NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Tennessee (-11) at Detroit, Thursday 12:30 p.m.
It’s hardly ideal that the NFL’s Thanksgiving opener features a winless Detroit team, but tradition trumps common sense here. Despite a 17-0 lead at one point, the Lions lost by 18 points last week, although they do have the advantage of playing at home during an extremely short week. The team should bring its best effort playing in the spotlight, but the talent discrepancy here is massive, and Daunte Culpepper
(50.8 completion percentage, 2:5 TD:INT ratio) should have a tough time facing a Tennessee secondary that has allowed just 5.8 YPA with a 7:16 TD:INT ratio on the year... The Titans’ undefeated season is no longer intact after getting thoroughly beaten at home versus the Jets last week, and you can count on the team taking out their frustrations against an overmatched Lions squad Thursday. Jeff Fisher will have his team refocused, and Kerry Collins
should have little trouble picking apart a Lions’ secondary that has allowed an NFL-high 8.7 YPA while intercepting an NFL-low two passes this season. Chris Johnson
and LenDale White
should also get back on track against a defense that has ceded 4.9 YPC with 18 rushing scores in 2008. Tennessee’s smash mouth style is hardly well suited as double-digit road favorites, but this is one of the league’s best teams versus one of the very worst, so don’t expect a highly contested battle come Thursday.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper takes numerous sacks, commits a couple of turnovers and throws for just 180 yards. He does find Calvin Johnson for a score, but Kevin Smith and the rushing attack is held in check. Chris Johnson adds 100 total yards with a touchdown, while LenDale White also adds a goal-line score. Kerry Collins throws for 230 yards with a TD strike to Bo Scaife, as the road team prevails. Titans 27-10.
Seattle (+13) at Dallas, Thursday 4:15 p.m.
Seattle has kept the final score close in each of the past three games, but the team has still dropped four straight and is just 1-7 over the last eight games. Playing at home, Matt Hasselbeck
has gotten just 5.2 YPA in two games since returning to the lineup. He’s also thrown five interceptions over that span while looking terribly inaccurate. Although they’ve played better of late, Dallas’ defense is no juggernaut, but Seattle’s offense lacks the necessary firepower to keep up with a high-powered Cowboys team. Julius Jones
gets the start at running back, and even with the revenge factor in his favor, he’s unlikely to experience much success... As much as they want to be, Dallas still can’t be considered an elite team right now, but with Tony Romo
back, they certainly have the potential to eventually get there. Roy Williams
hasn’t made much of an impact since his arrival, and that’s likely to become a trend since he’s no better than the fourth option on offense. Terrell Owens
busted out with 213 receiving yards last week, so maybe he’s got something left in the tank after all. The Cowboys’ passing attack should have a huge game Thursday against a Seattle secondary that has yielded 7.8 YPA. Moreover, the Seahawks’ 3.2:1 TD:INT ratio is the fourth worst in the league, and they’ve also allowed the third most pass plays of 40-plus yards (10). Dallas’ defense isn’t good enough to sustain many blowouts, but Seattle has truly become one of the league’s doormats.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck continues to struggle, throwing for 200 yards with a TD to John Carlson. Julius Jones and Maurice Morris combine for 80 total yards and a score, while Marion Barber counters with 120 scrimmage yards and hits paydirt. Tony Romo adds 300 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Roy Williams the recipients, as Dallas wins in a rout. Cowboys 31-17.
Arizona (+3) at Philadelphia, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
Arizona’s three-game winning streak came to an end with a home loss to the Giants last week, and they now have to travel across the country to face a desperate Eagles team with a short week of preparation. After tossing multiple touchdowns in eight straight contests, Kurt Warner
has thrown just one in each of the past two games, but he’s played extremely well nevertheless. The Arizona ground game will remain stagnant against a tough Eagles’ front seven, so Warner will once against be asked to carry the offensive load. Philadelphia has a strong pass rush, as its 39 sacks lead the NFL, which is a terrific way to slow down the Cardinals’ aerial assault. Still, Warner has the benefit of Larry Fitzgerald
and Anquan Boldin
at his disposal, so the team should be able to put points on the board... Philadelphia hasn’t won since Week 9, and the team may have reached its low point last week, when Donovan McNabb
was benched during the second half of a blowout loss to the Ravens. McNabb has been named Thursday’s starter, and although he’s posted a 1:7 TD:turnover ratio over the past two games, he should bounce back this week; Arizona’s secondary has allowed an NFL-high 22 passing touchdowns. At 5-5-1, the Eagles are in must-win mode, so they’ll be focused, as home field is the difference.
Predictions: Kurt Warner throws for 300 yards with scoring strikes to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but Tim Hightower and the Cardinals’ rushing attack is stymied once again. Brian Westbrook continues to play at less than 100 percent, but he does total 90 yards with a TD run. Donovan McNabb rebounds with 250 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Kevin Curtis and Brent Celek, as Philadelphia comes out on top. Eagles 24-20.
San Francisco (+7) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
San Francisco is just 1-7 over its last eight games, but they have played more competitively than the record suggests, at least recently. The team has struggled mightily when traveling to the East Coast, but it’s not like Buffalo is anything more than an average team, so the game should be a contested battle Sunday. Shaun Hill
has thrown multiple TDs in three consecutive games and has gotten 9.7 YPA over the last two, so the 49ers’ passing attack is sneaky good. Buffalo’s front seven has allowed 13 rushing scores through 11 games, so Frank Gore
should have some success as well... The Bills ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 54-31 victory in Kansas City last week, as Trent Edwards
bounced back in a big way. He got 8.5 YPA while totaling four touchdowns and hasn’t been sacked since Week 10. San Francisco’s secondary has allowed 11 pass plays for 40-plus yards this season, which is the most in the NFL, so Edwards should be able to connect with Lee Evans
downfield. The 49ers have surprisingly been solid against the run (3.6 YPC), but homefield should be a major factor Sunday. The 49ers’ 27 giveaways are the most in the NFL, so they’ll need to protect the football in order to stay in the game this week.
Predictions: Shaun Hill throws for 250 yards with scoring strikes to Vernon Davis and Bryant Johnson, while Frank Gore totals 100 yards with a TD run. Marshawn Lynch answers with 80 yards combined and a touchdown, while Trent Edwards adds 270 passing yards with TD tosses to Lee Evans and Josh Reed, as the home team prevails. Bills 27-21.
Baltimore (-7.5) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bengals are 1-9-1 and officially eliminated from the playoffs, so only pride is left to play for. Cincinnati enters with the last ranked offense, while Baltimore comes in with the second ranked defense, so the Bengals figure to struggle badly moving the ball. Cedric Benson
has gotten a miserable 3.1 YPC since taking over as the team’s primary ballcarrier, and that number should only drop Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick
is simply one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, getting just 4.9 YPA on the season. Things could get ugly since he’s facing a Ravens’ secondary that has picked off an NFL-high 109 passes and has held opposing passers to a league-low 60.6 QB rating... Led by a strong defense and rushing attack, Baltimore finds itself right in the thick of the playoff race, despite having a rookie quarterback and a first-year head coach. The team implements a three-headed monster in the backfield, and it remains unclear who will be most productive on a weekly basis. Joe Flacco
has actually played better when on the road this season and gets a favorable matchup this week. The Ravens should have little trouble disposing of their division rivals.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick struggles yet again, committing multiple turnovers, throwing for only 140 yards and tossing just one TD, which T.J. Houshmandzadeh hauls in. Cedric Benson is completely shut down, while Baltimore’s backfield committee accounts for 140 yards and two scores on the ground. Joe Flacco adds 200 passing yards with a scoring strike to Derrick Mason, as the road team comes out on top. Ravens 24-10.
Indianapolis (-5) at Cleveland, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Browns are out of the playoff picture and are now forced to turn back to Derek Anderson
at quarterback with Brady Quinn
’s finger injury ending his season. Just 1-5 at home on the year, Cleveland has a tough task Sunday against a surging Colts team. The Browns have completed less than 50.0 percent of their pass attempts this season and face an Indy secondary that has yielded a 4:10 TD:INT ratio. Anderson has been a huge liability since the midway point of last season and is unlikely to have much success this week... The Colts have won four straight, and an easy schedule makes it possible the team runs the table the rest of the year. Although his YPA remains uncharacteristically down, Peyton Manning
has posted a 9:1 TD:INT ratio over the past four games and should shred a Cleveland secondary that has allowed 7.8 YPA in 2008. There’s simply too much offensive firepower on Indy’s side for an overwhelmed Browns team to contend with, so Cleveland will need to play nearly flawless football for it to be close.
Predictions: Derek Anderson remains inaccurate, throwing for 200 yards with no touchdowns. Jamal Lewis adds 70 rushing yards with a TD, while Joseph Addai responds with 100 total yards and hits paydirt. Peyton Manning adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, as Indy continues to roll. Colts 27-13.
Carolina (+3) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
Carolina is 8-3 and tied for first place in the heated NFC South, but this team is mediocre when on the road and faces a desperate and due Green Bay squad Sunday. DeAngelo Williams
has gotten at least 100 rushing yards and a score in each of his past four games, getting a remarkable 6.8 YPC in the process. Jonathan Stewart
(heel) figures to remain in the mix, but Williams should have continued success against a Packers front seven that has ceded 4.8 YPC this year. Jake Delhomme
finally rebounded after two dreadful games with a nice performance last week, but he’s tallied a 3:7 TD:INT ratio with just 6.1 YPA while on the road this season and gets a tough Packers’ secondary this week... Despite sporting gaudy numbers both on passing defense and on passing offense as well as outscoring its opponents by 43 points, Green Bay sits at 5-6 and has an uphill battle to reach the postseason. Last week the team was embarrassed in front of a national audience, losing 51-29 Monday night against the Saints. Expect the Packers to rebound in a big way at home this week, although Carolina’s secondary has been exemplary this year.
Predictions: Jake Delhomme is mediocre, throwing for 220 yards with a TD to Muhsin Muhammad. Ryan Grant adds 80 rushing yards with a score, while DeAngelo Williams responds with a similar line. Aaron Rodgers contributes 260 passing yards with touchdown strikes to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, as Green Bay prevails. Packers 27-20.
Miami (-7.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Rams have lost five straight and have been outscored 99-6 in the first half of the last three games. They do expect to get Marc Bulger
(concussion), Orlando Pace
(knee) and Steven Jackson
(quad) back in the lineup, but this team is one of the worst in the NFL any way you slice it. In fact, no team has been outscored by more points on the year (197), and that includes the winless Lions who have even played one more game. Over the last two years, Bulger has gotten 6.3 YPA with an 18:30 TD:turnover ratio... Miami’s four-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt last week with a 48-28 loss to the Patriots. The team will go on the road this week for the first time in nearly a month, but in a highly competitive AFC East, they can’t afford to take St. Louis lightly and should be extra focused after last week’s loss. Chad Pennington
is having his best season since 2002 and gets a Rams secondary that has allowed 8.5 YPA this year, which is the second highest mark in the league.
Predictions: Marc Bulger’s nightmare season continues, as he throws for just 170 yards with two interceptions and one TD to Donnie Avery. Steven Jackson returns and totals 80 yards but doesn’t score. Ronnie Brown counters with 90 combined yards with a TD run, while Chad Pennington adds 220 passing yards and two touchdowns, with Ted Ginn and Davone Bess the recipients, as Miami gets back on track. Dolphins 24-13.
New Orleans (+3.5) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Saints enter with the No. 1 ranked offense in football, but the Bucs’ D has played extremely well this season. New Orleans looks likely to get Reggie Bush
(knee) back, but they have the unenviable task of traveling after previously playing on Monday night. Pierre Thomas
is the team’s best runner anyway, although Bush is a big weapon as a receiver. Drew Brees
has been fantastic this season and is on pace to throw for the most yards in the history of the NFL. However, the Saints are just 1-4 on the road this season, whereas the Bucs are a perfect 5-0 at home... Despite falling down 17-0 against a winless Detroit team last week, Tampa Bay prevailed and has now won three straight to lead the NFC South. On paper, it doesn’t seem like the Bucs’ offense can keep up with the Saints’, but Tampa Bay is much more physical, and playing outdoors is a big advantage. Jeff Garcia
has posted a 108.6 QB rating with an 8.6 YPA mark at home this year, and New Orleans’ secondary is beatable. It’s nice to see Carnell Williams back on the field, but it’s Warrick Dunn
who’s the team’s true workhorse, and he should have another solid game Sunday.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 260 yards with scoring strikes to Lance Moore and Jeremy Shockey, but New Orleans’ rushing attack is kept quiet. Warrick Dunn responds with 80 total yards and a TD, while Jeff Garcia adds 230 passing yards and finds Antonio Bryant in the end zone, as Tampa Bay wins it. Buccaneers 26-20.
New York Giants (-3.5) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.
Washington improved to 7-4 with a win in Seattle last week, but this is a team that has outscored its opponents by just two points this year, and the Redskins’ passing attack scares no one. Jason Campbell
has thrown just three interceptions, but his 6.8 YPA isn’t any good, and he takes too many sacks (28), which should be a problem going up against a fierce Giants’ pass rush. The Redskins are fundamentally sound and won’t kill themselves, but they simply aren’t anywhere near the same class as New York, who just so happens to be the best team in football... The Giants dominate in the trenches and currently possess a legendary ground game. Why they are just barely more than field goal favorites to a middling Washington team is puzzling, as New York is one of the better football teams in the NFL in recent memory. Plaxico Burress
(hamstring) is iffy, but Brandon Jacobs
(knee) is supposed to return this week, although the same was true last Sunday. Regardless, the Giants have enough firepower on offense either way and should take care of an inferior Washington squad.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Chris Cooley, while Clinton Portis adds 75 hard-fought yards and a TD run. The Giants rush for 140 yards, and both Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward reach paydirt. Eli Manning adds 225 passing yards with a touchdown to Domenik Hixon, as New York continues to impress. Giants 27-17.
Atlanta (+4.5) at San Diego, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Atlanta is 3-1 over its last four games and is now 7-4 on the season. The surprising record still only leaves the team in third place in their division, so the Falcons need another victory to keep pace. Michael Turner
returns to San Diego tied for the NFL-lead with 13 touchdowns, and he’s been highly impressive during his first year as a featured back. However, his 251 carries are the most in the league, and since his previous career-high was 80, he’s at some risk of wearing down over the rest of the season. Matt Ryan
has been nothing short of fantastic as a rookie, but his YPA drops from 9.8 at home down to 6.1 when playing on the road... San Diego is 1-4 over its last five games and just 4-7 on the year. Since the Falcons have clearly been the superior team all season long, the five-point spread is a little curious, although the Chargers remain dangerous on offense and could easily have a much better record. Despite the seven losses, the Bolts are still in AFC West contention, so they have plenty to play for. Philip Rivers
has gotten a ridiculous 9.4 YPA with a 13:3 TD:INT ratio at home this year, so expect the scoreboard to be lit up come Sunday.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 250 yards with touchdown tosses to Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, while Michael Turner adds 90 rushing yards and a TD run. LaDainian Tomlinson answers with a similar line, while Philip Rivers adds 300 passing yards with scoring strikes to Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates, as San Diego’s playoff hopes stay alive. Chargers 31-24.
Denver (+9) at New York Jets, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
After back-to-back road victories, the Broncos lost 31-10 at home against the Raiders last week. The offense ranks second in the league, but the defense ranks 28th and is a major problem. Denver remains two games up in the AFC West, but while second place San Diego has outscored its opponents by 22 points this season, the Broncos have actually been outscored by 44 points. Peyton Hillis
has filled in admirably in Denver’s backfield, but the team’s ground game figures to stall against a stout Jets’ front seven that has allowed just 3.4 YPC on the year. Still, expect Jay Cutler
to rebound with a nice performance after a poor game last week... The Jets enter riding a five-game winning, including handing Tennessee its first loss of the season last week, so all of a sudden New York looks like one of the AFC’s powerhouses. It’s a well-rounded team that has made big improvements in the trenches, and Thomas Jones
has resurrected his career and should continue to excel against a poor Denver defense. Brett Favre
has dialed down the turnovers and faces a Broncos secondary that has yielded a 102.3 opposing QB rating, which is the fourth highest mark in NFL history.
Predictions: Jay Cutler throws for 275 yards with TD strikes to Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, but Denver’s running game is stymied. Thomas Jones counters with 110 rushing yards and hits paydirt, while Brett Favre adds 250 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery, as New York wins its sixth straight. Jets 27-20.
Pittsburgh (+1) at New England, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Sporting the No. 1 ranked defense, Pittsburgh has won two straight but will go on the road this week for the first time in nearly a month. Willie Parker
(knee) is expected to return to the lineup, but Ben Roethlisberger
has been a big disappointment this season. His 7.2 YPA mark is easily the lowest of his career, and he’s committed more turnovers (14) than touchdowns (13) while taking an unacceptable 32 sacks. Roethlisberger needs to play better for Pittsburgh to reach its massive potential... New England continues to improve as the season progresses and looks like a potentially dangerous team with Matt Cassel
’s development. The signal caller became the first QB since 2004 to throw for 400 yards in consecutive weeks with another huge game last week, although his task gets significantly harder Sunday. Over his last three games, Cassel has gotten 8.3 YPA with an 8:2 TD:turnover ratio. Still, the Patriots need to improve their red-zone defense, as they have allowed 22 touchdowns in 33 series, which ranks 31st in the NFL.
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger throws for 275 yards with a touchdown to Hines Ward. Willie Parker adds 80 rushing yards with a score of his own, while New England’s backfield committee totals 70 yards on the ground with a goal-line TD. Matt Cassel contributes 200 passing yards and finds Randy Moss in the end zone, as New England wins on a late field goal. Patriots 20-17.
Kansas City (+3) at Oakland, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Raiders ended a four-game losing streak with a 31-10 victory in Denver last week, as the offense finally got into the end zone. At 3-8 with the worst passing offense in football, it’s hard to consider Oakland as favorites but so is the case Sunday against Kansas City. The Raiders are at their best when they go run-heavy, although JaMarcus Russell
has played better of late. The Chiefs have allowed 5.0 YPC and 19 rushing scores this year, so expect a heavy dose of Justin Fargas
and Darren McFadden
this week... The Chiefs are 1-19 over their last 20 games, as their defense has given up a staggering 29.7 points per game this season. The offense has shown flashes, however, and Larry Johnson
should find running room Sunday. Tyler Thigpen
has been a better fantasy quarterback than real life QB, but he’s a playmaker and should be able to produce points in Oakland. The Chiefs have recorded a microscopic six sacks on the year, but they’ll have revenge on their minds after losing at home to the Raiders 23-8 back in Week 2.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell throws for 180 yards with a touchdown to Zach Miller, while Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden combine for 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Larry Johnson counters with 90 yards on the ground and a TD run, while Tyler Thigpen adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez, as Kansas City pulls off the mild upset. Chiefs 27-24.
Chicago (+3.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Both teams come in tied for first place in the NFC North, so Sunday’s game has major significance. Chicago will be traveling for the third consecutive week, which is never easy, so they are the rightful underdogs here. Matt Forte
has been great during his rookie year, but Minnesota has ceded just 3.1 YPC this season, so the Bears will have to rely on their passing game more so than usual. Since returning from an ankle injury, Kyle Orton
hasn’t looked right, getting just 4.9 YPA. Minnesota has allowed just nine TD passes all year and can pressure the passer, so the Bears could struggle offensively Sunday... The Vikings aren’t a good passing team and have questionable coaching, but the team is tough in the trenches and is especially difficult to beat when playing at home. The Bears’ front seven has yielded just 3.3 YPC this year, but they’ve also allowed 10 rushing scores. Adrian Peterson
has averaged 6.8 YPC in three games against Chicago during his career, and he’ll continue to be a big part of the Vikings’ offense. Gus Frerotte
must protect the ball against a Chicago secondary that has recorded 17 interceptions in 2008, although he has played significantly better at home this season.
Predictions: Kyle Orton throws for 220 yards with a TD to Greg Olsen, while Matt Forte totals 75 yards with a touchdown run. Adrian Peterson answers with 100 rushing yards and two scores, while Gus Frerotte adds 200 passing yards with a TD toss to Bernard Berrian, as the home team prevails. Vikings 21-17.
Jacksonville (+3.5) at Houston, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Jacksonville is just 1-4 over its last five games, and it appears the team has completely given up on the season. They have played better on the road than at home this year, and Houston’s defense is beatable, but the Jags just aren’t nearly as physical as they used to be. Additionally, David Garrard
has taken a major step back, getting just 6.8 YPA while producing as many turnovers as touchdowns (10). Still, Maurice Jones-Drew
should find success against a Houston defense that has surrendered 4.5 YPC on the season... With both the Texans and Jaguars two of the most disappointing teams in the league this year, the game should at least be competitive under the national spotlight Monday night, especially since Houston rarely participates in such events. Steve Slaton
has impressed, but he’s wearing down as a smallish back during his rookie season. Sage Rosenfels
looks great at times, often producing nice yardage totals, but a couple mistakes per game usually erase all of the positives. He simply must stop the backbreaking turnovers and ill advised throws into coverage. Houston typically plays well at home, and they possess too much firepower on offense for Jacksonville.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 225 with a touchdown toss to Matt Jones, while Maurice Jones-Drew totals 110 yards with a TD run. Steve Slaton counters with 80 yards and a touchdown, while Sage Rosenfels adds 260 passing yards with scoring strikes to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, as Houston comes out on top. Texans 24-20.