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NFL Weekly Picks - Week 9
By Bob Cunningham
October 30, 2003
 
STRAIGHT-UP
Last Week -- 10-4 (71%)
Overall -- 66-50 (57%)
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 9-5 (64%)
Overall -- 52-60-4 (46%)
PREMIUM PICKS*
Last Week -- 2-0
Overall -- 7-6 (54%)

Ah, progress. For the first time this season, I've managed to put together consecutive winning weeks against the number. Yee-ha... I even sport a winning record now with my premium picks. Imagine that.

I told y'all things would get better... so long as I don't jinx my recent improvement by crowing about it here.

Anyway, we all should have a better grasp of which teams have the goods and those who simply wish they did. Let's see if we can keep it going.

PREVIEW - WEEK 9 (Nov. 2-3)

INDIANAPOLIS at MIAMI Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Dolphins favored by 3

Records: Colts 6-1 (5-2 ATS), Dolphins 5-2 (5-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Dolphins have won the last three meetings at home, but are just 1-2 at home this season, overall and ATS. Indy is a sparkling 3-0 on the road.

Game Summary: Playing at home, the short week is unlikely to be a negative factor for Miami. The Dolphins' stellar defense is one of the few with the personnel to slow Indy's aerial assault, and while the Colts' defense is vastly improved, Miami RB Ricky Williams is likely to find room to run.

Prediction: DOLPHINS, 24-17

Colts:
Stick with the passing game, including WR Reggie Wayne and TE Marcus Pollard as well as QB Peyton Manning and WR Marvin Harri-son. But if you have a viable alternative, I suggest benching RB Edgerrin James.

Dolphins:
If QB Brian Griese gets another start, which he deserves, play him along with WR Chris Chambers and TE Randy McMichael. Of course, Williams and the Dolphins defense/ special teams are definite plays.

Colts:
RB Ricky Williams (out)
RB James Mungro (out)
TE Dallas Clark (prob)

Dolphins:
QB Jay Fiedler (ques)
WR Oronde Gadsden (injured reserve)

NEW YORK GIANTS at NEW YORK JETS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Giants favored by 2

Records: Giants 3-4 (3-4 ATS), Jets 2-5 (2-4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Giants have won two of the last three meetings, the last in 1999.

Game Summary: The Giants are clearly the superior team, in my opinion, so the line of just two points is generous. The G-Men are more potentially explosive on offense, with QB Kerry Collins throwing down the field while Jets QB Chad Pennington continues to shake off the rust. And, the Giants are better defensively as well although the Jets do send a much-improved pass rush. Still, I like the Giants' balance as well as their mental outlook coming off the upset at Minnesota last week.

Prediction: GIANTS, 23-13 *premium pick

Giants:
Nothing unusual. Collins, RB Tiki Barber and WR Amani Toomer are plays, as is the defense. WR Ike Hilliard, off two TDs a week ago, is solid in bigger leagues.

Jets:
The Giants have been susceptible to the deep ball, so WR Santana Moss is a good play. Pennington and RB Curtis Martin are the only others I recom-mend considering, however.

Giants:
none

Jets:
DL John Abraham (out)
DB Donnie Abraham (out)

JACKSONVILLE at BALTIMORE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Ravens favored by 6 1/2

Records: Jaguars 1-6 (2-5 ATS), Ravens 4-3 (4-3 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Ravens have won the last four meetings, but all have been decided by a TD or less.

Game Summary: With due respect to the above stat, this isn't the same Jacksonville team that has hung tough with the Ravens in recent meetings. Baltimore's dominating defense won't allow QB Byron Leftwich any breathing room, and the run defense is stout enough to limit RB Fred Taylor.

Prediction: RAVENS, 20-10

Jaguars:
WR Jimmy Smith has a history of big games at Baltimore, but that was with QB Mark Brunell throwing to him. He's a play as a third receiver. Taylor the only definite start.

Ravens:
RB Jamal Lewis and the defense (yawn), with TE Todd Heap also worth strong consideration.

Jaguars:
QB Mark Brunell (out)
WR Jermaine Lewis (injured reserve)

Ravens:
none

CAROLINA at HOUSTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Panthers favored by 6 1/2

Records: Panthers 6-1 (4-3 ATS), Texans 2-5 (3-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Panthers are 3-0 ATS on the road, Houston 1-2 ATS at home (all as underdog).

Game Summary: This could be an ambush for the Panthers, if they're not wary, because they will be tempted to look ahead to next week's home contest against Tampa Bay. Surely, coach John Fox is smart enough to sufficiently motivate his players, right?

Prediction: PANTHERS, 17-13

Panthers:
RB Stephen Davis, K John Kasay and the defense are the only sure plays. WR Steve Smith a decent sleeper... because he's been wide awake the last few weeks.

Texans:
With QB David Carr likely to be sidelined, the Texans will go with Tony Banks. But it doesn't matter because neither is a play. For Houston, only RB Domanick Davis is worth strongly consi-dering.

Panthers:
WR Muhsin Muhammad (prob)
WR Kevin Dyson (doubt)
DE Kavika Pittman (injured reserve)

Texans:
QB David Carr (doubt)

OAKLAND at DETROIT Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Raiders favored by 2 1/2

Records: Raiders 2-5 (0-7 ATS); Lions 1-6 (3-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Raiders are an astonishing 0-7 ATS this season.

Game Summary: This is the week where we'll truly find out how far the Raiders have fallen. If they lose to the Lions, even without QB Rich Gannon, it will essentially mean the team has cashed it in for the year. I doubt QB Marques Tuiasosopo has conceded anything.

Prediction: RAIDERS, 28-17

Raiders:
This should be the first week that WR Jerry Porter has a real impact. Play him, along with RB Charlie Garner and, in deeper leagues only, WRs Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. TE Teyo Johnson is worth a flyer, because he will reportedly start ahead of Doug Jolley. Good week to play the Raiders defense/ST.

Lions:
Mikael Ricks, in leagues with TEs as a separate category, is the sole recommenda-tion. Sorry.

Raiders:
QB Rich Gannon (out)
LB Bill Romanowski (out)

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

SAN DIEGO at CHICAGO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bears favored by 2 1/2

Records: Chargers 1-6 (2-5 ATS), Bears 2-5 (3-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Bears have won and covered four in a row in this series.

Game Summary: Despite their anemic record and dubious performance on Monday night, the Chargers have some offensive weapons and their run defense played very well against the Dolphins. Like their win at Cleveland two weeks ago, the Chargers are likely to rely on RB LaDainian Tomlinson in a hostile environment, and that will be enough to get their second win.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 24-20

Chargers:
WR David Boston is showing some life, but it's good that he's not rated based on his blocking. Ugh. Tomlin-son the only sure play.

Bears:
A healthy WR Marty Booker would be worth a look, but the Bears offense just doesn't pose many threats, although QB Chris Chandler is an upgrade over Kordell Stewart. The defense is worth a shot in deeper leagues.

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

Bears:
QB Kordell Stewart (ques)
RB Anthony Thomas (ques)
RB Adrian Peterson (ques)
WR Marty Booker (ques)
TE Desmond Clark (ques)

WASHINGTON at DALLAS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Cowboys favored by 4

Records: Redskins 3-4 (2-4-1), Cowboys 5-2 (5-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Dallas has won 10 straight in this series at home.

Game Summary: Make it 11. The Cowboys understand the quality of their opposition at Tampa last week and will rebound from that shutout loss against a decidedly lower-echelon foe at home. Dallas' defense won't be seriously challenged, and QB Quincy Carter should do well as long as he steers clear of DB Champ Bailey.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 27-14

Redskins:
There are several health questions for the Skins, which leaves only WRs Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner as legit fantasy plays.

Cowboys:
Look for Carter and the WR trio of Antonio Bryant, Terry Glenn, and Joey Galloway to rebound. RB Troy Hambrick an OK play, although other backs are getting carries.

Redskins:
QB Patrick Ramsey (ques)
RB Trung Canidate (out)
RB Ladell Betts (doubt)
DL Brandon Noble (injured reserve)
DB Fred Smoot (doubt)

Cowboys:
RB Richie Anderson (ques)

NEW ORLEANS at TAMPA BAY Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Buccaneers favored by 8

Records: Saints 3-5 (4-4 ATS), Buccaneers 4-3 (4-3 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Bucs have no streaks this season -- every win has been followed by a loss, and vice-versa. Well, they won last week. Also, the Saints swept the season series last year including a 26-20 OT win at Tampa.

Game Summary: While I believe the Bucs are likely to break that win-one, lose-one thing they've had going on this year, I like the Saints to keep it close. QB Aaron Brooks has typically played well against the Bucs (go figure) and RB Deuce McAlister has been hot. Look for the Bucs to win with a late turnover, or other New Orleans miscue.

Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 21-18

Saints:
Brooks is a cautious recommendation based on his history against the Bucs. McAlister and WR Joe Horn are good to go as well.

Buccaneers:
QB Brad Johnson is due for a big game -- a hunch says make sure you play him. RB Michael Pittman is getting the workload we forecast when Mike Alstott went down. WRs Keenan McCard-ell and Keyshawn Johnson are plays, too.

Saints:
WR Donte' Stallworth (ques)
DL Grady Jackson (out, suspended)

Buccaneers:
RB Mike Alstott (injured reserve)
WR Joe Jurevicius (ques)
DB John Lynch (prob)
DB Brian Kelly (injured reserve)

PITTSBURGH at SEATTLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Seahawks favored by 4

Records: Steelers 2-5 (3-4 ATS), Seahawks 5-2 (3-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Seattle has covered against the spread four straight in this series, with the fifth a push. The Seahawks are 1-3 ATS at home this year, the Steelers 2-1 on the road.

Game Summary: My upset special for this week. Pittsburgh has lost four straight and, well, I believe the Steelers are a better club than their 2-5 record indicates. They have the balance on offense that caused Seattle problems last week at Cincinnati. The Seahawks have been going backwards of late -- a close win at home against lowly Chicago two weeks ago followed by the loss at Cincy.

Prediction: STEELERS, 27-20

Steelers:
The passing game is a go, with QB Tommy Maddox plus WR Hines Ward. Expect a rebound week from WR Plaxico Burress, who was held to one catch against St. Louis. RB Jerome Bettis is a decent option.

Seahawks:
QB Matt Hasselbeck is coming off his best fantasy effort of the season, so you oughta stick with him. RB Shaun Alexander is elite, but don't expect a huge day. WRs Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson are go's. The defense is iffy.

Steelers:
TE Jay Riemersma (ques)

Seahawks:
DL Chad Eaton (injured reserve)
LB Chad Brown (ques)

CINCINNATI at ARIZONA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bengals favored by 3

Records: Bengals 3-4 (5-2 ATS), Cardinals 2-5 (2-5 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Bengals have covered four straight ATS, and are 3-0 ATS on the road this season.

Game Summary: This game will tell us just how improved the Bengals really are. Sure, the Cardinals are nothing special. But they tend to play a lot tougher at home (ask Green Bay and San Francisco), so if the Bengals go into the desert and win, it will be impressive. Tough call for me... but I have confidence in what Marvin Lewis is doing with Cincy. They get it done, mostly because I don't believe the Cardinals are capable of consecutive victories.

Prediction: BENGALS, 22-14

Bengals:
QB Jon Kitna has become a reliable fantasy producer - ride the hot hand, with WR Chad Johnson. The other WRs are not as predictable from week to week. RB Corey Dillon, if he returns, is a solid play as well, as is rookie Rudi Johnson if Dillon sits.

Cardinals:
QB Jeff Blake is a great sleeper play, because he's bound to be fired up to face his old team. RB Marcel Shipp looks good, but there are no other truly reliable sources for fantasy points.

Bengals:
RB Corey Dillon (ques)

Cardinals:
RB Emmitt Smith (out)
WR Jason McAddley (ques)

PHILADELPHIA at ATLANTA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Eagles favored by 4

Records: Eagles 4-3 (3-4 ATS), Falcons 1-6 (1-6 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The last meeting was last season's divisional playoffs, won by Philly, 20-6, at home.

Game Summary: For the Falcons, that playoff defeat was with QB Michael Vick at the helm. Imagine the problems facing the Eagles with... Kurt Kittner or Doug Johnson. Philly has some momentum now -- it's hard to envision the Eagles stumbling here.

Prediction: EAGLES, 24-10

Eagles:
With Brian Westbrook sidelined, RB Correll Buckhalter, who scored twice last week, is a solid play. The passing game still isn't worth relying on, although I still like WR Todd Pinkston. The defense and K David Akers are solid plays.

Falcons:
Avoid everyone. It's just too hard to determine who might have worth, especially against the Philly defense.

Eagles:
RB Brian Westbrook (out)
WR Todd Pinkston (ques)
DL Hollis Thomas (out)

Falcons:
QB Michael Vick (out)
LB Keith Brooking (out)

ST. LOUIS at SAN FRANCISCO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Rams favored by 3

Records: Rams 5-2 (5-1-1 ATS), 49ers 3-5 (3-4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has won five of the last six in this series, going 4-1-1 ATS. The push came in this year's first meeting, a 27-24 win for the Rams at St. Louis.

Game Summary: Man, have the 49ers become a puzzling team. How can you destroy the defending Super Bowl champs one week, then lose to the Cardinals the next? Amazing. My guess is that the quality 49ers will show up for this crucial rivalry game at home. The Rams were impressive at Pittsburgh last week, but still aren't considered road warriors and this is an especially tough stop for them. This one will probably be decided on a late turnover.

Prediction: 49ERS, 28-26

Rams:
Play all the principles, and that includes RB Marshall Faulk, who is expected to start. If you find out he's out, however, you should feel good about opting for Arlen Harris again. Skip the defense/ special teams.

49ers:
WR Terrell Owens figure to play a big role in this one, but the Rams run defense has been sound -- either of RBs Kevan Barlow or Gar-rison Hearst are risky, but worthwhile in larger leagues. New K Todd Peterson is playable.

Rams:
RB Lamar Gordon (ques)

49ers:
QB Jeff Garcia (ques)
TE Eric Johnson (out)

GREEN BAY at MINNESOTA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Vikings favored by 4 1/2

Records: Packers 3-4 (3-4 ATS), Vikings 6-1(6-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Vikings have covered six straight in this series, and have won five in a row straight-up at home.

Game Summary: I gotta confess that I came very close to picking the upset here, because oftentimes when the numbers are so over-whelmingly one-sided in a rivalry game, the dog has his day. But QB Brett Favre, though gutty as he is, won't be 100 percent... and he usually struggles when playing in domes anyway (a certain Super Bowl performance notwithstand-ing). Because of Favre's fractured thumb on his passing hand, I hafta go with the Vikes.

Prediction: VIKINGS, 30-17

Packers:
In addition to Favre (who's worth a play even in a dome) and Green, WR Donald Driver and TE Bubba Franks are excellent starts. K Ryan Long-well is also a no-brainer, as is benching the defense.

Vikings:
The Vikes will produce big offensive stats. QB Daunte Culpepper and WR Randy Moss are obvious, but you're better off staying out of the Vikings' backfield because of the impending return of RB Michael Bennett. The D is a riskier play.

Packers:
QB Brett Favre (prob)
DE Joe Johnson (out)
DB Bryant Westbrook (out)

Vikings:
None

NEW ENGLAND at DENVER (Monday) Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Broncos favored by 2

Records: Patriots 6-2 (6-2 ATS), Broncos 5-3 (4-4 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Broncos have won the last four meetings, all by at least eight points and two in lopsided fashion.

Game Summary: The Patriots are on a roll and the Broncos are injury depleted. Easy choice, right? Well, maybe for you. But not for me. The Broncos have dominated this series under coach Mike Shanahan, especially the games in the Mile High city. Denver can and will win this one with defense, and RB Clinton Portis.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 23-16

Patriots:
I expect a big effort from the Denver D, so QB Tom Brady, WR Troy Brown, TE Dan Graham and RB Kevin Faulk are all tenous plays at best. The Pats D is a decent start.

Broncos:
Expect QB Danny Kanell to do just enough right so that Portis can enjoy a big night. WR Ashley Lelie a decent sleeper, and TE Shannon Sharpe is a good play. WR Rod Smith is risky, but you probably should have him in there.

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

Broncos:
QB Jake Plummer (out)
QB Steve Beuerlein (injured reserve)
WR Ed McCaffrey (ques)
LB Ian Gold (injured reserve)