NFL game predictions
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 12:13 a.m.
WHO: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-0).
WHEN: 3 p.m., FOX.
THE LINE: Eagles by 4.
LAST WEEK: Philadelphia defeated Atlanta 20-6. Tampa Bay defeated San Francisco 31-6.
THE GAME: Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson was efficient vs. San Francisco, leading four touchdown drives. But to be honest, he should have been. After all, San Francisco allowed 69 points in two playoff games. Philadelphia's defense is a different animal. They were ranked No. 4 in the regular season and have allowed a grand total of 19 points in the last three games. Johnson won't have an easy time. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (271 total yards, 1 TD) has a tough task as well. Tampa Bay's defense was ranked No. 1 in the regular season, and its starting CBs - Brian Kelly and Ronde Barber - combined for 10 interceptions. Expect McNabb to rely on the short game, with dumpoff passes to RB Duce Staley and WR James Thrash. Philadelphia will look to work some clock and keep the Buccaneers' defense out on the field in the frigid temperatures as much as possible. Tampa Bay is a different team than the past two that lost postseason games in Philadelphia. But it still won't be enough.
THE PREDICTION: Eagles 19, Buccaneers 13.
WHO: Tennessee Titans (1-0) at Oakland Raiders (1-0).
WHEN: 6:30 p.m., CBS.
THE LINE: Raiders by 8.
LAST WEEK: Tennessee defeated Pittsburgh 34-31 in overtime. Oakland defeated the New York Jets 30-10.
THE GAME: Oakland looks to finally clear the last hurdle. The Raiders lost in the second round last year, and in this round two years ago. They should get there once and for all, but it won't be easy. It comes down to this. Tennessee has won 11 out of the last 12 games. Home or road, good weather or bad, Titans QB Steve McNair has moved the ball. During that stretch, they have averaged 24.5 points per game. Look for Tennessee to pound it up the middle with RB Eddie George, taking a page from the Jets playbook. Last week, Jets RB Curtis Martin had 74 yards on the ground, but eventually New York fell so behind, they took the run aspect out of their plan. Point is, Oakland can be had on the ground, if you stick to it. Oakland can move the ball too, especially at home where they've posted 82 points in their last three games. They're too experienced, they're too tough at home to go against. But we do like those eight points when you're given them to a team as hot as Tennessee.
THE PREDICTION: Raiders 24, Titans 21.
Both games are rematches. Do not read into those previous games. Tennessee is a much different team than the one that lost 52-25 at Oakland Sept. 29, and the weather in Philadelphia was a lot nicer on Oct. 20, when the Eagles defeated Tampa Bay 20-10. Good luck today. We went 3-1 against the spread last week, 2-2 straight up. Playoff records: Straight up: 5-3; Against the spread: 4-4.
You can reach Tim Sullivan by calling 374-5050 or by email at SullivT@gvillesun.com.