NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Carolina (+4) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Panthers are something
of an anomaly this season, losing every home game and undefeated
on the road. Keeping that streak alive will be difficult with a trip
to Tennessee on the docket, especially with a less-than-full-strength
David Carr at the helm. The Titans defense is a nasty unit, allowing
just 6.1 YPA while stuffing the run. Since Steve Smith is by far the
team’s best offensive weapon, expect a more concerted effort to get
him the ball Sunday… Tennessee has looked ugly, especially on the offensive side
of the ball, but the team keeps winning, so expect a similar philosophy
going forward. The Titans didn’t throw a touchdown in October, averaging
just six more yards per game through the air than on the ground. Whether
it be Jeff Fisher, Norm Chow or Vince Young himself, the Titans young quarterback is being completely miscast as a pocket passer, and his special athleticism is getting wasted
as a result. Young’s getting 5.8 YPA, thrown twice as many INTs as
TDs and hasn’t thrown for a score since Week 3. LenDale White had
his best game as a pro last week, as the team continues its run-first
ways. However, rookie Chris Henry is the team’s most explosive runner,
and once he works on the little things or LenDale White’s injury history
resurfaces, he has the potential to put up huge numbers in this system.
Predictions: David Carr continues to
struggle, resulting in 160 passing yards with two picks and a TD to
Steve Smith. The team’s ground game is stymied, while LenDale White
counters with 90 yards and a score. Vince Young throws for just 175
yards, but he finally tosses a TD, landing in Roydell Williams’ hands,
as the home team prevails. Titans 20-13.
Cincinnati (-1) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: It’s counterintuitive given
the star power at quarterback and wide receiver, but this Bengals team
belongs in the bottom tier of the NFL right now. The defense has surrendered
at least 20 points in 10 consecutive games while allowing a staggering
30.1 points per game this season, 31st in the league.
The offense has been solid, but Cincy has yet to win a road game this
year. Rudi Johnson (hamstring) is likely to return, but Kenny Watson
looked like an improvement in his stead anyway. Expect a fairly even
split in carries this week… If not for a last-second, somewhat fluky
defeat to the Cowboys, the Bills would be entering with a four-game
winning streak under their belt. The defense has played much better
over the past month, and Marshawn Lynch is emerging as one of the game’s
elite running backs. J.P. Losman gets the start at quarterback, and
he faces a Cincinnati secondary that’s yielded the most touchdown
passes (18) in the league. Look for another deep connection between
him and Lee Evans, who should burn this weak D. The Bills have won the
last eight meetings between these two teams
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for
275 yards with TDs to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The timeshare
at running back leads to 100 yards and a goal line score from Rudi Johnson,
while Marshawn Lynch answers with 125 yards and a TD of his own. J.P.
Losman gets 250 passing yards with a long score to Lee Evans, as the
Bengals continue to disappoint. Bills 23-21.
Denver (+3) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Maybe Jon Kitna’s 10-win
prediction wasn’t so crazy, after all. The Lions have yet to lose
at home this season and get a team traveling during a short week Sunday.
Detroit actually leads the league in takeaways and has changed philosophies
in recent weeks, letting the ground game take precedence. Expect a similar
game plan this week, as Denver sports one of the league’s worst run
defenses. That’s not the only area of concern with the
Broncos' defense, as the secondary is allowing a league-worst 8.5
YPA with the fourth most scores allowed through the air (13) as well.
Part of that can be explained by Champ Bailey’s injury, but this defense
is clearly struggling right now… While the stats point to doom and
gloom, this Broncos team simply needs a win more than the Lions do.
Jay Cutler finally ended his consecutive games with an interception
streak last week and is getting a remarkable 7.8 YPA on the season.
Brandon Marshall is a future star in this league, while Selvin Young
showed he’s going to be highly productive when/if Travis Henry gets
suspended. For this week anyway, Henry (ribs) is likely to play, and
he should run with extra incentive since the end is near. Look for Cutler
to carve up a porous secondary, with the defense creating enough turnovers
for the upset to occur.
Predictions: Jon Kitna takes multiple
sacks, throws a couple of picks but also gets 275 yards passing with
a TD to Roy Williams. Kevin Jones adds 125 yards with a score, while
Travis Henry counters with 110 yards and a TD as well. Jay Cutler throws
for 250 yards and two TDs with Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley
the recipients, as Denver comes out on top. Broncos 24-23.
Green Bay (+1.5) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Packers are 6-1 this year
and 10-1 over their last 11 games, including five straight
on the road. Not always entirely impressive in doing so, Green Bay just
keeps getting it done, although a trip to Arrowhead in a short travel
week presents a difficult challenge, especially when you consider Kansas
City’s improved defense. Jared Allen leads the conference with eight
sacks in five games, and the pass defense has been equally impressive.
Still, Brett Favre has really played well this season, despite a stagnant
running game. Undrafted Ryan Grant has emerged as the team’s new starter
at running back, but it’s unclear how long he’ll hold the job. To
put it in perspective, Grant has just 28 carries this season yet is
just 72 rushing yards shy of the team-lead… While Green Bay had to
play an overtime game on Monday night, Kansas City is coming off their
bye week, so expect them to be well-prepared and rested. Larry Johnson hasn’t
had a great first half to the season, but he is coming off back-to-back
100-yard efforts, so maybe he’s finally rounding into form. Dwayne
Bowe has been the NFL’s most impressive rookie WR, and Green Bay’s
Al Harris has slipped somewhat. The Packers’ defense is good, no doubt,
but home field is the difference maker here.
Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 240
yards and TDs to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, while Ryan Grant runs
for 75 yards sans a score. Larry Johnson responds with 90 yards and
a TD, while Damon Huard adds 180 passing yards and a TD to Tony Gonzalez,
as Kansas City wins it. Chiefs 20-17.
Jacksonville (+3) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After posting a 1:9 TD:INT
ratio as the team stumbled to an 0-4 start, Drew Brees has rebounded
with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio during New Orleans’ three-game winning streak.
There’s no doubt the team has improved its play, but an easy schedule
has helped, and the defense is still a weak spot (their three
interceptions is an NFL-low). Reggie Bush is going to continue to put
up nice yardage overall because of his activity in the passing game,
but his 3.8 YPC this season reveals a subpar rusher… Jacksonville can’t
be thrilled starting Quinn Gray at quarterback, but this team is physical
and appears to match up well with finesse teams like New Orleans. The
Jaguars have allowed just five passing scores on the year, tied for
the best mark in the league. Moreover, the team is 3-0 on the road this
season and has the NFL’s fourth best rushing offense. Expect the game
plan to center around the rushing attack and letting the defense
take over. Jacksonville has won four straight games against
the NFC, while New Orleans has dropped five consecutive contests versus
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 225
yards and a TD to Marques Colston, while Reggie Bush amasses 100 total
yards but the end zone eludes him. Maurice Jones-Drew is Jacksonville’s
most effective runner, gaining 75 combined yards with a short TD run.
Quinn Gray gets just 140 passing yards but finds Dennis Northcutt
for a score, as Jacksonville pulls off the upset. Jaguars 17-16.
San Diego (-7) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Minnesota is sitting at 2-5
but isn’t quite the doormat the record suggests. They have the second-ranked rushing game in the NFL, a solid defense and have been handed
a tough early season schedule. Still, quarterback play remains a major
problem, with Tarvaris Jackson re-entering the picture this week. Jackson’s
5.5 YPA is excruciatingly bad, so expect the team to remain run-first,
despite the fact San Diego has a much better rush defense than secondary.
With Adrian Peterson’s emergence, this game features the two best
running backs in pro football… The Chargers are undefeated this season
when calling more run plays than passes; of course, a lot of play calling
is based on the scoreboard, but it’s clear a shift in offensive philosophy
led to the team’s three game winning streak, as has improved defensive
play. Over the last three contests, the Chargers have a plus-10 turnover
ratio. While LaDainian Tomlinson is the centerpiece of the offense,
Minnesota enters with one of the league’s stingiest run defense,
so Philip Rivers is going to have to make plays. It might be a positive
the team is traveling this week, as Rivers has some pretty stark home/road
splits. Before last week, he hadn’t thrown a single TD pass
at home this season, and he’s getting 9.0 YPA on the road compared
to just 6.5 YPA at home. He threw nearly twice as many scores on the
road than he did at home last year as well, so there appears to be a
trend developing, although one with little merit. Either way, he’s
facing a beatable Vikings secondary this week, so expect another big
game from Antonio Gates and company. Still, this team isn’t built
for turf, so it might be closer than many expect.
Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson continues
to struggle, throwing for just 160 yards, one TD and two picks. Adrian
Peterson remains the team’s primary ballcarrier, resulting in 90 yards
and a score, while LaDainian Tomlinson answers with a nearly identical
line. Philip Rivers contributes 250 passing yards and a TD to Antonio
Gates, as SD wins its fourth straight. Chargers 23-17.
San Francisco (+3) at Atlanta, Sunday
Comments: It seems unreasonable now,
but San Francisco entered the season as many people’s sleeper pick
in the NFC West. Instead, we are left with a team that hasn’t won
since Week 2, and ranks dead last in total offense. It’s a good thing
Vernon Davis finally started living up to the hype last week, because
SF is void of any wide receiver talent, and Alex Smith (5.1 YPA) has
really struggled. Coach Mike Nolan has stated his goal to get
Frank Gore more involved this week, and it’s a good plan considering
the 49ers are 8-1 when Gore gets 20-plus carries in a game throughout
his career. Gore hasn’t been especially impressive this year, but
neither has the Falcons’ defense… Coming off a bye, Atlanta has had
two weeks to prepare and is at home, so there are some things going
their way this week. Joey Harrington hasn’t thrown a touchdown in
any of his last three games, and Roddy White has emerged as a legitimate
No. 1 wide receiver in this league. Jerious Norwood may be an inferior
blocker to Warrick Dunn, but there’s no denying who’s more productive
once the ball is in their hands. The Falcons used their bye week to
get Norwood more involved in the offense, but it remains to be seen how
that translates on Sundays. Norwood is getting 5.8 YPC this year, while
Dunn is getting 3.1 YPC.
Predictions: Alex Smith throws for 180
yards and a TD to Vernon Davis, while Frank Gore gets 110 rushing yards
and a TD. Joey Harrington answers with 220 passing yards and a
scoring strike to Roddy White, while Jerious Norwood breaks off a long
TD run, as Atlanta ends its losing skid. Falcons 23-17.
Washington (-3.5) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Jets are just 1-7 this
season, but it’s the Redskins who may be more embarrassed, as they
lost 52-7 last week. While there’s no real shame in losing to a Patriots
team that might very well turn out to be historically good, it was quite
the blowout nonetheless. Washington has a solid defense, but the loss
of Carlos Rogers (knee) could prove significant, and the offense ranks
just 28th in the league. After getting off to a good start
to the season, Jason Campbell has gotten fewer than 6.0 YPA in three
consecutive games, and Santana Moss’ burning speed appears to
have dissipated. Clinton Portis seems to also be on the decline, so
this team isn’t without its holes… While the Jets have more problems
than the quarterback position, the switch from Chad Pennington to Kellen
Clemens at least expands the playbook and gives the team some upside.
Laveranues Coles (concussion) may have to sit out Sunday’s contest,
so expect Jerricho Cotchery to be heavily targeted. It’s a Washington
pass defense allowing the second fewest YPA (6.0) in the league, so
Clemens’ second career start will certainly be a test, albeit against
a secondary missing the emerging Rogers. Not only has Thomas Jones failed
to provide a major upgrade at the RB position, but Leon Washington hasn’t
really impressed during his time in the backfield either. With Clemens
infusing some new enthusiasm, the home team comes out on top.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for
180 yards and a TD to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis adds 90 yards
and a score. Kellen Clemens counters with 200 yards and a scoring strike
to Jerricho Cotchery, while Thomas Jones runs for 75 yards and a TD,
as New York upsets Washington. Jets 20-17.
Arizona (+3.5) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Coming of the bye, Kurt Warner (elbow) should return healthier, although his mobility is likely to
be limited. It’s been a rare sight to see Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
and Anquan Boldin all totally healthy at once, but that should be the
case come Sunday. Still, this is a tough, physical Tampa Bay defense,
especially when playing at home. Edgerrin James’ season has been solid
enough, but he’s yet to get even 4.0 YPC in any game since Week 3,
recording just two catches over that time span as well… After entering
last week with 189 pass attempts without an interception, Jeff Garcia
was picked off three times against the Jaguars. Nevertheless, he’s
had a strong season, although Arizona’s secondary is better than most
people think. Joey Galloway was targeted an NFL-high 18 times last
week and is still one of the fastest players in the game despite his
age. Earnest Graham has been surprisingly effective as primary ballcarrier
and has a favorable matchup this week. The Bucs just finished a real
rough stretch of their schedule and typically play well at home.
Predictions: Kurt Warner passes for 220
yards with TDs to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Edgerrin James
adds 70 yards without a score, while Earnest Graham totals 80 yards with
a TD run. Jeff Garcia bounces back from last week’s subpar performance,
resulting in 240 passing yards and scoring strikes to Joey Galloway
and Ike Hilliard, as Tampa Bay triumphs. Buccaneers 21-17.
Seattle (+1) at Cleveland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The Seahawks are in first place
in the NFC West, but there’s not one impressive win on their
2007 resume. It’s not their fault they play in the game’s worst
division, and the team does have a pretty good passing attack. Matt
Hasselbeck is dealing with a strained oblique, but he should be able
to go Sunday. Deion Branch (foot) is unlikely to return, but the
offense should get a nice boost with D.J. Hackett back in the fold,
as he’s a huge upgrade over Nate Burleson in the slot. The passing
game gets to face a Cleveland secondary that has allowed 18 scores
through the air, tied for most in the league. Shaun Alexander hasn’t
averaged more than 3.1 YPC in a game since Week 3 and shouldn’t be
anywhere near starting fantasy lineups at this point, regardless of
matchup… The Browns are 3-0 when Derek Anderson has started a home
game this season, and his 17 TD passes are second only to Tom Brady
for the NFL lead. Braylon Edwards currently looks like the NFL’s best
wide receiver, hauling in multiple highlight worthy grabs on a weekly
basis. He’s making terrific catches even when he’s guarded well.
Seattle’s secondary is actually tied for the fewest TD passes allowed
on the season with only five, but it’s unlikely to matter much with
such a potent offense like Cleveland playing at home.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck has a big
day, throwing for 275 yards and three TDs, with Bobby Engram, D.J. Hackett
and Nate Burleson the recipients. Shaun Alexander continues to fade
away, while Jamal Lewis counters with 80 yards but no scores. Derek
Anderson responds with 260 yards and scoring strikes to Braylon Edwards,
Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius, as Cleveland wins it. Browns 27-21.
Houston (+3) at Oakland, Sunday 4:15
Comments: Over the last three weeks,
Daunte Culpepper posted a 2:4 TD:INT ratio, was sacked 12 times and
fumbled six times. It’s not hard to figure out why the switch back
to Josh McCown was made, as Culpepper’s utter lack of mobility also
hurt the running game, as the team needed to call more shotgun formations
than they wanted to. Ronald Curry (foot) is banged up, LaMont Jordan
hasn’t been the same since his back injury, and the Mike Williams
experiment has officially ended. Oakland’s defense hasn’t been bad
overall, but they can’t stop the run and the season-ending injury
to Tommy Kelly could be devastating… Houston hasn’t been much better,
losing three straight and having to go with Sage Rosenfels at quarterback
because of Matt Schaub’s injuries. The Texans have committed 11 turnovers
over the last two games, and their 23 giveaways on the season are easily
the worst total in the conference. With Ron Dayne seemingly the only
healthy RB on the roster, he could be in store for a nice day against
an Oakland run defense ceding 148.9 yards per game. Andre Johnson (back)
is back practicing, but the most logical choice would be to sit him
for one more game with the bye coming up. The Texans record isn’t
any good, but it’s hard to view the Raiders as favorites in any game
at this point.
Predictions: Josh McCown throws for 235
yards and a score to Ronald Curry, who toughs it out and suits up. Justin
Fargas is the team’s most productive runner once again, gaining 80
yards with a score on the ground. Ron Dayne answers with 70 yards and
a TD, while Sage Rosenfels passes for 200 yards and two TDs, one to
Kevin Walter and the other to Andre Davis, as Houston ends its losing
streak. Texans 21-20.
New England (-5.5) at Indianapolis, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: In arguably the most anticipated
regular season contest of all time, the latest two undefeated
teams have met in a season in the history of the NFL. The Colts have
won 12 straight games. The Patriots are 13-1 over their last 14 games,
losing only to these Colts during last year’s playoffs. Tom Brady
won his first six starts against Indianapolis, but Peyton Manning has
won the last three games against New England. It’s mind-boggling to
consider the undefeated, defending Super Bowl champs as 5.5-point underdogs
at home, especially when you consider their opponents this season have
a much better collective record than the teams the Patriots have played.
Still, it’s also understandable, since Indy has played some close
games, and New England is setting records with their offensive production.
Brady has already set a career-high with 30 touchdown passes, throwing
for at least three scores in every game this season and posting a ridiculous
30:2 TD:INT ratio. His 60-TD pace would easily best Peyton Manning’s
NFL-record 49. However, the Colts actually have the best pass defense
in the league, so it’s definitely strength against strength. Indy’s
secondary is allowing 5.3 YPA – by far the lowest amount in the league.
The five TD passes surrendered are also tied for the fewest amount in
the NFL. Additionally, opposing signal callers have compiled a horrific
69.9 QB rating when facing Indy’s Cover 2. The team has allowed just
seven pass plays of 20 yards or more; the next best in the NFL has allowed
11. The Patriots let a 21-3 lead slip away during last season’s AFC
Championship game, so you can be sure they’ll be properly motivated
for revenge. They nearly won that game, and then added Randy Moss, Wes
Welker, Donte Stallworth and Adalius Thomas during the offseason. Still,
the Colts are much improved this season as well. New England’s offense
has to be considered one of the best ever, but Peyton Manning might
end up being viewed as the best QB of all-time. The Pats confusing defensive
schemes fail to work against him, although losing Marvin Harrison (knee)
is a big blow to the offense. In a battle between the NFL’s two best
teams – winners of four of the last six Super Bowls – homefield
makes a big difference Sunday.
Predictions: Tom Brady is terrific once
again, throwing for 280 yards and TDs to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and
Donte Stallworth. Laurence Maroney adds 80 yards but doesn’t score,
while Joseph Addai gets 100 yards and hits paydirt. Peyton Manning adds
260 yards passing, with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark,
as Indy wins a game that actually lives up to the hype. Colts 27-24.
Dallas (-3) at Philadelphia, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles are just 1-2 at
home this season, while the Cowboys are a perfect 3-0 on the road. Philadelphia’s
defense has really improved of late and boasts the league-leader in
sacks -- Trent Cole has nine. Donovan McNabb continues to post impressive
yardage totals, but the team’s struggles inside the red zone have
led to just three touchdown passes over the last four games. Dallas
has given up too many TDs through the air, but on a per play basis,
their secondary has actually been pretty good; they’ve limited opponents
to a 58.0 completion percentage while getting 6.5 YPA and 10 interceptions.
A divisional game featuring a home underdog such as Philly usually points
to upset, but with Andy Reid’s troubles at home, there’s quite a
bit of uncertainty in the Eagles locker room right now… Tony Romo and
the NFL’s second-best offense travel to Philadelphia coming off a
bye, and you know Terrell Owens will be especially motivated facing
his old team. Jason Witten simply cannot be guarded by linebackers,
and Marion Barber looks like one of the best running backs in the league;
now, if only Wade Phillips would give him the bulk of the work. With
two weeks of preparation, Dallas simply has too much firepower for this
Predictions: Donovan McNabb throws for
310 yards and a TD to Kevin Curtis, while Brian Westbrook totals 120
yards and runs for a score. Tony Romo answers with 300 passing yards
and TDs to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten, while Marion Barber adds
80 yards and a late TD to seal the victory for Dallas. Cowboys
Baltimore (+9.5) at Pittsburgh, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Ravens destroyed the Steelers
last season, winning both games by a combined score of 58-7. However,
plenty has changed since then. For one, Baltimore’s defense has deteriorated,
and a fully-healthy Ben Roethlisberger has played much better this year. The Ravens are 1-3 on the road this season, winning only at
San Francisco and barely at that. The defense hasn’t dropped off drastically
– especially against the run – but the secondary can be beat, and
Steve McNair is all but done. Considering the Steelers boast the NFL’s
No. 1 ranked defense, don’t expect a whole lot of points from Baltimore’s
offense Monday… Not only are the Steelers undefeated at home this season,
but they’ve outscored their opponents 84-19 during those three contests.
During his five career games against Baltimore, Roethlisberger has more
interceptions than he does touchdowns, but he’s been highly impressive
in 2007. He’s on pace to throw 34 touchdowns and is getting a terrific
8.0 YPA. Over the last five games, 7.6 YPA has been his lowest mark,
and with a healthy Hines Ward and emerging Santonio Holmes and Heath
Miller at his disposal, this offense is quite potent. Willie Parker
has a tough matchup this week, but he’s run for more than 100 yards
in every home game this season.
Predictions: Steve McNair throws for
just 150 yards but does find Derrick Mason in the end zone. Willis McGahee
is bottled up, gaining just 60 total yards without a TD. Willie Parker
runs for 90 yards, while Ben Roethlisberger throws for 225 yards and
finds Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for scores, as Pittsburgh takes
control of the division. Steelers 23-13.
Article first appeared 11/2/07