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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Game Scout - Week 3
September 22, 2006

Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 12th meeting. Panthers lead series 6-5. The Panthers have dominated the Bucs of late, winning five of the last six, including three straight at Raymond James Stadium. However, the Bucs won the last game at Carolina in December 20-10, so the Panthers will be seeking revenge.
2006 rankings: Panthers: offense 30th (22nd rush, 26th pass); defense 28th (31st rush, 11th pass). Bucs: offense 28th (32nd rush, 15th pass); defense 22nd (32nd rush, 4th pass)

*Keys to the game: Which team will come out with a bigger sense of urgency? Both 0-2, the loser could find itself out of the playoff race before the end of September. QB Chris Simms is feeling the heat in Tampa Bay, but he's also the victim of a struggling offensive line that isn't creating any holes for RB Carnell Williams either (the Bucs' longest run is seven yards). Williams insists back spasms aren't slowing him down, and the Bucs desperately need him to provide a ground threat and buy more time for Simms. Carolina might not know WR Steve Smith's status right up to game time, but expect rookie RB DeAngelo Williams to get increased touches as the Panthers attack a Bucs defense that allowed 306 rushing yards last Sunday.

*Fast Facts: Panthers: Have outscored the Bucs 71-34 the past two games in Tampa and have won three straight in Raymond James Stadium. ... QB Jake Delhomme has seven 300-yard passing games with Carolina, one shy of Steve Beuerlein's franchise record. Bucs: Simms is 6-2 (.750) as a starter against NFC South teams. ... CB Ronde Barber needs three INTs to tie Donnie Abraham's (31) franchise record.

Chicago Bears (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (2-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 91st meeting. Minnesota Vikings lead series 48-40-2, one of just 11 teams that have an all-time series edge over the Bears. The Vikings have won the last four meetings at the Metrodome.
2006 rankings: Bears: offense 7th (17th rush, 5th pass); defense 5th (8th rush, 13th pass). Vikings: offense 13th (13th rush, 12th pass); defense 7th (17th rush, 9th pass)

*Keys to the game: This is a litmus test on both sides of the ball for the resurgent Vikings. Their Cover-2 scheme under new coordinator Mike Tomlin will face its first opponent that can hurt them on the ground or through the air. The Bears are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, but that's due to opponents over-playing the run, and QB Rex Grossman has made them pay by spreading the ball around in the passing game. The Vikings' offensive line has its work cut out against a Bears defense that sacked Lions QB Jon Kitna six times last week. RT Marcus Johnson must rebound from a poor game, but look for Minnesota to run behind the massive left side of its offensive line and attempt to control the line of scrimmage early. The Vikings didn't produce an offensive touchdown last Sunday and will need this to be a low-scoring defensive battle, so QB Brad Johnson must get rid of the ball quickly and avoid turnovers.

*Fast Facts: Bears: Grossman's four TD passes last week equaled his total for his first three seasons combined. ... Coach Lovie Smith is 7-1 (.875) vs. the NFC North. Vikings: Johnson is 9-2 since taking over as the starter last season. ... Are 10-2 (.833) at home vs. the NFC North since 2002.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 73rd meeting. Pittsburgh Steelers lead Cincinnati Bengals 43-29, including 1-0 in playoffs. The Steelers won 31-17 in an AFC wildcard game Jan. 8, knocking out Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer on the Bengals first series on a low hit by former Pittsburgh end Kimo von Oelhoffen. Pittsburgh has a 24-12 edge as the home team, but under Bengals fourth-year coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 2-1 at Heinz Field.
2006 rankings: Bengals: offense 9th (5th rush, 13th pass); defense 14th (13th rush, 16th pass). Steelers: offense 27th (22nd rush, 24th pass); defense 19th (6th rush, 28th pass)

*Keys to the game: After having their running game stopped cold in Monday's loss in Jacksonville, the Steelers will attempt to get RB Willie Parker going early. The Bengals are without two starting linebackers, but are allowing just 85.0 rushing yards per game thanks in large part - literally - to massive DT Sam Adams anchoring the middle of the line. QB Ben Roethlisberger was rusty in his return Monday and must be sharper against Cincinnati, which has one of the league's best ballhawking secondaries. The Bengals certainly wouldn't mind a shootout, especially with Pittsburgh's secondary struggling to keep up with the Jaguars' mediocre receivers. But Cincinnati's main priority is keeping Pittsburgh's aggressive pass rush off QB Carson Palmer, who suffered his severe knee injury against the Steelers in the playoffs in January. Look for plenty of RB Rudi Johnson early on as the Bengals attempt to temper Pittsburgh's aggressiveness.

*Fast Facts: Bengals: Are 8-2 in their past 10 road games and have a five-game winning streak against AFC North teams. ... Johnson needs 16 rushing attempts to become fourth player in franchise history with 1,000. Steelers: Coach Bill Cowher is 21-8 vs. the Cincinnati, his most wins vs. any team. ... Roethlisberger is 8-1 (.889) as a starter vs. AFC North teams.

Green Bay Packers (0-2) at Detroit Lions (0-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Terry Donahue
SERIES: 154th meeting. The Packers lead the series, which originated in 1930 when the Lions were based in Portsmouth, Ohio, 82-64-7. There have been two postseason encounters between the division rivals, both won by the Packers in the NFC wild-card round in 1993 and '94. Green Bay has won nine of the last 11 meetings, dating to 2000, but Detroit has prevailed at home two of the last three years.
2006 rankings: Packers: offense 15th (24th rush, 8th pass); defense 27th (11th rush, 30th pass). Lions: offense 26th (31st rush, 16th pass); defense 21st (15th rush, 24th pass)

*Keys to the game: In their first road game of the season, the Packers need their young offensive line to perform better in the new zone-blocking scheme. A breakdown last Sunday led to a key fumble by RB Ahman Green, and the Lions have a talented defensive line capable of capitalizing on missed assignments on the cut-back lanes. Green has averaged just 65 yards in three games at Ford Field, but the Packers need a strong performance on the ground because QB Brett Favre historically struggles against the Cover-2 defense the Lions employ. Detroit's own offense has sputtered out of the gate, but QB Jon Kitna should have more opportunity to exploit Green Bay's porous secondary. He has protected the ball well, but hasn't created many plays downfield. RB Kevin Jones has been effective, albeit not spectacular, as a duel threat in Mike Martz's new offense.

*Fast Facts: Packers: Favre needs one TD pass to join Dan Marino (420) as the only players with 400 for a career. ... Coach Mike McCarthy seeks to avoid become franchise's third coach out of 14 to lose his first three games. Lions: Kitna has no INTs in 67 pass attempts this season. ... Jones has averaged 102.0 rushing yards in three career games against Green Bay.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0) at Indianapolis Colts (2-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: 11th meeting. Colts lead the series, 8-2. The Colts swept the series last year, winning 10-3 in Indianapolis and 26-18 in Jacksonville. The 10-3 win last year was the only time the Jaguars held the Colts under 20 points.
2006 rankings: Jaguars: offense 14th (19th rush, 9th pass); defense 3rd (4th rush, 12th pass). Colts: offense 2nd (20th rush, 1st pass); defense 25th (27th rush, 20th pass)

*Keys to the game: The Colts don't figure to get their struggling running game untracked against the Jaguars, who shut down a much more potent Steelers ground game Monday. So Indianapolis will attempt to spread Jacksonville's defense and take advantage of mismatches. The Jaguars have displayed plenty of speed and aggressiveness on defense, which the Colts will attempt to counter with quick passes to tight ends and running backs. Jacksonville is more balanced offensively, although it doesn't boast many big playmakers. RB Fred Taylor must be effective early to keep the Colts' strong pass rush from coming after immobile QB Byron Leftwich. But if Leftwich has time, he can target 6-foot-6 WR Matt Jones and 6-4 WRs Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford working against one of the league's smallest secondaries.

*Fast Facts: Jaguars: Are 12-4 (.750) against division teams when Taylor rushes for at least 100 yards. ... CB Rashean Mathis has 15 career interceptions and needs one to break a tie with Aaron Beasley for the franchise record. Colts: Seek 10th 3-0 start in franchise history. ... Are 21-4 within the division since the AFC South was formed in 2002. ... Have a 10-game winning streak against divisional opponents.

New York Jets (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: AstroPlay
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross
SERIES: 92nd meeting. Bills lead series, 50-41. The teams have split each of the last three seasons, with the Jets winning all three games in East Rutherford and losing all three in Orchard Park. Chad Morton's 96-yard touchdown return of the overtime kickoff gave the Jets their last road win in the series, 37-31 on opening day in 2002.
2006 rankings: Jets: offense 8th (26th rush, 3rd pass); defense 24th (19th rush, 22nd pass). Bills: offense 31st (15th rush, 31st pass); defense 16th (25th rush, 7th pass)

*Keys to the game: After opening against Miami (Nick Saban) and New England (Bill Belichick), the Bills will face their third consecutive defense coached by Belichick or one of his proteges in new Jets coach Eric Mangini. QB J.P. Losman has done a good job of protecting the ball, and should benefit from seeing some of the same looks. Buffalo has stayed committed to the run early in games, and RB Willis McGahee rushed for a combined 256 yards in two meetings last year. It's also important for the Bills to control the clock to help protect their secondary from resurgent Jets QB Chad Pennington. If given the time, Pennington should have plenty of success downfield with Buffalo starting two rookie safeties. But with the Jets struggling to muster any kind of running game, the Bills can provide as much help as possible by blitzing Pennington until RBs Kevan Barlow and/or Derrick Blaylock are able to prove they can hurt Buffalo on the ground.

*Fast Facts: Jets: WR Laveranues Coles has 39 receptions in his past eight games against Buffalo. ... LB Jonathan Vilma had 20 tackles in two meetings last years. Bills: McGahee has passed Kenneth Davis (2,460) and moved into ninth place on the team's all-time rushing list with 2,536 yards. ... WR Lee Evans has 100 receptions for 1,630 yards and 16 touchdowns in 34 games, tying him with Marlin Briscoe as the seventh-fastest player in franchise history to hit the century mark.

Tennessee Titans (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 31st meeting. Dolphins lead the series 16-14. Tennessee has won two of the last three, but Miami won last year at home, 24-10.
2006 rankings: Titans: offense 22nd (28th rush, 17th pass); defense 31st (29th rush, 29th pass). Dolphins: offense 21st (29th rush, 14th pass); defense 6th (20th rush, 5th pass)

*Keys to the game: Pittsburgh and Buffalo were able to force Dolphins QB Daunte Culpepper into mistakes as he struggles to find his game and regain his mobility following major knee surgery, but can the Titans repeat the blueprint? They haven't made many plays defensively through two games, and will need a big game from their front four to help the struggling secondary. Miami will likely lean on RB Ronnie Brown early, seeing if the offensive line can create a push and taking some of the pressure off Culpepper. The Titans have had similar issues providing time for QB Kerry Collins, and coach Jeff Fisher has talked about using a three-headed running attack with RBs Chris Brown, Travis Henry and LenDale White. But the running game will face eight-man fronts until Collins and/or rookie Vince Young proves they can do any sort of damage through the air.

*Fast Facts: Titans: LB Keith Bullock needs four tackles to pass S Blaine Bishop (788) for sixth place on the franchise's all-time list. ... Brown needs 30 rushing yards to pass Fred Willis (2,241) for 10th in franchise history. Dolphins: Have lost their past six games in which they have not forced a turnover. ... WR Wes Welker needs 81 kick return yards to past Mercury Morris (2,947) for most in franchise history.

Washington Redskins (0-2) at Houston Texans (0-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
SERIES: 2nd meeting. Redskins beat the expansion Texans 26-10 at FedEx Field in the meaningless penultimate game of 2002.
2006 rankings: Redskins: offense 25th (18th rush, 25th pass); defense 23rd (18th rush, 21st pass). Texans: offense 23rd (21st rush, 19th pass); defense 32nd (22nd rush, 32nd pass)

*Keys to the game: In an ironic twist, both teams have struggling secondaries that might catch a bit of a break. That's because both offenses have also stumbled badly out of the gate and the Redskins and Texans both want to work out their issues with their running games. Washington should receive a boost from the return of RB Clinton Portis, but it also needs the offensive line to improve in run and pass-blocking. Coordinator Al Saunders' new offense isn't clicking, and he needs QB Mark Brunell to step up and take advantage of a secondary allowing 478 passing yards per game. Houston is expected to use more of RBs Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado now that they've had more practice with the team. If the Texans can use the run to set up the pass, the Redskins' secondary could be in for continued trouble with CB Shawn Springs likely out again.

*Fast Facts: Redskins: Portis needs 31 rushing yards to become the fifth fastest player all-time to 6,000 for his career. ... Are 24-8 (.750) when Portis rushes for at least 100 yards. Texans: QB David Carr has thrown 71 consecutive passes without an INT. ... Rookie LB Demeco Ryans leads the team with 20 tackles.

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 15th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 9-5. The Ravens haven't won in Cleveland since 2003. They have lost their last two trips there by a combined score of 40-19. In last season's finale, the Ravens couldn't hold a 13-point lead in a 20-16 loss. The Browns turned the game around in the third quarter, scoring scored two touchdowns in 1:22 (a 6-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Bryant and a 62-yard punt return for a score by Dennis Northcutt).
2006 rankings: Ravens: offense 24th (9th rush, 28th pass); defense 1st (1st rush, 3rd pass). Browns: offense 29th (26th rush, 21st pass); defense 30th (28th rush, 27th pass)

*Keys to the game: With the Browns expected to be without WR Joe Jurevicius for a second consecutive game and struggling to convert third downs, the Ravens will load up to stop the run and dare QB Charlie Frye to challenge CBs Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle. Baltimore has yet to allow a defensive touchdown, and Cleveland's beleaguered offensive line will have to find a way to contain the Ravens' front seven. Defensively, the Browns are very thin in the secondary and Ravens QB Steve McNair is seeking to atone for a poor performance last Sunday. But the key for Cleveland will be its tackling and limiting RB Jamal Lewis. The Ravens want a physical game in which they can break the Browns' will, so Cleveland can't afford to fall behind and have to win the game through its passing game.

*Fast Facts: Ravens: Are 51-6 (.895) under coach Brian Billick when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. ... RB Jamal Lewis has 1,329 rushing yards in 10 career games against Cleveland. Browns: Coach Romeo Crennel is 1-6 against the AFC North. ... Have won their past two home games against Baltimore.

New York Giants (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 12th meeting. The Giants lead, 7-4. They won two of the three games played since 2001, but the Seahawks prevailed in overtime last season.
2006 rankings: Giants: offense 3rd (6th rush, 4th pass); defense 29th (12th rush, 31st pass). Seahawks: offense 17th (10th rush, 18th pass); defense 4th (2nd rush, 15th pass)

*Keys to the game: The Giants had 11 false starts in Seattle last year and have eight through two games this year, so they'll have to figure out a way to communicate through the crowd noise. They also need a strong game from RB Tiki Barber to help thwart the Seahawks' aggressive pass rush, which will include blitzes from any of the three linebacker positions. If QB Eli Manning has time, look for him to attack CBs Kelly Herndon and Kelly Jennings. Seattle's offense will include at least a few plays with WR Deion Branch this week, but will be without injured LG Floyd Womack. The Seahawks' offensive line has struggled through two games and QB Matt Hasselbeck is taking far too many hits, so this could be the week OLB LaVar Arrington becomes more involved in the Giants' pass rush. LT Walter Jones was beaten for two sacks by DE Osi Umenyiora last year.

*Fast Facts: Giants: Are 14-3 in games leading into a bye week. ... WR Amani Toomer leads the NFL with 17 receptions. Seahawks: Have a franchise-record 11-game home winning streak and have won 22 of their past 25 games at Qwest Field. ... RB Shaun Alexander's 101 TDs is tied with Steve Largent for the most in franchise history.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger
SERIES: 27th meeting. The 49ers lead the series, 17-8-1. The two teams faced each other in Week 2 last season, with the Eagles winning easily, 42-3. Quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for 342 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in that game.
2006 rankings: Eagles: offense 1st (10th rush, 2nd pass); defense 20th (10th rush, 26th pass). 49ers: offense 6th (12th rush, 6th pass); defense 18th (16th rush, 19th pass)

*Keys to the game: RB Frank Gore's ability to be a productive workhorse on the ground has helped create time for second-year QB Alex Smith to take more shots downfield. He'll look often for WR Antonio Bryant working against a secondary without injured CBs Lito Sheppard and Rod Hood. The Eagles will also start DE Trent Green with Jevon Kearse out for the season. Smith & Co. will have to put some points on the board because San Francisco has its own defensive concerns going up against Philadelphia's balanced offense. The Eagles are utilizing a lot of play-action passes, and WR Donte Stallworth will have an advantage working against CBs Shawntae Spencer or Walt Harris. The 49ers also could use a heavier mix of the 3-4 scheme to help account for the versatility of Eagles RB Brian Westbrook.

*Fast Facts: Eagles: Team's defensive ends have 9.5 sacks, five fewer than they had all last season. ... QB Donovan McNabb's career 2.07 TD-INT ratio (139-67) ranks second all-time behind Steve Young's 2.17. 49ers: Smith has thrown for 521 yards in two games after passing for 875 yards in seven starts last year. ... 91-38 (.705) home record since 1990 is fifth-best in the NFL.

St. Louis Rams (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Brad Sham, Bill Maas
SERIES: 55th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 29-23-2. The teams have split the season series the last two years, with each team winning on the road in 2005.
2006 rankings: Rams: offense 18th (8th rush, 23rd pass); defense 17th (26th rush, 10th pass). Cardinals: offense 16th (25th rush, 10th pass); defense 26th (21st rush, 25th pass)

*Keys to the game: For the first time in his career, RB Edgerrin James has failed to rush for 100 yards in either of the first two games of the season. Welcome to running behind Arizona's offensive line, which also allowed QB Kurt Warner to be hit mercilessly and has led to seven fumbles in two games. The Rams will attempt to bring similar pressure and if the Cardinals can't protect Warner better, he won't be able to stretch the field against St. Louis' shaky secondary. The Rams' offense should also enjoy mismatches downfield, but QB Marc Bulger & Co. have yet to click in new coach Scott Linehan's system. The offensive line has undergone some changes early in the season, and Bulger needs to make sure everyone is on the same page to avoid costly mistakes.

*Fast Facts: Rams: Bulger has gone consecutive games without an interception for just the second time in his career. ... Bulger is 6-1 (.857) as a starter against Arizona, completing more than 60 percent of his passes in each game. Cardinals: K Neil Rackers has missed two field goals, albeit from 51 and 53 yards, tying his total for all of last season. ... Warner needs 254 passing yards to reach 20,000 in his 76th career game, which would be the second fastest to that mark behind Dan Marino (75).

Denver Broncos (1-1) at New England Patriots (2-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/24/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ESPN, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 39th meeting. The Denver Broncos have a 23-15 record against the New England Patriots in the regular season. The Broncos have also won both playoff games, in 1986 and last season. The Broncos beat the Patriots 13-10 in 1960, in the first game in American Football League history.
2006 rankings: Broncos: offense 19th (4th rush, 29th pass); defense 15th (24th rush, 7th pass). Patriots: offense 12th (3rd rush, 20th pass); defense 13th (9th rush, 18th pass)

*Keys to the game: The Broncos are averaging 5.0 yards per carry, but that hasn't translated into success for QB Jake Plummer, who usually thrives off the play-action pass. Coach Mike Shanahan had a very conservative game plan last week, but Plummer will have to make more plays to knock off the Patriots on the road. New England is wary of the speed and quickness of RB Tatum Bell, who had 114 rushing yards in the first meeting last year, and will focus first on stopping the run and putting the game in Plummer's hands to win -- or lose. The Patriots' offense continues to be led by the tandem of RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, which doesn't figure to change until QB Tom Brady feels more comfortable with his new receiving corps. Those receivers could struggle to gain much separation against strong Broncos CBs Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams.

*Fast Facts: Broncos: One of just three opponents to have a winning record in Gillette Stadium. ... Lead the series 23-15 and have won four of the past five meetings. Patriots: Franchise record of 357-356-9 is above .500 for the first time since 1968. ... Are 31-6 (.838) in Gillette Stadium.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at New Orleans Saints (2-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 09/25/06
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 74th meeting. Falcons lead 43-21 and have won three of the last four. Atlanta has a 13-11 record at the Superdome. Saints WR Joe Horn has five 100-yard performances in the series, including a 113-yard effort in 2004.
2006 rankings: Falcons: offense 5th (1st rush, 30th pass); defense 10th (3rd rush, 23rd pass). Saints: offense 10th (15th rush, 7th pass); defense 12th (6th rush, 17th pass)

*Keys to the game: Despite two victories to start the season, the Saints don't stand much of a chance going toe-to-toe against the Falcons for four quarters, so they need to ride the wave of emotion of the first game in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. The Saints have yet to face an offense as balanced or with as many weapons as the Falcons feature, and must find a way to slow a Falcons running game averaging a league-best 279 yards per game. QB Michael Vick has shown more accuracy this season, but the Saints still need to make him prove he can hurt them through the air. New Orleans has done a good job avoiding penalties -- only eight in two games -- but QB Drew Brees can't afford the turnovers he was able to overcome in Green Bay. Atlanta's defense is too fast and opportunistic for the Saints to fall behind early -- and New Orleans' receivers will be overmatched by Falcons CBs DeAngelo Hall and Jason Webster.

*Fast Facts: Falcons: Coach Jim Mora's father, Jim Sr., is the Saints' all-time winningest coach (93-78). ... RB Warrick Dunn has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in 11 career games against New Orleans. Saints: Are 16-27 all-time in primetime games and 6-15 on Monday nights. ... Sean Payton seeks to become franchise's first coach to start his tenure 3-0.

   
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