Sunday, October 06, 2002

This week's NFL picks

Chargers, Broncos resume longtime AFC West rivalry

By Mark Curnutte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The game of the week is in Denver, where the undefeated Chargers will play their longtime AFC West rival.

        San Diego upset Super Bowl winner New England last week to improve to 4-0. The Broncos were ambushed Monday night at Baltimore.

        Four other key divisional games are on tap for the weekend: New England at Miami, Baltimore at Cleveland, St. Louis at San Francisco and Green Bay at Chicago (in Champaign, Ill.).

        At Denver, San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer will face Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for the 10th time. Schottenheimer, who used to coach the Chiefs, leads the personal series 5-4.

        Schottenheimer, who led Washington to an 8-3 finish in 2001 before being fired, has won 12 of his past 15 games.

        CHARGERS (4-0) at BRONCOS (3-1): LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's leading rusher at 126.5 yards a game, will run into a Denver defense that leads the league at 2.9 yards per attempt. Denver won't lay two eggs in a row. BRONCOS 24-20.

        PATRIOTS (3-1) at DOLPHINS (3-1): Miami has a 12-0 record at home against the Pats in September and October. NE's weakness against the run has been exposed, and Ricky Williams could have another big day. He's second in the league with 460 yards on 82 carries. DOLPHINS 20-17.

        RAVENS (1-2) at BROWNS (2-2): First place is at stake in the NFL's weakest division. Baltimore came back to life Monday night. Its defense, personified by linebacker Ray Lewis, can still dominate. Upset special. Baltimore coach Brian Billick is 4-2 against the Browns, and both losses came to Butch Davis last season.

        RAVENS 16-13.

        RAMS (0-4) at 49ERS (2-1): SF won 17 in a row over the Rams before the Rams began their current six-game winning streak. Today, a new streak could start. Jamie Martin is no Kurt Warner. Martin is no Jeff Garcia. 49ERS 28-21.

        PACKERS (3-1) at BEARS (2-2): All of a sudden, Chicago is losing the close games. Its defense has been hit hard by injuries; four starters are out for extended periods. Green Bay has too much offense for Bears backups to stop.

        PACKERS 24-17.

        BUCS (3-1) at FALCONS (1-2): If there is a defense quick and fast enough to neutralize Michael Vick, it's Tampa Bay's. The Bucs' offense is balanced and efficient.

        BUCS 22-17.

        RAIDERS (3-0) at BILLS (2-2): Rich Gannon (998 passing yards in three games) and Drew Bledsoe (10 TDs, 2 INTs, 1,345 yards) will have sore arms when this one's over with. Game will feature top three active pass reception leaders in Jerry Rice (1,384), Tim Brown (954) and Larry Centers (777). RAIDERS 35-31.

        CARDINALS (2-2) at PANTHERS (3-1): Two of the league's most surprising teams square off in a game that should be decided by Carolina's ability to intercept Arizona's Jake Plummer. Carolina has had time of possession advantage in all four of its games.

        PANTHERS 20-16.

        GIANTS (2-2) at COWBOYS (2-2): Kerry Collins' late first-half interception helped turn the tide in last week's loss at Arizona. NY faces another long trip to another tough city, where the new

        RealGrass at Texas Stadium won't soften their fall. COWBOYS 17-13.

        STEELERS (1-2) at SAINTS (3-1): Former Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Jim Haslett faces his old boss, Bill Cowher. Shreveport, La., native Tommy Maddox will make his first start for the Steelers, but he's no match for New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks, who must cut down interception total.

        SAINTS 23-18.

        REDSKINS (1-2) at TITANS (1-3): It doesn't matter whom Steve Spurrier decides to start at quarterback (probably Danny Wuerffel), he'll have a good day against a terrible Titans pass defense. REDSKINS 27-23.

        CHIEFS (2-2) at JETS (1-3): Nobody can stop KC's offense (Priest Holmes has 570 yards of total offense). And NY's defense can't stop anybody. Jets QB Chad Pennington gets start over Vinny Testaverde.

        CHIEFS 38-24.

        EAGLES (3-1) at JAGUARS (2-1): This is a tough game for Philadelphia, even though it is one of the league's best road teams. Five Philly receivers are on pace to have 48 or more receptions. Donovan McNabb has a

        new contract and a wealth of good receivers.

        Odd fact: When the Eagles played Houston last week, three of their players -- punter Sean Landeta, running back Brian Mitchell and cornerback Troy Vincent -- became the first players to play against 32 NFL teams. Now, back to this week. EAGLES 30-24.

        LAST WEEK: 7-7.

        SEASON: 37-23.


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