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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Bob's Breakdown - Week 3
Bob Cunningham
September 21, 2006

I have good news and bad news… and the bad news comes first.  My picks against the line were weak – only 6 of 16 correct – to go with a fair 10 of 16 straight-up.

The good news?  It’s a new week.

Actually, I’m very excited about a “system” for analyzing games that I’ve been experimenting with the last two years.  Two weeks’ worth of games may not quite be enough to utilize it effectively… but the results from last week – using only Week 1’s totals – were strong and the method (I won’t detail it, but the most important stats incorporated are rushing offense and defense as well as turnover ratio) was consistently solid down the stretch a year ago.

So don’t be surprised if you witness some significant improvement in the coming weeks.  Of course, after a 6-10 week, it would be downright difficult not to improve at least a little.

On to Week 3…

2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON:  Straight-Up – 19-13 (59 percent); ATS – 15-17 (47 percent)
LAST WEEK:  Straight-Up – 10-6; ATS – 6-10
OVER/UNDER: 19-12-1 for the season, 10-6 last week.


NEW YORK JETS (1-1) at BUFFALO (1-1)

Line:  Bills favored by 5½ (total points line is 34½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Jets 1-1, Bills 2-0

Strongest Trend:  Buffalo is 4-1 ATS in its last five against the Jets.

Last Meeting:  The Jets edged visiting Buffalo, 30-26, in last year’s regular season finale.

Jets Status Report:  The Jets lost at home to New England, 24-17.  They are tied with Buffalo in the AFC East, a game back of the Patriots.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo evened its season record with a 16-6 triumph at Miami.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY JETS – WR Laveranues Coles. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY JETS – QB Chad Pennington, Jets defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Willis McGahee, Bills defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – QB J.P. Losman, WRs Lee Evans and Josh Reed.

Game Summary:  Buffalo’s defense was suffocating in its surprisingly easy win at Miami.  The Jets have been solid so far – a good win over Tennessee and a competitive loss to the Patriots.  The visitors could take it, but I like Buffalo’s resurgent defense.

Prediction:  BILLS, 20-13


TENNESSEE (0-2) at MIAMI (0-2)

Line:  Dolphins favored by 11 (total points line is 36)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Titans 0-2, Dolphins 0-2

Strongest Trend:  The last eight games played at Miami have finished under the total.

Last Meeting:  Miami whipped Tennessee at home, 24-10, in Week 16 of 2005.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee was thoroughly thumped at San Diego last week, 40-7, and is tied with Houston in the AFC South.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami was offensively inept in a 16-6 home loss to Buffalo Sunday.  The Dolphins are in last in the AFC East.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – QB Kerry Collins, RB Chris Brown, WR Drew Bennett, TE Ben Troupe.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Ronnie Brown, WR Chris Chambers, Dolphins defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Daunte Culpepper, TE Randy McMichael, K Olindo Mare.

Game Summary:  After stumbling out of the gate in a season that is supposed to mark a return to the playoffs, Miami catches a break getting the even-more-lame Titans at home.  Tennessee just has too many problems to seriously consider an upset here.  Dolphins break through at home - finally.

Prediction:  DOLPHINS, 27-14


CINCINNATI (2-0) at PITTSBURGH (1-1)

Line:  Steelers favored by 2½ (total points line is 41½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bengals 2-0, Steelers 1-1

Strongest Trend:  The last four meetings between these two at Pittsburgh have gone over the total.

Last Meeting:  The Bengals lost QB Carson Palmer to a knee injury… and an AFC playoff game to the Steelers at home in January.  The last regular season meeting was a 38-31 Cincinnati triumph at Pittsburgh in Week 13.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati cruised past visiting Cleveland, 34-17, on Sunday. The Bengals are tied with Baltimore for first place in the AFC North.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh was blanked at Jacksonville on Monday night, 9-0.  The Steelers are in third in the AFC North, a game back of the Bengals and Ravens.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson, WR Chad Johnson. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh, K Shayne Graham, Bengals defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger, K Jeff Reed, Steelers defense. 

Game Summary:  Admittedly, I’m never real comfortable going against the Steelers at home.  But the Bengals won there last season, and seem to be in an even better position this time around.  In fact, the road team has won the last four meetings in this series.  The Bengals offense is good, of course, but their defense is playing well, too.  Pittsburgh’s offense is out of sync… and that’s enough for me to forecast a Cincy victory in a very mild upset.

Prediction:  BENGALS, 26-21


JACKSONVILLE (2-0) at INDIANAPOLIS (2-0)

Line:  Colts favored by 7 (total points line is 44½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Jaguars 2-0, Colts 2-0

Strongest Trend:  Jacksonville is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Colts prevailed at Jacksonville, 26-18, in Week 14 last season.

Jaguars Status Report:  Jacksonville shut out Pittsburgh at home Monday night, 9-0, and is tied for first place with Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Colts Status Report:  The Colts hammered visiting Houston, 43-24, Sunday.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Fred Taylor, WRs Matt Jones and Reggie Williams.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – QB Byron Leftwich, K Josh Scobee, Jaguars defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – QB Peyton Manning, WRs Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, K Adam Vinatieri, Colts defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – RBs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, TE Dallas Clark.

Game Summary:  I can’t go against the Colts at home, although I will say that their defense isn’t playing up to the level it achieved last season.  Still, Indy’s offense is a lot better than Jacksonville’s… but this will be a typically close rivalry game.

Prediction:  COLTS, 24-20


WASHINGTON (0-2) at HOUSTON (0-2)

Line:  Redskins favored by 4 (total points line is 37½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Redskins 0-2, Texans 0-2

Strongest Trend:  Houston is 2-8 ATS last 10 September games.

Last Meeting:  The Redskins won at home, 26-10, in December of 2002.

Redskins Status Report:  Washington lost at Dallas Sunday night, 27-10, and is in last place in the NFC East.

Texans Status Report:  Houston fell at Indianapolis Sunday, 43-24, and is tied with Tennessee at the bottom of the AFC South.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Mark Brunell, RB Clinton Portis (check injury status), WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley, K John Hall, Redskins defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – none.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – RB Wali Lundy.

Game Summary:  You know how I like home underdogs… but the improved Houston defense I thought we’d see this year has yet to materialize.  Until it does, the Texans are just another last place club.  Washington hasn’t played well, particularly last week, but this is a decidedly easier foe.  The Redskins get it done.

Prediction:  REDSKINS, 23-13


CHICAGO (2-0) at MINNESOTA (2-0)

Line:  Bears favored by 3 (total points line is 34)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bears 2-0, Vikings 2-0

Strongest Trend:  Eight of the last 11 meetings have gone under the total.

Last Meeting:  In a meaningless regular season finale in ’05, Minnesota routed Chicago at home, 34-10.  In the meeting that mattered, the Bears won at home, 28-3.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago is 2-0 after its 34-7 rout of visiting Detroit last week, tied for first with Minnesota in the NFC North.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota edged visiting Carolina in overtime last week, 16-13.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman, RB Thomas Jones, WR Muhsin Muhammad, K Robbie Gould, Bears defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – WR Bernard Berrian, TE Desmond Clark.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor, K Ryan Longwell.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – QB Brad Johnson, Vikings defense.

Game Summary:  The Vikings are obviously a decent team, but the Bears have been dominant.  True, Chicago’s schedule has been a cakewalk to date… but both games were physical mismatches.  This one will be closer, but the Bears have it goin’ on both sides of the ball. I doubt that the game being at Minnesota will matter much.

Prediction:  BEARS, 20-10


GREEN BAY (0-2) at DETROIT (0-2)

Line:  Lions favored by 6½ (total points line is 38½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Packers 0-2, Lions 1-1

Strongest Trend:  Detroit is 7-1 ATS in its last eight home games with Green Bay, all as an underdog.

Last Meeting:  The Packers won at home, 16-13, in Week 14 of 2005.

Packers Status Report:  Green Bay lost at home to New Orleans a week ago, 34-27, and is tied with Detroit for last in the NFC North.

Lions Status Report:  Detroit was routed at Chicago on Sunday, 34-7.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, RB Ahman Green, WR Donald Driver.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – WRs Greg Jennings and Robert Ferguson. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Jones, WR Roy Williams, K Jason Hanson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – TE Marcus Pollard, Lions defense. 

Game Summary:  The Lions offense has scored a grand total of 13 points in two games.  So why do I believe it will turn around this Sunday?  That’s easy.  Green Bay’s defense is awful.  Detroit’s D is respectable… I think.  Hard to tell yet.  At home, the Lions are the clear choice – but I believe the Pack will hang close in an entertaining game.

Prediction:  LIONS, 27-23


CAROLINA (0-2) at TAMPA BAY (0-2)

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

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Panthers 0-2, Bucs 0-2

Strongest Trend:  Carolina has won five of the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  Tampa Bay halted a six-game skid against the Panthers with a 20-10 victory at Carolina in Week 14 of 2005.

Panthers Status Report:  Carolina was beaten in overtime at Minnesota last week, 16-13, and is tied with Tampa Bay at the bottom of the NFC South.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay lost at Atlanta Sunday, 14-3.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – Panthers defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – QB Jake Delhomme, RB DeShaun Foster, WR Steve Smith (check injury status), WR Keyshawn Johnson, K John Kasay.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – Buccaneers defense.

Game Summary: Tampa Bay’s offense has been so anemic, it’s tough to picture the Bucs recovering against a wounded but dangerous Carolina club… on the road, no less.  I doubt anyone expected this clash to be a match-up of 0-2 pretenders, but now that it is the team with the better long-term prognosis gets the nod.

Prediction:  PANTHERS, 17-10


BALTIMORE (2-0) at CLEVELAND (0-2)

Line:  Ravens favored by 6 (total points line is 33½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Ravens 2-0, Browns 0-2

Strongest Trend:  Fifteen of the Ravens’ last 19 September games have gone under the total.

Last Meeting: The Browns won at home, 20-16, in the 2005 regular season finale.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore dominated visiting Oakland to score a 28-6 win Sunday. The Ravens are tied atop the AFC North with Cincinnati.

Browns Status Report:  Cleveland was thumped at Cincinnati last weekend, 34-17, and is in last place in the AFC North.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – RB Jamal Lewis, WR Derrick Mason, TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, K Matt Stover. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – Browns defense.

Game Summary:  The Ravens have allowed a grand total of two field goals – and no TDs – in two games.  Granted, the Tampa Bay and Oakland offenses are not units to be feared at the moment, but neither is Cleveland’s.  And, Browns RB Reuben Droughns is dinged enough to question his effectiveness.  I just don’t see how the Browns will score even so much as double-figures.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 24-7


NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1) at SEATTLE (2-0)

Line:  Seahawks favored by 3½  (total points line is 44)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Giants 1-1, Seahawks 1-1

Strongest Trends:  Seattle is 10-4 ATS at home in September since 2001.

Last Meeting:  The Seahawks edged the Giants at home, 24-21, in Week 12 last season.

Giants Status Report:  New York overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit Sunday to beat host Philadelphia in overtime, 30-24.  The Giants are tied with Dallas and Philadelphia atop the NFC East.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle cruised past visiting Arizona last week, 21-10, and is alone atop the NFC West.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS– QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, TE Jeremy Shockey. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – K Jay Feely.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Shaun Alexander, WR Darrell Jackson, K Josh Brown.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE –TE Itulu Mili, K Josh Brown, Seahawks defense.

Game Summary:  I’m standing by my preseason prediction of a decline for the Seahawks… but maybe not for long after they easily beat the Cardinals last week.  At home, coach Mike Holmgren’s gang is ultra-tough.  This is a second straight road tilt for the Giants, who could either be very emotionally high, or come out flat with a letdown after the big comeback last week.  I like the Seahawks here because their defense is better at the moment.

Prediction:  SEAHAWKS, 28-17


PHILADELPHIA (1-1) at SAN FRANCISCO (1-1)

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

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Eagles 1-1, 49ers 2-0

Strongest Trend:  Philadelphia is 8-2 ATS on the road in its last 10 September games.

Last Meeting:  The Eagles routed the 49ers at home last season, 42-3.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia suffered a devastating loss last week, falling to the Giants in OT at home after leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter.  The Eagles are tied with the Giants and Dallas for first in the NFC East.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco defeated St. Louis at home, 20-13, and is a game back of Seattle in the NFC West.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Donte’ Stallworth, TE L.J. Smith, K David Akers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – WR Reggie Brown, Eagles defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore, WR Antonio Bryant, TE Vernon Davis.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – QB Alex Smith.

Game Summary:  This is a tough pick because McNabb has played so well out of the gate and the 49ers still have a long way to go.  But the San Francisco offense has a ground attack now, and the defense harassed the Rams last week, and can also pressure McNabb into mistakes.  I believe this one will be close, with Philly’s experience winning out.

Prediction:  EAGLES, 23-20


ST. LOUIS (1-1) at ARIZONA (1-1)

Line:  Cardinals favored by 4½ (total points line is 44½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Rams 1-1, Cardinals 0-2

Strongest Trend:  Arizona is 4-1 ATS in its last five against the Rams.

Last Meeting:  The Cardinals rolled at St. Louis, 38-28, last season during Week 11.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis lost at San Francisco a week ago, 20-13.  The Rams are tied with Arizona and the 49ers, a game behind Seattle in the NFC West.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona was soundly beaten at Seattle, 21-10, Sunday.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – RB Stephen Jackson, WR Torry Holt, K Jeff Wilkins. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, WR Isaac Bruce.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Kurt Warner, RB Edgerrin James, WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, K Neil Rackers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – Arizona defense.

Game Summary:  My upset special for the week… because the Cardinals can’t run the ball right now, and the Rams can match up well in terms of skill-position players.  St. Louis’ defense can force turnovers by hurrying Warner.  In short, Arizona isn’t ready for prime attention just yet.

Prediction:  RAMS, 20-17


DENVER (1-1) at NEW ENGLAND (2-0)

Line:  Patriots favored by 6½ (total points line is 39)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Broncos 0-2, Patriots 1-1

Strongest Trend:  The Broncos are 14-4 ATS vs. Patriots since 1980.

Last Meeting:  Denver won at home in Week 6 of 2005, 28-20

Broncos Status Report:  Denver eeked past visiting Kansas City on Sunday, 9-6 in OT.  The Broncos trail San Diego by a game in the AFC West.

Patriots Status Report:  The Pats beat the Jets at The Meadowlands a week ago, 24-17.  They are alone atop the AFC East.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – RB Mike Bell, WRs Javon Walker and Rod Smith (check injury status), K Jason Elam.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady, TE Ben Watson, Patriots defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, K Stephen Gostkowski.

Game Summary:  The Broncos offense has been awful – and might be without Smith, who suffered a concussion last week.  QB Jake Plummer only had one interception last week, but has been uninspired in both games to date. The Patriots at home seems like a lock, but Denver coach Mike Shanahan is one of the few who can successfully lock cranial horns with the Pats’ Bill Bellichick.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 24-16


ATLANTA (2-0) at NEW ORLEANS (2-0)

Line:  Falcons favored by 3½  (total points line is 42)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Falcons 2-0, Saints 2-0

Strongest Trend:  Atlanta is 16-3-1 ATS in its last 20 trips to New Orleans.

Last Meeting:  The Falcons rolled to a 36-17 home victory in Week 14 a year ago.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta slipped past visiting Tampa Bay on Sunday, 14-3.  The Falcons are tied with New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans held off host Green Bay for a 34-27 victory last week.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – QB Michael Vick, RB Warrick Dunn, TE Alge Crumpler. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – WR Michael Jenkins, K Morton Andersen, Falcons defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – RBs Deuce McAlister and Reggie Bush, K John Carney.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, WRs Joe Horn and Marques Colston.

Game Summary:  We know the Falcons run the ball real well and that their defense is solid.  We also know the Saints are highly improved on offense, and well-coached by first-year guy Sean Payton. What we don’t know is how big of a factor it will be that the Saints playing in the Superdome for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit.  Can raw emotion overcome inferior players?  Maybe… but I’m not betting on it.  Atlanta will continue to do its thing, and grind out a victory on the road.

Prediction:  FALCONS, 27-20