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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Weekly Game Breakdowns - Week 2
Bob Cunningham
September 13, 2007

The season openers were predictably unpredictable… which means it makes perfect sense that I was exactly break-even against the number.  Even considering it was Week 1, however, I had to gear it up picking straight-up winners.  I went with too many ‘dogs last week.

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  9-7 (56 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  7-7-2 (50 percent)
Last Week:  9-7 SU, 7-7-2 ATS

Here’s how I see Week 2: 


BUFFALO (0-1) at PITTSBURGH (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Steelers favored by 9½

Strongest Trends:  Pittsburgh has covered ATS in the last nine meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Steelers won at Buffalo, 29-24, in January of 2005.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo played tough but lost at home to Denver last week, 15-14.  The Bills are tied with Miami and the New York Jets in the AFC East, a game behind New England.

Steelers Status Report:  Pittsburgh cruised to a 34-7 victory at Cleveland in its opener.  The Steelers are tied with Cincinnati atop the AFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  The Steelers rarely allow big games on the ground, especially at home, so starting rookie RB Marshawn Lynch isn’t a good idea.  As for Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger, stick with the hot hand.

Game Summary:  Pittsburgh has owned this series since… well, since forever I think… and although the Bills defense put up a good fight last week against Denver, it was a bend-but-not-break type of performance.  The trend of the Steelers’ dominance in this series is so pronounced, I’m simply not willing to go against it.

Prediction:  STEELERS, 31-13


CINCINNATI (1-0) at CLEVELAND (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bengals favored by 7½  

Strongest Trends:  The Bengals have won the last five meetings in this rivalry, going 4-1 ATS over that stretch.

Last Meeting:  Cincinnati romped at Cleveland, 30-0, last Thanksgiving weekend.

Bengals Status Report:  The defense played a strong game in a 27-20 triumph over visiting Baltimore Monday night, putting the Bengals into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

Browns Status Report:  Cleveland was drubbed by Pittsburgh at home, 34-7.  This week, QB Charlie Frye was traded to Seattle, pushing rookie Brady Quinn a step closer to being the man for the Browns.

Fantasy Factor:  The Bengals offense is more explosive than Pittsburgh’s, which pretty much had its way with the Browns.  Expect Cleveland to play better this week, but the key Bengals skill players are all solid starts.  For the Browns, there are no strong recommendations… but WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow are worth looks.

Game Summary:  On paper, the Bengals should win easily.  But it’s a rivalry game, the Browns are at home for the second week in a row, and Cincinnati endured a short week to prepare.  The victory over the Ravens was a hard-fought and emotional one.  Just a little bit of a letdown for the Bengals here, but they still come out on top.  (My annual reminder:  home underdogs of a TD or more within the division cover ATS almost 70 percent of the time over the last 15 years).

Prediction:  BENGALS, 23-17


INDIANAPOLIS (1-0) at TENNESSEE (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Colts favored by 7½

Strongest Trends:  The Titans are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 regular season games dating back to 2006.

Last Meeting:  Tennessee upset the visiting Colts, 20-17, last December.

Colts Status Report:  Indianapolis opened the season a week ago Thursday at home with a 41-10 drubbing of New Orleans.  The Colts are tied with the Titans and Houston for the top spot in the AFC South.

Titans Status Report:   They went into Week 1 as the heaviest underdog in the league, but came away from Jacksonville with a 13-10 victory.

Fantasy Factor:  The Titans played extremely well on defense last week, but they were facing QB David Garrard.  The Colts’ Peyton Manning is no Garrard.   With the Colts, you always start their starters.  RB Chris Brown is an intriguing choice for the Titans – the Colts run D was solid last week, but lousy last year.  He’s worth a shot unless your roster features two studs ahead of him.

Game Summary:  Déjà vu, as in another Titans upset?  Nah, not quite.  I like Tennessee to play very tough once again.  But Manning is so cool, so calm... and, sure, so collected that I believe he finds a way to get it done late.

Prediction:  COLTS, 24-21


HOUSTON (1-0) at CAROLINA (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Panthers favored by 6½

Strongest Trend:  The Panthers are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games. 

Last Meeting:  Houston won at home in 2003, 14-10.  It’s the only previous meeting between the teams.

Texans Status Report:  Houston dominated visiting Kansas City a week ago, winning 20-3 to seize a share of first in the AFC South.

Panthers Status Report:  Carolina whipped host St. Louis in its opener, 27-13, and is alone in first place in the NFC South.

Fantasy Factor:  For the Panthers, the RB duo of DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams pretty much split touches, which means neither is a particularly solid play.  We might find out in this game if Houston QB Matt Schaub has what it takes to put up some decent aerial numbers – being that there’s a good chance the Texans will be playing catch-up.

Game Summary:  Carolina showed last week why I have predicted it to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in February.  Good balance on offense, a better-than-average, play-making defense, good coaching, special teams, etc.  Just a quality football team which should fare well in a weak conference.  This game is against an AFC team, but it won’t matter.

Prediction:  PANTHERS, 24-14


ATLANTA (0-1) at JACKSONVILLE (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Jaguars favored by 10½

Strongest Trend:  none.

Last Meeting:  The Falcons won at home in 2003, 21-14.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta was shellacked by the Vikings at Minnesota, 24-3.  The post-Michael Vick era has started poorly.

Jaguars Status Report:  Jacksonville was stunned at home by Tennessee a week ago, 13-10, and is alone in last in the AFC South.

Fantasy Factor:  The Jaguars run defense was virtual swiss cheese last week, and the Falcons perennially lead the league in rushing yards.  Think they might try to run the ball a little?  Warrick Dunn and even Jerious Norwood are plays worth considering purely on anticipated workload.  Also for Jacksonville, if K Josh Scobee is still on your roster, dump him and sign veteran John Carney.  Scobee will be out at least a month, with Carney replacing him.

Game Summary:  Nothing is for sure, of course, but one thing I’m quite positive of: The Jaguars won’t yield another 200+ rushing day to another team again anytime soon.  Jacksonville will sell out to stop Dunn and Norwood and make Joey Harrington come over the top to beat it.  Of course, he won’t be able to do so effectively with enough consistency to lead an upset.  And the Jags will be a bit chippy entering this one as well.

Prediction:  JAGUARS, 27-10


GREEN BAY (1-0) at NEW YORK GIANTS (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Even

Strongest Trends:  The road team has won the last three meetings outright.  Green Bay has won four of the last five encounters.

Last Meeting:  The Giants won at Lambeau Field, 14-7, in 2004.

Giants Status Report:  New York’s offense was fairly effective in Sunday night’s 45-35 loss at Dallas, but QB Eli Manning and RB Brandon Jacobs were both sidelined with injuries.

Packers Status Report:   Green Bay held off Philadelphia at home, 16-13, and is tied with Detroit and Minnesota atop the NFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  Ya gotta like Packers QB Brett Favre and WR Donald Driver, in light of what the Cowboys passing attack did to the Giants secondary.  For NY, WR Plaxico Burress is coming off a huge game, but he’s somewhat of a risk play because of Jared Lorenzen, who will start in place of Manning.  RB Derrick Ward looked good Sunday night, but the Packers interior defense is much improved.

Game Summary:  If it was just Jacobs who were out, I might opt for the Giants at home.  But losing the big back and the QB, and with how the defense got shredded, and with the solid game turned in by the Packers last week against a quality foe… Green Bay should get it done on the road.

Prediction:   PACKERS, 24-17


NEW ORLEANS (0-1) at TAMPA BAY (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Saints favored by 3

Strongest Trends:  The road team is 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Saints rolled, 31-14, at Tampa last November.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans was thoroughly thumped at Indianapolis last Thursday, 41-10, and is a game behind Carolina in the NFC South.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay was defeated at Seattle, 20-6.  The Bucs are tied with the Saints and Atlanta in the NFC South.

Fantasy Factor:  Not an ideal match-up, but look for Saints QB Drew Brees to rebound from an ugly effort.  For the Bucs, WR Joey Galloway could have a big game – the Saints defense has been hurt by the big play, not only last week but last season as well. Also, RB Michael Pittman figures to get the bulk of the rushing load and he’s adept at catching passes out of the backfield as well.

Game Summary:  If New Orleans is, indeed, a Super Bowl-caliber club, the Saints have to begin proving it with a quality effort on the road within the division.  I was tempted to forecast an upset here, the Saints perhaps pressing to live up to the hype.  Ultimately, however, talent wins out.

Prediction:  SAINTS, 23-13


SAN FRANCISCO (1-0) at ST. LOUIS (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Rams favored by 3

Strongest Trends:  The 49ers have covered ATS in the last five meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Rams won at home, 20-17, last November.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco survived at home on Monday night for a 20-17 victory over Arizona.  The 49ers are tied with Seattle for first in the NFC West.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis’ offense misfired continually in a 27-13 home loss to Carolina last week.  All-Pro tackle Orlando Pace is lost for the season with a shoulder injury.

Fantasy Factor:  Both teams have stud RBs – Frank Gore for the Niners, Stephen Jackson for St. Louis – but it will be the passing games which distinguish themselves.

Game Summary:  **Upset Special**.  The 49ers have had the short week to prepare, but they’re facing the Rams, whom they know inside, outside, and everywhere between the goalposts even with the Rams’ new additions in the passing game.  San Francisco’s defense was solid against the Cardinals, and their pass rush could be a key as the Rams try to keep pace without Pace.  Big Mo… as in momentum… is the key here.

Prediction:  49ERS, 24-17


DALLAS (1-0) at MIAMI (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Cowboys favored by 3½

Strongest Trends:  The visiting team has won five of the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Dolphins rolled at Dallas, 40-21, on Thanksgiving Day of 2003.

Cowboys Status Report:  Dallas whipped the New York Giants at home last Sunday night, 45-35, and is tied with Washington for the top spot in the NFC East.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami fell in OT at Washington, 16-13, and is tied with everyone else in the AFC East except New England.

Fantasy Factor:  While Miami’s secondary figures to be tougher than the Giants’ D, QB Tony Romo remains a viable fantasy starter, as does WR Terrell Owens and TE Jason Witten.  For Miami, there’s hope for QB Trent Green-to-WR Chris Chambers if the protection can fare just a little better than last week, because Dallas’ secondary was dominated by Plaxico Burress.  Chambers isn’t Burress, but he’s pretty good.

Game Summary:  This game is a tough call – I think it will be close if Miami’s offensive line can maintain against Dallas’ active front.  Home field advantage doesn’t mean much, however, and the Dolphins have been worse at home than on the road the last two years running.  Go with Big D.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 28-16


MINNESOTA (1-0) at DETROIT (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Lions favored by 3

Strongest Trends:  Minnesota has won the last 11 meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Vikings prevailed, 30-20, at Detroit last December.

Lions Status Report:  Detroit triumphed at Oakland, 36-21, to tie the Vikings and Green Bay on top of the AFC North.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota easily defeated visiting Atlanta, 24-3.

Fantasy Factor:  For the Vikings, a big dose of rookie RB Adrian Peterson awaits Detroit although Chester Taylor is expected to suit up.  The Lions will air it out, but face a stiff test with the Vikings’ emerging defense.  With two improved Ds and playing in a dome, the kickers might be busy.

Game Summary:  The streak has to end sometime, so why not on this day?  The teams are actually fairly evenly matched.  The Lions are simply due.

Prediction:  LIONS, 19-13


SEATTLE (1-0) at ARIZONA (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Seahawks favored by 3

Strongest Trends:  The home team has won six of the last seven meetings, straight-up.

Last Meeting:  The Cardinals won, 27-21, at home last December.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle scored a somewhat routine 20-6 victory over visiting Tampa Bay last week and is tied with San Francisco for first in the NFC West.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona played tough but lost at San Francisco, 20-17.

Fantasy Factor:  Tough one to forecast… but usually, plenty of points are put up when these teams clash.  Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald was held in check last week – it’s unlikely to happen again a second consecutive time.

Game Summary:  Seattle is slightly favored, but I like the Cardinals’ offensive balance to get it done at home… as long as they avoid silly mistakes (far from a given).

Prediction:  CARDINALS, 28-23


NEW YORK JETS (0-1) at BALTIMORE (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Ravens favored by 11½ 

Strongest Trends:  The Ravens have covered ATS in each of the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  Baltimore won at home, 13-3, in 2005.

Jets Status Report:  New York got whupped at home by New England, 38-14, and is tied with Miami and Buffalo, a game back of the Pats in the AFC East.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore lost a tough one at Cincinnati Monday night, 27-20.  QB Steve McNair injured his groin and is unlikely to play this week. The status of LB Ray Lewis is also in some doubt due to a triceps injury that he played through against the Bengals.

Fantasy Factor:  RB Willis McGahee had an uninspiring debut last week… tough to know, exactly, what to make of his 111 total yards and no scores.  Kyle Boller gets the start at QB – if you’re even considering playing him, you must have had a really crappy draft.  That said, Boller could have a nice day against the suspect Jets secondary.  Jets QB Chad Pennington is also likely to be sidelined, in favor of Kellen Clemens.  But it doesn’t matter - the match-up is a poor one for the Jets.  Pass on any and all of them.

Game Summary:  The Jets are a better team than they showed last week, but so are the Ravens and the latter club is at home.  I think the line is too hefty – Jets can keep it closer if their defense rebounds from last week.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 20-10


OAKLAND (0-1) at DENVER (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Broncos favored by 10

Strongest Trends:  Denver has won seven of the last eight meetings straight-up, including a sweep last season. But Oakland covered ATS in both of those contests.

Last Meeting:  Denver won at Oakland, 17-13, last November.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland was beaten at home, 36-21, by Detroit.  The Raiders are tied with Kansas City in the AFC West, a game behind the Broncos and San Diego.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver rallied for a 15-14 victory at Buffalo achieved via a field goal from Jason Elam as time wound down.

Fantasy Factor:  Denver won’t try anything fancy – the Broncos will pound the ball with Travis Henry and go down the field through the air to Javon Walker.  WR Brandon Marshall enjoyed a solid opener, and is the heir apparent to veteran Rod Smith.  The Raiders’ running game was in full swing, with Lamont Jordan having a big day last week, but the going will be a lot tougher against the Broncos.  And QB Joshua McCown might be sidelined by a bad finger – Daunte Culpepper getting the start, but not worth starting for you.

Game Summary:  Picking Denver to win is a no-brainer.  But forecasting a blowout is little less obvious, because this is still a rivalry game and even as bad as the Raiders were a year ago, they played the Broncos tough in both meetings.  Still, there just isn’t anything to like about the Raiders here.

Prediction:  BRONCOS, 31-7


KANSAS CITY (0-1) at CHICAGO (0-1)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Bears favored by 12½

Strongest Trends:  The home team has won the last three meetings, but the visiting team covered ATS in two of them, and in the midst of that stretch was a preseason game in 2001 that followed the same pattern.

Last Meeting:  The Chiefs routed the Bears at Kansas City, 31-3, in 2003.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City looked as if it might be the league’s worst team in a 20-3 stinker at Houston in its opener.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago held a 3-0 lead for a while but eventually succumbed at San Diego, 14-3, and sits alone in last place in the NFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  The Bears figure to have success both on the ground and through the air, and the Chiefs figure to struggle with both.  Chiefs RB Larry Johnson is a borderline start at this point, until KC proves it can generate some decent offensive line play.  I still like TE Tony Gonzalez, but only in leagues that score receptions.

Game Summary:  With regards to the Chicago defense against the Kansas City attack, this is a mismatch.  KC’s defense is respectable, but not good enough to make this a winnable situation.

Prediction:  BEARS, 24-7


SAN DIEGO (1-0) at NEW ENGLAND (1-0)
Sunday, Sept. 16, 5:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Patriots favored by 3½

Strongest Trends:  none.

Last Meeting:  The Patriots won at San Diego in last season’s AFC Divisional playoffs, 24-21.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego’s defense looked awesome in a 14-3 victory over the visiting Chicago Bears.  The Bolts are tied with Denver atop the AFC West.

Patriots Status Report:  New England’s 38-14 road romp over the New York Jets has been tainted by the discovery that a Patriots associate was taking video of the Jets coaches when giving their signs.  A forfeit may result, but either way the Pats are playing well.  For the moment at least, they are alone in first in the AFC East.

Fantasy Factor:  The Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson versus New England QB Tom Brady and WR Randy Moss.  What a match-up. But my guess is that the respective defenses will keep all relatively in check.  All the key players are worth starting, but expectations should be tempered.

Game Summary:  The last time San Diego came in for a regular game at Foxborough, the Chargers departed with a 41-17 rout – easily the Pats’ worst loss of the Bill Bellichick era.  I guarantee that the Patriots haven’t forgotten that one - countered partly with last year’s playoff victory, but not fully exorcised until a home win over the Bolts is achieved.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 27-20


WASHINGTON (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA (0-1)
Monday, Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m. PT

Line:  Eagles favored by 7

Strongest Trend:  The Eagles are 12-5 ATS in their last 17 Monday night appearances.  Washington is 3-7 ATS in its last 10.

Last Meeting:  The Eagles won on the road, 21-19, last December.

Redskins Status Report:  Washington came away from its opener last week at home with a 16-13 overtime win over Miami.  The Redskins are tied with Dallas for top honors in the NFC East.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia was beaten at Green Bay a week ago, 16-13.

Fantasy Factor:  QB Donovan McNabb has put up some big numbers against the Redskins in recent years.  Look for WR Kevin Curtis to have fun deep.  Washington RB Clinton Portis will get as much of the load as his fragile body parts can handle.

Game Summary:  Miami is purportedly not a very good team, and the Redskins still needed an overtime at home to beat the Dolphins.  Philly played decently at times at Green Bay, but the Packers were more opportunistic.  In their home opener, the Eagles are the clear choice.

Prediction:  EAGLES, 30-14

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