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Original Issue

Dr. Z's Forecast

NEW ENGLAND AT PITTSBURGH On Sunday the Steelers rendered the
Ravens' defense ineffective for the third time this season. If I
were Pittsburgh's coaches, I'd keep Amos Zereoue, a slashing
runner who's at the top of his game, as the starter and bring in
Jerome Bettis late, when the Patriots' legs are tired. The
combination of Zereoue and Kordell Stewart can wear out a
defense trying to chase them, and Stewart is a Donovan McNabb
clone, doing great damage throwing on the go.

The Patriots, however, represent the unchartable element. They
play at their highest level when the pressure is greatest. They
staged an impossible comeback against the Raiders, pulling out
too many big plays to count, in miserable conditions. Tom Brady
is a blood-and-guts quarterback who squeezes out first downs
almost through sheer force of will. Troy Brown is a money
receiver and the no names, wideout David Patten and reserve
tight end Jermaine Wiggins, each had the game of his life
against Oakland.

I'd favor the Patriots if their opponent, no matter how much of
a talent edge it held, showed the slightest tendency to relax,
but the Steelers are tough guys, too, with wide receiver Hines
Ward one of the most intense. Pittsburgh takes it in a slugfest.

PHILADELPHIA AT ST. LOUIS In the season opener the Eagles took
the Rams into overtime and held them to a pair of field goals
after halftime. That, however, was with a healthy Troy Vincent,
a Pro Bowl corner. He had a brilliant afternoon, picking off a
pass and limiting St. Louis receivers to two catches for 13
yards when he was in man coverage. Now he's nursing a groin
strain, and his status is day-to-day. The one place you don't
want to be hobbled when you're facing the Greatest Show on Turf
is in the secondary. The last time the teams met, Philly messed
up Kurt Warner's timing by blitzing its defensive backs from the
corners, dropping two linebackers for underneath coverage. The
Eagles were effective until they tired late.

This time Philadelphia will have a new monster to contend
with--the St. Louis defense, including right end Grant Wistrom,
who missed the opener with a bad knee. He pursues hard down the
line, and I'd guess that the Eagles will test him with
misdirection and reverses. I expect McNabb to attack with his
scrambles and throws on the move, but everybody knows that. I
figure the Rams will spy him with their strong safety, Adam
Archuleta, but McNabb will get his yards. I just think that the
Rams will get more of them. St. Louis is the pick.

--Paul Zimmerman