This doesn’t have much to do with picking NFL games, or even my column as a whole, but I have to share with you the week I enjoyed with my primary fantasy team.
On second thought, I’ll let you decipher my squad’s exploits by simply informing you that my team includes Marc Bulger, LaDainian Tomlinson, Torry Holt, Steve Smith and the Steelers defense.
Not a bad windfall, ey?
As for the real deal, the Arizona Cardinals are the laughingstocks of pro football right now and yet they are favored on the road this week. They play at Oakland. Sorry, Raiders fans, but the line makes sense. Your team is that bad. Still, that should be one of the league’s most intriguing games if not the most important.
On to Week 7…
2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON: Straight-Up – 58-29 (67 percent); ATS – 41-39-7 (51 percent)
LAST WEEK: Straight-Up – 7-6; ATS – 6-7
OVER/UNDER: 43-43-1 for the season, 7-6 last week.
NEW ENGLAND (4-1) at BUFFALO (2-4)
Line: Patriots favored by 5 (total points line is 37)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Patriots 2-2-1, Bills 3-3
Strongest Trend: The under has prevailed in 16 of the last 21 meetings.
Last Meeting: New England won at home in this year’s season opener, 19-17.
Patriots Status Report: New England was off last week. Two weeks ago, the Patriots defeated Miami at home. They lead the AFC East by 1½ games over the New York Jets.
Bills Status Report: The Bills lost at Detroit last week, 20-17, and are third in the AFC East.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady, WR Doug Gabriel, TE Ben Watson, Patriots defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Willis McGahee. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – WR Lee Evans.
Game Summary: New England is rested and coming off solid efforts in their previous two games. Buffalo has lost two straight and three of four, including last week’s setback against previously winless Detroit. It’s a division game at home, so there’s at least some hope for the Bills. But they just don’t possess the offensive punch to penetrate the Pats’ defensive schemes.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 21-13
DETROIT (1-5) at NEW YORK JETS (3-3)
Line: Jets favored by 3½ (total points line is 41)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Lions 2-4, Jets 4-2 Ravens 3-2
Strongest Trend: The last eight Jets games played on grass have gone over the total.
Last Meeting: The Jets won at Detroit, 31-14, in 2002.
Lions Status Report: Detroit got off the schneid last week, scoring a 20-17 triumph over visiting Buffalo.
Jets Status Report: The Jets rebounded from a lopsided loss to Jacksonville in Week 5 to beat Miami at home Sunday, 20-17.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Jones, WR Roy Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – WR Mike Furrey, K Jason Hanson. QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY JETS – QB Chad Pennington, WR Laveranues Coles. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY JETS – RB Kevan Barlow, WR Jericho Cotchery.
Game Summary: The Jets have a chance to get a winning record, with a home game against a one-victory foe. But this isn’t as easy as it may sound… neither defense is capable of consistently slowing the other, so it might come down to who has the ball last. Still, at home, the Jets have to be the pick.
Prediction: JETS, 27-21
GREEN BAY (1-4) at MIAMI (1-4)
Line: Dolphins favored by 4½ (total points line is 41)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Packers 1-4, Dolphins 0-5-1
Strongest Trend: none.
Last Meeting: The Packers rolled at home, 24-10, in 2002.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay was off last week. Two weeks ago, the Pack lost at home to St. Louis, 23-20. The Packers are half-game ahead of Detroit in the “battle” for the NFC North cellar.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost at the New York Jets a week ago, 20-17, and is last in the AFC East.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – TE Bubba Franks. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Ronnie Brown, WR Chris Chambers, TE Randy McMichael. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Joey Harrington, K Olindo Mare, Dolphins defense.
Game Summary: Something has to give here because neither of these clubs has been worth a darn this season. In a game such as this, I tend to lean toward the home squad – especially if that team is superior defensively, which I believe the Dolphins are.
Prediction: DOLPHINS, 23-16
CAROLINA (4-2) at CINCINNATI (3-2)
Line: Bengals favored by 3 (total points line is 44½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Panthers 1-4-1, Bengals 3-2
Strongest Trend: The Panthers are 17-7-1 ATS in their last 25 road games.
Last Meeting: The Panthers won easily, 52-31, at home in 2002.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina got a big victory last week, beating Baltimore on the road, 23-21. The Panthers are second in the NFC South, a game behind New Orleans.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati was upset at Tampa Bay a week ago, 14-13, and has lost two straight. The Bengals are a half-game behind the Ravens in the AFC North.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – QB Jake Delhomme, RB DeShaun Foster, WR Steve Smith. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – WR Keyshawn Johnson, K John Kasay, Panthers defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson, WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh, K Shayne Graham. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI - Bengals defense.
Game Summary: Two quality teams, although if you base the analysis strictly on momentum, the Panthers get the clear edge. This is the second straight tough road test for Carolina, however, and the host Bengals need the game a little more.
Prediction: BENGALS, 24-17
PITTSBURGH (2-3) at ATLANTA (3-2)
Line: Steelers favored by 2½ (total points line is 37)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Steelers 2-3, Falcons 3-2
Strongest Trend: The over is 7-1-1 in last nine games at Atlanta.
Last Meeting: The teams played to a 34-34 tie at Pittsburgh in 2002, the last deadlock in the NFL.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh snapped a three-game losing streak with a 45-7 romp over visiting Kansas City last weekend. The Steelers are third in the AFC North, 1½ games behind Baltimore.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta was whipped at home by the New York Giants Sunday, 27-14. The Falcons are a game and a half back of New Orleans, in third place in the NFC South.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, K Jeff Reed, TE Heath Miller. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 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: Although the Steelers are favored, it doesn’t take much intestinal fortitude to pick an Atlanta victory at home… and that’s where the stats take me. Pittsburgh is coming off a solid victory, but the Falcons are still a solid running team that can also slow the opposing team’s running game… and they seem too good a club to drop back-to-back home games.
Prediction: FALCONS, 28-24
JACKSONVILLE (3-2) at HOUSTON (1-4)
Line: Jaguars favored by 9½ (total points line is 40½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Jaguars 3-1-1, Texans 1-4
Strongest Trend: Houston is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
Last Meeting: Jacksonville won at Houston, 38-20, last season.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville was off last week after pasting the Jets at home in Week 5, 41-0. The Jaguars are two games behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.
Texans Status Report: Houston lost at Dallas a week ago, 34-6. The Texans are a half-game ahead of Tennessee for third in the AFC South.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – QB Byron Leftwich, RB Fred Taylor, WR Reggie Williams, K Josh Scobee, Jaguars defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Maurice Drew-Jones. QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – QB David Carr, K Kris Brown.
Game Summary: You know how much I like big, home, divisional underdogs. But the Jaguars are rested and know better than to look past a division foe especially considering Houston has done respectably in this series since its inception. The Texans simply can’t stop anyone right now.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 24-7
SAN DIEGO (4-1) at KANSAS CITY (2-3)
Line: Chargers favored by 5 (total points line is 41)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Chargers 4-1, Chiefs 2-2-1
Strongest Trend: The home team has won seven of the last nine meetings.
Last Meeting: The Chiefs won at home, 20-7, last Christmas Eve.
Chargers Status Report: Visiting San Diego routed San Francisco, 48-19, on Sunday. The Chargers are tied with Denver atop the AFC West.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City was hammered at Pittsburgh, 45-7. The Chiefs are two games behind the Chargers and Broncos.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates, Chargers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – QB Phillip Rivers, WRs Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker, K Nate Kaeding. QUALITY STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – RB Larry Johnson, TE Tony Gonzalez. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – QB Damon Huard, WR Eddie Kennison, K Lawrence Tynes.
Game Summary: You have arrived at the first of my two upset specials this week. The Chargers are playing great, and KC is coming off a bashing at the hands of a Pittsburgh team San Diego recently defeated. But this is always a tough matchup for San Diego, and at home the Chiefs enjoy one of the more prominent homefield advantages in the league. The hostile environment – and some improved defensive play – are the difference for the hosts.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 23-20
PHILADELPHIA (4-2) at TAMPA BAY (1-4)
Line: Eagles favored by 5 (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Eagles 4-2, Buccaneers 3-2
Strongest Trend: In 28 of its last 40 home games, Tampa Bay has gone under the total.
Last Meeting: The Buccaneers blanked the Eagles at Philadelphia, 17-0, in the 2003 season opener.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia lost a tough one at New Orleans a week ago, 27-24, and saw its NFC East lead sliced to a half-game over both Dallas and the New York Giants.
Buccaneers Status Report: Tampa Bay earned its first victory of the season last Sunday, edging visiting Cincinnati, 14-13.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, TE L.J. Smith, Eagles defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – WRs Donte’ Stallworth and Reggie Brown, K David Akers. QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams, WR Joey Galloway. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – QB Bruce Gradkowski, TE Alex Smith.
Game Summary: The Eagles are tough to gauge this week. They might endure somewhat of a letdown after last week’s disappointment, and the Bucs have things headed in the right direction. But McNabb vs. Gradkowski seems like a mismatch, so the Eagles get a close nod on the road.
Prediction: EAGLES, 16-13
DENVER (4-1) at CLEVELAND (1-4)
Line: Broncos favored by 4½ (total points line is 31)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Broncos 2-3, Browns 2-3
Strongest Trend: The Broncos are 7-2 ATS in their last nine road games.
Last Meeting: Denver won at home, 23-20, in December of 2003.
Broncos Status Report: Denver shut down visiting Oakland, 13-3, on Sunday night. The Broncos are tied with San Diego for first place in the AFC West.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland was off last week, and is last in the AFC North. Two weeks ago, the Browns lost at Carolina, 20-12.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – RB Tatum Bell, WR Javon Walker, Broncos defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jake Plummer, WR Rod Smith, K Jason Elam. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – TE Kellen Winslow. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – RB Reuben Droughns, WR Braylon Edwards, Browns defense.
Game Summary: A team that’s having trouble scoring touchdowns against a team which hasn’t yielded but one all season. The math is easy here.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 20-6
WASHINGTON (2-4) at INDIANAPOLIS (5-0)
Line: Colts favored by 9 (total points line is 49)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Redskins 2-4, Colts 2-2-1
Strongest Trends: Colts home games have gone under the total in seven of the last eight contests.
Last Meeting: The Redskins won at home, 26-21, in 2002.
Redskins Status Report: Washington was stunned at home by Tennessee last week, 24-22. The Redskins are last in the NFC East.
Colts Status Report: Indy was off a week ago. In Week 5, the Colts overcame a 10-0 halftime deficit to beat the Titans at home, 14-13. The Colts lead the AFC South by two games.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Mark Brunell, RB Clinton Portis, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – K Nick Novak. QUALITY STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – QB Peyton Manning, RB Dominic Rhodes, WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, K Adam Vinatieri. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – RB Joseph Addai, TE Dallas Clark, Colts defense.
Game Summary: Indy had a long spell to think about its shoddy performance against the Titans two weeks ago, and knowing the demands of head coach Tony Dungy, I’m expecting an inspired offensive effort by the Colts. As for Washington… who knows how the Redskins will rebound from last week’s shocking loss to Tennessee, but I am a Joe Gibbs fan. I’d be surprised if the Skins play poorly.
Prediction: COLTS, 35-28
ARIZONA (1-5) at OAKLAND (0-5)
Line: Cardinals favored by 3 (total points line is 40½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Cardinals 1-4-1, Raiders 1-3-1
Strongest Trend: The Raiders have dropped 19 of their last 25 home games ATS.
Last Meeting: Oakland won at Arizona, 41-20, in 2002.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in history Monday night, squandering a 20-3 lead to lose, 24-23, despite not yielding an offensive touchdown. The Cardinals are last in the NFC West.
Raiders Status Report: The Raiders lost at Denver Sunday night, 13-3, and are the only winless team remaining in the league.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – WR Anquan Boldin. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Matt Leinart, RB Edgerrin James, WR Larry Fitzgerald (check injury status), Cardinals defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – RB Lamont Jordan, WR Randy Moss. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – K Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders defense.
Game Summary: To be totally honest, I have no idea who is going to win this one. Might be a 0-0 tie. My numbers point to Arizona, but I question if the emotional unpredictability of how the Cardinals will react to Monday’s debacle will affect those stats. The Raiders will be at home, and they have to win sometime, right? Maybe not. I’ll go ahead and trust the numbers… and Matt Leinart returning to California.
Prediction: CARDINALS, 16-10
MINNESOTA (3-2) at SEATTLE (4-1)
Line: Seahawks favored by 7 (total points line is 41)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Vikings 3-1-1, Seahawks 2-3
Strongest Trend: The Vikings are 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games against NFC teams.
Last Meeting: Seattle won at Minnesota, 27-23, in December of 2004.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota was off last week. In Week 5, the Vikings defeated visiting Detroit, 26-17. They are second in the NFC North, 2½ games behind Chicago.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle got a last-second 54-yard field goal from Josh Brown to defeat host St. Louis last week, 30-28. The Seahawks lead the Rams by a half-game in the NFC West.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor, K Ryan Longwell. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – QB Brad Johnson, WR Troy Williamson. 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.
Game Summary: Welcome to Upset Special No. 2. It would be easy and safe to predict a Seattle victory, of course, but my numbers give Minnesota the nod, primarily because of the absence of Shaun Alexander combined with the extra preparation afforded the Vikings through the bye week, as well as Minnesota’s vastly improved defense. At the very least, it figures to be a close, competitive game. One somewhat intangible sidenote: Minnesota has this annoying habit of playing well on the road against teams it figures to lose to, and disappointing in those road games when the Vikings seem to have a good shot going in (like, for instance, at Buffalo a few weeks back).
Prediction: VIKINGS, 20-17
NEW YORK GIANTS (3-2) at DALLAS (3-2)
Line: Cowboys favored by 3 (total points line is 45)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Giants 3-2, Cowboys 3-2
Strongest Trend: The home team has won four of the last five and 10 of 13 in this series.
Last Meeting: The Giants won at home, 17-10, last December.
Giants Status Report: New York posted an impressive 27-14 victory at Atlanta last weekend. The Giants are tied with Dallas in the NFC East, a half-game back of Philadelphia.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas routed visiting Houston, 34-6, on Sunday.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, TE Jeremy Shockey, K Jay Feely. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – WR Amani Toomer, Giants defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Drew Bledsoe, RB Julius Jones, WRs Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – TE Jason Witten, K Mike Vanderjagt, Cowboys defense.
Game Summary: This is a very evenly-matched, division rivalry game and there’s no reason to expect it will be anything other than close. The recent history suggests the homefield advantage is significant, and Dallas’ run defense is ranked first in the league… meaning lanes for Giants RB Tiki Barber to burst through may be limited. The Cowboys get the call at home.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 27-20