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November 2001

Nov. 29, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 11/29 - 12/3/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NFL - Thursday, Nov. 29

Philadelphia (6-4) -3 KANSAS CITY (3-7) 8:30 p.m. - The Eagles absolutely maul people on the road, with solid whippings over Dallas, Arizona, the Giants and Seattle already, you might as well add the Chiefs to the list of road kills. Philly's defense (second only to Pittsburgh in points allowed) should be able to handle the anemic KC offense, grab a few errant Trent Green passes and the offense will put up enough points to put everyone to sleep early here. The line is short due to KCs win and Philly's loss last week. Don't believe the hype. The Eagles are a much better team and will roll here. ATS: Philly is 4-0 on the road; KC 1-3-1 at home. Philly in a FOUR STAR PICK.

NCAA Football - Saturday, December 1

Army -1 1/2 (55) Navy - at Philadelphia - in a game that is more about respect than football at this point in time, I will not make a pick on this game, but rather offer a salute to our brave men and women in uniform. God bless our armed forces and God Bless America!

Miami (11-0) -14 (49) VIRGINIA TECH (9-2) - No doubt in my mind that Miami is the best college team in America. This one requires little analysis as the Hurricanes, barring bad weather, will romp here en route to a National Championship. Miami in a BEST BET.

PURDUE (6-4) -1 1/2 (40) Notre Dame (4-6) - The Fighting Irish have looked better and better defensively every week and the only reason they lost to Stanford last week 17-13 was because the rain stopped and their offense couldn't complete a pass all night. It's a legitimate concern, as the Irish need to pass occasionally, but against Purdue, not very often. All the Irish can gain here is knocking Purdue out of a bowl game and that will be motivation enough. Purdue has a porous defense, especially susceptible to the running game. Notre Dame gets their first road win of the season.

BYU (11-0) -4 (59) at MISSISSIPPI STATE (3-7) - Talk about a mind-blower! BYU has a shot at an undefeated season, but they still have to get by the Bulldogs and Hawaii, both on the road. MSU has underperformed all season, but last week they woke up and put a whipping on their main rival, Mississippi. While BYU has everything at stake, the Bulldogs have nothing to lose and will pull out all stops in this one. BYU's games have been getting closer every week and they barely escaped with a 24-21 win over Utah in their last game. While BYU has cruised through an easy Mountain West Conference schedule, MSU had to play a very tough SEC slate and they may in fact be the better team. Take the points in this THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

FLORIDA (9-1) -17 1/2 (53 1/2 ) Tennessee (9-1) - Don't be fooled by the size of this line. Florida is a great team and they have all the right in the world to be ranked #2 behind Miami. The Volunteers, however, are 2 points from being undefeated, with their only loss coming against Georgia earlier in the season. Of course, Florida only lost once, in the rain, to Auburn, 13-10. It's easy to think that Florida may have the best team in the nation, but the Tennessee squad has spent all season jelling, just for this game. Florida may win this one, but it won't be easy. A turnover or two could change the entire nature of this contest. The winner of this one faces the winner of the Auburn-LSU tilt in the SEC Championship next week. While I am not going to predict an outright Tennessee win, I do think they will lose by less than this generous line.

OREGON (9-1) -10 1/2 (56 1/2 ) Oregon St. (5-5) - Oregon gets the ultimate advantage here, the home field. While Oregon State will no doubt put up a struggle, their losses have been lopsided, averaging a 15-point margin. They've been totally outclassed by UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Fresno State, and their only close loss was by 3 to USC. Oregon is an offensive juggernaut, and a better team than any of the aforementioned. Oregon in a FOUR STAR PICK.

FLORIDA STATE (6-4) -11 (59) Georgia Tech (7-4) - The Seminoles will not be going to a major bowl game for the first time in what seems eons, but they are still much better than the Bumblebees from Georgia Tech. Florida State will make a very loud statement for next year here, and win in a romp. THREE STAR PICK.

LSU (7-3) -7 (50 1/2 ) Auburn (7-3) - The winner here gets the winner of the Florida-Tennessee game in the SEC Championship next week, so everything is on the line for both teams. Arguably, LSU has the better team and, of course, home field advantage, which means quite a bit here. Rohan Davey was spectacular in last week's win over Arkansas, while Auburn, when last seen, was getting throttled by Alabama - at home - 31-7. This could turn into a very lopsided affair if Auburn can't stop RB LaBrandon Toefield and Davey's favorite target WR Josh Reed. LSU in a BEST BET.

TEXAS (10-1) -8 1/2 (54 1/2 ) Colorado (9-2) - Here are two teams that very few believed would be in the Big 12 Championship before last Saturday. But, Colorado romped over Nebraska and Oklahoma State pulled off the stunner of the season, beating Oklahoma. While the Longhorns have put up impressive numbers, they are up against one of the most improved teams in the nation. Either team gets an automatic BCS Bowl game with a win, and while the Buffaloes looked incredible against Nebraska, don't expect a repeat performance here. The Texas defense throttled Colorado on Oct. 20 by a 41-7 score. The Buffaloes won't be able to stop Teas RB Cedric Benson and the hot hand of QB Chris Simms. Texas wins this one in a rout. FOUR STAR PICK.

NFL - Sunday, Dec. 2

NEW ORLEANS (5-5) -10 Carolina (1-10) - 1:00 p.m. - Both of these teams are up-and-down types, and considering how close Carolina stays in most divisional games, the 10 points looks like a good deal on a bad game. Take the Panthers in a very ugly pick.

MIAMI (7-3) -3 Denver (6-5) -1:00 p.m. - Miami, despite their 24-point explosion in the 4th quarter last week against Buffalo, has an offense that bogs down quite often, and if unable to rush effectively, could play into Denver's hands. While the Broncos are not a powerhouse on either side of the ball, they do get an extra few days to prepare for this one and will, no doubt, add a few new wrinkles on offense. Both of these teams have more offensive weapons than defense, so look for a shootout, with Brian Griese and the Broncos pulling out a late win. Denver in the UPSET SPECIAL.

CHICAGO (8-2) -7 1/2 Detroit (0-10) - 1:00 p.m. - The Bears, coming off their Sunday night 13-6 win over Minnesota, head back home to take on a seemingly easier opponent in the winless Lions, who, despite their record, have managed to cover the line in half of their games, with a sparkling 3-1 record ATS against divisional opponents, the same as the Bears. The problem here is mostly on the Bears side, because Detroit will pull out all stops here including fake punts, going on 4th downs, etc. Whether that works for the Lions is all up to the Bears' defense, one of the top three in the league. The Lions run the ball the least of any team in the NFL. The Bears excel against the pass, while the Lions have given up a league worst 29.1 points per game. Another long day for Lions fans.

BALTIMORE (7-4) -7 Indianapolis (4-6) - 1:00 p.m. - The Colts are in serious trouble and have been ever since losing Eggerin James for the season. Having now lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last five. The Colts have taken a serious nosedive and heading into Baltimore with the season pretty much on the line does not bode well for this squad. Head coach Jim Mora was livid after last week's loss to the 49ers, citing the offense for the 40-21 loss. That's not a good sign, as the Colts are basically Payton Manning's team. Baltimore has a load of injuries on defense, which will help the Colts in the one area in which they still do well - scoring points. Baltimore has trouble scoring, so even the Indy defense will look good here. Take the Colts in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

PITTSBURGH (8-2) -7 Minnesota (4-6) - 1:00 p.m. - If the Steelers were watching Sunday night's Minnesota-Chicago game, they saw what they could do to shut down the Vikings' offense. They also saw a moody and lazy Randy Moss, who is showing signs of brooding when things are not going his way - not a good sign for a supposed superstar. The Vikings have an uphill battle to make the playoffs and it doesn't get one bit easier against the best points-allowed defense in the league. The Steelers will dominate the overmatched Vikings and win this one big. Steelers in another BEST BET.

N.Y. JETS (7-3) -3 New England (6-5) - 1:00 p.m. - This is a huge matchup with plenty of rivalry elements and playoff implications. The Jets have been on cruise control, with their defense and balanced offense leading the way to four straight wins, while the Pats have fared well mostly at home, putting together some solid wins. Both teams are playing solidly on both sides of the ball, but this one is just too close to call. Take the Jets in a marginal proposition.

Tampa Bay (5-5) -3 CINCINNATI (4-6) - 1:00 p.m. - The Bucs played almost brilliantly against the Rams on Monday night and came away with a much-needed win. They should find the Cincinnati offense a little easier to handle, and with playoff hopes still alive, the Bucs look like a solid play here. THREE STAR PICK.

CLEVELAND (6-4) -1 Tennessee (4-6) - 1:00 p.m. - The Cleveland defense has held three consecutive divisional opponents to a total of 32 points, and the Titans come into Cleveland with the season squarely on the line. Though playing better than they did in the early part of the season, the Titans still have managed to lose their last two, to Baltimore and Pittsburgh, so a loss to the Browns would probably finish them. The odds favor the Browns, as they are 5-0-1 ATS at home, the Titans 1-4 ATS on the road, though 2-3 straight up. If the trend is your friend, all of this points to a Cleveland win.

SEATTLE (5-5) -3 San Diego (5-6) 4:05 p.m. - An interesting game between two teams seemingly going in opposite directions. After a 3-0 start, the Chargers have gone a miserable 2-6 (losing their last 4), while the Seahawks have been up-and-down all season. ATS, the Chargers are an ugly 1-4 on the road, while the Seahawks are a reasonable 3-2 at home. Both teams have the slimmest of playoff hopes, but the Seahawks, despite the points allowed, have a better defense and are have shown signs of becoming very solid offensively. Take the Seahawks in what may be a close one, but should result in a Seattle win.

OAKLAND (8-2) -13 1/2 Arizona (4-6) - 4:15 p.m. - This should be one of the biggest lines of the week, as the best team in the AFC takes on one of the NFC's worst. Arizona's wins have come against Philly (by one point), Kansas City, Detroit and San Diego - teams with a combined 14-27 record - while the Raiders have lost only to the Seahawks and Miami, and both of those were on the road. Look for the Raiders to execute brilliantly on offense as usual, stifle the inconsistent Cardinals offense and run away with this one. BEST BET.

WASHINGTON (5-5) -8 1/2 Dallas (2-8) - 4:15 p.m. - The Redskins have turned their entire season around, losing the first five and now winning the last five. Their last loss was to these same Cowboys, a 9-7 loss on a prime time Monday night. What's that they say about payback? This one will be a shellacking of the first order. Washington in a FOUR STAR PICK.

St. Louis (8-2) -8 ATLANTA (6-4) - 4:15 p.m. - The Rams have had turnover problems galore and the loss on Monday to Tampa Bay has to be a sure sign that coughing up the pigskin needs to be addressed right now. Look for St. Louis to play with a little more control of the football and come away with a win and cover of this line. Atlanta is in very good shape playoff-wise, but are going up against the league's best offense. If the Rams can win the turnover battle, they should win this easily.

SAN FRANCISCO (8-2) -9 Buffalo (1-9) - 8:30 p.m. - This one looks like it could be a pretty lopsided affair, but think twice. The Bills have been close in most of their road games, and their only win was on the road against Jacksonville, also a night game on ESPN. The Bills can stop the run effectively, which is what the Niners need to set up their passing game. This one could be much closer than what people believe. The Bills probably won't win this game, but I give them a marginal nod here.

NFL - Monday, Dec. 3

Green Bay (7-3) -3 JACKSONVILLE (3-7) - 9:00 p.m. - I don't know that the Jags shouldn't be the favorites here. The Packers have a good team, but Brett Favre has had a few bad games this season, and as it wears on, more weight is put on his shoulders. The Jags have nothing at all to lose here, and a win might just spark a little interest for the rest of the season. Some of the toughest teams to beat are the loose ones and Jacksonville certainly fits that mold. This could be a high-scoring shootout and the Jaguars may just come out on top.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Nov. 20, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 11-22-26-01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

Thursday, November 22 - NFL

Green Bay (6-3) -6 1/2 (46) at Detroit (0-9) - Woe is Detroit. They catch Green Bay after a rare home loss. Favre threw three interceptions in that loss, but the Falcons outgained the Packers, had 25 first downs to the Packers 14, and a sizable edge in time of possession. There isn't much to say about the Lions except that their offense has improved. Whether that's enough against a hungry Packer team is pretty doubtful. Favre, who threw three interceptions in last week's loss, usually rebounds well from those kinds of efforts. These two teams met in week #1. The result: Green Bay 28, Detroit 6. Looks like more of the same. Green Bay in a FOUR STAR PICK.

Denver (5-5) -6 1/2 (40 1/2 ) DALLAS (2-7) - Dallas may be able to generate some offense against the Broncos, who are just a shade below ordinary on defense, and horrible on the road - 1-3 straight up and ATS. The line will look like a Thanksgiving gift from our pals in Las Vegas if it goes to 7 or higher.

NCAA Football

ILLINOIS (9-1) -17 1/2 Northwestern (4-6) - After knocking off Ohio State, everyone is taking the Illini seriously, as they have a legitimate shot at the Big Ten Title and a BCS bid. This game looks somewhat like a walkover for Illinois, as the Northwestern defense is particularly prone to giving up big plays and QB Kurt Kittner will take advantage. Northwestern's defense has given up 158 points in its last three games to Indiana (56), Iowa (59) and Bowling Green (43) - not exactly household names for power offenses. This line may look like a bundle to some, but Illinois should be able to put up 35 points easily and cruise to their tenth win of the season. Make Illinois a BEST BET.

Mississippi (6-3) -3 MISSISSIPPI ST. (2-7) - The wheels fell off the MSU train long ago and this looks like the end of the line for one of the worst-performing units in college football this season. The line is short because this is a heated rivalry, but Ole Miss has a huge advantage on both sides of the ball. An early lead by the Rebels could turn this into a rout.

NCAA Football - Friday, November 23

Texas (9-1) -12 TEXAS A & M (7-3) - Texas A & M has only scored more than 24 points in one contest this year - against defense-challenged Wyoming, while the Longhorns have scored over 40 in all but one of their wins, and that lone loss was to Oklahoma. This game looks like a mismatch, even though it is in the Aggies' yard. With a substantial edge in every meaningful statistical category, the Longhorns should win this by 3 TDs or more. FOUR STAR PICK.

LSU (6-3) -9 1/2 Arkansas (7-3) - The Razorbacks have been one of the SEC's sweetest surprises, now having won 6 straight after a slow 1-3 start, including wins over South Carolina, Mississippi and Auburn. Head coach Houston Nutt should be considered for coach of the year in the SEC, as this unit was not expected to do much, but they find themselves in a nice spot here. Playing in the swamp at LSU is always difficult, but two of the Tigers three losses came on home turf. QB Rohan Davey is a dangerous passer and runner, but the Arkansas defense is very opportunistic and will record a couple of takeaways here. LSU has not beaten a team with a winning record this season and look to be up against it here. The 9 1/2 point spread is a real bonus as Arkansas can win this straight up. Arkansas rates a BEST BET UPSET SPECIAL.

Nebraska (11-0) -10 COLORADO (8-2) - No doubt about it, Colorado has a very good football team. Problem is, Nebraska is a great football team. On the road, Nebraska has outscored opponents 135-17, and though this figures to be a hard-hitting affair, nobody has been able to effectively stop Nebraska's dominating, creative offense. The Huskers' Eric Crouch is once again the key to victory here and the Colorado defense just does not have enough speed or stamina to stop him and his teammates. Look for Nebraska to roll big time here in a THREE STAR PICK.

Saturday, November 24

SYRACUSE (8-3) -4 1/2 Boston College (7-3) - Overall, Boston College has a better offense than Syracuse - who showed last week against Miami a complete inability to throw the football - and a better defense, which is very adept at stuffing he run, Syracuse's strong suit. While the 'Cuse gets the advantage of being in the dome, BC looks like the stronger of the two teams and can close out their season with a nice win and a trip to a solid bowl game. Boston College can spring the THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

MICHIGAN (8-2) -9 Ohio St. (6-4) - Having lost all hope of winning the Big Ten title, Ohio State finds itself in the role of spoiler against arch-nemesis Michigan. he Wolverines have not lost at home this season, with their average margin of victory in home games a whopping 19.5. Steve Bellisari will not start at QB for the Buckeyes after his suspension for DUI last week, though he will probably be inserted after the first series of downs. This is just too important a game for him to sit out. Regardless, the Wolverines can lock up the Big Ten title (essentially a tie with Illinois, though Michigan beat them straight up 45-20) with this game and have owned the Buckeyes in recent years. Michigan should roll here.

MIAMI (9-0) -25 1/2 Washington (8-2) - Miami looked like a #1 or #2 team should last week, thumping Syracuse 59-0, and they seem to be at the top of their game. The Huskies do pose some problems, however, as they have a balanced attack and a pretty good defense themselves. They have quality wins over Michigan, Stanford and Washington State, but lopsided losses to UCLA and Oregon State. This line is huge and very tempting because Miami may be a little overconfident, though they put up monster numbers against practically everyone they play. If this turns into a statement game for Florida it could be lights out early. It will be interesting to see if the Huskies can contain the potent Hurricane offense. Last season, Washington beat Miami, in Washington, 34-29 early in the season, but both teams are quite different. Tough game to bet, but I like Miami to play hard and score another big win.

STANFORD (7-2) -7 1/2 Notre Dame (4-5) - Notre struggles both on the road and especially against quality teams, of which Stanford is one. The Irish have not beaten a team with a winning record this season, so I don't expect them to beat the Cardinal on the road. Stanford is one of the top Pac-10 teams and will dominate this game, and should cover this line handily.

GEORGIA TECH (7-3) -2 1/2 Georgia (6-3) - Georgia was very impressive in their win over Mississippi last week, coming away with a 35-15 win and putting it together in all aspects. They are peaking right now and will put up a strong performance in this intrastate rivalry. Georgia Tech squeaked out a win over Wake Forest, 38-33, but did manage to stop the Demon deacons late in the game. Both teams sport high-flying balanced offenses, and defenses which are prone to giving up big plays, of which there should be many in this contest. In a high-scoring affair, look for the Georgia Bulldogs to eke out a win.

NFL - Sunday, November 25

JACKSONVILLE (3-6) -3 (34) Baltimore (6-4) - The health of QB Mark Brunell is in question, thus the over/under line is off the board right now. Baltimore sorely needs a win here, and the two squared off just three weeks ago in Charm City, with the Ravens coming out on top of a 18-17 win. Baltimore playing just a shade better than the Jags, so they are a lukewarm pick in a somewhat unbettable game.

Miami (6-3) -5 1/2 (36) BUFFALO (1-8) - This is a bitter rivalry, and that is not going to be lost on this current batch of Bills, who came close last week against Seattle. Miami is about as flat as a pancake and don't offer many surprises on offense for the Bills to handle. Getting a load of points at home is an added bonus. Look for Buffalo to pull off the UPSET SPECIAL.

TENNESSEE (4-5) -2 (34 1/2 ) Pittsburgh (7-2) - Even though the Titans have played better of late, they do have problems at home and on defense. The Steelers put a 34-7 beating on them just three weeks ago, so all that's changed is the venue. The two points may just be meaningless in a game the Steelers can and should win. Pittsburgh continues to roll towards the playoffs and the bus does not stop in Tennessee. Pittsburgh in the week's BEST BET.

INDIANAPOLIS (4-5) -3 (52) San Francisco (7-2) - The Colts are completely lost on defense. Teams with good running games are dominating them and the 49ers have a great trio of runners, plus a potent passing attack. Without Eggerin James to balance the offense, the Colts are hurting and one-dimensional. James' loss is enormous to this team and San Francisco will take advantage in this FOUR STAR PICK.

KANSAS CITY (2-7) -1 (41) Seattle (5-4) - The Seahawks face their second consecutive road game, but guess what, the Chiefs are winless at home this season, straight up and ATS. Seattle is playing about as well as they can right now, while the season for the Chiefs has been over for a couple of weeks now. The Seahawks will control the offensive and defensive line play and dominate here.

Philadelphia (6-3) -8 1/2 (37 1/2 ) Washington (4-5) - The 'Skins have now won four in a row, knocking off the Broncos in Denver last week. Philly, however, is blowing away the opposition and looking better every week. Streaks end badly, especially in Philly. Eagles should enjoy another afternoon of progress in this THREE STAR PICK.

Atlanta (5-4) -3 (40) CAROLINA (1-9) - The Falcons continue to amaze, but they are well-coached and Chris Chandler has been impressive, playing very much within himself. Atlanta handed the Panthers a 24-16 loss in Atlanta in week two, but Carolina's 3-1 ATS record at home has to be respected here. The Panthers will probably make a game of this and possibly pull off the upset.

CLEVELAND (5-4) -6 (35 1/2 ) Cincinnati (4-5) - Cincinnati is folding. The Browns are winning, now having defeated the defending champion Ravens twice. This looks like a massive mismatch. The Browns are looking forward to the playoffs and should not stumble here. Cincy did knock off the Browns 24-14 in week 5, and the Browns need a split to stay in the playoff hunt. Browns are 4-0-1 at home ATS, Bengals are 1-4 as road dogs. Browns in a FOUR STAR PICK.

New Orleans (5-4) -1 (42) NEW ENGLAND (5-5) - The Saints are going to run into a buzzsaw of a defense against the Pats, thus the short line. New England can adjust to whatever the Saints throw at them. The Saints play pretty good defense themselves, so look for this to be a low-scoring affair, possibly the best under bet of the week. Difficult to choose between these two teams, but the Patriots have the edge at home and the line is a little out of whack. Why aren't the Pats favored? A brewing QB controversy between Bledsoe and Brady? The Pats are 2-0 ATS vs. NFC West opposition and deserve more respect than this line is giving them.

SAN DIEGO (5-5) -7 (43 1/2 ) Arizona (3-6) - The Chargers should have a field day against the Cardinals defense (doesn't everyone?) and be able to manage them defensively. The Charger defense does suffer some lapses, but not as prolonged or as costly as Arizona's. THREE STAR PICK.

Oakland (7-2) -2 1/2 (39) N.Y. GIANTS (5-5) - The Raiders are playing roughly the best football in the league right now, while the Giants cannot seem to figure out how to move the ball consistently on offense. They are also coming off consecutive road games and are back in NY, where the press has been turning up the heat, mostly on RB Ron Dayne, who continues to look like a mistake, being drafted #1 by the Giants two years ago. But penalties and inconsistency in the running game and play calling have hurt the G-Men as well. The defense has not looked sharp either and the Monday nighter could actually have been a lot worse. The Raiders should manage this game well enough to win. THREE STAR PICK.

MINNESOTA (4-5) -3 (45) Chicago (7-2) - Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper has been struggling to find a rhythm on offense but they seem to have found it in Monday night's win over the Giants. Chicago won at home 17-10 over the Vikings in week 2. The Vikes are a different team in the Metrodome, however, and that has to come into play. I would not be surprised to see the Vikings win this one, but the Bears have been a great bet all season long. Take the Bears as a marginal choice.

Monday, November 26

ST. LOUIS (8-1) -10 1/2 (46) Tampa Bay (4-5) - The Bucs better bring some extra offense to this game, because their lack of it is killing their defense, forcing them to be on the field too much every game. The Rams continue to roll along, though turnovers in the last three games have been atrocious and cause for some concern. Neither the Rams nor the Bucs have been particularly good bets (4-4-1 and 3-6, respectively), and the Bucs have not lost a game by more than 7 points all year - 3 losses were by 3 points, one by one and the 7-point lass was to Pittsburgh. The Bucs know how to defend against St. Louis, but they will be pressured all night long. Their offense is the big question mark in this one, but they seem to have enough to cover here and maybe pull off a stunner in a season that's been full of them.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Nov. 13, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 11/15 - 11/19/01

posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football - Thursday, November 15

It's rivalry weekend in college football, and that usually means two things: throw out the stats, and take the points if they are more than six. Three games look ripe for upsets: Virginia - Va. Tech; Florida State - Florida; Wake Forest - Georgia Tech - and two of them - Wake Forest and Virginia - are at home. Enjoy!

EAST CAROLINA (6-3) -1 1/2 Louisville (9-1) - Conference USA grabs the spotlight in the Thursday night special, and the brass at ESPN could not have picked a better match. Both teams are 5-0 in conference play and the winner takes all the marbles and the top bowl bid. East Carolina is the favorite, despite their three losses, all to quality teams, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Syracuse, while Louisville only loss came against Illinois, a Big Ten powerhouse. While both of these squads can put up plenty of points, the Louisville defense will prove to be the difference in this one, as they limit opponents to 14.7 points per game. East Carolina? They give up an average of 25.4 per game. That's just not good enough to get it done against Louisville and their strong arm QB Dave Ragone. Louisville ranks as a BEST BET.

Saturday, November 17

Maryland (9-1) -3 NC STATE (6-3) - This is what college football is all about. Maryland needs this game to win the ACC, and while NC State has no shot at the title, a win here, coupled with last week's upset over Florida State could go a long way towards a nice bowl bid and future recruiting. The Wolfpack have strung together three straight wins and will be very tough at home, but their defense is not their strong suit, while Maryland excels against the run. The game may come down to how well the Terps can contain NC State QB Phillip Rivers - an emerging star - in the passing game. If they do a decent job, their offense should be able to score enough points and control the pace of the game to put the matter to rest midway through the 4th quarter. I like Maryland to win and cover, but it will not be easy against a loose and fiery Wolfpack.

Georgia Tech (6-3) -7 1/2 WAKE FOREST (5-4) - Preseason, Georgia Tech was ranked as high as 7th in the country and some pundits were picking them to win the ACC, but, after close losses to Clemson, 47-44, Maryland, 20-17 and Virginia, 39-38, they are unranked and can only hope for a minor bowl bid. On the other hand, nobody expected much of anything from Wake Forest, a perennial walkover for ACC teams, but the Demon Deacons have played with poise and panache in all of their games. They have lost only one game by more than 7 points, to Florida State, so they play hard and never give up. I'm looking for a relatively uninspired effort from Georgia Tech, while Wake Forest plays upbeat before their home crowd. Like most ACC games this season, anything can happen, and a win by Wake Forest would surprise nobody. Another UPSET SPECIAL.

OHIO STATE (6-3) -2 1/2 Illinois (8-1) - A huge game for both squads with the Big Ten Title on the line. Illinois is 5-1 in the conference, Ohio State 4-2 with a showdown with Michigan slated for next week. The huge difference in this game is on offense, where Kurt Kittner leads the Illini week after week to wins, while the Buckeyes depend on defense to carry their somewhat stumbling, inefficient offense. Make no doubt, however, the Buckeyes have a solid team, as their losses have been slim (13-7 to UCLA, 20-17 to Wisconsin and 29-27 to Penn State on the last play of the game). Along with the serious matter of containing the Illinois offense, the Buckeyes must fight against the potential of looking ahead to next week's game at Michigan. They need to win here to stay in the running; a loss here would make the Michigan game important only to the Wolverines and Illini. So they must play focused and being at home before a huge crowd should help. In a very tough call, I will side with Illinois, because they continue to come through with wins week after week. THREE STAR PICK.

MISSISSIPPI (6-2) -2 Georgia (5-3) - Another solid tilt in the SEC pits two of the better offenses in the conference in a game without implications except minor bowl placing, so look for these offenses to light it up. Eli Manning is one f the best pure throwers to come along in a while, and he'll be certain to put on a show against one of the more porous secondaries in the SEC. Pretty light line considering that Mississippi may just run (make that pass) away and hide. An early lead by the Rebels could turn this into a rout.

Oklahoma (9-1) -8 TEXAS TECH (6-3) - Even though Texas Tech has run up three straight wins, they were hardly of the caliber of Oklahoma. Tech's QB Kliff Kingsbury will not be able to put up more than 17 points against one of the toughest defenses in the country, and that adds up to a loss, because the Sooners average 35 points per game. OU QB Nate Hybl, when healthy, can get the offense in gear with a nice mix of running and passing. Texas Tech doesn't have the horses to stop them. Oklahoma in a THREE STAR PICK.

AUBURN (7-2) -3 Alabama (4-5) - This game looks somewhat like a mismatch, but actually these teams are a lot closer than one might think by looking at their records. Against common opponents they are even, except against Arkansas, who upset Auburn 42-17, while Alabama beat the Razorbacks back in September. It must be remembered that Arkansas is a much better team right now than they were earlier, so the comparison may not be useful. Auburn will have to depend on its running game and defense to win this, and the home field is a big advantage. Auburn is 4-1 at home against the Crimson Tide (this game was played on a neutral site until 1993). An interesting stat: only once in the past 50 years has a team with a losing record won this game, so the numbers seem to be pointing Auburn's way. Add to the mix the fact that Auburn can wrap up the SEC West title and there you have it. Slim line, but one Auburn certainly can cover, if they win the turnover battle, which they should. FOUR STAR PICK.

MIAMI (9-0) -21 Syracuse (8-2) - Miami looked pitiful against Boston College last week and were fortunate to come out of that game with a win. Imagine what the line might have been had they lost - maybe -10? This is one of those games that comes along every once in a while and you must take full advantage of it. Syracuse played poorly against West Virginia last week, though the outcome - the Orangemen's 8th straight win - was never in doubt. They were looking ahead to this game, so I can give them an excuse. Miami's failure to take advantage of Boston College early and put the game away (9 first half points), showed that they can have problems in the red zone. Syracuse has one of the best defenses in the country and can handle the Miami offense, plus, they have an enormous edge on special teams. I would not be surprised to see Syracuse block either a punt or a field goal attempt while dominating on punt and kickoff returns. Miami may be undefeated, but Syracuse is the best team they've seen this season, and I don't think they are up to a 3-TD win. Take the generous line and ride it on the BEST BET UPSET SPECIAL.

Michigan (7-2) -5 1/2 WISCONSIN (5-5) - Michigan needs to win here to maintain its lead in the Big Ten title race and should have little problem with the Badgers, who have underperformed throughout the season. The Badgers will have a difficult time containing the Michigan offense, especially their All-American wideout, Marquis Walker. This should be a very dominant effort by Michigan, as they look forward to ending their season at home next week against Ohio State. A stumble by the Wolverines would be unlikely and therefore they are a BEST BET.

SOUTH CAROLINA (7-3) -4 Clemson (5-4) - South Carolina got a taste of real competition last week, being routed by the Florida Gators. It was one of those "put up or shut up" games and the Gamecocks were shut up in a big way. Following a humbling loss like that, they have to regroup to take on the dangerous Clemson Tigers, in a huge rivalry game. Clemson QB, Woody Dantzler, if he brings his A game, will create havoc in the SC secondary, mostly with his designed runs and scrambles, and the maligned Clemson secondary should be able to step up against a weak SC passing game. In a game which could go either way, I like Clemson to pull off the minor upset.

UCLA (6-3) -3 1/2 at USC (5-5) - Can USC ruin their cross town rival's season completely with a win here? I think the question begs the question, as UCLA has gone from 6-0 to 603 in a hurry and their season is somewhat shot - from looking like a BCS contender to becoming a pretender. Still, they have a potent offense, one of the best defenses in the country (ranked 23rd) and Southern Cal has shown, over the course of the season, an ability to come up short in big games (just look at their record). They've beaten nobody of any caliber, UCLA now has virtually nothing to lose, and should take out a lot of frustration on their fellow SoCal homies. I like UCLA to win this, and win it big. THREE STAR PICK.

Virginia Tech (7-2) -14 1/2 VIRGINIA (4-6) - A statistical nightmare for Virginia on paper. The Virginia Tech defense allows an average of 216 yards per game, while Virginia's defense allows a whopping 416. The offenses are about evenly matched, with V-Tech holding an edge in rushing. Since Virginia is unable to move the ball on the ground against anyone, they certainly will not have much success against the Virginia Tech defense. If they pass, they are throwing into the #5 ranked pass defense in the nation. Granted, V-Tech got healthy against teams like Rutgers, Temple and Western Michigan and have registered four shutouts, but were upset by Pittsburgh and Syracuse, so they are vulnerable if their offense is unproductive. Looking at the difference in schedules, Virginia has had it tough, with wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, but losses to Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, wake Forest and NC State - all solid opponents - while the Hokies breezed through a relatively easy schedule. The difference in this game may be Virginia QB Bryson Spinner, a surprise starter in Virginia's upset 39-38 win over Georgia Tech last week, who was 32 of 46 for 327 yards with five touchdowns. I smell a big-time upset in the making here. The Cavaliers have nothing to lose, but the world to gain. THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

FLORIDA (8-1) -15 Florida St. (6-3) - One would be tempted to believe that this line is a little inflated, as Florida State has now lost three games this season (that hasn't happened in a long time) and is now more than a two-touchdown underdog (that has never happened with Bobby Bowden coaching). Granted, those three losses look pretty bad, but Florida State is still among the best in the country and they have to prove themselves in this game. While Florida is clearly the class of the SEC, this game is nothing less than a bowl matchup, a fierce rivalry, and a chance for Florida State to ruin somebody else's season. While I can see how this game could turn into a rout for Florida, I can also sense that the Seminoles will install an offense that will limit Florida's touches. On defense, there really is no way to stop the Florida offense, so the best thing to do is keep the ball out of their hands. Florida State has a good enough rushing attack to control the clock somewhat, and put up at least three touchdowns, which should be enough to cover. Florida State in the UPSET SPECIAL.

NFL - Sunday, November 18

NEW ORLEANS (4-4) -5 1/2 (47 1/2) Indianapolis (4-4) - Call this one the battle of the underperformers. Both teams were supposed to be playoff contenders, but after this game one of them will fall under .500. The Colts face an uphill battle, being without RB Eggerin James for the third straight week, while their defense has allowed an NFL-worst 224 points at the halfway point of the season, so even the Saints, with their on-and-off offense should be able to put up plenty of points. Look for Rickey Williams to break out against the Colts weak run defense and the Saints blitz package to force some hurries and sacks on Indy QB Peyton Manning.

MIAMI (6-2) -6 (37 1/2 ) N.Y. Jets (6-3) - As usual, the Dolphins are doing it with defense, holding opponents to under 100 yards rushing per game, which seems to be the task at hand, as the Jets will feature NFL-leading rusher Curtis Martin. The Jets have found a formula that works for them, getting the maximum out of Martin and Testaverde's throws to Coles and Chrevet. Santana Moss may make his NFL debut this week for the Jets, which could provide help on special teams. Also, the Jets' defense has improved greatly since John Abraham returned at defensive end three weeks ago and they have the league's best turnover ratio. As if the Jets need anything more going their way in this tilt, they have won seven straight from the Dolphins. Look for a close, low-scoring game with the Jets right in it until the end. A field goal could win it. Jets to spring the THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

Philadelphia (5-3) -7 (37) DALLAS (2-6) - The Cowboys are ranked sixth in the NFL in defense, the Eagles 8th, but there is a big discrepancy in offenses, with the Eagles holding the edge. Philly will not be able to put up as many points as they did last week against the helpless Vikings - in fact, they may struggle a bit, but the Dallas offense should struggle even more. I don't like the Cowboys' chances of winning this game, but the Eagles are on the road here, giving 7 and that's always tough to cover. Take the Cowboys in a low-scoring affair.

San Francisco (6-2) -8 1/2 (46) CAROLINA (1-8) - Chris Weinke will probably be able to go at QB for the Panthers, and that's about all the good news there is in this one. The problem with this game is the 8 1/2 points, as San Francisco has had trouble putting people away most of the season. This line may go even higher, as Carolina looks like the worst team in the league right now, but covering this won't be easy for the 49ers. Carolina may not win this game, but they will keep it close and lose by a touchdown or less.

Seattle (4-4) -3 1/2 (39) BUFFALO (1-7) - Seattle is beginning to put it together, with Shawn Alexander emerging as one the the league's best running backs and Matt Hasselbeck beginning to get comfortable in the West Coast offense. That comfort zone may be enhanced this week, as the Bills don't rush the passer very well. The Bills will start Brad Van Pelt, who actually throws better than Rob Johnson (OUT), and will not take as many sacks, but who is prone to the untimely interception. The few times Van Pelt has played, however, the Bills moved the ball effectively. Getting the start is big for Van Pelt and the Bills, and if he doesn't make bad decisions, Buffalo might find themselves with a lead late in this one. Getting points a home is a bonus. Interestingly, the Bills are 0-4 ATS at home, while the Seahawks are 0-3 ATS on the road. Something has to give. Bills in a mild upset.

Tennessee (3-5) -2 (40) CINCINNATI (4-4) - The Titans came up just short against the Ravens on Monday night and may have actually been robbed by the zebras. Without review, they win the game. But, it goes in the books as a loss, though why coach Fisher called a QB sneak on the last play of the game, when the entire world knew it was coming, is a question only he can answer. There's also some doubt whether Titans' QB Steve McNair and TE Frank Wychek will play (both listed as questionable). The real factor here, though, is going to be RB Eddie George, who looked better against the Ravens than he has all season. He may have finally put last season's injury behind him and that spells trouble for the Bengals. The Titans are true warriors and will gut this one out and remain in the playoff hunt. I make them a BEST BET.

GREEN BAY (4-4) -9 (39 1/2) Atlanta (6-2) - The Falcons seem to be doing it with mirrors, but mostly with timely defensive plays against inferior teams. They will have to get a boatload of them here, as the Packers have the second best passing offense in the league and the Falcons the second worst pass defense. Won't happen. Bret Favre will slice them up and Ahman Green will dice them with his running. This one has all the makings of the rout of the week. Green Bay in a BEST BET.

TAMPA BAY (6-2) -5 (35) Chicago (4-4) - The Bears have had the luxury of having six of their first eight games at home. Now it get a little tougher. They failed against the Packers last week and the magic may have ended. This is a reality test for the Bears, as they haven't really seen a defense like Tampa Bay's yet (except maybe last week against the Packers) and their offense is going to struggle. If the Bucs can stuff the run, force the Bears into a predictable passing game, they will produce turnovers, which 9 times out of 10 produces a win. The bloom is off the rose for the Bears. They aren't going to surprise anyone for the rest of the season and the Bucs will roll here. FOUR STAR PICK.

BALTIMORE (6-3) -8 (33) Cleveland (4-4) - Here's another game against an established power and an upstart. The Ravens look better and better every week (now on a three game win streak) while the Browns have lost their last two. The Ravens defense is just about where they were at this point last season and are going to begin dominating games, starting right here, avenging their 24-14 loss in Cleveland earlier in the season. Baltimore is 3-0 this season at home, and while their offense is not meshing very well, they won't need to score much to beat the Browns. Take the Ravens in a THREE STAR PICK.

OAKLAND (6-2) -9 (45) San Diego (5-4) - Probably the best thing that could happen to the Chargers at this point is for Doug Flutie to step aside and turn the ball over to Drew Brees. Flutie has looked terrible in the last two games, both losses, and after a hot start, the Chargers are beginning to hit the skids. The Raiders look easily like the class of the NFL, despite their loss to Seattle last week. The Raiders were coming off a big Monday night win over Denver, the Seahawks were fired up at home and the Raiders came up flat. Head Coach John Gruden and the veterans on this squad won't allow another letdown. The Raiders are a much healthier team right now than the Chargers and should be able to put up 30 in this one. A solid defensive effort is also expected and that spells FOUR STAR PICK.

PITTSBURGH (6-2) -5 1/2 (36) Jacksonville (3-5) - Jacksonville put it on the Steelers 21-3 in Week 1, and while Pittsburgh is surely looking to avenge that loss, they get the Jags at a very inopportune time. Since their loss to Buffalo on Thursday night, three weeks ago, the Jags lost by a point at Baltimore and beat up on the Bengals last week at home. They are beginning to turn things around and this one is going to be close as Pittsburgh's offense is very predictable and only works when Jerome Bettis can roll over opponents. The season is far from over for the Jags and Mark Brunell is healthy and has two dangerous receivers in Keenan McArdell and Jimmy Smith. If Jacksonville can get the ball downfield with any kind of consistency, and stuff Pittsburgh's running game, the Steelers may have a hard time staying it it. The margin of error for the Steelers is very slight and Jacksonville can easily pull off the THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

DENVER (5-4) -8 1/2 (43) Washington (3-5) - Denver has managed to escape a spell of injuries and stay in the playoff hunt, but once again they have key players banged up. WR Rod Smith is questionable and Terrell Davis is out again. The Denver defense is nothing to get excited about, but, then again, neither is Washington's. This looks like a really ugly game and the best thing going for the Broncos here is home field advantage. While the Redskins have put together three consecutive wins, their chances here are slim. Take the Broncos and pray they don't blow this one.

ARIZONA (2-6) -1 1/2 (39) Detroit (0-8) - Ugly game of the week. If the Lions are going to get a win this season, here's one of their best opportunities. Against the spread, the Lions are 3-1 on the road, while the Cards are 1-4 at home. I can't even call this an upset if the Lions win. Actually, for an 0-8 team, the Lions have not thrown in the towel in their last three. Lions get win #1 here.

St. Louis (7-1) -9 (47) NEW ENGLAND (5-4) - The Rams are arguably the best team in the NFL, but they are much better on carpet than grass. Still, it's difficult to bet against them in any situation, even though the Pats have been playing great defense. While it's difficult to see the Patriots beating them, it's much more predictable to believe that the Rams will run all over them. Team speed is not one of New England's strong suits and the Rams are the quickest in the league. Possible rout by the Rams. THREE STAR PICK.

Monday, November 19

NY Giants (5-4) -2 (44) MINNESOTA (3-5) - The Giants blew away the Vikings in the playoffs last season, 41-0, and the Vikings have suffered their two worst defeats of the season over the past two weeks, 41-14 to Tampa Bay and 48-17 last week in Philly. This is a team that has fallen from being a contender to a mere shadow. The only teams with worse defenses in the league are Detroit, Carolina, and Atlanta. The Vikings also have no running game to speak of, except for Daunte Culpepper's scrambles. The Giants are on the road for their second consecutive week, thus, the short line, but, if anyone thinks the G-Men cannot produce the same kind of win they did in last season's playoffs, they're mistaken. Barring turnovers, there is no way the Giants lose this game. BEST BET.

Downtown Magazine

Nov. 08, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro and College Football Picks 11-8 - 11-12-01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football - Thursday, November 8

COLORADO STATE (4-5) -8 (55) Air Force (5-3) - Obviously, Colorado State, at 4-5, has had its ups and downs, but a break here and there and they could have easily been 6-3 right now. An ugly loss (14-7) to pipsqueak San Diego State and an overtime loss to then-undefeated Fresno State (25-22) could have tipped the scales. The Rams play well at home and get good support from the fans which will work in their favor in this contest. Air Force, coming off a 34-24 win over military rival army is flying high (pardon the pun) and may actually be thinking bowl game, so this is an important game. While the CSU defense will have its hands full with the Falcon's run-and-gun offense, their offense often has trouble moving the ball. Take the Air Force and the generous line in this UPSET SPECIAL.

Saturday, November 10

Miami (7-0) -20 (53) BOSTON COLLEGE (6-2) - At home, BC has been very tough, though they showed that they are not a world-class defense in the Notre Dame game and that's going to work against them as they face off against Miami, a team many think (myself included) is the best in the nation. Add to the BC woes that star running back - and the heart and soul of their offense - William Green, has been suspended for this game and you have all the makings of a huge blowout. The question is not whether Miami will remain undefeated, it's about how many points they will win by. Their defense may not surrender a touchdown in this one, and the offense can pile up points at will, so I am looking for a possible 42-6 score. Make this one a BEST BET.

MARYLAND (8-1) -7 (58) Clemson (5-3) - Maryland can win the ACC title if Florida State stumbles again. Clemson is trying to right the ship after losing two of its last three, but the Tigers can burn the Terps through the air. The Maryland pass defense hasn't shut down anyone and QB Woody Dantzler has the throwing skills to exploit it. However, the Clemson run defense has been soft giving up 161 yards per game. Maryland is a running team leading the ACC with over 234 yards per game. It's up to the Maryland linebackers to slow down Dantzler, and the offense to control the clock. Maryland should be pumped at home and will win and cover, though it's never easy against Clemson.

SYRACUSE (7-2) -14 1/2 (47) West Virginia (2-6) - The Orangemen have now won 7 in a row, are ranked in the top 25 and seem to have their offense clicking, which was a problem early in the season. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, are one of the Big East punching bags, with losses of 34-10 to Boston College, 35-0 to Virginia Tech and 45-3 to Miami. At home, Syracuse is virtually unbeatable, and should roll to an easy victory. I don't like the 14 1/2 as that half point could be a killer, so if you can get this game at 14 or even 13, it gets upgraded to a four star pick. As it is, I like the Orangemen to put a severe hurting on West Va. in a THREE STAR PICK.

ILLINOIS (7-1) -9 1/2 (53) Penn St. (4-3) - After a horrible start 0-4 start, Penn State has become a force to reckon with, winning three straight. The problem for the Nittany Lions will be stopping the Illini offense and Kurt Kittner, who is emerging as one of the top QBs in the country. After demolishing Purdue in the second half, and thanks to Michigan State's upset of Michigan last week, the Illini find themselves tied for the Big Ten conference lead and an outside shot at a National Championship. What's surprising about Illinois is their defense, which has held opponents to 17 points or less in all but one of their wins. Unless Penn St. can figure out how to stop Kittner, staging a late comeback will be difficult. Illinois has been one of the most overlooked programs this year and will come away with a big win here and possibly end up ranked in the top ten nationally. FOUR STAR PICK.

GEORGIA (5-2) -8 1/2 (51) Auburn (6-2) - Great game here and hard to believe that Auburn is such a strong underdog. The Tigers are vying for the SEC lead and have a win over Florida already under their belt. Getting thumped by Arkansas two weeks ago was a bit of a surprise, but Arkansas has surprised quite a bit this season. The Georgia Bulldogs are also in the SEC hunt and a win here improves the picture for them as well. Both teams offer balanced offenses and reasonable defense, so I see this one as pretty close to call. The difference in this game may come down to kicking, and Auburn has an edge in PK Damon Duval, who has been getting the job done all season. He can hit from anywhere within 50 yards and Auburn should get at least three field goals from him if they bog down in enemy territory. Last year, Auburn won at home 29-26, but this one is between the hedges at Georgia, so their task may not be as easy. Still, in what shapes up to be a close one, take the points and look for Auburn to pull off the UPSET SPECIAL THREE STAR PICK.

FLORIDA STATE (6-2) -18 (57) N.C. State (5-3) - Florida State is just rolling along, plowing through ACC opponents with regularity after dumping games earlier to North Carolina and Miami. What I do not like about this game is the line. NC State, behind QB Philip Rivers and RB Ray Robinson, present a challenge to any defense and can pile up points in a hurry. They put up 55 against Duke, though that's not saying much, but their three losses have been by 8, 8 and 10 points, so they don't get blown out usually. Florida State is a different animal altogether, though, with a very talented offense. Their defense has cracks, however, as they have given up 31 to Maryland and 27 to Clemson in their last two outings (both wins). Most teams can score on them, usually not enough, though. This one looks like it will be a wide-open affair, an easy cover on the OVER line, with NC State scoring enough to make it look close. Final may be 44-35 or 48-31, or something in that range. Take the points and thank the Vegas oddsmakers for this one.

Florida (7-1) -12 (49) SOUTH CAROLINA (6-2) - This game pits two of the best the SEC has to offer and South Carolina gets the advantage of being at home as well. The big question is whether or not the Gamecocks can stop the offensive juggernaut that Rex Grossman and Florida bring to the table every week. SC has held every opponent they have played to 17 points or less, except Alabama, who the beat 37-36. SC also does not have a very consistent offense, having put up only 7 and 10 points in losses to Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively. The Florida Gators are, as usual, the class of the SEC and are still in the hunt for a national championship. Their defense is also quite talented, holding opponents to under 10 points per game on average. Unless Grossman struggles (unlikely), this one could easily turn into a 34-10 or 35-13 type game. SC will not have any chance of making a comeback if they get down more than two TDs in the third quarter. Florida has an awesome team and should win this going away. FOUR STAR PICK.

UCLA (6-2) -3 (55 1/2 ) Oregon (8-1) - UCLA RB DeShawn Foster is out for this game, on suspension, and that puts a big dent in UCLAs offense. Oregon has to hope that Cory Paus doesn't get too hot, as the Ducks' offense may have a bit of trouble scoring against the solid UCLA defense. A win by UCLA would put the Pac-10 title into the hands of either Washington or Washington State and considering the way things have been going in that conference, it would not be a surprise. The Ducks are due for a letdown, UCLA should get some breaks and may win this one big. I don't see 55 points being scored in this one, considering UCLAs defense, so take it under, and take the Bruins.

NEBRASKA (10-0) -13 1/2 (50) Kansas St. (4-4) - Nebraska is looking a national championship square in the eye and although Kansas State is a dangerous foe with nothing to lose, the Cornhuskers should handle them easily at home. This one may be close for maybe a half, then it's all Nebraska. BEST BET.

Washington St. (8-1) -1 1/2 (63) ARIZONA STATE (4-4) - Even at home, this game looks like a mismatch, and I don't see Arizona State winning or even coming close. The line is screwy so tread lightly here. Washington State could blow this out big.

HAWAII (6-2) -4 1/2 (68) Boise St. (5-4) - Fun in the sun in this island matchup with bowl implications on the line. Both of these teams upset Fresno State and are in the hunt for the conference title, though time is not on their sides and a loss here is a serious blow to either squad. Boise State has enough of an advantage on defense and in size to put a hurt on the Hawaiians in this one and I like them to win outright. Boise State in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

NFL - Sunday, November 11

INDIANAPOLIS (4-3) -3 (41) Miami (5-2) - The Colts have a great deal to prove in this game, like whether they can actually win against quality opposition and whether or not their defense is good enough to stop anyone. The Indy defense is ranked near the bottom of the league in multiple categories and a very vulnerable to the run, an area in which Miami has struggled lately, but will continue to use. Any success by Miami on the ground will lead to the Dolphins controlling the clock and the game and that's exactly what they'll do. With RB Eggerin James and WR Jerome Payton questionable for this game, Miami's all pro corners should be able to play zone and double on Marvin Harrison as the Colts may have to throw more than usual. Stunts and blitzes by the Miami defense may also result in a couple of ill-fated throws by Payton Manning and a huge turnover edge to the Dolphins. It's often been said that good defense will stop good offense and this game is a case in point. Look for the Dolphins to play disciplined football and force key mistakes from the Colts in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

NEW ENGLAND (4-4) -6 (40) Buffalo (1-6) - Are the Bills really that bad? Yes. Are the Patriots really that good? Yes. Tom Brady will have a field day against the Bills defense and the Pats defense will force Rob Johnson into unwinnable situations by confusing him on with shifts and multiple looks. As much as anyone hates to pound a team while they are down, the Patriots look like they should completely dominate this game from start to finish. BEST BET.

ST. LOUIS (6-1) -17 1/2 (47) Carolina (1-6) - Here's one that should receive only a cursory look, as the league's best goes against one of the league's worst. The Rams are coming off a bye week, should have Marshall Faulk ready and Carolina plays it's second straight road game. For the Panthers to win this one it would rank among one of the biggest upsets of all time, as the Rams are a far superior team. The only thing that could turn the tables here is a lack of focus by the Rams, and even that is unlikely. Considering the Rams' relative underperformance against the line (3-3-1), I have to believe this will be one of the larger blowouts of the year. Make the Rams a THREE STAR PICK.

ATLANTA (3-4) -5 (42) Dallas (2-5) - Dallas proved they could play a bit of defense in taking the Giants to overtime last week and they play better on the road (2-1 ATS). With Chris Chandler ailing, the Falcons may start #1 draft pick Michael Vick at QB, which may be good for the home fans, but starting rookies at QB in the NFL is usually a losing proposition. The Cowboys have the unexpected luxury of having two healthy QBs, Ryan Leaf - who will start - and last week's starter, Clint Stoerner. With Leaf's arm and a couple of speedy receivers - Rocket Ismail for one - the Cowboys may become the vertical passing team of 2001. Debuts here. Cowboys get another win.

Tampa Bay (3-4) -5 (40) DETROIT (0-7) - Sorry, Detroit fans, this is not the week the Lions get their first win. The Bucs lost a tough one last week in Green Bay, but are still very much in the playoff hunt. This is a much needed game for them and a loss here would certainly hurt. While the Lions have done well (despite losing every game) with a spate of injuries and doubts, the Tampa Bay defense excels against the West Coast offense, especially one that cannot execute it well. The Lions are also a pitiful 0-3 at home ATS while the Bucs are a mere 1-3 on the road ATS, I have to give the Bucs the benefit of the doubt as they win and cover in a THREE STAR PICK.

Green Bay (5-2) -2 1/2 (37) CHICAGO (6-1) - How long can Chicago continue to work its magic this season? Two weeks in a row they have come from two TDs down in the 4th quarter to force overtime and win. Here, again at home, they find themselves in the underdog role against the revitalized Packers. While this game comes up as statistically even, a couple of stats to note are that the Packers lead the league in sacks with 30 while the Bears hold opponents to a league low 3 yards per carry. What that means is no surprise - the Bears will run the ball and the Packers will have to throw to be successful. In a game in which there is no edge either way, I have to take the points and the Bears at home. This game will hinge on intangibles like emotion and turnovers, and the Bears hold an edge there.

NY JETS (5-3) -4 1/2 (40 1/2 ) Kansas City (2-6) - The Jets are the toast of New York right now, winning games they aren't supposed to win and possibly improving on defense. They looked very good defensively against the Saints last week, though New Orleans looked as though they were sleep-walking the entire game. KCs win over San Diego last week was somewhat of a fluke and they blew a 19-0 lead, allowing Drew Brees to bring San Diego back to a 20-19 lead, before putting the game away with a late touchdown. The Chiefs are particularly prone to being burned through the air, so Vinny Testaverde may have easy pickings against this defense. Add to this the fact that the Chiefs are on the road for the second straight week and also the Jets have a huge advantage in turnover ratios. First year coach Herman Edwards has turned this team into a contender and I rate the Jets a FOUR STAR PICK.

Pittsburgh (5-2) -3 (33) CLEVELAND (4-3) - For a team that finished near the bottom of the league last season, the Cleveland Browns don't seem to get any breaks. Playing in the AFC Central doesn't help and neither does playing the Steelers, who are ranked #1 in total defense and scoring defense in the NFL. The Browns are the best at stopping he pass, and also lead the league in interceptions with 16, which means the Steelers will be best served running the football with league leader Jerome Bettis. If you want to see a bit of smash-mouth football, it doesn't get any better than this. Cleveland will have trouble moving the ball, as does everyone against the Steelers, and though this may be close, I don't believe 3 points is enough. Steelers will win by 6 or more. THREE STAR PICK.

JACKSONVILLE (2-5) - 4 (39) Cincinnati (4-3) - The Jaguars' season may have ended last week in their loss to Tennessee, while the Bengals still have hopes of making the playoffs. Last seasons the Jags shut out the Bengals 13-0 in Week 3 at home, while the Bengals returned the favor, winning 17-14 in Cincy in Week 16. These two teams are statistically even on paper, but the Jaguars have an edge in scoring defense. If the Bengals cannot convert in the red zone, Jacksonville will make them pay. I like the Jags to prove that there is home field advantage and parity in the NFL. Lay the points and hope they hold Corey Dillon under 150 yards.

DENVER (4-4) -6 (45 1/2 ) San Diego (5-3) - Denver has lost three of their last four and it's becoming very clear that something is very wrong with Brian Griese's arm and it is hurting the team. In the Monday nighter against the Raiders, Griese didn't even attempt a throw longer than 30 yards and some of his attempts were far off target. This will come as no secret to the Chargers, who put a whipping on them in San Diego just a few weeks back. Griese's inability to get the ball downfield takes away one of the Broncos main weapons, WR Rod Smith. If the Chargers can continue to play solid defense, Doug Flutie (suffered a concussion last week but is the probable starter) and Ladainian Tomlinson should be able to score enough points to keep this close with a chance to win it late. While the Chargers are a bit banged up on offense as well, they know how to play at the altitude in Denver and may pull off the UPSET SPECIAL.

PHILADELPHIA (4-3) -4 (41 1/2 ) Minnesota (3-4) - Minnesota is in big trouble here. The are facing one of the best defenses in the league, especially against the pass, and on the other side of the ball, they offer little in the way of defense. Both teams are coming off of a bye week, but the Eagles have a clear edge in this game. While Dante Culpepper will be running for his life most of the day, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will be able to settle into the pocket and pick apart the Vikings defense. Not having a defense will kill a team and the Vikings are up against it here. I rate the Eagles a solid BEST BET.

SAN FRANCISCO (4-3) -3 (45) New Orleans (5-2) - Last Sunday was not the only time this season that the Saints looked completely out of sync on offense. They have played poorly in almost all of their games and their defense has won for them. QB Brooks and RB Williams continue to underperform and the play-calling is sporadic and has no continuity. The Saints' loss to the Jets last week was inexcusable and ugly. The 49ers, on the other hand, are among the league's best at executing a game plan and their defense improves weekly. Among the most balanced teams in the league, San Fran does everything with calculating efficiency, while New Orleans seems to be searching. This could be a serious blowout. New Orleans can't seem to get the fire burning and the 49ers will take advantage in this FOUR STAR PICK.

N.Y. Giants (4-4) -5 1/2 (37 1/2 ) ARIZONA (2-5) - You won't see the Giants turn the ball over four times in this game and you also will not see Arizona in the end zone very often. The Giants survived a serious scare last week but showed a great deal of heart. This one looks to be quite a bit easier. THREE STAR PICK.

Oakland (6-1) -6 1/2 (43 1/2 ) SEATTLE (3-4) - Nobody can stop he Raiders precision attack, especially not Seattle. A statistical mismatch, especially if Matt Hasselback starts. A serious blowout in the making here. FOUR STAR PICK.

Monday, November 12

Baltimore (5-3) -1 1/2 (35) TENNESSEE (3-4) - The Titans are on the ropes and the Ravens are ready to deliver the knockout punch. The Ravens demolished the Titans in week 4 at home 26-7, and come in with a healthy Elvis Grbac and Terry Allen and the scariest defense in the league. Considering the blowout win earlier in the season, I see no reason to put any money on the Titans, as they are probably going to get blown out again. The Ravens scored a huge win against Pittsburgh last week, putting them clearly in the picture to win the AFC Central. The Titans know that their season is on the line here and should play with emotion. That's not enough, however, to beat the Ravens. This line is considerably out of whack, despite the Titans being the home team. The Ravens are out for blood against their most bitter rival and will bleed them dry. THREE STAR PICK.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Nov. 01, 2001

Fearless Rick's Football Picks 11/1 - 11/5/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

College Football - Thursday, November 1

GEORGIA TECH (5-2) -3 North Carolina (5-3) - North Carolina, after an 0-3 start is on a serious 5-0 roll, 4-1 in the conference, with their only loss coming against Maryland. Along the way they have knocked off Florida State, NC State, Virginia and last week demolished Clemson in a shocker, 38-3. This is a team that should not be taken lightly, and possibly should be the favorite in this Thursday night tilt. They have an incredible defense, led by LB Julius Peppers and the offense can move the football on the ground, but even better through the air. Georgia Tech, supposedly the powerhouse in the ACC, has losses to Maryland and Clemson, both at home. QB George Godsey is as good as they get, and will have to prove himself against a relentless pass rush. The Bulldogs are a solid team, but they tend to fold up in crunch time. North Carolina should continue its winning way and remain tied with Florida State and a half game behind Maryland in the ACC. THREE STAR PICK.

BYU (8-0) -14 1/2 Colorado State (4-4) - BYU remained undefeated by pounding San Diego State last week, 59-21 and return home to see if the streak can continue. BYU puts up points in bunches and has had only two close calls, 35-31 over UNLV and 24-20 at New Mexico. These two teams met last year at Colorado State, with the Rams winning at home 45-21, so the BYU players must have revenge on their minds. The problem with this game is that Colorado State plays excellent defense, giving up lass than 2 touchdowns per game on average, but has limits on offense. They nearly beat Fresno State at home, losing in OT 25-22. Colorado State has an outside shot at winning the Mountain West, but they must beat BYU to do so. I think the oddsmakers have this about right. The Rams' lack of offense will be their undoing and BYU will move to 9-0, covering this spread handily.

Satruday, November 3

PURDUE (5-1) -3 (48) Illinois (6-1) - Both teams looking for a piece of the Big 10 title and a key game here. The Illini have a terrific offense, and their only loss was on the road against Michigan (45-20), as was Purdue's (24-10). Illinois will depend on the arm of Kurt Kittner for most of their offense, though RB Anthony Davis is emerging as a star in his own right. The defense has played well, and, while not outstanding, will not lose the game. Purdue offers a little bit of everything, but nothing that can dominate a game. They get production from their offense despite mistakes and the defense seems to play just well enough to win (two Big 10 wins were against Minnesota 35-28 and Northwestern 32-27). I have to believe that the Illini are a better all-around team and will probably win this game outright.

MISSISSIPPI (6-1) -6 (48) Arkansas (4-3) - Two of Arkansas' three losses have come on the road, and they were not close, losing 31-10 to Alabama and 34-23 to Georgia, Their other loss was at home to Tennessee, 13-3, but in the past two weeks have upset South Carolina and Auburn, doing it with a combination of stout defense and timely offense. The good thing for the Razorbacks is that the Rebels do not offer much in the way of defense, but, on the other hand, Mississippi can be a scoring machine. Their 6-1 record has them in the hunt for a SEC title and strong bowl bid, so they have much on the line here. This is a great match-up, pitting Ole Miss' speed and offense against Arkansas' size and defense. Both teams have a lot going for them, so I am looking for a close game, which leads me to take Arkansas to cover the line and possibly win another unlikely game outright. UPSET SPECIAL.

Tennessee (5-1) -7 1/2 (42) NOTRE DAME (3-4) - The Fighting Irish have been playing much better than the way they started the season (0-3), but this is a very big test. After losing on the road to Boston College last week, the Golden Domers will have their hands full with a Volunteer squad that continues to improve. Their 7-point win over South Carolina last week was super solid and they are heading for a showdown in the SEC with Florida on December 2. With Travis Stephens, a punishing RB, and WR Kelly Washington, the Vols will be able to move the ball consistently. Notre Dame, while playing decent defense, has trouble on offense, with numerous injuries in their backfield. The passing game is nearly nonexistent and the Vols could score a shutout here. Look for Tennessee to dominate this game for 60 minutes. They have an outside shot at a National Championship and will not let the Irish get in their way. BEST BET.

at ALABAMA (3-4) -4 1/2 (50) LSU (4-3) - The Crimson Tide is just not what it used to be. A once-feared defense now routinely gives up leads late in games as they have in their three most recent losses to South Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee. On offense, they are just about adequate, but match up well against LSU, which has the bend-but-don't-break kind of defense that gives up plenty of yards. The difference will have to be the LSU offense, which has the ability to take a lead, run away and hide in this game. Since no lead is safe for Alabama, I don't think they'll have to worry about that in this game. LSU will start off well and go wire to wire for the win in this minor upset. FOUR STAR PICK.

Stanford (5-1) -1 (62) WASHINGTON (6-1) - This one could go either way, as the PAC-10 is still up for grabs after Stanford upset UCLA last week and both of these teams have a shot. This line has already moved from Stanford being a 1 1/2 point underdog to the Cardinal now being favored, so look for it to be a pick at game time. The problem for Washington is justifying their 6-1 record, with their sole loss being to UCLA, 35-13. They managed, in the past two weeks, to squeak by Arizona and Arizona State, so they are a suspect group. Stanford has to be careful not to be overconfident on the road, but winning this game gives them a virtual lock on the PAC-10, as they have beaten both UCLA and Oregon and end up the season with Arizona, California and non-conference Notre Dame, so this game may mean Rose Bowl. With the emphasis on this game clearly in Stanford's favor, I like the Cardinal to win this one, though it will not be easy.

Michigan (6-1) -6 (49) MICHIGAN STATE (4-2) - Always a good match-up and both of these teams are coming off wins last week. Michigan has looked solid but unspectacular in amassing their 6-1 record. Led by WR Marquis Walker and RB BJ Askew, the Michigan offense is what doing what one would expect from a top-notch Wolverine team, dominating the clock with long, controlled drives. Their defense is also a strong point and should be able to handle Michigan State, which can become somewhat one-dimensional, running bruising TJ Duckett and mixing in throws from Jeff Smoker to WR Charlie Rogers. The problem with Michigan State is their defense, which has trouble containing anyone. In their last four games (2 wins, 2 losses), they surrendered 27, 28, 28 and 28 points. Giving up four touchdowns is not going to get it done against Michigan, and they may give up even more. I see this possibly turning into a rout, especially if Michigan gets an early lead. FOUR STAR PICK.

Florida St. (5-2) -7 1/2 (58) CLEMSON (5-2) - Don't be swayed by this seemingly touchable line. Though they have identical records, Florida State is a very mean team right now with absolutely nothing to lose, since dropping one to North Carolina and another to powerhouse Miami. They have one more really important game, against Florida, on November 17, to close out the season. The Clemson squad is a solid team, but they are in another, lower class here. The Seminoles are unaccustomed to losing 2 games in a season, so losing this is absolutely out of the question. Clemson may keep it close for a while, as did formerly undefeated Maryland last week (FSU won 52-31 after the game was tied 31-31), but in the end the Seminoles will romp home in this FOUR STAR PICK.

UCLA (6-1) -3 1/2 (57) at WASHINGTON STATE (7-1) - UCLA's loss last week to Stanford was highly unexpected, but the Cardinal has played well against everyone, knocking off Oregon the previous week. The Bruins are still a very high-quality team with a legitimate shot at the PAC-10 title and a berth in the Rose bowl, plus an outside shot at a National Championship. Their blend of speed, rugged defense and balanced offense makes them one of the best in the nation. Washington State is one of the pleasant surprises of this college season, but, after steamrolling easy opposition (their one quality win was over Stanford, 45-39) they were stopped by Oregon last week 24-17. The Cougars will not go quietly, but their run defense is terrible. Look for UCLA's DeShawn Foster to roll up big numbers and UCLA to dominate. THREE STAR PICK.

NFL - Sunday, November 4

TENNESSEE (2-4) -3 (37) Jacksonville (2-4) - Here we have a contest between two teams having very rough seasons thus far. The Titans, slated to win the AFC Central by many, have the look of a disoriented and lifeless bunch of players who barely resemble a team. They were dismantled by Pittsburgh on Monday night and the questions surrounding RB Eddie George will not go away (averaging 2.6 yds. per carry). He's still nursing an injury from last season and does not have the explosiveness he once had. Steve McNair has almost nobody to throw to these days besides TE Frank Wycheck. All of these offensive problems have led to the defense having to be on the field too long. The good news for the Titans is that the Jags are not doing much better, having lost 4 straight, though last week they came within a point of beating the Ravens. They are on the road for the second straight week, but have Tennessee has proven nothing. Take the points in a somewhat meaningless game.

PITTSBURGH (5-1) -2 (32 1/2 ) Baltimore (4-3) - The Steelers are playing the best football in the league right now and it would be a mistake to bet against them until they cool off. They certainly are ready to put a licking on defending champion Baltimore, and having the luxury of staying home the week after a big Monday night win adds to their appeal. It's no surprise that the Steelers are bruising everyone in their path, but last week opened up the passing game as well and looked good executing it. The Ravens have not done the best of jobs defending their title and they are a pitiful 1-3 on the road, and 1-3 against the spread on opponent's turf. The Steelers are 2-0 ATS at home and are looking like the team to beat. Elvis Grbac will get the start for the Ravens (he missed last week), but this will be a defensive, field position game. Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher has the most disciplined team in the league and also the winningest. Take the Steelers in a THREE STAR PICK.

MIAMI (4-2) -10 (36 1/2 ) Carolina (1-6) - Carolina has now lost six straight games, after winning their first against Minnesota, but have lost the last three by a combined total of six points. Panthers' QB Chris Weinke has played fairly well, and always has all-pro TE Wesley Walls on the wing. The Panthers are ranked last on defense and second last offensively in the league, so statistically, this looks like a mismatch, but this game will swing on how well the Miami defense plays, as they have injuries in their secondary and Carolina may be able to exploit it. On offense, Miami is ranked 18th, and the questioning of Jay Fiedler as the #1 QB has been a thorn in his side. He is adequate, though unspectacular, and Miami may encounter problems moving the ball, even against the Panthers. This game sets up for the most likely kind of upset, a somewhat suspect team (Miami) against a pretty good team with a bad record and nothing to lose. Take the generous line and the Panthers in a FOUR STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

NY GIANTS (3-4) -10 1/2 (35 1/2 ) Dallas (2-4) - The Giants have had the roughest three weeks of any team in the league, with consecutive 1-point losses against St. Louis and Philadelphia, and then a complete letdown in a 35-21 loss at Washington last week. The Giants should be able to back on the winning track against the Cowboys at home. Dallas has a very limited offense, while the Giants' defense remains one of the league's best despite the pounding by Washington. Kerry Collins and the offense has to take better care of the ball (4 fumbles last week), and the defense should take care of the rest. The Giants should dominate this game from start to finish without letting up. BEST BET.

ATLANTA (3-3) -3 (42) New England (3-4) - An interesting clash between two teams that will not go away. The Pats lost Drew Bledsoe and back-up Tom Brady has excelled, while the Falcons lost RB Jamal Anderson early on and have made do with a combination of excellence by QB Chris Chandler and defensive stops. Actually, the Falcons will have a chance to run the ball, as the Patriots have given up four 100-yard rushing games this season. Neither team has played an inter-conference game this season, but the AFC East is 0-5 ATS, while the NFC West is 5-0 in such contests. That stat should stand up, with Atlanta coming away with the win.

GREEN BAY (4-2) -5 (37) Tampa Bay (3-3) - Back on October 7, the Bucs beat the Packers 14-10, in a hard-hitting contest in 95-degree heat. Bret Favre led the Packers down the field in the closing seconds but was unable to get the ball across the goal line and were handed their first loss of the season. Now the tables are turned as the Bucs travel up to Green Bay. The Packers hold one of the best home records in the league over the past five seasons and it gives them an edge and the colder it is in GB this Sunday, the more that advantage grows. The line is a bit large due to Tampa's perennial losses up north outdoors, despite their huge win over the Vikings last week. There will be no surprises here. Tampa Bay will try to play ball control, with Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn getting most of the carries, while the Packers will try to run an open offense. It should be a close game, but the Packers have had an extra week to prepare and should win and cover.

CHICAGO (5-1) -5 (34) Cleveland (4-2) - The two biggest surprise teams in the league get the game of the week in the Windy City. Both teams have employed solid defense and timely offense in compiling their winning records, but the Bears have Anthony Thomas (5.9 yards per carry), who is emerging as a star and the Browns don't match up well there (19th in the league against the run), but the Bears rank 28th against the pass, Cleveland's strong suit with Tim Couch calling signals. The Browns will also get DE Courtney Brown back into the lineup, after missing the first six games with a knee injury. While the Bears have gotten most of the press, the Browns should be amply motivated to prove themselves here. The Bears pulled off a miracle finish to win last week against San Francisco (scoring 15 points in the last 8 minutes of the game and winning in overtime), while the Browns had a bye week to prepare. Close call, but take Browns and the points, who will be geared up for this one.

Philadelphia (3-3) -7 (39 1/2 ) ARIZONA (2-4) - On paper, the Eagles are a far superior team than the Cardinals, so how did Arizona upset the Eagles in week 4? The Cardinals just match up well against the Eagles, who, despite the exploits of Donovan McNabb, can be stopped. The problem is that the Cardinals have a very hard time scoring, and that should prove to be the biggest hurdle against the very opportunistic Eagle defense. Philadelphia pulls ahead early and holds on late. THREE STAR PICK.

SAN FRANCISCO (4-2) -8 1/2 (48) Detroit (0-6) - The Lions had every opportunity to get their first win last week at home against Cincy, and could not produce. They took the Titans into overtime the previous week - again at home - and couldn't get the job done. Now, the wheels are about to fall off, literally, as they are very suspect on natural turf, and are proven to be horrible on the road (though they are 2-0 ATS this season on the road). The Niners offer too many weapons on offense and won't blow a late lead like they did against the Bears last week. The 49ers rank as the week's BEST BET.

Indianapolis (3-3) -4 (44) BUFFALO (1-5) - In week #2, the Colts put on an offensive exhibition at home, demolishing the Bills 42-26. While the Bills have improved and many questioned the Colts as they lost three in a row (2 to the Patriots and one in between to the Raiders), this line is out of whack. It should be more like 6 or 8, and therefore, I like the Colts chances of not only winning, but winning big on Buffalo's friendly carpet. The Colt's got things going their way against KC on Thursday night and have had an extra few days to prepare, while the Bills have had to make a coast-to-coast trip just to get a loss at San Diego. The Colts rate a FOUR STAR PICK.

SAN DIEGO (5-2) -5 1/2 (41) Kansas City (1-6) - The Chiefs made a big mistake. They scheduled a Thursday night game so everyone could see just how bad they are. Against the feeble Colts defense, KC was unable to move the ball effectively, and when they did, were unable to convert third downs. They also were exposed on special teams, an area in which the Chargers may take advantage. This is the third straight week that San Diego plays at home, somewhat of a rarity, but this is certainly a game they can win.

Seattle (3-3) -2 1/2 (37) WASHINGTON (2-5) - Suddenly, the Redskins have to be taken seriously, after winning two games in a row. Just as suddenly, as soon as Trent Dilfer went back to the bench and Matt Hasselbeck returned as starting QB, the Seahawks became a joke of a team. In the two games that Dilfer started, the Seahawks got wins over Jacksonville and Denver. Hasselbeck returned last week and they very predictably lost to Miami. Why they are favored here is a mystery to me. Washington has awakened and are home for the second straight week and are a much more powerful team with advantages on both offensive and defensive lines. The 'Skins look like a total lock, but since they are only 2-5, I'll make them a THREE STAR PICK.

NEW ORLEANS (4-2) -6 1/2 (41 1/2 ) N.Y. Jets (4-3) - After New Orleans came out and played big against the Rams last week in the second half, one wonders whether this team will suffer a setback due to an emotional letdown. I tend to think not and being at home in the dome against one of the worst rushing defense in the league has got to help. The fact that the Jets are getting less than a touchdown is a real plus as well, as the Jets struggled to just barely escape with a win in Carolina last week. 2nd straight week on the road usually results in a big loss. Can the Jets really be 4-3? It's hard to believe that even after this game they will still be a .500 team. Saints in a possible blowout. BEST BET.

Monday, November 5

OAKLAND (5-1) -5 1/2 (46) Denver (4-3) - This is THE game of the season for the Raiders. They never beat the Broncos (lost the last seven), but this looks like it could be the time. Without Ed McCaffrey, and with Terrell Davis probable for the game, the Broncos are a little banged up. The best kept secret in the NFL is what's right or wrong with Broncos' QB Brian Griese's shoulder. Griese has already thrown 10 interceptions this season and since going 2-0 to start the season, are a miserable 2-3, with losses to Baltimore, Seattle and San Diego. The Raiders are doing everything right and will try to stuff the run early on. If they can do that, it will force Denver to throw more than they want and possibly expose Griese's problem. This is a huge game for the Raiders and everything points to a huge win without mercy. THREE STAR PICK.

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