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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Game Scout - Week 5
October 6, 2006

Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Chicago Bears (4-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 10th meeting, Bears lead 5-4, winning all four games played in Chicago. The Bills fell 20-3 in their last visit to Soldier Field, Dec. 7, 1997, when Marv Levy was in his final season as coach. That loss eliminated Buffalo from playoff contention for only the second time in a decade. In one of the great individual performances in Bills' history, DT Ted Washington recorded 17 tackles, 16 of them solos. Current Bills coach Dick Jauron went 0-2 against the Bills while Bears coach from 1999-2003, losing both games at Buffalo 20-3 in 2000 and 33-27 in overtime in 2002.
2006 RANKINGS: Bills: offense 21st (9th rush, 25th pass); defense 12th (17th rush, 11th pass). Bears: offense 8th (21st rush, 5th pass); defense 4th (7th rush, 7th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills' offensive line, which could be without RG Chris Villarreal, must find a way to deal with the Bears' deep defensive line rotation that has been dominating through four games. RB Willis McGahee must be effective early because Buffalo's line will struggle to hold up in third-and-long situations. QB J.P. Losman has done a good job protecting the ball, but he will need to make some plays with his feed and be accurate while throwing on the run because Buffalo can't lose the turnover battle. Buffalo's run defense has improved throughout the season, but Chicago has found offensive balance that is causing fits for opposing defenses. QB Rex Grossman is making teams pay for over-playing against the run. He no doubt will test the Bills over the top, where rookie Ss Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson have been a pleasant surprise but have also struggled to get off the hash marks and provide help along the sideline.

FAST FACTS: Bills: Coach Dick Jauron was the Bears' coach from 1999-2003, and led the team to a division title in 2001. ... McGahee needs 79 rushing yards to pass Jim Braxton (2,842) for eighth in franchise history. Bears: Seek first 5-0 start since 1986. ... Have won last 10 games in which RB Thomas Jones has had at least 20 carries.

Cleveland Browns (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (2-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 3rd meeting. The Panthers lead the series 2-0. Both games were against the Browns in the expansion era. This upcoming game will be the first for Coach Romeo Crennel against the Panthers.
2006 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 30th (28th rush, 20th pass); defense 25th (29th rush, 12th pass). Panthers: offense 23rd (13th rush, 24th pass); defense 22nd (23rd rush, 17th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Panthers' offense has stepped up an entire notch with WR Steve Smith back in the lineup. His presence has even helped the ground game, with RB DeShaun Foster enjoying bigger holes thanks to increased defensive focus on the passing game. It's a dilemma for the Browns, who have an injury-ravaged secondary that could be without CBs Leigh Bodden and/or Gary Baxter. Cleveland has to find a way to limit the big plays defensively while controlling the ball and working on field position on offense. RB Reuben Droughns will see plenty of work, and QB Charlie Frye needs to manage the short passing game in order to move the chains consistently. The Panthers' run defense hasn't lived up to expectations, so there should be room for Droughns to work. And Frye is beginning to develop more chemistry with TE Kellen Winslow.

FAST FACTS: Browns: First ever visit to Carolina. ... Have not won consecutive road games in the same season since 2003. Panthers: Are 5-0 when RB DeShaun Foster rushes for at least 100 yards. ... WR Keyshawn Johnson has caught at least one pass in 155 consecutive games, the second longest streak behind Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison (158).

Detroit Lions (0-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
SERIES: 90th meeting in a series that began in 1961. Although the Lions won the first five games against the expansion Vikings, they trail the overall series 29-58-2 and have lost the eight games between the two teams. Their last win at the Metrodome was a 14-13 nail-biter in 1997.
2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 16th (29th rush, 7th pass); defense 26th (10th rush, 30th pass). Vikings: offense 16th (22nd rush, 11th pass); defense 10th (11th rush, 14th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Vikings have been their own worst enemy by averaging 9.5 penalties per game, handicapping an offense that lacks big-time playmakers. Minnesota relies on sustaining long drives and controlling field position, but expect QB Brad Johnson to take more shots against the Lions' struggling secondary. Detroit isn't rushing the passer well, leaving the corners to cover far too long. But the Lions do have a solid run defense that could provide a boost if it's able to shut down Vikings RB Chester Taylor and allow the safeties to concentrate on providing support in the passing game. Detroit's offense is showing progress in coordinator Mike Martz's system. They key is the line creating holes for RB Kevin Jones and time for QB Jon Kitna. The Vikings have solid cover men, so Kitna must be accurate because the Lions can't afford to lose the turnover battle.

FAST FACTS: Lions: Have lost eight consecutive games in the Metrodrome. ... WR Roy Williams seeks his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game. Vikings: Have won the past eight meeting overall. ... QB Brad Johnson has won his past five starts against Detroit.

Miami Dolphins (1-3) at New England Patriots (3-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: 82nd meeting. The Dolphins have an all-time lead of 47-34, but a 28-26 road victory in the 2005 season finale was essentially hollow for Miami. The Patriots pulled most of their starters, including quarterback Tom Brady, by the first quarter to avoid injuries leading into the postseason while the Dolphins entered with no shot at a playoff berth.
2006 RANKINGS: Dolphins: offense 26th (24th rush, 19th pass); defense 7th (14th rush, 9th pass). Patriots: offense 4th (3rd rush, 16th pass); defense 16th (13th rush, 22nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The struggles of the Dolphins' offensive line don't figure to fix themselves against the complex packages the Patriots will bring. It's essential for Miami that RB Ronnie Brown gets off to a good start, because the line won't be able to hold up long in front of QB Daunte Culpepper on obvious passing downs. Culpepper showed improved mobility last week, but the Dolphins can't afford to wait until the fourth quarter to get in sync. Defensively, Miami has to find a way to get off the field -- the Dolphins have allowed opponents to convert 44.8 percent of their third-down opportunities. Patriots QB Tom Brady has found a new target in WR Doug Gabriel, who could see plenty of man coverage with the Dolphins' propensity to blitz. Brady is beginning to feed off defenses having to pay so much attention to the backfield tandem of RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins: Have eight interceptions in past four games against Brady. ... WR Wes Welker is the franchise's all-time leading kick returner with 2,962 yards. Patriots: Gabriel's 10 receptions the past two weeks places him second on the team to TE Ben Watson's 12 for the season. ... Brady is 27-6 (.818) against the AFC East.

St. Louis Rams (3-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger
SERIES: 87th regular-season meeting. Rams lead, 44-40-2. The Rams' last victory over the Packers in Green Bay was in 1995, the opening day of the team's first game in St. Louis. Since '95, the Packers have won three of the five regular-season games. Two years ago, the Packers beat the Rams in Green Bay, 45-17.
2006 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 11th (18th rush, 8th pass); defense 18th (22nd rush, 18th pass). Packers: offense 12th (26th rush, 4th pass); defense 31st (16th rush, 31st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Brett Favre will answer the bell for the Packers for the 226th consecutive game, but he needs improved protection from his beleaguered line as he deals with a pinched nerve in his neck and a mild concussion. RB Ahman Green's status is still in doubt and while backup Vernand Morency showed flashes Monday, he also fumbled and tipped a Favre pass that was intercepted. The key for the Packers is keeping the game close. Favre ran an efficient offense Monday until Green Bay fell behind and Favre got in trouble while trying to force balls downfield. The Rams have been capitalizing on those types of mistakes all season, compiling a plus-10 turnover ratio. QB Marc Bulger has yet to throw an interception and is improving every week in the Rams' new scheme. The Packers have major issues in the secondary, especially in nickel and dime packages.

FAST FACTS: Rams: Bulger has gone 22 quarters and 186 pass attempts since his last interception. ... All four games have been decided by eight points or less. Packers: Are 2-5 in their past seven home games. ... Favre is 16-6 (.727) at home in October since 1992. ... Green needs two rushing touchdowns to become third player in franchise history to reach 50.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 29th meeting. Saints lead the all-time series 17-11, but the Bucs have won four of the last five meetings. Last season, the Bucs won both meetings, 20-17 in Baton Rouge and 21-17 in Tampa.
2006 RANKINGS: Bucs: offense 31st (32nd rush, 22nd pass); defense 19th (31st rush, 5th pass). Saints: offense 7th (17th rush, 6th pass); defense 8th (19th rush, 6th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski, a sixth-round pick from Toledo, makes his first career start for the Bucs. An even bigger concern might be the offensive line, which played poorly even before RT Kenyatta Walker was lost for the season. Another rookie, Jeremy Trueblood, takes his place and must deal with Saints DE Charles Grant. It's critical for the Bucs that the line creates holes for RB Cadillac Williams and that the running game keeps Gradkowski out of third-and-long situations in a loud road environment. Defensively, the Bucs have allowed 510 rushing yards in three games, and the Saints will attempt to exploit the weakness with RBs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. Although Bush is still seeking his first career touchdown, McAllister's downhill style has traditionally caused problems for the Bucs. And QB Drew Brees has shown the ability to hurt teams through the air when they over-play against the run.

FAST FACTS: Bucs: Williams' longest run of the season is 11 yards. ... Have won three of their past four road games within the division. Saints: WR Joe Horn needs 32 receptions to pass Eric Martin (532) for the all-time franchise lead. ... Past four home games against Bucs have been decided by seven points or less.

Tennessee Titans (0-4) at Indianapolis Colts (4-0)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Richard Baldinger
SERIES: 24th meeting. Colts lead series 13-10. Indianapolis has swept the series three years running, by an average margin of 20 points. In 2005 they won at home 35-3 and by 31-10 in Nashville.
2006 RANKINGS: Titans: offense 27th (30th rush, 17th pass); defense 30th (32nd rush, 16th pass). Colts: offense 5th (20th rush, 3rd pass); defense 20th (30th rush, 10th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Colts have significant injury concerns in their secondary, but it will be difficult for the Titans to take advantage. Rookie QB Vince Young makes just his second career start and will likely rely more on his tight ends and running backs in the short passing game. He struggled when attempting to scramble against Dallas last Sunday, and faces another very quick defensive front in the Colts. Tennessee must run the ball to keep the game close, and coach Jeff Fisher will utilize two backs out of the threesome of RBs Chris Brown, Travis Henry and rookie LenDale White -- with the other likely inactive. The Colts' main priority is avoiding turnovers and not giving the heavily out-manned Titans any gifts. Indianapolis' running game showed signs of life last weekend, and RBs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai will get plenty of work as the Colts seek to establish offensive balance.

FAST FACTS: Titans: Seven-game losing streak is franchise's longest since an 11-game streak in 1994. ... White led the team with 39 rushing yards in nine carries last Sunday. Colts: Have won their past 10 regular-season games when not committing a turnover. ... Are 22-4 in past 26 games against AFC South teams. ... Have an NFL-best 81-35 record since the start of the 1999 season.

Washington Redskins (2-2) at New York Giants (1-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 147th regular season meeting. Giants lead 82-60-4 not counting the 1-1 playoff deadlock. The home team has won every game since Joe Gibbs returned to coach the Redskins and Tom Coughlin took over the Giants in 2004. New York has won just seven of the matchups dating to 1984.
2006 RANKINGS: Redskins: offense 3rd (6th rush, 10th pass); defense 15th (5th rush, 26th pass). Giants: offense 2nd (10th rush, 2nd pass); defense 27th (12th rush, 29th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Giants MLB LaVar Arrington faces his former team for the first time, and he's part of a defensive unit that needs to start making more plays. The Giants, who have been outscored 68-17 in the first half this season, face a Redskins offense starting to role the past two weeks. Part of the problem is Pro Bowl DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora have combined for just one sack as teams focus on short drops and getting rid of the ball. Redskins QB Mark Brunell will no doubt look to fire quickly and take advantage of the Giants' weak secondary. The good news for the Giants is WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey are healthier coming off the team's bye week, giving New York a chance to win a shootout. The Redskins are still without CB Shawn Springs and the secondary has been susceptible to big plays.

FAST FACTS: Redskins: Are 8-2 in overtime games under coach Joe Gibbs. ... Are 15-2 when they have a 100-yard rusher since 2004. Giants: Are 3-13 in games immediately following a bye. ... QB Eli Manning's 7.1 touchdown percentage (eight in 113 pass attempts) leads the NFL.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 10th meeting. Kansas City leads series 6-2-1, including a 49-0 win at Arrowhead Stadium in 2002. Chiefs fans will fondly remember the 1995 game, a 24-3 Chiefs win in which former quarterback Steve Bono took a bootleg 76 yards for a touchdown, then a record for longest TD run by a quarterback.
2006 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 20th (8th rush, 29th pass); defense 3rd (20th rush, 2nd pass). Cardinals: offense 24th (30th rush, 12th pass); defense 28th (27th rush, 25th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Cardinals coach Dennis Green has made the switch from QB Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart, but the rookie will suffer from many of the same problems if the offensive line play doesn't improve dramatically. Green wants to get RB Edgerrin James 25 carries per game, but it has been difficult with Arizona falling behind and faced with too many third-and-long situations. The Chiefs' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since the season opener and coordinator Gunther Cunningham will bring the heat and attempt to rattle Leinart into mistakes. The Chiefs received a surprising good performance from QB Damon Huard last week as he took advantage of the 49ers stacking up to stop RB Larry Johnson. The Cardinals will focus on Johnson as well, and it will be up to Huard to continue to make defenses pay for over-playing the run.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs: Johnson leads the league with an average of 152.3 yards from scrimmage per game. ... Huard is 6-2 in eight career starts and is second in the NFL with a 106.9 passer rating. Cardinals: Have averaged just 11.3 points the past three games. ... Leinart seeks to be franchise's first rookie to win his first NFL start since Gary Keithley in 1973.

New York Jets (2-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross
SERIES: Seventh meeting. Jaguars lead series, 4-2. In the last meeting between the teams, Jacksonville won 26-20 in overtime on Sept. 25, 2005, in a game in which Jets quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler both suffered season-ending shoulder injuries.
2006 RANKINGS: Jets: offense 14th (25th rush, 9th pass); defense 29th (25th rush, 27th pass). Jaguars: offense 18th (18th rush, 13th pass); defense 14th (8th rush, 23rd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets are all too familiar with the pressure the Jaguars can bring defensively, losing two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in last year's meeting. The offensive line featuring two rookie starters is protecting QB Chad Pennington admirably, and the Jaguars are hurting along their defensive line with DE Reggie Hayward out for the season and DT Marcus Stroud slowed by an ankle injury. Washington racked up 152 rushing yards against Jacksonville last week and even though the Jets don't have anyone named Clinton Portis on the roster, they will try to attack on the ground early. Jacksonville has discovered a downfield passing attack and will certainly attack CB Justin Miller, who is still battling a lack of consistency in his second season. The Jets are also allowing 140.5 yards per game on the ground and have given up a league-high eight rushing touchdowns.

FAST FACTS: Jets: Pennington has a 109.7 passer rating in two road starts this season. ... S Kerry Rhodes has 3.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in his last three games. Jaguars: Are 0-20 in the regular season when they allow more than 30 points. ... CB Rashean Mathis leads the NFL with four interceptions and is the franchise's all-time leader with 16.

Oakland Raiders (0-3) at San Francisco 49ers (1-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 11th meeting. Raiders lead the series 6-4, but the 49ers won the last meeting 23-20 in overtime as quarterback Jeff Garcia threw for 282 yards and Terrell Owens torched Charles Woodson for 12 receptions and 191 yards in Woodson's first game back after a broken shoulder. The last game in San Francisco also went to overtime, with the Raiders prevailing 34-28 on Rich Gannon's 31-yard touchdown pass to Tim Brown.
2006 RANKINGS: Raiders: offense 32nd (15th rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (28th rush, 3rd pass). 49ers: offense 13th (12th rush, 14th pass); defense 24th (21st rush, 24th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers have found a workhorse in RB Frank Gore, but the second-year player has also fumbled in every game this season. That has contributed to the team's slow starts -- San Francisco has been outscored 45-10 in the first quarter and 82-20 in the first half this season. WR Antonio Bryant is the team's biggest weapon, and QB Alex Smith has to find a way to get him involved early on. However, defenses have been able to focus on slowing him down with few other dangerous threats at Smith's disposal, especially with rookie TE Vernon Davis injured. The Raiders' passing game has far bigger issues with QB Andrew Walter struggling while playing behind a shaky offensive line. The Raiders like to use RB LaMont Jordan to set up the vertical passing game, but look for Walter to rely more on the short passing game this week to avoid the turnovers the Raiders simply can't afford at this point.

FAST FACTS: Raiders: Walter is being sacked once for every 5.6 pass plays called. ... WR Randy Moss has scored a touchdown in 47.4 percent of his games with the team after scoring in 76.5 percent with Minnesota. 49ers: Smith has more passing yards (906) than he had during his entire rookie season (875). ... Gore is second in the NFL with 460 yards from scrimmage.

Dallas Cowboys (1-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 94th meeting. The Cowboys hold a 53-40 advantage. Dallas has faced no team more than Philadelphia (93 times) and has defeated them more times (53) than all but two teams (Arizona -- 55 and Washington -- 55). Dallas and Philadelphia have met in two divisional playoff games and an NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys won 11 consecutive games over the Eagles from 1967-1972, marking the second-longest win streak over one opponent in club history. Dallas and Philadelphia have combined to win 21 NFC East Division titles.
2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 6th (5th rush, 15th pass); defense 5th (9th rush, 8th pass). Eagles: offense 1st (7th rush, 1st pass); defense 21st (14th rush, 28th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: WR Terrell Owens' return to Philadelphia has been the story of the week, but he creates a very real problem for the Eagles once the game starts. Philadelphia expects to get CB Lito Sheppard back from an ankle injury, but nickel corner Rod Hood is likely to be out again with a heel strain. That leaves Joselio Hanson as the team's nickel back, and he is likely to be exposed far more than he was against Green Bay on Monday. The key for Philadelphia's defense is generating a strong pass rush and preventing Cowboys QB Drew Bledsoe from going through his progressions. If the Eagles can pressure Bledsoe, they could force a few key turnovers. Philadelphia hopes the swelling in RB Brian Westbrook's knee subsides enough to allow him to play. Correll Buckhalter is a capable backup, but he fumbled twice Monday night and Westbrook's versatility puts a strain on opposing defenses.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Bledsoe has thrown at least one touchdown pass in nine consecutive games. The franchise record is 16 by Troy Aikman. ... TE Jason Witten needs three receptions to become fourth tight end in franchise history with 200 for his career. Eagles: QB Donovan McNabb has thrown 138 passes since his last interception. His career 2.17 interception percentage is second all-time behind Neil O'Donnell (2.11). ... Are 18-5 (.783) when Westbrook has more than 100 yards from scrimmage.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (2-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/08/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 27th meeting. The Steelers have dominated the series against the Chargers that began in 1971, winning 19 of 26 (including 0-2 in the playoffs). Pittsburgh is 7-5 in San Diego. They're 7-2 under coach Bill Cowher. They've won the past five against the Chargers, including a 24-22 victory in San Diego last Oct. 10.
2006 RANKINGS: Steelers: offense 25th (11th rush, 28th pass); defense 11th (4th rush, 20th pass). Chargers: offense 9th (2nd rush, 30th pass); defense 1st (2nd rush, 1st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers have had two weeks to work on their struggling passing game and get QB Ben Roethlisberger comfortable after he posted a 34.3 passer rating in his first two starts of the season. RB Willie Parker is proving he can handle the heavier workload with Jerome Bettis gone, but the Steelers need their wide receivers to help out Roethlisberger following numerous drops in the first three games. The Steelers have one of the game's best offensive lines, but the Chargers' aggressive defense will tee off if the Steelers become one-dimensional. Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer came under fire after calling just eight passes in the second half last Sunday while Baltimore came from behind to win. But he will continue to play Marty Ball, leaning on the running game and not exposing first-year starter QB Philip Rivers more than absolutely necessary. If the Steelers can shut down RB LaDainian Tomlinson, they can force the game onto Rivers' shoulder.

FAST FACTS: Steelers: Roethlisberger seeks to avoid the first three-game losing streak of his career. .. Are 39-14 in October under coach Bill Cowher. ... Are 100-1-1 under Cowher when leading by more than 10 points at any point during a game. Chargers: RB LaDainian Tomlinson has 87 touchdowns in 81 career games. ... WR Keenan McCardell (10,756) needs 101 receiving yards to pass Gary Clark for 17th place all-time.

Baltimore Ravens (4-0) at Denver Broncos (2-1)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/09/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 7th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 4-2. The Ravens had their four-game winning streak over the Broncos ended last season. Denver beat the visiting Ravens, 12-10, last December. Then-starting quarterback Kyle Boller turned the ball over three times, including twice in the red zone. "We made enough errors to lose 10 games," coach Brian Billick said after that game.
2006 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 28th (23rd rush, 27th pass); defense 2nd (1st rush, 4th pass). Broncos: offense 15th (4th rush, 26th pass); defense 17th (18th rush, 19th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Steve McNair isn't putting up monster numbers in his first season with the Ravens, but he has brought an air of confidence to the huddle that has allowed the team to come from behind to win the past two games. Still, Baltimore is concerned about its running game, especially with RB Jamal Lewis getting stopped in several key short-yardage situations. WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap are McNair's favorite targets, but the Broncos also have to be wary of WR Mark Clayton, who has made several clutch receptions to keep drives alive. Denver's offense is heavily reliant on the running game led by RB Tatum Bell, but it won't be easy against a Baltimore defense allowing just 63.2 rushing yards per game. For the Broncos to have success in the air, Bell has to force the Ravens to stuff the box and allow QB Jake Plummer to feed off the play-action pass.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Defense has allowed just three second-half points this season. ... MLB Ray Lewis has averaged 16.7 tackles in the past three meetings. ... 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. Broncos: A win would tie coach Mike Shanahan for third-place all-time with 125 victories through 200 regular-season games. ... Are 6-1 (.857) in past seven games decided by three points or less.

   
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