Dr. Z's Forecast

October 20, 2002

The Rams loved Marc Bulger's quick release, so they released him
quickly. This was in 2000, when the young quarterback drew a
one-week paycheck as a member of the practice squad. That was a
week less than he spent on the Falcons' cab squad, where he
landed after he'd been cut in training camp by New Orleans, the
team that drafted him.

He was back with the Rams in 2001, inactive all last season and
for the first five games this year. But, subbing for the injured
Jamie Martin on Sunday, he showed a big league arm and a lot of
pocket poise while leading St. Louis to its shocking upset of
the Raiders. "Actually he's the best passer we have," said coach
Mike Martz, who has given us quite a few unusual quotes this
year. But it's no more unusual than this season of the
question-mark quarterback. Resurrections abound, along with a
lot of head scratching.

Tommy Maddox returns from the netherworld to lead the Steelers.
Is he the real deal, or will he find a more modest level, as has
Carolina's Rodney Peete, a surprising hero early this year? How
about Patrick Ramsey, the Redskins rookie? "I've found my
quarterback," Steve Spurrier said after the kid's first at bat,
against the Titans on Oct. 6. "I don't know where he was throwing
some of those," the coach said on Sunday, after Ramsey had thrown
three picks before completing his first pass--with his team down
20-0.

It's expansion and contraction with these guys. That's why it's
so hard to handicap these games. But we've all got problems, so
let's concentrate on a matchup involving honest-to-goodness
veteran quarterbacks and a bit of a grudge.

Philadelphia knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs the past two
years. The Bucs, after getting shocked by the Saints in their
opener, have unleashed all the furies of their defense, allowing
30 points in their last five games, none of which were against
teams with a winning record.

--The Eagles are winners. And they're at home, rested after a bye
week. And they know how to play defense. Will the Bucs go back to
their big howitzer, Mike Alstott, whom they seem to save for
special occasions, such as last week's game against the Browns? I
don't think so. I think Tampa Bay will put the ball in the air,
and so will Philly, and the team that makes the fewest turnovers
will win. And the winner will be--the envelope, please--the Bucs in
an upset.

--Against Oakland, the Rams were stoked for the first time this
year. Their tackling was precise, and they played with courage. I
think they like the feeling, so I give St. Louis win number two
against Seattle.

--Another courageous team was Green Bay, which won convincingly
despite the absence of three starters from its secondary against
the pass-happy Patriots. The Packers are the pick over
Washington. I missed both of my upset specials last week, but one
of them--the Lions over the Vikings--was close, so let's try it
again. Detroit to upset Chicago. Coming off a heartbreaker,
Denver will exercise some measure of control over Priest Holmes.
The Broncos beat the Chiefs.

--Quarterback Chad Pennington gets his first win as the Jets
defeat Minnesota, and Atlanta's the pick over Carolina if Michael
Vick plays. If not, the Panthers take it.

--The Dolphins are due for a letdown after their stirring victory
in Denver, but not against the Bills, whom they've beaten four
straight. Miami wins it. So does Arizona against Dallas in the
desert; the Cardinals have won their last three there over the
Cowboys.

You know the last time the Steelers lost to the Colts in
Pittsburgh? It was 1968. The Steelers win again, in the
Monday-nighter. The Raiders bounce back against San Diego, the
Saints beat San Francisco in a squeaker, and Baltimore, which
may be minus Ray Lewis again, tops Jacksonville, which may be
minus Mark Brunell.

--Paul Zimmerman

Check out Dr. Z's Inside Football every week during the season at
cnnsi.com/football.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Alstott runs for tough yards, but the Bucs will win through the air.

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)