NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Chicago (-3) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.
Thanks to a strong defense and improved quarterback play, the Bears have won back-to-back games and enter Sunday trying to improve to 4-2. Kyle Orton
has thrown multiple TDs in three straight contests and has raised his YPA considerably, despite Chicago's lack of major playmakers in the passing game. Matt Forte
has gotten just 2.8 YPC over the past three weeks but remains active as a receiver and gets a favorable matchup Sunday against a Falcons front seven that's given up 4.6 YPC on the year... After an impressive road win in Green Bay last week, Atlanta looks like one of the most improved teams this season. They've played extremely well during both of their games at home this year but face a tough task dealing with Chicago's defense Sunday. Michael Turner
has been overly impressive, gaining 5.3 YPC while scoring six touchdowns in 2008. He's an absolute load to try to take down and will once again be asked to carry the offense. Roddy White
, who missed practice time this week after taking a blow to the head, is fast emerging as one of the league's elite wideouts and has helped rookie Matt Ryan
speed up his development process. If Ryan can avoid turnovers Sunday, the home team has a good chance of pulling off an upset.
Predictions: Kyle Orton throws for 250 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown to Greg Olsen. Matt Forte adds 120 scrimmage yards with a TD run, while Michael Turner responds with 90 rushing yards and a score of his own. Matt Ryan throws for 180 yards and two touchdowns, with Roddy White and Jerious Norwood the recipients, as Atlanta comes out on top. Falcons 21-20.
Oakland (+8) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Oakland and New Orleans enter as opposites, as the Raiders bring in the third-ranked rushing offense and the 29th ranked passing attack. The Saints, meanwhile, have the 29th ranked rushing offense and the best passing attack in the league. Coming off a bye week and with a new head coach, Oakland should be prepared, and after a Week 1 debacle, the Raiders have been highly competitive this season, even against solid competition. Tom Cable figures to make the offense a little less run-heavy, but with Justin Fargas
(groin) back healthy, you can bet the team will still focus its playcalling on the ground... Despite Reggie Bush
's remarkable play on special teams, the Saints lost a heart-breaker last Monday night, and Martin Gramatica
is out of a job as a result. Penalties and sloppy play in general have also been a culprit to the team dropping three of its past four contests. Drew Brees
' certainly hasn't been to blame; it's a shame last week's two interceptions even show up on his stat sheet, as neither were his fault. He should have no problem putting points on the board Sunday, but New Orleans' suspect defense means Oakland should be able to at least hang around.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell throws for 200 yards and a TD to Zach Miller, while Justin Fargas gets the bulk of the workload in the backfield, resulting in 80 yards and a score. Reggie Bush answers with 80 yards and a touchdown catch, while Deuce McAllister adds 70 yards and hits paydirt. Drew Brees contributes 325 yards and two touchdown tosses, with Bush and Lance Moore on the receiving end, as New Orleans wins it. Saints 27-20.
Carolina (+1) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Panthers recorded the season's first shutout last week and enter with an impressive 4-1 record. Their defense has been fantastic, allowing just one rushing score while limiting opposing passing attacks to just 5.4 YPA, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. DeAngelo Williams
busted out with a career game last week, but the backfield should remain a committee moving forward. Still, Tampa Bay has been solid as well, and they are tough to beat at home... Despite coach and quarterback not seeing eye-to-eye, the Bucs are going back to Jeff Garcia
under center this week, but the team figures to focus its gameplan around the run. Coming off a Pro Bowl season last year, Garcia has struggled during his brief appearances this year, but it's not like Brian Griese
was playing all that well either. Both Warrick Dunn
(5.1 YPC) and Earnest Graham
(5.9 YPC) have been very good, however, and they'll be featured heavily once again this week. In what should be a physical, hard-fought battle, homefield is the difference.
Predictions: Jake Delhomme throws for 220 yards with a TD to Muhsin Muhammad, while Jonathan Stewart adds 50 rushing yards and a score. Jeff Garcia counters with 190 passing yards and a scoring strike to Ike Hilliard, while Earnest Graham adds 75 combined yards and punches one in from the goal line, as Tampa Bay prevails. Buccaneers 20-17.
St. Louis (+13.5) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Rams enter with the 31st ranked defense and haven't scored more than 14 points in a game this season. They do have the benefit of coming off a bye, but who knows how the team will react to a coaching change. Considering the reaction to Marc Bulger
's benching, it will likely be positive, but this team still lacks talent on both sides of the ball. Bulger returns as starter, but he's played horribly since the 2006 season ended and has committed 41 turnovers in 28 games played outdoors during his career... It's safe to say teams will start taking Washington seriously. The biggest surprise of the 2008 season, the Redskins have won four in a row and are finished with road games in their division. Through 20 quarters, the team has yet to commit a single turnover. Without a doubt, Jim Zorn has been the coach of the year so far. Clinton Portis
has been fantastic and should have another productive game Sunday against a Rams team that's yielded 4.7 YPC and seven rushing scores on the year. Jason Campbell
and the passing attack should experience similar success, as St. Louis' secondary has given up 9.2 YPA (second worst in the league) with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio. Washington will have to fight off a letdown, but the gap in talent here is enormous.
Predictions: Marc Bulger continues to struggle, throwing multiple picks with zero touchdowns. Steven Jackson totals 80 yards with a TD, while Clinton Portis answers with 130 yards and hits paydirt. Jason Campbell adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, as Washington cruises to victory. Redskins 27-10.
Cincinnati (+6) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bengals are 0-5, but they've played competitive football over the past three games. Carson Palmer
(elbow) remains limited in practice, but he should play Sunday and gets a Jets secondary that's allowed 7.7 YPA. Chris Perry
has fumbled an NFL-high five times and been ineffective otherwise, so he should start losing touches to Cedric Benson
and Kenny Watson
. Whoever gets the carries faces a Jets front seven that's been surprisingly tough against the run (3.1 YPC). Sixteen players in the league have more sacks than Cincinnati has as a team (three), putting them on pace to finish the season with 9.5 quarterback takedowns... The Jets are coming off a bye and will have to fight off overlooking a winless Bengals squad after scoring 56 points during their last game. Thomas Jones
looks washed up and should start losing touches soon, but he does get a favorable matchup this week. Brett Favre
's numbers should only improve as he continues to get more comfortable in New York's system, and he's developing a nice rapport with Laveranues Coles
. Favre has thrown an incredible nine touchdown passes over his last two games and should shred Cincinnati's secondary this week.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 240 yards while finding Antonio Chatman and Ben Utecht for scores. Chris Perry gains a paltry 40 rushing yards without a TD, while Thomas Jones counters with 60 yards and a touchdown. Brett Favre adds 260 passing yards with TD strikes to Laveranues Coles and Dustin Keller, as the home team prevails. Jets 24-20.
Detroit (+13) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Detroit is in complete disarray and winless on the season. Their secondary is the worst in the league, ceding 9.4 YPA with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio. Opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 122.1 passer rating, which is easily the highest mark in the NFL. Detroit's line hasn't been any better, allowing 5.0 YPC, seven rushing scores and recording only four sacks on the year. After complaining all week about his role in the offense, Roy Williams
saw a league-high 18 targets last week, resulting in just seven receptions. It looks like Dan Orlovsky
should get the start under center, and his career YPA mark of 3.7 is downright scary, even in a small sample size (45 attempts). The Lions have held a lead for only 2:24 this season... Minnesota was gifted a win last Monday night, possibly saving its season in the process, at least momentarily. Brad Childress is proving to be a major liability as head coach, but Gus Frerotte
has been an upgrade at quarterback and should experience success Sunday. Last week, Bernard Berrian
had the team's first 100-yard receiving performance in the last 35 games. After getting totally shutdown against the Saints, expect a monster game from Adrian Peterson
this week, especially since Bryant McKinnie
has a game under his belt.
Predictions: Dan Orlovsky gets the start, resulting in 175 passing yards, multiple turnovers and a TD toss to Calvin Johnson. The entire Detroit rushing attack is stifled, whereas Adrian Peterson goes off for 150 rushing yards with two scores. Gus Frerotte adds 225 passing yards and finds Bernard Berrian in the end zone, as Detroit remains winless. Vikings 27-13.
Miami (+3) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
Over their last two games, the Dolphins have beaten the Patriots and Chargers, who both played in last year's AFC Championship game. It's no fluke, as Miami's offensive line and defense have really stepped up their play. Chad Pennington
has completed 39 of his last 49 pass attempts, good for a 79.6 completion percentage. Ronnie Brown
has looked simply fantastic regardless of formation, and he should have a big game against a Houston defense that's allowed the most rushing scores in the NFL (eight). The Dolphins have outscored their opponents 24-0 in the second half this season but struggle during third-and-long situations, going 0-for-18 when they need seven yards or more to get a first down... Any chance of a quarterback controversy in Houston ended abruptly when Sage Rosenfels
committed three egregious turnovers in a four-minute span last week, effectively losing the game single-handedly. Steve Slaton
has been superb, but Miami has allowed just 3.3 YPC this season, so Houston will need to air it out. Matt Schaub
finally gets his first start at home, and although he's struggled so far, he should rebound with a big game this week. Houston's opponents this year have a collective 13-6 record, which means they've had the second toughest schedule in the league even without factoring in their lack of home games. Kevin Walter
has been targeted eight times in the red zone, which is tied for the fourth most in football.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws for 210 yards and a touchdown to Anthony Fasano, while Ronnie Brown adds 125 total yards and scores. Matt Schaub responds with 250 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels the recipients, as Houston finally breaks into the win column. Texans 24-20.
Baltimore (+4.5) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
After losing back-to-back physical games by a field goal to the Steelers and Titans, the Ravens have an entirely different task this week, playing a finesse Colts team indoors. Baltimore comes in with the league's best run defense (2.8 YPC, zero rushing scores) and No. 1 ranked pass defense (4.9 YPA, 44.6 QB rating). In an effort to limit any mistakes by Joe Flacco
and keep Indy's offense off the field, expect the Ravens to go run-heavy, attacking a Colts front seven that's allowed 4.9 YPC this season... Last week the Colts became the first team in NFL history to trail by 17-plus points in the final 5:00 and win in regulation. If not for a couple of fortuitous bounces, the Colts could be sitting at 0-4 right now. As is, they're 2-2 in an AFC South division featuring a 5-0 Tennessee team. Ravaged by injuries both on defense and the offensive line, this simply is not the same Colts team we have become accustomed to. After throwing multiple interceptions in a game just once all last season, Peyton Manning
has already done so twice this year. Still, Indy does have homefield, and the secondary has played well this season, so the Ravens may not be able to keep pace on the scoreboard.
Predictions: Joe Flacco throws for 170 yards and a touchdown to Derrick Mason, while Willis McGahee adds 80 rushing yards and Le'Ron McClain gets a goal-line score. Joseph Addai is bottled up, gaining just 60 yards on the ground without a TD. Peyton Manning manages 225 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, as Indianapolis wins on a late field goal. Colts 20-17.
Jacksonville (+3.5) at Denver, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Jacksonville has been a disappointment both defensively and offensively this season and faces the difficult task of traveling to Denver this week. Moreover, teams often struggle the week after playing Pittsburgh because it takes a while for that physicality to truly take its toll. Also, with the team dealing with so many injuries, they might be looking ahead to the upcoming bye week. Still, they aren't going to roll over, and although they've struggled to run the ball, Denver's rush defense is the worst in the league (5.2 YPC)... Unlike every other one of their games this season, the Broncos found themselves in a defensive struggle last week, beating Tampa Bay 13-10. Denver will be playing without Tony Scheffler
(groin) and Selvin Young
(groin), but there's a chance Eddie Royal
(ankle) suits up. Either way, expect Jay Cutler
to shred a Jaguars secondary that's allowed 7.8 YPA and nine touchdown passes this year. The loss of Young shouldn't hurt all that much, as Michael Pittman
was looking at an increased role regardless. Both teams have struggling defenses, but the Broncos can score in bunches, so Jacksonville may have trouble keeping up.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Matt Jones and Reggie Williams the recipients. Maurice Jones-Drew adds 70 yards and a TD run, while Michael Pittman runs for 80 yards and hits paydirt. Jay Cutler adds 300 yards passing with scoring strikes to Brandon Marshall (twice) and Brandon Stokley, as Denver prevails. Broncos 28-24.
Dallas (-5) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Cowboys have been unimpressive over the last two games, although last week did result in a victory. The offense remains highly powerful, but the defense lacks teeth, as the secondary has yet to record a single interception on the year. Tony Romo
faces a beatable Arizona secondary, but he's now thrown a pick in 14 of his last 15 games, so ball security is a problem. He's getting put in positions to succeed, but Felix Jones
' 9.0 YPC mark is extremely impressive any way you slice it... Arizona has played fantastic football when at home this season. Kurt Warner
leads a high-powered passing attack, as he's on pace to finish with 32 touchdown tosses this season. When Warner protects the football, the Cardinals are difficult to beat, and since Dallas has struggled in creating turnovers this season, Arizona matches up well. Larry Fitzgerald
has been targeted 12 times in the red zone this year, two more than any other receiver in the league. Arizona has scored 62 points in the third quarter this season; no other team in football has scored more than 38 points in the third quarter, suggesting the Cardinals' coaching staff is doing an excellent job of making halftime adjustments.
Predictions: Tony Romo throws for 280 yards, an INT and two touchdowns, with Terrell Owens and Jason Witten on the receiving end. Marion Barber adds 90 yards with a score, while Tim Hightower answers with 40 yards and a TD run. Kurt Warner adds 260 passing yards with scoring strikes to Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, as Arizona wins it. Cardinals 27-24.
Philadelphia (-5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The optimism from San Francisco's 2-1 start has been all but erased after consecutive ugly losses, and the task doesn't get any easier against Philadelphia on Sunday. Isaac Bruce
has emerged as the No. 1 option in the passing game, but Frank Gore
remains the centerpiece of the offense. J.T. O'Sullivan
has committed six costly turnovers over the past two weeks and has been sacked 20 times this season. The Eagles lead the NFL with 18 sacks, so just making it through this week healthy would be a minor victory for O'Sullivan. The Mike Martz effect: San Francisco's 13.3 yards-per-catch mark this year is a full 3.5 yards better than last season and ranks second in the league... After two straight losses, the Eagles sit at 2-3 and at the bottom of a tough NFC East division; they really must take care of business against the 49ers to stay in the wild card race. They will probably have to do so without Brian Westbrook
, who broke two ribs last week. Philadelphia's 3.5 YPC mark is the fourth worst in the league, so Donovan McNabb
will once again have to carry them. McNabb has played well this year, although he hasn't thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 1. Still, the 49ers' secondary has allowed five plays that have gone for 40-plus yards - the most in the NFL - so expect McNabb to attack them deep. Since the Eagles also figure to create multiple turnovers, expect the road favorite to come out on top.
Predictions: J.T. O'Sullivan takes numerous sacks and commits three turnovers but throws for 225 yards and a touchdown to Isaac Bruce. Frank Gore totals 90 yards with a TD run, while Correll Buckhalter manages 120 combined yards and scores. Donovan McNabb adds 250 passing yards and finds DeSean Jackson and L.J. Smith for scoring strikes, as Philadelphia triumphs. Eagles 27-20.
Green Bay (+2) at Seattle, Sunday 1 p.m.
Seattle has only one victory on the year, and that came against the winless Rams. In all three of their other losses, the Seahawks have given up at least 33 points, including 44 last week against the Giants. The secondary has allowed 8.4 YPA, so expect another big game from Aaron Rodgers
. The receiving corps got Bobby Engram
back last week, but Deion Branch
's (heel) return was short-lived, and now Matt Hasselbeck
has been forced to sit out practice all week with a knee injury. He's expected to start Sunday but is currently in the midst of the worst season of his career, as he hasn't thrown for 200 yards in any game this season. Maurice Morris
should return and cut into Julius Jones
' work; both have a favorable matchup against a Packers front seven that's allowed 5.1 YPC this year, which is the second-worst mark in the league... The Packers have dropped three games in a row, none worse than last week's home loss to the Falcons. The good news is that Rodgers has been able to play through his shoulder injury and play well. He and Greg Jennings
are forming one of the best combos in the NFL. The one area of concern on offense has been Ryan Grant
and the running game, especially on the road. Grant has 30 carries for just 40 yards (1.3 YPC) when away from home this season. That area is pertinent to turn around if Green Bay has any hopes of reaching the postseason, and Sunday in Seattle is as good of time as any to rectify the problem.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck throws for 215 yards and two touchdowns, with Bobby Engram and John Carlson the recipients. Julius Jones leads the rushing attack, resulting in 60 yards and a TD run. Ryan Grant counters with 80 yards and a score, while Aaron Rodgers gets 260 passing yards and finds Greg Jennings and Donald Driver for scores, as Green Bay ends its losing streak. Packers 27-24.
New England (+5.5) at San Diego, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Thanks to an easy schedule, the Patriots are 3-1 despite playing without Tom Brady
(knee) this season. Sunday's game against San Diego is a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game, although neither team is playing at that level this time around. Matt Cassel
finally connected deep with Randy Moss
last week, but the game plan still features mostly shorter routes. The Chargers secondary has allowed 10 touchdowns through the air this season - the most in the NFL... Saddled with high expectations, San Diego enters 2-3 and with the 28th ranked defense. If they don't start winning soon, their season will effectively be over. In order to right the ship, the team needs to start better, as the Chargers have been outscored 32-3 in the first half of their past two games. LaDainian Tomlinson
(toe) looks a step slow, and his line has also done him no favors, but he does get a New England squad that struggles to stop the run (4.9 YPC). Chris Chambers
(ankle) is unlikely to play, so expect more targets Vincent Jackson
's way. Philip Rivers
hasn't played well recently, but he was fantastic over the first three games, so expect him to bounce back with a big effort Sunday night.
Predictions: Matt Cassel throws for 210 yards with a touchdown to Wes Welker, while Sammy Morris adds 50 rushing yards and a goal-line score. Laurence Maroney is rendered useless, while LaDainian Tomlinson gets 80 yards and a touchdown. Philip Rivers adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, as San Diego exacts revenge. Chargers 24-17.
New York Giants (-8.5) at Cleveland, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Coming off their first win of the season and then a bye, Cleveland should be plenty motivated playing in front of a national audience in primetime Monday night. However, their passing attack ranks dead last in the NFL, as Derek Anderson
(4.6 YPA) and Braylon Edwards
have been massive disappointments. A matchup against the stout Giants defense certainly won't make things any easier. The Browns' secondary has posted an impressive 3:6 TD:INT ratio, but that's more a reflection of them facing Joe Flacco
and Ryan Fitzpatrick
the past two games than true ability, as they're also allowing 7.4 YPA with just six sacks on the year... The Giants have had a relatively easy schedule, but they've more than taken care of business, winning by an average score of 31.8 to 12.3 this season. The return of Plaxico Burress
(suspension) only helps a flourishing New York passing attack. Before this year, Eli Manning
's best season in YPA was 6.8 back in 2005; this season it's a remarkable 7.8. After tying for the most interceptions thrown last year with 20, he's been picked off just once all season. Brandon Jacobs
is getting 5.8 YPC, as the ground game continues to wear down and eventually destroy opponents. The Giants have won 11 straight road games. Don't expect that to come to an end Monday night.
Predictions: Derek Anderson throws for 220 yards and finally finds Braylon Edwards for a touchdown, but Jamal Lewis is limited to just 60 rushing yards and held out of the end zone. Brandon Jacobs counters with 100 yards on the ground and two TD runs, while Eli Manning adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, as New York wins in a rout. Giants 31-16.
Article first appeared 9/26/08