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Dr. Z's Forecast

Nov. 16, 1998
Nov. 16, 1998

Table of Contents
Nov. 16, 1998

Faces In The Crowd

Dr. Z's Forecast

Oh, sure, it's just swell, handicapping games without an M.D.'s
license. You want to know who's going to win on Sunday? Kindly
answer a few questions for me.

This is an article from the Nov. 16, 1998 issue

Was Steve Young held out of the Carolina game last week for
precautionary reasons, so he could be tip-top for the Falcons
this week, or is his abdominal strain worse than the 49ers are
letting on? Teams have been known to be less than revealing
about their injured superstars.

Not one but two Minnesota quarterbacks, Randall Cunningham and
Brad Johnson, are out, right? So does that mean the Vikings are
putting everything on the shoulders of Jay Fiedler against the
Bengals, or do they make like Atlanta, which suited up Steve
DeBerg, and drag Fran Tarkenton out of retirement?

Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell suffered a groin injury in
the first half against Cincinnati, and because the Bengals were
giving away the game anyway, he was held out of the second half
for "precautionary reasons." When does the precaution end? One
week? Two weeks?

Chicago quarterback Erik Kramer sat out the loss to St. Louis,
and now it's a race to see which part of him heals first,
throwing shoulder or left knee. I'm betting on the knee, because
when he was playing catch on the sideline with the Bears'
operative quarterback, Steve Stenstrom, he was throwing the ball
underhanded. Now you want to know if Kramer will be back this
week against the Lions, and I don't blame you one bit for asking.

Denver's John Elway did something nasty to his ribs in warmups,
played one series and sat to watch Bubby Brister bury San Diego.
What kind of warmups do the Broncos have, anyway? And what about
Elway's availability for the Monday-nighter in Kansas City? I'll
let you know after the warmups.

Oakland's Jeff George aggravated his torn groin in the first
quarter against Baltimore. A bleeding gash in his finger sent
the Cowboys' Troy Aikman to the locker room for a while against
the Giants. Come to think of it, I haven't been feeling so hot
myself lately.

O.K., enough stalling. Here are my diagnoses, and remember, these
are only for precautionary reasons.

Falcons to beat the Niners, with or without Young. It's
Atlanta's Super Bowl, and watching that defensive line put it to
New England, I don't like the way San Francisco's front five,
minus center Chris Dalman, matches up against those rowdies.

If Fiedler starts, I think the Vikings will be working all week
on their ground game so they can attack a Cincinnati defense that
has trouble stopping the run. The Bengals, knowing that, will be
working all week on massing the troops and making Fiedler put it
up. Knowing that, the Vikings could cross them and let Fiedler
air it out. Ah, the endless chess game. Minnesota's the pick if
Cunningham somehow recovers. Cincy to win it otherwise. Nothing
against Fiedler, but it's tough to step in and light it up right
away.

I think Brunell will be back, and the Jaguars will win against a
Buccaneers defense that was missing three starters in the
secondary against the Oilers.

Denver-Kansas City at Arrowhead? Preseason, this date was
circled on the calendar, but who would have guessed that the
Chiefs' quarterback situation would have gone so sour? I like
the Broncos, with or without Elway.

Philadelphia, with two scoring tosses in its first nine games,
has successfully eliminated the touchdown pass from its
repertoire. The Eagles will lose to the Redskins, who will suit
up Dave Butz, Diron Talbert and Ron McDole in an all-out
commitment to stop the run.

The Cardinals are delirious as they prepare to host the Cowboys.
With a win, Arizona would vault into a tie for the lead in the
mighty NFC East. It's the most important event in the desert
since it was discovered that you could squeeze water out of a
cactus. Feverish emotion. Deafening crowd noise. Desert heat.
Different level of talent, though. I'll take Dallas.

The Bills will beat the Patriots; New England's problems at
wideout are simply too serious. The Seahawks over the Raiders,
in Oakland, for no logical reason, just a hunch. The Ravens over
the Chargers, although this is the kind of team the San Diego
defense could kick in against and force turnovers. Have I picked
enough games? One more, you say? O.K., the Oilers, who had their
game neatly in place against the Bucs, will score a mini upset
over the Steelers.

--Paul Zimmerman

Send your pro football questions for Peter King's Mailbag and
read more from Paul Zimmerman at www.cnnsi.com.

COLOR PHOTO: WINSLOW TOWNSON Josh Evans (91) and the Oilers should put some heat on the Steelers.