By DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001
Darrell Fry enters this week like every NFL team: Perfect
Bucs at Cowboys
TV: Ch. 13
Line: Bucs by 9
THE BREAKDOWN: Dallas has dominated the series (8-1, 7-0 at Texas Stadium), but that's hugely misleading. Remember 1989 when the Cowboys went 1-15? Well, don't be surprised if this season is almost as ugly. It's a good thing rookie QB Quincy Carter is exceptionally mobile because he's going to be running for his life with Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp trying to break him in half. The Bucs' revamped offense won't be grooved, but the Cowboys will be lucky to get a field goal against the tenacious defense.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Bucs 20, Cowboys 3.
Line: Colts by 2
THE BREAKDOWN: It's kind of a shame that new Jets coach (and former Bucs assistant) Herman Edwards makes his debut against a heavyweight like Indianapolis. Where are the Bengals when you need them? Jets RB Curtis Martin (785 yards in six games) always runs wild on the Colts. He had a career-high 203 last season against Indianapolis. But the Colts, who return all 11 offensive starters from a team that averaged 26.8 points, are too loaded. The only way the Jets win is if QB Peyton Manning's injured leg gives him trouble.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Colts 31, Jets 27.
Line: Raiders by 3
THE BREAKDOWN: This is another one of those nasty AFC West rivalries, although it won't be much of a fight. Don't worry that K.C. is 11-1 in its past 12 openers at Arrowhead and Oakland is 0-7 in its past seven openers on the road. The Chiefs have Trent Green at QB but nobody to throw to. Plus, the Raiders defense is one of the best and, offensively, Oakland will ride a running game that was tops in the NFL last season. Raiders WR Jerry Rice will play in a game for a team other than the 49ers for the first time in his 17-year career.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Raiders 27, Chiefs 20.
Line: Vikings by 10
THE BREAKDOWN: QB Chris Weinke is older than some veterans, but he still is very much a rookie. That means the Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida State is going to have a heap of trouble against the Vikings defense, which is a lot better than you might think. Actually, the Vikings defense is the least of Carolina's problems. Its biggest one is Randy Moss. He's good, but he's even better when he's playing at the Metrodome. Also, look for Vikes rookie RB Michael Bennett to go for more than 100 yards.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Vikings 27, Panthers 13.
Line: Packers by 5 1/2
THE BREAKDOWN: This is the Pack's first step in proving that Green Bay is still a playoff caliber team. WR Antonio Freeman and RB Dorsey Levens should be healthy and ready to go. QB Brett Favre will be, well, Favre, the same guy who has won 10 in a row at home against the Lions. Detroit's new West Coast offense still has kinks, as does its revamped offensive line. Lion fans, looking for the team's first win at Lambeau since 1991, better hope QB Charlie Batch makes it out of this game with all his limbs still attached.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Packers 24, Lions 14.
Line: Patriots by 1
THE BREAKDOWN: I'd rather watch the Weather Channel than sit through this game, but it's on the schedule, so they have to play it. These are two teams going nowhere. The Patriots' once potent offense stinks, particularly with wide receiver Terry Glenn in the doghouse. The Bengals are always generous enough to beat themselves if the other team can't quite do it. The Bengals have a few more weapons on offense -- although starting quarterback Jon Kitna is not one of them -- and that just might be the difference.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Bengals 13, Patriots 10.
Line: Saints by 2 1/2
THE BREAKDOWN: The Saints are out to prove last season's playoff run was no fluke. They can start by winning on the road today, which is never easy. QB Rob Johnson no longer shares this team with Doug Flutie, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll be better, especially considering this squad has no running game. Here's the only thing you need to know about this game: During the preseason, Johnson was sacked about once every six pass attempts and the Saints led the league last season in sacks with 66. Any more questions?
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Saints 26, Bills 21.
Line: Seahawks by 3
THE BREAKDOWN: Seattle could win this game by 14 or lose by a field goal. It's hard to read this team. Today's outcome depends heavily on new QB Matt Hasselbeck. If the developing Browns can rattle him, rookie coach Butch Davis has a shot at having a successful NFL debut in his quest to turn around a team that was 5-27 the past two seasons. The last thing the Browns want is to get behind early and have to put the game in the hands of QB Tim Couch. But that's exactly what's going to happen.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Seahawks 30, Browns 13.
TV: Ch. 10
Line: Jaguars by 3
THE BREAKDOWN: The Jaguars better hope nothing happens to QB Mark Brunell or former Florida RB Fred Taylor because this team has little depth. Steelers QB Kordell Stewart does not figure to give the Jacksonville defense much trouble. The Steelers visit the Jaguars for the final time as an AFC Central rival as Jacksonville heads to the new AFC South next season. Bottom line: It's far too crucial to the Jags to get off to a good start to let this game get away.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Jags 19, Steelers 16.
Line: Ravens by 10
THE BREAKDOWN: Yeah, the Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, but for some reason they just don't scare me. Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis and the defense are going to tap dance on quarterback Shane Matthews' tonsils and the Bears are going to look every bit as pathetic as they are, but I just don't see a Ravens blowout here, mainly because their running game is suspect with the absence of Jamal Lewis (season-ending knee injury). Call me crazy (I'm sure plenty of folks will if Baltimore wins going away).
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Ravens 17, Bears 6.
TV: Ch. 13
Line: Rams by 3
THE BREAKDOWN: One of the week's best games and a good indicator of just how improved each team is. The Rams have been crowing about the upgrades they've made on defense. Well, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb will be one of their biggest tests of the season. Likewise, the Eagles have boosted their offense. The big question mark for the Rams is running back Marshall Faulk, the MVP of the league last season who has had surgery twice on his right knee since November. But when you get right down to it, the Rams will be too explosive.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Rams 28, Eagles 27.
Line: 49ers by 3 1/2
THE BREAKDOWN: Division rivals go at it. The key stat is Atlanta has lost nine in a row at San Francisco and 11 of its past 12 there. Most haven't been close. Atlanta's Jamal Anderson may be out to prove something after a magazine article ranked him the 22nd-best running back in the NFL, "behind three or four guys who couldn't wash my car," he said. Look for QB Jeff Garcia to have to carry the 49ers' offense with oft-injured Garrison Hearst the only running threat. That means the 'Niners won't score much, but they won't need to this time.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: 49ers 21, Falcons 20.
Line: Chargers by 2 1/2
THE BREAKDOWN: Any other year, the 'Skins win easily. But not this season. The Chargers are much better than last season when they went 1-15. If Washington isn't careful, QB Doug Flutie and rookie RB LaDainian Tomlinson could burn them. The higher the score, the more the game favors the Chargers. This much is sure: You don't want to be anywhere near the Washington locker room after the game because new coach Marty Schottenheimer is going to have a cow when the 'Skins lose this one.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Chargers 24, 'Skins 23.
Line: Titans by 6
THE BREAKDOWN: As openers go, this will be worth more than the price of admission. The 'Fins have more speed at receiver this season, but the Titans defense doesn't scare easily even though it lost some bite to free agency. For the 'Fins to have any chance, they have to keep Eddie George to less than under 100 yards and not allow Steve McNair toscramble out of the pocket for big plays (running or throwing). Another three-interception day from McNair like the last time they met would help, but it's not likely.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Titans 17, Dolphins 14.
9 p.m. Monday
TV: Ch. 28
Line: Broncos by 6 1/2
THE BREAKDOWN: The ratings ought to be high for this game. The Broncos will begin their season on Monday night for the fourth year in a row, this time in the new $400-million Invesco Field at Mile High. Denver has all sorts of weapons to throw at the Giants, not the least of which is a seemingly healthy Terrell Davis at RB. The Giants, meanwhile, are playing with a chip on their shoulder after getting blown out in last season's Super Bowl. The Broncos, though, will knock off that chip and, frankly, there's nothing the Giants can do about it.
FRY'S GUARANTEE: Broncos 27, Giants 24.