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NFL game day: week 12

By Compiled by Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000

Hooper's record: last week 9-6 overall (96-62 overall), 7-7-1 vs. spread (80-69-9)

Bucs at Bears

1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Line: Bucs by 7

OF NOTE: There is no way you can conceive a Bears victory. That doesn't mean the Bears won't win -- miracles do happen -- but you can't conceive it. The Bucs defense has dominated the Bears since they went to their spread offense. Three field goals in three games is ridiculous. To beat the Bucs you have to run the ball, use play-action and keep the Tampa Bay defense on the field and off-balance. Chicago has not shown the propensity to do that, and it's not likely to happen today no matter how cold it gets at Soldier Field.

KEY INJURIES: Bucs -- S John Lynch (quadricep), G Frank Middleton (ankle) are probable. Bears -- QB Cade McNown (shoulder) is doubtful. LB Barry Minter (back), C Casey Wiegmann (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bucs 21, Bears 6

Jets at Dolphins

4 p.m.

TV: Ch. 10

Line: Dolphins by 3.5

OF NOTE: Everyone thinks the Jets have run out of magic, but what they've been missing is a running game. New York has not rushed for more than 100 yards in any of its past four games, and three have been losses. If you take Curtis Martin out, that's half the battle and Miami has the defense to get it done. If the Jets can keep it close, they can continue to pound with Martin late in the game, even if they're behind by a touchdown. But if Miami can build a big lead early, there will be no comeback this time.

KEY INJURIES: Jets -- LB John Abaraham (groin) is out. LB James Farrior (toe) is questionable. Dolphins -- RB Thurman Thomas (knee -- injured reserve) is out. WR Oronde Gadsden (knee), DT Daryl Gardner (back), LB Zach Thomas (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Dolphins 21, Jets 17

Jaguars at Steelers

8:20 p.m.


Line: Steelers by 3

OF NOTE: Pittsburgh, still in the playoff hunt, has more to play for than the Jaguars. The problem is the Steelers in general, and Kordell Stewart in particular, have stopped playing well at home. Pittsburgh is 4-11 in its past 15 home games, 2-3 this season. The Steelers could get more out of Stewart if the offense was designed to take advantage of his skills, but in its current state, Stewart forces the defense and running game to win despite him. They can do it today, but it won't be easy.

KEY INJURIES: Jaguars -- LB Hardy Nickerson (knee), T Leon Searcy (leg) are out. CB Aaron Beasley (back), LB Lonnie Marts (groin) are questionable. Steelers -- C Dermontti Dawson (hamstring), RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (foot) are out.

HOOPER'S PICK: Steelers 21, Jaguars 20

Colts at Packers

1 p.m.

Line: Colts by 4.5

OF NOTE: I like the Packers' chances, but I would like them more if Brett Favre was healthy or Green Bay had decided on Matt Hasselbeck. Favre, a gutty competitor, may pick himself up and rally the Pack, but he could damage victory hopes by playing hurt. Even without Favre, Green Bay can get it done. The Colts are average on grass and it will be interesting to see how Florida native Edgerrin James responds to the cold. With a loss to the Bears two weeks ago, the Colts have not fully proven they can win outside the RCA Dome.

KEY INJURIES: Colts -- DT Ellis Johnson (knee) is questioinable. Packers -- T Earl Dotson (back), RB Dorsey Levens (knee), LB Brian Williams (knee) are out. WR Corey Bradford (leg) is doubtful. QB Brett Favre (foot), DE Vonnie Holliday (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Colts 24, Packers 21

Panthers at Vikings

1 p.m.

Line: Vikings by 9.5

OF NOTE: If you follow the pattern (L-W-L-L-W-L-W-L-W-L) Carolina has established lately, then it's clear it's time for the Panthers to win. But I'm not feeling it. The Panthers defense is not up to dealing with both Robert Smith and the receiving tandem of Cris Carter and Randy Moss. I know you're thinking the Panthers beat the Rams two weeks ago and have won two of four on the road, but Carolina beat a Rams team without Marshall Faulk. The Vikings move closer to the NFC Central title.

KEY INJURIES: Panthers -- FB William Floyd (ribs), G Bryan Stoltenberg (knee), RB Tshimanga Biakabutuka (toe) are out. Vikings -- DE Bryce Paup (knee), S Orlando Thomas (shoulder) are out. FB Jimmy Kleinsasser (hamstring) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Vikings 31, Panthers 21

Cardinals at Eagles

1 p.m.

Line: Eagles by 7

OF NOTE: Now that voters have agreed to build Arizona a new stadium, the Cardinals ownership may build Minnesota an outdoor stadium with grass. Every time the Cards play in the Metrodome, they end up beat up, and last week was no different. C Mike Gruttadauria and RB Michael Pittman are among the victims and that's after WR Rob Moore was lost for the season during a preseason game in Minnesota. The latest rash of injuries, coupled with Arizona's 3-7 record, makes a win against Philly unlikely. The Eagles know they can't slip up with Washington and Tennessee coming up.

KEY INJURIES: Cardinals -- Gruttadauria (neck) is out. G Lester Holmes (knee) is doubtful. WR David Boston (hamstring), Pittman (ribs) are questionable. Eagles -- RB Darnell Autry (calf), QB Donovan McNabb (back) are probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Eagles 20, Cardinals 17

Bills at Chiefs

1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 2.5

OF NOTE: Like the presidential election, this one may be too close to call. The Chiefs will be determined to snap their two-game losing streak and bring balance back to their offense. Buffalo, however, is one of the league's stingiest against the run. The Chiefs have not played well defending the pass, but Rob Johnson has not been able to divine many victories from his superior physical gifts, and he will be without do-it-all running back Sammy Morris. But I'm going to peg Arrowhead Stadium as the decisive factor. Chiefs will win at home in a tough battle.

KEY INJURIES: Bills -- DE Phil Hansen (knee) is out. G Ruben Brown (foot), Morris (ankle), DT Ted Washington (neck) are questionable. Chiefs -- DE Eric Hicks (knee), C Tim Grunhard (ankle), DT Dan Williams (foot) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Chiefs 28, Bills 27

Bengals at Patriots

1 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 7

OF NOTE: The Patriots defense should find a way to shut down Cincinnati, whose attack should remain one-dimensional even though Scott Mitchell is replacing Akili Smith. Frankly, I'm baffled how Mitchell is still in the league. Unless he unleashes a passing game unseen in Cincy this season, Corey Dillon will have his struggles. The Patriots lost to Cleveland last week, but if Drew Bledsoe's thumb has healed the offense should produce enough points to win. It won't take many.

KEY INJURIES: Bengals -- T John Jackson (hamstring), LB Brian Simmons (knee, injured reserve) are out. DE John Copeland (back), LB Canute Curtis (hand) are questionable. Patriots -- WR Dane Looker (leg) is doubtful. G Joe Andruzzi (shoulder), LB Ted Johnson (thigh), DE Willie McGinest (calf) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Patriots 28, Bengals 20

Browns at Titans

1 p.m.

Line: Titans by 16

OF NOTE: The Browns have outscored opponents 44-19 in the first quarter this season. I don't think it'll have any bearing on today's game, but it's an interesting stat. What will have a bearing on the game is Tennessee's ability to run the ball. RB Eddie George is still troubled by an aching knee and toe, but he should have enough juice to make hay against a defense that is one of the league's worst at stopping the run. Steve McNair also will have good moments. The Titans start a new winning streak at Adelphia today.

KEY INJURIES: Browns -- WR Darrin Chiaverini (knee) is doubtful. DT StalinColinet (neck), WR David Patten (toe) are questionable. Titans -- S Blaine Bishop (knee), RB Eddie George (knee/toe), DE Kenny Holmes (shoulder), WR Carl Pickens (hamstring) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Titans 16, Browns 3

Lions at Giants

1 p.m.

Line: Giants by 6

OF NOTE: Atlanta's Jamal Anderson rushed for more than 100 yards in a loss against the Lions last week, and that game was in Detroit. If the Lions don't step up their defense, the Giants' Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne will romp through the Meadowlands after combining for at least 130 yards in the past four games. The G-Men will be more adept at running than the Lions, who have to count on James Stewart getting it done behind a patchwork offensive line. This isn't like beating the Rams, but at least the Lions have a winning record.

KEY INJURIES: Lions -- WR Germane Crowell (foot) is out. T Aaron Gibson (shoulder) is doubtful. S Ron Rice (knee), TE David Sloan (hamstring) are questionable. Giants -- G Glenn Parker (calf) is doubtful. WR Amani Toomer (concussion) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Giants 21, Lions 14

Raiders at Saints

1 p.m.

Line: Raiders by 3

OF NOTE: The last time former FSU kicker Sebastian Janikowski was in New Orleans, curfew was a foreign word he couldn't interpret. Now the Raiders have to hope he returns to health and returns to the hotel before bed check because this one is likely to be close. Even without Ricky Williams, the Saints have a tough defense, and the offense will be eager to prove it can produce without Williams. Oakland has a little more talent, and Raiders coach Jon Gruden won't allow for any hangovers from the Denver loss.

KEY INJURIES: Raiders -- DE Tony Bryant (throat), Janikowski (ankle), DE Lance Johnstone (groin), RB Tyrone Wheatley (ankle) are questionable. Saints -- WR Jake Reed (fibula), RB Ricky Williams (fibula) are out. CB Fred Thomas (foot) is doubtful.

HOOPER'S PICK: Raiders 17, Saints 16

Chargers at Broncos

4 p.m.

TV: Ch.

Line: Broncos by 9

OF NOTE: An 0-16 record is beginning to look like a possibility for the Chargers, especially with Ryan Leaf returning as starting quarterback. They have ashot against the Chiefs (if they lost to the 'Niners, they can lose to anybody) next week, or the 49ers on Dec. 3, but they are not winning today. The Broncos have more offense than the Chargers can handle, even with running back Terrell Davis hobbled again. Gus Frerotte starts in place of Brian Griese, but he will be serviceable. The Chargers offense does not have anyone who can change the game.

KEY INJURIES: Chargers -- QB Moses Moreno (knee) is doubtful. SS Rodney Harrison (hamstring), QB Ryan Leaf (hamstring) are questionable. Broncos -- Griese (shoulder), G Mark Schlereth (knee-injured reserve) are out; RB Terrell Davis (ankle) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 24, Chargers 6

Cowboys at Ravens

4:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Line: Ravens by 7.5

OF NOTE: Tennessee's Al Del Greco and Baltimore's Trent Dilfer are two of the league's best golfers. Maybe that's why Del Greco gave Dilfer a mulligan by missing a critical extra point and field goal in the Ravens' 24-23 win against the Titans last week. Dilfer had an interception returned for a touchdown before getting the Del Greco reprieve. The question is: Will he need another mulligan today? Because the Ravens defense will play well enough to keep victory in the fairway. It'll be up to Dilfer to reach the greens in regulation, then sink the Cowboys.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys -- DT Leon Lett (knee), S George Teague (foot -- injured reserve) are out. Ravens -- T Harry Swayne (thigh) is doubtful. DE Michael McCrary (foot) is questionable. TE Shannon Sharpe (knee) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Ravens 20, Cowboys 10

Falcons at 49ers

4:15 p.m.

Line: 49ers by 5.5

OF NOTE: Call it the longest trip. The Falcons will remain in California after today's game because they play Oakland Nov. 26. The idea will only serve to make a long and difficult season seem even longer. The Falcons bottomed out when a game effort came up short against Tampa Bay two weeks ago, and lost again to Detroit last Sunday. Atlanta keeps turning the ball over (two or more interceptions in the past three games) whether it's Chris Chandler or Dan Kanell at quarterback. San Francisco is coming off a huge win against Kansas City and finally got the defensive effort it needs every week.

KEY INJURIES: Falcons -- T Bob Whitfield (neck) is doubtful. WR Tim Dwight (ribs/leg), CB Elijah Williams (quadricep) are questionable. 49ers -- T Derrick Deese (knee) is out. WR Terrell Owens (toe) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: 49ers 21, Falcons 17

Redskins at Rams

9 p.m. Monday

TV: Ch. 28

Line: Rams by 6

OF NOTE: Rumor has it Norv Turner may be out if the Redskins drop this crucial battle. Washington is coming off a bye week and Jeff George will be eager to assert his talent after a losing effort in Arizona on Nov. 5. But the Rams defense has improved since Bud Carson came aboard as an adviser. The question is: Can Trent Green and a recovering Marshall Faulk rip apart a Redskins defense that has the talent to match up with the Rams' speedy receivers. Clearly, Faulk is the key. He has to win the matchup against linebackers. I think Green will beat his former team.

KEY INJURIES: Redskins -- QB Brad Johnson (knee) is doubtful. CB Darrell Green (calf) is questionable. Rams -- QB Kurt Warner (finger) is out. K Jeff Wilkins (quadricep) is doubtful. Faulk (knee) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Rams 24, Redskins 17

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