Week 11 No team's really that good anymore, and upsets have become commonplace, so this looks like a good week to give the Bengals--yes, the Bengals--the nod

November 17, 2003

Here is my favorite statistic in football, and one reason I like
it so much is that we'll never see anything like it again: From
1972 through '79, when the Steelers appeared in eight straight
playoffs and won four Super Bowls, their record against teams
that would finish the season below .500 was (get ready for this)

The Steelers simply did not lose to bad teams. They suffered only
one major upset in eight seasons, losing to the Bengals 34-10 in
1979. They were aristocratic bullies, and they stayed together,
which is now impossible for a team to do.

Free agency has leveled the field. Every week there are two or
three games that have you gasping when you hear the results. On
Sunday there were four such games, the hopeless and helpless
refusing to know their place and fouling up other teams' playoff

San Diego, with a 41-year-old quarterback who has spent the
better part of the last season and a half on the bench, beat
Minnesota, one of the hot teams this season. The Falcons, who had
lost seven straight, went on the road and stunned the Giants, who
were coming off two wins and gathering steam for their playoff
run. Hopeless Jacksonville toppled mighty Indianapolis, and the
Redskins, a team in turmoil, upended the leader of the NFC West,
the Seahawks.

O.K., I understand that no team's really that good anymore. But
what I'd like to know is, what are the telltale signs that a
shocking upset is on the horizon? Is there a distant rumbling,
like a volcano, or do these things just come from nowhere? I'm
looking at the schedule, and I know that some of the games that
should be laughers this Sunday won't be. They are major upsets
disguised as handicapping ho-hummers. I have dedicated myself to
exposing one of them this week from among the following matchups.

How about the Bears, coming off a loss to the Lions, beating the
Rams, who might be the NFC's best team? I won't even bother with
that one because I don't pad my record with puppies. Detroit at
Seattle? Jacksonville at Tennessee? Those would be major upsets.
Yeah, just right for someone else to pick. Unbeaten Kansas City
at 4-5 Cincinnati, which ran for 240 yards against the Texans?
The following week the Chiefs play the Raiders, shadows of their
former selves but still a division matchup and a traditional
rivalry. Cincy is a look-ahead game, a trap.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've found my major upset. The Bengals will
end the Chiefs' unbeaten run and bring K.C. back down to earth.
Elsewhere things are not quite as dramatic. The Panthers, hoping
Stephen Davis will be back from his sore ankle, will put out the
Redskins' fire. The Dolphins will beat the Ravens if Zach Thomas,
out on Sunday with a groin injury, returns. If not, then I'll
pass on this one. Without Thomas to keep things tidy in the
middle, Miami's defense was a rudderless ship against the Titans.

Maybe the Giants were looking ahead to Philadelphia last week,
but when they see the Eagles face-to-face, Philly gets the win.
Oakland would not be a ridiculous pick over Minnesota, which is
trying to figure out what happened to its defense. But I think
the Vikings, losers of three straight, are scared now, so they'll
win this one. I like Tampa Bay over Green Bay, only because it's
traditional for the Bucs to win when these teams meet in Florida.
The Patriots beat the Cowboys in Foxboro, and the 49ers outlast
the Steelers in the Monday-nighter. --Paul Zimmerman

Last week: 5-3
Season record: 50-41

COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES GRINDING IT OUT Rudi Johnson, who carried 43 times against Houston, will help the Bengals beat the Chiefs.

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