NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Arizona (-3.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Cardinals are on an emotional-high after upsetting the Steelers last week, while the Rams are downtrodden, yet to win a game this season. Arizona's quarterback-by-committee approach is unconventional but has been successful, but at least one of the members of the rotation, Matt Leinart, isn't happy. The team might be missing Anquan Boldin (hip) and Levi Brown (ankle) this week. The defense has been playing well, and Edgerrin James looks rejuvenated after a down year. He has a tasty matchup this week against a soft Rams front seven. However, the Cardinals are road weary, having dropped three straight games away from Arizona…The only to characterize the Rams' 2007 season to date: an utter disaster. The team has scored no touchdowns in their last 31 drives, an NFL record. Adam Goldberg (knee) is the latest casualty, becoming the team's fifth offensive lineman lost to injury this season. Marc Bulger (ribs) has been so ineffective (5.8 YPA), that the Rams are going with Gus Frerotte at quarterback Sunday. Steven Jackson (groin) and Isaac Bruce (hamstring) look unlikely to play as well. A healthy Frerotte may be an improvement over the battered Bulger, and Brian Leonard and Drew Bennett are capable replacements at running back and wide receiver. The Rams are desperate and despite all of the injuries, that extra hunger combined with the homefield advantage makes the difference.
Predictions: Matt Leinart's numbers are limited with Kurt Warner subbing in, as the two QBs combine for 250 yards and a TD to Larry Fitzgerald, who adds 135 receiving yards. Edgerrin James continues his resurgence with 120 yards and a touchdown, while Brian Leonard counters with 80 yards and a TD of his own. Gus Frerotte throws for 225 yards and finds Torry Holt for a score, as St. Louis gets off the schneid. Rams 23-20.
Atlanta (+8) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Titans are better than most expected and currently look like a near-elite team thus far. The Falcons, despite the 1-3 record, are also better than advertised. After taking to Bobby Petrino's system, Atlanta has been a competitive team over the last three weeks, highlighted by a surprisingly effective passing attack. Wide receivers Michael Jenkins and Roddy White are finally producing, an unknown concept in Atlanta during Michael Vick's tenure. Joey Harrington has completed 71.2 percent of his passes this season while getting 7.9 YPA. The ground game hasn't produced, and the offensive line will have its hands full Sunday against a very physical Tennessee front seven…The Titans have a much improved defense and the second best rushing attack in the NFL through the first month of the season, due to the fact the team usually wins the battle at the line of scrimmage. While the team still lacks a true No. 1 wide receiver, Brandon Jones is emerging as their go-to guy, and LenDale White has been an effective runner from in close. Vince Young's statistics don't jump out at you, but he's played smart and makes enough big plays to help his team win week in and week out. Expect better rushing totals from the signal caller moving forward, starting this week against a Falcons team that yields 128.5 rushing yards per game…Titans coach Jeff Fisher is 12-1 vs. NFC South teams, including 3-0 against the Falcons.
Predictions: Joey Harrington passes for 230 yards and finds Alge Crumpler in the end zone, while Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood combine for 80 rushing yards and a score. Vince Young counters with 220 yards passing and a scoring strike to Brandon Jones. Young also adds 50 yards rushing and a TD on the ground. LenDale White runs for 70 yards and hits pay dirt, as Tennessee improves to 9-2 over its last 11 games. Titans 24-17.
Carolina (+3) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Two of the NFL's most disappointing teams square off in a division battle. Carolina narrowly avoided being shut out for the first time in 73 games last week, but has now lost four straight home games. While the team may welcome the road trip - both wins have come away from home this season - the offense has looked extremely shaky with David Carr at the helm. With Jake Delhomme still nursing an elbow injury, Carr again gets the keys to Carolina's offense Sunday. He got 3.8 YPA on 41 passes last week and struggled to move the offense. In his last five meetings with the Saints, Steve Smith has caught 40 balls for 495 yards with six touchdowns. Despite New Orleans' problems in the secondary, Smith will need vastly improved play from Carr for that trend to continue. Unfortunately for Carolina, the team's struggles also extend to the defensive side of the ball, as the Panthers have yet to record an interception and have just two sacks on the season…The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Saints, who have their own problems. After fielding the league's most potent offense in 2006, New Orleans ranks 30th in the league in points scored this season. As for the defense, it ranks last in points allowed and still hasn't recorded a single sack this year. The off week hopefully did them some good; Drew Brees' play can only improve from his dreadful start to the season. He has a just one TD pass with nine turnovers on the year. With Deuce McAllister (knee) gone for the year, look for Reggie Bush to become the team's feature back, but it remains to be seen whether his body can withstand 20-25 carries per game. Still, the Saints' season is essentially on the line, so expect the best effort from this group to date.
Predictions: David Carr throws for 200 yards and finds Steve Smith in the end zone, while DeShaun Foster runs for 110 yards and a score. Drew Brees responds with 250 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Marques Colston and Devery Henderson the recipients. Reggie Bush gets 140 total yards and runs in a TD, as New Orleans finally gets into the win column. Saints 24-20.
Cleveland (+17) at New England, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: While the Patriots have been the most impressive team in the league so far, the Browns have played pretty well themselves. Their defense remains a problem (31st in the league), but the offense has really improved this season, especially through the air. Derek Anderson has already thrown nine touchdowns despite not beginning the season as a starter; his 8.3 YPA has to be one of the more surprising statistics of the early season. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow form one of the better receiving duos in the league, but Jamal Lewis has really struggled in all but one game this season. If you remove Week 2 from the equation, Lewis has gotten a paltry 3.17 YPC (155 yards on 49 carries). The Browns were able to move the ball on a once-formidable Ravens defense last week, but Sunday represents their biggest challenge to date: the Patriots' defense has been stout and will get Rodney Harrison back from suspension as well…Maybe we should just go ahead and give New England the Super Bowl ring right now. The team currently has the No. 1 ranked defense and No. 2 ranked offense in the league. Tom Brady has had a near-perfect start to the season, leading the NFL in touchdown passes (13), QB rating (134.7) and completion percentage (79.2); he is just the third player in the history of the NFL to throw for three or more touchdowns in each of the first four games of the year. Randy Moss became the first player in league history to record four straight 100-yard receiving games with a new team. After catching all nine of his targets last week, Moss has hauled in 31 of 34 looks on the season, good for a 91 percent clip. Laurence Maroney's (groin) health remains a question, but the team hardly skips a beat with Sammy Morris in the lineup…The Patriots have won three straight and five of the last six meetings against the Browns.
Predictions: Derek Anderson throws for 225 yards and two TDs, with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow the recipients. Jamal Lewis is held in check, rushing for just 40 yards sans a score. Tom Brady continues his dominance, reaching 280 passing yards and adding three more TD passes; Randy Moss (twice) and Wes Welker haul them in. Laurence Maroney returns to action and combines with Sammy Morris for 150 rushing yards, and both backs find the end zone. New England wins in a rout. Patriots 38-17.
Detroit (+3.5) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m
Comments: Both teams have made massive improvements this season, but with contrasting styles. The Lions rely on a high-flying passing attack, whereas the Redskins count on solid defense and the ground game. That game plan will be more important than ever Sunday, as Santana Moss (groin) is unlikely to play. Jason Campbell has had an uneven season, and tight end Chris Cooley hasn't been as big of a weapon in the passing game as hoped, as injuries on the offensive line have forced him into a blocking role more often. Expect the Redskins to go run-heavy again this week, with Clinton Portis playing through a knee injury and Ladell Betts complementing him against a suspect Lions' defense…Detroit set an NFL-record last week, scoring the most points ever in a fourth quarter (34). The ground game has been stagnant, but the Jon Kitna-led passing attack ranks first in the NFL and hopes to have Calvin Johnson back in action. Expect Kevin Jones' touches to increase, as the team fades Tatum Bell out of the picture. The defense ranks 29th in the league in yards allowed, but has already forced 13 turnovers (including nine INTs) and registered 14 sacks, so it's actually a little better than most think. History suggests otherwise - Joe Gibbs' career record against the Lions is 11-0, and Washington is 20-0 vs. Detroit while playing at home - but this version has too much firepower for the Redskins to combat.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 240 yards and a TD to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combine for 180 rushing yards and a score. Meanwhile, Kevin Jones sees the most action of the year, resulting in 80 total yards and a TD run. Jon Kitna adds 300 passing yards and two TDs, one to Roy Williams and the other to Shaun McDonald, as Detroit pulls off the upset. Lions 24-23.
Jacksonville (-2) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Jacksonville and Kansas City have used solid defense to win two straight games each, but the team that can muster some offense is likely to come out on top Sunday. Despite lacking any game-changing receivers, David Garrard has gotten 8.4 YPA without an interception this season, while also rushing for 99 yards. He's taking too many sacks (10), but at this point, it's looking like the Jaguars made the right choice with Garrard over Byron Leftwich at quarterback. Their fearsome rushing attack has been just average so far this season, but maybe new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter worked out some kinks during the bye week. Maurice Jones-Drew's carries have increased each game this season; expect that trend to continue Sunday…Kansas City has struggled out of the gate this season, scoring zero points in first quarters on the year. However, halftime adjustments have apparently paid huge dividends, as the Chiefs have yet to allow a TD during the second half of any game and held Minnesota and San Diego scoreless in the second half the past two weeks. Damon Huard may have extended his leash at QB with a big effort last week, and rookie WR Dwayne Bowe has burst onto the scene. However, this team still relies on Larry Johnson, who finally got going last week. This matchup looks pretty even on paper, but the homefield advantage is prominent. The Chiefs are 14-3 at Arrowhead since 2005 - the best record in the NFL. They've been the league's best home team since 1990 and play four of their next five games in Arrowhead.
Predictions: Garrard gets 180 passing yards but no TDs, as Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew run in Jacksonville's scores. Damon Huard counters with 160 yards and a TD to Tony Gonzalez, while Larry Johnson totals 110 yards and finds the end zone, as the home team prevails. Chiefs 17-14.
Miami (+5.5) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After an impressive 2-0 start to the season, the Texans have lost back-to-back games, looking like the moribund franchise of years past. Some of that can be attributed to Andre Johnson's knee injury, but the defense has really regressed as well. After an impressive start, Houston's defense hasn't forced a turnover in consecutive games and given up 28 points per game over that same stretch. The losing streak can't be attributed to Matt Schaub, who has played well this season. He's completed 74 percent of his passes and gotten 8.2 YPA. Andre' Davis appears to have emerged as the go-to wideout after all of the injuries, but Ahman Green may miss another game this week. Ron Dayne will have to step up, as Miami's rush defense is the worst in the league…The Dolphins have dropped seven straight games dating back to last season, the NFL's longest skid. However, there's one bright spot, and that's Ronnie Brown, who has finally emerged as the superstar everyone expected coming out of Auburn. He leads all NFL running backs in yards from scrimmage (559), catches (20), receiving yards (248) and YPC (5.2). Over the last two weeks, he's totaled 418 yards of offense and scored four TDs. This week, he'll try to become just the second back in NFL history to total 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games (Walter Payton did it in 1977). He's turned Jesse Chatman into an afterthought and has clearly become the focal point of Miami's offense. His matchup against Houston is favorable, and Miami will be motivated to get into the win column.
Predictions:Matt Schaub gets 225 passing yards with a TD to Owen Daniels. Ron Dayne gets the bulk of the carries for Houston, resulting in 110 rushing yards and a TD run. Trent Green counters with 240 yards passing and a scoring strike to Chris Chambers. Ronnie Brown adds 160 total yards and scores two more times, as Miami upsets Houston. Dolphins 21-20.
New York Jets (+3.5) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: : As far as road games go, the Jets can't be too displeased "traveling" to the Meadowlands this weekend. However, the venue won't matter if the offensive line can't contain a suddenly fierce Giants pass rush. D'Brickashaw Ferguson will have a tough task facing Osi Umenyiora, who recorded six sacks last week. Ferguson has largely been considered a bust, but he's played the best games of his career the last two weeks. But he isn't as strong as Umenyiora, and the battle at the line of scrimmage might be a huge issue for the Jets Sunday. Thomas Jones (3.4 YPC) has struggled with his new team, as the Jets are the only team in the league without a single run longer than 12 yards. Chad Pennington continues to limit the team's playbook with an inability to stretch the field. Still, he's accurate, and Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery form one of the league's better duos at wide receiver. During Pennington's 64-game career, he's thrown just two interceptions in the red zone…In the Giants' last 10 trips to the red zone, they've scored just three touchdowns, kicked three field goals and come away with no points at all four times. The return of Brandon Jacobs (knee) may help solve that problem, as he scored on 50 percent of his goal-line carries last season (7-for-14). Derrick Ward figures to remain involved in the offense, but he's currently dealing with an ankle injury. Ankle issues haven't slowed down Plaxico Burress, who has scored a TD in every game this season and has six total. Still, it's been the Giants' defense that's the main reason for the team's turnaround. Since halftime of Week 3, New York has allowed a total of three points and tied an NFL-record with 12 sacks last week against the Eagles. A fierce pass rush is the best way to mask a beatable secondary, so expect another blitz-heavy scheme from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo this week.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws for 225 yards and TDs to Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, while Thomas Jones adds 75 yards rushing. Eli Manning answers with 240 passing yards and a scoring strike to Plaxico Burress. Brandon Jacobs celebrates his return to the field by punching in a TD from in close, as the Jets lose on the "road." Giants 23-20.
Seattle (+6) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Seattle and Pittsburgh meet for the first time since the Steelers won Super Bowl XL 21-10 to become NFL champions in 2006. Both squads are off to 3-1 starts, and Seattle has Matt Hasselbeck largely to thank. With a mediocre defense and a so-so ground game, Hasselbeck has put the team on his shoulders, getting 8.1 YPA with seven touchdowns. However, the Steelers are a physical and tough defense, so he'll need some help from his teammates Sunday. Shaun Alexander has gotten fewer than 4.0 YPC in three of the four games this season and looks little like the player who won the MVP award in 2005…Pittsburgh has outscored opponents 50-6 during the first half this year but may have to play without Hines Ward (knee) again Sunday. Santonio Holmes might be emerging as the team's No. 1 receiver anyway, as Ben Roethlisberger continues to look his way. Regardless, Willie Parker is becoming the centerpiece to the Steelers' offense, and he had a huge game the last time these teams met, including a Super Bowl record 75-yard TD run. He had opened the season with three straight 100-yard rushing games, but that streak came to an abrupt end last week, as he gained just 37 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh is the more physical team and won't want to lose two straight games to the NFC West, so expect a much better performance out of the team this week…The Steelers have won seven consecutive home games against NFC opponents.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck throws for 240 yards and a TD to Bobby Engram, while Shaun Alexander runs for just 70 yards but scores a TD. Ben Roethlisberger responds with 250 yards passing and TDs to Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller. Willie Parker combines for 130 yards and scores, as the Seahawks fail to get revenge. Steelers 24-17.
Tampa Bay (+10) at Indianapolis, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Both teams are off to excellent starts, but are dealing with injury issues. Tampa Bay lost Carnell Williams and Luke Petitgout for the season to knee injuries last week, so Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham take over backfield duties behind a revamped offensive line. Expect Pittman to get the slight majority of the carries and be active in the passing game, while Graham gets all of the goal-line work. After an off year last season, the Bucs' defense looks rejuvenated in 2007, and Jeff Garcia has fit nicely into Jon Gruden's system. However, they now face an Indy team that has won 11 consecutive home games…The Colts have outscored opponents 39-3 inside of 2:00 of each half this season, highlighting just how efficient the offense can be. It's a unit that might be missing key stars this week, however, as Marvin Harrison (knee) and Joseph Addai (shoulder) are iffy. Harrison has missed only six of 180 regular season games during his career, but it looks like Sunday will mark his seventh. The loss of Bob Sanders (ribs) might be the worst of all, as he's a big reason for the improvement in Indy's defense. The Colts have committed an NFL-low two turnovers this season and are tied for the best turnover ratio (plus-7) in the NFL with Dallas., This team is awfully tough to beat, especially at home.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia gets 225 passing yards and throws a TD to Joey Galloway, while Michael Pittman adds 80 combined yards. Earnest Graham runs in a score, but Kenton Keith, replacing Joseph Addai in the Colts' backfield, counters with 120 rushing yards and a score of his own. Peyton Manning throws for 275 yards and finds Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark for scores, as Indy continues to roll. Colts 30-17.
Baltimore (-3) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The 49ers enter with the league's worst offense and without Alex Smith (shoulder). If that isn't bad enough, Jonas Jennings is also out for personal reasons. Trent Dilfer gets the call at quarterback, and he'll be especially motivated facing his former coach Brian Billick, who made Dilfer the first quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl and immediately lose his job. Dilfer's play in relief last week can only be described as terrible (3.9 YPA), but maybe he'll improve with a week of starter's snaps in practice. He'll also face a Ravens' defense that hasn't lived up to its stellar reputation this season, allowing more than 300 yards Baltimore's last three games and collapsing badly during the second half each time. The absence of Trevor Pryce (wrist) appears to be taking a major toll on this aging unit. Still, it's doubtful San Francisco can take advantage, with such a poor passing attack, opposing defenses will be able to focus on stopping Frank Gore. Darrell Jackson has caught just 45 percent of the passes thrown his way…Baltimore's defense isn't the only unit with its problems, as Steve McNair has only thrown two TDs on the year and Derrick Mason (back) and Todd Heap (hamstring) are banged up. Still, the ground game is improving - Willis McGahee's rushing totals have increased with each game this season - and San Francisco's defense has some holes, especially after losing Manny Lawson (knee) for the season. Baltimore has to win if it wants to compete in a tough AFC North.
Predictions: Trent Dilfer commits a few turnovers and throws for just 150 yards without a TD. Frank Gore gets 90 total yards and runs in a score, while Willis McGahee counters with 120 rushing yards and a TD. Steve McNair throws for 200 yards and a TD to Demetrius Williams, as the 49ers continue their downfall. Ravens 23-16.
San Diego (+1) at Denver, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Chargers look nothing like last year's version, but they are still just one game out of first place in their division. The defense has really struggled with Ted Cottrell's new system, and Philip Rivers has played poorly. Last week LaDainian Tomlinson finally broke the century mark rushing for the first time this season, and he now faces the NFL's second-worst rush defense. Still, Denver does boast the best pass defense in the league, and San Diego is just 6-30 when playing in Denver since 1971…The Broncos have the fifth-best offense in the NFL (382.5 yards per game) but have struggled to translate that into points, as the team has more field goals (8) than TDs (7) this season. Jay Cutler has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all nine of his NFL starts - the longest streak since Mark Rypien threw a TD in his first 11 starts, spanning 1988-89. However, Cutler also has a different streak, throwing an interception in seven straight games. He also might be missing Javon Walker (knee) again. Moreover, the NFL's leading rusher, Travis Henry, is dealing with ankle and knee injuries. To make matters worse, he apparently failed another drug test, so his status for the remainder of the season is cloudy at best. Undrafted rookie Selvin Young would take over backfield duties in place of Henry, and he's been extremely impressive in relief duty. Young topped all players in yards per touch last week, totaling 100 yards of offense on just 10 touches. He's gotten 9.2 YPC on the season, while also showing serious receiving skills. He's a prime candidate to become the next great Denver running back who emerges seemingly out of nowhere.
Predictions: Philip Rivers passes for 175 yards and finds Antonio Gates in the end zone, while LaDainian Tomlinson runs for 140 yards and two TDs. Jay Cutler answers with 225 yards passing and TDs to Brandon Marshall and Daniel Graham. Selvin Young gets the start at running back and totals 120 yards and runs for a score, as Denver prevails. Broncos 24-21.
Chicago (+3) at Green Bay, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Packers are one of just two undefeated NFC teams and sport the second longest winning streak in the NFL: eight straight games dating back to last season. The defense has been solid, but the Green Bay rushing attack ranks dead last in the NFL. Thankfully, Brett Favre is playing some of the best football of his career, tossing eight TDs over the last three games. He hasn't been intercepted over his last 119 pass attempts. He'll need to continue playing at a high level, as not one player on the Packers' team has 100 yards rushing for the season, and their leading rusher, Brandon Jackson (shin), looks unlikely to play. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones form a solid trio at wideout, and Green Bay has outscored its opponents 48-10 during the fourth quarter this season…Two years ago, the Bears were 1-3, won their next eight games and took home the NFC North title. Repeating that feat seems unlikely, as injuries have destroyed a previously stingy defense, and the ground game has been brutal. Cedric Benson has gotten 3.2 YPC this season and has three times has many fumbles as touchdowns. Devin Hester has been the team's best offensive weapon, and that comes mostly on special teams. That said, Hester also has the most fumbles of any non-quarterback in the NFL over the last two seasons. The switch to Brian Griese at quarterback didn't lead to immediate improvement, but he'll get another chance to prove he belongs under center Sunday night. Bernard Berrian was targeted a career-high 14 times last week, so he appears to be developing a nice rapport with Griese. The Packers are good, but maybe not 5-0 good, and the Bears have to win this game if they have any hope of challenging this division…Chicago has won three straight games played in Lambeau Field.
Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 225 yards and two TDs, with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings the recipients. The Green Bay rushing attack remains stagnant, and the same can be said for Cedric Benson of the Bears. Brian Griese responds with 220 yards passing and TDs to Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, as the Bears win on the road. Bears 20-17.
Dallas (-10) at Buffalo, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Bills have looked like a total doormat, with the 32nd ranked defense and 31st ranked offense. Still, they'll be playing on Monday night for the first time in more than a decade, so expect a focused performance this week. Trent Edwards put some doubt into the team's future plans at quarterback with an impressive debut last week, getting 8.4 YPA while completing 78.6 percent of his passes. Marshawn Lynch has also impressed as a rookie. Lee Evans has struggled, netting only the third most receiving yards on his team through four weeks of the season, but he had his best game of the year with Edwards at the helm, and Dallas might be missing Anthony Henry (ankle), the NFL's interception leader.… Dallas' defense that has improved with each week this season, and their offense leads the league in scoring with 37 points per game. In fact, the Cowboys have scored the fourth most points after four games in NFL history, and their 151 points are 22 more than the NFL record-holding 1998 Vikings had at the same point. The offensive production is in large part due to Tony Romo (9.9 YPA), who has thrown an NFL-high 11 TD passes. Romo has thrown for 300 yards or more during six of his 16 career starts. Jason Witten is becoming an elite tight end in the league, and Marion Barber leads the NFL's sixth-best rushing attack. Dallas can improve in one area; the team has been flagged for the second most penalty yards in the NFL, behind only the Ravens. Still, it's a squad clicking on all cylinders and should be up for a game in primetime.
Predictions: Trent Edwards gets 175 passing yards and throws a couple of interceptions and a long TD to Lee Evans. Marshawn Lynch totals 90 yards and runs in a score, while Julius Jones and Marion Barber combine for 150 yards and a TD. Tony Romo continues to play like an MVP, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns, both falling into the hands of Terrell Owens, as Dallas remains undefeated. Cowboys 30-17.
Article first appeared 10/5/07