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Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 3
Bob Cunningham
September 23, 2004

Straight-Up: 16-16 (50 %)
Against-The-Spread: 14-17-1 (45%)

Straight-Up: 8-8
Against-The-Spread: 8-8

Comment: The early games last week were brutal, the late games a return to normalcy. Who knows? Maybe I'll even have a winning week this Sunday and Monday. But I'm not getting my hopes up, and neither should you.

Pittsburgh (1-1) at Miami (0-2)

Line: Dolphins favored by 1. ATS Records: Steelers 0-2, Dolphins 1-1.

Steelers Status Report: The Steelers were whipped at Baltimore last week, 30-13. QB Tommy Maddox suffered an injured elbow, leaving the job of operating the offense to rookie Ben Roethlisberger. All four AFC North teams are 1-1.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami lost, 16-13, at Cincinnati last Sunday night. The Dolphins are tied with Buffalo in the AFC East, two games behind co-leaders New England and the New York Jets.

The Series: Pittsburgh has won 3 of the last 5 meetings, and split the last four at Miami. The teams haven't met since 2000.

Stat Worth Noting: The Steelers are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games following a loss.

Game Summary: If Tommy Maddox were still healthy, I'd probably like the Steelers. But despite my respect for the kid Roethlisberger, I can't picture him engineering a victory at Miami in his first start. For all of the Dolphins offensive problems, and they are many, they still have one of the best defenses in the league. Defense by the home team wins this one.

Prediction: DOLPHINS, 16-10

Baltimore (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-1)

Line: Ravens favored by 3. ATS Records: Ravens 1-1, Bengals 0-2.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore dominated Pittsburgh at home last week, winning by 17.

Bengals Status Report: The Bengals edged Miami at home Sunday night, 16-13.

The Series: The teams split last season. The Bengals won at home, 34-26. The teams have split the last eight meetings at Cincinnati.

Stats Worth Noting: The Ravens are 1-5 ATS in their last six road division games and 1-5 SU in their last six road games overall.

Game Summary: Tough call, but ultimately it looks like it will come down to Cincinnati's offense led by young QB Carson Palmer against the NFL's premier defense. Trouble for Baltimore is that, for whatever reason, its vaunted D hasn't been nearly as effective away from home this year or in 2003. Witness the Bengals rolling up 34 points in last year's meeting. They won't get 34 this time, because it's Palmer and not Jon Kitna, but I like the fired up home underdogs in a mild upset.

Prediction: BENGALS, 20-17

Cleveland (1-1) at New York Giants (1-1)

Line: Giants favored by 2 1/2. ATS Records: Browns 1-1, Giants 1-1.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland lost at Dallas last week, 19-12.

Giants Status Report: The Giants prevailed at home over Washington, 20-14. They're tied for second in the NFC East with Dallas and Washington, one game behind Philadelphia.

The Series: The Giants have won and covered the last two meetings, but these clubs haven't met at The Meadowlands since the 1980s. The most recent game was a 24-3 Giants' rout at Cleveland in 2000.

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: This is an interesting clash between the two QBs who dominated the NFC West the last several years - ex-49er Jeff Garcia and ex-Ram Kurt Warner. But there won't be many fireworks. This one figures to be clouded with dust and short gains for most of the day. There's no decisive factor that favors one or the other, except that the Giants won by only six last week despite benefitting from seven turnovers. That's not impressive.

Prediction: BROWNS, 17-13

Jacksonville (2-0) at Tennessee (1-1)

Line: Titans favored by 6. ATS Records: Jaguars 2-0, Titans 1-1.

Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville nipped Denver at home last Sunday, 7-6, and is alone in first place in the AFC South Division, a game ahead of Indianapolis and Tennessee.

Titans Status Report: Tennessee lost at home to Indianapolis, 31-17. It was the second straight year the Titans lost to the Colts at home and third straight defeat in the series.

The Series: The Titans have dominated this series, winning the last five meetings. Last year, they won at home 10-3.

Stats Worth Noting: Tennessee didn't cover the number last year, but has in three of the last four meetings.

Game Summary: Defense will again be the order of the day and, well, what are the odds of the Titans losing two in a row at home? Jacksonville is very much improved, especially on defense, but the host Titans and QB Steve McNair will get it done with room to spare.

Prediction: TITANS, 23-7

Houston (0-2) at Kansas City (0-2)

Line: Chiefs favored by 8 1/2. ATS Records: Texans 0-2, Chiefs 0-2.

Texans Status Report: Houston lost at Detroit last week, 28-16, and is alone in last place in the AFC South.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City dropped its home opener to Carolina, 28-17, and is in last place in the AFC West, a game behind the division's other three clubs. RB Priest Holmes is listed as questionable this week with an ankle sprain.

The Series: The Chiefs routed the Texans, 42-14 at Houston, in the only previous meeting. That was last season.

Stats Worth Noting: Houston is 10-2 ATS in its existence coming off two or more straight losses.

Game Summary: Without Holmes, this might get interesting... nah, KC still has superior talent. Like with Tennessee, I have a hard time envisioning the Chiefs getting beat at home again... especially by struggling Houston. Game might be close because of KC's struggles on defense, but not that close.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 31-20

Philadelphia (2-0) at Detroit (2-0)

Line: Eagles favored by 4. ATS Records: Eagles 2-0, Lions 2-0.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia whipped Minnesota at home Monday night, 27-16, and is alone atop the NFC East Division.

Lions Status Report: Detroit easily defeated Houston at home last week and is in first place in the NFC North, a game ahead of the other three clubs.

The Series: The Eagles have won the last four meetings, but the teams haven't squared off at Detroit since 1990.

Stats Worth Noting: The Eagles are 10-3 ATS as road favorites since 2001. The Lions are 5-2 ATS in their last seven against defenses yielding less than 17 points per game.

Game Summary: Philly might be the best team in football presently, with the components to dominate on either side of the ball. The unbeaten Lions are obviously vastly improved, and a victory here would establish the club as a legitimate playoff hopeful. But neither the young defense or offense are ready for this type of showdown just yet. Beating the Bears and Texans is nice, but this is a significant step up.

Prediction: EAGLES, 24-14

Chicago (1-1) at Minnesota (1-1)

Line: Vikings favored by 9. ATS Records: Bears 1-1, Vikings 1-1.

Bears Status Report: Chicago pulled off the biggest shocker so far this season, beating the Packers at Green Bay last week, 21-10.

Vikings Status Report: Minnesota lost at Philadelphia Monday night.

The Series: The teams split last season, each home team winning. At Minnesota, the Vikings were victorious, 24-13.

Stats Worth Noting: The Bears are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 at Minnesota, but 0 for their last 2. The Vikings have won their last four home games by an average of more than 20 points.

Game Summary: The Bears defense shut down Green Bay on the Pack's home turf last week, but we'll really get an indication of how good the Chicago D is (or not) in this one. As good as they were last week, it's tough to sustain that type of effort on the road in consecutive weeks against quality opponents. Certainly, the Vikings should win. But with their confidence high, the Bears manage to stay close.

Prediction: VIKINGS, 30-23

Arizona (0-2) at Atlanta (2-0)

Line: Falcons favored by 10. ATS Records: Cardinals 1-1, Falcons 1-1.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona lost at home to New England last week, 23-12, and is tied at the bottom of the NFC West Division with San Francisco.

Falcons Status Report: Atlanta romped past St. Louis, 34-17, and is alone atop the NFC South.

The Series: The Falcons have won three of the last four meetings, the last clash coming in 2000.

Stats Worth Noting: The Cardinals were 0-8 ATS on the road last season, never coming closer than 13 points. But in their opener at St. Louis this year, Arizona lost by only seven.

Game Summary: The biggest challenge facing the Falcons in this one is themselves. After whipping a decent St. Louis club last week, will they stay focused and up for the lesser Cardinals? My answer... not really, but they'll still win. I figure Arizona is going to stay in a lot of games this season because coach Denny Green keeps his team loose. Falcons win it, but it isn't clearly decided until fairly late.

Prediction: FALCONS, 27-20

New Orleans (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1)

Line: Rams favored by 7. ATS Records: Saints 0-2, Rams 0-2.

Saints Status Report: New Orleans edged San Francisco last week, 30-27, and trails Atlanta by a game in the NFC South. RB Deuce McAlister is out for at least a month. Aaron Stecker replaces him.

Rams Status Report: The Rams were beaten at Atlanta, 34-17, and are second in the NFC West, one game behind Seattle.

The Series: These teams haven't played a regular season game since 2000, but in the 2002 playoffs the Saints beat the Rams at home in the wild-card round.

Stats Worth Noting: New Orleans is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 as the visitors in this series, and have won the last two outright. The Rams currently have a 15-game home winning streak in the regular season.

Game Summary: My shocker of the week. The Saints have had good success late in this series, going back to when they were division foes. And yes, McAlister is out. But that didn't prevent the Saints from rolling up 30 points against San Francisco last week. Stecker isn't as electric as McAlister, but he's a capable back. The passing game will do it this time, with QB Aaron Brooks well protected and Rams QB Marc Bulger not so much. This is one of those matchups when one team just seems to have the other's number.

Prediction: SAINTS, 27-24

San Diego (1-1) at Denver (1-1)

Line: Broncos favored by 10. ATS Records: Chargers 1-1, Broncos 1-1.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego lost at home to the New York Jets last week, 34-28. QB Drew Brees suffered a concussion. Veteran Doug Flutie may start this week.

Broncos Status Report: Denver lost an ugly 7-6 decision at Jacksonville last week, but is tied atop the AFC West with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

The Series: The Broncos dominated this series last year, winning by scores of 37-13 and 37-8. Overall, Denver has won 10 of the last 12 meetings at Mile High Stadium.

Stats Worth Noting: Last season, the Broncos were 0-4 ATS coming off a road loss.

Game Summary: The Chargers seem outclassed here. Denver's defense is excellent - even RB LaDainian Tomlinson can't be expected to do much. The Broncos offense will rebound after being halted by Jacksonville last week.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 31-14

Green Bay (1-1) at Indianapolis (1-1)

Line: Colts favored by 5 1/2. ATS Records: Packers 1-1, Colts 1-0-1.

Packers Status Report: Green Bay lost at home to Chicago and is a game behind NFC North-leading Detroit.

Colts Status Report: The Colts pulled away to upset Tennessee on the road and trails Jacksonville by a game in the AFC South.

The Series: The home team has won all four meetings in this series since 1977. The Colts won both of the only games in this series to be played at Indianapolis.

Stats Worth Noting: The Packers are 5-1 ATS in their last six as underdogs.

Game Summary: These teams have the same record, but accomplished it via entirely different methods. The Colts have to be satisfied with their split of a killer road duo to start the season - at New England and at Tennessee. The Packers were impressive at Carolina in their opener, horrible at home against Chicago last week. Which is the real team? Probably the former, but we won't know until next week. Because the Colts will take care of business in this game, which could turn out to be a fantasy player's smorgasbord of stats.

Prediction: COLTS, 38-24

San Francisco (0-2) at Seattle (2-0)

Line: Seahawks favored by 10 1/2. ATS Records: 49ers 2-0, Seahawks 2-0.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco lost a tough game at New Orleans, 30-27, and is tied with Arizona at the bottom of the NFC West.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle won at Tampa Bay last week, 10-6, and is alone atop the NFC West.

The Series: Seattle swept two games last season, 20-19 at home and 24-17 at San Francisco. The 49ers won the previous two meetings in Seattle.

Stats Worth Noting: The road team has covered ATS in the last four meetings. Seattle has a nine-game home winning streak.

Game Summary: The 49ers are 0-2, but they've played tough and I expect that to happen again here. The Seahawks are the better squad, but ground control with RB Kevan Barlow will be the ticket for the 49ers keeping it closer than the double-digit spread.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 23-17

Tampa Bay (0-2) at Oakland (1-1)

Line: Raiders favored by 3. ATS Records: Bucs 0-2, Raiders 1-1.

Bucs Status Report: The champions of the Super Bowl just two years ago are at the bottom of the NFC South after losing at home to Seattle last week.

Raiders Status Report: Defeated Buffalo at home last week, 13-10, and are co-leaders in the AFC West.

The Series: The last meeting was in Super Bowl XXXVII, a 48-21 Bucs romp.

Stats Worth Noting: Tampa Bay is 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings, but has never won outright at Oakland in four tries.

Game Summary: My initial call was for an upset led by the Bucs defense. But I backed off, because a) Tampa Bay has no offense to go with it, and b) the Al Davis factor. The Raiders not only will go all out to win this game, they'll probably run up the score if they get the chance. And DE Warren Sapp might have something to say about it as well. Ultimately, too much for coach Jon Gruden and the punchless Bucs to overcome.

Prediction: RAIDERS, 16-9

Dallas (1-1) at Washington (1-1)

Line: Redskins favored by 2. ATS Records: Cowboys 1-1, Redskins 1-1.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas scored a 19-12 decision over visiting Cleveland last week.

Redskins Status Report: Washington lost to the New York Giants, 20-14, at the Meadowlands. QB Mark Brunell injured a hamstring. Patrick Ramsey is expected to start.

The Series: The Cowboys have owned this rivalry in recent years, sweeping last season by scores of 21-14 at home and 27-0 at Washington.

Stats Worth Noting: Dallas has won 11 of the last 12 meetings straight-up and is 9-3 ATS in that span.

Game Summary: The injury to Brunell is big, in my view. My gut would have said that Washington prevails in Gibbs' return to the NFL's best rivalry, but Dallas' strong defense against Ramsey? I like the 'Boys to continue their run of success in this series.

Prediction: COWBOYS, 20-13

ON BYES: Buffalo (0-2), Carolina (1-1), New England (2-0), New York Jets (2-0)