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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 12
Bob Cunningham
November 25, 2004

SEASON RECORDS TO DATE
Straight-Up: 94-66 (59%)
Against-The-Spread: 77-79-4 (49%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 11-5
Against-The-Spread: 9-6-1

Comment: Remember when I said the one thing I was doing well in my prognostications was forecasting New Orleans Saints games? Yeah, well, never mind. On the other hand, a winning record is just that. A word to the wise for the week ahead - think "upsets." There will be several.


Indianapolis (7-3) at Detroit (4-6)

Line: Colts favored by 8. ATS Records: Colts 6-3-1, Lions 5-5.

Colts Status Report: Indianapolis has won three in a row, the latest a 41-10 rout at Chicago last week. The Colts are alone atop the AFC South Division, a game ahead of Jacksonville.

Lions Status Report: Detroit has dropped four straight including a 22-19 decision at Minnesota Sunday. The Lions are two games behind NFC North co-leaders Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Series: The teams have only played twice since 1991, splitting two meetings with the home team winning each time.

Stat Worth Noting: Detroit is 11-4 ATS in its last 15 Thanksgiving Day games (all at home). The Lions were underdogs in all but two of those contests, going 10-3 SU and ATS.

Game Summary: I admit that it's highly unprofessional to pick a game based solely on history that includes time when the involved players were in grammar school. But I guess that's what I'm essentially doing here. Still, I can offer some other reasons for a shocker: Detroit is an improved franchise playing tough virtually every week. The Colts are due for a fall, and are on a short week while staying on the road. They dismantled Chicago so thoroughly that there's nowhere to go but down. I said in the intro above that this would be a weekend with a lot of upsets. Here's a doozie to get it started.

Prediction: LIONS, 27-23


Chicago (4-6) at Dallas (3-7)

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

Bears Status Report: Chicago's 3-game winning streak going into last week came to a shattering end with a 41-10 drubbing at the hands of Indianapolis. The Bears are tied with Detroit for third in the NFC North.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas has dropped 6 of 7 after a 2-1 start. The latest defeat was a 30-10 loss at Baltimore Sunday. Rookie QB Drew Henson reportedly may get the start ahead of veteran Vinnie Testaverde.

The Series: The teams have split the last four meetings, the most recent in 2000, with the home team winning on each occasion.

Stat Worth Noting: Dallas had won four of its previous five Thanksgiving Day games before being routed at home by Miami last season, 40-21.

Game Summary: Dallas' primary weakness is pass defense, but the Bears don't really have the horses to exploit that. Chicago's best bet is to pressure Henson into mistakes, but the kid showed a lot of poise in his limited duty at Baltimore last week. Dallas snaps its skid at home, but not impressively.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 20-13


Baltimore (7-3) at New England (9-1)

Line: Patriots favored by 6*. ATS Records: Ravens 8-2, Patriots 7-1-2.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore has won three straight and five of six, including last week's 30-10 rout of Dallas at home. The Ravens trail AFC North Division-leading Pittsburgh by two games.

Patriots Status Report: New England has put together another winning streak after having its record-setting 21-gamer halted last month. The Patriots' 27-19 conquest at Kansas City Monday night was its third in a row. The Pats lead the New York Jets by two games in the AFC East.

The Series: Interestingly, these two AFC clubs have met only twice since the Ravens were the former Cleveland Browns, with New England winning both.

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: Defense should rule the day here, but there's no way to logically pick against the Patriots at home as well as they're playing. The Ravens just aren't dynamic enough offensively to test the New England defense.

Prediction: PATRIOTS, 19-7


Cleveland (3-7) at Cincinnati (4-6)

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

Browns Status Report: Cleveland lost at home to the New York Jets Sunday, 10-7, and has dropped four in a row - in fact, the Browns' last victory came against the Bengals five weeks ago. QB Kelly Holcomb is likely to start ahead of injured Jeff Garcia.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati played tough but lost a 19-14 decision to Pittsburgh at home last week. The Bengals are a game ahead of the Browns for third place in the AFC North.

The Series: Cleveland rolled in the first meeting this season, 34-17, and has won six of the last seven meetings overall.

Stats Worth Noting: The Browns are 14-5 ATS against the Bengals since 1995 and 6-1 in the last seven meetings. However, Cleveland is 0-4 ATS on the road so far this year.

Game Summary: I might be in the minority here, but I believe Holcomb is a better fit than Garcia and, therefore, Cleveland has a better chance to win with him at the helm of the offense. I know Terrell Owens agrees with me. Anyway, both teams are playing solid defense so this one likely will come down to a late mistake. Cincinnati tends to make those more often.

Prediction: BROWNS, 16-13


Washington (3-7) at Pittsburgh (9-1)

Line: Steelers favored by 10 1/2. ATS Records: Redskins 3-7, Steelers 8-2.

Redskins Status Report: Washington was blasted at Philadelphia last week, 28-6, and is tied with Dallas for third (last) place in the NFC East.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh improved its league-best winning skein to eight with a 19-14 victory at Cincinnati.

The Series: The teams have only played twice in the last dozen years, with Pittsburgh winning both at home. The Steelers haven't gone to Washington since the early 1980's.

Stats Worth Noting: Washington is 0-3 ATS vs. the AFC, the Steelers 2-0 ATS against the NFC.

Game Summary: The Redskins' respectable defense kept it close with the Eagles last week for a half, but for this one... it's not rocket science. Even if the Steelers let down a little, which they might, they'd have to stoop a long way to lose at home to Patrick Ramsey and company.

Prediction: STEELERS, 23-10


Tennessee (4-6) at Houston (4-6)

Line: Titans favored by 1. ATS Records: Titans 4-6, Texans 4-5-1.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee posted an 18-15 upset victory at Jacksonville last week to tie Houston for third in the AFC South, three games behind first-place Indianapolis.

Texans Status Report: Houston squandered a 13-3 lead and lost at home to Green Bay, 16-13, the Texans' third straight defeat.

The Series: Houston the first meeting this season, 20-10 at Tennessee, its first win over the Titans in five tries.

Stats Worth Noting: Although Tennessee is 4-1 SU in the series, Houston is 3-2 ATS. The Titans are 3-2 ATS on the road in 2004.

Game Summary: I still believe that if QB Steve McNair can regain his health and play close to the level he has attained periodically throughout his career, the Titans can make a run at a wild-card spot. Houston is headed the other direction - the Texans are highly improved but don't appear to be ready to take the crucial next step. It's tough to sweep a season series... Tennessee gets its split.

Prediction: TITANS, 24-17


Jacksonville (6-4) at Minnesota (6-4)

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

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville lost at home to Tennessee last week, 18-15, to fall a game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota held off Detroit at home, 22-19, to remain tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North.

The Series: The teams have met twice all-time, splitting with both games played at Minnesota.

Stat Worth Noting: Jacksonville is 5-2 ATS this season as an underdog. Minnesota is 3-0 ATS against the AFC this year.

Game Summary: I'd like the Jags' chances a lot better with Byron Leftwich doing the quarterbacking. Vikings, with continued improved play from their defense and the likely return of WR Randy Moss, pull away late.

Prediction: VIKINGS, 26-17


San Diego (7-3) at Kansas City (3-7)

Line: Even*. ATS Records: Chargers 8-1-1, Chiefs 3-7.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego has won four in a row, including last week's 23-17 triumph at Oakland. The Chargers are tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West Division.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City lost at home to New England on Monday night, 27-19.

The Series: Kansas City swept the season series in 2003, including a 27-14 win at home. The Chiefs are 13-2 in their last 15 in this series.

Stat Worth Noting: San Diego is 4-0-1 ATS on the road.

Game Summary: No lengthy write-up here. This is a law of averages thing - for this season as opposed to all-time. San Diego's winning streak in 2004 ends, KC's over the Chargers continues.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 34-27


Philadelphia (9-1) at New York Giants (5-5)

Line: Eagles favored by 7. ATS Records: Eagles 7-3, Giants 5-5.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia pulled away to a 28-6 romp over Washington last week. The Eagles can clinch the NFC East Division title with a victory over the Giants. A Philly win would make the division lead five with five weeks remaining, and the Eagles having already swept the season series between the two.

Giants Status Report: The Giants have dropped three straight, including last week's 14-10 home loss to Atlanta.

The Series: Philadelphia won the first meeting, 31-17, at home in Week 1. The Eagles have won five of the last six meetings.

Stat Worth Noting: The Eagles are 7-0 SU and ATS in conference games.

Game Summary: With the division title there for the taking, the Eagles should take care of business. Rookie QB Eli Manning obviously has a good future, and he's probably already a better option than Kurt Warner, but he's not ready to lead an upset of this magnitude. Still, this is a home division underdog and the Giants' ability to run Tiki Barber left, right and most places in between gives them a shot against Philly's average-at-best rush defense. This one will be tight.

Prediction: EAGLES, 22-17


Tampa Bay (4-6) at Carolina (3-7)

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

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay won for the fourth time in six games, routing San Francisco 35-3 on Sunday at home.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina won its first home game of 2004 last week, whipping Arizona, 35-10.

The Series: The Panthers swept the season series last year, winning by a field goal each time. Tampa Bay had won the previous three meetings.

Stats Worth Noting: Carolina is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings. The Panthers were 0-4 SU and ATS at home prior to last week.

Game Summary: If a 10-6 record is required for playoffs entrance, then Tampa Bay cannot lose again this season. The Bucs are playing well on both sides of the ball, QB Brian Griese triggering the turnaround. Staying with the hot hand (arm).

Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 21-13


New Orleans (4-6) at Atlanta (8-2)

Line: Falcons favored by 9 1/2. ATS Records: Saints 3-7, Falcons 5-5.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans was blown away at home by Denver, 34-13, and is tied with Tampa Bay for second in the NFC South, four games behind the Falcons.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta held off the Giants on the road last week, 14-10, and can all but clinch the NFC South title with a victory here (and if Tampa Bay loses at Carolina).

The Series: The Saints swept last season, including an eye-popping 45-17 rout at Atlanta. The Falcons swept in 2002, and only twice in the last eight years has this season series been split.

Stat Worth Noting: The road team in this series is an amazing 21-6-1 ATS since 1990.

Game Summary: On paper, the Falcons should win easily. But this is one of those rivalries where you really can usually throw the records out. The Saints have fared better against Michael Vick than many, and although their defense is struggling mightily, I expect this one to be close.

Prediction: FALCONS, 27-24


New York Jets (7-3) at Arizona (4-6)

Line: Jets favored by 3. ATS Records: Jets 5-4-1, Cardinals 6-4.

Jets Status Report: New York held on for a 10-7 victory at Cleveland last week. The Jets trail first-place New England by two games in the AFC East.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was throttled at Carolina a week ago, 35-10, and is two game behind front-running Seattle in the NFC West.

The Series: The Jets have won the only two meetings since 1989, one at each locale.

Stats Worth Noting: The visiting team covered ATS in both those meetings. The Jets are 2-0 ATS as road favorites this season, the Cardinals 3-1 as home underdogs.

Game Summary: As reliable as the Cardinals are at finding a way to get beat on the road, they frequently come through with bigtime home efforts. And coach Dennis Green is a proven winner. Another of those upsets I mentioned.

Prediction: CARDINALS, 20-16


Miami (1-9) at San Francisco (1-9)

Line: 49ers favored by 2 1/2*. ATS Records: Dolphins 3-7, 49ers 4-6.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost at Seattle on Sunday, 24-17. The Dolphins have lost three straight.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco was routed at Tampa Bay, 35-3, for its fifth loss in a row.

The Series: The 49ers have won the last four meetings, the most recent in 1998.

Stat Worth Noting: San Francisco is 1-0 ATS and SU as a favorite this year.

Game Summary: Can you believe that these two franchises have combined for seven Super Bowl titles, and faced off once in the Big Game a mere 20 years ago? Instead of Dan Marino vs. Joe Montana, we have A.J. Feeley vs. Tim Rattay. It is to weep. Anyway, I like Miami to get the very mild upset because its defense is better and the Dolphins have played somewhat better of late, even in defeat.

Prediction: DOLPHINS, 17-14


Buffalo (4-6) at Seattle (6-4)

Line: Seahawks favored by 7*. ATS Records: Bills 6-4, Seahawks 4-6.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo rolled over St. Louis at home, 37-17, for its third win in four games.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle has won two straight, including a 24-17 triumph over Miami last week, to seize a one-game lead over St. Louis in the NFC West.

The Series: Seattle has won 4 of the last six meetings, including three of four meetings at home. The most recent meeting was five years ago.

Stat Worth Noting: Seattle is 1-3 ATS as a home favorite this season.

Game Summary: I'm not hyped about the Seahawks. Too inconsistent. The Bills are playing much better, and have the defense to rock Seattle's world. But the Bills are not reliable road warriors.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 28-23


Oakland (3-7) at Denver (7-3)

Line: Broncos favored by 11. ATS Records: Raiders 3-7, Broncos 4-4-2.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland lost at home to San Diego, 23-17, and has dropped six of seven after a 2-1 start.

Broncos Status Report: Denver whipped New Orleans on the road, 34-13, and is tied with the Chargers atop the AFC West.

The Series: The Broncos have won the last three meetings by an average margin of 21 points, including a 31-3 rout at Oakland last month.

Stat Worth Noting: Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's career record against the Raiders is 14-4 SU. Reportedly, he never tires of whipping former boss Al Davis.

Game Summary: The first meeting wasn't close. This one won't be either.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 38-14


St. Louis (5-5) at Green Bay (6-4)

Line: Packers favored by 5 1/2. ATS Records: Rams 4-6, Packers 4-5-1.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis was humbled at Buffalo Sunday, 37-17, and is a game behind Seattle in the NFC West.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay's 16-13 victory at Houston Sunday night was its fifth straight. The Pack is tied with Minnesota for first place in the NFC North.

The Series: The Rams won at home last season, 34-24, but Green Bay has won four of the last five played in Wisconsin.

Stat Worth Noting: The home team has won seven of the last eight meetings in this series, including the postseason.

Game Summary: Green Bay is on a roll, not only putting up points behind ageless Brett Favre but also stopping foes from doing likewise. The Rams are awful on the road, and their "greatest show of turf" niche isn't well-suited to the frozen tundra. The Pack keeps it going.

Prediction: PACKERS, 34-21

* Estimated Line. Official Line Not Available At Presstime.