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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Bob's Breakdown - Week 7
Bob Cunningham
October 20, 2005

Wow, Week 6 was actually relatively normal.

Then again, whenever the NFL becomes even semi-predictable, that by definition would be abnormal.

Favorites prevailed in 12 of 14 contests last week, the lone exceptions being Jacksonville, which upset the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers at Pittsburgh in overtime, and Carolina, which was a whole one-point ‘dog at Detroit and won by a point, 21-20.

Is this is a pattern? Almost definitely not. Upsets will again abound. In fact, I betcha this week reverts back to Surprise Status with at least a handful of games.

Let’s take a closer look at what we might expect in Week 7…

OVERALL PREDICTIONS, 2005
Straight-Up: 54-34 (61%) ATS: 48-36-2 (57%) Over/Under: 40-47-1 (46%)

LAST WEEK
Straight-Up: 11-3 ATS: 8-6 Over/Under: 6-8

* - Estimated line and total.


Kansas City (3-2) at Miami (2-3)

Line: Dolphins favored by 2 (total points line is 42)

Series: No recent meetings, but Miami has dominated this series at home, winning six in a row with a 5-0-1 ATS mark in those games.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City held off Washington at home last week, 28-21, and is 1½ games behind Denver in the AFC West.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami was defeated at Tampa Bay, 27-13. The Dolphins are a half-game behind AFC East co-leaders Buffalo and New England.

Other Noteworthy Info: TE Tony Gonzalez continued his season-long slump for the Chiefs last week, catching only two balls for 13 yards and no TDs. He hasn’t scored yet this season.

Game Summary: Forget Miami’s historical dominance in this matchup. Those previous meetings predominantly came when the Dolphins were perennial playoff qualifiers. The thing to look at here is Kansas City’s improved run defense (they’re ninth in the league) and Miami’s inconsistency on offense. The Chiefs are a better team. They win it.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 24-16


Pittsburgh (3-2) at Cincinnati (5-1)

Line: Bengals favored by 1 (total points line is 43)

Series: Pittsburgh swept the season series last year, winning 19-14 at Cincinnati and 28-17 at home. The Steelers have won 10 of the last 13 at Cincinnati.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh lost at home in overtime to Jacksonville last week, 23-17. The Steelers are second in the AFC North, a game and a half behind the Bengals.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati whipped Tennessee on the road, 31-23.

Other Noteworthy Info: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return after missing last week with a sprained knee suffered two weeks ago at San Diego. WR Hines Ward remains questionable, although coach Bill Cowher noted this week that he’s encouraged about Ward’s progress. For Cincinnati, WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh is listed as questionable but expected to start.

Game Summary: A great clash that will give us more definitive insight into who might eventually win this division. Emotionally, the edge has to go to the Bengals, who are sporting for a fight and looking to prove they belong with the NFL’s elite. But Roethlisberger’s return should be a big boost to the Steelers, who have never lost to anyone other than New England during the regular season when Big Ben starts. My criticism of the Bengals to this point is that, while they deserve the accolades they’ve received to this point, they haven’t beaten anyone. Their only true test to this point was a loss at Jacksonville. And I still like the Steelers defense a little better, especially in a big game.

Prediction: STEELERS, 20-17


Detroit (2-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

Line: Browns favored by 3 (total points line is 34½)

Series: No recent meetings, but the home team has won the last five going back nearly 20 years.

Lions Status Report: Detroit lost at home to Carolina last week, 21-20. The Lions are tied with Chicago atop the NFC North.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland was whipped at Baltimore, 16-3. The Browns trail Cincinnati by 2½ games in the AFC North.

Other Noteworthy Info: Detroit WR Roy Williams is probably out for at least one more game, although there’s still a chance he could suit up. WR Charles Rogers still has a week remaining on his drug-related suspension.

Game Summary: The Browns have played pretty well at home this season, and their defense certainly is improved. Detroit is an enigma of sorts, possessing more talent than its losing record would indicate. The Lions know their division is there for the taking, but it will require success in winnable road games such as this. Cleveland’s continued inability to establish a consistent ground game, combined with Detroit’s get-after-it pass rush will make the difference.

Prediction: LIONS, 23-14


Indianapolis (6-0) at Houston (0-5)

Line: Colts favored by 15 (total points line is 45)

Series: The Colts have won all six previous meetings, but Houston has played them tough a time or two. Indy won at Houston last season, 23-14, and routed the Texans at home, 49-14.

Colts Status Report: Indianapolis rallied from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit at home Monday night to romp over St. Louis, 45-28. The Colts have a two-game lead over Jacksonville in the AFC South.

Texans Status Report: Houston was shelled at Seattle Sunday night, 42-10.

Other Noteworthy Info: Houston WR Andre Johnson remains listed as questionable, but the team website indicated he was likely to return.

Game Summary: It’s not often that you have a 15-point road favorite in the NFL. Can you get caught looking ahead to a bye week? Look, there’s not much to extract here in terms of analysis. The question is, how many points will the Colts win by. DE Dwight Freeney might get five sacks. I believe this game will be similar to Indy’s 28-3 win at San Francisco two weeks ago – decisive and well under the total.

Prediction: COLTS, 31-6


San Diego (3-3) at Philadelphia (3-2)

Line: Eagles favored by 4 (total points line is 47)

Series: San Diego has won two of the three meetings that have taken place since 1990. At Philly, the teams have split two games – neither recent.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego cruised past Oakland on the road last week, 27-14, and is two back of Denver in the AFC West.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia was on a bye, getting an extra week to digest its ugly 33-10 defeat at Dallas in Week 4. The Eagles are tied with the New York Giants and Washington, a half-game behind Dallas in the NFC East.

Other Noteworthy Info: Philadelphia TE L.J. Smith is expected to start after hurting an ankle against the Cowboys.

Game Summary: The Eagles are at home. They will be irked in a major way after their performance at Dallas. They are the defending NFC champs. So why do I like San Diego in an upset? Quite simply, because the Chargers are playing better. And also, because Eagles QB Donovan McNabb isn’t 100 percent. The schedule maker was brutal to the Chargers – can you imagine having to go on the road to face both of the previous year’s Super Bowl participants in a four-week span? – yet they hang tough and have a chance to go over .500. San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer needed a few weeks, but he re-figured out that he had to get LaDainian Tomlinson involved in every facet of the offense for the team to thrive. And thus, you have my upset special.

Prediction: CHARGERS, 24-20


Green Bay (1-4) at Minnesota (1-4)

Line: Packers favored by 3 (total points line is 48)*

Series: The road team has won four of the last five meetings. Last year, Green Bay prevailed at The Metrodome, 34-31, and Minnesota won at Lambeau Field, 31-17.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay got its first victory of the season in the most impressive fashion imaginable, a 52-3 home rout of New Orleans. The Pack is tied with Minnesota for third in the NFC North, just a game out of first.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota was trashed at Chicago last week, 28-3.

Other Noteworthy Info: Green Bay RB Ahman Green is expected to be back in the lineup. Minnesota WR Nate Burleson remains questionable.

Game Summary: If you go on recent results, this one shouldn’t be close. But I expect Minnesota to put out a strong effort after all of its assorted embarrassments of the last few weeks. Still, the road team has had its way in this series of late and the Packers’ newfound confidence should be enough.

Prediction: PACKERS, 27-17


New Orleans (2-4) at St. Louis (2-4)

Line: Rams favored by 5 (total points line is 45)*

Series: New Orleans won at St. Louis last season, 28-25, and has won seven of the last 11 meetings on the Rams’ home turf.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans lost to Atlanta, 34-31, at San Antonio last week. The Saints are in last place in the AFC South, three games behind Tampa Bay.

Rams Status Report: After jumping out to a 17-0 lead Monday night at Indianapolis, the Rams were soundly beaten, 45-28, for their third straight defeat. They are two games behind front-running Seattle in the NFC West.

Other Noteworthy Info: St. Louis QB Marc Bulger is out for this week’s game, and probably the Oct. 30 game against Jacksonville as well.

Game Summary: Make no mistake, the Rams offense is better with Bulger at the controls. But Jamie Martin is a serviceable backup, even if he did look pretty bad for a while there Monday night. Against the Saints’ weak defense (it’s almost as bad the Rams’ D), I expect the Rams – with more overall balance – to score enough points… barely.

Predictions: RAMS, 31-28


Dallas (4-2) at Seattle (4-2)

Line: Seahawks favored by 3 (total points line is 46)

Series: The Cowboys have won three of the last four meetings, including a wild 43-39 victory at Seattle last season.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas won its second in a row last week, 16-13 in overtime over the visiting New York Giants, and took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle overwhelmed visiting Houston Sunday night, 42-10, and sports a two-game lead over St. Louis in the NFC West.

Other Noteworthy Info: Dallas WR Patrick Crayton suffered a severe ankle sprain last week and is out indefinitely. RB Julius Jones remains questionable. Seattle WRs Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram are each questionable for this week. Of the two, Engram is the more likely to return.

Game Summary: Because of the effective ground game led by RB Shaun Alexander, the Seattle passing attack has been adequate despite the absence of both starting receivers. Still, you should note that the current two-game winning streak for the Seahawks has come at the expense of the punchless Texans and defenseless Rams. Dallas’ defense is a lot better, but the Cowboys need Jones near 100 percent to have a realistic chance to grind out a road victory. At home, I like Seattle to avenge last year’s loss.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 26-17


Buffalo (3-3) at Oakland (1-4)

Line: Raiders favored by 3 (total points line is 41)

Series: The Raiders edged the Bills at Oakland last season, 13-10, and has won six of the last eight meetings overall.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo defeated the visiting New York Jets last week, 27-17, and are tied for first in the AFC East with New England.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland lost at home to San Diego, 27-14, and is last in the AFC West.

Other Noteworthy Info: Oakland WR Randy Moss suffered a strained groin and other ailments last week against the Chargers and is unlikely to play this week. Doug Gabriel is the one most likely to replace him in the starting lineup.

Game Summary: Without Moss, the Raiders won’t be able to stretch the stingy Buffalo defense. And on offense, the Silver-and-Black won’t have a consistent answer for Buffalo RB Willis McGahee. I also consider Bills QB Kelly Holcomb an under-rated field leader. The home crowd might be enough to send the Raiders to victory on emotion and desperation, but on paper, Buffalo has the edge virtually everywhere.

Prediction: BILLS, 23-16


San Francisco (1-4) at Washington (3-2)

Line: Redskins favored by 12½ (total points line is 36½)

Series: The road team has won seven of the last nine in this series, including the Redskins’ 26-16 victory at San Francisco last season. The 49ers have won in each of their last four trips to the D.C. area.

49ers Status Report: Rookie QB Alex Smith made his NFL starting debut in a 28-3 home loss to Indianapolis two weeks ago. The 49ers were on their bye last weekend.

Redskins Status Report: Washington lost at Kansas City, 28-21. The Redskins are tied for second in the NFC East, a half-game behind Dallas.

Other Noteworthy Info: San Francisco WR Arnaz Battle may play, but his duty could be limited according to coach Mike Nolan as reported by the team’s website.

Game Summary: Wow, twelve and a half points? I’m not convinced that the Redskins should be favored by that many over the University of Washington, let alone another NFL team… although the 49ers are pretty bad. Smith will probably have a good career, but he’s toast this season as he goes through the proverbial learning curve. Washington’s D is too tough for any real chance at an upset, and the offense has been better of late behind rejuvenated QB Mark Brunell.

Prediction: REDSKINS, 24-7


Baltimore (2-3) at Chicago (2-3)

Line: Bears favored by 1 (total points line is 30½)

Series: These teams have met only twice since 1990, splitting home wins.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore’s defense regrouped from its Week 5 debacle at Detroit to stifle visiting Cleveland, 16-3. The Ravens are tied with the Browns for third in the NFC North, 2½ games behind Cincinnati.

Bears Status Report: Chicago is the NFC North Division co-leader after its 28-3 home rout of Minnesota last week.

Other Noteworthy Info: After it was reported that RB Thomas Jones would probably sit out last week’s game, he instead had a big day – a tribute to his resiliency.

Game Summary: Many people seemed surprised by the Bears’ competitiveness, but I’m not. They can run the ball some, and they’re fourth in the league against the run. A good combination, to be sure, even if the QB play is iffy. And they’ve been great at home. There’s something tugging at me that says the Ravens should find a way to prevail, and perhaps they will, but defense will rule the day one way or the other… and Chicago’s is playing every bit as well as the Ravens’ D at this point, with a better offense and homefield advantage to boot.

Prediction: BEARS, 23-13


Tennessee (2-4) at Arizona (1-4)

Line: Cardinals favored by 2½ (total points line is 45½)

Series: These teams have played only twice going back 16 years, splitting road wins.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee lost at home to Cincinnati last week, 31-23. The Titans are in third place in the AFC South, four games behind unbeaten Indianapolis.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was idle last week. In Week 4, the Cardinals lost at home to Carolina, 24-20.

Other Noteworthy Info: Titans WR Drew Bennett is out after undergoing surgery on his thumb this week. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is due back, but Joshua McCown most likely starts again this week.

Game Summary: As unimpressed as I am with the Cardinals, they’re at home and rested off their bye. They have enough weapons on offense, regardless of who starts at quarterback, to get it done in what should be a close, high-scoring contest.

Prediction: CARDINALS, 27-23


Denver (5-1) at New York Giants (3-2)

Line: Giants favored by 2 (total points line is 47)

Series: No recent meetings. The home team has won the last four contests.

Broncos Status Report: Denver’s 28-20 victory over two-time defending champion New England last week was its fifth straight. The Broncos are a game and a half ahead of Kansas City in the AFC West.

Giants Status Report: The Giants lost in overtime at Dallas, 16-13. They trail the Cowboys by a half-game in the NFC East.

Other Noteworthy Info: The Giants are 3-0 at home this season, averaging 38 points a game.

Game Summary: Denver has the better record, the better defense, and a slight overall statistical advantage. But the Giants have been electric at home, and played very tough at Dallas last week. Should be one of the day’s more entertaining collisions, with something like a late miscue by Broncos QB Jake Plummer being the difference.

Prediction: GIANTS, 23-20


New York Jets (2-4) at Atlanta (4-2)

Line: Falcons favored by 7 (total points line is 40½)

Series: These teams have played three times since 1991 and the home team won each time.

Jets Status Report: The Jets lost at Buffalo last week, 27-17, and is in last place in the AFC East, although only a game out of first.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta outlasted rival New Orleans at San Antonio, 34-31, thanks primarily to two touchdowns not scored by the offense. The Falcons are tied with Carolina in the NFC South, a game behind Tampa Bay.

Other Noteworthy Info: Atlanta RB T.J. Duckett suffered a high ankle sprain last week and is doubtful for Monday’s game.

Game Summary: The stats would indicate a decisive Atlanta victory, but I don’t like how much the Falcons struggled with the Saints last week and I’m a fan of Jets coach Herman Edwards – I believe he instills confidence in his team and gets a top effort a lot more often than not. Then again, I picked the Jets to upset the Bills last week and instead they were slapped down by 10. Who knows? Ultimately, the Falcons should prevail at home so that’s my pick. Scientific, ey?

Prediction: FALCONS, 24-13