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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Bob's Breakdown - Week 15
Bob Cunningham
December 14, 2006

Three weeks remaining in the NFL season, and that qualifies as home stretch time.

It’s the time of year when some factors which aren’t considered earlier in the campaign come into play.  Things like team motivation, for instance.

Both when determining fantasy playoff lineups and prognosticating games, what a team/player stands to gain can (but doesn’t always) make a significant difference.  Take the Chargers’ LaDaininan Tomlinson for interest.  One might think that because he’s set the single-season record for touchdowns, he and the Bolts may relax and L.T. could return to mere-human numbers like 120 total yards and a single score per week.

Could happen.  But when you consider that San Diego is now in position to garner homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, it’s doubtful you will see any backing off. Look for the status quo the rest of the way, especially in favorable matchup situations.

Conversely, you have to be careful with the Chicago Bears.  Barring a major collapse, Da Bears have virtually locked up the NFC’s top seeding.  So I would expect to see more of Cedric Benson and less of Thomas Jones over these last weeks, and I wouldn’t count on any big numbers from the offense in general.  The defense and special teams, which have been far and away the league’s best this year, are likely to continue to excel.

Another related topic is playing the hot hand.  Examine any team currently on a roll (Tennessee, for instance) and try to determine why the club is having success.  With the Titans, it’s the emergence of Vince Young more than anything or anyone else.  So Young figures to be a decent fantasy sleeper as long as the Titans play well.

On the flip side, Carolina is struggling.  That might mean that studs like Steve Smith and previously reasonable fantasy options like QB Jake Delhomme (when healthy) and RB DeShaun Foster could end up letting down at the worst possible time.

Just some food for thought entering the holidays.

On to Week 15 we go…

2006 Prognosticating Statistics:
FOR THE SEASON:  Straight-Up – 126-82 (61 percent); ATS – 103-97-8 (52 percent)
LAST WEEK:  Straight-Up – 10-6; ATS – 9-7
OVER/UNDER: 107-97-4 for the season, 8-7-1 last week.


SAN FRANCISCO (5-8) at SEATTLE (8-5)

Line:  Seahawks favored by 10 (total points line is 41½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  49ers 7-6, Seahawks 5-8

Strongest Trend:  Seattle had won the previous six games before this season’s first meeting.

Last Meeting:  San Francisco beat Seattle at home, 20-14, in Week 11.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco lost at home to Green Bay Sunday, 30-19, and remains three back of the Seahawks in the NFC West.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle was beaten at Arizona last weekend, 27-21.  But the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West with a victory or tie against the 49ers.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN FRANCISCO – WRs Antonio Bryant and Arnaz Battle.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Shaun Alexander, WR Deion Branch, K Josh Brown.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SEATTLE – WR D.J. Hackett, TE Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks defense. 

Game Summary:  Seattle figures to bounce back at home after losing at Arizona a week ago, and with the division title there for the taking, it seems like a no-brainer.  But the 49ers might actually benefit from the expected sloppy weather, and rely on Frank Gore to chew up yardage and the clock.  Seahawks win, but 49ers stay reasonably close.

Prediction:  SEAHAWKS, 27-20


DALLAS (8-5) at ATLANTA (7-6)

Line:  Cowboys favored by 3½ (total points line is 43½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Cowboys 8-5, Falcons 7-6

Strongest Trend:  Including preseason games, Atlanta has won the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  Atlanta won at Dallas, 27-13, in 2003.

Cowboys Status Report:  At home before a national TV audience, the Cowboys were trounced by New Orleans Sunday night, 42-17.  They lead the NFC East by a game over both the New York Giants and Philadelphia.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta won its second straight following a four-game skid, 17-6 at Tampa Bay Sunday.  The Falcons are second in the NFC South, a game behind New Orleans.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DALLAS – QB Tony Romo, WRs Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, TE Jason Witten.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DALLAS – RBs Marion Barber and Julius Jones, K Martin Gramatica, Cowboys defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – QB Michael Vick, TE Alge Crumpler. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ATLANTA – RB Warrick Dunn, WR Michael Jenkins, Falcons defense. 

Game Summary:  Initially, I liked Atlanta as a home underdog, but the Falcons running game is banged up – Jerious Norwood is out and Warrick Dunn is far from 100 percent, so instead I’m casting a reluctant vote for the Cowboys to rebound from Sunday’s night debacle against the Saints.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 27-21


MIAMI (6-7) at BUFFALO (6-7)

Line:  Bills favored by 1 (total points line is 34½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Dolphins 5-7-1, Bills 9-4

Strongest Trend:  Buffalo has won four of the last five meetings.

Last Meeting:  Buffalo prevailed at Miami, 16-6, in Week 2.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami blanked visiting New England last week, 21-0, and is tied for third with Buffalo in the AFC East, three games behind the Patriots and one back of the New York Jets.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo upset the Jets on the road, 31-13.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR MIAMI – Dolphins defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MIAMI – RB Sammy Morris, WRs Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, TE Randy McMichael. QUALITY STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – Bills defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BUFFALO – RB Willis McGahee (check injury status), WR Lee Evans.
 
Game Summary:  As the line indicates, a virtual toss-up.  Miami is arguably the better team, and has beaten better opponents during its recent run of success.  But how will the Florida-based fish (yeah, yeah, dolphins are mammals) fare in frigid upstate New York?  The homefield advantage combined with the Bills’ recent success against Miami is enough for me.

Prediction:  BILLS, 13-10


HOUSTON (4-9) at NEW ENGLAND (9-4)

Line:  Patriots favored by 11½ (total points line is 37)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Texans 5-8, Patriots 6-6-1

Strongest Trend:  Houston is 3-0 SU against the state of Florida, 1-9 against everyone else.

Last Meeting:  New England won at Houston, 23-20, in 2003.

Texans Status Report:  Houston lost at home in overtime to Tennessee on Sunday, 26-20, on Houston-native Vince Young’s 39-yard scoring scamper.  The Texans are last in the AFC South, two back of third-place Tennessee.

Patriots Status Report:  New England was shut out at Miami Sunday, 21-0.  But the Patriots remain two games up on the New York Jets in the AFC East.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – WR Andre Johnson.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR HOUSTON – RB Ron Dayne, TE Owen Daniels.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ENGLAND – QB Tom Brady, RB Corey Dillon, Patriots defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS – Any WR, TE Daniel Graham, K Stephen Gostkowski. 

Game Summary:  The Patriots have had back-to-back sub-par performances, barely beating lowly Detroit at home before getting dominated at Miami last week.  Look for a re-focusing against another outmanned foe.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 23-13


NEW YORK JETS (7-6) at MINNESOTA (6-7)

Line:  Vikings favored by 3 (total points line is 41)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Jets 8-5, Vikings 5-7-1

Strongest Trend:  The Jets are 4-0 SU and ATS in the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Jets won at home in 2002, 20-7.

Jets Status Report:  New York was surprised at home by Buffalo a week ago, 31-13, but remains two games behind New England, in second place in the AFC East.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota rolled at Detroit Sunday, 30-20, for only it second win in the last seven games. The Vikings are second in the NFC North, a game behind three wild-card leaders.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – QB Chad Pennington, WR Laveranues Coles, K Mike Nugent. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR THE N.Y. JETS – RB Cedric Houston, WR Jericho Cotchery, Jets defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – RB Chester Taylor (check injury status), K Ryan Longwell. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR MINNESOTA – QB Brad Johnson, WR Marcus Robinson, TE Jermaine Wiggins, Vikings defense. 

Game Summary:  An important matchup in that the loser is probably out of the running for a wild-card playoff berth.  While I believe the Jets are better club overall, the Vikings have the momentum going in and the homefield edge.  QB Brad Johnson hasn’t played very well for much of this season, but guy is a winner… a steady leader.  He’s an older version of Pennington. Minnesota gets it done in its home dome.

Prediction:  VIKINGS, 24-20


CLEVELAND (4-9) at BALTIMORE (10-3)

Line:  Ravens favored by 11 (total points line is 33)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Browns 6-7, Ravens 8-5

Strongest Trend:  The Ravens have won the last three meetings at Baltimore by at least 13 points.

Last Meeting:  The Ravens escaped at Cleveland, 15-14, in Week 3.

Browns Status Report:  Cleveland was routed at Pittsburgh last Thursday night, 27-7, and is last in the AFC North.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore posted an impressive 20-10 victory at Kansas City Sunday and sports a two-game lead over Cincinnati in the AFC North.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CLEVELAND – WR Braylon Edwards, TE Kellen Winslow.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – QB Steve McNair, RB Jamal Lewis, TE Todd Heap, Ravens defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR BALTIMORE – WRs Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, K Matt Stover. 

Game Summary:  Baltimore has dominated this rivalry at home in recent years, and the Ravens know that they only need to finish the season tied with San Diego to be seeded ahead of the Chargers in the AFC playoffs.  No reason to let up now.  Ravens roll.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 21-3


PITTSBURGH (6-7) at CAROLINA (6-7)

Line:  Even (total points line is 40)*
(* - Spread and points estimated. Actual line unavailable by deadline).

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Steelers 6-7, Panthers 4-8-1

Strongest Trend:  The Steelers are 0-5-1 ATS this season on the road.

Last Meeting:  The Steelers won at home, 30-14, in 2002.

Steelers Status Report:  Even with its best defensive player, Troy Polamatu, sidelined the Steelers dominated visiting Cleveland last Thursday, 27-7.  The Steelers are two games behind the current wild-card playoff spot holders.

Panthers Status Report:  Without starting QB Jake Delhomme, the host Panthers were beaten by the New York Giants on Sunday, 27-13.  Carolina has lost three straight and is two games behind New Orleans in the NFC South.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH – QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker, TE Heath Miller. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PITTSBURGH –WRs Hines Ward (check injury status), Nate Washington, and Santonio Holmes, K Jeff Reed, Steelers defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – WR Steve Smith. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CAROLINA – RB DeShaun Foster (check injury status) or RB DeAngelo Williams, WRs Drew Carter and Keyshawn Johnson, K John Kasay, Panthers defense.

Game Summary:  At the start of the season, this clash looked like a potential Super Bowl preview.  As recently as a month ago, however, it looked like a potential mismatch with Carolina playing well and the Steelers struggling.  As we arrive at the game, both teams have losing records.  It’s Pittsburgh that comes in with some momentum, and although the Steelers have been brutally bad on the road this season, Carolina is so banged up that Pittsburgh, with four wins in its last five games, seems the logical pick.

Prediction:  STEELERS, 23-16


JACKSONVILLE (8-5) at TENNESSEE (6-7)

Line:  Jaguars favored by 3½ (total points line is 41)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Jaguars 8-4-1, Titans 9-4

Strongest Trend:  The Titans have won four straight overall, three over teams with winning records.

Last Meeting:  Jacksonville routed the visiting Titans, 37-7, in Week 9.

Jaguars Status Report:  Jacksonville enjoyed the second-best rushing game in NFL history last week during a 44-17 rout of the visiting Indianapolis Colts.  The Jags are two games behind the Colts in the AFC South.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee’s 26-20 overtime win at Houston Sunday was its fourth straight victory.  The Titans are two back of the Jags, in third in the AFC South.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – RB Maurice Drew-Jones, K Josh Scobee, Jaguars defense. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR JACKSONVILLE – QB David Garrard, RB Fred Taylor, Any WR.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TENNESSEE – QB Vince Young, RB Travis Henry (check health status) or Chris Brown, WR Drew Bennett, TE Bo Scaife, Titans defense.    

Game Summary:  Well, Tennessee, you’ve had quite a run. Kudos to you.  It ends Sunday.  The Jaguars are a playoff-caliber team, as opposed to Tennessee being a fair team on a temporary roll.  Jacksonville’s defense plays containment schemes as well as anyone – Vince Young won’t roam the secondary as he did last week.  And the Jax ground game led by rookie Maurice Drew-Jones will gobble up ground – not as much as it did against Indy a week ago but more than enough to provide a victory.

Prediction:  JAGUARS, 27-17


WASHINGTON (4-9) at NEW ORLEANS (9-4)

Line:  Saints favored by 10 (total points line is 45)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Redskins 4-8-1, Saints 9-4

Strongest Trend:  The road team has won the last four meetings, and all went over the total.

Last Meeting:  New Orleans won at Washington, 24-20, in 2003.

Redskins Status Report:  Washington rallied last week at home but came up short in a 21-19 loss to Philadelphia.  The Redskins are last in the NFC East.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans stunned the football world Sunday night with a 42-17 romp at Dallas.  The Saints lead Atlanta by two games in the NFC South.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – RB Ladell Betts, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR WASHINGTON – QB Jason Campbell, WR Antuan Randle-El.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – QB Drew Brees, RBs Reggie Bush and Deuce McAlister, WR Marques Colston, K John Carney.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NEW ORLEANS – WRs Joe Horn (check injury status) or Devery Henderson, Saints defense.

Game Summary:  Think people might finally be taking the Saints for real?  They should be, because New Orleans isn’t winning with flukes.  The Saints have quality players who are executing, and a young head coach who reminds me of Jon Gruden in his early Oakland days.  However, with all that said I believe the Redskins will keep this one close for two reasons – their running game, and the potential for a small letdown after the huge triumph at Dallas.

Prediction:  SAINTS, 24-17


DETROIT (2-11) at GREEN BAY (5-8)

Line:  Packers favored by 5 (total points line is 43½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Lions 4-9, Packers 5-8

Strongest Trends:  The Lions have covered ATS but lost SU in each of their last two trips to Green Bay, both games decided by three points.  Also, five of the last seven meetings have gone under the number.

Last Meeting:  Green Bay won at Detroit, 31-24, in Week 3

Lions Status Report:  Detroit lost at home to Minnesota Sunday, 30-20, and has the worst record in the NFC.

Packers Status Report:  Green Bay triumphed at San Francisco last weekend, 30-19, and is a game behind second-place Minnesota in the NFC North.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DETROIT – WR Roy Williams. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DETROIT – QB Jon Kitna, RB Arlen Harris, WR Mike Furrey.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – QB Brett Favre, RB Ahman Green, WR Donald Driver.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR GREEN BAY – WR Greg Jennings, K David Rayner, Packers defense.

Game Summary:  Look under “Strongest Trends,” above, for the logic to my pick below.

Prediction:  PACKERS, 20-17


TAMPA BAY (3-10) at CHICAGO (11-2)

Line:  Bears favored by 13½ (total points line is 33)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Buccaneers 4-8-1, Bears 9-3-1

Strongest Trend:  none.

Last Meeting:  The Bears won at Tampa Bay, 13-10, last season.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay lost at home to Atlanta Sunday, 17-6, for its sixth defeat in seven games.  The Bucs are entrenched in the cellar of the NFC South.

Bears Status Report:  Rookie Devin Hester set a single-season mark with fifth and sixth return TDs of the season Monday night in the Bears’ 42-27 win at St. Louis.  Chicago has clinched the NFC North crown and leads New Orleans by two games in the battle for the top conference seeding.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR TAMPA BAY – RB Carnell Williams, WR Joey Galloway.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – RB Thomas Jones (check injury status), WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian, K Robbie Gould, Bears defense.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR CHICAGO – QB Rex Grossman, RB Cedric Benson, TE Desmond Clark. 
 
Game Summary:  The Bears simply can’t afford a letdown, and Tampa Bay doesn’t have much to induce one anyway.

Prediction:  BEARS, 24-7


DENVER (7-6) at ARIZONA (4-9)

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

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Broncos 4-9, Cardinals 6-7

Strongest Trend:  Including their annual preseason meetings, Denver has won nine of the last 10 meetings and posted an 8-2 ATS mark in those games.  In games that count, Denver is 4-0 over that stretch, and won all but one of those games by at least three TDs.

Last Meeting:  The Broncos routed the Cardinals at home, 37-7, in 2002.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver was pounded at San Diego Sunday, 48-20, and has lost four in a row overall.  The Broncos are tied for second in the AFC West and are one game out of a wild-card playoff spot.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona has won two in a row including Sunday’s 27-21 upset of visiting Seattle.  The Cardinals remain last in the NFC West, but trail St. Louis and San Francisco by only a game.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR DENVER – none. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR DENVER – QB Jay Cutler, RB Tatum Bell, WRs Javon Walker and Rod Smith, TE Tony Scheffler.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ARIZONA – QB Matt Leinart, RB Edgerrin James, K Neil Rackers.

Game Summary:  The Cardinals finally made me look good with their upset of Seattle last week, and I’m immediately abandoning them for their trouble.  Denver is struggling, and rookie QB Jay Cutler doesn’t seem ready just yet. On the other hand, there’s a big difference facing division leaders in your first two starts as opposed to going against the Cardinals.  Denver will be able to run the ball effectively for the first time in a month, and smash-mouth their way to a much-needed victory.

Prediction:  BRONCOS, 24-21


PHILADELPHIA (7-6) at NEW YORK GIANTS (7-6)

Line:  Giants favored by 5½ (total points line is 43½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Eagles 7-6, Giants 6-7

Strongest Trend:  The under is 8-1 in the last nine meetings at The Meadowlands.

Last Meeting:  The Giants came from 17 down to win at Philadelphia in overtime, 30-24, in Week 2.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia held off host Washington for a 21-19 victory last week.  The Eagles are tied for second with the Giants in the NFC East, one game back of Dallas.

Giants Status Report:  New York snapped a four-game skid with a 27-13 win at Carolina Sunday.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – RB Brian Westbrook, WR Donte’ Stallworth, TE L.J. Smith. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR PHILADELPHIA – QB Jeff Garcia, WR Reggie Brown, K David Akers.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, TE Jeremy Shockey.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR NY GIANTS – QB Eli Manning, K Jay Feely, Giants defense. 

Game Summary:  This is a very even match-up, but two factors decide it for me – 1) the Eagles’ struggles stopping the run, 2) Philly is playing a divisional road game for the second week in a row.  The Eagles almost ran out of gas at Washington.  It catches up to them this time.

Prediction:  GIANTS, 24-16


ST. LOUIS (5-8) at OAKLAND (2-11)

Line:  Raiders favored by 2½ (total points line is 38½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Rams 5-7-1, Raiders 6-6-1

Strongest Trend:  Oakland’s games have gone the under eight of the last nine weeks.

Last Meeting:  The Rams won at home, 28-13, in 2002.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis lost at home to Chicago on Monday night, 42-27, and is tied with San Francisco for second in the NFC West.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland was whipped at Cincinnati last week, 27-10, and has the worst record in the AFC.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – RB Stephen Jackson, WR Torry Holt.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR ST. LOUIS – QB Marc Bulger, WR Isaac Bruce, K Jeff Wilkins, Rams defense.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – none.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR OAKLAND – QB Aaron Brooks, RB Justin Fargas, WR Randy Moss (check injury status) or WR Ronald Curry, K Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders defense.

Game Summary:  Wow, the Raiders are favored?  I know the Rams aren’t anything special this season, but is homefield really that crucial?  Not in my book.  Remember, St. Louis was 4-1 at one time.  The Rams defense is pretty weak, especially the special teams, but the offense is significantly more dynamic than Oakland’s. Offensively, it’s a mismatch and that’s enough for me to pick another Raiders’ defeat.

Prediction:  RAMS, 20-17


KANSAS CITY (7-6) at SAN DIEGO (11-2)

Line:  Chargers favored by 9 (total points line is 47½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Chiefs 6-6-1, Chargers 8-5

Strongest Trends:  San Diego is 6-0 SU and ATS at home this season.

Last Meeting:  Kansas City edged the Chargers at home, 30-27, in Week 7.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City lost at home to Baltimore a week ago, 20-10, and is tied with Denver for second in the AFC West.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego clinched the AFC West crown with a 48-20 rout of visiting Denver and is currently ranked first in the conference in the battle for best record and homefield edge throughout the conference playoffs.

Fantasy Summary:  QUALITY STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – RB Larry Johnson, TE Tony Gonzalez. MARGINAL STARTERS FOR KANSAS CITY – QB Trent Green, WR Eddie Kennison, K Laurence Tynes.  QUALITY STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – QB Phillip Rivers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, TE Antonio Gates, K Nate Kaeding.  MARGINAL STARTERS FOR SAN DIEGO – Any WRs, Chargers defense.

Game Summary:  Last week I predicted that Denver would hold the Chargers’ home scoring average “well below” their 36 points per week average.  Two big things were wrong with that statement.  First, it should have read 33 points per week.  Second, the Chargers tallied 48 so the pick was “wack” (ask a teen if you don’t know what that means).  Anyway, San Diego is on an incredible roll and the Chargers need to maintain it so that the task of trying to win a playoff game at Indy or New England or Baltimore becomes moot.  And with the Chiefs coming off a disappointing loss, the Bolts are the pick.

Prediction:  CHARGERS, 30-17


CINCINNATI (8-5) at INDIANAPOLIS (10-3)

Line:  Colts favored by 3 (total points line is 53½)

2006 Records Against-The-Spread:  Bengals 7-5-1, Colts 6-6-1

Strongest Trend:  The Colts are 8-0 ATS in their last eight primetime appearances.

Last Meeting:  Indy won at Cincinnati last season, 45-37.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati easily defeated visiting Oakland, 27-10, last week and has won four straight.  The Bengals trail Baltimore by two games in the AFC North but would be a wild-card qualifier if the season ended today.

Colts Status Report:  Indy was thrashed at Jacksonville last week, 44-17, and saw its lead cut to two games in the AFC South.

Fantasy Summary:  PLAY ALL OFFENSIVE STARTERS FOR BOTH TEAMS, INCLUDING THIRD RECEIVERS AND ANYONE WHO IS GOOD ENOUGH TO START BIT DOESN’T, AND BENCH THE DEFENSES.

Game Summary:  Many times, when you anticipate an extreme score (high or low) the opposite occurs.  But last time these two offensive juggernauts got together, 82 points were put up.  I expect the same type of track meet this time and, unlike the majority right now, I like the host Colts because I believe they will have something to prove.  Despite being 10-3, the Colts have more than their share of doubters because of their recent defensive failures.  In the national spotlight and at home, they silence their critics with a solid win over a very good opponent.

Prediction:  COLTS, 38-24