VOTED #1 FANTASY FOOTBALL SITE
1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002
PRIORITY NEWS   MESSAGE BOARDS JOIN   
HOME ARTICLES STATISTICS WEEKLY FEATURES TEAM LINKS NFL RESOURCES  
Crossing the Line - Week 16
By Todd Gray and Fritz Schlottman
December 19, 2003
 
Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta

Tampa Bay Offense

Sacked/G=1.50

Rush TDs/G=.36

Rush Avg.=3.9

Atlanta Defense

Sacks/G=2.50

Rush TDs Against/G=1.43

Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Tampa Bay Defense

Sacks/G=2.57

Rush TDs Against/G=.43

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Atlanta Offense

Sacked/G=2.43

Rush TDs/G=1.14

Rush Avg.=4.6

When the Buccaneers have the ball - The Bucs produced just enough offense to pull off the win against the hapless Texans. The offensive line spearheaded a 398-yard output on offense while keeping QB Brad Johnson clean. A holding call against G Cosey Coleman negated a 50-yard Michael Pittman catch-and-run, but the Bucs stayed away from penalties most of the day.

Tampa Bay had trouble finishing drives despite moving the ball well. Five forays deep into Texans' territory resulted in only one touchdown, three field goals and a missed field goal. The Bucs converted only four of 14 third downs for the game.

RB Thomas Jones was even better in his second start of the season, carrying 34 times for 134 yards. With little margin for error in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, Tampa Bay will keep the ball on the ground as much as possible against the Falcons' generous run defense - although throwing against Atlanta's secondary isn't the most daunting task. The Falcons are ranked 30th in the league against the run, and last week allowed the Colts 110 yards on 18 carries - in the first half.

This should be a big game for Jones as the Bucs come out swinging at home against a struggling, near-weaponless squad that barely has a head coach. Tampa Bay will welcome the return of T Kenyatta Walker, who missed Sunday's game due to an infection in his elbow.

When the Falcons have the ball - Through one half of play, the Falcons gained zero yards or fewer on four of eight drives. Their best effort in that span was a six-play, 21-yard drive that ended with a punt. By the time Atlanta sustained its offense for more than six plays on any given drive, the final score (38-7) had already been established.

The Falcons' offensive line was beaten and battered throughout the game, allowing four sacks on QB Michael Vick, including one that resulted in a fumble, and helping Atlanta to a 1-of-11 mark on third-down conversions. Vick, who completed only 6-of-19 passes with an interception, posed nowhere near the threat running the ball as he did a week earlier. T.J. Duckett was productive with 74 yards and a TD on 18 carries, but given a pass-first game plan early, it was too little, too late for the Falcons on the ground.

LG Roberto Garza tore the ACL in his right knee and is done for the season. Garza becomes the third starting OL for the Falcons to go on the IR this year. Martin Bibla will start in his place.

It's out of the frying pan, into the fire for the Falcons as they visit another team fighting for its playoff life. The Buccaneers seem to have cured what ailed its run defense for most of the year, following its Week 14 stifling of the Saints with another stingy performance against the Texans (65 yards rushing, 42 passing). The Bucs also kept rookie QB Dave Ragone on the run and sacked him five times to make it 12 sacks in two games.

Atlanta's best hope may once again rest on Vick's ability to run the ball effectively. He'll most likely face heavy pressure throughout the game and will be forced to take off on his own on a few of those occasions. If the Bucs' run defense is truly back in form, it will be a long day for the Falcons.

DT Warren Sapp (foot) is expected back in the lineup, although the Bucs will miss DE Ellis Wyms (knee), who was placed on injured reserve on Monday.

Minnesota vs. Kansas City

Minnesota Offense

Sacked/G=2.86

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=4.7

Kansas City Defense

Sacks/G=2.14

Rush TDs Against/G=1.07

Rush Avg. Against=5.2

Minnesota Defense

Sacks/G=2.07

Rush TDs Against/G=1.36

Rush Avg. Against=5.0

Kansas City Offense

Sacked/G=1.43

Rush TDs/G=1.86

Rush Avg.=4.5

When the Vikings have the ball - A frustrating day for the Vikings in which they out-rushed the Bears 178 yards to 87 and held the ball for 37 minutes, 15 seconds, yet still lost. Minnesota reached Chicago territory three times in the first half and could muster only three points on those drives.

Rookie RB Onterrio Smith rushed for 148 yard on 25 carries in place of injured Michael Bennett (ankle). With nasty weather expected for the game, the Vikings featured a ground-first attack, running 38 times against only 24 passes. This included runs on eight of their first 11 plays form scrimmage.

Bennett should return against the Chiefs, but the Vikings would probably be able to run the ball effectively without him against a K.C. defense that just made RB Shawn Bryson look good.. The Chiefs' did allow the lowest total yards (334), rushing yards (137) and points (17) by an opponent since Nov. 10. A good effort, but not enough to help Kansas City escape its No. 28 ranking in team defense.

When the Chiefs have the ball - Another exquisite performance from QB Trent Green and more dominance along the offensive line helped the Chiefs to 521 yards of total offense. Kansas City didn't turn the ball over for the fourth time in five games.

RB Priest Holmes gained 136 total yards on 16 carries and five safety-valve receptions. Backfield-mate Derrick Blaylock added 113 total yards on seven touches (5 catches, 2 runs).

For once, the Vikings' defense wasn't its Achilles' heel, although the defensive line put little pressure on rookie QB Rex Grossman. Minnesota allowed only 232 net yards to the Bears - it's second-best effort this season - and held Chicago to only 87 yards rushing.

The Vikings' defense will need to play even better against a playoff offense this Sunday if they hope to see the playoffs themselves. Green hasn't hit so much as a speed bump the past few weeks and there's little to indicate Minnesota will be the team to slow him down. Stopping Holmes may be the Vikings' only chance of winning unless they're busy piling up points themselves.

Chicago vs. Washington

Chicago Offense

Sacked/G=2.64

Rush TDs/G=.86

Rush Avg.=3.9

Washington Defense

Sacks/G=1.79

Rush TDs Against/G=1.29

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Chicago Defense

Sacks/G=1.14

Rush TDs Against/G=.71

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Washington Offense

Sacked/G=2.64

Rush TDs/G=.50

Rush Avg.=4.0

When the Bears have the ball - An improved performance from the Bears' patchwork offensive line was good enough to protect rookie QB Rex Grossman (one sack), but not enough to kick Chicago's running game into gear. RB Anthony Thomas gained 79 yards rushing on 19 carries, but his 23-yard run near the end of the game inflated these totals.

LT Terrence Metcalf, in his second career start, and RG Qasim Mitchell, making his first career start, and played well in place of injured regulars Mike Gandy (shoulder) and Chris Villarrial (torn oblique), respectively.

Grossman, given a fair amount of time in the pocket in his first pro start, completed 13 of 30 passes for 157 yards. More importantly, he avoided mistakes as the Bears attempted 30 passes against only 23 runs.

Washington allowed 222 yards rushing to the Cowboys, which is really nothing new. The 'Skins have surrendered 200 yards rushing in six of the past seven games against Dallas. RB Troy Hambrick, who has struggled much of the year, had a career-high 189 yards on 33 carries. Hambrick did most of his damage against a weak Washington interior. Pressure on QB Quincy Carter was solid (3 sacks), but the Cowboys' bread-and-butter was its rushing attack.

Chicago will most likely take a page out of the Cowboys' book and run the ball early and, hopefully, often. The Bears know this is the best way to beat the 'Skins and would prefer not to risk a Grossman implosion in only the young QB's second career start.

When the Redskins have the ball - It was the kind of memorable day you don't want to have for QB Tim Hasselbeck, who connected on only 6 of 26 passes for 56 yards on his way to a nice even passer rating of 0.0. Nasty weather was a factor, but then, it's only precipitation.

Washington's best drive of the day extended only to Dallas' 27-yard line, and the Redskins gained only two first downs in the second half. RB Rock Cartwright rushed 21 times for 94 yards, but his efforts couldn't help the 'Skins control the clock for more than 23 minutes.

It was bend-but-don't-break defense for the Bears, who allowed 393 total yards to the Vikings but came up big deep in their own territory. Minnesota's longest drives of the day - 73 yards in the first quarter and 79 yards on its final possession - resulted in a field goal and an interception, respectively. The Bears didn't put a great deal of pressure on QB Daunte Culpepper, sacking him twice, and allowed rookie RB Onterrio Smith to rush for 148 yards on 27 carries.

Redskins' LT Chris Samuels (knee) should be ready to go against Chicago after missing the past three games. It's a good thing, because Samuels' back-up, Brandon Winey, sprained his knee against the Cowboys and will be out this week and the 'Skins will need all the help they can get.

Washington probably won't have much success passing against the Bears' tight secondary and with a young QB who may be permanently scarred following the team's debacle against Dallas. RB Chad Morton will most likely start for the Redskins despite Cartwright's success against the Cowboys. Morton was in line to start against Dallas before missing practice time due to a flu and 'Skins coaches would prefer to play Cartwright at fullback.

Carolina vs. Detroit

Carolina Offense

Sacked/G=1.50

Rush TDs/G=.64

Rush Avg.=4.1

Detroit Defense

Sacks/G=1.71

Rush TDs Against/G=.93

Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Carolina Defense

Sacks/G=2.57

Rush TDs Against/G=.71

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Detroit Offense

Sacked/G=.64

Rush TDs/G=.36

Rush Avg.=3.6

When the Lions have the ball - Not a bad day at all by Lions' standards. The offensive line did a great job protecting QB Joey Harrington (zero sacks - again) and paved the way for the team's first 100-yard rusher of the season. RB Shawn Bryson ran for 105 yards and a TD in 18 carries.

Harrington completed 20 of 36 passes for 197 yards with each a touchdown and an interception. He stats would have been better, as usual, if it weren't for numerous drops by his receivers, including one potential touchdown strike and a drop/deflection that was intercepted.

Carolina allowed the Cardinals' 30th-ranked rushing offense to pile up 170 yards on 40 carries. The Panthers sacked rookie QB Josh McCown four times, but also allowed him to scramble out of the pocket seven times for 47 yards a week after Michael Vick burned them for 141 yards rushing.

LB Dan Morgan (concussion) could return for the Panthers after missing two starts. DE Mike Rucker (knee) missed the Arizona game, as well, and could be held out of Sunday's matchup in order to get him ready for the playoffs. Even if half of the Panthers' starting defense misses the game, Carolina should be able to shut down Detroit's short-lived running game and give fits to either Harrington or his possible replacement, Mike McMahon.

When the Panthers have the ball - RB Stephen Davis tweaked his knee and re-injured his ankle, and the Panthers could muster little on the ground, rushing only 18 times (67 yards) to 32 pass attempts (231 yards). As a result, Carolina held the ball for only 22 minutes, 6 seconds with all but two drives lasting fewer than three minutes.

The offensive line did fairly well in providing good protection for QB Jake Delhomme (one sack), although C Jeff Mitchell injured his groin in the second half. C/G Bruce Nelson saw his first significant action of the season in Mitchell's place and helped the line to a respectable performance. Mitchell is questionable for Sunday's game against the Lions.

Detroit offered little resistance whatsoever to the Chiefs, giving up 521 total yards and 28 first downs. The Lions' non-existent pass rush generated zero sacks and did little to disrupt QB Trent Green, who averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt. Kansas City didn't even face a third-down situation until the second quarter.

That will have to change against the Panthers, most notably because a strong performance from Detroit's defense will most likely be the only way the Lions stay in this game. With Davis likely out, this task should be slightly easier with De'Shaun Foster handling the ball, but despite Detroit's accustomed success against the run, it's usually toast against the pass. To make matters worse, the Lions have allowed an average of 34.7 points in their past three road games.

New York Jets vs. New England

New York Offense

Sacked/G=1.64

Rush TDs/G=.36

Rush Avg.=4.0

New England Defense

Sacks/G=2.36

Rush TDs Against/G=.57

Rush Avg. Against=3.5

New York Defense

Sacks/G=2.36

Rush TDs Against/G=1.14

Rush Avg. Against=4.2

New England Offense

Sacked/G=2.14

Rush TDs/G=.64

Rush Avg.=3.2

When the Jets have the ball - The offensive line responded to a humbling performance a week earlier by spearheading the most effective rushing attack the Jets have had this year. RB Curtis Martin made it look like he was the only player not playing in snow, exploding for a season-high 174 yards against a decent Pittsburgh rush defense. Martin had a long run of 56 yards (his longest in five seasons) and added a team-high 54 yards on four receptions.

QB Chad Pennington benefited from great protection (zero sacks) to put together an efficient, mistake-free performance in game conditions not conducive to the pass. Pennington completed only 15 of 25 passes for 144 yards, no interceptions and no TDs, but that includes 8-of-11 with five chain-moving completions on third-down attempts. Still, the offense hasn't scored a touchdown in two weeks.

Martin should come back to earth against the Patriots' No. 3 rushing defense, which held RB Fred Taylor to 57 carries on 16 carries - his lowest yardage total since Oct. 26. New England is third in the league in allowing 88.8 rushing yards per game and has allowed only 13 points total in its last two games, but both were at home and the Pats' D gives up a bit more on the road.

When the Patriots have the ball - Put this running game on any other team and it's almost a sure bet that team is worse off for it. RBs Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk combined for 78 yards on 28 carries, but once again the Patriots were able to hide their lack of rushing success behind a stellar defense and the play of QB Tom Brady.

New England ran the ball 32 times and passed 34 times despite averaging only 2.6 yards per rush. Brady completed 22-of-34 passes for 228 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He was sacked twice (despite great protection for most of the game) and completed passes to eight different receivers.

The Jets' defense didn't let Pittsburgh get much going on offense, although when that happens it's usually half the Steelers' fault. New York held Pittsburgh to only 94 yards rushing in snowy conditions, the third-best job it's done against the run all season.

New York's run defense has improved, which could make things interesting against the Pats' weak running attack. This game could very easily turn out to be a shootout between two of the league's best young QBs in Brady and Pennington.

Buffalo vs. Miami

Buffalo Offense

Sacked/G=2.93

Rush TDs/G=.93

Rush Avg.=4.0

Miami Defense

Sacks/G=2.43

Rush TDs Against/G=.71

Rush Avg. Against=3.3

Buffalo Defense

Sacks/G=2.43

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=3.4

Miami Offense

Sacked/G=1.93

Rush TDs/G=.93

Rush Avg.=3.8

When the Bills have the ball - Buffalo's failure to win the battle at the line of scrimmage was no more apparent that in the Bills' 11.8 percent (2-of-17) success rate on third down. The offensive line allowed three sacks, including a biggie that forced QB Drew Bledsoe into a fumble that set up Tennessee's eight-point score in the third quarter that cut the Bills' lead to 17-14. LT Marques Sullivan, playing in place of injured Jonas Jennings, was beat cleanly on the play.

RB Travis Henry gained 88 yards on only 19 carries, somewhat remarkable considering the play of the OL. Henry broke off runs of 15, 19 and 19 yards against the league's No. 1 rush defense.

Miami's defense let Philadelphia do pretty much what it wanted on the ground, allowing four Eagles' ballcarriers to combine for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. The Dolphins sacked QB Donovan McNabb only once for no loss and didn't provide much of a rush, in general.

No runner has crested 100 yards against the Dolphins this season, and that should only change if Henry gets upwards of 30 carries. This is a possibility as the Bills will try to establish the run early in order to make Bledsoe as comfortable as humanly possible. Miami could be slightly drained after a disheartening Monday night defeat at home.

When the Dolphins have the ball - It was an on-again day for the Dolphins' on-again, off-again offensive line. RB Ricky Williams led Miami's 177-yard running attack with 107 yards and a TD on 18 carries, and QB Jay Fiedler was given slightly better protection than his performance indicated (2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 0 TDs, 240 yards passing).

Buffalo's defense was solid through most of three quarters until it began to crumble midway through the third quarter and allowed the Titans three touchdowns - their only TDs of the game - on their final six possessions. The Bills allowed 86 yards rushing on 32 carries (2.7-yard average) and had four sacks of rookie QB Billy Volek.

The combination of Buffalo's dominant defense and Miami's mediocre offense presents a huge stumbling block for the Dolphins. In the long run, the improvisational skills of Fiedler will most likely have to be put to good use in order for Miami to pull this one out because the Dolphins will probably fail to run or throw the ball with much consistency. Fortunately (maybe) for Miami, this is the kind of game that can often be won with 10-13 or so points of offense.

Cleveland vs. Baltimore

Cleveland Offense

Sacked/G=2.50

Rush TDs/G=.43

Rush Avg.=3.8

Baltimore Defense

Sacks/G=2.64

Rush TDs Against/G=.43

Rush Avg. Against=3.5

Cleveland Defense

Sacks/G=2.07

Rush TDs Against/G=.64

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Baltimore Offense

Sacked/G=2.64

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.8

When the Browns have the ball - Take away the 10-play, 87-yard drive in the fourth quarter that tied the game, and the Browns' average drive length the other 11 times it had the ball was 3.8 plays - not even a three-and-out average. Cleveland held the ball for 18:57 to the Broncos' 41:03.

RB Jamel White came back to Earth against Denver's fifth-ranked rush defense with 55 yards on 20 carries (2.8-yard average). QB Tim Couch hit some big completions (44, 44, 35 and 27 yards), but he had only eight completions total, which wasn't enough to keep the chains moving. Couch was sacked twice and faced a good deal of pressure throughout the day, and the Browns were 2-of-11 on third down.

Baltimore's defense played pretty well, but was a victim of poor field position. Oakland had scoring drives of one and zero yards on its first two possessions, then managed only two more scoring drives on its remaining 13 possessions. The Ravens allowed 79 yards rushing on 31 carries (2.5-yard avg.), but did little to disrupt QB Rick Mirer (zero sacks, good protection).

This game was shaping up to be quite a stumbling block for Baltimore until Oakland caught them off-guard last week. It's hard to imagine the Ravens looking past anyone now, as one more loss probably means no playoffs. This will most likely be a defensive battle in which the team with the best ball control wins. Big games for White and Couch won't mean 100 yards rushing or 300 yards passing, but steady progress and few - if any - mistakes.

When the Ravens have the ball - The way he was throwing the ball, QB Anthony Wright needed all the protection he could get on Sunday. It didn't happen. Wright, protected reasonably well early in the game, was sacked three times in the second half when he and the Ravens mustered only one scoring drive.

RB Jamal Lewis earned 125 yards at 5.2 yards-per-carry against the league's No. 31 rush defense. Lewis gained 109 yards through three quarters before carrying only three times the rest of the way. Despite his efforts, Baltimore failed on 10 of 12 third-down conversion attempts.

Last week it was Portis, and this week it's Lewis for the Browns' defense. Cleveland saw a lot of the former on Sunday, allowing Portis 139 yards on 38 carries during its 41-plus minutes on the field. The Browns gave up 165 rushing yards total and kept QB Jake Plummer moving, but let the Broncos move the ball consistently with three drives of 10 plays or more and only two drives of five yards or less among its 11 possessions.

So how will Cleveland stop the running back that shredded them for an NFL-record 295 yards in Week 2? The Browns will devote themselves almost entirely to stuffing Lewis and beg Wright to throw the ball. Still, Lewis should do quite a bit of damage with the 25 or so carries he will most likely receive against a run defense that has been both brilliant and horrible at various times this season. Good backs almost always beat the Browns.

Dallas vs. New York Giants

Dallas Offense

Sacked/G=2.21

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=3.9

New York Defense

Sacks/G=2.64

Rush TDs Against/G=.86

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Dallas Defense

Sacks/G=1.79

Rush TDs Against/G=.50

Rush Avg. Against=3.6

New York Offense

Sacked/G=2.64

Rush TDs/G=.43

Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Cowboys have the ball - Dallas' running game has shown signs of life in recent weeks, most notably on Sunday when the Cowboys piled up a season-high 222 rushing yards. RB Troy Hambrick ran for a career-high 189 yards on 33 carries.

The offensive line was great in promoting the run, and Dallas kept the Redskins honest by throwing 24 times despite getting little statistical production from QB Quincy Carter. Carter, sacked three times, completed only 10 of 24 passes for 108 yards and a TD. He also ran for a touchdown and managed the game well overall.

The Giants stopped RB Deuce McAllister early in the game when it did matter, holding him to only 15 yards. But New York let McAllister loose in the second half and couldn't stop anything else New Orleans did throughout the game. The Giants' once-feared pass rush managed a lone sack on QB Aaron Brooks and let the Saints convert 10 of 14 third downs.

Knowing that they won't be playing much longer sans a solid running game even if they do make the playoffs, the Cowboys will seek to spring Hambrick early and often against a Giants' defensive front that remains the team's only sturdy unit. Dallas has the luxury of knowing that New York's secondary is in shambles, which makes for a nice plan B should it come to that. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they probably won't have to score many points to win this game.

When the Giants have the ball - At least they're consistent. The Giants scored one touchdown for the sixth consecutive game. New York's best drive until their last possession was an 8-play, 40-yard mini-march that ended in a punt.

Rookie QB Jesse Palmer was the highlight of the offense despite having a rather ordinary day. Palmer did make a brilliant 26-yard run and his 25 rushing yards midway through the third quarter were more than RBs Tiki Barber and Dorsey Levens combined. Not bad for a rookie considering the limited amount of protection he was given, including three sacks.

As if Palmer didn't already have his hands full in running an offense without many (any?) weapons, here come the rejuvenated Cowboys. Dallas is fresh off a stompin' of another plummeting team with an inexperienced QB at the helm. The Cowboys' 4.1 yards allowed per rushing attempt wasn't bad, but it paled in comparison to the Redskins' 2-yard average on passing attempts.

If Dallas loses this game, there's no doubt they're not a playoff-caliber team. Almost every matchup is to the Cowboys' advantage, most notably the Giants' apparent unwillingness to compete and the fact that they're playing for a lame duck head coach. New York will try to establish the run, which won't happen, and then will most likely turn to Palmer to bail them out. It all adds up to a recipe for disaster for the Giants.

Houston vs. Tennessee

Houston Offense

Sacked/G=2.50

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=3.8

Tennessee Defense

Sacks/G=2.50

Rush TDs Against/G=.64

Rush Avg. Against=3.7

Houston Defense

Sacks/G=1.29

Rush TDs Against/G=1.00

Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Tennessee Offense

Sacked/G=1.79

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=3.2

When the Texans have the ball - It's been more than nine quarters since the Texans have scored a touchdown, which pretty much says it all. Throw out the eight-play, 51-yard drive that led to Houston's only score (a field goal), and the Texans averaged only 5.8 yards each time they had the ball.

All of this and more reflects the performance of an offensive line that continues to deteriorate and which played without the services of RG Zach Wiegert. Houston has totaled 231 yards, 14 first downs and 96 passing yards the past two weeks.

The return of rookie RB Domanick Davis (16 carries, 56 yards) gave the team a lift, and rookie QB Dave Ragone, starting in the absence of David Carr, actually improved from a week earlier despite throwing for only 64 yards. Amazingly, Ragone didn't make any big mistakes despite being sacked five times and facing ample pressure from the Bucs. He did fumble twice, but lost neither of those drops.

Tennessee's defensive line outplayed its offensive counterpart despite a few lapses against the run. The Titans held RB Travis Henry to 70 yards on four of his carries and to only 18 yards on his remaining 15 carries. Discounting Buffalo's final touchdown drive, Tennessee allowed about 10 meaningful plays of offense to the Bills.

QB David Carr and RG Zach Wiegert should both return to the Texans' lineup this week, which, needless to say, is a huge boost for a unit that has barely fielded a professional lineup the past two weeks. Tennessee has been shaky on the road of late and has been allowing upwards of 30 points a game over the past month. Houston would love to establish Davis as a threat on the ground while easing Carr back into action as efficiently as possible.

When the Titans have the ball - RB Eddie George ran hard, albeit with slim earnings, and sprinkled in carries of 13 and 10 yards en route to 67 yards on the day. Not much, but enough to support the offensive line and QB Billy Volek against one of the league's top defenses. The Titans held the ball for 36:45 compared to only 23:15 for the Bills.

Volek faced a good deal of pressure and was sacked four times, but still managed to complete 26 passes for 295 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.

Houston's defense played well against Tampa Bay, with strong performances from both its defensive line and linebacking unit. The Texans allowed 398 total yards to the Bucs, but for spending nearly two-thirds of the game on the field and getting minimal support from their offense, who can blame them? Despite all the time on the field, Houston couldn't sack QB Brad Johnson once.

QB Steve McNair (ankle) should start for the Titans this week, but he isn't 100 percent and will probably be limited. If that's the case, there is potential for George to get 25 or so carries - much more than his normal load. The worst-case scenario for Houston involves George getting enough small, steady gains to keep the defense honest, thereby allowing McNair to pick apart the Texans' woeful secondary.

Jacksonville vs. New Orleans

Jacksonville Offense

Sacked/G=1.86

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=4.1

New Orleans Defense

Sacks/G=2.00

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Jacksonville Defense

Sacks/G=1.57

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=3.1

New Orleans Offense

Sacked/G=2.36

Rush TDs/G=.79

Rush Avg.=4.7

When the Jaguars have the ball - To have a chance against the Patriots, RB Fred Taylor had to have a chance. Alas, the Jags abandoned the run early and finished with half as many rushing attempts (20) as they had passing attempts (40) despite being within one touchdown of the Patriots throughout three quarters of play.

Taylor finished with 57 yards on 16 carries. QB Byron Leftwich threw for 288 yards and a touchdown, but his two interceptions late in the game sealed the Jags' fate.

New Orleans hammered the hapless Giants, shutting down RB Tiki Barber (37 yards) and allowing only 31 rushing yards in the first half. The Saints sacked rookie QB Jesse Palmer three times, and the defensive line rebounded from a poor performance against the Bucs a week earlier by manhandling the Giants' struggling, inexperienced offensive line.

Taylor should be able to pick up where he left off two weeks ago against the Saints' 26th-ranked run defense. Jacksonville continues to play inspired ball and, its loss to the Patriots notwithstanding, is one of few non-playoff teams actually making improvement at this stage of the season. The Jags have won three straight games at home.

When the Saints have the ball - The offensive line overcame a slow start to lead the Saints to 132 yards rushing and to keep QB Aaron Brooks comfortable in the pocket for most of the afternoon. New Orleans was 10-of-14 on third-down conversions and had only two poor drives among its 11 possessions.

RB Deuce McAllister gained 80 of the Saints' 132 yards rushing against a Giants' defense stacked to stop the run. Brooks had his way much of the day and threw for 296 yards and five touchdowns against zero interceptions.

Jacksonville held New England's weak running game to 84 yards, about 10 below the season average for the Patriots, but the Jaguars had no answer for QB Tom Brady despite having the weather on their side. Jacksonville sacked Brady only twice while offering a pass rush that was little more than annoying.

This is one of the week's more interesting matchups. The best performance by an opposing running back in Jacksonville this season was 88 yards, and McAllister will be hard-pressed to reach that total. Granted, the Saints have Brooks and Horn to fall back on, but taking to the air against the Jags is much less that a sure thing.

St. Louis vs. Cincinnati

St. Louis Offense

Sacked/G=2.71

Rush TDs/G=1.21

Rush Avg.=3.6

Cincinnati Defense

Sacks/G=2.07

Rush TDs Against/G=1.07

Rush Avg. Against=3.6

St. Louis Defense

Sacks/G=2.71

Rush TDs Against/G=.64

Rush Avg. Against=4.9

Cincinnati Offense

Sacked/G=2.21

Rush TDs/G=.71

Rush Avg.=4.1

When the Rams have the ball - The offensive line provided superb pass blocking for QB Marc Bulger, but couldn't spring RB Marshall Faulk until the fourth quarter. That may have been when it counted most, however, as the Rams had to keep the ball away from a Seahawks offense and mounted two drives culminating in field goals that proved to be the margin of points needed for the 27-22 win. Faulk had 59 of his 85 yards in the fourth quarter.

Bulger hit big passes early and often, including seven completions in 10 attempts for 129 yard and two touchdowns on third down.

Cincinnati won in spite of its defense, which allowed 502 yards of offense and 31 first downs despite being on the field for less than half the game. The bleeding was stopped in part due to three fumble recoveries that the offense turned into 17 points. The Bengals offered little in the way of a pass rush and forced only one punt all afternoon as the 49ers scored on six of their final seven possessions.

Cincinnati continued another trend of allowing big yardage on the ground, including 171 yards and a 6.3-yard average against the 49ers. This certainly won't benefit the Bengals against the Rams and Faulk, who is a near lock for a big game running the ball should the Rams need such a performance. Most likely, everyone on the Rams' offense will join this party.

When the Bengals have the ball - Despite gaining 393 yards of total offense, including 225 yards rushing, the Bengals were outplayed by the opposing offense in nearly every facet of the game. Key, however, was that RBs Rudi Johnson (174 yards) and Corey Dillon (24 yards) held onto the ball, unlike their San Francisco counterparts.

The only time the Bengals didn't score in the second half was when they stopped themselves - literally. QB Jon Kitna took a knee twice to run out the final minute of the game clock. Kitna (189 yards, 2 TDs) was given great protection throughout the game and made one good decision after another.

Rookie OG Eric Steinbach (bruised thigh) is questionable for Sunday's game against the Rams. Steinbach's absence should he miss the game will be felt most in the running game.

St. Louis allowed RB Shaun Alexander to rip them for 126 yards rushing, but gave him only 21 yards on seven carries while staving off the Seahawks' fourth-quarter rally. The defensive line harried QB Matt Hasselbeck into a sub-par performance while contributing one of the Rams' two sacks.

Cincinnati should have limited success on the ground against a St. Louis defense that plays the run well, especially at home. Most likely, the Bengals will be forced to take the game to the air rather early in this game in order to keep up with the Rams' offense.

Pittsburgh vs. San Diego

Pittsburgh Offense

Sacked/G=2.50

Rush TDs/G=.64

Rush Avg.=3.3

San Diego Defense

Sacks/G=1.64

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=4.3

Pittsburgh Defense

Sacks/G=2.21

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

San Diego Offense

Sacked/G=1.71

Rush TDs/G=.86

Rush Avg.=5.0

When the Steelers have the ball - Ninety-four yards rushing were not enough for the Steelers against the worst run defense in the league. The inability to run the ball has plagued the Steelers all year and has never been more apparent than in their 6-0 blanking against the Jets. Despite playing in snowy weather and with QB Tommy Maddox off-target much of the day, Pittsburgh passed the ball 38 times to only 24 rushing attempts.

On first-and-six at the Jets' 6-yard line early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers ran six plays (benefiting from a penalty) - four passes and two runs - and gained three yards before missing a field goal. That doesn't say a lot about the coaching staff's confidence in the run game. RB Jerome Bettis gained 68 yards on 16 carries before leaving with a hip pointer in the second half.

San Diego largely accomplished what it set out to do against the Packers - stop the run. However, a near-complete lack of a pass rush allowed Green Bay QB Brett Favre to pick apart the defense for three touchdown passes in the final 12 minutes. The Chargers held RB Ahman Green to 75 yards on 19 carries and the Packers to 83 yards rushing and 3.1 yards-per-carry as a team.

Finally, a defense that matches up against the Steelers' offense. In other words, not a very good defense. Pittsburgh will no doubt get whatever it can from the run game early, but will be more inclined to take to the air should the running game produce meager results. Fortunately for the Steelers, San Diego is equally deficient in stopping both the run and the pass.

When the Chargers have the ball - Injuries along the offensive line gave the Chargers little chance, and not even LaDainian Tomlinson could bail them out. Only one opening day starter on the OL was at his natural position, although C Jason Ball (ankle) may return this week.

Tomlinson was held to 51 yards rushing on 20 attempts (2.6-yard avg.), but more than made up the difference with 11 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

At first glance, QB Drew Brees did a pretty good job in his first start in five games, throwing for a career-best 363 yards with two touchdowns. However, Brees' two fumbles and one interception were costly, leading to 17 points for the opposition.

Pittsburgh did a lot of bending, but no breaking, against the Jets, allowing only two field goals and forcing seven punts in 10 possessions while forcing a fumble in the other. RB Curtis Martin's season-high 174 yards against the Steelers were about the most harmless 174 yards you'll see, as the Jets could manage only four first downs on the ground (15 total) and seemed to run less effectively the deeper they were in Pittsburgh territory.

The deciding factor in this game may very well be Tomlinson's success running the ball versus a Pittsburgh defense that hasn't allowed a 90-yard rusher at home all season. If that battle ends in a draw, key will be Brees' success against the Steelers' susceptible pass defense. Should this occur, odds are it's good enough to keep him in check.

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco

Philadelphia Offense

Sacked/G=2.71

Rush TDs/G=1.43

Rush Avg.=4.9

San Francisco Defense

Sacks/G=2.57

Rush TDs Against/G=.71

Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Philadelphia Defense

Sacks/G=2.21

Rush TDs Against/G=.79

Rush Avg. Against=4.5

San Francisco Offense

Sacked/G=1.64

Rush TDs/G=1.07

Rush Avg.=4.6

When the Eagles have the ball - The Eagles didn't have their A- game on the ground consistency-wise, but a handful of long rushes at key times helped their cause. The offensive line was solid against a tough counterpart, with the key performance being LG Artis Hicks' work against Pro Bowl DE Jason Taylor in Hicks' first pro start at left tackle.

QB Donovan McNabb was sharp despite a shaky stat line (15-27, 236 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), completing two or more passes to seven different receivers. McNabb benefited from good protection and was sacked only once. Philadelphia has given up only 12 sacks over the past seven games after allowing 26 in the previous seven contests.

San Francisco could do nothing to stop the Bengals' running game and allowed 225 yards rushing on 37 attempts (6.1-yard avg.) despite allowing only 39 of those yards in the first half. The 49ers' defensive line did little buy annoy QB Jon Kitna, who completed 72 percent of his passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and no costly mistakes.

Another road game for San Francisco most likely means the ineffective version of its defense will take the field - and it's an especially bad time for that to happen against an Eagles' offense that just tore apart the Dolphins on the road. Look for Philly's three-headed running attack to resurface as the Eagles continue to take matters very seriously in hopes of gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

When the 49ers have the ball - All five starters on the offensive line made it through a game intact for the first time this season, and the results were pleasing, if not too late in the campaign to mean much. The 49ers ran for 171 yards and threw for 331 more for 502 total yards, and QB Jeff Garcia was sacked only once en route to a season-best performance (130.3 QB rating).

Starting RG Ron Stone returned to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring strain.

Ultimately, San Francisco was done in by turnovers. RB Kevan Barlow ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes, including on for a 48-yard gain, but his two red-zone fumbles hugely impacted the outcome of the game. The lone sack on Garcia produced the third turnover - a fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown.

Philadelphia allowed an opponent to crest 125 rushing yard for the eighth time in nine games, and once again an opposing back burned them for 100 yards. This time it was Ricky Williams' 107 yards on 18 attempts and the Dolphins' 177 rushing yards as a team. Philadelphia's DL generated little consistent pressure on QB Jay Fiedler, although an effective blitz drove Fiedler to a low completion percentage and a pair of interceptions.

San Francisco's confidence - and its performance - on offense are peaking, but the 49ers have done so very little on the road this year, last week's game against the Bengals notwithstanding. The 49ers will seek to establish Kevan Barlow against the Eagles' susceptible rush defense. More than a handful of teams have had success running the ball against Philadelphia, but rarely does it translate into many points.

Seattle vs. Arizona

Seattle Offense

Sacked/G=2.86

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.5

Arizona Defense

Sacks/G=1.29

Rush TDs Against/G=1.00

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Seattle Defense

Sacks/G=2.14

Rush TDs Against/G=.64

Rush Avg. Against=4.0

Arizona Offense

Sacked/G=1.93

Rush TDs/G=.36

Rush Avg.=3.9

When the Seahawks have the ball - The offensive line and FB Mack Strong gave RB Shaun Alexander enough room to generate 126 yards on 25 carries (5.1-yard avg.). Pass protection improved as the game progressed and RT Chris Terry held Rams' DE Leonard Little in check.

OL Floyd Womack sustained a concussion against the Rams and may be out this Sunday.

Arizona's rush defense had been bad for weeks until it held RB Stephen Davis to only 48 yards on 13 carries and the Panthers to 67 yards rushing as a team. This helped the Cardinals to a 15-plus minute advantage in time of possession, but in the end, they needed more and, once again, the secondary couldn't give it to them. The pass rush wasn't too hot, either, posting only one sack and putting little pressure on QB Jake Delhomme.

The Seahawks will probably be feeling pretty good about themselves on Monday morning. Arizona - a bad team in general - has allowed no fewer than 24 points on the road and four teams have scored 37 points or more against the road-sorry Cards.

When the Cardinals have the ball - All things considered, the Cardinals put together a pretty good game on offense, but turnovers on the team's first two possessions - including an interception returned for a touchdown, negated many of the positives.

RB Marcel Shipp rebounded from two poor starts to post 89 yards on 23 carries, and Emmitt Smith chipped in with 23 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. QB Josh McCown played reasonably well under near-constant pressure (4 sacks) in his first pro start. C Frank Garcia played well in place of injured Pete Kendall and will start the final two games.

Seattle succeeded at times in pressuring QB Marc Bulger, but often at the expense of the team's secondary. The Seahawks did shut down RB Marshall Faulk until near the end of the game when he carried the ball on eight of nine snaps and helped St. Louis burned up much of what was left on the clock. Overall, Seattle held the Rams to 86 yards rushing and 2.9 yards per carry.

Arizona has little chance of even competing in Seattle. Over their past six home games, the Seahawks have progressively lowered their opponents' score from 23 in Week 3 against St. Louis to seven points allowed against the Browns in Week 13. Arizona won't ask too much from McCown in his second career start, which places a larger burden on Shipp and Smith. Cardinal fans know all too well that Shipp and Smith don't make a great plan A.

Indianapolis vs. Denver

Indianapolis Offense

Sacked/G=1.14

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=3.6

Denver Defense

Sacks/G=2.29

Rush TDs Against/G=.57

Rush Avg. Against=3.9

Indianapolis Defense

Sacks/G=2.21

Rush TDs Against/G=1.00

Rush Avg. Against=4.6

Denver Offense

Sacked/G=1.79

Rush TDs/G=1.21

Rush Avg.=5.0

When the Colts have the ball - For starters, QB Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass for every pass he didn't complete, and RB Edgerrin James looked like the Edge of old with 126 yards on 20 carries. It was a great performance for an offensive line that has fought through numerous health issues for much of the season.

Denver's defense was four long pass completions (44, 44, 35 and 27 yards) and a pair of pass interference penalties away from pure dominance. The Broncos allowed 102 yards rushing, but at only 3.9 yards a carry, and consistently pressured QB Tim Couch despite sacking him only twice. Cleveland managed only 12 first downs and a 2-of-11 success rate on third-down conversions against Denver.

Denver should be able to slow down James, but at what price? The way Manning is playing, stopping James is akin to slapping a bear. The Broncos are stingy in the red zone and will most likely need to limit as many Indy drives as possible to field goals in order to keep pace with the Colts' offense.

When the Broncos have the ball - Clinton Portis ran for 139 hard-earned yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries, but that proved to be one attempt too many. Portis' final carry, which came with the Broncos' within field goal range in overtime, proved costly as he suffered ankle and knee injuries that will keep him out of Sunday's game.

QB Jake Plummer wasn't particularly sharp and dealt with steady pressure for much of the day, but still managed to hit some big passes in-between three sacks and finished with 269 yards passing.

Indianapolis dominated the Falcons at the line of scrimmage, sacking QB Michael Vick four times and allowing an ineffective 125 yards rushing. All but a handful of those rushing yards came well after the game had been decided.

A Portis-less Denver offense will have its work cut out for it, and RB Mike Anderson will be asked to pick up the slack. Just how well he does against the Colts may be predicated on Plummer's success against the league's No. 3 passing defense. Gutsy QBs in Plummer's mold (Brady, Pennington) have had the most success against Indianapolis this season, but in the long run 25-30 productive carries from Anderson will most likely be needed for Denver to complete objective No. 1: keep the ball out of Manning's hands.

Oakland vs. Green Bay

Oakland Offense

Sacked/G=2.36

Rush TDs/G=1.00

Rush Avg.=4.2

Green Bay Defense

Sacks/G=2.07

Rush TDs Against/G=.64

Rush Avg. Against=4.1

Oakland Defense

Sacks/G=1.50

Rush TDs Against/G=1.29

Rush Avg. Against=4.4

Green Bay Offense

Sacked/G=1.14

Rush TDs/G=1.07

Rush Avg.=4.9

When the Raiders have the ball - For only the third time this year, an Oakland quarterback wasn't sacked. The Raiders' offensive line gave QB Rick Mirer plenty of time to throw and largely capitalized on its opportunities (10 points) after getting the ball deep in Baltimore territory on its first two possessions. Mirer wasn't sacked in the game and threw zero interceptions.

C Adam Treu and RG Brad Badger played well in place of injured starters Barret Robbins and Mo Collins, respectively. The running game produced only 79 yards on 21 carries for a 2.5-yard average against Baltimore's tough run defense, but earned tough yards at crucial moments. Three bad penalties were the only marks against the line's performance.

Green Bay shut down RB LaDainian Tomlinson on the ground (51 yards on 20 carries), but he and rookie TE Antonio Gates combined for 261 yards on 16 receptions. The Packers' pass rush capitalized on Brees' carelessness with two fumble recoveries (three total) and sacked him twice.

The key matchup in this game could very well be the Packers' improved run defense against the Raiders' rushing offense. Only one RB (Thomas Jones) has been able to light it up on the ground against Green Bay since Week 5, and the Raiders' battered DL is ripe for the picking despite a solid performance against the Ravens.

When the Packers have the ball - The Packers struggled to run the ball for the third straight week after being so dominant for much of the season. Pass protection was outstanding once again, though, allowing zero sacks of QB Brett Favre and giving him plenty of time to have his way late in the game when he threw three late touchdown passes. Favre's lone pick came, as usual, on a throw in which he tried to thread the ball through too many defenders.

RB Ahman Green rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries and has averaged only 70.7 yards rushing the past three weeks after averaging 148 yards per game in the four games prior to that. A 34-yard carry late in the game salvaged an otherwise dismal outing for Green.

Oakland presents the league's worst rushing defense, but then San Diego, Chicago and Detroit - teams that have stymied the Packers' running game of late - aren't exactly world-beaters against the run. If Green can't get into a groove and the game is once again left in Favre's hands, expect nothing less than another do-or-die gunslinging affair for the Packers on offense.

The Raiders' defensive line relentlessly pressured QB Anthony Wright, creating three sacks and helping to limit him to 12 completions on 27 attempts. Oakland allowed lots of yards (125) to RB Jamal Lewis, but minimized his overall effectiveness by stopping him on a few key downs.