DR. Z'S FORECAST

October 05, 1997

There are three unbeaten teams in the NFL. Two of them, New
England and Denver, meet in the Monday nighter. The third, and
most intriguing, Tampa Bay, travels to Green Bay to face the
wounded animal.

I keep scratching my head over what I saw in that Packers-Lions
game on Sunday. Brett Favre will be a featured performer on
Detroit's 1997 highlight film. He tried two of those miracle
plays he performed so regularly the past two years, throwing for
six as he was falling, dodging, ducking, you know. This time?
Two interceptions, good for 10 Detroit points.

The Packers' defense got worn down. It took the field with 7:01
left, trailing by eight and trying to force a punt, but the
Lions ran 11 plays and 5 1/2 minutes off the clock. Ten of those
plays were runs, and the 12th was the field goal that turned out
the lights. Before that drive Detroit had run 52 plays, not an
inordinate number, but the Green Bay defenders were shot. Don't
forget, the Eagles killed them with a 19-play drive in the
fourth quarter. And the Vikings made a run at them in the second
half.

Is this the Achilles' heel on the defending champs, or was it a
case of both starting cornerbacks being out and other guys
playing hurt? The defense that finished first in the league in
yards and points allowed last year is very thin. Not much depth.
And not many turnovers. The Packers have forced seven through
five games. Last year at this time they had 22.

Are the Buccaneers, whose offense went south in a look-ahead
game against Arizona but still squeaked out a one-point win,
catching the Pack at just the right time? I think they are. If
the Bucs can stay close and not get psyched out by all those
screaming maniacs in the Lambeau cheese factory, and if the
Packers don't put up big numbers early and force them to play
catch-up, Tampa Bay will win it in the fourth quarter. Call it
youthful fire.

The Broncos have won nine straight over the Patriots. Here comes
number 10. Yeah, I know, Denver had a big second-half letdown in
Atlanta. The Broncos let the Falcons come back from 23-0 and
make a run, and the Patriots had the bye week to get ready for
this one, but Drew Bledsoe doesn't seem to do that well against
Denver. Plus this one's at Mile High.

Three negatives for the Broncos. They've shown the tendency to
give up big plays, even against Atlanta. They'll be without
their kicker, Jason Elam, who has a hip flexor injury. And
they'll be missing their blocking fullback, Howard Griffith.
Look for a lot of two-tight-end sets, and look for Terrell Davis
to bail them out. He always does.

Kansas City could easily have lost at home against Seattle on
Sunday, except that Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson, for some
weird reason, let 15 precious seconds tick off the clock at the
end of regulation before Todd Peterson lined up for a 58-yard
field goal attempt--which he missed, naturally. Then, in
overtime, the Chiefs pounded a groggy team into submission.

Here's what I don't like about the Chiefs: Unless they blitz
lots of people, they don't have a pass rush. Here's what I do
like: Elvis Grbac. Usually when one of these 6'5" quarterbacks
scrambles or rolls out, he looks like Ichabod Crane. But this
guy is actually graceful, and he moves a lot faster than you'd
think. Nevertheless, I'm picking Miami at home against K.C. Dare
the Chiefs send the full blitz package at Dan Marino? I think
not, at least not right away. He's too scary, even though his
numbers are way down.

Look for Marino to throw from a multiple-wideout set, off a
quick drop, using a lot of no-huddle. Look for Kansas City to
pull in its horns and play coverages. The Chiefs will get good
yardage on the ground but not enough to win it.

A crazy voice is telling me to pick the Giants to upset the
Cowboys at the Meadowlands. I'm trying to disregard it. I will
disregard it. I don't have the courage for such a pick, even
though Dallas's offense showed zilch against Chicago, and after
the game Troy Aikman mentioned that it was about time the guys
stopped going through the motions in practice, which, if I'm
reading correctly, is a rip at the coach. What else is new?

Sorry, but I can't go with a team as banged up as the Giants.
Now they've lost rookie running back Tiki Barber (sprained right
knee) and center Derek Engler (broken right tibia), who was
starting in place of the injured regular, Brian Williams. That
means the weakest unit on the team, the offensive line, will be
even weaker. One rule in handicapping--well, it's my own
rule--is never go with the team that has the shaky line.

The last six Eagles-Redskins games played in Philadelphia have
been decided by five points or less. The Eagles won five of
them. Not this time. I like what the Redskins showed in the rain
against Jacksonville, coming back from a terrible start to wear
down a tough, physical team. I thought free safety Stanley
Richard had a career game, coming up near the line and stuffing
Natrone Means, closing fast when he had to drop back into
coverage. He did it all. Gus Frerotte was back on the beam,
after a shaky 1997 start, and what a difference in the offense
when Tre Johnson is back at right guard. The guy can cave in the
middle of the line.

Philly will run against a notoriously weak rushing defense, but
I think Washington will put up plenty of points, too. Look for
the Redskins to win in a shootout.

--PAUL ZIMMERMAN

Send your NFL questions to Peter King and read more Dr. Z at
www.cnnsi.com

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Marino's quick drops could foil K.C.'s rush.[Dan Marino in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)