The Huddle on Facebook Facebook   The Huddle on Twitter Twitter   The Huddle Mobile Mobile Welcome, GuestJOINHELP


Weekly Game Breakdowns - Week 4
Bob Cunningham
September 27, 2007

Only three weeks in, and it’s already obvious we’re in for another weird NFL season.

Just look at the numbers.  Earnest Graham has twice as many rushing touchdowns as LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Stephen Jackson combined.  Derek Anderson had more than twice as many touchdown passes in one game as Marc Bulger has all season to date.  The Packers are undefeated, the Saints and Rams haven’t won yet.

It’s not complete bedlam, mind you.  Rex Grossman still blows, and will be replaced this week as Chicago’s starting QB by Brian Griese.  But you get my point.

The league continues to be predictably unpredictable.  Have fun with it.  As for me, I will continue to yank my hair out trying to figure out who should do what and when.  Of course, these days I have to pull from the sides.

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  33-15 (69 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  24-19-5 (56 percent)
Last Week:  12-4 SU, 8-6-2 ATS

Here’s how I see Week 4: 

NEW YORK JETS (1-2) at BUFFALO (0-3)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Jets favored by 3½

Strongest Trends:  The underdog has won the last three meetings, straight-up.

Last Meeting:  The Bills whipped the Jets at the Meadowlands, 31-13, last December.

Jets Status Report:  New York topped visiting Miami on Sunday, 31-28.  The Jets trail first-place New England by two games in the AFC East.

Bills Status Report:  The Bills were thrashed at New England, 38-7, and are tied for last with Miami in the AFC East.

Fantasy Factor:  Jets RB Thomas Jones, who has made me look bad so far by being very mediocre after I predicted a big year for him, is an excellent start this week because Buffalo’s rushing defense ranks dead last in the NFL.  For Buffalo, RB Marshawn Lynch is the only viable starter because QB J.P. Losman is injured, and a rookie (Trent Edwards) is his likely replacement.

Game Summary:  If the Bills can find a way to shore up that aforementioned run D., it can win this game.  With Buffalo desperately needing the game, and not being as bad a team as its record indicates (the Bills have faced Denver, Pittsburgh and the Patriots in their first three games – brutal), I like them to find a way to get it done.  The absence of the injured Losman, in my opinion, isn’t much of a factor because his play was too inconsistent anyway.

Prediction:  BILLS, 20-17

OAKLAND (1-2) at MIAMI (0-3)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Dolphins favored by 4  

Strongest Trends:  The Dolphins have won six of the last seven meetings.  The favorite is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.

Last Meeting:  Miami won, 33-21, at Oakland in 2005.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to last season with a 26-24 victory over visiting Cleveland Sunday.  The Raiders trail Denver by a game in the AFC West.

Dolphins Status Report:  The Dolphins lost to the New York Jets on the road, 31-28.

Fantasy Factor:  Both teams’ featured backs are strong plays.  Oakland’s Lamont Jordan has been solid all year… and Miami’s run defense hasn’t been.  Dolphins back Ronnie Brown had a big day against the Jets a week ago.  Also for the Raiders, look for QB Daunte Culpepper to get the start but, even though he will be mega-motivated to put it to his ex-club, his success will be spotty at best.

Game Summary:  I hate games like this, because strong historical trends contrast with current team data… as well as my gut.  It took the Raiders a lot of weeks to get off the schneid, so it seems illogical to predict them to win back-to-back games.  Even though the Raiders are arguably a better team right now, I like QB Trent Green and the Dolphins attack to have its best game so far and forge the team’s first victory of the season.

Prediction:  DOLPHINS, 23-16

Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Ravens favored by 4½

Strongest Trend:  The Browns have covered the last three meetings ATS.

Last Meeting:  The Ravens won at home, 27-17, last December.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore overcame a fourth-quarter collapse for the second straight week to hold off Arizona at home, 26-23.  The Ravens are second in the AFC North, a game behind Pittsburgh.

Browns Status Report:   Cleveland lost a close one at Oakland a week ago, 26-24, and is tied with Cincinnati for third in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  Browns QB Derek Anderson has seven TD passes in his last two games, and the Ravens secondary suddenly seems vulnerable.  But if you need to start Anderson, don’t expect any more than you got last week.  In fact, equaling his two TDs from last week will be made tougher by the potential absence of tight end Kellen Winslow. For Baltimore, RB Willis McGahee is an obvious start against the NFL’s second-worst run defense.

Game Summary:  The last two weeks, the Ravens have faced a seemingly inferior foe and done just enough to win, but not much more.  I consider this matchup in a similar light.  Baltimore should win, with the running game closing out any Cleveland comeback attempts.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 24-13

HOUSTON (2-1) at ATLANTA (0-3)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Texans favored by 2½  

Strongest Trend:  Houston is 6-3 SU in its last nine games dating back to last year.  Atlanta is 3-8 in its last 11. 

Last Meeting:  The Texans won at home, 17-13, in the only previous meeting, in 2003.

Texans Status Report:  Houston lost at home to Indianapolis last week, 30-24, and trails the Colts by a game in the AFC South.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta was defeated by visiting Carolina, 27-20, and is tied with New Orleans at the bottom of the NFC South.

Fantasy Factor:  QB Matt Schaub returns home to the team that made him ride the pine watching Michael Vick do everything except be a typical NFL QB.  He’s a medium play at best, because of the all the intangibles as well as injuries to WR Andre Johnson and RB Ahman Green. A decent sleeper play is RB Sam Gado for Houston.

Game Summary:  Is the world ready for the Houston Texans as road favorites?  I’d say no… not just yet.  If the Texans were to enter this game at full strength, I’d give them the nod.  But their two best offensive players are sidelined and they will face a desperate Falcons team playing at home.  A tepid vote is cast for the underdog hosts.

Prediction:  FALCONS, 20-14

ST. LOUIS (0-3) at DALLAS (3-0)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Cowboys favored by 13½  

Strongest Trend:  The road team has dominated this series in the last 20 years, winning the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  In the 2005 regular season finale, the Rams upset Dallas on the road, 20-10.  It was New Year’s Day, ’06.

Rams Status Report:  The injury-riddled Rams lost at Tampa Bay last week, 24-3, and are entrenched at the bottom of the NFC West.

Cowboys Status Report:  Dallas went into Chicago last Sunday night and whipped the Bears, 34-10.  The Cowboys are alone atop the NFC East, a game up on Washington.

Fantasy Factor:  The Rams will start rookie Brian Leonard at RB in place of injured Stephen Jackson, but Leonard’s not likely to enjoy much success.  QB Marc Bulger could bounce back, especially if the Rams fall behind and have to throw to attempt to play catch-up.  All of Dallas’ primary offensive weapons are good starts, and so is the Dallas defense.

Game Summary:  For some reason no one seems to be able to explain, the road team has dominated this series.  But no, the Rams aren’t going to go into Dallas and win.  There’s too large a chasm between these two clubs right now.  If the Rams had Jackson, I’d give them more of a shot.  Dallas’ offense is on such a roll, I don’t see a reason that the Cowboys shouldn’t continue their strong play.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 38-17

GREEN BAY (3-0) at MINNESOTA (1-2)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Packers favored by 1½

Strongest Trend:  The underdog is 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Packers held off the visiting Vikings, 9-7, last December in nine innings.

Packers Status Report:  Green Bay beat San Diego at home Sunday, 31-24, and is alone atop the NFC North.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota lost at Kansas City last week, 13-10.  The Vikings are tied with Chicago for third in the NFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  Packers QB Brett Favre has been on a roll, but rarely has enjoyed much success at Minnesota in his storied career.  Again, it’s a tough matchup for him and the passing game.  The Vikings’ aerial game is non-existent, and although rookie RB Adrian Peterson has shined, the Packers’ run defense ranks in the league’s upper-third.

Game Summary:  With the career TD pass record equaled and coming off the big home win over the Chargers, there might not be any place for the Pack to go but down.  This series indicates that records should be thrown out, and Minnesota’s defense on its home field could (dare I say, will) be the difference.

Prediction:   VIKINGS, 17-13

CHICAGO (1-2) at DETROIT (2-1)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bears favored by 2½

Strongest Trend:  The Bears have won the last four meetings, including 3-1 ATS.

Last Meeting:  Chicago held on for a 26-21 win at Detroit last Christmas Eve.

Bears Status Report:  The Bears were pasted at home by Dallas on Sunday night, 37-14, and are tied for last in the NFC North.

Lions Status Report:  Detroit was blown out at Philadelphia last weekend, 56-21, and is second in the NFC North, a game behind Green Bay.

Fantasy Factor:  With Griese taking over as the starting QB, the passing game should be steadier if not more potent.  Look for veteran WR Muhsin Muhammad to have his best game of the season.  Chicago will also want to emphasize Cedric Benson and the running game.  Detroit QB Jon Kitna is coming off a big game, and even though the Bears defense is tough Dallas proved last week than it can be exploited through the air.

Game Summary:  The change to Griese makes perfect sense, except that it comes about 10 months too late.  But it’s not a major consideration in terms of determining who wins this game.  Defense… specifically, either team’s ability to rebound from terrible performances last week… will decide it.  That and homefield advantage.  I like Detroit.

Prediction:  LIONS, 24-20

TAMPA BAY (2-1) at CAROLINA (2-1)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Panthers favored by 6  

Strongest Trend:  The Panthers are 7-1 SU in the last eight meetings.  The underdog is 7-1 ATS in the last eight.

Last Meeting:  Carolina won at home, 24-10, last November.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay rolled past visiting St. Louis Sunday, 24-3, and is tied with Carolina atop the NFC South.

Panthers Status Report:  The Panthers beat Atlanta on the road, 27-20.

Fantasy Factor:  The health of Panthers QB Jake Delhomme is a question mark at this writing, but if he starts he’s only a mediocre play.  The Tampa Bay running attack is becoming confusing – Carnell Williams, Michael Pittman, and Earnest Graham have all made big contributions recently – and QB Jeff Garcia-to-WR Joey Galloway all but disappeared last week.  Defense may rule the day in this one.

Game Summary:  In my opinion, even banged up, the Panthers are the class of the division and this game is an ideal time to prove it.  Tampa Bay has played well over the last two weeks, but home wins over the Saints and Rams, who have a combined zero victories to date, aren’t exactly resume builders.  This should be a close game, won by the hosts.

Prediction:  PANTHERS, 21-17

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Seahawks favored by 2

Strongest Trend:  The 49ers are 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings, and swept the season series a year ago straight-up.

Last Meeting:  San Francisco won at Seattle, 24-14, on a Monday night last December.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle held off Cincinnati at home last week, 24-21.  The Seahawks are tied with the 49ers for first in the NFC West.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco was routed at Pittsburgh, 37-16.

Fantasy Factor:  It will be about the running backs – Frank Gore for the 49ers, Shaun Alexander for Seattle.  Although Alexander has a broken bone in his wrist, he will reportedly continue to play in a soft cast and the effect on his production is minimal.  Seattle QB Matt Hasslebeck is coming off a strong performance against the Bengals but… well… it was the Bengals, at home. ‘Nuff said about that.  For San Francisco, TE Vernon Davis is sidelined… but heck, he hasn’t done much anyway so he shouldn’t be missed.

Game Summary:  It would be hypocritical of me to pick the 49ers to win the division, as I did at the season’s outset, then predict them to lose at home to the squad they are attempting to dethrone.  Fact is, this game should be entertaining and close, with a late field goal deciding it.

Prediction:  FORTY-NINERS, 23-20

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Steelers favored by 6

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won four of the last five meetings.  Arizona 3-1 SU in its last four against the Steelers at home.

Last Meeting:  Pittsburgh prevailed at home, 28-15, in 2003.

Steelers Status Report:  Pittsburgh won in lopsided fashion for the third week in a row, beating visiting San Francisco, 37-16.  The Steelers are alone atop the AFC North.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona nearly rallied for the upset behind ageless QB Kurt Warner, but fell short in a 26-23 loss at Baltimore.  The Cardinals are a game out of first in the NFC West.

Fantasy Factor:  QB Matt Leinart is expected to get the start for the Cardinals, but Warner reportedly will also see some action.  For the Steelers, veteran WR Hines Ward will be sidelined, which means more opportunities for Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington, among others.

Game Summary:  One of the more reliable home underdogs over the last few years, believe it or not, are the Cardinals.  Coach Ken Whisenhunt, formerly on the Steelers staff, will have his team ultra-fired up to take it to the unbeaten visitors.  Arizona isn’t a better team, mind you.  It just will be on Sunday.  Yep… this is my Upset Special.  The Cardinals get it done by feeding off their home crowd and by outhustling a team that, while certainly well coached, might be getting full of itself.  (Question: why does my stomach get queasy every time I pick the Cardinals?)

Prediction:  CARDINALS, 24-17

Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Colts favored by 9½

Strongest Trends:  These teams have alternated covering ATS over the last 10 meetings – and it’s Denver’s turn.  The Colts have won three of the last four played at Indy by 19 points or more.

Last Meeting:  The Colts won at Denver, 34-31, last October.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver lost at home to Jacksonville in Week 3, 23-14, but still leads the AFC West.

Colts Status Report:  Indianapolis triumphed at Houston, 30-24, and is alone in first place in the AFC South, a game up on all three of the other clubs in the division.  The Colts have won seven straight overall dating back to last season.

Fantasy Factor:  The Colts at home.  That can be a lot of fun, but the real question is which WR – Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne – will have Denver cornerback extraordinaire Champ Bailey draped on him all day?  Look for Wayne to have the better afternoon.  For Denver, it will be about running the ball and eating up the clock in order to keep Indy’s offense off the field as long as possible.  It’s a logical strategy… and one that usually hasn’t worked for coach Mike Shanahan’s team in that building.

Game Summary:  At Denver, it’s an interesting game.  Remember last year’s exciting three-point win for the Colts up in Mile High country?  But when the two play in the Dome, the clear advantage belongs with the Colts.  Indy rolls again.

Prediction:  COLTS, 35-17

KANSAS CITY (1-2) at SAN DIEGO (1-2)
Sunday, Sept. 30, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Chargers favored by 11½   

Strongest Trend:  The home team is 5-0 SU and ATS in the last five meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Chargers won at home, 20-9, last December.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City captured its first win of 2007 last week, rallying past visiting Minnesota, 13-10.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego lost its second straight road game Sunday, 31-24 at Green Bay.  The Chargers, Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders are all tied in the AFC West, a game behind Denver.

Fantasy Factor:  Tired of enduring LaDainian Tomlinson’s mere-human totals? Sit back and relax Sunday, because you’re in for a treat.  Tired of Larry Johnson’s sub-par play?  Get used to it, at least for another week.

Game Summary:  It’s certainly understandable that Chargers coach Norv Turner is taking heat for the team’s 1-2 start.  But let’s look at the facts:  They beat the NFC Super Bowl representative from last season in their opener, lost on the road against the team virtually everyone believes is the best in the league right now, and lost again on the road against a legendary QB in a close game during which the Chargers led in the fourth quarter.  This doesn’t spell disaster to me.  Yes, San Diego can and will play better.  But there’s no comparison between this situation and, say, what’s going on with New Orleans or St. Louis.  The elixir?  A decidedly beatable team on your home turf.  Chargers will roll, and silence the critics at least temporarily.

Prediction:  CHARGERS, 34-13

Sunday, Sept. 30, 5:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Eagles favored by 3

Strongest Trend:  The visiting team is 3-0 ATS in the last three meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Eagles won at home, 23-20, last January in the NFC wild-card playoffs.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia blew out the visiting Detroit Lions last week, 56-21.  The Eagles still trail Dallas by two games in the NFC East.

Giants Status Report:  New York also garnered its first victory of the season, a come-from-behind 24-17 defeat of host Washington Sunday.

Fantasy Factor:  Don’t expect five touchdown passes again for Philly QB Donovan McNabb – or anything close to Kevin Curtis’ three scores and 200-plus yards from last week – but the Giants defense has struggled through the first few weeks.  It’s another good matchup for the Eagles, even with RB Brian Westbrook sidelined.  Correll Buckhalter is an OK start in large leagues or as a flex player.  New York can throw the ball some, too, with QB Eli Manning-to-WR Plaxico Burress making up one of the most dynamic combinations in the league so far this year. 

Game Summary:  I’ve been sticking stoically with the home underdogs in division games, but the Eagles are the choice in this clash.  Their defense is a little stronger, and McNabb found something last week.  However, hopefully for the Eagles he found something more than just Detroit’s accommodating defense.

Prediction:  EAGLES, 27-20

Monday, Oct. 1, 5:30 p.m. PT

Line:  Patriots favored by 7

Strongest Trend:  New England has won the last three meetings including two at Cincinnati.

Last Meeting:  The Patriots rolled, 38-13, last October at Cincinnati.

Patriots Status Report:  New England pulled away from a tight game early to whip visiting Buffalo last week, 38-7.  The Patriots have a two-game lead over the New York Jets in the AFC East.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati lost Sunday at Seattle, 24-21, the Bengals’ second consecutive defeat.  They trail Pittsburgh by two games in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  Because the game is on national TV and is being played at Cincinnati, the Bengals passing attack figures to be productive, even against one of the league’s stingiest defense.  Even against New England, QB Carson Palmers and wideouts Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh are every-week starts. The running game could be absent, especially if Rudi Johnson is likewise.  For New England, this contest is a no-brainer.  Logically speaking, if Cleveland’s Derek Anderson threw for five touchdowns against the Bengals defense, Pats QB Tom Brady should be able to toss at least eight.

Game Summary:  So frequently, a quality home underdog on the national stage rises up and scores an emotional, exciting victory.  And of course, that could happen here if the Bengals truly come ready to play.  But New England is one of those few elite teams that rarely endures an emotional letdown in unfriendly territory.  And the Patriots have owned this series in recent years.  The Patriots are so much better on defense, I can’t forecast a Bengals upset just because they’re at home.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 31-20

Other Features

Game Predictions
Projected Player Stats
Start / Bench List
Team Defense Report
Training Room
Free Agent Forecast
Commentary From the Edge
Tunnel Vision
a d v e r t i s e m e n t