Is home field really that much of an edge? No one knows for sure, but two of Sunday's big winners at home, Tampa Bay and Baltimore, take to the road as underdogs against teams that lost road games last weekend.
The Bucs visit Tennessee, which got hammered by the Ravens, who are now on the road against Green Bay, which lost that thriller to the Bucs. Interesting, eh? Both Tampa Bay and Baltimore have played clunkers away from home. The Bucs lost in the last minute to the Vikings and beat the Cowboys by only four points. The Ravens lost to Cincinnati.
Things have changed, though. Baltimore is playing with its old swagger. Everyone figured that the Ravens' D would make life tough for the Titans, but no one knew that Baltimore's offense would be so punishing on the ground or that Travis Taylor would emerge as such an acrobatic receiver. Now the Ravens are underdogs, and you can bet coach Brian Billick will squeeze that for all the motivation it's worth.
Brett Favre threw three interceptions against the Bucs, but he also brought the Pack back at the end and almost pulled out the win. Green Bay's defense has been better than anyone expected, unleashing a lightning-fast edge rusher named Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (nine sacks in four games), who has been so dynamic that the team's first-round draft choice, Jamal Reynolds, has been inactive for the first four games. Chances are that KGB will line up on the left side to go against the tandem of Williams tackles, Sammy and Erik, rather than All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden. Gbaja-Biamila will cause problems, but not as many as the Ravens' defense will present. The pick is Baltimore in—it sounds funny to say it—an upset.
Whenever the Titans had difficulty moving the ball last season, their defense kept them in the game. Opponents this year, however, have hit winless Tennessee for an average of 376 yards in its first three games. Defensive end Jevon Kearse has been invisible, and Tennessee's best pass defender, cornerback Samari Rolle, injured his neck on Sunday. Tampa Bay's offense, which beat the Packers with a 95-yard drive, is still trying to find an identity, but Keyshawn Johnson, who is again making the tough catches in traffic, keeps squeezing out first downs. The Titans' sputtering attack should be made to order for Tampa Bay's D, which isn't the quick-striking, fly-to-the-ball outfit it once was but is still functional. The Bucs are the pick in upset No. 2.
Let's make the trifecta complete and go for another road underdog, Oakland, to get its ground game working and win in Indianapolis. I'll give Miami's Lamar Smith about 140 yards on 28 carries as the Dolphins win against a Jets defense that has been hammered by the run.
The amazing Browns, thumping their chests and predicting playoffs after their 3-1 start, will come down to earth in Cincinnati. I like the Bengals in a squeaker. No squeaker at the St. Louis Speedway, though. The Rams will take the rookies in the Giants' secondary, cornerback Will Allen and nickelback Will Peterson, to school on their souped-up track. St. Louis is the pick. The 49ers beat the Falcons in overtime on the coast in Week I. The teams meet in Atlanta, and I'll take San Francisco again over the banged-up Falcons. I also like San Diego at New England and Kansas City at home against Pittsburgh. The Broncos need another wideout to go with Rod Smith, but they've won four of the last five in Seattle. Denver beats the Seahawks on the ground.
Finally there's the Monday-nighter, Washington at Dallas, a matchup loaded with history but now only desperation. The Redskins played the NFC champion Giants dead even for three quarters. Defensive end Kenard Lang turned in the finest game of any D lineman this season. Washington to win on emotion.