Sunday Morning Massacre

Lane Adkins returns with an upsized all-NFL-preview Sunday Morning Massacre edition. Here are Lane's takes on all the games being played today!

San Diego vs. Cleveland: The problems occurring in San Diego cannot be simply laid on the shoulders of the demanding Marty Schottenheimer. Granted, Schottenheimer rubs players the wrong way, he is extremely intense on the practice and playing field, and lets everyone associated with this team know that he is in total control of the team. As has been his forte, Schottenheimer is not one to waiver on his decisions and does not communicate well with players that are vocal about their role. Questionable player personnel decisions along with personality conflicts has hampered this Chargers team, some of which Schottenheimer had his hands in. High draft selections have not brought the team the improvement in the defensive backfield as was expected, it hasn't helped that veteran safety Rodney Harrison was released in the off-season, which removed the team's lone physical, experienced presence in the defensive backfield. Releasing long-time San Diego linebacker Junior Seau in the off-season did not help matters of productivity, as well as leadership within the ranks of the San Diego roster. Do not believe any notion that the team is unprepared, they have been, and we are talking about inexperience and questionable talent. Linebacker Donnie Edwards remains a solid player and has been very consistent in 2003, despite indications that he is unhappy in San Diego.

Offensively, the Chargers have shown the ability to move the football on anyone; the offense has been the lone bright spot for this struggling team. The running game has been strong behind LaDainian Tomlinson and the play of quarterback Drew Brees has been better than expected. The San Diego offensive line has shown the ability to be physical, against a Cleveland defense that has played well except for their total meltdown against the run versus the Baltimore Ravens, the Chargers will have to work for every yard. The Browns linebackers pursuit well and will challenge the Chargers at the point of attack. San Diego may have an advantage in any match up with David Boston split wide in the formation. Defensive backs Anthony Henry and Daylon McCutcheon have fared well in the 2003 season, but have yet to face a receiver of the size, speed, and ability of Boston in an offense that is effective.

Heading into the game that is of significance for the Browns run , is to regain an advantage in the AFC North division race. The Browns beat-up offensive line will be without starting center Jeff Faine and left guard Shaun O'Hara. To add insult to injury, starting left tackle Barry Stokes is nursing a high ankle sprain that has limited him in practice the past few weeks. Cleveland's running game with William Green has come to the life the past two-weeks and the plan would be to establish the run against the Chargers, but this may be a difficult proposition Sunday due to the injuries. Against a poor San Diego defense that does not tackle or cover well, the Browns will try to run the ball, but in all likelihood will depend on the arm of quarterback Tim Couch, who starts again in place of injured starter Kelly Holcomb. Couch has been solid in his three starts in place of Holcomb, but he may be forced to carry this offense against the Chargers. Couch has shown the tendency to press at home and struggles if things do not go well; look for the Chargers to disguise their coverage's and blitz packages to rattle Couch. Concisely, the Browns defense has been the strength of the team, just as the offense has been the strength of the San Diego team. Something has to give and I would not bet on the Chargers defense doing enough to stop the Browns.

San Diego

OUT - TE Stephen Alexander (groin); WR Reche Caldwell (wrist)

PROBABLE - DE Adrian Dingle (knee); TE Josh Norman (hamstring); G Solomon Page (ankle); WR Eric Parker (shoulder); LB Carlos Polk (knee)

Cleveland

DOUBTFUL - C Jeff Faine (knee); G Shaun O'Hara (knee)

PROBABLE - T Barry Stokes (ankle)

2003 rankings: Chargers: offense 13th (13th rush, 12th pass); defense 31st (28th rush, 22nd pass). Browns: offense 28th (21st rush, 27th pass); defense 7th (21st rush, 4th pass).


Baltimore at Cincinnati: Marvin Lewis gets his first shot at the team that he made a name for himself with as their defensive coordinator. The Baltimore Ravens have been spending a significant amount of time working on the passing game, as their power-oriented rushing offense can wear the opposition down, but is predictable and defensive coordinators throughout the league will game-plan to stop the run. Lewis is a masterful defensive mind and has the Cincinnati Bengals playing much better defense in his inaugural campaign. We have leaned this past week that Lewis intends on pressuring the Baltimore offense by walking a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, basically challenging the Ravens and rookie Kyle Boller to beat them over the top. In addition, Lewis knows that getting an additional player in the box may be his only chance to slow the Jamal Lewis train. Cincinnati gives up approximately 120-yards per game on the ground. The Baltimore defense has played reasonably well and has been the cornerstone of this organization for years, but they are far from the dominating club that Lewis once coached. The Ravens have done it this season with an opportunistic defense, timely special teams play, and a rushing attack that is the best in the league.

The Bengals may be the second most improved team in the league this season and they have been in every game played, outside of their opening game defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. Simply put, the strength of the Ravens offense is the weakness of the Bengals defense, the running game. Cincinnati quarterback has been known to Jon Kitna has been known to throw interceptions and the Ravens are expected to press the Bengals receivers. If the Bengals can find a way to contain Lewis, protect quarterback Jon Kitna, which is doubtful, and not make any significant special teams blunders, Cincinnati can win this game.

Baltimore

OUT - WR Ron Johnson (knee)

PROBABLE - T Orlando Brown (shoulder); RB Jamal Lewis (shoulder); G Edwin Mulitalo (ankle); G-C Casey Rabach (hip)

Cincinnati

QUESTIONABLE - RB Corey Dillon (groin); WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring)

PROBABLE - LB Riall Johnson (calf)

2003 rankings: Ravens: offense 22nd (1st rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (12th rush, 14th pass). Bengals: offense 23rd (28th rush, 14th pass); defense 10th (22nd rush, 6th pass).


Green Bay at St. Louis: Coming off a defensive meltdown last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Packers again will have to contend with another team that has explosive offensive ability. Unable to stop the Chiefs last Sunday in a 40-34 loss in overtime the Packers defense is unable to stop the pass. A lack of a consistent pass rush only magnifies the problem in Green Bay and it will not get any easier for the much-maligned Packers defense against the St. Louis Rams Sunday in St. Louis.

The Rams are not playing as well as they would like, but the passing game appears to be back with Marc Bulger at the helm. The speed and quickness of the Rams receivers will pose an overwhelming challenge to the coverage-suspect Packers. One area that the Rams are missing the boat on is with the running game. Starter Marshall Faulk struggled before going down with a broken hand and his replacement, Lamar Gordon has shown some spark, but is under-utilized by head coach Mike Martz. The St. Louis is average and getting better.

Handling the explosive potential of the Green Bay Packers will be a difficult task for this Rams defense, as the Packers utilize a two-headed monster attack of quarterback Brett Favre and running back Ahman Green. Favre and Green have been tremendous in recent weeks, as the Packers had been doing well until running into the Kansas City buzz saw. Green Bay will have some pass-protection problems against a St. Louis defense that is quick coming off the corners, if the Packers can slide their protection to enable Favre time to throw the football they will be successful, as Green will run on this Rams defense that is not consistent up the middle. The Packers will score plenty of points Sunday, but the Rams will easily expose the weak defensive backfield of the Packers, which could lead to the Rams winning what will look like a track meet.

Green Bay

OUT - DE Joe Johnson (quadriceps)

QUESTIONABLE - S Antuan Edwards (ankle); RB Tony Fisher (groin); DE Aaron Kampman (ankle); CB Mike McKenzie (back); DE Chukie Nwokorie (shoulder)

PROBABLE - DT Gilbert Brown (knee); RB William Henderson (neck)

St. Louis

OUT - RB Marshall Faulk (hand/knee); WR Mike Furrey (appendix)

DOUBTFUL - S Jason Sehorn (foot)

QUESTIONABLE - S Adam Archuleta (ankle); DE Courtland Bullard (hamstring); WR Kevin Curtis (leg); CB Kevin Garrett (hamstring)

PROBABLE - RB Lamar Gordon (wrist/ankle); LB Robert Thomas (groin)

2003 rankings: Packers: offense 8th (5th rush, 17th pass); defense 27th (19th rush, 30th pass). Rams: offense 3rd (22nd rush, 1st pass); defense 8th (13th rush, 8th pass).


New England at Miami: New England quarterback Tom Brady is far from healthy, as arm issues have hampered the Patriots signal-caller throughout the young season. The New England passing game has struggled of late and the running game has been reinvented in New England over the past two-weeks, both Patriots wins. They have been decimated with injuries, they lost a key defensive player just before the season started to a division rival, and they are void of a serious running threat, yet they continue to win. They are doing with defense, and Sunday's game against the Dolphins should pose the greatest challenge to date for the Patriots, a team that can run the ball down your throat. Offensively, indications are New England intends to aggressively attack the Dolphins through the air to get them on their heels.

Despite numerous injuries on both sides of the ball, Bill Belichick again is doing a masterful job of getting his team prepared and they are a dangerous opponent. As amazing of a job the New England defense has done thus far in the 2003 season, the Miami Dolphins still are one of the best defensive football teams in the game. Miami will give a team the very short pass, but will lockdown and prevent the downfield strikes. The Dolphins are not a strong passing team, quarterback Jay Fiedler will make mistakes, but the Miami offense normally does enough offensively to overcome them, it helps having a strong defense that rarely is beaten. If Miami can run the football effectively with Ricky Williams, they win this game. If the Miami offensive line is unable to control the line of scrimmage and Fiedler gets sloppy with the ball, the Patriots will scheme out a victory in South Florida on Sunday.

New England

OUT - LB Ted Johnson (foot); DT Ted Washington (leg)

DOUBTFUL - RB Larry Centers (knee); T Adrian Klemm (ankle); LB Mike Vrabel (arm)

QUESTIONABLE - WR Deion Branch (ankle); S Je'Rod Cherry (knee); TE Daniel Graham (shoulder); CB Ty Law (ankle/ribs); LB Willie McGinest (neck); WR David Patten (knee); RB Antowain Smith (shoulder)

PROBABLE - QB Tom Brady (arm)

Miami

DOUBTFUL - T Mark Dixon (ankle); RB Rob Konrad (knee)

QUESTIONABLE - DT Tim Bowens (hand); LB Junior Seau (hamstring)

PROBABLE - QB Jay Fiedler (calf); S Trent Gamble (quadriceps); S Brock Marion (ankle); DE Adewale Ogunleye (hip); DE Jason Taylor (quadriceps); LB Zach Thomas (foot); S Shawn Wooden (ankle)

2003 rankings: Patriots: offense 21st (14th rush, 26th pass); defense 22nd (7th rush, 24th pass). Dolphins: offense 20th (8th rush, 28th pass); defense 16th (2nd rush, 29th pass).


Denver at Minnesota: The Broncos have not won a game against a team with a winning record and came close in their only loss of the 2003 season to the Kansas City Chiefs. Minnesota has come out of the starting gate on fire. With an improved defense and explosive offense, the Vikings are no longer considered pretenders in the tough NFC North division. With starting quarterback Jake Plummer out for the next four weeks, Steve Beuerlein will handle the role as signal-caller, and despite the Broncos quick start to the season, Beuerlein is more than a capable backup with the ability to take what the defense gives him. The Vikings have shown to be very tough at home, but can the rebuilt Minnesota defense control the line of scrimmage and stop running back Clinton Portis from getting off? In limiting the open gaps to run through, Portis struggled last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Broncos struggled to move the ball against a less than average Pittsburgh defense.

With Plummer sidelined, the Denver offense may lack some of the imagination that Portis and Plummer provide. Beuerlein is a capable quarterback, but the truth is that the Broncos need to run the football to take some pressure off Beuerlein. If the Vikings are able to contain the Denver running game, the Broncos will be forced to go to the air. This could be good, or it could be bad. The Denver game plan will be to control the clock with a ball-control game in the hopes of keeping Culpepper and company off the field. When Minnesota has the ball, look for the Broncos to run numerous disguised blitz packages to pressure Culpepper into mistakes. Denver is the better defensive team and playing on the turf should be enhancing an already quick Denver team. The Vikings are easily the superior offensive team, but the speed and quickness of the Denver defense should make this game interesting. The story of this game may come down to the ability of the Denver defense to penetrate a physically imposing Minnesota offensive line. Concerns about the speed of the Broncos heading into this game on the turf in Minnesota are premature, as the Vikings defense has played well against the run and have been better than average against the pass, but have shown some cracks in the armor in recent games. The tale of improvement within this Minnesota defensive backfield can be attributed to the play of the defensive backs that have been opportunistic in creating turnovers. This should be the game of the week and it should go down to the wire.

Denver

OUT - LB Ian Gold (knee); QB Jake Plummer (foot)

PROBABLE - LB Keith Burns (knee); DT Dorsett Davis (ankle); S Nick Ferguson (knee); DT Daryl Gardener (wrist); S Kenoy Kennedy (ankle); TE Mike Leach (flu); WR Ed McCaffrey (knee); C Tom Nalen (ankle); T Ephraim Salaam (knee)

Minnesota

QUESTIONABLE - WR D'Wayne Bates (foot); DT Billy Lyon (leg)

PROBABLE - K Aaron Elling (back)

2003 rankings: Broncos: offense 9th (3rd rush, 21st pass); defense 2nd (11th rush, 5th pass). Vikings: offense 1st (4th rush, 9th pass); defense 21st (10th rush, 21st pass).


Philadelphia at New York Giants: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Heading into the season, the Eagles and Giants were considered as easily the favorites to not only battle for the NFC East division crown, but as strong candidates to reach the Super Bowl. The story in Philadelphia has been injuries to one of the leagues most dominating defenses, the erratic play of quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the lack of commitment to the running game. Head coach Andy Reid is under fire for the team's lack of offensive prowess and his stern commitment to the struggling McNabb.

 In New York, the Giants offense has shown the firepower necessary to mow through any defense, but they have become their own worst enemy. Quarterback Kerry Collins once again has reverted to his old ways and is throwing interceptions at an alarming rate and running back Tiki Barber continues to have trouble holding onto the football. The bottom-line here is, New York can move the football, and the Eagles have not shown the ability to consistently maintain a drive. The Giants defense has played better than misleading statistics show and the Eagles despite the numerous injuries in the defensive backfield has been better than average. In a game that is a must win for both teams, the Giants have the fire-power to win this game, as long as Kerry and company don't have another turnover fallout.

Philadelphia

OUT - S Brian Dawkins (foot); CB Roderick Hood (hamstring)

DOUBTFUL - DE Jerome McDougle (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE - WR Todd Pinkston (knee); CB Bobby Taylor (foot); RB Brian Westbrook (hip)

PROBABLE - G Jermane Mayberry (elbow); QB Donovan McNabb (leg/thumb); RB Jon Ritchie (hamstring); CB Lito Sheppard (toe); DT Corey Simon (foot/back); CB Troy Vincent (hamstring); G John Welbourn (leg); DE Brandon Whiting (hamstring)

New York Giants

OUT - K Matt Bryant (hamstring); CB William Peterson (back)

QUESTIONABLE - WR Willie Ponder (hip)

PROBABLE - DE Kenny Holmes (knee); TE Jeremy Shockey (foot)

2003 rankings: Eagles: offense 30th (12th rush, 29th pass); defense 12th (1st rush, 28th pass). Giants: offense 5th (20th rush, 5th pass); defense 24th (16th rush, 23rd pass).


Tennessee at Carolina: Steve McNair lands in Carolina playing the best football of his career. Throwing with tremendous efficiency, McNair has been explosive in leading the Titans that have become a passing team in wake of the troubles the team has had running the football. Running back Eddie George again is struggling to gain yardage, he has lacked the burst and quickness to become a serious threat in the backfield any longer. For the Titans to be successful against a Carolina defense that is good, but can be beaten. How can that statement be made when the team has not lost a game in the 2003 season? Easy, the Panthers are a product of their offensive success. Behind a running game and efficient passing attack that controls the ball and keeps its defense off the field, Carolina's best defense has been their ability to keep the oppositions offense off the field. The Carolina defense has played opportunistic defense and has been solid in the red-zone. Both offensively and defensively, the Panthers are well coached and do not make mistakes to hurt themselves.

 A Tennessee defense that is average at best will have trouble with the power rushing attack of the Panthers. Inconsistency masks this Tennessee team, defensively they have struggled stopping the opposition and a power team such as Carolina could magnify the issue with the Tennessee defense. McNair will have to be at his best again this week for the Titans to be victorious, the cards are not entirely stacked against him as this Carolina defense can be had.

Tennessee

OUT - CB Samari Rolle (elbow)

QUESTIONABLE - RB Chris Brown (hamstring); WR Darrell Hill (back); TE Shad Meier (concussion); LB Peter Sirmon (back); TE Frank Wycheck (concussion)

Carolina

PROBABLE - DT Brentson Buckner (knee); RB Stephen Davis (arm)

2003 rankings: Titans: offense 10th (29th rush, 2nd pass); defense 20th (4th rush, 27th pass). Panthers: offense 19th (2nd rush, 31st pass); defense 23rd (14th rush, 26th pass).


New Orleans at Atlanta: This is a battle of two teams that headed into the 2003 with high expectations and are going nowhere quickly. The Falcons season officially ended when quarterback Michael Vick went down with a broken leg. Offensively, the Falcons were so built to Vick's game that backup Doug Johnson has been inefficient and unable to escape the pressure from the opposition defense that the sieve-like Atlanta offensive line permits. Lame-duck head coach Dan Reeves has named rookie Kurt Kittner his starter for the game against the saints this week, which should be a telling-tale as to the confidence of this team. Running back Warrick Dunn has not been a factor this season and 2002 first-round draft selection T.J Duckett has received the bulk of the workload in recent weeks. Off-season acquisition Peerless Price has been a major disappointment, as has been the overall play of this Atlanta team, on both sides of the ball. Atlanta has some players on the offensive side of the ball that could create some interesting match up issues against a New Orleans team that has suffered more than its fair share of injuries and has lacked consistency. Price and tight-end Alge Crumpler have the ability to get it done against the Saints, but with the rookie Kittner getting the call, it could be a long day for the passing game. The Falcons will need a big game from Duckett and Warrick Dunn in order to win.

Led by quarterback Aaron Brooks, the Saints offense has been inconsistent, but they have the ability to knock off the Falcons behind the rock-solid rushing efforts of Deuce McAllister. Brooks has speed receivers at his disposal, but the offense has been hampered by dropped passes, less than route-running expertise, and an offensive line that has played poorly at times this season. Lets not fail to mention Brooks has been mistake prone and has played like a quarterback that lacks confidence in his surroundings. A steady diet of the Deuce should be in order for the Saints to knock off the Falcons at home.

New Orleans

OUT - LB Sedrick Hodge (knee); DE Darren Howard (wrist)

QUESTIONABLE - G Montrae Holland (foot); WR Michael Lewis (groin)

Atlanta

OUT - LB Sam Rogers (knee); QB Michael Vick (leg)

DOUBTFUL - G Travis Claridge (knee); WR LaTarence Dunbar (hamstring); S Cory Hall (knee)

QUESTIONABLE - DE Travis Hall (shin); S Gerald McBurrows (neck); WR Peerless Price (foot)

PROBABLE - TE Alge Crumpler (ribs); CB Kevin Mathis (shoulder)

2003 rankings: Saints: offense 18th (15th rush, 23rd pass); defense 17th (24th rush, 12th pass). Falcons: offense 29th (23rd rush, 25th pass); defense 32nd (29th rush, 31st pass).


Baltimore at Cincinnati: Marvin Lewis gets his first shot at the team that he made a name for himself with as their defensive coordinator. The Baltimore Ravens have been spending a significant amount of time working on the passing game, as their power-oriented rushing offense can wear the opposition down, but is predictable and defensive coordinators throughout the league will game-plan to stop the run. Lewis is a masterful defensive mind and has the Cincinnati Bengals playing much better defense in his inaugural campaign. We have leaned this past week that Lewis intends on pressuring the Baltimore offense by walking a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, basically challenging the Ravens and rookie Kyle Boller to beat them over the top. In addition, Lewis knows that getting an additional player in the box may be his only chance to slow the Jamal Lewis train. Cincinnati gives up approximately 120-yards per game on the ground. The Baltimore defense has played reasonably well and has been the cornerstone of this organization for years, but they are far from the dominating club that Lewis once coached. The Ravens have done it this season with an opportunistic defense, timely special teams play, and a rushing attack that is the best in the league.

The Bengals may be the second most improved team in the league this season and they have been in every game played, outside of their opening game defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. Simply put, the strength of the Ravens offense is the weakness of the Bengals defense, the running game. Cincinnati quarterback has been known to Jon Kitna has been known to throw interceptions and the Ravens are expected to press the Bengals receivers. If the Bengals can find a way to contain Lewis, protect quarterback Jon Kitna, which is doubtful, and not make any significant special teams blunders, Cincinnati can win this game.

Baltimore

OUT - WR Ron Johnson (knee)

PROBABLE - T Orlando Brown (shoulder); RB Jamal Lewis (shoulder); G Edwin Mulitalo (ankle); G-C Casey Rabach (hip)

Cincinnati

QUESTIONABLE - RB Corey Dillon (groin); WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring)

PROBABLE - LB Riall Johnson (calf)

2003 rankings: Ravens: offense 22nd (1st rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (12th rush, 14th pass). Bengals: offense 23rd (28th rush, 14th pass); defense 10th (22nd rush, 6th pass).


Dallas at Detroit: Bill Parcells has worked wonders with this Dallas team. There is not one coach in the league that can so much out of so little, the success and growth of the Cowboys can be attributed to coaching and motivation. Quarterback Quincy Carter will not remind any Cowboys fan of Roger Staubach, Danny White, or Troy Aikman, but he has shown tremendous growth and confidence under the close guidance of Parcells and quarterback coach Sean Payton. The one thing that irks Parcells about his Cowboys is their inability to run the football with any consistency, this will change in the future, as Troy Hambrick has not endeared himself to Parcells in his opportunities to shine, and will again be given the opportunity to prove to the coach that he is the man for the job. Avion Cason will also get some looks in the backfield, as a change of pace back that has the speed and quickness to break outside containment. Defensively, the Cowboys have become increasingly physical and aggressive, as the season has progressed; this attitude has come from the team becoming more confident, while taking on the personality of their coach.

The Detroit Lions are a team in rebuilding mode with first-year head coach Steve Mariucci. Improving and growing defensively, the Lions still have a long road ahead of them. Detroit does not play the run well and the defensive backfield is mediocre at best. Quarterback Joey Harrington has not played well, inconsistency and turnovers have throttled a Detroit offense that is not good enough to overcome negative plays and he often is in the mode of dodging opposing defensive players, an element of the game the Cowboys will bring with them Sunday in Detroit. Without wide receiver, the Lions passing game will center around Bill Schroeder and Az-Hakim, it could be a long day against the Cowboys, but Mariucci has done well in turning around the attitude of this team and they won't go quietly against a Dallas team that may not be as good as their 4-1 record may indicate.

Dallas

QUESTIONABLE - DT Daleroy Stewart (leg); TE Jason Witten (jaw)

PROBABLE - TE James Whalen (leg)

Detroit

OUT - WR Eddie Drummond (ankle/knee); P John Jett (calf); WR Charles Rogers (collarbone)

QUESTIONABLE - G Ray Brown (toe)

PROBABLE - QB Joey Harrington (finger)

2003 rankings: Cowboys: offense 4th (6th rush, 11th pass); defense 3rd (3rd rush, 9th pass). Lions: offense 24th (26th rush, 19th pass); defense 29th (25th rush, 25th pass).


New York Jets at Houston: Something tells me that the Jets believe they can rekindle the magic of their improbable 2002 season. Getting out of the starting blocks slowly last season, the Jets soared over the competition throughout the second-half of the season and made the playoffs. It has been easy to place the blame on specific players and areas of the team. Offensively, the Jets have been a notch better than anemic and the defense has not been very good. New York has struggled against the run, but played much better last week against a Buffalo team that is struggling. Vinny Testaverde has received far too much criticism for the overall play of the offense lead by the questionable untimely play calling of offensive coordinator Paul Hackett.

Testaverde has been better than serviceable, which has been all the Jets expected from the veteran as he fills in for starter Chad Pennington, who could be back next week. Against a Houston Texans team that has struggled defensively, the Jets will need to be aggressive and attack the defense with quick hitters in the running game and offer additional protection in the passing game to challenge the Texans vertically. The Jets tend to play on the conservative side, expect a steady diet of Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan in the running game, with a mix of the short passing game from Testaverde to control the clock and keep the Houston offense off the field.

The Texans has shown the ability to make big-plays offensively, Andre Johnson is a great weapon, and if Houston is going to get it done, he will be key. An expected change in the Houston offense will come in Sunday's game, as Domanick Davis will be given an increased opportunity to prove that he can become a feature running back. In limited opportunities, Davis has taken care of the ball and has fared well in practice, which has earned him the chance to become more of a focal point in the game plan. The Texans will continue to utilize the running back by committee approach, with Davis getting the first-shot to jump-start a Houston will still be in pl running game that has the opportunity to take advantage of a Jets defense that can be run upon.

New York has not shown the ability to overcome deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, if the Texans can bring it both running and passing, there is every reason to believe they can win this game against the Jets. The Jets defense looked much better last week, but until they show they can stop the opposition consistently, questions will remain. The Jets will take chances to create pressure to get to Carr, but he is accustomed to being sacked and should not be rattled. If Carr can minimize mistakes offensively, they should be in prime position to win at home.

New York Jets

OUT - CB Donnie Abraham (shoulder); WR Wayne Chrebet (back); CB Jamie Henderson (knee); S Jon McGraw (shoulder)

Houston

DOUBTFUL - CB Aaron Glenn (groin)

PROBABLE - WR Corey Bradford (abdomen); G Milford Brown (knee); C Steve McKinney (shoulder); C Todd Washington (shoulder)

2003 rankings: Jets: offense 27th (31st rush, 16th pass); defense 13th (30th rush, 3rd pass). Texans: offense 6th (19th rush, 6th pass); defense 30th (18th rush, 32nd pass).


Washington at Buffalo: The Buffalo Bills jumped out of the starting gate, looking to be a much-improved team on a mission in the 2003 season. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe was receiving adequate pass-protection and the Bills looked explosive offensively. Defensively, the additions of linebacker Takeo Spikes, defensive back Lawyer Milloy, and defensive tackle Sam Adams appeared to be what the doctor ordered to improve head coach Gregg Williams defense. Just as the offense came together, the wheels have fallen off the Buffalo wagon, but not entirely. The Buffalo offense moves the football; the problem is the team has been terrible in the red-zone. Despite claims, they do not miss the ability and presence of wide receiver Peerless Price who was dealt in the off-season, the Bills lack a significant big-play presence opposite Eric Moulds. Buffalo should be able to continue to move the football against a Washington Redskins team that has played better than expected defensively, but injury issues especially in the defensive backfield will provide opportunities for Bledsoe and the Bills offense.

The Redskins defensive front-seven has played reasonably well and will pressure the line of scrimmage, as they do not believe the Buffalo mediocre rushing attack can move the football consistently on them. Sporting a defense that will keep them in the game, the real story comes down to the play of Patrick Ramsey. Despite fending for his life through the season thus far, Ramsey has shown the ability and intangibles to become a very good NFL quarterback. As the season has progressed, Ramsey has become increasingly consistent and shown the flair to make the big-play. He runs the Spurrier efficiently and is really beginning to grasp what it takes to lead a team at this level.

Lining up against a talented but at times under-achieving Buffalo defense, Washington will attempt to run the football between the tackles with Ladell Betts, who will start in place of the injured Trung Canidate. Against a physical defense, such as Buffalo, Betts may be a better option for the Redskins, as Betts has shown the ability to gain yardage after contact. If the Redskins can run the football with any effectiveness, the passing game will flourish, as the Bills tend to become overly aggressive to struggle against teams that are offensively diversified. Lining up with Coles, Gardner, and McCants on the outside, the Redskins simply have the advantage over a Buffalo defense that in recent weeks has not been capable of defending the pass and they have not been exposed to an offensive unit that has the athletic and explosive ability of the Washington passing game. In the end, Washington's offense will move the ball on the Bills and the ever-improving Redskins defense should be good enough to fend off a Buffalo aerial attack.

Washington

OUT - RB Trung Canidate (ankle); G Dave Fiore (knee); DT Jermaine Haley (hand); CB Fred Smoot (chest)

PROBABLE - CB Champ Bailey (shoulder/wrist); G Randy Thomas (knee)

Buffalo

QUESTIONABLE - DT Sam Adams (ankle); DT Ron Edwards (shoulder); RB Sammy Morris (abdomen); WR Eric Moulds (groin)

PROBABLE - RB Sam Gash (ankle); T Jonas Jennings (hip); LB Takeo Spikes (illness)

2003 rankings: Redskins: offense 12th (16th rush, 7th pass); defense 15th (15th rush, 18th pass). Bills: offense 32nd (32nd rush, 18th pass); defense 6th (23rd rush, 2nd pass).


Tampa Bay at San Francisco: Tampa Bay has quickly found out defending their Super Bowl title is a difficult task. Week in and week out the Buccaneers are on the hit-list of every opponent, more so now than ever before, but the Buccaneers appear up to the task despite two losses already in the 2003 season. The defense is back to looking like the league's best, and Sunday's match up against the San Francisco 49ers could be yet another mismatch for this defensive oriented. Among the league leaders in every defensive category, Tampa Bay will mercifully attack a San Francisco offense that has struggled with head coach Dennis Erickson's vertical passing game.

The 49ers, known for having one of the best and most efficient offensive philosophies in the league for the past two decades have gone in a new direction under Erickson. A direction that has many players on the roster questioning the coach and their place within the scheme of the team. Quarterback Jeff Garcia and star wide receiver Terrell Owens are not on the same page in the offense, Garcia is more of an intermediate passing quarterback and is challenged to effectively throw the ball downfield consistency. Despite the miscasting of Garcia, Owens has become the central figure within the San Francisco offense and the results have been negative at best. Verbally questioning the coaching staff, berating his quarterback, and issuing demands for the ball, Owens has helped divide an already fragile 49ers locker room. The usually sure-handed Owens has dropped numerous passes already this season and as the losses mount, the frustration of Owens continues to escalate. The 49ers offensive line has been unable protect Garcia and he will be sitting like prey against a Buccaneers defense that feasts on an opponent that shows weakness, especially one that cannot protect the quarterback or rush the football effectively.

The ability of the Tampa Bay defense may be enough to win this game alone. Defensively, the 49er have been adequate after a quick start to the season, but has shown a weakness against the pass in recent weeks and has started to show problems against the run. Lining up against veteran quarterback Brad Johnson, who may be the most efficient in the game today, the 49ers defense will struggle to stop a Tampa Bay offense that has shown the ability to effectively move the ball on the ground with Michael Pittman or through the air to receivers Keenan McCardell, Keyshawn Johnson, and an array of tight-ends. The bottom-line to this game should be simple, San Francisco cannot stop the pass, and the Buccaneers will pound the football on the ground against a less than physical defensive front-seven and wear down the 49ers. When Garcia takes the field, he will face unrelenting pressure that the 49ers will not be able to overcome.

Tampa Bay

DOUBTFUL - WR Joe Jurevicius (knee)

QUESTIONABLE - TE Ken Dilger (foot); G Jason Whittle (shoulder)

PROBABLE - WR Keyshawn Johnson (quadricep); CB Brian Kelly (chest); LB Shelton Quarles (forearm/elbow); WR Karl Williams (knee)

San Francisco

OUT - TE Eric Johnson (collarbone); CB Jason Webster (knee)

DOUBTFUL - T Derrick Deese (ankle); G Eric Heitmann (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE - DT Anthony Adams (toe); WR Arnaz Battle (toe)

PROBABLE - C Jeremy Newberry (ankle/quadricep); G Ron Stone (wrist); WR Tai Streets (quadricep)

2003 rankings: Bucs: offense 2nd (17th rush, 3rd pass); defense 4th (9th rush, 7th pass). 49ers: offense 14th (10th rush, 20th pass); defense 5th (6th rush, 10th pass).


Chicago at Seattle: The Seattle offense is consistent, diversified, and has the ability to be explosive. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has grown into a legitimate NFL quarterback and running back Shaun Alexander is as steady as they come and has a knack of finding the goal line. Against an injury, rattled Chicago defense that does not play the run well, Alexander will have the opportunity to have a field day Sunday against the Bears. What makes this Seattle team difficult to beat is their ability to beat you via the ground or through the air.

The Chicago defense gives up almost 200 yards per game through the air, so Seattle wide receivers Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson should have plenty of opportunities in a game which the Seahawks should have no problem moving the football. The Bears offense will have a new look this weekend with veteran signal-called Chris Chandler taking over for the reportedly injured Kordell Stewart. The Chicago passing game has been poor, much of the blame has been pointed to Stewart's inability to make the correct reads, thus his decision making process has been inadequate. Issues with the offense go much further than this though. Chicago's offensive line has been less than friendly in pass-protection; Stewart catches some of the blame for holding onto the ball too long. Running the football has improved in recent weeks with Anthony Thomas getting the opportunity to prove he can be an effective running back. However, the Thomas train has been derailed, as he will not play Sunday due to a foot injury that we hear may be more serious than reported by the team. Second-year back Adrian Peterson will replace Thomas and may provide the Bears with a more versatile back in the backfield as well as coming out of the backfield.

Seattle starting wide receiver Koren Robinson has been limited with a strained hamstring and did not practice on Friday. His status remains a game-time decision, though Robinson has stated he would play on Sunday.

Chicago

OUT - LB Warrick Holdman (ankle); G Corbin Lacina (concussion); RB Anthony Thomas (foot); DT Keith Traylor (knee)

DOUBTFUL - QB Kordell Stewart (leg)

QUESTIONABLE - WR Marty Booker (ankle)

PROBABLE - T Mike Gandy (knee)

Seattle

OUT - T Floyd Womack (toe)

DOUBTFUL - LB Tracy White (foot)

QUESTIONABLE - RB Shaun Alexander (ankle); CB Ken Lucas (ankle); WR Koren Robinson (hamstring); LB Anthony Simmons (chest); CB Willie Williams (knee)

PROBABLE - LB Isaiah Kacyvenski (ankle); DT Rashad Moore (flu); RB Mack Strong (knee)

2003 rankings: Bears: offense 31st (9th rush, 30th pass); defense 25th (31st rush, 11th pass). Seahawks: offense 16th (11th rush, 24th pass); defense 14th (17th rush, 16th pass).


Kansas City at Oakland: It is still hard to fathom the Raiders coming off a Super Bowl appearance last season have continued to play as poorly as they have this season. Oakland has been unable to get their offense rolling and much of the blame has been pointed at offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. Let us not forget this is the same offensive philosophy that carried the Raiders to the Super Bowl, if you do not execute, you will not win. Wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown have become non-factors, the ground game has been non-existent, and the offensive line has been very suspect. Therefore, sure lets blame the offensive coordinator. Jerry Porter, the team's only legitimate threat in the vertical passing game will return Sunday, his presence may be a little too late for a Raiders team that has dug themselves an enormous hole. Now, when they did not need it to get any tougher, the Kansas City Chiefs are coming to town, and they have been rolling. Standing 6-0, winning the close games, the Chiefs are winning due to utilizing all aspects of the game

The Chiefs have shown no sign of slowing down and against an Oakland defense that is terrible against the run, the Chiefs will move the football at will with Priest Holmes and Trent Green. The Kansas City offensive line has been solid in protecting Green and opening holes for the patient Holmes in the running game. An aggressive Oakland front seven will blitz Green in an attempt to rattle the quarterback and change the complexion of the game. Do not expect the Raiders to have much success in stopping an explosive Kansas City team that beat you in any facet of the game.

Kansas City

OUT - CB Darrius Johnson (knee)

DOUBTFUL - DE R-Kal Truluck (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE - WR Marc Boerigter (toe); LB Fred Jones (foot); LB Kawika Mitchell (hamstring)

PROBABLE - LB Shawn Barber (quadricep); DT John Browning (toe); WR Dante' Hall (shoulder); DE Vonnie Holliday (groin); RB Priest Holmes (shoulder); T Willie Roaf (ankle)

Oakland

DOUBTFUL - G Frank Middleton (quadricep); DT John Parrella (groin); WR Jerry Porter (abdominal); LB Bill Romanowski (concussion)

QUESTIONABLE - G Mo Collins (knee); S Anthony Dorsett (elbow); RB Ronney Jenkins (ankle); T Lincoln Kennedy (calf); TE O.J. Santiago (hamstring); C Matt Stinchcomb (shoulder); DT Dana Stubblefield (ankle); DE Sam Williams (knee); S Rod Woodson (knee)

PROBABLE - S Derrick Gibson (shoulder)

2003 rankings: Chiefs: offense 7th (7th rush, 13th pass); defense 26th (27th rush, 20th pass). Raiders: offense 25th (24th rush, 22nd pass); defense 28th (32nd rush, 15th pass).


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