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NFL preview

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002

Jets at Dolphins

OF NOTE: This matchup is almost always a high-scoring, down-to-the-wire affair. The past five meetings have averaged 46.2 points and 612 yards offense. And usually the Jets come out on top, having won the past eight. The Fins say the Jets don't have their number and likely will prove it today, especially if Jets running back Curtis Martin isn't 100 percent. Miami running back Ricky Williams figures to have his third straight 100-yard game, considering the Jets defense is ranked 27th in the league against the run.

FRY'S PROMISE: Dolphins 28, Jets 21.

Panthers at Vikings

OF NOTE: The Panthers are better, but they're probably the worst of the undefeated teams. Likewise, the Vikes are a lot better than 0-2. Still, this should be an entertaining game. The Panthers have ridden the aging arm of 36-year-old quarterback Rodney Peete (310 vs. Detroit), and the Vikes have the worst pass defense in the league, giving up an average of 362 yards. Until the Panthers beat a quality team, they have to be looked at skeptically. Beating the Vikes, even though they are winless, could lend some credibility.

FRY'S PROMISE: Vikings 29, Panthers 24.

Chiefs at Patriots

OF NOTE: If you still don't believe the Pats are the best team in the league (and a lot of people apparently don't), you're kidding yourself. These guys are totally legitimate and continue to prove it every week. The Chiefs shouldn't give them much trouble even though K.C. has won four of the past six meetings. Yes, quarterback Trent Green and running back Priest Holmes are off to good starts, but if the Pats can shut down the Rams offense, which they did in the Super Bowl, they can contain Green and Priest.

FRY'S PROMISE: Patriots 27, Chiefs 10.

Cowboys at Eagles

OF NOTE: This used to be a hot game, but not lately. The Eagles have won four straight against the Cowboys and gashed America's Team 36-3 last time. The severity of the whipping Jerry Jones' boys get this time will depend largely on them. They looked good against the Titans last weekend but were pitiful in Week 1 against the expansion Texans. Meanwhile, the Eagles are soaring after demolishing the Redskins 37-7 on the road. The best guess is, the Eagles defense will maul quarterback Quincy Carter, leaving Dallas with few weapons.

FRY'S PROMISE: Eagles 30, Cowboys 17.

Browns at Titans

OF NOTE: What are we to make of the Titans? One week they beat the Eagles. The next, they lose to the Cowboys. It's hard to know which Titans team will show up today because running back Eddie George and quarterback Steve McNair may be limited by injuries. That's not good for the Titans, who have gotten big games from those two stars in winning six of the past seven encounters. With George and McNair hobbling, the Titans could be ripe for the pickings regardless of whether Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb starts for the Browns.

FRY'S PROMISE: Browns 17, Titans 16.

Saints at Bears

OF NOTE: If you're not sold on the Bears as a true playoff contenders, this game ought to sway you one way or the other. They narrowly have won their opening two games, and their luck could run out today. The Saints not only are scoring but are doing it against top-flight defenses. And playing in Illinois won't scare them; they've won two of the past three trips there and have beaten the Bears three of the past four times they've met. Chicago's defense is nasty, but the Saints simply have too many weapons to lose this one.

FRY'S PROMISE: Saints 23, Bears 21.

Colts at Texans

OF NOTE: The Colts aren't as polished as they will be later this season, but they shouldn't have much trouble polishing off an expansion team, even one as talented as the Texans. The Texans had a tough time stopping San Diego's Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson, which means Indy's Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James will give them fits. The Colts are probably still fuming about losing to Miami last weekend and likely will take it out on Houston. This one may get out of hand if the Colts get off to a fast start.

FRY'S PROMISE: Colts 32, Texans 13.

Bills at Broncos

OF NOTE: Clearly, the Bills are greatly improved with new quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who torched the Vikings last weekend for a franchise-record 463 yards. Guess where the Broncos' pass defense ranks? Try 24th in the league. That could spell trouble for the Broncos, who are experiencing a rebirth themselves. The Broncos defense leads the league in stopping the run, which could make the Bills force passes. The Broncos should win, but in this wacky start to the season, don't be surprised if the Bills pull the upset.

FRY'S PROMISE: Bills 30, Broncos 28.

Chargers at Cardinals

OF NOTE: The Chargers are off to a good start and looked especially impressive last weekend in smashing the Texans 24-3. Likewise, the Cardinals appear improved from Week 1 and are coming off a win at Seattle. But they face a Chargers defense that has allowed nine points, the fewest in the league. Cardinals running back Thomas Jones (173 yards against Seattle) needs to have another big game to take the load off quarterback Jake Plummer. That won't be easy because the Chargers are allowing just 62.5 rushing yards a game.

FRY'S PROMISE: Chargers 23, Cardinals 17.

Redskins at 49ers

OF NOTE: Steve Spurrier's Redskins were hammered Monday night by the Eagles and could take more lumps today. The Niners need a win after losing last weekend to Denver. Plus, they are at home. The Niners have beaten the 'Skins seven of the past eight times they've met, but this is a different 'Skins team. They could have trouble with Spurrier's pass-happy offense, which will attack the 49ers secondary often. The Niners' defensive weakness is the pass. They are giving up 208 yards a game through the air.

FRY'S PROMISE: 49ers 21, Redskins 20.

Seahawks at Giants

OF NOTE: The Seahawks got starter Trent Dilfer back from the injured list, then promptly lost despite his 352 passing yards. This team still is trying to find itself and likely will struggle more before it gets itself together. The Giants should be more confident after toppling the mighty Rams last weekend, holding them to 21 points. If quarterback Kerry Collins plays as well as he has in the opening two games, the Giants will win. Home field could be the difference. The Giants have won the past three meetings at home.

FRY'S PROMISE: Giants 27, Seahawks 14.

Packers at Lions

OF NOTE: It's not a stretch to say the Panthers' NFL-record streak of 15 straight losses could be in jeopardy this season. The Lions might be that bad. Coach Marty Mornhinweg is on the hot seat and spent the week deciding whether to start quarterback Mike McMahon or Joey Harrington. He picked Harrington, as if it mattered. The Pack is coming off a loss to the Saints but won't have any difficulty with the Lions, who still haven't solved their running problems. That means too much pressure on their rookie quarterback.

FRY'S PROMISE: Packers 35, Lions 17.

Bengals at Falcons

OF NOTE: The Bungles seemingly are finding new ways to lose and once again start the season in an 0-2 hole. Hey, at least they are consistent, right? Seriously, the Bungles haven't found a way to utilize offensive weapons such as receiver Peter Warrick. Running back Corey Dillon can't do it by himself. The Falcons are arguably the most dangerous 0-2 team. Their team speed, especially on offense, will be too much for the Bengals in this nationally televised ESPN game. It's a shame the nation will have to watch another Bengals bashing.

FRY'S PROMISE: Falcons 31, Bengals 22.

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