Compiled by Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 15, 2000
OF NOTE: There's no way you can envision a Jacksonville victory. The Jaguars have lost four in a row to Tennessee, three last season. This season, the team is reeling because of a meager pass rush, a weak offensive line and an unhappy starting quarterback in Mark Brunell, who was benched last week. The Jags can't hold back the Titans defense or hold down RB Eddie George, especially in Nashville.
KEY INJURIES: Jaguars -- T Leon Searcy (leg); S Rayna Stewart (knee) are out. K Mike Hollis (back); LB Lonnie Marts (groin); LB Hardy Nickerson (hamstring); DE Joel Smeenge (calf) are questionable. Titans -- S Blaine Bishop (knee); T Brad Hopkins (ankle); G Bruce Matthews (knee); WR Carl Pickens (hamstring); WR Yancey Thigpen (hamstring) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Titans 24, Jaguars 13
OF NOTE: The Ravens and Redskins are close, and I'm not talking about geography. Both have Pro Bowlers on defense, injury-plagued offensive lines and inconsistent quarterbacks. Washington is favored, but how much can it score when the offense is predicated on running the ball and the Ravens have the league's best run defense? Baltimore is equally dependent on the run, especially with QB Tony Banks in a rut so woeful the Ravens haven't scored a TD in two games. I suspect Washington is going to find a way. In this beltway battle, the Ravens get spanked.
KEY INJURIES: Ravens -- C Jeff Mitchell (ankle) is doubtful. T Jonathan Ogden (ankle) is questionable. Redskins -- WR Irving Fryar (neck) is out. G Keith Sims (Achilles') is questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Redskins 13, Ravens 10
OF NOTE: The Cowboys are coming off a bye, but they don't feel like saying hello to Giants Stadium. Dallas QB Troy Aikman has thrown one touchdown and five INTs in his past three games at the Meadowlands, and RB Emmitt Smith's career rushing average of 88.9 yards against the Giants is his lowest against NFC East teams. The point is if the Cowboys can't round up points, they're likely to get squashed. The rushing defense is the league's worst and New York has RBs Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne ready to do damage after two subpar weeks.
KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- DE Ebenezer Ekuban (toe) is out. WR Raghib Ismail (ankle); WR Wane McGarity (ankle) are questionable. LB Dat Nguyen (knee); RB Emmitt Smith (hip) are probable. Giants: LB Mike Barrow (neck); K Brad Daluiso (back) are probable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Giants 20, Cowboys 17
OF NOTE: Kansas City needs a win to move into a tie for first in the AFC West, and you have to like its chances at Arrowhead, where the Raiders are 3-13 despite a road win against K.C. last year. Three of Oakland's four victories this season are by a grand total of 16 points, but they have won their past three road games. With wins against San Diego, Denver and Seattle, Kansas City's three-game winning streak is not much more impressive. The Chiefs, 25th against the run, had a bye to devise ways to slow the Raiders rushing game. With the right solution (crowd noise), they get the victory.
KEY INJURIES: Raiders -- WR Jerry Porter (hamstring) is questionable. Chiefs -- G Dave Szott (arm) is out. DE Duane Clemons (hip); CB Eric Warfield (back); RB Donnell Bennett (foot) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Chiefs 21, Raiders 20
OF NOTE: The question is: Can the Rams cover the spread? Not: Can the Rams win? In winning 13 consecutive home games, St. Louis has outscored opponents by an average margin of 18.6 points. You thought they pulled that number out of thin air? The Falcons usually come up with air when they try to grab RB Marshall Faulk (7.3 yards a touch in his past three games vs. Atlanta). He's just one of the weapons the Rams will batter the Falcons with, coming off a bye week. With QB Chris Chandler ailing, how can Atlanta keep pace, even if he starts, behind that inept offensive line?
KEY INJURIES: Falcons -- LB Keith Brooking (foot); LB Jeff Kelly (knee) are out. QB Chris Chandler (ribs) is doubtful. Rams -- RB Trung Canidate (foot); WR Ricky Proehl (hamstring) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Rams 35, Falcons 14
OF NOTE: The Saints believe this is the time to show that their top-ranked defense is no fluke. The Carolina offense regained some of its '99 form under new coordinator Richard Williamson last week with 26 points against Seattle, and likely will pose a greater test than Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego and a Charlie Batch-less Detroit. The most important player for the New Orleans defense is RB Ricky Williams (three consecutive 100-yard games). He has to control the clock and keep Carolina on the sideline. As he goes against the league's 22nd-ranked rush defense, so go the Saints.
KEY INJURIES: Panthers -- DE Chuck Smith (knee) is out. DE Jason Peter (neck) is doubtful. Saints -- RB Jerald Moore (neck); LB Donta Jones (knee) are doubtful. WR Jake Reed (ankle); CB Alex Molden (calf) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Panthers 17, Saints 16
OF NOTE: Here's this week's totally devoid of reason selection. Pittsburgh is on a modest two-game winning streak, its defense has limited the Jags and Jets to a total of 16 points and Jerome Bettis has seven 100-yard games against the Clippers, er Bengals. Plus, its No. 2 rush defense may give Corey Dillon fits. So how do the Clips pull out a win? I don't know, but no one can explain how they won their last two at Three Rivers. WR Peter Warrick will get more touches and the Steelers will get down when Kent Graham starts ahead of Kordell Stewart.
KEY INJURIES: Bengals -- LB Brian Simmons (knee); C Rich Braham (knee) are out. DE Vaughn Booker (knee) is questionable. Steelers: T Shar Pourdanesh (knee) is out. T Wayne Gandy (shoulder); T Marvel Smith (knee); DE Jeremy Staat (shoulder) are out.
HOOPER'S PICK: Bengals 16, Steelers 13
OF NOTE: Rob Johnson has been sacked 22 times and hit twice as often, and Buffalo has averaged only 14.3 points in its past three games. So how do the Bills clobber the Chargers? Gifts. In 38 games, five Charger QBs have combined to throw 70 interceptions -- and just 26 touchdown passes -- while losing 13 of 38 fumbles. That's 83 turnovers, or just more than two a game, and they've led to 237 points for opponents. Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno play today, but it won't matter.
KEY INJURIES: Chargers -- TE Steve Heiden (knee); S Greg Jackson (knee) are out. TE Reggie Davis (knee); DE Al Fontenot (ankle); QB Ryan Leaf (wrist) are questionable. Bills: TE Jay Riemersma (knee) is doubtful. LB Corey Moore (ankle); DE Shawn Price (knee) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Bills 28, Chargers 12
OF NOTE: New England blew a 19-7 lead when it played the Jets in a Week 2 Monday Night Football matchup at the Meadowlands. The outcome will be different in Foxboro. For starters, the Patriots should produce more TDs and fewer field goals with the home-field advantage. Secondly, how effective can Vinny Testaverde be coming off a pinched nerve that had his entire left side numb last week? Ray Lucas is likely to play better in a relief role than he did last week, but the Patriots will remain on the rebound in a close one. All six Pats games have been decided by nine points or less.
KEY INJURIES: Jets -- DT Jason Ferguson (ankle); QB Vinny Testaverde (neck) are questionable. Patriots -- NT Chad Eaton (knee) is out. CB Antonio Langham (leg); DL Brandon Mitchell (leg) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Patriots 17, Jets 13
OF NOTE: Cleveland's front seven has improved, Tim Couch has made significant strides and rookie RB Travis Prentice (three TDs last week) showed that losing Errict Rhett may not be that devastating. But the Browns likely will find themselves in a bad matchup. The Broncos are ranked fourth in rushing and the Browns are 28th against the run. Sure, Denver has averaged only 87.5 yards rushing in its past two games, but that was against pretty good run stoppers in the Patriots and the Chargers. Today, the Broncos get a rush, but the Browns will score some points.
KEY INJURIES: Browns -- LB Rahim Abdullah (groin); LB Lenoy Jones (hamstring) are doubtful. CB Corey Fuller (shoulder) is questionable. Broncos -- RB Howard Griffith (knee) is out. RB Terrell Davis (ankle) is doubtful.
HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 27, Browns 21
OF NOTE: Safety Reggie Tongue, the Seahawks' big off-season, free agent acquisition, starts today on the bench. Last week, coach Mike Holmgren benched QB Jon Kitna in favor of Brock Huard. These are signs of panic and I suspect the players will not respond well. The Colts, on the other hand, will respond well after losing on the road for the first time in nine games. Peyton Manning should have success against the league's 28th-ranked defense, and RB Edgerrin James should break 100 yards despite falling short the past four games.
KEY INJURIES: Colts -- WR Chad Plummer (foot) is out. LB Ratcliff Thomas (foot) is doubtful. CB Tyrone Poole (finger); DE Bernard Whittington (groin) are questionable. Seahawks -- G Frank Beede (calf); RB Reggie Brown (stinger); WR Derrick Mayes (finger) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Colts 21, Seahawks 14
OF NOTE: If WR Terrell Owens scores, he's likely to run to midfield and eat a bratwurst. Okay, maybe not, but he'll get a chance. Green Bay's secondary is full of injuries, which explains in part why the Packers have trailed 24-3 in each of the past two weeks. After 12 catches, 176 yards and two TDs against Oakland, Owens will own the Packers. The question is: Can Green Bay outscore the 49ers? Only if RB Dorsey Levens can overcome his nagging ankle injury.
KEY INJURIES: 49ers -- DT Junior Bryant (injured reserve-neck) is out. DT Reggie McGrew (ankle); LB Julian Peterson (knee) are doubtful. TE Greg Clark (neck) is questionable. Packers -- T Earl Dotson (back); DE Vonnie Holliday (hamstring) are out. WR Corey Bradford (leg); CB-S Antuan Edwards (knee); CB Mike McKenzie (knee) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Packers 35, 49ers 33
OF NOTE: The Eagles are 1-6 in their past seven trips to Arizona, and they are making this trip with 41 percent of their offense (RB Duce Staley) back in Philadelphia with a season-ending foot injury. The Cardinals hardly are world beaters, but at home and with a rejuvenated offense (RB Michael Pittman had 107 yards last week) they should come up with the victory as long as Jake Plummer minimizes INTs (zero in two wins, seven in three losses).
KEY INJURIES: Eagles -- RB Duce Staley (injured reserve-foot) is out. DE Mike Mamula (quadricep); LB Jeremiah Trotter (ankle); WR Alex Van Dyke (hamstring) are questionable. Cardinals -- DE Andre Wadsworth (knee) is out. DE-DT Russell Davis (ankle); G-T Chris Dishman (elbow); LB Ray Thompson (groin) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Cardinals 14, Eagles 10
OF NOTE: The Vikings have won seven of eight at Soldier Field, but the best way to beat the Bears is to keep the dink-and-dunk offense off the field. In Week 1, Chicago racked up 425 yards against Minnesota in a game every observer said the Bears should have won. Since then, coach Denny Green has tinkered with his defense to cull improvements and he's done good work, moving John Randle to DE. Fans are so hard on the young Bears, who have lost their past four at Soldier Field, they are playing better on the road.
KEY INJURIES: Vikings -- DE Gabe Northern (hamstring) is questionable. Bears -- DT Brad Culpepper (shoulder); C Olin Kreutz (knee) are out. RB Curtis Enis (shoulder) is doubtful. CB Jerry Azumah (stomach); WR Marcus Robinson (ankle) are questionable.
HOOPER'S PICK: Vikings 31, Bears 20
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