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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 8
Bob Cunningham
October 28, 2004

SEASON RECORDS TO DATE
Straight-Up: 56-46 (55%)
Against-The-Spread: 46-53-3 (46%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 6-8
Against-The-Spread: 4-9-1

Comment: I'm not doing much grinnin' after last week, but the good news is that I usually rebound well after such a debacle. The ironic thing is that I'm a prognosticator who typically leans toward home underdogs. That philosophy has served me well over the years, but hampered me this season, so last week I tried to be more open-minded to the trends of 2004 and go with more road favorites. So what happens? Home underdogs go 4-0 against the spread, 3-1 straight-up. Sheesh.


Arizona (2-4) at Buffalo (1-5)

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

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona upset Seattle at home last week, 25-17, and is in third place in the NFC West - 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo lost at Baltimore in Week 7, 20-6, and is tied with Miami for third place in the AFC East.

The Series: No recent meetings. The Bills won the last meeting, in 1999 at Arizona.

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: Both defenses are playing well - the Bills have allowed more than 20 points only once all season. Problem is, their offense has scored that many only once. Arizona has been erratic - steady at home but highly unpredictable on the road. The Cardinals have improved, yes, but I'm not convinced they're ready to go on the road back East and get a victory just yet. If you're a "player" who likes totals, take the under either way.

Prediction: BILLS, 17-10


Cincinnati (2-4) at Tennessee (2-5)

Line: Titans favored by 4. ATS Records: Bengals 1-5, Titans 2-5.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati played inspired ball en route to a 23-10 thumping of Denver Monday night at home.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee lost at Minnesota on Sunday, 20-3, and QB Steve McNair re-injured his sternum. His status for this week's game is yet to be determined. Billy Volek would start if McNair can't go.

The Series: Tennessee has won 16 of the last 21 meetings, including a 30-24 decision at Cincinnati in the last clash in 2002.

Stat Worth Noting: The Titans are 8-3 against Cincinnati in the last 11 meetings, but the Bengals are 6-5 ATS in those games.

Game Summary: Cincinnati looked strong Monday night, but determining from that game that the Bengals are now ready to go on a run? Well, that's a bit of a reach. The Titans are battered and discouraged, and without McNair things could get ugly although Volek is a capable QB. This game is tough to figure (aren't they all?) because Cincinnati will be working with the disadvantage of a short week and going on the road. Still, without McNair and with the Tennessee defense struggling to stop the run, the Bengals should be able to grind out a rare road victory.

Prediction: BENGALS, 23-17


Baltimore (4-2) at Philadelphia (6-0)

Line: Eagles favored by 7 1/2. ATS Records: Ravens 4-2, Eagles 5-1.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore easily defeated Buffalo last week, 20-6, and is a game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North. RB Jamal Lewis will sit out for the second of his two-week suspension, and TE Todd Heap is also out.

Eagles Status Report: The Eagles edged Cleveland in overtime, 34-31, on the road. They are two games up on the Giants in the NFC East. RB Brian Westbrook has a fracture in his ribcage and is unlikely to play this week.

The Series: No recent meetings. The teams played to an overtime tie in their most recent clash.

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: Another solid test for the Eagles, although it would be a stiffer challenge if Philly was forced to deal with Lewis. Baltimore's defense is good enough to get the upset here, but it's nice to have even an average offense in support... and the Ravens don't have that. Philadelphia remains unscathed, but it's fairly close.

Prediction: EAGLES, 20-16


Jacksonville (5-2) at Houston (3-3)

Line: Texans favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Jaguars 5-2, Texans 3-3.

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville pulled off a bigtime upset last week, winning at Indianapolis 27-24 to move into first place in the AFC South, a half-game ahead of the Colts.

Texans Status Report: Houston was on a bye last week, a week after having stunned Tennessee on the road, 20-10.

The Series: The Jaguars won the last meeting at home, 27-0, but the three previous encounters had all been decided by four points or less.

Stat Worth Noting: Houston is 3-1 ATS in the four meetings.

Game Summary: With all due respect to the improved Texans, the wrong team is favored. Jacksonville has proven itself to be a legitimate playoff contender, with several quality wins already. The Jaguars might let down a little after winning at Indy last week, but not enough to let such a winnable game escape its grasp. At the beginning of the season, I thought Houston would end up with a better record than Jacksonville. I was wrong. Houston will be a .500 team, a marked improvement, but the Jaguars might still be playing in January.

Prediction: JAGUARS, 24-17


Indianapolis (4-2) at Kansas City (2-4)

Line: Colts favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Colts 4-1-1, Chiefs 2-4.

Colts Status Report: Indy was upset at home by Jacksonville last week, 27-24, to fall out of first place in the AFC South.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City took out its season-long frustrations on visiting Atlanta last week, destroying the Falcons, 56-10.

The Series: Indianapolis has completely dominated this series, winning the last six meetings including five at Arrowhead Stadium. The most recent was a 38-31 victory in last year's AFC divisional playoffs.

Stats Worth Noting: Indianapolis is 6-0 ATS in those six straight wins in this series.

Game Summary: If momentum is any indication, Kansas City should be good to go here. The Chiefs obviously solved some problems in their dismantling of a quality Atlanta club, but they've completely failed against the Colts since the 1980s. Kansas City has historically been a quality home underdog and, well, the skid against the Colts has to end sometime. Factor in a little revenge for last year's postseason defeat, and the pick is that KC rides the wave after last week to a desperately-needed home victory.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 30-24


Detroit (4-2) at Dallas (2-4)

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

Lions Status Report: Detroit whipped the New York Giants on the road last Sunday, 28-13, and is just a game behind front-running Minnesota in the NFC North.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas has lost three in a row, including last week's 41-20 shellacking at the hands of Green Bay. The Cowboys are four games behind Philadelphia in the NFC East. WR Terry Glenn is out with a severe ankle sprain. Newly-acquired Quincy Morgan is expected to start in his place.

The Series: Dallas rolled at Detroit last season, 38-7, but has lost two of the last three meetings overall.

Stats Worth Noting: Detroit won the last meeting at Dallas, but that was a decade ago. The Lions are 3-0 on the road this season after having lost 24 straight over three years coming into the campaign.

Game Summary: The Cowboys are struggling, the Lions are playing well. Dallas has lost two straight at home, Detroit has won three in a row on the road... so I expect Dallas to find a way to snap both skeins. Perhaps I'm guilty of not giving the Lions their due, but back-to-back road wins against the Giants and Cowboys? A lot to ask. Dallas coach Bill Parcells knows his team season's is essentially done if it doesn't win here.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 23-16


Green Bay (3-4) at Washington (2-4)

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

Packers Status Report: Green Bay has won two straight and scored a combined 79 points in those games. Last week, the Pack routed Dallas at home, 41-20, but still remains 2 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the NFC North.

Redskins Status Report: Washington was on a bye last week, after having won at Chicago, 13-10, in Week 6. The Redskins are tied with Dallas for third place in the NFC East.

The Series: Green Bay has won the two most recent meetings, both at home including a 30-9 romp in 2002. These teams haven't played at Washington since the 1980s.

Stats Worth Noting: Washington is 1-4 in its last five immediately following its bye week.

Game Summary: The Packers have been steady on the road this season, and they've gone on a major role offensively since head coach Mike Sherman took over the play-calling. The Skins offense is unlikely to be able to keep up here even against an average-at-best Packers D.

Prediction: PACKERS, 27-20


New York Giants (4-2) at Minnesota (5-1)

Line: Vikings favored by 7. ATS Records: Giants 4-2, Vikings 4-2.

Giants Status Report: The Giants came off their bye week and played poorly in a 28-13 loss to Detroit last week. They trail Philadelphia by a game in the NFC East.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota pounded out a 20-3 victory over Tennessee last Sunday at home, and has won four in a row. The Vikes lead the NFC North by a game over Detroit. WR Randy Moss, nursing a sore hamstring, will probably start but could again be limited as he was last week.

The Series: The Giants have won at Minnesota in each of the last two seasons, including a 29-17 triumph in 2003.

Stat Worth Noting: The Giants are 6-3 in their last nine games in domes, SU and ATS.

Game Summary: This is my upset special... because the Giants have been successful at Minnesota in recent years, because Moss might not be a factor, and because the Giants possess the offensive balance to keep the ball away from the Vikings attack. Coach Tom Coughlin has his team believing it's much better than the preseason prognostications... and I'm predicting a rebound effort after the loss to Detroit.

Prediction: GIANTS, 28-23


Atlanta (5-2) at Denver (5-2)

Line: Broncos favored by 4 1/2. ATS Records: Falcons 2-5, Broncos 2-3-2.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta was mauled at Kansas City last week, 56-10, but remains in first place in the NFC South.

Broncos Status Report: Denver lost at Cincinnati Monday night, 23-10, but remains in first place in the AFC West.

The Series: Denver has won the last four meetings, the most recent in 2000.

Stat Worth Noting: Denver is 1-6 in its last seven ATS coming off a road loss.

Game Summary: Despite the stat above, I like the Broncos' chances to rebound better than Atlanta's. The short week could have an adverse effect, not to mention dealing with Falcons QB Michael Vick, but the Falcons have been struggling offensively even when victorious. Denver, at home, is the pick.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 26-17


Carolina (1-5) at Seattle (3-3)

Line: Seahawks favored by 7 1/2. ATS Records: Panthers 2-4, Seahawks 3-3.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina has dropped four in a row including last Sunday's 17-6 home loss to San Diego. RB Stephen Davis is unlikely to play this week, meaning Brad Hoover should again get most of the carries because DeShaun Foster has been lost for the balance of the season with broken collarbone.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle lost at Arizona last week, 25-17, and has dropped three straight after a 3-0 start. The Seahawks, however, are only a half-game out of the NFC West lead held by St. Louis.

The Series: Carolina won the only previous meeting between the teams, back in 1998.

Stat Worth Noting: The Panthers have their only win on the road, and are 2-1 ATS away from home.

Game Summary: Since they sported a 27-10 lead over the Rams with five minutes to play in Week 5, the Seahawks have been a bad team, outscored 78-37. Carolina has been equally inept, and its offense is riddled with ailments. While the Panthers have the defense to get a road upset here, Seattle is healthier and sports more overall talent on either side of the ball. This is a get-well game for one of these clubs, and Seattle appears to be in a much better position to accomplish that.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 21-10


New England (6-0) at Pittsburgh (5-1)

Line: Patriots favored by 3. ATS Records: Patriots 4-0-2, Steelers 4-2.

Patriots Status Report: New England clipped the New York Jets at home Sunday, 13-7, to extend its two-year winning streak to 21.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh was on a bye last week after having defeated Dallas on the road, 24-21, in Week 6 for its fourth straight victory. The Steelers lead the AFC North by a game over Baltimore.

The Series: The teams have split the last six meetings, including the Patriots victory at Pittsburgh in the 2001 AFC Title Game. New England won the last meeting, 30-14, at home in 2002.

Stat Worth Noting: New England is 5-1 ATS in its last six trips to Pittsburgh.

Game Summary: Looking at the schedule, I thought the rivalry game with the Jets was when the Pats would finally fall. Having survived that game, they now embark on a brutal 2-game road trip to Pittsburgh and then St. Louis. Surely, the champs will stumble at least once in these two games, right? I'm not so sure. The issue with Pittsburgh is that the Steelers have been beating up on inferior teams. They lost the only game they've played against a team with a winning record, while sporting a perfect 5-0 mark against sub-.500 clubs. Pittsburgh was playing extremely well entering its bye, but the trend this season is that teams who are on a roll going into a week off don't fare so well after their break. And, the Steelers have a rookie playing QB - a talented, intelligent, reliable rook in Ben Roethlisberger... but a rook, nonetheless. The Patriots' defense is deep and ultra-experienced. Add it all up, and it equals New England's 22nd consecutive victory.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 24-16


Oakland (2-5) at San Diego (4-3)

Line: Chargers favored by 6. ATS Records: Raiders 2-5, Chargers 5-1-1.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland has lost four in a row, including last week's 31-26 home loss to New Orleans.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego pulled to within a game of first-place Denver in the AFC West with a 17-6 triumph at Carolina last week.

The Series: The teams split last season, with each home team winning. The Chargers were victorious, 21-14, last December.

Stats Worth Noting: The road team has covered ATS in six of the last seven meetings.

Game Summary: This is a rivalry game, and that normally would mean a fairly tight game and a pick for the underdog to at least cover if not win outright. But like last season, I sense a little quit in the Raiders. They're such an arrogant franchise, that if the division can't be won, they figure they might as well just mail it in. Last week's game with New Orleans was close only because the Saints are horrible on defense. The Chargers' confidence is growing. A decisive win here confirms their beliefs.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 31-17


San Francisco (1-5) at Chicago (1-5)

Line: Bears favored by 2 1/2. ATS Records: 49ers 4-2, Bears 2-4.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco was off last week, after having lost at the New York Jets, 22-14, in Week 6. The 49ers are in last place in the NFC West.

Bears Status Report: Chicago was beaten at Tampa Bay last week, 19-7, and has lost four in a row. The Bears are in the cellar of the NFC North.

The Series: The 49ers have won three of the last four meetings, including last season's 49-7 romp at San Francisco.

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has won the last five meetings, going 4-1 ATS. However, Chicago is 0-3 ATS at home this season.

Game Summary: This matchup is the polar opposite to Patriots-Steelers. It's doubtful anyone outside of the Bay Area or the Windy City gives a hoot... except for me, of course. These teams are equal in their ineptitude, and in such cases I lean toward the team with the superior defense. That's Chicago. Add in that the Bears are playing at home before a national TV audience, and should be highly motivated to get a little payback for what the 49ers did to them last season, and they're the choice. Wonder if there's a way that ESPN can talk the NFL into swapping this game for the NE-Pit. tilt?

Prediction: BEARS, 19-13


Miami (1-6) at New York Jets (5-1)

Line: Jets favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Dolphins 2-5, Jets 3-2-1.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami snapped a season-opening 6-game skid with a rousing 31-14 home romp over St. Louis last week.

Jets Status Report: The Jets had their season-opening 5-game winning streak snapped in a 13-7 defeat at New England.

The Series: The Jets won at Miami earlier this season, 17-9, but Miami had won three of the previous four contests. At The New Jersey Meadowlands, the Jets had won 7 of 9 before losing at home last season, 21-10.

Stats Worth Noting: The road team is 3-0-1 ATS in the last four meetings. In 2003, Miami was 0-4 ATS in games following victories by more than two TDs.

Game Summary: This is a fascinating matchup, for several reasons. First, it's a rivalry game. It's also an in-season rematch game. Plus, the Dolphins are coming off an impressive performance to get their first win while the Jets endured their first defeat while managing only one touchdown against New England. Perhaps Miami's offense has snapped out of its funk for good? Maybe the Jets aren't quite as good as advertised? Is it an upset pick coming? Not quite, but I'd be surprised if the contest isn't relatively close because the Miami defense remains quality.

Prediction: JETS, 20-14

ON BYES: Cleveland (3-4), New Orleans (3-4), St. Louis (4-3), Tampa Bay (2-5).