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NFL games

By Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000

Bucs at Redskins

OF NOTE: The most troubling statistic for the Bucs comes from the Washington defense's performance against the Giants last week. The tandem of Ronde Barber and Ron Dayne was limited to 88 yards, and the Bucs' success is keyed on running the ball. Tampa Bay's best approach may be to throw the ball in an effort to open passing lanes, but it has to have confidence in QB Shaun King to do that. Defensively, the Bucs have to keep RB Stephen Davis on a short leash, and make sure TE Stephen Alexander doesn't get into the mix.

KEY INJURIES: Bucs -- WR Reidel Anthony (hamstring), CB Ronde Barber (quadriceps), WR Jacquez Green (hamstring) are probable. CB Floyd Young (hamstring) is out. Redskins -- C Cory Raymer (knee) is out. RB Larry Centers (elbow), G Keith Sims (Achilles') are probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bucs 14, Redskins 13

Dolphins at Bengals

OF NOTE: Miami has allowed 22 points in four games and the Clippers, er Bengals, have scored seven in three games. This is a no-brainer, right? I'm not so sure. Cincy may be inspired to win for new coach Dick LeBeau, who got the job when Bruce Coslet said, "No mas." Plus, Zach Thomas is out with an ankle injury. Who's going to stop Cory Dillon? But the Clippers have allowed three or more sacks and produced two or more turnovers in each of their five games. That's not winning.

KEY INJURIES: Dolphins -- DT Daryl Gardener (back), RB Thurman Thomas (groin), WR Tony Martin (foot), CB Ray Hill (ankle) , LB Zach Thomas (ankle) are out. Bengals -- RB Michael Basnight (wrist), DE Vaughn Booker (head), LB Brian Simmons (knee) are out.

HOOPER'S PICK: Dolphins 14, Bengals 10

Steelers at Jaguars

OF NOTE: The Jags have nine sacks after producing 57 last season. Half the battle against Pittsburgh is pressuring QB Kordell Stewart into mistakes, so Jacksonville has to turn it up. The other battle is shutting down Jerome Bettis. This is why Hardy Nickerson got the big bucks. The Steelers are 0-5 at Alltel Stadium and have been outscored 58-12 in their past three games against the Jags. Jacksonville can't handle the forecast of doom another loss would create.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers -- T Marvel Smith (knee) is out. DT Kendrick Clancy (ankle), C Dermontti Dawson (hamstring), RB Richard Huntley (hamstring) are questionable. Jaguars -- K Mike Hollis (back), T Leon Searcy (leg), S Rayna Stewart (knee), C John Wade (foot-injured reserve) are out.

HOOPER'S PICK: Jaguars 27, Steelers 14

Colts at Bills

OF NOTE: The Colts have won twice in Rich Stadium since 1984 and one of those wins was with replacement players. The Bills defense is second against the run, allowing 2.6 yards a carry. If Buffalo makes Indy one-dimensional, it will be easier to rush Peyton Manning. Offensively, Buffalo had to find new offensive wrinkles, and the switch at RB from Antowain Smith to Jonathan Linton should help. The Colts have the league's top offense, but it's harder to generate points on the road.

KEY INJURIES: Colts -- RB Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar (knee) is doubtful. WR Chad Plummer (foot) is questionable. WR Marvin Harrison (shoulder) is probable. Bills -- QB Doug Flutie (groin), G Joe Panos (foot) are probable. LB Corey Moore (ankle), TE Jay Riemersma (knee) are out.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bills 20, Colts 17

Cowboys at Panthers

OF NOTE: The Cowboys have done something a team hasn't done in 27 years: allowing two backs to rush for more than 200 yards. There's talk the Terrell Owens shenanigans will inspire Dallas, but losing 41-14 on opening day should have been more than enough inspiration. Carolina loves to throw the ball, but today's the day you turn it over to Tim Biakabutuka, who hasn't had a breakout game but is averaging 4.1 yards a carry.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- DE Ebenezer Ekuban (toe) is out. WR Wane McGarity (ankle) is doubtful. WR Raghib Ismail (ankle); DT Leon Lett (hamstring); LB Dat Nguyen (knee); C Mark Stepnoski (groin) are questionable. Panthers -- DT Alvin McKinley (knee); DE Chuck Smith (knee) are out. T James Dexter (triceps) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Panthers 30, Cowboys 21

Ravens at Browns

OF NOTE: The expected bitter rivalry hasn't transpired between these two. The Browns were hospitable off the field and on last year, letting Baltimore win 41-9 in Cleveland. The Browns are improved with Tim Couch ranking among the league's best. But the run defense is 28th and both strongside linebackers are out for the Browns. That could mean big things for Jamal Lewis, who broke out with 116 yards last week. Former Raven Errict Rhett will try to counter to keep the Ravens off the field, but Baltimore has the league best run defense.

KEY INJURIES: Ravens -- DT Tony Siragusa (neck); T Harry Swayne (ankle); TE Frank Wainright (back) are questionable. Browns -- LB Rahim Abdullah (abdominal); DE Stalin Colinet (neck); LB Lenoy Jones (abdominal) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Ravens 23, Browns 17

Vikings at Lions

OF NOTE: How many games do the Vikings have to win before I believe they are legitimate? Twelve, maybe 13. I'm just not convinced the weak preseason impressions given by the Minnesota defense were wrong. The unit ranks 13th, but that's after facing the unimpressive offenses of Chicago, Miami and New England. Detroit's offense isn't much better, but the Vikings are only 2-4 in their past six games at the Silverdome. I like Detroit's chances if it can limit the Vikings in the first half. Minnesota has outscored foes 33-20 in first two quarters, but QB Daunte Culpepper is due for a bad game.

KEY INJURIES: Vikings -- CB Antonio Banks (knee); DT Tony Williams (groin) are questionable. Lions -- LB Stephen Boyd (back); CB Terry Fair (knee); G Stockar McDougle (knee); G Tony Semple (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Lions 21, Vikings 19

Giants at Titans

OF NOTE: Here's the totally devoid-of-reason pick of the week. The Titans are unbeaten at Adelphia Coliseum, and the crowd noise will make pass protection tough for a line facing DE Jevon Kearse. Plus, Tennessee is coming off an emotional win against Pittsburgh and QB Steve McNair will start. But all streaks have to end, the Titans are physically beat up and I think the Giants will want to show something after last week's weak effort vs. the 'Skins.

KEY INJURIES: Giants -- CB Ralph Brown (kidney) is out. CB Andre Weathers (knee) is questionable. Titans -- S Blaine Bishop (neck); DE Kenny Holmes (back/ankle); DE Jevon Kearse (quad); QB Steve McNair (chest); QB Neil O'Donnell (neck); WR Yancey Thigpen (hamstring); TE Frank Wycheck (concussion) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Giants 21, Titans 17

Chargers at Rams

OF NOTE: I keep telling friends NFL teams don't typically lose more than three or four games in a row. San Diego, however, is proving to be the exception. Jim Harbaugh starts today, but this is the story of a once-mighty defense aging as the offense goes 10 quarters without a touchdown. Who better to capitalize than St. Louis? The Rams, who will get the entire bye week off if they beat San Diego, have won 10 in a row at home. It's party time in the TWA Dome.

KEY INJURIES: Chargers -- QB Ryan Leaf (wrist); S Jason Perry (knee-injured reserve) are out. S Michael Dumas (hamstring); QB Moses Moreno (shoulder) are questionable. Rams -- DT D'Marco Farr (knee) is out. LB Todd Collins (ankle) are doubtful. S Devin Bush (hamstring/toe); WR Ricky Proehl (hamstring) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Rams 30, Chargers 10

Patriots at Broncos

OF NOTE: Bill Belichick knows more about football than I know about myself, but I can't figure out why he keeps rotating offensive linemen. If the talk of chemistry and cohesion isn't enough to convince him it's wrong, how about Drew Bledsoe being sacked 17 times. Denver will feast, especially with Brian Griese and Terrell Davis returning. The Broncos have won 11 of 12 against the Pats, and New England hasn't scored more than 20 points in its plast 12 games.

KEY INJURIES: Patriots -- S Larry Whigham (knee) is doubtful. G Max Lane (hand); DE-LB Willie McGinest (leg) are questionable. Broncos -- K Jason Elam (back) is out. S Kenoy Kennedy (knee) is doubtful. WR Robert Brooks (hamstring); QB Brian Griese (shoulder); DT Trevor Pryce (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 28, Patriots 17

Cardinals at 49ers

OF NOTE: The claim to fame for both teams here is they beat Dallas, but the 'Niners did their damage at Texas Stadium with a convincing 41-24 victory. Arizona had to rally in the valley with a last-second TD. WR Terrell Owens is suspended after acting like he was on Star Search, but 'Niners RB Charlie Garner leads the league in rushing and the Cardinals rush defense is 30th. San Francisco's secondary is suspect, but the young defense got three sacks last week and may get as many today if the Cards don't run the ball. Last week Arizona had 28 yards on 13 carries.

KEY INJURIES: Cardinals -- DE Andre Wadsworth (knee) is out. DE Thomas Burke (groin) is doubtful. 49ers -- DT Junior Bryant (neck) is out. LB Jeff Ulbrich (shoulder) is doubtful.

HOOPER'S PICK: 49ers 28, Cardinals 21

Bears at Packers

OF NOTE: The Bears are another winless team that is due. Three of their four losses have been by seven points or less. But Green Bay has really picked up its game. The defense hasn't allowed a TD in eight quarters and RBs Ahman Green and Dorsey Levens are a good 1-2 punch. Remember, in the Super Bowl season Levens shared duties with Edgar Bennett. The Pack has won 13 of 15 against Chicago, including 6 of 7 at Lambeau.

KEY INJURIES: Bears -- C Olin Kreutz (knee) is out. T Blake Brockermeyer (arm); LB Rosevelt Colvin (knee) are questionable. Packers -- WR Corey Bradford (leg); T Earl Dotson (back); DE Vonnie Holliday (hamstring); CB Mike McKenzie (knee) are out. DB Antuan Edwards (knee) is doubtful. LB Brian Williams (knee) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Packers 21, Bears 14

Falcons at Eagles

OF NOTE: The Eagles are a blitzing defense that often leaves coverage up to its talented secondary. Falcons quarterbacks were sacked eight times last week. That's a bad combination for the Falcons. Atlanta's rush defense is 12th in the league and teams have slowed the Eagles offense by stopping Duce Staley. That's a bad combination for the Eagles. But at home, Philly should be able to unlock the victory because Donovan McNabb is showing positive signs after completing 20 of 32 for 222 yards against the Saints last week. Atlanta's pass defense is 29th.

KEY INJURIES: Falcons -- S Ronnie Bradford (stomach); WR Tim Dwight (appendicitis); DE Brady Smith (neck) are questionable. Eagles -- S Brian Dawkins (appendectomy) is out. G Jermane Mayberry (toe) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Eagles 17, Falcons 10

Seahawks at Chiefs

OF NOTE: What do the Chiefs, 'Hawks and John Capel all have in common? Bad starts. But after opening 0-2, both teams have gotten back into the playoff picture with modest two-game winning streaks. Seattle has won five straight on Monday Night Football and are 3-2 in Monday road games. The task is much more daunting at Arrowhead, however, where K.C. has won 16 of 18 against the Seahawks. As long as the Chiefs contain RB Ricky Watters, they'll walk away victorious. It wouldn't hurt to spark its own rushing attack.

KEY INJURIES: Seahawks -- WR Derrick Mayes (foot) is questionable. Chiefs -- DE Ty Parten (knee-injured reserve); G Dave Szott (arm) are out. DE Duane Clemons (hip) is doubtful. RB Donnell Bennett (foot) is questionable. CB James Hasty (toe) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Chiefs 17, Seahawks 10

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