By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002
Vikings (2-5) at Bucs (6-2)
OF NOTE: The Vikes have lost 14 straight road games and have never beaten the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium. Chances are, they won't today. But the Bucs are banged up, particularly on offense. And the Vikings have won two of their past three and have the league's fourth-best offense. If the Bucs' top-rated defense gives up more than 20 points, you could be looking at an upset. Turnovers will be the key. The Vikes have a turnover ratio of minus-12, and the Bucs defense thrives on forcing turnovers.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bucs 23, Vikings 16.
OF NOTE: The Pats need to break out of their four-game dive, but their schedule offers little relief. The Bills, led by former Pats QB Drew Bledsoe, may be even better than their record and have been torching opponents with an offense that's averaging 384 yards, second-best in the league. The Pats can light it up too, so this should be another high-scoring affair. And it should be close. Four of their past five encounters have gone to overtime. The Pats' best hope is getting their running game going against a Bills run defense that ranks 24th in the league.
FRY'S PROMISE: Bills 34, Patriots 28.
OF NOTE: The Ravens haven't been nearly as bad as expected. They're pretty good -- when everybody is healthy. QB Chris Redmon and LB Ray Lewis are still out, so the smart money is on the Falcons. This club is soaring, especially after toppling the Saints on the road last weekend. Like most teams, the Ravens will have trouble containing QB Michael Vick, who hasn't thrown an interception this season. Plus, there's RB Warrick Dunn (142 yards Sunday). They'll be partying in Buckhead after this one.
FRY'S PROMISE: Falcons 24, Ravens 13.
OF NOTE: We'll have to start calling them the Cubs instead of the Bears soon. Chicago's swan dive has hit five straight games, largely because of injuries, and there seems to be no end in sight. Certainly not today against the Eagles, one of the NFC's best teams. The Bears' struggling offense, even with QB Jim Miller back, likely will be mauled by an Eagles defense that constantly gets after the quarterback. Look for RB Duce Staley to have another big game against a soft Bears run defense (128.9 rushing yards allowed per game).
FRY'S PROMISE: Eagles 29, Bears 17.
OF NOTE: This is a battle for first place in the AFC North, but don't expect much of a fight. The Browns are solid, but this one will be all Steelers. Since their 0-2 start, they have rolled over opponents and are coming off a 31-18 victory over the Ravens. Plus, the Steelers almost always beat the Browns, having won four straight and 10 of the past 12. The Steelers are banged up at running back, but it shouldn't make a difference because they have scored at least 28 points in each of QB Tommy Maddox's four starts.
FRY'S PROMISE: Steelers 30, Browns 17.
OF NOTE: Emmitt Smith's record-setting day was not enough to inspire the Cowboys to beat the lowly Seahawks last weekend, so there's little reason to think they'll do any better against an improving Lions squad. The Lions' run defense is solid enough to force rookie QB Chad Hutchinson to beat them. Lions QB Joey Harrington, who has won two of three at Ford Field, also will win the battle of the rookies. He and RB James Stewart, on pace for a 1,000-yard season, will make all the difference in this one.
FRY'S PROMISE: Lions 16, Cowboys 10.
OF NOTE: The Bengals have guaranteed a win, but don't call Las Vegas just yet. The Texans aren't pushovers, especially not for the dreadful Bungles, who blew a 14-point lead last weekend. The Texans are coming off a solid road win against the Jaguars. The Bungles won't rattle rookie QB David Carr, who is 45-for-77 for 669 yards, three TDs and no interceptions in his past three starts. If the Bengals have more than one turnover, which they probably will because QB John Kitna has thrown seven interceptions, they'll lose.
FRY'S PROMISE: Texans 24, Bengals 20.
OF NOTE: Both teams need to win badly. Sure, the Titans are coming off a victory, but does beating the Bengals really count ? The Colts are reeling after a solid start, losing two straight and raising questions about their legitimacy as AFC title contenders. Beating the Titans won't exactly win over critics, but it will restore some confidence to this Tony Dungy team that's not nearly as explosive offensively as in years past. Now, RB Edgerrin James is ailing. Somehow, the Titans, who have won three of the past four meetings, will steal this one.
FRY'S PROMISE: Titans 21, Colts 14.
OF NOTE: If you thought Jets coach Herman Edwards was mad last week, wait until you see him after this one. The Jets are better under QB Chad Pennington, but it will take a lot more to upset the Chargers. The Jets' biggest problem will be on defense, where they are second-to-last in the league. That means RB LaDainian Tomlinson (112.1 yards per game) and QB Drew Brees (1,332 passing yards) will pad their impressive stats today. This one won't be close unless the Bolts have a lot of turnovers.
FRY'S PROMISE: Chargers 33, Jets 20.
OF NOTE: This likely will be the game of the day. The Raiders are sliding, having lost three straight by an average 10.3 points, but could snap out of their funk and turn this into a classic. The Raiders have won three of their past four clashes with their bay area neighbor and 13 of their past 17 home games. While QB Jeff Garcia usually plays well against Oakland, the 49ers have had trouble putting away teams. And the Raiders have the quick-strike capabilities to steal this one at the end if the Niners aren't careful.
FRY'S PROMISE: Raiders 31, 49ers 27.
OF NOTE: The Rams finally seem to be getting their act together and should be well rested after a bye week. This is probably the worst time for the Cards, coming off a 38-28 loss to the Niners last Sunday, to catch this team. Still, it won't be easy for the Rams and RB Marshall Faulk. The Cards' run defense won't let him run wild like he has recently. Special teams could play a huge role. Don't be surprised if a late-game turnover gives Cards kicker Bill Gramatica a chance to win it.
FRY'S PROMISE: Rams 28, Cardinals 26.
OF NOTE: As if things couldn't get any worse for the Seahawks, they are without starting QB Trent Dilfer, who is out for the season. Backup QB Matt Hasselbeck was once the regular starter, so there shouldn't be much drop off. The 'Skins have been up and down but could be moving in the right direction with QB Shane Matthews, who has thrown six TDs. If Matthews doesn't give the Seahawks a short field by throwing a lot of interceptions, the old ballcoach should be smiling after this one.
FRY'S PROMISE: Redskins 27, S'hawks 21.
OF NOTE: Neither team is playing as well as it was earlier in the season. The Jags have slumped lately, losing three straight to weak teams (Titans, Ravens and Texans) and prompting questions about QB Mark Brunell's health. The Giants are coming off a Monday night loss to the Eagles in which their offense did little right. The Giants can not let Jags RB Fred Taylor, who has 681 rushing yards, get loose like Eagles RB Duce Staley did (126 yards) against them. If the Jags lose, coach Tom Coughlin's days in Jacksonville could be numbered.
FRY'S PROMISE: Giants 19, Jaguars 16.