NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Oakland (+10) at San Diego, Thursday 8:15 p.m.
Oakland followed an impressive 21-point victory in Denver with a home loss to Kansas City last week, but even at 3-9, they enter Week 14 just one game behind the 4-8 Chargers. The Raiders have to travel during the short week, but it’s not much of a trip, and the secondary has really improved with Chris Johnson
replacing DeAngelo Hall
at LCB opposite the indefatigable Nnamdi Asomugha
. JaMarcus Russell
hasn’t developed as hoped, but San Diego’s secondary has allowed a 21:7 TD:INT ratio. They struggle covering tight ends especially, so Zach Miller
should continue to impress. As usual, expect the Raiders to rely heavily on their ground game, led by Justin Fargas
, although Darren McFadden
needs to get more carries... The Chargers are 1-5 over their last six games, so despite gaudy passing stats and a roster perceived as talent-filled, this team just isn’t all that good. The defense is soft, and LaDainian Tomlinson
is a shell of his former self, with no burst or explosion. Philip Rivers
has played extremely well this season and has gotten a remarkable 8.7 YPA while at home, but Oakland’s secondary has recorded more interceptions (13) than touchdowns allowed (12) on the year, so they should be able to at least keep the game close. San Diego may take out its frustrations against an overmatched Oakland team, but they’ve disappointed all season long, so there’s no reason to expect anything more than another mediocre performance.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell throws for 170 yards and a touchdown to Zach Miller, while the Raiders’ backfield committee combines for 110 rushing yards and a TD run by Darren McFadden. LaDainian Tomlinson answers with 90 yards and hits paydirt, while Philip Rivers adds 260 passing yards with scoring strikes to Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, as the home team prevails. Chargers 24-17.
Jacksonville (+7) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Just 1-5 over the last six games, the Jaguars looked completely listless during their loss to the Texans last Monday night. They now have to travel during a short week, although Jacksonville has played much better on the road this season, as three of its four victories have occurred away from home. Jerry Porter
, who was seen laughing at the end of last week’s loss despite dropping an easy ball that would have resulted in a first down earlier in the game, is one of the worst free agent signings in the history of the NFL. David Garrard
doesn’t have many playmakers at his disposal, and he faces a Bears secondary that has recorded the second most interceptions (18) in football this year... Chicago has regressed as the season has gone on and no longer looks like a playoff team. They return home Sunday for the first time in a month and have three straight games in Soldier Field upcoming. However, Kyle Orton
has played terribly since returning from an ankle injury, getting just 5.0 YPA with a 2:3 TD:INT ratio over three games. He gets a beatable Jags secondary this week, but expect Chicago to center its offensive game plan around Matt Forte
once again. Forte leads the NFL with 296 touches and has been fantastic during his rookie season, effectively washing the bad taste of the Cedric Benson
era out of the Bears’ fans mouths.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 180 yards with an interception and a TD strike to Marcedes Lewis. Maurice Jones-Drew adds 70 yards combined with a touchdown, while Matt Forte answers with 110 total yards and a TD of his own. Kyle Orton adds 200 yards through the air with a scoring strike to Devin Hester, as the home team comes out on top. Bears 23-17.
Minnesota (-9.5) at Detroit, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Lions were flat out embarrassed on Thanksgiving, as their 47-10 loss could have easily been much worse. Detroit is staring an 0-16 season right in the face, and at this point, it will take a big upset for it not to happen. The team might catch a break if Pat Williams
and Kevin Williams
are suspended for Minnesota, but that decision remains up in the air. Daunte Culpepper
has just been brutal, completing 50.5 percent of his passes with a 3:6 TD:INT ratio. He isn’t the long-term answer at the quarterback position... Minnesota hasn’t played well on the road this year, but they are 4-1 over the last five games and have improved as the season has progressed. The passing attack is suspect, and it really would be a huge loss if both of the Williams tackles are suspended, so they can’t overlook the Lions, especially since the NFC North is still up for grabs. Still, Adrian Peterson
should go nuts against a Lions front seven that has allowed 5.1 YPC and 22 rushing scores – both NFL worsts.
Predictions: Daunte Culpepper takes numerous sacks, commits three turnovers and throws for 175 yards with a touchdown to Calvin Johnson. Kevin Smith is held in check, while Adrian Peterson runs for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Gus Frerotte adds 200 passing yards with a long score to Bernard Berrian, as Minnesota wins it. Vikings 24-13.
Houston (+6) at Green Bay, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Texans have won back-to-back games and get Matt Schaub
(knee) back in the lineup, but this team is terrible on the road and will be traveling during a short week. In fact, Schaub is 0-9 during his last nine road starts. The offense does have potential, but Andre Johnson
surprisingly has just four receiving TDs this season. Green Bay has held opposing quarterbacks to just 6.3 YPA, so it’s not an ideal matchup. Still, Steve Slaton
has emerged as a terrific option out of the backfield, and the Packers have yielded 4.8 YPC in 2008. Expect Slaton to be gone by the end of the second round in fantasy drafts next season... Green Bay is just 1-4 over its last five contests, and the defense has allowed 86 points over the last two games. With a favorable upcoming schedule, the team could still run the table and make the postseason, but there’s little margin for error from here on out. Ryan Grant
(thumb) practiced this week and looks good to go, and he gets a nice matchup Sunday. Aaron Rodgers
has gotten just 6.4 YPA over the last four games, but he has also totaled eight touchdowns over the last three, and Houston’s secondary is a mess.
Predictions: Matt Schaub returns and throws for 240 yards with a touchdown to Owen Daniels, while Steve Slaton contributes 100 total yards and a TD run. Ryan Grant responds with a similar line, while Aaron Rodgers throws for 275 yards with touchdown tosses to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, as Green Bay prevails. Packers 27-20.
Cincinnati (+14) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Bengals have the worst ranked offense in the league, are just 1-10-1 and have been outscored 310-151 on the year. It’s been ugly. Cedric Benson
has averaged 2.9 YPC and offers nothing in the passing game, yet he’s considered an upgrade in the backfield. Ryan Fitzpatrick
has gotten a microscopic 4.8 YPA with just six touchdowns in nine games and faces an Indy secondary that has ceded an NFL-low four TD passes this season, so don’t expect the Bengals to put up many points Sunday... The Colts have won five in a row, but they played awful football last week, and there are still plenty of holes. An incredibly easy schedule assures a playoff berth, but the run defense is leaky, and Joseph Addai
continues to disappoint. Peyton Manning
will almost assuredly play better over the rest of the season, but he’s gotten just 6.6 YPA, so any MVP talk is absurd. Indy’s biggest margin of victory this year is six points, but Cincinnati is a true doormat, so expect the team’s first blowout Sunday.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to struggle, throwing for 140 yards with no TDs. Cedric Benson is also shut down, as the Bengals are unable to reach the end zone. Joseph Addai counters with 100 total yards and a touchdown, while Peyton Manning adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, as Indy wins handily. Colts 27-6.
Atlanta (+3) at New Orleans, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Falcons are 4-1 over their last five games and are clearly one of the NFC’s best teams despite a rookie QB and first year head coach. They have been solid on the road this season, but Atlanta has a tough task this week, as New Orleans is 5-1 at home and desperate for a win to stay in the playoff race. Matt Ryan
has been nothing short of fantastic during his rookie campaign and might be the single most valuable commodity for an NFL franchise today. He should have another nice game against a middling Saints secondary. Michael Turner
has been a terrific addition to the backfield, although just one of his 13 rushing touchdowns have come away from home... The Saints have the No. 1 ranked offense in the league, but the team is too soft on the road and plays in such a competitive division, the postseason looks like a long shot. Drew Brees
has gotten 9.6 YPA with a 17:4 TD:INT ratio in six homes games this season, so the Saints should put up plenty of points this week. Reggie Bush
(knee) should get more touches now back up to game speed, but Pierre Thomas
is New Orleans’ best inside runner.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 260 yards and two touchdowns, with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins the recipients. Michael Turner adds 90 rushing yards and hits paydirt, while Reggie Bush counters with 75 scrimmage yards and a score. Drew Brees throws for 300 yards with scoring strikes to Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jeremy Shockey, as the home team prevails. Saints 31-27.
Philadelphia (+7) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Eagles ended a three-game winless streak with a resounding 48-20 victory over the Cardinals on Thanksgiving but now have to travel to New York to face the best team in football. They do have the added benefit of 10 days rest, which has really helped teams that have previously played on Thursdays this season. Donovan McNabb
has gotten just 5.6 YPA over the past four games, and he’ll be dealing with a vicious Giants pass rush. Brian Westbrook
is feeling better than he has since the beginning of the season, so he appears to have turned the corner with his ankle and knee issues... The Giants are 15-1 over their last 16 games, but it remains to be seen what affect the Plaxico Burress
situation has on the team. It seems like this group can handle the distraction with ease in the locker room, but losing the team’s best wide receiver will hurt them on the field nevertheless, at least eventually. Domenik Hixon
becomes the best deep threat, and he’s impressed when given the opportunity. Teams have been daring Eli Manning
to beat them recently, which should become a theme from here on out. Brandon Jacobs
and the running game will still be the focal point on offense, but Philadelphia has allowed just 3.4 YPC this season.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb throws for 225 yards with a score to L.J. Smith, while Brian Westbrook totals 80 yards with a TD run. Brandon Jacobs runs for 70 yards with a goal-line touchdown, while Eli Manning throws for 220 yards with a scoring strike to Domenik Hixon, as New York wins it. Giants 23-17.
Cleveland (+14) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Cleveland hung tough against Indianapolis last week, but they are just 1-4 over the last five games and have lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. Enter Ken Dorsey
, who has gotten a paltry 5.4 YPA during his career and faces a Tennessee secondary that has allowed a 64.4 opposing QB rating. Jamal Lewis
has averaged just 3.6 YPC, and Braylon Edwards
has the most drops of any receiver in the NFL. Moreover, Kellen Winslow
is sidelined with an ankle injury. A field goal should be considered a success Sunday... The Titans are 11-1 and have the luxury of 10 days of rest, although some complacency could set in facing such weak competition of late. Jeff Fisher will make sure that doesn’t happen, and the ground game should have another big performance against an overmatched Browns front seven. Kerry Collins
has gotten 7.3 YPA with a 6:1 TD:INT ratio while taking only four sacks over the last four games, so he’s playing well despite the “game manager” moniker. Put simply, Tennessee has far more talent than Cleveland, so it would be surprising to see a close contest this week.
Predictions: Ken Dorsey struggles mightily, throwing multiple picks and no TDs. Jamal Lewis is bottled up, as Cleveland is shut out. Chris Johnson responds with 80 total yards and a touchdown, while LenDale White also punches one in from the goal line. Kerry Collins adds 170 passing yards and a touchdown toss to Bo Scaife, as Tennessee improves to 12-1. Titans 24-0.
Miami (pick ‘em) at Buffalo, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
After starting the season 5-1, the Bills have gone just 1-5, typified by a 10-3 home loss to San Francisco last week. The team now gives up its previous homefield advantage of playing a Florida team in what would be below freezing temperatures, instead hosting the game in Toronto under controlled conditions. Trent Edwards
looks unlikely to play with a groin injury, leaving J.P. Losman
under center. Losman can beat you with his legs, and Miami’s secondary isn’t anything special, but he’s not much of a passer, so Buffalo will focus on its ground game. Unfortunately, Miami is strong against the run, allowing only 3.9 YPC on the year... Unlike Buffalo, the Dolphins enter playing well, having gone 5-1 over their last six games. Over their last three wins, the average margin of victory has been just 2.7 points, and that’s been against weak competition, so this team is hardly dominant. Still, they sport the superior rushing attack, limit turnovers, and Chad Pennington
has gotten 7.9 YPA, so they have been the better team this season.
Predictions: J.P. Losman throws for 180 yards and finds Lee Evans for a score, while Marshawn Lynch totals 70 yards with a TD run. Ronnie Brown counters with 60 combined yards and a touchdown, while Chad Pennington adds 220 passing yards and finds Davone Bess in the end zone, as Miami wins on a late field goal. Dolphins 20-17.
Kansas City (+9.5) at Denver, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
The Chiefs ended a seven-game losing streak with a 20-13 win in Oakland last week, but their last ranked defense will have a tough time stopping Denver’s No. 2 ranked offense Sunday. Still, Kansas City has been mostly competitive since Tyler Thigpen
took over quarterback duties, and Larry Johnson
should find success against a Broncos front seven that has allowed 4.9 YPC this season. Thigpen’s YPA has improved recently, and there isn’t a bigger running threat among quarterbacks in all of football. Tony Gonzalez
is easily fantasy football’s best tight end, so the Chiefs should be able to score this week... After losing at home to the Raiders the week before, Denver beat the Jets in New York 34-17 last Sunday, revealing just how unpredictable the NFL can be on a week-to-week basis. Despite a porous defense, the Broncos are 3-1 over their last four games and have taken firm control of the AFC West. Additionally, the team is unlikely to take Kansas City lightly, as the Broncos lost by two touchdowns when these two teams met earlier in the year. Peyton Hillis
has emerged as the primary ballcarrier, and he should have another nice game against a Chiefs defense that has yielded 5.0 YPC with 20 rushing scores in 2008. Jay Cutler
has played far better on the road this season, but that’s likely a short-term anomaly, and he gets a highly favorable matchup this week. Expect Denver to exact revenge in an entertaining shootout.
Predictions: Tyler Thigpen throws for 270 yards and two touchdowns, with Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe the recipients. Larry Johnson adds 90 rushing yards with a TD run, while Peyton Hillis records a similar line. Jay Cutler throws for 290 yards with scoring strikes to Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler, as Denver comes out on top. Broncos 31-24.
New York Jets (-4) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
The 49ers are 2-1 over the last three weeks, including an upset victory in Buffalo last Sunday. Mike Singletary has them playing competitively, although the defense remains a problem other than Patrick Willis
. Shaun Hill
has been a pleasant surprise, getting 7.7 YPA with eight touchdowns over just 4.5 games. The Jets’ secondary is beatable, so Hill could have another nice game, especially since Frank Gore
is unlikely to experience much success against New York’s front seven (3.6 YPC allowed). However, the 49ers’ offensive line is shaky, and the Jets can bring a serious pass rush, so Hill will have to avoid turnovers to keep this game close... New York has to travel across the country, but expect the Jets to be extra focused after losing at home to the Broncos last week. Consider it a wake up call that ended a five-game winning streak, as this is still clearly one of the better teams in the NFL. Thomas Jones
has averaged a surprising 4.7 YPC and scored 13 touchdowns, reviving his career in the process. Brett Favre
played poorly last week, but he should bounce back against a beatable San Francisco secondary Sunday.
Predictions: Shaun Hill throws for 270 yards and connects with Isaac Bruce and Frank Gore in the end zone. Gore also totals 80 yards, while Thomas Jones runs for 90 yards and a score. Brett Favre adds 275 passing yards with TD strikes to Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller, as New York gets back on track. Jets 27-17.
New England (-4.5) at Seattle, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Seattle comes in stuck with a five-game losing streak and is just 1-8 since its Week 4 bye. The defense is ranked 30th in the league, while the offense is ranked 31st. Seattle has never been an easy place to play, and the team did have an extra three days to prepare, but New England is in a different class. Matt Hasselbeck
improved his play last week, and New England’s secondary has allowed 21 scores through the air, which is tied for the second most in the NFL. Still, you can bet Bill Belichick’s crew will be ready after last week’s sloppy loss to Pittsburgh... The Patriots committed five turnovers last week, Randy Moss
dropped numerous passes, and Wes Welker
was knocked out of the game after a taking a vicious hit. However, that came against the NFL’s best defense in Pittsburgh, so Sunday’s game will be a welcome sight against a Seattle D that has allowed 7.9 YPA this year. New England hasn’t lost back-to-back games since Weeks 9 and 10 in 2006, so the Seahawks should expect a strong performance Sunday.
Predictions: Matt Hasselbeck throws for 200 yards and a TD to John Carlson, while Maurice Morris totals 60 yards in the backfield. T.J. Duckett punches one in from the goal line, while Sammy Morris counters with 80 yards combined and a touchdown. Matt Cassel adds 250 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Randy Moss and Jabar Gaffney, as the road team prevails. Patriots 24-17.
St. Louis (+14) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
The Rams have lost six in a row and are one of the league’s true doormats, especially when playing away from home. The team is tougher to beat with Steven Jackson
back in the lineup, but their 29th ranked defense is going to have an extremely difficult time slowing the Cardinals’ passing attack. Over the last four games, Marc Bulger
has gotten 5.0 YPA with a 1:8 TD:turnover ratio, so even though Arizona has yielded an NFL-high 26 passing touchdowns this year, St. Louis is unlikely to be able to take advantage. After getting at least 1,180 receiving yards in eight straight seasons, Torry Holt
is on pace to finish with 701 yards in 2008... Arizona is 7-5 and in total control of the NFC West. However, the team has dropped two straight, including an embarrassing 48-20 drubbing on Thanksgiving. Three of their next four games are at home, where the Cardinals play much better, so they should finish the year strong. Kurt Warner
is having an MVP worthy season and should shred a Rams secondary that has allowed 8.4 YPA on the year. For a team with the No. 2 ranked passing attack, it’s remarkable Arizona has only been able to muster an NFL worst 3.3 YPC. Still, Tim Hightower
makes for a sneaky fantasy play this week, as St. Louis has allowed 4.8 YPC and the second most rushing touchdowns (21) in the NFL.
Predictions: Marc Bulger’s struggles continue, as he throws for just 160 yards sans a TD. Steven Jackson totals 110 yards with a touchdown run, while Tim Hightower answers with 75 rushing yards and a score. Kurt Warner adds 300 passing yards with TD tosses to Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, as Arizona wins in a rout. Cardinals 34-13.
Dallas (+3) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Pittsburgh has won three in a row and is clearly one of the NFL’s best teams. The league hasn’t seen a defense this good in a while. They somehow continue to lead football in both YPA (5.4) and YPC (3.1). The Steelers have also recorded the most sacks (42) and have held each opponent to fewer than 300 total yards this season, which is the longest streak to start a season since 1970. However, Ben Roethlisberger
has not played well, getting just 7.0 YPA with a 13:12 TD:INT ratio... In the NFL’s game of the week, Sunday’s matchup could very well be a Super Bowl preview, and there figures to be inclement weather to spice things up even further. Even at 8-4, Dallas needs to go at least 3-1 to make the playoffs, as the NFC is top heavy this year, so Sunday’s game should be treated as a must-win. The team should have the NFL’s sack leader, DeMarcus Ware
(knee), available, but Marion Barber
(toe) is doubtful, which will hurt in blitz pickups. Still, the defense is better than most realize, allowing just 6.7 YPA with 40 sacks, second only to the Steelers. More importantly, Tony Romo
might be the league’s best player, as his 8.5 YPA leads the NFL. He throws too many interceptions, but he’s on a 16-game pace to throw 37 touchdowns this year. He’s also only taken eight sacks and is extremely elusive in the pocket. Romo is the difference Sunday.
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger throws for 230 yards with touchdowns to Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, while Pittsburgh’s backfield committee totals 90 yards. Tashard Choice gets the start for Dallas, resulting in 60 rushing yards and no TDs. Tony Romo responds with 250 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, with Jason Witten and Terrell Owens the recipients, as Dallas reveals itself as a major contender. Cowboys 20-17.
Washington (+5.5) at Baltimore, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
Once 6-2, the Redskins are now just 7-5 and don’t appear to be serious threats to make the playoffs. Injuries haven’t helped, but the passing game has been the team’s biggest downfall. Unsurprisingly, Jason Campbell
has been a poor fit for the West Coast offense; over the last four games, he’s posted a 5.4 YPA mark with a 2:4 TD:INT ratio while taking 16 sacks, which is downright ugly. Those numbers are unlikely to improve this week, as he gets a Baltimore secondary that has allowed just 6.0 YPA while picking off an NFL-high 20 passes, holding opposing passers to a league-worst 58.4 QB rating... The Ravens are 6-1 over their last seven games, with the only loss coming against the 11-1 Giants on the road. With three of their final four games at home, Baltimore could be looking at a surprising 11-5 season. The defense is one of the three best in the league, but it’s rookie Joe Flacco
who truly makes this team dangerous and a serious threat in the playoffs. The rushing attack ranks third in the NFL, and the team is conservative on offense, but Flacco has quietly posted an 11:2 TD:INT ratio over the past seven games. During that time span, his QB rating is 99.1, which is the highest in the NFL. He’s extremely elusive and fast as well, so Baltimore hit a home run with its first round pick last year.
Predictions: Jason Campbell
throws for 150 yards with a touchdown to Chris Cooley
. A hobbled Clinton Portis
is bottled up, while Le’Ron McClain leads Baltimore in carries, resulting in 60 rushing yards and a goal-line TD. Joe Flacco
adds 220 passing yards with a scoring strike to Derrick Mason
, as the home team wins it. Ravens 20-13.
Tampa Bay (+3) at Carolina, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay is 6-1 over its last seven games and enters with the No. 4 ranked defense in football. They are 9-3 and have a chance to play at home during the Super Bowl, despite having unexciting options at all skill positions. Jeff Garcia
limits turnovers, but he’s gotten just 6.5 YPA on the road this season and faces a Carolina secondary that has allowed just 6.2 YPA. Warrick Dunn
has improbably averaged 4.4 YPC at age 33, and the Panthers have allowed 10 rushing scores this year. Still, the Bucs have their work cut out for them this week, as Carolina is a perfect 6-0 at home this season and will be playing under the national spotlight on Monday night... NFC South teams have gone 22-2 at home in 2008, which is a remarkable stat. The Panthers are a run-first team, but Tampa Bay has allowed just one rushing TD all year, which is easily the lowest total in the NFL. The Bucs’ secondary has also played well, but Jake Delhomme
has gotten 9.1 YPA over his last two games after going through a rough patch. He’s gotten 8.5 YPA with a 9:2 TD:INT ratio while playing in Carolina this season, as the entire team seems to play much better when at home, which should be the difference Monday night.
Predictions: Jeff Garcia
throws for 180 yards with no touchdowns, while Warrick Dunn
adds 70 total yards and a TD run. DeAngelo Williams
, who scored four touchdowns last week and has been one of the best running backs in football this season, slows down a bit and runs for just 75 yards without a TD. Jake Delhomme
throws for 200 yards and finds Muhsin Muhammad
for a score, as Carolina takes control of the NFC South in a defensive battle. Panthers 16-10.
Article first appeared on 12/4/08.