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Pickin' and Grinnin' - Week 9
Bob Cunningham
November 4, 2004

Straight-Up: 66-50 (57%)
Against-The-Spread: 54-59-3 (48%)

Straight-Up: 10-4
Against-The-Spread: 8-6

Comment: A respectable effort last week, but the trick is to string several good weeks together. The NFL this season continues to be difficult to predict, but I'll keep trying.

New York Jets (6-1) at Buffalo (2-5)

Line: Jets favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Jets 4-2-1, Bills 4-3.

Jets Status Report: The Jets routed Miami at home on Monday night, 41-14, and are tied with New England for first place in the AFC East Division.

Bills Status Report: Buffalo rolled past Arizona at home last week, 38-14.

The Series: The Jets won, 16-14, at home a month ago and have captured four of the last five meetings. However, the Bills won the last meeting at Buffalo, 17-6, last December.

Stat Worth Noting: The Jets are 2-0-1 ATS on the road this season.

Game Summary: Admittedly, I'm not sure how intelligent it is to go with your upset special right out of the gate... but here it is. Buffalo played extremely well last week, nearly upset the Jets at The Meadowlands in their first meeting, and has a first-rate defense despite its 2-5 record. The Jets are operating on a short week, and are candidates for a letdown after routing the rival Dolphins to catch New England atop the division.

Prediction: BILLS, 20-17

Arizona (2-5) at Miami (1-7)

Line: Dolphins favored by 3. ATS Records: Cardinals 4-3, Dolphins 2-6.

Cardinals Status Report: Arizona was humbled at Buffalo last week but remains a game ahead of last-place San Francisco in the NFC West.

Dolphins Status Report: Miami was embarrassed by the New York Jets at The Meadowlands and sports the worst record in the NFL.

The Series: The teams have only met twice in the last dozen years, once at each location, and the Dolphins won both.

Stats Worth Noting: Miami is 1-0 SU against the NFC, 0-7 vs. its own conference. The Cardinals are 0-1 ATS vs. the AFC, 4-2 against their own conference.

Game Summary: Arizona has made progress under coach Dennis Green, but not yet enough to be picked on the road. Last week was an opportunity for the Cardinals to step up and capture a winnable game on the road. Instead, they were run over at Buffalo. Miami is operating on a short week, and coming off a spanking against the Jets. But history points sternly to the host Dolphins here. This week will be closer for both, but only the Dolphins will actually experience a different result.

Prediction: DOLPHINS, 24-16

Philadelphia (7-0) at Pittsburgh (6-1)

Line: Eagles favored by 2. ATS Records: Eagles 5-2, Steelers 5-2.

Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia overcame a game Baltimore club to score a 15-10 victory Sunday and become the league's lone unbeaten team. The Eagles lead the New York Giants by two games in the NFC East.

Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh put together an impressive effort, ending New England's record 21-game winning streak over two seasons with a 34-20 triumph. The Steelers lead the AFC North by two games over Baltimore.

The Series: The teams have played three times in the last decade, with Philly winning twice. They split two games at Pittsburgh.

Stats Worth Noting: Philadelphia is 0-2 ATS vs. the AFC, 5-0 against its own conference.

Game Summary: A Super Bowl preview? Pennsylvanians surely hope so. But here's the bigger question: Can the Steelers knock off unbeatens in consecutive weeks? I believe so. Pittsburgh is playing at a high level on both sides of the ball, and it's doubtful coach Bill Cowher's crew will experience an emotional letdown - how can you not stay up for an undefeated intra-state rival? But the Steelers have a rookie QB, you say? So? Didn't seem to hurt them last week against the defending Super Bowl champs. Last week's hard-fought win over Baltimore took a lot out of the Eagles.

Prediction: STEELERS, 27-20

Dallas (3-4) at Cincinnati (2-5)

Line: Cowboys favored by 1 1/2. ATS Records: Cowboys 3-4, Bengals 1-6.

Cowboys Status Report: Dallas snapped a 3-game losing streak last week with a 31-21 victory at home over Detroit.

Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati lost at Tennessee Sunday, 27-20, and is in last place in the AFC North.

The Series: The teams have met four times since 1990, with Dallas winning three of them including a split of two at Cincinnati.

Stat Worth Noting: Despite being just 1-3 SU over the last four contests in this series, Cincinnati is 3-1 ATS in those games including 2-0 at home. Cincinnati is 2-0 SU at night this season, 0-5 in day games.

Game Summary: What's with the Bengals? Do they have to be featured on national TV in order to play well? Seems like it, but this is a winnable game for them at home, and the Cowboys defense has been a disappointment... a good time for QB Carson Palmer to get it turned around. Cincinnati's balance is the difference.

Prediction: BENGALS, 21-17

Kansas City (3-4) at Tampa Bay (2-5)

Line: Chiefs favored by 3. ATS Records: Chiefs 3-4, Bucs 2-4-1.

Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City's offense stayed in high gear, rolling to a 45-35 triumph over Indianapolis at home after putting up 56 points against Atlanta the previous Sunday.

Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay was on a bye last week, after having defeated Chicago at home the previous weekend.

The Series: These clubs have split their only two meetings going back a dozen years, and both were played at Tampa.

Stats Worth Noting: None.

Game Summary: Kansas City might be due for a come-down after scoring a combined 101 points the last two weeks, but I don't think so. The Chiefs' early-season struggles mean they have virtually no room for error - they must go no worse than 7-2 the rest of the way if they expect to make the playoffs. Tampa Bay is down this season, just two years removed from a Super Bowl championship. The Chiefs' roll continues.

Prediction: CHIEFS, 31-17

Oakland (2-6) at Carolina (1-6)

Line: Panthers favored by 6. ATS Records: Raiders 2-6, Panthers 3-4.

Raiders Status Report: Oakland was crushed last week at San Diego, 42-14, and has lost five straight to fall into the cellar of the AFC West.

Panthers Status Report: Carolina lost at Seattle, 23-17, and is in last place in the NFC South. The Panthers have also lost five in a row.

The Series: These teams have split the only two meetings in history, with the home team winning each time. Neither was recent.

Stat Worth Noting: The Panthers are 0-3 at home, SU and ATS.

Game Summary: Carolina is enduring an ugly season following its unexpected NFC title, but it has played tough in most games. The Panthers are due to play a quality game at home. The Raiders have the look of a team that has cashed it in already. This is a clash of the last two Super Bowl losers, but it won't look like it.

Prediction: PANTHERS, 24-13

Washington (2-5) at Detroit (4-3)

Line: Lions favored by 3 1/2. ATS Records: Redskins 2-5, Lions 4-3.

Redskins Status Report: Washington lost at home to Green Bay, 28-14, last week and is in last place in the NFC East.

Lions Status Report: Detroit fell at Dallas, 31-21, and trails Minnesota by a game in the NFC North.

The Series: Washington has won four of the last six meetings, but both losse were at Detroit. The most recent meeting was at Washington in 2000, a Redskins victory.

Stats Worth Noting: The home team has won each of the last seven meetings, and gone 6-1 ATS.

Game Summary: My first instinct on this game was an upset pick - the Lions have injury issues, and the Redskins are due for a good effort. But the home team has dominated this series in recent years. And that's during an era when Washington was a lot better than it is now, and the Lions a lot worse. Just can't buck that trend on a hunch.

Prediction: LIONS, 23-16

New Orleans (3-4) at San Diego (5-3)

Line: Chargers favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Saints 2-5, Chargers 6-1-1

Saints Status Report: New Orleans was on a bye last week, a week after having defeated Oakland on the road, 31-26. The Saints trail Atlanta by two games in the NFC South.

Chargers Status Report: San Diego has won 4 of its last 5 after last week's 42-14 home drubbing of the Raiders. The Chargers are tied for first place in the AFC West with Denver.

The Series: New Orleans has won two of the last three meetings, the most recent in 2000.

Stat Worth Noting: The road team is 3-1 ATS in the last four meetings.

Game Summary: I'm smelling the aroma of another upset, but I'll chicken out on this one. The Saints have a recent history of unexpected successes on the road, and the Chargers are due to come down some after consecutive strong performances. But San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer has been in this position before, even if most of his players haven't, and besides... how are the Saints going to slow LaDainian Tomlinson AND Drew Brees?

Prediction: CHARGERS, 30-27

Chicago (2-5) at New York Giants (5-2)

Line: Giants favored by 9. ATS Records: Bears 3-4, Giants 5-2.

Bears Status Report: Chicago snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 23-13 victory over San Francisco Sunday night, but remains in the cellar of the NFC North.

Giants Status Report: The Giants won at Minnesota for the third straight year, 34-13, and are second in the NFC East - two games back of Philadelphia.

The Series: The Giants have won four of the last five meetings, the most recent in 2000.

Stat Worth Noting: The visiting team is 4-0 SU and 3-0-1 in the last four in this series.

Game Summary: Hmmm... which are the real Giants - the version that was horrible in a home loss to Detroit two weeks ago or the one that stepped up last week and thumped Minnesota on the road? Actually, I believe we'll see a little of both in this one. I can't see the Bears scoring enough points to challenge for the upset but I do believe their staunch interior defense will cause Tiki Barber to produce less than has been his '04 norm. A fairly tight game.

Prediction: GIANTS, 20-13

Seattle (4-3) at San Francisco (1-6)

Line: Seahawks favored by 6 1/2. ATS Records: Seahawks 3-4, 49ers 4-3.

Seahawks Status Report: Seattle snapped a three-game skid with a 23-17 victory over Carolina, tying St. Louis for top honors in the NFC West.

49ers Status Report: San Francisco lost at Chicago Sunday night, 23-13, and is alone in last in the NFC West.

The Series: Seattle easily won the first meeting this season at home, 34-0, and swept last year as well..

Stat Worth Noting: Seattle has covered in 4 of the 5 meetings since these teams became division rivals, with Seattle covering both games at San Francisco.

Game Summary: I'm usually big on taking divisional home underdogs, especially when the spread is essentially a touchdown, but the 49ers were calling the Seahawks their daddies in the first meeting, and with QB Ken Dorsey at the controls I can't envision the home team mustering much of an attack. After an uninspired but effective streak-buster win last week, Seattle gets well bigtime here.

Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 27-10

New England (6-1) at St. Louis (4-3)

Line: Patriots favored by 2 1/2. ATS Records: Patriots 4-1-2, Rams 3-4.

Patriots Status Report: New England's 21-game winning streak came to a crashing conclusion last week in a 34-20 loss at Pittsburgh. The Patriots are now tied atop the AFC East with the New York Jets.

Rams Status Report: St. Louis was off last week, after having been embarrassed at winless Miami in Week 7, 31-14. Still, the Rams are tied for first in the NFC West with Seattle.

The Series: The teams haven't met since New England scored a 20-17 victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams had won the three prior meetings, including two at home.

Stat Worth Noting: The Rams came off their bye week a year ago with a 36-0 thrashing of Atlanta.

Game Summary: If you like intangibles, the Rams are the pick. There's the Super Bowl revenge thing, and the Rams having an extra week to prepare for this one, and New England staying on the road a second straight week, and the emotional deflation of the Pats seeing their impressive, two-season, 21-game winning streak snapped at Pittsburgh. On the flipside, does the end of the "the streak" mean the champs can now relax and just play? If you opt for the better coach, well, ya gotta take New England. Me? I'm not that smart. I believe the Rams will be inspired, and the Patriots - minus injured All-Pro corner Ty Law - will be flat. After 21 straight victories, it would be appropriate in this season of oddities for New England to drop two in a row.

Prediction: RAMS, 27-17

Houston (4-3) at Denver (5-3)

Line: Broncos favored by 5 1/2. ATS Records: Texans 4-3, Broncos 2-4-2.

Texans Status Report: Houston handled Jacksonville at home last week, 20-6, and is tied with Indianapolis just a half-game behind the first-place Jaguars in the AFC South.

Broncos Status Report: Denver got whupped at home by Atlanta, 41-28, but remains tied for first place in the AFC West, with San Diego.

The Series: First meeting.

Stats Worth Noting: Houston has won 4 of its last 5, and has an 8-3 ATS record when an underdog by more than four points the last two years.

Game Summary: On paper, Houston has a legitimate chance to win outright. Its defense has been excellent the last two weeks in particular. But this is precisely the type of situation when Broncos coach Mike Shanahan usually gets an inspired effort from his club. And Broncos corner Champ Bailey wins the battle with up-and-coming star receiver Andre Johnson. Playing another hunch here... I like Denver handily.

Prediction: BRONCOS, 28-14

Cleveland (3-4) at Baltimore (4-3)

Line: Ravens favored by 6. ATS Records: Browns 4-3, Ravens 5-2.

Browns Status Report: Cleveland was off last week, after having taken unbeaten Philadelphia to overtime before losing, 31-28, in Week 7.

Ravens Status Report: Baltimore lost a 15-10 decision at Philadelphia last week, and is two games behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

The Series: Cleveland won the first meeting of the season between these two, 20-3, in the season opener at Cleveland. The Ravens swept the season series in 2003.

Stats Worth Noting: The last three meetings have all been decided by 17 or more points, with the Ravens winning two of the three.

Game Summary: Payback time for the Ravens... who lack the offensive firepower to get a blowout but sport the defense, as well as the return to action of RB Jamal Lewis. Last year, the Browns went on the road following their bye week and were blown out at Kansas City. So much for extra preparation.

Prediction: RAVENS, 23-10

Minnesota (5-2) at Indianapolis (4-3)

Line: Colts favored by 5 1/2. ATS Records: Vikings 4-3, Colts 4-2-1.

Vikings Status Report: Minus WR Randy Moss, the Vikings were humbled at home by the New York Giants, 34-13, but remain atop the NFC North by a game over Detroit.

Colts Status Report: Indy has dropped two straight, the latest a 45-35 setback at Kansas City last week. They are tied for second in the AFC South with Houston, a half-game behind Jacksonville.

The Series: These teams have met only twice in the last 12 years, splitting home victories.

Stats Worth Noting: The Vikings failed to cover in the only game so far when they were underdogs (at Philadelphia), but are 2-0 ATS against the AFC.

Game Summary: The over/under at this writing is a lofty 59.5, and I'd still take the overs without hesitation. Oftentimes, a game expected to tilt so drastically one way ends up fairly routine. But last week's Indy-Kansas City game was expected to be "offensive," and it didn't disappoint as the two clubs combined for 80 points. I see a similar situation here, with the host Colts being healthier and even more explosive than Minnesota, with or without Moss.

Prediction: COLTS, 70-63 (okay, just kidding)...

Actual Prediction: COLTS, 42-31

ON BYES: Atlanta (6-2), Green Bay (4-4), Jacksonville (5-3), Tennessee (3-5).