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NFL Picks
Dolphins get chance to start heating up
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Finally, an afternoon home game in Miami. Too bad for the Dolphins it isn’t likely to be accompanied by the blistering heat of September that bakes northern visitors.
In town Sunday are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the third team from up north to journey to South Florida. The others were the Patriots and Jets, who both won.
Oddly, the Dolphins are 3-0 in away games, winless at home. They are 3-point underdogs to the Steelers, who were impressive even before Ben Roethlisberger returned last week and threw for three touchdowns. Oddly, as well, the Steelers are one of three NFL teams with only one loss. The others: the Patriots and Jets.
All of which means Miami has played a difficult schedule already.
As for the Steelers, their defense is tops in the league against the run — pay heed, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams — and perhaps in intimidation. They also have an angry linebacker in James Harrison, fuming over a $75,000 fine for a flagrant hit against Cleveland. Harrison probably is fortunate he wasn’t suspended for the shot on Mohamed Massaquoi.
Miami’s strange season continues. ... STEELERS, 22-20
Buffalo (plus 13½) at Baltimore — It’s hard to believe we might be talking about another 0-16 team less than two years after Detroit’s 0-fer. The Bills have all the makings, though, and this is a ticked-off group of Ravens after blowing last Sunday’s game at New England.
Washington (plus 3) at Chicago — We like the way Mike Shanahan has the Redskins playing. We don’t like the way the Bears have looked since starting 3-0.
New England (plus 3) at San Diego — This would have been a good choice for top upset, too, especially after New England’s impressive comeback win against Baltimore. And the Chargers are reeling, but both victories did come at home. ... PATRIOTS, 27-23
Minnesota (plus 3) at Green Bay — Visit No. 2 by Brett Favre in purple won’t bring the quarterback any kinder words from Cheeseheads. Unlike last year, it won’t bring a victory either. ... PACKERS, 23-21
Cincinnati (plus 4) at Atlanta —Falcons laid an egg last week. Bengals were off, and laid an egg the previous two weeks. ... FALCONS, 24-17
Cleveland (plus 14) at New Orleans — The champs appear to have found the big-play touch again, and Cleveland is a perfect foil. ... SAINTS, 33-10
Arizona (plus 6) at Seattle — A battle for the top spot in the NFC West. Cardinals might be the better squad, but Seahawks are so dangerous at home. ... SEAHAWKS, 23-20
San Francisco (minus 3) at Carolina — This could have been a matchup of winless teams, but Niners got their first victory against Oakland last week. This should be No. 2. ... 49ERS, 10-9
St. Louis (plus 1½) at Tampa Bay — Judging by last week, Rams have big edge, carrying momentum of win over Chargers while Bucs were routed by Saints. Another week, different result. ...  BUCCANEERS, 17-14
Oakland (OFF) at Denver — Strength against strength, the Raiders’ pass defense against prolific QB Kyle Orton’s aerial game. That matchup is very winnable for Denver. So is this game. ... BRONCOS, 27-17
Philadelphia (OFF) at Tennessee — Questions about the quarterbacks on both teams take this game off the board. No questions about the Titans’ strong and physical defense. ... TITANS, 20-14
Jacksonville (OFF) at Kansas City — Chiefs have lost two straight, but they tested the Colts and the Texans. KC’s third consecutive AFC South opponent won’t be so fortunate. ... CHIEFS, 17-13
N.Y. Giants (plus 3) at Dallas, Monday night — It’s getting kind of monotonous hearing how the Cowboys must win each week. Guess what: The Cowboys must win this week. ... COWBOYS, 24-23

RECORD: Versus spread, 6-5 (overall 48-38); Straight up, 9-5 (overall 57-33)
Best Bet: 3-3 against spread, 4-2 straight up.
Upset Special: 5-1 against spread, 5-1 straight up.