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Dr. Z's Forecast

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Posted: Friday November 06, 1998 03:55 PM

By Paul Zimmerman

Sports Illustrated Once a year, as a service that I've just established, I pick the entire week's card for you. Every game. The amazing thing is, the price of the magazine stays the same. Why do I do it? Because I envy those handicappers who pad their record with puppies, with double-figure favorites, while I get hammered trying to concentrate on the tough ones. Besides, I need some wins real bad; I need to get the record respectable, like it was last year.

What follows, then, is the whole board. Fasten your seat belts.

No-brainers

The Broncos got their scare last week against the Bengals, and now, fortified with the knowledge that any dog with teeth is capable of biting, they'll take it out on the Chargers. San Diego prides itself on its top-ranked defense, but it won't hold up against the firepower the Broncos will present.

The Vikings big over the Saints. Minnesota lost to the Bucs, a desperate team with a running game. The Saints will try to run too, but guess what the Vikings will be working on all week?

The Dolphins, another loser on the rebound, will take out their frustrations on some innocent bystanders, who happen to be the Colts.

The 49ers will win big at home over the Panthers. Are you catching the formula here? Three out of my four no-brainers lost on Sunday, and the other, Denver, was almost upset. When San Francisco came back from that horrendous start against Green Bay, I thought the Niners were going to win it, but who could have predicted the collapse of their offensive line? Won't happen this week.

Looks Easy, but Isn't

The Cowboys are sitting pretty. Only one team they face in the second half of the season currently boasts a winning record. The Giants took the day off against the Redskins and paid the price. Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman could still be showing some rust, and I think the New York defense will give him problems. It would be cool to pick an upset, but I favor the Cowboys when they're facing the Giants' attack.

If the playoffs were held today, the Cardinals would qualify as a wild card, based on their record against NFC teams. Arizona can't move the ball on the ground, and the Skins have trouble stopping the run. But Washington is riding the crest of an inspirational victory. The Redskins in an upset.

The Jaguars and the Bengals have met six times, and the final margin has never been more than eight points. Cincy knows how to play Jacksonville, which is coming off a rout of Baltimore. The upset is inviting, but I'll chicken out and take the Jaguars.

Looks Close, but Won't Happen

The Patriots over the Falcons, who share the NFC West lead but must prove they can beat a contender.

The Raiders over the Ravens, who will have home field advantage, just as they did last week when they were blown out.

Head Scratchers

The Jets over the Cinderella Bills. Buffalo is hard to handicap because little Doug Flutie keeps doing amazing things, but I'll stick with the formula of the Jets coming up big in division games.

The Packers over the Steelers. You have to fear the natural letdown after Green Bay's midseason Super Bowl against the Niners, but Pittsburgh is banged up, particularly on the offensive line.

The Bucs over the Oilers. These are two teams that need the big, thumping running game to stay in business. Has Tampa Bay really turned the corner? I say yes.

Upsets

The Eagles over the Lions. This is one team that Ray Rhodes knows how to beat.

The Chiefs over the Seahawks. Seattle lost to Oakland because it turned the ball over five times. K.C. was outmuscled by the Jets at Arrowhead, and Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac heard it from the crowd. An away game is the best medicine.

The Jury's Still Out

The Bears-Rams game depends on the condition of Chicago quarterback Erik Kramer, who has a chronically ailing throwing shoulder and recently had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. St. Louis is capable of a strong defensive effort, though you wouldn't have suspected it after last week's performance against the Falcons. I like the Bears, provided Kramer plays.

Issue date: November 9, 1998  

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