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Tuesday, August 14 2018

NFL Predictions 2003: Week 6

SportIt was interesting junk mail that I received today from CNN/SI. It seems that Joe Montana is 54-20 picking winners, so I guess after another solid 10-4 week straight up (51-23 overall) Iím not the best around, but I think 69% is still a nice mark for me. The ďexpertsĒ Don Banks, Peter King, Michael Silver and Dr. Z average 61% and the top celebrity, Bruce Willisí gal pal Brooke Burke has managed 64%.

I had an uneven 6-7-1 mark against the spread (still above water at 38-34-2 on the season) and another great over/under performance at 9-4-1 (plenty of cushion in my 46-27-1 overall record). The odds makers were 9-4-1 straight up (39-22-3 overall) and a bumpy 4-8-2 against the number (49-30-5 overall). In all 9 games went over, 4 were under and 1 was a push leaving under ahead 37-36 with 1 push on the season.

Somehow I couldnít bring myself to believe Chicago would beat Oakland, so while I picked a tough 28-23 Raiders win, I was wrong. I also liked the Giants at home against Miami, but they played with very little fire. I fouled up both national TV games, taking both home teams and completely messing up the ESPN game taking a 33-14 Pittsburgh win when reality delivered a 33-13 Cleveland win. Along with everyone else I had a defensive Tampa Bay win that turned into a shootout victory for Indianapolis.

Iím taking a week of upsets with 6 of 14 teams covering the number and 5 of those teams winning outright. I think 9 of 14 will go over this week given the mounting defensive injuries and match-up advantages that result. Oakland (2-3) @ Cleveland (2-3) pick OAK +3/over 44

Neither team resembles the one that took the field during the playoffs, and both are in similarly desperate situations. The Browns of course have the momentum of a big road win and are returning home with the knowledge that even a 3-3 mark could put them in first place if the Ravens stumble in Arizona. Donít laugh, it has already happened the Packers. The Raiders are in a much tougher position, being already two games plus a tiebreaker being Denver and three games behind Kansas City. They are likely already competing with the three teams at 3-2 for the second wild card, one of which (Tennessee) has already dealt them a loss. This game is funny because certainly the setup is there for the Browns to roll them and everyone is crying out about how old Oakland is. Hereís a news flash, Charlie Garner is only one year older than Marshall Faulk, who no one has called ďoldĒ. Heís going to be the key player this week against the young Cleveland linebackers who will be worn out trying to keep up with his catches out of the backfield. With Jerry Porter sightings at practices, the rest of the AFC had better hope the Browns find a way to win this game or Oakland could get on a serious roll starting pretty quick: Oakland 28, Cleveland 20

Philadelphia (2-2) @ Dallas (3-1) pick PHI +1/under 37.5

In just four games Bill Parcells already has his team favored against a club that has made it to the last two NFC title games. That is astonishing. The offense is clicking, and if the defense starts returning to last yearís form I shudder to think what will be in store for them. That being said, McNabb has been put on a mission by Rush Dipbaughís comments to justify the fact that he is a top 5 quarterback in this league. Even without premiere targets, which Iíve said too many times to count, this team can move the ball when he is on. This looks to be a game won by defensive stops, and even though Phillyís defense is missing some key parts, overall I think they have enough to turn a pair of drives into field goals and possibly a key turnover into a defensive touchdown. Count on them being the difference in this game: Philadelphia 19, Dallas 13

Kansas City (5-0) @ Green Bay (3-2) pick GB Ė1/over 47.5

This is the obvious spot for the KC run to end. They are on the road against a team with enough offense to match them blow for blow, and their defense wonít have the home crowd to lift them up for a key stop in the fourth quarter. I think the over/under on this game should be 53 personally because I see both teams trying to open up the offensive playbook to get a leg up on the other. Favre has everyone believing again after disposing of unbeaten Seattle 35-13 last week, and I think he has enough bullets left to turn the trick again. The Chiefs are on borrowed time counting on kick and punt returns for touchdowns to bail them out. Not this week: Green Bay 31, Kansas City 27

Carolina (4-0) @ Indianapolis (5-0) pick IND Ė5/over 37.5

This is a pretty unlikely battle of perfect teams if you ask anyone around the NFL. Thatís because both teams have had to beat the Bucs on the road to get to this point. It is rather obvious that it will be Peyton against the Panthers defense and Davis against the Colts defense to decide this game. Iím always inclined to like the running game because it is more consistent, but the throwing of Carolina under Delhomme and the running of Indy with their many backs is a big advantage to the home team. Delhomme isnít as likely to bail his club out of third and long when they do get there, while whatever back Indy plugs in will give them just enough to keep Peyton out of hot water: Indianapolis 24, Carolina 17

Miami (3-1) @ Jacksonville (1-4) pick MIA Ė3/under 38

Byron Leftwich is firmly entrenched as the starter now, and the quarterback controversy in Florida will shift to the Dolphins if they find a way to lose this game because Griese is pretty much healthy. Miami fans would rather think happy thoughts, and anticipate a blowout win that leaves their team on a four game winning streak with the dismal opener a distant memory. The defenses will certainly have a lot to say about the outcome here, as will the standout running backs Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor. If both teams can run the ball, this could be a game of limited possessions and boil down to a key mistake. You have to think that mistake will come from Leftwich out of inexperience or Fiedler because he sucks. Flip a coin and take the team with more to lose, although picking them to cover is a risky proposition: Miami 17, Jacksonville 13

NY Giants (2-2) @ New England (3-2) pick NYG +3/over 41

To this point the Pats have overachieved considering that their nearly their entire projected day 1 defense has gotten hurt. Their offense woke up last week in a win over the Titans, and most importantly their running game was big. The Giants are staring at a game where a loss will stick them firmly in last place in a division that they set out to win this year. With the other teams in the division all looking good, they certainly donít want to dip below a .500 record. I think they have enough fire in their belly to avoid that, mostly because sooner or later this Patriot defense is going to cost them victories. On the other side, New Yorkís defense can shut down this group when the game is on the line and the visitors will provide a win. Depending on the outcome of the Yanks-Red Sox series, it will either be revenge or rubbing it in: NY Giants 26, New England 22

Chicago (1-3) @ New Orleans (1-4) pick NO Ė5.5/over 41.5

This has to be a bad dream for the Saints, who have blown up on both sides of the ball. If ever there was a time for them to wake up, it would be at home against the Bears, who donít have nearly their level of talent. Neither team has any postseason aspirations at this point, but I believe Haslettís team will start to play well in order to save his job. When I think about the QB/RB/WR trio of the Saints, I see points going on the board, and perhaps this Chicago defense is what that group needs to get their groove back from last year. Letís face it, Kordell is going to melt in the dome once the crowd gets into the game: New Orleans 31, Chicago 14

Houston (2-2) @ Tennessee (3-2) pick TEN Ė10/over 39

The Titans are paid a visit by the team that occupies the town that wasnít good enough for them. They bring an offense that is much improved over last season, but has still managed only a shade over 17 points per game. That kind of damage can be done in quarter when McNair gets hot. The ground game for the Titans has to concern their fans because George is running on fumes. He looks spent. That is until he faces a unit where he can hit his spots and wear a defense down, which is probably going to happen this week. I think Carr will be intimidated by the crowd that has already shouted reigning MVP Gannon down and it will spiral down from there: Tennessee 30, Houston 15

Tampa Bay (2-2) @ Washington (3-1) pick TB Ė3/under 37.5

Now that Manning has provided film on how to beat Tampa Bayís defense, the question is if anyone can replicate his success. The answer might be no because Ramsey is no Manning and Coles is no Harrison at this point in their careers. Putting the pointless war of words between Sapp and Arrington aside, this is a game strictly decided when Washington has the ball. Their offense runs out of obligation, but they will quickly find out that where other teams give up 3 or 4 yards, this one gives up 1 yard or less. When you put Ramsey into situations where he has to make plays the Tampa Bay defense will make a few going the other direction. It will not be a pretty game to watch, and the punters will see plenty of action. In the end, an ugly win puts the defending champs back in the NFC South mix: Tampa Bay 17, Washington 12

Baltimore (2-2) @ Arizona (1-4) pick AZ +6/over 37

Let me be the first to say that the Cards are a better team without Emmitt Smith. Marcel Shipp is a better, more capable runner and the offense is better suited to produce with him in the lineup. That being said, theyíre facing a Baltimore defense that can make plays, and their own poor defense is likely to be flat out run over by Jamal Lewis. The side note is Jeff Blake trying to gain revenge against the team that dumped him, and what Iím seeing here is a game that will be a lot harder than the visitors anticipate. I know Lewis can help them control the tempo, but donít be surprised to see Blake drop a few bombs on the club that he practiced against last season before all is said and done: Baltimore 26, Arizona 21

Pittsburgh (2-3) @ Denver (4-1) pick PIT +7/under 44.5

The Broncos must have a deflated feeling after losing in Kansas City last week. Not only did they lose on special teams, which is always frustrating, but they were faced with the reality that Plummer failed in his first big chance to bring the team back in the fourth quarter. Yes, he is not John Elway, we all knew that, but many thought heíd be a player capable of leading comebacks. Tommy Maddox has been under fire, and the biggest problem in Pittsburgh is that they are putting too much pressure on their quarterback. In yearís past it was run first and donít count on your quarterback to make big plays, only to avoid the big mistakes. Now they have opened it up and as a result Maddox is forcing too many throws. One thing I notice about Denver is that they beat Cincinnati, San Diego and Detroit who have combined for a 2-13 record so far. Their other win was over Oakland, who has had their share of troubles. So letís not overreact to the difference in record, but more so at the fact that Pittsburgh has been wiped out by 17 points or more in all of their losses. In other words, if they can stay in the game early, they can win it late. Look for them to retreat to their old ways of shortening the game with screen passes and running the ball, then steal this one with a big play: Pittsburgh 23, Denver 20

Buffalo (3-2) @ NY Jets (0-4) pick NYJ +3/under 37.5

Herman Edwards is a good guy and a great coach, but right now his team stinks. Sooner or later they are going to bite a team in the ass, and Iím not going to put myself on a limb predicting it for sure. The Bills looked good early in the year, but they have cooled off considerably and are lacking the offensive pop that they had when Price and Moulds were running routes on either side of the field. Now Price is wearing Falcon black and Moulds might be out of this game, opening the door for a possible upset. More likely is that Shaw and Reed take the opportunity to show they are capable of making plays while Henry continues to show his toughness running the ball. Still, something in my gut tells me that coming off a bye week the home team is going to turn in a special performance: NY Jets 20, Buffalo 17

San Francisco (2-3) @ Seattle (3-1) pick SEA Ė3.5/over 45

While everyone has been talking up why the 49ers have struggled under Erickson, and the Rams are figuring out who to start at quarterback, no one has noticed that the Seahawks are leading the division. A win here would complete a division sweep, and give them a win over their former coach, whose return isnít nearly as glamorous as the trio of coaches who went back to face their former teams last week. Thatís because Erickson did nothing in Seattle and has done nothing in San Francisco. The Sharpie incident is a distant memory even though the teams and ESPN audience will be the same. The guard is changing, and the young, explosive Seahawks are much more difficult to beat at home. San Francisco will have some soul searching to do after this week, knowing that they are closer to division doormat Arizona than a playoff berth: Seattle 30, San Francisco 20

Atlanta (1-4) @ St. Louis (2-2) pick STL Ė11/over 45.5

Instead of Warner vs. Vick it will be Bulger vs. Johnson, and instead of a shootout it is probably going to be a blowout. The only chance the visitors have is to hope that they can run the ball and keep Bulger off the field. Then they need to force the Rams into long passing situations by stuffing Faulkís replacement Gordon in running situations. I donít like giving up big numbers, but this Falcons team seems flat out uninspired and Doug Johnson is playing like heís heading for the CFL. The running game hasnít stepped up to save them and neither has the defense as the losses mount. This one will effectively end their season and make Vickís return relevant only to fantasy football lovers: St. Louis 35, Atlanta 17

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