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LET ME start off with an upset pick in what should be one of the most significant games on the board this week.
I think the Seahawks will travel to St. Louis and come away with a full measure of revenge on a team that embarrassed them in such shocking fashion last month. Almost lost in the saga of the Rams' great comeback from 17 points down in the last six minutes was the fact that Seattle killed them in the first half. The Seahawks had their way, moving up and down the field, and squashing the St. Louis offense.
Then it all collapsed. Marc Bulger got hot, the Hawks went cold, and the result was one of the most-talked-about games of the year. Too much talk, as far as Seattle was concerned. There's only one way to end it.
Last weekend the Seahawks had some trouble with the poor 49ers until they settled down and put the game away. I read this as looking ahead. I think the Rams have been on their mind. As far as St. Louis is concerned, I'm not sure what was going on on Sunday in its 40--22 loss at home to New England.
On the Rams' second snap of the game, Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel went out with a bruised shoulder. Because Ty Law had already been lost the week before, the corners were now rookie Randall Gay and Earthwind Moreland, who'd been signed off the practice squad. The nickelback was Troy Brown, who makes his living as a wideout. It's over, I thought; the Rams will eat 'em alive. But they never found a way to punish that patchwork secondary. Bulger looked confused; he held the ball too long. The coaches didn't get him out of his deep drop, into something a little spiffier. He got sacked five times.
And on defense, forget it. New England scored on five of six possessions in the first half, and the sixth produced a Rams touchdown when Tom Brady fumbled in his own end zone. But that hardly slowed down the onslaught by the Patriots, who also produced points on their first two possessions of the second half.
You think Corey Dillon ran well against the Rams' defense? Wait till you see what Seattle's Shaun Alexander is going to do to it. The linebackers were out of position; they overpursued. The tackling was shoddy. Nope, I think the Seahawks are going to carve 'em up.
Upset number 2 is Tampa Bay over the Falcons--in Atlanta. In case you haven't noticed, the Bucs have won three of their last four. Plus, they seem to have Atlanta's number. They've beaten the Falcons four straight in Atlanta, and they're not the same team they were in September. I think Monte Kiffin's defensive schemes are going to teach Michael Vick something he hasn't yet learned in his studies of the new short-pass offense.
Elsewhere, with Jets quarterback Chad Pennington sidelined by a bruised throwing shoulder, Quincy Carter will be put under too much pressure to control the Ravens' defense. Baltimore is the pick. I'll take Green Bay to beat Minnesota in Lambeau, but it could turn the other way if Randy Moss comes galloping off the bench at the last moment. The Giants have scars from upset losses to the Cardinals in the Arizona desert, but I think they're too desperate now to let it happen again. New York is the pick.