NFL Genius Picks

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Life-time Results: 82-60-7
2001 Results: 18-19-4
2000 Results: 33-26-2
1999 Results: 31-15-1

Note that these predictions are for entertainment purposes only!

Week #15

New England -4 over @Buffalo
Pre-Game Commentary: When a team is 8-5, and has won 5 of their last 6 - their only loss coming against the Rams (24-17) - they should favored by more than just four lousy points against a team that is 2-10, arguably the worst team in the league, I don't care where they are playing.  Simple as that.

The Pats are 8-3 since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe, and beat Buffalo 21-11 just 5 weeks ago.  And that was before Rob Johnson got hurt, so why should this game be any different?  New England is playing mistake free football right now, and everything is clicking on all cylinders.  They have confidence and momentum, and are starting to believe they are good.

RB Antowain Smith was the star of the game the last time these two met, and the Bills have continued to give up TDs to running backs - they have given up a league worst 16 so far.  Look for another big game from him.

And, lastly, the gambling trends say this pick makes sense, too:
     New England is 5-2-2 in their last 7 games ATS (Against the spread).
     Buffalo is 1-6 at home ATS this year.
     Buffalo is 0-5 in their last 5 division games ATS.
     Overall New England is 9-4 ATS, and Buffalo is a measly 3-9 ATS.
What more do you need to know?

Pittsburgh +3.5 over @Baltimore
Pre-Game Commentary: This one is easy.  Tough game, but an easy pick based on that spread.  Yes, the game should be close, but the facts, their records, and the stats will show that Pittsburgh is a better team - with or without Bettis in the lineup.  No way the Steelers should be getting points in this game.

Bettis is out for the Steelers, but don't let that deter you.  Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala not only has a cool name, but is a solid replacement.  Based on what I've seen, in limited action, he looks just as good as The Bus.  Meanwhile, the Ravens are down to their 3rd-string running back, rookie Moe Williams who is filling in for Terry Allen (hand) who is filling in for Jamal Lewis who is out for the season.

I guess you could say this about any team the Steelers play this year, but it's hard to see the Ravens scoring many points.  The Steelers will stop the Ravens running attack fairly easily, making the Ravens move the ball thru the air.

This game should be very low scoring as the #1 defense faces off against the #3 defense in the NFL.  When the game itself may barely get over 10 points total, 3-1/2 points seems extra huge.

In their last meeting, the Steelers outgained the Ravens 348-183, and had 21 first downs to the Ravens 10.  Yuck.

The Steelers are 8-3-1 ATS this year; and 4-1-1 on the road ATS.

Atlanta +4 over @Indianapolis
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, what's up with this line?  Indianapolis is toast at 4-8.  The Falcons are only 6-6 but at least still have play-off hopes if they can string wins together to finish out the year.

And, as it has been for weeks, this Indy defense is horrendous - they have allowed 34 or more points in FOUR straight games.  This is exactly the kind of match up that Chris Chandler thrives in.  Well, OK, every QB thrives against this Indy defense, but when Chris Chandler can stand in the pocket long enough he goes from mediocre to one of the better passers in the game - more-so than most quarterbacks.  Still, it doesn't even have to come thru the air against this Swiss Cheese Colts D - they have allowed 130 yards rushing in FIVE straight games.

6 of ESPN's panel of 8 "experts" picked the Falcons to win this game outright.

Home field advantage doesn't even seem to be a factor (common around the league, I know.)  Consider this:  Atlanta is 4-1 on the road, while the Colts are 1-4 at home!

If all of that isn't enough for you, here are the important stats:
     The Falcons are 4-0-1 on the road ATS,
     Indy has lost their last FOUR games at home ATS,
     Indy has lost their last FIVE games ATS overall.
There's a trend if I ever saw one.

Dallas +6 over @Seattle
Pre-Game Commentary: The Cowboys are still a bad team, but there has been a natural marked improvement that was fairly predictable.  The Cowboys big offensive line played poorly early in the year, and you knew that wasn't going to continue.  The result has been an improved running game.  Plus, Quincy Carter serious growing pains early in the year have lessened slightly, and so he's been making somewhat fewer mistakes.

Meanwhile the Seahawks running attack has been on a decline, averaging only 62.8 yards the last 4 games, and they have been limited to 13 or fewer points in 3 straight games.  If that wasn't bad enough Matt Hasselbeck who was terrible before, is now fighting shoulder injuries which was obvious in last week's game.

This is a decent Cowboys defense which should give the Seahawks enough trouble to possibly extend that streak of 13-or-fewer points to four games.  If they do, that means all the Cowboys need to do to beat the spread is score more than a touchdown, which obviously isn't asking a whole lot.

Here are the gambler's stats for you, all of which point to the Cowboys in this game:
     Dallas 5-2 in their last 7 games ATS;
     Dallas is 5-1 ATS after their last 6 division games;
     Dallas is 3-0 in their last 3 games following a straight up win.

On the other side,
     Seattle is a paltry 3-7-2 ATS the year;
     Seattle is 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 games;
     Seattle is 7-14 ATS in their last 21 games following a division game.

Week #14 (1-2)

@Atlanta +3 over New Orleans
LOSS, NO 28 - Atl 10
Pre-Game Commentary: What's all this talk about Chris Chandler possibly not starting this game?  Chandler took every snap in practice with the first team Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  He says the swelling and soreness caused by an injury suffered in the Rams game last are gone.  Doesn't sound like there's any chance he doesn't start this game.  It's even more unlikely you'll see Michael Vick when you consider this game essentially is for a wild car birth.  The team that loses this game can kiss the play-offs good-bye ... I hate to even look at statistics like this because they are mostly meaningless, but, for whatever it's worth, the Saints have never faired well against the Falcons.  New Orleans is a horrendous 2-11 in their last 13 games against Atlanta ... Here's another good one!  Atlanta is 9-1 against the spread in their last 10 games against New Orleans.  Now there's a stat I can like! ... Want another bookie stat?  The Saints are just 4-8 against the spread coming off of a division win (who thought to look up THAT one?!) ... The Falcons already beat the Saints once this year on the road, 20-13, why can't they beat them at home?

@Miami -4.5 over Indianapolis
WIN, Mia 41 - Ind 6
Pre-Game Commentary: The Dolphins are 8-3, the Colts are just 4-7.  The Dolphins are at home.  The Colts have lost four straight - they gave up 34+ points in the last 3 games! - and show no signs of recovering, their season over.  Does that sound like just 4-1/2 points to you?  It doesn't to me.  This is a terrible match-up for Indy.  Their defense is the worst in the NFL, and although Miami's offense is simply average, even average offenses score points against the 31st ranked defense in the league.  Making matters worse for Indy, the injuries are piling up.  An amazing THIRTEEN players are on their injured list this week ... If that wasn't enough for you, the Colts are 2-9 in their last 11 games against the spread, and Miami is 6-2 in their last 8 games against the spread, and 6-2 in their last 8 games against the spread on grass.

Chicago +5.5 over @Green Bay
LOSS, GB 17 - Chi 7
Pre-Game Commentary: Yes, I'm using the Bears again.  I don't really have a hot nut for this team, but I just don't agree with the spreads this they have been getting ... The last time these teams played, the Bears were overmatched OR they had a horrendous offensive game plan - depends who you talk to or what you read (although the Bears still only lost 20-12!)  What can't be denied is that the following week, the Bears really opened up their offense, began throwing the ball downfield, stretching defenses, and have been a different offensive team ... On the other side of the ball, the Bears match up fairly well against the Packers.  The Bears have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in TWENTY consecutive games, and have been able to stop passing teams - especially lately, not allowing a TD pass in 3 straight games ... Some people will say that it's going to be tough for the Bears to win in Green Bay, but let's not forget that they have beaten the Packers their the last two times at Lambeau Field!  In fact, the last 6 times these teams have met - the VISITING team has won straight up each time! ... And, again, if that isn't enough, try this on for size:  The Bears are 6-3 in their last 9 games ATS; The Bears are 4-1 on the road ATS ... Also, proving that you can't underestimate these Bears, they have won 9 of their last 10 games, period.

Week #13 (0-2-1)

@Chicago -7 over Detroit
LOSS, Chi 13 - Det 10
Pre-Game Commentary: The Bears are looking like one of those teams that pops up every year and gets underestimated week after week after week, no matter how many times they win.  They do nothing spectacular, but at 8-2 (4-1 at home) you can't deny that they have played solid fundamental football.  It's boring too - they run the ball well, and they stop the run very well - boring teams tend to get discounted.  Yet, the number show that to date, Chicago has been one of the top teams in the NFL, and Detroit possibly the absolute worst, yet the Bears are only favored by 7?  At home no less?... For whatever it's worth, I'm 2-0-1 when picking the Bears this year.

San Diego +3 over @Seattle
PUSH, Sea 13 - SD 10 (OT)
Pre-Game Commentary: The Chargers may have lost their last four games, but you can't ignore the fact that San Diego is a better team is just about ever facet of the game.  This is a clear case of the line-makers losing faith in a team that isn't nearly as bad as their losing streak would make them seem.  Consider this:

Total Offense:  San Diego 13th, Seattle 24th
Scoring Offense:  San Diego 5th, Seattle 22nd
Total Defense:  San Diego 12th, Seattle 20th
Scoring Defense:  San Diego 16th, Seattle 22nd

One of San Diego's biggest problems has been Doug Flutie's slump, but Seattle has given up a number of big games to quarterbacks, Seattle's biggest problem being their incredibly weak cornerback situation who have given up big games to quarterbacks all year.  Flutie is a veteran QB due to come out of his slump, while that secondary is going to remain the weakest in the NFL.  Yet, San Diego is getting points in this game?  I don't care how many in a row they've lost.  Book-it, the Chargers +3.

@Cleveland -1 over Tennessee
LOSS, Ten 31 - Cle 15
Pre-Game Commentary: These are two teams traveling in different directions.  The Titans season is pretty much toast at this point, while this young Cleveland defense is allowing only 15 points per game.  Meanwhile, the Titans have averaged just 18 points per game, 21st in the NFL.  It's hard to see them scoring many points in this game.  The Titans are 2-6 in the AFC and 2-5 against the AFC Central.  Meanwhile this Browns team is really starting to gel with their "D" as a foundation, and should be headed for a surprising play-off appearance.  And, as it has been every week, this is a Titans team that is pretty beat up.  So why are the Browns only favored by 1?  You got me.  Perhaps this is case of people still refusing to believe Cleveland is really any good, and the Titans are really that bad.  Believe it, and take the Browns -1.

Week #12 (3-0)

@Dallas +7 over Denver
WIN, Den 26 - Dal 24
Pre-Game Commentary: As much as it pains me to pick Dallas to win under any circumstances, this is a good week for it.  You gotta love the home underdog.  Actually, we could have the best of both worlds here as Denver should still win this game, but is unlikely to cover a touchdown spread.  The Cowboys 2-7 record has overshadowed an impressive defense that now ranks 6th in the NFL overall, and hasn't allowed a team to rush for more than 155 in a game all year.  The Broncos have been a huge disappointment particularly after blow-out wins in the first two weeks of the season.  Their wide-receiving corps is a mess.  After losing Ed McCaffrey for the season with a broken leg, stand-out wide-out Rod Smith didn't play two weeks ago due to a sprained ankle, re-aggravated the injury last week against the 'Skins and hasn't practiced at all this week.  Compounding matters, Brian Griese hasn't been healthy and hasn't been consistent, and Terrell Davis is out again.  The Cowboys meanwhile do still have RBs Emmitt Smith and Troy Hambrick who has been impressive when he gets the ball.  Defensively the Broncos haven't done much to stop the run.  Add it all up and you have a home underdog upset special!

Pittsburgh +2 over @Tennessee
WIN, Pit 34 - Ten 24
Pre-Game Commentary: Sometimes the analysis just seems so simple - this is one of those cases.  Pittsburgh's defense ranks #1 in the NFL in points allowed and #1 in yards allowed.  Meanwhile, the Titans are a sad 25th in the NFL in offense.  Steve McNair has a bum thumb and Frank Wycheck has a bad ankle.  Why in the world should we believe the Titans can score points in this game?  Everyone seems to be pointing to the Titans good run defense, and the fact that they held Bettis to 62 yards last time these two teams played - but what about the fact that the Steelers still managed to win 34-7?

Chicago +3 over @Minnesota
WIN, Chi 13 - Min 6
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, last week's Minnesota win over the Giants freaked me out, so I'm going to chalk it up as yet another in a long string of abberrations this year just to keep my sanity.  I can't get that 48-17 Vikings game against the Eagles just 2 weeks ago out of my head...or that 44-14 Vikings game against the Buccaneers just 3 weeks ago, for that matter ... Everyone complained that the Bears could not keep winning with their conservative offense and lack of a vertical passing game.  So they opened it up last week against the Bucs and won yet again.  Whatever they are doing, it's been working, so I see no reason to believe it will stop working against this mediocre Vikings team ... The Bears are ranked very high in scoring offense and scoring defense, but are middle of the road in yards on both sides of the ball, indicating the obvious - that the Bears have done a lot of this with smoke and mirrors.  However, it doesn't matter how you look at the stats, they are better than the Vikings in just about every way.  This is an extremely poor Vikings defensive team.  The Bears should be able to put some points on the board.  The question is how well the Vikings offense will perform against this Bears defense.  At best this is an even game and you take the Bears getting 3 points.  At worst the Bears win outright.

Week #11 (2-1)

Chicago +5 over @Tampa Bay
WIN, Chi 27 - TB 24
Pre-Game Commentary: My choice of this game doesn't really mean I'm 100% sold on the future success of the Bears, but I am convinced that they have at least earned themselves recognition as a formidable foe.  At the same time, Tampa Bay has been a disappointment for what seems to be years now (they are now 4-4 to open the season for the 4th straight year!), and I'm finally starting to believe that this team just isn't ever going to be much more than mediocre ... Everyone talks about this great Tampa Bay defense and their ability to stop the run, but I don't see anything but a pattern of inconsistency in the numbers.  If the Bears can establish the run, they win this game.  If they don't, I still think it's a fairly even match and you take the Bears +5.

New York Giants +2 over @Minnesota
LOSS, Min 28 - NYG 16
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, what am I missing here?  Minnesota has given up almost 100 points in the last two weeks against two teams - the Buccaneers and Eagles - that have had a tough time putting points on the board otherwise.  The Giants have one of the best defenses in the league.  What's the best way to handle the Giants pass rush?  Run the ball.  The Vikings have proved two weeks in a row that they haven't the first clue how to run the ball.  The Vikings spent most of the game against the Eagles bickering on the sidelines.  Top it all off with the fact that the last time these two met was in the Play-offs last year and the Giants won 41-0.  Yet, the Giants are getting two points in this game?  What am I not understanding?

@Pittsburgh -5.5 over Jacksonville
WIN, Pit 20 - Jax 7
Pre-Game Commentary: Don't be fooled into thinking that just because the Jaguars stopped Corey Dillon last week that it all of a sudden means they can stop Jerome Bettis.  It isn't going to happen.  Corey Dillon is known as a one-man wrecking crew because that's essentially what he is - it's Corey Dillon and no one else.  Bettis might be the league's MVP through this mid-way point, but he has a solid cast around him.  Throw in one of the league's best defenses, and it's hard for me to understand why this Steelers team isn't at more than a touchdown favorite AT HOME against a subpar Jacksonville team ... Pittsburgh has averaged 60 more yards per game on offense than Jacksonville and given up 100 yards LESS than Jacksonville per game on defense!  In fact, their defense ranks 1st in points allowed and yards allowed.  So, again I say, why only 5.5??? ... Jacksonville scored 3 TDs in Week #1 against the Steelers.  Since then the Steelers have given up only 7 in their next 7 games.  This Steelers team is one that has really come together since that first week.  It's a different team completely, and if anything you've got to figure there's a little bit of a revenge factor at play in this game as well.  Still, don't be fooled by that opening day score of 21-3 - other than the turn-overs which were what made the difference, the stats in that game were essentially even ... The Pittsburgh offensive line has not committed a holding penalty in any of their 8 games this year!!!  That could be the most amazing stat of the season if you ask me.

Week #10 (2-1)

Miami +3 over @Indianapolis
WIN, Mia 27 - Ind 24
Pre-Game Commentary: The Miami running game has been sluggish, but this is an opportunity to step up as the Colts defense is one of the league's worst against the run.  A good running attack is the key to the success of this Dolphins ball-control type of offense.  On the other side of the ball, Miami's secondary will provide a challenge to the vertical offensive show of the Colts and Payton Manning.  Those two basic facts make this a bad match-up for the Colts.  Making matters worse - and even more important of a point - Edgerrin James is unlikely to play for the second consecutive week with a bum knee.  James hasn't practiced at all this week.  Replacing him is Dominic Rhodes, an undrafted free agent rookie.

@New England -6 over Buffalo
WIN, NE 21 - Buf 11
Pre-Game Commentary: Tom Brady?  Who would've thought.  At first you had to think it was a fluke, but the Pats have scored 24 or more points in all SIX of the games he's started - and won both of the home games that he's started, too.  The Bills haven't been getting to opposing quarterbacks, so there aren't many signs that they will be able to be very disruptive either.  Why should we think Brady's success would all come to a screeching halt against this awful Bills team? ... If you like looking at the past, in the Bills six losses (they are 1-6), they have lost by six point or more FIVE times:  -18 against the Saints, -16 against the Colts, -17 against Pittsburgh, -6 against the Jets, -3 against San Diego, -16 against the Colts a second time.

Cincinnati +4.5 over @Jacksonville
LOSS, Jax 30 - Cin 13
Pre-Game Commentary: The Jaguars have now lost their FIFTH straight game, and it seems to me that all of the "experts" picking Jacksonville have got to be riding the theory that they couldn't possibly lose SIX in a row, particularly since they are at home.  You'd have to think that the Jaguars are about to start becoming a bit disinterested now that their season is essentially over, while the Bengals are likely to start playing as if they have a shot at something.  They seem even in talent at this point - and the stats back that up, so why 4.5 points?  That seems like a lot to me ... Fred Taylor remains out for at least this week.  Making matters even worse for the Jaguars, Mark Brunnell is still nursing a quad injury.  They have him listed as probable, but as of Thursday the man was still not practicing.

Week #9 (1-2)

@San Diego -5 over Kansas City
LOSS, KC 25 - SD 20
Pre-Game Commentary: San Diego's 5-2, Kansas City's 1-5.  San Diego is 4-0 at home.  Kansas City is 1-2 on the road.  What am I missing? ... Top it off with the fact that San Diego is 4th against the run, Kansas City can't run to begin with, meaning Kansas City has to take to the air.  Trent Green is fine, but WR Derrick Alexander may not even play leaving rookie Snoop Minnis as the #1 wide-out.  That makes this a one-man Tony Gonzalez show.  How double teamed do you think HE'S going to be?! ... Kansas City has given up the 4th most points in the NFL to running backs.  Look for a lot of LaDianian Tomlinson, and a low scoring easy win for San Diego.  Something like 21-10 looks about right.

@San Francisco -9 over Detroit
LOSS, SF 21 - Det 13
Pre-Game Commentary: This Lions team is proving to be one of the worst in the NFL, arguably THE worst in the NFL.  San Francisco is a solid team with a big time QB in Jeff Garcia and possibly the best receiver in the NFL in Terrell Owens.  Furthermore the 'Niners are at home.  Disparity like this typically results in a spread in the double-digits.  It's hard to envision the Lions holding the 49ers within 10 points in San Francisco.

Jacksonville +4.5 over @Tennessee
WIN, Ten 28 - Jax 24
Pre-Game Commentary: I'm still surprised how many people are expecting this Titans team to somehow rebound.  It's not going to happen.  Personally, I think there's a good chance the Jaguars win this game outright.  The Titans offensive attack has always been built around Eddie George, and he's injured and just not getting it done.  Teams are putting a lot of defenders in the box, shutting George down even further.  Regardless, George hurt BOTH legs last week in a humiliating loss to the Steelers and may not play this week.  Nagging injuries to Steve McNair may be another part of the problem.  Whatever it is, the Titans offense has not gotten the ball downfield at all this year - they just aren't a scary deep threat.  The defense on the other hand is seriously underachieving and also has various injuries holding them back.  In fact, Jevon Kearse may not even play this week thanks to an ankle injury.  While the Titans have been embarassed most of the year, the Jaguars have at least played close losses, losing their last two games by only FOUR points total, including a heartbreaking 18-17 loss IN Baltimore last week.

Week #8 (1-2)

Cincinnati +3 over @Detroit
WIN, Cin 31 - Det 27
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, Detroit is 0-5 and Cincy is 3-3, yet Detroit is favored in this game?  The Lions are a team that couldn't decide if they wanted Charlie Batch or....Ty Detmer?  And now they are without wideouts Germane Crowell and Herman Moore.  As icing on the cake, the Lions have now lost three consecutive home games dating back to last year, so there obviously isn't much of a home field advantage here either.  And how could there be with a team that is 0-5, if anything the Detroit fans have got to be growing restless ... This should be a low scoring game featuring two inept offenses who will hand the ball off way more than they will pass.  That will make the 3 points seem even larger.

@San Diego -7 over Buffalo
LOSS, SD 27 - Buf 24
Pre-Game Commentary: Rob Johnson vs. Doug Flutie.  If history does truly repeat itself, you know Flutie wins this battle.  It's in San Diego.  Even the fans in Buffalo still route for Flutie.  One radio station in Buffalo even attempted to become a San Diego affiliate so they could broadcast Chargers games this year.  Talk about home field advantage!  Under the circumstances of this game, it's hard to imagine Flutie having a bad game.  He's proved it too many times now that he gets the job done when there is even the slightest bit of pressure ... I'm not a big believer in considering anything more than the match-ups on the game in question, but there's got to be a small amount of comfort in the fact that the Bills won last week.  Now they can go back to losing again.

New York Giants -7.5 over @Washington
LOSS, Was 35 - NYG 21
Post-Game Commentary: OK, this is the kind of game that totally blows my mind, and makes me wonder why I even bother.  How can this Giants defense give up 35 points to such a horrible team like the Redskins.  I guess I WAS missing something, and I still am because this just makes no sense.

Pre-Game Commentary: Am I missing something?  Why is the spread for this game not well above double digits.  I don't care if the Giants lost to the Eagles and only scored 9 points.  With any kind of luck, the Giants would have had 24 points by the half last week.  This is a god-awful Redskins team that has no clue how to put points on the board.  Against this Giants defense, the 'Skins are lucky if they score at all.  I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibilities that the Giants only need 10-14 points to cover.  The Redskins pulled out a 4th quarter fluke victory last week.  Does anyone really think they can win two in a row?  The Giants are outstanding against the run.  The Eagles knew that - that's why they threw the ball about 90% of the time or so it seemed.  If the Giants stop Stephen Davis, the Redskins have 0% chance of winning this game.  It would mean Tony Banks has to throw the ball with regularity, and that just isn't going to be pretty ... The Giants have limited opponents to 15 or fewer points and less than 100 yards rushing in FIVE straight games!  They have totaled 4 or more sacks in FOUR straight games!  Making this match-up even worse for the 'Skins, they've scored just 3 offensive touchdowns in SIX games!  Meanwhile what to the Giants do best on offense?  They run the ball very very well.  The Redskins have yielded 100+ rushing in 5 of 6 games.

Week #7 (2-1)

New England +10.5 over @Indianapolis
WIN, NE 38 - Ind 17
Pre-Game Commentary: Could this be another case of people assuming that the Colts can't possibly embarrass themselves twice in the same season against the Pats?  As always, don't look at what they did last time, look at the game independantly.  The Colts should win this game, but 10-1/2 points?  Too much.  The Patriots have proven they have some firepower, despite the lost of Drew Bledsoe.  Payton Manning is slumping - 9 TDs vs. 9 INTs so far this year.  Will he break out of that slump this week?  The Patriots seem to have the Colts figured out, taking advantage of Manning's timing patterns and holding them to just 13 points in their last game against each other.  I'll take the Pats +10-1/2 in the event that the slump and the genius of Bill Belichick lasts another game ... The Patriots have now won 18 of their last 25 games against the Colts.

Green Bay -3 over @Minnesota
LOSS, Min 35 - GB 13
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, the Ravens D couldn't stop the Packers (31 points against the league's best defense), so how in the world is this Vikings defense going to do it?  I don't think I even need to write anything more.  3 points?  And I'm not just talking about Brett Farve here.  This team has become a legitimate Super Bowl contender by become dominant on both offense and defense, AND by finding more ways to beat you on offense than just Brett Favre's arm.  Furthermore, the Vikings are just 23rd in overall defense, and 29th against the pass, while the Pack has won 8 of their last 9 games.  I don't see how this one will miss.

Pittsburgh +5.5 over @Tampa Bay
WIN, Pit 17 - TB 10
Pre-Game Commentary: Tampa Bay gave up 31 points to a a beaten-up Tennessee team that doesn't score a lot of points even when they are healthy.  Tampa doesn't seem to be the defensive gem of the NFL anymore ... This isn't a good match-up for the Bucs, who have typically struggled against teams that play rough smash-mouth football like the Steelers who aren't afraid to run the ball even if you'd put up an 11-man front.  (The Steelers have run for 120+ yards in 6 straight games, 170+ in three straight games!)  The Steelers defense has been tremendous, and the Bucs offense typical, so it's hard to see TB putting many points on the board.  Even if the Steelers simply keep it close, you've got to take them with the 5-1/2 points.

Week #6 (1-1-2)

@Dallas -3 over Washington
LOSS, Dal 9 - Was 7
Pre-Game Commentary: There's not much good that you can say about either of these teams.  (There's the understatement of the year.)  One thing that you CAN say about each of them is that they should both be giving the ball as much as they can to their running backs - Emmitt Smith and Stephen Davis.  However, the 'Skins are still having trouble running the ball.  When your lone asset isn't even working properly you've got serious troubles.  This game is a huge set-up for Emmitt to come up big.  He has ALWAYS had big games against the Redskins (2309 yards and 23 TDs in 20 games!), while the Redskins have given up 130+ yards rushing in FOUR straight games.  With the growing pains of Quincy Carter definitely out of the picture, I definitely like Dallas to win this game and cover the three points.

Oakland +3.5 over @Indianapolis
WIN, Oak 23 - Ind 18
Pre-Game Commentary: Oakland is an extremely well-balanced team, while Indy is very much not.  Oakland's excellent passing attack and Charlie Garner will prove to be too much to handle for the 29th ranked defense that the Colts bring to the table.  I think that far too many people are going on the hunch that Indianapolis has to win after embarrassing themselves against New England two weeks ago and then going into their bye week last week.  People forget that individual games are statistically independent.

@Chicago -7 over Arizona
PUSH, Chi 20 - Arz 13
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, Jake Plummer is a 4th quarter magician, but let's not get too carried away, this Cardinals team is very very young and had lost 9 consecutive games before beating the Eagles last week, despite getting outplayed statistically in every category.  The Cardinals have been turn-over happy for a long time before last week (6 in their first 2 games, but only one against the Eagles), so you'd have to think last week was at least a bit of a fluke.  It won't get any easier against a Bears team that has limited teams to 17 or fewer points in 3 straight games, and 7 of their last 9.  This is a very good defensive team that the Bears have, and if they can get any rush on Plummer, the Cardinals will have trouble breaking double-digits in points.  Am I sold on this Bears team overall?  No, not really, but they should be able to handle this raw Arizona Cardinals team.

Tampa Bay +3 over @Tennessee
PUSH, Ten 31 - TB 28
Pre-Game Commentary: OK, what's up with almost all of the "experts" picking the Titans just about across the board?  Am I missing something?  This is a Titans team that is sputtering and wounded.  Again, Steve McNair will play out the season with a shoulder that will require off-season surgery, WR Derrick Mason has a high ankle sprain, TE Frank Wycheck has a stiff neck, the Tennessee secondary is missing FOUR players to injury and now Eddie George is questionable for this week with a bum ankle, too! ... The Bucs pass rush is one of the best in the NFL, so the Titans will have to run.  Can they do it with Eddie George running on a bum ankle?  I'm willing to take TB +3 and find out.  This is another game where I think too many people are figuring Tennessee has to win eventually so that's the way people are leaning.  But that fact means nothing once the games start.  In a way it's like flipping a coin 4 times.  Just because it came up tails 3 times doesn't mean the 4th time is any more likely to come up heads.  And in this game, just because Tennessee lost 3 times, doesn't make it any more likely that they can handle the Bucs.

Week #5 (1-3)

Green Bay +3.0 over @Tampa Bay
LOSS, TB 14 - GB 10
Pre-Game Commentary: This will be the big test to see if Green Bay is for real, and if Tampa Bay really isn't.  I like the +3.0 for Green Bay for two main reasons - one, this stands to be a low scoring game regardless of who wins making those 3.0 points larger than they would normally be, but mostly because if Green Bay jumps out to an early lead, Tampa Bay becomes terribly one-dimensional.  That's even more true now that Warrick Dunn is out.  The Bucs will attempt to pound the ball with Alscott, which won't cut it if the Packers extend their streak to SIX consecutive games without allowing a team to rush for more than 100 yards.  Making matters worse, the Bucs offensive line has had trouble to date establishing the run, and the Packs defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the year so far.  They have allowed only 13 points in 3 games.  The Bucs can't afford to try to play catch-up if Brad Johnson can't get his passing game going, which hasn't happened so far ... For those who like trends, Brett Favre 14-4 in 18 career starts against the Buccaneers.

@Philadelphia -14 over Arizona
LOSS, Ari 21 - Phi 20
Pre-Game Commentary: So much for paridy in the NFL!  Man, 14 points is a lot, especially considering the fact that the Cards have always given the Eagles trouble, but I just don't see it being enough, not this week, not this year.  Jake Plummer seems to have gotten worse each year when it comes to handling pressure, and that can only mean good things for the Eagles.  The Philly defense is second in the league with 13 sacks.  Furthermore, an Eagles D that prides itself on take aways will be facing a team that is -44 in take away/give away differential over their last 34 games ... For those of you who like trends, what better trend is this:  The Cards have lost their last NINE games, and have been outscored an amazing 269 to 94!  Consider that - that's an average loss of 19.4!

@Baltimore -3.5 over Tennessee
WIN, Bal 26 - Ten 7
Pre-Game Commentary: Tennessee has not be able to establish a running game in the early going which is the type of offense that the Titans are accustomed to running.  When they can't run, they are forced out of their game-plan.  This Ravens defense is NOT the team to play when you are trying to get your season jump-started by establishing your running game - the Ravens streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher has now reached FORTY!!  The Ravens made a statement by beating a strong Denver Broncos team that looks, at this point, much better than Tennessee ... Making matters worst for the Titans, Steve McNair is back this week but will play the remainder of the year with a shoulder that will require off-season shoulder surgery, while WRs Kevin Dyson (toe) and Derrick Mason (shoulder/ankle) are listed as questionable for this week's game ... The Titans of lost only 6 of their last 31 games - BUT - of those 6 losses, 3 have been against the Ravens...and so far, this doesn't look like the Titans team of the last few years.

Cincinnati +6 over @Pittsburgh
LOSS, Pit 16 - Cin 7
Pre-Game Commentary: Are the Bengals for real?  Probably not entirely, although the improvement is undeniable.  However, this isn't a stalwart Steelers team either.  So even if you consider them fairly even, six points for Cincy is huge ... This is the first game at Pittsburgh new field, but I don't think that will really have any more of an affect on the outcome of this game than the usual home field advantage.  That is, if the Steelers actually benefit at all from home field advantage, anyway - they have lost 12 of their last 18 home games.

Week #4 (1-2)

@Jacksonville -9 over Cleveland
LOSS, Cle 23 - Jax 14
Pre-Game Commentary: Hopefully no one is silly enough to get excited about the fact that the Browns scored a lot of points and dominated last week.  Give even the worst team SEVEN Interceptions and they are going to dominate.  The Browns pass-rush is still a detriment with Courtney Brown still out for this week-end.  The Jaguars meanwhile have now held the opposition without a touchdown for the season, and they are coming home to noisy AllTel Stadium.  Yes, I know Fred Taylor is out, but Cleveland is bad and the Jacksonville defense is surging.  I don't see Cleveland scoring more than 10 points.  That means the Jags only need 20 to beat the spread which shouldn't be difficult at all.

Miami +6 over @St. Louis
LOSS, StL 42 - Mia 10
Pre-Game Commentary: Take away home field advantage, is St.Louis really 3 points better than Miami at this point?  Overall, I believe Miami is a team playing somewhat better than St. Louis.  At best I'd say they are even.  I also don't think this is a good match for St. Louis in general.  Although their defense is improved, St. Louis is still best against teams that are poor defensively so they can outscore their opponents.  This will arguably be the Rams' offense's toughest test of the year.  The Miami defense - which has given up only two TDs this year and has good experience against fast offenses - should be able to keep the Rams scoring down and that will be enough to keep the score closer than 6 points ... For those of you who like to ride patterns, the Dolphins have won 6 consecutive road games dating back to last season. 

@Oakland -10.5 over Seattle
WIN, Oak 38 - Ari 14
Pre-Game Commentary: Seattle fans were chanting "Dilfer! Dilfer!" in last week's game against the Eagles.  That tells you just how bad they have looked.  Poor Matt Hasselback, going against the Eagles D to the Raiders D doesn't make life any easier.  Hasselback looked like a typical struggling rookie deer-in-headlights in two straight games thanks to a league high dozen QB sacks.  Plus they are playing in Oakland where crowd noise is a major factor.  Unless something flukey happens, it's hard to see Seattle putting the ball in the end-zone this week either - which would make it three straight games without a TD.  Like the Jacksonville game above, all Oakland needs to do is score about 17 to 20 points to cover the spread.  Doesn't seem like much of a challenge to me.

Week #3 (2-2)

Denver -8 over @Arizona
WIN, Den 38 - Ari 17
Pre-Game Commentary: The battle of two first place teams - of course, the Cardinals have yet to play a game.  Denver was only a 7 point favorite last week at home against the Giants and they beat them handily (31-20).  Denver's on the road this week, but still, if they can beat the Giants by 11, they should have no problem beating up on the Cardinals by more than 8 points.  Brian Griese should now be at the peak of his learning curve.  The team many believe will appear in the Super Bowl this year - which racked up 473 total yards against a good Giants defense last week - will have to adjust to life without Ed McCaffrey, but that shouldn't be too difficult this week against a young Cardinals secondary.  Throw in these facts: (1) this is Arizona's first regular season game of the year - they have now had TWO straight weeks without game action and their starters haven't played 4 quarters since last season - which is a huge disadvantage; (2) Jake the Snake is coming off a bit of shoulder tendonitis, (3) the Cardinals have a new offensive coordinator who has finally scrapped the West Coast Offense that clearly was not working for them - but this is their first real game with an entirely new system, the (4) the Cards will be starting THREE players on their defensive line who have NEVER started an NFL game...This game seems like a no brainer.

@Green Bay -8.5 over Washington
WIN, GB 37 - Was 0
Pre-Game Commentary: I stuck up for the Redskins a little bit during the pre-season, but I take it all back.  This is shaping up to be quite an awful football team.  The Shottenheimer-George feud has already begun.  (That just breaks my little heart, by the way.)  The 'Skins have been sinking lower and lower every week since about the middle of last season.  Now they come off Week #1 where they got hammered against a team that won one stinking game last year and then had to sit a week due to last week's postponements.  Why should we think that this would be the week that they turn it around and play a respectable game?  There's no signs that I can see of that happening ... The Packers had SEVEN sacks last week against the Lions.  Jeff George does not handle pressure well.  If the Pack comes anywhere close to duplicating last week's effort, this spread is a lock.

Carolina +3.5 over @Atlanta
LOSS, Atl 24 - Car 16
Pre-Game Commentary: I suppose taking this is a matter of whether you believe Chris Weinke can be "for real" in both the first AND second pro games of his career.  There still seem to be a lot of people enamored by this Falcons defense, but when was the last time they were truly dominant - about three years ago.  I don't see why Weinke should have any more difficulty against this defense than the one he saw last week.  Last year these two teams played to a pair of Falcons victories, but the scores were 15-10 and 13-12.  Neither team seems capable of putting a lot of points on the board on a regular basis, so those 3-1/2 points seem even bigger since this is likely to be a close low scoring game.

Baltimore -7 over @ Cincinnati
LOSS, Cin 21 - Bal 10

Pre-Game Commentary: The Ravens have outscored the Bungels by an AVERAGE of 26 points in their last three meetings.  Cincinnati's lone saving grace, Corey Dillon, has averaged just 32 yards in his last two games against the Ravens.  Enough said.

Week #1 (1-0-1)

@Baltimore -10 over Chicago
WIN, Bal 17 - Chi 6
Pre-Game Commentary: This seems too easy - why is this only 10 points?  It's a major mismatch.  If this was mid-season, this game would be in the teens, so why isn't it now?  I really expected this one to be set closer to 20 than to 10.  As my good friend Drew said, it's hard to envision Chicago scoring more than 10 points against the Ravens - tops - so if you think Baltimore can score 3 touchdowns - which I do - this game is a lock.  Now that we've "locked" this game, you can also wedge a chair against the doorknob when you consider that it's a very real possibility that the Bears don't even score a single point ... Key stat: Including the play-offs the Ravens have won 11 straight games winning 9 of those 11 by 13 or more points.  Do we really thing THE BEARS are one of those teams that they would NOT beat by 13 or more?  I sure don't.

Seattle -3 over @Cleveland
PUSH, Sea 9 - Cle 6
Pre-Game Commentary: Seattle was 3 points better than Cleveland LAST year.  If anything, Cleveland has taken steps backwards thanks to some injuries (Courtney Brown will not play) and house cleaning by management.  Meanwhile, Seattle - although that secondary is beat up something fierce - has improved with the addition of veterans such as John Randle, Chad Eaton, Marcus Robinson and Levon Kirkland.  Matt Hairyback is in his first NFL game, and he's on the road which is a frightening proposition, but if Seattle is going to make strides this year, it's going to have to beat teams like the Browns by more than a measly three points ... Key stat: The Browns have allowed 140 or more yards rushing in 10 of their last 12 contests.  With this being Hasselbeck's first career NFL start and wide-receivers Koren Robinson in his rookie season and Darrell Jackson in only his 2nd year, look for Seattle to rely somewhat heavily on the experienced backfield of Ricky Watters until the rest of the offense settles in.


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