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Weekly Game Breakdowns - Week 6
Bob Cunningham
October 11, 2007

Three teams remain undefeated through five weeks, but at least one will be ousted from that list (barring a tie) when New England travels to Dallas Sunday for a clash with the Cowboys.

Last week was interesting in that we had the game-winners pretty well pegged but didn’t get the margin of victories down.  Hence, the disparity between the straight-up record and the ATS performance last week.

I’ll try to do better on the latter… but my niche of picking upsets continued.  With Chicago’s triumph at Green Bay last Sunday night, I’m 3-2 outright on my Upset Specials.  I’ve always had a knack for that… except that whenever I start boasting about it, I pick some TD underdog to win outright and it goes on to lose by 30 (jinx).

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  51-25 (67 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  37-33-6 (53 percent)
Last Week:  11-3 SU, 5-8-1 ATS

Here’s how I see Week 6: 

MIAMI (0-5) at CLEVELAND (2-3)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Browns favored by 4½

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

Last Meeting:  Cleveland won at home, 22-0, in 2005.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami lost a heartbreaker at Houston Sunday, 22-19, on Kris Brown’s 57-yard field goal as time expired.  The Dolphins are, of course, last in the AFC East.

Browns Status Report:  Predictably, Cleveland was dominated at New England last week, losing 34-17.  The Browns trail Pittsburgh by two games in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  Good matchups for the improved Browns offense this week, particularly in the passing game.  QB Derek Anderson continues to be a decent bye week fill-in.  The health of RB Jamal Lewis is in question, and if he doesn’t go you could do worse in your backfield than Jason Wright.  For Miami, RB Ronnie Brown continues to be the only legitimate option.  With QB Trent Green done for the season, Cleo Lemon is the starter.  That drops the value of No. 1 receiver Chris Chambers and probably all other Miami pass-catchers.

Game Summary:  Miami nearly got the upset against the Texans last week, but instead endured a major downer with Brown’s field goal and is on the road again this week against an improving foe.  The possibility of the upset is certainly there, but the numbers don’t point to it.

Prediction:  BROWNS, 24-14

Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Eagles favored by 3   

Strongest Trend:  none.

Last Meeting:  The host Eagles prevailed, 24-17, in 2003.

Eagles Status Report:  Philadelphia was off last week.  The Eagles are last in the NFC East, 3½ games behind Dallas.

Jets Status Report:  The Jets squandered a 10-point second-half lead and lost to the New York Giants, 35-24.  They are tied with Buffalo in the AFC East, four games behind New England.

Fantasy Factors:  The rested Eagles should get production from QB Donovan McNabb and WRs Kevin Curtis and/or Reggie Brown.  RB Brian Westbrook is a great start, if you can verify that he will be playing. He sat out Week 4, but practiced once already this week.  For the Jets, the only reliable options are wide receivers Jericho Cotchery and Laveraneues Coles.  RB Thomas Jones is risky at best.

Game Summary:  The Jets are the home ‘dogs, and therefore a tempting pick when considering this battle of one-win teams.  But the Eagles have had extra time to prepare for this game, and to work out their protection issues that were magnified when McNabb was sacked a dozen times by the Giants.

Prediction:  EAGLES, 27-20

Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bengals favored by 2½  

Strongest Trend:  Cincinnati is 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings.  The teams have alternated winning over the last 10 meetings.  It’s Kansas City’s turn.

Last Meeting:  The Bengals won at Kansas City, 23-10, a year ago last month.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati was on its bye last week.  The Bengals are last in the AFC North, 2½ games behind Pittsburgh.

Chiefs Status Report:   Kansas City lost at home to Jacksonville, 17-7.  The Chiefs are tied for second in the AFC West, a half-game behind Oakland.

Fantasy Factors:  Although not an ideal matchup, the Bengals’ primary players in the passing game are obvious starts.  Check the status of RB Rudi Johnson, who is expected back, and don’t be afraid to start him if you can confirm his health.  After it looked as if he would sit out, QB Damon Huard is in position to start.  If he can’t, Brodie Croyle gets the start for Kansas City, making TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Dwayne Bowe risky plays.  RB Larry Johnson has had exactly one decent week so far this year… but ya gotta go with him here.

Game Summary:   I’m finding this one to be a tough call.  If Huard plays, the Chiefs have an excellent shot.  But there’s doubt there, and the Bengals rested as well sporting superior talent.  A very hesitant pick for the visitors.

Prediction:  BENGALS, 20-17

ST. LOUIS (0-5) at BALTIMORE (3-2)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Ravens favored by 10  

Strongest Trends:  The Rams are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.  The home team has won the last three games straight-up. 

Last Meeting:  The Rams won at home, 33-22, in 2003.

Rams Status Report:  St. Louis lost at home to Arizona last week, 34-31.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore survived to win an ugly one at San Francisco, 9-7.  The Ravens are second in the AFC North, a game behind Pittsburgh.

Fantasy Factor:  Ignore all Rams… including Torry Holt.  Okay, play Holt if you have to.  The Ravens’ key guys – RB Willis McGahee, primarily – are worthwhile, including TE Todd Heap, who should return to the lineup.  And of course, the Ravens defense has massive upside this week.

Game Summary:  I doubt that Baltimore, with its inconsistent attack, is capable of romping past anyone.  But the injury-depleted Rams would seem to be overmatched.

Prediction:  RAVENS, 24-7

Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Jaguars favored by 6½  

Strongest Trend:  The Texans are 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  Houston prevailed at Jacksonville, 13-10, last November.

Texans Status Report:  Houston beat visiting Miami last Sunday with the late and legnthy field goal from Kris Brown.  The Texans are last in the AFC South despite their winning record.  They trail Indianapolis by two games.

Jaguars Status Report:  Jacksonville triumphed at Kansas City Sunday, 17-7, for its third straight victory.  The Jags are tied for second in the AFC South with Tennessee, a game back of the Colts.

Fantasy Factor:  Defenses will likely reign supreme, although you have to consider Brown, right?  Can’t really recommend any other Texans, however.  For the Jaguars, RB Maurice Jones-Drew had a nice game against the Chiefs and is nearing a return to every-week starter status.

Game Summary:  Jacksonville’s defense will ultimately be the difference in this one, but this divisional clash will go to the wire, so I like Houston to cover the TD spread.

Prediction:  JAGUARS, 17-13

Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Buccaneers favored by 3

Strongest Trend:  The Titans have won the last five meetings, including 4-1 ATS.

Last Meeting:  Tennessee won, 33-13, at home in 2003.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee staved off an upset bid by Atlanta last week, beating the visiting Falcons, 20-13, to keep pace with Jacksonville in a second-place tie in the AFC South.

Bucs Status Report:  Tampa Bay was overwhelmed at Indianapolis Sunday, 33-14.  The Bucs are tied with Carolina for top honors in the NFC South.

Fantasy Factor:  The Titans’ running game remains a mystery – last week, Chris Brown got the call for a short TD run instead of Lendale White.  QB Vince Young and WR Brandon Jones are fair plays.  For the Bucs, RB Earnest Graham doesn’t appear to have any other competition for carries, but the Tampa offense isn’t imposing anywhere.

Game Summary:  This is a mini-upset special, although it’s not really a matter of going out on a limb.  The Titans are the better team at present, and certainly the healthier of the two.  They should plod out another road victory.

Prediction:   TITANS, 23-16

Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Packers favored by 3

Strongest Trend:  The Packers have won the last three meetings, and covered ATS in five straight in this series.

Last Meeting:  Green Bay won at Washington, 28-14, in 2004.

Redskins Status Report:  The Redskins routed visiting Detroit on Sunday, 34-3, and are second in the NFC East, a game and a half behind Dallas.

Packers Status Report:  Green Bay squandered a late lead and lost at home to Chicago Sunday night, 27-20, but still resides atop the NFC North.

Fantasy Factor:  The health of WR Santana Moss remains in doubt, but overall it’s not a terribly good matchup for the Skins anyway.  RB Clinton Portis, if healthy, is a starter only in larger formats.  QB Jason Campbell played well against the Lions, but this is a tougher assignment. For the Packers, forget the running game.  But QB Brett Favre and WRs Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones are all reasonable starts.

Game Summary:  A tough call – the Redskins are playing first-rate football.  But I like the Packers to rebound at home against a team that has yet to face a truly demanding test.

Prediction:  PACKERS, 24-17

MINNESOTA (1-3) at CHICAGO (2-3)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Bears favored by 5½   

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won 11 of the last 12 meetings, and has covered ATS in eight of nine.

Last Meeting:  Chicago won at home, 23-13, last December.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota, which has lost three in a row, was off last week.  The Vikings are in last place in the NFC North, a half-game behind the Bears.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago rallied for a 27-20 upset win at Green Bay Sunday night.

Fantasy Factor:  The Vikings will continue to rely on their running game with both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, but neither is a particularly good start here.  For Chicago, RB Cedric Benson has been unimpressive, but the Brian Griese-led passing game isn’t rolling over foes, either.  Perhaps it’s best to just enlist both defenses and fuhgetaboutit.

Game Summary:  The Vikings have had an extra week to prepare, while the Bears operated on a slightly shorter week than normal.  I was tempted to go with an upset special here, because of the Vikings’ defensive balance, but they come in on a skid and the Bears may have found new life with their victory over Green Bay… and, thus, a tepid vote for the hosts in a close game.

Prediction:  BEARS, 16-13

CAROLINA (3-2) at ARIZONA (3-2)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:  Cardinals favored by 4

Strongest Trend:  The Panthers have won the last three meetings, including two in Arizona.

Last Meeting:  Carolina won in Tempe, Ariz., 24-20, in 2005.

Panthers Status Report:  The Panthers eeked out a 16-13 victory at New Orleans last week and are tied with Tampa Bay for first in the NFC South.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona held off host St. Louis, 34-31, a week ago.  The Cardinals are tied for first with Seattle in the NFC West.

Fantasy Factor:  The Panthers’ passing game is beat up… David Carr is the starter at QB, with Jake Delhomme gone for the season with an elbow ailment requiring surgery.  WR Steve Smith remains a worthy play because he’s the type who can put up huge numbers without notice.  RB DeShaun Foster continues to produce yards, but not scores.  For the Cardinals, the QB is Kurt Warner and Kurt Warner only, with Matt Leinart also sidelined.  RB Edgerrin James and WR Larry Fitzgerald are strong starts, and the Cards might get back WR Anquan Boldin as well… but be sure and check on his status before committing to him.

Game Summary:  The Cardinals tried to squander last week’s game against the winless Rams.  Carolina did likewise against the winless Saints.  Both survived.  Something has to give here, because the Cardinals are 2-0 at home and the Panthers are 3-0 on the road to date.  I’m never comfortable laying points with the Cardinals (every fiber of my prognosticating being said to go with the Rams last week, and sure enough the Cards missed covering by a half point), but the numbers – and health – point to the Cardinals to get it done in their home stadium.

Prediction:  CARDINALS, 23-17

NEW ENGLAND (5-0) at DALLAS (5-0)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Patriots favored by 5

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won and covered ATS in the last three meetings.

Last Meeting:  New England posted a home shutout in 2003, 12-0.

Patriots Status Report:  New England has scored at least 34 points in every game this season, including last week’s 34-17 home win over Cleveland.  The Pats’ have an amazing four-game lead in the AFC East.

Cowboys Status Report:  Probably looking ahead to this week’s clash of titans (so to speak), Dallas nearly got beat at Buffalo but rallied in the waning seconds for a 25-24 win.  The Cowboys have a 1½-game lead in the NFC East.

Fantasy Factors:  Both teams are explosive.  Both have solid defenses.  So don’t over-think this.  Guys like QBs Tom Brady and Tony Romo, and WRs Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have to be in your lineups.  Check the health status of Pats RB Laurence Maroney, and if he’s sidelined Sammy Morris is another worthy start.  For the Cowboys, I’d lean toward sitting Marion Barber and Julius Jones.  Give the Ds the week off, too.

Game Summary:  My upset special… now, I’m not going to attempt to justify the pick here in a lot of detail – because the Patriots are viewed as indestructible, and anyone who picks against them is nuts.  Perhaps.  As it is, my numbers lean toward Dallas in a close game.  The Cowboys will feed off the energy that their ultra-loud crowd infuses into them, be somewhat chippy because the Patriots are getting all the media love despite both teams being 5-0 going in, and win a game it wants just a little more than the visitors.  The theory is that the Patriots can’t play perfect football every week.  And I get to take a 5-0 team as a 5-point home underdog. (Now I can just sit back and watch the critical emails roll in.  Don’t expect replies if you talk about my mama.) 

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 27-24

OAKLAND (2-2) at SAN DIEGO (2-3)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Chargers favored by 10

Strongest Trends:  San Diego has won the last seven meetings, going 6-1 ATS over that stretch. Six of the last seven meetings have gone under the total.

Last Meeting:  The Chargers won at home, 21-14, last November.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland was off last week.  The Raiders lead the AFC West.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego snapped a three-game skid with a 41-3 demolition of host Denver on Sunday.  The Chargers are tied with the Broncos and Kansas City, a half-game back of the Raiders in the bunched-up West.

Fantasy Factor:  Oakland’s rushing attack leads the league, but the going will be tough this week.  RB Lamont Jordan is still worth a play if healthy, but wait a week on Dominic Rhodes (unless Jordan sits).  QB Daunte Culpepper is not a strong play here.  For the Chargers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson figures to excel against the Raiders’ 26th-rated run defense.  QB Phillip Rivers was strong last week, but he’s a borderline play here along with Chargers WR Vincent Jackson.  TE Antonio Gates?  Always start him.

Game Summary:  Mark it down… this will be a tight defensive tussle.  I like the Chargers to maintain their edge in this series in recent years, but the Raiders are coming to play every week.  A game similar to last season’s contest here.

Prediction:  CHARGERS, 20-13

NEW ORLEANS (0-4) at SEATTLE (3-2)
Sunday, Oct. 14, 5:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Seahawks favored by 6½   

Strongest Trend:  The Seahawks have won the last three meetings.

Last Meeting:  Seattle prevailed at New Orleans in 2004, 21-7.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans came up short in its bid for win No. 1 this season, losing at home to Carolina, 16-13.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle was completely shut down last week in a 21-0 loss at Pittsburgh.  The Seahawks are tied with Arizona for first place in the NFC West.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston are borderline plays for the Saints.  Forget anyone else.  For Seattle, don’t be put back by last week’s performance.  Playing the Saints at home is a long way from trying to have success at Pittsburgh.  QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander are solid starts.  WR Bobby Engram is a decent sleeper play as well, especially considering Deion Branch will again be sidelined.  I like the Seahawks defense as well.

Game Summary:  Wow… I really thought New Orleans would show up offensively last week. Coming off the bye, desperately needing a win, at home… but the Saints managed just 13 points and QB Drew Brees still looks lost.  I simply can’t give this team any more support until I see something out of them.  Seattle is a good club – its losses coming at Arizona on a botched snap and at Pittsburgh, where everyone loses these days.  Seahawks should get it done again - convincingly.

Prediction:  SEAHAWKS, 34-17

Monday, Oct. 15, 5:30 p.m. PT

Line:  Giants favored by 3½  

Strongest Trend:  The road team has won seven of the last eight meetings, and gone 6-2 ATS in those contests.

Last Meeting:  The Giants won at Atlanta, 27-14, exactly one year ago to the day of this week’s rematch.

Giants Status Report:  NY rallied past its intra-city rival, the New York Jets, 35-24 on Sunday for its third consecutive victory.  The Giants are third in the NFC East, two games behind Dallas.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta played well at Tennessee Sunday, but lost to the Titans, 20-13.  They trail NFC South co-leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina by two games.

Fantasy Factors:  All the primary Giants weapons make good starts – QB Eli Manning, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Plaxico Burress, and TE Jeremy Shockey.  Give the G-Men’s D a look, too.  For Atlanta, RB Warrick Dunn and WRs Sharod White and Michael Jenkins have been respectable, but TE Alge Crumpler has been a disappointment.  On a hunch, go with Crumpler on the national stage (unless your alternative’s last name is Gates or Watson or Witten).

Game Summary:  Taking the Falcons for the home upset is tempting, but the numbers point toward the Giants and that pattern of the road team dominating this series is too juicy to ignore considering the road team is the superior team at this moment in time.

Prediction:  GIANTS, 27-14 (same date, same score)

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