By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002
Browns at Bucs
OF NOTE: The Bucs never have beaten the Browns in five meetings, but that means nothing today. The Bucs are on a roll, winning four straight, and arguably have the NFL's best defense (league-low 53 points allowed). The D has scored as many TDs as it has surrendered (four). The Bucs have a menacing pass rush (17 sacks), which could rattle quarterback Tim Couch, who might be jittery after a mild concussion Sunday night against the Ravens. The Browns, who average 25 points, will have to score 30 to have a chance.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bucs 24, Browns 16.
OF NOTE: The 'Skins are starting rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, which isn't necessarily good news for the Saints. The kid was impressive off the bench last weekend, and he could give the Saints' weak secondary problems if he has time to throw. That's a big "if" because the Saints have a fierce pass rush. The 'Skins, who looked good in dumping the Titans last weekend, must worry about the Saints' multifaceted attack, which is averaging 320 totals yards and is particularly efficient in the red zone (NFC-best 84.6 percent).
FRY'S PROMISE: Redskins 28, Saints 27.
OF NOTE: How can the Steelers' season get any worse? How about a loss to the lowly Bungles? Don't laugh. It could happen. The Steelers are vulnerable defensively, and the Bungles actually looked decent against a pretty good Colts team last weekend. Quarterback Jon Kitna had a good game as well (31-for-43 for 244 yards), and threw for 411 yards the last time he faced the Steelers. The key will be Bungles RB Corey Dillon. If he gets loose, it will make things easier on Kitna, which might be enough for the Bungles to pull the upset.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bengals 22, Steelers 20.
OF NOTE: The Panthers seemingly have cooled since their hot start, but don't dismiss them yet. Opponents have shut down their running game lately, which essentially has grounded their offense (27 total points past two games). The Cowboys are only decent against the run and nearly gave up 100 yards to Giants running back Tiki Barber last weekend. But the Panthers should have wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad (hamstring) in the lineup, giving them more punch. Dallas won the last meeting 16-13.
FRY'S PROMISE: Panthers 20, Cowboys 17.
OF NOTE: The Bills are among the league's most explosive teams and a lot better than their record indicates. They've scored 30 or more points in every game except one, but will be hard pressed to reach that mark today. That's because the Texans defense is solid for an expansion team (three TDs allowed inside the red zone). Still, the Bills simply have too much firepower to get tripped up by Houston. The Texans are coming off a bye week, making them well rested, but that won't change the outcome.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bills 29, Texans 20.
OF NOTE: The Ravens are hard to figure. After a dismal start, they've shown some real fight the past two weeks. And today they face a Colts team they've beaten in their past two meetings (39-27 last year). Trouble is, the Ravens' emotional leader, LB Ray Lewis, is banged up (shoulder) and will not play. Without him, an already suspect defense may be vulnerable, especially against a Colts offense that has plenty of punch. If the Colts can contain RB Jamal Lewis (187 yards last weekend), they should give the home crowd plenty to cheer about.
FRY'S PROMISE: Colts 26, Ravens 13.
OF NOTE: Both teams are coming off bye weeks and could use a victory badly, especially the Vikings. While the Vikes are trying to get things sorted out, the Lions appear to be on the right track. Since getting the starting job two games ago, rookie quarterback Joey Harrington has injected energy into this slumping franchise. The Vikings have won four of the past five meetings, but the slate is wiped clean today. Both teams have horrible defenses, so expect a high-scoring affair. The last team with the ball probably wins.
FRY'S PROMISE: Lions 30, Vikings 29.
OF NOTE: The defending Super Bowl champions have dropped two straight, but that's not cause for panic. The Pats only need to get their running game going again, and today face a Packers defense that's suspect against the run (23rd in the NFL). A big day from running back Antowain Smith ought to open up the Pats' third-ranked passing attack, which can be downright ferocious (301 yards per game). QB Brett Favre will keep this shootout close, but unless he can play defense, too, the Pack could be in trouble.
FRY'S PROMISE: Patriots 32, Packers 30.
OF NOTE: This would have been a good matchup if Falcons QB Michael Vick weren't sidelined with a shoulder injury. Mind you, backup Doug Johnson is more than capable, but Vick's absence takes away some of Atlanta's effectiveness. The Giants are coming off a win over a pesky Cowboys team and need to build momentum by fending off the Falcons. Even without Vick, a Giants victory won't be easy. Johnson will hold his own against a strong defense that likes to go after the QB. The Giants have won 36 of last 40 when leading after three quarters.
FRY'S PROMISE: Giants 27, Falcons 17.
OF NOTE: The Titans are in a free fall, losing four straight since winning their season opener. They let Redskins rookie QB Patrick Ramsey beat them last weekend. Meanwhile, the Jags are turning heads, especially after toppling the mighty Eagles a week ago. The Titans have won five of the past seven encounters, but their defense, which is missing injured star Jevon Kearse, perhaps never has been this bad in this series (27th in the NFL). Fred Taylor and Co. will post bigger numbers than they usually do against the Titans.
FRY'S PROMISE: Jaguars 25, Titans 21.
OF NOTE: Poor St. Louis. The absolute last thing this struggling franchise needs is to face the streaking Raiders, the highest scoring team in the league (40.5 points a game). The Raiders have been mashing every opponent and look to add considerably to the Rams' woes. Can the Raiders get 50 today? Probably not. The Rams defense actually is decent. Their problems are on offense, where starter Kurt Warner is out and superstar Marshall Faulk is not involved enough. The Rams' only hope is to not have any turnovers.
FRY'S PROMISE: Raiders 31, Rams 21.
FRY'S PROMISE: Chargers 34, Chiefs 29
OF NOTE: This is the game of the week and features arguably the league's two best teams -- behind the Raiders. Both are coming off big wins. The Fins beat the Patriots, and the Broncos fought off the Chargers. The Fins have owned the Broncos, winning the past five encounters. The Fins need RB Ricky Williams to fuel their offense, but the Broncos are second in the league against the run (61 yards allowed per game). If Williams gets bottled up, the Fins won't be able to keep up with the Broncos, who average 25 points.
FRY'S PROMISE: Broncos 26, Dolphins 24.