Before you completely laugh me off the screen with my 3-11 performance against the spread last week, allow me to point out that every season I endure at least one such effort but have finished with more correct than incorrect predictions every year but two since 1990.
What happened last week is I got away from the stats I’ve come to trust and went with my gut too much. For instance, the numbers said New Orleans but I opted for Tampa Bay at home. The stats said that, even at Pittsburgh, the Steelers were no match for Denver. But I tabbed the Steelers, because it was illogical for the defending champs to lose at home with their backs against the proverbial wall.
And I should have trusted the unbeaten Colts but instead let New England’s pasting of Minnesota the week before affect my reasoning. Indy had the numbers, but I took the host Patriots instead. All right, so I can be forgiven for that one.
Live and learn. On to Week 10…
2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON: Straight-Up – 79-49 (62 percent); ATS – 60-61-7 (49 percent)
LAST WEEK: Straight-Up – 6-8; ATS – 3-11
OVER/UNDER: 69-57-2 for the season, 6-7-1 last week.
NEW YORK JETS (4-4) at NEW ENGLAND (6-2)
Line: Patriots favored by 10½ (total points line is 39½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Jets 5-3, Patriots 4-3-1
Strongest Trend: The visiting team is 12-2-1 ATS in the last 15 meetings.
Last Meeting: New England won, 24-17, at The Meadowlands in Week 2.
Jets Status Report: They were off last week. In Week 8, the Jets lost at Cleveland. They are second in the AFC East, two games behind the Patriots.
Patriots Status Report: New England lost at home to Indianapolis Sunday night, 27-20.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – WR Laveranues Coles. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – RB Leon Washington. QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady, RBs Corey Dillon and Lawrence Maroney, TE Ben Watson, Patriots defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – Any WR, K Stephen Gostkowski.
Game Summary: This is likely to be a tougher game than many expect. The Jets are coming off a bye, and must win if they’re to have any shot at a surprise division title. New England is the superior team, and is at home, but the Pats lost a tough one at home to the Colts. And, for reasons not entirely understood, the road team tends to fare well in this series. Pats win, but Jets keep in interesting.
Prediction: PATRIOTS, 23-16
BUFFALO (3-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (8-0)
Line: Colts favored by 12 (total points line is 45)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bills 4-4, Colts 5-2-1
Strongest Trend: none.
Last Meeting: The Colts prevailed at Buffalo, 17-14, in 2003.
Bills Status Report: The Bills whipped visiting Green Bay last week, 24-10. They are third in the AFC East, a game behind the second-place New York Jets.
Colts Status Report: Indy triumphed at New England, 27-20, to maintain its three-game lead in the AFC South.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – WR Lee Evans. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – QB J.P. Losman, K Rian Lindell. QUALITY STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – QB Peyton Manning, WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, K Adam Vinatieri. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR INDIANAPOLIS – RBs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes, Colts defense.
Game Summary: Could be a letdown game for the undefeated Colts? Back-to-back impressive road wins over high-quality teams, and next week they make another difficult trek, to Dallas. Pretty improbable for Buffalo to get the upset without leading rusher Willis McGahee, but coming off an inspired home defensive effort against the Packers it’s not a stretch to predict the Bills to keep it tighter than the hefty number.
Prediction: COLTS, 27-17
KANSAS CITY (5-3) at MIAMI (2-6)
Line: Chiefs favored by 1 (total points line is 40)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Chiefs 5-2-1, Dolphins 1-6-1
Strongest Trend: Miami is just 6-19 ATS in its last 25 home games.
Last Meeting: The Chiefs won at Miami, 30-20, in October of last year.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City bested intra-state rival St. Louis on the road Sunday, 31-17. The Chiefs are third in the AFC West, a game behind co-leaders San Diego and Denver.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami pulled off one of the biggest shockers of 2006 last weekend, beating the previously unbeaten Bears at Chicago, 31-13.
Fantasy Summary: 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, Chiefs defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Ronnie Brown, WR Chris Chambers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – QB Joey Harrington, WR Marty Booker, TE Randy McMichael, K Olindo Mare, Dolphins defense.
Game Summary: As close a match-up as the line suggests, even if the respective records don’t. With the Chiefs, we know what we have – a pretty solid team on a roll. With Miami? Who know? Is the victory at Chicago indicative of this club’s potential, or is the 1-6 start more in line? The Dolphins at home is tempting, but KC is getting done weekly and the numbers slightly tilt in the Chiefs’ direction.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 24-21
BALTIMORE (6-2) at TENNESSEE (2-6)
Line: Ravens favored by 7½ (total points line is 38)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Ravens 5-3, Titans 4-4
Strongest Trend: The underdog has covered ATS in 12 of the last 15 meetings.
Last Meeting: The Titans whipped the visiting Ravens, 25-10, in September of last year.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore defeated visiting Cincinnati on Sunday, 26-20, to seize a two-game lead over the Bengals in the AFC North.
Titans Status Report: The Titans were routed at Jacksonville last week, 37-7.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – RB Jamal Lewis, TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, WR Derrick Mason, K Matt Stover. QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – QB Vince Young, RB Travis Henry, WR Drew Bennett.
Game Summary: Obviously, the Ravens are the superior team. It’d be easy to predict a blowout. But the history of this former rivalry is close games, and underdogs rising to the occasion. So I’m of the belief the game will remain close throughout.
Prediction: RAVENS, 21-16
SAN DIEGO (6-2) at CINCINNATI (4-4)
Line: Chargers favored by 1½ (total points line is 48)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Chargers 5-3, Bengals 3-4-1
Strongest Trend: The Chargers are 14-5-1 ATS in their last 20 road games.
Last Meeting: Cincinnati won at San Diego, 34-27, in 2003.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati lost at Baltimore, 26-20, to fall two games behind the Ravens in the AFC North.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego held off Cleveland at home on Sunday, 32-25, and is tied with Denver atop the AFC West.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – QB Phillip Rivers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO –WRs Eric Parker and Keenan McCardell, K Nate Kaeding. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – QB Carson Palmer, RB Rudi Johnson, WR Chad Johnson. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CINCINNATI – WRs T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Chris Henry, K Shayne Graham.
Game Summary: The Bengals need this game more, and it wouldn’t be any huge shocker if they get it done, but the numbers clearly point to San Diego – on both sides of the ball, even without young stud linebacker Shawn Merriman.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 27-23
CLEVELAND (2-6) at ATLANTA (5-3)
Line: Falcons favored by 8 (total points line is 42)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Browns 4-4, Falcons 5-3
Strongest Trend: Eight of the last 10 games played at Atlanta have gone over the total.
Last Meeting: The Browns prevailed at home, 24-16, in 2002.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland played tough before succumbing at San Diego last week, 32-25. The Browns are tied with Pittsburgh at the bottom of the AFC North.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta was whipped at Detroit, 30-14, and fell a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – TE Kellen Winslow. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – RB Reuben Droughns, WRs Joe Jurevicius and Braylon Edwards, K Phil Dawson. QUALITY STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – QB Michael Vick, RB Warrick Dunn, TE Alge Crumpler. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – Any WR, K Morton Andersen, Falcons defense.
Game Summary: The Falcons were horrible last week, but have a recent history of strong “bounce back” performances. At home against a sub-.500 team would figure to be another positive scenario for the hosts. Cleveland will be on the road a second straight week after falling at San Diego. The Browns just don’t have the horses to keep up with Michael Vick and company.
Prediction: FALCONS, 24-10
HOUSTON (2-6) at JACKSONVILLE (5-3)
Line: Jaguars favored by 10½ (total points line is 37½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Texans 3-5, Jaguars 5-2-1
Strongest Trend: Houston has won three of the last five meetings, straight-up.
Last Meeting: The Texans throttled the Jaguars at home, 27-7, in Week 7.
Texans Status Report: Houston nearly pulled off a stunner on a par with Miami’s win at Chicago, leading the Giants late in the second half before losing, 14-10.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville romped over visiting Tennessee, 37-7.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – RB Wali Lundy. QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Fred Taylor, K Josh Scobee, Jaguars defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – QB David Garrard, RB Maurice Drew-Jones, Any WR.
Game Summary: The Jaguars will undoubtedly be entertaining visions of revenge for the can of whup-butt opened on them by Houston three weeks ago. And the numbers say vengeance will be there’s. But I’m not expecting a blowout, because some teams just play other teams tougher… not always for logical reasons.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 23-13
WASHINGTON (3-5) at PHILADELPHIA (4-4)
Line: Eagles favored by 7 (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Redskins 3-5, Eagles 4-4
Strongest Trend: Philadelphia had won the previous seven meetings before Washington swept last year’s season series.
Last Meeting: Washington won at Philadelphia, 31-20, on New Year’s Day.
Redskins Status Report: Washington edged arch-nemesis Dallas, 22-19, last week in a wild finish. The Redskins are last in the NFC East, a game behind Philadelphia.
Eagles Status Report: Philly was off last week, after falling at home to Jacksonville in Week 7, 13-6. The Eagles are tied for second with Dallas in the NFC East, two games behind the New York Giants.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – RB Clinton Portis, TE Chris Cooley. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Mark Brunell, WR Santana Moss (check injury status), Redskins defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Reggie Brown, K David Akers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – Any other WRs, TE L.J. Smith, Eagles defense.
Game Summary: Washington is coming off an emotional win over Dallas, while the Eagles have been stewing over the ugly loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago. Did the week off aid Philly. I believe so, and that’s why the host Eagles get the nod.
Prediction: EAGLES, 30-21
GREEN BAY (3-5) at MINNESOTA (4-4)
Line: Vikings favored by 5½ (total points line is 39½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Packers 3-5, Vikings 4-3-1
Strongest Trend: Five of the last six meetings decided by exactly three points.
Last Meeting: Minnesota won, 20-17, at Green Bay last November.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay’s two-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in a 24-10 loss at Buffalo. The Packers are third in the NFC North, a game behind second-place Minnesota.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota has dropped two in a row including last weekend’s 9-3 ug-fest at San Francisco. The Vikes trail Chicago by three games in the NFC North.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, WR Donald Driver, TE David Martin. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – RB Ahman Green, WR Greg Jennings (check injury status), K David Rayner. QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor, K Ryan Longwell. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – QB Brad Johnson, any WR, Vikings defense.
Game Summary: A tough call here, because the nature of the rivalry suggests a close game but the current season numbers indicate Minnesota should win fairly handily. With Brett Favre as the wild-card (as usual), I’ll stick with the close-game trend of this rivalry.
Prediction: VIKINGS, 27-24
SAN FRANCISCO (3-5) at DETROIT (2-6)
Line: Lions favored by 6 (total points line is 45)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: 49ers 4-4, Lions 3-5
Strongest Trends: The home team has won the last five meetings going back 11 years.
Last Meeting: The 49ers won at home, 24-17, in 2003.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco’s defense played its best game in more than three years, shutting down Minnesota for a 9-3 home upset Sunday. The 49ers are third in the NFC West, two games behind first-place Seattle.
Lions Status Report: Detroit whipped favored Atlanta at home, 30-14, and WR Roy Williams then pronounced them “the best 2-6 team in the NFL."
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – QB Alex Smith, any WR or TE. 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: If San Francisco’s defense plays as well as it did in Week 9, this game could be interesting and tight at the end. But the 49ers haven’t demonstrated much mettle on the road and the Lions seem poised to go on a bit of a run.
Prediction: LIONS, 28-13
DENVER (6-2) at OAKLAND (2-6)
Line: Broncos favored by 9½ (total points line is 33½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Broncos 4-4, Raiders 3-4-1
Strongest Trend: The Broncos have won six of the last seven meetings, the lone loss by one point in 2004.
Last Meeting: Denver won at home, 13-3, in Week 6.
Broncos Status Report: Denver rolled to a surprisingly easy 31-20 victory at Pittsburgh Sunday. The Broncos are sharing first place with San Diego in the AFC West.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland was blanked at Seattle Monday night, 16-0, and is last in the AFC West.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – WR Javon Walker, Broncos defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jake Plummer, RB Mike Bell, WR Rod Smith. QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – None. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – RB Lamont Jordan, WR Randy Moss, Raiders defense.
Game Summary: In terms of Denver’s defense against the struggling Oakland attack, this game is a mismatch. Under normal circumstances playing a second straight road game could hamper Denver. But facing the Raiders doesn’t lend to “normal circumstances.” Broncos defense dominates.
Prediction: BRONCOS, 20-7
NEW ORLEANS (6-2) at PITTSBURGH (2-6)
Line: Steelers favored by 4 (total points line is 45)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Saints 6-2, Steelers 2-6
Strongest Trend: The Saints have covered in Week 10 for eight straight seasons.
Last Meeting: New Orleans won at home, 32-29, in 2002.
Saints Status Report: The Saints smacked down Tampa Bay on the road Sunday, 31-14, and seized a 1-game lead over Atlanta in the NFC South.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh lost at home to Denver, 31-20, and trails AFC North leader Baltimore by four games.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, RB Deuce McAlister, WR Marques Colston. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – WR Joe Horn (check injury status), K John Carney. QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, K Jeff Reed. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Santonio Holmes, TE Heath Miller, Steelers defense.
Game Summary: Okay… last week I fell into the “home team is better than its record so it will win” trap when the Steelers hosted Denver. But I gotta fess up – I simply can’t fathom the Steelers losing at home again and falling to 2-7. New Orleans is greatly improved, and it’s certainly not a stretch to claim the Saints as the better team here, but the stats also modestly support my assertion that the defending champs are due for a strong effort, so I recommend riding that pony one final time.
Prediction: STEELERS, 27-20
DALLAS (4-4) at ARIZONA (1-7)
Line: Cowboys favored by 7 (total points line is 43)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Cowboys 4-4, Cardinals 2-6
Strongest Trend: The home team has won the last nine meetings.
Last Meeting: Dallas won easily at home a year ago, 34-13.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas lost at Washington on a field goal with no time remaining, 22-19, and is tied with Philadelphia for second in the NFC East, two games behind the New York Giants.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was off last week. In Week 7, they lost at Green Bay.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – RB Julius Jones, WR Terrell Owens. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Tony Romo, RB Marion Barber, WR Patrick Crayton and Terry Glenn (check injury status), TE Jason Witten, K Mike Vanderjagt, Cowboys defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – WR Anquan Boldin, K Neil Rackers. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Matt Leinart, RB Edgerrin James, WR Larry Fitzgerald (check injury status).
Game Summary: If the underdog was virtually any other, this game would probably be my upset special of the week… but I’ve predicted good things for Arizona before and almost always regret doing so. With that said, I like this to be a close game primarily because Dallas is playing its third straight road game and the home team has dominated this series. Reluctantly, the Cowboys get the nod although Arizona covers the number.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 24-20
ST. LOUIS (4-4) at SEATTLE (5-3)
Line: Seahawks favored by 3½ (total points line is 44½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Rams 4-3-1, Seahawks 3-5
Strongest Trend: The underdog is 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings.
Last Meeting: Seattle won at St. Louis in Week 6, 30-28, on a late 54-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis has dropped two straight including Sunday’s 31-17 home loss to Kansas City. The Rams trail Seattle by a game in the NFC West.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle blanked Oakland, 16-0, Monday night.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, RB Stephen Jackson, WRs Torry Holt, K Jeff Wilkins. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – WRs Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis. QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE RB Maurice Morris, WRs Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch, K Josh Brown. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Seneca Wallace, TE Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks defense.
Game Summary: Ready for an actual upset selection? Here it is. I like the Rams for a couple of reasons. First, this series has been heavily tilted to the underdog since it became a rivalry with the advent of the modern-day NFC West. Also, the Seahawks have a short week and will again be playing without their starting QB (Matt Hasselbeck) and star ball-carrier (Shaun Alexander). The running game featuring Maurice Morris will still be satisfactory, but not dominating like the Rams have endured the last two weeks. Also, shutting out Oakland is one thing but the Rams offense brings a whole bunch of new problems. A tight one that, like the first meeting this season, is likely to go down to the wire.
Prediction: RAMS, 27-24
CHICAGO (7-1) at NEW YORK GIANTS (6-2)
Line: Giants favored by 3 (total points line is 39)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Bears 5-2-1, Giants 5-3
Strongest Trend: The visiting team has won the last five meetings.
Last Meeting: Chicago won at The Meadowlands, 28-21, in 2004.
Bears Status Report: Chicago was shocked at home by Miami, 31-13, last week but still sports a three-game bulge atop the NFC North.
Giants Status Report: The Giants rallied to edge visiting Houston, 14-10, and improve their winning streak to five games. They lead the NFC East by two over both Dallas and Philadelphia.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – RB Thomas Jones, WR Muhsin Muhammad, TE Desmond Clark, Bears defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman. QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress (check injury status), TE Jeremy Shockey. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – K Jay Feely, Giants defense.
Game Summary: If momentum is all it takes in the NFL, the Giants are a lock. They’re on a winning streak while the Bears are coming off a stunning 18-point loss at home to Miami. But while many pundits are suddenly critical of the previously dominant Bears, I’m not. Last week was a turnover-filled aberration, and QB Rex Grossman is not that bad – he’s not as good as he was playing earlier in the season, either, but definitely not as atrocious as he was against the Dolphins and Cardinals. Simply put, this game will come down to the presence (or lack thereof) of Brian Urlacher. If he plays, I like the Bears in a mild upset. If not, the Giants should get it done at home. And my prediction is Urlacher will tough it out.
Prediction: BEARS, 20-17
TAMPA BAY (2-6) at CAROLINA (4-4)
Line: Panthers favored by 9½ (total points line is 37½)
2006 Records Against-The-Spread: Buccaneers 4-4, Panthers 2-5-1
Strongest Trend: The road team has won the last four meetings.
Last Meeting: Carolina held on for a 26-24 victory at Tampa Bay in September.
Buccaneers Status Report: Tampa Bay lost at home to New Orleans Sunday, 31-14, and is last in the NFC South.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina was off last week. Two weeks ago, the Panthers lost at home to Dallas, 35-14. They are third in the NFC South, two games behind front-running New Orleans.
Fantasy Summary: QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – WR Joey Galloway, TE Alex Smith, Buccaneers defense. QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – QB Jake Delhomme, RB DeShaun Foster, WR Steve Smith, K John Kasay, Panthers defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – WR Keyshawn Johnson.
Game Summary: Carolina should be rested and poised for a winning run after a decidedly mixed first-half performance. The Bucs just aren’t there offensively, with young QB Bruce Gradkowski valiant but unable to provide consistent passing game production. Look for the Panthers to rebound from the debacle against Dallas in Week 7.
Prediction: PANTHERS, 24-13