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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Game Scout - Week 15
December 13, 2006

San Francisco 49ers (6-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: NFL Network, Bryant Gumbel, Cris Collinsworth
SERIES:
2006 RANKINGS: 49ers: offense 27th (9th rush, 26th pass); defense 25th (20th rush, 24th pass). Seahawks: offense 21st (15th rush, 20th pass); defense 15th (16th rush, 18th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Seahawks will use eight- and nine-man fronts in an effort to slow 49ers RB Frank Gore, but the real key is filling the right gaps and improved tackling. Seattle threw plenty of defenders at Gore in the first meeting, but he still racked up a franchise-record 212 yards by consistently running through arm tackles. The 49ers are still looking for improved play from QB Alex Smith, who isn't taking enough advantage of opponents over-playing the run. Seattle's offense typically starts quickly at home, but won't have injured WR Darrell Jackson and LG Floyd Womack, although WR Bobby Engram might return after missing nine games. A bigger concern is the season-ending injury to DT Craig Terrill, the latest loss on an injury-depleted and already undersized defensive line.

FAST FACTS: 49ers: Gore needs to average 74.4 rushing yards over the final three games to break Garrison Hearst's franchise single-season record of 1,570 set in 1998. ... Smith has five touchdowns and 10 interceptions the past seven games. Seahawks: Clinch their third consecutive NFC West title with a victory. ... Are 5-1 in their past six primetime games and 1-1 all-time on Thursday nights.

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Atlanta Falcons (7-6)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 8:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: NFL Network, Bryant Gumbel, Dick Vermeil
SERIES: 23rd meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 14-8. Atlanta has won the last two meetings.
2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 4th (10th rush, 7th pass); defense 11th (6th rush, 19th pass). Falcons: offense 10th (1st rush, 32nd pass); defense 21st (10th rush, 31st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: What the Falcons have to do in order to pull off a critical upset doesn't play to their strengths. Offenses that have given the Cowboys trouble this season have been able to connect on several big plays with Dallas' safeties struggling in deep coverage. But Falcons QB Michael Vick isn't highly accurate and his receivers drop far too many passes. Making life even more difficult is the possibility of the Falcons' top-ranked running game playing without injured RBs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood, limiting Atlanta's ability to set up shots downfield. It adds up to the Falcons needing to generate a few momentum-changing plays defensively. Cowboys QB Tony Romo has come down to Earth the past few weeks. Dallas needs to make a more concerted effort to run the ball early to avoid sticking Romo in difficult long passing situations.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Clinch playoff spot with a victory and losses by Minnesota and Carolina. ... WR Terrell Owens has 16 receptions for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games against Atlanta. Falcons: Vick needs 35 rushing yards to break Bobby Douglass' single-season NFL record for a quarterback of 968 set in 1972 for Chicago. ... Atlanta is on pace to rush for 3,163 yards as a team, which would fall two short of the all-time record set by New England.

Cleveland Browns (4-9) at Baltimore Ravens (10-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 16th meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 10-5. The Browns have not won in Baltimore since they beat the Ravens 14-13 on Dec. 22, 2002.
2006 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 29th (30th rush, 21st pass); defense 30th (30th rush, 15th pass). Ravens: offense 22nd (27th rush, 15th pass); defense 1st (2nd rush, 6th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Opponents have been able to stuff the ball down the throat of Cleveland's defense all season, with the Browns allowing 144.9 rushing yards per game. Cleveland faced 52 runs in its last game, and can expect a lot of the same against Baltimore until the Browns prove they can stop the ground game. Ravens QB Steve McNair will focus on being efficient and not doing the Browns any favors with Cleveland likely to have QB Derek Anderson making just his second career start in place of injured Charlie Frye. The Ravens should be able to stop the Browns' running game with just their front seven, sticking Anderson in difficult passing situations. One of Anderson's strengths is a quick release that will help against Baltimore's strong pass rush, but he'll have to recognize the correct reads quickly and avoid turnovers the Browns can't afford if they hope to keep the game within reach.

FAST FACTS: Browns: Anderson was a sixth-round pick by Baltimore in 2005. ... DE Kamerion Wimbley has set a franchise rookie record with 7.5 sacks. Ravens: Clinch playoff berth with a victory and the AFC North title if Cincinnati also loses. ... McNair has thrown eight touchdown passes and two interceptions since coach Brian Billick took over the play-calling seven games ago.

Detroit Lions (2-11) at Green Bay Packers (5-8)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Jesse Palmer, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 147th game between the Lions and Packers in what the Lions call the NFL's longest uninterrupted series. The Packers hold a 78-62-6 edge in the series and have won nine of the last 11 games against Detroit. The Lions have not won or tied at Lambeau Field since Dec. 15, 1991.
2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 19th (32nd rush, 6th pass); defense 24th (23rd rush, 21st pass). Packers: offense 9th (20th rush, 9th pass); defense 29th (17th rush, 28th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers allowed eight pass plays of at least 15 yards in the first meeting, and their secondary can expect to come under even more fire with the Lions losing RB Kevin Jones for the season. Detroit will likely spread the field and put the game into the hands of QB Jon Kitna, who is amassing big statistics but also struggling with turnovers. They key will be how the offensive line holds up because most of Kitna's errors come while trying to force plays while under pressure. Green Bay will attempt to be far more balanced offensively, especially considering its youth on the offensive line. If RB Ahman Green is productive early on, QB Brett Favre could be in for a huge day because the Lions don't have anyone who can put heat on the passer consistently.

FAST FACTS: Lions: Kitna is on pace for 4,288 passing yards, which would be second in franchise history (Scott Mitchell, 4,338 in 1995). ... DT Corey Redding has 5.5 sacks in his past five games. Packers: Green needs 238 rushing yards to pass Jim Taylor (8,207) as the franchise's all-time rushing leader. ... WR Donald Driver joined James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe and Antonio Freeman as the only players in franchise history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Houston Texans (4-9) at New England Patriots (9-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 2nd meeting. The Texans lost their only meeting against the Patriots, 23-20 on Nov. 22, 2003. The Patriots closed the game with 13 unanswered points. Adam Vinatieri nailed a 28-yard field goal to close the game.
2006 RANKINGS: Texans: offense 28th (24th rush, 23rd pass); defense 28th (21st rush, 26th pass). Patriots: offense 11th (12th rush, 13th pass); defense 8th (3rd rush, 14th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: This isn't a slam dunk for the Patriots. They have strung together three consecutive sloppy performances, and are just 4-3 at home, with five of those games decided by seven points or less. But look for an inspired performance with New England coming off a shutout loss in Miami. Whether or not he gets a lot of help from his ground game, QB Tom Brady should be able to drop back and dissect the Texans' secondary with Houston possessing only one true pass-rushing threat in rookie DE Mario Williams. Offensively, the Texans could find it difficult to run against the league's No. 3 run defense. That will put even more heat on QB David Carr, whose future with the team could well be determined by how he plays the next three weeks. Carr has a high completion percentage, but he struggles to push the ball vertically and cash in on the few drives the Texans typically put together during the course of a game.

FAST FACTS: Texans: Carr (69.4) seeks to become fourth player since 1970 to complete 70.0 percent or better for an entire season. ... WR Andre Johnson has caught at least six passes in nine consecutive road games. Patriots: Clinch AFC West title with a win and a loss by the Jets. ... RB Corey Dillon needs one touchdown to tie Steve Grogan (35) for third most in franchise history.

Jacksonville Jaguars (8-5) at Tennessee Titans (6-7)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 25th meeting. Titans lead series 13-11. Jacksonville crushed Tennessee 37-7 on Nov. 5 at Alltel Stadium.
2006 RANKINGS: Jaguars: offense 13th (2nd rush, 25th pass); defense 5th (4th rush, 11th pass). Titans: offense 24th (4th rush, 28th pass); defense 32nd (28th rush, 25th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jaguars rushed for 375 yards against Indianapolis last Sunday and face a Titans defense allowing 140.9 rushing yards per game. That means QB David Garrard should see plenty of man coverage downfield with Tennessee forced to utilize its safeties liberally in run support. One bonus for the Titans is the presence of CB Pacman Jones, who was suspended for the first meeting. To protect the defense and keep time of possession respectable, the Titans also need a strong effort from RB Travis Henry. QB Vince Young could find scrambling for big gains harder to come by against Jacksonville's fast defense. The Jaguars want to keep Young in the pocket and force him to beat them through the air -- especially working against a secondary that includes CB Rashean Mathis, who is tied for the league lead with eight interceptions.

FAST FACTS: Jaguars: Garrard is 8-2 in his past 10 starts. ... RB Fred Taylor has averaged at least 4.6 yards in six of the past seven meetings. Titans: Have three victories on the season in games in which they have trailed by at least 11 points. ... Young has passed for a franchise rookie record 1,704 yards.

Miami Dolphins (6-7) at Buffalo Bills (6-7)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: AstroPlay
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Steve Beuerlein
SERIES: 82nd meeting. The Dolphins hold a 49-31-1 all-time regular-season series lead but have lost three of the past four match-ups.
2006 RANKINGS: Dolphins: offense 18th (26th rush, 11th pass); defense 2nd (9th rush, 4th pass). Bills: offense 30th (23rd rush, 30th pass); defense 19th (27th rush, 9th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: RB Willis McGahee has been battling a variety of ailments, but the Bills desperately need a solid outing from him Sunday. Buffalo is 4-0 against Miami when McGahee rushes for at least 85 yards, and a strong ground presence will help negate the pass rushing presence of red-hot Dolphins DE Jason Taylor. Miami allowed seven sacks in the first meeting, but the offensive line is playing much better at this point in the season and QB Joey Harrington's mobility should help avoid a repeat. Harrington is developing chemistry with WR Marty Booker, who has a touchdown reception in each of the past three games. But Harrington is still prone to mistakes under pressure and must be wary of CB Nate Clements, who has produced 10 turnovers (seven interceptions, three forced fumbles) against Miami since 2002. The Dolphins also could use a third consecutive strong outing from RB Sammy Morris in place of injured Ronnie Brown.

FAST FACTS: Dolphins: Taylor as 15.0 sacks in 17 career games against Buffalo. TE Randy McMichael needs one reception to give team four players with at least 50 catches for the third time in franchise history. Bills: Evans has set a franchise single-season record with three touchdown receptions of at least 75 yards. ... McGahee's 14 career 100-yard rushing games is third in franchise history behind Thurman Thomas (46) and O.J. Simpson (41).

New York Jets (7-6) at Minnesota Vikings (6-7)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: 8th meeting. The Jets lead the all-time series 6-1, winning the most recent meeting 20-7 on Oct. 20, 2002 at Giants Stadium. The Vikings have never won a game against the Jets either in Shea Stadium or Giants Stadium and are 1-2 vs. the Jets at home.
2006 RANKINGS: Jets: offense 25th (17th rush, 22nd pass); defense 27th (26th rush, 16th pass). Vikings: offense 14th (11th rush, 16th pass); defense 4th (1st rush, 27th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Ideally, the Jets like to show some form of a ground attack to set up play-action for QB Chad Pennington. But that might not be possible with a weak ground game working against the Vikings' top-rated run defense. Like many of Minnesota's recent opponents, the Jets are likely to spread the field and attempt to move the chains with the short and intermediate passing games. Vikings RB Chester Taylor expects to play after missing a game with bruised ribs, and along with backup Artose Pinner will pound away at the Jets' 3-4 run defense that still struggles against the run at times. But if New York can contain the run and pressure QB Brad Johnson, the Jets might be able to produce the turnovers they need in order to provide shorter fields for their offense.

FAST FACTS: Jets: Pennington needs 502 passing yards to establish a new single-season career high (3,120, 2002). ... DE Bryan Thomas has at least one sack in five of the past six games. Vikings: Defense is allowing 54.1 rushing yards per game. The single-season record is 47.2, set by the 1942 Chicago Bears. ... Have produced 11 turnovers the past two games.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) at Carolina Panthers (6-7)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross
SERIES: 4th meeting. Steelers lead the series 2-1 that began in 1996. They are 0-1 in Carolina, where they first played the Panthers in 1996. They last met Dec. 15, 2002 in Heinz field, where the Steelers won 30-14. They are a popular matchup in the preseason, where they have played each of the past four years and eight times since 1997.
2006 RANKINGS: Steelers: offense 6th (14th rush, 8th pass); defense 9th (5th rush, 13th pass). Panthers: offense 16th (21st rush, 12th pass); defense 10th (14th rush, 10th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Panthers need a huge game out of DEs Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker getting in the face of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Carolina has been besieged by hamstring injuries in the secondary and will have a difficult time keeping tabs on anyone downfield for long. The good news for the Panthers is Roethlisberger's protection has been spotty all season, and he can't count on a big game from RB Willie Parker, who is averaging just 45.8 rushing yards and 3.0 yards per carry on the road. QB Chris Weinke appears likely to make his second consecutive start for Carolina. He showed the ability to be efficient before the Panthers fell behind and he was forced to throw against nickel and dime coverages. For Weinke to be effective, he must get more help from the struggling running game, and rookie RB DeAngelo Williams could get increased touches with DeShaun Foster not producing behind shaky offensive line play.

FAST FACTS: Steelers: Are 93-7-1 under coach Bill Cowher when rushing the ball at least 35 times. ... Are 10-1 in their past 11 games against the NFC. Panthers: Peppers has 14.0 sacks in his past 14 games, but none in his past four games. ... Williams has 445 yards from scrimmage in the past four games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-10) at Chicago Bears (11-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 52nd meeting. Bears lead the all-time series 34-17. Bucs have won eight of the past 12 meetings. Chicago won 13-10 in Tampa last season.
2006 RANKINGS: Bucs: offense 31st (29th rush, 29th pass); defense 16th (18th rush, 17th pass). Bears: offense 20th (16th rush, 18th pass); defense 3rd (11th rush, 3rd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: It's all about the ground game for the Bucs. If they can't run the ball offensively or stop the run defensively, they have little chance of being competitive. The good news for Tampa Bay is Chicago has allowed at least 100 rushing yards in five of seven games since S Mike Brown was lost for the season. The bad news is the Bears don't fear the Bucs' passing game, so they will dedicate eight- and nine-man fronts toward stopping RB Carnell Williams. If Williams is a non-factor, rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski is in for another long day. Offensively, the Bears are trying to increase RB Cedric Benson's workload to keep Thomas Jones fresh and give them a reliable one-two punch heading into the postseason. Tampa Bay has improved a bit against the run and must find a way to shut down the ground game in hopes of forcing QB Rex Grossman into turnovers in long passing situations.

FAST FACTS: Bucs: Williams needs to average 76.0 rushing yards over the final three games for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. ... Are 0-6 on the road, with the last three losses coming by a combined score of 82-23. Bears: Clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with a victory and a loss by Chicago. ... Coach Lovie Smith was Tampa Bay's linebackers coach from 1996-2000. ... Are 14-1 in past 15 games in which Jones has at least 20 carries.

Washington Redskins (4-9) at New Orleans Saints (9-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Sportexe Momentum
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Chris Myers
SERIES: 21st meeting. The Redskins lead the series, 13-7, even though the Saints have won the last two meetings -- both of them at FedEx Field in 2002 and '03. The Redskins, however, have won five of six games played in the Superdome, including a 40-10 romp in their last trip in 2001.
2006 RANKINGS: Redskins: offense 17th (6th rush, 24th pass); defense 23rd (22nd rush, 22nd pass). Saints: offense 1st (19th rush, 1st pass); defense 12th (24th rush, 5th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: With the amount of offensive weapons the Saints boast, the Redskins' best bet to keep the game competitive into the fourth quarter is to get a third consecutive monster effort out of RB Ladell Betts. Washington needs to dominate the time of possession, and can't abandon the running game even if it falls behind early. The biggest obstacle in the path of that game plan is nagging injuries to three of the starting offensive linemen. Saints coach Sean Payton put together one of the best game plans of the season in Dallas last Sunday, and the Saints' offense is averaging 489.2 total yards the past five games. The main concern for the Redskins is making the Saints work for their points -- New Orleans leads the league with 18 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer.
FAST FACTS: Redskins: Betts is the first player in franchise history to have consecutive games with at least 150 rushing yards. ... Coach Joe Gibbs is 5-1 in his career against New Orleans. Saints: Clinch NFC South title with a win or a loss by Atlanta. ... RB Reggie Bush is third running back in NFL history with consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards (LaDainian Tomlinson, Lenny Moore)

Denver Broncos (7-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-9)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 8th meeting. The Denver Broncos are 6-0-1 against the Arizona Cardinals. The last time the Broncos and Cardinals met was at the end of the 2002 season, and Denver won 37-7.
2006 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 23rd (5th rush, 27th pass); defense 14th (12th rush, 23rd pass). Cardinals: offense 26th (31st rush, 10th pass); defense 31st (19th rush, 30th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals discovered rare offensive balance in victories over St. Louis and Seattle, but Denver has a significantly superior run defense to the other two. If the Broncos can bottle up RB Edgerrin James, they can blitz rookie QB Matt Leinart more often and attempt to push him into bad decisions working against CBs Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams. Denver has to force the issue because it can't be certain what it will get out of its own rookie signal-caller. QB Jay Cutler was effective working out of the shotgun last weekend, but the Broncos remain a run-first offense that needs to get RB Tatum Bell involved. Expect the Cardinals to use any opportunity to blitz with OLB Karlos Dansby or SS Adrian Wilson.

FAST FACTS: Broncos: Are 30-16 (.652) against the NFC under coach Mike Shanahan. ... WR Rod Smith needs eight receptions to reach 50 for the 10th consecutive season. Cardinals: Seek first three-game winning streak since 2002. ... James needs 75 rushing yards to become franchise's first 1,000-yard rusher since Adrian Murrell in 1998.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-6) at New York Giants (6-7)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 144th meeting. The Giants lead the regular-season series 76-65-2, and are trying to sweep the season series. The Giants won on Sept. 17 in Philadelphia, 30-24.
2006 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 3rd (12th rush, 3rd pass); defense 17th (29th rush, 7th pass). Giants: offense 12th (8th rush, 17th pass); defense 20th (8th rush, 29th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Expect plenty of offense with both lines protecting their quarterbacks very well. Giants QB Eli Manning has been sacked just twice in the past four games, while Eagles QB Jeff Garcia has been taken down three times since assuming the job 3 1/2 games ago. Garcia's mobility is playing a major role, as is his ball control -- no interceptions in 133 pass attempts since taking over for Donovan McNabb. If he's able to move and find passing lanes, Eagles WRs Reggie Brown and Donte Stallworth shouldn't take long to gain separation against the Giants' mediocre secondary. Manning cut down on his mistakes last weekend, but he is still erratic and the Eagles pounce on mistakes downfield. So the Giants will lean heavily on RB Tiki Barber working against a Philadelphia defense allowing 142.5 rushing yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.

FAST FACTS: Eagles: Garcia is the first player in franchise history to have a 100-plus passer rating in each of his first three starts for the team. ... S Brian Dawkins, who joined the team in 1996) is the longest tenured pro athlete in Philadelphia. Giants: Barber has joined Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk as the only NFL players to amass more than 10,000 rushing and 5,000 receiving yards. ... DT Fred Robbins leads the team with 5.5 sacks. No tackle has led the Giants in sacks since Keith Hamilton had 10.0 in 2000.

St. Louis Rams (5-8) at Oakland Raiders (2-11)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 11th meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-3. The teams have met only twice since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, and their last get-together was in 2002 when the Rams won 28-13 in St. Louis in Marc Bulger's first NFL start. In 1997, the Raiders won in Oakland, 35-17.
2006 RANKINGS: Rams: offense 8th (25th rush, 5th pass); defense 22nd (31st rush, 8th pass). Raiders: offense 32nd (28th rush, 31st pass); defense 6th (25th rush, 1st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders have spent most of the season in search of a running game to take some of the heat off their weak pass protection. Well, the Rams present as good an opportunity as the Raiders will find. St. Louis is allowing 154.8 rushing yards per game, and Oakland will attempt to attack with whoever can provide positive yardage out of RBs Justin Fargas, ReShard Lee and Zach Crockett. The Rams' best run defense is for their offense to get off to a hot start and put the Raiders in come-from-behind mode. St. Louis has just 43 first-quarter points this season, and QB Marc Bulger has to be careful against Oakland's strong pass defense. The Rams have their own offensive line issues, so they need RB Steven Jackson producing on early downs to help buy Bulger time in the pocket.

FAST FACTS: Rams: Bulger needs 472 passing yards to become third Ram to reach 4,000 in a season. ... WR Isaac Bruce needs 95 receiving yards to pass Andre Reed (13,098) for seventh-most all-time. Raiders: QB Aaron Brooks is 1-14 in his past 15 starts. ... DT Warren Sapp has 5.0 sacks in three career games against St. Louis.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) at San Diego Chargers (11-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/17/06
SURFACE: Grass
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 94th meeting. Kansas City leads series 49-43-1, including a 30-27 win earlier this season. The Chiefs have lost the last two games in San Diego, with the tight ends dominating the last two contests. In October of last season, Antonio Gates had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns, answering TE Tony Gonzalez's team-record 14-catch game in the previous meeting.
2006 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 15th (7th rush, 19th pass); defense 13th (15th rush, 20th pass). Chargers: offense 5th (3rd rush, 14th pass); defense 7th (7th rush, 11th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: There's no doubt the Chargers are the more balanced offensive team. That makes it critical for the Chiefs to get out to an early lead, as they did with a 20-6 second-quarter advantage en route to winning the first meeting, 30-27. That's the best way to contain Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who has 21 touchdowns the past seven games. TE Antonio Gates is benefiting from the extra attention being paid to Tomlinson, and is coming off his first 100-yard receiving game of the season. The Chiefs need to be able to control field position, and RB Larry Johnson had 132 yards on 28 carries in the first meeting. QB Trent Green, who threw two costly interceptions last Sunday, has to avoid those mistakes and make sure the offense capitalizes on any drives deep into Chargers territory by not settling for field goals.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs: Johnson has at least 100 rushing yards in seven of his past eight games and needs one touchdown to tie Marcus Allen (44) for second-most in franchise history. ... TE Tony Gonzalez needs one touchdown to tie Shannon Sharpe (62) for most ever by a tight end. Chargers: Clinch first-round playoff bye with a victory and a loss by Indianapolis. ... Tomlinson has rushed for at least 100 yards in seven consecutive games.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-3)

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/18/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 23rd meeting. The Indianapolis Colts lead the overall series, 14-8. Indianapolis has a 13-8 lead in the regular-season series between the two teams and has a 1-0 lead in post-season games. The Colts have won the last four meetings, including a wild 45-37 decision at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati a year ago.
2006 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 7th (22nd rush, 4th pass); defense 26th (13th rush, 32nd pass). Colts: offense 2nd (18th rush, 2nd pass); defense 18th (32nd rush, 2nd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Opponents have done a good job of disrupting the Colts' offensive rhythm with the team dropping three of its past four games. With defenses focusing on taking away the big play, QB Peyton Manning needs a more consistent effort out of RBs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai to aid in setting up play-action. Manning also clearly misses TE Dallas Clark as a third receiving weapon, but he has to regain his flow against a Cincinnati defense allowing just 8.25 points during the team's four-game winning streak. Manning knows he has to put points on the board consistently because the Colts can't stop anyone defensively, much less the Bengals' potent attack. Cincinnati has won 11 of its past 15 road games and will likely attack Indianapolis' woeful run defense (5.4 yards per carry) early in an effort to take the crowd out of the game. Then QB Carson Palmer can take shots to his big-play receivers against the Colts' small defensive backs.

FAST FACTS: Bengals: WR Chad Johnson is on pace to finish with a single-season franchise record 1,528 receiving yards. ... Have at least eight victories in four consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Colts: Clinch AFC South title with a win or a loss by Jacksonville. ... Manning has thrown six interceptions in the past four games.

   
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