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Upscale

Sep 30, 2003 7:45 AM

Most NFL teams have already completed one quarter of their schedule and, for several, the prospects for the remaining 12 games are bleak.

At 0-4, Jacksonville, the New York Jets and San Diego can virtually write off the rest of the NFL season. The Jets were a playoff team last season but the preseason injury to QB Chad Pennington set the offense back considerably. San Diego has struggled on both sides of the ball and now are dealing with several key injuries. The Jaguars are the most competitive, but twice have been unable to hold late fourth quarter leads.

Four teams are 4-0. Seattle is 3-0 but had a bye this past week. Carolina improved to 3-0 after its bye week. Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Minnesota each completed a perfect first quarter of the season.

Home underdogs continue to struggle against the spread. With a late line move Minnesota was a dog to the 49ers when it was announced QB Daunte Culpepper would not play. Even with the wins by the Vikings and Houston, the Home Pups are just 3-12 ATS.

Here’s a look at this week’s games with Baltimore, Houston, the New York Jets and St Louis having Byes.

Titans (—1½) at Patriots (41): The Titans at Pittsburgh with QB Steve McNair completing 15 of 16 passes. New England continues to suffer with injuries to their defense and QB Tom Brady is banged up. Tennessee’s rush defense has been strong which works against the one dimensional Patriots passing offense. TITANS.

Bengals (NL) at Bills: RB Corey Dillon is banged up and his absence will make it very tough for the Bengals to achieve a second straight win. Buffalo dropped its last two games to defensively solid Miami and Philadelphia after opening 2-0. The Bills are the better team and the offense will have an easier time against the improving Cincy defense. BILLS.

Dolphins (pick) at Giants (38½): Both are off byes. Giants had played two straight overtime divisional games. Miami had also played ”” and beaten ”” a pair of divisional foes. Miami has the edge in the running game but the defense has been vulnerable to the pass. Often, bye weeks enable defenses to make greater adjustments. Look for a low scoring battle. UNDER.

Seahawks (NL) at Packers: Green Bay played Monday night. Seattle coach Mile Holmgren returns to the site of past glories. The Packers have struggled on defense in the early going and the offense behind QB Brett Favre has been inconsistent. In Holmgren’s first season in Seattle his Hawks won 27-7 at Seattle. Teacher remembers what he taught pupil. SEAHAWKS.

Raiders (NL) at Bears: Chicago played Monday night. Oakland needed a furious rally in the last five minutes to set up an overtime win over San Diego. Perhaps that rally will give the Raiders a much needed spark to generate some offense. Still their offense has been inconsistent while Chicago’s has been non-existent. UNDER.

Saints (+7) at Panthers (38½): It is hard to overlook the awful defensive effort put forth by the Saints in their humiliating loss to the Colts. The offense was also poor with many dropped passes and an overall general lack of execution. Carolina has one of the top defenses in the NFL that makes big plays and a rushing offense gaining over 160 yards per game. The teams are clearly headed in opposite directions. PANTHERS.

Vikings (NL) at Falcons: The uncertain status of Culpepper keeps the books from posting an early line. Backup Gus Frerotte was nearly flawless in his place and hooked up with WR Randy Moss for three TD tosses. Atlanta is one of the early season disappointments as they await the return of QB Mike Vick. The defense has been yielding and Minnesota’s rushing game has been relentless. OVER.

Broncos (NL) at Chiefs: Denver RB Clinton Portis’ absence from the win over Detroit keeps this game off the board. This is a big early season game to assume control of the AFC West. Both teams have powerful offenses and improved defenses. Both offenses can run the ball and feature big play potential. Should be an entertaining shootout. OVER.

Cards (+7½) at Cowboys (37½): Which team leads the NFL in total offense? It’s not Arizona, but America’s Team ”” Dallas. QB Quincy Carter leads the league with 389 yards of total offense per game. RB Emmitt Smith returns to face his old teammates but the Cards have been woeful on defense in all three of their losses. Still, they have put up decent numbers throwing the ball. OVER.

Chargers (NL) at Jaguars: Injuries and the Jags QB situation keep this off the board. Barring an overtime tie, one of these teams will win its first game. Jacksonville has the better overall stats, especially on defense. With the San Diego receiver situation in a state of flux and Jax defense average against the run the host is in the better shape. JAGUARS.

Redskins (+5½) at Eagles (39½): This game has seen an early line movement towards the Eagles who opened as a four point favorite. The Philly defense came up big and QB Donovan McNabb was allowed to create plays against Buffalo. Washington has found it tough to put two good halves of football together, especially on offense. The Eagles have played excellent defense against the run. It’s their third home game, having already lost the first two. EAGLES.

Lions (+7) at 49ers (42½): Detroit Coach Steve Mariucci returns to where he coached for six seasons and four playoff appearances. The 49ers are a team in turmoil with WR Terrell Owens upset at the play calling and coach Dennis Erickson having no more success here than he did in Seattle. The Niners should be 3-1 instead of 1-3. The Lions are the weaker team but play hard all game. LIONS.

Browns (+7) at Steelers (43): Both teams are off disappointing losses. Pittsburgh has the better balanced team and the far better stats, especially on defense. Only Tampa Bay is allowing fewer yards per game. Pittsburgh has won 7 of 9 in the renewal of this heated rivalry but most of the games have been close. Still, the Steelers have too many fundamental edges. STEELERS.

Colts (+4½) at Bucs (38): With the improved play of the Colts defense this becomes a very attractive matchup. Add Tony Dungy returning to his former place of employment and you have the makings of an outstanding contest. Both teams are allowing a combined 19 points per game. Look for a close game throughout. UNDER.

Last week: 6-7
Season record: 26-30-2