The Saints come marching in – to Washington

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 14, 2002

New Orleans 40, Washington 10. Last season, the Redskins finished their season with a 40-10 win over the Saints. Aaron Brooks had one of the worst games of his career, throwing three interceptions that helped the Skins score 10 points. But the Saints have won four of their last five, and Duece McAlister is on a roll, unlike Stephen Davis, who’s questionable with a bad knee. If Patrick Ramsey doesn’t play twice as well as he did against Tennessee last week, Washington won’t stand a chance.

Pittsburgh 20, Cincinnati 17. The running back that does best against an ineffective defense will win this game. On one side, there’s perennial workhorse Jerome Bettis, who can usually be counted on for at least 100 yards. On the Illinois side, there’s Corey Dillion, who would be among the league’s elite if he had an offensive line to protect him. This game won’t be pretty, but Pittsburgh gets the Pick after my quarter came up heads.

Indianapolis 30, Baltimore 23. Here’s another game that will be won by the offense. The Raven defense will go to pot with Ray Lewis’ shoulder tentative, and the Colt defense allowed Corey Dillion to gain 164 yards last week. This time, they have Jamal Lewis to contend with. But the Colts still get the Pick because they have Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James, still one of the AFC’s most effective combos.

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Carolina 24, Dallas 13. The Panthers get the Pick because they have more to gain; after starting 3-0, they’ve faltered the past two weeks, losing to Green Bay and Arizona. They also want to prove that their defense can live up to the potential it showed in the three-game streak, and stopping Emmitt Smith (234 yards away from the all-time rushing record) would certainly qualify. But it won’t be an upset if the Cowboys win; Quincy Carter might catch fire after overthrowing a wide-open Antonio Bryant in the closing minutes of last week’s 21-17 loss to New York.

Minnesota 22, Detroit 19. The Lions have some momentum after their win over New Orleans two weeks ago, but Minnesota has a bit more; they haven’t won a game yet, and they were embarrassed two weeks ago by Seattle. Of course, they have a tendency to crack under pressure (or, in Randy Moss’ case, the weight of an ego), so don’t be surprised in the Lions come out on top, especially if Joey Harrington comes out firing like he did against the Saints.

Green Bay 21, New England 20. The Patriots have lost their last two games, but Brett Favre and the Packers aren’t known for high possession of mercy. But if Favre’s arm isn’t having its usual great game, he can always hand off to Ahman Green, who weaved his way through one of the league’s best defenses with a 107-yard performance against Chicago last week. Tom Brady doesn’t have the same luxury in Antowain Smith, who was shut down for 14 yards against Miami.

New York Giants 17, At-lanta 0. As in their win over the Cowboys last week, the Giants should use this game as a warmup to battling Philadelphia in two weeks. Their offense scored three touchdowns against Dallas, as many as it had scored in the first four games, and the Falcon defense is susceptible at best, even if Kerry Collins is only on his game half the time. Michael Vick is tentative with a sore shoulder, leaving the Atlanta offense to Doug Johnson, who gave the Tampa Bay defense three interceptions last week.

Buffalo 33, Texas 30. Drew Bledsoe is anxious to atone for his three-interception performance against Oakland last week, and he should have an easy time of it today. David Carr won’t come out with a win, but he might have some fun against a Bill defense that’s allowed 36 points a game.

Cleveland 24, Tampa Bay 20. Upset Pick of the week. Tim Couch, who rightfully blasted Cleveland fans who cheered when he suffered a concussion last week, can’t wait to find a target for his anger, and a Tampa Bay defense that’s allowed just 27 points this season will present a decent challenge. Dennis Northcutt came out of nowhere to catch eight passes for 165 yards last week for the Browns, so he might be able to find a way past a Buc defense that has a tendency to bow to overconfidence.

Jacksonville 18, Tennessee 12. The Jaguars have taken a group of &uot;no-namers&uot; to a 3-1 record and tie for the lead in the AFC South. The Titans, meanwhile, have crashed to 8-13 since winning the AFC East title in 2000. Eddie George and Steve McNair haven’t shown half the magic they put on in that year, and a Jaguar defense that smothered Donavan McNabb last week won’t be handing out breaks.

Oakland 50, St. Louis 9. While everything has gone right for the Raiders this season, the Rams have been put out to pasture. Oakland has racked up 40.5 points per game, while the Ram defense has been embarrassed by the Giants and Cowboys. Rich Gannon has thrown for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns, two totals that will quickly increase today. A Raider defense that’s stolen eight interceptions and scored three touchdowns will have Kurt Warner backup Jamie Martin hating life this afternoon.

Kansas City 20, San Diego 10. If Junior Seau’s ankle doesn’t feel better soon, the Chargers could be in for another long day. After he went down last week, they gave up 417 yards to Denver. With Priest Holmes and Trent Green around to torment San Diego, Marty Schottenheimer won’t get his first victory over the team he coached for nine years.

Miami 10, Denver 7. This could be the game of the week. If Jay Fielder and Ricky Williams play like they did against New England last week, Miami will come out on top. Since they’re more reliable than Brian Griese and Clinton Portis, the Dolphins get the Pick. But the Broncos have the potential to take it home, as shown when their defense shut down San Diego last week.

San Francisco 42, Seattle 35. This one will be a shootout. Seattle exploded last week in a 48-23 whomping of Minnesota, while the 49ers routed St. Louis, 37-13. This game will be won by the run; Shaun Alexander scored five touchdowns in last week’s win, while Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow have racked up 431 yards in their last two games. San Fran gets the Pick, but Seattle will give them a brawl.