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Crossing the Line - Week 4
By Fritz Schlottman
September 25, 2003
 
Arizona vs. St. Louis

Arizona Offense
Sacked/G= 1.33
Rush TDs/G= .33
Rush Avg.=3.4

St. Louis Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=5.2

Arizona Defense
Sacks/G=.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=3.4

St. Louis Offense
Sacked/G=3.67
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=3.2

When the Cardinals have the ball - The Cardinals offensive line had a solid game against the Green Bay Packers last week. Arizona ran the ball a little and did an outstanding job in protecting QB Jeff Blake. Most of all, the Cardinals avoided the plague of turnovers which seems to follow this team.

The games stats were indicative of the offenses' play, and in particular the play on the offensive line. Arizona averaged just 2.6 yards per rush, which isn't great. But being able to run the ball let the Cardinals convert 8-13 third downs and dominate the time of possession. The redbirds' offensive line did not allow a sack of the Cardinals quarterback for the first time this season. Also, for the first week, Arizona played solid football, didn't make drive-killing mistakes, and got the victory over the heavily favored Packers.

The Card's will try and run the ball again this week when they travel to St. Louis to face the Rams. St. Louis will be desperate for a victory, as a loss will leave them three behind the idle Seahawks in the loss column. To get that victory, St. Louis will have to tighten up their run defense. The opposition is averaging a whopping 5.2 yards per carry after three weeks. The Rams defense folded in the fourth quarter of the Seattle game, giving up 10 first downs in the final 15 minutes.

When the Rams have the ball - The big news out of St. Louis is the loss of RB Marshall Faulk for four to six games. The Rams runningback broke two bones in his left hand in the third quarter against the Seahawks and did not return to the game. In addition to mending his hand, he will have a procedure on his knee to clean up some cartilage. RB Lamar Gordon becomes the starter. Gordon was playing fullback, and finding a decent blocking fullback will be one of the team's highest priorities this week. Right now, the long-snapper (Chris Massey) or the injured Dan Curley (calf) will play fullback. Needless to say, that's not a good thing. The Rams had just 19 yards and no first downs in the 4th quarter without Faulk.

St. Louis' offensive line play has just been terrible this far this season. Good thing Arizona can't rush the passer with any success. The Rams starting offensive line has given up an average of 3.67 sacks per season, and that's a big improvement over the first two games were they gave up 11 sacks in eight quarters of play. With the running game averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, defenses have been very aggressive and have blitzed the St. Louis offensive line. In the 49ers game, San Francisco blitzed (23) more time than not (18). Expect more of the same with Faulk on the sidelines

Jacksonville vs. Houston

Jacksonville Offense
Sacked/G=3.00
Rush TDs/G= .67
Rush Avg.=4.3

Houston Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=1.33
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Jacksonville Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=2.7

Houston Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.7

When the Jaguars have the ball - Two very bad teams will meet on Sunday. Both teams need a win badly to turnaround their seasons.

Jacksonville has RB Fred Taylor and really nothing else on offense. With that running game, they can play with a good team for about 30 minutes. By that time they're behind and have to throw the football.game over.

Jacksonville just has too little talent on either the offensive line or at WR to come from behind. The wide receivers can't get separation and the offensive line can't hold up long enough for QB Mark Brunell to find an open receiver. Brunell finished with 90 yards passing on Sunday. It's not often that a runningback averages over seven yards per carry and his team isn't in a ball game at the end of the third quarters, but Jacksonville did it again last week.

After getting a dose of RB Priest Holmes last Sunday; the Texans can't be looking forward to chasing down Jaguars RB Fred Taylor. Holmes finished the game with 156 total yards and two touchdowns, while playing only three-quarters. The Texans have been outscored 52-7 in the second half of their last two ball games.

When the Texans have the ball - The Texans are another team that can only play 30 minutes of football. Houston was only down 14-7 against the heavily favored Chiefs before the roof caved in during the third quarter. They lost the game 42-14. Four turnovers in the second half contributed mightily to the loss.

The Houston offensive line wasn't the problem. QB David Carr had time to throw and completed 63% of his passes. Unfortunately, he threw too many of those passes to the Kansas City defenders. Once Houston got behind big in the third quarter, the Texans running game was shelved. Up until that point, the Texans were able to run the ball with some success.

The Jaguars defense does its own disappearing act in the second half of games. Last Sunday, they couldn't cover Colts WR Reggie Wayne. Yes, the secondary played poorly, but they didn't get any help either. Jacksonville never got near Indy QB Payton Manning, who picked them apart in the second half.

Philadelphia vs. Buffalo

Philadelphia Offense
Sacked/G=5.5
Rush TDs/G=0.5
Rush Avg.=6.9

Buffalo Defense
Sacks/G=2.0
Rush TDs Against/G=0.67
Rush Avg. Against=4.2

Philadelphia Defense
Sacks/G=1.0
Rush TDs Against/G=0.0
Rush Avg. Against=2.5

Buffalo Offense
Sacked/G=2.0
Rush TDs/G=1.67
Rush Avg.=2.4

When the Eagles have the ball - Philadelphia comes off a bye week, and it's good thing that their week off came so early in the season because the offensive line has been horrible so far this season. Had they play five or six of these dreadful games before they got a two straight weeks of practice to sort themselves out, the Eagles may have been out of the playoff picture early.

Giving up five and a half sacks per game is not a good thing. QB Donavan McNabb gets hit so often because 1) the Eagles can't run the ball, 2) they can't run because the offensive line isn't getting the job done up front, and 3) Head Coach Andy Reid isn't calling running plays. Against the Patriots, McNabb was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions. He was the NFL's lowest rated passer (41.4) after two games and the Eagles' runningbacks (Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley and Buckhalter) combined for just 21 carries for 65 yards.

The Bills come of a surprising performance in Miami: and that's surprising in a bad way. The defense was on the field way to long and wore down from the heat and the constant pounding by Dolphins RB Ricky Williams. The Dolphins runningback rushed for 153 yards on 42 carries against the Bills. Fortunately for Buffalo, Philly has no running game so far, and unless something drastic happened during their week off, they may struggle to move the ball on the ground again this week.

When the Bills have the ball - A lot of concern about the Bills' running game and the offensive line play. The offensive line was terrible in Miami, and Buffalo has now not run well for two weeks straight. In particular, RT Mike Williams has not played well. The Bills have not been able to run behind the 370-pounder and the quicker Dolphins' DE Adewale Ogunleye beat him on several occasions. Without a running game and pass protection, Bills QB Drew Bledsoe had a terrible game completing just ten of 25 passes for 98 yards, two interception, and four sacks. The Eagles defense, smelling blood in the water, will come after Bledsoe and test the Bills' offensive line.

The Eagles also are counting on their defense playing better once their starters come back from injuries. DBs Brian Dawkins and Bobby Taylor and DEs Brandon Whiting and Jerome McDougle have missed time with injuries. The makeshift defense has forced only one turnover while the Eagles have committed eight. The Eagles have been outscored 48-10 so far this season.

Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh

Tennessee Offense
Sacked/G=2.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=2.9

Pittsburgh Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.33
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Tennessee Defense
Sacks/G=2.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=3.1

Pittsburgh Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=3.3

When the Titans have the ball - Tennessee's offensive line played better this week than they did at the RCA Dome. Of course, they always seem to play better when they have the boisterous Adelphi Coliseum home crowd behind them. And they better get the most out of their home field advantage this season because the salary cap is going to hit hard in Tennessee next year. It's Super Bowl or bust this fall.

LG Benji Olson played Sunday with a sprained right knee. He gutted it out to keep his consecutive games played streak going. With the big guard on the field, the battle between the tattered Titans offensive line and the injury-plagued Saints defense was very one-sided. RB Eddie George had his first 100 yard game (albeit on 29 carries) this year. He probably should have done better, considering the holes his offensive line was opening up in the Saints defense.

The Steelers have made huge changes on offense, moving from a run game to a throw on every down attack. Less noticeable have been the changes on the defense. Pittsburgh was horrible against the pass last season. In particular, the 2002 playoffs highlighted just how inept this team was in covering wide receivers. They gave up 720 yards total passing yards combined in both games, including the controversial loss to the Titans.

Three weeks into the 2003 season, the Steelers are second in the league in pass defense, giving up slightly less that 131 yards per game. The switch from man-to-man defense to more cover two defense has certainly helped rein in opposing passers.

This team hasn't forgot that the Titans ended their season last year. With LB Joey Porter back on the field, a defense that has seven sacks and four interceptions thus far can give the Titans offensive line a number of looks and blitz packages they haven't seen on film.

When the Steelers have the ball - Pittsburgh may as well give up on running the ball right now. Behind a beat-up offensive line the Steelers runningbacks are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and the Titans stingy defense is allowing 3.1 yards per carry. This looks to be a game where both teams throw the football at least 40 times for lack of a running game. Who needs a running game when you have the second ranked offense and number one passing offense anyway?

The Titans defense comes off a game in which they dominated the high-scoring Saints offense. The held RB Deuce McAllister, the NFC's leading rusher last season, to just eight yards on 11 carries. The Saints offense managed just 23 rushing yards, 11 first downs and 188 yards total offense. The Titans defense played man-to-man coverage on WRs Joe Horn and Daunte Stallworth and got away with it. Horn had one catch for five yards and Stallworth had two receptions for 20 yards. With minimal coverage in the secondary, Tennessee stacked the box with eight defenders and shut down McAllister.

San Diego vs. Oakland

San Diego Offense
Sacked/G=1.33
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=4.8

Oakland Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.7

San Diego Defense
Sacks/G=1.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.33
Rush Avg. Against=4.9

Oakland Offense
Sacked/G=3.0
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Chargers have the ball - Not much good to talk about when a team is behind by at least 20 points at the start of the fourth quarter in each of its first three games. Just when it couldn't get worse, injuries are hitting the offensive line.

RT Vaughn Parker (ACL MCL) could be out for the year. The Chargers will have to juggle the offensive line to fill the gap. Undrafted rookie Phil Bogle may play either RG or RT, or they could go with Solomon Page and put Bob Hallen in at right guard. To make matters worse, RG Solomon Page has an ankle problem and LT Damion McIntosh has a bruised chest. Both may have to play wounded this week. No matter who plays, the offense should struggle this week against the Raiders. No receivers, no offensive line, no defense equals another loss.

Oakland was terrible on Monday Night. After three games, they aren't even close to the team that was representing their conference in the Super Bowl just a few months ago. You could say that it's taken some time for this team to come back together, but if they couldn't get up for a Monday Night game against the Broncos, are they ever going to play like the did in 2002? How could they fall this far this fast?

The Broncos just dominated them on offense. Denver had 190 rushing yards and they were playing without RB Clinton Portis for much of the game. It doesn't take a genius to know that if you can't stop the opposing running game, you aren't going to get many victories in the NFL

Most of all, it was the stupid penalties this Raiders team takes that destroys any progress they make on the football field. Having a high number of penalties is expected in the preseason, but Oakland should have worked that out by game two. Having 13 flags against in game three is inexcusable.

When the Raiders have the ball - Oakland thinks the opposing defense have their calls and formations down right now. That begs the question, "Okay, so why are you still doing the same things over and over again when you know the plays you're calling won't work?" It's pretty hard to play on the offensive line when the other team knows where the ball is going and your coaching staff hasn't gotten the hint. No wonder the Raiders gave up five sacks and couldn't run the ball.

Frankly, I was shocked that the Raiders didn't come out and pound away against the Broncos. Oakland has a huge front line and Denver hadn't been great against the run. Further, struggling teams seem to get a rhythm on offense if they can get some success on the ground. But, what do I know? The Raiders ran the ball just five times in the first half and were behind 24-0 at the break. Maybe they'll get a clue this week.

Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. At least Ravens RB Jamal didn't set another rushing record against the Chargers. Giving up 132 yards isn't great, especially when you knew the Ravens were going to run the ball, but its not 300 yards either. Pat yourself on the back for that effort, boys. Maybe the Chargers will only be behind by two touchdowns after 45 minutes this week.

Dallas vs. New York Jets

Dallas Offense
Sacked/G=3.50
Rush TDs/G=1.0
Rush Avg.=4.3

New York Jets Defense
Sacks/G=3.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Dallas Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.2

New York Jets Offense
Sacked/G=.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=2.9

When the Cowboys have the ball - Dallas comes off a big victory against the Giants and a bye week to play the other New York team on the road this week. Oh yea, Cowboys Head Coach Bill Parcells also coached the Jets and 11 of his former players will suit up against their old coach on Sunday.

Yes, the Cowboys have the NFL's top ranked offense. QB Quincy Carter comes off his best game as a pro, a career high 321 yards in a 32-25 victory over the Giants. Dallas has rediscovered the long ball and Carter has gotten it down field to WRs Bryant, Galloway and Glenn who, as a group, are dominating secondaries through two games.

The offensive line should get a lot of the credit for the success on offense, too. First, they've stayed healthy, which is a pleasant change. The 'Boys had so many injuries to plug last year they were doing introductions in the huddle. Second, when you average 4.3 yards per carry, defenses can't load up on the quarterback. It's funny, but play action actually works if you can mix things up on offense. As long as the Dallas big boys can opening running lanes, the long pass should continue to work.

When the Jets have the ball - I'm trying to find something civil to write about the Jets' offensive line and Offensive Coordinator Paul Hackett. Nothing is coming to mind. This team isn't scoring touchdowns, isn't running with any success, they can't stop the run, and nothing indicates that it's going to get better any time soon.

I would be restating the obvious (again) to write that QB Vinny Testaverde does not fit the West Coast Offense. The team is 0-5 in the last five games he's started and finished. In those five games, New York's scored four touchdowns. That's not good enough in the NFL. Testaverde may be benched and replaced by Brooks Bollinger if the losing continues.

RB Curtis Martin looks finished. He managed a lousy 3.3 yards per carry against a Patriot defense that was missing five starters. He finished with just 65 yards rushing-not good enough, either. Still, he may get 20-25 carries this week so the coaching staff has enough film to determine if the problem is Martin or the offensive line. All signs point to a change. If the Jets lose again on Sunday, someone's going to lose their job on Monday.

Indianapolis vs. New Orleans

Indianapolis Offense
Sacked/G=.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.4

New Orleans Defense
Sacks/G=3.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Indianapolis Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=0.0
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

New Orleans Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.4

When the Colts have the ball - Indianapolis beat the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, but the victory was costly. They may play this week without two or three of their starting offensive linemen.

OT Ryan Diem suffered a high ankle sprain on the last play of Sunday's game. He is not expected to play against New Orleans this week. OT Adam Meadows suffered a knee sprain and will likely miss the game as well. OG Steve Scuillo is expected to play this week despite an ongoing problem with turf toe. Scuillo has been unable to start the past two weeks, but will be needed badly if Diem and Meadows can't play.

All three of these starters are needed. One of the smallest offensive lines in the league, Indianapolis' offensive line struggles against the big, 320 lb. plus defensive tackles that are so fashionable. Averaging 3.4 yards per rush is way below the league average and it won't be easy to improve on that number if the Saints get back some of their injured defenders this week.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, that doesn't look like that's going to happen. Their best defensive end (Darren Howard) and their first round pick (DT Johnathan Sullivan) are unlikely to play on Sunday. To make matters worse, the Saints will play again without their best cornerback (Dale Carter). SLB Sedrick Hodge is out for five-to-seven more weeks with a hairline fracture in his lower right leg and LB Cie Grant, who missed the first two games after having arthroscopic knee surgery, was inactive for the third straight week.

With these starters on the bench, New Orleans was terrible last week against the Titans. Tennessee punted once during the game and drove into Saints territory on seven of eight possessions. Four of those seven drives were 62 yards or longer. This looks like another bad week for the Saints defense.

When the Saints have the ball - The Titans stacked eight in the box last week to stop RB Deuce McAllister and took their chance with QB Aaron Brooks and WRs Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth-and it worked. McAllister had just eight yards on eleven carries while Horn and Stallworth had disappointing games. Brooks also tossed three interceptions.

McAllister should have more success this week against a very conservative Indianapolis defense. The Colts will give up something on the ground (4.3 yards per carry against) in order to play their safeties 20 yards off the line of scrimmage to take away the long passing game. Their cover two scheme is working, as the Colts defense is among the league's leaders against the pass.

Cincinnati vs. Cleveland

Cincinnati Offense
Sacked/G=3.33
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.1

Cleveland Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=6.1

Cincinnati Defense
Sacks/G=.67
Rush TDs Against/G=1.33
Rush Avg. Against=4.7

Cleveland Offense
Sacked/G=2.0
Rush TDs/G=0.0
Rush Avg.=3.2

When the Bengals have the ball - With RB Corey Dillon (groin, knee) hurting for the third straight week, the Cincinnati offensive line will struggle again. Against the Steelers, the Bengals managed just 57 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Without an effective running game, QB Jon Kitna was under too much pressure. The Cincinnati QB was sacked three times by the Steelers. Pretty hard for a re-tooled offensive line to protect the passer when there isn't a running threat. If Dillon can't play, it will be a huge hit on the Bengals offense. The Bengals runningback has 941 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games against the Browns.

The Bengals experiment with Mike Goff at center is dead and buried. Rich Braham will play center and Goff now alternates by quarter at RG with Matt O'Dwyer.

When the Browns have the ball - Don't let the victory over the 49ers fool you, the Browns are still struggling on offense. They were shut out in the first half and had only 80 yards on offense. Cleveland has gotten very predictable on offense, running 8 of 11 times on first down. Opposing teams have noticed this trend as well, putting the Browns in too many second and long situations. Pretty hard for the offensive line to open holes or protect their passer if your team is predictable on offense.

The Bengals are horrible against the rush. If fantasy owners have been inpatient for Browns RB William Green to give them something, this should be their week. Pittsburgh held the ball for 20 minutes the second half, and the final 5, by jamming RB Jerome Bettis straight at the Bengals' run defense. The Bengals are giving up 152 rushing yards a game and 4.6 per carry. The Browns should pound the ball this week against the Bengals.

New England vs. Washington

New England Offense
Sacked/G=3.0
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.6

Washington Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.8

New England Defense
Sacks/G=3.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Washington Offense
Sacked/G=4.33
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=4.7

When the Patriots have the ball - New England is beat up on both sides of the ball. The defense's hits have gotten more coverage, but the offense has had their share of injuries as well.

LG Mike Compton missed last week's game with a foot injury and now has been placed on the IR. C Damien Woody is playing with a bruised sternum. Rookie Dan Koppen has gotten OTJ experiences the past two weeks and may be called on again this week. RG Joe Andruzzi has chronic knee problems, and RT Kenyatta Jones is on the PUP list along with promising young G Stephen Neal (shoulder). RT Adrian Klemm also got beaten up last week and has an undisclosed injury. Tom Ashworth will play for Klemm if he can't go. The Patriots also signed OL Wilbert Brown off waivers yesterday. Brown started nine of Washington's 14 games last season at guard and can back up at center. The lack of continuity on the offensive line has been hurting the Patriots' running game and the pass protection.

When the Redskins have the ball - Perhaps it's too obvious given the Patriots injury problems on defense, but this sets up to be a good week for Washington to run the ball, that is if they can avoid another 17 penalty game this week. The Redskins have had to come from more than 17 points behind in each of their last two games and stupid penalties played a large role in each game.

The Washington offensive line continues to struggle. A holding call against T Chris Samuels nullified a touchdown pass last week. Maybe holding is justified when your offensive line is giving up more than four sacks per game, but it's not what you're looking for. Giants' DE Michael Strahan was all over the Redskins QB for much of the afternoon. Washington's tackles continue to struggle with discipline and pass protection. Jon Jansen jumped offsides three times and Chris Samuels was called for two holding penalties

New England has all sorts of problems on defense. DT Ted Washington has a fractured leg and will miss at least half the season if not more. LB Mike Vrabel has a broken arm. CB Ty Law has an ankle sprain. New England is hurting so badly at linebacker that they are considering playing a 4-3 alignment this Sunday. Not to overstate the obvious, but their injured defense doesn't match-up very good against the high-powered Redskins offense.

San Francisco vs. Minnesota

San Francisco Offense
Sacked/G=1.0
Rush TDs/G=1.0
Rush Avg.=4.2

Minnesota Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

San Francisco Defense
Sacks/G=4.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=3.1

Minnesota Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=1.0
Rush Avg.=5.0

When the 49ers have the ball - WR Terrell Owens called out his own offensive line after last week's loss to the Browns. ``I'm running wide open, and Jeff can't get me the ball,'' he said after the game. ``There were two or three times where I beat the guy like a drum, but it doesn't matter if you don't have time.'' T.O. added, ``Everyone knows that this is the West Coast offense, and it's all about timing. It starts with the protection. . . . If we can't get any protection to get the ball downfield, we're going to be in this situation all year long.'' ``If you watch other teams, their quarterbacks can read the newspaper back there. For whatever reason, Jeff is under stress. If I was the quarterback and I was taking hits like that, you have to stand up and say something.'' Owens also complained that his number wasn't getting called down along the goal line.

Nice job, T.O. How does the ad go, "There's no I in TEAM, but there's no WE either?" I wonder where the Madison Avenue guys got the idea for that ad spot? It only took three games to have your first meltdown of the season, what would the 49ers do without you? Maybe the offensive line should schedule a pillow party meeting sometime in the not so distant future to express how they really feel.

Veteran lineman Scott Gragg had this response, "I take instructions from what the coaches said and their advice for us is to look at each one of ourselves individually. I think that the stand-up thing as a quarterback, as a fullback, as an offensive lineman and as a receiver is to look at ourselves and evaluate how we can play better as an individual. We're all in this thing together, so we need to take the burden in together. I think that is what I'm going to do and move on.''

Sounds like good advice.

When the Vikings have the ball - Good times on the northern prairie these days. The Vikings have started 3-0, due in large measure to the dominating play of the offensive line.

A week after rushing for 202 yards against Chicago, the Vikings changed things up on the Lions. Minnesota had only seven rushes at half time, and two of them were QB draws for touchdowns by Daunte Culpepper. The change in tactics fooled Detroit. The Lions played to stop the run, so the Vikings threw the ball 32 times and ran it 22. It was the first game this season where Minnesota passed more times than they ran. RB Moe Williams had 95 yards on 13 carries, but one of the carries was a 61-yarder. The Vikings had 127 yards rushing on 22 carries (5.8), but 16 yards came from Culpepper and 12 came on a reverse to WR Kelly Campbell.

The Vikings still have this curious need to run the football all the way down the field and then start passing when they get inside the opponents' 20 yard line. Minnesota would have scored more touchdowns if they had stuck with what got them down there.

Running looks a lot more likely this week because of several key injuries. QB Daunte Culpepper suffered three fractures in his lower back and may miss 2-6 weeks or he may try and play through the pain. WR Randy Moss is listed as questionable with back spasms. The other starting WR (D'Wayne Bates) is probable with a bruised foot.

The 49ers have big problems on defense. Their secondary isn't playing very well right now and to make matters worse, their front four isn't putting pressure on the quarterback. The coaching staff's response to this problem is to blitz on just about every down, except near the end of games when they play base zone and let the other team score and win the contest. Through three quarters they Browns had just 123 total yards and the 49ers had three sacks. Once the heat was off Holcombe, Cleveland had 128 yards in the final 15 minutes and two touchdowns including a 17 play drive.

Kansas City vs. Baltimore

Kansas City Offense
Sacked/G=1.67
Rush TDs/G=2.67
Rush Avg.=4.5

Baltimore Defense
Sacks/G=2.0
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=3.3

Kansas City Defense
Sacks/G= 2.67
Rush TDs Against/G=0.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Baltimore Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=1.33
Rush Avg.=6.1

When the Chiefs have the ball - Another awesome game by the Kansas City offensive line. It's hard to find fault with anything this team did in their 42-17 whacking of the Texans. The offensive line blew away the Houston defenders and any runningback the Chiefs ran out on to the field seemed to get five yards per carry. Kansas City rushed the ball 35 times behind the big uglies and just beat the Texans defense to a pulp in the second half. Back up RB Derrick Blaylock got a 20-yard touchdown run and rookie RB Larry Johnson got 26 yards on six carries.

When the Ravens have the ball - It's all about RB Jamal Lewis and the offensive line right now. With a rookie quarterback still making mistakes, the Ravens have pounded the ball at opposing defenses two straight weeks with much success. Lewis had 132 rushing yards a week after setting the NFL single game rushing record against the Browns the Sunday before. Lewis averaged 5.7 yards per carry even with the Chargers playing eight defenders in the box.

There's more good news for he Ravens this week. They should get back starting G Edwin Mulitalo. Mulitalo had missed last week's game with an ankle injury.

The Chiefs will give up yardage, but they more than make up for it by scoring touchdowns on defense and special teams. KR Daunte Hall is just killing teams. He's had returns for touchdowns in each of his last two games. For the second straight game, the Kansas City defense forced four turnovers and scored a touchdown in Sunday's win over the Texans. S Shaunard Harts had this week's interception return for a touchdown. Look for the Ravens to run the ball early and often to avoid giving the Chiefs the opportunity to score on a turnover. If Baltimore coaching staff have any brains, they'll practice punting the ball out of bounds as well.

Atlanta vs. Carolina

Atlanta Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=1.33
Rush Avg.=3.2

Carolina Defense
Sacks/G=2.5
Rush TDs Against/G=0.5
Rush Avg. Against=2.7

Atlanta Defense
Sacks/G=3.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.67
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Carolina Offense
Sacked/G=3.0
Rush TDs/G=0.0
Rush Avg.=4.4

When the Falcons have the ball - With QB Michael Vick on the sidelines, the Falcons problems on the offensive line have been unmasked. The running game has fallen like an anvil and they can't protect their quarterback. Atlanta's running game was ranked fourth last season, it's 26th through three game this year. You get 29 yards on 19 carries and you stink, it's that simple. Atlanta is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry, which isn't enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Without having to respect the rushing game, Falcons QB Doug Johnson is feeling the heat.

QB Doug Johnson looked like a deer caught in the Buc's headlights. He finished with less than 100 yards passing and three interceptions. Atlanta totaled just 136 yards in total offense. Were it not for a Buccaneers turnover deep in their own territory, the Falcons would not have scored a touchdown in last week's loss.

When the Panthers have the ball - History is on the Atlanta's side this week. The Falcons bombed the Panthers by a combined score of 71-0 last season. In the 41-0 hammering at Carolina last year, the Panthers offense had six turnovers and eight sacks. The Falcons are 9-1 in the last ten games against Carolina.

Look for the Panthers to pound away at the soft Atlanta front seven. RB Stephen Davis

has 253 yards rushing in two games, which was tops in the NFC after two weeks. Carolina's offensive line is healthy and has had two weeks to prepare for this game while the Falcons defense is still hurting from the beating they took against the Buc's.

The Falcons defense was terrible last week. They couldn't stop the pass and they got killed on the ground. RBs Michael Pittman and Michael Alstott rushed 28 times for 126 yards and two TDs. The Falcons have allowed 125 or more rushing yards in all three games. And after three games, this Atlanta defense is 29th in the league and they don't seem to be playing any better.

Detroit vs. Denver

Detroit Offense
Sacked/G=1.00
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.0

Denver Defense
Sacks/G=3.0
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=3.8

Detroit Defense
Sacks/G=1.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=5.5

Denver Offense
Sacked/G=1.33
Rush TDs/G=1.67
Rush Avg.=5.1

When the Lions have the ball - The running game is getting a little better, but the Lions passing game has regressed. First the good news, the offensive line did open some holes in the Vikings defensive front. RB Shawn Bryson had 49 of the yards on 17 carries and, although he had only a 2.9-yard average, he scored on a five-yard run. Believe it or not, this was the Lions best running game of he season.

The passing game was not that good. Detroit's offensive line has only allowed three sacks this season but QB Joey Harrington isn't tuning that protection into points. For the second consecutive week he threw three interceptions without a touchdown. The dislocated finger on his throwing hand must be bothering him.

The Lions offensive line will have to play even better this week. The Denver Broncos just drilled the Raiders Monday night. Denver's defense sacked Raider QB Rich Gannon five times even without DT Daryl Gardener on the field.

When the Broncos have the ball - A huge game by the Broncos offensive line on Monday. They completely dominated the Radiers front seven. Denver ran whenever, and wherever they wanted. The Broncos rolled up 190 yards on the ground, averaging a whopping 4.9 yards per carry. That's despite losing its top two RBs to injury. Clinton Portis gained 42 on 10 carries, but hardly played in the second half because of a chest injury. FB Mike Anderson left in the fourth quarter after gaining 70 yards on 14 carries. Even rookie Quentin Griffin looked good, with a 10-yard run in his first game before he had a misque with QB Jake Plummer that resulted in a fumble.

With the injury suffered by CB Andre' Goodman (shoulder) in the loss to Minnesota, the Lions have lost their second, third and fourth cornerbacks to injuries. Only starter Dre' Bly has been able to stay healthy; Chris Cash (knee), Goodman (shoulder) and Chris Watson (back) all are out for the season. Otis Smith, cut by New England during the preseason, played in the second game of the season and is likely to be joined by Jimmy Wyrick, Alex Molden or Roderick Babers at Denver. That's definitely a bad thing if you're a Lions fan. Wyrick lost his job to Smith earlier this season, Washington cut Molden, and Babers is a rookie that was cut by the Giants. Definitely a bad match-up against the Broncos receiving force of Smith, Lelie, Sharpe, and McCaffrey.

As if the Lions secondary woes weren't bad enough, they can't stop the run either. The Vikings gained 127 yards on 22 carries, an average of 5.8 yards per attempt last week. It's hard to imagine how Detroit is going to handle the Broncos running game.

Green Bay vs. Chicago

Green Bay Offense
Sacked/G=.33
Rush TDs/G=1.0
Rush Avg.=4.3

Chicago Defense
Sacks/G=1.5
Rush TDs Against/G=1.5
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Green Bay Defense
Sacks/G=1.0
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Chicago Offense
Sacked/G=4.0
Rush TDs/G=0.0
Rush Avg.=3.6

When the Packers have the ball - Green Bay's offensive line had a terrible outing against the Cardinals last Sunday. They looked old, fat, and slow as they slogged their way through 100 plus degrees of heat and humidity in Arizona. The lack of consistency on the front line contributed mightily to the Packers feeble running game. RB Ahman Green, playing against a defensive front that lacks talent but played inspired football, had only 53 yards on 21 carries. The Packers offensive line will have to have a bounce back game this Monday night if Green Bay is to keep it's nine game winning streak in Illinois alive.

As they say, charity begins at home and no team has been as giving as the Bears. The Vikings and the 49ers ran up 800 yards of offense on this once proud unit. Worst of all Chicago's run defense has evaporated. They gave up 202 rushing yards to the Vikings before the bye week. Of course, when the Bears offense is going three and out all the time, the defense wears down after a while.

When the Bears have the ball - Chicago have now lost 14 of their last 16 games. That's pretty hard to accomplish with all the parity around the NFL these days. QB Kordell Stewart doesn't fit an offense that calls for hitting receivers running short passes in stride. Accuracy isn't Stewart's long suit, but mobility should be. It's a testament to Chicago's problems on the offensive line that the Bears' fleet signal-caller has been sacked an average of four times per game. Not having a running game sure isn't helping the situation.

If the Bears could protect their passer and if Kordell could hit his receivers, there's opportunities against the Packers' defense. Green Bay's playing a lot of two deep zone and they're not playing it very well right now. The middle of the field is wide open and opposing quarterbacks have been able to stand in and throw without fear of being sacked. Green Bay's best pass rusher, KGB, has only one sack this season.