Originally created 11/15/02

The cousins go at it again in Atlanta

Cousins Michael Vick and Aaron Brooks played against each other in New Orleans three weeks ago, with Vick's Falcons beating Brooks' Saints 37-35. Look for more fireworks when they meet Sunday.

The Falcons are unbeaten in five games, the last being the 34-34 tie in Pittsburgh that was the NFL's first draw in five years.

They trail the Saints and Bucs (both 7-2) by 1 1/2 games in the NFC South, which is turning out to be the NFL's strongest division in the first year of realignment.

Atlanta's comeback at Pittsburgh from a 17-point deficit with eight minutes left against one of the AFC's best teams gives the Falcons legitimacy for the first time since they went to the 1999 Super Bowl.

The Falcons are favored by three in this one, because they are playing at home.

There are two ways to look at this game:

1. Atlanta is legitimate, but it's hard for anyone in this era of parity to sustain a streak beyond five games. And last week's game was exhausting and emotional.

2. The Saints don't play very good defense. The 24 points they gave up against Carolina last week was the Panthers' second-highest total this season.

Go with No. 1. When two division rivals are evenly matched, they usually split the season series.

SAINTS, 34-33

New England (plus 4) at Oakland

Rich Gannon and Tom Brady (Gannon Jr.) combine to throw 110 passes. And bet on no snow.

RAIDERS, 34-33

San Francisco (minus 2 1/2 ) at San Diego

The Chargers are sliding, although they played well last week in St. Louis. Jeff Garcia just keeps getting better.

49ERS, 24-20

Green Bay (minus 6) at Minnesota

The Packers could clinch a division earlier than any team in modern history with a win and a Detroit loss. Green Bay keeps its end of the bargain.

PACKERS, 33-10

New York Jets (minus 3) at Detroit

Chad Pennington has an advantage over Joey Harrington: He had time to sit and watch.

JETS, 20-16

Chicago (off) at St. Louis (Monday night)

The Bears have quarterback questions.

The Rams have Marc Bulger.

RAMS, 27-9

Pittsburgh (minus 3) at Tennessee

Tommy Maddox keeps on slinging.


Carolina (plus 8) at Tampa Bay

Rodney Peete came back, and so did Carolina's offense.

Not here.

BUCS, 17-13

Washington (plus 3 1/2 ) at New York Giants

The Giants have huge injury problems, but seem to muddle through.

GIANTS, 20-19

Arizona (minus 11) at Philadelphia

The Eagles are 1-3 against the AFC South and 5-0 against everyone else. The Cardinals are everyone else. Make it 6-0.

EAGLES, 35-13

Buffalo (plus 3 1/2 ) at Kansas City

The Chiefs' defense is getting it together. But these teams alone are the main reason for the NFL's offensive explosion.

BILLS, 51-45

Baltimore (plus 4 1/2 ) at Miami

The Dolphins are 0-3 since Jay Fiedler went down. Ray Lucas is getting better.


Denver (minus 4 1/2 ) at Seattle

Matt Hasselbeck isn't Rich Gannon.

BRONCOS, 28-17

Dallas (plus 6 1/2 ) at Indianapolis

Peyton Manning vs. Chad Hutchinson.

COLTS, 20-11

Jacksonville (minus 6) at Houston

Remember that the Texans won the first meeting.

The Jaguars certainly recall it.

JAGUARS, 24-16

Cleveland (minus 3 1/2 ) at Cincinnati

The Bungles had their week.

BROWNS, 17-11

LAST WEEK: 9-4-1 (spread), 10-3-1 (straight up)

SEASON: 72-68-4 (spread) 92-51-1 (straight up)


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