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Dr. Z's Forecast
Posted: Tuesday November 10, 1998 04:56 PM
By Paul Zimmerman
Was Steve Young held out of the Carolina game last week for precautionary reasons, so he could be tip-top for the Falcons this week, or is his abdominal strain worse than the 49ers are letting on? Teams have been known to be less than revealing about their injured superstars.
Not one but two Minnesota quarterbacks, Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson, are out, right? So does that mean the Vikings are putting everything on the shoulders of Jay Fiedler against the Bengals, or do they make like Atlanta, which suited up Steve DeBerg, and drag Fran Tarkenton out of retirement?
Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell suffered a groin injury in the first half against Cincinnati, and because the Bengals were giving away the game anyway, he was held out of the second half for "precautionary reasons." When does the precaution end? One week? Two weeks?
Chicago quarterback Erik Kramer sat out the loss to St. Louis, and now it's a race to see which part of him heals first, throwing shoulder or left knee. I'm betting on the knee, because when he was playing catch on the sideline with the Bears' operative quarterback, Steve Stenstrom, he was throwing the ball underhanded. Now you want to know if Kramer will be back this week against the Lions, and I don't blame you one bit for asking.
Denver's John Elway did something nasty to his ribs in warmups, played one series and sat to watch Bubby Brister bury San Diego. What kind of warmups do the Broncos have, anyway? And what about Elway's availability for the Monday-nighter in Kansas City? I'll let you know after the warmups.
Oakland's Jeff George aggravated his torn groin in the first quarter against Baltimore. A bleeding gash in his finger sent the Cowboys' Troy Aikman to the locker room for a while against the Giants. Come to think of it, I haven't been feeling so hot myself lately.
O.K., enough stalling. Here are my diagnoses, and remember, these are only for precautionary reasons.
Falcons to beat the Niners , with or without Young. It's Atlanta's Super Bowl, and watching that defensive line put it to New England, I don't like the way San Francisco's front five, minus center Chris Dalman, matches up against those rowdies.
If Fiedler starts, I think the Vikings will be working all week on their ground game so they can attack a Cincinnati defense that has trouble stopping the run. The Bengals, knowing that, will be working all week on massing the troops and making Fiedler put it up. Knowing that, the Vikings could cross them and let Fiedler air it out. Ah, the endless chess game. Minnesota's the pick if Cunningham somehow recovers. Cincy to win it otherwise. Nothing against Fiedler, but it's tough to step in and light it up right away.
I think Brunell will be back, and the Jaguars will win against a Buccaneers defense that was missing three starters in the secondary against the Oilers.
Denver-Kansas City at Arrowhead? Preseason, this date was circled on the calendar, but who would have guessed that the Chiefs' quarterback situation would have gone so sour? I like the Broncos , with or without Elway.
Philadelphia, with two scoring tosses in its first nine games, has successfully eliminated the touchdown pass from its repertoire. The Eagles will lose to the Redskins , who will suit up Dave Butz, Diron Talbert and Ron McDole in an all-out commitment to stop the run.
The Cardinals are delirious as they prepare to host the Cowboys. With a win, Arizona would vault into a tie for the lead in the mighty NFC East. It's the most important event in the desert since it was discovered that you could squeeze water out of a cactus. Feverish emotion. Deafening crowd noise. Desert heat. Different level of talent, though. I'll take Dallas.
The Bills will beat the Patriots; New England's problems at wideout are simply too serious. The Seahawks over the Raiders, in Oakland, for no logical reason, just a hunch. The Ravens over the Chargers, although this is the kind of team the San Diego defense could kick in against and force turnovers. Have I picked enough games? One more, you say? O.K., the Oilers , who had their game neatly in place against the Bucs, will score a mini upset over the Steelers.
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