The traps were neatly SET, AND Miami and New England, the two
unbeatens of the AFC East, fell into them. They were looking
ahead to their matchup this Sunday. They were both on the road
and favored slightly, over Kansas City and San Diego,
respectively, two teams that had given everybody trouble. And
down they went.
If you want to be generous, you can say that the Dolphins and the
Patriots didn't give it their best effort because of the
look-ahead factor, but that would be unfair to the Chiefs and the
Chargers, who both played terrific games. And after looking
almost invincible for the first three weeks, Miami and New
England showed some cracks.
The Dolphins hadn't trailed in their first three games, but when
they had to play catch-up against K.C., the interceptions came in
bunches. The Patriots, for the second straight week, got hammered
by the run. When Miami beat New England 30-10 early last season,
the Dolphins ran for 209 yards. When Miami lost to New England in
Foxboro in December, the Dolphins never got their ground game
going. Clearly a heavy rushing attack by Miami would seem to be
called for this week, but let's look at this a little more
Both running backs who killed the Patriots this year, the Chiefs'
Priest Holmes and the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson, are nifty
cutback runners, and San Diego had great success faking reverses
and pitchouts and then coming back on counters. The Dolphins'
Ricky Williams is a power runner, and the trick-'em style hasn't
been Miami's trademark. But you never know--if K.C. and San Diego
can do it to New England....
--Prediction: The Patriots load up to stop the run. The Dolphins
stick to a safe passing game but occasionally take their shots
with quarterback Jay Fiedler and test the corners with Chris
Chambers. The effectiveness of New England's attack depends on
whether injured wideout Troy Brown (sore right knee) returns.
It's a tough game to call, but I'll offer a shaky pick and go
--San Francisco has lost six straight to St. Louis, only one of
them by fewer than 10 points. The Rams are tottering on the brink
of oblivion with quarterback Kurt Warner out and two suspect
tackles to protect backup Jamie Martin. Overconfidence for the
Niners? Not likely. It's a chance to get even. San Francisco wins
--Carolina, which outplayed the Packers at Lambeau Field, is an
old-fashioned team with a swarming defense and a precise,
trap-block running game, and the Panthers get the nod over
Arizona. Kansas City keeps its high-powered offense going at the
Meadowlands against the reeling Jets, and New Orleans bounces
back against Pittsburgh. Tennessee, with an unsettled pass
defense, seems just right for the wiles of the Redskins' Steve
Spurrier. What wiles? There ain't any. The Titans are the pick.
--Denver will cool off the red-hot Chargers. I like Philly over
Jacksonville, but it'll be closer than it looks. In the
Monday-nighter I'll take Chicago over Green Bay, whose defense
got shoved around by Carolina.
--I'm still looking for an upset, and I just found three. Oakland
suffers a slight letdown, and that's all that Drew Bledsoe and
the Bills need. Buffalo squeaks one out. The Giants, who promise
that they will never again throw a sideline pass to run out the
clock at the end of the half, rise up and hang one on Dallas. And
Atlanta, which is better than people think--better than Tampa Bay
thinks--upsets the Buccaneers. --Paul Zimmerman
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COLOR PHOTO: DICK WHIPPLE/AP Fiedler must take better care of the ball than he did in K.C.