create problems and, uh, opportunities for turnovers.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 20-13

Cowboys:
Play the hot hand - that's QB QCarter and his three main WRs. K Billy Cundiff is legit, as is the defense. Avoid the RBs, because Troy Hambrick and Aveion Cason are alternating.

Lions:
QB Joey Harrington a risky play, but WR Bill Schroeder is worth a look after the injury to rookie Charles Rogers. Forget the RBs, and you should have a better defensive option as well.

Cowboys:
TE Jason Witten (ques)

Lions:
RB James Stewart (injured reserve)
WR Charles Rogers (out)

GREEN BAY at ST. LOUIS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Rams favored by 4

Records: Packers 3-3 (3-3 ATS); Rams 3-2 (3-1-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The last time Green Bay played at St. Louis, QB Brett Favre threw six interceptions in a playoff game won by the Rams, 45-17.

Game Summary: There shouldn't be a lack of offense, but this just isn't the environment where Favre typically excels. The Rams are on a roll, and have too much speed at home for just about anyone. Marshall who?

Prediction: RAMS, 35-20 (premium pick)

Packers:
Favre might pile up some decent stats, especially if the Packers get behind early. RB Ahman Green and WR Donald Driver are sure plays.

Rams:
QB Mark Bulger, RB Lamar Gordon, and WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce... these guys are automatic. Play the defense, too, if your scoring format rewards forced turn-overs as well as TDs.

Packers:
DL Joe Johnson (injured reserve)
DB Bryant Westbrook (injured reserve)

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

NEW ORLEANS at ATLANTA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Saints favored by 1 1/2

Records: Saints 2-4 (3-3 ATS), Falcons 1-5 (1-5 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Remarkably, the visiting team in this series is 21-8-1 ATS dating back to 1988, although the Falcons have covered in 3 of the last 5 at Atlanta.

Game Summary: QB Michael Vick won't be returning this week, and without him the Falcons are lost. The Saints aren't very good, but they're good enough to win this one as their much-maligned defense steps up and performs well.

Prediction: SAINTS, 19-10

Saints:
The passing game is decent play (i.e. QB Aaron Brooks, TE Ernie Conwell and WR Joe Horn). RB Deuce McAlister should also be in lineups.

Falcons:
What a mess - the league's most unpredictable group. RBs Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett, and WR Peerless Price are candidates to play. TE Alge Crumpler is solid in leagues with TEs as a separate category.

Saints:
WR/KR Michael Lewis (ques)

Falcons:
QB Michael Vick (out)

NEW YORK JETS at HOUSTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Jets favored by 3

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

Stats Worth Noting: This is the first-ever meetings between these squads.

Game Summary: Wow, what's up with Buffalo? The Jets were porous in virtually all phases before beating up on the Bills last week, 30-3. For their efforts, the Jets have been installed as 3-point favorites. I'm not convinced. Even if QB Chad Pennington returns this week (which is unlikely), he's bound to have some rust, and the Texans are a feisty bunch.

Prediction: TEXANS, 21-17

Jets:
I'd skip the QB slot this week, and see what develops. RB Curtis Martin an OK play, but the WRs are risky. TE Anthony Becht scored twice last week and might go on mini-roll.

Texans:
WRs Cory Bradford and Andre Johnson are worthy, as is QB David Carr in larger leagues. The defense, however, is too risky.

Jets:
QB Chad Pennington (doubt)
LB Marvin Jones (injured reserve)
DB Donnie Abraham (out)

Texans:
DB Aaron Glenn (ques)

WASHINGTON at BUFFALO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bills favored by 3

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

Stats Worth Noting: Buffalo has won the last three meetings dating back to Washington's Super Bowl win in January of 1992.

Game Summary: As I asked in the preview above, what's up with Buffalo? The Bills looked like Super Bowl contenders after the first two weeks, and now they're coming off a 30-3 debacle that came against a winless arch-rival. What gives? Even so, the Bills are nasty at home and the Skins were Skinned last week. The availability of WR Eric Moulds will go a long way toward deciding this one.

Prediction: BILLS, 23-17

Redskins:
RB Ladell Betts figures to get plenty of work with Trung Canidate sidelined. WRs Laveranues Coles and Rod Gard-ner fair options, as is QB Patrick Ramsey.

Bills:
If Moulds starts, play him along with QB Drew Bledsoe and, of course, RB Travis Henry. Expect the defense to bounce back as well.

Redskins:
RB Trung Canidate (doubt)
RB Ladell Betts (prob)
TE Ronald Royal (out)

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

CHICAGO at SEATTLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Seahawks favored by 10 1/2

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

Stats Worth Noting: none

Game Summary: As big a mismatch as the spread suggests, because Seattle is balanced and so are the Bears -- they stink on both sides of the ball. It's just a matter of time until we see rookie QB Rex Grossman or veteran Chris Chandler displace Kordell Stewart for Chicago. And, the Bears may be without their best receiver in Marty Booker.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 31-10

Bears:
RB Adrian Peterson is a decent sleeper, but beware of eight men in the box defensively for Seattle. Skip all others, except perhaps Booker if you're sure he'll play.

Seahawks:
All the primary weapons are solid plays, as well as the defense/special teams.

Bears:
RB Anthony Thomas (doubt)
WR Marty Booker (ques)
TE John Davis (out)

Seahawks:
RB Mack Strong (ques)
DL Chad Eaton (injured reserve)

TAMPA BAY at SAN FRANCISCO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Buccaneers favored by 3 1/2

Records: Bucs 3-2 (3-2 ATS), 49ers 2-4 (2-3-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Bucs romped at home in the divisional playoffs, 31-6, in January but have never won at San Francisco.

Game Summary: When was the last time the Niners were home underdogs? I'd like to make the upset pick here, but how can SF's struggling offense expect to do anything significant with that defense, especially with half the offensive line dinged? Unless there's a rainstorm or other such oddball event, the Bucs are the pick. If it does rain... heck, Tampa Bay is the choice anyway.

Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 23-16

Bucs:
QB Brad Johnson is playing well and should be in lineups across the land. WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell are solid plays, as is RB Michael Pittman. The defense? Of course. Duh.

49ers:
WR Terrell Owens is an 'A' category guy and, thus, should never be benched unless he's injured or you have three other 'A' guy from which to choose.

Bucs:
RB Mike Alstott (injured reserve)
WR Joe Jurevicius (ques)

49ers:
TE Eric Johnson (out)

KANSAS CITY at OAKLAND (Monday) Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Chiefs favored by 3 1/2

Records: Chiefs 6-0 (5-1 ATS), Raiders 2-4 (0-6 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Raiders have won three of the last four meetings, including a 24-0 whitewash at home in the last get-together Dec. 28. Kansas City, however, has won 7 of the last 13 at Oakland.

Game Summary: Some may view this as a no-brainer, because the clubs are going in totally opposite directions. But the Raiders are only nine months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, and the Raiders as home underdogs on a Monday night... are you kidding? The Raiders can save their season (maybe) with a victory here, and somehow I think they'll get it. C'mon, it's not like the Chiefs are going to go 16-0!

Prediction: RAIDERS, 27-24

Chiefs:
QB Trent Green and RB Priest Holmes will get their numbers, but I don't like the WRs in this matchup. You hafta play TE Tony Gonzalez, however.

Raiders:
It's just a hunch, but I believe the Raiders' skill players will come up big in this game. Play 'em all, including WR Jerry Porter if you can confirm his status. Then again, waiting a week on Porter is probably prudent. I do suggest avoiding the defense.

Chiefs:
none

Raiders:
WR Jerry Porter (prob)
LB Bill Romanowski (doubt)