Cracking the Coad

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

Carolina (3-2) at Detroit (2-2)

The line: Lions by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The key matchup may well be Carolina's No. 3-ranked run defence versus Lions running back Kevin Jones. The Panthers are allowing 82.8 rushing yards per game; Jones has averaged 107 yards in his last six home games (642 yards, 4.8 yards a carry). Actually, Jones has a habit of excelling at home, says Associated Press football writer Paul Montella. Indeed, he's averaging 70.4 yards over his 19 career games. Anything Jones can do will help as the Lions have struggled to pass -- they're ranked a lowly 28th -- all season. If the refs let them play . . .

Cody's call: Panthers 23-17

New York Giants (3-1) at Dallas (2-2)

The line: Cowboys by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Yippee, smash-mouth football -- the Giants' ninth-ranked offence versus the Cowboys' seventh-ranked D. The Giants -- 11th in passing, 15th on the run -- have scored 136 points in four games, the most in the NFL. They've already surpassed 40 points twice this season. Dallas -- 10th versus the run, 16th against the pass -- is coming off a 33-10 victory over the offensively stacked Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which the Cowboys tied up and double-knotted the Eagles, holding them to just 129 total yards. The Giants have committed two turnovers while forcing 12 in their last three games.

Cody's call: Cowboys 27-23

Minnesota (1-3) at Chicago (1-3)

The line: Bears by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Vikings' toughest opponent this week just might be allegations of a sex scandal involving several players. The Minnesota Star-Tribune reported Wednesday that two boats were chartered by Vikings defensive back Fred Smoot and possibly two other players Oct. 6 and both were ordered back to the dock less than an hour into the excursion amid allegations of lewd acts, possibly involving strippers and prostitution. Head coach Mike Tice? "I can tell you I'm not happy. We need to see how these allegations play out." Uh-oh. If da Bears can find a little offence . . .

Cody's call: Bears 24-20

Atlanta (3-2) vs. New Orleans (2-3)

The line: Off

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m., in San Antonio. Last week, Falcons star quarterback Mike Vick (knee) was listed on the injury report all week as "probable" -- then was downgraded late and didn't play. Damn you, Falcons. If I'd known Vick wasn't going to go, I'd have picked the New England Patriots, who beat Atlanta 31-28. This week, Vick is "questionable." It likely won't matter, though, because Saints running back Deuce McAllister is done for the season with a torn ACL. Note to Saints QB Aaron Brooks: Run for your life!

Cody's call: Falcons 30-17

Washington (3-1) at Kansas City (2-2)

The line: Chiefs by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. This one matches two of the most successful coaches in NFL history -- Washington's Joe Gibbs (149-76 career record) and Kansas City's Dick Vermeil (118-110). Oddly, they'll be meeting for the first time since Nov. 28, 1982. Gibbs holds a 3-1 series edge versus Vermeil. The Redskins have had their last six games decided by three points or less, the longest such streak in NFL history. Washington's fifth-ranked D (No. 6 versus the pass, No. 15 against the run) has allowed opponents inside its 20 just six times this season. K.C. inspires confidence when they're at home.

Cody's call: Chiefs 27-17

Cincinnati (4-1) at Tennessee (2-3)

The line: Bengals by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Bengals lead the NFL with a plus-13 turnover differential. Cinci quarterback Carson Palmer has a 100-plus passer rating over his last eight games, dating back to last season. Still, he gets complaints. After Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Jaguars, Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson (five catches for 52 yards and a TD) was upset he didn't get the ball more. Johnson has apparently forgotten there's no "i" in team. Still, the Bengals need to heal the rift. They need both Palmer and Johnson, the AFC's reception leader with 31 snags (426 yards, four TDs), focused on this week, not last.

Cody's call: Bengals 28-20

Jacksonville (3-2) at Pittsburgh (3-1)

The line: Off

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Steelers can thank their lucky stars, even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger -- listed as doubtful -- can't go this week. Big Ben sustained only a hyper-extended left knee and bruised bone when he was crashed into late in Pittsburgh's 24-22 win over San Diego on Monday. Frankly, the injury looked a lot worse. If the Steelers need to put this game in the hands of their running backs, they have three beauties: Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker and Duce Staley. Charlie Batch, Roethlisberger's replacement, last started a game Dec. 2, 2001 (Detroit). He's thrown eight passes in four years with the Steelers.

Cody's call: Jaguars 28-27

Cleveland (2-2) at Baltimore (1-3)

The line: Ravens by 5 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Browns, ranked 28th in overall defence (30th against the run, 24th versus the pass), have forced a turnover in a league-best 17 straight games. Baltimore has the worst turnover differential in the AFC at minus nine. Obviously, the Ravens must do a better job of taking care of the ball and use their second-ranked D (No. 9 versus the run, No. 4 versus the pass) to cause turnovers. The Ravens' biggest assignment this week will be keeping their heads. While they have every right to be angry with the officials in Sunday's 35-17 loss to Detroit, 21 penalties and two ejections are inexcusable. Look out, Brownies.

Cody's call: Ravens 20-12

Miami (2-2) at Tampa Bay (4-1)

The line: Bucs by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Ricky Williams returns to the Dolphins' lineup this week and will share time at running back with Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 overall pick in April's NFL draft. It's a school reunion. Brown and Bucs star runner Carnell (Cadillac) Williams, the No. 5 overall pick, were backfield mates last year at Auburn. Williams leads the NFL in rookie rushing with 447 yards and Brown has piled up 229 yards in his last two games. Road warriors? Not the Dolphins, who have lost nine of their last 10 away games.

Cody's call: Bucs 21-17

New England (3-2) at Denver (4-1)

The line: Broncos by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Could it be that the NFL schedule-maker has it in for the Super Bowl champion Pats? No, but the Patriots have been on the road for four of their last five games. Don't feel too sorry for them, though, because they've beaten Pittsburgh and Atlanta, division winners in 2004, in their last two away tilts. This week, the Patriots are heading into Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium where Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan is 65-18. If it wasn't the Patriots, who are 22-1 against teams with a winning record since 2001 . . .

Cody's call: Patriots 24-21

New York Jets (2-3) at Buffalo (2-3)

The line: Bills by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. When injuries grounded the Jets top two QBs, Vinny Testaverde jumped up off his couch and into the Jets' starting lineup. Testaverde helped the Jets to an improbable win Sunday 14-12 over the Bucs. In Buffalo, where first-year starter J.P. Losman was struggling, Kelly Holcomb was asked to come to their rescue. He delivered, too. In fact, Holcomb led scoring drives on each of the Bills' first three possessions, all that was needed in a 20-14 win over AFC-rival Miami. The Jets are 9-5 in their last 14 games against Buffalo and Testaverde is 6-2 in his last eight against the Bills.

Cody's call: Bills 24-14

San Diego (2-3) at Oakland (1-3)

The line: Chargers by 2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. No question, wideout Randy Moss is a handful for any defence. But in this matchup, the Raiders fate could well spin on the muscled gams of running back LaMont Jordan. In their last two meetings, San Diego's D has held the Raiders to a total of 75 yards rushing, which won't get a team anywhere. The Chargers are strong against the run again this year, sitting No. 7 in the rankings, holding opponents to 93.8 yards a game. In a 19-13 win over the Cowboys two weeks ago, Jordan rambled for a career-high 126 yards and a TD. It was a massive effort after the Raiders had managed just 21 rushing yards versus Philly the week before.

Cody's call: Chargers 30-24

Houston (0-4) at Seattle (3-2)

The line: Seahawks by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hass-elbeck has not thrown an interception in 146 straight passes and is ranked third in the AFC with a 97.1 passer rating. Seattle gobbled up 433 passing yards in Sunday's 37-31 upset of the Rams, despite missing ace receivers Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. Joe Jurevicius, with a career-high nine catches for 137 yards and a TD, and D.J. Hackett (five snags for 43 yards) filled in admirably. The struggling Texans are No. 25 in overall defence, surrendering 342.6 yards per game, and a dead-last No. 32 on offence. Hence, they're winless.

Cody's call: Seahawks 30-14

St. Louis (2-3) at Indianapolis (5-0)

The line: Rams by 13 1/2

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. With Mike Martz on the shelf due to an apparent heart infection, Joe Vitt will make his debut as the Rams interim head coach. Lucky, Joe. The Colts are about as good as it gets at the moment. St. Looie could be problematic, even though they're sub .500. QB Marc Bulger, the NFL's No. 1 passer, has placed the Rams second in the NFL in offensive yards per game, 348.8, and in scoring average, 25.6. Indy is allowing just 5.8 points a game, so there could be a significant collision, a brutal banging of bodies. We can only hope so.

Cody's call: Colts 33-21

Season record

Straight up

Last week: 7-7; overall: 42-32

Spread

Last week: 7-7; overall: 33-38


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