Bucs, Dolphins ruining Florida

Oct 5, 2004 12:47 PM

Two thirds of the NFL’s 32 teams have completed one quarter of their season. For some, the report cards are not too encouraging.

San Francisco is one of three teams to lose all four games. That was expected, but not Tampa Bay. The Bucs were supposed to contend for the playoffs. Another winless team, Miami, was thought to be at least respectable following the "retirement" of star RB Ricky Williams.

In actuality the Miami defense has been outstanding. The Dolphins have held all four foes to 17 points or less but the offense has been non-existent. Buffalo is 0-3 after coming off the bye week losing to unbeaten New England in a good battle. Kansas City was 0-3 prior to Monday night’s test at Baltimore.

The brighter side shows five unbeaten teams, including Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Eagles have been most impressive, with all four wins by double digits. Atlanta has played a fairly weak schedule, winning a couple of games by two and three.

New England, the New York Jets and Seattle have each started 3-0 and have already had their bye weeks. Teams starting 4-0 are huge favorites to make the playoffs.

Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota and Seattle return to action this week following bye weeks while Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Philadelphia are on the sidelines.

Here’s a look at the 14 that will play.

Sunday, Oct. 10:

Dolphins (+13) at Pats (35½): New England seeks an NFL record 19th straight victory. Long time divisional rival Miami has been struggling all season on offense, already twice switching starting QBs. If Miami covers the number, it will be due to defense. Expect low scoring since both have solid defenses but only the Pats play offense. UNDER.

Browns (+6) at Steelers (37½): Cleveland overcame injuries to win at home against Washington last week. On the road the Browns have not fared well, losing both games. The Steelers will try to avenge last year’s 20-point home to Cleveland. Both teams run with success, which shortens the game and offers less scoring chances. UNDER.

Raiders (+9½) at Colts (51½): The Colts passed a solid test in winning at Jacksonville. The Raiders lost five turnovers in a loss at Texas, yet were barely outgained. A repeat effort against an Indy defense that allowed Jag QB Byron Leftwich to pass for more than 300 yards will find QB Collins on the bench. Look for a better effort. RAIDERS.

Lions (+7) at Falcons (42½): The four teams Atlanta has beaten are a combined 4-11. Detroit is rested following its bye. The offense is more effective passing than running. Atlanta has the top ground game in the league largely due to the contributions of QB Vick. The phony turf aids the Detroit cause. LIONS.

Bucs (+3) at Saints (36½): Defense has kept the Bucs in three of their four games. This is a crucial contest for the Saints, who were embarrassed by Arizona. Coach Jim Haslett is clearly feeling the pressure and it’s possible he could be gone if his team fails here. Acquiring disgruntled DB Mike McKenzie from Green Bay will help. SAINTS.

Giants (+3½) at Cowboys (37½): Tom Coughlin has fully taken charge of a Giants team riding a three-game winning streak. Dallas is rested with a running game almost non-existent. Running is definitely a Giants strength. Dallas has had great success passing and owns the edge on defense. COWBOYS.

Vikings (-4½) at Texans (49): Minnesota is rested and brings its top rated pass offense into Houston. The Texans won back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history but the task gets tougher. Minnesota should have RB Bennett back in the lineup, which will give more balance to a potent attack. Houston’s defense still a weakness. VIKES.

Bills (+7) at Jets (37½): The Jets won their first two games against the weak defenses of Cincinnati and San Diego but managed just 235 yards at Miami in a win. Buffalo’s strength is defense. The New York defense is ranked first in forcing more than three turnovers per game. The Jets have lost only two turnovers on offense. UNDER.

Jaguars (-3) at Chargers (37½): Jacksonville played well in losing at home to Indianapolis, while the Chargers were blowing out shorthanded Tennessee. San Diego’s defense against the run ranks fifth in the league while Jacksonville’s weakness on offense is the pass. Jax has not yet shown it should be trusted as a road favorite. CHARGERS.

Panthers (+5½) at Broncos (38½): Carolina was totally outplayed in losing at home to Atlanta last week and a number of defensive deficiencies were exposed. Denver has relied mostly on defense over the first month. The Broncos offense is showing signs of being ready to explode. BRONCOS.

Rams (+7) at Seahawks (44): Seattle is unbeaten, well rested and facing a Rams team that seems to lack intensity for a full 60 minutes. St. Louis seems to play one good half, like last week at San Francisco. An overlooked Seahawks defense ranks first in the league in fewest yards and points allowed. SEAHAWKS.

Cards (+1½) at 49ers (38): Arizona has shown some spark in all four games under new coach Dennis Green. The effort was finally rewarded with an impressive win over New Orleans. After a mistake plagued first half Sunday night, the 49ers did shut out the Rams in the final 30 minutes. The Niners are getting a cheap price at home. 49ERS.

Ravens (NL) at Redskins: Both teams have played better on defense. The Ravens have a strong ground game. Skins have been solid against the run. The mistake-prone Washington offense plays into the strength of the Baltimore defense. The outcome should be decided in the trenches. UNDER.

Monday, Oct. 11

Titans (NL) at Packers: Both teams are off to 1-3 starts with each dropping two games at home. Steve McNair did not play last week in San Diego but is expected to return. Brett Favre never misses a start and, despite being injured in the loss to the Giants, should be cleared to play. OVER.

Last night: 5-7-1

Season: 31-26-1