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December 2001

Dec. 24, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 12/30/01 - 1/3/02
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 30

ST. LOUIS (12-2) -13 (59 1/2 ) Indianapolis (5-9) - The Rams, despite being the best team in the NFL, are a shabby 7-6-1 ATS. The Colts still have plenty of firepower and the Rams may be resting some starters and do just enough to win, like last week against Carolina. The Colts actually play better on the road, with a 3-4 ATS record, and being indoors adds to the appeal. The Colts may not win this game, but taking one look at that over/under line suggests that there will be plenty of scoring. Colts should cover.

GREEN BAY (10-4) -11 (42 1/2 ) Minnesota (5-9) - That's a pretty hefty line, considering that the Vikings demolished the Packers in Minnesota earlier this season. I would imagine that the Pack will want the temperature to be around 20 degrees and the field frozen for this revenge game. This is not a game that I would be particularly encouraged to bet, but, if one must, bear in mind that the Packers are 5-2 at home and the Vikings 1-5 on the road ATS. Packers should roll and maybe record a shutout.

CAROLINA (1-13) -1 (39) Arizona (6-8) - These teams have identical 4-1-1 records on the road and at home ATS, so the game is a virtual toss-up. Since Arizona has shown more signs of life than the Panthers, winning 4 of their last 6, take the Cardinals to win outright.

NY JETS (9-5) -7 (37 1/2 ) Buffalo (2-12) - The Jets have won their last two games by one point each, over the Bengals and Colts, two teams out of playoff contention. Can their schedule get any easier? Next week they close out the season against the Raiders, so they might be looking past the Bills here, which would be a major mistake. Buffalo, since Brad van Pelt has taken over at QB, has been a much better offensive team, though their defense leaves a bit to be desired. The weather may also be a factor here, as it often gets very cold at the Meadowlands this time of year. The Bills will be more capable of dealing with the conditions and really would love to upset the Jets, who have not looked very sharp offensively. Bills in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

Chicago (11-3) -3 1/2 (39 1/2 ) DETROIT (1-13) - Can the Bears manage another road win? They barely beat Detroit in Chicago on Dec. 2, 13-10, but they are looking at the #2 seed in the playoffs and that alone should keep them motivated. Detroit may be thinking seriously about the #1 pick in the draft, so this could be another lay down game like last week in Pittsburgh. Most of the fans in the stands will be there to see the Bears, not the Lions. Chicago should have an easier time with these paper Lions.

TENNESSEE (7-7) -6 1/2 (37) Cleveland (6-8) - On December 2, the Titans traveled to Cleveland and came away with a 31-15 win. Since then, they lost to the Vikings in Minnesota, then beat the Packers and Raiders. What does this mean? The Titans are going to put a major hurt on the Brownies, whose season is officially over. Cleveland is just 2-4 on the road ATS.

JACKSONVILLE (6-8) -4 1/2 (40) Kansas City (5-9) - Even though the Jags have been hampered by injuries most of the season, they could have easily been a playoff team, as they lost 4 games by a combined 11 points. Kansas City, on the other hand, has just been kind of hanging around most of the year after an ugly 1-6 start. The Chiefs two non-division AFC games have resulted in losses to Pittsburgh and the Jets. Look for a real spanking by the resurgent Jaguars here, who seem to have an 8-8 season in mind. The Jags have won three in a row and their defense has been key in their victories. FOUR STAR PICK.

MIAMI (9-5) -7 (38 1/2 ) Atlanta (7-7) - Miami has made a habit this season of beating up on weak teams and Atlanta is one that fits the mold. ATS, the Falcons are 0-3 against AFC teams and 3-4-1 on the road. The Dolphins are a solid 5-1 ATS at home, and even though this line is very tempting, and may go higher, don't take the points. Miami will slice and dice the weak Atlanta defense. BEST BET.

Pittsburgh (12-2) -7 1/2 (34) CINCINNATI (4-10) - Don't look now, but Cincinnati is unraveling, while the Steelers are just plain kicking butt. This game is as lopsided as it gets. Cincy's offense is the lowest scoring in the league, and Pittsburgh is rolling along towards the post-season. The line here should be more along the lines of 10-12, but if the boys only want to give -7 1/2, well, fine. THREE STAR PICK.

San Francisco (11-3) -6 (39 1/2 ) DALLAS (4-10) - The 49ers should have their way with the Cowboys all day long in this one. With Jeff Garcia healthy, the Cowboys simply do not have enough offense to compete on any level. I also like this game over. San Fran in a FOUR STAR PICK.

PHILADELPHIA (9-5) -4 1/2 (35) N.Y. Giants (7-7) - This really looks like the ultimate sucker game. The Giants, with a win and some help from Tampa Bay can either win the division or grab the last playoff spot. These two teams have a history of close games, including this season's 10-9 last minute win by Philly on Oct. 22. The Giants, who have lost 3 straight twice this season, can now win three straight twice with a win here, while Philly has been shown to have real problems in the red zone all season. The Giants' defense knows exactly how to play the Eagles and should manage to win this game if the offense can score just two touchdowns. Any way you slice it, the Giants should be up to the task and if they don't win outright, will almost certainly cover the spread. THREE STAR PICK.

DENVER (7-7) -1 (41) Oakland (10-4) - With the Broncos officially out of playoff contention, look for the Raiders to romp over an uninspired team and possibly lock up the second seed in the playoffs.

SAN DIEGO (5-10) -1 1/2 (39) Seattle (7-7) - It is just amazing that Drew Brees is not starting for the Chargers. They are out of the playoffs and this would be the perfect opportunity to get Brees some playing time. He'll certainly be the starter next season, but coach Mike Riley has named Flutie as the starter (Riley has a 14-33 record in three seasons as San Diego's head coach and SHOULD lose his job). Seattle is clinging to playoff hopes, though a win by Baltimore, and a win by either Miami or the Jets will make this game meaningless. In any case, I place no bets on teams who are on 8-game losing streaks, and that's the Chargers. Seattle should win this one handily.

NEW ORLEANS (7-7) -5 (39 1/2 ) Washington (6-8) - The Redskins had their season spoiled by the big, bad Bears last week and are out of contention for the post-season but still have faint hope (they need many favors from other playoff-contending teams). The Saints were hammered by the Bucs, but they still have hope because Tampa Bay must face Baltimore and Philly to close out the season. Judging by the performance of the Saints in must-win situations (they now have looked stupid against the Rams and Bucs in consecutive games), one must like the Redskins here, who have shown - since their 0-5 start - that they will not quit until they are officially eliminated. ATS, the Redskins have an edge overall and in conference games. They are 4-3 ATS on the road, the Saints 3-4 at home ATS. The bottom line is that Saints' QB Brooks makes too many mental mistakes and the Redskins will take advantage. On the other side of the ball, Tony Banks has played well of late and will be out to prove himself again this week. Redskins in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

NCAA Football Bowl Games - Monday, December 31

Humanitarian Bowl - At Boise, Idaho

Clemson (6-5) -6 1/2 (64) Louisiana Tech (7-4) - Here's a great game to watch because it's going to be non-stop offense unless the weather is horrible. If the skies are clear and it's not too windy, these two could combine for 75 or more points. In the weapons department, Tach has a clear edge and niether team has any defense of which to speak. Bombs away with Louisiana Tech winning it late. THREE STAR PICK.

Sun Bowl - At El Paso, Texas

Washington St. (9-2) -7 (50) Purdue (6-5) - At one time this season, Purdue was ranked in the top 20. They were 5-1, with only a loss to Michigan, but then the wheels came off in blowout losses to Ohio State and Illinois, an upset of Michigan State, and then consecutive 6-point losses to Indiana and Notre Dame. If any team does not deserve to be in a bowl game it is the Boilermakers. Washington State has a powerhouse offense, and a bend-but-don't break defense, and their only losses were to Oregon and Washington. They deserve to be 7-point favorites here, maybe more. Take them to win this game which will almost certainly be over the lone as well.

Silicon Valley Classic - At San Jose, Calif.

Fresno St. (11-2) -5 1/2 (64) Michigan St. (6-5) - While Fresno State scored impressive wins early in the season, they just barely managed wins late in the year. Michigan State had a very up-and-down year and really shouldn't even be in a bowl game, but they have a huge offensive line and monster RB T J Duckett and just too much beef for the Fresno boys. Look for Michigan State to put pressure on Fresno QB David Carr and force turnovers. I love the points they are giving the Spartans in a game they should win. Michigan State in a FOUR STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

Liberty Bowl - At Memphis, Tenn.

Louisville (10-2) -3 (69) BYU (12-1) - Light it up, boys, this one should go well over the posted line and while BYU can score with anyone, Dave Ragone and the Cardinals can do the same. BYU has no chance to stop either the run or the pass, and they will be without RB Luke Staley - big loss. Louisville should be able to score almost every time they touch the ball and run away with this one.

Peach Bowl - At Atlanta

North Carolina (7-5) -2 (45) Auburn (7-4) - Auburn's main claim to fame was its rain-induced upset over Florida, while North Carolina managed a big win over Florida State afte beginning the season 0-3. Since then, they are 7-2, and their losses were by 7 to Georgia Tech and 1 to an underrated Wake Forest squad. Auburn ended their season with losses to Alabama and LSU, and they may be overmatched here. Carolina has a standout on defense in Julius Peppers and will use a solid defense and a grinding running game to win this FOUR STAR PICK.

Tuesday, January 1

Cotton Bowl - At Dallas

Oklahoma (10-2) -13 1/2 (47) Arkansas (7-4) - Oklahoma's only losses were to Nebraska and Oklahoma State, but they were the reigning National Champion, so this season was a bit of a disappointment. Arkansas began the season -1-3 but reeeled off 6 straight wins with a combination of defense and the addition of 6-5 freshman QB Matt Jones, who scambles and runs the option well and will share time at QB with Zak Clark. The OU defense is among the best in the nation, so Arkansas may have to use some trickery to score, but they manage to score somehow against everybody. The Sooners don't overpower anyone on offense, so this one may be quite low-scoring and Arkansas may get a miracle finish to pull off the THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

Outback Bowl - At Tampa, Fla.

South Carolina (8-3) -1 (42) Ohio St. (7-4) - This shoudl be called th outhouse bowl, because both of these teams should have ended their seasons the first week of December. There ought to be a law that 3 losses would exclude clubs from Bowl games. There are just too may bowls and many of them are bad games. This is one of them, but Ohio State should be able to come away with a win against a South Carolina team that plays well at times and not-so-well at others. Those bad games seem to come against good teams, but since Ohio State is not that good, it may be close. Please don't bet this game. It just looks like a stinker.

Gator Bowl - At Jacksonville, Fla.

Virginia Tech (8-3) -2 (53 1/2 ) Florida St. (7-4) - The Hokies lost big games to Syracuse and Miami and were inexplicably humiliated by Pittsburgh. Their defense is the key to this game, and they must be on top of their game against a very potent Florida State offense, led by QB Chris Rix and a bevy of talented, though young receivers. Tech and State are two teams that are in the elite class of college football, but while V-Tech overacheived in many areas, Florida State was expected to do better (they haven't lost 4 games in eons). This is a statement game for both teams and it should be fairly close, though the 2 points Vegas is giving to Florida State, may well be meaningless. I like this one under, as the defense of V-Tech may dominate, and on offense, the Hokies are not very explosive. Take Virginia Tech in a wild, though somewhat low-scoring affair. Look for both of these teams to improve next season.

Citrus Bowl - At Orlando, Fla.

Tennessee -3 1/2 (49) Michigan - If the Vols play up to their potential, they'll win this game hands down. Michigan must rely on the passing of John Navarre to premier wideout Marquise Walker, because their running game is not what one usually comes to expect from the Wolverines. If Tennessee can double up on Walker, make Michigan one-dimensional, they could completely shut down this offense. Michigan also lost two close, meaningful games - to Michigan State 26-24 and Ohio State 26-20 - which does not bode well for them. On offense, the running of Travis Stevens will be the big factor. If the Vols can control the time of possession with a brusing running game, it will set up throws to Stallworth ad Washington by underrated and improving QB Casey Clausen. Tennessee can win this one big. BEST BET.

Fiesta Bowl - At Tempe, Ariz.

Colorado (10-2) -3 (58) Oregon (10-1) - Underrated Oregon, after winning the Pac-10 title and having no chance at the National Championship, has done everything right all season long. While they have little to offer in the way of defense, their offense is everything and they will be fired up against a Colorado team that got plenty of press after their thrashing of Nebraska. In the Big 12 title game, Colorado took a big lead on turnovers and barely hung on against a ferocious Texas comeback. The Ducks have one of the most potent offenses in the country, with Onterrio Smith and Maurice Morris running the ball and QB Joey Harrington a threat from anywhere on the field. I'm actually surprised to see that the Ducks aren't deeper underdogs, considering how hot the Buffs have been late in the season. If this one turns into a shoot-out, look for Harrington to lead the Ducks to a late score and a big win.

Sugar Bowl - At New Orleans

LSU (9-3) -2 1/2 (56 1/2 ) Illinois (10-1) - While everyone has had plenty of time to watch Rohan Davey and his LSU teammates in big games this season, including their big SEC title win over Tennessee, little has been made of the Illini, who only managed to go through the season with one loss - to Michigan - win the Big Ten title and end up in a BCS bowl. Kurt Kittner, the Illini QB, may be the most underrated passer in the counrty and the much-maligned Illinois defense plays with a great deal of desire and intensity. Since many of these bowl games are about proving oneself, I look at the Ilinois program as having the most to prove, and being a slight underdog - even with a better record - a motivating factor. LSU may come out a little flat, having nothing to prove and nowhere to go in the national rankings. Illinios in a THREE STAR PICK.

Wednesday, January 2

Orange Bowl - At Miami

Florida (9-2) -16 (60 1/2 ) Maryland (10-1) - Maryland may miss RB Joe Perry for this game, who is an important element in the Maryland offense, but the Terps' defense has held up to all kinds of pressure throughout the season and this game is one in which they can make a statement. The generous point line is undoubtably due to the potency of Florida's offense and QB Rex Grossman. Watch for Maryland to try to control the temp of this game with a two-deep zone, plenty of blitzes and defensive schemes to try to throw off Grossman's timing, and a control option and short passing game when they have the ball. This could turn into a very entertaining affair, especially if you have Maryland and all those points. Maryland may not win outright, but they should play the Gators close enough to cover.

Thursday, January 3

Rose Bowl - At Pasadena, Calif.

Miami (11-0) -9 (55 1/2 ) Nebraska (10-1) - Nebraska's defense is pretty questionable, espeicailly after Colorado tore through them late in the season. The offense is adequate, but will they really be worthy of a #1 ranking if they win? Miami's offensive line is big, mobile and maybe the best the Huskers have seen all season. Nebraska's Crouch and Diedrick will need their A game against the Miami defense, and if they can't get the running game going, passing against the best secondary in the country will be a big problem. On offense, the Huskers will be up against it, with Ken Dorsey picking apart a very questionable secondary and Portis running with desire, Miami could tear this team up and make believers of the many doubters of the BCS. Holding nothing back at all, look for Miami to control both isdes of the line of scrimmage and turn this into a runaway after three quarters. Miami wins the National Championship in a BEST BET.

Downtown Magazine

Dec. 21, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 12/22-27/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

Happy Holidays to All!

NFL - Saturday, December 22

NEW ENGLAND (9-5) -3 (37) Miami (9-4) - In their first meeting the Dolphins humiliated the Pats in Miami, 30-10, in Tom Brady's first start at QB for the Pats. Brady had a humble beginning, fumbling twice, one of which was returned for a TD by Miami's Jason Taylor. Miami has won four of the last five in this series, but the Pats have been playing lights out of late and should take over first place in the AFC East with a convincing win here. THREE STAR PICK.

SAN FRANCISCO (10-3) -3 (40 1/2 ) Philadelphia (9-4) - A battle of heavyweights, but I have to side with the Eagles, who are 6-0 straight up and ATS on the road. San Fran has a nice team, but the Eagles defense will shut them down and set the stage for playoff dominance. Eagles in a FOUR STAR PICK.

OAKLAND (10-3) -5 (46) Tennessee (6-7) - The Raiders are, no doubt, the better of these two teams and Tennessee is a miserable 2-5 as a road team against the spread. The Titans are still hampered by injuries, while the Raiders look to enter the playoffs relatively unscathed. A win here by Oakland keeps them on pace for home field advantage until the championship - if they get there. Look for the talented receivers on the Raiders to rip apart a depleted Titans secondary.

Sunday, December 23

TAMPA BAY (7-6) -3 (38) New Orleans (7-6) - Dennis Miller called this one the "Frustration Bowl," and it is an apt description. One of these two will most likely fill the #6 slot in the playoffs, but both have problems which will be glaringly evident in the post-season. The Bucs simply do not have enough offense to outscore anyone and their defense is beginning to wear down. The Saints are plagued by inconsistency on offense and poor play-calling, a disease that will not go away unless the head coach or offensive coordinator decides not to show up for the game. While the Saints have more talent, the Bucs play better under pressure, so I give them the slight nod here.

St. Louis (11-2) -12 (46 1/2 ) CAROLINA (1-12) - The Rams will probably win the Super Bowl and are arguably the best team in the NFL. They are also 5-1 ATS in divisional games. BEST BET.

KANSAS CITY (4-9) -3 (40 1/2 ) San Diego (5-9) - In a somewhat meaningless game, this one is a real question mark. Coach Mike Riley has named Doug Flutie as the starter over Drew Brees, even though the season is a lost cause. My opinion - and that of many others - is that the #1 draft pick by San Diego should start the rest of the games for the Chargers this season, as he is their future. In the one game in which Brees did see action - against the Chiefs back on Nov. 4 - Brees rallied the Chargers for 20 straight points in a losing effort. With Flutie at the helm, take the Chiefs, just because this is a bonehead move by the Chargers. In the event that this is a sly ruse and Brees starts, go with the Chargers.

NY GIANTS (6-7) -3 1/2 (35) Seattle (7-6) - The Giants, despite playing most of the game like the season was already over, managed a win over Arizona in the waning minutes last week, thus maintaining a slim hope for a the last playoff spot in the NFC. Seattle, meanwhile, may have had some roster porblems fixed inadvertently when Rickey Watters ended his season with an injury, clearing the way for Shawn Alexander to play full time. While the Giants are a horrid 2-4 at home ATS, the Seahawks have not managed to cover the line in a single road game this season, with an 0-6-1 mark. If you believe the trend is your friend, nothing could get trendier than this game. Take the Giants to reamin alive with a win.

ATLANTA (6-7) -4 (40 1/2 ) Buffalo (2-11) - A lot of people are saying that the Bills can win this game and i am inclined to agree, even though they will be without the services of rookie running back Travis Henry. The offensive line is finally intact for Buffalo and they should be able to open holes for whomever carries the ball - and the Bills do have capable backups. Atlanta is slumping their way towards an ignominious finish to a season that once had plenty of hope.

Chicago (10-3) -2 (33) WASHINGTON (6-7) - There is no way on earth that the Bears should be only two point favorites here. They completely dominated the Bucs last week while the Redskins showed why they began the season 0-5. Tony Banks is just not that good a QB, and the secondary of the Redskins is beginning to show some cracks. Chicago will not suffer a letdown. They haven't all year and don't expect them to do so at this point in the season. BEST BET.

BALTIMORE (8-5) -11 (33 1/2 ) Cincinnati (4-9) - Cincy can play with just about anyone, they just have a hard time winning. Baltimore will be looking to avenge a loss to the Bengals in week 2. How soon we forget. Bengals should cover this line and possibly pull off the upset. We haven't had a real shocker in a while and this may be it. THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

GREEN BAY (9-4) -8 (38) Cleveland (6-7) - One may wonder why the line is so huge in this game, but it's because the Browns are falling apart. Their defense is wracked by injuries and though they showed a lot of heart against Jacksonville last week, a loss here would finish them. The Brownies play much better at home as well and Green Bay is a very noisy, tough place to play, especially when the Packers need a win to sew up a playoff spot. Green Bay in a close call.

PITTSBURGH (11-2) -10 (36 1/2 ) Detroit (1-12) - OK, Detroit finally got itself a win, and they have been a great bet five of the past six weeks. These are the Steelers, however, who are eying a trip to the Super Bowl right now. Thought Lions are 5-2 ATS on the road they are 1-2 against the AFC and the Steelers are a respectable 4-2 ATS at home and should roll to a lopsided win here.

ARIZONA (5-8) -3 1/2 (37 1/2 ) Dallas (4-9) - The Cardinals are playing some of the best football in the league right now and should have won last week, but they still have an outside shot at the playoffs, so they will be motivated. Earlier this season, somebody jokingly yelled, "break up the Cowboys." Looks like the players took it seriously. They do not travel well. Arizona in a THREE STAR PICK.

MINNESOTA (5-8) 3 1/2 (43) Jacksonville (5-8) - Officially, this game is off the board because Daunte Culpepper is out and Jacksonville's Brunell is still questionable. Meaningless game, but if you must, take the Jags. They've been playing up to their potential lately.

INDIANAPOLIS (5-8) -1 (47) N.Y. Jets (8-5) - Are the Jets really jinxed in December? They did garner a win last week, and are looking to avenge a humiliating season-opening loss to the Colts. Both teams are dramatically different from then, and the Jets can pretty much lock up a playoff spot with a win. Take the Jets - this line will change and the Jets will be a 2 point favorite by game time. THREE STAR PICK.

College Picks coming this weekend.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Dec. 13, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Football Picks 12/15-12/20/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

College Bowl games begin this Tuesday, December 18. Check back on Sunday for updates.

NFL - Saturday, December 15

NY GIANTS (5-7) -5 (37 1/2 ) Arizona (5-7) - What a horrible season the Giants are having. Another loss will put them out of playoff contention (they may be out already and just don't know it. The way they are playing (badly) on offense has finally affected their defense. Nobody on this team is involved or interested in the post season. Look for major changes in the off-season, like Kerry Collins and Ron Dayne departing. In the meantime, take Arizona and the points. They should be able to take these guys.

Oakland (9-3) -4 (46 1/2 ) SAN DIEGO (5-8) - The Raiders cannot be this bad, can they? A mere four-point favorite against the Chargers, a team that's lost six in a row? The linemakers seem to think the Chargers will be able to run the ball against the Raiders, and they may, but it won't get them a win. Oakland in a FOUR STAR PICK.

Sunday, December 16

Denver (7-6) - 3 (47) KANSAS CITY (3-9) - The big question mark is Denver QB Brian Griese's health. I doubt that he will play, and so, with that, the Broncos should be able to pull together for a win. They still have a very good shot at making the playoffs and this game is a must win for them. As they proved against Seattle last week, they can still run the ball. A healthy Terrell Davis makes them vary dangerous and their defense can rise to the occasion.

INDIANAPOLIS (4-8) -4 (46 1/2 ) Atlanta (6-6) - Sorry, but I wouldn't take Indianapolis s a favorite against a high school team right now. On Monday night they were completely outclassed and pummeled by Miami. They have no consistency on offense and the worst defense in the league. The Falcons will win here and stay in the playoff hunt.

NY JETS (7-5) -9 (35) Cincinnati (4-8) - The Jets have now lost two games in a row that - with just a little offense - they could have won. They have now managed just one touchdown in the last six quarters and that says they are too predictable. I would love to be able to say that they will mix it up, but with the talent they put on the field, they can't do much more than what they've been doing all season - run Curtis Martin and throw short outs and crossing patterns. Cincinnati has a very good shot at upsetting the Jets, who haven't really overpowered anyone this season. Despite having lost five straight, the Bengals' last two losses were by 3 to Tampa Bay and 4 to Jacksonville. They may also let Akili Smith start at QB, which might just add some spark. Cincy is this week's THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

CLEVELAND (6-6) -2 1/2 (36 1/2 ) Jacksonville (4-8) - Mental mistakes are beginning to kill the young Brownies and this week will be a real test. They have an outside shot at the playoffs, but they are stumbling badly, having lost the last two and four of the last six. The last two were not close, either, and that's a disturbing trend. In a game one should not bet, I'm going to go against the Browns and take the resurgent Jags to pull off the minor upset. Back on Sept. 30, Cleveland won at Jacksonville, 23-14, so the Jags are looking for the season split.

Minnesota (5-7) -3 (46) DETROIT (0-12) - The Lions keep trying, you have to give it to them, but they are a collapsing bunch, and will be up against it at home, facing a very angry Viking team that still is thinking playoffs, somehow. This could turn into the blowout game of the week, but I'll just say the Vikes will win it. THREE STAR PICK.

New England (8-5) -4 (38) BUFFALO (2-10) - I believe the Bills should actually be favored in this home game for a couple of reasons. First, when the Pats beat them in Foxboro - that was the game in which Rob Johnson got knocked out for the season - the Bills rallied with Van Pelt at QB and were only down 14-11 when Antoine Smith broke free for a 42-yard run with less than 2:00 remaining. Now, fur full games later, give Van Pelt some due. He's hitting his targets and the Bills can move the ball. Also, this is a very heated rivalry. The Bills would love to play spoiler here. This will not be a walkover for the Pats by any stretch of the imagination. Take the Bills and watch what some will call a shocker.

Philadelphia (8-4) -3 (34) WASHINGTON (6-6) - This one looks like it's going to be a war. The Redskins remarkable turnaround from an 0-5 start has been done mostly with defense and turnovers, plus timely offense and the running of Stephen Davis. Just three weeks ago, they humiliated the Eagles 13-3 in Philly, so a win here is not only expected, it is likely to happen. The way the Skins are playing right now, it is very tough to bet against them and being an underdog at home brings out the worst in people, mostly on the defensive side. This should be one of the more brutal, hard-hitting games of the season, so be prepared. If the Skins win here, they will be in a good spot for the playoffs, and could prove to be very upsetting to somebody. I like Washington straight up in a FOUR STAR PICK.

CHICAGO (9-3) -3 (33) Tampa Bay (7-5) - The cold weather is coming, and that means Tampa Bay stops winning. They are easily the worst cold-weather team on the planet and they Bears will make them wish they had stayed home. Playoff implications abound in this contest and the Bears should benefit from the return of Anthony Thomas at running back. Tampa Bay is still plagued by its inconsistent offense and lapses on defense, which were evident in Chicago's 27-24 win a month ago. This one may be close, so don't take it if you have to give more than 3. Bears in a tight fit.

SAN FRANCISCO (9-3) -3 1/2 (43 1/2 ) Miami (9-3) - Tough one to call. Both teams have good things going for them, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. Being that Miami's defense is quite a bit better than the Niners', I have to say the Dolphins look like they have a legitimate shot at pulling off the small upset. Besides, the way 49er QB Jeff Garcia played against the Rams last week, either that knee is more of a problem than he's letting on or he just doesn't like playing on artificial surfaces. Either way, we'll find out on Sunday. Miami looks like they are playing with a load of confidence right now and will be in this until the end.

Green Bay (9-3) -2 1/2 (42 1/2 ) TENNESSEE (5-7) - The Packers are 2-0 ATS against AFC teams this season (Ravens, Jacksonville - both wins), while the Titans are still searching for ways to make it back to the playoffs. The Pack needs this win to stay atop the NFC Central and will take a commanding lead if Tampa Bay beats the Bears, so don't look for any letdown on the Packers. I like the Packers so much I'm calling them this week's BEST BET.

SEATTLE (6-6) -5 1/2 (35 1/2 ) Dallas (4-8) - Seattle disappointed everybody when they lost to Denver last week, including themselves. They were impotent on offense, squandering opportunities to score in the second half before their defense eventually tired and lost the game completely. Maybe some people think they will play better at home, but the Cowboys are not going to be very accommodating, as they really look like the most dangerous team in the league right now. Seattle is possibly more inexperienced than Dallas, and that's saying a bunch. Dallas does have an advantage in skill and coaching and that should prove a big difference here. Big D in a THREE STAR PICK.

BALTIMORE (8-4) -3 (33) Pittsburgh (10-2) - It comes down to who can execute on offense better and that has to be the Steelers. They lost their last game against the Ravens because of four missed field goals. That will not happen again, as the Steelers will go for the first down inside the 35 rather than try long FG attempts here. With a win, the Steelers tighten their grip on home field advantage. THREE STAR PICK.

Monday, December 17

St. Louis (10-2) -6 (51) NEW ORLEANS (7-5) - Here's a game that will be hyped all out of proportion. Just one look at the teams' records will tell you which one is better. The last time these two met, the Rams gave up 25 points in the sloppiest 3rd quarter they've ever played. That will not happen again. The Rams should cruise over these guys en route to home field in the playoffs. THREE STAR PICK.

NCAA Football Bowl Games

Tuesday, December 18 - New Orleans Bowl At New Orleans

Colorado St. (6-5) -12 1/2 (47 1/2 ) North Texas (5-6) - Only from the Sun Belt can a team with a losing record get to a bowl game. They did win their conference with a 5-1 record. Strength of schedule? The Mean Green from North Texas did lose to Oklahoma. Actually, they pulled this program together late in the season, winning four straight before losing their finale to a pretty good Idaho team 18-16. Their strengths are the running game and defense. CSU, 2nd in the Mountain West Conference, will have trouble stopping the run (they have all season), and their offense sputters, so they won't have an easy time here. Look for the Mean Green from North Texas to make a little noise here and maybe pull off the upset. May turn into a low-scoring affair, so the under bet may be the best way to go. I am not calling for an outright upset, though it could happen.

Wednesday, December 19 - GMAC Bowl At Mobile, Ala.

East Carolina (6-5) -1 (65) Marshall (10-2) - East Carolina ended up tied for 2nd with Cincinnati in Conference-USA (both had 5-2 records) and lost their last two games - 39-34 to Louisville (C-USA Champion) and 28-21 to Southern Miss. They don't have much of a defense, a even when they win, they give up an average of 23 points per game, which plays into the hands of the high-powered Marshall attack. The only losses by Marshall were a season-opener to Florida and their final game, a 41-36 shootout with Toledo. The Thundering Herd has problems stopping the run, an East Carolina strength, so this one looks like a no-brainer to go over, and I think Marshall will get the best of it as East Carolina has had 4th quarter letdowns throughout the season. I like Marshall as a THREE STAR PICK.

Thursday, December 20 - Tangerine Bowl At Orlando, Fla.

Pittsburgh (6-5) -1 (50) N.C. State (7-4) - The Pitt Panthers came together as a team, winning their last five games, including a thorough rout of highly-ranked Virginia Tech, 38-7. The other wins were over a pretty bad bunch, Temple, West Virginia, Temple and UAB. Previous to their streak, the Panthers were manhandled by Big East foes, Syracuse, Boston College and Miami, plus Notre Dame. They do not play well against big-time programs and that may be a problem against NC State. The Wolfpack played a very rough ACC schedule (4-4 in conference games) and beat Florida State and gave Maryland a scare, losing 23-19 (Terps scored the game-winner with 41 seconds left). NC State QB Phillip Rivers will be a Heisman candidate next season, and his running and throwing will cause the Panthers fits. I don't see how Pitt can keep pace in this game if the Wolfpack gets it going. Could be a blowout for NC State who has won ALL of their non-conference games this season and won their bowl game last year over Minnesota 38-30. I like this game over and the Wolfpack rates a BEST BET.

UPCOMING BOWLS - analysis later this week:

Dec. 25

Las Vegas Bowl At Las Vegas

Southern Cal -3 (46 1/2 ) Utah

Dec. 27

Seattle Bowl At Seattle

Stanford -3 (61) Georgia Tech - a little early nod for Stanford here. With all the problems involving GT's head coach O'Leary and his phony resume, the Cardinal may be up against an unfocused, confused squad.

Independence Bowl At Shreveport, La.

Alabama -6 1/2 (51 1/2 ) Iowa St.

Source:Downtown Magazine

Dec. 06, 2001

Fearless Rick's Pro & College Picks 12/7 -12/10/01
Rick Gagliano
posted by Rick Gagliano

NCAA Football - Friday, December 7

at SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (6-4) -10 TCU (5-5) - When last seen the TCU Horned Frogs were jumping all over Louisville, winning 37-22, on November 24. This is a team that changes character with each game and they will bring a defensive scheme similar to what they used against Louisville, in which they recorded nine sacks. Southern Miss brings a balanced attack and a solid defense, which led Conference-USA in points allowed by a wide margin. Both teams should be pretty loose for this one, so look for plenty of fireworks, and a late score by TCU to cover the line. Not a particularly good game to bet, but 10 points is a healthy line in a game that matches up pretty evenly.

Saturday, December 8

BYU (12-0) -3 at HAWAII (8-3) - The Hawaii squad cannot outscore the BYU bunch. There's no way BYU loses this game and finishes the season undefeated. BYU in a BEST BET.

Tennessee (10-1) -6 1/2 LSU (8-3) - at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta - The Volunteers are on the verge of heading to the Rose Bowl as the underdog for the National Championship with only LSU in their way. Earlier this season (September 29 at Tennessee), Tennessee bested the Tigers by a 26-18 score, though the Tigers were without leading ball-carrier, LaBrandon Toefield for most of the game, but the Vols were missing WR Donte Stallworth as well. Tennessee has four keys in this game. 1. Stop Toefield, 2. Limit the combo of QB Rohan Davey to WR Josh Reed to under 125 yards, 3. Give the ball to Travis Stephens (this guy should be a Heisman candidate - he's carried the Vols all season). 4. Tear apart the LSU secondary, which ranks 105th in passing defense, allowing 274.6 yards per game. If the Vols can deliver on three of those four keys, it's a complete rout. LSU just does not have enough defense and the Volunteer defenders should be up to the task. Take Tennessee in a complete rout and BEST BET.

NFL - Sunday, December 9

ST. LOUIS (9-2) -7 1/2 (54 1/2) San Francisco (9-2) - Both of these teams are playing at a championship level right now, and the Rams seemed to have taken their turnover problems seriously last week against the Falcons, committing no turnovers in their 35-7 rout. San Francisco easily bested the Bills, 35-0, and come into this game healthy and well-prepared. In their last meeting, the Rams won 30-26, but the 49ers have improved since then. If this line holds at 7 or more, the 49ers are a solid play. THREE STAR PICK.

MINNESOTA (4-7) -even- (44) Tennessee (5-6) - Probably the two biggest disappointments of the season get to match up here. Both of these teams were projected to make the playoffs, and neither probably will. Daunte Culpepper may start for the Vikings, but backup Todd Bouman filled in admirably, nearly pulling off the upset comeback last week. The Vikings still have the scariest receivers in the league and with Tennessee's secondary banged up, they may have a filed day. Minnesota's defense has also been playing much better since Robert Griffith returned at safety, so this one could get a little out of hand. I like the Vikes at home with many possible advantages.

BUFFALO (1-10) -3 (37) Carolina (1-11) - The Bills are the worst team in the league, no doubt about it. The fact that they actually are giving points to the Panthers is an early Christmas gift from the line-makers in Vegas. The Bills' offense is shaky and their defense has been abhorrent in the past few games. The Panthers should roll over these guys easily.

GREEN BAY (8-3) -5 1/2 (37) Chicago (9-2) - The Bears need to find some offense if they intend to stay in this game. They managed only two TDs in their past two games and will need more than that to win against the potent and creative Green Bay offense. If Jim Miller can find a few open receivers (Jacksonville did last week) in the secondary and Anthony Thomas returns at running back (he's listed as questionable), they could win this game. The two teams met earlier at Soldier Field and the Packers handled them 20-12. Look for the Bears to open up the offense like they did against Tampa Bay, get maybe two picks against Favre and win this one in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

NEW ENGLAND (7-5) -5 (36 1/2) Cleveland (6-5) - Both teams are in playoff contention and need this game, so everything is on the line. Cleveland's defense crumbled last week against the Titans, and the Browns have lost three of their last five, though two of those were in overtime (against the Bears and Steelers). While everyone will be jumping on the Patriots after their big win over the Jets, this one is going to be as close and very low-scoring, as both teams have excellent defenses. A field goal will likely be the margin of victory here, so take the Browns with the points.

TAMPA BAY (6-5) -8 1/2 (36) Detroit (0-11) - Believe it or not, the Lions are a better bet than the Bucs (5-6 ATS vs. 4-7), but the Bucs are still riding the emotion from their Monday night win over the Rams two weeks ago, and, by the way, the Lions are 0-11. Tampa Bay has everyone healthy while the Lions will be without QB Charlie Batch, WR Bert Emanuel and possible punter John Jett. WR-KR Desmond Howard and TE David Sloan are both questionable. Let's see. No quarterback, two wide receivers, no punter, no tight end, hmmmm... could be the blowout of the week. Tampa Bay's special teams will provide the offense with good field position all day. An easy win for the Bucs in this week's BEST BET.

CINCINNATI (4-7) -even- (37) Jacksonville (3-8) - Despite their record, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a very dangerous bunch, as they proved last week against the Packers. That game was won not so much by Brett Favre's brilliance but by the zebras, who robbed the Jags of an interception (called pass interference when the DB never touched the receiver) which turned into a Green Bay score, and also called the Jags for holding on key third down situations in the 4th quarter. The Jags just need to limit mistakes and Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Keenan McArdell will take care of the rest. Earlier this season, these two teams met in Jacksonville, with the Jags coming away with a 30-13 win. Bengals have lost four straight and seven of their last nine. They pretty much suck. FOUR STAR PICK.

New Orleans (6-5) -4 1/2 (42) ATLANTA (6-5) - The Saints are a complete Jekyll and Hyde team. You never know which squad is going to show up, though it is usually one which makes mistakes and plays very undisciplined football. In their first meeting in New Orleans, Atlanta won 20-13, and the only reason the Saints are favored here is because Atlanta QB Chris Chandler may not play. Atlanta will likely start Michael Vick and possibly alternate him with Doug Johnson. You may see a load of trick plays here and Atlanta will keep it close and possibly win against one of the worst underperforming teams in the league.

NY Giants (5-6) -4 (36) DALLAS (3-8) - The Giants are simply not playing good football on either side of the ball, and Dallas has legitimate deep threats on offense with Rajib Ismail and Joey Galloway. A healthy Emmitt Smith also adds to the appeal. The Giants offense cannot move the ball consistently and has no punch outside of Tiki Barber and their trio of talented wide receivers. The problem is Kerry Collins, who has thrown as many interceptions as TDs (13) and has, at times, looked pitiful. Look for the Cowboys to control the line of scrimmage and torch the Giants secondary repeatedly. The Giants will not make the playoffs this year and Dallas will see to it this weekend.

PHILADELPHIA (7-4) -7 (38) San Diego (5-7) - I don't think there are enough points you can give the Chargers in this one. The Eagles have absolutely dominated AFC West teams (with the exception of Oakland), handling the Seahawks 27-3 and last week dominating the Chiefs 23-10. The Eagles have won four of their last five while San Diego has dropped five straight. This may be Doug Flutie's swan song, as he faces the league's best pass defense, and there is a real possibility of him being seriously injured here. With the Eagles secondary in tight coverage, Flutie will be under pressure all day long. I would not be surprised to see Drew Brees get some action here and possibly continue as the starting QB the rest of the season. It may be time for the Chargers to give their #1 draft pick some reps. Meanwhile, Philly will romp in a BEST BET.

ARIZONA (5-6) -even- (39) Washington (5-6) - Both of these teams have playoff aspirations, but there are 8 teams in the NFC with better records, so they are on the fringe right now. A loss here ends all hope. This should be a pretty wild affair, as the Cards have the better offense, but the Skins the better defense. I see plenty of points being scored, so it may be the over play of the day, and I'll take the Cards to win a squeaker.

OAKLAND (8-3) -9 (44) Kansas City (3-8) - Guess what? The Chiefs have given up less points that the Raiders (229-235) but the difference is in offense, where the Raiders hold a big edge. Kansas City has to keep the turnovers minimal and shorten this game if they have any shot at winning, and while the entire world will lay money on the Raiders, I like the running of Priest Holmes to save the day for Kansas City. The Raiders pulled out a win in Week 1 at Kansas City, 27-24, so I expect to see another closely played game. While the Chiefs have a slim chance of winning, it would not be a surprise. Injuries on offense could also take a toll on the Raiders with G Mo Collins doubtful; FB Jon Ritchie and T Barry Sims questionable. Without the blocking up front, Raiders' QB Rich Gannon may be scrambling all day. Plus, the KC secondary can stay with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. It will be a tough win for the Raiders, if they win at all. Chiefs in a THREE STAR PICK.

PITTSBURGH (9-2) -4 (34 1/2) NY Jets (7-4) - If Jerome Bettis does not play, the Steelers are in big trouble as their running game will certainly suffer and Kordell Stewart may struggle. Even with Bettis, the Jets have an edge in three key areas, the kicking game, pass defense and turnover differential. Both of these teams suffered 2nd half meltdowns last week, so it will be interesting to see which one gets off to a quick start. In a close game, I like the Jets to pull out a needed win.

DENVER (6-6) -6 (41 1/2) Seattle (6-5) - Denver is struggling, having lost 5 of their last eight, while the Seahawks are playing well, winning three of their last four, and now find themselves with a legitimate shot at the playoffs. These two met on Oct. 14 and the Seahawks won rather convincingly, 34-20. I cannot see why the Broncos are favored here, when all signs show two teams headed in opposite directions. Seattle in a THREE STAR UPSET SPECIAL.

Monday, December 10

MIAMI (8-3) -5 (44 1/2) Indianapolis (4-7) - The Colts are possibly the season's biggest disappointment, now having lost four straight and eight of their last ten. Miami won the first matchup 27-24, and should improve upon that at home. Indy is going nowhere, and Jim Mora should be out as head coach - he should have been fired after the San Francisco loss. Miami has a solid defense and a capable offense, while the Colts sorely miss RB Edgerrin James while the defense has allowed a league-worst 337 points. Miami in a FOUR STAR drubbing.

Source:Downtown Magazine

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