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Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 6
Bob Cunningham
October 14, 2004

Straight-Up: 41-33 (55%)
Against-The-Spread: 33-38-2 (46%)

Straight-Up: 8-6
Against-The-Spread: 6-8

Comment: All I can say, is that I have the New Orleans Saints wired. That's 'bout it. (Of course, now that's I've pronounced that you'd be wise to discount my pick in the Vikings-Saints game this week).

Miami (0-5) at Buffalo (0-4)

Line: Bills favored by 3. ATS Records: Dolphins 1-4, Bills 2-2.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost at New England last week, 24-10. Both QBs - Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley - are dinged. Sage Rosenfels may get the start this week.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo lost on the road to the N.Y. Jets, 16-14, and is in third place in the AFC East, a half-game ahead of the Dolphins.

The Series: Miami swept last season, winning a pair of low-scoring games and holding the Bills to 10 points total in the two games. But Buffalo swept in 2002, and overall this series has been roughly even the last several years.

Stat Worth Noting: Since 1992, the Bills are 12-24 ATS against teams scoring less than 17 points per week.

Game Summary: Barring a rare tie, one of these clubs will emerge winless no more. With Miami's already muddled QB situation taking a turn for the worse last week, I can't pick the Fins to win on the road here. The Bills are bad, too, but they played the Jets tough last week and have actually been in every game. They break through at home.

Prediction: BILLS, 19-13

Seattle (3-1) at New England (4-0)

Line: Patriots favored by 4. ATS Records: Seahawks 3-1, Patriots 3-0-1.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle is licking its wounds after squandering a 27-10 fourth quarter lead at home to St. Louis last week, eventually losing in overtime. The Seahawks remain in sole possession of first place in the NFC West, a half-game ahead of the Rams.

Patriots Status Report: New England set an NFL record with its 19th consecutive victory over two seasons, beating Miami last week, 24-10. The Pats share top honors in the AFC East with the New York Jets.

The Series: Seattle has won the last three meetings, including two at Foxboro, but the teams haven't faced off since 1999.

Stats Worth Noting: Seattle has dropped 31 of its last 45 October games ATS including last week. The Patriots are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games.

Game Summary: An upset pick is tempting here, because I believe Seattle will be determined to rebound from last week's debacle and the Pats could let down a little now that they have set the consecutive victories mark. And at Seattle, I'd almost surely go with the Seahawks. But 20 is a nice round number for the Patriots' win skein, and I just can't get myself to pick against the champs at home with essentially everyone healthy.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 24-17

San Francisco (1-4) at New York Jets (4-0)

Line: Jets favored by 10. ATS Records: 49ers 3-2, Jets 3-1.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco put together a nice rally at home last week to beat Arizona in overtime and tie the Cardinals for third in the NFC West.

Jets Status Report: The Jets held off Buffalo at home, 16-14, to keep pace with New England atop the AFC East.

The Series: The 49ers have dominated this series, winning the last four meetings - the most recent a victory at The Meadowlands in 2000.

Stats Worth Noting: The 49ers are 3-9 ATS coming off a close win (three-point margin or fewer) the last three years.

Game Summary: San Francisco's offense gained some confidence with their rally against Arizona, and the 49ers' recently improved balance might challenge the Jets. On the other hand, the Jets offense should be able to put up ample points to avoid an upset. The better team should prevail, but I like the 49ers to keep it close enough to cover the double-figure spread.

Prediction: JETS, 28-20

Cincinnati (1-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

Line: Browns favored by 3. ATS Records: Bengals 0-4, Browns 2-3.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati was off last week after falling at Pittsburgh, 28-17, in Week 4. The Bengals are alone in the AFC North Division cellar.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland was whipped at Pittsburgh last week, 34-23, and is in third place in the AFC North, two games behind the Steelers and a game back of Baltimore.

The Series: The teams split last season, with each visitor prevailing. The Bengals won at Cleveland, 21-14, and the Browns returned the favor at Cincinnati, 22-14. Cleveland swept two meetings in 2002, and is 6-3 SU (7-2 ATS) in the last nine clashes at Cleveland.

Stats Worth Noting: The Browns are 2-0 at home this season, straight-up and ATS. The Bengals are 0-2 on the road.

Game Summary: Wow, a very even matchup between bitter rivals. Both lost by 11 points at Pittsburgh in their most recent games. The Browns have had the best of it in recent years, but this is one of those rivalry things where trends have to endure about a decade before they mean anything. Ultimately, I'm going with the more rested club. The Bengals have had an extra week to prepare, and last year off the bye they beat favored Baltimore.

Prediction: BENGALS, 20-17

Houston (2-3) at Tennessee (2-3)

Line: Titans favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Texans 2-3, Titans 2-3.

Texans Status Report: Houston lost at home to Minnesota in overtime last week, 34-28, to drop into a third-place tie with the Titans in the AFC South.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee romped at Green Bay Monday night, 48-27.

The Series: The Titans have won all four previous meetings, but the last was a 27-24 thriller at Houston last December.

Stats Worth Noting: The teams are 2-2 ATS in the four meetings, 1-1 at each stadium (helpful, ey?).

Game Summary: Tennessee has one less day to prepare, but I don't think that matters much because the Texans are a familiar foe. The Titans might let down after their rout of the Packers, but instead it's a veteran team that should be able to build on the (unexpected?) success. I'm not convinced the Texans have an answer for Tennessee RB Chris Brown and the Titans rushing attack.

Prediction: TITANS, 27-17

Kansas City (1-3) at Jacksonville (3-2)

Line: Chiefs favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Chiefs 1-3, Jaguars 3-2.

Chiefs Status Report: After a shocking 0-3 start that included two home defeats, the Chiefs rallied to upset Baltimore on the road a week ago Monday, and have had their bye week to ponder that success. They remain in last place in the AFC West.

Jaguars Status Report: After a shocking 3-0 start that included two road victories, the Jaguars have dropped two in a row including last week's 34-21 decision at San Diego. They are in second place in the AFC South, a game behind Indianapolis.

The Series: Jacksonville won the last meeting, a 23-16 upset at Kansas City in 2002, and has won three of four meetings overall.

Stats Worth Noting: The Chiefs came off their bye a year ago with a 41-20 pasting of Cleveland.

Game Summary: Wow, when was the last time a 1-3 road team was favored over a 3-1 squad? I'm guessing those who are in the "know" will be playing KC, while the public as a whole sides with Jacksonville. But that's just speculation. What counts is that I'm going with the trends, as any savvy stock trader does. The Chiefs are on the rise after a three-year low, the Jaguars spiraling downward after hitting a five-year high. Gimme rested KC to win another on the road.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 27-20

San Diego (3-2) at Atlanta (4-1)

Line: Falcons favored by 5. ATS Records: Chargers 3-1-1, Falcons 2-3.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego defeated Jacksonville at home last week and is in second place in the AFC West Division, a game behind Denver. RB LaDainian Tomlinson has a strained groin but is expected to start.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta suffered its first defeat of the season last week, a 17-10 home loss to Detroit. The Falcons remain alone in first in the NFC South, two games ahead of New Orleans.

The Series: Atlanta won the last meeting, in 1998, as well as the previous meeting in 1992.

Stats Worth Noting: The Chargers are 31-14 ATS since 1990 in games played on artificial surfaces.

Game Summary: The Falcons offense continues to struggle, which means their 4-1 record is a testament to their defense. San Diego has played well the last two weeks, getting home wins over respectable foes. Are the Chargers that good? Maybe not, but they're playing as well as they ever have under veteran coach Marty Schottenheimer and the struggling Falcons offense is a source for concern for the Atlanta faithful. You've found it - my upset special for this week.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 21-16

Washington (1-4) at Chicago (1-3)

Line: Even. ATS Records: Redskins 1-4, Bears 2-2.

Redskins Status Report: Washington has dropped four in a row, including last week's seven-point home loss to Baltimore.

Bears Status Report: The Bears had last week off, after having dropped a 19-9 decision to Philadelphia at home in Week 4. QB Rex Grossman is out indefinitely, replaced (for now) by Jonathan Quinn.

The Series: The Bears edged the Redskins last season, 27-24 at home, but Washington had won four of the five previous meetings.

Stats Worth Noting: Washington is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in this series.

Game Summary: Homefield advantage matters, but not as much when your offense is in disarray like Chicago's. The Skins' attack isn't really any better, but the pieces are mostly healthy so it stands a better chance of getting well enough to post a few first downs. A close victory for the visitors here.

Prediction: REDSKINS, 13-10

Carolina (1-3) at Philadelphia (4-0)

Line: Eagles favored by 8 1/2. ATS Records: Panthers 2-2, Eagles 4-0.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina played tough, but lost at Denver last week, 20-17. RB DeShaun Foster was lost for at least the next six weeks with a broken collarbone. Incumbent back Stephen Davis is set to resume his role as featured ball-carrier, although his health is still a concern.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia was on a bye last week, after having won at Chicago 19-9 in Week 4.

The Series: Carolina won the last meeting, in the 2003 NFC Championship Game at Philly, 14-3. The Eagles won the most recent regular season clash, 25-16, at Carolina in 2002.

Stats Worth Noting: Carolina is 2-0 ATS on the road this season. The Eagles are 34-19 ATS over the last decade when attempting to avenge a loss.

Game Summary: Will Philadelphia be seeking a measure of revenge here? Most certainly. But the Panthers are a dangerous club. If the offensive line can create a running game, with Davis holding up long enough to take the bulk of the carries, this game will remain close.

Prediction: EAGLES, 24-20

Green Bay (1-4) at Detroit (3-1)

Line: Lions favored by 2. ATS Records: Packers 1-4, Lions 3-1.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay is reeling, having lost four in a row including a mind-boggling three straight at home that includes a 48-27 thumping at the hands of Tennessee Monday night.

Lions Status Report: Detroit pulled an upset at Atlanta last week, beating the previously undefeated Falcons, 17-10, for their second straight road win following 24 consecutive defeats over three years in away games. The Lions are tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North.

The Series: The teams split last season, with the Lions winning at home, 22-14, and the Packers rolling at Lambeau, 31-6. The home team has won five of the last six meetings.

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has covered ATS in the last seven meetings. Detroit is 10-3 ATS in their last 13 at home against the Packers, but all except one of those came as an underdog.

Game Summary: I absolutely hate trying to progno this game, and when I have such a dilemma I'm better off going with my gut over the numbers. The numbers scream Detroit... but the Packers must win to save their season. I like their chances of controlling the game on the ground with Ahman Green. I must seem like a Pack fan, because I've picked them to win every game they've played this season except one. But did you think they'd lose three games in a row at Lambeau? Logic just doesn't cut it in the modern NFL. The Packers' defense is hurting and they may just cave here, but my hunch is that they'll suck it up and begin the process to save their season. Flat out - if they lose, they're done for 2004... and I'm done insisting they're better than their record.

Prediction: PACKERS, 27-21

Pittsburgh (4-1) at Dallas (2-2)

Line: Cowboys favored by 3. ATS Records: Steelers 3-2, Cowboys 2-2.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh is coming off a two-game homestand in which it beat division rivals Cincinnati and Cleveland by 11 points apiece. The Steelers mowed down the Browns last week, 34-23, and lead the AFC North by a game over Baltimore.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas was whipped handily at home by the New York Giants, 26-10, and is in third place in the NFC East - two games behind Philadelphia and a game back of the Giants.

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

Stats Worth Noting: The Steelers are just 17-27 ATS against the NFC since 1992, including 1-3 last season.

Game Summary: That last stat got my attention, but I'm not falling for it. Fact is, the Steelers are playing much better than Dallas is at this point, and Big D isn't as tough a place to play as it once was. No lengthy explanation here, I'm just going with the team that is, at least right now, clearly better.

Prediction: STEELERS, 20-13

Denver (4-1) at Oakland (2-3)

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

Broncos Status Report: Denver gutted out a 20-17 home win over Carolina last week, and is alone atop the AFC West.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland has lost two in a row including last week's 35-14 defeat at Indianapolis.

The Series: The Broncos dominated last year's series, winning 22-8 at Oakland and 31-10 at home. Oakland swept in 2002.

Stats Worth Noting: Denver has a .714 winning percentage in this series since Mike Shanahan became its coach.

Game Summary: I'd be quick to jump on the Broncos if I was a little more impressed with the offense. There are some intangibles in this game that should be considered... such as Oakland desperately needing this game to remain in the division title hunt. Or that the Raiders are undefeated at home this season. Ultimately, though, the Raiders have been consistent with my contention that they can't hang with decent teams. Denver is decent.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 21-17

Minnesota (3-1) at New Orleans (2-3)

Line: Vikings favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Vikings 2-2, Saints 1-4.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota held off Houston last week to score a 34-28 overtime win on the road and remain tied with Detroit atop the NFC North.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans dropped a 20-17 decision to Tampa Bay last week at home, and has lost two in a row.

The Series: Minnesota won the last meeting, 32-31, at New Orleans in 2002. The Saints won the only other meeting at New Orleans going back a dozen years.

Stats Worth Noting: The Vikings have covered as road favorites in three of their last four in domes.

Game Summary: The Saints are getting that rap that they can only perform well as underdogs. Minnesota, despite the stat above, has rarely been a reliable road favorite. Even last week, they squandered a commanding lead at Houston and covered only because they managed to score a TD in overtime. Like the last meeting at The Superdome, this one figures to be a track meet. Plenty of passing, but New Orleans' ability to run the ball will be the difference... that and being all fired up on national TV against a credible foe in its own building.

Prediction: SAINTS, 31-28

Tampa Bay (1-4) at St. Louis (3-2)

Line: Rams favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Bucs 1-3-1, Rams 2-3.

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay finally secured its first victory Sunday, a 20-17 triumph at New Orleans.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis staged the finest comeback in its modern history, rallying from 17 points down with barely more than five minutes to play at Seattle to win in overtime, 33-27. The Rams are in second in the NFC West, a game behind the Seahawks.

The Series: Tampa Bay prevailed at home last season, 26-14, also on a Monday night and have won four of the last six meetings.

Stats Worth Noting: Tampa Bay is 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings with the Rams, including 2-1 at St. Louis.

Game Summary: The Rams may be vulnerable to a classic letdown after their improbable win over division-rival Seattle. You know the bit... big win on the road, then come home to face a losing team. How can the Rams get up for it? Well, because it's Tampa Bay, a modern era nemesis which has had the best of this series since the Rams' 11-5 baseball-like victory in the 1999 NFC Title Game. Still, I believe the Rams will be flat at the outset and the Bucs, 1-4 or not, are just two years removed from winning it all and sport one of the league's brightest coaches. A close, entertaining game.

Prediction: RAMS, 24-21

ON BYES: Arizona (1-4), Baltimore (3-2), Indianapolis (4-1), New York Giants (4-1).