Pro football picks


Friday, September 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Will Keyshawn Johnson ever shut up about his former employers in New York?

Maybe.

But not until his unbeaten Bucs play host to the unbeaten Jets on Sunday in a game in which the stats of Johnson and his favorite whipping boy, Wayne Chrebet, may be more important than the final score.

``I'll do my normal deal,'' Johnson says. ``But one thing in this normal deal is this is considered a big-time game. And big-time players show up in big-time games. According to my past history, I've done well in big-time games.''

The important stuff: Both teams are 3-0 and Tampa Bay is favored by 7, indicative of their current status as the NFL's best team. Not only has the defense been as stifling as usual but the Bucs have scored 93 points in three games, a figure it took them seven games to reach last season.

Remember, the Jets slid to 8-8 last year after Vinny Testaverde was hurt. But they went to the AFC title game the year before, albeit with Keyshawn.

And they dominated a good Buffalo team Sunday, although the Bills helped by self-destructing, especially on special teams. Testaverde, who played for Tampa Bay in its dark ages, seems back to his 1998 form and New York misses Johnson only minimally. Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, two draft picks the Jets got in the deals involving Johnson and Bill Parcells, have helped appreciably with the pass rush.

Nonetheless, the Bucs are home, Keyshawn claims to be a big-game player and Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, etc. are the best defense this side of the 1985 Bears.

BUCS, 19-13

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Washington (pick 'em) at New York Giants

The Giants are at the top of their game, the Redskins at the bottom of theirs. New York fits the rule that a team not good enough to start 4-0 usually doesn't. Still ...

GIANTS, 26-20


Jacksonville (plus 3 1/2 ) at Indianapolis (Monday night)

The Colts had a bye week to recover from blowing a 17-point lead at home to the Raiders.

Shootout.

JAGUARS, 41-38


St. Louis (minus 6 1/2 ) at Atlanta

The Rams have scored 30 in nine straight games, but they still can't stop anyone.

RAMS, 51-40


San Francisco (plus 6 1/2 ) at Dallas

Not so many years ago, these two dominated the NFC.

Times change.

COWBOYS, 31-20


Green Bay (plus 1) at Arizona

Not so many years ago, Green Bay dominated the NFC.

Help!

PACKERS 9-6


Tennessee (minus 7) at Pittsburgh

Not so many years ago ... well, you get the picture.

TITANS, 20-3


Kansas City (plus 7) at Denver

The Chiefs had a breather last week in an otherwise brutal opening month.

BRONCOS, 24-20


New England (plus 4 1/2 ) at Miami

The Dolphins haven't allowed a touchdown at home.

DOLPHINS, 19-6


Cincinnati (plus 11 1/2 ) at Baltimore

In three-plus NFL seasons, Priest Holmes has run for 1,712 yards — 459, or nearly 27 percent, against the Bengals. Jamal Lewis starts instead but no matter.

RAVENS, 24-3


Detroit (plus 1 1/2 ) at Chicago

The Bears are better than their record. And they're due.

BEARS, 20-14


Cleveland (plus 10 1/2 ) at Oakland

The Browns start playing real NFL teams now.

RAIDERS, 31-10


Seattle (minus 2 1/2 ) at San Diego

Back to on-the-job training. How do you spell R(e) Leaf?

SEAHAWKS, 24-9


Philadelphia (plus 1 1/2 ) at New Orleans

Remember that game a long time ago when Duce Staley ran for 201 yards and Philadelphia beat Dallas 41-14?

SAINTS, 41-14

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Last week: 9-4-1 (spread); 9-5 (straight up).

Season: 21-21-2 (spread); 29-15 (straight up).