NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Cleveland (-3) at St. Louis, Sunday 1
Comments: The Rams haven’t won a game
this season and rank near the bottom of the league in just about every statistical category.
If you take away Week 5’s aberration, the team is averaging 8.0 points
a game. They’ve committed an NFL-high 23 turnovers – five more than
all of last season. Marc Bulger returned to the lineup last week, but
his performance (5.6 YPA, 0:3 TD:INT ratio) suggests he’s not fully
recovered from his rib injury. Over the last three games he’s played,
Bulger has thrown seven interceptions without a touchdown. The return
of Steven Jackson (groin) should help, but it’s hardly a cure-all.
There isn’t a team in the league that’s looked worse than the Rams
so far in 2007… The Browns have been surprisingly solid this season,
mainly because of their offense. Still, the team has yet to win a road
game and boasts the league’s worst-ranked defense. The Rams have not
allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, but Cleveland prefers passing
the ball anyway. Derek Anderson has started five games this year, and
he’s thrown 14 touchdown passes. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow
should carve up this Rams secondary, and it’s doubtful St. Louis’
offense can keep up with the amount of points the Browns are likely
Predictions: Marc Bulger finally puts
up respectable numbers, throwing for 250 yards and a TD to Torry Holt.
Steven Jackson makes a successful return, totaling 80 yards with a score.
The Browns running game gets just 75 rushing yards, but Derek Anderson
throws for 280 yards and three TDs, with Braylon Edwards (twice) and
Kellen Winslow the recipients, as St. Louis continues its slide.
Detroit (+5) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: It’s safe to say the Lions
are not a very good road team. They are 7-44 over their last 51 games
away from home and have allowed 37.0 points per game in three road contests
this season, including 90 over their past two. Still, it’s not like
the Bears are any good, and Kevin Jones has really improved Detroit’s
rushing attack – an area Chicago has been vulnerable this season.
Jon Kitna hasn’t thrown a touchdown in either of the last two games,
and his 28 sacks lead the NFL… Brian Griese is probably more band-aid
than he is long-term answer at quarterback, but there’s no doubt he’s
a big improvement at the position for this year’s Bears. He gets a highly
favorable matchup this week against a Detroit secondary that has allowed
7.6 YPA and 12 touchdown passes this season. Griese will have to continue
to put up big numbers for Chicago to succeed, because the defense has
struggled, and Cedric Benson is a huge liability at running back. Benson
is averaging 3.1 YPC on 136 rush attempts this season. In the end, a
dome team traveling to Soldier Field spells doom.
Predictions: Jon Kitna throws for 250
yards, a TD to Roy Williams and gets picked off twice. Kevin Jones adds
90 total yards and scores, while Cedric Benson is limited to just 60
yards and doesn’t score. Brian Griese answers with 275 yards and two
TDs, one going to Bernard Berrian and the other to Muhsin Muhammad,
as the home team prevails. Bears 23-20.
Indianapolis (-6.5) at Carolina, Sunday
Comments: Carolina has yet to win a home
game this season and has uncertainty at the quarterback position. Vinny
Testaverde surprised many with a solid effort last game, but David Carr
is back in practice and is likely to play. It might end up being a committee
situation similar to the one Arizona used earlier this season. Either
way, the team faces the league’s best pass defense, as Indianapolis’
Cover 2 is allowing just 162 passing yards per game. The Colts have
also allowed a league-low 5.6 YPA and just five scores through the air.
Indy’s defense might be the most underrated unit in all of football… The
Colts have won 11 straight, but this is a classic trap game.
Traveling during a short week coming off a Monday night tilt, Indy could
also be looking ahead to next week’s game of the year against the
Patriots. Moreover, the Panthers are also the only team Peyton Manning
hasn’t beaten in his career. Still, it’s hard to bet in good conscience against a team this good giving less than a touchdown. Manning’s
current 68.3 completion percentage is the best mark of his career. This
year’s Colts actually look better than last year’s Super Bowl champs.
Predictions: David Carr gets most of
the reps for Carolina, resulting in 150 yards and no TDs. The Panthers
running game musters 80 yards and a score by DeAngelo Williams. Peyton
Manning counters with 260 passing yards and TDs to Reggie Wayne and
Dallas Clark, while Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith combine for 140 rushing
yards and a touchdown, as Indy continues to roll. Colts 27-13.
New York Giants (-9.5) at Miami, Sunday
Comments: The Dolphins have the misfortune
of getting a “home” game played in London, but it’s not likely
to cost them a spot in the playoffs, as the team has yet to record a
victory this season. If that’s not bad enough, Ronnie Brown (knee)
was lost for the season, and Zach Thomas is also banged up. Jesse Chatman
makes for an intriguing fantasy pickup; he goes back with coach Cam
Cameron from their days in San Diego and has gotten 5.9 YPC on the year.
Miami throws to their backs a ton, and he has the size to be the team’s
goal line runner, so expect some nice numbers from Chatman the rest
of the way… The Giants have won five in a row, including each of their
last four by double digits. They also lead the league with 27 sacks
this season. Cleo Lemon’s mobility may counter that some, but he’s
unlikely to burn them deep as a result. Brandon Jacobs has looked terrific
since returning from a knee injury and gets a tasty matchup this week
against a Dolphins team that’s been getting gashed by the run. The
Giants have been playing well and look like one of the NFC’s best
teams, but the Dolphins should be able to hang around with an international
spotlight as motivation.
Predictions: Cleo Lemon throws for 180
yards and a TD to Marty Booker, while Jesse Chatman adds 120 total yards
and a score of his own. Eli Manning responds with 220 yards and a TD
to Plaxico Burress, while Brandon Jacobs contributes 125 yards and two
TDs, as New York wins its sixth straight. Giants 27-20.
Oakland (+7.5) at Tennessee, Sunday 1
Comments: The Raiders aren’t exactly
doormats, but they are also far from ready to compete against the league’s
elite. The Titans might very well fall into that category. Drops haven’t helped, but Daunte Culpepper continues to take too many
sacks and commit too many turnovers, leading
to some rumblings about Josh McCown regaining the starter’s role. While
that may still happen, Culpepper is expected to start this week. He faces a stout Titans secondary, one that has allowed just 6.2 YPA
and seven TD passes this season. It’s a unit that should also be focused
after giving up an embarrassing 29 fourth quarter points to the Texans
last week… Vince Young looks likely to return this week, but he faces
a solid Oakland secondary and has failed to meet expectations this season.
Still, the Titans are a run-first team, and Oakland has ceded 141.7
rushing yards per game on the year. However, Tennessee has converted
just 34.6 percent of their red zone possessions into TDs, ranking second
to last in the AFC. Nevertheless, the Titans defense is one of the best
in the league and should force numerous turnovers while playing at home
against a sloppy Raiders team.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper mixes in
a lost fumble and an INT with a TD toss to Ronald Curry, while LaMont
Jordan totals 80 yards but doesn’t score. Vince Young gets 180 passing
yards with a touchdown to Roydell Williams, while LenDale White adds
75 yards and two short TD runs, as Tennessee wins it. Titans 24-13.
Philadelphia (-1) at Minnesota, Sunday
Comments: Brad Childress faces his former
team for the first time, as two decidedly mediocre teams meet in the
Metrodome. At this stage of the season, it’s safe to define the Eagles
as middling, as the current version doesn’t even resemble one from
the franchise’s storied past. Brian Westbrook is the team’s best
offensive weapon, but no one runs on the Vikings, so they’ll have
to utilize him in the passing game. Donovan McNabb has a nice matchup
this week, but he looks little like last year’s version, when
he was an MVP candidate before suffering that season-ending knee injury… Former
Eagle Kelly Holcomb is likely to start for the Vikings, and he’d
be hard-pressed not to be an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson, who completed
a total of 15 passes over the past two games. It’s a run oriented
offense anyway, with Adrian Peterson leading the way. Peterson leads
the NFL with 670 rushing yards and might already be the NFL's best player
at the position, but Chester Taylor figures to continue taking away
more touches than common sense dictates. Sitting at 2-4, both teams
are essentially playing to keep postseason hopes alive, and homefield
makes a big difference.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb gets 240
passing yards and finds Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook for scoring
strikes. Westbrook also adds 100 combined yards, while Adrian Peterson
answers with 120 yards and a TD of his own. Kelly Holcomb plays conservatively,
leading to 160 yards and a TD to TRoy Williamson, as the Eagles continue
to disappoint. Vikings 20-17.
Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Cincinnati, Sunday
Comments: Make no mistake, the 2007 Bengals
are not a very good team. Additionally, they’ve lost six straight
home games to the Steelers, who haven’t lost in Ohio since 2001. Moreover,
the Steelers have allowed an NFL-low 13.0 points per game. Still, the
team is just 1-2 on the road this season, and Cincinnati should be playing
with extra urgency with a 2-4 record. The Bengals rank 29th in the league in defense, so Ben Roethlisberger should have a big game
Sunday; Cincy has allowed 16 TD passes in six games this season, second
only to Cleveland. Roethlisberger hasn’t attempted a lot of
passes, but he's thrown for 13 scores already… The Bengals have
looked incredibly bad at times this season, but they have played better
at home, losing only to the Patriots. Last week saw a shift in philosophy,
as the team ran for a season-high 177 rushing yards. Rudi Johnson continues
to be nagged by injuries, while Kenny Watson continues to look more
explosive when on the field. The offensive line finally has all five
starters back, so expect Watson to be featured heavily yet again this
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger throws
for 275 yards and TDs to Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, while Willie
Parker adds 125 yards and a score as well. Carson Palmer responds with
250 yards passing, with scoring strikes to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad
Johnson. Kenny Watson grinds out 70 yards and reaches paydirt, as Cincy
pulls off the upset. Bengals 27-24.
Buffalo (+3) at New York Jets, Sunday
Comments: Not that J.P. Losman truly
deserved to lose his grip of the starting job, but the Bills have scored
12.0 points per game more with Trent Edwards at the helm this season.
However, they have the league’s 31st ranked defense and
offense and are winless on the road this season. The Jets have allowed
a staggering 8.3 YPA, so Buffalo should be able to put points on the
board Sunday. Lee Evans emerged from the bye with a strong game last
week against the Ravens, and he faces a much easier secondary Sunday,
so he should put up a nice statistical line… While Buffalo is looking
toward the future at quarterback, the Jets continue to trot out Chad
Pennington, who appears to just be keeping the seat warm for Kellen Clemens. While the Bills have a beatable secondary,
Pennington has just a 6:7 TD:INT ratio in seven career games against
Buffalo. Despite the 1-6 record, the Jets have been in nearly every
game this season, and homefield should be the difference in this
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for
220 yards and a long score to Lee Evans, while Marshawn Lynch runs for
100 yards with a TD of his own. Chad Pennington passes for 230 yards
with scores to Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, while Thomas
Jones adds 80 yards and a touchdown, as New York comes out on top.
Houston (+11.5) at San Diego, Sunday
Comments: While the game now looks likely
to be played in San Diego after all, most of the Chargers have more
on their mind than football, as devastating fires have displaced many
team members from their homes. After starting 2-0, the Texans have dropped
four of their last five and also lost Matt Schaub to injury last week.
Schaub has only thrown two touchdown passes over the past five games,
but he’s completed 68.5 percent of his passes and gotten 8.0 YPA.
That might be irrelevant, as Sage Rosenfels could be Houston’s starter
Sunday. The journeyman led the Texans to 29 fourth quarter points last
week, and San Diego has allowed 7.7 YPA this season. Still, the Texans
can’t run the ball, and their defense has been struggling mightily… After
a disappointing stretch that saw the team lose three straight, the Chargers
have bounced back with consecutive wins, each by at least two touchdowns.
While they still don’t look like 2006’s team, the Chargers do appear
to be getting closer to where they were last season, and that starts
with LaDainian Tomlinson. He scored four touchdowns in the team’s
last game and should shred a Houston defense that has allowed seven
rushing scores this season.
Predictions: Sage Rosenfels gets the
call and throws for 225 yards and a TD to Kevin Walter. Ahman Green
is shut down, whereas LaDainian Tomlinson explodes for 150 yards and
two TDs. Philip Rivers chips in with 180 yards and finds Antonio Gates
in the end zone, as San Diego wins handily. Chargers 27-16.
Jacksonville (+3.5) at Tampa Bay, Sunday
Comments: Tampa Bay has been nasty at
home this season, yielding just 9.0 points per game while going 3-0.
Jacksonville will also be traveling during a short week and playing
with their backup quarterback. However, the trip isn’t too far, and
the Jaguars defense has been stout, yielding an NFL-low four
touchdown passes through six games. Jeff Garcia has the longest active
streak of pass attempts without an interception at 270. He’s also gotten 8.0
YPA in a Pro Bowl-type season. Earnest Graham looked great last week
against the Lions (he was targeted a league-high 18 times in the passing
game), but things won’t come nearly as easily this week… To put it
mildly, Quinn Gray did not look good after replacing an injured David
Garrard last week, getting a ridiculously low 2.3 YPA with a 0:2 TD:INT
ratio. A full week of starter’s snaps during practice should help,
but expect Jacksonville to be even more run-heavy Sunday, with Maurice
Jones-Drew (knee) leading the way. He’s scored four touchdowns over
the last three games and has seen his touches increase as well. Both
teams are physical, so expect a low-scoring affair. But Jacksonville
will be motivated after being embarrassed on national television, and
the AFC typically comes out ahead in inter-conference matchups.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia remains conservative,
resulting in 160 passing yards and a TD to Joey Galloway. Earnest Graham
is bottled up, gaining just 50 total yards with no scores. Quinn Gray throws
for just 140 yards, but Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew total 150
yards with a TD run, as Jacksonville upsets the Bucs. Jaguars 16-13.
New Orleans (-2.5) at San Francisco,
Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: With back-to-back victories,
the Saints are seemingly rebounding from a poor start to the season,
but last week’s home win over the Falcons revealed plenty of problems
still exist with this franchise. Drew Brees has been sacked just four
times this season, but his 5.6 YPA is simply unacceptable. He’s getting
2.4 fewer yards per attempt this season
compared to last. In 10 fewer games, he’s thrown one fewer pick this
year as well. Marques Colston has followed up his unbelievable rookie
campaign with a disappointing sophomore year, while Reggie Bush hasn’t
reached 100 yards rushing or receiving in any game this season. The
49ers defense – especially their secondary – is no pushover… After
winning the first two games of the season, San Francisco has now dropped
four straight, but the return of Alex Smith is great news. Smith won't be confused with Joe Montana, but Trent Dilfer was really hurting
the offense. The Saints have allowed 8.7 YPA this season – the second
worst mark in the NFL. Frank Gore hasn’t been putting up the gaudy
yardage totals of last year and is banged up, but it’s safe
to expect him to play; he’s as tough as they come. Gore has had
a run of 10 yards or more in 24 straight games, which is the most in
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 240
yards and a TD to Marques Colston, while Reggie Bush gets 130 combined
yards with a score. Alex Smith answers with 220 yards and a TD to Arnaz
Battle, while Frank Gore runs for 125 yards and hits paydirt, as the
home dogs win it. 49ers 23-20.
Washington (+16.5) at New England, Sunday
Comments: While the Redskins aren’t
the biggest underdogs in the history of sports as Joe Gibbs has suggested,
they are playing a team that has won every game this season by at least
17 points. Washington will be by far the best defensive team New England
has faced this season, but it’s unclear if any team in the league
can slow down this offense. The Redskins have allowed an NFL-best 5.6
YPA this season, so it’s strength against strength, as the Pats enter
with the league’s No. 1 ranked passing offense. Washington’s offense,
on the other hand, is unlikely to keep up in a high-scoring affair,
as Jason Campbell has thrown multiple touchdowns in just one game this
year, and Clinton Portis appears to have lost a step… Over the last
two games, Tom Brady has an 11:0 TD:INT ratio. For the season, it’s
at 27:2. He’s getting 9.3 YPA and putting up numbers you don’t even
see in video games. He’s on pace to throw 62 touchdown passes this
season. Laurence Maroney has really been a disappointment, but it hardly
matters to the Pats, who have three receivers really producing right
now. Randy Moss appears to have opposing defenses’ attention, which
can partially explain why Wes Welker has received eight more targets
than Moss over the last two games. The schedule has been easy but, hyperbole
aside, this passing offense looks like one of the best ever through
seven weeks of the season.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for
175 yards and a TD to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis adds 70 yards
and a TD as well. Tom Brady continues to post eye-popping numbers, throwing
for 300 yards and three TDs, with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth
the recipients. Laurence Maroney runs for 80 yards and scores for the
first time all season, as New England is victorious. Patriots 34-17.
Green Bay (+3) at Denver, Monday 8:30
Comments: The Packers don’t seem to
match up very well with the Broncos, whose main weakness is run defense.
Green Bay enters with the NFL’s worst rushing offense and has called
pass plays on more than 68 percent of offensive snaps, the most in the
NFL. Unfortunately, the Broncos boast a strong secondary. Brett Favre
has played well this year for the most part, but he does have a 1:4
TD:INT ratio over the past two contests. DeShawn Wynn appears to be
the team’s feature back, while early returns on Brandon Jackson point
to him being a bust… The Broncos came out of their bye last week looking
much better on offense, and most of it started with Jay Cutler, who
got 8.6 YPA. However, he’s now thrown an interception in nine straight
games. Brandon Marshall looks like the team’s clear No. 1 wide receiver,
but Travis Henry is dealing with badly bruised ribs. If he’s forced
to miss Sunday’s contest, expect a nice effort from the explosive
Selvin Young, with some Andre Hall mixed in as well. The Packers have
won eight of their past nine games, but they probably aren’t quite
as good as their 5-1 record indicates. The Broncos, meanwhile, might
be a little better than their .500 record suggests, and the home team
on Monday night always gets the edge
Predictions: Brett Favre throws a couple
of picks but also a TD to Donald Driver. DeShawn Wynn adds 75 yards
and a score, while Selvin Young gets 90 yards and a TD for Denver. Jay
Cutler throws for 225 yards and a score to Brandon Marshall, as the
home team prevails. Broncos 23-17.
Article first appeared 10/26/07