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Original Issue

Dr. Z's Forecast: Flailing Falcons

WHAT'S ONE THING I learned from Upset Sunday, when half the underdogs on the board won straight up? Beware the teams that made their reputation with defense. The Chiefs' unit was enjoying a renaissance that had lifted it to No. 4 in the league. Then the Steelers got hold of them: 45 points, 457 total yards. Mothers had to shield their children's eyes. The Eagles didn't have the fancy ranking, but two weeks ago they sacked Drew Bledsoe seven times. Yet the Saints held the ball against Philly for the final 8:26, marching down the field for a winning field goal. The Ravens like to think their defense is invincible, but the Panthers gained 414 yards against them and exposed Baltimore's secondary, with 42- and 72-yard touchdown passes.

Now the most interesting game of all, Falcons-Giants. Atlanta's light, quick-striking defense had held enemy runners to 69.3 yards. It didn't work that way against New York, which ran for 259. The Falcons were worn out by the constant pounding, and Eli Manning, given as much time as he wanted, picked Atlanta apart.

The Falcons and Giants are in feature matches this week. Atlanta hosts Pittsburgh, and I don't see the Falcons recovering quickly from the beating New York laid on them. Pittsburgh has no runner in the class of the Giants' magnificent Tiki Barber, but it has a punishing line. I like the Steelers. The Giants, back in the thick of the NFC East race, visit Dallas on Monday night. I think Dallas will max-protect, using six, maybe even seven pass blockers, and try to go deep with two- and three-man patterns. I don't think the Giants will accomplish much by trying to rush Bledsoe with only four, but if they can come up with an exotic enough blitz package, as they did against the Falcons, they've got a chance for the upset. I think it'll come down to turnovers, and I'm casting an upset vote for the Giants.

Here's another upset: Carolina, and the back-in-form Steve Smith, to beat Cincinnati. The Bills like to pound New England at home, but not this time. Patriots win it. San Diego at K.C. looked like an interesting matchup at one time, and it still might be, but I like the favored Chargers. Miami, with all its problems, will beat Green Bay, which has more. Seattle has too much firepower for Minnesota, and the Raiders, surprise, will get their first win, at home against Arizona.

Last week 4--3 Season 23--22

Dr. Z writes for the Web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at



GIANT STEPS Barber ground up the Falcons' defense; expect him to do the same to the Cowboys on Monday.