NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Oakland (+7.5) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Raiders won last week for just the second time this season, beating the Jets 16-13 in overtime. Oakland's offense is predicated on running the football, but Darren McFadden
had another setback with his turf toe injury this week in practice, and the Ravens have allowed an NFL-low 2.8 YPC this year -- not a good matchup. In fact, Baltimore hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 games, the longest streak in the NFL. JaMarcus Russell
has done a fine job of limiting interceptions, but he has a difficult task Sunday... The Ravens ended a three-game losing streak with an impressive win in Miami last week, and they've played well at home all season, losing only to the undefeated Titans by a field goal. Despite injuries, the offensive line has picked up its play of late, and Joe Flacco
is coming off the best game of his career to face an Oakland secondary ceding 7.4 YPA. The Raiders have been able to stay competitive in most of their games this season, but they should really struggle to move the ball Sunday, and if they commit any turnovers, things could get ugly. Oakland does not want to play this Ravens defense from behind.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell has a tough outing, throwing for just 150 yards with two interceptions. Justin Fargas gets the bulk of the carries in Oakland's backfield, but the ground game is bottled up regardless. Willis McGahee has his second straight productive game on the ground, rushing for 100 yards with a TD. Joe Flacco adds 180 passing yards with a score to Todd Heap, as the home team prevails. Ravens 20-6.
Arizona (+4.5) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Cardinals have been predictable so far, playing very well at home but struggling on the road. The team is especially brutal when traveling across the country -- Arizona is just 3-18 in the Eastern time zone since 2002. Still, the offense has been a force no matter where the game is played, as Kurt Warner
has gotten 8.0 YPA with multiple touchdown passes in each of the past five games. He'll get a stiff test Sunday; Carolina's secondary has allowed just 5.8 YPA - the second best mark in the league. Getting Anquan Boldin
(facial fractures) back should help, and Larry Fitzgerald
is a nightmare matchup for any corner... Like Arizona, Carolina has played fantastic football at home this season, going 4-0, including a 30-7 drubbing of the Saints last week. Jake Delhomme
's current 7.6 YPA mark is the second best of his career, and that should only improve facing a Cardinals secondary yielding 8.0 YPA and a 12:3 TD:INT ratio on the year. Steve Smith
is averaging an incredible 17.7 yards-per-catch and is one of the best deep threats in the league. Arizona has no answer for him, and the DeAngelo Williams
duo will take care of protecting the lead during the second half.
Predictions: Kurt Warner throws for 240 yards, two interceptions and two TDs, with Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston the recipients. Tim Hightower outproduces Edgerrin James, but neither have much success, while the Carolina backfield produces 130 rushing yards and a TD run by Jonathan Stewart. Jake Delhomme adds 225 passing yards with scoring strikes to Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith, as Carolina comes out on top. Panthers 24-20.
Tampa Bay (+2) at Dallas, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bucs are 5-1 over their last six games, and though they lack superstars, they play well in all facets of the game and are tough to beat. Jeff Garcia
has gotten 8.6 YPA over the past two games, but the passing attack hardly lights up the scoreboard, as Garcia has yet to throw multiple touchdowns in a game this season. Still, the Dallas defense is struggling, allowing a 9:2 TD:INT ratio. The loss of Roy Williams
(arm) may actually improve the Cowboys' coverage, however... Since Week 3, Dallas has played uninspired football and looks more and more beatable, despite the perception that the roster is full of talent. The defense is soft (DeMarcus Ware
notwithstanding), Wade Phillips is clueless, Terrell Owens
is in decline, and Brad Johnson
is a huge downgrade at quarterback. Still, Tampa Bay is hardly a juggernaut on the road, and the Cowboys figure to be sufficiently motivated after getting killed 34-14 by a poor Rams team last week. The Bucs have picked off 12 passes this year - the second most in the league - so Johnson will need to protect the football. Also, Tampa Bay is the only team in the NFL yet to allow a rushing score. Still, Dallas is the type of team that could start playing well just when everyone begins to write them off.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia throws for 180 yards and a TD to Antonio Bryant, while Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn combine for 100 rushing yards, with Graham getting a goal-line score. Marion Barber answers with 75 yards on the ground and a TD, while Brad Johnson adds 175 passing yards and finds Jason Witten in the end zone, as Dallas wins it. Cowboys 20-17.
Washington (-8) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
During the Lions' six losses this season, they've trailed 31-0, 21-0 (three times) and 21-3 in five of them. Moreover, they've been outscored 54-0 in the first quarter (only team without a first quarter point this season). Detroit has shown some fight and kept its last two defeats relatively close, but the team has a long and treacherous rebuilding process ahead of them. They need to quit wasting carries on Rudi Johnson
(3.7 YPC) and get Kevin Smith
(4.9 YPC) more involved... Washington continues to play solid football, but their average margin of victory is just 1.7 points, which is rather low for a 5-2 team, making them ill suited to be a more-than-touchdown favorite on the road. Still, Clinton Portis
is a serious MVP contender, and the Redskins have 332 consecutive pass attempts without an INT dating back to last season, setting an NFL record. The Lions have the worst secondary in the league, allowing 9.2 YPA, an 11:1 TD:INT ratio and a 115.8 opposing quarterback rating, so it's safe to expect a big game from Jason Campbell
and Santana Moss
Predictions: Dan Orlovsky throws for 170 yards with a touchdown toss to Calvin Johnson, while Kevin Smith adds 75 scrimmage yards and a TD run. Jason Campbell counters with 250 passing yards and scoring strikes to Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, while Clinton Ports chips in 120 combined yards and hits paydirt, as Washington prevails. Redskins 24-17.
Buffalo (-1.5) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
At 5-1, the Bills have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2008 season, and despite a relatively easy schedule, the record is legit. Trent Edwards
(concussion) returns this week, and hopefully the bye helped him fully recover. Edwards has gotten 8.0 YPA this season and faces a Dolphins secondary that's ceded 8.5 YPA, so he should have a nice game. Lee Evans
has been playing extremely well, but Marshawn Lynch
's 3.5 YPC needs some serious work... Miami was dominated by Baltimore last week, but an early injury to DT Jason Ferguson
combined with the suspension of Paul Soliai
forced them to switch schemes, and the results were disastrous. Soliai returns this week, so hopefully they can go back to the 3-4 and continue playing tough against the run like they have all year. Chad Pennington
has gotten 9.5 YPA over the last four games, but Buffalo's secondary has played well this season. Still, Miami is due for a bounce back performance, so expect a strong effort Sunday.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 225 yards and a TD to James Hardy, while Marshawn Lynch adds 70 yards and a score. Ronnie Brown answers with 80 yards and a touchdown, while Chad Pennington adds 225 yards and two scoring strikes, with Greg Camarillo and Patrick Cobbs the recipients, as Miami wins it. Dolphins 21-17.
St. Louis (+7) at New England, Sunday 1 p.m.
After four losses to begin the season, St. Louis has won back-to-back games, as coach Jim Haslett has the team playing with purpose. Last week's 20-point win against Dallas was especially impressive, although Steven Jackson
(thigh) left the game banged up and is questionable to play Sunday. Marc Bulger
had his best game in recent memory last week, but he's still getting just 6.2 YPA on the year while also taking 18 sacks in five games. He and the Rams often struggle when playing outdoors, and you can count on Bill Belichick devising a gameplan that shouldn't have much trouble stopping St. Louis' 31st ranked offense... New England beat Denver in impressive fashion last Monday night, winning 41-7 and creating five turnovers. Matt Cassel
threw multiple touchdowns for the first time in his career, and he'll look to build on that effort against a shaky Rams secondary that's allowed 8.6 YPA on the year. With the Patriots' backfield ravaged by injuries, look for BenJarvus Green-Ellis
to get the majority of the carries, with Kevin Faulk
also mixed in. Facing a Rams front seven that's yielded 5.0 YPC and 10 rushing scores this season, expect both to have success Sunday.
Predictions: Marc Bulger goes back to struggling, throwing for just 160 yards and a TD to Donnie Avery. Steven Jackson fights through his thigh injury, but that results in just 80 total yards without a score. Matt Cassel throws for 230 yards and finds Randy Moss in the end zone, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk each add 60 combined yards with TD runs, as New England improves to 5-2. Patriots 24-13.
San Diego (-3.5) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Saints bring in the No. 1 ranked offense, however, they were embarrassed in a 30-7 loss in Carolina last week and sit with a mediocre 3-4 record. The team has yet to win away from the Superdome this season, and although this week is considered a home game, it's being played in London, so really it's another road tilt. Last year's game in London was a slugfest, but with two high-powered offenses this time, expect a high-scoring affair. Drew Brees will be motivated to play his old team, but Marques Colston was clearly rusty in his return from a thumb injury last week, so New Orleans has to hope he's back in form Sunday... Although Brees has turned into one of the league's best players, Philip Rivers is certainly not making San Diego look foolish, as he's been fantastic this season. An 8.7 YPA mark is eye-popping, and he gets a beatable Saints secondary this week. It's even more impressive when you consider LaDainian Tomlinson is in decline, Antonio Gates is clearly hobbled and nowhere near his usual self, and Chris Chambers remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Vincent Jackson has emerged as the go-to weapon in the offense, and he should have another big game Sunday, when Rivers and the Chargers' offense proves too much for an overwhelmed New Orleans defense.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 260 yards and finds Marques Colston and Lance Moore for scores, while Deuce McAllister adds 60 yards and a touchdown while filling in for Reggie Bush (knee). LaDainian Tomlinson produces a similar line to McAllister, while Philip Rivers adds 250 passing yards and connects with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates for scores, as San Diego prevails. Chargers 24-21.
Kansas City (+13) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Chiefs enter with a record of 1-5 and a huge problem with their franchise player (Larry Johnson
), so it's safe to say things aren't looking up in Kansas City. Glenn Dorsey
has yet to make a major impact, and the team has quite possibly the worst quarterback situation in all of football. It's a position that simply must be addressed in this year's draft. The Chiefs offense is run-first, but the Jets have been highly effective stopping the ground game this season (3.2 YPC), so Tyler Thigpen
is going to be asked to make plays this week. Since he has a 4.4 YPA mark on the year, it's safe to predict disaster... The Jets lost a tough overtime game in Oakland last week and have since had to deal with a controversy surrounding Brett Favre
. If that's not enough, Laveranues Coles
(concussion) looks unlikely to play, and Jerricho Cotchery
(shoulder) is a game-time decision. Regardless, Thomas Jones
should have his second big game in a row, as Kansas City has yielded an NFL-worst 5.6 YPC this season. Playing two poor defenses, Favre has posted a 1:4 TD:INT ratio over the past two games, rarely attacking downfield. Still, expect the team to rebound in a big way at home this week.
Predictions: Tyler Thigpen continues to struggle, getting just 150 passing yards and one TD to Dwayne Bowe. Kolby Smith gets the majority of Kansas City's carries, but he's shut down completely. Thomas Jones responds with 125 rushing yards and a TD run, while Brett Favre adds 225 passing yards with scoring strikes to Chansi Stuckey and Dustin Keller, as New York gets back into the win column. Jets 27-13.
Atlanta (+9) at Philadelphia, Sunday 1 p.m.
Winners of three of their last four, the Falcons travel to Philadelphia on Sunday coming off their bye and sporting the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the league. Matt Ryan
is currently in the midst of one of the most impressive rookie seasons ever, getting 7.2 YPA while taking just seven sacks. Rookie Sam Baker
has helped in the protection area, but Ryan's pocket presence is the biggest reason why. When you also throw in Michael Turner
and Roddy White
, Atlanta's offense is set up well for years to come. However, all that youth will get a big test against an aggressive Jim Johnson defense this week... The Eagles are also coming off a bye, and playing in a competitive NFC East, Philadelphia can ill afford to take the Falcons lightly. The team expects to get both Kevin Curtis
(hernia) and Reggie Brown
(hamstring) back in the lineup, but even more importantly, Brian Westbrook
(ribs) looks likely to return as well. Donovan McNabb
has played well this season, and with a full complement of weapons finally at his disposal, he should have a big game Sunday.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 180 yards and a TD to Roddy White, but Michael Turner finds tough sledding. Still, he does manage 70 rushing yards with a short score, while Brian Westbrook returns and counters that with 125 combined yards and a touchdown. Donovan McNabb adds 230 passing yards with scoring strikes to L.J. Smith and DeSean Jackson, as Philadelphia comes out on top. Eagles 27-20.
Cleveland (+7) at Jacksonville, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Entering the year with a lot of hype, the Browns have played exactly one good football game this season and enter with a 2-4 record. The defense has been mediocre and has already allowed the same number of rushing touchdowns (eight) that they did all of last season, but it's actually been the offense that has been the real problem. The unit ranks 30th in the league, thanks in large part to Derek Anderson
's poor play (5.4 YPA, 49.2 completion percentage). Braylon Edwards
(drops) and Kellen Winslow
(suspension) haven't been much help either... The Jaguars haven't excelled in any one particular area this season, but they are getting healthier and have won three out of their last four contests. Jacksonville has had two weeks to prepare for a Cleveland team that's struggling mightily, so expect a strong effort defensively. David Garrard
has regressed since last season, but Maurice Jones-Drew
has averaged 5.1 YPC with four scores over his last four games. He should be in store for a big game against the Browns' soft front seven that's allowed 4.8 YPC on the year.
Predictions: Derek Anderson continues to fail to meet expectations, throwing for just 180 yards and no TDs. Jamal Lewis gets 75 rushing yards with a touchdown, while Maurice Jones-Drew responds with 115 total yards and a score. David Garrard adds 210 passing yards and finds Matt Jones and Marcedes Lewis for scores, as Jacksonville prevails. Jaguars 24-13.
Cincinnati (+10) at Houston, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
The Bengals have yet to win this season and have typically been horrendous when on the road (2-10 over their last 12 games away from home). The team's secondary has been the lone bright spot, but the offense ranks last in the league. With Carson Palmer
(elbow) looking more and more unlikely to return this season, there's little reason for optimism. Cincinnati has a good matchup in Houston this week, but it's doubtful Ryan Fitzpatrick
(4.6 YPA) can take advantage... After starting the year in a 0-4 hole, the Texans have won back-to-back games, which has coincided with the schedule easing up. Poor defense means the offense still has to carry the load, but Matt Schaub
and the passing attack seem up to the challenge. Also, Steve Slaton
is fast developing into a franchise back. Houston is tough at home and has won the time of possessions battle in five straight contests, so they should have no problem putting plenty of points on the board Sunday.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 190 yards and a touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, while Cedric Benson adds 75 rushing yards and a score. Steve Slaton and Ahman Green both have a productive day, as each approach 75 rushing yards with TD runs. Matt Schaub adds 300 passing yards with touchdown strikes to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, as Houston triumphs. Texans 31-17.
New York Giants (+3) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
In a possible Super Bowl preview, the 5-1 Giants travel to face the 5-1 Steelers this week. The Giants come in with the best rushing offense in football, but Pittsburgh's defense is extremely difficult to run on, allowing just 2.9 YPC on the season. Eli Manning
is certainly capable of beating opponents through the air as well, but Plaxico Burress
' (neck) status is still uncertain. Manning needs to limit the turnovers Sunday, but he's done a tremendous job of avoiding sacks this year, being brought down just six times all season... Pittsburgh boasts the No. 1 ranked defense, but the offense is ranked just 25th in the league. That number can be misleading, however, as Ben Roethlisberger
isn't asked to pass all that much when the team is protecting second half leads, so the Steelers often leave plenty of yardage on the field. Roethlisberger has been fantastic this season, but he needs to avoid a fierce pass rush this week, as the Giants have the second most sacks (21) in the NFL. Mewelde Moore
has done a terrific job replacing Willie Parker
(knee) in the backfield, and it looks like he may have to do so again this week. Expect Moore to remain involved in the offense even when Parker returns, giving an added dimension to an already dynamic unit. In a hard-fought battle between two equal teams, homefield is the difference.
Predictions: Eli Manning throws for 225 yards with touchdown strikes to Plaxico Burress and Steve Smith. New York's ground game manages 100 yards but is held out of the end zone, which is right on par with what Pittsburgh's runners produce. Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has a huge game, throwing for 275 yards and three scores, with Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward and Heath Miller the recipients, as Pittsburgh wins the game of the week. Steelers 24-20.
Seattle (+5) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Seahawks enter with a 1-5 record, so it looks like there will finally be a new NFC West division winner this season. Mike Holmgren's last year in Seattle hasn't gone as planned, as the team has the 27th ranked offense and the worst passing attack in the league. A bunch of injuries to the receivers followed by Matt Hasselbeck
(knee, back) going down has led to one of the most inept aerial attacks in recent memory. Seneca Wallace
appears likely to get another start under center, but his 3.2 YPA mark is embarrassing... San Francisco has lost four straight games and enters with a 2-5 season record, making them unlikely five-point favorites. Still, at least the offense can move the ball, and Frank Gore
remains a huge weapon. J.T. O'Sullivan
has committed 15 turnovers and taken a whopping 29 sacks on the year, but he does get a Seattle secondary that's given up 8.2 YPA and a 10:1 TD:INT ratio this season. If he can limit mistakes, O'Sullivan should have a big game Sunday. Coach Mike Nolan has been replaced by Mike Singletary, which could also lead to extra motivation from San Francisco this week.
Predictions: Seneca Wallace continues to ugly up the quarterback position, getting just 150 passing yards with one TD that goes to Bobby Engram. Maurice Morris is more effective than Julius Jones, leading to 60 rushing yards and a TD run. Fran Gore answers with 140 scrimmage yards and a score, while J.T. O'Sullivan adds 275 passing yards and finds Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan in the end zone, as San Francisco ends its losing skid. 49ers 24-17.
Indianapolis (+4) at Tennessee, Monday 8:30 p.m.
After a 31-3 victory over a tough Baltimore defense, the Colts looked back on track. Instead, the team lost badly in Green Bay last week, and any previous gains appear to be greatly diminished. At 3-3, Indianapolis faces something of a must-win against the undefeated Titans this week if they want to contend in the AFC South. The Colts defense has struggled, and the running game is the worst in football. The passing attack also has the challenge of going against a Tennessee secondary that's limited opponents to just 5.8 YPA and a ridiculous 1:10 TD:INT ratio on the year. Still, the Titans haven't faced an offense like the Colts are capable of playing, and with their backs against the wall in front of a national spotlight, expect Peyton Manning
to play well Monday night... An easy schedule has helped, but Tennessee has taken care of business in impressive fashion any way you look at it. The lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL, the Titans still might not be looked at as a true powerhouse because of their lacking passing game, but the defense might be the best in the league, they are coached well, and the ground game is fantastic, led by rookie Chris Johnson
. Amazingly, the Titans have allowed just two sacks this season - none in the last four games. That's even more remarkable when you consider Kerry Collins
' lack of elusiveness. Although they lack star power, the Titans have no true weaknesses and will be motivated to put the Colts in a hole that will be extremely difficult to get out of on Monday night.
Predictions: Peyton Manning throws for 240 yards and has scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, but Indy's ground game is stagnant. Chris Johnson responds with 100 total yards and hits paydirt, while Kerry Collins adds 225 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Bo Scaife, as Tennessee's record remains perfect. Titans 23-20.
Article first appeared 10/24/08