NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Pittsburgh (-8) at St. Louis, Thursday 8 p.m.
Comments: It's proven to be a difficult task traveling during the short week for these Thursday games, but since St. Louis is just 1-6 at home this season, the Steelers enter as heavy favorites, despite their mediocrity on the road during 2007. Marc Bulger returned to the lineup last week but continued his season-long slump with yet another poor performance (5.6 YPA, 1:2 TD:INT ratio). Since Pittsburgh comes in with one of the best secondaries in the league (5.7 YPA - second best in the NFL), Bulger and the Rams' aerial attack should be in for another tough game Thursday. Playing with a gimpy knee and abysmal quarterbacking, Torry Holt's season has been admirable; he's one pace to finish with 95 catches, 1,206 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite running behind a poor offensive line, Steven Jackson has been a yardage machine since returning from injury, totaling 771 yards with 24 receptions over the past six games. However, the Steelers' front seven isn't an easy group to run on, last week notwithstanding…Pittsburgh enters coming off back-to-back losses and without a road victory since October. For a team that was 7-2 not that long ago, the Steelers no longer have a chance at a first round bye and now need to concentrate on beating the Browns for the AFC North crown. Over the last three contests, Ben Roethlisberger has gotten just 5.3 YPA, and he hasn't topped 200 passing yards in a game since Week 10. However, St. Louis has a beatable secondary, and Pittsburgh should enter focused coming off a physical beat down last week against the Jaguars. While not a good road team, the Steelers need to get back into the win column and will handle a vastly inferior Rams team Thursday. However, their status as a top-five team in the league is in serious doubt.
Predictions: Marc Bulger throws for 230 yards and a TD to Torry Holt, while Steven Jackson totals 100 yards with a goal line score. Ben Roethlisberger answers with 260 passing yards and scoring strikes to Hines Ward and Heath Miller, while Willie Parker runs for 90 yards and scores a rare touchdown, as Pittsburgh gets back on track. Steelers 24-14.
Dallas (-11) at Carolina, Saturday 8 p.m.
Comments: After going more than a calendar year without a victory in Carolina, the Panthers have won their last two home games, including last week's 13-10 win over the Seahawks. Matt Moore has been an upgrade over both Vinny Testaverde (5.5 YPA) and David Carr (4.7 YPA) and has made a concerted effort getting Steve Smith the ball. However, Moore is still looking for his first NFL touchdown pass, and Dallas' secondary has allowed a paltry 6.3 YPA this season. They will be missing Roy Williams, who was suspended one game after his third illegal "horse collar" tackle of the season last week. However, he's not very good in coverage anyway…The Cowboys enter coming off a massively disappointing performance, as their seven-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt with a home loss to the Eagles. Tony Romo finished with a career-low 22.2 QB rating and failed to throw a touchdown in a game for the first time all year. He also bruised his throwing hand but has practiced fully this week and is expected to be fine, despite the short week with the game being played Saturday. Terrell Owens didn't catch a ball against his former team until the fourth quarter last week and now has just five receptions for 58 yards and no TDs over the past two games. Still, Carolina comes in with a league-low 19 sacks, so look for the Dallas passing attack to get back on track with Romo having ample time in the pocket. With the Packers on their heels, expect a strong effort from the Cowboys in the spotlight Saturday night.
Predictions: Matt Moore throws for 180 yards and a touchdown to Steve Smith, while the Carolina ground game is largely ineffective. Tony Romo rebounds with 270 passing yards and scoring strikes to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten. Marion Barber adds 70 rushing yards with a TD of his own, as Dallas wins handily. Cowboys 27-13.
Cleveland (-3) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: There's a decent chance the Browns finish the season 11-5 while giving up more yards per game than any other team in the NFL. While the playoffs do look likely with a home game against the 49ers next on the docket, the Browns struggle on the road (3-4), so Sunday's game against the division rival Bengals in Cincinnati won't be easy. Cleveland is actually 7-2 over its last nine games, and while the team boasts a very solid offense, their easy schedule had just as much to do with it. Jamal Lewis has defied the odds and completely resurrected his career this season, getting 4.8 YPC over the last four games. He and the rest of the Browns' offense have highly favorable matchups this week against the Bengals' soft defense…Cincinnati is not to be confused with a good team, but they do play better at home and will be seeking revenge from an early season 51-45 loss at the hands of the Browns. Rudi Johnson (hamstring) is out, but Kenny Watson is an upgrade at this point anyway. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who already has 101 catches on the year, made his first Pro Bowl this season and is proving to be a more well rounded receiver than teammate Chad Johnson. Carson Palmer has gotten just 6.4 YPA with a 4:3 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, but he gets a Cleveland secondary that's allowed the most passing scores in the league this year (27). Weather permitting, this should be a high-scoring affair.
Predictions: Derek Anderson passes for 290 yards with TDs to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, while Jamal Lewis adds 90 rushing yards and a score. Carson Palmer answers with 280 yards passing and finds T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson in the end zone. Kenny Watson also totals 100 yards with a touchdown, as the home team pulls off the mild upset. Bengals 24-21.
Green Bay (-9) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Despite representing the NFC in last year's Super Bowl, the Bears enter with the NFL's worst rushing attack (78.4 YPG), 29th ranked defense (356.3 YPG) and with one of the very worst quarterback situations in the league. For the second time this season, the Bears lost last week despite a plus-three turnover ratio, highlighting just how inept the offensive unit currently is. Kyle Orton is likely to get another start under center Sunday, but he has a career YPA of 5.1 and hasn't thrown a touchdown in any of the last five games he's seen action in. Facing a very solid Packers' defense Sunday, things could get ugly…Green Bay enters 12-2, with its only two blemishes coming during a loss in Dallas and an early season defeat at the hands of this Bears team. Over the last seven contests, the Packers offense has averaged an impressive 33.3 points per game. The Bears have allowed 7.8 YPA and 16 rushing scores - both the second worst marks in the league - so expect another big game from Brett Favre and company Sunday. For some bizarre reason, Donald Driver made the Pro Bowl over Greg Jennings, despite the latter having 10 more touchdowns in two fewer games. Either way, both should shred a decimated Bears' secondary this week.
Predictions: Kyle Orton takes numerous sacks, throws two picks and never leads his team into the end zone. Adrian Peterson is bottled up, while Ryan Grant runs for 110 yards and a score. Brett Favre adds 250 passing yards with TDs to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, as Green Bay wins in a rout. Packers 24-9.
Houston (+7) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Houston comes in winners of two straight and with 10 days to prepare coming off last week's Thursday victory over the Broncos. However, the Texans are just 2-5 on the road this season and have one of the worst run defenses in the league (4.4 YPC). Sage Rosenfels is 3-0 as a starter this year, but he faces the NFL's stingiest secondary (5.6 YPA) this week. The Colts are also the league's best team at defending opponents' No. 1 wide receivers, so expectations may need to be tempered some for Andre Johnson's prospects Sunday. Still, this is an entirely different team with Johnson in the lineup, as even when he's not racking up catches, he's opening up many more opportunities by commanding opposing defenses' attention…Indianapolis became the first team in NFL history to win 12 games in five straight seasons with a victory in Oakland last week, albeit an unimpressive one. Still, with the team locked into the No. 2 seed, the Colts have little to play for Sunday. However, because of the upcoming bye week, Indy would effectively be resting its players for a month if they chose to sit them this week, and the last time they decided to go that route, it resulted in an early postseason loss to the Steelers in 2005. If anyone is going to sit for an extended period, expect it to be Joseph Addai, who is showing signs of wearing down. The former high school quarterback was never a feature back at LSU, split carries with Dominic Rhodes last year and is getting just 3.1 YPC over the past six games. Still, the Colts offense is potent enough to do serious damage in two-to-three quarters of play.
Predictions: Sage Rosenfels throws for 180 yards and a TD to Andre Johnson, while Ron Dayne runs for 70 yards and a score. Joseph Addai counters with 80 yards and a touchdown, while Peyton Manning adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, as the home team prevails. Colts 27-17.
Kansas City (+4.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Detroit and Kansas City come in with a combined 13 straight losses, so it's safe to say this game isn't the featured matchup of the week. The Chiefs have a middling defense and a terrible offense that ranks 31st in the league. The fact the Lions' secondary has ceded the most scores through the air this year (27) is nice, but Brodie Croyle has gotten just 5.7 YPA on the year, so he's unlikely to take full advantage of the opportunity. Kolby Smith has been solid replacing Larry Johnson in the backfield, and he should have a nice game Sunday, but wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has hit a bit of a rookie wall over the past month. Still, he's going to have a bright future in the league, and Kansas City should at least be able to keep it close Sunday…It seems like ages ago, but Detroit was once 6-2 this season, well on their way to reaching Jon Kitna's 10-win preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a difficult schedule resulted in them reverting to the "same old Lions" and another disappointing campaign. Kitna's 84.6 QB rating and 7.5 YPA are both solid marks, but because Detroit tends to abandon the run, it's also resulted in 23 turnovers and 49 sacks taken. Detroit can resemble a decent team when they don't forget about Kevin Jones, and he should get plenty of work this week against a Kansas City front seven allowing 4.3 YPC this year. There might not be a more hit-and-miss running back in the league, but Jones is on pace to score 9-10 touchdowns despite missing two games, so there's some potential for him to be a pretty valuable fantasy back next year.
Predictions: Brodie Croyle throws for 200 yards and finds Tony Gonzalez for a score, while Kolby Smith adds 90 rushing yards with a TD run. Kevin Jones answers with 120 total yards and a touchdown, while Jon Kitna contributes 230 passing yards with touchdown strikes to Shaun McDonald and Calvin Johnson, as Detroit gets back into the win column. Lions 24-20.
New York Giants (-2.5) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Bills' playoff hopes came to an end with an 8-0 loss to the Browns last week, but it's been anything but a disappointing season in Buffalo, as the team is clearly moving in the right direction and exceeded most expectations. They'll try to play spoiler this week, with the forecast in Buffalo calling for rain and snow showers with temperatures around 35 degrees. Lee Evans may be overly reliant on the big play, but he's also probably the best receiver in the NFL that no one talks about. Trent Edwards is the future at quarterback for the Bills, but he's only thrown a touchdown in two of the eight games he's played in this season. Marshawn Lynch has had a solid rookie campaign, but in part because of poor run blocking, he's only gotten 3.9 YPC. He won't find the Giants' front seven to be too inviting this week…The Giants play Sunday in something of a must-win, as a loss could mean they'll need to beat the undefeated Patriots next week or find themselves out of the postseason. The Giants' offense has been held to 21 points or fewer during seven straight games, although they do travel well, winning their last six road games. Last week, Eli Manning had the most incompletions (35) in a game since 1968. Brandon Jacobs is seemingly always banged up and never in the end zone, but he is getting 4.9 YPC and is a yardage machine when on the field. He should have a big game Sunday, as the team with more to play for comes out on top.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 150 yards but finds Lee Evans for a score, while Marshawn Lynch gets 80 hard-fought yards and reaches paydirt. Eli Manning's up-and-down season continues, but he does throw for 220 yards with a touchdown to Plaxico Burress. Brandon Jacobs adds 125 combined yards with a touchdown run, as New York wins it. Giants 17-14.
Oakland (+13) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: At 4-10, the Raiders are in the midst of yet another lost season. The team is currently trying to deal with staying competitive, yet playing for the future at the same time. JaMarcus Russell is expected to see his most significant action Sunday, whether he starts or comes off the bench. It will be the first time he sees the field while on the road this year, and while it's way too early to form an opinion, Russell has yet to produce any points when he starts a drive and is getting just 5.5 YPA. The Raiders like to concentrate on the run, but with Justin Fargas (knee) out, Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan figure to split the carries, and neither are exciting options…Jacksonville is 5-1 over the past six games, including an impressive victory in Pittsburgh last week. Despite being a top-five team in football, the Jaguars had zero players named to the 2007 Pro Bowl. However, with Willie Parker (leg) going down, Fred Taylor figures to make the trip to Hawaii for the first time in his career; over the past four contests, Taylor has scored three touchdowns with 487 rushing yards (6.9 YPC). The team is physical, but with David Garrard also turning into an elite quarterback (7.5 YPA), Jacksonville is all of a sudden an offensive powerhouse. The team has set a franchise record by gaining at least 400 yards in four consecutive games and has scored at least 24 points in eight straight. They should have no problem running up the score on Oakland.
Predictions: Josh McCown throws for 160 yards with no scores while splitting snaps with JaMarcus Russell, and the Oakland backfield is a committee as well. Dominic Rhodes does get a short TD, however. Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew each run for 90 yards with scores, while David Garrard adds 220 passing yards and a touchdown toss to Reggie Williams, as Jacksonville continues to roll. Jaguars 27-10.
Philadelphia (+3) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Despite being out of the playoff picture, the Eagles impressed with a victory in Dallas last week. Still, it's been a disappointing season for Philadelphia, who enters with both a top-10 offense and defense statistically, yet a 6-8 record. While he's been able to stay healthier than the past couple of seasons, Donovan McNabb has gotten the worst YPA (6.8) this season than he's had in five years. The Saints have allowed NFL-worsts 7.9 YPA and a 95.5 rating to opposing QBs, so McNabb should have a nice game this week. Despite missing a game, Brian Westbrook is just 26 rushing yards shy of setting a career-high; he's already set personal bests for touchdowns (12), catches (83) and receiving yards (705). He should shred the Saints…Despite an 0-4 start and a separate stretch that saw the team drop three of four games, New Orleans enters Week 16 still alive in the playoff chase. They'll need help, but they'll also need to take care of business themselves, something the inconsistent Saints haven't always been able to do this season, even when favored. The defense continues to struggle, but New Orleans comes in with the No. 3 ranked passing attack, as Drew Brees has posted a remarkable 10:1 TD:INT ratio with a 120.1 QB rating over the last four contests. There's a chance Reggie Bush (knee) returns to the lineup this week, but the team may be better off with the more decisive Aaron Stecker hitting the hole anyway. If you throw out the first seven weeks of the season and prorate what Marques Colston has done since then, you'd be left with a year that resulted in 122 catches, 1,658 yards and 14 touchdowns; he's a receiver to target in fantasy leagues next year.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb throws for 280 yards with a touchdown to Kevin Curtis, while Brian Westbrook totals 150 yards and runs in a TD. Drew Brees answers with 270 passing yards and finds Marques Colston and David Patten in the end zone, while Aaron Stecker also adds a touchdown, as New Orleans comes out on top. Saints 24-20.
Atlanta (+10) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Atlanta enters riding a five-game losing streak and with uncertainty in the organization. After coach Bobby Petrino unexpectedly quit, Bill Parcells backed out of a VP job at the last minute this past week as well. It's safe to say owner Arthur Blank has seen better years, and after last week's abysmal performance - they lost 37-3 - at this point even playing for pride seems to be out the window. Chris Redman came crashing back to earth while seeing the first good secondary last week, completing just four passes and finishing with a 0.0 QB rating. Still, he gets another beatable secondary in Arizona this week…The Cardinals postseason hopes have been dashed, but the offense has averaged 28.2 points over the last six games. The defense and running game are major problems, as are turnovers. Kurt Warner doesn't believe in kicking; he's thrown 15 TDs over the last six contests and turned the ball over 18 times over the past eight games. With both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald back in the lineup, he should put plenty of points on the board against a suspect Atlanta secondary Sunday.
Predictions: Chris Redman throws for 225 yards and a scoring strike to Roddy White, while Jerious Norwood totals 90 yards and a TD. Edgerrin James rushes for 80 yards but the end zone eludes him, while Kurt Warner adds 270 passing yards and three touchdown tosses, with Larry Fitzgerald (twice) and Anquan Boldin the recipients, as Atlanta's nightmare season continues. Cardinals 24-17.
Tampa Bay (-7) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The 49ers won last week, and the main affect that had was lowering the Patriots' upcoming draft pick. While many have criticized San Francisco for last year's trade, the player they ended up selecting (right tackle Joe Staley) has actually been very good. Since he looks like the team's future left tackle, the move isn't quite as bad as most perceive. Still, coach Mike Nolan is almost certainly coaching the final two games of his career in San Francisco these next couple of weeks, and the team enters Sunday with the last ranked offense in the league. The 49ers have gotten the worst quarterback play in the NFL this season by a wide margin - collectively, they rank dead last in YPA (5.3), completion percentage (53.5) and QB rating (62.2). The fact it took Nolan so long to replace Trent Dilfer with a clear upgrade in Shaun Hill is grounds for firing in itself…Tampa Bay secured their division title with a victory last week, marking the fifth straight year that the NFC South champions finished last the previous year. Michael Spurlock became the first Buccaneer to score a touchdown on a kickoff return on the 1,865th attempt in team history. Earnest Graham has rushed for a TD in a franchise-record six consecutive games, and Jeff Garcia returns to his old stomping grounds in San Francisco this week for the first time ever. Tampa Bay isn't a great road team (3-4) and has little to play for, so expect a close game Sunday.
Predictions: Shaun Hill throws for 180 yards and a TD to Darrell Jackson, while Frank Gore adds 100 yards combined and a score of his own. Jeff Garcia counters with 210 passing yards and a touchdown toss to Joey Galloway, while Earnest Graham runs for 90 yards and hits paydirt, as Tampa Bay triumphs. Buccaneers 20-14.
Miami (+22) at New England, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The 1-13 Dolphins travel to face a 14-0 Patriots squad in what might be the greatest mismatch in the history of the sport. Miami did manage to stay out of the record books with its first victory of the season last week, but the discrepancy in talent here is massive. The Dolphins have four touchdowns from wide receivers this year (the fewest in the NFL); the Patriots have 34 scores from their wideouts. Miami's nine scores through the air also ranks last in the league, although Cleo Lemon has been an upgrade over John Beck. While weather has prevented the Patriots from blowing teams out of late, there's only a chance of showers in the forecast Sunday, and the winds are not expected to be too strong and the game-time temperature could be above 40 degrees…Although New England is 14-0, they still have to win Sunday to match the franchise-record of 18 straight regular season victories, set in between 2003 and 2004. The Patriots last loss actually came at the hands of this Miami team last season, but Bill Belichick doesn't believe in resting his players, so this figures to be a lopsided affair Sunday. With a win, New England would become just the fourth team in NFL history to record 15 victories in a season, and the team is just 34 points shy of breaking the league record for most points scored in a season. After throwing for three touchdowns or more in each of his first 10 games, Tom Brady has failed to do so in three out of the past four contests. Still, Miami would consider it a mild victory if he only threw for three this week.
Predictions: Cleo Lemon throws for 150 yards and no scores, while Jesse Chatman and Samkon Gado combine for 80 rushing yards with a TD. Tom Brady is huge, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, with Randy Moss (twice) and Wes Welker the recipients. Laurence Maroney adds 90 rushing yards and reaches the end zone, as New England remains undefeated. Patriots 34-10.
Baltimore (+10) at Seattle, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: Baltimore enters losers of eight straight, including becoming the first team to fall to the Dolphins all season long last week. Willis McGahee has played well, and the defense is stout against the run, but if ever there was proof this is a passing league, it's the stark contrast in records between the Seahawks and Ravens. Baltimore struggles both against the pass and at the quarterback position - both areas Seattle excels in. The Ravens have been decimated by injuries and are just 1-6 on the road this season. Troy Smith gets his first ever start at quarterback, and since he's raw and facing a very good secondary, things could get ugly…The Seahawks' 3.6 YPC mark ranks 30th in the league, but the team has the NFC West wrapped up and looks likely to end the season as the NFC's No. 3 seed. While passing is clearly more important than running, last week's windy conditions in Carolina exposed an inherent problem of being one-dimensional, as Seattle scored just 10 points - with seven of them coming on the final play of the game. Still, they had scored at least 24 points in the previous seven games, so it was likely just an aberration. Seattle is especially tough when at home, going 6-1 this season. Matt Hasselbeck has gotten 0.8 YPA more (7.5 to 6.7) and thrown seven more scores (16 to 9) in the same amount of games when playing at home this year compared to on the road. He's also yet another example of how the quarterback position is tough to evaluate - Hasselbeck was the 34th pick in the sixth round of the 1998 draft.
Predictions: Troy Smith throws for 140 yards with no TDs, while Willis McGahee runs for 80 yards but struggles seeing many eight and nine man fronts. Matt Hasselbeck responds with 240 passing yards and finds Bobby Engram and Deion Branch for scores. Shaun Alexander runs for only 30 yards, but he does get a goal line score, as Seattle wins easily. Seahawks 27-6.
New York Jets (+8.5) at Tennessee, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Jets have taken a major step backward this season and have especially struggled on the road, posting a 1-6 record when traveling. Still, they aren't exactly a complete doormat, and Sunday's likely starter Chad Pennington appears to be a better player than Kellen Clemens, at least for the time being. Moreover, the Jets' secondary has been one of the most improved units in all of football this season; after allowing 245.9 passing yards per game with a 12:6 TD:INT ratio over the first half of the season, New York has ceded just 172.3 YPG with a 5:8 TD:INT ratio since…Despite a 6-2 start to the season, Tennessee now finds itself with two straight must-wins in order to even have a chance at the postseason. They are a better team than the Jets, but with their physical style of play and utter lack of passing game, blowouts are a rare thing with the Titans. Vince Young has really improved of late, getting 7.4 YPA over the past five contests. Still, his 9:16 TD:INT ratio is easily the worst in the league, and Tennessee is likely to focus on its ground game Sunday. Since the Jets yield 4.3 YPC, they should find success, as the home team comes out on top.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws for 180 yards and finds Jerricho Cotchery for a score, while Thomas Jones is bottled up. Vince Young throws for 190 yards, runs for another 35 and hits Roydell Williams for a touchdown. LenDale White adds 110 rushing yards and finds the end zone, as Tennessee prevails. Titans 20-13.
Washington (+6.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins enter coming off back-to-back victories, but this team is ill suited to be playing in a dome. They also match up extremely poorly with the Vikings, as the Redskins' run-first philosophy doesn't figure to work well against the NFL's best rush defense (3.0 YPC, six rushing scores allowed). Todd Collins gets another start under center, but his Week 15 effort (6.6 YPA) was more indicative of his talent than his first appearance this year (11.2 YPA). The Vikings' secondary can be beat, but the defense is also adept at forcing turnovers, so Collins is going to have to protect the ball for Washington to have any chance at winning Sunday night…Tarvaris Jackson has become a confounding player, forgetting any semblance of mechanics and making terrible throws at times, while simultaneously showing major signs of progress as well. Over the last five games, Jackson has gotten 8.2 YPA; part of that comes from opposing defenses stacking the box in an effort to stop the NFL's best rushing attack, but 8.2 is a very big number, and it's not like Jackson has an above average receiver to throw to. He's also quite possibly the fastest quarterback in the league. Still, he can look truly terrible at times. If you extrapolate what Adrian Peterson has accomplished during his eight games as a starter over a full 16-game slate, here are the results: 2,331 yards and 22 touchdowns. Of course, health is always going to remain an issue with his style of play, but it's clear we are looking at the next superstar in the sport. It's going to be awfully tough passing on him with the No. 1 pick in next year's fantasy drafts.
Predictions: Todd Collins throws two INTs and a touchdown to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis and the Redskins' running game is stymied. Tarvaris Jackson gets 180 passing yards and finds Bobby Wade for a score, while Adrian Peterson adds 130 total yards and reaches paydirt twice, as Minnesota rolls. Vikings 24-10.
Denver (+9) at San Diego, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Broncos have a pretty good offense, but their defense is a major problem, and they are just 2-5 on the road this season. Jay Cutler's 7.8 YPA is impressive, but he is prone to interceptions, and the ball-hawking Chargers' secondary leads the NFL with 27 picks this season. Denver's ground game is maddening to fantasy owners, and it figures to be a committee for the foreseeable future. Still, it's a contest between division rivals, so expect the Broncos to show up and make a game out of it Monday…The Chargers are a dominant home team, going 6-1 in San Diego this season. They've won four straight and enter with incentive, as earning the No. 3 seed would ensure San Diego won't have to face the Patriots until the AFC Championship game. Of course, the Colts would be waiting Round 2 instead. The Chargers appear to be peaking at the right time, but Philip Rivers should not be trusted, and the secondary is still beatable.
Predictions: Jay Cutler throws for 240 yards with touchdowns to Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, while Travis Henry runs in a short score as well. Philip Rivers answers with 230 passing yards and a TD to Antonio Gates, while LaDainian Tomlinson adds 125 yards and two scores, as the home team prevails. Chargers 27-21.
Article first appeared 12/19/07