I just had to mention in last week’s column that I was satisfied with my predicting record, didn’t I? You’ve heard of the SI cover jinx? How ‘bout the open-your-big-mouth-and-go-4-9-1-ATS jinx?
Anyway, last week was difficult for many prognosticators… because there were so many home underdogs and you knew they weren’t all going to cover. Still, I figured that some of the dogs would bark at least a little. Instead, barely a whimper… much like my picks. Only one ‘dog – Minnesota – won outright. Overall, home underdogs were 2-7-1 ATS and 1-9 straight-up.
This never gets easy, but of course… you all know it’s for entertainment purposes only. And I suppose it’s a lot more entertaining when published predictions are faulty.
Me? I’m more entertained when I get more right than wrong… but you don’t care about my entertainment, now do you?
Stop blathering? Okay, then… on to Week 10:
OVERALL PREDICTIONS, 2005
Straight-Up: 83-47 (64%) ATS: 67-57-4 (54%) Over/Under: 56-70-4 (44%)
Straight-Up: 8-6 ATS: 4-9-1 Over/Under: 7-7
New England (4-4) at Miami (3-5)
Line: Patriots favored by 2½ (total points line is 40)
Series: New England has won four of the last five meetings, but Miami won at home against the Patriots last season, 29-28, and is 10-3 in the last 13 played between the two in South Florida.
Patriots Status Report: New England lost at home to Indianapolis on Monday night, 40-21, but remains a game up on Buffalo and Miami in the AFC East.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost at home to Atlanta, 17-10, Sunday.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Dolphins’ passing game has been mostly ineffective, but playing at home against the patchwork New England secondary offers a good opportunity. Look for WR Chris Chambers to enjoy multiple big plays and haul in at least one score.
Game Summary: Every time we think New England is about to depart the land of playoff contenders, the Patriots come up with a big effort to right their ship. Despite the short week to prepare and the continued injury woes on defense, I believe the Patriots will find a way to emerge from this one victorious and in control of the division.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 23-16
Kansas City (5-3) at Buffalo (3-5)
Line: Bills favored by 3 (total points line is 42½)
Series: Kansas City won the last meeting easily, 38-5, in 2003 at KC. The home team has won six straight in the series.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City rallied for a last-play 27-23 victory over visiting Oakland last week. The Chiefs trail Denver by a game in the AFC West.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo was idle last week. Two weeks ago, the Bills were defeated at New England, 21-16. They’re tied for second with Miami in the AFC East, a game behind the Patriots.
Fantasy Tidbit: With RB Priest Holmes lost for the season, Larry Johnson inherits about 80 percent of Holmes’ when-healthy value. That means he’s good enough to be a regular starter on most fantasy teams.
Game Summary: Offensively, this game is pretty much a mismatch. Willis McGahee is the real deal as featured back for the Bills, but Kansas City does all right against the run… and the Chiefs attack is a lot more potent than Buffalo’s even without Holmes. Kansas City gets a hard-fought road win here, riding the emotional high of last week’s go-for-it win over Oakland.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 21-20
Baltimore (2-6) at Jacksonville (5-3)
Line: Jaguars favored by 7 (total points line is 33)
Series: The Jaguars have won four of six meetings lifetime at home in this series. The last meeting was at Baltimore, however, and the Ravens were winners, 24-17, in 2003.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore dropped a 21-9 decision at home to Cincinnati last week, its third straight loss. The Ravens are last in the AFC North, 4 ½ games behind the Bengals.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville rallied late Sunday to defeat Houston at home, 21-14. The Jaguars are second in the AFC South, three games behind Indianapolis.
Fantasy Tidbit: RB Fred Taylor is listed as doubtful and, based on his track record, it means he probably won’t suit up Sunday. Watch the latest reports, but if you have Greg Jones, he would be a decent play.
Game Summary: The Jaguars most likely got a wake-up call last week with its lackluster victory over lowly Houston, so an upset loss would certainly be a surprise. But they’ve been uninspiring of late, and Taylor’s never-ending injury woes are… well, never-ending. Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings, and gets QB Kyle Boller back. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad news where the Ravens are concerned, but I’ll go with that latter trend.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 17-13
Houston (1-7) at Indianapolis (8-0)
Line: Colts favored by 17 (total points line is 44½)
Series: Indy won the first meeting this year at Houston, 38-20, and has never lost in seven meetings all-time. The last meeting at Indianapolis resulted in a 49-14 Colts romp, last year.
Texans Status Report: Houston led in the fourth quarter at Jacksonville before succumbing a week ago, 21-14.
Colts Status Report: Indianapolis finally won a game at New England, rolling to a 40-21 triumph Monday night.
Fantasy Tidbit: A dream match-up if you own Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, or just about any other Colt. It’s possible that Houston QB David Carr could put up some numbers after the game’s outcome has been decided, and alas… there’s been an Andre Johnson sighting.
Game Summary: OK, I’m going to fall for it. The Colts will win… duh… but won’t cover the gaudy number. Here are my reasons: 1) Houston has played better of late, 2) The Colts are coming off an MNF road game and, thus, a short week, 3) The Colts might get caught looking ahead to an important clash with Cincinnati next week, 4) Seventeen points is a bunch, especially for a division game.
Prediction: COLTS, 27-14
Minnesota (3-5) at New York Giants (6-2)
Line: Giants favored by 10 (total points line is 44½)
Series: The Giants have owned this series in recent years, rolling to a 34-13 win at Minnesota last season, a 29-17 victory at Minnesota the previous season, and a 41-0 thrashing in the 2000 NFC Title Game at The Meadowlands.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota whipped Detroit at home last week, 27-14, and is tied for second in the NFC North, two games behind Chicago.
Giants Status Report: The Giants disposed of the 49ers at San Francisco a week ago, 24-6, (nice goin’ nailing the score on the nose, Mr. Dorey) and have won three straight. They lead Dallas and Washington by a game in the NFC East.
Fantasy Tidbit: QB Eli Manning has been stellar at home, and this is an ideal match-up. A goal of 300+ yards and three scores – Peyton-like numbers – is realistic.
Game Summary: I’ve been getting a kick out of all the talk this week about how the Vikings are better off without Daunte Culpepper, etc. Puh-leease… with all due respect to Brad Johnson, they beat the Detroit freakin’ Lions at home. So what? This week, the Vikes face a legit team. And it will show on the scoreboard, because the club that averages losing by 20 on the road will get beat by the club that averages winning by 20 at home… by at least 20.
Prediction: GIANTS, 38-17
Washington (5-3) at Tampa Bay (5-3)
Line: Even (total points line is 33½)
Series: The Bucs have won four of the last five against Washington at home, but none recent. In a 2004 clash at Washington, the Redskins prevailed, 16-10.
Redskins Status Report: Washington staved off Philadelphia Sunday night for a 17-10 victory. The Redskins are tied with Dallas for second in the NFC East, a game behind the New York Giants.
Buccaneers Status Report: Tampa Bay was routed at home by Carolina last week, 34-14, and is third in the NFC South, a game behind co-leaders Carolina and Atlanta.
Fantasy Tidbit: QB Chris Simms is expected to get the start again for the Bucs, but the running of Cadillac Williams is what will decide the contest… and coach Jon Gruden knows that. Look for Williams to get at least 25 carries. He hasn’t done much since coming back from assorted ailments, but Washington’s run defense ranks in the lower third of the league.
Game Summary: Tampa Bay is obviously struggling for continuity on offense after QB Brian Griese went down to injury three weeks ago. But the Bucs’ defense – last week’s performance not withstanding – is still plenty stern enough to get it done, especially at home. Washington still doesn’t offer much offensively, scoring just 17 points in the last two games combined.
Prediction: BUCCANEERS, 21-17
San Francisco (2-6) at Chicago (5-3)
Line: Bears favored by 13 (total points line is 33)
Series: Chicago won the last meeting, last season at Chicago, 23-13. The Bears have won the last four meetings with San Francisco at home. The home team has won seven of the last nine in the series.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco lost at home to the New York Giants a week ago, 24-6. The 49ers are tied with Arizona for third in the NFC West, four games behind Seattle.
Bears Status Report: Chicago upped its winning skein to four with a 20-17 victory over New Orleans at Baton Rouge. The Bears lead the NFC North by two games over Detroit and Minnesota.
Fantasy Tidbit: RB Thomas Jones’ status is in doubt, but don’t assume that rookie Cedric Benson will get all the work in his place. Adrian Peterson is a factor in the Bears’ rushing attack when Jones is sidelined.
Game Summary: Chicago’s defense is the best in the NFL this season. San Francisco’s offense… is among the most feeble. It’s a mismatch… the only way the Bears can screw this up is if they get caught looking ahead to Carolina’s visit to Soldier Field next week.
Predictions: BEARS, 20-3
Arizona (2-6) at Detroit (3-5)
Line: Lions favored by 3½ (total points line is 39½)
Series: This is the third straight year these teams have met at Detroit – the Lions won by 18 points in 2003 and by 14 a year ago.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona lost at home to Seattle last week, 33-19, and is tied with San Francisco at the bottom of the NFC West.
Lions Status Report: Detroit was thumped, 27-14, at Minnesota. The Lions are tied with the Vikings, two games behind Chicago in the NFC North.
Fantasy Tidbit: Detroit WR Charles Rogers will suit up for the first time in six weeks, but don’t expect a lot even against the woeful Cardinals. It takes time and reps to get the timing back with whichever QB – Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington or Dan Orlovsky - starts for the Lions.
Game Summary: The Lions, for as bad as they seem to be in general, have been quite solid at home – whipping Baltimore by 18 points, coming with one of Carolina, and taking the division-leading Bears to overtime. Arizona hasn’t gotten its groove on all season – arguably the league’s biggest disappointment. Detroit’s superior defense should get the job done at home, although these teams tend to score a lot when they face each other so I’ll play the over as well.
Prediction: LIONS, 27-16
New York Jets (2-6) at Carolina (6-2)
Line: Panthers favored by 9 (total points line is 41)
Series: The Jets have won two of three meetings all-time including a split of two at Carolina. None have been recent.
Jets Status Report: The Jets played valiantly but were thwarted on a last-minute drive by San Diego at home last week and lost, 31-26. They have lost three straight and are last in the AFC East.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina’s 34-14 romp over host Tampa Bay was its fifth straight victory. The Panthers are tied with Atlanta for first in the NFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: If Jets QB Brooks Bollinger is a bye-week filler for you, you have some reason for optimism. He looked good against San Diego down the stretch last week and it’s unlikely that RB Curtis Martin will get much running room against the league’s top rushing defense, meaning more Bollinger aerials.
Game Summary: I like Jets coach Herm Edwards because his team always plays hard and through to the end. But he doesn’t have the horses against a Carolina club who’s proven me wrong – the Panthers apparently are worth the preseason hype they got from most pundits.
Prediction: PANTHERS, 31-14
Denver (6-2) at Oakland (3-5)
Line: Broncos favored by 3 (total points line is 47)
Series: The Broncos have won three in a row at Oakland, holding the Raiders to just 11 points combined in the last two meetings there. However, the last clash – at Denver – was a 25-24 Raiders victory almost exactly a year ago.
Broncos Status Report: Denver was on a bye last week. In Week 8, the Broncos polished off Philadelphia at home, 49-21. They are a game ahead of Kansas City atop the AFC West.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland played well last week but lost at Kansas City, 27-23, and is alone in last place in the AFC West.
Fantasy Tidbit: Raiders WR Jerry Porter has scored three times in the last two weeks. He’s a notoriously streaky player, so it might be wise to ride out his hot streak before re-benching him.
Game Summary: Denver is apparently comfortable coming to Oakland these days, having dominated this series away from home the last few years. Rested after coming off a bye and facing a Raiders team which might be somewhat demoralized from the end result of last week’s game at KC, the Broncos would seem to have the clear upper hand.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 27-17
Green Bay (1-7) at Atlanta (6-2)
Line: Falcons favored by 9 (total points line is 41½)
Series: There have been no recent meetings at Atlanta, but the Falcons did record an upset victory at Lambeau Field in the 2002 NFC playoffs, and are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings overall.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay played well enough at home to beat Pittsburgh last week, but a costly Brett Favre fumble returned for a touchdown by the Steelers defense paced a 20-10 victory for the visitors.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta won at Miami a week ago, 17-10, and has won five of six overall. The Falcons are tied with Carolina atop the NFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: Falcons QB Michael Vick might get tricked by critical members of the media into relying more on his arm than his legs, but he should continue to follow his instincts… which means Vick owners shouldn’t get too excited about last week’s aerial heroics. He still is what he is… a better NFL quarterback than fantasy contributor.
Game Summary: I don’t agree with Vick’s decision to fire back at the media in last week’s post-game press conference, but I sympathize with his plight. Consider that the Falcons have a .688 winning percentage all-time when Vick starts and .444 over the games he’s missed during the same span. With that said, though, Favre will come to play as well before many friends and family making the trip from relatively near-by Mississippi.
Prediction: FALCONS, 31-24
St. Louis (4-4) at Seattle (6-2)
Line: Seahawks favored by 6½ (total points line is 51)
Series: Seattle won the first meeting this season, 37-31 at St. Louis, after the Rams had prevailed in all three meetings last season including two at Seattle.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis was off last week. In Week 8, the Rams held off Jacksonville at home, 24-21. They’re second in the NFC West, two games behind Seattle.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle rolled to its fourth straight victory, a 33-19 demolition of host Arizona.
Fantasy Tidbit: The dynamic Rams passing attack of QB Marc Bulger and WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are all expected to return this week… and all are solid starts. Beware that the trio may get off to a slow start until all involved recoup their timing and such.
Game Summary: Before this year’s first meeting, the Rams had a decided advantage in this fledgling rivalry. But Seattle may have discovered how to overcome the Rams’ potent attack – simply outscore ‘em. The difference in this game is that Seattle has a defense, the Rams essentially do not.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 42-24
Cleveland (3-5) at Pittsburgh (6-2)
Line: Steelers favored by 7½ (total points line is 35)
Series: Pittsburgh has won the last three meetings since Cleveland shocked the Steelers on their own turf, 33-13, in October of 2003. The most recent meeting, a year ago, was a 24-10 Pittsburgh triumph at Cleveland.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland slipped past visiting Tennessee Sunday, 20-14. The Browns are in third in the AFC North, 3½ games behind Cincinnati.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh posted a 20-10 victory at Green Bay last week, remaining within a half-game of the first-place Bengals in the AFC North. The Steelers have won three straight.
Fantasy Tidbit: With QB Ben Roethlisberger and RB Willie Parker sidelined, veteran RB Duce Staley is an excellent start this week. Coach Bill Cowher won’t want to put too much responsibility on backup QB Charlie Batch, so he’ll do what he’s comfortable with – run the ball a lot. Also, if Jerome Bettis is unavailable again, FB Verron Haynes will get some touches.
Game Summary: I know this is a rivalry game, and the Browns occasionally surprise and play admirably. I can’t, however, envision the Browns putting together any sustained attack. Pittsburgh wins this one like they win most – with defense, and running the ball to control the clock and the tempo.
Prediction: STEELERS, 23-9
Dallas (5-3) at Philadelphia (4-4)
Line: Eagles favored by 3 (total points line is 39½)
Series: Philadelphia had won seven of eight in the series before Dallas blew the Eagles out at home earlier this season, 33-10. The last meeting at Philly, played last December, was a 12-7 Eagles win.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas was idle last week. In Week 8, the Cowboys routed Arizona at home, 34-13. They are tied with Washington, a game behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia lost at Washington last Sunday night, 17-10. The Eagles’ second straight defeat sent them to the basement of the NFC East, but just two back of the Giants.
Fantasy Tidbit: For you Marion Barber fans and fantasy owners, the honeymoon is over… at least temporarily. Julius Jones returns to the starting lineup, relegating Barber to backup status again.
Game Summary: You haven’t read the words “upset special” yet, right? Well, I’m not entirely convinced this game would qualify under the circumstances, but the Eagles are favored… so, technically, picking Dallas would be an upset pick. Yeah, you’ll just have to accept that explanation – I’m gun-shy about picking bigger ‘dogs after last week’s favorites fest. Fact is, the Eagles should win at home, but they won’t. Dallas found the right poison to topple the division giant in the first meeting, and coach Bill Parcells has had extra preparation time, while the Eagles still have to figure out how to proceed with life minus T.O. (as in “turned off”).
Prediction: COWBOYS, 24-20