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By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002
OF NOTE: The Bucs are coming off a loss to the Eagles and likely will be without QB Brad Johnson and WR Keenan McCardell. But they probably could play without DT Warren Sapp, LB Derrick Brooks and WR Keyshawn Johnson and still beat the Panthers, who are in a four-game free fall despite having the league's best pass rush (25 sacks). What's worse, they also have quarterback issues, with rookie Randy Fasani getting the start. The Bucs' sluggish offense is the only thing that keeps this from being a total waxing.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bucs 24, Panthers 0.
OF NOTE: The last thing the Raiders need after losing two in a row is to face the Chiefs. Don't let the losing record fool you. This team, despite having an awful defense (ranked last in total defense), is dangerous and nearly toppled the Broncos a week ago. If the Raiders let RB Priest Holmes run wild like the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson did a week ago (153 yards), they can forget about winning. In the end, this will be the most exciting game of the day, with a lot of scoring from the league's two best offenses and a down-to-the-wire ending.
FRY'S PROMISE: Chiefs 38, Raiders 37.
OF NOTE: Chris Chandler, who threw for 163 yards in an overtime loss to the Lions last week, will start at quarterback for Chicago as Jim Miller continues to battle elbow tendinitis. The Bears have a chance to stop their four-game slide against the struggling Vikings, who might only win a couple of more games this season. The Vikes' main problem is turnovers -- they are minus-14 in the takeaway/giveaway department. The Bears' opportunistic defense, which has forced 12 turnovers, likely will compound those problems.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bears 16, Vikings 13.
OF NOTE: The Saints were impressive again a week ago in holding off the 49ers. But watch this one closely. The Saints have a tendency to slip into a lull against inferior opponents (they lost to then winless Detroit and barely beat Chicago). It could happen again, especially if the Saints are emotionally drained from beating the Niners. The Falcons picked apart the Panthers 30-0 last Sunday with QB Michael Vick back in the lineup. Because of his talent, this one will be a lot closer than anyone probably is expecting.
FRY'S PROMISE: Saints 23, Falcons 17.
OF NOTE: Boy, the Jets needed the win against the Vikings last week. But another win today won't come easy, even though the Jets have won two of the past three meetings and haven't lost to the Browns at home since 1979. The Jets' solid pass defense should keep Browns QB Tim Couch in check, putting the pressure on the Browns' weak running game. That's not so bad for the Browns because the Jets are terrible at stopping the run (second-to-last in the league). If the Browns rush for more than 100 yards, they should win.
FRY'S PROMISE: Browns 29, Jets 24.
OF NOTE: Both teams seem to be vastly improved since the start of the season and each is coming off a significant win. The Steelers have won two in a row and have allowed a total of 17 points in those two games. They will be without workhorse Jerome Bettis, but that shouldn't hurt their running game much. The Ravens defense, even without injured linebacker Ray Lewis, has been solid lately, setting up a low-scoring defensive battle. Give the edge to the Steelers, who have won the past five meetings on the road.
FRY'S PROMISE: Steelers 20, Ravens 13.
OF NOTE: The Lions have looked decent since rookie quarterback Joey Harrington took over. What was more impressive was they ran the ball effectively last week against the Bears (RB James Stewart had a career-high 172 yards). Stewart should have another solid, if not spectacular, day against a so-so Bills defense. But the Bills are averaging 31 points and the Lions will struggle to keep up. If Bills RB Travis Henry goes over 100 yards, QB Drew Bledsoe will take care of the rest. He has passed for 638 yards in his past three games against the Lions.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bills 31, Lions 20.
OF NOTE: The Bengals had a week off to try to straighten out their problems. What they need is an entire month. Maybe two. Still, the time off should help. The Bengals needs RB Corey Dillon to soften the defense and open passing lanes for quarterback Jon Kitna. But the Titans are solid against the run and will keep Dillon from running loose. As bad as the Titans are, they should have enough to keep the Bengals down, at least for another week. After all, they've won seven of the past eight meetings.
FRY'S PROMISE: Titans 27, Bengals 12.
OF NOTE: Emmitt Smith will be the story as he tries to get the 93 yards he needs to break the NFL career rushing record. He'll get it today because the Seahawks have the league's worst run defense (189 yards allowed per game) and the Cowboys probably will try to feed Smith as much as possible. The Seahawks need a win, but nothing would be better than Smith getting the record in a Cowboys win. Inexperienced QB Chad Hutchinson won't make it easy, but "America's Team" will find a way.
FRY'S PROMISE: Cowboys 22, Seahawks 7.
OF NOTE: On paper this is a big game, with sole possession of first place in the NFC West hanging in the balance. But don't believe the hype. The Cardinals, quite frankly, aren't in the Niners' league. They have yet to beat anyone of consequence. The Niners, meanwhile, hope to take out their frustrations after narrowly losing last week to the Saints. Even with WR Terrell Owens and RB Garrison Hearst banged up, the Niners should turn away the pesky Cardinals, whose defense has allowed a total of 26 points the past three games.
FRY'S PROMISE: 49ers 21, Cardinals 10.
OF NOTE: The Pats, losers of three in a row, still are trying to stop the bleeding. Coming off their bye week might help, but facing a resilient Broncos team probably won't. Denver is flying high after a remarkable comeback win against the Chiefs last week and has won 11 of its past 13 games against New England. The Pats need to get their running game going again, but the Broncos lead the league in stopping the run (75 yards allowed per game). The Pats will get things turned around. It just won't be this week.
FRY'S PROMISE: Broncos 26, Patriots 16.
OF NOTE: The Jaguars are hard to figure. One week they beat the Eagles. The next they lose to the Ravens. As inconsistent as they are, they shouldn't lose this one. Granted, the Texans aren't pushovers, but the Jacksonville defense is good enough to keep rookie quarterback David Carr under pressure and add to his growing sack total (he was sacked nine times last week). The Jags rarely lose at home (only 14 losses since 1996). Look for wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who is upset with his role in the offense, to be all smiles after a big day.
FRY'S PROMISE: Jaguars 28, Texans 21.
OF NOTE: Well, well. The old ballcoach is taking his lumps. Frankly, until the 'Skins get better defensively, we'll never know how good coach Steve Spurrier's offensive system can be in the NFL. Chances are, Spurrier will be a little more pleased with what he sees from his offense today, especially with veteran QB Shane Matthews back as the starter. The Colts' improving defense under coach Tony Dungy was exposed last week against the Steelers. If RB Stephen Davis gets rolling late in the game, the Colts will go down again today.
FRY'S PROMISE: Redskins 27, Colts 26.
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