Just how good are the Rams anyway? Two Sundays ago they were heavy favorites over Carolina and lost. It seemed that they couldn't find any focus without Marshall Faulk in the lineup. So last weekend a good percentage of the sharpshooters, such as yours truly, had them falling to the Giants at the Meadowlands. No Faulk, a shaky defense against a team that liked to pound people, a difficult venue for a speed outfit (i.e., heavy natural turf that comes up in clumps).
So all St. Louis did was put away New York in the first half. The Rams' defense, guided by Bud Carson, who was brought out of retirement to do the brainstorming, held up just fine, and the receiving corps still looked like the NFL's Olympic 4 x 100-meter relay team. Now St. Louis faces Washington in a Monday-nighter, with a chance to deal a near fatal blow to a 6-4 team that many preseason handicappers penciled in for the Super Bowl.
The Redskins' defense has been terrific, the offense spotty. The simple reason is that almost all the injuries this season have come on one side of the ball. The wideouts, the line, quarterback Brad Johnson—almost every area of the offense has been hit. But Washington still has enough firepower to punish a St. Louis defense that is improved but not top echelon.
On paper it looks as if the Skins have a decent shot. But picture the scene. Monday night in the Trans World Dome: lots of noise, fast track and a group of burners the likes of which Washington hasn't seen. Why do I feel that somehow St. Louis coach Mike Martz will try to make aging cornerback Deion Sanders his target, running him across the middle, taking him deep, working on those 33-year-old legs? The Rams are the pick in a high scorer, as all their games are.
The Jets did it again. They sleepwalked through the first half in Indianapolis, came to life in the second, fell short at the end. The Jets are 6-4, and they've scored first in only one of those 10 games and led at the half in only two. Their miracle comeback came against Miami a few weeks ago, when the Dolphins built a 30-7 lead, scaled back their offense to ground zero in the fourth quarter and defied New York to come and get them—which the Jets did. Miami did the same thing against San Diego on Sunday and won fairly comfortably. But I think the Dolphins know what works against the Chargers won't cut it against a team that made you the star of its highlight film. So I look for Miami to go up early on the Jets and stay in its attack mode. The Dolphins win at home.
Can I find an upset? Sure, Buffalo over Kansas City in Arrowhead, where the Bills haven't won in four visits over the past 14 years. After the Raiders massacred Kansas City on Nov. 5, the Chiefs held a players-only meeting, pledged to be more dedicated and vowed to hold one another accountable, whatever that means. Then they went out and got murdered by the 49ers, who ran up 288 yards in the first half. Something is fundamentally wrong with this team.
The Giants will bounce back against the Lions at the Meadowlands. With Ricky Williams in the lineup, I would have picked the Saints to upset Oakland at the Superdome, but he's out with a broken left ankle, so I've got to go with the Raiders. You never know, though. New Orleans is a courageous, resourceful team, and if the Raiders come out flat, they will get smacked.
Indianapolis will win in Green Bay, and the fast-sinking Jaguars will drop one to Pittsburgh at Three Rivers, a place that's always been tough for them, even in good years.