NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Tennessee (-3) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
In a battle between the two best defenses in the league, don't expect a lot of scoring Sunday. Tennessee is legit and off to a 4-0 start, but this will be their biggest road test of the season so far. The defense and running game are the keys, but Kerry Collins
has been solid as well, getting 7.0 YPA while limiting turnovers and taking just one sack, but Baltimore's secondary is allowing an NFL-low 4.8 YPA and a 41.8 opposing QB rating. LenDale White
figures to be worthless against the fierce Ravens' linebackers... Baltimore may have lost last week, but they proved to the football world they are for real in doing so. Joe Flacco
has showed positive signs over the first three starts of his career, although Sunday's matchup against Tennessee will be a stiff test. Whether it's Willis McGahee
or Le'Ron McClain
, the Ravens will call plenty of run plays and try to ugly up this game as much as possible. With homefield and a defense that's yet to allow a single rushing touchdown on the season, expect the strategy to work for the underdog Ravens.
Predictions: Kerry Collins throws for 150 yards, commits two turnovers and connects with Justin Gage for a score. Chris Johnson totals 75 hard-fought yards, but LenDale White is shut down. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain combine for 80 rushing yards, while Joe Flacco throws for 160 yards and a TD to Derrick Mason, as the home team prevails. Ravens 13-10.
Seattle (+7.5) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
Both teams are coming off a bye, but while Seattle enters with a reloaded receiving corps, the Giants will be missing Plaxico Burress
(suspension). Still, the Seahawks have typically struggled mightily when having to travel to play early games on the east coast, and it figures to take a little time for Bobby Engram
and Deion Branch
to start jelling with Matt Hasselbeck
. Despite playing one fewer game, the Giants are tied for the third-most sacks in the league, so Seattle's offensive line is in for a big test Sunday... New York enters as the only undefeated team in the NFC, though the defense could improve in the turnover area; their secondary has recorded zero interceptions on the season. Even without Burress, the offense should be able to move the ball this week, as Seattle has allowed 7.9 YPA on the year. Brandon Jacobs
is a fine running back, but Derrick Ward
has looked exceptional, and he's going to remain a major part of the offense moving forward.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Deion Branch and John Carlson the recipients. Julius Jones musters just 70 yards and doesn't score, while Brandon Jacobs counters with 75 yards and a short TD run. Eli Manning adds 260 passing yards and finds Amani Toomer and Steve Smith for scores, as New York comes out on top. Giants 24-17.
Washington (+6) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.
After a listless season-opening loss to the Giants, the Redskins have ripped off three straight victories, and none was more impressive than last week's in Dallas. Apparently, the transition to the West Coast offense has been quicker than anticipated, although Jim Zorn has smartly adapted his version to best suit the team's personnel. The offense has yet to commit a single turnover on the year, which is helping win the field position battle. The secondary has been fantastic but will probably be without Shawn Springs
(calf) Sunday, which could prove devastating. Washington will also have to avoid a letdown after last week's huge win as underdogs... The Eagles are coming off a disappointing loss in Chicago, so expect the team to enter focused, knowing they have to win to remain competitive in the toughest division in football. Jim Johnson's blitz schemes are superb, and the front seven has allowed an NFL-low 2.6 YPC this season. Brian Westbrook
(ankle) remains a question mark, but it looks like there's a real chance he returns this week. Correll Buckhalter
has been steady as a replacement, but Westbrook is truly a difference maker. Either way, expect DeSean Jackson
to continue to impress, as Philadelphia bounces back with a sharp effort.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 220 yards and touchdowns to Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Clinton Portis fights for 75 rushing yards but doesn't score, while Brian Westbrook suits up and totals 100 yards with a TD. Donovan McNabb contributes 240 yards with scoring strikes to DeSean Jackson and Reggie Brown, as Philadelphia improves to 3-0 at home. Eagles 27-17.
San Diego (-7) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Dolphins are coming off an impressive victory over the Patriots followed by their bye week, so the team should be well-prepared. Chad Pennington
has been solid enough, and it looks like Anthony Fasano
has emerged as his favorite target. Still, expect Miami to focus its gameplan on the ground game, with Ronnie Brown
being the centerpiece. San Diego has allowed 4.5 YPC on the year, so Brown could once again enjoy a successful game... The Chargers have righted the ship with back-to-back victories, although last week's in Oakland came after being down 15-0. San Diego faces a Miami defense Sunday that's been highly vulnerable through the air (8.7 YPA, 6:1 TD:INT ratio) but extremely tough against the run (3.1 YPC, no rushes of 20-plus yards), so the gameplan should focus more on Philip Rivers
than LaDainian Tomlinson
. Rivers has the highest fourth quarter passer rating (139.3) in the NFL, so expect another big game from the fifth-year signal caller.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws for 180 yards and a TD to Anthony Fasano, while the running game totals 150 yards and a score, with Ronnie Brown getting the majority of the work. LaDainian Tomlinson gains a modest 80 yards, but he does find the end zone. Philip Rivers adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson, as San Diego wins it. Chargers 24-20.
Chicago (-3.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bears' defense may be ranked in the middle of the pack, but considering how they played against tough competition so far this season, it's a unit firmly back in the upper echelon. On paper, this game looks like a mismatch, as Chicago is facing a Detroit defense that is dead last both against the run (5.6 YPC) and against the pass (9.2 YPA). But Kyle Orton
remains a problem, Chicago isn't ideally suited for games inside a dome, and the Lions do have the benefit off coming off their bye week... With the way their schedule is set up, Detroit better win Sunday, or they might not do so all season long. Jon Kitna
remains the starter at quarterback, but he really needs to protect the ball better, as he's thrown 13 interceptions over his last six games. Maybe the entire franchise will experience some sort of cathartic breakthrough now that Matt Millen has been jettisoned, and the team did experience success against Chicago last year.
Predictions: Kyle Orton throws for 225 yards and a TD to Greg Olsen, while Matt Forte runs roughshod, totaling 125 yards with two touchdowns. Rudi Johnson counters with 70 yards and a TD, while Jon Kitna adds 230 passing yards and finds Calvin Johnson and Shaun McDonald for scores, as homefield makes the difference. Lions 24-21.
Atlanta (+7) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Atlanta has struggled on the road this season, so a win in Green Bay won't be easy, even if Aaron Rodgers
(shoulder) is a question mark. Matt Ryan
has been competent, but his 52.4 completion percentage certainly needs to improve. The team figures to give Michael Turner
plenty of carries Sunday, especially since Green Bay has struggled stopping the run; the Packers have allowed 5.2 YPC, which is the third-worst mark in the league. Moreover, their defense has been ravaged by injuries, as A.J. Hawk
(groin), Cullen Jenkins
(pectoral), Nick Collins
(back) and Atari Bigby
(hamstring) are all banged up... If Rodgers is unable to go, the Packers could be in big trouble, as backup Matt Flynn
is a rookie who could be a disaster, especially considering the team's inability to run the ball. After averaging 5.1 YPC last season, Grant has gotten just 3.4 this year. However, this week's matchup against the Falcons is favorable, so look for him to get back on track. Expect Rodgers to play through the injury, and although it's a hard-fought battle, Green Bay somehow prevails.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 160 yards but no TDs, while Michael Turner runs for 100 yards and scores twice. Aaron Rodgers isn't close to full strength, resulting in just 170 passing yards, although he does find Greg Jennings in the end zone. Ryan Grant bounces back with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns, as the home team wins it. Packers 24-20.
Indianapolis (-3.5) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Texans finally get to play their first home game Week 5, but it still doesn't get any easier with the Colts on the docket. The offense showed major signs of progress during last week's overtime loss, as Matt Schaub
got 7.7 YPA with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio. While defenses have focused on stopping Andre Johnson
, Kevin Walter
and Owen Daniels
have stepped up big. Still, the Colts boast the the only secondary in the NFL that hasn't allowed a TD pass, so Houston may go run-heavy Sunday, especially with Steve Slaton
's emergence. Slaton has caught all 15 of his targets this season, so he's a major weapon in the passing game as well... Indianapolis enters with the 32nd ranked rushing offense, but the bye week allowed the offensive line to get healthier, so improvement should be expected. Peyton Manning
has put together an unfamiliar stat line so far this season (6.5 YPA, 3:4 TD:INT ratio), but Houston's susceptible secondary should remedy that. Playing in a highly competitive division, both teams will be desperate for wins after rough starts to the season.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 230 yards and connects with Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels for scores, while Steve Slaton adds 100 yards combined with a TD run. Joseph Addai responds with 90 yards and a touchdown, while Peyton Manning adds 250 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark the recipients, as Indy wins on a last second field goal. Colts 27-24.
Kansas City (+10) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
Double-digit underdogs, the Chiefs upset the Broncos at Arrowhead last week, thanks in large part to a re-born rushing attack. After looking just about finished, Larry Johnson
has rebounded with 319 rushing yards over the past two games, and he'll once again be the focal point of Kansas City's offense this week. Damon Huard
gives the Chiefs competence at the quarterback position, but the Panthers' secondary has played extremely well this season, allowing the second-fewest YPA (5.7) in the NFL... Carolina hasn't racked up sacks or turnovers, but the defense has played soundly, holding LaDainian Tomlinson
, Adrian Peterson
, Matt Forte
and Michael Turner
all under 100 yards rushing. They'll get another test against Johnson and the Chiefs rushing attack this week, but with Steve Smith
back in the fold, the offense is dynamic. Kansas City has allowed the second-most YPC (5.3) in the league this year, so expect a nice game from Jonathan Stewart
Predictions: Damon Huard throws for 170 yards and finds Dwayne Bowe in the end zone, while Larry Johnson gains just 80 yards without scoring. Jonathan Stewart counters with 90 rushing yards and a TD run, while Jake Delhomme adds 230 yards through the air with scoring strikes to Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, as Carolina improves to 4-1. Panthers 21-13.
Tampa Bay (+3) at Denver, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, although that's been accompanied by some ugly quarterback play. Brian Griese
has gotten just 5.6 YPA on the year and has thrown six interceptions over the past two games. Thankfully, the Bucs are facing a Denver defense that's allowed 8.4 YPA and 5.0 YPC on the season. Earnest Graham
, who has gotten a remarkable 5.9 YPC, should have a big game Sunday, as the team will want to limit the chances of Griese turning the ball over as well as keep the high-powered Denver offense off the field... Since Week 1, the Broncos have allowed 30-plus points in three straight contests, but the offense is ranked No. 1 in the league. Jay Cutler
threw some costly interceptions last week in a huge upset loss in Kansas City, but he's still having a fine season and is on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards. Expect a nice rebound performance Sunday, with Brandon Marshall
his favorite target as usual. At this point, it's become clear Mike Shanahan is going to employ a backfield by committee, but it's not due to performance, as Selvin Young
has averaged 6.2 YPC on the year.
Predictions: Brian Griese throws for 240 yards and a touchdown to Antonio Bryant. Earnest Graham also adds 120 yards with two scores, while Michael Pittman gets a goal-line TD for Denver. Jay Cutler adds 290 passing yards with scoring strikes to Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, as Denver gets back into the win column. Broncos 27-21.
Buffalo (pick 'em) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Bills enter Week 5 undefeated, thanks in large part to finishing games strong; Buffalo has scored 45 points in the final period after scoring only 64 fourth-quarter points last season. Trent Edwards
continues to improve, while Fred Jackson
is a playmaker. The team takes a hit playing without Terrence McGee
(MCL) this weekend, but Arizona might be missing Anquan Boldin
(fractured sinus) as well... The Cardinals are happy to return home after a two-week stay on the East coast, but Kurt Warner
will have to do a much better job of protecting the football for that to result in a win. The loss of Bertrand Berry
(groin) hurts a suspect defense, but Warner's 8.7 YPA mark is elite, so the offense can definitely move the ball, even if Boldin is out. Look for a big game from Larry Fitzgerald
and for Steve Breaston
to get involved.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 225 yards and finds Lee Evans and James Hardy for scores, while Marshawn Lynch adds 110 total yards with a touchdown run. Edgerrin James counters with 75 yards and a TD, while Kurt Warner passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston the recipients, as Buffalo loses for the first time. Cardinals 24-21.
New England (-3.5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The 49ers return home coming off a disappointing showing in New Orleans, where J.T. O'Sullivan
completed just 50.0 percent of his passes and committed three turnovers. They now face a New England defense that hasn't played well this season, allowing 5.0 YPC and a surprising 8.1 YPA. Still, O'Sullivan has taken a league-high 19 sacks, with only three of them coming on obvious passing downs (third). With a bye week to prepare, expect Bill Belichick to have his defense prepared to harass O'Sullivan all day... The Patriots enter humbled having lost 38-13 at home against the Dolphins before their bye, so they'll be focused and trying to prove they can still be competitive without Tom Brady
. Matt Cassel
's performance has already started the calls for Kevin O'Connell
, but the team figures to stick with Cassel for now. Laurence Maroney
used the off week to get healthy, but it remains to be seen how exactly the carries will be divvied out. Expect New England's defense to improve and Belichick to outcoach San Francisco's staff, resulting in a Patriots victory.
Predictions: J.T. O'Sullivan continues to take numerous sacks, but he does throw for 225 yards and finds Isaac Bruce for a touchdown. Frank Gore adds 125 scrimmage yards and hits paydirt, while Laurence Maroney counters with 75 yards and a TD run. Matt Cassel throws for 200 yards and finds Randy Moss in the end zone, while the team also adds a defensive score, as New England prevails. Patriots 21-17.
Cincinnati (+17) at Dallas, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bengals last week, as they lost at home to a winless Browns squad. They also lost Carson Palmer
, who continues to sit out with an elbow injury to his throwing arm. He's still holding out hope to return Sunday against the Cowboys, but odds are it's Ryan Fitzpatrick
under center, which is good news for Dallas' defense. Fitzpatrick was awful last week, and that came against a beatable Browns secondary. The running game isn't much better, as Chris Perry
has gotten just 2.9 YPC on the year, and the team is just one play away from relying on the newly signed Cedric Benson
to carry the load... The Cowboys lost for the first time last week, so you can bet they will enter motivated. The secondary has now gone five straight games without an interception - a streak likely to end Sunday. Terrell Owens
will get his targets like usual, but expect Marion Barber
to be heavily involved, with Felix Jones
getting touches as well. Jason Witten
has a remarkable catch rate of 96 percent (27-of-28) this season.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the start, resulting in 150 passing yards, two interceptions and a touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Chris Perry gets shut down, while Marion Barber totals 125 yards with two touchdown runs. Tony Romo adds 290 passing yards, with scoring strikes to Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton, as Dallas wins in a rout. Cowboys 34-13.
Pittsburgh (+4) at Jacksonville, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
The Steelers enter with a 3-1 record and looking like the better team on paper, but they are on the road and completely battered with injuries. Not only are Willie Parker
(knee) and Rashard Mendenhall
(shoulder) out but so are Kendall Simmons
(Achilles), Casey Hampton
(groin) and Brett Keisel
(calf). Ben Roethlisberger
(shoulder) is also banged up. Still, he should play and be able to move the ball against a Jacksonville secondary ceding 7.9 YPA; in fact, the Jags have allowed the second-most (16) pass plays of 20-plus yards, as only the Saints have allowed more (17). Additionally, Mewelde Moore
is hardly some huge downgrade, as he's a major weapon as a receiver out of the backfield, something even Parker is not... Jacksonville has just five sacks on the season, so a matchup against Pittsburgh's weak offensive line is just what the doctor ordered. After starting the season with back-to-back losses, the Jags have won two straight games, but this week is crucial, as they need to stay afloat in a highly competitive AFC South and have a matchup in Denver looming next weekend. It's clear the Jaguars run game isn't what it was last year, but at least David Garrard
has improved recently. Jacksonville should feel fortunate getting an injury ravaged Pittsburgh team coming off a short week after facing a brutally physical Ravens team. In a rematch of last year's AFC divisional playoff game, expect the same result.
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Santonio Holmes and Mewelde Moore the recipients. Moore also adds 90 total yards, while Jacksonville's ground game is stalled. David Garrard answers with 225 passing yards, a TD run and a scoring strike to Matt Jones, as Jacksonville wins by a field goal. Jaguars 20-17.
Minnesota (+3.5) at New Orleans, Monday 8:30 p.m.
A tough schedule has certainly played a part, but Minnesota will have to pull off an upset Monday night in order to avoid a 1-4 start to the season. The run defense remains a strength, allowing just 2.9 YPC, although they have allowed six rushing scores. The passing attack, however, continues to be a major problem, as the team's 6.0 YPA ranks 26th in the league. New Orleans' team YPA of 9.1, meanwhile, is good for second in the NFL. However, the team gets a big boost with the return of Bryant McKinnie
, and Adrian Peterson
should have a big game facing the Saints' soft front seven (5.2 YPC allowed)... It's clear New Orleans is going to be a tough team to beat while playing at home, and while the receivers keep succumbing to injury, Drew Brees
leads the league with 1,343 passing yards and is on pace to shatter Dan Marino
's all-time record. Deuce McAllister
adds a power element previously missing from the Saints' running game, although he doesn't figure to have much success Monday against the Vikings. Still, Reggie Bush
can be effective as a receiver out of the backfield, and Brees should shred a mediocre Minnesota secondary.
Predictions: Gus Frerotte throws for 220 yards with no TDs, while Adrian Peterson runs for 125 yards and hits paydirt twice. Deuce McAllister is bottled up, but Reggie Bush totals 60 yards and catches a touchdown. Drew Brees throws for 275 yards and three touchdowns, with Bush, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore the recipients, as New Orleans wins it. Saints 24-20.
Article first appeared 9/26/08