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Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 11
Bob Cunningham
November 18, 2004

Straight-Up: 83-61 (58%)
Against-The-Spread: 68-73-3 (48%)

Straight-Up: 9-5
Against-The-Spread: 7-7

Comment: Only a sweep of the Sunday night and Monday games prevented a losing week ATS. I tell ya, this just isn't getting any easier. Of course, if the Lions had managed to lose by a simple field goal in overtime at Jacksonville rather than yielding a touchdown, I would've enjoyed a winning week. Stuff happens...

New York Jets (6-3) at Cleveland (3-6)

Line: Browns favored by 1. ATS Records: Jets 4-4-1, Browns 4-5.

Jets Status Report: The Jets lost at home to Baltimore, 20-17 in overtime, to fall two games behind New England in the AFC East. After a 5-0 start, the Jets have dropped 3 of 4.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland lost at home to Pittsburgh last week, 24-10, to fall into last place in the AFC North.

The Series: The Browns won the last meeting, 24-21 at the Meadowlands in 2002. These teams have met only twice in the last decade, with Cleveland winning both meetings.

Stat Worth Noting: Despite its loss last week, Cleveland is 4-1 ATS at home this season and 1-0 in its only game as a favorite. The Jets are 0-1-1 as 'dogs.

Game Summary: Although the Jets have the edge on defense, I'm just not convinced they're ready for success in adverse conditions with Quincy Carter as their QB. Cleveland is tough at home this season, last week not withstanding. The Browns are the choice.

Prediction: BROWNS, 17-13

St. Louis (5-4) at Buffalo (3-6)

Line: Rams favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Rams 4-5, Bills 5-4.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis snapped a 2-game losing streak with a 23-12 triumph over Seattle at home last week. The win put the Rams in a tie for the NFC West lead, although their season sweep of the Seahawks essentially means they're alone at the top.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo was embarrassed at New England Sunday night, 29-6.

The Series: The teams have split the last six meetings, including the only two over the last dozen years played at Buffalo.

Stat Worth Noting: St. Louis is 0-2 SU and ATS against the AFC East this season.

Game Summary: The way I figure it, the Rams are an up-and-down team. They were up last week, so it stands to reason they should come back down for this one. And I believe they will. Buffalo is a solid home 'dog here, a team with a good defense and an oncoming rushing attack led by young Willis McGahee. The Rams can't stop the run. I don't believe St. Louis will play as poorly as it did in Miami in its last road game, but the same atmosphere prevails.

Prediction: BILLS, 24-17

Pittsburgh (8-1) at Cincinnati (4-5)

Line: Steelers favored by 4 1/2. ATS Records: Steelers 7-2, Bengals 3-6.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh's 24-10 victory at Cleveland last week was its sixth in a row.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati broke through for its first road win of the season, 17-10 at Washington.

The Series: Pittsburgh won the first meeting this season, 28-17 at home on Oct. 3. Prior to that game, the visiting team had won 4 of 5.

Stats Worth Noting: The road team in this series is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings, but 0-1 this year.

Game Summary: This is a tougher game to figure than might meet the eye. The Steelers could easily stumble in the second of consecutive weeks in Ohio, and Cincinnati is coming off an impressive defensive performance on the road. But Pittsburgh is playing so thoroughly well on both sides of the ball, I can't go against them again as I did with my upset special of Week 10. Mark it down, however - I said after the Steelers beat New England and Philadelphia back-to-back that they'd drop one of the next two on the road (I really thought it would have been at Cleveland).

Prediction: STEELERS, 27-16

Dallas (3-6) at Baltimore (6-3)

Line: Ravens favored by 7 1/2. ATS Records: Cowboys 3-6, Ravens 7-2.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas was torched at home by Philadelphia Monday night, 49-21.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore edged the Jets in overtime, 20-17, and is two games behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

The Series: Baltimore won the last meeting at home in 1998. It's only the meeting dating back to 1991.

Stats Worth Noting: Baltimore is 3-1 ATS as a home favorite, and 2-0 against the NFC.

Game Summary: The Cowboys are looking bad on both sides of the ball, and Baltimore's stalwart defense is being complemented by an improving attack. Maybe I'm too by-the-numbers, but this looks like a romp to me.

Prediction: RAVENS, 27-10

Tennessee (3-6) at Jacksonville (6-3)

Line: Jaguars favored by 3. ATS Records: Titans 3-6, Jaguars 6-3.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee was beaten at home in overtime by Chicago, 19-17, and is in last place in the AFC South.

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville also went to OT, defeating visiting Detroit, 23-17, to remain in a first-place tie with Indianapolis in the AFC South.

The Series: Jacksonville won the first meeting at Tennessee earlier this season, 15-12. But Tennessee has won 7 of the last 10.

Stats Worth Noting: Tennessee is 7-3 SU and ATS at Jacksonville, including four straight wins/covers. The visiting team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.

Game Summary: It's probably too simplified of an approach to write that QB Steve McNair decides this one, but with all due respect to backup Billy Volek, that's precisely how I see this one. At this writing, McNair is expected to start after missing two games with that nasty bruised sternum. If he does, it's McNair versus David Garrard. I like the upset pick.

Prediction: TITANS, 17-14

Indianapolis (6-3) at Chicago (4-5)

Line: Colts favored by 7. ATS Records: Colts 5-3-1, Bears 5-4

Colts Status Report: Indianapolis routed Houston at home last week, 49-14, and is tied with Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

Bears Status Report: Chicago won at Tennessee in overtime last week, 19-17, and has won three straight to pull within a game of NFC North co-leaders Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Series: Chicago won the only meeting dating back 13 years, at Chicago in 1997.

Stats Worth Noting: Chicago is 1-3 SU and ATS at home this season.

Game Summary: A trap for the sizzling Colts? Very possible, because Chicago is also hot. But the Colts have a lot more weapons than the Bears have had to deal with during their victory skein, and coach Tony Dungy's Colts know how to go on the road and gut out important victories.

Prediction: COLTS, 27-17

Denver (6-3) at New Orleans (4-5)

Line: Broncos favored by 4. ATS Records: Broncos 3-4-2, Saints 3-6.

Broncos Status Report: Denver was on a bye last week, after having defeated Houston at home in Week 9. The Broncos are tied for first with San Diego atop the AFC West.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans held off Kansas City last week, 27-20, and is in second place in the NFC South, three games behind Atlanta.

The Series: The squads have split two meetings since 1990, with the visiting team winning each time.

Stat Worth Noting: Denver is 0-2 ATS vs. the NFC this season.

Game Summary: The Broncos are rested, and coach Mike Shanahan is as deft as any at preparation. Last year, Denver came off its bye and routed San Diego at home by 29 points. The Saints' confidence is growing, however, and the team has weapons. For the second week in a row, they win outright as home underdogs. This is the first of my co-upset specials.

Prediction: SAINTS, 28-24

Detroit (4-5) at Minnesota (5-4)

Line: Vikings favored by 7 1/2. ATS Records: Lions 4-5, Vikings 6-3.

Lions Status Report: Detroit lost in overtime at Jacksonville last week, 23-17.

Vikings Status Report: After Sunday's 34-31 loss at Green Bay, the Vikings have dropped three in a row but are still tied for first in the NFC North

The Series: Minnesota has won the last six meetings, including last year's 24-14 home victory.

Stat Worth Noting: Detroit is 3-3 ATS in those six straight defeats at the hands of the Vikings.

Game Summary: I think the Lions' bid for true respectability ended with last week's loss. This is a young team which will be very good... next season. On the other hand, the Vikings are ready to explode on someone. Even without Randy Moss, who will sit at least one more week, the Minnesota offense clicks for the home folks.

Prediction: VIKINGS, 38-17

Arizona (4-5) at Carolina (2-7)

Line: Panthers favored by 3. ATS Records: Cardinals 6-3, Panthers 4-5.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona defeated the New York Giants at home, 17-14, and is just a game behind NFC West co-leaders St. Louis and Seattle.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina rallied from a 17-3 halftime deficit to blitz San Francisco on the road, 37-27.

The Series: Arizona has won three of the four meetings, including two of three at Carolina. However, the Panthers won at Arizona, 20-17, last season.

Stat Worth Noting: Three of the four meetings were decided by a field goal.

Game Summary: My how things can change. It's so weird nowadays, we can actually predict Arizona to win on the road with reasonable comfort. Last week's rally not withstanding, injury-plagued Carolina isn't a very good team. The Cardinals get their second straight road triumph.

Prediction: CARDINALS, 24-21

San Francisco (1-8) at Tampa Bay (3-6)

Line: Bucs favored by 7. ATS Records: 49ers 4-5, Bucs 3-5-1.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco dropped a 37-27 decision at home to Carolina last week, after leading by 14 points at halftime.

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay lost at Atlanta, 24-14, to fall four games behind the NFC South-leading Falcons.

The Series: The 49ers won the last meeting, at home in 2003, 24-7. Tampa Bay won two years ago at home, 31-6.

Stats Worth Noting: The home team is 5-1 SU and ATS in the last six meetings.

Game Summary: The season is a lost cause for the 49ers, while the Bucs still harbor a slight hope of reaching the playoffs. The Tampa Bay offense has played better of late, and the Bucs' defense is far superior in this matchup.

Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 31-14

Miami (1-8) at Seattle (5-4)

Line: Seahawks favored by 9 1/2. ATS Records: Dolphins 2-7, Seahawks 4-5.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami was off last week, after having lost at home to Arizona in Week 9.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle dropped a 23-12 decision at St. Louis last week, and is tied for first place in the NFC West with the Rams.

The Series: Miami has won four of the last five meetings, including all three played at Seattle. The most recent meeting, however, was six years ago.

Stat Worth Noting: In the last six meetings, the visitors are 5-1 SU and ATS.

Game Summary: The Dolphins have a different head coach than when they last played a game, and also a new starting QB. Needless to write, this is a franchise in disarray. The Seahawks will cruise unless they turn the ball over - a lot.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 30-7

San Diego (6-3) at Oakland (3-6)

Line: Chargers favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Chargers 7-1-1, Raiders 3-6.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego was on a bye last week, after dismantling New Orleans in Week 9, 43-17, for its third straight victory. The Chargers are tied with Denver atop the AFC West.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland also had last week off. In Week 9, the Raiders won at Carolina to snap a 5-game losing streak.

The Series: San Diego won easily just three weeks ago, 42-14. The last meeting at Oakland was a 34-31 Raiders victory in 2003.

Stats Worth Noting: San Diego is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings, and 9-3 ATS in its last 12 trips to Oakland.

Game Summary: The only real question to be answered here is how a red-hot Chargers club will react to the ill-timed two weeks off. Last year, San Diego was 0-5 entering its bye week. The Bolts emerged and beat Cleveland on the road. Oakland played just well enough to win at Carolina two weeks ago, but this is a team still struggling and totally outclassed by the Chargers less than a month ago.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 34-20

Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (8-1)

Line: Eagles favored by 11. ATS Records: Redskins 3-6, Eagles 6-3.

Redskins Status Report: Washington lost at home to Cincinnati, 17-10. QB Mark Brunell was replaced by Patrick Ramsey, who is expected to get the start this week.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia dominated at Dallas on Monday night, 49-21. The Eagles have opened a three-game lead in the NFC East.

The Series: The Eagles have won the last six meetings, including a 31-7 romp at Washington in the most recent encounter, last December. However, in the last game played at Philly, the Eagles survived 27-25.

Stat Worth Noting: Five of those six Eagles victories were by double-figure margins.

Game Summary: The only aspect even remotely helping the Redskins here is that the Eagles will be operating on a short week after playing in Dallas Monday. That and the Eagles' potential for looking ahead to next week's clash against the Giants... nah, the Eagles should roll.

Prediction: EAGLES, 31-10

Atlanta (7-2) at New York Giants (5-4)

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

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta defeated Tampa Bay at home last week, 24-14, and sports a comfy three-game lead atop the NFC South.

Giants Status Report: The Giants suffered their second loss in a row, 17-14 at Arizona. QB Kurt Warner has been benched, with rookie phenom Eli Manning taking his place.

The Series: See 'Game Summary'.

Stat Worth Noting: The visiting team has won each of the last four meetings.

Game Summary: Without defensive leader Michael Strahan and with a rookie under center, it's tough to go with the Giants even as a home underdog. The Falcons are improving weekly as QB Michael Vick gets more and more comfortable with the system. In a bit of irony, Atlanta has won at The Meadowlands each of the last two seasons including a decisive 27-7 tally last year. It was the same situation for the Giants going into Minnesota three weeks ago - they had won there each of the last two years - and they successfully maintained the streak with a victory. Ditto for the Falcons this week.

Prediction: FALCONS, 27-20

Green Bay (5-4) at Houston (4-5)

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

Packers Status Report: Green Bay held off Minnesota at home, 34-31, to catch the Vikings atop the NFC North.

Texans Status Report: Houston was throttled by Indianapolis on the road, 49-14, and is two games behind the AFC South co-leading Colts and Jacksonville.

The Series: First meeting.

Stat Worth Noting: Green Bay is 3-1 ATS on the road this season and 2-0 as road favorites.

Game Summary: The Packers are on a roll. Houston is on a slide... sounds like the makings of my second upset special. Houston is consistently a tough home club, and the Packers defense can still be had. Green Bay may be susceptible to a letdown following the dramatic and exhausting victory over Minnesota. Houston coach Dom Capers will have his team ready to play at home, after consecutive stinker efforts at Denver and Indy. You know the Texans crowd will be among the loudest of the season. And, Texans running back Domanick Davis can match the Pack's Ahman Green, yard for yard and TD for TD. True, David Carr is no Brett Favre... at least, not yet. But he won't need to be for Houston to be successful. He'll just need to exploit the Packers secondary with a couple of big plays to Andre Johnson.

Prediction: TEXANS, 31-28

New England (8-1) at Kansas City (3-6)

Line: Patriots favored by 3. ATS Records: Patriots 6-1-2, Chiefs 3-6.

Patriots Status Report: New England routed Buffalo at home Sunday night, 29-6, and is cruising atop the AFC East.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City lost at New Orleans, 27-20, and is nearing virtual elimination from contention.

The Series: The Patriots won the last meeting, 41-38 at home in 2002. The three previous meetings at Kansas City were all won by the Chiefs.

Stat Worth Noting: New England covered ATS in all three of those losses at KC.

Game Summary: What this will come down to, in my opinion, is need. For the Chiefs, a victory in this one is absolutely mandatory if they are to have any prayer of making the playoffs. For New England, a loss here would be nothing more than a small bump in the road on the way to what will be, at worst, the No. 2 seeding in the AFC playoffs. Like in the Green Bay-Houston tilt, the home crowd and a national TV audience will be crucial to the hosts. The Chiefs find a way to get it done, because they have to, whether it's Priest Holmes or Derrick Blaylock toting the rock.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 31-23