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Crossing the Line - Week 10
By Fritz Schlottman, Research by Todd Gray
November 6, 2003
 

Week 10 in the National.Football.LEAGUE!!!

Carolina vs. Tampa Bay

Carolina Offense
Sacked/G=1.75
Rush TDs/G=.63
Rush Avg.=4.7

Tampa Bay Defense
Sacks/G=2.38
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Carolina Defense
Sacks/G=2.38
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Tampa Bay Offense
Sacked/G=1.25
Rush TDs/G=.25
R ush Avg.=3.6

When the Panthers have the ball - Who knew Steve Smith could kick? Smith's drive killing personal foul late in game stole attention from Panthers' true Achilles heel: the team's inability to put more points on the board against a defense that allows 26.3 points per game.

The offensive line played well, allowing zero sacks and helping Stephen Davis break 100 yards (153) for a team-record sixth time. Surprisingly, the Panthers' lone TD came through the air. The same five starters on the OL have started every game this season.

Unfortunately, the Panthers offense broke down in Texans territory all afternoon; killing four of five Carolina drives that passed the 50-yard line. The offensive line never got the block that sets up a long spine-breaking run by Stephen Davis. Davis' big plays usually seal a Carolina victory and the Panthers couldn't finish drives by grinding out long drives or key first downs against the Texans either.

The Panthers should hope that a wounded Tampa Bay defense isn't more dangerous than a healthy one. The Buccaneers will be without the services of S Jermaine Phillips (broken right forearm), and S John Howell (left hamstring strain) and LB Ryan Nece (right ankle sprain) are questionable for the game. Good news for the Bucs: S John Lynch, out two games with nerve damage in his right shoulder, should play against the Panthers.

The Buc's will have revenge on their minds this week. The Panthers won a close game earlier this season by blocking several field goal attempts and extra point at the end of regulation. Carolina ran Davis down the Buc's throats that afternoon and will probably try more of the same this week. DE Warren Sapp will have to knock off the b.s. and get back to football. Opposing teams have run the ball right at him this season.

When the Buccaneers have the ball - The Saints took advantage of the Bucs' depleted offensive line and the results weren't pretty. QB Brad Johnson was sacked four times, threw two picks and lost a fumble. All four sacks were of the coverage variety. Tampa Bay struggled to gain 56 yards on 18 carries and Michael Pittman lost a costly fumble deep in New Orleans territory.

With a healthy OL through the first five games, Johnson threw 12 TDs and only three interceptions. In the past three games, he's thrown only four touchdowns against five picks. Opponents have grown comfortable blanketing Tampa Bay receivers, frequently rushing only four defensive linemen.

The Bucs may have to start a different offensive line combination for the fourth time in five games. LT Roman Oben is out with a broken hand, G Jason Whittle is nursing a left shoulder strain and RT Cornell Green is questionable with a left ankle sprain. Losing your starting tackles is never good, but against the Panthers' defensive ends it's suicidal. If Tampa can't run the ball, Peppers and company are going to tee off on Johnson.

The questions are growing in number for the Carolina defense. Touted as one of the league's best entering the season and surrendering a measly 12 points a game through the team's first four games, the Panthers have given up 22.3 points since then and are dealing with disappointing play on the defensive line, injuries to linebackers and a pass defense with a tendency to give up points late in games.

Houston beat the Panthers with journeyman QB Tony Banks at the helm. The Texans exploited the absence of Carolina ML Dan Morgan with an effective running game and greater use of TE Billy Miller. Banks faced little pressure and played an error-free game.

Detroit vs. Chicago

Detroit Offense
Sacked/G=.63
Rush TDs/G=.38
Rush Avg.=3.7

Chicago Defense
Sacks/G=.75
Rush TDs Against/G=1.13
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Detroit Defense
Sacks/G=1.88
Rush TDs Against/G=.88
Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Chicago Offense
Sacked/G=3.13
Rush TDs/G=.88
Rush Avg.=4.3

When the Lions have the ball - The defending AFC champion Raiders were no match for the Lions on Sunday.

In truth, Detroit finally beat an opponent it should beat, and actually looked pretty good in doing so - albeit against an Oakland squad that is falling apart. Detroit's ground game gained timely yardage in small chunks as Shawn Bryson earned 53 yards on 12 carries and Olandis Gary posted 46 yards on 15 carries. Nothing to write home about against an Oakland D that's allowed 153.1 rushing yards per game, but enough to help the Lions control the clock for almost half of the game - something they rarely do.

The Lions' pass blocking remains steady. The Lions ran a more efficient passing game with Harrington tossing mostly short passes to his running backs and making few down field throws. Detroit's longest pass play was a 33-yard touchdown pass to FB Corey Schlesinger. Only three of Harrington's 13 completed passes went to wide receivers.

The Bears were held without a sack for the fourth time in eight games and have a league-low seven on the season. Conversely, Detroit has allowed a league-low five sacks. Despite not getting to Drew Brees, the Bears did manage to harass him into a terrible performance that led to his benching in favor of Doug Flutie.

Chicago held LaDainian Tomlinson to 61 yards on 16 attempts and the Chargers to 80 as a team. That's quite an improvement from the 135 yards per game the Bears have allowed on the ground this season.

When the Bears have the ball - Anthony Thomas returned to post big numbers against yet another suspect run defense. Thomas has gained more than 95 yards four times this season against the Nos. 18, 25, 27 and 31st-ranked rush defenses in the league.

Still, it may be a legitimate return to form for Thomas. Most impressive on Sunday was a six-play, 21-yard drive in which he carried the ball on every down and capped with a one-yard TD run.

Credit the Bears offensive line for much improved play. This unit was awful earlier in the season when they were banged up, but have gotten healthier and better as the season has gone on. The "A Train's" productivity has a lot to do with some of he holes that have appeared in the oppositions' defensive front seven the last month.

QB Chris Chandler was given decent protection despite two sacks, completing 21 of 30 passes (70 percent) for 224 yards and one interception. Still, the Bears are the only team in league to register less than one sack per game while surrendering more than three sacks per contest.

Detroit's defensive line finally played up to the promise it showed at the beginning of the year. The Lions' pass rush led to three sacks and three interceptions, and allowed the Raiders only 94 yards on the ground. Of course, three of the Raiders offensive linemen were on the sidelines with a variety of minor ailments and Oakland was playing a QB they had just signed off the street for much of the game, but why be a party-pooper? If they can repeat the performance against the Bears - a big if given recent Lions' history - then they should get to Chandler.

New York Giants vs. Atlanta

New York Giants Offense
Sacked/G=1.63
Rush TDs/G=.50
Rush Avg.=3.8

Atlanta Defense
Sacks/G=2.13
Rush TDs Against/G=1.63
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

New York Giants Defense
Sacks/G=3.38
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Atlanta Offense
Sacked/G=2.75
Rush TDs/G=.88
Rush Avg.=4.4

When the Giants have the ball - The Giants ran for 132 yards against the No. 31 run defense in the league. The blocking was suspect at times as the restructured offensive line struggled to overcome the loss of LG Rich Seubert. The OL did provide great protection for Kerry Collins, who threw no interceptions, was sacked only once and usually had a fair amount of time in the pocket.

Head coach Jim Fassel started rookies Wayne Lucier and David Diehl at both guard positions. RT Ian Allen started for the second straight game after losing his starting job in the Giants opener.

Atlanta's retooled secondary will start again despite allowing 302 yards through the air to the league's 31st-ranked passing offense. In fairness to those Falcons in question, it was an improvement from recent performances. Atlanta's line put little pressure on Donovan McNabb, who was sacked only twice in 35 dropbacks, including once when he fell down. CBs Juran Bolden and Tod McBride were bright spots for the Falcons.

When the Falcons have the ball - Atlanta rushed 22 times for 111 yard in the first half, then managed only 20 yards on six carries in the second half. Perhaps most telling was the Falcons' failure on third downs late in the game. Atlanta converted on four of six third downs in the first half compared to only one of seven in the second half.

QB Kurt Kittner will most likely be at the helm this week for the Falcons, although neither QB made a strong case for the job against the Eagles.

The Falcons placed their second starting offensive lineman on injured reserve in as many days on Tuesday when LG Travis Claridge's (knee) season was effectively ended. On Monday, LT Bob Whitfield was placed on injured reserve after fracturing his right fibula against the Eagles. Kevin Shaffer will replace Whitfield in the starting lineup.

Naturally, this is not a good thing if your name is Kitner this week. Giants DE Michael Strahan may decide to make the Falcons QB his personal hand puppet by half time. The Falcons will try to limit their mistakes by running the ball. If that doesn't pan out, then your next thought connects the words "injury settlement" and "quarterback".

The Giants defense allowed Curtis Martin to gain a season-high 108 yards on 28 carries. DT Lance Legree replaced Cornelius Griffin (ankle sprain) and struggled mightily. Griffin's absence against the run was greatly missed, and he should return this week to help the Giants contain Atlanta's running game.

Pittsburgh vs. Arizona

Pittsburgh Offense
Sacked/G=3.00
Rush TDs/G=.63
Rush Avg.=3.3

Arizona Defense
Sacks/G=.88
Rush TDs Against/G=.75
Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Pittsburgh Defense
Sacks/G=2.25
Rush TDs Against/G=1.13
Rush Avg. Against=3.4

Arizona Offense
Sacked/G=1.63
Rush TDs/G=.38
Rush Avg.=3.9

When the Steelers have the ball - The Steelers' rebuilt offensive line paved the way for 105 yards rushing - its second-highest total this season - and limited Seattle to two sacks of Tommy Maddox. Maddox had one of his better games of the season, statistically speaking, despite throwing for only 61 yards through three-quarters.

OT Marvel Smith will miss his fifth straight game against Arizona. When your team's down and out in the NFL, players aren't exactly beating down the coach's door to get back on the field.

For two consecutive weeks, Arizona's defense has not been the Arizona defense of old. The Cardinals stopped the run in wins over San Francisco and Cincinnati, and forced turnovers and put solid pressure on opposing QBs despite a lack of sacks. Most of the credit can be given to Arizona's defensive line and to the Cardinals' recent success running the ball.

The Steelers probably won't be able to run on the Cardinals, even if they really, really wanted to. This just isn't a physical unit that can drive defenders out of holes. On the other hand, Arizona's lack of pass rush sets up and interesting duel between Pittsburgh's receivers and the Card's questionable secondary, assuming that Maddox has time to throw. If you're a fantasy owner that's been waiting for a little production from your Steelers, this may finally be your week.

When the Cardinals have the ball - Attribute most of Arizona's success the past two weeks on improved line play on both sides of the ball and the performance of RB Marcel Shipp.

An about-face in turnover ratio hasn't hurt matters any. The Cards remain a league-worst -13 in the takeaway/giveaway department, but have been +1 the past two weeks. A decent running game will do that for a team. It's amazing that your team doesn't turn the ball over as often when your can run the ball effectively instead of dropping back and throwing it into coverage 40 times a game. Who knew?

QB Jeff Blake has played relatively error-free ball during the win streak and the offensive line has blocked very well for Shipp. The Cardinals number one back doesn't have great speed, but his hard-nosed, pound it out style fits his offensive line perfectly.

Arizona has lost eight straight road games dating back to last season. To avoid a ninth straight loss away from home, the OL will have to continue its fine play against a Steelers' defense that blitzed its way to a season-high five sacks in Seattle. Pittsburgh's defense will provide the toughest task for Shipp to date. The Steelers allow only 3.4 yards per carry, tied for third best in the league, and a stingy 91.5 yards per game.

San Diego vs. Minnesota

San Diego Offense
Sacked/G=1.88
Rush TDs/G=.75
Rush Avg.=5.0

Minnesota Defense
Sacks/G=2.38
Rush TDs Against/G=.75
Rush Avg. Against=4.9

San Diego Defense
Sacks/G=2.13
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Minnesota Offense
Sacked/G=2.38
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Chargers have the ball - Doug Flutie may be the first man to be part of a quarterback controversy in three separate decades, a sign of how bad things have gotten for Drew Brees and the Chargers. Flutie delivered his usual spark in rallying the Chargers to within six points midway through the fourth quarter with the team's only touchdown drive of the game, but the Chargers sudden dearth of long-term solutions at QB is a big concern.

Despite the challenge, San Diego's pass blocking was respectable, at least, and the run blocking, though okay, was never much of a factor. RB LaDainian Tomlinson finished with 61 yards and had only four carries in the second half as the Bears kept the box stacked and forced the Chargers away from their running game in the second half. Gee, where have we seen that before? You mean team don't fear that Brees to Boston hook-up?

Both C Jason Ball (ankle) and RT Solomon Page (ankle) are questionable for Sunday.

Although Brett Favre had a fine game, Green Bay beat the Vikings with the run. Minnesota gives up a league-high 4.9 yards per carry and allowed the Packers to run roughshod on them to the tune of 261 yards and a 7.7-yard average. Green Bay often attacked Minnesota on the perimeter, throwing a number of quick tosses and sweeps into the mix. Despite being picked on like this by both the Giants and the Broncos the previous two weeks, the Vikings have failed to adjust. Their lack of speed at linebacker and poor tackling in the secondary have killed this defense during their recent two game home losing streak.

When the Vikings have the ball - The ground game was not what ailed the Vikings against Green Bay. RB Michael Bennett gained 43 yards on his first eight carries of the season and is expected to play a greater role in the offense this week. Rookie Onterrio Smith, who had started two of the past three games, didn't carry the ball and appears to be in line to lose the most P.T. upon Bennett's full return.

QB Dante Culpepper faced steady pressure throughout the game (2 sacks) and Green Bay largely shut down WR Randy Moss after the Vikings' first possession when he hauled in two passes, including a 43-yard touchdown. After that, he managed only four grabs for 44 yards. The Packers were ready and waiting on Moss, bumping him on the line with at least a corner and often a corner and a linebacker. Unable to release and get into his route, Moss was taken away from the Vikings game plan and no other Minnesota WR stepped up to take on the offensive load. WR Kelly Campbell returned from a calf injury and was largely a non-factor with zero catches.

For the first time this season, the Vikings may not start the same five defensive linemen. LT Bryant McKinnie may not play due to a sprained left ankle. McKinnie, a self-described fast healer, is currently listed as questionable. LT Everet Lindsay replaced McKinnie on Culpepper's blind side and had a tough go of it.

Minnesota should have little trouble moving the ball effectively against a San Diego defense that made Chris Chandler look like a kid again and Anthony Thomas look like the back everyone thought he was a couple of years ago. Randy Moss could have a field day with a secondary that struggled against the Bears' young wideouts. But unless he gets some help from one of the Vikings other receivers, he'll get the same kind of treatment this week.

Dallas vs. Buffalo

Dallas Offense
Sacked/G=2.13
Rush TDs/G=.88
Rush Avg.=3.9

Buffalo Defense
Sacks/G=1.63
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Dallas Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.38
Rush Avg. Against=3.4

Buffalo Offense
Sacked/G=2.88
Rush TDs/G=1.13
Rush Avg.=3.3

When the Cowboys have the ball - Dallas became the third team in 71 tries since 2001 to win a game despite having a -4 turnover ratio. The Cowboys committed three turnovers on their first six plays. Fortunately for Dallas, the Redskins only converted those boo-boos into six points.

Dallas' first six snaps resulted in two Quincy Carter interceptions, a Troy Hambrick fumble and a pair of Terry Glenn drops. But the Cowboys ran over Washington from that point on and amassed 308 yards on 40 carries to go 6-0 on the season when they rush 30 times or more. Troy Hambrick risked losing playing time to Adrian Murrell following his two first-half fumbles, but he responded by posting 100 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys did most of their work behind a patchwork offensive line that played at times without starting G Larry Allen (knee) and starting OT Flozell Adams (shoulder). Both Allen and Adams finished the game.

Only one ball carrier has cracked 100 yards on the Bills, who may be tough on Hambrick. Buffalo's biggest weakness has been its pass rush, or lack thereof. Buffalo's off-season moves were designed to bring a more aggressive defense to town, but the Bills have only 13 sacks and their front four have generated little pressure of late. To compound matters, Buffalo is 26th in the league in take-aways.

When the Bills have the ball - The Bills haven't scored a touchdown in their last three road games and are on pace to accumulate the fewest rushing yards in team history since the 16-game schedule was introduced. Buffalo's 84.3 rushing yards per game are fewest in the league, and a stat that can be attributed mostly to poor run blocking and a lingering rib injury to RB Travis Henry.

As a result, Buffalo has turned to Drew Bledsoe early and often, yet Bledsoe has struggled to play up to par after a hot start. Buffalo's 27 three-and-out possessions with Bledsoe at the helm are the most in the league, and they have scored 13 fewer points per game than they did a year ago.

On a positive note, LT Jonas Jennings (hip injury) is expected to return against Dallas.

Dallas is tied for the league lead in allowing only three rushing touchdowns and is tied for third in the league in allowing a stingy 3.4 yards per carry. The Cowboys also get after the quarterback, a lesson learned painfully well by Washington QB Patrick Ramsey last week. Considering Henry's challenges, Buffalo's offensive line must play up to preseason expectations in order for the Bills to not fall into the same old rut of making Bledsoe carry the offense.

Oakland vs. New York Jets

Raiders Offense
Sacked/G=2.63
Rush TDs/G=.75
Rush Avg.=4.3

Jets Defense
Sacks/G=3.38
Rush TDs Against/G=1.13
Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Raiders Defense
Sacks/G=1.38
Rush TDs Against/G=1.25
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Jets Offense
Sacked/G=1.38
Rush TDs/G=.38
Rush Avg.=3.7

When the Raiders have the ball - No one can figure the Raiders out these days - least of all the Raiders themselves. They look lost on offense, their top two QBs are out and the offensive line consists of only two healthy players in LT Barry Sims and C Barret Robbins.

To make matters worse, as many as five more offensive lineman may be unavailable this weekend. LG Frank Middleton (quad), RT Lincoln Kennedy (calf), LG Matt Stinchcomb (shoulder) and RT Langston Walker (knee) and G Brad Badger (shoulder) either aggravated old injuries or suffered new ones against the Lions. Of course, when its Week 10 and you've no shot at making the playoffs, watching from the sidelines isn't so bad. Don't look for these guys to make a mad rush back onto the field any time soon.

The Jets were given a spark on defense by LB Victor Hobson and DT Duane Robertson. The rookie tandem helped hold the Giants to 115 yards rushing, a stat that looks even better when considering that the Jets allow a league-leading 153.4 yards per game on the ground. Expect Oakland to run the ball early and often in order to avoid throwing Mirer to the Jets' tough pass defense.

New York DE John Abraham (strained groin) did not play against the Giants and could be out another 1-3 weeks.

When the Jets have the ball - The Jets have been a different team the past two weeks, thanks largely to the return of Chad Pennington, yet the team has no wins during that time to show for their improved play.

The offensive line's improved blocking of late has paved the way for Curtis Martin's first two 100-yard games of the season. Having a little more balance on offense hasn't hurt Martin's production either.

The Raiders showed virtually no pass rush against Detroit (zero sacks) and allowed the Lions to become the seventh straight team to rush for more than 100 yards. To make matters worse, DTs John Parrella (groin) and Dana Stubblefield (ankle) will likely be out this week (and maybe much more if they can fake a note from their physician). They say beer is colder on the sidelines than in the stands, these two would know.

St. Louis vs. Baltimore

Rams Offense
Sacked/G=2.63
Rush TDs/G=1.13
Rush Avg.=3.3

Ravens Defense
Sacks/G=2.63
Rush TDs Against/G=.38
Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Rams Defense
Sacks/G=1.88
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Ravens Offense
Sacked/G=2.00
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=5.2

When the Rams have the ball - It's definitely time for Marshall Fault to play again. Arlen Harris was fine for a week or two, but the Rams returned to reality against San Francisco. Harris finished the game with only nine yards on eight attempts and struggled much of the afternoon to pick up the 49ers' blitz. St. Louis had zero first downs rushing, ran the ball only twice in the second half, and trailed in time of possession for the first time this year. St. Louis leads the league in time of possession, averaging 34:05 per game. Faulk returned to full practice on Wednesday and is slated to start against Baltimore.

Surprisingly, the struggling 49ers were the first team to solve the Faulk-less Rams. San Francisco blitzed often and sacked QB Marc Bulger five times - all without top pass rusher DE Andre Carter.

The Rams have either the best of the second best offensive tackle pairings in the game. Orlando Pace and Kyle Turley have been the standouts on the Rams offensive line. The problem has been the center of the line. They can't seem to get any push on larger defensive tackles and their communication (identifying blitzes and handing off stunting and blitzing defenders) still isn't good after nine games. The 49ers took advantage of their problems last week with an aggressive game plan.

Baltimore surrendered a season-high 134 yards on the ground to the Jaguars - all through three-quarters. Still, the Ravens have been tough against the run all year and will offer the St. Louis one of its toughest tests to date. The Rams have averaged 3.3 yards per carry, third lowest in the NFL.

The most important match-up will come in the Ravens secondary. The Rams are a tremendous home team and both WRs Holt and Bruce play much better (and faster) at home on the rug. The Ravens are banged up in the secondary and will likely be without two starters. If St. Louis' offensive line can keep the Baltimore rushers out (and Baltimore doesn't blitz that often), QB Marc Bulger should have a big game.

When the Ravens have the ball - Baltimore's massive offensive line had arguably its worst week of the year as Jamal Lewis sputtered to a season-low 68 yards rushing - albeit against a rather tough rush defense. Chester Taylor did run for a 29-yard touchdown, yet Baltimore had most of its trouble running the ball in the red zone, gaining 17 yards on seven carries.

Rookie QB Kyle Boller did little to boost his AFC-low 62.3 quarterback rating, completing only 10 of 23 passes for 156 yards, one TD and one interception. Boller is nearing the end of a college season and it's not unusual for a rookie to hit the wall. Their bodies just aren't used to playing more than 11 games, and to make matters worse, the opposition now has plenty of film on a rookie QB. That 62.3 QB rating may look in a couple of months. He's going to be asked to take care of the football and little else for the remainder of the season.

This is an interesting match up of brawn vs. speed. The Ravens have one of the NFL's biggest o-lines while the Rams have one of the league's fastest defenses. Baltimore will have to run between the tackles if they hope to control the clock, shorten the game, and keep the greatest show on turf off the field and the scoreboard. On the other hand, the Rams will use their speed to come off the corners and catch Lewis in the backfield before he can get going. If Baltimore doesn't throw a little on first down, the Ravens offense could be looking at a of second and third and longs.

The 49ers showed Baltimore the way last week. St. Louis is coming off a brutal performance in which it allowed a combined 156 yards on 31 carries to Garrison Hearst and Kevin Barlow while getting beat with short tosses and screen plays. Injuries may finally caught up with the Rams on both sides of the ball, but S Adam Archuleta (ankle) and LB Tommy Polley (dislocated elbow) are expected to start on Sunday. St. Louis will remain without the services of DEs Leonard Little and Damione Lewis.

Green Bay vs. Philadelphia

Packers Offense
Sacked/G=.88
Rush TDs/G=1.38
Rush Avg.=5.3

Eagles Defense
Sacks/G=1.88
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Packers Defense
Sacks/G=1.75
Rush TDs Against/G=.88
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Eagles Offense
Sacked/G=2.25
Rush TDs/G=1.25
Rush Avg.=5.0

When the Packers have the ball - The Packers offensive line - steady all season - blocked its way to the team's best rushing total since 1985, helping the offense gain 261 yards on the ground. Green Bay gained 16 yards or more on eight runs and three passes.

Brett Favre threw for 194 yards three touchdown passes despite having a broken thumb, and RB Ahman Green (21 carries, 137 yards) looked great, as usual. Four players gained at least 38 yards on the ground for Green Bay.

If Philadelphia comes out as flat against the run against Green Bay as it did against Atlanta, it may get ugly early. Green has been running about as well as a back can run and the Packers very rarely surrender a lead at Lambeau.

The center of Philadelphia's defense is very solid, so Green will target the Eagles ends and linebackers. The counter tre play that worked so well last Sunday night against the Vikings will be a staple again the week as the Packers will try and take advantage of Philly's aggressive ends getting up field. Look for Green Bay's pulling linemen to kick-out on the ends and make the Eagles' linebackers flow to the football through traffic.

The Eagles' defense hasn't been as aggressive due to numerous injuries that have limited the squad's blitzing and takeaway potential. Philadelphia should again be without their two best defensive backs, putting additional pressure on their front seven to get pressure on Favre who has been sacked only a handful of times this season and contain Green. If they don't blitz Favre, he will pick them apart in the secondary. If the Packers can't hold them out or run the ball effectively, then Green Bay will struggle.

When the Eagles have the ball - Despite accumulating a season-high 430 yards of total offense against Atlanta (and who hasn't set a record against the Falcons this season), all was not well with the Philly offense. The Eagles moved the ball into Atlanta territory seven times, yet managed only two touchdowns against the NFL's worst defense. Philadelphia managed to convert only two of 11 third downs.

The Eagles offensive line continues to mirror the rest of he team. They play ugly and win ugly. That poor third down conversion number isn't anything new. Philly can't run the ball on first down and have too many mistakes when asked to pass on second and third and long. Penalties missed assignments, and generally poor play continues on the Eagles offensive line. These mistakes end far to many Eagles drives.

QB Donovan McNabb has his second straight solid performance and Correll Buckhalter continued his strong play (23 carries, 92 yards). Even the Eagles wide receivers caught a touchdown pass, their first of the season. Everyone give them a woo-woo for getting on the board in freaking November.

Green Bay's pass defense hasn't been anything special and has struggled to put consistent pressure on opposing QBs. The defensive linemen have combined for only 7-1.2 sacks, and the Eagles will undoubtedly see lots of blitzes to compensate for a weak Green Bay pass rush, especially off the corners.

The Packers can be hurt if you run the ball. Their undersized defensive ends can't take on larger offensive tackles and are forced to give ground or run around offensive linemen. That would be acceptable if Green Bay had linebackers that could run. Unfortunately, the Packers have built their team to play on grass in cold weather where size and strength are an asset. Look for Philadelphia to run at the corners of the Packers defense, bury those small defensive ends, and make those Green Bay linebackers run and tackle. That would keep the Packers from blitzing off the corners and open up the middle of the field for the Eagles passing game. If Buckhalter and Deuce Staley can run the ball effectively, McNabb should have the opportunity to take another step toward being the McNabb of old.

Cincinnati vs. Houston

Cincinnati Offense
Sacked/G=2.25
Rush TDs/G=.63
Rush Avg.=3.2

Houston Defense
Sacks/G=1.00
Rush TDs Against/G=.88
Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Cincinnati Defense
Sacks/G=1.88
Rush TDs Against/G=.75
Rush Avg. Against=4.2

Houston Offense
Sacked/G=1.75
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.0

When the Bengals have the ball - Too little, too late once again for the Bengals.

Cincinnati has allowed opponents to score first in every game this season, a stat that hurts even more when considering that four of the Bengals' five losses have come by a combined 19 points.

The Bengals were victimized by Arizona's resurgent front seven, gaining a season-low 47 yards on the ground. RB Corey Dillon had only five yards on seven carries, due in part to a persistent groin strain. RB Rudi Johnson replaced Dillon in the second quarter and contributed a respectable 34 yards on eight carries, including a 2-yard TD run. Then again, when the Bengals are 31st in rushing yards per game, anyone can stop you.

The Bengals rushing problems aren't all Dillon's issues, although his attitude doesn't help the team's chemistry. The center of Cincinnati's offensive line has been weak all season. Former starter Matt O'Dwyer has been a huge disappointment, Rookie G Eric Steinbach is still not up to NFL speed, Rich Braham wasn't supposed to be the starting center, while Mike Goff was and he's playing the other guard position. The Bengals experimented in preseason by having guards and the center switching positions, but that didn't pan out and was abandoned after a few games. Look for the Benglas to either sign or draft a guard this spring.

Houston gave up 367 yards of offense to Carolina, including 174 on the ground, yet allowed only one TD. At times the Texans played four defensive linemen instead of the usual three, but they still couldn't slow down Carolina RB Stephen Davis. The Panthers took a few shots but never made a consistent effort to take advantage of the Texans poor pass rush to go down the field.

The Texans have tried to protect their vulnerable defense by grinding it out on offense and by not taking chances on defense. The Texans played a disciplined game, giving up yards on the ground in exchange for time off the clock. That works if your defense can make a play on each of your opponent's drives to force a punt and your offense can make first downs. Houston managed to do both, stopping the Panthers four times inside their own 50-yard line without giving up any points. Carolina only had two possessions in the entire second half as the Texans played keep away on offense.

When the Texans have the ball - Tony Banks operated an efficient offense in the absence of David Carr, and his 110.4 passer rating was the second best for a full game by a Houston starter.

Rookie RB Domanick Davis impressed again despite leaving the game in the third quarter with a chest injury he'd suffered in the first half. Davis was on track for a record-tying third straight 100-yard game to start his career. Stacey Mack replaced Davis and was instrumental in the Texans' final drive, a six-minute affair that essentially nixed any chance the Panthers had to mount a comeback. Davis is expected to return this weekend.

Cincinnati has surrendered at least 120 yards on the ground six times in eight games. A healthy Davis-Mack tandem should be able to find success against the Bengals, which would give QB David Carr (sprained ankle) a huge boost in his return following a one-game absence.

If the Texan can run the ball, that sets up Houston's play action pass game. With Carr back in the line-up, the Texans have the weapons to go deep if the Bengals sneak a safety into the box. Who gets single coverage? TE Billy Miller has been solid all season, WR Andre Johnson has a good shot at being the league's offensive rookie of the year, WR Corey Bradford has tons of speed and burns teams over the middle. The Bengals do not get much of a pass rush, getting less than two sacks per game. If their front four can't get to Carr, this may become a game of big plays.

Jacksonville vs. Indianapolis

Jacksonville Offense
Sacked/G=2.75
Rush TDs/G=.63
Rush Avg.=3.8

Indianapolis Defense
Sacks/G=2.38
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Jacksonville Defense
Sacks/G=1.38
Rush TDs Against/G=1.13
Rush Avg. Against=3.2

Indianapolis Offense
Sacked/G=1.00
Rush TDs/G=.75
Rush Avg.=3.5

When the Jaguars have the ball - The Jaguars ran well against the Ravens' steady run defense. Problem was, only 29 of their 130 yards in the ground came in the second half. Rookie QB Byron Leftwich continued to struggle with two lost fumbles and an interception. Those three giveaways led to 11 Baltimore points.

Jacksonville continues to be plagued by a poor third-down conversion rate. Against the Ravens, the Jags converted only three of fourteen attempts, a handful of which only a yard or so was needed for a first down. Jacksonville has converted only 34.9 percent of its third downs this year.

You can't hide tepid offensive line play, and Leftwich's inexperience only exasperates the problem. The opposition is going to put eight in the box on first down and sit on RB Fred Taylor. Then when the Jaguars have to pass, they mix up their coverage and bring the heat. The problem is that Jacksonville's offense line isn't physical enough to make a first down when the defense knows the Jag's are going to run the ball, and they aren't quick enough or experienced enough to handle players coming off the corners either. As Leftwich makes mistakes, the play calling gets more and more predictable and soon Jacksonville's offense comes to a grinding halt. This is a young unit that has been fortunate to play every game together this season. They'll be better next year, but this season is about surviving and learning.

Colts' DE Dwight Freeney had a monster day against the Dolphins, recording three sacks and five quarterback pressures and forcing two fumbles. Freeney led a defensive performance that included five sacks and held Ricky Williams to 36 yards on 13 carries.

The Jags can look forward to seeing a relentless Indy pass rush aimed at rattling Leftwich into early mistakes.

When the Colts have the ball - Indianapolis ran for 115 yards against Miami's No. 2-ranked rushing defense. Edgerrin James continued his strong, if workmanlike, running with 89 yards and a TD on 26 carries. Despite the success on the ground, the Colts continued to struggle near the end zone and in short-yardage situations.

Tackles Tarik Glenn (knee), out the previous two games, and Ryan Diem (pulled rib muscle), injury concerns heading into the game, both finished unscathed. OT Adam Meadows (knee) was available but did not play.

Jacksonville's defense lived up to its billing as the No. 2 rush defense in the league by holding the league's leading rusher, Jamal Lewis, to 68 yards on 21 carries, and by holding the Baltimore offense to nine first downs. The Jags did this by stacking eight players near the line of scrimmage, something they most likely won't get away with against Manning and company, though this could be the toughest challenge to date for the Colts running game.

Pass defense is another matter entirely. The Jaguars signed Hugh Douglas to strike fear into opposing QBs. Unfortunately, the $6 million signing bonus looks like wasted money. Douglas had one sack in the opening game, and none since. Other than DE Tony Brankens, no other defender has more than sack. Brackens, coming off a knee injury, has four sacks this season.

Without a pass rush, opposing QBs are picking apart the Jaguars secondary. Jacksonville has only five interceptions all season. With no pass rush and two members of that secondary heading for free agency, don't expect a maximum effort from these sitting ducks against Harrison and company this week.

Kansas City vs. Cleveland

Kansas City Offense
Sacked/G=1.25
Rush TDs/G=1.75
Rush Avg.=4.4

Cleveland Defense
Sacks/G=1.63
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=4.8

Kansas City Defense
Sacks/G=2.63
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=4.8

Cleveland Offense
Sacked/G=2.25
Rush TDs/G=.25
Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Chiefs have the ball - Priest Holmes leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,103) despite touching the ball 8+ fewer times each game this season than in 2002. The offensive line has consistently opened holes for Holmes and provided excellent pass protection for QB Trent Green.

The Chiefs are an NFL-best plus 18 in turnovers, and are on pace for the second-best turnover ratio in history. Only one team, Tennessee (8), has given the ball away fewer times than the Chiefs (9). Kansas City has turned its 27 takeaways into 87 points.

Sometimes the Browns stop the run and sometimes they don't, and it's a safe bet that they don't against the Chiefs. Big backs have run all over Cleveland this season, including Jamal Lewis (295 yards) and LaDainian Tomlinson (200). Still, the Browns, solid against the pass this year, may be able to shut down a group of receivers that has offered little more than Tony Gonzalez the past few weeks.

When the Browns have the ball - The Browns will face the undefeated Chiefs in Kansas City without their leading rusher and leading receiver in the starting lineup. Cleveland has had enough trouble moving the ball with RB William Green and WR Kevin Johnson.

Green has been suspended for one game by the team after his arrest for DUI and marijuana possession. He may face a four game suspension if he was already in the NFL's substance abuse program. Johnson, singled out for his poor blocking (imagine that) by head coach Butch Davis, has been benched in favor of Andre Davis.

RB James Jackson, who has performed well in limited time this season, will replace Green and has the opportunity to spark an otherwise stagnant Cleveland running game.

OG Shaun O'Hara (knee) and rookie C Jeff Faine are expected back for the Browns this week. That's good, because a lot of Cleveland's problems with keeping either Couch or Holcombe healthy starts with the Browns offensive line. One word.terrible (and not getting better).

The Chiefs pass defense is ranked near the bottom of the league, but they've tempered that performance with 18 interceptions. For the overmatched Browns to have any chance whatsoever, QB Kelly Holcomb will need to avoid making mistakes and Cleveland's receivers will have to show up.

Tennessee vs. Miami

Tennessee Offense
Sacked/G=1.88
Rush TDs/G=.88
Rush Avg.=3.0

Miami Defense
Sacks/G=2.63
Rush TDs Against/G=.50
Rush Avg. Against=3.1

Tennessee Defense
Sacks/G=2.63
Rush TDs Against/G=.63
Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Miami Offense
Sacked/G=1.75
Rush TDs/G=.88
Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Titans have the ball - Tennessee has been winning big when it's running game has produced. The Titans netted 134 and 133 rushing yards against Jacksonville and Carolina - tough teams to run against - in the team's lasts two games, both wins.

The Titans have forced teams to play catch-up throughout the season and hold a 63-18 advantage in first quarter scoring. Tennessee has scored on six of eight opening drives (3 TDs, 3 field goals) and has opened three straight games with a score.

The offensive line has become more adept at pass-blocking due largely in part to McNair's success and the team's occasional struggles (or total abandonment of the running game) on the ground. Tennessee rushes for a league-low three yards per carry.

Steve McNair is 0-3 lifetime against Miami with some unsightly stats to boot. He's completed only 48 percent of his passes in those losses and has just one touchdown to five interceptions and five sacks. His receiving corps has thinned with the absence of Drew Bennett (calf), but Justin McCareins and Tyrone Calico have shown signs that they can pick up the slack.

The Titans will need all of George's 2.9 yards per carry and probably more in order to overcome a tough Miami run defense. The Dolphins allow only 3.1 yards per carry and are second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (79.0). They've also yielded the least amount of points in the NFL and have 20 takeaways.

CB Patrick Surtain (sprained right ankle), arguably Miami's team MVP to date, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. The Dolphins have allowed 235.8 yards per game through the air with Surtain. If McNair has success passing, look for him to scramble more than usual and for George to achieve his customary three-yards-per-carry average with relative ease.

When the Dolphins have the ball -The Dolphins struggles on the offensive line couldn't be any more evident than in their decision to bring in T Richmond Webb for a physical earlier in the week on the heels of giving up a season-high five sacks and gaining only 43 yards on the ground. Webb, 36, hasn't played since he was hurt early last season with Cincinnati.

Webb is getting a shot because the Dolphins are fresh out of answers on their offensive line. Miami runs the ball on of their first downs because they're afraid of their pass protection breaking down and they can't run the ball because teams know what's coming and are daring the Dolphins to throw.

Rookie T Wade Smith was just dreadful against Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Smith never got any help (which is the coaching staff's fault) and Freeney blew past the rookie like he was a metro turnstile on his way to pummeling a helpless Griese who fumbled away the game. Smith gave up four sacks on the afternoon, three to Freeney. This week's personal opponent is Jevon Kearse.Smith may need a new address by Monday.

Miami has yet to beat a team with a winning record, let alone one the caliber of the Titans. If the Dolphin offensive line doesn't gel in a hurry, QB Brian Griese and RB Ricky Williams could have another long day against Tennessee. The Titans are 1st in the league in rush defense and 31st against the pass, but many of those passing yards have come from teams scrambling to erase large deficits.

Washington vs. Seattle

Washington Offense
Sacked/G=3.63
Rush TDs/G=.63
Rush Avg.=4.0

Seattle Defense
Sacks/G=2.00
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Washington Defense
Sacks/G=1.38
Rush TDs Against/G=1.00
Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Seattle Offense
Sacked/G=2.88
Rush TDs/G=1.00
Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Redskins have the ball - The 'Skins are a mess, almost everyone is on the hot seat and things may have hit rock bottom in the team's loss to the Cowboys. Washington's fourth loss in a row was a study on how not to extend a young quarterback's career. Patrick Ramsey spent the entire day under heavy pressure, was sacked four times, hit numerous other times and forced to hurry many of this throws. Even with extra blockers on many plays, it didn't seem to matter.

Ramsey suffered a bruised elbow and dislocated finger, both on his non-throwing arm. He has not played an entire game for a month. Washington's entire backfield has been decimated with injuries and WRs Laveranues Coles and especially Rod Gardner have slumped for the better part of the season. RB Trung Canidate will return this week from an ankle injury. but the team will be without RB Ladell Betts (forearm). RB Chad Morton (ankle) and RB Sultan McCullough (hand) also might miss the Seattle game.

Losing is never good for team chemistry, and they Redskins cocktail is as about as poisonous as it gets. It curious that the team's two Pro Bowl caliber tackles (Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels) have been the line's most undisciplined players this season. It's also curious that none of the linemen are picking up Ramsey and dusting him off after he's been driven into the turf for the umpteenth time. Linemen get paid to be protective and paternal towards the quarterback and their actions and attitudes speak volumes about what's happening in the Redskins' offensive huddle right now. Jansen and Samuels may be unhappy about the system, or the loss of Stephen Davis, or with Ramsey, who knows? Is there such a thing as a blocking strike?

Seattle rebounded from a couple of forgettable performances from its run defense to stuff Jerome Bettis and the Steelers. Bettis gained only 50 yards on a 2.9-yard average and no Steeler gained more than 12 yards on any single rush. Rookie DT Rashad Moore performed well after DT Norman Hand left the game with a torn tendon in his right biceps.

Hand had been battling turf toe before he hurt his biceps and is out indefinitely following his latest injury. Without Hand in week eight, Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson broke loose for 101 yards on 27 carries.

When the Seahawks have the ball - Seattle's offensive line struggled to create running room for Shaun Alexander against an inspired Pittsburgh defense. Anderson finished with a meager 48 yards and 2.4 yards per carry. Seattle totaled only 98 yards on the ground, 43 coming on a run by Maurice Morris.

QB Matt Hasselbeck was sacked five times, although the Seahawks' coaching staff thought he should have gotten rid of the football on three of those occasions. Hasselbeck had a decent all-around game that would have been better without numerous drops from his receivers. WRs Darrell Jackson and Alex Bannister dropped TD passes, and Tes Itula Mili and Jerramy Stevens also had drops.

WR Koren Robinson (ankle) may not play on Sunday. Robinson is the team's No. 1 threat and also the team's only sure-handed receiver of late.

RB Shaun Alexander could have a field day against Washington's suddenly-vulnerable rush defense. Neither have the 'Skins been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks. If Seattle can avoid costly mistakes, this is their game to lose.