NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Green Bay (+6.5) at Dallas, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: Although both teams enter 10-1, the oddsmakers clearly don't view them as equals, with the Cowboys nearly a touchdown favorite. The Packers come to town winners of six straight and 14 of their last 15 games. Brett Favre is playing the best football of his career, posting a 13:2 TD:INT ratio over the past five games with a QB rating above 100 in every one of them. He's completing 68.5 percent of his passes while getting 7.9 YPA (9.2 when on the road) and taking just 14 sacks this season. While the numbers show a Dallas secondary that's given up some decent yardage totals, on a per play basis, its been very good, allowing just 6.4 YPA. The front seven has been equally as impressive, recording 30 quarterback takedowns and limiting the opposing rushing attack to just 3.6 YPC. Green Bay's offense no doubt has its work cut out for them, but Favre has been extremely accurate this year, and Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones form a very solid receiving corps. Ryan Grant has also been a huge addition to the backfield, averaging more than 120 yards from scrimmage over the last three games despite playing some of the league's better run defenses. The Packers are a perfect 5-0 on the road this season, and despite appearing to be not quite as good as the more glamorous Cowboys, Green Bay's resume is as impressive as any team in the NFC…Dallas' only loss this season came against the undefeated Patriots, and their offense has scored at least 25 points in every game this year. The unit will get tested this week, as Green Bay's secondary has allowed just 6.7 YPA and their four rushing scores allowed are the second fewest in the NFL. Aaron Kampman has been one of the most dominating defensive players in the league, recording an NFL-leading 11 sacks. One potential problem Green Bay faces is the health of Charles Woodson, who is questionable with a toe injury. Woodson has surpassed teammate Al Harris as the Packers' best cover corner this season, completely reinventing his career with a major resurgence. His absence would be devastating to a defense that needs to be full-go against one of the NFL's best offenses. In any other season, Tony Romo would probably be the leading MVP candidate. He's on pace to total 45 touchdowns while getting 8.6 YPA. Romo has been picked off in four straight games, however, so the Packers' opportunistic defense may be able to force a couple of turnovers Thursday. Both teams played on Thanksgiving, so there's been equal time for preparation during the short week. In a matchup between the conference's two best teams, the winner will come away with a big edge toward capturing the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs.
Predictions: Brett Favre has another huge game, throwing for 280 yards and three TDs, with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin the recipients. Ryan Grant totals 80 yards but the end zone eludes him, while Julius Jones and Marion Barber combine for 110 yards without a score. Tony Romo answers with 270 yards and scoring strikes to Terrell Owens (twice) and Jason Witten, as Dallas eyes homefield advantage in the postseason. Cowboys 27-24.
Atlanta (+4.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: In a game featuring a 3-8 team and a 2-9 squad, it's safe to say this isn't one of the premiere matchups this week. Atlanta enters losers of two straight, allowing 31 points during both contests. Despite Byron Leftwich possibly being healthy enough to start, the team is sticking with Joey Harrington at quarterback. During five games on the road this year, Harrington has thrown one touchdown pass. However, the Rams have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns - third most in the NFL - so expect Warrick Dunn to be featured heavily Sunday…A team constantly battling injury problems this season, the Rams will once again be without Marc Bulger (concussion) this week. The offensive line also continues to be in flux, allowing the second most sacks in the league (39) thanks in large part having to start 15 different combinations in the trenches this year. Gus Frerotte has been an ineffective replacement under center, throwing a whopping eight interceptions during his two starts this season. He's got just 5.6 YPA while completing only 55.8 percent of his passes. Therefore, St. Louis will almost certainly rely on Steven Jackson, who is one of the true difference makers at the running back position. Jackson faces an Atlanta front seven that's allowed 123.5 rushing yards per game, which is second worst in the conference. The Rams have yet to win at home this year, but Atlanta is just 1-4 on the road. Expect St. Louis to win the battle of attrition.
Predictions: Joey Harrington throws for 230 yards and a TD to Roddy White, while Warrick Dunn runs for 75 yards and a touchdown. Gus Frerotte answers with 200 passing yards and a scoring strike to Torry Holt, while Steven Jackson totals 125 yards with a touchdown of his own, as the home team prevails. Rams 20-17.
Buffalo (+5.5) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins will be playing with heavy hearts Sunday, having lost teammate Sean Taylor to a gunshot wound this past week. While no one can predict how the team will react exactly, emotional levels figure to be high, with a strong likelihood of an inspired performance. The Bills come in losers of back-to-back games, having allowed 92 points in the process. Trent Edwards again takes over at quarterback, and while he's 3-1 as a starter this year, he's posted a 1:5 TD:INT ratio in doing so. Additionally, Marshawn Lynch (high ankle sprain) remains sidelined, and with Anthony Thomas (calf) also shelved, rookie Fred Jackson is set to carry the load in Buffalo's backfield Sunday. Jackson is largely an unknown, but he was an effective pass catcher last week and could be a sneaky fantasy play over the rest of the season if Lynch's healing process is slower than expected; the Bills have two highly favorable matchups coming up after this week's tilt in Washington…Jason Campbell has thrown for more than 300 yards in consecutive games, but he hasn't topped 6.4 YPA in a game since Week 5, so he hasn't been very efficient. With a finally healthy Santana Moss to go along with Chris Cooley and Antwaan Randle El, the Redskins have the makings of a pretty solid passing attack. The ground game is still the team's bread-and-butter, however, and Clinton Portis should shred a Bills' defense allowing 4.4 YPC this year. Having lost three straight games and a teammate recently, Washington is going to come out extremely focused and take out its aggression on a helpless Bills squad.
Predictions: Trent Edwards is held to just 160 passing yards with two INTs and no touchdowns, while Fred Jackson gets 70 yards and the team's lone score. Jason Campbell throws for 260 yards and finds Chris Cooley in the end zone, while Clinton Portis runs wild, gaining 150 rushing yards with two TDs, as Washington honors Sean Taylor with a victory. Redskins 24-13.
Detroit (+3.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Lions have followed up a three-game winning streak with an equally long losing skid, and their once secure playoff positioning is looking tenuous. Detroit currently holds onto the final wild card spot, but its remaining schedule features opponents with a combined 35-20 record - by far the toughest of those fighting for the postseason in the NFC. Still, the Lions have had extra time to prepare following their Thanksgiving day game, and the dome atmosphere makes their travels feel more like home. The Vikings have a fierce run defense, allowing just 53.8 rushing yards per game during the last four contests at home. However, the secondary is beatable, so look for Mike Martz to get pass-happy, and if Jon Kitna can avoid turnovers, he should have a nice day, especially with Calvin Johnson emerging as a legitimate threat…Minnesota kept its playoff hopes alive with an impressive victory in New York last week and now look likely to get Adrian Peterson (knee) back in the lineup Sunday. Peterson still leads the NFL in rushing despite missing the last 2.5 games with injury. He'll be eased back into action, with Chester Taylor taking some of the load as well. Expect the team to focus its game plan around running the ball, as Minnesota has now gone 25 straight games without a 100-yard receiver. Tarvaris Jackson is one of the more elusive quarterbacks in the league but is still extremely raw as a passer. In a divisional contest that's close to the end, Minnesota wins the turnover battle and the game.
Predictions: With Kevin Jones and the running game shut down, Jon Kitna is forced to throw even more than usual, resulting in numerous sacks, a couple of picks and TDs to Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson combine for 190 rushing yards and three TD runs, as Tarvaris Jackson isn't asked to do much. Minnesota wins it on a late field goal. Vikings 24-23.
Houston (+3.5) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: With the teams separated by just one game, Houston travels to Tennessee Sunday after losing to them by just two points during their matchup earlier this year. The Texans have had their problems on the road this season, going 2-4 with their only wins coming in Oakland and in Carolina - two who have combined for one home win in 2007. Houston's defense has really struggled this year, but when healthy, the offense is a very solid unit, albeit one that commits too many turnovers. It's unclear if Andre Johnson is truly 100 percent, as his knee injury likely won't be fully recovered until next season. Ahman Green (knee) is attempting to play, but he and Ron Dayne would have an unfavorable matchup if Albert Haynesworth (hamstring) returns for Tennessee…The Titans' three-game losing streak can't solely be blamed on Haynesworth's absence, but after allowing just 66.0 rushing yards per game with him in the lineup over the season's first eight games, Tennessee has been gashed for 160.0 rushing yards per game during the three losses without him clogging up the middle. The losing has also coincided with a sluggish running game, as LenDale White has been held to just 81 yards on 29 carries (2.79 YPC) over the past three weeks. His lack of burst - and conditioning - is a big concern for the team. Vince Young has played better of late, but Tennessee's record has an inverse relationship with the amount of passes he attempts. Coming off three consecutive losses, the Titans are the more desperate team and will play with an urgency at home Sunday.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 230 yards and a TD to Andre Johnson, while Ron Dayne gets the bulk of the work in the backfield, resulting in just 60 yards without a score. Vince Young counters with 180 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and a scoring strike to Brandon Jones. LenDale White bounces back to an extent, rushing for 70 yards and a TD, as Tennessee gets back into the win column. Titans 20-17.
Jacksonville (+7) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Jaguars are a very good football team, with a solid defense, sound running game and an improving aerial attack. They've even outscored their opponents overall this season by more points than the first place Colts, who hold a slim one-game lead over Jacksonville in the NFC South. Despite throwing to below average targets, David Garrard has gotten 7.8 YPA, is a threat with his legs and has set a franchise-record by not throwing one interception during 209 pass attempts this season. He'll have to continue protecting the ball, as Indianapolis has picked off six passes over the past four games. While Maurice Jones-Drew has been held to just 43 yards on 22 carries the last two weeks, Fred Taylor has ran for nearly 200 yards and gotten 5.6 YPC during that span. The Jags are likely to concentrate on their ground game Sunday…After a rough first quarter following a three-game stretch that saw Indy look beatable, the Colts got back on track against the Falcons last week, winning handily. They now have an extra three days to prepare for their division rivals, since Indy last played Thursday. Peyton Manning has already thrown 12 interceptions this year, more than any season since 2002. The banged up receiving corps doesn't help, and it's looking increasingly likely that Marvin Harrison (knee) is done for the regular season. However, rookie Anthony Gonzalez provided a nice spark to the passing game with his return from a thumb injury last week, and Dallas Clark should only get healthier while recovering from the aftereffects of a concussion. Reggie Wayne has made some costly drops of late, but he's still done a nice job of dealing with the extra coverage that's been rolled his way. While most concentrate on Indianapolis' problems on offense, its defense is very, very good, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 69.7 rating this season.
Predictions: David Garrard throws his first pick of the year but also gets 230 yards passing with a scoring strike to Reggie Williams. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combine for 140 yards, with Jones-Drew getting the goal line score. Peyton Manning responds with 275 passing yards and TDs to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai adds 110 yards and reaches paydirt, as Indy again stakes its claim on the division. Colts 27-17.
New York Jets (+1) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Losers of 14 straight, the Dolphins enter trying to avoid becoming the seventh team in NFL history to open a season dropping their first 12 games. The Jets aren't winless, but they enter ranked worse offensively (30th) and defensively (30th). Kellen Clemens may or may not have a bright future, but right now he has the lowest quarterback rating in the NFL and has gotten just 5.6 YPA. Additionally, Laveranues Coles (ankle) and Jerricho Cotchery (finger) are both limited physically and are questionable to play Sunday. The team has relied heavily on Thomas Jones, who faces a Dolphins run defense that's allowed the second most rushing scores (13) in the NFL…More than half of Miami's 11 losses this year have come by a field goal, so it's not like this team isn't ever competitive. Still, it comes in with a quarterback making just his third career NFL start. John Beck hasn't looked hopeless, but the 5.4 YPA suggests it's going to be a steep learning curve. Chris Chambers, who was traded after six games this season, is still the team's leading receiver, and the ground game is depleted with Ricky Williams (chest) lost for the year and Jesse Chatman (ankle, neck) banged up. Still, Chatman is expected to play Sunday and has a highly favorable matchup against New York's soft front seven. The Dolphins are simply the hungrier team, and since the Jets have yet to win on the road this season, expect Miami to finally break its losing streak.
Predictions: Kellen Clemens commits a couple of turnovers but also finds Brad Smith for a score, while Thomas Jones runs for 110 yards and a TD. John Beck answers with 200 passing yards and a touchdown toss to Marty Booker, as Jesse Chatman adds 100 yards with a score, helping Miami get into the win column. Dolphins 20-17.
San Diego (-5.5) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Chiefs aren't anything special, but it's hard to see this Chargers team as nearly a touchdown favorite while on the road. Kansas City is 19-1 over its last 20 games played in Arrowhead during December. With Brodie Croyle (back) missing practice all week, the Chiefs may turn back to Damon Huard. While that may hurt long-term, Huard is the better option at QB right now, giving KC a better chance at winning Sunday. Kolby Smith was brilliant during his first career start at RB last week, rushing for 150 yards and getting 4.8 YPC with two touchdowns. The terrible Raiders defense is partially to blame, but Smith impressed, running with burst and the ability to break tackles. With few other options on the roster, expect Smith to get all the work he can handle from here on out…San Diego's level of play has changed dramatically depending on venue this season, winning each of its last four home games yet going 1-4 on the road this season. Poor mechanics have led to inconsistent play from Philip Rivers, who has already been picked off three more times this year than all of 2006. However, Rivers has an impressive 20:0 TD:INT ratio during his career in the red zone. LaDainian Tomlinson is having a fine season, but he hasn't topped 3.9 YPC in a game in a month. The Chargers have more talent, but their shaky defense will have to play better than they have while on the road this season for them to beat this divisional opponent.
Predictions: Damon Huard starts and gets 230 passing yards with a TD to Tony Gonzalez. Kolby Smith adds 90 total yards with a score, while LaDainian Tomlinson totals 125 yards and a TD of his own. Philip Rivers is shaky but still manages 220 passing yards with a scoring strike to Antonio Gates, as SD wins it. Chargers 20-17.
Seattle (+3) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: While the Seahawks enter coming off a win and the Eagles coming off a loss, Philadelphia was the more impressive team last week, nearly beating an undefeated Patriots team. Seattle, meanwhile, did everything but give the game away to a poor Rams squad. Still, playing in a division that consists of opponents with a combined .303 winning percentage, the Seahawks have the NFC West all but locked up. Last week, Seattle's streak of 13 straight games with four penalties or fewer ended when the team was flagged six times. It was the longest such streak since 1972, so it's safe to call this Seahawks squad disciplined. However, Seattle doesn't travel that well, with their only road wins this season coming against the lowly 49ers and Rams…Last year the Eagles thrived after Donovan McNabb's season ended with a knee injury. Last week, Philly came very close to beating a historically good Patriots team, this time with A.J. Feeley replacing McNabb behind center. With McNabb unlikely to be available again Sunday, Feeley should get his second straight start, facing a Seahawks secondary that's allowed a league-low six touchdowns through the air. Feeley's career numbers (6.2 YPA) show why he's a backup, but he was terrific last week (8.2 YPA) against a good New England secondary. Andy Reid's offensive system is conducive to big passing stats no matter who is the signal caller, so Feeley's numbers could remain solid for as long as he's the starter. Brian Westbrook is again dealing with a knee issue, but he's been as explosive as any runner in the league this year, and Seattle has no answer for the dynamic back.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck misses D.J. Hackett (ankle), but he does throw for 250 yards and TDs to Deion Branch and Bobby Engram. Maurice Morris adds 70 yards, while Brian Westbrook totals 140 yards with a TD catch and run. A.J. Feeley also adds 230 passing yards and another score to Reggie Brown, as Philly comes out on top. Eagles 24-20.
San Francisco (+3) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After going 11 quarters without scoring a touchdown, San Francisco broke out offensively last week, totaling 374 yards of offense while scoring two more points than they had during its previous four games combined. Trent Dilfer isn't any good, but he's officially an upgrade over a hurt (and still sidelined) Alex Smith. Frank Gore finally broke the century mark for rushing yards for the first time this season last week and nearly did the same as a receiver (98 yards). Gore is a special talent, with the ability to overcome his surroundings now that his ankle is feeling better. The 49ers have recorded 10 sacks over the past two games, so they've improved defensively as well. Still, this is a team with the last ranked offense in the NFL (13.6 PPG, 235.0 YPG) and is coming off the emotional high of a rare victory last week…Carolina has lost seven straight home games by a combined score of 200-70. The team is reeling no matter the venue of late, having dropped five consecutive contests. The latest was especially brutal - a 31-6 blowout defeat at the hands of divisional foe New Orleans last week in Carolina. DeShaun Foster had nine carries for minus-five yards on the ground, while David Carr may have finally put the nail in the coffin that is his career with another abysmal performance. Carr's 4.4 YPA during four starts this year is truly atrocious, so Vinny Testaverde has to be considered a major upgrade this week. The Panthers also enter with an NFL-low 10 sacks, so their struggles extend to the defensive side of the ball as well. Still, after getting embarrassed last week, expect Carolina to respond with its best effort in weeks, resulting in its first home win in more than a year.
Predictions: Trent Dilfer throws for 200 yards and a TD to Vernon Davis, while Frank Gore adds 110 yards but the end zone eludes him. Vinny Testaverde answers with 220 passing yards and a scoring strike to Steve Smith, while DeShaun Foster bounces back with 80 yards and a TD run, as the home team prevails. Panthers 20-16.
Cleveland (+1) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The Browns are 5-1 over their last six games and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, despite sporting the league's 32nd ranked defense (397.9 YPG). Derek Anderson has been quite possibly the NFL's biggest surprise this season, throwing for 22 touchdowns with 7.6 YPA. Jamal Lewis has also been a pleasant surprise, running for 232 yards with two scores over the last couple of weeks. At just 2-3, Cleveland isn't a great road team, however, so they will be vulnerable Sunday…After forcing 10 turnovers the prior two games, Arizona forced zero at home against the 49ers last week, suffering a devastating loss in which they were double-digit favorites. The Cardinals had previously been tough to beat while at home, but Kurt Warner's health remains an issue. Already playing with a torn elbow to his non-throwing arm, Warner suffered a rib injury last week, so he'll be tender during Sunday's game. He has a fantastic matchup this week, as the Browns have allowed an NFL-worst 25 passing touchdowns this season. Larry Fitzgerald has emerged as one of the truly elite receivers in the league, with an uncanny ability to come away with the ball in traffic. His 11.4 targets per game lead the NFL. Using last week's emotional, overtime loss as motivation, Arizona comes out on top Sunday, with home field the difference maker.
Predictions: Derek Anderson throws for 290 yards with TDs to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, while Jamal Lewis adds 90 yards and a score of his own. Kurt Warner responds with 300 passing yards and scoring strikes to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, while Edgerrin James adds 90 total yards. Marcel Shipp steals the goal line score, as Arizona wins in a shootout. Cardinals 27-24.
Denver (-3.5) at Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Oakland ended a 17-game division losing streak last week with a victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City and will try to make it two in a row versus divisional foe Denver this week. The win was the Raiders' first in seven weeks, as the team has struggled both offensively and defensively this season. Daunte Culpepper has played much better of late, getting 8.4 YPA over the last two games and even playing Week 12 without committing a turnover. He has, however, been sacked 20 times during his six starts this year. Justin Fargas is the team's workhorse at running back, getting at least 22 carries in four straight games and with success; he's averaging 4.8 YPC this year and has been effective as a receiver out of the backfield. Facing a Denver front seven that's allowed 4.7 YPC (only Oakland is worse), Fargas should have a big game Sunday…The Broncos come to town having blown their biggest fourth quarter lead (14 points) in the last 45 years last week, losing in overtime in Chicago. Despite last week's hiccup - which included allowing two special teams touchdowns - the Broncos have been playing solid football since getting blown out 44-7 in Detroit Week 9. Jay Cutler has been especially impressive, getting 9.7 YPA with a 4:1 TD:INT ratio over the past two games. Brandon Marshall, Javon Walker and Tony Scheffler form a trio of receiving options that should be excellent for years to come. Andre Hall was extremely effective during his first career start last week, but he's likely to miss some time with a high ankle sprain, leaving the Denver backfield situation unclear. Both Travis Henry (knee) and Selvin Young (knee) returned to practice this week and should be available Sunday, but Henry's legal mess remains an issue. Of the three, Young probably presents the best option in fantasy leagues over the rest of the season. For this week, whoever gets the carries faces the NFL's worst run defense, as Oakland has allowed 5.0 YPC, 18 rushing scores, 15 rushes of 20-plus yards and four rushes of 40-plus yards - all league-worsts. Mike Shanahan loves sticking it to Al Davis, so expect Denver to bring its A game after last week's debacle.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper gets bit by the turnover bug yet again, but he does come through with 240 passing yards and a TD to Jerry Porter. Justin Fargas adds 140 total yards and scores as well, while Travis Henry and Selvin Young combine for 160 yards and two TDs. Jay Cutler contributes 230 passing yards with a scoring strike to Brandon Marshall, as Denver wins in Oakland for the fifth straight year. Broncos 24-17.
Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Buccaneers come in riding a three-game winning streak and question marks surrounding the health of Jeff Garcia. Garcia was hurt on the first play of the game last week, and the offense struggled badly with him sidelined. The team came away victorious thanks to the opportunistic defense forcing six turnovers, as the offensive unit produced zero first downs during the entire second half. With Garcia's back injury still a major concern, Luke McCown may get the start Sunday, but he hasn't seen extensive action since 2004. It's unclear if he'll be able to take advantage of a porous New Orleans secondary. Joey Galloway's 50.2 yards per TD catch during his career is the fourth highest mark in NFL history. He has nine touchdown receptions over the last six games versus New Orleans. Earnest Graham has been solid since taking over as Tampa Bay's primary ballcarrier, but the Saints actually have one of the best run defenses (3.6 YPC) in the league…The NFL's version of the stock market, the Saints have been up and down this season, with level of opponent offering little insight into the fluctuation. New Orleans was blown out in Tampa Bay earlier this year, but the change of venue swings the advantage to the Saints' side by a large margin, as the speedy turf is a poor fit for a physical Bucs squad. Drew Brees has completed 67.3 percent of his passes and taken only eight sacks this season, but his 6.6 YPA is a huge disappointment. He has played better of late, relying especially on Marques Colston, who has at least seven catches for 85 yards in five straight games. After 300 career rushing attempts, it's clear Reggie Bush's explosiveness from college doesn't translate into the NFL. He's gotten just 3.6 YPC and has yet to break single play that's gone for more than 25 yards this year. Since the Saints refuse to alternate wins and losses this season, expect another victory Sunday.
Predictions: Luke McCown gets the start behind center, resulting in 180 passing yards, two INTs and a touchdown to Joey Galloway. Earnest Graham is held to just 75 total yards without a score, as Reggie Bush finishes with a similar line. Drew Brees counters with 250 yards passing and scoring strikes to Marques Colston and Eric Johnson, as New Orleans triumphs. Saints 23-16.
New York Giants (-1.5) at Chicago, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Bears won in dramatic fashion last week, pulling off an overtime victory after erasing a 14-point fourth quarter deficit. Devin Hester had a punt and kick return for a TD, becoming just the second player in NFL history to do both in the same game. Hester now has 10 returns for touchdowns in 30 career games, three shy of the league record. It took Deion Sanders 188 career games to get nine special teams scores. Chicago needs all the Hester heroics it can get, because this is not a very good football team. The Bears enter with the 31st ranked rushing offense and 26th ranked total defense. Adrian Peterson might be an upgrade over Cedric Benson (leg), but that doesn't mean he's any good. Rex Grossman can make some nice downfield throws from time to time, but his 6.4 YPA and 3:7 TD:INT ratio are both unacceptable. Grossman has also been sacked 19 times in just six games this year after taking only 20 sacks in 16 games last season. The Giants enter leading the league with 38 quarterback takedowns…No stranger to second half swoons, the Giants have dropped two of three since the season's midway point, including a blowout loss at home against the Vikings last week. Eli Manning was picked off four times, with three of them returned for touchdowns. He hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 7, and Plaxico Burress is now dealing with a knee injury to go along with his gimpy ankle. Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) is likely to remain sidelined, but Derrick Ward (groin) should be back and is likely to take the brunt of the work, with Reuben Droughns getting the goal line action. Both backs have a favorable matchup against a Bears team yielding 4.4 YPC this year. If Manning can limit the turnovers, the Giants will bounce back from last week's disaster with a strong defensive effort, leading them to victory.
Predictions: Rex Grossman takes a handful of sacks, throws two picks and finds Bernard Berrian for a score. Adrian Peterson totals 90 yards without a TD, while Derrick Ward and Reuben Droughns combine for 135 yards and a rushing score. Eli Manning adds 230 passing yards with a TD to Amani Toomer, as the road team wins thanks to their defense. Giants 20-16.
Cincinnati (+7) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: With rain in the forecast, another sloppy game may be in store Sunday night. Hopefully, the ridiculous field conditions can be improved regardless of the weather, but either way, this type of game appears to benefit the more defensive-minded (and physical) Steelers team. However, homefield has meant little during this rivalry recently, with Cincinnati winning three of its past four games played at Heinz Field. Still, the Bengals are 1-4 on the road this year, which is probably a better indication than what's occurred in years past, and the Steelers are 6-0 at home in 2007. With a patchwork offensive line in front of him, Carson Palmer has gotten the worst YPA (7.4) and thrown the most INTs (15) since his rookie season. On the defensive side of the ball, Cincinnati has started eight different linebackers this season - two more than any other team in the league…Despite an 8-3 record and the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL, Pittsburgh enters with legitimate concerns, having lost to the 2-9 Jets two weeks ago and nearly falling to the 0-11 Dolphins last week. While the sloppy field conditions no doubt contributed to last week's low scoring output, Willie Parker hasn't looked right for weeks, and Santonio Holmes' ankle injury really hurts the offense. Ben Roethlisberger is having a terrific season (8.3 YPA), but his health has to also be a concern, as he's taken 19 sacks over the past four games and 35 for the year. However, he gets a suspect Bengals secondary this week, which has allowed 7.7 YPA and 22 touchdown passes - the second most in the league. The Steelers will be ready after back-to-back subpar efforts and are one of the best home teams in the NFL.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 250 yards and finds T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry for scores, while Rudi Johnson dominates the carries in the Bengals' backfield. However, that results in just 70 yards and no TDs, while Willie Parker answers with 100 yards and reaches paydirt. Ben Roethlisberger finishes with 270 yards and three touchdown passes, with Hines Ward (twice) and Heath Miller the recipients, as Pittsburgh gets back on track. Steelers 28-20.
New England (-20.5) at Baltimore, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: Last week revealed the human side of an otherwise infallible Patriot team, while the Ravens have looked anything but special this season. Losers of five straight, Baltimore has a terrible minus-11 turnover ratio on the year. The Ravens haven't beaten a team with a winning record this season and have thrown just seven touchdown passes all year. The once feared defensive unit has allowed 31.0 points per game over the last four contests. Willis McGahee has been the team's lone bright spot, scoring in six straight games, but there's little else to like here, and ESPN swung and missed scheduling Baltimore in primetime…After suffering a scare during a three-point victory last week, New England plays its third straight night game Monday and should be properly motivated to get back into blowout mode. Last week's 31 points scored were actually the second lowest total of the year for the Patriots' offense, and Tom Brady's one touchdown pass marked the first time all year he hadn't thrown for three scores in a game. Another sign of Bill Belichick having some fun with league rules: Brady is the only player in the NFL who has appeared on the league's injury report for every game over the past two years. Randy Moss' 43 receiving yards were a season-low, but Wes Welker led the NFL with 17 targets last week. There isn't a team in the league that features its game plan less around its running back than New England does with Laurence Maroney. Expect a strong bounce back game from the Patriots defensively, which should lead to some ugly results against a poor Ravens team.
Predictions: Kyle Boller commits three turnovers and zero touchdowns, while Willis McGahee runs for 80 yards but his TD streak comes to an end. Laurence Maroney is largely ignored again, as Tom Brady throws for 300 yards and four scores, with Randy Moss (twice), Wes Welker and Ben Watson the recipients, as New England wins in a rout. Patriots 31-6.
Article first appeared 11/27/07