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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 10
Bob Cunningham
November 11, 2004

SEASON RECORDS TO DATE
Straight-Up: 74-56 (57%)
Against-The-Spread: 61-66-3 (48%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 8-6
Against-The-Spread: 7-7

Comment: Yawn... another up-and-down week that ultimately accomplished nothing. But I never give up.


Baltimore (5-3) at New York Jets (6-2)

Line: Ravens favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Ravens 6-2, Jets 4-3-1.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore slipped past Cleveland at home Sunday night, 27-13, in a game that was closer than the final score indicates. The Ravens trail first-place Pittsburgh by two games in the AFC North.

Jets Status Report: In an upset anticipated by many (even me), the Jets lost at Buffalo Sunday, 22-17. QB Chad Pennington was injured, so Quincy Carter will be the starter this week.

The Series: Baltimore has won two of the last three meetings, the most recent in 2000.

Stat Worth Noting: Baltimore is 3-0 ATS against the Jets in those three aforementioned clashes. The Jets are 2-0 ATS this season in conference games outside their own division.

Game Summary: Carter in his first start as a Jet against the Baltimore defense? Ugh for the guys in green. The loss of Pennington is significant, perhaps even staggering for a team that seemed a near-lock to reach the playoffs. Pennington will be back in a month, and the Jets will rely on their defense to stay in the hunt. Whomever you back in this game, my suggestion is to take the unders.

Prediction: RAVENS, 17-10


Pittsburgh (7-1) at Cleveland (3-5)

Line: Steelers favored by 4. ATS Records: Steelers 6-2, Browns 4-4.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh routed previously undefeated intra-state rival Philadelphia last week, 27-3, for its sixth straight victory.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland lost at Baltimore Sunday night, 27-13, and is tied with Cincinnati for third place in the AFC North.

The Series: Pittsburgh rolled to a 34-23 triumph in the first meeting this season, at Pittsburgh, and has won five of the last six meetings overall including a 13-7 victory in the most recent contest at Cleveland, last season.

Stats Worth Noting: Despite being 1-5 SU in the last six meetings, Cleveland is 4-2 ATS. The Browns are a perfect 4-0 ATS at home this season, 3-1 SU.

Game Summary: For the second week in a row, I don't make you wait long before I reveal my upset special. I know this is a divisional rivalry game, but the Steelers can't help but come down some from consecutive home wins over previously unbeaten foes. Cleveland has been dyamite at home this season, dominating Baltimore in the season opener. Its only home loss was to Philly in overtime. An inspired Browns team slows Pittsburgh's balanced attack just enough to give rookie QB "Big Ben" Roethlisberger his first defeat as a starting pro, and in his native state to boot.

Prediction: BROWNS, 23-20


Houston (4-4) at Indianapolis (5-3)

Line: Colts favored by 9 1/2. ATS Records: Texans 4-4, Colts 4-3-1.

Texans Status Report: Houston was dominated at Denver last week, falling 31-13. The Texans are a game behind AFC South co-leaders Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

Colts Status Report: Indy edged Minnesota at home Monday night, 31-28.

The Series: Indianapolis has won all four previous meetings, the most recent a 20-17 victory at Houston in the 2003 regular season finale.

Stats Worth Noting: The teams have split the four ATS, each going 1-1 at the other's facility. Indianapolis has dropped three in a row ATS overall. Houston is 2-0 ATS in division games so far this year.

Game Summary: There's a lot of contrary information here. In Houston's favor are the Colts operating on a short week and its own drastic improvement over the first two years of its existence. On the downside, the Texans are playing the second of consecutive nasty road tests - and they didn't fare so well at Denver last week. Still, I like the balance of QB David Carr's passing and RB Domanick Davis' running to keep this one close for Houston. Indy probably has too much firepower, but its defense has too many negatives to forecast an easy time of it, especially against such an improved squad.

Prediction: COLTS, 30-24


Detroit (4-4) at Jacksonville (5-3)

Line: Jaguars favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Lions 4-4, Jaguars 5-3.

Lions Status Report: Detroit fell at home to Washington, 17-10, to remain a game behind front-running Minnesota in the NFC North.

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville was also on a bye last week, after losing at Houston, 20-6, the previous weekend. QB David Garrard will start in place of injured Byron Leftwich.

The Series: These teams have split two previous meetings, with the home team prevailing each time.

Stats Worth Noting: Jacksonville failed to cover in its only previous game as a home favorite this season. Detroit is 3-1 ATS on the road, but has lost six straight against AFC foes. Jacksonville has won four straight at home against NFC teams.

Game Summary: Without Leftwich, the Jaguars offense figures to be unidimensional. Detroit has suddenly proven itself to be a road warrior this season and the Lions' big play potential could very well be the difference here in a mild upset.

Prediction: LIONS, 17-14


Chicago (3-5) at Tennessee (3-5)

Line: Titans favored by 7 1/2. ATS Records: Bears 4-4, Titans 3-5.

Bears Status Report: Chicago pulled off the stunner of Week 9, a 28-21 road conquest of the New York Giants that pulled the Bears to within two games of the NFC North lead.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee was off last week, after having disposed of Cincinnati at home in Week 8, 27-20. QB Steve McNair's status is unknown at this writing. Billy Volek would start if McNair can't go.

The Series: Chicago has won the last two meetings, one at each locale, with the winning margin being three points in both games. The last meeting was in 1998.

Stats Worth Noting: Chicago is 3-1 ATS on the road, Tennessee 1-3 at home. Last season, the Titans emerged from their bye week and ran off six consecutive victories. Tennessee is 9-1 in its last 10 home games vs. the NFC.

Game Summary: First off, the spread is too large. That means a gut instinct to take the Bears. But even if McNair sits, I like the rested Titans to be motivated to "restore order" at home, and while Chicago's effort in an upset of the Giants last week was admirable, this is not a team prone to stringing together impressive efforts... and they're already working on a 2-game win streak. A second straight tough road test will prove too much.

Prediction: TITANS, 28-16


Kansas City (3-5) at New Orleans (3-5)

Line: Chiefs favored by 4 1/2. ATS Records: Chiefs 3-5, Saints 2-6.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City lost at Tampa Bay last week, 38-35, and trails AFC West co-leaders Denver and San Diego by 2 1/2 games. RB Priest Holmes has a sore knee, and figures to be a gametime decision. Backup Derrick Blaylock is also dinged, meaning maligned Larry Johnson might get a start.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans was humiliated at San Diego, 43-17, and is three games behind first-place Atlanta in the NFC South.

The Series: No recent meetings, the last a KC victory in 1997. Kansas City is 3-1 all-time at New Orleans.

Stats Worth Noting: Kansas City is just 2-10 SU in its last 12 road games against NFC teams. New Orleans is 0-4 ATS at home this season.

Game Summary: Take the overs. Even if the Chiefs are without the dynamic Holmes, they should be able to put up points in this one. So, too, should the Saints as QB Aaron Brooks could get well statistically in a hurry. My gut instinct is KC, but it's likely the Chiefs will be without Holmes... and that is enough to convince me the Saints should snap their skid.

Prediction: SAINTS, 31-24


Tampa Bay (3-5) at Atlanta (6-2)

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

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay won a shootout at home over Kansas City, 38-35, but still trails the first-place Falcons by three games in the NFC South Division.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta was off last week, after having rolled at Denver, 41-28, in Week 8.

The Series: Atlanta won the most recent meeting, 30-28 at Tampa last December. But the Bucs have dominated this series overall, including five victories in the last six meetings at Atlanta. Last year, the Bucs won at Atlanta, 31-10.

Stats Worth Noting: Atlanta is 1-3 ATS at home this season, 1-4 when favored.

Game Summary: The Bucs undoubtedly built some momentum by outlasting KC last week, and this game is crucial to them - they probably miss the playoffs if they don't win. So from a desperation standpoint, advantage: Tampa Bay. But the Falcons are coming off a bye, at home, and are very much in control of their own destiny as the clear leaders of the NFL's weakest division.

Prediction: FALCONS, 24-17


Seattle (5-3) at St. Louis (4-4)

Line: Rams favored by 1. ATS Records: Seahawks 4-4, Rams 3-5.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle pulled away late at San Francisco in Week 9 to triumph, 41-27, and is alone atop the NFC West - a game ahead of the Rams.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis was humbled at home by defending Super Bowl champion New England, 40-22.

The Series: The Rams won the last meeting, 33-27 in overtime at Seattle earlier this year, by miraculously overcoming a 27-10 deficit with about five minutes to play. Before that game, the home team had prevailed each time since these teams became division rivals in 2001.

Stat Worth Noting: Seattle is 3-2 ATS on the road, the Rams 1-3 at home. The road team has covered ATS in three of the last four meetings.

Game Summary: Three major factors point to Seattle here. First, the Seahawks have put their road woes in the past while the Rams suddenly aren't so unbeatable at home. Second, the coaching matchup is a mismatch. Seattle's Mike Holmgren actually knows how to manage a game and the clock. And lastly, Seattle is still seething about blowing the first game. Revenge is a major component here. Oh, and another thing... the Rams don't play very good defense.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 35-27


Cincinnati (3-5) at Washington (3-5)

Line: Redskins favored by 3. ATS Records: Bengals 2-6, Redskins 3-5.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati romped over visiting Dallas last week, 26-3, and is tied for third place in the AFC North with arch-rival Cleveland.

Redskins Status Report: Washington upset Detroit on the road, 17-10, and is tied for third place in the NFC East with arch-rival Dallas.

The Series: These teams haven't met in 13 years.

Stat Worth Noting: Cincinnati is 0-4 SU and ATS on the road. The Bengals have never won at Washington in three tries.

Game Summary: An ugly one here, likely to be controlled on defense. I could go into more detail on how I believe this game will play out, but I'm assuming you have more important things to do with your time than read about this one. Heck, I might as well go into detail about the Carolina-San Francisco game (see below).

Prediction: REDSKINS, 16-9


New York Giants (5-3) at Arizona (3-5)

Line: Giants favored by 2 1/2. ATS Records: Giants 5-3, Cardinals 5-3.

Giants Status Report: The Giants lost a 28-21 decision to Chicago at home, remaining two games behind Philadelphia in the NFC East.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona rallied for its first-ever victory over Miami, 24-23 in South Florida, and is two games back of Seattle in the NFC West.

The Series: These former division rivals have only played once in the last two years, a 21-7 Arizona home victory in 2002.

Stats Worth Noting: The Giants are 3-1 ATS on the road, but just 1-3 as favorites. Arizona is 2-1 as a home underdog, and 2-0 ATS in conference games outside the NFC West.

Game Summary: So let's see... when the Giants are expected to lose, they win (note road victories over Green Bay, Dallas and Minnesota) and when we think they should win, they get whupped (see home losses to Detroit and Chicago). So what does it mean when the Giants are on the road, but favored? By default, I defer to the Cardinals - who are coming off an inspired come-from-behind win at Miami last week and who usually gives foes a bad time in the desert. The tiebreaker for me is that the Giants have lost their best defensive player, lineman Michael Strahan, for the balance of the season. Wouldn't surprise me if the Giants tumbled the rest of the way.

Prediction: CARDINALS, 23-17


Minnesota (5-3) at Green Bay (4-4)

Line: Packers favored by 4. ATS Records: Vikings 5-3, Packers 4-4.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota was nipped at Indianapolis Monday night, 31-28, but remains in sole possession of first in the NFC North. WR Randy Moss is expected to be sidelined another week.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay was idle last week, after having prevailed at Washington, 28-14, in Week 8.

The Series: Last year, the Packers lost the season opener to Minnesota at home but later emerged from their bye week with a 30-27 triumph at the Metrodome. Overall, the teams are roughly square over the last decade.

Stat Worth Noting: The visiting team has won the last two meetings SU, and covered ATS in five of the last six. Minnesota is 3-1 ATS on the road, the Packers 1-3 ATS at home.

Game Summary: Yet another toss-up. If Moss were playing, I'd definitely lean toward the Vikings because he's been the difference maker in Minnesota's recent success at Lambeau Field. Without him, the Vikings offense is much easier to defend. On the other hand, the Minnesota defense is playing better. A very tough call, but sans Moss, I just don't like Minnesota's chances.

Prediction: PACKERS, 34-24


Carolina (1-7) at San Francisco (1-7)

Line: Even. ATS Records: Panthers 3-5, 49ers 4-4.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina lost at home to Oakland last week, 27-24, and has dropped six in a row.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco was thumped by Seattle at home, 41-27, and has lost three straight.

The Series: The 49ers have won the last two meetings, both in 2001 when the two clubs were NFC West rivals, but Carolina has been surprisingly effective in this series, winning four of seven contests at San Francisco.

Stats Worth Noting: Carolina is 6-1 ATS in seven career trips to San Francisco, and 11-3 ATS in 14 meetings overall.

Game Summary: The 49ers are a bad team who doesn't figure to get better anytime soon. The Panthers are a disappointing team who won the NFC title last year but has since fallen hard and fast with the help of numerous injuries. Of the two, Carolina is the better club. But do we really care about this game anyway?

Prediction: PANTHERS, 24-17


Buffalo (3-5) at New England (7-1)

Line: Patriots favored by 8. ATS Records: Bills 5-3, Patriots 5-1-2.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo posted a 22-17 home upset of the New York Jets last week.

Patriots Status Report: New England's new winning streak is at 1 after a 40-22 romp at St. Louis. The Patriots are alone atop the NFC East, a game ahead of the Jets.

The Series: New England has won five of the last six meetings. The Patriots won at Buffalo earlier this season, 31-17, and routed the Bills at home last season, 31-0.

Stat Worth Noting: The last six meetings have all been decided by more than 10 points.

Game Summary: I'm sticking with the recent numbers here. Buffalo is improved, especially on defense, but the Patriots have too much coming from too many sources. They've obviously reacted favorably to having their infamous 21-game, two-season winning skein snapped two weeks ago. They'll pressure Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe into mistakes, as they usually do.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 27-13


Philadelphia (7-1) at Dallas (3-5)

Line: Eagles favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Eagles 5-3, Cowboys 3-5.

Eagles Status Report: Previously unbeaten Philly was humbled at Pittsburgh, 27-3.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas and its coach who's nicknamed "Tuna" was smoked at Cincinnati, 26-3.

The Series: Philadelphia rolled in the most recent meeting, 36-10 at Philly last December. The Eagles have won six of the last seven meetings, but Dallas won at home a year ago, 23-21. Philadelphia is 7-1 in its last eight Monday night games, including a home victory over Minnesota earlier this season.

Stats Worth Noting: In the Eagles' three most recent victories over Dallas, the average margin was 27 points. Philadelphia is 5-0 SU and ATS in conference games this season.

Game Summary: Both teams should be really ticked off going into this one. Philadelphia was embarrassed at Pittsburgh, so the Eagles should be expected to have chips on their collective shoulders. For Dallas, not only did the Cowboys get humiliated by lowly Cincinnati, but their head coach then proceeded to indirectly call them "stupid." Talent-wise, this game isn't close. Philadelphia is superior on both sides of the ball. Despite the home division game situation, I don't like the Cowboys' chances in this one. Eagles roll.

Prediction: EAGLES, 34-14

ON BYES: Denver (6-3), Miami (1-8), Oakland (3-6), San Diego (6-3).