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In NFL, silence is the golden rule

Pretty impressive, these Falcons, particularly on the ground, where they picked up 285 yards against the Vikings last week and have averaged a whopping 209 per game in 2005. It might have something to do with famed offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, who is working three days a week as a consultant for head coach Jim Mora Jr., but don't even think about making a story out of that.

Gibbs is not granting interviews.

What do you think of that, Corey Dillon?

Silence.

Dillon is not granting interviews, either.

Can you believe that, Terrell Owens? The guy runs wild and helps lead his team to another Super Bowl and he isn't talking. Crazy, isn't it?

Silence.

Owens isn't talking, either.

It's as if Maxwell Smart -- may he rest in peace -- bequeathed the Cone of Silence to all these gridiron giants. But undaunted, we go to Buffalo to check in with the Bills. Defensive tackle Ron Edwards is hurt, but will he play against the Dolphins?

Buffalo head coach Mike Mularkey wouldn't talk.

Well, how about your quarterback? Who will it be, J.P. Losman or Kelly Holcomb?

''I'm not going to talk about a starter at any position for either team," said Mularkey.

Surely, Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh will divulge his plans now that all three of his running backs -- Willie Parker, Jerome Bettis, and Duce Staley -- are healthy. Who's in? Who's out?

Cowher wouldn't talk.

Neither would Joe Gibbs in Washington, when asked to go into detail as to why LaVar Arrington wasn't starting. And when we heard that Detroit wide receiver Charles Rogers had been suspended, naturally we asked the team why. The Lions said to ask the NFL, so we did.

''No comment," said league officials.

All this silence seems so disconcerting, doesn't it, Bill Belichick?

He smiled, but said not a word. Oh, except to announce that he had brought in three more players.

''I'm pleased to tell you that Duane Thomas, Steve Carlton, and Marcel Marceau have been signed by the Patriots," said Belichick.

The games
New England at Atlanta (-3)
-- Michael Vick goes left. Michael Vick goes right. Michael Vick goes over. Michael Vick ducks under. Michael Vick goes into reverse. Michael Vick goes forward. Michael Vick hands off to himself. Michael Vick throws to himself. Whew. That was a busy first-down play for the Falcons. Wonder what they'll do on second and 12. Pick: Patriots.

Baltimore at Detroit (-1 1/2) -- The Ravens' punter is Dave Zastudil and when I look at that name I am reminded of Pat Studstill, and since he used to play for the Lions, that's my pick. Pick: Lions.

New Orleans at Green Bay (-3) -- Sure, the Packers are 0-4 with the worst performance since Bart Starr made a guest appearance on ''Gentle Ben." But don't despair, you Cheeseheads. You're in the NFC North. One win and you're virtually tied for first. Pick: Packers.

Philadelphia (-3) at Dallas -- Did you see that wild, angry helmet toss by Drew Bledsoe after his last-second pass fell incomplete at the goal line in a 19-13 loss to Oakland? NASCAR officials will review the film and perhaps announce a fine. Pick: Cowboys.

Carolina (-2 1/2) at Arizona -- Josh McCown threw for 385 yards in last Sunday's win over the 49ers in Mexico City. With the exchange rate, that was nearly 3,900 pesos. Pick: Panthers.

Tennessee at Houston (-3) -- The Texans have scored 24 points en route to an 0-3 start. They always run the no-huddle offense, because, well, they don't have any plays to speak of, so why have a huddle? Pick: Titans.

Seattle at St. Louis (-3) -- The Rams have lost tight end Roland Williams (knee) for the rest of the season, but there's a chance Cam Cleeland will return to the roster. He's been out looking for the ''v" that is sorely missing from his last name. Pick: Rams.

Miami at Buffalo (-2 1/2) -- You think perhaps Nick Saban has played a little bit too much tackle football without a helmet in his life? The Dolphins coach was told that his club had moved into first place in the AFC East during its bye week because the Patriots, Bills, and Jets had lost. ''What we can control, we can control," he said, banging his fist on a table. ''If we have three friends who fail the ACT test to get into college, what do we have to do to get into college? Pass the ACT test." Either that, or be a stud football player. Now take a couple of chill pills, Nick. Pick: Bills.

Tampa Bay (-3) at New York Jets -- Mike Heimerdinger is the offensive coordinator behind a Jets attack that has been nonexistent. Coach Herman Edwards's next choice is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. Pick: Buccaneers.

Chicago at Cleveland (-3) -- Bears quarterback Kyle Orton has a 41.9 rating. Hopefully, his blood pressure and cholesterol figures are also low. Pick: Browns.

Indianapolis (-14 1/2) at San Francisco -- The 49ers have turned to No. 1 overall draft pick, quarterback Alex Smith. Colts coach Tony Dungy, meanwhile, has turned to Plato for a deeper meaning to this week's affair: ''The most important thing is not thinking you don't have to play well to win the game." Pick: Colts.

Washington at Denver (-7) -- This week, the Redskins are the worst 3-0 team in NFL history. Next week, they'll be the worst 3-1 team in NFL history. Pick: Broncos.

Cincinnati at Jacksonville (-2 1/2) -- The Bengals have been hit with 45 penalties in four games, 17 in Week 2 alone. So bad have the Benglas been that league honchos have assigned an extra official to every Cincinnati game just to pick up the excess yellow flags. Pick: Jaguars.

Pittsburgh at San Diego (-3) -- In a recent poll, three out of five San Diegans didn't even know the Padres had made the playoffs. Another didn't know the Padres were still in San Diego and the fifth was in such a rush to go hang gliding out at La Jolla he couldn't stop to do the poll. Pick: Chargers.

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