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NFL Weekly Picks - Week 13
By Bob Cunningham
November 26, 2003
 

STRAIGHT-UP
Last Week -- 12-4 (75%)
Overall -- 99-77 (56%)

AGAINST THE SPREAD
Last Week -- 8-7-1 (53%)
Overall -- 83-85-8 (49%)

PREMIUM PICKS*
Last Week -- 1-1
Overall -- 11-8 (58%)

Let me get this straight... Chicago went up to Denver and beat the Broncos? Seattle managed to score 41 points against the Baltimore Ravens defense -- on the road -- and still lost? Tennessee fell behind 21-0, lost Steve McNair to a pulled calf muscle, and won at Atlanta by scoring 38 points? Jay Fiedler led Miami to a rally from down 23-10 to beat Washington? Jerry Rice caught a touchdown pass?

And I correctly predicted 12 of 16 games straight-up, two better than my esteemed editor, David Dorey?

Weird, weird... very weird.

PREVIEW - WEEK 13 (Nov. 27, 30-Dec. 1)

GREEN BAY at DETROIT Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Packers favored by 7

Records: Packers 6-5 (6-5 ATS); Lions 3-8 (6-5 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Green Bay has won five in a row in this series overall, but Detroit has taken four of the last five at home ATS.

Game Summary: One of the bylaws of prognosticating -- take Detroit as a home 'dog on Thanksgiving. I don't have records that go back beyond 10 years, but I know that the Lions have an impressive record of success ATS on Turkey Day. Why? I have no clue. The Packers have been notorious for their struggles in Detroit, although we're no longer talking the Pontiac Silverdome, a place Brett Favre despises.

Prediction: PACKERS, 27-23 (premium ATS pick)

Packers:
Clearly, this is RB Ahman Green's team. Favre is no longer a no-brainer fantasy play. And his receivers are indistinguished. A different one steps up every week. Donald Driver is due for a big day.

Lions:
Ravaged by injuries, the Lions don't sport any automatic starts. WR Az Hakim has been decent of late, and QB Joey Harrington is an OK sleeper in larger leagues.

Packers:
DL Joe Johnson (injured reserve)

Lions:
RB James Stewart (injured reserve)
RB Shawn Bryson (ques)
WR Charles Rogers (ques)
WR Shawn Jefferson (ques)
WR Bill Schroeder (ques)
WR Scott Anderson (injured reserve)

MIAMI at DALLAS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Cowboys favored by 3

Records: Dolphins 7-4 (5-6 ATS); Cowboys 8-3 (7-3-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: Last week, I picked Carolina to beat the Cowboys because of Stephen Davis. So it stands to reason that I'd opt for Miami this time around because of Ricky Williams, right? Nah, I'm dumb but not stupid. Dallas' defense has been inspired, and Miami has done little on offense short of their rally last week to suggest a turnaround is imminent. Look for Jay Fiedler to get the call at QB... and the Cowboys to win anyway with defense at home.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 20-13

Dolphins:
Whichever QB starts, neither should start for you. Williams and maybe TE Randy McMichael are probably it. And, of course, the defense.

Cowboys:
QB Quincy Carter isn't a bad upside play at home, where he's been consistently productive. WRs Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant rank a notch above Terry Glenn. Skip the running game. Play the D/ST.

Dolphins:
none

Cowboys:
none

NEW ENGLAND at INDIANAPOLIS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Colts favored by 4

Records: Patriots 9-2 (9-2 ATS); Colts 9-2 (7-3-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Patriots are 9-1 STS in their last 10 against Indianapolis, and have won the last two meetings (both in 2001) by an average margin of 26 points.

Game Summary: The stats above point to a Patriots win, but there are two nagging factors that delay a pick that direction. 1) Tony Dungy, 2) NE's tough road win last week. Dungy has the Colts believing, and a 9-2 record is good elixir anyway. Plus, a second straight week on the road... ah, but the Pats let down a little last week because of this one. I doubt fatigue will be much of a factor. Those numbers above are strong... I'm sticking with 'em.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 31-24

Patriots:
Brady is in line for a big day, and so might be RB Kevin Faulk, who will catch a lot of balls out of the backfield. No WRs to recommend, because so many get involved. And two TEs as well. for a change, the Pats defense is a risky play.

Colts:
Go with the Big 3 of Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison, but not much else. WR Reggie Wayne perhaps worth a look.

Patriots:
WR David Patten (injured reserve)
LB Roosevelt Colvin (injured reserve)

Colts:
TE Marcus Pollard (ques)
TE Dallas Clark (ques)

BUFFALO at NEW YORK GIANTS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Giants favored by 3

Records: Bills 4-7 (3-6-2 ATS); Giants 4-7 (3-8 ATS

Stats Worth Noting: Buffalo is 1-4 on the road, the Giants 1-4 at home (guess that's barely worth noting).

Game Summary: The Bills continue to be plagued with an inability to get the ball into the end zone -- only one TD in their last 25 offensive possessions. Both defenses are playing relatively well, so this one probably will come down to which QB makes the fewest mistakes -- the Bills' Drew Bledsoe or the Giants' Kerry Collins.

Prediction: GIANTS, 16-10

Bills:
The only individual player who is worthwhile in this game is RB Travis Henry. The defense is also a strong play.

Giants:
In larger leagues, the Collins-to-Amani Toomer hook-up is still a reasonable play. TE Jeremy Shockey likely returns. RB Tiki Barber continues to pile up yardage. The defense is a decent play in any league.

Bills:
RB Willis McGahee (doubt)
WR Eric Moulds (ques)

Giants:
WR Ron Dixon (out)
TE Jeremy Shockey (prob)

CINCINNATI at PITTSBURGH Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Steelers favored by 3

Records: Bengals 6-5 (8-3 ATS); Steelers 4-7 (5-6 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The visiting team has covered the last three meetings ATS, all straight-up wins by the Steelers.

Game Summary: I came pretty close to taking the Steelers here, because they're at home and more desperate for a win. Compelling reasons, for sure. But the Bengals have been the superior team this season, there's a strong rivalry here, and they get points to boot. I've been slow to acknowledge that the Bengals are legitimate... but now that I have I feel the need to show it. Pittsburgh's defensive marvel at Cleveland last week baffles me... can the Steelers do it again against Jon Kitna and Chad Johnson, et al? Somehow, I doubt it.

Prediction: BENGALS, 28-25

Bengals:
Last week's result notwithstanding, the Steelers can be exploited through the air. Kitna and Johnson remain must-plays, and WR Peter Warrick deserves a look, too. The RB-by-committee eliminates both Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson from serious consideration.

Steelers:
The running game still isn't there. QB Tommy Maddox and WR Hines Ward are solid, with WR Plaxico Burress offering potential bang as well.

Bengals:
none

Steelers:
TE Jay Riemersma (ques)

SAN FRANCISCO at BALTIMORE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Ravens favored by 3

Records: 49ers 5-6 (5-5-1 ATS); Ravens 6-5(6-5 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The 49ers are 0-5 on the road straight-up, the Ravens 4-1 at home.

Game Summary: Baltimore's defense was shocked by Seattle last week, but the Ravens managed to rally for a victory anyway. SF's strength is the ground game, and the Ravens' best asset is their ability to defend the run. This is not a favorable matchup for the 49ers, whose best chance is to harass QB Anthony Wright into multiple turnovers.

Prediction: RAVENS, 23-17

49ers:
Monitor the QB situation, and either way don't expect a repeat of last week's Seahawks-Ravens shootout. It was a fluke. WR Terrell Owens still the only lock in the lineup.

Ravens:
RB Jamal Lewis will get his carries, and the defense is a sound bet to rebound from last week's embarrassing performance. The passing game? Nah.

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

Ravens:
QB Kyle Boller (out)

ATLANTA at HOUSTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Texans favored by 3

Records: Falcons 2-9 (3-8 ATS); Texans 4-7 (6-5 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: With QB Michael Vick's return delayed by a sprained ankle, gauging Atlanta's interest in this game is tough to do. Fact is, though, the Falcons have been more difficult to deal with of late, whipping the Giants on the road, taking the Saints to OT, and seizing a 21-0 lead against Tennessee last week before faltering. Question is, how critical is the loss of RB Warrick Dunn? In a word: demoralizing. Houston nearly upset New England last week and has played everyone tough. But are the Texans ready to be favorites? I don't think so. And I believe the Falcons can get it done with TJ Duckett getting a significantly increased workload.

Prediction: FALCONS, 21-16

Falcons:
Dunn's season-ending injury means Duckett might get 30+ carries, and there has been a sighting of Peerless Price. Even Atlanta's D may be worthwhile, but are you really that desperate?

Texans:
Tony Banks has played well, but David Carr will return as the starting QB if healthy. RB Domanick Davis will have room to run, and WR Andre Johnson has been hot, as has TE Billy Miller. WR Cory Bradford is primed for a big play TD.

Falcons:
QB Michael Vick (doubt)
RB Warrick Dunn (injured reserve)

Texans:
QB David Carr (ques)

PHILADELPHIA at CAROLINA Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Panthers favored by 2

Records: Eagles 8-3 (7-4 ATS); Panthers 8-3 (5-6 ATS

Stats Worth Noting: Philadelphia is 4-1 on the road, S/U and ATS. The Panthers are 5-1 at home straight-up, but just 2-4 ATS.

Game Summary: I've been predicting a return-to-earth from the Panthers, but it's been late coming. Maybe now, in the teeth of their schedule, do we see them waver a bit. Philly is as hot as anyone, QB Donovan McNabb leading the way. Somehow, I can't help but think that McNabb will come up with the key plays again when the Eagles need them.

Prediction: EAGLES, 22-14

Eagles:
Despite the tough matchup, McNabb is a play because he's hot. The RB committee makes it tough to recommend anyone, and of the WRs James Thrash is the safest play. The D is an automatic start.

Panthers:
Even against Philly, RB Stephen Davis should be in there. WR Steve Smith also a good start, but avoid other aspects of the passing game.

Eagles:
none

Panthers:
RB DeShaun Foster (prob)

MINNESOTA at ST. LOUIS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Rams favored by 6

Records: Vikings 7-4 (6-5 ATS); Rams 8-3 (6-4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Rams are virtually perfect at home this season -- 5-0 straight-up, 4-0-1 ATS.

Game Summary: This game has the makings of a shootout, but Minnesota may just shoot itself in the foot if WR Randy Moss can't go. The big mismatch here is the Vikings' slowish secondary trying to keep paces with WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. QB Mark Bulger needs a strong game to solidify himself as the Rams' unquestioned starting QB.

Prediction: RAMS, 38-24

Vikings:
If Moss doesn't play, look for WRs Nate Burleson and Kelly Campbell to have decent games. RB Michael Bennett looks 100 percent. Of course, QB Daunte Culpepper remains a fantasy stud.

Rams:
If the Vikings' D doesn't play better (last week vs. Detroit barely counts), the Rams will be kids in a candy store. Start everyone who you believe will get more than three or four touches.

Vikings:
WR Randy Moss (ques)
KR John Avery (out)

Rams:
DL Leonard Little (ques)

ARIZONA at CHICAGO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Bears favored by 4 1/2

Records: Cardinals 3-8 (4-7 ATS); Bears 4-7 (6-4-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Cardinals are an ugly 0-5 on the road, straight-up and ATS, while Chicago is 4-1 at home including 2-0 ATS as a home favorite. Chicago won but Arizona covered in the last meeting, in 2001 at Chicago.

Game Summary: The Bears' victory at Denver was a real shocker, but that might mean a letdown is in store. The Cardinals are on the verge of being a decent team, but their play on the road has been nothing but cellar-dwelling. With cold weather probably a factor, too, this doesn't appear to be the week that the Cardinals can avoid again becoming road weary.

Prediction: BEARS, 24-16

Cardinals:
WR Anquan Boldin has become a fantasy regular, but RB Marcel Shipp is dinged and with Emmitt Smith slated to return, Shipp is better off benched. QB Jeff Blake also comes with an avoid tag attached.

Bears:
Veteran QB Chris Chandler is dinged, and that means Kordell Stewart will probably get the start. That also means lots of Anthony Thomas. A good sleeper play is WR Marty Booker, because he's a quality guy who isn't enjoying a quality season.

Cardinals:
K Bill Gramatica (injured reserve)

Bears:
QB Chris Chandler (ques)
RB Adrian Peterson (out)

NEW ORLEANS at WASHINGTON Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Redskins favored by 1 1/2

Records: Saints 5-6 (5-6 ATS); Redskins 4-7 (5-5-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The road team has won outright each of the last three meetings in this series, including the Saints' 43-27 win at Washington last season.

Game Summary: QB Tim Hasselbeck did an admirable job replacing Patrick Ramsey Sunday night, probably earning a start in this one. But I like New Orleans on the road because of red-hot RB Deuce McAlister, and especially if WR Joe Horn can regain full health.

Prediction: SAINTS, 26-20

Saints:
QB Aaron Brooks and Horn are decent plays to complement McAlister. There isn't much else to recommend, however.

Redskins:
WRs Laveranues Coles is the only automatic play, although Rod Gardner merits consideration. RB Trung Canidate is a go only in the largest of leagues.

Saints:
QB Aaron Brooks (prob)
WR Donte' Stallworth (ques)
TE Ernie Conwell (out)

Redskins:
QB Patrick Ramsey (ques)
RB Ladell Betts (prob)
RB Rock Cartwright (ques)
WR Darnerian McCants (ques)
DL Brandon Noble (injured reserve)

CLEVELAND at SEATTLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Seahawks favored by 5 1/2

Records: Browns 4-7 (4-7 ATS); Seahawks 7-4 (4-7 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Seattle is 6-0 at home straight-up, but just 3-3 ATS.

Game Summary: Seattle will probably in one of two extremes to last week's come-from-ahead disaster at Baltimore. They might be ultra-fired up to prove the collapse was a fluke and take out frustrations on a struggling Browns team. Or, they'll be flat and unmotivated and become an upset victim. I think the former is more likely, because coach Mike Holmgren has been in this sort of situation enough to know the right things to say and do during the week.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 27-13

Browns:
Despite the big week allowed by the Seahawks last week, QB Kelly Holcomb and his receivers are not recommended. RB James Jackson is worthy only in larger leagues.

Seahawks:
QB Matt Hasselbeck will return to this planet after last week's five TDs, but he's still a play, as are WRs Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson. RB Shaun Alexander and the defense are go's as well.

Browns:
RB William Green (out, suspended)
TE Aaron Shea (out)

Seahawks:
DL Chad Eaton (injured reserve)

KANSAS CITY at SAN DIEGO Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Chiefs favored by 7

Records: Chiefs 10-1 (8-3 ATS); Chargers 2-9 (3-8 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Five of the previous six meetings in this series, prior to KC's 27-14 win in September at home, had been decided by six points or less.

Game Summary: No matter how brilliant QB Doug Flutie can often be, the Chargers can't be expected to win when they can't play quality defense. Kansas City hasn't been quite as impressive lately, but 10-1 is all you really need to know. Still, my experience tells me that home underdogs within a division, by a TD or more, cover ATS better than 75 percent.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 35-31

Chiefs:
QB Trent Green, RB Priest Holmes and TE Tony Gonzalez are weekly lineup insertions. WRs Johnnie Morton and Eddie Kennison are good risk/reward plays. And the special teams... ya gotta have 'em in there, too.

Chargers:
RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR David Boston are fixtures, but play others at your peril.

Chiefs:
none.

Chargers:
WR Eric Parker (out)
WR Tim Dwight (injured reserve)

DENVER at OAKLAND Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Broncos favored by 3

Records: ); Broncos 6-5 (5-6 ATS); Raiders 3-8 (2-8-1 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: The Broncos easily won the first meeting this season, 31-10 at Denver on a Monday night. Oakland won the last meeting at home, 28-16 last December.

Game Summary: I'd give the Raiders a better chance in this one if Denver hadn't stumbled so badly at home to Chicago last week. Coach Mike Shanahan teams are more resilient than most -- expect a solid bounce-back performance against an out-manned foe. The heated rivalry is still there, but it's at a simmer pending the Raiders' return to respectability.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 28-17

Broncos:
RB Clinton Portis should put up big numbers on the weak Oakland run defense, and QB Jake Plummer could find WR Rod Smith for a big play or two. TE Shannon Sharpe, if he starts, is another solid play.

Raiders:
QB Rick Mirer is doing an admirable job, and I still expect a big game from WR Jerry Porter sooner as opposed to later, but there's not much else to count on. Avoid the RBs, and the old WRs unless you really need them.

Broncos:

RB Mike Anderson (out, suspended)
WR Ed McCaffrey (ques)
TE Shannon Sharpe (ques)
LB Ian Gold (out)
LB John Mobley (out)

Raiders:
QB Rich Gannon (IR)
QB Marques Tuiasosopo (IR)
RB Justin Fargas (IR)
DL Trace Armstrong (IR)
DL Dana Stubblefield (ques)
LB Bill Romanowski (IR)

TAMPA BAY at JACKSONVILLE Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Buccaneers by 3 1/2

Records: Buccaneers 5-6 (5-6 ATS); Jaguars 2-9 (5-6 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: It's a short week to prepare for this road game for the Bucs, but on the other hand a trip from Tampa to Jacksonville barely qualifies as a road game. Tampa Bay was far from dominant against the Giants Monday, and they've made a habit this season of following victory with defeat. Jacksonville's defense has been great the last two weeks, leading me to lean toward a low total here. A hungry home 'dog with nothing to lose gets itself a mild upset.

Prediction: JAGUARS, 20-14

Buccaneers:
RB Michael Pittman is producing good stats both rushing and receiving, and Thomas Jones is getting some numbers as well. QB Brad Johnson and WR Keenan McCardell are under-rated as a connection. The D will be relatively effective again.

Jaguars:
Not much changes here. RB Fred Taylor and WR Jimmy Smith are the only game in town... although the defense is now worth playing.

Buccaneers:
RB Mike Alstott (injured reserve)
WR Keyshawn Johnson (de-activated)DB Brian
Kelly (injured reserve)

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

TENNESSEE at NEW YORK JETS Fantasy Take Key Injuries

Line: Titans favored by 1

Records: Titans 9-2 (8-3 ATS); Jets 4-7 (2-7-2 ATS)

Stats Worth Noting: Tennessee is 4-1 ATS in its last five against the Jets, dating back to when the Titans were the Houston Oilers.

Game Summary: At presstime, QB Steve McNair was considered a gametime decision to play. If backup Billy Volek starts, the emphasis will likely shift to RBs Eddie George, Robert Holcombe and Chris Brown. Tennessee has looked vulnerable recently, struggling to a 10-3 win against Jacksonville two weeks ago and falling behind Atlanta, 21-0, last week before rallying. The Jets' above-average pass rush will cause problems, but I believe the Titans' defense will come up huge... I believe McNair will gut it out, and the Titans take it.

Prediction: TITANS, 23-16

Titans:
If McNair sits, you have to downgrade all of the WRs, especially Derrick Mason, as well as TE Frank Wycheck. On the other hand, George's stock ticks up a bit. The defense is a solid play.

Jets:
With Titans DB Samari Rolle sidelined, I like Pennington to have a strong night, and that will include the continued standout play of WR Santana Moss. The running game is still iffy at best.

Titans:
QB Steve McNair (ques)
WR Drew Bennett (doubt)

Jets:
WR Wayne Chrebet (out)
CB Donnie Abraham (ques)
KR Michael Bates (injured reserve)