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9/15/2006 04:52:00 PM

Turnaround week in the NFL

Chris Simms
Chris Simms threw three interceptions in the Bucs' 27-0 loss to the Ravens last week.
Bob Rosato/SI

Based on 2005, you have to look at last week's surprises skeptically. Last year the Saints beat the Panthers, the Dolphins destroyed the Broncos, the 49ers won and eventual NFC champ Seattle fell on opening week. Most of the good teams that fell last week will play like we expected them to this Sunday. Here are five 0-1 teams I think will ... make that guarantee ... will improve to .500 this week:

Buccaneers: Chris Simms and the Bucs are much better than their performance against the Ravens last week. And even though the Falcons' defense looks downright nasty, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin still has enough mastery over Michael Vick for the Bucs to pull out a close win.

Panthers: Carolina lost its opener and won its Week 2 contest in both '04 and '05. The Panthers are a good road team and they match up well with the Vikings, even if Steve Smith can't go because of his hamstring injury.

Cowboys: Dallas is a surprising six-point favorite this week, so it won't be a shock to anyone if the Cowboys get their act together against the Redskins. It won't matter if Drew Bledsoe struggles again, because Washington's offense won't do anything on Sunday night.

Denver: The Broncos will take a mulligan, just like last year, although this win won't say much about their chances for success in 2006, because Trent Green is out for Kansas City.

Miami: This game should be outright ugly. I don't think the Dolphins will win easily, even at home. But I can't pick Buffalo, especially if linebacker Takeo Spikes remains sidelined.

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9/10/2006 10:33:00 PM

Week 1 Monday Night Predictions

DeMarcus Ware
Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell completed just 16 of 33 passes during the preseason.
Heinz Kluetmeier/SI


Every Monday night throughout the season I'll offer my pick for the ESPN game and give you five reasons you can bank on my prediction. But just in case by some fluke my forecast is off, you have an opportunity below to chime in with your final score.

This week, the NFL has arranged a double-header, so I can look forward to a 2-0 start.

Five reasons the Redskins beat the Vikings

1. The Redskins' 0-4 preseason is meaningless: As any Washington fan will tell you, Joe Gibbs was 0-4 when the Skins won the Super Bowl in 1982. And new offensive coordinator Al Saunders keeps his massive playbook hidden in August and has lost 10 straight preseason games with other teams.
2. History repeats itself: Even if Washington was rusty offensively, its defense should be tough enough to get a couple of cheap wins early like last season. This game could play out like the Skins' 14-13 MNF win over Dallas in Week 2 of last season.
3. The Redskins' running game will be fine: Clinton Portis has been such a drama queen about his shoulder injury, which leads me to believe he'll get into the game and do something big. And Ladell Betts, Portis' normal backup, is better than a lot of starting backs in the NFL.
4. This defense will get to Brad Johnson: Johnson was solid last year, but like most QBs, he had no success against heavy-pressure defenses like Carolina, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Washington's D is close to the same caliber.
5. Mark Brunell has right skill sets for Saunders' offense: The older the QB the better in this offense. Just look at how Trent Green ran Saunders' system in Kansas City. This offense should be about timing and reading defenses, which the 35-year-old Brunell can do.

Score: Washington 20, Minnesota 17

Five reasons the Chargers will beat the Raiders

1. They own the Raiders: The Bolts have won five in a row and even though Oakland has a new coach and San Diego lost Drew Brees, not enough has changed to shift the balance of power.
2. Philip Rivers won't be terrible: I'm not ready to say he'll be good. But with LaDainian Tomlinson at running back and Antonio Gates to throw to, how hard can it be for the third-year quarterback?
3. Shawne Merriman is going to go nuts: The second-year linebacker should be a candidate for defensive player of the year and he'll be amped on national television. I see a strip-sack in his immediate future.
4. The Chargers will load up on Randy Moss: They know Moss is at his best on Monday night and the rest of the Raiders' receiving corps isn't scaring anybody, so they can comfortably double-team Oakland's main threat.
5. Road teams rule this week: The pressure of playing in front of a rowdy crowd kickoff weekend didn't stop nine out of 13 road teams from winning on Sunday. Considering the Black Hole is a lot less scary than it used to be, the Raiders won't stop that trend.

Score: San Diego 28, Oakland 20

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