NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Chicago (+3) at Washington, Thursday 8 p.m.
Comments: Both teams enter with disappointing 5-7 records and on the outside of the playoff picture. The Bears have actually played better on the road this season (3-3) than at home (2-4), but the short travel week presents a huge advantage for Washington Thursday. Chicago has alternated wins and losses over the last 10 weeks, so after blowing a 16-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter last Sunday, a victory Thursday should almost be expected. However, the Redskins are equally desperate having lost four straight and blowing a double-digit lead last week themselves. The Bears come in reeling defensively, allowing 7.6 YPA while intercepting just nine passes this season - the fourth and third worst marks in the NFL, respectively. If that's not bad enough, their run defense is allowing the fifth-most yards per carry (4.4) and fourth-most rushing scores (13). It's safe to say the defense has taken a major step back in 2007, and the unit will once again be missing Nathan Vasher (groin) and DT Anthony Adams (elbow) during Week 14. Adrian Peterson is an upgrade from Cedric Benson if only because of his superiority in the passing game (seven catches, 82 yards last week), but he's still only getting 3.5 YPC running behind a suspect offensive line this year. His matchup isn't great this week, as the Redskins have defended the run well this season, allowing just 3.9 YPC. Additionally, Washington's front seven has yielded the fewest amount of runs that have gone for more than 20 yards (two) of any team in the league, and one of those came when they honored Sean Taylor by starting the game last week with just 10 defenders on the field. Rex Grossman can occasionally throw an impressive deep ball, but he's erratic, getting just 6.4 YPA with a 4:7 TD:INT ratio on the year. He faces a Washington secondary that's yielded just 6.4 YPA this season - fifth best in the league - so Grossman has his work cut out for him Thursday... The Redskins lost last week with teammate Sean Taylor's memory heavy on their minds. Joe Gibbs' last-second, two-timeout blunder was inexcusable, and the Hall of Fame coach's second tenure in Washington clearly hasn't gone as fans expected. Jason Campbell has thrown for an average of 288 yards over the past three games, but he hasn't gotten more than 6.4 YPA in any contest, so that's been more due to opportunity than efficiency. Clinton Portis ran for 333 yards during weeks 9 and 10 (5.0 YPC) but has followed that up with 154 yards on the ground over the last three contests combined (2.7 YPC). After flying back from Taylor's funeral Monday night, the Redskins did only an extended walkthrough Tuesday, so the team's state of mind and preparation is again in question. Staring directly at their third losing record out of the last four seasons, it's hard to get excited about Washington's direction. Still, the squad playing at home during a short week typically has a huge advantage, and guard Randy Thomas' (triceps) expected return to the lineup should be a boon to the offense. Moreover, they have a better defense than Chicago and as long as they can nullify Devin Hester - who is one of the biggest difference makers in special teams history - Washington should be able to bounce back with a victory Thursday.
Predictions: Rex Grossman throws for 225 yards with TDs to Bernard Berrian and Greg Olsen. Adrian Peterson adds 90 total yards but doesn't score, while Clinton Portis runs for 100 yards and a touchdown for Washington. Jason Campbell adds 240 passing yards with a scoring strike to Chris Cooley, as the home team comes out on top. Redskins 23-17.
Carolina (-10.5) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: While the Jaguars' three-game winning streak came to an end last week, the Panthers won for the first time in six games, beating an inept 49ers squad 31-17. It was the team's first home win in more than a year, but they find themselves traveling this week, with a tough matchup in Jacksonville. Vinny Testaverde has been an upgrade over David Carr, but he's still getting just 6.0 YPA with a 5:5 TD:INT ratio on the year. He's also committed five turnovers over the past two games, and with a middling ground game, the Panthers' offense is no juggernaut. Still, they face a Jacksonville secondary that's allowed more pass plays of 20-plus yards (47) than any other team in the league and will still be missing linebacker Mike Peterson. However, Marcus Stroud's return from a four-game suspension should be a boon to the Jaguars' defense…David Garrard finally threw his first pick of the season last week, arriving on his 231st pass attempt of the year. That miscue aside, Garrard is getting an impressive 7.9 YPA while completing 67.2 percent of his passes, showing the makings of a potential Pro Bowl quarterback. Known more for their physical defense, Jacksonville's offense has scored at least 24 points in each of its last six games. Maurice Jones-Drew is a future superstar, but Fred Taylor has defied age and past injury concerns by posting back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts and getting 4.7 YPC on the year. With a solid defense, an improving passing game and the NFL's second best rushing attack, the Jaguars should be able to easily handle a vastly inferior Panthers squad.
Predictions: Vinny Testaverde throws for 200 yards with a scoring strike to Steve Smith, while DeShaun Foster and the Carolina ground game is stuffed. David Garrard answers with 250 passing yards and a TD to Reggie Williams, while Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combine for 170 rushing yards and each run in a score, as Carolina falls to 0-4 against the AFC this year. Jaguars 27-13.
Dallas (-10.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Cowboys are off to their best start in franchise history, while the Lions' once bright playoff hopes are fading fast. After a 6-2 start to the year, Detroit has dropped four straight, getting outscored 126-67 in the process. They've also been held to fewer than 30 rushing yards during three of those four losses. Facing a Dallas front seven that's allowed just 3.8 YPC this season, the Lions' ground game figures to remain stagnant Sunday. Jon Kitna has committed nine turnovers and been sacked 15 times over the last four contests and will be missing leading receiver Roy Williams (knee), so Dallas' defense should be able to tee off. Since three of Detroit's final four games come against current division leaders Dallas, San Diego and Green Bay, the Lions are unlikely to even approach Kitna's 10-win preseason prediction…Entering with the NFL's second best offense, Dallas should be able to light up the scoreboard against a Lions' secondary that's already yielded 24 scores through the air this year - the second most in the league. Over the last four games, Tony Romo has thrown 14 touchdown passes. He's gotten 8.8 YPA this year and would be the leading MVP candidate if not for Tom Brady's historically good season so far. However, he has thrown an interception in five straight contests, so the opportunistic Lions defense may be able to force a couple of turnovers Sunday. Terrell Owens has caught 11 touchdowns over the last seven games and is showing no signs of slowing down despite turning 34 years old this weekend. Marion Barber has the best stiff arm in the league and runs like the defense just insulted his mother. He should have a big game Sunday, as the Cowboys roll.
Predictions: Jon Kitna takes a handful of sacks, throws three INTs but also finds Calvin Johnson and Shaun McDonald for scores. Kevin Jones is bottled up, while Marion Barber totals 90 yards and runs in a TD. Tony Romo adds 300 yards passing with scoring strikes to Terrell Owens (twice) and Jason Witten, as Detroit continues to fade from the postseason picture. Cowboys 34-17.
Miami (+7) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Dolphins are off to an 0-12 start this season and have looked even worse since John Beck has taken over quarterback duties. He's yet to throw a touchdown pass during three starts, has gotten a paltry 5.0 YPA and taken seven sacks over the last two weeks. Still, it's smart of Miami to look toward the future, as Beck is getting valuable experience on a team with nothing to lose, except a potential silly note in history that's ultimately meaningless. The Dolphins' ground game has been a rare bright spot, but Jesse Chatman is hobbled by a persisting ankle injury, meaning Samkon Gado might get the start Sunday. Miami has lost by just a field goal in exactly half their games this year, so they do have the capability of at least remaining competitive…Beck may be inexperienced, but Buffalo's starting quarterback, Trent Edwards, will be making just his sixth career start under center Sunday himself. He's completed an impressive 65 percent of his passes but hasn't thrown for a score in any of the last four games and has just one TD toss on the year. In fact, Buffalo as a team ranks dead last in the NFL with just six passing touchdowns in 2007. Marshawn Lynch has returned to practice this week, but the team will be cautious with his return from a high ankle sprain, resulting in more carries for Fred Jackson even if Lynch comes back Sunday. Facing a team as desperate as the winless Dolphins, anything can happen, but the Bills and their strong special teams should come out on top.
Predictions: John Beck throws for just 180 yards but also gets the first passing score of his career, with Marty Booker the recipient. Samkon Gado gets the start at running back, resulting in 70 yards and a short TD run, while Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson combine for 150 yards and two scores. Trent Edwards adds 200 yards passing with a touchdown toss to Lee Evans, as the Dolphins keep marching toward infamy. Bills 24-17.
New York Giants (+3) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Despite an 8-4 record, including 5-1 on the road, the Giants enter a team full of question marks. The defensive line is a strong point, but the offense is loaded with concerns. The running game might be down to the sluggish Reuben Droughns after losing Derrick Ward (leg) last week and Brandon Jacobs still dealing with a hamstring issue, although Jacobs is confident he can play Sunday. Plaxico Burress (ankle) is a shell of his former self, and Eli Manning continues to make too many head-scratching throws week-to-week. Manning has committed nine turnovers and been sacked 12 times over the past four games. His 6.5 YPA mark for the year is also a huge disappointment. The Giants beat the Bears last week despite a minus-four turnover ratio, but they'll need to play better if they don't want to succumb to yet another second half swoon…The last time these teams met, the Giants set a franchise record and tied the NFL mark with 12 sacks. Osi Umenyiora had six of them, but only one of his 11 QB takedowns this season have occurred on the road. Moreover, Umenyiora won't be facing second-year tackle Winston Justice this time around, as William Thomas missed his only game of the season during that contest. Similarly, Brian Westbrook sat out his lone game of the season the last time Philadelphia faced New York. Westbrook leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,598 and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Donovan McNabb (thumb, ankle) returns at QB for the Eagles, after A.J. Feeley followed up an impressive relief performance in Week 12 with a brutal game last week. McNabb, however, is no longer a star, getting just 7.1 YPA this season. He's now 14-15 as a starter over the past three seasons. Having lost two straight and on the outside of the playoff race looking in, the Eagles simply must-win Sunday.
Predictions: Eli Manning throws for 220 yards, one interception and one TD to Jeremy Shockey. Reuben Droughns gets the surprise start at running back, resulting in just 60 rushing yards but a goal line score. Brian Westbrook totals 150 yards with a TD run, while Donovan McNabb gets 225 yards passing and finds Kevin Curtis and Westbrook for scores, as the home team prevails. Eagles 24-20.
Oakland (+10.5) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Raiders enter riding a two-game winning streak, thanks to hard running by Justin Fargas and improved play from Josh McCown. JaMarcus Russell looked good during his first NFL action last week, albeit in a very limited fashion. Nnamdi Asomugha is simply one of the very best players in the league, but it's hard for his stats to reflect that, since he's seen almost no passes thrown his way this season. Still, at 4-8, there's plenty not to like about this Oakland squad, like the minus-seven turnover ratio during fourth quarters this year. Facing an aggressive Packers' defense that should be healthier this week and had 10 days to prepare, things could get ugly Sunday…After leaving the last game with elbow and shoulder injuries, Brett Favre is expected to make his NFL-best 250th straight start Sunday. Favre's return took on even more importance after backup Aaron Rodgers suffered a hamstring injury in practice Tuesday, which will sideline him a week or two. Rodgers was extremely impressive in relief work last Thursday, getting 7.7 YPA while displaying terrific mobility and arm strength. It looks like he has a bright future in the league after all. With Favre possibly still sore, expect the Packers to go run-heavy Sunday, as Ryan Grant is playing well, and the Raiders' front seven is allowing an NFL-worst 4.8 YPC and 20 rushing scores. Grant is in line for a huge statistical day this week, as Green Bay gets back on track.
Predictions: Josh McCown throws for 180 yards without a score, while Justin Fargas gets 80 rushing yards and reaches paydirt. Ryan Grant counters with 150 yards on the ground and two TD runs, while Brett Favre adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, as Oakland falls to 0-4 against the NFC this year. Packers 34-10.
San Diego (pick 'em) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Chargers enter controlling their division and winners of two straight, but this team is hardly elite. Their last two victories have come against doormats, and San Diego struggles on the road, going just 2-4 on the road this year. In late and close situations this season, Philip Rivers is 12-of-27 for 111 yards (4.1 YPA) with a 0:3 TD:INT ratio, so he's not to be counted on when pressure strikes. LaDainian Tomlinson has gotten nearly half his rushing yards and TDs during just three of the 12 games this season, so his 2007 can be described as boom-or-bust…The health of Albert Haynesworth's hamstring should be a major factor Sunday, as Tennessee is clearly different without him in the lineup. They are 7-2 this season and 13-3 over the past 16 contests when Haynesworth lines up at defensive tackle. He leads all DTs in the AFC with five sacks this season, despite missing three games. Tennessee has allowed 160.0 rushing yards per game without him and just 71.9 RPG with him. They did allow 119 yards on the ground last week, but Haynesworth was limited and sat out most of the fourth quarter while still recovering physically. Vince Young has really improved as a passer recently, getting at least 7.4 YPA in each of the past three contests, including 8.0 last week. However, he's also thrown eight interception over the last five games, so turnovers remain a major concern. Still, Tennessee is tough at home and employs a secondary that allows a microscopic 6.2 YPA, so expect the Titans to be victorious Sunday.
Predictions: Philip Rivers throws for 200 yards, a couple of picks and a TD to Antonio Gates. LaDainian Tomlinson adds 90 yards with a score, while LenDale White runs for 70 yards and a TD of his own. Vince Young responds with 180 passing yards, 40 rushing yards and a scoring strike to Justin Gage, as Tennessee triumphs. Titans 20-17.
St. Louis (+7) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Rams have actually won three of their last four games and enter with both Marc Bulger (concussion) behind center and Steven Jackson in the backfield, a rarity in 2007. Despite the recent improvement, St. Louis can hardly be confused with anything other than a bad team, and they are especially vulnerable on the road and outside of domes. Bulger has gotten 5.0 YPA with a 1:7 TD:INT ratio when playing outdoors this year. For his career, his QB rating drops more than 20 points when playing outdoors (77.0) opposed to indoors (97.6)…Not many 4-8 teams find themselves as seven-point favorites, but so is the case with Cincinnati Sunday. The Bengals remain a pretty decent team at home, going 3-3 on the year with two of the losses coming against the Patriots and the Steelers. They are also a much tougher team to defend with Chris Henry acting as the league's best No. 3 wide receiver, and with both defenses playing poorly all year, expect Sunday to be a shootout. However, for that to happen, Carson Palmer will need to bounce back from a brutal performance last week (4.2 YPA), which saw him complete just 38.6 percent of his pass attempts. Facing a Rams team that's allowing 24.8 points per game should do the trick.
Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 270 yards, two INTs and a TD to Torry Holt. Steven Jackson adds 120 total yards with a score, while Rudi Johnson answers with 80 yards and a touchdown. Carson Palmer responds with 280 passing yards and three scoring strikes, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson and Chris Henry the recipients, as Cincy wins the battle of disappointments. Bengals 31-20.
Tampa Bay (-3) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Buccaneers enter winners of four straight, leading the NFC in defense (291.8 YPG) and the NFL in scoring defense (15.6 PPG). However, they are beatable on the road and just 1-2 versus the AFC this season. Jeff Garcia is expected to return to the lineup, but his extremely sore back may limit him some, and Luke McCown was very impressive in his stead last week. McCown completed his first 15 passes and finished with 8.5 YPA. Still, Garcia is clearly the team's starter when healthy, but at least Tampa Bay knows it'll be in good hands if the veteran ever succumbs to injury again…After starting the season with consecutive victories, Houston has gone 3-7 over the last 10 games, including losing their last two. They've also lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub to yet another injury, this time to his non-throwing shoulder. Sage Rosenfels is a clear downgrade, but he's gotten a solid 7.4 YPA this year, so he's not completely incapable of moving the offense. If you project Andre Johnson's per game production over a full 16-game slate, you'd get 1,712 receiving yards with 16 touchdowns; he's going to be a second round pick in fantasy leagues next year. Ball security will be a huge issue Sunday, as Tampa Bay has forced 13 turnovers during their four-game winning streak, and the Texans have turned the ball over an NFL-high 31 times this season. However, winning on the road is no small feat in the NFL, so the home underdog comes out on top this week.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia throws for 210 yards and finds Joey Galloway in the end zone, while Earnest Graham totals 110 yards with a score. Sage Rosenfels answers with 200 passing yards and a TD to Andre Johnson, while Ron Dayne adds 70 yards and a goal line score, as Houston wins it on a late field goal. Texans 20-17.
Arizona (+7) at Seattle, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The Cardinals come in winners of three of their past four games, including a last-second thriller against the Browns last week. Kurt Warner (7.7 YPA) leads an offense that's averaged 31.0 points over the last four games and ranks third in the conference with 23.4 PPG for the year. They also boast the best goal-to-go offense in the NFL this season. However, Anquan Boldin (toe) is unlikely to play, and Larry Fitzgerald (groin) is iffy as well. Additionally, Seattle's defense has allowed a league-low seven passing scores on the year. Their secondary has held opposing signal callers to an NFL-best 68.5 QB rating…The Seahawks enter riding a four-game winning streak and are especially tough at home. They are 32-7 over their past 39 homes games, including 5-1 this season. Seattle's offense is rolling, but Arizona's defense is underrated, as the secondary is allowing just 6.6 YPA and the front seven is ceding an average of just 68.6 rushing yards over the last four contests. That number doesn't figure to rise significantly Sunday, as Shaun Alexander's lay off appeared to help very little, as he again looked sluggish last week, getting a paltry 3.3 YPC. Alexander has topped 4.0 YPC in only one game this season and is a major liability at this point.
Predictions: Kurt Warner throws for 230 yards and a TD to Bryant Johnson, while Edgerrin James adds 70 yards and a TD as well. Shaun Alexander struggles again, although that still results in 60 rushing yards and a short TD run. Matt Hasselbeck adds 250 yards passing with scores to Bobby Engram and Deion Branch, as Seattle wins its fifth straight. Seahawks 24-20.
Minnesota (-8.5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The 49ers haven't won at home since the first week of the year and are pitted against one of the hottest teams in the NFC Sunday. Trent Dilfer was simply awful last week, and he's been responsible for 10 turnovers over the past four games. The Vikings secondary is beatable, but San Francisco hardly wants to rely on its passing attack. Frank Gore is the team's best offensive player by far, but Minnesota boasts the NFL's best run defense (3.0 YPC). Nate Clements and Patrick Willis are bright spots on defense, but San Francisco doesn't have a lot to be excited about right now…Minnesota enters with a three-game winning streak on its side, averaging 37.3 points per game during that span. Tarvaris Jackson has taken major strides over the last three weeks, getting 8.7 YPA with a 3:1 TD:INT ratio. Adrian Peterson returned to action last week, and despite a bulky knee brace, made defenders look silly with juke moves usually only seen in video games. He's averaging 119.7 rushing yards per game this season - 28 more than any other player in the league. Since only the Bears allow more rushing yards per game than the 49ers, Minnesota should run wild Sunday. When he has the football in his hands, Peterson looks like a high schooler facing a peewee team.
Predictions: Trent Dilfer takes numerous sacks, throws a couple of picks and finds Vernon Davis for a score. Frank Gore gets 80 yards combined and runs in a TD, while Adrian Peterson answers with 150 yards and hits paydirt twice. Tarvaris Jackson adds 180 passing yards and a TD to Sidney Rice, as San Francisco's home woes continue. Vikings 27-17.
Pittsburgh (+10.5) at New England, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Guaranteeing victories is so common nowadays, it's hard to get excited over them anymore, especially when they come from a no-name like Anthony Smith. Still, any extra bulletin board material for the undefeated Patriots probably isn't a good thing for Pittsburgh, who is just 2-3 on the road this season, with losses against the Cardinals, Broncos and Jets. Ben Roethlisberger's 8.0 YPA is impressive, but he has been turnover-prone, throwing at least one pick in six of his last seven games. Santonio Holmes' (ankle) expected return to the lineup should help, but Willie Parker has averaged just 3.0 YPC over the past three games, all against poor run defenses…The double-digit point spread against a 9-3 team is a testament to just how good New England has been this year, the last two weeks notwithstanding. Despite the recent hiccups and near losses, the Patriots enter 12-0 and with their sights still firmly set on a possible undefeated season. Half of Tom Brady's 16 sacks have come over the last four games, so offensive line issues have cropped up of late. Still, his 8.6 YPA and 41:5 TD:INT ratio are remarkable numbers. Pitted against the No. 1 ranked Steelers' defense Sunday, it's strength against strength. While many view this matchup as the likeliest game for the Pats to finally lose, the team figures to be extra focused after two close calls recently, and the venue is a huge advantage for the Patriots, who want to get back to their blowout ways.
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger gets 250 yards passing with TDs to Hines Ward and Heath Miller. Willie Parker is again bottled up, while Laurence Maroney runs for 70 yards and a touchdown. Tom Brady adds 280 passing yards with scoring strikes to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Ben Watson, as New England wins handily. Patriots 31-20.
Cleveland (-3.5) at New York Jets, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Derek Anderson and Kellen Clemens have a rivalry dating back to high school back in Oregon, and Sunday they'll both start at quarterback when the Browns face the Jets. New York enters with a disappointing 3-9 record, but two of those wins have come in the last three weeks, including a blowout victory over Miami last Sunday. Clemens had his best game as a pro, getting 9.8 YPA. He has a highly favorable matchup against Cleveland, whose secondary has allowed an NFL-worst 27 passing scores. However, there's a chance the Jets might be missing both Jerricho Cotchery (finger) and Laveranues Coles (ankle) Sunday. That could lead to the team relying more on Thomas Jones, who is getting 4.2 YPC at home compared to 2.9 YPC while on the road this year. Since the Browns allow 4.6 YPC - second worst in the league - Jones and Leon Washington should have productive games Sunday…At 7-5, the Browns are in the thick of the playoff race. However, they are just 2-4 on the road this year, so this week is hardly a lock. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow have been terrific all season, and Derek Anderson is the NFL's biggest surprise in 2007. His QB rating drops significantly when on the road (77.1) compared to at home (100.1), but the Jets' secondary allows the third most YPA (7.7) in the league, so he should have a nice game Sunday.
Predictions: Kellen Clemens throws for 220 yards and a TD to Brad Smith, while Thomas Jones and Leon Washington combine for 130 yards and each run in a score. Jamal Lewis answers with 90 yards and a touchdown, while Derek Anderson adds 260 passing yards and TDs to Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards, as Cleveland wins it. Browns 24-21.
Kansas City (+6.5) at Denver, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: After winning four of five and entering their bye week, the Chiefs have dropped five consecutive games and have fallen completely out of the playoff race. Larry Johnson (foot) remains out, and Brodie Croyle's (back) status is murky as well. Damon Huard may get another start, but after posting an 11:1 TD:INT ratio last year, he's thrown multiple picks in each of his past three starts. Despite starting just 10 games this season, Huard's committed 16 turnovers and been sacked 32 times. Kolby Smith has been a bright spot in the backfield, exhibiting toughness and a shifty style that should produce big results against the NFL's second worst run defense (4.6 YPC) in Denver Sunday. The Chiefs have not scored a single fourth quarter point in four straight games…The Broncos have lost each of the past two games, effectively making the playoffs a long shot. The team is just 4-7 over its last 11 games at home as well. Jay Cutler remains inconsistent, but he's flashed serious potential at times and should rebound from a poor performance in Oakland last week. Travis Henry won his appeal against the NFL regarding his possible suspension, but his knee likely won't be 100 percent until the offseason, so Selvin Young figures to remain involved in Denver's backfield. Still, Henry should be the starter and receive the bulk of the work, including the goal line carries. Javon Walker won't be worth using in fantasy leagues until next year, but Brandon Marshall looks like a future superstar. The Chiefs keep it close, but the Broncos ultimately win it.
Predictions: Damon Huard throws for 175 yards and a TD to Tony Gonzalez, while Kolby Smith adds 120 rushing yards and a touchdown. Travis Henry answers with 90 yards and a TD of his own, while Jay Cutler contributes 240 passing yards and a scoring strike to Brandon Marshall, as Denver prevails. Broncos 23-17.
Indianapolis (-9.5) at Baltimore, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Ravens enter losers of six straight - none more heart breaking than last week's close loss to the undefeated Patriots. With perceived referee indiscretions still on their mind, it'd be easy to see Baltimore having a hard time getting back up for Sunday's game. However, the Colts typically don't blow teams out on the road, and Baltimore's defense still ranks as one of the best in the league. Willis McGahee was fantastic last week, and he has scored a touchdown in an NFL-high seven straight contests. In his age 33 season, Derrick Mason is on pace to haul in 113 catches this year…The Colts are back on track after three consecutive victories, but Joseph Addai is going to have a hard time finding running room Sunday, as Baltimore allows a league-best 2.8 YPC. Peyton Manning has thrown nearly a third of his 23 TD passes this season over the last two weeks, but he's struggled when playing outdoors this year. Playing without Marvin Harrison for much of the season, Reggie Wayne is on pace to finish with 101 catches, 1,558 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. The Colts' secondary has allowed just 5.8 YPA with a 12:16 TD:INT ratio, so Kyle Boller's improved play from last week better carry over to Sunday night.
Predictions: Kyle Boller throws two interceptions but does find Derrick Mason in the end zone. Willis McGahee adds 90 rushing yards with a TD run, while Joseph Addai is held to just 70 yards on the ground, although he does punch in a score as well. Peyton Manning throws for 250 yards and touchdowns to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, as Indy rolls. Colts 24-17.
New Orleans (-4.5) at Atlanta, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Falcons enter having dropped three straight, allowing 30.0 points per game over that span. The offense, meanwhile, finally showed some signs of life last week, specifically when Chris Redman took over at quarterback. Redman, who had been out of the league the past three seasons, has a connection with coach Bobby Petrino from back in their Louisville days, and he's slated to get the start Monday night against a Saints' secondary yielding an NFL-worst 8.0 YPA. Roddy White had a league-high 18 targets last week, resulting in 10 catches for 146 yards. He's posted back-to-back games with 100 yards receiving and should torch a suspect Saints team Monday. Jerious Norwood is averaging a remarkable 6.4 YPC for the year and is one of the most explosive running backs in the league. No matter how much better of a blocker Warrick Dunn is, Norwood simply has to see increased touches on a team looking toward the future. The Saints, however, have actually done a pretty decent job against the run this year. New Orleans is inconsistent, although likely still the better team. However, they are hard to stomach as fairly significant road favorites.
Predictions: Chris Redman throws for 230 yards and TDs to Roddy White and Alge Crumpler, while Jerious Norwood turns 15 touches into 80 yards and a score. Reggie Bush answers with 110 total yards and a TD run, while Drew Brees adds 250 passing yards and scoring strikes to Marques Colston and Devery Henderson, as New Orleans prevails. Saints 24-21.
Article first appeared 12/5/07