By Compiled by ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 10, 2000
Bucs at Bears
OF NOTE: The law of averages would suggest the Bears are due after losing five in a row to the Bucs and their last four appearances in Tampa, but the heat from the Florida sun and the Tampa Bay defense will be more than Chicago can stand. The Bears have only one offensive touchdown in the past 12 quarters against the Bucs. In the unlikely event the Bears score, the Bucs will have enough offense to respond. Don't be surprised if Warrick Dunn has a breakout game.
KEY INJURIES: Chicago -- TE John Allred (shoulder) is doubtful. TE Dustin Lyman (shoulder) is probable. Tampa Bay -- S Dexter Jackson (ankle) is out. DE Marcus Jones (elbow), S John Lynch (thigh), WR Karl Williams (shoulder), CB Floyd Young (hamstring) are probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Bucs 23, Bears 14
OF NOTE: The scintillating matchup between Dolphins CB Sam Madison and Vikings WR Randy Moss is a microcosm of the battle between the Miami defense and the Minnesota offense. Most teams play their safeties back and force the Vikings to throw underneath, but Miami will challenge with press coverage. That could lead to a huge day for Moss and QB Daunte Culpepper, but I think the opposite will occur. Culpepper will be forced into bad throws and wild scrambles. On the other side, Dolphins RB Lamar Smith (181 yards last week) should flourish.
KEY INJURIES: Dolphins -- CB Ben Kelly (knee), CB Terrance Shaw (knee) are out. S Greg Jeffries (hamstring) is questionable. Vikings -- G Chris Liwienski (knee) is doubtful. G Corbin Lacina (knee) is probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Dolphins 20, Vikings 17
OF NOTE: If Baltimore ever is to beat Jacksonville, this is the day. The Jaguars will struggle to run the ball with Chris Howard, and a one-dimensional attack will struggle against a good defense. An erratic effort by Ravens QB Tony Banks could throw victory away, but he knows he has to minimize mistakes in what's sure to be a close game. Six of the Jags' eight consecutive victories against the Ravens have been by seven points or fewer, five by three or fewer.
KEY INJURIES: Jaguars -- TE Damon Jones (knee-injured reserve), T Leon Searcy (leg) are out. RB Stacey Mack (ankle), RB Fred Taylor (knee) are questionable. Ravens -- C Jeff Mitchell (knee), T Kipp Vickers (knee) are questionable. QB Tony Banks (elbow), RB Priest Holmes (thigh) are probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Ravens 13, Jaguars 9
OF NOTE: The Packers have picked a bad time to have an ailing offense. Even at full strength, Green Bay would have trouble scoring, but with QB Brett Favre aching and RB Dorsey Levens out, it may be next to impossible. The Packers have to hope for a painless performance from Favre and a stop-the-bleeding effort from their porous defense. It's not going to happen.
KEY INJURIES: Packers -- WR Corey Bradford (leg), Levens (knee), CB Mike McKenzie (knee), LB Brian Williams (knee) are out. T Earl Dotson (back), T Chad Clifton (knee) are questionable. Favre (elbow) is probable. Buffalo -- QB Doug Flutie (groin), RB Jonathan Linton (ribs), G Joe Panos (foot), LB Sam Rogers (shoulder) are questionable. QB Rob Johnson (leg) is probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Bills 20, Packers 3
OF NOTE: The Titans have not lost at Adelphia Stadium and the streak will continue. The Chiefs have to succeed by running the ball, but I don't see them gaining much against Tennessee. The Bills came up with 137 last week, but 60 were on Rob Johnson's scrambling and Elvis Grbac does not have the same ability. Offensively, QB Steve McNair and RB Eddie George will want redemption after a dismal effort in Buffalo. George was held to 37 yards on 17 carries.
KEY INJURIES: Chiefs -- G Dave Szott (arm) is out. FB Donnell Bennett (foot), TE Jason Dunn (shoulder) is doubtful. RB Dante Hall (back) is questionable. Titans -- TE Michael Roan (knee/ankle) is out. LB Randall Godfrey (shoulder), C Kevin Long (ankle), WR Derrick Mason (thigh) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Titans 20, Chiefs 10
OF NOTE: If this game were at Oakland, you might give the Raiders defense an outside chance to shut down Peyton Manning and company. But in the RCA Dome, Manning should find a way in what likely will be a close game. The key matchup will be between Oakland CB Charles Woodson and Indy WR Marvin Harrison, but Manning might be as comfortable spreading passes to RB Edgerrin James and TE Ken Dilger. Oakland has to run to be successful, but the Colts limited Kansas City to 74 yards last week in Arrowhead.
KEY INJURIES: Raiders -- LB Eric Barton (hamstring) is questionable. Colts -- WR Terrence Wilkins (head) is out. DE Mark Thomas (knee) is doubtful. WR Marvin Harrison (shoulder) is questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Colts 17, Raiders 13
OF NOTE: The Giants have won six in a row against the Eagles, but I don't think such numbers will mean a lot to Philadelphia this season. Its 1-9 record at Texas Stadium was meaningless in last week's 41-14 romp against the Cowboys, and the Giants' string of success is likely to be snapped today. Philly's key will be stopping the rushing tandem of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. If the Eagles slow them and take a substantial lead, the pass rushers will find it easier to tee off on QB Kerry Collins after posting five sacks last week.
KEY INJURIES: Giants -- DE Jeremiah Parker (neck), CB Andre Weathers (knee) are doubtful. S Sam Garnes (concussion), TE Pete Mitchell (knee) are questionable. Eagles -- WR Na Brown (hand) is out. WR Torrance Small (hamstring) is questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Eagles 21, Giants 17
OF NOTE: The Bengals are coming off a Week 1 bye and are home in a new stadium. With an excited crowd and a sense of importance, they should dominate the fledgling Browns. Cleveland's defense held Jacksonville to 10 first-half points before breaking in the second half. It wouldn't be surprising to see a similar outcome today. The Browns offense leaves the defense on the field too long, resulting in fatigue. As long as Cincy doesn't let Errict Rhett run wild, it can keep QB Akili Smith and RB Corey Dillon off the field, too.
KEY INJURIES: Browns -- WR Darrin Chiaverini (head) is questionable. DE Keith McKenzie (foot), WR David Patten (neck) are probable. Bengals -- RB Michael Basnight (wrist) is out. S-KR Tremain Mack (ankle), DT Tom Barndt (chest) are probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Bengals 21, Browns 13
OF NOTE: The Rams were 2-3 outdoors last season. The Seahawks are hoping the view from scenic Husky Stadium will distract the Rams, but there's not much chance of that. The St. Louis offense looked as dominant as ever Monday with 41 points against Denver, while the Seahawks gave up 23 to Miami on Sunday. Jon Kitna returns as the starter for Seattle after getting benched last week, but he hasn't been the same since the Bucs exposed him in Week 12 last season. Since then, Kitna has gone 1-7, counting a playoff loss to Miami, and has thrown eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
KEY INJURIES: Rams -- DT D'Marco Farr (knee) is out. CB Todd Lyght (toe) is questionable. WR Az-Zahir Hakim (knee) is probable. Seahawks -- DT Tim Watson (knee) is out.
HOOPER'S PICK: Rams 31, Seahawks 21
OF NOTE: San Francisco has won eight consecutive home openers, but a ninth seems improbable. The Niners' youth-laden defense will have trouble contending with Carolina, especially if it fails to pressure QB Steve Beuerlein, who threw for 368 yards the last time he faced San Francisco. The Redskins' saving grace was pressure on Beuerlein in their 20-17 win against the Panthers and the Niners have to do the same. The question is: Can Carolina's defense handle the San Francisco offense, which scored 28 points in a loss last week? I think it can.
KEY INJURIES: Panthers -- T James Dexter (elbow), LB Hannibal Navies (knee) are out. DE Chuck Smith (knee), LB Lee Woodall (shoulder) are probable. 49ers -- RB Paul Smith (calf) is out. S Lance Schulters (ankle) is doubtful.
HOOPER'S PICK: Panthers 27, 49ers 21
OF NOTE: This seems like a no-brainer. The high-price talent of the Redskins should overwhelm the Lions. But Detroit is tough in the Silverdome and Washington knows that, having lost 33-17 in December at Pontiac. The Bucs, Vikings and Super Bowl champion Rams also went down in the Lions' den. If Charlie Batch was healthy, I would like Detroit's chances even more. But with his mobility likely limited and the Redskins' pass rush improved, Washington should find a way to win and be grateful.
KEY INJURIES: Redskins -- C Corey Raymer (knee) is out. RB Skip Hicks (knee) is questionable. Lions -- G Stockar McDougle (knee) is out. LB Barrett Green (ankle), WR Herman Moore (shoulder) are doubtful. Batch (knee) is questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Redskins 17, Lions 13
OF NOTE: You don't have to spend a lot of time figuring this out. Denver's offense will score a lot even if Terrell Davis can't go all four quarters. Brian Griese showed he's capable of spraying the field with crisp passes in the Monday night shootout, and Atlanta allowed 49ers QB Jeff Garcia to throw for 256 yards last week. On the other side, Atlanta won't spread the Broncos defenders, so they should stall the rushing game of Jamal Anderson.
KEY INJURIES: Falcons -- WR Jammi German (ankle) is out. QB Danny Kanell (finger) is doubtful. DT Shane Dronett (arm), WR Terance Mathis (hip), DE Brady Smith (groin) are questionable. Broncos -- RB Olandis Gary (knee-injured reserve) is out. RB Terrell Davis (ankle), LB Al Wilson (shoulder), WR Ed McCaffrey (groin) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 21, Falcons 14
OF NOTE: In what should be a defensive struggle, favor the Chargers because they're home. San Diego QB Ryan Leaf (17-for-39, 180 yards, three INTs last week) should play better, especially if he gets run support. Leaf is not experienced enough to go one-dimensional against any decent defense and the Saints are decent. But New Orleans showed no offensive spark against Detroit and San Diego is just as capable.
KEY INJURIES: Saints -- LB Charlie Clemons (calf), S Rob Kelly (fibula) are out. CB Fred Thomas (knee) is doubtful. CB Alex Molden (groin), LB Darrin Smith (hamstring), RB Ricky Williams (foot) are questionable. Chargers -- DE Al Fontenot (calf) is doubtful. WR Reggie Jones (knee), CB Fakhir Brown (shoulder) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Chargers 14, Saints 10
OF NOTE: The loser can all but write off the season. Such talk may be premature, but the winner of the Giants-Eagles clash will be 2-up in the division on the loser here. You want to think the people who pegged Dallas as a playoff contender weren't far off. But losing WR Joey Galloway for the season and QB Troy Aikman indefinitely changes everything. Plus, Emmitt Smith has a bad hand. If Arizona can run the ball and shut down Smith, the 'Boys are 0-2.
KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- Aikman (concussion), Galloway (knee), CB Dwayne Goodrich (hamstring), CB Charlie Williams (knee) are out. Cardinals -- DE Thomas Burke (knee), C Mike Gruttadauria (knee), DE Andre Wadsworth (knee) are out. T L.J. Shelton (knee), LB Zack Walz (knee) are doubtful.
HOOPER'S PICK: Cardinals 17, Cowboys 16
OF NOTE: I don't see any way the Patriots can win, and the fact New York has won four of five is just one of the reasons. The Jets have the defense to pressure QB Drew Bledsoe the same way the Bucs did last week, and it doesn't appear the Pats have a running game to keep them honest. Offensively, they may have more success than the Bucs, who turned the game over to the defense after going up 21-10 in the third quarter. QB Vinny Testaverde hasn't been sacked in seven of his past nine starts, and RB Curtis Martin is well on his way to another 1,000-yard season. The Jets will leave plenty of time for Dennis Miller's comedy.
KEY INJURIES: Patriots -- G Max Lane (hand) is questionable. S Tebucky Jones (leg) is probable. Jets -- RB Curtis Martin (knee) is probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Jets 30, Patriots 10