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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 2
Bob Cunningham
September 16, 2004

SEASON RECORDS TO DATE
Straight-Up: 8-8 (50 %)
Against-The-Spread: 6-9-1 (40%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 8-8
Against-The-Spread: 6-9-1

Comment: The opening week is always the toughest, and this year's Week 1 was no exception. Virtually every game that I felt could go either way, went the opposite of my prediction. But I promise it will get better. It always does.


Pittsburgh (1-0) at Baltimore (0-1)

Line: Ravens favored by 4. ATS Records: Steelers 0-1, Ravens 0-1

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh edged Oakland at home, 24-21, in Week 1 and is tied with Cleveland atop the AFC North Division.

Ravens Status Report: In one of the season-opening week's biggest upsets, the Ravens lost at Cleveland, 20-3.

The Series: The teams split last year's two meetings, each winning at home. But Pittsburgh's 34-15 season-opening triumph was a lot more convincing than the Ravens' 13-10 victory at home in the regular season finale. The Steelers have won 11 of the last 16 meetings.

Stat Worth Noting: Pittsburgh is 6-1 ATS in its last seven trips to Baltimore.

Game Summary: A reader told me not to pick the Ravens this week, and my initial reaction was that Baltimore would be fired up after their pathetic performance at Cleveland and find a way to win what is, for such an early point in the season, a fairly important game. But I've re-examined things. The Steelers are my pick to win this division, not the Ravens. True, the 3-point victory over the Raiders wasn't overly impressive. But the Steelers did a lot of things right in that game. Baltimore did virtually nothing well at Cleveland. I'll ride the momentum along with Pittsburgh's recent success in this clash and at this stadium. An upset pick right away.

Prediction: STEELERS, 17-13


Indianapolis (0-1) at Tennessee (1-0)

Line: Titans favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Colts 0-0-1, Titans 1-0

Colts Status Report: Indy lost a hard-fought opener at New England a week ago Thursday, 27-24, and now the Colts get to go to Nashville. Who came up with this schedule?

Titans Status Report: Tennessee posted a defensively impressive 17-7 victory at Miami last Saturday and are tied with Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

The Series: The Colts swept the series a year ago, 33-7 at home and 29-27 at Nashville. The sweep ended up being the tiebreaker that gave Indianapolis the division title when both teams finished the regular season 12-4.

Stats Worth Noting: The Colts were 7-1 straight-up on the road during the '03 regular season, 5-2-1 ATS. The Titans' only home loss last season came against Indy.

Game Summary: This is another relatively important game despite it being so early in the season, because a Titans victory would give them a 2-game lead over the Colts with a head-to-head victory to boot. Both clubs have had extra time to prepare for this game, but that might not be totally relevant since the two are already well-acquainted. A tough call, but in these showdowns I usually take the superior defense. And the revenge factor might work to the Titans' slight advantage as well.

Prediction: TITANS, 24-21


Denver (1-0) at Jacksonville (1-0)

Line: Broncos favored by 3. ATS Records: Broncos 1-0, Jaguars 1-0

Broncos Status Report: Denver defeated Kansas City at home, 34-24, is tied with San Diego atop the AFC West.

Jaguars Status Report: Many prognos believe the Jags can be a playoff contender, and last week's upset win at Buffalo may be an indication of that.

The Series: Denver leads the all-time series, 3-2. The last meeting was a Broncos win at home in 2000.

Stats Worth Noting: If you're into total points, all five previous meetings went the "over."

Game Summary: This could be a landmine for the Broncos, who have never been very reliable as road favorites. But Denver's improved defense should give QB Byron Leftwich a few problems while the Broncos diversified attack can keep the home team off balance. The better team wins a close one.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 27-20


Houston (0-1) at Detroit (1-0)

Line: Lions favored by 3. ATS Records: Texans 0-1, Lions 1-0

Texans Status Report: Entering the new season with great promise, Houston was instead dumped at home by the lowly San Diego Chargers last week.

Lions Status Report: Detroit ended an NFL-record 24-game road losing streak with a 20-16 victory at Chicago last Sunday, but lost WR Charles Rogers for the season with a broken collarbone.

The Series: First meeting.

Stats Worth Noting: In its two-plus years, Houston is 14-7 ATS in games after a loss. Detroit is 1-6 ATS in its last seven games as favorites.

Game Summary: I'm paying attention to the stats above, because I believe Houston is improved and, thus, better than an 0-2 record would indicate. Conversely, the improved Lions are not 2-0 caliber. I'm playing the law of averages... and the Texans to bounce back on defense.

Prediction: TEXANS, 16-13


Carolina (0-1) at Kansas City (0-1)

Line: Chiefs favored by 6. ATS Records: Panthers 0-1, Chiefs 0-1

Panthers Status Report: The defense looked iffy and the running attack was absent in a 24-14 Monday loss at home to Green Bay. WR Steve Smith is out indefinitely with a broken leg.

Chiefs Status Report: The allegedly improved KC defense was its same poor self in a 34-24 loss at Denver Sunday night.

The Series: Kansas City has won the last two meetings, but neither has been recent.

Stats Worth Noting: Since 1992, Kansas City is 22-7 ATS the week after having allowed more than 30 points in a game.

Game Summary: Both teams lost their openers, but the Chiefs simply got outscored on the road by a good offense. Carolina was at home, in prime time, and looked nothing like the defending NFC champ. KC is historically good in home openers. The Chiefs are the pick.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 30-17


Washington (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1)

Line: Redskins favored by 3. ATS Records: Redskins 1-0, Giants 0-1

Redskins Status Report: The return of coach Joe Gibbs was a success, as the Skins beat Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden in their opener.

Giants Status Report: New G-Men coach Tom Coughlin wasn't as fortunate - his team was handled easily by Philadelphia, 31-17.

The Series: The teams split two last season, each road team prevailing. The Redskins won at The Meadowlands, 20-7.

Stats Worth Noting: The Giants are unreliable home underdogs, going 5-9 ATS in their last 14 in that role; The visiting team has covered ATS in the last five meetings.

Game Summary: If this contest comes down to confidence, Washington is a lock. Gibbs has the club believing immediately, and the talent isn't too bad either. The Giants are in flux... it could get ugly this season.

Prediction: REDSKINS, 20-13


Chicago (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0)

Line: Packers favored by 9. ATS Records: Bears 0-1, Packers 1-0

Bears Status Report: How would you like to be the team that lost at home to snap Detroit's 24-game road losing streak? That's Da Bears after last week's 20-16 setback.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay looked solid on both sides of the ball in a 24-14 triumph at Carolina Monday.

The Series: Green Bay swept the season series in 2003, 38-23 at Chicago and 34-21 at home.

Stats Worth Noting: The Packers have dominated this rivalry over the last dozen years, going 20-4 straight-up and having covered 6 of the last 7 meetings ATS.

Game Summary: Not much of a rivalry in recent years, and I don't see why things should change this week. On the other hand, the Pack might endure a letdown after the impressive Monday victory on the road. Might be tough to get keyed up for Chicago after that performance, and with one day less to prepare.

Prediction: PACKERS, 24-17


San Francisco (0-1) at New Orleans (0-1)

Line: Saints favored by 7. ATS Records: 49ers 1-0, Saints 0-1

49ers Status Report: Lost their opener to Atlanta at home, 21-19, but finished with a nice rally that almost stole the contest. However, QB Tim Rattay probably won't play this week. Ken Dorsey will get the start.

Saints Status Report: Were beaten at home decisively by Seattle, 21-7.

The Series: Although the 49ers have a decided edge in the overall series, the Saints won the last meeting, 35-27, in 2002 at the Superdome.

Stats Worth Noting: Since 1996, the 49ers cover ATS only 40 percent when an underdog by a TD or more.

Game Summary: Despite the stat above, I believe the line is too large. New Orleans was very unimpressive against the Seahawks, especially contending with RB Shaun Alexander, and while San Francisco's offense is nowhere near as good, the contest should remain fairly close as both teams try to locate some offense.

Prediction: SAINTS, 23-20


St. Louis (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0)

Line: Falcons favored by 2 1/2. ATS Records: Rams 0-1, Falcons 0-1

Rams Status Report: St. Louis managed an unimpressive but effective 17-10 victory at home over Arizona in its opener last week, and are tied with Seattle for first in the NFC West.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta held on for a 21-19 win at San Francisco last Sunday. The Falcons are alone atop the NFC South.

The Series: The Rams routed the Falcons at St. Louis last season, 36-0, but games at Atlanta have pretty much been split over the last several meetings between these former division rivals.

Stats Worth Noting: The Rams are 15-5 ATS in their last 20 following a division contest.

Game Summary: Although both clubs won their openers, these appear to be teams headed in opposite directions. St. Louis almost certainly will decline some from last year's 12-4 group, and Atlanta - as long as QB Michael Vick is under center - could rise from a poor year and make the playoffs. I like the home team here, because of Vick and also because the motivation for payback from that 36-point shellacking is significant.

Prediction: FALCONS, 28-23


Seattle (1-0) at Tampa Bay (0-1)

Line: Seahawks favored by 3. ATS Records: Seahawks 1-0, Bucs 0-1

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle was impressive in its 21-7 season-opening victory at New Orleans, but the status of RB Shaun Alexander is uncertain after the star back injured his knee late.

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay was unimpressive, losing 16-10 at Washington.

The Series: Seattle won the only meeting between the two at Tampa over the last 10 years, and has won 2 of 3 overall in that span. The Bucs, however, are 2-1 ATS in those three games.

Stats Worth Noting: The Seahawks have won 4 straight against NFC South teams.

Game Summary: Last week I wrote about how Seattle needed to prove to me that it can win on the road. It did that in impressive fashion, and now it has arguably a bigger test. But this looks like a progressional pick... Seahawks played well, Bucs didn't... Seahawks expected to contend for a Super Bowl berth, Bucs aren't... yeah, I like Seattle.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 20-14


Buffalo (0-1) at Oakland (0-1)

Line: Raiders favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Bills 0-1, Raiders 1-0

Bills Status Report: Buffalo lost at home to Jacksonville in its opener.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland lost a 3-point decision at Pittsburgh to begin the season.

The Series: The Raiders won the last meeting, 49-31, at Buffalo in 2002 and has won 5 of the last 6 meetings.

Stats Worth Noting: Oakland was 0-4 ATS as a home favorite last season.

Game Summary: This is another of my upset picks. Although the Raiders appear to be headed in the right direction, their personnel is inferior to the Bills at this point in time. If they pressure QB Drew Bledsoe, the Raiders can win. But the pick here is that the Bills will control the line of scrimmage on defense enough.

Prediction: BILLS, 20-17


New York Jets (1-0) at San Diego (1-0)

Line: Jets favored by 3. ATS Records: Jets 1-0, Chargers 1-0

Jets Status Report: RB Curtis Martin was impressive, and the Jets beat Cincinnati at home, 31-24, to tie New England atop the AFC East.

Chargers Status Report: QB Drew Brees was surprisingly efficient, and the Bolts won on the road, 27-20 at Houston.

The Series: In the last meeting, the Jets routed the Chargers at San Diego in 2002, 44-13. In a scheduling oddity, the teams have met only one other time since 1995.

Stats Worth Noting: The Chargers were 2-4 ATS as home underdogs last season, and 15-25 dating back a dozen years.

Game Summary: Beating Houston was a nice achievement for the Chargers, but the Jets are a much better team and are playing with great confidence. Too many offensive weapons, and the Jets' D is prepared to bend but not break.

Prediction: JETS, 28-20


New England (1-0) at Arizona (0-1)

Line: Patriots favored by 8. ATS Records: Patriots 0-0-1, Cardinals 1-0

Patriots Status Report: Defending champs looked solid in 27-24 win over Indianapolis last Thursday, although the defense was routinely exploited by the Colts.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona played respectably in a 17-10 loss at St. Louis.

The Series: New England has won the last three meetings, the most recent in 2000.

Stats Worth Noting: The Patriots are 3-10 ATS as road favorites of more than three points, but are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 non-conference games. The Cardinals were 6-2 ATS at home last season, all as underdogs.

Game Summary: This is a big mismatch on paper, but Cardinals coach Dennis Green will have his team ready to play. With a mid-afternoon start time planned, it's going to be a hot one in the desert. Take the home 'dogs to keep it close.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 19-14


Cleveland (1-0) at Dallas (0-1)

Line: Cowboys favored by 4. ATS Records: Browns 1-0, Cowboys 0-1

Browns Status Report: Cleveland had a surprisingly easy time with visiting Baltimore in its opener, whipping the Ravens, 20-3.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas was overmatched at Minnesota, losing 35-17.

The Series: The Browns won the last meeting at Dallas, in 1999. The Cowboys lead the overall series, but the teams have only played twice in the last dozen years.

Stats Worth Noting: Dallas has a covering percentage of better than 70 percent as a home favorite the last four years.

Game Summary: It's tough to pick against Dallas in a home opener, and I'm not going to. Coach Bill Parcells is a master of making adjustments, and whatever went wrong last week at Minnesota won't here. The Browns simply aren't imposing enough offensively. Oh, and take the unders.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 17-10


Miami (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-1)

Line: Bengals favored by 4 1/2. ATS Records: Dolphins 0-1, Bengals 0-1

Dolphins Status Report: Miami was manhandled on its own field last week, losing 17-7 to Tennessee on Saturday.

Bengals Status Report: Second-year QB Carson Palmer played relatively well, but Cincinnati lost to the New York Jets, 31-24 on the road in its opener.

The Series: Miami has dominated this series, including four straight wins at Cincinnati (the last coming in 1998).

Stats Worth Noting: With last week's loss, the Bengals have lost 32 of their last 46 September games ATS.

Game Summary: Miami's defense might be good enough to get the job done here, but the Bengals have a golden chance to step up defensively and progress toward playoff contention. I like the home team.

Prediction: BENGALS, 24-13


Minnesota (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0)

Line: Eagles favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Vikings 1-0, Eagles 1-0

Vikings Status Report: The offense looked great, and the defense was pretty decent as well, in the season-opening 35-17 rout of Dallas. RBs Michael Bennett and Moe Williams are both out, so second-year man Onterrio Smith gets the start.

Eagles Status Report: QB Donovan McNabb looked like Peyton Manning, flinging TDs all over the yard in a 31-17 victory over the New York Giants last week.

The Series: The home team has won each of the last six meetings, the most recent in 1999.

Stats Worth Noting: The Vikings are 4-11 ATS following a home win over the last three years. The Eagles are 11-6 ATS in their last 17 Monday nighters, including 6-1 at home.

Game Summary: This could be a real shootout, except the Eagles also have a top-flight defense. Minnesota is getting there, but has a ways to go. Also, the Vikings are a lot like Seattle -- a quality offensive team that has issues regarding winning tough road games.

Prediction: EAGLES, 34-24