NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Atlanta (+7) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Although both of their victories have come at home against weak competition, there's no doubting the Falcons are a much improved team this year. In fact, Michael Turner leads the NFL with 366 rushing yards, and John Abraham paces the league with six sacks. However, with a rookie at quarterback, Atlanta figures to struggle when playing from behind, something that's likely to happen on the road in Carolina on Sunday. Losing tackle Sam Baker to what appears to be post-concussion symptoms won't help either…The Panthers are likely to enter focused coming off last week's disappointing loss in Minnesota and will no doubt have wrinkles to confuse Atlanta's rookie signal caller. While the Falcons will go run-first, Carolina is allowing just 3.9 YPC on the year and has yet to allow a run of 20-plus yards. Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith should have success against a beatable Falcons secondary, while Jonathan Stewart, who defenders seem to bounce off, figures to have a huge game.
Predictions: Matt Ryan struggles, throwing for 180 yards with two picks and no TDs. The ground game doesn't do much better, although Michael Turner gets 70 yards and a short score. Jonathan Stewart answers with 90 yards and two touchdowns, and Jake Delhomme adds a scoring strike to Steve Smith as well, helping Carolina come out on top. Panthers 24-13.
Denver (-10) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: No one expected Kansas City to be a winning team in 2008, but its start to the season has been especially brutal. The Chiefs want to go with their young players, but after Tyler Thigpen's ugly display at quarterback last week, coach Herm Edwards was left with no choice but to turn to Damon Huard, who has actually been solid during his limited work this year. It's an upgrade for the offense, and Dwayne Bowe should post nice numbers playing a weak Broncos secondary and seeing a bunch of targets with the team playing from behind. Larry Johnson has a lost a step and is no longer much of an asset in the backfield…While Bowe leads the NFL in targets with 34, it's remarkable that
Brandon Marshall is tied for second with 32 despite missing Week 1. There simply isn't a more valuable fantasy wide receiver. Through three games, Denver's offense looks very similar to that of last year's record-setting Patriots, but the defense has been a major problem. Jay Cutler should have a field day against this soft Chiefs defense, adding to his MVP-worthy numbers.
Predictions: Damon Huard throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez the recipients. Larry Johnson totals 70 yards, which is similar to Selvin Young's output, with Michael Pittman adding a goal-line score. Jay Cutler adds 280 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler, as Denver wins in a rout. Broncos 37-17.
San Francisco (+5.5) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After back-to-back wins in which the 49ers scored 30-plus points, there's plenty of optimism in San Francisco these days, thanks largely to Mike Martz. Frank Gore is being utilized perfectly, and he has a highly favorable matchup this week. Although no wide receiver has emerged as the go-to guy, J.T. O'Sullivan has gotten 9.4 YPA this season, which suggests the team will have no problem putting points on the board Sunday…No matter how many receivers go down in New Orleans, Drew Brees and the passing attack remain successful, and they'll have to keep it that way without Jeremy Shockey (hernia) this week. Since Brees has completed an amazing 74.3 percent of his passes while getting 8.7 YPA, expect it to happen. Reggie Bush has been targeted (32) the second most times in the league this season, including wide receivers.
Predictions: J.T. O'Sullivan throws for 300 yards and finds Isaac Bruce and Arnaz Battle for scores, while Frank Gore contributes 160 scrimmage yards and hits paydirt. Drew Brees counters with 280 yards and two touchdowns, with Reggie Bush and Devery Henderson on the receiving end. Pierre Thomas adds a TD from in close, as New Orleans wins on a late field goal. Saints 27-24.
Arizona (+1) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Arizona decided to stay on the east coast this week after losing in Washington last Sunday, and many argue that the nine-day layover was a mistake. It probably won't matter either way, as the team's bigger concern is a hungry Jets team coming off an embarrassing loss on national television. It's easy to label Arizona as the same old mediocre franchise they usually are – good passing offense but nothing else – but the team's defense ranks 8th overall, and they are coached well, so expect them to be in the playoffs when all is said and done…It's safe to say all the offseason acquisitions aren't paying off for New York, which is in desperate need of a win Sunday. The running game has stalled, and the secondary can be beat. The team's rushing defense, however, has been a major strength, allowing just 3.1 YPC. Still, Vernon Gholston appears to be a huge bust, though it's obviously too soon to know for sure. Brett Favre should find success against Arizona, with Jerricho Cotchery being the main beneficiary.
Predictions: Kurt Warner throws for 250 yards and hits up Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald for scores, while Tim Hightower adds a short TD run. Edgerrin James adds 70 total yards, while Thomas Jones answers with 80 yards and a score. Brett Favre throws for 240 yards and connects with Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller in the end zone, as New York enters its bye week on a high note. Jets 24-21.
Minnesota (+3) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: There might not be two more similar teams in the NFL than Minnesota and Tennessee, as both are starting backup quarterbacks, have dominant running games and terrific defenses. Gus Frerotte looks like a short-term upgrade at quarterback, as he at least stretches the field. However, Sunday's game presents a stiff test, as the Titans are holding opponents to a 45.7 QB rating with a 1:7 TD:INT ratio. Bryant McKinnie can't return soon enough…Tennessee is a run-first team, but playing the Vikings' stout front seven, the team might need Kerry Collins to carry more of the offense this week. Despite receiving just one more carry on the year, Chris Johnson has nearly doubled LenDale White's rushing yards, though White has four scores on the ground to Johnson's none. Cortland Finnegan could very well lead all defensive backs in both tackles and interceptions this season. Albert Haynesworth rightfully gets all the publicity, but fellow DT Tony Brown is a fantastic player as well.
Predictions: Gus Frerotte throws for 150 yards, commits multiple turnovers and doesn't record a touchdown toss. Adrian Peterson fights for 70 yards and scores, while Chris Johnson totals 80 yards. LenDale White gets yet another goal-line TD, and Kerry Collins throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Bo Scaife, as Tennessee prevails. Titans 20-13.
Green Bay (+1) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Brian Griese attempted an incredible 67 passes last week and wasn't sacked once. Still, Tampa Bay typically likes to win with defense and the running game, so expect a different gameplan Sunday, especially since Green Bay has allowed the most YPC (5.7) of any team in football. Their secondary is banged up, but it's a unit that has held opposing QBs to just a 50.5 completion percentage. Unfortunately, the Packers offense is so good, Griese may be forced to throw frequently once again. Despite only starting one game, Antonio Bryant is tied for the NFL lead with six red-zone targets…Coming off a loss to the Cowboys, expect the Packers to enter focused and ready, led by budding star Aaron Rodgers. Greg Jennings is also emerging into a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, while Ryan Grant is finally over his hamstring problems. It won't be easy playing in Tampa Bay, but the Packers' offense has too much firepower for the Bucs to counter.
Predictions: Brian Griese throws for 180 yards and a touchdown to Ike Hilliard, while Earnest Graham adds 90 yards and a touchdown of his own. Aaron Rodgers responds with 240 passing yards and finds Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in the end zone, while Ryan Grant adds 90 yards and a score, as the road team wins it. Packers 21-17.
Houston (+8) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Because of mother nature, the Texans will be playing their third straight road game to open the season this week, and they come in with an extremely disappointing 25th ranked offense. They have faced difficult competition, but Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are certainly capable of playing much better. Part of the problem has been the red zone, where Houston has converted just 3-of-9 trips into touchdowns, ranking 28th in the league. One positive has been Steve Slaton, who was impressive running against a tough Titans D last week. He looks like the team's featured back moving forward and has the upside of a top-15 fantasy RB…Jacksonville may have saved its season with a win in Indianapolis last week, thanks to dominating time of possession in the second half. They should have continued success running the football, as Houston has allowed 4.5 YPC and a whopping five rushing scores over its first two games. Expect both Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to be featured heavily. Matt Jones has improbably emerged as the team's best option in the passing game, but David Garrard has regressed, getting just 6.4 YPA with a 1:4 TD:INT ratio so far. However, he does have a favorable matchup this week, so look for him to get back on track.
Predictions: Matt Schaub rebounds from his poor start, throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels the recipients. Steve Slaton adds 90 yards combined with a TD run, while Maurice Jones-Drew finishes with a similar line. David Garrard contributes 225 passing yards while finding Matt Jones and Reggie Williams for scores, as Jacksonville barely pulls off the victory. Jaguars 24-21.
Cleveland (+3.5) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Bengals played well last week, taking the defending Super Bowl champs into overtime. Still, they are currently 0-3, battling an equally desperate Cleveland squad that's also yet to win. Chris Perry hasn't been overly impressive so far, but he has 53 more carries than Cincinnati's second leading rusher, so he's clearly the team's workhorse, health permitting. He has an excellent matchup this week. While Carson Palmer figures to improve after his rough start, the defense remains a big problem, as the unit has recorded an NFL-low one sack on the year…Maybe putting Cleveland on all those nationally televised spotlight games wasn't such a great idea after all. The defense continues to struggle, but no one expected the Browns to have the 30th ranked rushing offense and the 31st ranked passing attack, even if their schedule hasn't done them any favors. Braylon Edwards will bounce back, but Derek Anderson's confidence has clearly been shaken, so a slow start Sunday could lead to Brady Quinn entering the game; regardless, expect improved quarterback play one way or the other this week.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh catching both of them. Chris Perry adds 100 yards and a TD, while Jamal Lewis settles for 75 yards and a score. Derek Anderson staves off Brady Quinn for at least one week, throwing for 240 yards and tossing touchdowns to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, as Cleveland finally gets into the win column. Browns 27-24.
San Diego (-8) at Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: After an embarrassing loss Week 1, Oakland has been highly competitive each of the past two games, though that's still resulted in just a 1-2 record and a head coach with little job security. Through three weeks, JaMarcus Russell has attempted just 62 passes, completing only 51.6 percent of those throws. The ground game has been successful, however, and they are matched up against a Chargers team that's allowed 5.0 YPC so far. Still, Darren McFadden appears to be hobbled by his turf toe injury…The Chargers have averaged 37 points per game this season, yet they didn't record their first victory until last week. Clearly, San Diego is a much better team than the record indicates, though the defense is underperforming. LaDainian Tomlinson looks capable of playing through his toe injury, but he's lost a step, which is why the team should incorporate Darren Sproles into the offense as much as possible. With a 9.9 YPA mark and a nine touchdown passes, Philip Rivers has been simply fantastic this year and should shred the Raiders' defense Sunday.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell throws for 150 yards with no touchdowns, but Darren McFadden fights for 80 yards. Michael Bush adds 40 yards and a touchdown, while LaDainian Tomlinson answers with 90 yards and two scores. Philip Rivers adds 280 passing yards with scoring strikes to Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates, as San Diego wins handily. Chargers 31-13.
Buffalo (-8.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: With a 31st ranked offense and a 32nd ranked defense, it doesn't get worse than the Rams' start to the season. Dating back to 2006, Marc Bulger has been playing terribly, so the switch to Trent Green makes sense, despite his age. Still, with a turnstile-like offensive line and Green's scary concussion history, this experiment may not end well. Expect Steven Jackson to touch the ball on a higher percentage of his team's snaps than any other player in football this week... The Bills enter 3-0 and faced with rare circumstances – the expectation to win and do so easily. The loss of Roscoe Parrish hurts the special teams, but it doesn't figure to make a major impact this week, as Buffalo is clearly the team with superior talent. Trent Edwards has played well this year and gets one of the easiest matchups imaginable this week, as the Rams secondary has allowed a 7:0 TD:INT ratio with a 123.6 QB rating – the worst in the league. Jason Peters has struggled in his return to the lineup, as two of the sacks he allowed last week resulted in fumbles, but he'll round into shape soon enough.
Predictions: Trent Green throws for 180 yards and finds Randy McMichael for a score, while Steven Jackson totals 125 yards and hits paydirt. Trent Edwards counters with 230 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Lee Evans and James Hardy the recipients. Marshawn Lynch adds 130 combined yards and a TD, as Buffalo remains undefeated. Bills 24-17.
Washington (+11.5) at Dallas, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins have picked up Jim Zorn's new offense much quicker than anticipated and have won consecutive games. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to make it three in a row, as the team has to travel to face a dominant and undefeated Cowboys team. Through three games and 93 pass attempts, Jason Campbell has yet to commit a single turnover, which is a big improvement from last year. His 7.0 YPA leaves room for growth, but he is making strides. He'll have to pass frequently to keep up with Dallas' high-powered attack Sunday, especially since Clinton Portis (3.8 YPC) has lost all explosiveness…Dallas enters with the No. 1 rated offense in football, and they catch a break playing Washington without Jason Taylor (calf). Dating back to last year, Tony Romo has thrown an interception in 12 of his last 13 games. Still, all those big plays and his current 9.7 YPA more than make up for it. Felix Jones is a true threat to score every time the ball is in his hands, and Marion Barber has been extremely impressive as the team's feature back. Dallas' offense is far too much for Washington to handle.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 210 yards and finds Chris Cooley and Santana Moss for scores, while Clinton Portis gains just 70 rushing yards without a TD. Tony Romo answers with 290 passing yards and scoring strikes to Terrell Owens (twice) and Patrick Crayton. Marion Barber adds 110 total yards and a touchdown, as Dallas rolls. Cowboys 34-17.
Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Comments: After starting the season with an impressive victory over the Colts in Indianapolis, Chicago has lost back-to-back games, having blown late leads in both contests. Matt Forte's 86 touches lead the NFL by a wide margin, and he'll once again be asked to carry the load this week. Brandon Lloyd has returned to relevance, but he's disappointed under expectations before. The Bears have a tough task ahead, as the Eagles' defense has allowed an NFL-low 2.4 YPC and has recorded an NFL-high 13 sacks on the season…Coming off such a physical game against the Steelers, Philadelphia is no doubt banged up, as often the effects are felt the following week. Brian Westbrook (ankle) looks unlikely to play, which is a blow, but Donovan McNabb has been performing at such a high level, the offense will be fine. Expect a low scoring affair, with Philadelphia's ability to create turnovers on defense the difference maker.
Predictions: Kyle Orton throws for just 160 yards and no TDs, while Matt Forte grinds out 70 yards combined with a touchdown. Correll Buckhalter gets the start in Philadelphia's backfield, totaling 90 yards and a score. Donovan McNabb adds 225 passing yards with a scoring strike to DeSean Jackson, as Chicago drops its third straight game. Eagles 20-10.
Baltimore (+7) at Pittsburgh, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: Baltimore comes in with the No. 1 ranked defense, a solid ground game and with a perfect 2-0 record. However, rookie Joe Flacco will be making his first ever start on the road, and the 30th ranked passing offense may be asked to do more than usual, since Pittsburgh is capable of putting points on the board. The Steelers will be missing some key members on the interior of the defensive line, but it's still an extremely difficult matchup for Flacco and the suspect Ravens aerial attack…Ben Roethlisberger enters sore and without Willie Parker (knee) in the backfield, but a return home under the spotlight should help Pittsburgh get back into the win column. The defense should dominate an overwhelmed Baltimore team, though the offense can't be expected to go crazy against a Ravens secondary that's allowed a remarkable 3.6 YPA over their first two games. Rashard Mendenhall takes over as the primary ballcarrier, and one of his main jobs will be not to fumble, as turnovers will play a huge role Monday night. In a battle featuring the league's top-two rated defenses, expect a slugfest, but once Pittsburgh jumps out to a lead, Baltimore is in trouble.
Predictions: Joe Flacco struggles, throwing for just 160 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns. Baltimore's three-headed monster in the backfield leads to 60 yards from Willis McGahee and a touchdown run from Le'Ron McClain. Rashard Mendenhall runs for 70 yards and a score, while Ben Roethlisberger adds 220 passing yards and a TD strike to Heath Miller, as Pittsburgh prevails. Steelers 23-10.
Article first appeared 9/26/08