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Crossing the Line - Week 8
By Fritz Schlottman
October 23, 2003
 
Denver vs. Baltimore

Denver Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.9

Baltimore Defense
Sacks/G=2.50
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Denver Defense
Sacks/G= 2.71
Rush TDs Against/G=.43
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Baltimore Offense
Sacked/G=2.50
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=5.6

When the Broncos have the ball - Not the best of games for the Broncos offensive line last Sunday. Within a span of 20 minutes, Denver QB Steve Beuerlein was sacked five times and left the game with a dislocated finger.

The Broncos should have known the Vikings were going to bring the blitz early and often, yet Beuerlein was a sitting duck in the pocket. Minnesota came into the game with only 12 sacks, but the blitz and the crowd noise was too much for Denver's protection.

Clinton Portis had a 100-yard rushing game, but that was a bit misleading. Twelve of his 25 carries went for two yards or less.

LT Ephraim Salaam (knee) will undergo surgery and will be out three weeks. Blake Brockermeyer or Cooper Carlisle will fill in at the all important left tackle spot.

Ravens QB Kyle Boller put his defense in a big hole early. Boller's three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) led to 17 Cincinnati first quarter points.

The Ravens run defense was excellent (the Bengals averaged 2.1 yards per carry) but their pass defense was another story. Cincinnati QB Jon Kitna finished with a passer rating of 130, threw for 274 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

When the Ravens have the ball - The game plan going into to last Sunday's contest was no different than any other strategy for the Ravens-run the football. Unfortunately, that tactic was predicated on not having three early turnovers, not falling behind by 17 points early in this game, and not getting your star runningback banged up.

All three of these things happened and the Ravens had to throw out the game plan and pass every down. The results were that QB Kyle Boller had his first 300-yard game of his short career, he picked up a shoulder injury that has him questionable for this week, RB Jamal Lewis may well play the rest of the season with a bum shoulder, and the Raven got the loss.

The question becomes, will the Ravens open up the offense with Jamal Lewis hurting? Maybe, but the Ravens have one of the biggest offensive lines in the league and it's more geared towards run blocking than pass blocking. I would expect some sort of running back by committee approach from now on with Chester Taylor and Musa Smith getting more carries.

The Broncos were victimized by the Vikings big plays last week. A 47 yard touchdown pass and an unbelievable catch and lateral by Randy Moss broke their backs on defense. Even with a 6-3 defensive back assigned to Moss, it didn't seem to help a bit. Moss simply out-jumped the Broncos defenders on several of his catches.

The rush defense played better than the secondary. The Vikings powerful running game was limited to 71 yards. Expect a low scoring game as the strength of both offenses matches up poorly with the strength of both defenses (defending the run).

Detroit vs. Chicago

Detroit Offense
Sacked/G=.83
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.9

Chicago Defense
Sacks/G=1.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.33
Rush Avg. Against=4.8

Detroit Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.83
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Chicago Offense
Sacked/G=3.50
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=4.6

When the Lions have the ball - Frankly, if you have fantasy players on either of these two teams, this is probably not your year. Someone has to win this game, but neither team probably deserves to.

The Lions offensive line was one of the few bright spots in a dismal performance. They protected their quarterbacks, but to no avail. Harrington (7.1 QB rating for the game) and McMahon (for a combined 2.0 QB rating) threw for 10 of 33 passes and three interceptions. Harrington gets the start again this week because there is no alternative. McMahon came into the game in the second quarter and had his first completion in the fourth. The Lions' running game was non-existent again. Detroit managed just 83 yards on 21 carries, but 18 of those rushing yards were on McMahon scrambles. RB Orlandis Gary had 37 rushing yards and WR Scotty Anderson had 27 receiving yards-and these were Detroit's offensive leaders.

When the Bears have the ball - These two teams have more in common than their 1-5 record. Chicago's offensive line has played very well despite all the injuries. The Bears are averaging 4.6 yards per rush, that is a full half-yard better than the league average.

And now the bad news. With Chandler at quarterback, the Bears offense looks better. Chicago looks more like an NFL offense without the option play, at least. But with every play, the Chandler concussion pool just keeps getting bigger and bigger. He took a sack on the team's first series and two more by the end of the half. Now it's a question as to whether he or his offensive line will be knocked out of the game first. G's Corbin Lacina (concussion) and Chris Villarrial (sprained knee) are injured again and may miss this week.

Seattle vs. Cincinnati

Seattle Offense
Sacked/G=2.67
Rush TDs/G=1.17
Rush Avg.=4.6

Cincinnati Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Seattle Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.17
Rush Avg. Against=3.7

Cincinnati Offense
Sacked/G=2.50
Rush TDs/G=.50
Rush Avg.=2.8

When the Seahawks have the ball - Fantasy owners are still waiting for the Seahawks offense to start clicking. And as we approach the midway mark this team has yet to play 60 minutes of football. They look good for a quarter or a half, then seem to fall asleep. They almost waited too long to wake up last week as the Bears came from behind to tie the game in the 4th quarter. Aroused from their nap, Seattle responded with a touchdown drive to win the game.

The Seattle offensive line slept through much of this game as well. Every team has run against the Bears, except for the Seahawks. RB Shaun Alexander only had 30 rushing yards in the first half and the Seahawks' offense had three consecutive three-and-outs in the third quarter. Alexander had 50 of his 101 rushing yards on the team's final drive.

The Bengals defense was given a 17-point lead to protect and withstood a furious charge by the Ravens' offense to seal the deal. With Cincinnati playing a conservative defense for much of the second half, Ravens QB Kyle Boller had his first 300 yards passing game of his career. Boller had been averaging less than 100 yards passing per game.

When the Bengals have the ball - The Bengals rank 31st in rushing offense. The lack of success has led disgruntled star RB Corey Dillon to asked for a trade or release from the squad.

The timing is odd in that Cincinnati is coming off a victory.but as they say there's no we in team. Dillon has been a locker room problem for years, but this marks the first time he's come out and challenged new HC Marvin Lewis openly.

The Bengals running game managed just 59 yards against the Ravens. Dillon has 203 rushing yards midway through the season. The Bengals primary ball carrier has 62 attempts this year, as opposed to the over 300 attempts he's had the last three seasons. Injuries and poor offensive line play has contributed to the team's 31st rushing ranking.

Seattle's secondary struggled last week against the Bears, of all teams. DB Shawn Springs returned to the line-up and was promptly picked on by QB Chandler and the Bears reserve receivers. He'll have to play much better this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati's passing game ranks 13th in the league and WRs Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick have combined for 65 receptions, 882 yards and seven touchdowns through six games.

Tennessee vs. Jacksonville

Tennessee Offense
Sacked/G=2.14
Rush TDs/G=.71
Rush Avg.=3.0

Jacksonville Defense
Sacks/G=1.83
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=3.1

Tennessee Defense
Sacks/G=2.71
Rush TDs Against/G=.71
Rush Avg. Against=3.8

Jacksonville Offense
Sacked/G=2.67
Rush TDs/G=.83
Rush Avg.=3.7

When the Titans have the ball - Look for the Titans to go to the air again this week. Tennessee still doesn't have a running game and the Jaguars are among the league's leaders on rush defense.

QB Steve McNair continued his march towards the MVP award. Even though his stats weren't gaudy (12 completions for 190 yards and a touchdown) the Titans were up by so much so quickly against Carolina that he wasn't asked to throw for 300 yards. This week against Jacksonville, he'll have to carry the load again as the Jaguars defense will likely shut down the Titans rushing game.

Speaking of that rushing game, the Titans rushed for 134 yards last Sunday. Although 30 yards came from quarterback Steve McNair, it was still Tennessee's best total of the season. Their 3.7 yards a carry was also a season high. Credit RB Robert Holcombe and the Titans offensive line for establishing some kind of ground game against a pretty good Panthers' defense. Holcombe rushed 16 times for 53 yards. RB Eddie George had 18 carries for 51 yards. With the Titans playing more three wide receiver sets, Holcombe should continue to get more carries in future games.

Nobody runs against the Jaguars. Jacksonville only gives up an average of 3.1 yards per rush, a full yard below the league's average per rush. Their front seven doesn't put a lot of heat on the quarterback and the secondary has lapses in coverage, but they can and will stop teams from grinding out first downs. The Jaguars should be rested after the bye week and motivated for revenge after a few careless comments by Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher.

When the Jaguars have the ball - For better or worse, its QB Byron Leftwich's team now. He's facing the hated Titans for the first time and is already quite aware of the rivalry between these two teams.

The Titans have won eight of the last ten games between these teams. That winning record is due to Tennessee's physical style of play. Their offensive and defensive lines have dominated the Jaguars counterparts in this series and that's not been forgotten in Jacksonville. In 1999, all three of the Jaguars losses were to the Titans that year, the last of which cost the Jaguars a shot at a Super Bowl.

Look for Jacksonville to come out and try and muscle the Titans. RB Fred Taylor will get lots of opportunities early as the Jaguars try and slow up Tennessee's pass rush, run the clock, and keep Leftwich's mistakes to a minimum. Jacksonville wouldn't mind turning this game into a low-scoring defensive battle one bit

The Jaguars goal of running the football will be difficult to achieve. Facing a back that's had great success and a team averaging over 170 ground yards a game, the Titans played big. Panthers' RB Stephen Davis managed just 20 yards on 11 carries and Carolina gained just 44 ground yards last Sunday. The Titans secondary has been less stout. Injuries to key performers have led to some big passing games by opposing quarterbacks.

New York Giants vs. Minnesota

New York Offense
Sacked/G= 1.83
Rush TDs/G= .33
Rush Avg.=4.1

Minnesota Defense
Sacks/G=2.83
Rush TDs Against/G=.83
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

New York Defense
Sacks/G=3.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.83
Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Minnesota Offense
Sacked/G=2.17
Rush TDs/G=1.17
Rush Avg.=4.4

When the Giants have the ball - New York's offense is completely snake-bit. Turnovers and penalties have killed a team that was expected to be one of the league's most prolific during the preseason. At the halfway mark, the Giants can march up and down the field against any opposition, they just can't score and that has to change and change soon if New York is to dig themselves out of a hole once again.

Last Sunday's game was a good example of the Giants' frustrations. They gained 339 yards on offense, limited the Eagles to 139 total net yards, and lost the game 14-10. They lost the week before to New England, 17-6, and the week before that to Miami, 23-10.

And if that wasn't enough, now injuries have hit the Giants. LG Rich Seubert, the Giants' best offensive lineman this season, suffered a fracture of the tibia in his left leg, underwent surgery Sunday night and is lost for the season. This is the fourth time the Giants have reshuffled their offensive line this season. Rookie G Wayne Lucier will play and Chris Bober will move back to center. The starting RT job is still up in the air. Fassel can either play Ian Allen, rookie Jeff Roehl or second-year pro Jeff Hatch. Roehl has seen some limited action, Allen hasn't played since the first game of the season, and Hatch has yet to play this year. Even with Seubert hurt last week, the Giants managed 180 rushing yards against the stout Eagles, so don't expect a huge drop off in Tiki Barber's production unless more changes in the offensive line are in the works.

When the Vikings have the ball - What can I say about the Vikings offensive line that I haven't said in the previous seven weeks? They're big, mean, and nearly unstoppable as they grind on opposing defenses. Their front line averages 328 lb. per man and they can add a 250-lb. fullback and a 270+ lb. tight end to the mix as well.

Last week wasn't their finest game. They struggled against the faster Broncos front seven who simply ran around blocks to make tackles. RB Moe Williams ran three times for no yards in the fourth quarter when Minnesota needs to run some clock. The Vikings managed just one first down in the final 15 minutes of play.

The Giants defense played well again Sunday, despite being banged up in the secondary. But that performance was against the Eagles who can't move the ball on anyone right now. DE Michael Strahan had two sacks to lead the defensive charge. If New York is going to slow down the Viking passing game and protect that beaten up secondary, Strahan and the rest of the defensive line is going to have to limit the Vikings running game and get some pressure on Culpepper.

Cleveland vs. New England

Cleveland Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G= .29
Rush Avg.=3.7

New England Defense
Sacks/G=2.43
Rush TDs Against/G=1.0
Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Cleveland Defense
Sacks/G=1.71
Rush TDs Against/G=.57
Rush Avg. Against=5.1

New England Offense
Sacked/G=2.29
Rush TDs/G=.71
Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Browns have the ball - The Browns had just a miserable offensive showing against one of the NFL's worst defenses in the first half of their game against the Chargers, but were able to rally after a change at quarterback to make the game competitive.

The Browns are in really bad shape on their offensive line. Against the Chargers, four of five starters were reserves and RB William Green was banged up as well. Needless to say, Cleveland struggled to run the ball for much of the game. Green suffered a shoulder injury on the first play of the game, but is expected to play this week, but not at 100 percent. He rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries and come out of the game in the fourth quarter after his second fumble. The papers report that he doesn't have a lot of strength in that arm right now.

In other injury news, RT Barry Stokes (high ankle sprain) has played injured since Week 2, but finally couldn't take it anymore. He did not play the second half. Joaquin Gonzalez replaced him at left tackle, meaning the Browns had three new backups in the game, including center Melvin Fowler and left guard Chad Beasley. These reserves will likely start again this week.

The banged up Patriots defense has been winning with smoke and mirrors for a month now. Playing every week without five or six starters, they've thrown everything and the kitchen sink at opposing offenses to keep them off balance. Despite all the injuries and losses to free agency, the Patriots have yet to surrender a 100 yards rushing game. New England has allowed only 633 total rushing yards, or 90 per game and 3.6 yards per carry. This is the same Patriots team that couldn't stop the run last year and allowed four consecutive 100 yards rushing games in the second half of last season playing the same system. Go figure.

When the Patriots have the ball - The Patriots continue to win ball games despite being out-rushed and out-gained. Coaching and intelligence seems to be the keys for their current winning streak that looks an awful lot like the run New England put together during their championship year. That was a waiver wire team as well.

Tom Brady played well despite not having a balanced offense. The Patriots QB had a 24-for-34, 283-yard, two touchdown, no interception afternoon on a field where New England quarterbacks have struggled for much of the last few years, losing the past 12 games. The offensive line played well in the heat of south Florida, surrendering only one sack to Miami's ferocious defense. The running game was MIA, which is normal for the Patriots. New England rushed 29 times for only 59 yards. RB Kevin Faulk led the Patriots with 18 carries for a measly 38 yards, but fumbled once.

The Browns had another one of those befuddling games on defense. This defensive squad can look so good at times, and so bad at other times.

Obviously, Cleveland's defense doesn't handle top-tier runningbacks very well. After Ravens RB Jamal Lewis set an NFL single game rushing record against them, Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson lit them up last week. Tomlinson had 200 yards rushing on the day.

Carolina vs. New Orleans

Carolina Offense
Sacked/G=2.17
Rush TDs/G=.50
Rush Avg.=4.5

New Orleans Defense
Sacks/G=2.14
Rush TDs Against/G=.71
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Carolina Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

New Orleans Offense
Sacked/G=1.71
Rush TDs/G=.71
Rush Avg.=4.3

When the Panthers have the ball - Carolina was bound to have an off week sooner or later, and boy did they have a doozy last Sunday. The Panthers got sucker punched early by the Titans and never got off the deck.

If the Titans game plan was to score early, shut down the Panthers running game, and make QB Jake Delhomme beat them, their plan couldn't have worked any better. Carolina was down 27-3 at half time, RB Stephen Davis was held to 20 rushing yards on 11 carries, and Delhomme threw for 350 yards with two turnovers.

With the mystery out of the offense, Carolina's offensive line struggled last week. Delhomme was sacked four times in the loss. Delhomme's numbers are a bit deceiving, most of his passing yards were gained in garbage time. He struggled during the first half when the game was somewhat still in doubt.

The Saints have to be the ugliest 3-3 team in the league. Victories of the Bears and the struggling Falcons last Sunday may have been good morale boosters for the city of New Orleans, but they don't necessarily mean that this Saints offense is back on track or that this is a team to be reckoned with for the remainder of the 2003 season.

When the Saints have the ball - New Orleans offensive line, like all the other parts of this team, has looked better the past two weeks. RB Deuce McAllister had his fourth straight 100 yards rushing game and the o-line hasn't surrendered a sack the last two games.

New Orleans had scored just ten offensive touchdowns coming in to the game, but scored six against the helpless Falcons. The Saints converted 63 percent of their third downs and set team records for the most first half points (35), first half touchdowns (5), first half yards (375), first half passing yards (275). Going to the no-huddle offense for the first time this season seem to help QB Aaron Brooks. Brooks was named the NFC's offensive player of the week after going 23-30 for 352 yards and three touchdowns.

St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh

St. Louis Offense
Sacked/G=2.33
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=3.6

Pittsburgh Defense
Sacks/G=1.83
Rush TDs Against/G=.83
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

St. Louis Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Pittsburgh Offense
Sacked/G=3.33
Rush TDs/G=.83
Rush Avg.=3.1

When the Rams have the ball - It's hard to find fault with anything the Rams did against the Green Bay last Sunday. All they did was to put up 34 points on the Packers with their second string quarterback and their third string runningback in the game.

Credit the offensive line for this victory. True, they gave up two sacks on Sunday (both were coverage sacks), but they came through when they were needed most. RB Arlen Harris got into the game when RB Lamar Gordon (ankle) went down injured. Harris saw his first real action as a pro, but wasn't overwhelmed by the moment. The undrafted rookie finished with 18 carries for 85 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Bulger overcame two early interceptions on deflected balls to throw for 247 yards and three TDs behind pretty good protection considering that starting RT Kyle Turley went out with a concussion. Turley is questionable this week and will not practice until Friday at the earliest.

Pittsburgh had the week off, which couldn't come at a better time for the struggling Steelers. Not only did they make up a half a game on the AFC North leaders, but despite their problems no team is out of the playoffs in this extremely week division.

The cover two scheme the Steelers have been using has an upside as well as a downside. Its benefits are that you don't give up a lot of big plays. The downside is that you don't get any pressure on the opposing quarterback and if your linemen can't get to him on their own, then the quarterback can stand in the pocket all day and pick your secondary apart. The Steelers come into the game with 11 sacks. They had 50 last season.

When the Steelers have the ball - Pittsburgh has had two weeks to get healthy and to fix their problems on the offensive line. That healthy part is still a challenge. USA Today reports that OT Marvel Smith did not practice during team drills on Monday and his status for Sunday's game is up in the air. Smith has played just three snaps over the past three games. OG Alan Faneca may make his second straight start at left tackle. The two-time All-Pro guard said he took all the snaps at left tackle in practice on Monday. Having Faneca working out at tackle is a clear sign that the Steelers don't expect Marvel to be ready for this weekend.

The Steelers running game can't afford to be missing starters on the offensive line. Pittsburgh is averaging just 3.1 yards per rush. The team has changed RB yet again with Jerome Bettis getting the start against the Rams. Bettis replaces Amos Zereoue who took Bettis' job after he was ineffective earlier this year.

The Rams are coming off a game in which they really stepped up on defense. Packers' RB Ahman Green had been on a roll prior to last Sunday's game, but was held to just 35 rushing yards on 20 carries.

The Rams are banged up on defense this week. CB DeJuan Groce played in place of Travis Fisher (groin), Rich Coady started at strong safety in place of Adam Archuleta (ankle), and Jamie Duncan played linebacker in place of Tommy Polley (elbow). Polley will not play this weekend. Duncan will play MLB and the other starting LBs will switch sides this week.

Dallas vs. Tampa Bay

Dallas Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=.83
Rush Avg.=3.7

Tampa Bay Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=.83
Rush Avg. Against=4.2

Dallas Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.1

Tampa Bay Offense
Sacked/G=.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.7

When the Cowboys have the ball - Sometimes you learn more about a team when they are playing a weak opponent than when their geared up to play a divisional rival. The Detroit game could have been a flat spot for the Cowboys. They could have easily overlooked the lowly Lions and slept through the game, but didn't. Instead, they did what good teams should do to bad team, hammer them early and then shut it down after they scream uncle. Credit HC Bill Parcells for getting his team up in a tough motivational spot.

Dallas' offensive line seems to be taking to Parcells' personal brand of football. The Cowboys beat up the Lions front seven for much of the game, setting up the play action passing game. RB Troy Hambrick rushed 24 times for 74 yards, averaging 3.1 yards per carry. RB Richie Anderson had 52 yards on seven carries and QB Quincy Carter had two scrambles for 13 yards.

Speaking of Carter, he had his finest game as a professional against the Lions. The Cowboys signal-caller completed 11 of his first 12 passes on the way to a 190 yard, three touchdown performance. Getting solid pass protection and running the ball were big contributors to his success last Sunday.

The Buc's seem to be in a cycle of good games, followed by a bad game. Last week was the bad game. They were simply awful against the 49ers.

Injuries to Tampa's defense and their inability to stop opposing runningbacks are killing this team. The Buc's beaten up defense surrendered 458 total yards to an offense playing without three of their starting offensive linemen. Tampa had beaten the 49ers 31-6 just 10 months ago.

Injuries are also mounting, something the Buc's didn't have during their Super Bowl run last year. CB Brian Kelly (pec) is gone for the season and hard-hitting S John Lynch is playing with a bad disk in his neck and can't stay on the field. Backup S John Howell, who replaced Lynch, suffered a concussion. DE Simeon Rice bruised his lower back and did not finish the game.

When the Buc's have the ball - Tampa's offensive line struggled against the San Francisco pass rush. Although they only gave up one sack last Sunday, the 49ers controlled the line of scrimmage and put a lot of pressure on Buc's QB Brad Johnson without having to blitz. As a result, Tampa Bay had four turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble), equaling the total number of turnovers they had for the entire 2003 season prior to last Sunday's game.

The Cowboys don't let anyone rush the ball. They have yet to give up 70 rushing yards to a team this year. LBs Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen combined for 16 tackles against the Lions. The pass defense wasn't bad either. The Lions had just 82 passing yards and a pair of interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

San Francisco vs. Arizona

San Francisco Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.4

Arizona Defense
Sacks/G=.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.67
Rush Avg. Against=3.7

San Francisco Defense
Sacks/G=3.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.57
Rush Avg. Against=3.7

Arizona Offense
Sacked/G=1.67
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.4

When the 49ers have the ball - For all the press that T.O. gets, there's no doubting that the 'Niners offensive line and their runningbacks are this teams MVPs. The running game went for 212 yards Sunday against a Tampa defense that has been among the leagues best for a decade. Tampa hadn't surrendered 200 yards rushing in a game since 1991.

And it was as much about what they did as how they did it. San Francisco's offensive line was just too physical for the Buccaneers. They blew Sapp and company right out of their holes. Even when Tampa brought up an eighth defender into the box, they couldn't stop the 49ers from rushing the football. Twelve of the 49ers first 15 plays were rushing calls.

Arizona comes off a bye week and will be heavy underdogs coming into this game. They are only giving up 3.7 yards per carry on defense, but that won't matter if the 49ers passing game in on. Arizona brings up a safety to stop the run on most running downs putting their corners on an island. Then again, most teams don't have a receiver like Terrell Owens who can go the distance if a corner blows a tackle in the open field.

When the Cardinals have the ball - The Cardinals have flown under the radar for most of the season. Apathy, contempt, and poor play before a crowd of 24,000 in a 76,000 seat stadium has led many to question whether this team will ever be competitive. The Cardinals have to be hoping that the visiting 49ers will overlook this team as much as the home fans do.

The Cardinals have had seven games to grow up. Yes, they're young on both sides of the ball, but they've had their baptism under fire and now it's time to give the home fans something to look forward two. This team has had it turnovers and mistakes and they can't convert third downs-all that is in the past. The 49ers come in overconfident, just where the Cards want them.

If good things happen to Arizona, it's going to have to start with the offensive line. Supposedly the strength of this team, the Cardinals have been in too many third and long situations because they can't run the ball on first and second down. Arizona is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Look for the Cardinals to run the ball more this week in hopes to staying close enough to wear down the 49ers in the desert heat.

Houston vs. Indianapolis

Houston Offense
Sacked/G=1.67
Rush TDs/G=.83
Rush Avg.=3.9

Indianapolis Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against= 4.7

Houston Defense
Sacks/G=1.33
Rush TDs Against/G= 1.17
Rush Avg. Against=4.2

Indianapolis Offense
Sacked/G=.67
Rush TDs/G=.83
Rush Avg.=3.3

When the Texans have the ball - The Texans have come a long way in just over a year. Twelve months ago I was writing that not only would the Texans set a record for giving up the most sacks in a season, but QB David Carr wouldn't last the season.

Somehow, Carr survived and the Texans have made great strides this year. Their offensive line has been he biggest improvement. Last week was a milestone of sorts-it was the first time that a Texans runningback went over 100 yards rushing. RB Domanick Davis had 199 yards of offense on the day and finished with 129 yards rushing. The Texans offensive line had their best game of the season against the Jets, controlling the line of scrimmage. While it may not show up in their win-loss record, this team has definitely come a long way.

Indianapolis comes off a bye week. I'm not sure what you do for two weeks to prepare for the Texans, but the coaching staff must have gone to extremes to keep the players focused on this game. Rushing defense may have been one of their themes. The Colts are giving up 4.7 yards per carry, well above the NFL's average. Playing a cover-two has helped Indy's secondary, but only having seven in the box has put a lot of pressure on the Colts smallish front seven.

When the Colts have the ball - The week off has let the Colts get a number of offensive linemen healthy for this week's game against the Texans. OT Tarik Glenn sat out the Carolina game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee but should be available this week. OT Ryan Diem missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain. He did not practice Monday but is expected to return on Wednesday and should play this week.

The Colts are also likely to get RB Edgerrin James back from a back injury. James has missed the last month. Indianapolis needs him back healthy and ready to go. The Colts are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this season. James has never returned to the fantasy stud form he displayed in his first two seasons. Since that time, he's battled numerous injuries that have limited his playing time.

New York Jets vs. Philadelphia

New York Jets Offense
Sacked/G=1.00
Rush TDs/G=.33
Rush Avg.=3.4

Philadelphia Defense
Sacks/G=1.67
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.0

New York Jets Defense
Sacks/G=3.50
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Philadelphia Offense
Sacked/G=3.50
Rush TDs/G=1.17
Rush Avg.=4.8

When the Jets have the ball - The Jets now have won two games in a row. OK, beating the struggling Bills and the Texans isn't something you want to brag about, but this team needed a win in the worst way.

RB Curtis Martin finally had a decent game. He's still going to platoon with RB LaMont Jordan who had 40 yards and a touchdown on seven carries so don't get too excited. The Jets continue to shuffle their offensive line in hopes of getting a spark on offense. RG Jonathan Goodwin came in late in the first quarter and took over for Brent Smith who was struggling. Goodwin may get the start this week.

The Eagles defense may consider suing their offense for lack of support. Philadelphia has hung in games despite doing nothing on offense. The Eagles managed just 134 yards of net offense against the banged up Giants. Still, the defense kept Philly in the game until a late punt return for a touchdown won it in the final minutes of play.

When the Eagles have the ball - You can point to a problem with almost every part of the Eagles offense right now. QB Donovan McNabb threw for just 64 passing yards against the Giants. McNabb can point his finger at his wide receivers that can't get open and his tight end that should have retired last year. The pass catchers can say that the Eagles collection of running backs aren't getting the job done and they can blame the offensive line for not opening holes and not protecting McNabb.

.and they'd all be right.

When it rains, it pours and it's coming down in buckets in Philadelphia right now. The Eagles offense is going nowhere, fast. They are dead last in the league on offense and there doesn't appear to be an answer is sight. Philly's version of the West Toast offense is 32nd in passing yards, 32nd in total yards and 30th is scoring. The Eagles receivers, who had just four catches the week before, had one catch for six yards between them against New York. Philly crossed on to New York's side of the field only once last week.

Just when things were looking down, there's an injury on the offensive line. RG Jermane Mayberry, who had to leave Sunday's game in the third quarter after re-injuring his strained elbow, isn't expected to be able to play this week against the New York Jets.

OG Bobbie Williams is expected to start in Mayberry's place.

Buffalo vs. Kansas City

Buffalo Offense
Sacked/G=2.86
Rush TDs/G=1.29
Rush Avg.=3.1

Kansas City Defense
Sacks/G=2.57
Rush TDs Against/G=.71
Rush Avg. Against=4.8

Buffalo Defense
Sacks/G=1.86
Rush TDs Against/G=.71
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Kansas City Offense
Sacked/G=1.43
Rush TDs/G=1.57
Rush Avg.=4.4

When the Bills have the ball - Buffalo's offense has been in a coma ever since the second half of the Miami game. The running game suddenly evaporated and QB Drew Bledsoe was being swarmed under by blitzing defenders. Three straight losses, the worst of which was a stunning blow out to the Jets, and fantasy owners had to be questioning whether this team had the fortitude to pull out of it's nose-dive.

That question was answered last Sunday when the Bills defeated the Redskins. Despite not having WR Eric Moulds in the line-up, the Bills were able to move the football and score. Credit Buffalo's offensive line for stepping up. The Bills ran the ball 39 times. RB Travis Henry had 86 yards and one TD by half-time, and started the second half with a strong 21-yard run to start an 80-yard TD drive. Henry finished with 167 yards on 31 carries, both season highs and a career-best for yards. The Bills finished with a season-high 432 yards in total offense and QB Drew Bledsoe was sacked just once. The o-line still had it share of mistakes and penalties, however. G Ruben Brown had three penalties to lead the team.

Kansas City played excellent defense, completely shutting down the Oakland Raiders.right up until the Chiefs went to a prevent defense. In the end, the Raiders were only a foot or two from sending Monday night's game into overtime.

Why the Raiders didn't continue to run the ball against Kansas City is still a mystery to me. Oakland had 100 yards on 25 carries, but abandoned it at the worst possible moments. Had they been more committed to running the football, they probably would not have had two score two touchdowns in the final four minutes of play to force overtime.

When the Chiefs have the ball - About what you get of the Chiefs every game. Over 100 yards rushing? Check. Another rushing touchdown for RB Priest Holmes? Check. A close game decided by a defensive or special teams' play? Check.

Kansas City got another workman like performance out of their offensive line. Holmes got his 123 rushing yards and a touchdown despite facing eight Raiders in the box for most of the evening. QB Trent Green got reasonable protection despite playing on the road in front of a hostile crowd. Hard to write anything bad about this unit until they have an injury or lose a game.

Buffalo got DT Sam Adams back last week, and man does that big body in the middle of the line improve this unit. He didn't make a single tackle, but having him absorb two and even three blocks does wonders for the Bills linebackers. Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher looked much better last week. Not having a guard in their grills allowed the Bills linebackers to use their speed and pursue to the football, something that had been lacking in Adams' absence.

Miami vs. San Diego

Miami Offense
Sacked/G=1.33
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=3.9

San Diego Defense
Sacks/G=2.33
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Miami Defense
Sacks/G=1.83
Rush TDs Against/G=.33
Rush Avg. Against=2.9

San Diego Offense
Sacked/G=1.50
Rush TDs/G=.67
Rush Avg.=5.4

When the Dolphins have the ball - I have to be honest and say that watching Miami HC Dave Wannstedt engage in his chosen profession is almost unbearable. I cringe in my seat every time this guy has to make a decision and last week was no exception. After missing a field goal off the infield at Pro Player Stadium, I just assumed that the Dolphins wouldn't try it twice and instead they'd just pound it out against the fatigued Patriots. Nope, wrong again. Instead of picking up a couple of first downs and salting this game away, he ran RB Ricky Williams right into the center of the defense and sent out the field goal team to try another one. That missed too and the Patriots scored one play later to win the game. DOH!!!!!!

So, who takes the heat for this latest loss? The offensive line, of course. The heat is on after slipping from second in the league last season to 11th this season. Center Tim Ruddy has had three holding penalties in the past two games and coach Dave Wannstedt threw LG Jamie Nails under the bus this week as well.

Changes look immanent with Mark Dixon returning to the line-up soon and Seth McKinney getting more work at center. Of course, when the opposing defense knows your going to run the ball and is playing a goal line defense for most of the game, slippage in the running game sounds pretty reasonable to me coach.

When the Chargers have the ball - The Chargers got the first win of the season by doing what they do best-run the football. RB LaDainian Tomlinson was awesome, rushing for 200 yards, which included a 70-yard touchdown run.

The win over the Browns wasn't accomplished without overcoming some lingering problems, however. The Chargers had 12 penalties, one interception, and a lost fumble against Cleveland. QB Drew Brees had an awful game. He went 9 for 18 for 74 yards and a long of 17. True, he wasn't asked to do a lot, and he delivered.

Brees will have to be a lot sharper this week. Miami is rock-solid against the run, giving up a league best 2.9 yards per carry. I still expect the Chargers to revert to Marty-ball and pound away at the clock and the Dolphins defense this week. With the Fish having QB problems of their own, this game may come down to whichever runningback/offensive line has the most success against the opposing defense.