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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Bob's Breakdown - Week 3
Bob Cunningham
September 22, 2005

Two weeks into the NFL season, and already things seem jumbled.

The Bengals, Redskins, Giants and Bucs are 2-0. The Chargers, Packers and Vikings are 0-2.

Peyton Manning fails to throw a TD pass for the first time since right before the Roman Empire fell, and yet the Colts win anyway. Jamal Lewis is averaging 2.2 yards per carry. LaDainian Tomlinson has exactly zero receptions in two weeks.

And the only thing uglier than Daunte Culpepper’s play is watching Cardinals fans toss water bottles on the field because of a bad call that wasn’t bad.

Did I mention that the Bengals are 2-0?

What gives? Nothing, really… just a new NFL season. This time of year is typically quirky, and what’s neat about it is that things don’t always “correct.” We end up with lots of weird stuff that becomes sports history. Ya gotta love it.

It’s brutal on the practice of prognosticating, however. Another week, another crapshoot.

OVERALL
Straight-Up: 16-16 (50%) ATS: 16-15-1 (52%) Over/Under: 15-16-1 (48%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 9-7 ATS: 7-8-1 Over/Under: 9-7

* - Line and total points estimated. Actual line and points unavailable.


Jacksonville (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1)

Line: Jets favored by 3 (total points line is 34 1/2)

Series: The teams have split six meetings all-time, with the home team winning five of the six. The Jets are 3-1 against the Jaguars at home, including a 13-10 victory in 2003 – the last meeting between the teams.

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville’s defense played well, but Indianapolis’ played even better in a 10-3 victory over the Jaguars last week. Jacksonville is tied for second with Tennessee in the AFC South, a game behind the Colts.

Jets Status Report: The Jets rebounded nicely from their Week 1 debacle at Kansas City and defeated Miami at home, 17-7. All four AFC East teams are 1-1 after two weeks.

Other Noteworthy Info: Each team has a significant player dinged, and whose status is still to be determined. Jacksonville QB Byron Leftwich has a strained groin, and Jets RB Curtis Martin has a tweaked knee.

Game Summary: Both defenses are top-notch, and coming off strong efforts last week. Leftwich’s status is more crucial than Martin’s, because Jets RB Derrick Blaylock is a capable replacement should Martin be unavailable. With Leftwich at 100 percent, I still wouldn’t like Jacksonville’s chances against the Jets’ D.

Prediction: JETS, 16-10


Atlanta (1-1) at Buffalo (1-1)

Line: Bills favored by 3(total points line is 37)*

Series: These teams haven’t played in four years, and only three times since 1991. Buffalo has won two of the three meetings and gone 2-0-1 ATS in those games.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta staged a nice rally last week at Seattle after trailing 21-0, but came up shy in a 21-18 defeat. The Falcons are in a three-way tie for second in the NFC South, a game behind Tampa Bay.

Bills Status Report: The Bills’ offense was completely stymied at Tampa Bay last week, resulting in a 19-3 loss. Buffalo is in a four-way tie for first place – and last – in the AFC East.

Other Noteworthy Info: Falcons QB Michael Vick twice had to depart last week’s game in the waning moments due to a leg strain, and is listed as questionable for this game, but coach Jim Mora indicated Vick would start.

Game Summary: This is an interesting match-up, because both teams are expected to contend for playoff berths and both sport tough defenses. I like the Falcons a little better overall, and because QB J.P Losman looked pretty bad last week against another quality defense. Vick’s presence decides this one, and I’m predicting he plays.

Prediction: FALCONS, 17-14


Carolina (1-1) at Miami (1-1)

Line: Panthers favored by 3 ½ (total points line is 37)

Series: The teams have played only twice before, with Miami winning both – one at home, the other on the road.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina exacted some super revenge on two-time defending champion New England last week, whipping the Patriots, 27-17, in their first meeting since New England’s three-point win in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers trail Tampa Bay by a game in the NFC South.

Dolphins Status Report: After executing their offense well in all facets in its opener two weeks ago, Miami was stifled by the Jets on the road last week, 17-7.

Other Noteworthy Info: RB Stephen Davis is apparently all the way back from a series of injuries, toting the rock 25 times last week and scoring on three short touchdown runs.

Game Summary: The Dolphins are improved from last season, but Carolina has better short-term prospects. Even though this is a road game, the Panthers should be able to prevent the Miami offense from mustering too much.

Prediction: PANTHERS, 24-16


Cleveland (1-1) at Indianapolis (2-0)

Line: Colts favored by 13 1/2 (total points line is 47)

Series: The Colts have won six of the last seven in the series, although the only loss came at home in 1998. In the most recent meeting, the Colts survived an ugly field goal fest, 9-6, at Cleveland in 2003.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland pulled off the shocker of the season so far, going into Green Bay’s Lambeau Field last week and edging the Packers, 26-24. The Browns are in third in the AFC North, a game behind co-leaders Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Colts Status Report: Indianapolis beat Jacksonville at home last week, 10-3, in the type of game the Colts need to be able to win but typically haven’t in recent seasons. The Colts are alone atop the AFC South, a game ahead of Jacksonville and Tennessee.

Other Noteworthy Info: The Colts’ usually-maligned defense has allowed a grand total of 10 points in the first two games.

Game Summary: I realize that Cleveland is coming off the victory at Green Bay and all… but this has all the makings of blowout city. And do you really think Peyton Manning is going to go consecutive games without a TD pass? Then again, it’s the Colts defense that has me liking my Super Bowl pick so much at the moment.

Prediction: COLTS, 31-13


Cincinnati (2-0) at Chicago (1-1)

Line: Bengals favored by 3 (total points line is 40)

Series: These teams haven’t played since 1999. The Bengals have won two of the last three meetings, after having dropped three straight in the series.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati dominated visiting Minnesota last week for a 37-8 triumph. The Bengals are tied with Pittsburgh for first in the AFC North.

Bears Status Report: Chicago pulled off a stunning 38-6 rout at home over Detroit last week, racing to 31 first-half points. The Bears are tied with the Lions for first in the NFC North.

Other Noteworthy Info: For a team that was supposed to be bad, the Bears defense looks awfully good – just 15 points allowed in two weeks including one TD.

Game Summary: Cincinnati’s suddenly dynamic offense will be the best challenge yet for the Bears’ defense, but it’d be a mistake to sell the Bears short on the other side of the ball. QB Kyle Orton is avoiding mistakes, and RB Thomas Jones looks better than ever. I’m not going to pick the upset, but I like Chicago to keep it competitive throughout.

Prediction: BENGALS, 20-13


Tennessee (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1)

Line: Rams favored by 6 1/2 (total points line is 45 ½)

Series: This will be the first meeting since the Rams held on for a 23-16 victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. St. Louis has won two of the last three meetings overall.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee was impressive in its home opener last week, shutting down the Baltimore running game in a 25-10 upset victory over the Ravens. The Titans are a game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis showed improved defense and special teams play in last week’s 17-12 victory at sweltering Arizona. The Rams are tied with Seattle and San Francisco for top honors in the NFC West.

Other Noteworthy Info: Titans RB Chris Brown, who missed much of last week’s game with a concussion, is likely to start this week. However, Travis Henry figures to get a decent workload as well.

Game Summary: Tennessee’s victory last week not withstanding, it’s still team with a lot of problems… some of which play right into the hands of the Rams. St. Louis is erratic, of course, but a home game against a team with a suspect defense should be a positive situation. Should be, but… this one is closer than it should be.

Prediction: RAMS, 28-24


Oakland (0-2) at Philadelphia (1-1)

Line: Eagles favored by 7 ½ (total points line is 46 ½)

Series: The Raiders have won three of the last four meetings, but Philly won the last encounter in 1999.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland played well at times in its home opener with Kansas City, but key penalties were the difference in a 23-17 loss. The Raiders are tied with San Diego in the AFC West, two games back of the Chiefs.

Eagles Status Report: QB Donovan McNabb threw five TD passes including two to Terrell Owens in a 42-3 rout of San Francisco at home last week. The Eagles are tied with Dallas, a game behind NFC East co-leaders Washington and the New York Giants.

Other Noteworthy Info: Owens’ status is uncertain at this writing with an abdominal strain, but he practiced so the outlook is good. Also, kicker David Akers may not play because of a tender hamstring.

Game Summary: Are the Raiders really going to start off 0-3? Yep. Only if both McNabb and Owens sit or exit early do I give Oakland any legitimate shot, because I just don’t have any faith in the Raiders defense… certainly not enough to forecast the upset.

Prediction: EAGLES, 27-21


Tampa Bay (2-0) at Green Bay (0-2)

Line: Buccaneers favored by 3 (total points line is 38)

Series: The Packers have never lost to Tampa Bay at home, and yet in the last 12 meetings the Bucs have pushed or covered the spread eight times. The last meeting was a 20-13 Green Bay victory in 2003 at Tampa.

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay’s defense is playing every bit as well as the title team of three years ago. Its 19-3 trashing of Buffalo last week gave the Bucs sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay inexplicably lost at home to lowly Cleveland last week, 26-24.

Other Noteworthy Info: RB Cadillac Williams gutted out a wrenched ankle last week and is reportedly good to go. Packers TE Bubba Franks will probably be a game-time decision because of a sore knee.

Game Summary: This is one of those situations where, admittedly, I’m a sucker. Green Bay can’t start off 0-3, can it? Well, yes it could. The Packers can’t lose twice in a row at home, can they? Well, yes they might. Brett Favre can will a victory, won’t he? Well… yes, he will.

Prediction: PACKERS, 20-17


New Orleans (1-1) at Minnesota (0-2)

Line: Vikings favored by 4 ½ (total points line is 44)

Series: The Vikings have won seven of the last nine meetings including four of five at home, but the Saints have played most of them close. The last meeting was a 38-31 Vikings victory at New Orleans last season.

Saints Status Report: The Saints looked fatigued in a 27-10 loss at the Meadowlands to the “visiting” New York Giants Monday. They’re a game behind Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota’s offense was positively putrid for the second straight week, the result a 37-8 loss at Cincinnati. The Vikings are tied with Green Bay for last in the NFC North.

Other Noteworthy Info: Vikings WR Nate Burleson will likely be out of action with strained knee ligaments. Travis Taylor is expected to get the start.

Game Summary: A tough call, because the Vikings have done nothing to warrant anything positive being written about them, while New Orleans has got to be wearing down from the endless road trip that also includes one less day of rest this week, having played Monday. Giving a vote of confidence to the Saints’ resiliency, I’m taking them to win – because, amazingly, Minnesota suddenly has no offense.

Prediction: SAINTS, 24-17


New England (1-1) at Pittsburgh (2-0)

Line: Steelers favored by 3 (total points line is 42)

Series: This will be the third meeting between these teams in the last 11 months, all at Pittsburgh. The Steelers rolled, 34-20, last October but the Patriots gained the ultimate revenge, prevailing 41-27 in the AFC Title Game in January.

Patriots Status Report: New England was throttled at Carolina last week, 27-17, only the third loss in the team’s last 36 games dating back two years.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh easily toppled Houston on the road, 27-7, and has outscored its two foes by a combined 61-14 this season.

Other Noteworthy Info: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is listed as questionable on the league’s official injury report, which means Tommy Maddox may get the start.

Game Summary: This developing rivalry tends to endure a lot of momentum shifts. If that’s an indication of what to expect in this meeting, advantage – Steelers. They’re playing magnificently on both sides of the ball and playing with extreme confidence. New England remains a great team, but no one wins ‘em all. But will the Pats suffer a two-game skid? I say they will.

Prediction: STEELERS, 24-14


Dallas (1-1) at San Francisco (1-1)

Line: Cowboys favored by 6 ½ (total points line is 42)

Series: There have been no recent meetings between the teams, with San Francisco holding a slight edge overall over the last 15 years.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas blew a 13-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining Monday night and lost to Washington at home, 14-13. The Cowboys are tied for second in the NFC East, a game back of the New York Giants.

49ers Status Report: Despite being humiliated at Philadelphia a week ago, 42-3, the 49ers are tied for first in the NFC West with St. Louis and Seattle.

Other Noteworthy Info: Last week’s loss was the first for Dallas coach Bill Parcells when leading in the fourth quarter by at least 13 points. He had been 77-0 in those situations.

Game Summary: The Cowboys are bound to be a bit chippy after Monday’s meltdown, but the 49ers will be equally grumpy… and they’re at home. If San Francisco can pressure Cowboys QB Drew Bledsoe as they did St. Louis’ Marc Bulger two weeks ago in a win over the Rams, the upset is there for the taking. As it is, I expect Dallas to escape.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 28-23


Arizona (0-2) at Seattle (1-1)

Line: Seahawks favored by 6 (total points line is 41 ½)

Series: The teams split home wins last season, after Seattle had dominated in 2003. At Seattle, the Seahawks edged the Cardinals, 24-21.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona played well, except for one horrific, penalty-filled series, and lost at home to St. Louis, 17-12, to fall into last place in the NFC West.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle ran out to a 21-0 lead over Atlanta last week at home, then hung on for a 21-18 victory. The Seahawks are tied with the Rams and San Francisco atop the division.

Other Noteworthy Info: Rookie RB J.J. Arrington, who sat out last week’s game with the flu, may be relegated to splitting carries with Marcel Shipp, reports the Cardinals website.

Game Summary: Hello… welcome to my Upset of the Week – and I feel very good about it. Well, at least as good as one can feel about predicting a Cardinals road victory. QB Kurt Warner looked decent last week, throwing well and making good decisions. He did fumble twice and bobbled a snap as well, but the indications for

a good season are there. Arizona’s defense also performed admirably, while the Seahawks just don’t impress me much (sorry for speaking the words of Shania Twain rather than providing a photo).

Prediction: CARDINALS, 30-24


New York Giants (2-0) at San Diego (0-2)

Line: Chargers favored by 6 ½ (total points line is 42)

Series: These teams have met only twice in the last dozen years, splitting as the visiting team won both encounters.

Giants Status Report: The Giants, getting the benefit of an extra home game, whipped New Orleans, 27-10, and is tied with Washington atop the NFC East.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego squandered a 14-3 lead and wound up losing at Denver, 20-17. The Chargers are tied with the Raiders for last place in the AFC West.

Other Noteworthy Info: Perhaps the most widely known stat in fantasy circles -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson has no receptions through two weeks.

Game Summary: If Tomlinson doesn’t have about six catches for at least 60 yards, I’ll be shocked. With that said, I think the line is crazy – the Giants are for real. QB Eli Manning is playing with poise, and the defense is upper-tier. But San Diego desperately needs this game, so I give the Chargers the nod – perhaps on a late Nate Kaeding field goal that will help him be redeemed for his playoff miss last year.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 31-28


Kansas City (2-0) at Denver (1-1)

Line: Broncos favored by 3 (total points line is 49)

Series: The home team has won six straight in this series, all but one by at least 10 points. In the last meeting, at Kansas City, the Chiefs rolled to a 45-17 rout. The game at Denver was won by the Broncos, 34-24

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City won at Oakland last Sunday night, 23-17, and is alone atop the AFC West.

Broncos Status Report: Denver rallied from an 11-point deficit to nip San Diego last week at home, 20-17.

Other Noteworthy Info: RB Ron Dayne had some key carries last week for the Broncos after Tatum Bell hurt his ankle returning a kickoff, and may again figure in the mix behind starter Mike Anderson. Denver also re-signed RB Quentin Griffin, who was cut during the pre-season.

Game Summary: My gut says that the Chiefs have the momentum to get the victory that has always been ultra-tough for them, but the stats and trends scream Denver. The home team dominates this series, and the Chiefs are playing their second division road game in as many weeks. A close call for Denver, which might get a season-long boost from its rally past the Chargers. And I also expect this one to be lower-scoring than usual – both defenses are up to the early-season challenge.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 23-17