NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Cincinnati (+11) at Pittsburgh, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
The Bengals havenít lost since Week 8, but that stretch includes a bye and the NFLís first tie since 2002. After playing a full five quarters, it wonít be easy for Cincinnati to travel on just four days rest, especially going to Pittsburgh. The Bengals have been competitive of late, but they're still a deeply flawed team, highlighted by Ryan Fitzpatrick
ís 5.0 YPA mark. Heís also been sacked an incredible 19 times over the last four games, and he faces a Steelers defense that is allowing the fewest YPA (5.7) and YPC (3.0) in the NFL this year. Things could get ugly Thursday... Pittsburgh barely pulled out a win against San Diego last week, and the offensive line continues to struggle. Still, the defense could be the best in football, and Willie Parker
should have no problem running all over a Bengals front seven that has allowed 12 rushing scores on the year. Ben Roethlisberger
hasnít thrown a touchdown since Week 8, and he has a 1:8 TD:INT ratio over the last four games. Still, he posted a 75.6 completion percentage with 7.5 YPA last week and is getting healthier, so improvement is inevitable. Despite committing more turnovers (14) than touchdowns this season (11), Roethlisberger has been one of the five best players in the NFL ever since he came into the league, so heís going to bounce back. Led by a strong defensive effort and big games from Parker and Roethlisberger, expect an easy win by Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick has a rough game, throwing for just 140 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Cincinnatiís ground game is also shut down, while Willie Parker answers with 100 rushing yards and a TD. Ben Roethlisberger adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, as Pittsburgh wins in a rout. Steelers 24-6.
Philadelphia (+1) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
Coming off the NFLís first tie since 2002, the Eagles sit at 5-4-1 despite stats that suggest their record should be much better. In reality, the team is deeply flawed, and it all begins with Donovan McNabb
and Andy Reid, who appear to be made for each other when it comes to botched endgame situations. McNabb has had to deal with a ton of heat from the press after freely admitting he had no idea games can end in ties, but he also should be scrutinized for committing four turnovers against a leaky Bengals defense. Moreover, Brian Westbrook
has missed practice this week while continuing to deal with an ankle injury he suffered back in Week 3, and itís a problem that isnít likely to go away until the offseason... Baltimoreís four-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt in a blowout loss to the Giants last week, and the previously stout run defense was gashed for 207 rushing yards. The Ravens still have a 29-game streak without allowing a 100-yard rusher, but that stat is now meaningless. It should be a physical contest Sunday, highlighted by both defenses, but Baltimore is tough at home, with its only loss coming against the undefeated Titans, so expect the Ravens to prevail.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb continues to struggle, throwing for just 220 yards with a lone score to L.J. Smith. Brian Westbrook suits up and fights through his ankle injury, but that only results in 70 yards from scrimmage and no TDs. Baltimore uses a committee in its backfield and isnít very productive, although Willis McGahee scores from the goal line. Joe Flacco adds 180 passing yards with a TD to Derrick Mason, as the home team comes out on top. Ravens 17-13.
Houston (+3) at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Browns won in Buffalo last Monday night, but they now have a short week of preparation and are just 1-4 at home this season. The team opened the playbook last week, and it was nice to see Braylon Edwards
back heavily involved in the offense, as he received a league-high 16 targets. Unfortunately, Edwardsí catch-rate (35/86, 41 percent) is the worst in the NFL (minimum 50 targets). Brady Quinn
has posted a 2:0 TD:INT ratio while taking just one sack, but he really hasnít played well, completing just 52.1 percent of his passes with a 6.0 YPA mark. Moreover, Kellen Winslow
is iffy with a shoulder injury, while Quinn is going to try to play through a broken finger... Houston has lost three straight and has yet to win on the road this season, but they should be able to move the ball against a suspect Browns defense this week. Steve Slaton
is beginning to wear down a bit, but heís explosive, averaging 5.1 YPC on the year. Sage Rosenfels
has posted a highly impressive 8.1 YPA mark, but thatís accompanied by a 4:9 TD:turnover ratio, so heís clearly mistake-prone. Still, the Texans offense has far more firepower, and Cleveland is unlikely to keep pace.
Predictions: Brady Quinn throws for 240 yards with scoring strikes to Braylon Edwards and Steve Heiden, while Jamal Lewis adds 80 rushing yards and a TD run. Steve Slaton responds with 110 total yards and a touchdown, while Sage Rosenfels adds 260 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter the recipients, as Houston pulls off the mild upset. Texans 27-24.
San Francisco (+10.5) at Dallas, Sunday 1 p.m.
Entering with a six-game losing streak, the 49ers led the Rams 35-3 at halftime last week, eventually winning 35-16. San Francisco is better than its 3-7 record indicates, as Shaun Hill
has impressed (7.3 YPA). Frank Gore
has already totaled 1,159 yards from scrimmage, and heíll be a big part of the 49ersí game plan once again Sunday. Despite the improvement, things wonít be easy against a now healthy Cowboys team, and the 49ers are 3-26 when playing early games on the East Coast since 2003... Dallas returns home for the first time in nearly a month, and with Tony Romo
back at the helm, the offense is dangerous, even if the Roy Williams
acquisition hasnít made a big impact. San Francisco has ceded 15 touchdowns through the air this season, so Romo and company should be productive. Marion Barber
had much more room to run last week with defenses no longer able to focus on stopping him, which should be a trend. There isnít a more physical running back in football, so expect a big game from Barber while protecting a second half lead this week.
Predictions: Shaun Hill throws for 225 yards with a touchdown toss to Vernon Davis. Frank Gores adds 90 total yards and hits paydirt, while Marion Barber answers with 100 yards combined and two TD runs. Tony Romo adds 275 passing yards with touchdown strikes to Terrell Owens and Jason Witten, as Dallas wins it. Cowboys 28-20.
Tampa Bay (-9) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Lions are 0-10 and have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the NFL, so a winless season is staring them right in the face. They do have three straight home games, which is a plus, and this weekís opponent, Tampa Bay, has been entirely mediocre on the road, but Detroit remains heavy underdogs regardless. Kevin Smith
lacks long-speed, but heís emerged as the Lionsí franchise back. However, the Bucs have allowed just one rushing touchdown this season, which is easily the lowest in the league. Daunte Culpepper
should be good for at least a couple of turnovers against the opportunistic Tampa Bay defense... The last time Detroit recorded a victory came last year against these Bucs, so you can bet Tampa wonít be taking Sundayís game lightly. Still, the conservative offense is hardly conducive for blowouts, especially when on the road. Jeff Garcia
has a favorable matchup, but he has produced just five touchdowns over seven games and has zero multiple TD games on the year. Moreover, with Earnest Graham
(ankle) out for the season, 33-year-old Warrick Dunn
will be asked to carry the workload in Tampa Bayís backfield. Still, with their defense leading the way, the Bucs should have no problem beating Detroit on Sunday.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper takes numerous sacks, commits three turnovers and throws for just 190 yards. He does find Calvin Johnson in the end zone, but Kevin Smith is shut down. Warrick Dunn counters with 75 total yards, while B.J. Askew scores from in close. Jeff Garcia adds 230 passing yards with a touchdown to Antonio Bryant, as Detroit remains winless. Buccaneers 20-13.
Minnesota (+2.5) at Jacksonville, Sunday 1 p.m.Comments:
The Vikings are just 1-4 on the road this season, but so are the Jaguars when playing at home. Just 1-3 over the last four games, Jacksonvilleís season is essentially over. They get a tough matchup this week, as the team likes to go run-heavy but will be facing a Vikings front seven that has allowed only 3.1 YPC on the year. Despite disappointing yardage totals, Maurice Jones-Drew
is on pace to score 18 touchdowns this season... After losing last week, Minnesota is in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North despite a middling 5-5 record, so the team needs a victory Sunday. While Brad Childress is a liability and the passing game struggles, the Vikings have a strong ground game and a solid pass rush, which should wreak havoc on Jacksonville. After Adrian Peterson
inexplicably didnít touch the ball on offense last week in the fourth quarter, expect him to be heavily involved this week, and he should have success against a soft Jacksonville front seven. Despite being the dome team, Minnesota is simply too physical for this Jacksonville squad.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 230 yards and a touchdown to Marcedes Lewis, while Maurice Jones-Drew adds 70 total yards and a goal-line score. Adrian Peterson responds with 115 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Gus Frerotte throws for 190 yards with a scoring strike to Bernard Berrian, as Minnesota prevails. Vikings 20-17.
Buffalo (-3) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bills have followed a 5-1 start to the season by losing their last four games, including a dreadful performance last Monday night against the Browns. The defense is mediocre and lacks playmakers, the offensive line struggles to open any running lanes, and Trent Edwards
has massively regressed after a hot start to open the year. Edwards threw three interceptions in the first quarter alone last week and now sports a 9:14 TD:turnover ratio this season. Heís been picked off multiple times in each of his past three contests. Edwards has a favorable matchup this week, but his confidence is clearly shaken, and itís unfathomable that Lee Evans
was targeted just once all last week... The Chiefs have lost six straight and are just 1-9 on the year, which helps explain why they are three-point underdogs at home against a mediocre if not outright bad Bills team. Still, Kansas City has played much better of late, and their new spread offense should have little trouble moving the ball against Buffalo. Tyler Thigpen
has an 8:1 TD:INT ratio over the last four games, and heís developing a nice rapport with Dwayne Bowe
. Larry Johnson
was rusty in his return to the field last week, fumbling a couple of times while struggling in short-yardage situations, but heís a big part of Kansas Cityís offense and faces a Buffalo front seven that has yielded 13 rushing scores this season.
Predictions: Trent Edwards throws for 225 yards with a TD to Lee Evans and Fred Jackson, while Marshawn Lynch adds 90 total yards with a score. Larry Johnson counters with a similar line, while Tyler Thigpen leads KC to an upset victory by throwing for 250 yards with scoring strikes to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez. Chiefs 24-21.
New England (+1) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Dolphins have won four straight, although they were unimpressive during their last two victories while playing at home against weak competition. Still, Miami has been the most improved team in football in 2008, led by a tough run defense and a surprisingly solid pass rush. Additionally, Chad Pennington
has gotten 7.9 YPA, which is remarkably high. Still, thatís resulted in just eight touchdowns over 10 games, as Miami remains conservative on offense... The Patriots are coming off a tough loss to the Jets, but they have 10 days to prepare and enter with revenge on their minds after the Dolphins beat them 38-13 during Week 3 earlier this year. In fact, Miami ran for 216 yards in that contest, but the Wildcat formation will no longer be a surprise element. Coming off a game in which Matt Cassel
became the first player since the AFL/NFL merger to throw for 400 yards and run for 60 yards, itís clear heís becoming more and more comfortable within the offense. Although he still struggles with the deep ball and connecting with Randy Moss
, Cassel should have another nice game Sunday, as Miami has allowed 7.5 YPA this year.
Predictions: Chad Pennington throws for 230 yards with a touchdown to Ted Ginn, while Ronnie Brown adds 70 total yards and a TD run. Sammy Morris gets the majority of carries in New Englandís backfield, resulting in 60 yards and a short touchdown. Matt Cassel adds 250 passing yards with a TD toss to Ben Watson while also running in another score on his own, as New England comes out on top. Patriots 24-20.
Chicago (-9) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
St. Louis has dropped four straight games and currently looks like one of the worst teams in football. In fact, the Rams have been down by a combined score of 99-10 over the last three games at halftime. Steven Jackson
remains sidelined with a quad injury, and the defense ranks 30th in the league. Dating back to last season, Marc Bulger
has gotten just 6.3 YPA with an 18:30 TD:turnover ratio over his last 21 games... The Bears were pounced 37-3 last week and have lost two in a row, albeit against tough competition. Chicago has really struggled to pressure the passer in recent weeks, but that problem should be rectified Sunday. Moreover, Kyle Orton
should improve after shaking the rust off during his return to the lineup last week, and he gets a highly favorable matchup against a Rams secondary that has allowed an NFL-worst 8.9 YPA this season. Matt Forte
is as big a part of Chicagoís offense as any other player to his team in the league. His catch rate (43/52, 83 percent) is off the charts.
Predictions: Marc Bulger continues to struggle, taking multiple sacks with two interceptions. He does find Donnie Avery for a score, but Antonio Pittman and the ground game is stalled. Matt Forte counters with 125 combined yards with a touchdown, while Kyle Orton adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Greg Olsen and Rashied Davis, as Chicago wins handily. Bears 27-13.
New York Jets (+5) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Jets have won four straight and are 6-1 over their last seven games. No win was as impressive as last weekís overtime victory in New England; New York continues to improve as the season progresses. The offensive and defensive lines are a team strength, but the secondary is vulnerable, and Brett Favre
is still mistake prone. The Jets get a stiff test this week traveling to play an undefeated Titans team, but at least they will have 10 days to prepare. Since Tennessee has picked off 15 passes this year, Favre better protect the football this week... Despite the 25th ranked passing attack, the Titans just keep on winning. Actually, it was Kerry Collins
who led the charge last week, as he threw three touchdowns while getting 10.0 YPA. New York has recorded 34 sacks this season, but Collins has been taken down just five times on the year. Tennessee likes to center its game plan around the run, but thatís the Jetsí strength, so Collins may be asked to carry the offensive load once again this week. Expect a close battle between two of the better teams in the AFC, and like every other outcome with them involved this season, ultimately a Titans win.
Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 210 yards with an interception and a touchdown to Dustin Keller. Thomas Jones adds 65 yards and a short score, while Chris Johnson and LenDale White combine for 80 rushing yards and a TD plunge. Kerry Collins throws for 235 yards with a touchdown toss to Bo Scaife, as Tennessee remains undefeated. Titans 23-20.
Oakland (+10) at Denver, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Although they nearly won last week, the Raiders have dropped four straight and now have to travel to Denver to face a Broncos squad that blew them out 41-14 Week 1. Oakland has scored zero offensive touchdowns over the last 13 quarters, and there are seven players in the league who have at least as many touchdowns as the Raiders have combined for as a team this season (nine). However, Justin Fargas
and Darren McFadden
should find some running room this week, as the Broncos have allowed 4.9 YPC this season... Denver has won back-to-back games and even played sound defense in Atlanta last week. Itís unlikely a true turnaround has occurred, however, so defense figures to remain a major problem moving forward. Itís shocking Peyton Hillis
is currently making a bigger NFL impact than past teammates McFadden and Felix Jones
, but so is the case. Jay Cutler
needs to cut down the interceptions, but his 7.7 YPA mark is elite. He should avoid Nnamdi Asomugha
on Sunday and attack the right side of the field consistently.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell throws for 170 yards with a TD to Zach Miller, while Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden combine for 125 rushing yards and a score. The Broncos use a backfield by committee, but Peyton Hills runs in a goal-line TD. Jay Cutler adds 275 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler the recipients, as Denver wins its third straight. Broncos 27-20.
Carolina (+1) at Atlanta, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Carolina has won four in a row, but Jake Delhomme
has really struggled over the past two games, getting just 3.8 YPA with a 2:4 TD:INT ratio despite playing against weak competition. The team has been relying more on its dominant ground game, as DeAngelo Williams
and Jonathan Stewart
are forming a potent one-two punch. They should have continued success against an Atlanta defense that has allowed 4.9 YPC this year, which is the third highest amount in the league. Julius Peppers
has feasted on Oakland and Detroit, compiling five sacks over the last two weeks... Atlanta lost at home for the first time last week, but they remain right in the playoff race nevertheless. The Falcons have the second best rushing attack in the NFL, and the Panthers rank in the middle of the pack against the run. However, Carolinaís secondary has allowed just 5.9 YPA with an 8:9 TD:INT ratio, so Matt Ryan
and company have their work cut out for them. Still, Ryan has gotten a remarkable 9.8 YPA while taking just one sack and posting a 110.1 QB rating in five home games this season, so this team is potent when playing in Atlanta. The Panthers, meanwhile, are mediocre on the road, so expect the home team to prevail.
Predictions: Jake Delhomme throws for 225 yards and finds Steve Smith in the end zone, while Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams total 130 yards with a touchdown run. Michael Turner answers with 70 rushing yards and a TD, while Matt Ryan adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, as Atlanta wins it. Falcons 24-20.
New York Giants (-3.5) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Cardinals have won three straight, are 5-1 over their last six games and are a perfect 4-0 at home on the year. However, they get their toughest test yet this week, facing the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Arizonaís defense has made progress, but itís still a team weakness, as is the rushing attack. Tim Hightower
has gotten just 57 yards on 24 carries (2.4 YPC) over the past two weeks and is starting to lose touches to J.J. Arrington
. Neither should have much success this week. Still, the passing attack is one of the best in the league, as Kurt Warner
ís 8.3 YPA mark is off the charts. Heís posted a 10:1 TD:INT ratio at home this season, and may very well have the best WR duo in the history of the NFL at his disposal... With apologies to the Titans, the Giants are the class of the NFL, highlighted by an all-time great running game. No team in NFL history has ever averaged 5.0 YPC for a season; New York is currently getting 5.3 YPC. Brandon Jacobs
has returned to practice, so it looks like heíll play through his knee injury. Not that Derrick Ward
or Ahmad Bradshaw
would be much of a downgrade. The Giantsí fierce pass rush should pose problems, and Eli Manning
faces an Arizona secondary that has allowed the most touchdown passes (19) in the league this year. Expect a high-scoring affair, but the Cardinals arenít quite in the Giantsí class just yet. Then again, no team is.
Predictions: Kurt Warner throws for 280 yards and three touchdowns, with Anquan Boldin (twice) and Larry Fitzgerald the recipients. Arizonaís ground game remains stagnant, while Brandon Jacobs runs for 80 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Ward adds 50 yards on the ground with a score as well. Eli Manning throws for 270 yards with scoring strikes to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, as New York continues to roll. Giants 28-24.
Washington (-3.5) at Seattle, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Washington has lost two straight and is clearly not as good as the team looked early on this season. They have traveled well this year and get a struggling Seattle team Sunday, but the team really needs a win to stay in the NFC East race. The Redskins also might have a slight advantage since head coach Jim Zorn was previously with Seattle. Still, the defense canít get to the quarterback, and Jason Campbell
(6.9 YPA) is entirely average. Clinton Portis
also remains hobbled by a knee injury... The Seahawks are 1-6 over their last seven games, including three consecutive losses. However, Seattle is never an easy place to play, and Matt Hasselbeck
should improve after getting the cobwebs off last week. With more practice work and Deion Branch
back in the lineup, Seattleís current offense is surely better than the one that has been trotted out there for most of the season, so most past statistics arenít relevant. The team is hardly any good, but they are desperate for a win and are home underdogs against an average Washington team, so an upset is definitely possible.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 175 yards and a touchdown to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis plays through his injury, resulting in 75 rushing yards and a score. The Seahawks deploy a committee in the backfield, and itís T.J. Duckett who gets the TD at the goal line. Matt Hasselbeck adds 200 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Deion Branch, as Seattle comes out on top. Seahawks 23-20.
Indianapolis (+2.5) at San Diego, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
The Colts have reeled off three straight wins and suddenly look like a major threat come playoff time. The team is still flawed, as the front seven has allowed 4.3 YPC and a staggering 15 scores on the ground, while the rushing attack ranks last in the league. However, when it comes to the passing game on both sides of the ball, which is by far the most important aspect in the NFL, Indy excels. The secondary has given up just 6.7 YPA with an amazing 2:10 TD:INT ratio, and Peyton Manning
has posted a 7:0 TD:INT ratio over the past three games. Moreover, Joseph Addai
had his best game of the season last week, totaling 153 yards with two scores... If San Diego loses to Indy on Sunday, itís likely the team will be down three games in the AFC West with just five to play, so the contest is close to a must-win. The Chargers do get to play four of their final six games at home, where Philip Rivers
is 18-2 in the regular season during his career. Riversí 8.5 YPA mark leads the NFL, so while he faces a difficult task Sunday, he is capable of succeeding. The Colts are coming on, but they are hardly a juggernaut, and even a clearly declining LaDainian Tomlinson
should have success on the ground against a unit missing Bob Sanders
(knee). San Diego simply needs this win more, and homefield is the difference maker.
Predictions: Peyton Manning throws for 250 yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, while Joseph Addai adds 80 combined yards with a TD of his own. LaDainian Tomlinson responds with a similar line, while Philip Rivers contributes 270 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, as San Diego prevails. Chargers 24-21.
Green Bay (+2.5) at New Orleans, Monday 8:30 p.m.
The Saints enter with the No. 1 ranked offense in football, but a poor defense and running game leave them as nothing more than an average team, although they are better than that when playing at home. Drew Brees
(8.2 YPA) has been fantastic this season, but Green Bayís secondary might be the best in the league, as they have allowed an NFL-low 5.7 YPA while also intercepting an NFL-high 16 passes. Additionally, their opposing QB rating of 59.5 is the worst in the league. Green Bay can be ran on, but thatís not New Orleansí strength, and itís unclear if Reggie Bush
(knee) can return this week. The running back duties may fall to the capable Pierre Thomas
yet again... The Packers are easily the most dangerous .500 team in the NFL, with a strong pass defense and aerial attack. Despite facing Tennessee, Minnesota and Chicago the last three weeks, Ryan Grant
has averaged 5.0 YPC, so heís clearly back to last yearís form finally, and if this team can sustain a dominant rushing attack, watch out. Aaron Rodgers
has gotten 7.4 YPA with an 18:6 TD:INT ratio this year, so heís certainly a developing star. In fact, heís posted a remarkable 9:0 TD:INT ratio in the red zone in 2008. The Packers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 250 yards with touchdowns to Marques Colston and Lance Moore, while Pierre Thomas adds 100 scrimmage yards with a TD run. Ryan Grant answers with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Aaron Rodgers throws for 300 yards with scoring strikes to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, as Green Bay proves to be the superior team. Packers 27-24.
Article first appeared 11/20/08