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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Bob's Breakdown - Week 6
Bob Cunningham
October 12, 2006

No, the statistics below regarding my performance picking last week’s games are not misprinted.  I really did pick 11 of the 14 straight-up winners, but just four against the number.  It was mostly a case of favorites winning but not covering.  So be it.

Here’s the funny thing.  Several pundits whom I follow with interest alter the spreads by a half-point one way or the other to avoid pushes altogether.   That sounds okay, except that they typically adjust the number in the direction that favors their impending selection.  Big difference laying 2½ points as opposed to three, folks.  I just can’t get myself to mickey with the numbers that way, and the result is the occasional week with a bunch of stalemates ATS.

Of course, that’s all right with me because my weekly picks are for informational and entertainment purposes only.

On to Week 6…

2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON:  Straight-Up – 51-23 (69 percent); ATS – 35-32-7 (52 percent)
LAST WEEK:  Straight-Up – 11-3; ATS – 4-6-4
OVER/UNDER: 36-37-1 for the season, 6-8 last week.


BUFFALO (2-3) at DETROIT (0-5)

Line:  Bills favored by 1 (total points line is 39½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bills 3-2, Lions 1-4

Strongest Trend:  Detroit is 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  Buffalo won at home, 24-17, in 2002.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo was routed at Chicago Sunday, 40-7.  The Bills are tied for second with the New York Jets and trail AFC East-leading New England by two games.

Lions Status Report:  Detroit endured a fourth-quarter collapse at Minnesota, squandering a 17-3 lead and losing, 26-17.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Willis McGahee, WR Lee Evans.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – QB J.P. Losman, K Rian Lindell, Bills defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Jones, WR Roy Williams, K Jason Hanson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – WR Mike Furrey, Lions defense.

Game Summary:  Although the Lions are winless, they’ve been competitive in virtually all of their games (nobody’s hangin’ with da Bears these days).  If you go under the basic assumption that they are better than 0-16, as I do, it’s logical for them to get their first win here.  With Buffalo out on the road for a second consecutive week, after being drubbed at Chicago, I’m playing the law of averages.

Prediction:  LIONS, 24-20


CAROLINA (3-2) at BALTIMORE (4-1)

Line:  Ravens favored by 3 (total points line is 33½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Panthers 0-4-1, Ravens 3-2

Strongest Trend:  Baltimore has covered the week before its bye in each of the last four seasons.

Last Meeting:  The Panthers prevailed, 10-7, at home in 2002.

Panthers Status Report:  Carolina downed visiting Cleveland last weekend, 20-12, for its third straight win.  The Panthers trail New Orleans by a game and Atlanta by a half-game in the NFC South.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore’s season-opening four-game winning skein was snapped Monday night at Denver, 13-3.  The Ravens still lead the AFC North, by a half-game over Cincinnati.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA –WR Steve Smith, Panthers defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – RB DeShaun Foster, WR Keyshawn Johnson.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, RB Jamal Lewis, WR Derrick Mason.
 
Game Summary:  Even in defeat, the Ravens defense is impressive.  Carolina comes in on a roll, but that Ravens D is the most impenetrable unit east of Chicago.  It has the ability to neutralize the Panthers’ primary weapons, and so I’m going with the hosts.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 17-10


CINCINNATI (3-1) at TAMPA BAY (0-4)

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

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bengals 3-1, Buccaneers 2-2

Strongest Trend:  Tampa Bay has won four in a row in this series.

Last Meeting:  The Bucs rolled at Cincinnati, 35-7, in 2002.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincy was on its bye last week.  The previous week, the Bengals were whipped at home by New England, 38-13.  They are a half-game behind Baltimore in the AFC North.

Bucs Status Report:  Tampa Bay lost at New Orleans a week ago, 24-21.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson, WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – K Shayne Graham, Bengals defense.   QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams, WR Joey Galloway.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – Bucs defense.  

Game Summary:  The Bucs are a tempting home ‘dog because they’re desperate for a victory and the Bengals are coming off a woeful effort two weeks ago, but Cincinnati owns just about every statistical edge, and that big loss to New England will be the extra push required for victory.

Prediction:  BENGALS, 27-17


HOUSTON (1-3) at DALLAS (2-2)

Line:  Cowboys favored by 12½  (total points line is 42)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Texans 1-3, Cowboys 2-2

Strongest Trend:  The under is 9-2 the last 11 times Dallas has been favored by more than a TD.

Last Meeting:  Houston shocked Dallas at home in 2002, 19-10.

Texans Status Report:  Houston was off last week.  Two weeks ago, the Texans defeated visiting Miami.  They are third in the AFC South.

Cowboys Status Report:  Dallas lost at Philadelphia Sunday, 38-24.  The Cowboys are tied for the second in the NFC East with the New York Giants, 1½  back of the Eagles.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – QB David Carr, K Kris Brown.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Drew Bledsoe, RB Julius Jones, WRs Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, Cowboys defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – TE Jason Witten, K Mike Vanderjagt. 

Game Summary:  Houston got an extra week to prepare for this one, and the Cowboys have to be careful that they don’t look ahead to next week’s Monday nighter against the Giants and take the Texans lightly.  But Dallas needs to rebound and re-establish momentum, and the Cowboys are typically reliable at home.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 31-7


TENNESSEE (0-5) at WASHINGTON (2-3)

Line:  Redskins favored by 10 (total points line is 39)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Titans 2-3, Redskins 2-3

Strongest Trend:  Tennessee is 5-1 ATS in its last six vs. Washington.

Last Meeting:  The Redskins won at Tennessee, 31-14, in 2002.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee seized a surprising 10-0 halftime lead at Indianapolis last weekend before eventually succumbing, 14-13.

Redskins Status Report:  The Redskins were pounded on the road by the New York Giants, 19-3, and are last in the NFC East, two games behind Philadelphia.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – RB Travis Henry.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Mark Brunell, RB Clinton Portis, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley, Redskins defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – WR Antuan Randle El.

Game Summary:  The Titans, playing away from home for the second week in a row, have to suffer an emotional letdown after coming so close to winning outright as an 18-point underdog against the Colts.  Washington, a better team than it has played to date, evens its books in impressive fashion.

Prediction:  REDSKINS, 34-13


PHILADELPHIA (4-1) at NEW ORLEANS (4-1)

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

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Eagles 4-1, Saints 4-1

Strongest Trend:  Philly has won six in a row in this series straight-up, the last five ATS.

Last Meeting:  The Eagles won at home, 33-20, in 2003.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia pulled away to a 38-24 home victory over Dallas last weekend and is a game and a half up in the NFC East.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans held on for a 24-21 home win over Tampa Bay and leads the NFC South by a half-game over Atlanta.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Donte’ Stallworth (check injury status), TE L.J. Smith, K David Akers.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – WR Reggie Brown, Eagles defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, RBs Deuce McAlister and Reggie Bush, K John Carney.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – WRs Marques Colston and Joe Horn.

Game Summary:  With Donovan McNabb playing like he is, the Eagles are a more dynamic team.  The Saints are playing consistently well, though, and will be up for this clash in their home dome.  McNabb is the difference, but not by a lot.

Prediction:  EAGLES, 27-23


NEW YORK GIANTS (2-2) at ATLANTA (3-1)

Line:  Falcons favored by 3 (total points line is 42½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Giants 2-2, Falcons 3-1

Strongest Trend:  The road team has won the last six meetings in this series.

Last Meeting:  The Falcons won at The Meadowlands, 14-10, in 2004.

Giants Status Report:  New York easily defeated visiting Washington on Sunday, 19-3, to tie for second in the NFC East.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta was idle last week, after having whipped visiting Arizona, 32-10, in Week 4.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, K Jay Feely.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – WR Amani Toomer, TE Jeremy Shockey, Giants defense. 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.

Game Summary:  The dominance of the road teams in this series is extremely difficult for me to discount, but the Falcons have had an extra week to prepare – for a game at home following a bye following a game at home.  They should be sufficiently relaxed, and the Giants are a bit too volatile for me to rely on with an upset pick here. 

Prediction:  FALCONS, 27-16


SEATTLE (3-1) at ST. LOUIS (4-1)

Line:  Seahawks favored by 3 (total points line is 44½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Seahawks 2-2, Rams 3-1-1

Strongest Trend:  In Seattle’s last eight road games, seven have gone over the total.

Last Meeting:  The Seahawks won at home, 31-16, last November.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle was off last week. Two weeks ago, the Seahawks were buried at Chicago, 37-6.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis won its third straight Sunday, 23-20 at Green Bay.  The Rams lead the Seahawks by a half-game in the NFC West.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Matt Hasselbeck, WRs Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch, K Josh Brown. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – RB Maurice Morris, Seahawks defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, RB Stephen Jackson, WR Torry Holt, K Jeff Wilkins. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS –  WR Isaac Bruce.

Game Summary:  My upset special for this week.  The Rams are only 3-point underdogs, but at a neutral site it would be a touchdown or more against the defending conference champs.  St. Louis is playing improved defense, and seems to have some of the 1999 swagger back at home with its league-best ability to force turnovers.

Prediction:  RAMS, 27-24


MIAMI (1-4) at NEW YORK JETS (2-3)

Line:  Jets favored by 2 (total points line is 36)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Dolphins 0-4-1, Jets 3-2

Strongest Trend:  The Jets have covered each of the last five meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Dolphins won at home last December, 24-20.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami lost at New England a week ago, 20-10, and is last in the AFC East.

Jets Status Report:  The Jets were roasted at Jacksonville, 41-0, and are tied for second in the AFC East, two games behind New England.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Ronnie Brown, WR Chris Chambers.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Joey Harrington, TE Randy McMichael, K Olindo Mare, Dolphins defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY JETS – QB Chad Pennington, WR Laveranues Coles. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY JETS – RB Kevan Barlow, Jets defense.

Game Summary:  It will be interesting to see how the Jets rebound from the throttling they received at Jacksonville, because that’s the variable here.  We know what we will get from the Dolphins – a respectable defense, and mediocrity on offense.  Yawn.  The Jets have fared well in this series recently, so we’ll ride that train until it quits.

Prediction:  JETS, 20-17


KANSAS CITY (2-2) at PITTSBURGH (1-3)

Line:  Steelers favored by 7 (total points line is 36½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Chiefs 2-1-1, Steelers 1-3

Strongest Trends:  Pittsburgh is 8-2-1 ATS last 11 meetings, the last nine of them all played at Kansas City.

Last Meeting:  The Chiefs won in a rout, 41-20, at home in 2003.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City rallied past Arizona on the road, 23-20, last week.  The Chiefs trail AFC West co-leaders Denver and San Diego by a game apiece.

Steelers Status Report:  Pittsburgh was beaten at San Diego Sunday night, 23-13.  The Steelers are third in the AFC North, 2½ games behind Baltimore.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – RB Larry Johnson (check health status).  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – TE Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, TE Heath Miller, Steelers defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Game Summary:  With the vast improvement of the Kansas City defense, and Pittsburgh’s struggles with consistency offensively so far this season, this match-up shapes up as even.  But the Steelers have been in this position before, needing a victory to get things rolling, and they usually come through especially at home. This is the second consecutive lengthy road trip for the Chiefs, who are still being led by a backup QB and whose start running back has a longer neck now than he did at this time last week.

Prediction:  STEELERS, 17-13


SAN DIEGO (3-1) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-3)

Line:  Chargers favored by 10 (total points line is 42½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Chargers 3-1, 49ers 3-2

Strongest Trend:  San Francisco has covered ATS in five of the last seven meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Chargers won at home, 20-17, in 2002.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego beat visiting Pittsburgh Sunday night, 23-13, to remain atop the AFC West.

49ers Status Report:  The 49ers whipped Oakland at home, 34-20, and are third in the NFC West, two games behind St. Louis.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates, Chargers defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – QB Phillip Rivers, WR Keenan McCardell, K Nate Kaeding. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO –TE Eric Johnson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore.

Game Summary:  The Chargers are too good on both sides of the ball for an upset to be realistic.  Only if they beat themselves will they stumble here.

Prediction:  CHARGERS, 31-17


OAKLAND (0-4) at DENVER (3-1)

Line:  Broncos favored by 15 (total points line is 33)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Raiders 0-3-1, Broncos 2-2

Strongest Trend:  Denver is 5-1 in the last six meetings.  All the victories have been by at least two touchdowns.

Last Meeting:  The Broncos won easily, 22-3, at home last Christmas Eve.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland lost at San Francisco, 34-20, Sunday.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver shut down visiting Baltimore, 13-3, on Monday night for its third straight victory and to keep pace with San Diego atop the NFC West.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – RB Lamont Jordan.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – WR Randy Moss.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jake Plummer, RB Tatum Bell, WRs Javon Walker and Rod Smith, K Jason Elam, Broncos defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – Any of the Broncos’ tight ends.

Game Summary:  As a rivalry game, you’d think that the score would be closer than expected even given the current disparity between the clubs in general.  But the Broncos have been dominant of late, and coach Mike Shanahan still likes trying to blow out the team he once coached and the owner he once worked for.  Fifteen points is a lot, but Denver’s good for it.

Prediction:  BRONCOS, 24-7


CHICAGO (5-0) at ARIZONA (1-4)

Line:  Bears favored by 10½ (total points line is 38)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bears 4-0-1, Cardinals 0-4-1

Strongest Trend:  Since 1990, underdogs of more than a touchdown on Monday Night Football are 11-3-2 ATS.

Last Meeting:  Chicago won at home, 28-3, in 2003.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago routed Buffalo at home, 40-7, last Sunday. The Bears lead Minnesota by two games in the NFC North.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona squandered an early 14-0 lead at home and lost to Kansas City last weekend, 23-20.  The Cardinals, who have lost four straight, are last in the NFC West.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman, RB Thomas Jones, WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian, TE Desmond clark (check injury status), K Robbie Gould, Bears defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – RB Cedric Benson.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – WR Anquan Boldin. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – RB Edgerrin James.
 
Game Summary:  I’d feel a lot better about Arizona’s chances for keeping this close if WR Larry Fitzgerald hadn’t gotten hurt against the Chiefs.  Still, there’s something special going on already with rookie QB Matt Leinart… to the point that even in the face of the NFL’s best defense, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and predicting that this seeming mismatch remains competitive throughout.

Prediction:  BEARS, 20-13