Dr. Z's Forecast

September 28, 2003

Are the Chiefs the best team in football? Maybe, but before we
get starry-eyed about their 3-0 start, let's see if they can beat
a good team on the road. They get their chance on Sunday.

Kansas City will be in Baltimore to face the Ravens, who play
tough defense, especially at home. They also run the ball better
than any other team and take great pains to protect their rookie
quarterback, Kyle Boller. Baltimore is one of the few teams of
the modern era that runs the ball more than it passes and gains
most of its yards on the ground. In fact, the Ravens have more
than twice as many rushing yards (583) as passing yards (290).

Boller runs a very conservative show, averaging only eight yards
per completion. His primary function is not to screw up things
for the defense and Jamal Lewis, the league's leading rusher.
Lewis also likes to talk a little smack, directing it mostly at
enemy runners. The Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson was his target
last weekend, and this time the opposition is no less than the
formidable Priest Holmes. Call this the plot within the plot.

The Kansas City offense is multidimensional, but that's canceled
out by Baltimore's decided edge on defense. The Chiefs are
improving on that side of the ball, but can they control the
Ravens' ground attack? I think so--to a point. I'll give
Baltimore about 140 rushing yards on Sunday. Can the Ravens cope
with K.C.'s fine offensive line and explosive attack? Yes, if the
Baltimore offense doesn't turn the ball over and give the Chiefs
a short field to work with. But the Ravens have already turned
the ball over six times this season, and I see more of the same
happening. The Chiefs are the pick.

The second big game features a pair of former AFC Central
rivals--Pittsburgh and Tennessee. After spending time in the
garage for repairs, Jerome (the Bus) Bettis showed up against the
Bengals on Sunday. But the Titans' own bruiser, Eddie George, had
a 100-yard game in a win over the Saints. Sunday's game is in
Pittsburgh, which is the main reason why I award a slim victory
to the Steelers.

Even when they were on their way to the NFC's best record last
season, the Eagles had trouble with AFC teams, losing three out
of the four matchups. Now Philly is 0-2, and the injuries are
almost overwhelming, so I'll give the win to the Bills, who got
embarrassed by a swarming Dolphins defense on Sunday night. In
another bounce-back game, the Redskins get the call at home over
the Patriots. I think quarterback Tom Brady's elbow injury is
worse than people are letting on. He certainly wasn't throwing
right against the Jets last weekend.

Until Falcons quarterback Doug Johnson shows he can stand up to a
really good defense, I'll have to go with the other guys, in this
case the Panthers. I'll take the 49ers to knock the Vikings out
of the unbeaten ranks, and Bill Parcells's second homecoming at
the Meadowlands this season will not be as joyful as the first.
The Jets get their first victory, over Parcells's Cowboys.

Indianapolis-New Orleans is an interesting matchup, mainly
because the Saints have a five-game winning streak in the series.
Even though the game's in the Superdome, I say New Orleans
doesn't make it six straight. The Colts are the pick. Finally
there's the Monday-nighter, Green Bay at Chicago. This looked
like a no-brainer until the Packers showed on Sunday they can
lose to anybody, falling to the Cardinals. I can't see it
happening two weeks in a row, though. Green Bay gets my weak
vote.
--Paul Zimmerman

Last week: 4-5 Season record: 14-14

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Lewis figures to be a busy man again, but turnovers will be the downfall for Boller (8) and the Ravens' offense.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
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