All in all, the prognosticating gig is going okay in 2005. I’m actually up on our esteemed editor, David Dorey, in both straight-up and ATS categories and I’m not getting as much bashing on Huddle message boards (note, however that I mentioned nothing of kudos either).
The one thing I can’t get a handle on this season are those blasted over/unders – another losing week, and a sorry 44 percent for the season. Ugh.
That’s okay, though, because it opens the door for me to experiment a little this week. I’m going to try a mathematical formula. For each game this week, I will take the average of each team’s points per week/opponents points allowed per week, add them together, and compare to the total points line. We’ll see what happens.
Also, I’m making a slight format change to my column beginning this week. In place of the “Other Noteworthy Info” section for each game will be “Fantasy Tidbit”. I was previously trying to incorporate key injury information for the most part in the “ONI” section, but because my weekly deadline for getting this column to the editors is Wednesday, my updates didn’t always turn out to be consistent with the eventual Sunday status of players. Where appropriate, I will include relevant injury information in the Game Summary.
On to Week 9…
OVERALL PREDICTIONS, 2005
Straight-Up: 75-41 (65%) ATS: 63-48-3 (57%) Over/Under: 49-63-4 (44%)
Straight-Up: 11-3 ATS: 7-7 Over/Under: 5-8-1
San Diego (4-4) at New York Jets (2-6)
Line: Chargers favored by 6 (total points line is 41½)
Series: Interestingly, the road team has won each of the last four meetings including the Jets’ 20-17 victory at San Diego in last year’s AFC playoffs. New York also won at San Diego during the regular season a year ago, 34-28. San Diego’s only win in the series since 1992 came at The Meadowlands in 2000.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego won at home over Kansas City Sunday, 28-20. The Chargers trail Denver by two games in the AFC West.
Jets Status Report: The Jets were on a bye last week. In Week 7, they lost at Atlanta on a Monday night, 27-14, and have dropped four of their last five overall. They are last in the AFC East.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Jets defense has been respectable, especially at home, but San Diego’s offense is top notch. That could mean a bend-but-not break scenario for the guys in green and a big kicking day for the Chargers’ Nate Kaeding.
Game Summary: San Diego is unquestionably the better team… as well as healthier… but the Jets are solid at home, have had success in this series, and have had an extra week to prepare. Add it up, and the sum total is a close, competitive contest. I’ll take the Chargers because their skill players are far superior, but it wouldn’t amaze me if the Jets pulled the upset.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 23-20
Atlanta (5-2) at Miami (3-4)
Line: Falcons favored by 2 (total points line is 40)
Series: These teams have met at Miami four times, with Miami winning all four but covering ATS only once.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta was off last week. On Monday night, Oct. 24, the Falcons rolled past the New York Jets at home, 27-13. They are in a three-way tie with Carolina and Tampa Bay atop the NFC South.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami celebrated coach Nick Saban’s return to Baton Rouge, La., where he led Louisiana State University to a BCS title two years ago, by whipping New Orleans, 21-6. The Dolphins are second in the AFC East, a game behind New England.
Fantasy Tidbit: Both of Miami’s RBs, rookie Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, were productive last week. But their carries were roughly even – Brown had 23, Williams 17 – and that’s not good news for either man’s fantasy owners. If you have a viable alternative to either, you might want to skip using Dolphins backs until one is completely established as the featured guy on a weekly basis. On the other hand, either is a decent play in larger leagues.
Game Summary: Atlanta had the extra week to prepare, and is in the middle of a three-day dogfight in its division that won’t suffer a team which loses to sub-.500 foes. The Falcons are a little better on each side of the ball, and that will be enough on the road in a game that I’m confident will go over the total (although please bear in mind I’ve been terrible this season on the totals).
Prediction: FALCONS, 27-21
Cincinnati (6-2) at Baltimore (2-5)
Line: Bengals favored by 3 (total points line is 34)
Series: Cincinnati won at Baltimore last season, 27-26, and the teams have split the last six meetings overall.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati picked off Brett Favre five times en route to a 21-14 decision over Green Bay last week. The Bengals are a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh in the AFC North.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore nearly pulled off the upset at Pittsburgh Monday night, but came up short and lost, 20-19. The Ravens are tied for third in the AFC North with Cleveland.
Fantasy Tidbit: His stats weren’t great, but I liked what I saw from Ravens RB Jamal Lewis Monday night. At home against a relatively soft Cincinnati run defense, I like Lewis to break out with his first 100-yard game of the campaign.
Game Summary: Missing defensive general Ray Lewis and his top colonel, Ed Reed, may end up being the difference here. If they return, I like the Ravens in a mild upset. If both miss another week, well… Cincinnati is awfully talented on the offensive side of the ball. Baltimore will be operating on a short week. The Ravens probably get close again… and fall short, again.
Prediction: BENGALS, 23-16
Tennessee (2-6) at Cleveland (2-5)
Line: Browns favored by 3 (total points line is 38½)
Series: The Titans have won six of the last seven meetings, but none recent.
Titans Status Report: Tennessee lost at home to Oakland, 34-25, and remains in third in the AFC South. The Titans have lost three straight.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland traveled to Houston last week and allowed the Texans to secure their first victory of 2005, 19-16. The Browns, who have also dropped three in a row, are tied with Baltimore in the AFC North.
Fantasy Tidbit: Looking for a nice sleeper pick, and a guy who could come up with a big play or two? Try Cleveland rookie WR Braylon Edwards against the struggling Titans secondary.
Game Summary: A lot of mixed signals here. For Tennessee, there’s QB Steve McNair and a fairly balance offense. But the Browns are at home and have a decent defense, plus possibly the motivation to help QB Trent Dilfer keep his starting gig. A potential distraction, however, is the drunk driving arrest this week of RB Reuben Droughns, who incidentally still hasn’t tallied a TD. Truly a toss-up, so I’ll go with the team getting points.
Prediction: TITANS, 20-14
Houston (1-6) at Jacksonville (4-3)
Line: Jaguars favored by 13 (total points line is 36½)
Series: Surprisingly, Houston swept the season series in 2004 and has won three of four meetings overall. The Texans scored a 21-0 shocker at Jacksonville late last season to knock the Jags out of playoff contention, and whipped the Jaguars, 20-6, in last year’s other meeting.
Texans Status Report: Houston gained its first victory of the season Sunday, a 19-16 conquest of visiting Cleveland.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville lost at St. Louis, 24-21, to fall three games behind the first-place Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor had a huge game at St. Louis, and is pitted against the NFL’s worst run defense this week. Even with the inherent injury risks associated with “Fragile Freddy,” this is a no-brainer.
Game Summary: Sweet revenge! Jacksonville is going to come into this one with a large chip on its collective shoulder pads… having lost to the Rams, and getting knocked around twice by Houston last season. Jacksonville dominates in a game that stays well under the total.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 24-3
Oakland (3-4) at Kansas City (4-3)
Line: Chiefs favored by 4½ (total points line is 52)
Series: The Chiefs won at Oakland in Week 2, 23-17, and have captured the last six meetings.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland has won two in a row, the latest a 34-25 victory at Tennessee last week. The Raiders trail front-running Denver by 2½ games in the AFC West.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City lost at San Diego a week ago, 28-20, and trails the Broncos by a game and a half.
Fantasy Tidbit: Don’t get too excited about the performance of Oakland WR Jerry Porter last week. He remains mostly a fantasy bust, and rarely has strung together consecutive productive performances. He’s worth a play, especially in larger leagues and especially if Randy Moss is sidelined or limited, but temper expectations.
Game Summary: This is a rivalry game, but KC has too many weapons for the Raiders, who are playing their second road game in as many weeks. Chiefs RB Priest Holmes may be limited after getting his bell rung last week, but Larry Johnson is more than capable. Oakland is playing better, but it’s been against weak opposition.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 28-20
Detroit (3-4) at Minnesota (2-5)
Line: Lions favored by 1½ (total points line is 37)
Series: The Vikings have won the last five meetings, but the underdog (Detroit) is 4-1 ATS over those games.
Lions Status Report: Detroit lost at home to Chicago in overtime, 19-13. The Lions trail the Bears by a game in the AFC North.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota got waxed at Carolina last week, 38-13, while losing QB Daunte Culpepper for the season with a severe knee injury.
Fantasy Tidbit: Many pundits like the match-ups of Lions skill players against the Minnesota defense, but in my opinion only RB Kevin Jones is a strong play.
Game Summary: Maybe the most puzzling team in the league so far is Detroit. The Lions are good enough to win handily in games against Green Bay and Baltimore, but have lost every close game they’ve been in except one. This one figures to be close, because the Vikings are always a lot better at home and beleaguered coach Mike Tice seems to know how to instill fire in his team in spurts. Considering how poorly Culpepper has played for most of the season, Brad Johnson doesn’t strike me as a major decline for the offense. Still, the emotional aspect of losing Culpepper may be too much for this club to overcome.
Predictions: LIONS, 24-17
Carolina (5-2) at Tampa Bay (5-2)
Line: Panthers favored by 1 (total points line is 36)
Series: The Panthers have dominated this series recently, winning the last four meetings including a 37-20 rout at Tampa Bay last December.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina romped past Minnesota last weekend, 38-13, and is tied with the Bucs and Atlanta for top honors in the NFC South.
Buccaneers Status Report: Tampa Bay became the victim of the biggest upset of the season to date, falling at San Francisco a week ago, 15-10.
Fantasy Tidbit: The only player for either side who is an automatic start is Carolina WR Steve Smith, because he’s reached elite status and you don’t bench elite players.
Game Summary: Maybe it’s me, but I think people are pushing the panic button on the Bucs a little prematurely. OK, so Tampa played poorly and lost to a last-place team. So what? Happens several times a season in the NFL. And sure, Chris Simms may not be the answer the team needs after starting QB Brian Griese was lost to injury. But this is still the same stifling defense that led the way to a 5-1 start, the head coach has won a Super Bowl, and the backfield still features rookie RB stud Cadillac Williams. At home, and against a foe that provides a mountain of motivation both because of recent results and this year’s race, I like Tampa Bay to rebound from last week.
Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 24-16
Chicago (4-3) vs. New Orleans (2-6) at Baton Rouge, La.
Line: Bears favored by 3 (total points line is 34)
Series: New Orleans won at home last season, 20-13. The Saints have won six of the last eight meetings include all three played at The Superdome over that span.
Bears Status Report: Chicago took over sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a 19-13 overtime victory at Detroit Sunday, the Bears’ third consecutive triumph.
Saints Status Report: New Orleans was stymied by Miami in a 21-6 loss at Baton Rouge. The Saints are last in the NFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: If Chicago RB Thomas Jones gets a clean bill of health, he’s an excellent play against the unsteady New Orleans run defense which was shredded by the Dolphins.
Game Summary: If the Bears stay focused, they can seize a death-grip on their division – with this contest and a home game with San Francisco next week. The Saints have the talent to get the upset, especially in their pseudo home, but Chicago’s defense hasn’t shown any cracks yet… and its D against the Saints’ attack is a mismatch on paper.
Prediction: BEARS, 17-10
New York Giants (5-2) at San Francisco (2-5)
Line: Giants favored by 10½ (total points line is 42)
Series: The 49ers have won the last seven meetings, but none recently.
Giants Status Report: The Giants completely dominated division rival Washington in a 36-0 rout last week that propelled the Giants into sole ownership of first place in the NFC East.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco shocked heavily-favored Tampa Bay at home, 15-10, and is tied with Arizona for third in the NFC West, three games behind Seattle.
Fantasy Tidbit: Don’t be too quick on the trigger to start Giants RB Tiki Barber this week. Yes, the veteran rushed for more than 200 yards a week ago, but the 49ers run defense stymied Tampa Bay’s attack last week and the Giants may look more toward the passing game and reduce Barber’s workload a bit. He’s still a reasonable start, but he’s unlikely to approach last week’s production.
Game Summary: The Giants should roll, and last week’s performance by San Francisco seems more like a fluke than anything else. But NY was on such an inspirational high last week trying to win one for late owner Wellington Mara that I don’t believe they can help but let down some… enough perhaps to allow the Niners to cover ATS, but probably not enough for a second consecutive shocker at Candlestick Point.
Prediction: GIANTS, 21-13
Seattle (5-2) at Arizona (2-5)
Line: Seahawks favored by 4 (total points line is 44)
Series: Seattle has won four of the last five meetings including a 37-12 rout at Seattle earlier this season. In the last meeting at Tempe, Ariz., the Cardinals prevailed, 25-17.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle was on a bye last week. In Week 7, the Seahawks rallied to edge Dallas at home. They lead the NFC West by 1½ games over St. Louis.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was whipped at Dallas last week, 34-13, and is tied for third with San Francisco in the NFC West.
Fantasy Tidbit: Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald is now the clear No. 1 with Anquan Boldin probably shelved this week with a knee injury. That means he might see double-coverage but it also means he will usually be the primary receiver when the ball is thrown downfield by returned starting QB Kurt Warner. Seattle’s secondary is nothing special. Fitzgerald could come up big this week.
Game Summary: The Seahawks typically have a hard time in the desert and, well, I’m just not all that impressed with Seattle. At home, the Seahawks are tough. But on the road, they’re 1-2 – the only win a slugfest over the defense-challenged Rams. I have a belief that this week will feature a few upsets, and this is one of them.
Prediction: CARDINALS, 20-16
Pittsburgh (5-2) at Green Bay (1-6)
Line: Steelers favored by 6½ (total points line is 41)
Series: The home team has won the last four meetings, none recent.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh held off Baltimore at home Monday night, 20-19, and is a half-game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay lost at Cincinnati, 21-14, and is tied for the NFL’s worst record.
Fantasy Tidbit: Packers QB Brett Favre was awful last week, throwing five picks, but rarely is he bad two weeks in a row. At home and against a pass defense that looked pretty ordinary against Baltimore, I’m predicting a big bounce-back week for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Game Summary: You have arrived at my upset special… Yes, I can hear the naysayers already – “How can he pick the Packers? They’re terrible.” Well, that’s why it’s an upset pick. On paper, Green Bay has no chance, really. But here’s my logic. Pittsburgh will be operating on a short week and coming off a pretty emotional, tough victory over a division foe which means the Steelers might be ripe for a bit of letdown. QB Ben Roethlisberger is banged up – to the point that his availability will remain in question probably right up to kickoff. Green Bay’s run defense has been much improved this season, so Pittsburgh’s QB will need to make some plays. As noted above, Favre has a history of rebounding from poor performances. Pittsburgh’s secondary let a lot of guys get open downfield against the below-average Ravens pass offense, even if Baltimore didn’t actually complete enough of the passes. And, lastly, I love home underdogs – especially when they call Lambeau Field their home. Pittsburgh’s 11-game road winning streak ends.
Prediction: PACKERS, 27-21
Philadelphia (4-3) at Washington (4-3)
Line: Redskins favored by 2 (total points line is 40½)
Series: The Eagles have won the last six meetings, 10 of the last 12. At Washington last season, the Eagles prevailed, 17-14.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia was throttled at Denver, 49-28 – rallying from a 28-0 deficit to within seven before the Broncos put it away. The Eagles are tied with the Redskins for third in the NFC East, a game behind the New York Giants.
Redskins Status Report: Washington was mauled by the Giants at The Meadowlands last week, 36-0. It was the first regular season shutout loss ever suffered by head coach Joe Gibbs.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Eagles pass defense is suddenly vulnerable, but I’m still looking for Redskins WR Santana Moss to be mostly contained. Play him because his quality season to date justifies doing so, but don’t expect anything gaudy.
Game Summary: I like the Eagles a lot here, especially getting points. The team is struggling in various areas, but it’s been in need-to-win situations before under coach Andy Reid and usually comes through impressively. A close look at Washington’s stats indicates the Skins are overrated – better than the team that didn’t show up against the Giants last week, but not good enough to have gone into Week 5 before losing. Philadelphia has dominated this series in recent years, and I believe that continues this weekend with an offense that goes back toward the run at least a little, and nets more balanced results.
Prediction: EAGLES, 31-20
Indianapolis (7-0) at New England (4-3)
Line: Colts favored by 3½ (total points line is 47½)
Series: New England has dominated this series, winning the last seven meetings including a 20-3 victory in the AFC Divisional Playoffs last January.
Colts Status Report: Indianapolis was off last week after winning at Houston, 38-20, back on Oct. 23. The Colts are up three games in the AFC South.
Patriots Status Report: New England staved off Buffalo at home Sunday night, 21-16, and are atop the AFC East.
Fantasy Tidbit: We have a quandary for Peyton Manning owners. You have to play him because… well, because he’s Peyton Manning. And yet you know he’s going to deliver sub-par stats, even against the patchwork secondary of this particular Patriots squad.
Game Summary: Is this the time that the Colts finally overcome New England? If it were the postseason, I’d say no. Hey – I made that mistake last January. Don’t have to hit me on the head with a hammer. But this is a regular season game, and both teams know they just need to win when they’re supposed to get back to the playoffs. With that established, you know the Colts will want this one as if it were the playoffs, and they’ve had the extra week to prepare for it. Getting off the schneid when it comes to the Pats is Indy’s No. 1 lot in life right now. It finally happens, but it will be because of Edgerrin James, not Manning.
Prediction: COLTS, 24-17