NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Denver (+3) at Cleveland, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
After blowing a 27-13 late third quarter lead last week, the Browns ended the season’s halfway point at 3-5, which has resulted in Brady Quinn
taking over at quarterback. The disappointing season hasn’t been all Derek Anderson
’s fault, and his numbers would undoubtedly look better if Braylon Edwards
hadn’t dropped so many passes, but he’s been a below-average QB since the second half of last year, and the Browns might as well start looking toward the future. Quinn struggles with accuracy, and it’s hardly ideal getting a first start during a short week of preparation, but his matchup is highly favorable, and there are plenty of weapons at his disposal. Denver’s secondary has allowed 7.7 YPA with a 12:3 TD:INT ratio, and the team recently lost leading tackler D.J. Williams
(MCL) and Marlon McCree
(ankle), so Cleveland shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball Thursday... After a 3-0 start to the season, Denver has dropped three of its last four games, including a three-game losing streak. The defense is a major problem, but surprisingly, the offense hasn’t scored 20 points in a game over the last five contests after averaging 38.0 points over the first three games. It’s not easy for the road team during a short week, but Denver is due for a good game, and the offense still has the pieces in place to be potent. Jay Cutler
has gotten just 6.3 YPA with a 6:6 TD:INT ratio over the last four games, but he’s rarely sacked and gets a Browns secondary that has allowed 7.3 YPA on the year. With the backfield ravaged by injuries, it appears Ryan Torain
is going to get a real opportunity Thursday, and since Cleveland has allowed 4.7 YPC, he should excel. Both teams have failed to live up to expectations, but at this point, Denver has more offensive potential and has the better coach, so expect the road team to come out on top.
Predictions: Brady Quinn is solid in his debut, throwing for 240 yards with touchdowns to Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Jamal Lewis runs for 90 yards and gets a goal-line score, while Ryan Torain counters with 80 yards and hits paydirt. Jay Cutler adds 275 passing yards with two scoring strikes to Brandon Marshall, as Denver prevails. Broncos 24-21.
New Orleans (+1) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.
At 4-4, the Saints are currently in last place in the NFC South, so Sunday’s game against the Falcons is of extreme importance. New Orleans had a bye week to prepare, but they last played in London, so it wasn’t the typical two-week layoff. They're hoping the rest results in a fully healthy Marques Colston
(thumb) and Jeremy Shockey
(hernia), but Drew Brees
has been highly successful even without them. Reggie Bush
(knee) looks out for at least one more game, so it’s Deuce McAllister
getting the nice matchup, as the Falcons have allowed 4.7 YPC this season. The Saints shouldn’t have much trouble putting points on the board, but their defense remains a major weakness... Atlanta is coming off its most impressive defensive performance of the season, allowing just 10 net passing yards in a shutout in Oakland last week. John Abraham
has been fantastic, and Roddy White
has become one of the best receivers in football. Matt Ryan
is in the midst of having one of the five best rookie seasons a quarterback has ever had, and the Saints’ secondary can be beat. New Orleans has yet to win a road game this year, while Atlanta is undefeated at home.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns, with Marques Colston (twice) and Lance Moore the recipients. Deuce McAllister adds 70 rushing yards, while Michael Turner responds with 110 rushing yards and hits paydirt. Matt Ryan gets 250 passing yards and finds Roddy White and Michael Jenkins in the end zone, as homefield is the difference. Falcons 27-24.
Tennessee (-3) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Chicago is 4-1 over its last five games, although last week’s win against the Lions was costly, as Kyle Orton
suffered an ankle sprain. The injury is apparently far less severe than originally thought, and it’s even possible he starts Sunday. Still, odds are he sits this week, leaving Rex Grossman
against a Titans defense that has allowed 6.0 YPA while picking off an NFL-high 13 passes on the year. Chicago’s defense is solid, and the team has played well at home this season, but Grossman is a huge downgrade at quarterback, and because the Bears also struggle running the ball, the offense could be in for a rough game Sunday. During his career, Grossman has completed 54.1 percent of his passes with a 6.5 YPA while throwing more interceptions than touchdowns... The Titans remain the NFL’s lone undefeated team despite starting a quarterback who has thrown just three touchdowns – the lowest number of any QB in the league with at least 150 attempts. Moreover, Tennessee has won eight straight games without a 200-yard passing game. Chris Johnson
has been a huge addition to the offense, adding a previously missing explosive element while also being effective between the tackles. In what figures to be a low-scoring, defensive battle, expect Tennessee make fewer mistakes and rack up yet another victory.
Predictions: Rex Grossman struggles, throwing for 175 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Matt Forte combines for a modest 65 yards, but he does get a score at the goal line. Chris Johnson answers with 80 total yards, but it’s LenDale White who punches in the TD. Kerry Collins adds 170 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Bo Scaife, as the road team prevails. Titans 20-10.
Jacksonville (-7) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
The only team without a win this season, the Lions have been outscored 67-7 in the 1st quarter. Detroit has been competitive over its last four games, but there’s a huge question mark at the quarterback position with Dan Orlovsky
out down with a thumb injury. Drew Stanton
is an option, but it appears the newly signed Daunte Culpepper
is the favorite to start, which is rather shocking. Culpepper hasn’t received a snap since Week 12 of last year, and he needs to learn a new system in Detroit. Knee troubles have really slowed his career, as Culpepper has been sacked a staggering 73 times over his last 18 games played... At 3-5, the Jaguars have been one of the bigger disappointments this season and will try to avoid losing to a winless team for the second straight week Sunday. Despite averaging nearly a full yard more (4.2 YPC to 3.3 YPC) per rush, Maurice Jones-Drew
has had to split carries evenly with Fred Taylor
. Matt Jones
is enjoying the best season of his career, and his 9.4 targets per game ranks among the league-leaders. David Garrard
has taken a major step back this year, but he faces the league’s worst secondary this week, as Detroit has allowed a 110.4 QB rating to opposing passers.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper gets the start and throws for 170 yards with a TD to Calvin Johnson. Kevin Smith adds 60 total yards and scores, while Maurice Jones-Drew answers with 80 yards combined with a TD of his own. David Garrard adds 230 passing yards with scoring strikes to Matt Jones and Reggie Williams, as Jacksonville comes out on top. Jaguars 24-20.
Seattle (+9.5) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
Seattle has quickly gone from perennial playoff team to one of the worst squads in the NFL this year, as both the defense and offense have struggled mightily. The secondary has ceded 8.0 YPA with a 13:3 TD:INT ratio, but the passing attack has actually been even worse. After getting 3.2 YPA two games ago, only a lucky 90-yard bomb saved Seneca Wallace
from finishing with a 2.7 YPA mark last week. No team can be successful with that kind of anemic aerial attack... At 4-4, the Dolphins are right in the thick of the AFC East, and they continue to improve week-by-week. The defense has forced 12 takeaways over the last four games, and Chad Pennington
has gotten a remarkable 8.2 YPA on the year. He gets a favorable matchup this week, although Miami would like to see its ground game get back on track. Ronnie Brown
has gotten just 2.7 YPC over his last three games, but his eight rushing scores are the second most in the NFL. He should rebound with a nice game Sunday.
Predictions: Seneca Wallace plays poorly, throwing for just 150 yards with one TD to John Carlson. Seattle’s ground game is stagnant, while Ronnie Brown totals 90 yards with a touchdown. Chad Pennington adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn, as Miami wins it. Dolphins 27-10.
Green Bay (+2.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Minnesota is 3-1 over its last four games, including a 28-21 win over the Texans last week. The defensive line is providing a ton of pressure on the quarterback, but Jared Allen
is iffy this week with a shoulder injury. Gus Frerotte
has quietly gotten 7.9 YPA over the last four games, but Green Bay’s secondary is getting healthier and has played at a high level all season, allowing just 5.8 YPA with a league-leading 13 interceptions. In fact, their 51.3 completion percentage against also leads the NFL. Green Bay has been vulnerable on the ground, allowing 4.9 YPC, so Adrian Peterson
could record his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game... The Packers lost a tough game in overtime at Tennessee last week, but this is a dangerous team. Although he totalled a modest 86 rushing yards, Ryan Grant
had his best game of the season last week, but he gets a stiff test Sunday. Aaron Rodgers
is already a star, the rare quarterback with terrific mobility, accuracy and also tremendous arm strength. He should shred the Vikings’ secondary this week, and Minnesota is ill suited to play in high-scoring affairs.
Predictions: Gus Frerotte throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Sidney Rice, while Adrian Peterson adds 110 rushing yards with a TD run. Ryan Grant is bottled up, but Aaron Rodgers has a big game, throwing for 275 yards and three scores, with Greg Jennings (twice) and Donald Driver the recipients, as Green Bay comes out on top. Packers 24-20.
Buffalo (+4) at New England, Sunday 1 p.m.
Since opening the season 4-0, Buffalo has gone 1-3, including back-to-back losses. The offense has sputtered, as the ground game is a major liability, and the passing game often stalls in the red zone. Losing Aaron Schobel
(foot) won’t help either. Still, this Patriots team is hardly a juggernaut, so it should be a hotly contested battle between two division rivals. Lee Evans
has recorded just 18 catches with zero TDs in eight career games against New England, but he’s become an elite wideout this year, and the Pats secondary has allowed an uncharacteristically high 8.0 YPA in 2008... Despite the 23rd ranked passing attack, New England has remained in the AFC East mix with a 5-3 record. Kevin Faulk
and BenJarvus Green-Ellis
currently dominate the backfield, and despite fewer deep balls thrown his way, Randy Moss
’ 5.5 yards after the catch mark is the second highest of his career. Matt Cassel
has exhibited improvement, but he’s still got plenty of work to do, frequently taking far too many sacks. The Bills’ secondary is in the middle of the pack, but the front seven struggles pressuring the passer, so Cassel should benefit from that Sunday.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Robert Royal. Marshawn Lynch fights for 70 total yards and adds a TD run, while Kevin Faulk totals 75 yards for the Pats. BenJarvus Green-Ellis doesn’t rack up the yardage, but he does score from in close. Matt Cassel adds 200 passing yards with a scoring strike to Randy Moss, as New England prevails. Patriots 20-17.
St. Louis (+8) at New York Jets, Sunday 1 p.m.Comments:
At 2-6, the Rams’ season is effectively over, although Jim Haslett has been getting the team to play hard. Still, it’s a squad that’s simply undermanned and might be without Steven Jackson
(quad) yet again this week, which is a huge blow to the offense. Whoever starts in St. Louis’ backfield should have a hard time finding any running room against a New York front seven allowing just 3.1 YPC this season. Kris Jenkins
has been a force in the trenches, and the Jets’ 29 sacks (as many as the team had all of last year) are the third most in football. Marc Bulger
looks to be in store for a long day... The Jets are tied for first with a 5-3 record, but the secondary is vulnerable, and Brett Favre
hasn’t played well. In fact, he’s gotten just 6.3 YPA with a 3:8 TD:INT ratio over the last four games. Still, he’s due for a bounce back, and the Rams will be accommodating, as they have allowed the second most YPA (8.7) in the NFL this year.
Predictions: Marc Bulger takes numerous sacks, resulting in a couple of turnovers. He also throws for 180 yards with a touchdown to Donnie Avery. The Rams’ rushing attack is shut down, while Thomas Jones counters with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown. Brett Favre adds 270 passing yards with scoring strikes to Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, as New York ends its seven-game losing streak to St. Louis. Jets 27-13.
Baltimore (-1) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
Baltimore has won three straight, and despite a rookie quarterback and first year head coach, the team is 5-3 and just one game out of the AFC North lead. The defense has been a big reason why, as they’ve allowed an NFL-low 2.8 YPC and just 6.4 YPA. Joe Flacco
has thrown 88 consecutive passes without being picked off, and he faces a highly suspect Houston secondary this week. The Ravens’ backfield is banged up, but Ray Rice
has emerged as the most explosive option. He’s averaged 4.8 YPC and is the team’s second leading receiver. If McGahee (ankle) is forced out again, expect another big game from Rice on Sunday... The Texans are 1-10 over their last 11 road games, including dropping seven in a row. However, the team is entirely different at home, where they are tough to beat. Coming off a loss, expect a strong performance by Houston this week, with Sage Rosenfels
leading the way. If Rosenfels can limit mistakes, this offense is capable of moving the ball on any defense, so despite the tough matchup, the Texans will put points on the board.
Predictions: Joe Flacco throws for 200 yards with a touchdown to Derrick Mason, while Ray Rice adds 60 scrimmage yards and a score. Steve Slaton puts up a similar line, while Sage Rosenfels adds 210 passing yards and a TD to Owen Daniels, as homefield is the difference. Texans 20-17.
Carolina (-9.5) at Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Oakland bottomed out last week, becoming the first team in more than 16 years to have negative yardage at halftime during a shutout loss to Atlanta. The franchise is in complete disarray, although it’s nice to see Al Davis admit fault by cutting DeAngelo Hall
this week. Javon Walker
needs to be next. JaMarcus Russell
has really struggled this season, and although Carolina doesn’t rack up sacks, the secondary is stout, so the Raiders’ passing attack is likely to have another quiet game... With the return of Ryan Kalil
and Jeff Otah
, the Panthers are starting to get back to full strength. Jonathan Stewart
is questionable with a heel injury, and if he were to sit out, DeAngelo Williams
could be in store for a big game on the ground, as the Raiders have allowed 4.5 YPC and the second most rushing scores (12) in the league. Steve Smith
has gotten at least 96 receiving yards in five straight games, and as long as Carolina gets him matched up on anyone but Nnamdi Asomugha
, he should have another nice performance. Still, the Panthers will have to fight not having a letdown, and after last week’s disaster, expect Oakland to play with some pride, and the team has performed well at home at times this year.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell struggles, throwing for 160 yards and no touchdowns. Justin Fargas runs for 60 yards with a score, while DeAngelo Williams answers with 90 yards and a TD run. Jake Delhomme adds 225 passing yards with scoring strikes to Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, as Carolina comes out on top. Panthers 24-16.
Indianapolis (+2) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Colts may have beaten the Patriots last week, but halfway through the season, it’s become abundantly clear this isn’t the Indy team to which we've become accustomed. The secondary has been a bright spot, allowing just 6.4 YPA with a 2:6 TD:INT ratio, but the rushing attack is the worst in the league, and the offense is ranked 22nd overall. The Steelers defense has been nothing short of fantastic, allowing just 2.9 YPC and an NFL-low 5.6 YPA. Peyton Manning
has played better of late, but he’s gotten just 6.0 YPA with a 4:5 TD:INT ratio during three games played outdoors this season... Both Ben Roethlisberger
(shoulder) and Willie Parker
(shoulder) are question marks for Sunday, but Pittsburgh has been winning with defense this season. Mewelde Moore
wouldn’t be a downgrade if forced into backfield duty, but Roethlisberger still gives the team its best chance at winning under center, even though he has been struggling of late. Byron Leftwich
was terrific in relief last week, but his slow delivery can lead to problems, and he’d get a tough test this week. In the end, the Steelers are a much more physical football team and should beat down a finesse Indy squad. The Colts are 1-9 when playing in Pittsburgh.
Predictions: Peyton Manning finishes with 225 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Joseph Addai is bottled up, as his rough year continues. Mewelde Moore gets the start at running back, resulting in 110 total yards and a TD run. Ben Roethlisberger suits up, throwing for 230 yards with touchdown tosses to Hines Ward and Nate Washington, as the home team prevails. Steelers 24-20.
Kansas City (+15.5) at San Diego, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Chiefs are just 1-7 this season, including four straight losses, but they’ve been highly competitive over the last two games, which coincides with Tyler Thigpen
taking over quarterback duties. He’s given the franchise hope as a possible long-term answer at the position and gets a San Diego secondary this week that has yielded 14 scores through the air this year, which is the second most in the league. Jamaal Charles
gets the start at running back, and he’s an explosive runner who has been nothing but productive when given the opportunity. The Chiefs have forced the second most takeaways (18) in the NFL this year, yet their four sacks rank last in the league... San Diego has problems defensively, but the offense is elite, and the team is coming off back-to-back losses and a bye, so they’ll be plenty motivated. LaDainian Tomlinson
(toe) and Antonio Gates
(toe, hip) should finally be fully healthy, and even at 3-5, the Chargers are hardly out of the playoff picture while playing in a weak AFC West. Tomlinson should have a huge game Sunday, as Kansas City’s run defense has been the worst in the league, allowing 5.4 YPC with a league-high 14 rushing scores. Philip Rivers
is a serious MVP candidate, getting a staggering 8.7 YPA with a 19:6 TD:INT ratio.
Predictions: Tyler Thigpen throws for 210 yards and finds Dwayne Bowe in the end zone, while Jamaal Charles adds 90 total yards and hits paydirt. LaDainian Tomlinson counters with 125 combined yards and two touchdowns, while Philip Rivers adds 300 passing yards and three scoring strikes, with Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates the recipients, as San Diego wins in a rout.
New York Giants (+3) at Philadelphia, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Philadelphia enters riding a three-game winning streak, and the team’s defense ranks 5th overall while the offense comes in at 6th overall. Still, in order to take the next step, the Eagles need to improve in the red zone, and Andy Reid is good for a blunder or two every Sunday. With Kevin Curtis
(hernia) back in the lineup, Donovan McNabb
finally has a full complement of weapons, and Brian Westbrook
is one of the three best running backs in the league. Philadelphia’s line is big, but it’s not very physical, so New York’s fierce pass rush could become a major problem... It’s possible the Giants have both the best defensive line and offensive line in the NFL, making them the best team in football. Playing in Philadelphia is no easy task, but New York has already gotten its wakeup call losing to Cleveland earlier this year, and Plaxico Burress
has consistently torched the Eagles throughout his career. Brandon Jacobs
(680 rushing yards) and Derrick Ward
(437 rushing yards) are trying to become the first pair of running backs from the same team to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since 1985, but the Giants’ schedule gets very difficult from here on out.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb throws for 230 yards with a touchdown to Kevin Curtis, while Brian Westbrook adds 115 total yards and a TD run. Brandon Jacobs leads the Giants’ rushing attack, gaining 60 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Eli Manning adds 250 passing yards with a scoring strike to Plaxico Burress, as New York pulls off the mild upset. Giants 23-20.
San Francisco (+10) at Arizona, Monday 8:30 p.m.
The 49ers have lost five in a row and have a head coach making more headlines for his antics than strategy, but their bye week did come at a perfect time. The team is going with Shaun Hill
at quarterback, which should result in fewer turnovers. J.T. O’Sullivan had impressive yardage totals, but his mistakes were just killing San Francisco. Hill has thrown just one interception in 102 career pass attempts, and surely Mike Martz will jack up his career 6.6 YPA mark. He’s an unknown, but Arizona’s secondary is beatable, and Frank Gore
is a major weapon on offense... The Cardinals have control of their division, and the team plays especially well at home. Kurt Warner
is a top MVP candidate, and Tim Hightower
will undoubtedly be a huge upgrade at the running back position. The Cardinals have a good enough offense to go deep into the playoffs, and their schedule might result in a No. 2 seed, but the defense still holds them back.
Predictions: Shaun Hill throws for 260 yards and a touchdown to Josh Morgan, while Frank Gore contributes 125 yards and score. Tim Hightower counters with 110 yards and a TD run, while Kurt Warner adds 310 passing yards with scoring strikes to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, as the home team triumphs. Cardinals 27-20.
Article first appeared 11/07/08