NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Cincinnati (-3) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: : On offense, the Bengals have the skill position players of a Super Bowl contender. Unfortunately, they also have a defense fit for last place. The potent offense seemed likely to improve this season with Carson Palmer one more year removed from major knee surgery, but the fact of the matter is that Cincinnati is now 6-11 over its last 17 games, including three consecutive losses this season. Palmer has put up some nice statistics so far, but he's also thrown multiple picks during all three of those defeats. Cornerback Jonathan Joseph (suspension) will be out Sunday, as will right tackle Willie Anderson (heel), ending his streak of 116 consecutive starts. The linebacking unit has been ravaged by injuries, and Rudi Johnson (hamstring) may be forced to sit out again as well. The latter isn't that big of a deal, as Kenny Watson (5.2 YPC) has proved to be a more than capable fill in at RB, and the playbook actually expands when he's in over Johnson…Surprisingly, the Chiefs enter Week 6 ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing (65.6 ypg). Last week, Larry Johnson was held to just 12 yards on nine carries in a loss to Jacksonville and has yet to score a TD this season. Still, Kansas City hasn't lost back-to-back home games since 2004, so expect a strong effort from the club this week. Damon Huard (shoulder) is expected to start, and the entire KC passing game has a favorable matchup against a leaky Cincinnati defense. Speaking of defense, the Chiefs are one of only three teams who have held opponents to 20 points or fewer in every game this year.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 300 yards and two TDs, with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh the recipients. Kenny Watson combines for 110 yards, while Larry Johnson counters with 135 yards and hits pay dirt for the first time all season. Damon Huard adds 230 passing yards and throws touchdowns to Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe, who also contributes 100 receiving yards, as the home team prevails. Chiefs 21-20.
Houston (+6.5) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Texans won both games against the Jaguars last season, so you can bet Houston has Jacksonville's attention. There's no doubt the Texans are an improved team this season, but they're also dealing with plenty of injuries. The team continues to miss star WR Andre Johnson (knee), but Ahman Green will be a welcome addition, as Houston was rushing for just 67.0 yards per game without him over the past three contests. Matt Schaub (8.3 YPA) continues to play well, and more TD passes should follow. Owen Daniels is developing nicely at the tight end position, while Andre Davis has stepped in as the team's No. 1 WR in Johnson's absence. However, Jacksonville's defense is physical and presents a difficult challenge for the depleted Houston offense…The Jaguars have won three straight and have yet to allow more than 14 points in a game this season. David Garrard has been remarkably consistent, throwing for one TD pass in each contest this year and has yet to throw an interception on the season. His completion percentage has improved every week, so he seems to be getting more and more comfortable in the new offense. While the team lacks a true No. 1 WR, journeyman Dennis Northcutt has become a reasonable facsimile. Maurice Jones-Drew finally broke loose last week, but an increase in carries would be nice. Solid defense combined with mistake-free football is the recipe for success in Jacksonville.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 180 yards and a TD to Owen Daniels, while Ahman Green runs for just 60 yards without a score. David Garrard answers with 230 passing yards and a TD to Dennis Northcutt, while Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew each total 80 yards with a score, as Jacksonville wins its fourth straight. Jaguars 21-16.
Miami (+4.5) at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments:The Dolphins are the AFC's only winless team and have lost their starting quarterback indefinitely. Enter Cleo Lemon, who is likely just keeping the seat warm for rookie John Beck, who will almost certainly see the field later this year. Lemon is an unknown commodity, having only started five games during his NFL career, so expect Miami to rely heavily on Ronnie Brown once again. He's run for more than 100 yards in each of the past three games and faces a Cleveland defense ranked third-worst against the rush. Brown looks like a beast this season, difficult to tackle yet elusive in the open field. When you factor in his activity in the passing game, Brown is like a top-5 or maybe even top-3 fantasy player right now…The Browns offense has been surprisingly potent in 2007, but their defense is statistically the league's worst. The Dolphins have the second-worst rush defense in the NFL, but Cleveland can barely muster a running game even with a healthy Jamal Lewis (foot), and he looks unlikely to play Sunday. Also, Miami's run defense has really shored up with the return of Zach Thomas (concussion) last week, so those numbers may be misleading. Still, it's Cleveland's passing attack that's been so successful, as Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow continue to perform remarkably well. One of the bigger statistical oddities this season regards Derek Anderson, who is getting an impressive 7.9 YPA despite a subpar 52.2 completion percentage.
Predictions: Cleo Lemon tallies 190 yards passing with a TD toss to Chris Chambers. Ronnie Brown totals 150 yards and scores, while Jason Wright runs for 70 yards and a TD for Cleveland. Derek Anderson throws for 250 yards and touchdowns to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, as Cleveland squeaks out the win. Browns 24-23.
Minnesota (+5.5) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings haven't won since the first week of the season and now travel to a place where they've lost six consecutive games. Soldier Field is a harsh environment for a dome team like Minnesota, and although Chicago's defense hasn't been as formidable as expected this season, the Vikings lack offensive weapons to truly take advantage. Tarvaris Jackson looks likely to return at quarterback, but he's going to have to protect the ball better for that to be a positive thing. Most consider Adrian Peterson to be the team's best offensive player, but coach Brad Childress seems to disagree, giving the rookie just two carries during the second half last week (after 108 rushing yards before halftime). Out of Minnesota's 65 offensive snaps last week, Peterson was on the field for 24, while Chester Taylor was for 40…The Vikings boast the NFL's toughest run defense, but the Bears can't run the ball anyway. Cedric Benson has averaged 3.0 YPC on 101 totes this season, a number that's simply unacceptable. Minnesota can be passed on, however, so expect Brian Griese to attack this defense vertically Sunday. Griese starts his first home game of the season, and he got 8.6 YPA last week, so some hope still remains alive in Chicago. Bernard Berrian (toe) has missed practice this week, but the team is hopeful he can suit up Sunday.
Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson makes an unimpressive return, throwing for 150 yards while committing multiple turnovers. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor combine for 100 rushing yards, with Peterson getting the team's lone score. Brian Griese counters with 230 yards passing and TDs to Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad. Cedric Benson rushes for just 50 yards and fails to score, but Chicago wins anyway. Bears 20-13.
Philadelphia (-3) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles travel to the Meadowlands for the second consecutive game, and the team will have to hope for a better result this time -- the Eagles fell to the Giants in ugly fashion Week 5. With a bye week to reload, Philadelphia now faces a Jets team struggling on both sides of the ball. Thomas Jones (3.4 YPC) can't find any running room, while Chad Pennington's time as starter may be coming to an end. With the team off to a 1-4 start and Pennington throwing five picks over the last two games, coach Eric Mangini may decide to see what he has in backup Kellen Clemens. The switch may happen as soon as the start of Sunday's second half…The Eagles have never lost after a bye under Andy Reid (8-0), and the franchise is a perfect 7-0 all-time against the Jets. And yet, the Eagles have looked good in only one of their four games this season. Donovan McNabb has gotten 5.6 YPA or fewer in three of those four games and needs to improve his play if the team wants to reach its postseason aspirations. Getting Reggie Brown going would be a start, as would feeding the ball more to Brian Westbrook, who is expected to return to the lineup after missing a game with a torn abdominal muscle. Road favorites are almost always sucker plays, but combining the bye week factor with superior talent, Philadelphia gets the edge.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws a TD to Laveranues Coles, but he also struggles enough to get benched in favor of Kellen Clemens for the second half. Clemens is solid in relief, throwing for 125 yards and a TD to Jerricho Cotchery. Thomas Jones has another pedestrian day, running for 70 yards without a TD. Donovan McNabb responds with a big game, throwing for 275 yards and TDs to Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis. Brian Westbrook totals 150 yards and adds a score, as Philadelphia gets back on track. Eagles 24-20.
St. Louis (+9.5) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Rams are off to a miserable start, having yet to win and currently fielding just three offensive starters from the season opener. Things aren't likely to get any better with a trip to Baltimore, as the Ravens have won seven straight regular season home games, and the Rams have been outscored 59-10 on the road. Their offense and defense are both ranked 27th in the league and face a Ravens defense ranked fourth in the league. It's not to be confused with Raven defenses of old, but Gus Frerotte, Brian Leonard and Drew Bennett don't exactly strike fear into the heart of their opponents…Steve McNair's (back) season is something of a paradox, as his 65.6 completion percentage is the best mark of his career, yet his 5.9 YPA is easily his worst during his 13 years in the NFL. Clearly, he's relying on underneath routes more than ever, and Derrick Mason has been the big beneficiary. Mason is on pace for 141 catches this season and has a very favorable matchup this week against a porous Rams secondary. Willis McGahee hasn't run for a touchdown this season, but he's already caught as many balls as he did all of last year, which will really help his yardage totals. He's on pace for 1,942 combined yards this season and should have a big game Sunday.
Predictions: Gus Frerotte throws for 160 yards and a TD to Torry Holt, while Brian Leonard is held to just 60 yards. Steve McNair throws for 225 yards and TDs to Derrick Mason and Todd Heap (hamstring), who makes a triumphant return to the lineup. Willis McGahee adds 130 total yards and runs in his first score of the year, as the Rams remain winless. Ravens 24-13.
Tennessee (+3) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Tampa Bay is a much-improved team this season but is in the middle of the most difficult part of their schedule, including this week's matchup with the Titans. The Bucs defense has played well, but the offense has lost both Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman at running back. Earnest Graham and Zack Crockett take over backfield duties, but they are presented with a difficult task Sunday; the Titans are the only team not to allow a point in the fourth quarter this season and have still not given up more than 100 yards on the ground in a game. Jeff Garcia has yet to throw an interception, but Tennessee's secondary has allowed the fewest TD passes in the league, so scoring should be hard to come by this week…Coming off his worst game as a pro, Vince Young will have to rebound against a secondary that's been stingy versus the pass. Still, there's an awful lot going Tennessee's way. The team is now 9-2 over its last 11 games, and coach Jeff Fisher is 4-0 against Tampa Bay and 13-1 against NFC South teams during his career. The Titans have also won five consecutive road games dating back to last season and are one of the most physical teams in the league. Expect the three-pronged attack of LenDale White, Chris Brown and Young to eventually wear down an undersized Tampa Bay front seven.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia throws for 180 yards and one TD, which Joey Galloway hauls in. Earnest Graham runs for 70 yards but the end zone eludes him, while LenDale White and Chris Brown combine for 130 rushing yards and a score. Vince Young passes for 220 yards, while also rushing for 40 and an additional score, as Tennessee wins it. Titans 20-13.
Washington (+3) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After forcing just 14 takeaways all of last season, the Redskins have six through four games this year. It's not league-leading territory, but it is a major improvement nonetheless. The defense as a whole ranks third in the NFL, and Jason Campbell is emerging as a legit quarterback in this league. He's coming off a game in which he completed nearly 80 percent of his passes and got 8.6 YPA, but Green Bay poses a much tougher threat than Detroit's leaky secondary did last week. Santana Moss (groin) should return to action, but Antwaan Randle El is doubtful due to a hamstring problem. The Redskins are beginning a stretch of five games out of their next seven on the road…Brett Favre's big year hit a snag last week, as he threw two picks in a home loss to the Bears. It won't get any easier this week against a tough Redskins defense, especially with the league's second-worst rushing attack helping him out. DeShawn Wynn looks like the team's current lead ballcarrier, while Greg Jennings is having a break out sophomore season. The Packers' defense is sound, and the team will be focused after last week's slip up.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 175 yards and a TD to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis runs for 80 yards and adds a score. Brett Favre counters with 260 yards passing and two TDs, with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings the recipients. DeShawn Wynn runs for 70 yards and a TD, as the home team prevails. Packers 21-17.
Carolina (+4) at Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Both teams enter without their starting quarterbacks, but that appears to be a much bigger problem for the Panthers. With David Carr (back) banged up and undrafted rookie Matt Moore the alternative, Carolina brought in 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde, and there's a chance he might be put directly into the fire Sunday. Carr (back) is still hoping to start, but even when healthy, he has really struggled this year, completing just 51.6 percent of his passes and getting 5.3 YPA. Whoever gets the start at quarterback, expect Carolina to rely on its ground game Sunday, with DeShaun Foster featured prominently…Matt Leinart's season-ending injury brought an end to a unique quarterback-by-committee approach in Arizona. For the short-term, it might make the team better, as Kurt Warner was clearly outplaying Leinart this season. Anquan Boldin (hip) may be held out yet again, which should continue leading to big numbers from Larry Fitzgerald. He was targeted 14 times last week, the most in the league by a WR. The Panthers have played well on the road this year (3-0), but Arizona has an improved defense and running game and has yet to lose at home this season.
Predictions: <David Carr toughs it out and starts, resulting in 180 passing yards and a TD to Steve Smith. DeShaun Foster adds 80 yards and a score, while Edgerrin James counters with 115 yards and a TD of his own. Kurt Warner throws for 250 yards and a TD to Larry Fitzgerald, who also adds 140 receiving yards, as Carolina drops its first road game of the season. Cardinals 20-17.
New England (-6) at Dallas, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: For just the fifth time in the history of the NFL, two teams with records of at least 5-0 will meet. It nearly didn't happen, as Dallas committed six turnovers last week, and needed a last-second field goal to beat an inferior Buffalo squad. Tony Romo, who was responsible for all six of those giveaways, looks to rebound against a stout New England defense. In order for the team to have any chance Sunday, it'll need to get off to a better start, as the Cowboys haven't scored a TD during the first quarter this season. Terrell Owens gets the headlines and most of the opposing defenses attention, but Jason Witten is making them pay. His 15 targets last week made him the first non-wide receiver this season to lead the league in looks…The Patriots have been more impressive during their undefeated start, but Dallas easily presents the team's biggest challenge yet, as New England's previous opponents have a combined 7-17 record this season. Tom Brady tied Steve Young's NFL record with at least three touchdown passes during the first five games this season, but Dallas' secondary has improved week by week. Injuries have obviously been a factor, but Laurence Maroney (groin) has yet to score or catch a pass this season; his status remains uncertain for this week. The Cowboys will want to bounce back after a somewhat embarrassing performance on national television last week, but they have a short week to get ready for the one team in the league that requires extra preparation.
Predictions: Tony Romo throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns, one to Jason Witten and the other to Terrell Owens. In a battle between two of the game's best wide receivers, Owens also adds 100 receiving yards, while Randy Moss answers with 125 yards and two TDs of his own. Tom Brady finishes with 280 passing yards and three touchdowns, with the other one going to Ben Watson. Neither team finds much success on the ground, but New England ends up on top. Patriots 24-20.
Oakland (+10) at San Diego, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Raiders won their first road game since 2005 before the bye week and now find themselves in first place in the AFC West. After scoring 12 touchdowns total in 2006, the Raiders have already scored 11 this season. They enter with the league's best rushing attack (194.3 ypg), but LaMont Jordan (back) is a game-time decision. Justin Fargas put up big numbers replacing him during their last game, and Dominic Rhodes returns from suspension this week as well. Daunte Culpepper gets the start at quarterback, but the San Diego defense of 2006 showed up last week, so he's going to have to limit his mistakes…San Diego let loose plenty of pent-up frustration last week, exploding for a blow out win in Denver. This week, they are breaking out the powder blue uniforms, as Norv Turner faces his old team. The Raiders are likely to be missing both Derrick Burgess and Gerard Warren, so expect a huge game from LaDainian Tomlinson. It's likely the Chargers aren't as good as they were last year, but they aren't nearly as bad as they looked over the first month of this season, evidenced by last week's terrific performance.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper throws for 225 yards and TDs to Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter. LaMont Jordan's back injury forces him to sit out, so Justin Fargas and Dominic Rhodes combine for 75 rushing yards but no scores. Philip Rivers answers with 250 passing yards and finds Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates in the end zone. LaDainian Tomlinson adds 150 total yards and hits pay dirt twice, as San Diego continues to improve. Chargers 30-17.
New Orleans (+6.5) at Seattle, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Saints are still searching for win No. 1 this season. After leading the NFL in offense in 2006, they haven't scored more than 14 points in a game this year, and are minus-nine in the turnover department, by far the worst in the NFL. Drew Brees has just one touchdown pass to go along with 11 turnovers, while Reggie Bush is getting just 2.9 YPC. As expected, the loss of Deuce McAllister is going to be Bush's gain, as he recorded the second-most touches in the league last week with 30…Seattle has its share of problems as well, with a depleted receiving corps and a declining Shaun Alexander, who has seemingly lost all of his explosiveness and tackle-breaking ability. Still, this team is tough to beat at home, and Matt Hasselbeck is having a fine season despite last week's hiccup. While Bobby Engram may not be an ideal No. 1 WR, the offensive system doesn't require a game-breaking wideout for the passing game to be successful. The defense has been mediocre overall, but Julian Peterson has been a force, second only to Osi Umenyiora with six sacks on the season. The Saints as a team have just one sack on the season, last in the NFL.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 225 yards and connects with Marques Colston for a score, while Reggie Bush totals 100 yards and runs in a TD. Matt Hasselbeck counters with 240 passing yards and scoring strikes to Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson. Shaun Alexander adds 80 rushing yards with a TD, as the Saints remain winless. Seahawks 24-20.
New York Giants (-3.5) at Atlanta, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: After being one-yard away from an 0-3 start, the Giants have won three straight games and now sit at 3-2 on the season. Brandon Jacobs (knee) returned to the lineup last week, and the Giants rushing attack improved as a result. He displayed both power and speed and should be in store for another nice game Monday, as Atlanta is ceding more than 120 rushing yards per game. Derrick Ward is a good complement out of the backfield, but his status is murky due to an ankle injury. Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress form one of the best combos in the league, as Burress has now scored in every game this season and has nine TDs over his last six games dating back to last year's Wild Card loss to Philadelphia…The Giants may look better on paper, but if last week was any indication, Monday night home underdogs are not to be taken lightly. Moreover, the Falcons aren't nearly as bad as their record suggests, losing by no more than seven points in three of their four defeats. Joey Harrington has a 4:0 TD:INT ratio while getting 8.0 YPA when playing at home this season, but an undrafted rookie has been given the task to block Osi Umenyiora this week. New coach Bobby Petrino has apparently created unrest in the locker room, but expect a motivated performance from Atlanta during primetime Monday.
Predictions: Eli Manning gets 250 passing yards and throws touchdowns to Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. Brandon Jacobs runs for 100 yards and adds a score, while the Atlanta running game remains stagnant. Joey Harrington, however, comes through with 230 yards passing and scoring strikes to Roddy White and Alge Crumpler, as Atlanta pulls off the upset. Falcons 23-21. .
Article first appeared 10/12/07