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Crossing the Line - Week 15
By Todd Gray and Fritz Schlottman
December 11, 2003
 
Tennessee vs. Buffalo

Tennessee Offense

Sacked/G=1.62

Rush TDs/G=.77

Rush Avg.=3.2

Buffalo Defense

Sacks/G=2.31

Rush TDs Against/G=.77

Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Tennessee Defense

Sacks/G=2.54

Rush TDs Against/G=.69

Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Buffalo Offense

Sacked/G=2.92

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.0

When the Titans have the ball - The Titans' offense moved the ball well on Sunday behind strong play from the offensive line and another gutsy performance from QB Steve McNair. However, four turnovers - including two on returns - and 10 penalties were too much to overcome.

In one 20-minute, 57-second span in the second and third quarters, the Titans' five possessions ended fumble, punt, fumble, end of half, and fumble. Tennessee held the ball for 2 minutes, 49 seconds during that span.

The Titans turned the ball over eight times in their first nine games, but have given the ball away 10 times in their last four games.

McNair sprained his left ankle on Sunday and cracked his bone spur, but is expected to play against the Bills. He'll need all the mobility he can muster (not to mention a better performance from his offensive line) against a defensive line and linebacking unit that has been getting meaner by the week. Tennessee has its work cut out for it in getting George untracked, as well.

Buffalo shut down the Pennington express (5 sacks) and held the Jets' running game to a rather harmless 3.4 yards per carry. The Bills allow few opponents to beat them on the ground, and even fewer beat them through the air. Yet, somehow they've lost a lot of games. Could it be.

When the Bills have the ball - To be fair, the Bills knew where they could hurt the Jets worst and they executed their plan masterfully. It's just that they haven't pulled off that feat often this year. Buffalo ran the ball 41 times and only 15 pass plays against the Jets' 30th-ranked run defense.

Despite missing two starters, Buffalo's offensive line paved the way for a season-best 203 rushing yards while surrendering only two sacks to the NFL's No. 1 pass rush. RB Travis Henry - broken fibula and all - ripped off a career-best 169 yards for his fifth 100-yard performance in his past five games.

Tennessee's defense should bring the Bills back down to earth - although that's no guarantee these days. Six Indianapolis drives began at the Tennessee 45-yard line or better, yet the Titans did not allow a touchdown on any of those possessions.

The Titans' top-ranked rush defense allowed the Colts 117 yards on the ground and 3.7 yards per carry. That, coupled with QB Peyton Manning's modest yet efficient 228 yards passing, was enough to get the Colts where they needed to go while playing on a short field for most of the game.

Henry is probably Buffalo's only hope, and those odds are slim at best against the one of the league's best defenses at stopping the run. Put the Bills on the road, where Bledsoe is decisively at his worst, and it makes to be a long day for Buffalo.

Chicago vs. Minnesota

Chicago Offense

Sacked/G=2.77

Rush TDs/G=.85

Rush Avg.=3.9

Minnesota Defense

Sacks/G=2.15

Rush TDs Against/G=1.38

Rush Avg. Against=5.0

Chicago Defense

Sacks/G=1.08

Rush TDs Against/G=.77

Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Minnesota Offense

Sacked/G=2.92

Rush TDs/G=.85

Rush Avg.=4.7

When the Bears have the ball - The makeshift offensive line could have been the main culprit.or it could have been Kordell Stewart's erratic play.or maybe the Bears' running game, if it could be called that. Suffice it to say they were all a mess after the Bears took a 14-0 lead against Green Bay.

Following WR Marty Booker's 61-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, Chicago totaled 160 yards on 52 plays (3.1 yards per play) the rest of the way. The Bears basically shared the backfield with Packer defenders, and could muster only 44 yards rushing on 20 attempts (2.2-yard avg.).

Minnesota's more aggressive, gambling approach on defense paid big dividends early and often against Seattle, resulting in three sacks, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a general stifling of the Seahawks' offense.

Rookie QB Rex Grossman will make his first start for the Bears, and probably at as good of a time as any with the Vikings paying a visit to Soldier Field. Minnesota's performance against Seattle notwithstanding, the Vikings have been getting torched every which way for nearly two months. The Bears probably won't do the same, but if they can put together a sound running game against a weak rushing defense, this once could stay close.

When the Vikings have the ball - Everything clicked on offense for the Vikings, from the offensive line on back. RB Michael Bennett (103 yards) and his running mates gained 193 yards on 43 carries (4.5-yard avg.) and Daunte Culpepper was comfortable in the pocket most of the day. Minnesota held the ball 39 minutes without a turnover.

Bennett sprained his right ankle, but should play against the Bears.

Chicago's defense was not to blame for the Bears' futility against Green Bay, although Packers' QB Brett Favre had fairly nice day. The Bears limited the NFL's best running team to 2.6 yards a rush, with a long run of 13 yards.

Minnesota will seek more help from its running game than usual and may need to given the Vikings' past history against the Bears. Not the tallest of orders against a suspect Chicago run defense, but more of a challenge should the Vikes be without Bennet's services.

Indianapolis vs. Atlanta

Indianapolis Offense

Sacked/G=1.15

Rush TDs/G=1.08

Rush Avg.=3.4

Atlanta Defense

Sacks/G=2.54

Rush TDs Against/G=1.54

Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Indianapolis Defense

Sacks/G=2.08

Rush TDs Against/G=1.00

Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Atlanta Offense

Sacked/G=2.31

Rush TDs/G=1.15

Rush Avg.=4.6

When the Colts have the ball - During one 20-minute stretch of the second and third quarters, the Colts ran 43 plays on offense to the Titans' three. In that time, they scored 19 points to turn a 10-3 deficit into a 22-10 advantage.

OT Tarik Glenn (knee) returned to left tackle after missing six of the previous seven games. OT Adam Meadows played well in place of OG Steve Sciullo (pinched nerve) at right guard. Sciullo may play against Atlanta.

RB Edgerrin James had 95 bruising yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and Peyton Manning was sacked twice as the Colts' beleaguered offensive line held together reasonably well.

Atlanta held an opponent under 100 yards rushing for the first time and kept pressure on Carolina QB Jake Delhomme. While not a defense to be feared on a week-in, week-out basis, the Falcons have been playing better than their dead last league ranking suggests.

This is obviously not a game the Colts should lose, although they may not be as sharp following Sunday's huge victory at Tennessee. Atlanta may be able to slow down George, but that only means more of Manning in a game that has plenty of playoff implications for the Colts.

When the Falcons have the ball – It took the better part of the season, but the Falcons finally have an offense. As expected, QB Michael Vick made an immediate impact in his first start of the year, accounting for 320 of the Falcons’ 380 total yards. Vick rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown while averaging 10.1 yards per carry. He added 179 passing yards.

The key in Atlanta’s matchup against the Colts may very well be the performance of its second-best runner. RB T.J. Duckett’s one-dimensional style may not be so limiting with Vick being a continual threat sprint where he wants, when he wants. If Duckett can repeat last week’s 17 carry, 59-yard, 1-TD performance on Sunday against what should be a relatively soft interior, then the Falcons probably give the Colts a run for their money. Atlanta’s two-dimensional running attack piled up 224 yards against the Panthers.

The Colts have yet to face a true running quarterback, and Vick is all of that and then some. Indy isn’t as strong against the run as it is against the pass, which suits the Falcons just fine. Indy has allowed opponents an average of 28.3 points in its past four home games, and it’s safe to judge the Falcons’ offense in only one performance this season – that which was on display against the Panthers.

The matchup of the day may be Falcons’ LT Kevin Shaffer against Colts’ DE Dwight Freeney. Against the Panthers, Shaffer kept Vick clean against DE Mike Rucker, who shares the league lead in sacks with 12.

Rams vs. Seahawks

St. Louis Offense

Sacked/G=2.62

Rush TDs/G=1.23

Rush Avg.=3.6

Seattle Defense

Sacks/G=2.23

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=4.1

St. Louis Defense

Sacks/G=2.38

Rush TDs Against/G=.54

Rush Avg. Against=4.8

Seattle Offense

Sacked/G=2.92

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Rams have the ball - The Rams play along the line was satisfactory. Marshall Faulk totaled 145 yards on 24 carries and six receptions, and he earned every one of them. QB Marc Bulger struggled mightily in the red zone as a handful of Rams' possessions stalled within the Browns' 20-yard line.

Seattle's defense and Seattle's road defense are two very different things, indeed. Minnesota became the latest team to derail the Seahawks away from home, piling up 465 yards including 135 on three long touchdown passes. Seattle's defense allows only 88 rushing yards per game at home, and a whopping 152 on the road.

Faulk probably won't receive an abundance of touches, which is nothing new these days, but for the added reason that Seattle can hardly stop opposing QBs when they're on the road. What the Vikings can do on offense, the Rams generally do just as well, and the Seahawks will most likely need a complete about-face and/or an explosion on offense to stay in this game.

When the Seahawks have the ball - Not scoring against the Vikings' defense is something no average team has had a challenge with the past couple of months - until the Seahawks came to town. Seattle will have to change its losing ways on the road in a hurry.

The Seahawks' seven points and 258 yards were both season lows. RB Shaun Alexander, who ran rampant over the Vikings a year ago, was held to 56 yards rushing and lost a fumble on Seattle's second offensive play of the game. The offensive line couldn't handle Minnesota's unpredictable pass rush, giving up three sacks along the way.

OL Jerry Wunsch (sprained ankle) will probably sit out against St. Louis.

The Rams sacked Cleveland QBs five times, had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries and helped the offense to a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. St. Louis allowed 309 total yards, including only 118 in the first half.

It's hard to tell which St. Louis defense will show up, but that hasn't affected the Rams too much yet as the team is 6-0 at home. Seattle should be able to chip away at St. Louis on the ground, but success for Alexander in this game will most likely mean consistent short games and not explosive runs.

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh

New York Offense

Sacked/G=1.77

Rush TDs/G=.38

Rush Avg.=3.9

Pittsburgh Defense

Sacks/G=2.38

Rush TDs Against/G=.85

Rush Avg. Against=3.8

New York Defense

Sacks/G=2.54

Rush TDs Against/G=1.23

Rush Avg. Against=4.2

Pittsburgh Offense

Sacked/G=2.69

Rush TDs/G=.69

Rush Avg.=3.3

When the Jets have the ball - The Jets' running game collapsed after their first drive, making QB Chad Pennington a decided victim of Buffalo's heavy pass rush. Pennington, sacked only 12 times in his previous six starts, suffered a career-high five sacks and threw for a career-low 155 yards.

RB Curtis Martin gained 84 yards on 25 carries, including only 51 yards after the Jets' initial possession. Following a mid-November surge, New York's running game has gone south in recent weeks.

Pittsburgh allowed only 161 total yards of offense to the Raiders, a season low, despite giving up 122 yards rushing on 23 attempts. The Steelers' defensive line won its battle handily, leading the way for four sacks of QB Rick Mirer, two interceptions, and a miniscule 1.3 passing yards per attempt.

Odds are the Jets will have to lean heavily on Pennington once again on Sunday. New York's rushing offense is no match for Pittsburgh's rushing defense and considering how well Pennington has thrown since returning from injury, the Jets will most likely turn to the pass as its primary source of ball movement without waiting too long for their running game to get untracked.

When the Steelers have the ball - Pittsburgh's offensive line won its battle, as well, if not as convincingly the defense. The Steelers amassed 399 yards with a good mix of running (133) and passing (266 yards). RB Jerome Bettis rushed for 106 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown and two fumbles against the league's worst run defense.

The Steelers lost yardage on three possessions, but all three drives occurred in the second half and each was victimized by a Pittsburgh penalty.

Once again, the term "Jets' run defense" was proven to be something of an oxymoron. New York allowed 203 yards rushing and 5 yards per carry to a Buffalo offense that entered the game averaging only 101 yards rushing per contest. RB Travis Henry shredded the Jets interior to the tune of 169 yards on 32 carries.

Pittsburgh will insist on getting everything it can from Bettis, which only makes sense. Matters have been made worse for the Jets as DE John Abraham (strained groin) sat out against Buffalo and could be done for the season. Bryan Thomas will continue to start in Abraham's place.

Kansas City vs. Detroit

Kansas City Offense

Sacked/G=1.54

Rush TDs/G=1.77

Rush Avg.=4.4

Detroit Defense

Sacks/G=1.85

Rush TDs Against/G=.77

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Kansas City Defense

Sacks/G=2.31

Rush TDs Against/G=1.08

Rush Avg. Against=5.2

Detroit Offense

Sacked/G=.69

Rush TDs/G=.31

Rush Avg.=3.5

When the Chiefs have the ball - As goes RB Priest Holmes, so go the Chiefs. Never has this been truer than on Sunday when Holmes was limited to 77 total yards as Kansas City led at halftime but stood still in the second half. Kansas City failed to score on three third-quarter possessions while Denver scored TDs both times it had the ball.

QB Trent Green threw for 397 yards on 34 completions and finished with a 104.7 QB rating. The yardage total is his highest as a Chief.

The Lions' defense didn't lose the game against the Chargers, but it made its share of mistakes. Most notably, Detroit couldn't put consistent pressure on San Diego QB Doug Flutie (zero sacks) and allowed RB Ladanian Tomlinson to kill them with nine receptions for 148 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown reception.

Kansas City is in the luxurious position of possibly being able to win by not even putting together an average performance on offense. The Chiefs have scored a low of 24 points at home this season, which is more than the Lions have scored in all but one game - home or away. Holmes should get back on track, and Green is a near lock for a big day, if not for gaudy stat totals.

When the Lions have the ball - There is almost no purpose in even trying to establish a run in Detroit these days, and it wouldn't be fair to blame the Lions' woes on the offensive line. Skill positions are killing this team as the running backs continually underproduce and the receivers can't get open downfield to save their lives.

Detroit ran for only 68 yards on 18 carries, led by RB Shawn Bryson's 28 yards on 10 carries. QB Joey Harrington couldn't rescue the Lions by himself, completing 26 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Harrington didn't turn the ball over and wasn't sacked.

Kansas City's defense may be the cure for what ails a handful of teams these days, but the Lions probably aren't one of them. The Chiefs were shredded on the ground by RB Clinton Portis (218 yards, five touchdowns) and yielded 368 yards to the Broncos through the first three quarters. Kansas City also had no pass rush of which to speak.

As bad as Kansas City is against the run, it's probably not as bad as the Lions are with the run. Detroit will have a tougher time without LG Eric Beverly, who suffered a high ankle sprain and will likely sit against the Chiefs. The Lions will try to establish the run only because they have to do something, and the threat they pose on offense in general is small.

Tampa Bay vs. Houston

Tampa Bay Offense

Sacked/G=1.62

Rush TDs/G=.31

Rush Avg.=3.9

Houston Defense

Sacks/G=1.38

Rush TDs Against/G=1.00

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Tampa Bay Defense

Sacks/G=2.38

Rush TDs Against/G=.46

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Houston Offense

Sacked/G=2.31

Rush TDs/G=.85

Rush Avg.=3.9

When the Buccaneers have the ball - The O-line wasn't splendid, but it did the job. The Bucs needed roughly half a minute and 23 yards of offense, minus penalties, to score a pair of first-half touchdowns, and they chewed up the clock in the fourth quarter with a 15-play, 75-yard march before missing a field goal.

QB Brad Johnson, sacked only once, threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns. RB Thomas Jones responded to his first start as a Buccaneer with 89 tough yards on 20 carries. It appears that Jones has taken over the starting job from Michael Pittman.

The Texans let Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor run roughshod over them. Taylor's 163 yards was the second-highest total ever allowed by Houston to an opposing back. Tampa Bay probably won't need a huge run game to pull off a win, but they'll run as much as they can against a Texans defense that has been shredded on the road.

When the Texans have the ball - Houston's offense was a shell of its former self, which wasn't too hot to begin with. With rookie QB Dave Ragone behind center, the Texans sought to establish the run with rookie RB Tony Hollings. The result, thanks to poor offensive line play, was 19 yards on 18 carries from Hollings and 70 yards rushing total.

Houston established season-lows for total yards (124), first downs (7), passing yards (54) and third downs converted (1-of-12). The Texans had the ball for three plays or fewer on eight of 13 possessions, with a long drive of six plays and 25 yards. No telling what they could have done with QB David Carr and RB Domanick Davis in the lineup - most likely not much.

Against the Saints, Tampa Bay committed to stopping the run and did something no team had done in two-and-a-half months - shut down RB Deuce McAllister (39 yards on 19 first-half carries, 69 yards total). The Bucs sacked QB Aaron Brooks seven times and forced him to fumble four times, including three recoveries.

The Texans will most likely need Davis in the lineup to even compete against the Bucs, who give up few big rushing games at home. Houston has a choice to pass, of course, which is akin to having the choice to jump off a sinking ship. Having Carr back would be nice, but not nearly enough in the long run.

Cincinnati vs. San Francisco

Cincinnati Offense

Sacked/G=2.23

Rush TDs/G=.62

Rush Avg.=3.9

San Francisco Defense

Sacks/G=2.62

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Cincinnati Defense

Sacks/G=2.15

Rush TDs Against/G=.92

Rush Avg. Against=4.5

San Francisco Offense

Sacked/G=1.69

Rush TDs/G=.92

Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Bengals have the ball - Something had to give on Sunday when Cincinnati's surprising offense met Baltimore's nasty defense in a battle for division supremacy. Suffice it to say there were no surprises from the Bengals. A Cincinnati line that had blocked for three straight 200-yard games while keeping their quarterback unscathed was under fire all day.

QB Jon Kitna was sacked six times, lost two of three fumbles on sacks from his blind side and faced constant pressure. The Bengals' 100 yards rushing at 4.8 yards per carry may seem nice, but that yardage was put to little use and the Bengals more or less abandoned the running game in the second half with the exception of 36 yards in garbage time.

LT Levi Jones injured his right knee against Baltimore and will most likely be out on Sunday. OL Scott Rehberg is expected to start in Jones' stead.

Is it fair to throw out the 49ers' performance at home against the lowly Cardinals when assessing this week's matchup against the Bengals? Absolutely. Cincinnati will waste no time trying to re-establish its running game against a San Francisco defense that will most likely let that happen to some degree. To be fair, San Francisco's successful run blitz - a relatively new wrinkle in the 49ers' attack - wreaked havoc against the Cards.

When the 49ers have the ball - Where all the offense came from is anyone's guess, but it's a safe bet the competition had something to do with it. San Francisco was great all-around with the ball, and the offensive line basically let QB Jeff Garcia and RB Kevan Barlow have their way all day.

Garcia, sacked only once and with ample time to work, finished with 252 yards, four passing TDs and a pair of scores on the ground. Barlow ran for 154 yards on only 18 carries (8.6-yard average) in his first career start.

Turnovers forced the Bengals' defense to defend a short field on three occasions, and in each instance it allowed the Ravens a touchdown. Cincinnati never forced QB Anthony Wright into being tested as RB Jamal Lewis ripped off 180 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.

The 49ers should be able to move the ball fairly well, though they've had trouble doing so on the road this season and tend to follow up dominant performances with flat ones, and the Bengals have more to play for at this point, at least on paper. San Francisco would love to exploit Kevan Barlow's coming out party and will do so any chance they get, but the 49ers may pass early and often due to the Bengals' success against the run at home coupled with it's lack of success against the pass.

New England vs. Jacksonville

New England Offense

Sacked/G=2.15

Rush TDs/G=.62

Rush Avg.=3.3

Jacksonville Defense

Sacks/G=1.54

Rush TDs Against/G=.77

Rush Avg. Against=3.2

New England Defense

Sacks/G=2.46

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Jacksonville Offense

Sacked/G=1.92

Rush TDs/G=.85

Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Patriots have the ball - Nasty conditions may have killed the stats, but the Patriots' used the elements to their advantage perfectly. As a result, RB Antowain Smith played a larger role in the running game and plowed his way to 60 yards on 27 carries (2.2-yard avg.). It ain't much, but it was enough to keep the chains moving and help the Pats control the field for much of the game.

It could be another nasty day for another cold-weather team that brings a tough run defense to the table when the Jags come to town. Jacksonville's D dominated an injury-plagued Houston squad (124 total yards of offense), and its doubtful the Texans would have fared much better even with starting QB David Carr and rookie RB Domanick Davis on the field.

It's easy to envision Smith having similar success against the Jags, and with improved conditions RB Kevin Faulk should see an increased role. It's easier to throw against Jacksonville, but that doesn't make it easy. New England won't abandon the running game early and shouldn't have to if its defense provides another low-scoring affair.

When the Jaguars have the ball - The Jags' offensive line put together another fine performance for streaking RB Fred Taylor and rookie QB Byron Leftwich, but that was the Texans and this week is the Patriots. Taylor stormed to a season-high 163 yards rushing and a touchdown, and has broken 100 yards in four of his past five games. The Jaguars ran for 208 yards total on the day.

Leftwich was sacked only once and didn't throw an interception while efficiently completing a 18 of 29 passes with one touchdown.

Talk about a true test - efficiency is about all that Jacksonville can hope for against the Patriots' defense. New England has yet to allow an opposing back to run for more than 71 yards in a home game this season, but running the ball is the Jaguars' best hope. Jacksonville has played to the level of its competition of late barring its route of Houston, winning or losing by seven or so points on a weekly basis. It's safe to expect a similar result in this matchup.

Denver vs. Cleveland

Denver Offense

Sacked/G=1.69

Rush TDs/G=1.15

Rush Avg.=5.1

Cleveland Defense

Sacks/G=1.77

Rush TDs Against/G=.54

Rush Avg. Against=4.5

Denver Defense

Sacks/G=2.31

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Cleveland Offense

Sacked/G=2.15

Rush TDs/G=.38

Rush Avg.=3.6

When the Broncos have the ball - Rarely is the importance of a dominant running game so soundly emphasized. In the first half of Sunday's game against Kansas City, RB Clinton Portis was held to 30 yards on 11 carries and the Broncos trailed 21-17 at the intermission. In the second half, Portis gained 188 yards on the same number of carries and Denver outscored the Chiefs 28-6.

The Broncos' offensive line was solid once again. Denver gained 270 rushing yards on 32 carries for a ridiculous 8.4-yard average. QB Jake Plummer played an efficient, mistake-free game, completing 20 of 29 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. Plummer wasn't sacked and threw nary a pick.

Cleveland's defense actually put together a decent game considering the competition coupled with the Browns having relatively little tangible incentive to compete. Both St. Louis touchdowns followed Kelly Holcomb interceptions, including one that the Rams returned for a TD, so it wasn't the defense that got the Browns into the mess in the first place. Cleveland put together a respectable pass rush and limited Rams' big-play receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce to 62 yards receiving.

The Browns have been up-and-down against the run this year, but the downs have been miserable and Sunday's game against Denver and a red-hot Portis is shaping up to be just that. Denver at home and fighting for the playoffs with the world's best running back of the past few weeks against a Cleveland squad playing for pride adds up to bad things for the Browns. To make matters worse, they can't stop the pass on the road, either.

Cleveland DE Courtney Brown (ruptured biceps tendon) left Sunday's game in the second half and will miss the rest of the season.

When the Browns have the ball - It could have been a disaster, with starting RB James Jackson exiting the game early with a knee injury and QB Kelly Holcomb throwing two costly interceptions late in the first half that basically cost the Browns the game. Despite these challenges, the Browns held together well enough to have a chance to win near the end.

Cleveland's offensive line was better leading the run than it was protecting Holcomb and Tim Couch. The QBs were harassed repeatedly, including five sacks. RB Jamal White responded to Jackson's injury with 101 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

OG Chad Beasley, playing in place of Paul Zukauskas, was lost for the season with a broken right ankle.

It was a tale of two halves for Denver's defense. The Broncos trailed 21-17 at halftime and had allowed the Chiefs to average 13.7 yards on third down. In the second half, Denver allowed only 1.5 yards on third down en route to putting quick distance between itself and Kansas City.

White, who has spent much of the season as the Browns' third-string back, will get another chance to shine in his first start of the season against the Broncos. If he does turn out to be the difference, it will be remarkable feat, indeed. Denver's No. 5-ranked rushing defense is that much tougher at home, and its passing defense isn't too shabby, either. The Broncos held RB Priest Holmes to only 44 yards on Sunday and no opposing back has rushed for 80 yards in Denver this season.

Oakland vs. Baltimore

Oakland Offense

Sacked/G=2.54

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.4

Baltimore Defense

Sacks/G=2.85

Rush TDs Against/G=.38

Rush Avg. Against=3.6

Oakland Defense

Sacks/G=1.38

Rush TDs Against/G=1.38

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Baltimore Offense

Sacked/G=2.62

Rush TDs/G=1.08

Rush Avg.=4.8

When the Raiders have the ball - It was another forgettable performance for the Raiders - unless you were on the other side of the ball. Oakland gained 161 total yards, with 102 of those coming on the ground in the first half. The Raiders may have deserted the run too quickly, especially considering QB Rick Mirer's challenges passing the ball - or even having a chance to do so.

Poor blocking, solid coverage and effective (to say the least) blitzing spelled doom for Oakland. Mirer passed for only 68 yards on 25 attempts with two interceptions, four brutal sacks and a lost fumble. RB Tyrone Wheatley ran for 65 yards and a TD as the Raiders finished with a respectable 122 yards on the ground. It may not make much sense to run the ball with a large deficit, but when it's the only thing you can do it doesn't seem there'd be much of a choice.

Baltimore's defensive line dominated its Cincinnati counterpart, which had been outstanding of late, and led the Ravens to six sacks, five turnovers and constant harassment of QB Jon Kitna. Oakland's shaky line needs to do enough to help the Raiders establish a decent ground game, because putting the outcome of this game in Mirer's hands could actually have more disastrous consequences than kneeling on every down. If the Ravens build any type of substantial lead this one could get ugly.

When the Ravens have the ball - The Ravens' offensive line dominated the Bengals' front four, allowing RB Jamal Lewis to basically pick his holes en route to 180 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Baltimore finished with 223 yards rushing, and only Denver and Green Bay have come close to matching the Ravens' success on the ground this season.

QB Anthony Wright was sacked twice, but otherwise was given time all the time he needed to throw a few key completions, a touchdown and two interceptions.

One team in the NFL runs the ball more successfully than the Ravens. One team stops the run less effectively than the Raiders. Oakland allowed venerable RB Jerome Bettis to rush for what may very well be the last 100-yard game of his career. One could venture a guess as to what the Ravens may try to do.

Washington vs. Dallas

Washington Offense

Sacked/G=2.77

Rush TDs/G=.54

Rush Avg.=4.0

Dallas Defense

Sacks/G=1.85

Rush TDs Against/G=.54

Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Washington Defense

Sacks/G=1.69

Rush TDs Against/G=1.23

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Dallas Offense

Sacked/G=2.15

Rush TDs/G=.69

Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Redskins have the ball - Facing a cold, windy day of play, Washington exploited the Giants' weak run defense early and often en route to 150 yards on the ground and a 14-minute, 16-second advantage in time of possession. The Redskins ran 48 running plays to only 21 passing plays.

RB Trung Canidate reeled off 66 yards on 18 carries before injuring his foot. Chad Morton (56 yards) and Rock Cartwright (19) picked up the slack. QB Tim Hasselbeck started his second straight game and completed 13 of 19 passes for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was sacked twice.

Dallas has given up 96 points the past three weeks as their defense has been anything but dominant. The Cowboys couldn't put consistent pressure on QB Donovan McNabb and did little to slow the Eagles' run game (167 yards). Philly RBs also had nine catches for 99 yards.

Just the Redskins' luck this season - they find their running game, then lose their running backs. Canidate will most likely be limited on Sunday, and RB Ladell Betts is out. Hasselbeck will likely be asked to do more than ever unless Morton and/or Cartwright make their presence known on a consistent basis. There are no easy ways to beat Dallas, but they are losing and have been dreadful on the road the past two months.

When the Cowboys have the ball - The Cowboys' offensive line was good early, at least in run game, but was undone early by mistakes and inconsistent play. Dallas rushed for 150 yards, but gained only 225 yards of total offense.

QB Quincy Carter threw for only 93 yards on 24 attempts, was sacked three times and tossed a game-turning interception in the third quarter. Carter threw an additional pick and finished with a QB rating of 49.5.

The Cowboys' 12 points against the Eagles may seem a paltry total, but consider that Dallas hadn't scored a single point in its two previous road games. That makes 12 points in three games and, not surprisingly, an 0-3 record in those contests. Meanwhile, Washington continues to play inspired ball and hasn't lost by more than four points since Dallas' 21-14 victory in week nine. The 'Skins lost fourth-quarter leads at Carolina, at Miami and against New Orleans before keeping the Giants at bay on Sunday.

Dallas will work to establish the run against a weak Washington rushing defense in hopes that Carter may also settle into a nice rhythm and overcome his recent struggles. Most teams have done this with good success against the Redskins this season.

Arizona vs. Carolina

Arizona Offense

Sacked/G=1.77

Rush TDs/G=.23

Rush Avg.=3.8

Carolina Defense

Sacks/G=2.46

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Arizona Defense

Sacks/G=1.31

Rush TDs Against/G=1.08

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Carolina Offense

Sacked/G=1.54

Rush TDs/G=.69

Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Cardinals have the ball - Bad got worse for the Cardinals' offensive line, which was beaten soundly against the 49ers. RB Marcel Shipp, who rushed for 165 yards less than two months ago at San Francisco, was rendered ineffective this time around with 30 yards on 13 carries. With Arizona down 34-0 at halftime, the running game was history early.

QB Jeff Blake survived a half of abuse before taking a back seat to rookie Josh McCown, who completed 11 of 20 passes with two touchdowns in his audition for next season. McCown will probably start the remaining three games for the Cardinals.

C Pete Kendall injured his shoulder and is likely out for the season. Frank Garcia will likely replace Kendall in the starting lineup.

Carolina put good pressure on Michael Vick (3 sacks) but couldn't contain him, and the result was 141 yards rushing for the speedy quarterback. Vick became the second player to top 100 yards rushing against Carolina this season. The Panthers greatly missed LB Dan Morgan (post-concussion symptoms), who is an unlikely start this weekend.

Life should be easier for the Panthers' defense with McCown under center for the opposition. Carolina's run defense has been its strong suit, especially on the road, and Arizona's ground game may be shot. It all ads up to a frustrating day for the Cardinals on offense.

When the Panthers have the ball - QB Jake Delhomme benefited from solid pass protection, but did little with it. The running game had less room to maneuver, gaining 90 yards on 22 carries for 2.7-yard average. RB Stephen Davis was held to 81 yards on 24 carries.

On a positive note, the Panthers scored touchdowns both times it reached the red zone. Entering the game, Carolina had the NFL's second-worst red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on only 13 of 35 trips inside its opponents' 20-yard line.

It seemed like the Cardinals' defense was on the field for half a century against the 49ers. Things started bad and got worse for Arizona as San Francisco ran five plays to go 70 yards for a touchdown and earned a first down on every play of its opening possession. The Cardinals allowed 20 first downs in the first half.

Arizona has won two of three home games, with the loss being a 27-30 setback to the Rams. Davis should get untracked early, and it should be okay even if he doesn't - the Cards are horrible against the pass and have allowed 29.8 points per game this season - a field goal more than any team in the league.

San Diego vs. Green Bay

San Diego Offense

Sacked/G=1.69

Rush TDs/G=.92

Rush Avg.=5.2

Green Bay Defense

Sacks/G=2.08

Rush TDs Against/G=.69

Rush Avg. Against=4.2

San Diego Defense

Sacks/G=1.77

Rush TDs Against/G=.77

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Green Bay Offense

Sacked/G=1.23

Rush TDs/G=1.08

Rush Avg.=5.0

When the Chargers have the ball - San Diego's makeshift offensive line offered little help to RB Ladanian Tomlinson, who earned every one of the 88 yards he gained on his 25 carries. Tomlinson made his mark on this game with nine receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. OLG Kelvin Garmon was the only opening day starter on the line still playing his same position.

C Jason Ball (ankle) is out for another week. Cory Raymer will replace Ball despite having a broken hand.

Green Bay kept decent pressure on QB Kordell Stewart and held Chicago to 44 yards rushing on 20 carries (2.2-yard avg.), padded by Stewart's 22 yards on three scrambles.

The Packers have been hot and cold against the run this season, and against the Bears at Lambeau Field they were hot. Facing Tomlinson in San Diego in another story all together and L.T. should post good numbers, if not outstanding ones.

NT Gilbert Brown is battling various injures and struggled in limited action against the Bears. Brown will likely see less action again this week.

This game has the makings of a stumbling block for a Packers squad that probably needs to win in order to keep its playoff hopes alive.

When the Packers have the ball - The Packers running game was merely mortal for the second straight week. Led by RB Ahman Green's 80 yards on 30 carries, Green Bay gained 97 yards rushing on 38 carries - well below its season average of 158.2 yards per game. The offensive line struggled to run block and its members were guilty of five penalties.

Green Bay did chew up a lot of clock and had the ball for almost 11 minutes longer than the Bears. Despite averaging only 2.6 yards per running attempt, the Packers ran the ball 38 times and threw 33 passes. QB Brett Favre was protected well all day and had a solid outing. His biggest mistake - a very bad pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown - was largely his own doing.

San Diego shut down the Lions' running game, but who doesn't? That aside, the Chargers allowed more than 600 yards on the ground total in the three games prior to Sunday's tilt against Detroit. San Diego couldn't get to QB Joey Harrington, but not many teams have and Lions' receivers proved once again that they are not adept at getting open.

Green Bay will no doubt try to become the latest team to bury the Chargers with the run alone. Green could very well have a monster game, and Favre should be able to keep San Diego honest by picking on the Chargers' porous secondary.

Chargers' DE Jamal Williams (knee) may play against the Packers after sitting out against the Lions.

New Orleans vs. New York Giants

New Orleans Offense

Sacked/G=2.46

Rush TDs/G=.85

Rush Avg.=4.7

New York Defense

Sacks/G=2.77

Rush TDs Against/G=.92

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

New Orleans Defense

Sacks/G=1.92

Rush TDs Against/G=.85

Rush Avg. Against=4.7

New York Offense

Sacked/G=2.62

Rush TDs/G=.46

Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Saints have the ball - It took near-vintage Buccaneer defense to slow down RB Deuce McAllister, and it came at a bad time with the Saints' slim playoff hopes on the line. McAllister, contained most of the afternoon, rushed for only 69 yards on 22 carries (3.1-yard avg.) to end his streak of 100-yard games at nine.

QB Aaron Brooks performed well, but he certainly didn't have a good day. Brooks finished with 238 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 101.8, but he was sacked seven times and fumbled three times behind a wilting offensive line.

Rookie LG Montrae Holland continues to spell LG Kendyl Jacox (knee), who has missed the past four games. Jacox may practice later this week. RG LeCharles Bentley aggravated his knee injury and is questionable against the Giants.

The Giants allowed the less-than-imposing Redskins to run for 150 yards by committee. Deuce McAllister could get a heavy load early, but the Saints won't be afraid to pass against a secondary that just made Washington QB Tim Hasselbeck look a little like his brother, Matt. Finding the time to throw shouldn't be much of an issue for the Saints.

When the Giants have the ball - The Giants ran the ball reasonably well - 23 times for 120 yards and a 5.2-yard average - but most of RB Tiki Barber's 99 yards on 16 carries were gained going around end. QBs Kerry Collins and Jesse Palmer weren't so lucky behind the Giants' increasingly dysfunctional offensive line. The pair absorbed six sacks and were under fire much of the day. Palmer was sacked five times in little more than a quarter of play.

The Saints' battered defensive line put little pressure on QB Brad Johnson and made Thomas Jones a household name in the world of fantasy football for at least a week.

New Orleans' defensive line played without run-stuffing T Willie Whitehead (knee) and with two rookie starters, which gives them some excuse. Whitehead is questionable for Sunday.

Barber may be the Giants' only real threat to do damage depending on the play of the inexperienced Palmer. If Palmer is bad and the O-line can't muster a little more than it has of late, New York may be looking at results similar to those it outputted against the Bucs.

Miami vs. Philadelphia

Miami Offense

Sacked/G=1.92

Rush TDs/G=.77

Rush Avg.=3.6

Philadelphia Defense

Sacks/G=2.23

Rush TDs Against/G=.62

Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Miami Defense

Sacks/G=2.54

Rush TDs Against/G=.54

Rush Avg. Against=3.2

Philadelphia Offense

Sacked/G=2.85

Rush TDs/G=1.31

Rush Avg.=4.9

When the Dolphins have the ball - Following a week of great play, the Dolphins' offensive line collapsed against the Patriots. Miami had only 134 total yards and seven first downs among numerous lowlights.

RB Ricky Williams gained only 68 yards on 25 carries, and that was the team's peak achievement on offense. What wasn't was Williams' inability to get a first down on third-and-1 with the Dolphins trailing 9-0 in the fourth quarter.

QB Jay Fiedler aggravated his sprained left knee and may not play on against the Eagles. Fiedler was under pressure much of the day (5 sacks), but was also inaccurate on a number of throws. Brian Griese will start if Fiedler can't go.

Two units heading in opposite directions - or close to it - will meet on Monday. Miami's offensive line had been better of late, but Sunday's collapse was a bad sign of what may be in store for Williams and Fiedler/Griese. The Eagles buckled down after giving up 105 rushing yards to the Cowboys in the first half, holding them to 3.2 yards-per-carry in the second half. Miami will run Williams heavy unless a lopsided score dictates otherwise.

When the Eagles have the ball - The Eagles were diverse and efficient on offense once again. Three Philadelphia running backs combined for 21 carries and 146 yards while catching nine passes for 99 yards. QB Donovan McNabb threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns and hit eight different receivers. It all added up to 403 yards of total offense against the league's No. 1-ranked - albeit struggling - defense.

Miami held New England to 78 yards rushing and a 2.3-yard average, sacked QB Tom Brady three times and held the Patriots to 5-of-18 third down conversions, but this was accomplished in conditions that favored the defense, and the Dolphins' line was outperformed by its counterpart.

Miami has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher at home, but the Eagles have been proving the obvious on a weekly basis - that three running backs are better than one (four if you count McNabb). Philadelphia may present as diverse an offense as the Dolphins see all year, and will stick with a short game as long as it's allowed in order to beat Miami at its own pace.