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NFL games

By Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

Bucs at Lions

OF NOTE: There were some incredulous looks at the Valrico Elementary Donuts for Dads breakfast when I said the Bucs will lose. The truth is the Bucs will not go undefeated this season, and if you check the schedule, "at Lions" is a definite candidate for a loss. The Bucs have lost seven of nine at the Silverdome and nine of 12 overall against Detroit. Tampa Bay has to run to win and I'm not convinced it can do that against the Lions' talented front seven. If Detroit LB Stephen Boyd is out, the Bucs may have a chance.

KEY INJURIES: Bucs -- S David Gibson (foot) is questionable. QB Joe Hamilton (tonsillitis), CB Dexter Jackson (ankle) are probable. Lions -- G Stockar McDougle (knee), G Tony Semple (ankle) are doubtful. Boyd (back) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Lions 13, Bucs 9

Ravens at Dolphins

OF NOTE: It's a first. Banking on Tony Banks actually makes sense. In his past nine games, the erstwhile Rams bust has thrown 21 touchdowns and nine INTs. His stirring comeback against the Jaguars last week helped cement his legitimacy. The good thing for the Ravens is they won't need 39 points to beat the Dolphins. The Vikings showed last week if you shut down the Miami running game, QB Jay Fiedler will struggle to put up points. On this night 'Fins fans are going to wish Dan Marino was suiting up instead of retiring his jersey.

KEY INJURIES: Ravens -- WR Qadry Ismail (knee), CB Duane Starks (thigh) are questionable. Dolphins -- DT Daryl Gardener (back) is out. CB Ben Kelly (knee), WR Tony Martin (foot) are doubtful. LB Robert Jones (ankle) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Ravens 16, Dolphins 3

Bengals at Jaguars

OF NOTE: The Jaguars have won four in a row and six of seven against Cincinnati and there's little reason to believe the streak will end today. I thought the Bengals were ready to turn the corner, but with last week's 24-7 loss to Cleveland, they are back in sports franchise hell with the Clippers. Jacksonville seldom loses two in a row, and last week showed it can score without a running game. Cincy won't keep pace. Jags wideout Jimmy Smith is likely to notch a 100-yard receiving game, his ninth in the past 12 games.

KEY INJURIES: Bengals -- RB Michael Basnight (wrist), LB Brian Simmons (knee) are out. TE Tony McGee (foot) is questionable. Jaguars -- T Leon Searcy (leg) is out. LB Brant Boyer (groin) is doubtful. RB Fred Taylor (knee), K Mike Hollis (back) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Jaguars 30, Bengals 14

Bills at Jets

OF NOTE: The Jets' best offensive weapon is Curtis Martin, but the Bills may take him out of the game with hulking defensive tackles Ted Washington and Pat Williams and former FSU linebacker Sam Cowart. That would put New York's hopes on the shoulders of Vinny Testaverde. Although he has been erratic, I like his chances against the Buffalo secondary. Look for Testaverde to outperform resilient Buffalo starter Rob Johnson, who will have his own problems contending with Jets linebackers. Look for the Jets to move to 3-0 for the first time since 1966.

KEY INJURIES: Bills -- DE Shawn Price (knee) is doubtful. QB Doug Flutie (groin), LB Sam Rogers (shoulder) are questionable. G Joe Panos (foot) is probable. Jets -- none.

HOOPER'S PICK: Jets 17, Bills 16

49ers at Rams

OF NOTE: The Rams have scored 30 or more points in eight consecutive regular-season games, and it's likely to become nine today. That doesn't assure victory with St. Louis allowing 35 points a game. If QB Jeff Garcia gets a strong effort from RB Charlie Garner and plays with confidence, the Niners could keep pace. But how much confidence can Garcia have when the possibility of being benched for Rick Mirer is looming? Rams won't lose at home.

KEY INJURIES: 49ers -- S Zack Bronson (neck) is doubtful. LB Ken Norton Jr. (back), S Lance Schulters (ankle) are questionable. CB Monty Montgomery (leg) is probable. Rams -- DT D'Marco Farr (knee) is out. S Devin Bush (toe), RB Trung Canidate (foot), LB Leonard Little (ankle), WR Ricky Proehl (hamstring) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Rams 50, 49ers 21

Eagles at Packers

OF NOTE: The Eagles are in the early running for the title of Prognosticators' Nightmare. One week they blast Dallas, the next week they flame out against the Giants. Will the real Philly please stand up? The Giants showed that if you can slow Duce Staley (11 yards last week), the Eagles can be beaten. But Green Bay's rush defense is 17th against the run and in need of LB Brian Williams. Still, I just can't see Brett Favre going 0-3, especially if RB Dorsey Levens returns.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles -- WR Na Brown (hand), WR Torrance Small (hamstring) are questionable. Packers -- WR Corey Bradford (leg), T Earl Dotson (back), CB Mike McKenzie (knee), LB Brian Williams (knee) are out. CB-S Antuan Edwards (knee) is doubtful. Levens (knee) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Packers 24, Eagles 23

Falcons at Panthers

OF NOTE: The best way to slow the Panthers, who have scored at least 31 points in nine of their past 15 games, is with a strong pass rush. But the Falcons have only three sacks in two games, one from a defensive linemen. Atlanta is allowing an average of 35 points and 373 yards, and that's a bad sign. Carolina's defense should slow the Falcons offense, which will be without receiver/returner Tim Dwight.

KEY INJURIES: Falcons -- WR Jammi German (ankle), WR Dwight (appendicitis) are out. QB Danny Kanell (finger) is doubtful. DT Shane Dronett (arm/knee), DT Ed Jasper (ankle) are questionable. Panthers -- LB Hannibal Navies (knee) is doubtful. DE Sean Gilbert (groin), WR Muhsin Muhammad (finger), DE Chuck Smith (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Panthers 21, Falcons 10

Steelers at Browns

OF NOTE: Pittsburgh has lost 16 of its past 22 games, primarily because of inefficient play at quarterback. While it is coming off a bye week, the questions remain because starter Kent Graham banged his hand against a helmet in practice and there's uncertainty about how effective he will be. Kordell Stewart may step in, but the Browns are coming off their biggest victory of the new era and simply are playing better. Cleveland should prevail for its first home win in 10 tries, as long as it curtails the Pittsburgh running game.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers -- DE Kendrick Clancy (ankle) is doubtful. LB Levon Kirkland (ankle), S Lee Flowers (groin) are questionable. Browns -- WR JaJuan Dawson (clavicle) is out. CB Lewis Sanders (finger), G Steve Zahursky (eye) are probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Browns 20, Steelers 10

Chargers at Chiefs

OF NOTE: There should be tombstones in Arrowhead Stadium because that's where Chargers go to die. San Diego is 2-8 in its past 10 visits to Kansas City and has lost the past three. In fact, the Chargers have scored 10 points in those three games. Signs of a different outcome are not there. The Chargers are ranked 30th in offense and have accounted for 221 yards in two games. Moses Moreno will start in place of Ryan Leaf, but if he's the answer, why didn't he win the starting job in training camp?

KEY INJURIES: Chargers -- CB Fakhir Brown (shoulder), DE Al Fontenot (calf), WR Jeff Graham (hamstring/back), CB DeRon Jenkins (hamstring) are questionable. Chiefs -- G Dave Szott (arm) is out. RB Donnell Bennett (foot), DE Duane Clemons (hip), CB James Hasty (toe), CB Eric Warfield (back) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Chiefs 14, Chargers 6

Broncos at Raiders

OF NOTE: One of the reasons Denver quarterback Brian Griese is the league's top-rated passer (120.0) is because he hasn't thrown an INT. Error-free ball will be tantamount against Oakland, which rallied for a 38-31 win against Indianapolis with two critical turnovers during a 24-point third quarter. If Mike Anderson continues to be the new running sensation, Oakland will get upset. Actually, it's not much of an upset. The Broncos have swept the season series four of the past five years and are 4-1 in their past five Oakland trips.

KEY INJURIES: Broncos -- K Jason Elam (back) is out. TE Byron Chamberlain (hamstring), RB Terrell Davis (ankle), LB Al Wilson (shoulder) are questionable. Raiders -- LB Eric Barton (hamstring), S Marquez Pope (groin), DT Austin Robbins (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 24, Raiders 21

Vikings at Patriots

OF NOTE: The Vikings blitzed on 70 percent of the Dolphins' plays last week, and they are likely to do the same thing today. The Patriots want to let quarterback Drew Bledsoe pass them to victory. It hasn't worked this season, but it will today if he gets time against a young secondary. It would help if Kevin Faulk can provide a semblance of a rushing attack after gaining 82 yards against the Jets on Monday night. Defensively, the Pats will try to confuse young Daunte Culpepper because if CB Antonio Langham gets in a one-on-one against Randy Moss or Cris Carter, it's six points.

KEY INJURIES: Vikings -- G Chris Liwienski (knee), DT Tony Williams (groin) are questionable. Patriots -- S Larry Whigham (knee) is out. T Greg Robinson-Randall (neck), C Damien Woody (neck) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Vikings 23, Patriots 20

Saints at Seahawks

OF NOTE: Defensive-minded coach Jim Haslett has his Saints defensive unit atop the NFL rankings after two weeks, and the offense managed 28 points against a pretty good Chargers D last week. Of course, there are a lot of defenses outside of St. Louis that could dominate against Stoney Case and Ryan Leaf. Is Jon Kitna any better? He thinks so, after throwing for 245 yards against the suspect Rams defense, but I'm not convinced. On paper, picking the Saints is not smart, but I have a feeling Ricky Williams is ready to run.

KEY INJURIES: Saints -- S Rob Kelly (fibula) is out. LB Charlie Clemons (calf) is doubtful. C Jerry Fontenot (eye), RB Ricky Williams (foot) are probable. Seahawks -- WR Derrick Mayes (ankle) is questionable. TE Christian Fauria (hamstring) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Saints 23, Seahawks 21

Giants at Bears

OF NOTE: Why are the Bears favored? Chicago is coming off a 41-0 shellacking against Tampa Bay while the Giants are 2-0 with an offense that has never looked better under coach Jim Fassel. QB Kerry Collins has been solid as has the Giants rushing game (195 yards a game). Plus, Bears LBs Barry Minter and Roosevelt Colvin are hurt, making it even more difficult to discern how Chicago will stop New York. The Bears have won 13 of their past 16 home openers, but that seems pretty hollow.

KEY INJURIES: Giants -- CB Andre Weathers (knee) is questionable. S Sam Garnes (concussion), TE Pete Mitchell (knee) are probable. Bears -- Colvin (knee), S Shawn Wooden (hamstring) are doubtful. WR Marty Booker (shoulder), Minter (back) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Giants 24, Bears 14

Cowboys at Redskins

OF NOTE: If Philly RB Duce Staley rushed for 201 yards at Texas Stadium two weeks ago, and Arizona's Thomas Jones and Michael Pittman combined for 98 yards against the Cowboys last week, what is Stephen Davis going to do on a Monday night? That's just one problem Dallas will face. Dallas also has to worry about QB Brad Johnson abusing its corners. On the other side, quarterback Randall Cunningham will have to scramble early and often against a defense ranked fifth in the league.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- LB Dat Nguyen (knee), QB Troy Aikman (concussion) are out. CB Dwayne Goodrich (hamstring), G Solomon Page (hamstring), RB Chris Warren (neck) are questionable. Redskins -- C Cory Raymer (knee) is out. RB Skip Hicks (knee) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Redskins 27, Cowboys 14

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