Game Scout: Every Game, Broken Down Week 9

Every week and deliver the breakdowns of every single game in the NFL. This week the Cardinals face an uphill battle, but other teams in the division could be skating on thin ice as well.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Tennessee Titans (2-6)
Buffalo Bills (3-5) at Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
Cleveland Browns (2-6) at Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
Green Bay Packers (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (4-4)
Houston Texans (2-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-6)
New York Jets (4-4) at New England Patriots (6-2)
San Diego Chargers (6-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)
San Francisco 49ers (3-5) at Detroit Lions (2-6)
Washington Redskins (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
Denver Broncos (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-6)
Dallas Cowboys (4-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-7)
New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
St. Louis Rams (4-4) at Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
Chicago Bears (7-1) at New York Giants (6-2)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) at Carolina Panthers (4-4)

Dallas Cowboys (4-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-7)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: FOX, Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan
SERIES: 84th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 54-28-1. The Cowboys have won 21 of the last 27 meetings. Dallas had a 13-game win streak over Arizona (1990-96), the longest win streak against an opponent in club history. The Cowboys have faced the Cardinals just three times since Arizona moved from the NFC East to the NFC West.
2006 rankings: Cowboys: offense 5th (5th rush, 8th pass); defense 4th (5th rush, 10th pass). Cardinals: offense 27th (32nd rush, 16th pass); defense 24th (22nd rush, 24th pass)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 30-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: After a tumultuous bye week that included a team meeting, the Cardinals appear to be on the brink of total collapse riding a seven-game losing streak. But if they were able to shore up their offensive line a bit during the break, they are rested and can keep this matchup interesting. Dallas should be able to run the ball, so the Cardinals must be able to follow suit when they're on offense. RB Edgerrin James is yet to produce a 100-yard game, but if he can be effective it will take pressure off rookie QB Matt Leinart. The Cardinals should also get a boost with the return of WR Larry Fitzgerald, who can help test a Dallas secondary that has allowed far too many big plays due to a lack of strong cover skills at safety. Still, if Cowboys QB Tony Romo is efficient and avoids critical mistakes, Dallas should earn a methodical victory.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Coach Bill Parcells is 11-4-1 against Arizona. ... Of WR Terrell Owens' 30 receptions, 15 have come on third down. Cardinals: Coach Dennis Green is 11-2 over and 2-0 with Arizona in games following a bye week. ... Former Cardinals SS Pat Tillman, who died while serving in Afghanistan, will be inducted in the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

--WR Miles Austin will replace Skyler Green as the primary kickoff returner. Green will not be active for Sunday's game at Arizona.
--WR Pat Crayton will be the punt returner against the Cardinals, and he will remain the third receiver. Even if Terry Glenn (knee) doesn't play, Crayton won't start, because the Cowboys don't want him to play more than 34 plays a game.
--WR Terry Glenn (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day. He is still listed as probable for Sunday's game, but if he doesn't practice Friday, he won't play. Look for Sam Hurd to start in his place.
--DE Jason Hatcher played seven plays last week in his first action since spraining his ankle. Hatcher is expected to get a lot more action against the Cardinals in hopes of solving the team's pressure woes.
--DE Chris Canty is not living up to expectations, according to Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. "I just liked to see a little bit more from Chris than I'm seeing," Parcells said. "He's a solid player. He's not doing things to get us beat. My expectations for him a little bit higher than the production I'm seeing."

--QB Matt Leinart has completed just 40 percent of his passes in his past two starts. He's had several passes dropped, but he also has not been sharp.
--OG Deuce Lutui will start for the second consecutive week on the right side. Lutui's strength is run blocking, but his pass protection skills are improving.
--NT Kendrick Clancy is expected to return after missing three games with an ankle injury. That should help the run defense, which has been porous the past two weeks.
--WR Larry Fitzgerald is expected to return after missing three games with a hamstring pull. Fitzgerald might not be 100 percent, however, and coaches might limit his playing time.
--FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo is doubtful for the Dallas game because of a leg contusion. A.J. Schable had been used as a short-yardage back, but he's back working as a defensive end in practice. Coach Dennis Green wouldn't say who would play blocking back in short yardage situations.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens acknowledged that he hasn't lived up to expectations so far.
Certainly he has had a season filled with drama, considering the accidental overdose, the fights with receivers coach Todd Haley over his involvement and the litany of dropped passes.
Owens has been good with 44 catches and six touchdowns, but he was expected to be great.
The capper came last Sunday when Owens dropped a potential 74-yard touchdown pass that would have given the Cowboys a victory against the Redskins.
Owens said he lost the game and that he owes the Cowboys one. He vowed that he will more than make up for it in the second half of the season.
"It'll be something personal," he said. "I won't be standing here again saying I lost the game for the team. I promise you that."
Owens blames his first-half problems on not being involved in the offense and dealing with a hamstring injury and a broken hand. He says the broken hand was to blame for the drops but said he wasn't going to make excuses.
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells acknowledged that the team expected more.
"I know we're ready to get everybody under the bus, but I'm not going to do it," Parcells said. "Let's just say he's made a pretty good contribution, and I'm hoping we can get better in the second half."
Owens said he will be better partly because he has a good relationship with new quarterback Tony Romo.
He has 20 catches and three touchdowns since Romo took over 2 1/2 games ago.
"I think the first six games of the season, I was just out there," Owens said. "I really wasn't involved. But now, I'm involved. I expect to get the ball. It's coming. It's coming."

The Cardinals hope receiver Larry Fitzgerald's return from a hamstring injury provides a jump-start to an offense that's produced almost nothing the past two games.
Fitzgerald has missed three games because of the injury. With him gone, opponents have been able to concentrate on stopping receiver Anquan Boldin, who has seen more double coverage, bracketing and combination coverage than in previous weeks.
With Fitzgerald, the team is more likely to use an abundance of three- and four-receiver sets than in past weeks. Even before Fitzgerald's injury, the Cardinals were relying more on their tight ends and fullback.
Still, they couldn't run the ball. It's hard to say what the offensive plan for the second half of the season will be, but it's likely the team will return to its roots: three- and four-receivers set. It will spread the defense out and try to move Boldin around to create favorable matchups.
If that works, it could open things up for the ground game and running back Edgerrin James.
The Cardinals think they cleared up some of their emotional problems with a players-only meeting Monday. The players have raved about the quality of practices the past few days and said there has been increased attention to detail.

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Tennessee Titans (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Steve Beuerlein
SERIES: 15th meeting. The series is tied, 7-7. The Ravens have won two of the past three meetings, but they lost last year in Tennessee, 25-10. The Ravens didn't gain a first down in the first half, which defined their troublesome day. Punter Dave Zastudil had a punt blocked in the end zone for a safety, and quarterback Anthony Wright had an interception returned for a touchdown.
2006 rankings: Ravens: offense 25th (20th rush, 22nd pass); defense 3rd (2nd rush, 13th pass). Titans: offense 28th (12th rush, 29th pass); defense 32nd (31st rush, 14th pass)

PREDICTION: Ravens 20-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Ravens haven't become more exotic with coach Brian Billick calling the plays the past two games. In fact, they've become more consistent on the ground with RB Jamal Lewis averaging 22.5 carries compared to 16 under deposed offensive coordinator Jim Fassel. The Titans can expect more of the same until their offense proves it can move the ball. Titans rookie QB Vince Young suffered through his worst outing last weekend, and the Ravens have the ability to bring the most complex blitz packages he has seen to date. Baltimore leads the league with 25 takeaways, and Young can't afford to contribute more to the cause with the Titans facing a very small margin for error in order just to be competitive Sunday.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Face only two more teams that currently have winning records. ... QB Steve McNair has won 21 of his past 32 November starts. Titans: Jeff Fisher will coach his 200th game for the team. ... WR Drew Bennett needs nine receptions to tie RB Eddie George (259) for ninth place in franchise history.

--LB Ray Lewis missed his second consecutive practice with a back injury, but the Ravens remain optimistic that he'll start. "He's getting better," coach Brian Billick said.
--S Ed Reed (neck) returned to participate in drills Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice. He is expected to start Sunday.
--K Matt Stover has converted 34 consecutive field goals, which is the third-longest streak in NFL history. He tied a season-high last Sunday with four field goals.
--RB Jamal Lewis hopes to add on to his meager touchdown total Sunday. The Ravens are showing more of a commitment to the run and have stressed running the ball better in the red zone.
--CB Chris McAlister has four interceptions at the midway point of the season, which is a surprising total. His highest interception total in any season was five, which came when he was a rookie in 1999.

--QB Vince Young will be working against a starting secondary for Baltimore that has accounted for 10 of the Ravens' 17 interceptions this season.
--WR David Givens plans to play against Baltimore on Sunday wearing a protective brace on his surgically repaired left thumb.
--LB David Thornton has a torn tendon in his right shoulder and will play only in situational packages against Baltimore.
--LB Stephen Tulloch will start for the second week in a row at middle linebacker with OLB David Thornton reduced to situational work. Peter Sirmon will play Thornton's spot in the base defense, with Tulloch manning Sirmon's slot.
--LB Peter Sirmon will shift from middle to outside linebacker for the second week in a row in the base defense with David Thornton limited to situational play because of a shoulder injury.
--K Rob Bironas could be a key player Sunday against Baltimore, as two of the last three meetings between the teams were decided by a field goal or less.

Ronnie Prude has gone from an afterthought to a playmaker.
In his past two games, he has returned an interception for a touchdown and has broken up a fourth-down pass that helped seal a victory.
It was only a few months ago when the Ravens brought Prude in as an undrafted free agent from Louisiana State. He joined the Ravens as the sixth cornerback on the depth chart behind starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle as well as Corey Ivy, Derrick Martin and David Pittman.
It was at that point that Prude got motivated.
"Coming up in college, I always wanted to be the guy that people could count on to go out and make plays," Prude said. "When I came in, I had a chip on my shoulder to show people that I could be a great ballplayer and was going to be a great ballplayer."
Although his career is just beginning, Prude has emerged as a productive and valuable situational player for a veteran-laden defense.
Prude, 24, is tied for third on the team in interceptions with two and has broken up four total passes.
Prude, who lined up primarily at nickel back in place of the injured Ivy (kidney tear), appears to have secured his grip as the team's best young cornerback.
"The guy's just really ready," McAlister said. "It's something we expected, but at the same time, you don't expect it from a guy who hasn't been up, who hasn't really been thrown into the mix. But to see him go out there and play the way he did just lets you know that if something happens in our secondary, we have the guys that are capable of coming in and filling those shoes."
Prude's progress is somewhat of a surprise considering that he went undrafted in April and wasn't invited to either the scouting combine or college all-star games, which tends to raise red flags among NFL talent evaluators.
But Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of college scouting, said that the staff was impressed by the 5-foot-11, 178-pound cornerback's feistiness and was not dissuaded by Prude's blown coverage of a Hail Mary pass that cost the Tigers the Capital One Bowl against Iowa on Jan. 1, 2005.
"That was only one play, but I think that one play, in some people's eyes, defined Ronnie Prude. That wasn't the case for us," DeCosta said. "A lot of guys are like pretty girls. They're tall, they look good, they run fast, but they don't make plays. ... He's a finisher. He makes plays. He's just got a knack for getting his hands on the ball. We've seen that."
Yet the Ravens drafted two cornerbacks -- David Pittman from Northwestern State in the third round and Derrick Martin from Wyoming in the sixth -- before signing Prude to a free agent deal. Undeterred, Prude worked his way up the depth chart, eventually overtaking the team's draft choices.
Then Prude suffered a lapse in confidence, and linebacker Bart Scott, also an undrafted rookie, sat down with Prude for a chat.
"It helped a lot, just knowing that here's a guy that was in a similar situation who was coming up to me and could see the same things that I was going through," Prude said. "He just took me under his wings and helped me out. I'm grateful for that."

Stephen Tulloch is expected to start at middle linebacker for the second game in a row as David Thornton said his injured right shoulder will limit him to work in situational packages.
Thornton played only a handful of snaps in nickel in Jacksonville and said he expects he'll have the same role Sunday against Baltimore. Which means Tulloch, a rookie, will man the middle against the Ravens, with Peter Sirmon back outside in the Titans' base defense.
"I hadn't had more than two snaps a game, to have 50 snaps this past week was great experience for me," Tulloch said. "Now I have a game under my belt, I can perform at this level, no excuses."
Coach Jeff Fisher indicated that Tulloch will play a role in slowing down tight end Todd Heap and will maintain jobs on special teams.
Meanwhile, Thornton sounded encouraged about improvement in his shoulder.
He said he tore a tore a tendon in his rotator cuff while playing against Houston on Oct. 29. While it could ultimately require surgery, Thornton said his doctor was impressed with his progress in rehabilitation so far.

Buffalo Bills (3-5) at Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross
SERIES: 65th meeting. Buffalo Bills lead the series, 34-29-1. The series originated during the 1970 (with the game ending 17-17 tie at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium) season when both franchises were members of the AFC East. The teams met twice a season from 1970 until the Colts left for the AFC South prior to the 2002 season. Indianapolis has won the past five meetings.
2006 rankings: Bills: offense 30th (22nd rush, 31st pass); defense 18th (19th rush, 19th pass). Colts: offense 2nd (21st rush, 1st pass); defense 20th (32nd rush, 3rd pass)

PREDICTION: Colts 30-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: Without RB Willis McGahee and third WR Josh Reed, the Bills have to find a way to keep the game competitive. With the Colts ranked last in run defense and 31st in third-down defense, the onus falls on RB Anthony Thomas to move the chains and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands as long as possible. The Bills must also get an efficient game from QB J.P. Losman, and it will be interesting to see how the offensive line that was jumbled two weeks ago holds up against a Colts defense that hasn't generated the same pass rush as recent seasons. The first quarter has been the lowest scoring one for Indianapolis, so it's critical for the Bills to keep it close and give themselves a chance going into the fourth quarter, where the Colts have scored 74 points in eight games.

FAST FACTS: Bills: DE Aaron Schobel is third in franchise history with 53.5 career sacks. ... Losman has eight touchdown passes in his last six road games. Colts: Seek to become first team in NFL history to begin consecutive seasons 9-0. ... WR Reggie Wayne has 23 receptions for 350 yards and four touchdowns the past three games.

--SS Donte Whitner has been charged with harassment for an alleged domestic dispute involving his girlfriend last weekend. The team said in a statement it is investigating and will adhere to the NFL's personal-conduct policy. Whitner will play at Indianapolis on Sunday. He declined comment Thursday.
--OL Duke Preston, a key reserve at center and guard, was added to the injury report with a twisted left ankle. The injury leaves Buffalo's line extremely thin with veteran OG Tutan Reyes still nursing a shoulder ailment. The only other backups are rookies.
--CB Nate Clements faces a big test Sunday against Indianapolis WR Marvin Harrison, who has a long history of hurting the Bills. In 13 career games against Buffalo, the Pro Bowler has 59 catches for 810 yards and nine touchdowns.
--QB J.P. Losman, who has been sacked 26 times, second most in the NFL, should have time to make some throws against Indianapolis on Sunday. The Colts' pass rush ranks 30th with just 11 sacks as Pro Bowl DE Dwight Freeney's numbers are down with just one-half sack so far.
--LB London Fletcher has started 94 consecutive games, third best among NFL linebackers. He is sixth in tackles with 70 and was named NFL Player of the Week by the Associated Press on Thursday for his 14-tackle, one-interception game against Green Bay.
--WR Sam Aiken, nursing a bad hamstring, was able to practice for a second consecutive day and remains probable. He's one of Buffalo's top special teams players but also will be needed on offense with Josh Reed (bruised kidney) out indefinitely.

--S Bob Sanders did not practice for a second day Thursday. Sanders has been experiencing some soreness in his right knee after returning to the Colts' defensive lineup in last week's win over New England. He had missed five games due to arthroscopic surgery on the knee in mid-September.
A final decision on his availability for Sunday's home game with Buffalo won't be made until Friday or Saturday. Sanders, however, wants to play this week.
--LB Gary Brackett did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not expected to play this week against the Bills. Brackett is recovering from a strained hamstring.
--LB Rob Morris has practiced the past two days and should be in the starting lineup against Buffalo. He would replace Gary Brackett (hamstring) at middle linebacker if Brackett is unable to go. Morris is a former first-round draft pick of the Colts (2000) who started 60 games from 2001-2004.
--DT Darrell Reid's availability for the Buffalo game won't be determined until Friday or Saturday. Reid broke a bone in the left index finger during last week's game at New England. He has not practiced this week.
--LB Keith O'Neil has yet to practice this week and is not expected to play against the Bills. O'Neil has been sidelined for the past two weeks after suffering a sprained left ankle against Washington.
--DE Robert Mathis missed Thursday's practice due to a sore knee. Mathis is expected to return to practice on Friday and be in the starting lineup against Buffalo on Sunday.
--WR Brandon Stokley will not play this week as he continues to recover from a sprained left knee. He was injured against Tennessee.
--DT Montae Reagor is out indefinitely as he recovers from injuries that he incurred in a traffic accident prior to the Washington game. He suffered a broken left orbital socket and received 35 stitches in the back of his head.

The Bills are banking on a strong running game to give themselves a fighting chance against the unbeaten Colts on Sunday.
The Colts rank last in the NFL in run defense, allowing a whopping 165.4 yards per game. The Bills rank 22nd in running the ball, averaging 100.8 yards per game.
Controlling the ball and limiting the opportunities for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the NFL's top-rated passer with 17 TD passes and just three interceptions, is a game plan many teams try to use.
Buffalo will be without starting running back Willis McGahee, who is sidelined indefinitely with three busted ribs, but veteran backup Anthony Thomas had a strong game in relief last week against the Packers with 95 yards on 20 carries.
Thomas benefited from some strong blocking from the revamped left side of Buffalo's offensive line featuring tackle Jason Peters and guard Mike Gandy. But the Bills also got a big game from fullback Daimon Shelton, Thomas' former teammate in Chicago. Shelton threw the key block on Thomas' game-clinching, 14-yard TD run.
"Shelton maybe had his best game. He was hitting people like I remember him hitting people at the two other places we've been together," said coach Dick Jauron, who was with the 262-pound battering ram in Jacksonville and Chicago. "That's no fun for the linebackers. He did a nice job and we got some movement, and that's what we need."

It usually takes one or two seasons before it can be determined how successful an NFL team's draft may have been.
But a quick glance at the Colts' 2006 roster and, more important, the team's depth chart would indicate that several members of this year's draft class have become major contributors quicker than many thought possible.
The rapid emergence of rookie running back Joseph Addai shouldn't come as a big surprise. Instead, it's been the consistent play of safety Antoine Bethea and, more recently, linebacker Freddy Keiaho that has caught the attention of more than a few people.
"Those guys have done really well. I think (cornerback) Tim Jennings is about ready to step in and give us some activity. (Defensive end) Ryan LaCasse has played well on special teams. So yeah, it has been a good group so far," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said.
"It's not unusual for a guy to just get better and better and really start coming on at the end of the year. It's more unusual to do what Antoine and Joseph have done, really play from opening day and play well. It's usually the other way around. When you are picking at the bottom of each round, it should be very difficult for guys to come in unless you've got some type of situation like where we lose (former Colts running back) Edgerrin (James) and you've got a chance for a guy to step in. But for the most part, if you're a good team, those guys should take a while to break in."
Addai, Indianapolis' first-round draft choice last April, continues to split time with starter Dominic Rhodes but has become the Colts' go-to back through the first eight games of the season.
He leads the team with 490 yards rushing in 105 carries (averaging 4.7 yards per carry) and has ran for a pair of touchdowns. His 19 pass receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown rank fourth on the team.
As for Bethea, the second of the team's two sixth-round selections, his success has been even more startling. While Addai came to Indianapolis from one of the nation's top football factories (Louisiana State), the 5-foot-11, 203-pound native of Savannah, Ga., attended college at Division I-AA Howard University.
"Antoine's played with a lot of poise for a first-year guy," Dungy said. "He's playing that free safety spot. We really liked his athleticism coming in and his demeanor and the fact that we thought he was going to be a ball-skills, takeaway guy.
"He really hasn't had as many (takeaways) as we thought he might have, but hopefully (the New England game) gets him jump-started. He's done a good job. He's communicated well in the secondary, he's been where he's supposed to be, he's getting better every week as a tackler, and overall, doing a very solid job for a rookie."
And then there's Keiaho. Indianapolis' third-round draft choice from San Diego State, the 5-11, 226-pounder missed a good portion of training camp after suffering a knee injury in the Colts' preseason opener at St. Louis.
Drafted primarily to be a special teams performer this year with the possibility of making a move into the starting lineup at outside linebacker by his second year, Keiaho was pushed into a more prominent role in last week's win over the Patriots.
"Freddy did some physical things well," Dungy said. "Naturally, he's not going to be in the right place all of the time, but (he's) making tackles, running around, dropping and showing his quickness, and just basically playing ball. He did a good job. If he has to play (middle linebacker), he'll be better this week because he'll know where he's going a little bit more."

Cleveland Browns (2-6) at Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 12th meeting. The Browns lead the series 9-2. The Browns and Falcons have met only one time since 1993 in a game won by the Browns 24-16 in 2002.
2006 rankings: Browns: offense 29th (31st rush, 25th pass); defense 17th (29th rush, 6th pass). Falcons: offense 9th (1st rush, 30th pass); defense 22nd (12th rush, 31st pass)

PREDICTION: Falcons 27-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: It's no secret that the Falcons will attempt to pound away at the Browns, who are allowing 142.9 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Cleveland was torched for 190 yards by the league's No. 2 rushing attack in San Diego last weekend and must do a better job of plugging the gaps against the Falcons' top-ranked running game averaging 205.1 yards per game. SS Sean Jones will have to help in run support, meaning FS Brian Russell will often be the last line of defense when QB Michael Vick attempts to burn the Browns over-playing the run. Offensively, the Browns are still seeking improved line play to help keep QB Charlie Frye upright. The Falcons have had coverage issues, but Frye can't exploit them unless given time, and he has to get rid of the ball before taking unnecessary sacks that kill drives.

FAST FACTS: Browns: Rookie LB Kamerion Wimbley leads the team with 4.5 sacks. ... Have won seven of the past eight meetings. Falcons: Are 8-2 against the AFC under coach Jim Mora. ... Rookie RB Jerious Norwood leads the NFL with 268 fourth-quarter rushing yards.

--TE Kellen Winslow continues to be listed as questionable on the weekly injury report, but come game time Winslow shows up. He has 51 catches, the highest total in the league for a tight end.
--OT Ryan Tucker returned from a two-week absence caused by an undisclosed illness and immediately returned to the starting lineup. Tucker's presence should help the pass protection a bit, provided he's physically ready to play after missing two games.
--QB Charlie Frye may have the right opponent if he wants to rebound from a bad game in San Diego. Atlanta is ranked 31st in the league in pass defense.
--CB Leigh Bodden will not play against Atlanta due to a high ankle sprain. Bodden's absence will be felt, but the Browns have covered up absences in the secondary fairly well all season.
--CB Daven Holly should return after missing a game with an illness. Holly has filled in capably all season after being signed late in training camp.

--CB Jimmy Williams, who will start in place of Jason Webster (groin), tweaked his ankle during special teams drills and did not practice Thursday. Though listed as questionable, he is expected to play Sunday.
--CB DeAngelo Hall did not practice because of a sore hamstring. He is listed as questionable, and Hall said his hamstring is really bothering him. Though it seems likely that Hall will play, the injury will be worth monitoring Friday and Saturday.
--MLB Ed Hartwell's return seems unlikely Sunday. He has not practiced this week as he continues to rehabilitate his arthroscopically repaired knees, which became irritated after he tried to play in consecutive games after missing the season's first five games.
--LG Matt Lehr, suspended for four games for violating the NFL's steroid policy, will return to practice Monday. His starting left guard spot is not assured, as P.J. Alexander, signed as a "street" free agent, has played well. Lehr could be used as the swing guard who is able to backup both guard spots.
--TB Jerious Norwood (strained right knee) did not practice Thursday. This could result in starter Warrick Dunn carrying a heavy load. It also would affect Atlanta's special teams, since Norwood is one of the top kickoff coverage players and the second deep kickoff return man. Of the Falcons listed as questionable -- excluding MLB Ed Hartwell -- Norwood seems the most unlikely to play against Cleveland.

Charlie Frye has the second-highest interception total in the league. Only Ben Roethlisberger, with 14 interceptions, has thrown more to the other team than Frye, who has been picked off 12 times.
But the Browns are not giving up on Frye, perhaps because they know that half of Frye's interceptions were not all his fault.
Four bounced off the hands of Browns receivers and into the hands of the other team, and one was tipped at the line and into the air.
Another occurred because Frye was hit as he threw.
The Browns are not giving up on Frye as the team's quarterback.
"I'm still confident in Charlie and his abilities," coach Romeo Crennel said. "I think he will be a good quarterback for us and make us a winning team. I'm confident in that."
Intangibles remain the main reason for Crennel's feeling.
"He has good leadership ability, which you need," Crennel said. "He's got toughness and his teammates rally around him. You need that, too. He is adequate with his skills as a quarterback.
"All of those things can make him a winner."

For the second time in less than a week, the Falcons were stung by a major injury.
Starting right cornerback Jason Webster suffered a torn groin at practice Wednesday and is expected to miss at least a month. It was not disclosed whether surgery was recommended.
Rookie Jimmy Williams will start in Webster's place Sunday against Cleveland and for the foreseeable future.
Webster is the second of Atlanta's top five defensive backs to suffer a major injury this week, and the unit's lack of depth is suddenly a significant issue. Safety/nickel back Kevin Mathis fractured his neck in Sunday's 30-14 loss to Detroit and was placed on injured reserve.
Williams was to replace Mathis as the nickel back but now he has been thrust into the role he was being groomed to assume, although ideally not yet. Williams has seen very little action at cornerback, except in packages where offenses utilized two-end sets.
Allen Rossum, who returns punts and kickoffs, will be used at nickel back. The Falcons would rather not use Rossum in nickel packages because it could wear him down for special teams, but they have been forced into making this move, which could last through the regular season.
Recently signed safety Lance Schulters was expected to be slowly eased into the system, but he might be pressed now in case there is another injury to the secondary.

Green Bay Packers (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (4-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 91st meeting. The Vikings lead the series 45-44-1. The teams are actually at a 44-44-1 stalemate in the regular season, but Minnesota won the NFC North rivals' lone postseason encounter, 31-17 at Green Bay in the NFC wild-card round during the 2004 season. The Vikings have won the last three meetings, earning their first series sweep last season since 1998. The Packers, though, have won two of the last three games at the Metrodome.
2006 rankings: Packers: offense 10th (11th rush, 7th pass); defense 21st (10th rush, 32nd pass). Vikings: offense 19th (14th rush, 18th pass); defense 6th (1st rush, 18th pass)

PREDICTION: Vikings 23-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Vikings are ever going to get their moribund passing attack going, it should be at home against the league's No. 32-ranked pass defense. The Packers are much stronger against the run, but the Vikings will still attempt to establish RB Chester Taylor early on because QB Brad Johnson has six turnovers in the past two games. Plus, Green Bay's own running game has improved with RB Ahman Green rushing for a combined 346 yards on 5.6 yards per carry the past three games. Still, the Vikings are extremely difficult to run against and QB Brett Favre will have to make plays in the passing game for the Packers to win. Vikings rookie CB Cedric Griffin will start if Fred Smoot (death in the family) doesn't make it back in time for the game.

FAST FACTS: The past four regular-season meetings have been decided by a field goal as time expired. Packers: DE Aaron Kampman leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks and has at least one in five consecutive games. ... Rookie OLB A.J. Hawk leads the team with 73 tackles, and has at least six in every game. Vikings: Outscoring opponents 59-19 in the fourth quarter. ... Taylor is averaging 102.5 rushing yards over the past four games.

--WR Greg Jennings didn't practice for the second consecutive day and remains questionable for Sunday's game at Minnesota. The rookie starter aggravated a sprained right ankle in the last game. Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that the team was aiming to have Jennings practice Friday before a determination is made on his status for the game. First-year player Ruvell Martin would start if Jennings is held out.
--CB Charles Woodson, who has a lingering bruised left knee, has yet to practice this week and is questionable for Sunday. Woodson might practice Friday. The team took the same course of action with the starter last week, keeping him out of practice until Friday before clearing him for the game. Patrick Dendy, the team's nickel back, stands to be the starting replacement if Woodson can't play.
--RB Ahman Green, as expected, returned to practice Thursday. Green is on the injury report as probable because of knee soreness, but he's expected to make the start Sunday. The team has resorted to resting Green on Wednesdays to preserve his legs.
--TE Bubba Franks was back at practice Thursday after missing a day because of an injury to his left wrist. Franks is probable for Sunday and should be in the starting lineup.
--MLB Nick Barnett rejoined the team and practiced after being excused Wednesday for a personal matter.
--DT Johnny Jolly practiced after being out Wednesday. The rookie backup is probable with an ankle injury.
--RB Vernand Morency likely won't play for the second consecutive game because of a lower back injury. He hasn't practiced this week and is doubtful for Sunday. Noah Herron will continue as the top understudy to Green, while recently signed rookie P.J. Pope will be available as the No. 3 back.
--FB Brandon Miree remains doubtful for the game because of a hyperextended left elbow. William Henderson likely will start in Miree's absence for the second consecutive game.

--CB Fred Smoot is spending the week in Mississippi after the death of his half-brother on Sunday in a car accident. The funeral is Saturday, so there is a chance Smoot won't play against the Packers. Rookie Cedric Griffin would start in Smoot's place.
--C Norm Katnik was signed to the practice squad. The Vikings released G C.J. Brooks for the second time this season to make room for Katnik, a second-year player out of USC.
--WR Marcus Robinson (lower back) has missed two consecutive games and did not practice again Thursday. He is making progress in his rehab and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
--MLB Napoleon Harris has not practiced this week because of a dislocated wrist and could miss a second game Sunday. He is listed as questionable. Dontarrious Thomas would start again if Harris can't go.
--DE Darrion Scott hasn't practiced this week because of a high left ankle sprain and is listed as questionable. He is able to get around without crutches.
--FB Tony Richardson missed a portion of practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of a fractured right thumb but said he would be fine to play Sunday.
--NT Pat Williams missed a portion of practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of a sore knee. He is listed as questionable. However, Williams also spent last week on the injury report, and he was able to play against San Francisco.
--DT Kevin Williams played despite a high left ankle sprain last Sunday and is listed as probable for the Green Bay game. The Vikings are simply being cautious with him in practice.
--C Matt Birk has a sore neck and has sat out portions of practice the past two days. However, he is listed as probable.
--S Will Hunter had lower back spasm that have caused him to miss part of the last two practices. He is listed as probable for the Packers game.

Until the Packers secondary finally sorts out its season-long communication problems, the defense is relying on its line to make some disruptive noise for opposing offenses.
The Packers are on pace at the midway point of the season to break the club record of 52 sacks generated by the 2001 team. They have 27 thus far, with 21 by linemen.
"When everybody wants to talk about (the shortcomings of the) pass coverage, the best course of pass coverage is pass rush," coach Mike McCarthy said. "So, I think you're seeing improvement in both those areas, and it really has nipped the explosive gains down. They have been taken away pretty much the last two games."
Indeed, the defense allowed all of three pass plays of at least 16 yards, which fall under the team's "explosive" umbrella, in the recent games against Arizona and Buffalo. That's a drastic improvement from the 44 explosive completions yielded in the first six games.
The only big hitter the Bills managed through the air last Sunday was a 43-yard touchdown pass from J.P. Losman to Lee Evans in the fourth quarter, which spurred them to a 24-10 victory. Miscommunication among the defensive backs was to blame for the play. Cornerback Al Harris played the route as though the coverage was Cover 2 and allowed Evans to get 10 yards behind him when the ball was thrown. The would-be safety help never arrived because Charles Woodson, moved from cornerback to safety on the play, took another receiver on an inside route in an apparent quarters coverage.
The costly completion overshadowed another strong effort by the guys up front. The Packers sacked Losman five times and have 14 sacks in the last three games.
End Aaron Kampman leads the league with 9.5 sacks, and tackle Corey Williams has five on the strength of a career-high three last weekend.
As the 3-5 Packers head to 4-4 Minnesota for a key rivalry game Sunday, first-year coach McCarthy attributed the frequency of the sacks in part to the quickness of the linemen.
"I look at the lines that were here before. I don't think they were asked to do what they're asked to do now," he said. "I don't think that's saying that they couldn't do it, but the quickness, particularly in our line play, is a strength of ours than maybe more in the past. That's the way we want to go."

Vikings running back Chester Taylor was limited in practice for a second consecutive day Thursday and is listed as questionable on the team's injury report.
Taylor has said he will play Sunday against the Packers, but coach Brad Childress acknowledged his decision to limit the veteran's reps wasn't just for rest.
"It's not a freshen-up," Childress said. "He's having trouble moving around. ... We need to keep our eye on him."
The fact Taylor is beat up comes as no surprise. After four seasons as a backup in Baltimore, Taylor signed as a free agent with Minnesota so he could be a workhorse back like his former teammate Jamal Lewis.
The Vikings certainly have delivered on their promise to use Taylor as a focal point of their offense. He is third in the NFL in combined rushing attempts and receptions with 205 touches (173 rushes and 32 catches). Only Kansas City running back Larry Johnson (226 total) and San Diego running back LaDanian Tomlinson (206) have had their hands on the ball more.
In the Vikings' loss to San Francisco on Sunday, Taylor touched the ball a season-high 34 times. He said nothing in particular happened in that game to land him on the injury report.
"Playing running back, you're going to get banged up every week," he said. "It isn't just one game, it's the whole season. (Childress is) just trying to keep me healthy because we've got eight more weeks."
Taylor, who is fourth in the NFL with 708 rushing yards, already has exceeded his previous single-season high for carries. He had 160 with Baltimore in 2004, 13 fewer than he has through eight games.
Taylor said getting some rest from practices in the second half of the season might be a good idea. "I feel like so I could be able to play on Sunday, the best thing to do is rest me during the week," he said. "I don't have a problem with that. I've just got to stay mentally focused on it."

Houston Texans (2-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: CBS, Craig Bolerjack, Rich Baldinger
SERIES: 10th meeting. The Houston Texans lead the series 5-4, but they haven't won a road game in their past 12 tries. Their last victory in Jacksonville was when they pitched their only shutout 21-0 on the day after Christmas 2004.
2006 rankings: Texans: offense 24th (28th rush, 15th pass); defense 28th (25th rush, 23rd pass). Jaguars: offense 21st (6th rush, 26th pass); defense 7th (11th rush, 7th pass)

PREDICTION: Jaguars 30-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Texans won the first meeting, 27-7, on Oct. 22, but that was in Houston and against Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich. The rematch is on the road, where Houston has lost a team-record 12 consecutive games, and the more mobile David Garrard has taken over for Leftwich. Still, the Jaguars' receivers are inconsistent and this remains a run-first offense. The Texans' first priority is to keep the game close with the Jaguars having won their past two home games by a combined score of 78-7. To do that, Houston must get a strong effort from rookie RB Wali Lundy and cannot afford to lose the turnover battle. QB David Carr did a good job of using his feet when pressured last weekend, but the Texans are still lacking an attack that can keep the team in high-scoring games.

FAST FACTS: Texans: Have won four of the past seven meetings. ... WR Andre Johnson has had at least eight receptions in six consecutive games. Jaguars: Are 4-0 at home. ... Garrard has won his past five starts.

--DT Lional Dalton missed practice again Thursday with a twisted ankle. His status for Sunday will be decided before the game.
--DE Mario Williams returned -- along with a number of other defensive linemen -- to practice Thursday. They missed Wednesday's because of an illness they caught from the Giants during last Sunday's game.
--WR Andre Johnson has a league-best 65 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns.
--LB DeMeco Ryans is ranked fourth in the NFL with 73 tackles.
--QB David Carr has nine touchdown passes and two touchdown rushes.

--DT John Henderson remained questionable with a hamstring injury and didn't practice Thursday.
--CB Rashean Mathis remained questionable with a hamstring injury and didn't practice Thursday.
--S Donovin Darius remained questionable with an ankle injury and didn't practice Thursday.
--TE George Wrighster was added to the injury report as questionable with a back injury and didn't practice Thursday.
--DT Marcus Stroud remained doubtful with an ankle injury and is likely to miss his fifth consecutive game.

The Texans have reached the midway point of coach Gary Kubiak's first season, and the players might learn something from the wisdom of defensive end N.D. Kalu.
Kalu, a 10-year veteran, found nothing beneficial in Sunday's 14-10 loss to the Giants.
"I hope people don't feel good because we lost by only four points," Kalu said. "Because the bottom line is that we're 2-6, and we should be embarrassed."
Embarrassed and disappointed are indeed fitting descriptions for the Texans, who are one of eight NFL teams with a 2-6 record. Only the Cardinals (1-7) have a worse record.
"I wanted to be a lot further along from that standpoint," Kubiak said about having only two victories.
Some positive things can be said about the Texans up to this point:
--They've won one more game than at this time last season, which they finished an NFL-worst 2-14.
--They've rebounded from an 0-3 start to go 2-3, including six- and four-point road losses to the Titans and the Giants.
--They've got a rookie class, led by defensive end Mario Williams and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, that is being recognized as one of the best in the league.
--Quarterback David Carr has improved but still has a long way to go.
--Their defense has made significant progress over the past five games.
"I'm not happy with our record, but I'm excited about where I think we're going," owner Bob McNair said. "We've played a very tough schedule, and I think that's got something to do with our record.
"But if we keep playing like we did against the Giants, I think we're going to win some games. I don't know how many, of course, but I truly believe we're going to win some games."
Ideally, the Texans would win Sunday at Jacksonville, where they last won a road game on Dec. 26, 2004. They've got a 12-game losing streak away from Reliant Stadium.

Fred Taylor is sticking to his "guarantee."
He said Sunday that the Jaguars would beat the Texans this week. When the Houston writers asked him about the comment in a conference call Wednesday, he said, "I just feel confident in our team. I guess that day I was feeling like Muhammad Ali. He always did those type things, and that sort of stuff made him great."
Taylor was asked about Ali in the Jaguars locker room Thursday, and he said, "He was the greatest boxer, and that's what made him great, taking chances. You've got to speak your mind. In sports, you've got to expect to win."
Taylor noted he didn't use the word guarantee, but he did say this game would be different than the Jaguars' 27-7 loss "because we won't lose this time."
He wasn't taking the words back Thursday.
"I'm not backing down from it. It makes it more fun. They're going to come after me and hit me," he said.
Texans defensive end Antwan Peek told the Houston Chronicle, "I guarantee he's going to get hit."
Taylor shrugged that off, saying, "They're going to hit me anyway."
Taylor doesn't care if the Texans use the comment as motivation. "That bulletin board material is overrated. If you need that as motivation, you're playing the wrong sport," he said.
After the teams' first meeting, Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu said that assistant coach Mike Sherman told the players the Jaguars disrespected them by dancing on their logo at midfield. Taylor said the Jaguars dance in the end zone in their warm-ups, not at midfield.
"That was a ploy to motivate the team, kind of like Jack (Del Rio) mentioning the Ron Jaworski thing a couple of times," Taylor said. Jaworski had called the Jaguars a "weak-minded" team.
"I don't need that to get me ready," Taylor said.
Taylor added that he wouldn't use his fumble late in the third quarter of the first game as motivation.
"I just go out there and do whatever I can to help the team," he said.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) at Miami Dolphins (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 5th regular-season meeting. Series tied 2-2. Last year, the Chiefs and Dolphins played in Miami on a Friday night because of a potential hurricane over the weekend, with the Chiefs winning 30-20.
2006 rankings: Chiefs: offense 14th (9th rush, 17th pass); defense 13th (16th rush, 12th pass). Dolphins: offense 16th (24th rush, 10th pass); defense 4th (14th rush, 4th pass)

PREDICTION: Dolphins 24-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins have to continue to feature the running game that showed signs of life with RB Ronnie Brown rushing for 157 yards in Chicago last weekend because they know the Chiefs' offense will attempt to ram it down their throats. Chiefs QB Damon Huard has 11 touchdowns and just one interception, but that's in large part because RB Larry Johnson has made his job easier by averaging 106.9 rushing yards in Huard's seven starts -- and a combined 449 the past three games. If Johnson is rumbling freely early on, it sets up the play-action to TE Tony Gonzalez that has been so effective in recent games. The key for Miami is to establish a good run-pass balance offensively, keep the game close and hope to steal the victory in the fourth quarter.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs: Are 14-4 when Johnson rushes for at least 100 yards. ... Gonzalez's 59 touchdown receptions are a franchise record. Dolphins: WR Chris Chambers has a combined 10 catches for 73 yards in the first halves of games and 23 for 284 yards and all four of his touchdowns in the second halves. ... TE Randy McMichael needs four receptions to break Bruce Hardy's franchise record of 256 catches by a tight end.

--FS Greg Wesley remains truly questionable with a shoulder injury, but he was able to participate in some of the Thursday practice.
--S Jarrad Page could get his first start and most extensive game time of his first NFL season if he has to replace injured FS Greg Wesley against Miami. Page has played mainly in situational defenses this year.
--G Chris Bober is the likely starter at left guard (replacing Brian Waters) against Miami. However, coach Herm Edwards is playing coy with the possibility that John Welbourn, who played mostly guard in Philadelphia before moving to tackle upon joining the Chiefs in 2004, also could either start or play extensively there. Welbourn played both tackle positions last week against St. Louis in his first game back from an NFL suspension.
--DE Tamba Hali, sidelined by a hip pointer for the second half of the win in St. Louis last week, worked out again Thursday and is considered probable for this week's Miami game.

--Rookie DL Rodrique Wright began practice this week and has changed positions from tackle to end. The Dolphins have less than three weeks to decide to add him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve/non-football injury list. Wright underwent shoulder surgery after the draft and has since lost 20 pounds.
--LB Zach Thomas, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday because of a migraine headache, participated fully Thursday and is ready to take on the Chiefs and punishing RB Larry Johnson. Thomas is expected to play in his 156th career game Sunday, the most by any Dolphins defender, passing Tim Bowens' 155.
--DE Kevin Carter, who has never missed a game in his 12-year career, has also never scored a touchdown and is jealous of fellow defensive end Jason Taylor, who notched his sixth career touchdown with an interception return last week against the Bears. "He has a knack for scoring touchdowns. I don't know how he does it. None, never in my life. It's a sore subject," Carter screamed in jest.
--QB Joey Harrington finally got his first win since joining the Dolphins with Sunday's victory over the Bears. He became the 21st quarterback to notch at least one win for the franchise.
--WR Chris Chambers extended his consecutive game streak with at least one catch to 55 games, but he is still struggling in the early parts of games. Chambers had two catches for 11 yards in the first half against the Bears, and he also dropped two passes. He finished with five catches for 58 yards, including a game-securing 24-yard touchdown grab. Chambers has 17 catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns in the first three quarters, and 16 catches for 247 yards with four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Add starting strong-side linebacker Derrick Johnson and right tackle Kevin Sampson to the list of Chiefs who won't play in this week's game at Miami.
That list already includes Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters, who sustained a sprained knee in last week's win over St. Louis, and quarterback Trent Green, who for a second consecutive week will suit up and be the team's inactive third quarterback even though he's not been medically cleared to play.
Coach Herm Edwards on Thursday ruled out Johnson, the second-year player who sustained an ankle injury early in the win over the Rams. Sampson, the starter at right tackle, missed the St. Louis game with an ankle injury.
Replacing Sampson won't be anything new to veteran tackle Kyle Turley, just as replacing Waters won't be anything new to the two veterans who could play left guard -- Chris Bober or John Welbourn.
But jumping into the starting lineup will be a new experience for replacement linebacker Keyaron Fox, who will make his first NFL start after playing in 14 games over his previous two seasons in Kansas City.
"He did OK last week in having to play a lot for the first time," coach Herm Edwards said of Fox, who played in only two games last year before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
"But there's a lot of mental anxiety involved when you go from playing 10 plays a game to 50. There's a big difference between being a starter and a role player. The mental part of playing down after down is hard on a young player. They misfire, they miscue and the computer gets overheated. There's a difference between being on the sideline wishing you could play, or playing eight plays and saying, 'I should be the starter.'
"Sometimes you get your wish and become the starter. And sometimes you get exposed. The mentally tough teams win when young players step up when they have to play. We're going to find out about a lot of our (young) guys this week."

Although the Dolphins are certainly familiar with Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard, they seem far more concerned with containing running back Larry Johnson.
Johnson, who is third in the NFL with 816 rushing yards, second in multipurpose yards (1,145) and second in touchdowns (11), has allowed Huard to be more effective while managing the game efficiently (11 touchdowns and one interception).
"(Johnson) has cutback ability, able to change directions. He's big, tough, strong and fast, so basically, all things you need to be a great running back, he's got," Dolphins defensive end Kevin Carter said. "If you can't stop the run, then you can't win in this league."
Unless of course, you're the undefeated Colts, who have the 32nd-ranked run defense but also have quarterback Peyton Manning to counteract that.
The Dolphins are ranked 14th in run defense, but they are fourth in yards per carry (allowing 3.4). Johnson gained 93 yards on 23 carries in his only meeting against the Dolphins last year, a 30-20 Kansas City victory at Dolphin Stadium.
"We pride ourselves on our front three guys, the guys that do all the grunt work, and we've got some good tacklers behind the D-line," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "It will be a good test for us."

New York Jets (4-4) at New England Patriots (6-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 92nd meeting. Jets lead, 47-44-1. The Jets hold a slim three-game lead in the all-time regular-season series but that margin is shrinking every time the teams have met recently. The Patriots have beaten their AFC East foes seven times in a row, including a 24-17 victory in Week 2 this season.
2006 rankings: Jets: offense 22nd (13th rush, 23rd pass); defense 31st (30th rush, 22nd pass). Patriots: offense 11th (7th rush, 13th pass); defense 12th (3rd rush, 28th pass)

PREDICTION: Patriots 31-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: To snap a seven-game losing streak in the series, the Jets have to turn the tide in the running game on both sides of the ball. They fell behind 24-0 in the first meeting and the Patriots were able to hold onto the victory by out-rushing the Jets 147-51. The Jets haven't rushed for more than 55 yards in the past four meetings, but rookie RB Leon Washington has emerged as a factor in recent weeks. If he can be productive on early downs, it will set QB Chad Pennington up for shots downfield off play-action against a secondary minus injured S Rodney Harrison. New England's offensive game plan has been pass-heavy the past two weeks, but expect the Patriots to lean on RBs Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney until the Jets' 30th-ranked run defense proves it can stop the ground game.

FAST FACTS: Jets: Coach Eric Mangini was an assistant for New England from 2000-05. ... Pennington is 7-3 (.700) in November as a starter. Patriots: Have won 15 of their last 17 games against the AFC East. ... Are 4-0 all-time in games immediately following a game in which QB Tom Brady has thrown three or more interceptions.

--QB Chad Pennington is listed as probable with a calf injury. He will play Sunday.
--WR Laveranues Coles (calf) was limited in practice Thursday, but he will play Sunday.
--RB Cedric Houston (knee) was limited in practice Thursday but could play Sunday. He has missed the past four games.
--WR Justin McCareins (foot) was limited in practice Thursday. His role in the offense has shrunk, as he has just one catch in the past six games.
--RB Kevan Barlow (calf) practiced Thursday and is listed as probable. His carries could diminish even more once Cedric Houston gets back on the field.

--TE Daniel Graham, who has missed the Patriots' past four games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
--G Stephen Neal (shoulder) has missed two games in a row and is listed as questionable for this week's matchup with the Jets.
--S Eugene Wilson (hamstring) is questionable for Sunday's game. Wilson didn't play against he Colts but would be a welcome addition to the Patriots secondary this week with S Rodney Harrison out.
--RB Laurence Maroney (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Maroney was on the injury report last week with the same injury, but it didn't hinder him against the Colts.
--DL Richard Seymour injured his elbow in Buffalo but has started the Patriots' past two games. He's listed as questionable for Sunday.

New England's best defensive back, strong safety Rodney Harrison, is out with a broken shoulder blade suffered in the Patriots' loss to Indianapolis.
But Jets quarterback Chad Pennington isn't about to get overconfident because of that.
"Rodney Harrison is a great player, and he's a great player that plays with instinct," Pennington said. "You've got to know where he is on the field at all times. But we all know that New England epitomizes the team concept and they do a great job when they face adversity with injuries and things like that.
"They're able to formulate a game plan and go out and still win games. We can't put too much emphasis on that. We've got to realize that we're playing the Patriots and not just one player. We're playing a full team that understands how to win when they face adversity, and that's important."
Pennington faced plenty of adversity in his last game, going 11-for-28 with two interceptions in a loss to Cleveland before the Jets' bye, meaning the cerebral quarterback had plenty of time to analyze that performance.
"What I tried to do was really analyze the first eight games and see where I can improve and see where I can be more consistent," he said. "It's really glaring when you look at the six games compared to the two games, which was Cleveland and Jacksonville, and look at the amount of production and the amount of efficiency and consistency in those six games compared to the two games. It's amazing to see the difference. It's like night and day."
He's correct. Pennington had no touchdown passes and five interceptions in those two games, compared to a 9-4 ratio in the other six contests.
"I think that my goal is to become more consistent," he said. "Although you're going to have bad plays and bad series, I want to focus on turning (around) those bad plays and bad series, just not letting that carry over to a bad game. I want to try to be on an even keel and keep the team in the game at all times where we have a chance to win at the end."
Pennington said that "consistency is the common denominator, or lack of consistency, but they were two different games. Jacksonville was more decision-making and having three really bad decisions. Cleveland, it was just a lot of different things, whether it was not being on the same page with my receivers, but a combination of things. Jacksonville was just blatant, three bad decisions."
Of course, a lot of quarterbacks make bad decisions against Bill Belichick-coached defenses, but Pennington had two touchdown passes and only one interception in the earlier 2006 game between the teams. The Jets lost 24-17 after trailing 24-0.
"It was right there on the threshold of being a blowout," Pennington recalled, "but we were able to keep our composure and poise and we were able to bounce back and make it a game. What we've realized is that we have to start a little faster, stay consistent early and carry that consistency through to the fourth quarter."

Rodney Harrison will miss this week's game against the Jets because of a broken scapula, and it's not clear when Harrison will return to the team.
"Rodney is going to be out for this game, unfortunately," coach Bill Belichick said. "He was injured last week and we all hope he'll be back out there soon. Nobody worked harder to get back out on the field this year than he did after what happened last year. It's unfortunate, but I know he'll work hard and we'll just do the best we can without him here."
Belichick wouldn't speculate about the severity of the injury, nor would he give a timeline for Harrison's return.
"If I knew anymore I would tell you," he said. "We've had injuries, and we've seen plenty of cases in this league where players have similar injuries and they're out different lengths of time. There's no way to predict it. I know we have a lot of experts out there that think everything can be very clearly stated, but the fact of the matter is that's just not the case. You see many examples of it throughout the league and throughout sports. ... I think he's a pretty tough player, mentally and physically -- a tough player. I would say that, regardless of what the situation was."
The injury was sustained when Harrison tackled Colts wideout Marvin Harrison and fell hard on his right shoulder.
Rodney Harrison, 33, is in his 13th NFL season. He suffered a season-ending injury in last season's Week 3 game against the Steelers, when he tore three ligaments in his left knee. Harrison spent nine months recovering, though he was healthy enough to return to the field before Game 1 of this season. Harrison suffered a fracture to his left shoulder in 1999 when he was with the Chargers. That injury forced him to miss 10 of San Diego's last 11 games.
The Patriots' starting free safety, Eugene Wilson, also has been plagued by injuries, starting only one of the past four games, with Artrell Hawkins playing in his place.
"We're all professionals. Whenever your number is called, you have to be ready to play, no matter who you are, it doesn't matter whether you're Tom Brady or a practice squad player," Hawkins said. "When your number is called, it's time to go out there and shine. I think whoever is behind him is going to get the game plan in and we're going to work extra hard this week so we have our communication down, study a lot of tape, and we'll see what happens."
Filling in for Harrison most likely will be Chad Scott. Scott has played some safety for the Patriots, although the 10-year veteran has been primarily a cornerback since entering the league.
"Playing cornerback is more like running a track meet every play, where playing safety is more about communication," Scott said.
While there's no question the Patriots will miss their emotional leader on Sunday, the team is confident that Scott, Hawkins and the rest of the defensive backs can pick up the slack in the secondary until he returns.
"Guys have to step up," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We always pride ourselves on when one guys goes down, someone else has to come in and do the job. Losing Rodney is a big loss for us; he's a guy who did a lot of things for us. We have to move on and worry about the Jets right now, and whoever is going to be in there for him, they have to do the job."

San Diego Chargers (6-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: Synthetic
TV: CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
SERIES: 29th meeting. The Chargers lead the series, 17-11, which includes them losing their only postseason matchup with the Bengals that cost them a trip to their first Super Bowl. One week after beating the Dolphins in overtime in that epic playoff game in humid Miami Beach, they fell to the Bengals in the Freezer Bowl in the 1981 AFC title game. The wind-chill was 59-below and the Bolts lost, 27-7.
2006 rankings: Chargers: offense 3rd (2nd rush, 14th pass); defense 2nd (4th rush, 8th pass). Bengals: offense 18th (25th rush, 11th pass); defense 24th (24th rush, 21st pass)

PREDICTION: Chargers 24-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals have to improve in two key areas: third-down offense and rushing defense. They are converting just 31.7 percent on third downs while giving up 129.2 rushing yards per game, which has led to an average disparity of 5:12 in time of possession. The Chargers will attempt to exploit that with RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who has rushed for 355 yards on 8.3 yards per carry with five touchdowns in his past two games. That includes nine runs of 10 yards or longer, so the Bengals have to find a way to eliminate the big plays on the ground. The Bengals will go no-huddle during the course of the game, but QB Carson Palmer must keep RB Rudi Johnson involved in the game plan. It's in his own best interest to do so against the Chargers, who have 20 sacks in their past five games.

FAST FACTS: Chargers: Have a seven-game winning streak in November. ... Offense has scored on 30 of 31 red-zone possessions (18 TDs, 12 FGs). Bengals: Past three losses have been by a combined nine points. ... Johnson needs one rushing touchdown to join Pete Johnson (64) and Corey Dillon (45) as only Bengals with 40.

--DE Jacques Cesaire would replace Luis Castillo (ankle) on Sunday.
--FS Marlon McCree (calf) was able to practice Thursday and looks to be a go for Sunday.
--OLB Marques Harris would resume his backup role if Shaun Phillips (calf) is fit.
--OLB Carlos Polk will continue to start in place of Shawne Merriman.
--OL Roman Oben, who is back practicing after a season-opening stint on the physically unable to perform list prompted by a foot injury, has been working at both tackle spots with the second units.
--S Bhawoh Jue (knee) returned to practice and will be available Sunday.

--RB Rudi Johnson (thigh) was added to the injury report Thursday and did not practice.
--DT Sam Adams (knee) practiced Thursday and is probable for the Chargers game Sunday.
--LB Brian Simmons (neck) remained doubtful Thursday and did not practice.
--S Kevin Kaesviharn (knee) remains doubtful and has not practiced this week.
--C Rich Braham has begun working out on the sideline with trainers. Out since suffering a deep knee bruise Sept. 17 against the Browns, he is off crutches and planning to come back this season. "I want to be on the field as soon as I can," said Braham, a 13th-year pro who has remained on the 53-man roster. "You know my temperament by now. As soon as I can be out there, I'll be out there."
--LB Ahmad Brooks is his toughest critic. Though he has 40 total tackles, one sack and two passes broken up in four starts and six games, Brooks expects more of himself than the six tackles he delivered in Baltimore.
"You've got to come ready to play every day because it is a job and everyone is doing this," Brooks said. "Over the past couple of weeks, I feel more confident and (am) not worrying about the coaches trusting me. I think I've proven them I can go compete on Sunday. I think I am learning things, but hopefully I can make more spectacular plays and plays that are needed."

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips looked around at his defensive line and stated the obvious: "We're a little thin out there."
He gave an accurate assessment of the Chargers in practice Thursday as they prepare for Sunday's game with the Bengals.
Defensive end Luis Castillo spent the session hobbling around in his walking boot to protect his sprained right ankle. He hasn't practiced this week and looks to be a real longshot to suit up in Cincinnati.
Derreck Robinson, a defensive end backup who has held up when asked to contribute, has a foot injury and he didn't work.
Igor Olshansky, who starts opposite Castillo, was absent because of a personal matter. Olshansky is expected back at practice Friday and will start on Sunday.
It's anticipated that Robinson will be available, too, when the Chargers go for their third consecutive victory.
But Castillo's body language said he would be sitting out Sunday.
"I've rolled my ankle before, but I have never had a high sprain like this," Castillo said.
The absence of Castillo in itself might not be a big deal. But it's imperative the Chargers put pressure on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, to help the defense's back end keep Chad Johnson. T. J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry in its sights.
So if Castillo is out, he takes with him his five sacks -- third best on the team.
Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has a team-high 8.5 sacks, will miss the second game of his four-game-suspension.
And Shaun Phillips, who possibly could to go Sunday, might not be 100 percent. His game -- which has produced six sacks -- revolves around his speed. And if he's hesitant to push off on an injured calf, he might not be as effective.

The Bengals will contend with another top receiving tight end Sunday.
And San Diego's Antonio Gates might be the best of the bunch the Bengals will face this season, and that's quite a claim considering the list includes Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez and Baltimore's Todd Heap.
Gates already has 34 catches for 406 yards and needs six touchdown receptions in the final eight games to reach double digits for the third consecutive year.
"You're not necessarily treating him as a tight end," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a former defensive coordinator. "You're treating him as a wide receiver. I think the one thing that's a constant with these teams that everybody is beginning to understand is that the focus isn't their receivers as much as it is the tight end."
The Chargers might have the most balanced pass attack of any Bengals opponent that emphasizes the tight end. Gates isn't the leading receiver; tailback LaDainian Tomlinson has 38 catches for an 8.5-yard average and two touchdowns. Wide receivers Eric Parker (29 catches for 434 yards) and Keenan McCardell (27 for 315) are productive. Neither wide receiver has a touchdown, though.
"It keeps you from devoting all your attention to the wide receivers," Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson said of a tight end-oriented pass game. "When you have a prominent pass-receiving tight end, it's somebody else to account for in pass defense."
The Bengals have allowed 35 receptions to tight ends in eight games for 415 yards and four touchdowns. Overall, the Bengals have allowed 161 receptions for 1,828 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Individually, Heap had the most receiving yards, 84 last week. Gonzalez had the most receptions, eight, and a touchdown. In Kansas City, Cleveland (Kellen Winslow Jr.), New England (Ben Watson) and Atlanta (Alge Crumpler), the tight end clearly is the best receiver and the focus of the offense. That point is one Lewis made Thursday.
"Not to take anything away from their receivers, but these teams ... that's the way they look to their tight end," Lewis said. "And at the end of the day, what happens is somebody looks at their stat sheet and sees the tight end caught eight balls and the receivers caught 12, total. It's just a matter that their offense is put together that way."

San Francisco 49ers (3-5) at Detroit Lions (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Bill Maas
SERIES: 61st meeting. The 49ers lead 32-27-1, including victories in the past four meetings.
2006 rankings: 49ers: offense 26th (15th rush, 24th pass); defense 29th (23rd rush, 26th pass). Lions: offense 12th (29th rush, 6th pass); defense 26th (20th rush, 27th pass)

PREDICTION: Lions 27-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers aren't going to hold the Lions to three points like they did to Minnesota last Sunday. San Francisco has lost its past two road games by a combined score of 82-10, having fallen behind 41-0 in both contests, so the first goal is simply being competitive against a Detroit team quickly gaining confidence. The offense is starting to roll in coordinator Mike Martz's system, and RB Kevin Jones' versatility will keep the 49ers from being overly aggressive in attacking the line. Offensively, San Francisco must get a strong effort from RB Frank Gore in order to control time of possession and protect the defense. If the ground game is successful, QB Alex Smith can attack the Lions' mediocre secondary and needs to get WR Antonio Bryant and his 17.9 per-catch average involved downfield.

FAST FACTS: 49ers: First regular-season game at Ford Field. ... Are 3-0 when Gore has at least 20 carries. Lions: TE Dan Campbell has 10 receptions, five which have gone for at least 20 yards. His 16.9-yard average leads the team. ... Have a league-leading 63 penalties.

--QB Alex Smith has seen his passer rating plummet to 79.9 through the first eight games of the season. Smith has thrown six touchdown passes and seven interceptions in the past five games. In three road games, Smith has two touchdown passes and four interceptions.
--LB Brandon Moore has moved into the starting lineup in place of Jeff Ulbrich. Moore recorded 15 tackles and a sack last week against the Vikings. He plays inside linebacker on first and second downs and shifts into a defensive end in passing situations.
--CB Walt Harris, who missed practices Wednesday and Thursday with a hip injury, is still listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Lions. Coach Mike Nolan said he expects Harris to start Sunday against the Lions.
--S Chad Williams went through practice Thursday and will be upgraded to probable for Sunday's game against the Lions. Williams would resume his role on the team's dime package if he plays.
--TE Vernon Davis did not practice this week and will not play Sunday against the Lions. The 49ers hope he will be available next week against the Seahawks. Sunday's game will be the sixth game he has missed since he sustained a broken right leg.

--DE James Hall, who leads all Lions defenders with five sacks in the first eight games, was put on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the Oct. 22 game against the Jets. Hall is the third player in the Lions' starting front four to be lost for a significant number of games. DT Shaun Rogers is currently sitting out a four-game suspension, and DT Shaun Cody has missed the past three games with a dislocated big toe.
--KR/PR Eddie Drummond is gradually lifting his production. His punt return average has gone from 3.3 yards per attempt after the first game to 9.3 yards on 14 attempts after eight games. His kickoff return average went from his season low of 17.3 after two games to the current 22.9-yard average on 33 attempts. The return of several players from the injury list has provided additional help on the special teams return units.
--LB Ernie Sims leads the Lions with 83 tackles in eight games, the most at the NFL halfway mark for a Detroit defender since Stephen Boyd had 86 after eight games of the 1997 season. Sims played virtually every play with the Lions defense and special teams during the first eight games, but the return of LBs Alex Lewis and Teddy Lehman are providing him occasional breaks in the action.
--TE Marcus Pollard is on a pace to finish the 2006 season with less than half as many receptions as he had a year ago when he led the Lions with 46 receptions for 516 yards and three touchdowns. This year, playing in an offense that requires him to play the H-back role more than a receiving role, Pollard has nine catches for 89 yards in eight games.
--K Jason Hanson is tied for fourth among NFC kickers with eight touchbacks in the first eight games of the season. A year ago, playing with a nagging hamstring injury, Hanson had only five touchbacks the entire season.
--QB Jon Kitna, who spent the past two seasons as a backup to Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, is making the most of his starting status with the Lions. At the halfway point of the season, Kitna leads all NFL quarterbacks with 187 completions, is second in attempts (296), fifth in passing yards (2,174) and 10th in completion percentage (63.2) among QBs averaging 20 passes per game.

Safety Tony Parrish was demoted Oct. 15, the first time he was not in the starting lineup in his nine-year career. Now, he is helping another player in the 49ers secondary cope with the disappointment of losing his starting job.
When Mike Adams received word last week that he was being ousted from the starting lineup in favor of hard-hitting Keith Lewis, Parrish had some advice for Adams.
"There are a lot of emotions going on, and you need to block it out and go to work," Parrish said. "That's all you can do. Of course, it's difficult -- it's definitely difficult. But just because you're in a difficult situation doesn't mean you don't have to perform."
Parrish was a starter from the first day he entered the NFL in 1998 with the Bears. He started the first 126 games of his career before getting demoted to backup status in favor of Mark Roman.
"Whether you're happy about it or not, when it's time to go out there and perform, you have to be expected to make a play when the opportunity arises," Parrish said.
Parrish and Adams both played well in the 49ers' 9-3 victory over the Vikings last week. They are expected to see considerable action in backup roles Sunday against the Lions.
Adams played nearly every snap on defense for the first six games of the season. He was on the field for all but a handful of plays against the Bears two weeks ago, but he received word last week that his playing time was going to be cut dramatically in favor of Lewis. Parrish advised Adams to continue to work during the week as if his role had not changed.
"It happened to him," Adams said. "Tony took a backseat before I did. My thing is I want to go out and play hard and prove the coaches wrong. I don't want to make it easy on them.
"You're still going to hear Mike Adams' name. I'm practicing hard and working hard in the weight room. I'm not going to change anything because I still have a lot to prove and a lot to work on."
Parrish is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next season, and he does not appear to fit into the team's future plans. Adams is scheduled to be a restricted free agent. He declined a 49ers contract extension earlier this season.

The speculation already has begun -- even before there is a job opening at the NFL head coaching level -- that Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will soon be in demand.
No one knows yet when the first firing will be, but the assumption is that Martz, who was the offensive mastermind behind two Super Bowl trips by the Rams and is now in the process of building a high-caliber offense for the Lions, will be a very attractive candidate.
The Lions, who have floundered offensively in recent years despite the investment of high draft choices and millions of dollars, currently rank 12th among NFL teams in total offense and sixth in passing.
Third-year wide receiver Roy Williams is on pace for a possible 1,500-yard season, third-year running back Kevin Jones has 880 total yards from scrimmage (584 rushing, 296 receiving) and journeyman quarterback Jon Kitna has been extremely productive.
The players rave about Martz, his system and his approach. They believe, to a man, that Martz can find the soft spot in any defense in the NFL.
And the question -- premature as it might be -- is whether the Lions can keep Martz as their offensive coordinator when other teams come to offer him more money as a head coach.
Lions head coach Rod Marinelli had to convince Martz to take the Lions' offensive coordinator job last February. Eventually Martz signed a three-year contract, but it has the customary provisions for him to leave for a head coaching job, although he said at the time he was not taking the Lions job as a spring board to the next job.
Marinelli was asked this week, during preparations for the game Sunday against San Francisco, if he has any reaction to speculation regarding Martz being an attractive candidate at the end of the 2006 season.
"He's been a Super Bowl head coach," Marinelli said. "I think with all those things, there's no question, he's a great one."
There seems to be little doubt about Martz's coaching ability; the question is whether the Lions will be able to find a way to keep him on staff.

Washington Redskins (3-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 143rd meeting. Redskins lead 75-62-5 (1-0 postseason). Washington won both meetings last year after Philadelphia had won the previous seven dating to 2001. Eagles coach Andy Reid is 9-5 against Washington. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is 19-11 against Philadelphia.
2006 rankings: Redskins: offense 15th (8th rush, 21st pass); defense 30th (15th rush, 30th pass). Eagles: offense 1st (10th rush, 2nd pass); defense 14th (18th rush, 11th pass)

PREDICTION: Eagles 30-23

KEYS TO THE GAME: Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has a 41.3 first-half passer rating in the team's past three games, but he has also been the victim of a high number of dropped passes. Philadelphia has come under fire for being too pass-happy, but the temptation will be there again with McNabb working against a secondary that has allowed a league-high 35 completions of 20 yards or longer. However, with RB Brian Westbrook coming off a week to rest his sore knee, he could get a bump from the 19.5 touches he has averaged the past seven games. Washington desperately needs to attack the Eagles' undersized run defense, but the Redskins' success could hinge on WR Santana Moss' hamstring. If their best big-play threat is out, the Eagles can load up against RB Clinton Portis.

FAST FACTS: Redskins: QB Mark Brunell is 4-0 in his career against Philadelphia with 715 yards, three TDs and just one interception. ... Are the first team in NFL history to score 22 points in three consecutive games. Eagles: Coach Andy Reid is 7-0 in games immediately following a bye week. ... McNabb is 8-4 against Washington.

--WR Santana Moss was back on the field for the second consecutive day after being out since straining his left hamstring in the Oct. 22 loss at Indianapolis. Moss officially remains questionable for Sunday's game at Philadelphia.
--QB Mark Brunell returned after being held out of practice to rest his tender rib muscles on Wednesday. Brunell is expected to start against the Eagles.
--TE Christian Fauria didn't practice for a second consecutive day because of the sprained left ankle he suffered last week against Dallas. Fauria is officially questionable for Sunday but doesn't seem likely to play.
--WR Brandon Lloyd sat out Thursday after straining his groin Wednesday. Lloyd is probable for Sunday.
--OT Jon Jansen returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday because of the ailing calf he injured Nov. 2. Jansen is expected to start against the Eagles.
--WR David Patten practiced again after missing the Dallas game with a strained left hamstring. Patten is expected to be available after missing the past four games with the hamstring or a pulled thigh muscle.
--TE Chris Cooley, who badly bruised a shoulder against Dallas, practiced again and should start in Philadelphia.

--DT Brodrick Bunkley, who has been playing between 10-12 snaps a game, is expected to have his role increased Sunday against Washington.
--CB William James probably won't be activated for Sunday's game against the Redskins. If he does play, it would be in a very limited role.
--CB Rod Hood, who missed four of the Eagles' first eight games with a heel injury, will return to his spot as the nickel corner Sunday.
--DT Mike Patterson, who had surgery last week to repair his broken hand, has been practicing and will start Sunday against Washington.
--RB Brian Westbrook, who has been nursing a sore knee most of the season, has practiced this week and is listed as probable for Sunday's game. He shouldn't be limited in any way.

Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss has been on the field past two days for the first time since he strained his left hamstring in the Oct. 22 loss at Indianapolis. While Moss took limited work both days, he was more positive on Thursday that he'll play Sunday at Philadelphia after missing a game for the first time in his two seasons with the Redskins.
"It was a productive day," Moss said. "As the week goes on, it's getting better. I ran a lot more. I did more in seven-on-seven and team drills. I didn't go downfield, but I ran some stop routes. Hopefully, I can be up to myself (on Sunday)."
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs was encouraged by Moss being able to take some reps.
"We'll just have to see how the week progresses, but I think it was a good step up," Gibbs said.
While Moss remains questionable, Gibbs and quarterback Mark Brunell were pleased by the play of receivers Brandon Lloyd, Antwaan Randle El and James Thrash and tight end Chris Cooley in Moss' absence against Dallas. Lloyd caught two passes for 26 yards and drew a 48-yard pass interference penalty on Roy Williams that set up Cooley's tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Randle El didn't catch a ball but drew two penalties on the opening drive. Thrash had a season-high three catches for 52 yards. Cooley had three catches for 66 yards and the touchdown.
"Last week was a product of guys stepping up in Santana's absence," Brunell said. "Brandon, Antwaan, James and Chris all stepped up. We're a better team when all the guys are getting involved."

It doesn't seem likely that recently signed cornerback William James (formerly Will Peterson) will be activated for Sunday's game against Washington.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson didn't say James definitely wouldn't play, but it sounds as if the newcomer still doesn't have enough of a grasp of the team's coverage schemes to play.
Johnson said that when James does get on the field, it will, at least initially, be in a limited role. He'll probably be the sixth defensive back in the 4-1-6 dime package.
"It's a day-by-day process," Johnson said. "We'll see what we're going to do on Sunday. We haven't made a final decision (on not activating him). He's come a long way just in the last two days. He's working at it. Hopefully he'll have a chance to play. But we'll see."
Johnson said Rod Hood, who missed four games with a heel injury, would return to his spot as the nickel corner behind starters Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. Hood was activated for the game against Jacksonville two weeks ago, but he only played on special teams.
The Eagles are hoping James can make a contribution to their pass defense as the season progresses. He hasn't played since the second week of the '05 season when he injured his back while playing with the Giants. He was released by the Giants last May and signed with the Eagles two weeks ago.
"When he was in the league a couple of years ago, he was one of the better cover corners," Johnson said. "That's one of the reasons we picked him up. We know what he'd done in the past. He was an excellent cover corner. We'll see how fast he comes along with our scheme, but he has picked it up a little bit."

Denver Broncos (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 93rd meeting. The Oakland Raiders have a 53-37-2 record against the Denver Broncos, but the recent history is one-sided in Denver's favor. Since the start of the 1995 season, when once-fired Raiders coach Mike Shanahan took over in Denver, the Broncos are 18-5 against the Raiders and have swept them seven times. The Broncos won the first meeting this season, a dull 13-3 win in which there was only three second-half points combined.
2006 rankings: Broncos: offense 17th (3rd rush, 28th pass); defense 15th (6th rush, 29th pass). Raiders: offense 32nd (18th rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (27th rush, 2nd pass)

PREDICTION: Broncos 20-10

KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Raiders don't protect QB Andrew Walter better, they'll have a difficult time being competitive in any game. He was dropped nine times Monday night, and Oakland must get back to relying on the running game because they won't beat the Broncos by asking Walter to force the ball downfield. For his part, Walter has to have a quicker internal clock and get rid of the ball knowing the line won't hold for long. Oakland's defense is playing well enough to win most games, so Denver would love to build an early lead and try to simply grind out the victory like they did in the first meeting. Turnovers are the one thing that can keep the Raiders within shouting distance, so Broncos QB Jake Plummer can't do Oakland any favors.

FAST FACTS: Broncos: WR Rod Smith has 100 career receptions against Oakland. ... Coach Mike Shanahan is 18-5 against Oakland. Raiders: With the next sack allowed, the Raiders will equal last season's total of 45. ... Have not allowed a touchdown pass in the past two meetings.

--RB Tatum Bell (two injured big toes) practiced again Thursday and said he would be ready to play Sunday. He missed the game against Pittsburgh last week when the Broncos decided he wouldn't be at full speed and sat him out.
--WR Rod Smith should be ready to play this week. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report with a shoulder injury.
--WR Brian Clark has given the Broncos a bit of a spark as a kickoff returner. He was signed off the practice squad and was given the job, which Quincy Morgan held. The Broncos also like the rookie's upside as a receiver.
--RB Cedric Cobbs could be active again as the third running back. The Broncos might not be 100 percent sure Tatum Bell can last a full game, so they could have Cobbs ready for depth.
--CB Karl Paymah played a lot on defense when Darrent Williams was hurt last week. Paymah is a good special teams player and the Broncos haven't given up on the second-year player as a cornerback, but he doesn't have much experience.

--RB LaMont Jordan has played against Denver only twice in his five-year career, carrying 37 times for 108 yards and no touchdowns -- both times with the Raiders. Jordan, listed as probable with a lower back injury, practiced at full speed and is expected to face Denver.
--FB Zack Crockett was the ball carrier the last time the Raiders had a rushing touchdown against Denver 25 quarters ago in the third quarter of a 31-10 loss in 2003.
--WR Jerry Porter, who missed Wednesday's practice with an undisclosed personal issue, returned Thursday and is expected to face Denver. Porter played the majority of the snaps from the third series on against Pittsburgh but was used sparingly against Seattle.
--LG Barry Sims missed practice Thursday. Although he is still listed as questionable, coach Art Shell has ruled him out of the Denver game.
--SS Michael Huff has shown no effects from a slight concussion sustained against Seattle and will be ready to face Denver.

The Broncos have 10 players listed as questionable on the injury list, but there hasn't been much definitive word on who will play.
The team isn't giving many tips. The only player listed as worse than questionable on the injury report was safety Sam Brandon, who has a knee injury and already has been put on injured reserve.
For many of the injured players, coach Mike Shanahan offered the same assessment. They're sore, and the Broncos don't know yet if they will play.
"We'll find out at the end of the week," Shanahan said.
Defensive ends Ebenezer Ekuban (thigh) and Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring) and linebacker Ian Gold (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. Cornerback Darrent Williams (shoulder) has practiced on a limited basis. The other injured players have practiced, adding to the speculation of who will be ready to play.
Williams thinks he'll be available.
"I'm feeling pretty confident," Williams said. "I think I'll be ready to go by Sunday."
Running back Tatum Bell, who is listed as questionable with two injured big toes, also said he would be ready.
"I'm playing this week," Bell said.

Corey Hulsey isn't asking for a do-over, but he is looking forward to a second chance.
The Raiders reserve guard had a rough first start in Monday night's 16-0 loss to the Seahawks, and he conceded the fast and furious pace got the better of him for a while.
Hulsey started in place of Barry Sims at left guard, and it could be an extended stay. Sims has an abdominal strain that could sideline him for a few more weeks.
Coach Art Shell said Hulsey would start against Denver on Sunday, and Hulsey believes he will be better for the experience in Seattle.
"You can practice it all week and everything, but there's nothing like game speed," Hulsey said. "We try to show it as much as we can, but there's no way you can do it."
The first half, in particular, was a nightmare for the Oakland line. Quarterback Andrew Walter was sacked seven times, the most in a half of football since Neil O'Donnell of the Jets was dropped seven times in 1996.
Walter was sacked twice more in the second half, nothing to be proud of but considerably better than seven.
The Raiders also got some things done with the running game in the third quarter, although Shell admitted they had erred by not running more often. Oakland finished with 13 carries for 64 yards.
With the Raiders having surrendered a staggering 44 sacks through eight games, opponents will continue to apply the pressure until the line shows it can handle it.
"Seattle kept coming, they never backed off," Hulsey said. "But we were able to recognize it better and do a better job. We've just got to do that from the get-go next time out."
It's been a strange year for Hulsey in that he began the season preparing to be the starting center when Jake Grove was lost to a shoulder injury. Rather than start veteran backup and long snapper Adam Treu, Shell instead tabbed Hulsey, figuring his more powerful build would be better against San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams.
But Grove recovered faster than expected, and something strange happened. Hulsey was declared inactive. He'd gone from starting center to inactive in a day, with Shell explaining because of special teams and depth, it was the necessary move.
Hulsey remained inactive until the Seattle game. He deferred to the coaches for making the decisions and took the same route with regard to the play-calling by offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, which put the offensive line in too many pass blocking sets against Seattle.
"It would help if we ran more, but it comes back to the players," Hulsey said. "If coach Walsh calls 80 pass plays, then we've got to block 80 pass plays. There's nothing we can do about it. We have to execute the game plan."

New Orleans Saints (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 13th meeting. The series is tied, 6-6, after the Saints claimed three of the last five meetings of the two teams. The Saints won the last matchup, 32-29, in the Superdome. This will be their first appearance in Heinz Field and first trip to Pittsburgh since dropping a 37-14 decision to the Steelers in 1993 in Three Rivers Stadium.
2006 rankings: Saints: offense 7th (27th rush, 3rd pass); defense 10th (17th rush, 5th pass). Steelers: offense 6th (16th rush, 5th pass); defense 8th (9th rush, 9th pass)

PREDICTION: Steelers 23-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Ben Roethlisberger proved last week he can rack up passing yards, but the Steelers need him to make better decisions to have a chance to win. Four of his league-high 14 interceptions have come near the goal line, and the Saints will attempt to force more mistakes with pressure DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant. That makes running the ball imperative for the Steelers, and the Saints haven't shown they can stop a strong ground game consistently. New Orleans has found balance offensively, but that will be tested against Pittsburgh, which has allowed just one 100-yard rusher in its past 42 games. If stuck in third-and-long, the Saints' offensive line will be under pressure to protect QB Drew Brees from the Steelers' complex blitz packages.

FAST FACTS: Saints: WR Marques Colston has 700 receiving yards, just the third player in NFL history with 700 or more through the first eight games of his career. ... Brees is the first player in franchise history with at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games. Steelers: Must win the remainder of their regular-season games to reach 500 franchise victories this year.

--WR Joe Horn, who has a groin injury that kept him out of last week's game at Tampa Bay, was able to participate in practice Thursday. He remains questionable, however, for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.
--LT Jammal Brown returned to practice Wednesday and worked again Thursday after missing last week's game with a sprained left ankle. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.
--RCB Fred Thomas did not practice again Thursday to rest his strained hamstring. He is questionable for Sunday's game.
--RCB Jason Craft, who is the team's nickel back, probably would get the start if Fred Thomas (hamstring) is unable to go against the Steelers.
--FS Steve Gleason, who is one of the Saints' top special teams players, was added to the injury report Thursday with a knee injury. Gleason did not practice and is questionable for Sunday.
--TE Ernie Conwell had arthroscopic surgery on Oct. 18 to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. He will be sidelined for a third consecutive game Sunday.
--TE Nate Lawrie has a back injury and did not participate in practice again Thursday. He's questionable for the game with the Steelers.
--RB Reggie Bush, who sprained his ankle on Oct. 29, is listed as probable for Sunday's game after practicing Wednesday.

--WR Santonio Holmes, benched as a return man last Sunday after he fumbled a kickoff and then a punt, will get his job back as punt returner this Sunday against New Orleans.
--WR Hines Ward's 41 receptions are tied for third in the AFC, and his 14.3-yard average per carry is third among the top 10 receivers. His five TD receptions are tied for first in the conference.
--LB James Farrior, the team's leading tackler, did not practice for the second consecutive game because of a knee injury. He's listed as questionable.
--LB Larry Foote returned to practice Thursday after his ribs were injured Wednesday. He was upgraded from questionable to probable.

Playoff talk was tempered a little bit when the Saints were crushed by the Ravens, but they came to life again after a 31-14 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday.
As a result, first-year coach Sean Payton is doing everything he can to make his 6-2 team focus on the second half of the season -- and not what might come after that.
Payton said Wednesday that playoff talk is premature considering that the Saints still have eight games to play -- including road matchups at Pittsburgh and Atlanta, games that are sandwiched around a home contest with the Bengals.
"I can only control the message I'm giving to the team," Payton said as he began to get his team ready for Sunday's visit to Heinz Field. "We're at halftime, we are right at the midway point, literally, so I'll probably downplay it -- not talk about it because it's too early.
"This team's been 6-2 (in 2002) and not gone to the playoffs before. And I'm sure the playoff discussion was rolling along there in Weeks 7, 8 and 9."
Payton said there will be plenty of time to talk about the playoffs -- if and when the Saints, who lead the NFC South by one game over the Falcons and two games over the Panthers, continue down the right path.
"Our focus is on this game, this is the ninth game of the season," Payton said. "I think there's a time when you begin to discuss that, and that's all of your (media) jobs to do, and I understand that completely. But I don't think the time is yet. I mean, it's halftime.
"There will be some teams here that get on a roll and win four or five games and make the postseason that no one would had given a chance to," he said. "Each year there's teams that get off to a fast start that don't finish the same way and are fighting for their chances. It starts this week with Pittsburgh, and I think that's where our focus has got to go, and I really think that's the only place it can go. Outside of that, you end up hurting yourself."

The Steelers are acting and sounding more and more like a desperate team which, at 2-6, is probably an accurate description with half the season left to play.
Just look at what's happened over the past several days:
--Linebacker Joey Porter promised a victory Sunday over the Saints (6-2).
--Coach Bill Cowher will bench his best cornerback, Ike Taylor, after one bad game. Cowher says he does not like to send messages, he delivers them, but some Steelers privately believe he unfairly has singled out one man.
--Halfback Willie Parker said his team is not as hungry as it was last season and said the trust is not there among teammates the way it should be.
The Steelers have fallen virtually out of playoff contention, and with eight games left, their plight could go from desperate to disconsolate. Combine that with the uncertain future of Cowher as their coach after this season, and the second half of 2006 could be ripe for an implosion by the defending Super Bowl champions.
"For the last two years, we had great records and we had success," receiver Hines Ward said, "so this is new to a lot of guys on this team.
"Being one of the leaders on our team, I have to go out and work even harder, try to lead by example, so these guys don't give up. I'm not going to give up."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said it's time to shut up and put up.
"There's only so much yakking you can do," he said. "We need to start performing, and everybody needs to say that it starts with me. I'm never a guy who's out ranting and raving at guys, so just go out and start playing good football."

St. Louis Rams (4-4) at Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Matt Vasgersian, JC Pearson
SERIES: 17th meeting. Rams lead 9-7, but the Seahawks have won three straight in the series, including a 30-28 victory in St. Louis on Oct. 15. Prior to this stretch, the Rams had won four in a row over the Seahawks, including a 2004 playoff win in Seattle.
2006 rankings: Rams: offense 4th (23rd rush, 4th pass); defense 27th (28th rush, 15th pass). Seahawks: offense 20th (17th rush, 20th pass); defense 16th (13th rush, 25th pass)

PREDICTION: Rams 34-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said RB Maurice Morris can't continually handle the 30 carries he received Monday night, but Seattle does need to attack a Rams defense allowing 141.2 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. That would also help QB Seneca Wallace, whose two big pass plays in his two starts have come off pump-fakes. Wallace is also more mobile than injured Matt Hasselbeck, so the Rams need to be wary of over-pursuing. St. Louis WR Torry Holt has averaged 6.5 catches for 108 yards the past four regular-season meetings and routinely abuses CB Marcus Trufant, who must have good communication with FS Ken Hamlin to avoid back-breaking big plays. To that end, Seattle's front seven needs to be able to handle the running game so the safeties can focus on helping over the top.

FAST FACTS: Rams: QB Marc Bulger has just one interception this season in 290 attempts, and has not thrown on in the first half. ... Have allowed a combined 402 rushing yards the past two games. Seahawks: Have dropped 22 passes, equaling the team's total for all of last season. ... Are 25-4 in their past 29 home games.

--LB Pisa Tinoisamoa practiced again Thursday, and it appears he will be able to play Sunday against Seattle with his injured hand and elbow. Said coach Scott Linehan, "He had another good day. Didn't miss a beat. It's looking more and more positive for this week."
--DE Tony Bryant might be active for the first time since being signed Oct. 18. Said coach Scott Linehan, "I think he's in much better shape now. He had a little problem with soreness in his knee. He's had a knee that's bothering him the last year or two. He looks much better this week. He's definitely a candidate for being up this week."
--RB Kay-Jay Harris, signed earlier this week as a roster replacement for RB Tony Fisher, likely will be active Sunday. He figures to participate on special teams and serve as the No. 3 running back.
--RB Tony Fisher, out for the season after suffering a torn ACL Sunday against Kansas City, is expected to undergo surgery in about two weeks.
--RB Steven Jackson has four runs of 20 yards or more with a long of 37 this season. Opponent running backs have eight rushes of 20 yards or more with a long of 51.

--RT Tom Ashworth continues working with the starters this week because RT Sean Locklear is missing time with an ankle injury. Locklear has gone from probable to questionable to doubtful in recent weeks. Ashworth has played well except for three false-start penalties against the Raiders on Monday night.
--RT Sean Locklear is not practicing this week. He is doubtful on the injury report with an ankle injury.
--C Robbie Tobeck returned to practice Thursday. The veteran suffered knee and elbow injuries against the Raiders on Monday night. He's probable on the injury report.
--SS Jordan Babineaux missed practice again Thursday. He has a shoulder injury. Seattle might go back to SS Michael Boulware this week. Babineaux had replaced Boulware in the lineup after Seattle allowed too many deep passes.
--WR Nate Burleson (foot) missed practice again Thursday. The team is listing Burleson as questionable. Burleson is the Seahawks' new punt returner. If he can't play, CB Jimmy Williams would take back punt-return duties.
--WR Bobby Engram, still battling a thyroid condition, missed practice Thursday. It's unlikely he'll play against the Rams.

The importance of Sunday's game in Seattle is obvious. Little has to be said. The Rams trail the Seahawks by one game for the division lead.
A win for the Rams would create a tie for first place with both teams having 5-4 records. A win for Seattle would provide the Seahawks with a two-game lead, which is actually three because Seattle's two victories over the Rams would give them the tiebreaker if the teams finished the season with identical records.
Even in his first season as head coach, it didn't take long for Scott Linehan to understand how the rivalry between the team has increased.
"I guess it's new in recent years, but I think this rivalry game, you appreciate it more now that I've coached in one," Linehan said. "I think whoever wins that football game, or wins that series, if you can split the series, this gives both a chance to finish out the season based on how they play the rest of the teams. Usually it's a pretty good indicator of who's going to win this division. Has been historically, especially since it's been restructured."
The Rams lost at home to Seattle on a last-second, 54-yard field goal on Oct. 15 in a game in which running back Shaun Alexander did not play, but quarterback Matt Hasselbeck did. This week, both are expected to be out, but Linehan said Seneca Wallace has fit in as the starting QB.
"I think that's a testament to their system," he said. "Plugs right in. I don't think they've changed much. Certainly Seneca's using his legs a little more than Matt, although Matt had the longest run from scrimmage against us the last time we played. Matt's a good scrambler.
"One thing they do a great job of is ... Seneca's looking to throw first. He's not dropping back and looking around. He's going through his progressions and going to the right guys, and he's really only running when people don't contain him or do those things. He brings another dimension that makes it a little more difficult to defend."
Linehan also realizes the Rams offense will have to be mistake-free going against the Seattle defense and a rabid crowd. Against Kansas City last Sunday, the offense had to use a silent count at one point because of the noise Chiefs fans were making. Right tackle Alex Barron had false starts on two consecutive plays at a critical part of the game in the fourth quarter.
"We've used it on the road every game, and it's a tool that you have to use because otherwise guys are basically having to watch the ball and they're going to be too late to set on the guys coming off the edge," Linehan said. "We've addressed that weekly, and we can't accept it (false starts). If we continue to do that, we're going to have a hard time winning football games."
As for Seattle's defense, Linehan concluded, "I think they've really stepped their game up big by creating some key lost yardage plays against us. They went on a pretty good tear as far as sacking the quarterback. I think they've really improved from where they started, and they're playing their best football right now."

Seattle strong safety Michael Boulware couldn't be sure how long he'd have to wait before getting another shot at the starting job. His wait might be over after only two games.
Boulware, benched following an Oct. 22 loss to Minnesota, has been working with the starters this week. His replacement, Jordan Babineaux, has a shoulder injury and might not play when the Rams visit Qwest Field on Sunday.
"I didn't feel out of step, but I was a little anxious," Boulware said after getting back on the field with the No. 1 defense. "I definitely wanted to put on a good show, so to speak, and make sure that I was in the right place at the right time. It was definitely great to get back out there."
Boulware played linebacker at Florida State. He has outstanding ball skills and made big plays as a rookie in Seattle's nickel defense. The transition to strong safety has had its ups and downs. Boulware isn't very natural in coverage. His instincts sometimes resemble those of a linebacker, leading to blown assignments.
Seattle coaches hoped time away from the lineup might help Boulware regroup. They also hoped Babineaux's superior coverage skills would help prevent big plays. Seattle gave up big plays in Babineaux's first start, at Kansas City, but that had a lot to do with the Seahawks' inability to stop the run. The defense dominated against Oakland's weak offense more recently.
Boulware, a second-round pick in 2004, had started 26 consecutive games before his benching. The transition to the bench has been tough.
"It's something I've had to battle through, fight through, and I'm still fighting through it," Boulware said. "My role has been limited, and I'm not really sure what my role is going to be this week, but I'm going to be prepared for whatever comes my way."
Rams receiver Torry Holt could be coming his way, for starters. Holt beat Bouwlare for a 67-yard touchdown last month. Boulware was in position to make the play. He even got his hands on the ball, but Holt tipped the ball to himself and made a spectacular grab.
"I told Torry Holt after the game that he made me a better player on that play because it was something I will never forget," Boulware said. "It was a spectacular play on his part."
Said Holt: "He did a good job of staying over the top and competing for that ball. It was just two athletes competing for the football ... and I was fortunate to come down on the winning side of that one."

Chicago Bears (7-1) at New York Giants (6-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/12/06
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer
SERIES: 54th meeting, including eight in the postseason. The Bears lead the series, 31-20-2, but only two of the games have been played in the past 10 years, with each team winning as the visitor.
2006 rankings: Bears: offense 13th (19th rush, 9th pass); defense 1st (7th rush, 1st pass). Giants: offense 8th (4th rush, 12th pass); defense 11th (8th rush, 16th pass)

PREDICTION: Giants 24-19

KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB Rex Grossman committing a combined six turnovers in two of his past three games and the propensity for high winds at Giants stadium, this is the time for the Bears' running game to step up. RB Thomas Jones has just one carry for longer than 17 yards all season, but he and Cedric Benson will get a chance to lead the charge. The Giants will be without DE Michael Strahan and likely Osi Umenyiora, and need rookie Mathias Kiwanuka to continue his strong play because many of Grossman's mistakes have come while throwing off his back foot. Offensively, the Giants lost WR Amani Toomer for the season although Plaxico Burress should return, and with Bears MLB Brian Urlacher's status uncertain, RB Tiki Barber should be an even bigger focus of the game plan than normal. TE Jeremy Shockey also becomes QB Eli Manning's No. 2 option.

FAST FACTS: Bears: WR Muhsin Muhammad has been limited to a combined 10 catches for 119 yards the past four games. ... Seek first 8-1 start since 1990. Giants: Are 7-1 under coach Tom Coughlin when scoring a touchdown on their first possession. ... Seek first 7-2 start since 2000, when the team reached Super Bowl XXXV.

--MLB Brian Urlacher didn't practice Thursday, and he officially remains listed as questionable with a sprained big toe on his left foot. Neither he nor Bears coaches have dropped any hints as to his status, but it appears to be more doubtful than probable.
--WR Bernard Berrian is expected to be upgraded to questionable from doubtful on Friday, but it still appears to be a huge stretch that he would be on the field Sunday.
--WR Muhsin Muhammad (knee) was removed from the injury report.
--CB Dante Wesley (knee, questionable) missed practice for a second consecutive day.
--LB Brendon Ayanbadejo is the likely starter on the strong side if Hunter Hillenmeyer is forced to move from there to Brian Urlacher's spot in the middle Sunday night against the Giants.

--ORT Kareem McKenzie fully expects to start this week after missing last week's game with an acute migraine headache. His backup, veteran Bob Whitfield, filled in with mediocre success.
--TE Jeremy Shockey was used as Plaxico Burress' "replacement" last week, running the routes that helped open up the sidelines. He figures to do that again this week, as the "replacement" for WR Amani Toomer (knee).
--RDE Osi Umenyiora (strained hip flexor) is still 50-50 for Sunday night's showdown with Chicago, but there is a thought that the Giants are making no effort to share that kind of information with the Bears.
--Coach Tom Coughlin defended KR/PR Chad Morton to an extent when discussing the short returns. "It's not all Chad's fault," he said. "Our wedge has to do a better job, too." Sounds like damning with faint praise, doesn't it?
--Three defensive rookies played last week vs. the Texans -- DE Mathias Kiwanuka, LB Gerris Wilkinson and DT Barry Cofield.
--WR Plaxico Burress seems to have provided bulletin board material for the Bears when he said: "I have studied their secondary and they make plays, but I don't think they're anything special."

Hobbled middle linebacker Brian Urlacher didn't shed much light Thursday on his status for Sunday night's showdown against the Giants, but he had some interesting observations on other topics.
Last year's defensive player of the year did not practice Thursday, resting the sprained big toe on his left foot.
"I still watch a lot of film, still watch practice pretty closely, so I should be OK," he said. "I should be all right once I get back in there."
But it remains questionable at best that Urlacher would be allowed back for the Giants game.
Although he said, "The toe's fine," Urlacher added, "The injury report says questionable. So you can talk to them (coaches and trainers) and see what they say about that."
Coach Lovie Smith said Urlacher was feeling better, and added that, "He did about the same (Thursday). That's pretty much what he did (Wednesday), which was very little. He's in better spirits, if that's what you're asking me."
Urlacher was more expansive in response to trash-talking from the Giants' Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound Jacobs, a second-year running back drafted out of Southern Illinois in the fourth round, said he looked forward to going chest-to-chest with Urlacher.
"Now who's he? Is he one of the running backs?" Urlacher said. "If he gets the ball, I'll try to tackle him. It probably won't be one-on-one because we have too many guys getting to the football right now.
"If I get a chance," an exasperated Urlacher added, "I just have to try to hit him and get him on the ground."
Burress, who leads the Giants with 510 receiving yards and a 16.5-yard average per catch, has disparaged the man-on-man coverage ability of the Bears' cornerbacks. He also questioned the strength of the Bears' schedule.
"They'll get a chance to prove it on Sunday night," Urlacher said. "If you're going to talk, you just have to go out there and show what you can do on Sunday night. But we've dealt with that since the season started, so what's new? Even after the games we've won big, people still don't believe in us. That's the way it goes. That's just the way it is with us, so we just have to go out there and play hard."
Urlacher was injured last week with less than two minutes left in a 31-13 loss to the Dolphins. That has fueled criticism of the coaching staff for exposing him and other star players to injury in a game whose outcome was no longer in doubt. That's a moot point, according to the five-time Pro Bowl player.
"I don't care if it's 100-0, I want to be in the field," Urlacher said. "I saw some of the comments people made. I want to be on the field no matter what. Coach and I get in this argument all the time because we've had a bunch of games where we've been up this year. Coach has brought it up to us in the past, but (weak-side linebacker) Lance (Briggs) and I don't like coming out too much. It's hard to get us out of the game because we want to be out there protecting our lead. You're kind of bored when you're watching from the sidelines, so you like to be out there making plays."

The loss of veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer and the unexpectedly abrupt nature of the announcement was still causing ripples of concern and discontent around the Giants' locker room and front office.
Toomer said he was "shocked" at the severity of the left knee injury (a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament) and at the surprise he felt when the MRI showed the problem.
"They don't really know when it happened because it didn't seem like it was anything serious," he said. "The damage in the knee didn't seem like it was anything that had happened actually during the game (Sunday vs. Houston). I don't know, they don't know when it happened, but they know it happened during this season, sometime after the (training camp) physical."
The loss of the 11-year veteran, who is the team leader in career receptions and yardage, has created turmoil within the starting unit. Last week it was the other starter, Plaxico Burress, who couldn't play, and so reserve Tim Carter played for him. This week Carter probably will move to the flanker hole vacated by Toomer, since Burress (back spasms) indicates he'll be able to go.
"The Z-spot (flanker) asks the receiver to be able to do a lot of things," Toomer said, "like to go deep and be able to go underneath and do a bunch of different things. You have to block a little because you're not the strong side, so naturally you block a lot. I couldn't give a good answer (as to which player would best fit the role)."
There isn't a lot of choice. It's Carter or David Tyree, who made it to the Pro Bowl last year as a special teams player. There is free agent Michael Jennings, who made the team this year after spending 2005 on the practice squad, and if you're looking for a real longshot, try second-round draft pick Sinorice Moss, who has been unavailable except for a short period in the Giants' second game of the season due to a strained quad muscle.
It seems as though there are other options the coaching staff won't discuss, such as moving running back Tiki Barber out wide and using bruising Brandon Jacobs as a more frequent ball carrier, or moving tight end Jeremy Shockey out and bringing in second-team tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
All coach Tom Coughlin would say is this: "We have players and we'll make do the best we can. That's why every coach's prayer leaving training camp is to have the same team you leave with healthy all season."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-6) at Carolina Panthers (4-4)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/13/06
TV: FOX, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 13th meeting. Carolina leads the series 7-5. The Panthers took the earlier meeting 26-24 in Tampa after building a 17-0 lead.
2006 rankings: Bucs: offense 31st (30th rush, 27th pass); defense 22nd (26th rush, 17th pass). Panthers: offense 23rd (26th rush, 19th pass); defense 19th (21st rush, 20th pass)

PREDICTION: Panthers 27-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bucs have issues in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Their secondary has come under fire, but DE Simeon Rice has only 2.0 sacks and the front four as a unit isn't generating much pressure. If Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has time in the pocket, he knows WRs Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson will find the holes in the Cover-2 defense. With rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski learning the ropes, the Bucs' offense ideally wants to feature RB Carnell Williams, but he has struggled behind a young offensive line. If Tampa Bay stalls on first and second down, Gradkowski will face tremendous pressure on third-and-long. Panthers DE Julius Pepper has been held without a sack for two games, but will be working against rookie RT Jeremy Trueblood.

FAST FACTS: Bucs: Williams has just one 100-yard rushing game after producing five as a rookie. ... Gradkowski has thrown just one interception in 186 pass attempts. Panthers: Have lead entering the fourth quarter in seven of their eight games, but have blown three of those leads. ... Have been shutout in the second half of their past two games.
TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya

--LB Shelton Quarles (knee) did not practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Monday night's game at Carolina. Barrett Ruud took most of the reps with the first team at middle linebacker.
--DE Simeon Rice (shoulder) did not practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Monday night's game at Carolina.
--DT Ellis Wyms (ankle) did not practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Monday night's game at Carolina. Wyms has not missed a game this season and likely will play.
--CB Juran Bolden (hip) was downgraded to questionable for Monday night's game at Carolina.
--RB Michael Pittman (shoulder) did not practice Thursday and is listed as questionable for Monday night's game at Carolina. If Pittman can't play, Earnest Graham would see some action as the third-down back.

--C Justin Hartwig did not practice again Thursday and remains doubtful for this week's game against Tampa Bay after re-injuring his groin last week in the weight room. Don't expect Hartwig back in the starting lineup anytime soon.
--DT Jordan Carstens is listed as out for the foreseeable future after being hospitalized with a blood clot in his left lung. Carstens was on medication for a kidney problem, and the clotting may have been associated with the medicine he'd been taking. There's a chance this could end his season.
--RB DeAngelo Williams will play this week against Tampa Bay, but it remains uncertain how many carries he will get.
--WR Keyshawn Johnson was back on the field Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's practice with an illness. Johnson is expected to start against his former team, Tampa Bay, Monday night at Bank of America Stadium. Johnson had seven grabs for 97 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 3, both of those coming in the first half.
--K John Kasay had an NFL record four field goals of 46 yards or longer in Carolina's Week 3 win over the Buccaneers.
--CB Ken Lucas returned to the practice field Thursday despite a slightly torn muscle in his groin area. Lucas still hopes to play Monday night, but that could come down to a coach's decision Sunday.
--CB Richard Marshall would start if CB Ken Lucas (groin) can't play.
--MLB Chris Draft is likely to remain the starter this week against Tampa Bay. Coach John Fox had said the team might shake up the starting lineup this week, but it appears Draft is safe.

The Bucs start the second half with a murderous stretch of three games in three cities in 11 days.
It begins Monday night at Carolina and continues Sunday, Nov. 19, against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium, a contest that's a candidate to be moved from 1 p.m. to 8:15 by NBC. The stretch will conclude four days later with a Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium.
Coach Jon Gruden was asked if he's ever experienced a three-game stretch like this one.
"No. Not really. Not in pro football," Gruden said. "But we thank the NFL for our schedule. They did quite a good job."
Actually, the Bucs are not the first team to be dealt such a dreadful hand. Last season, the Cowboys played a Monday night game at Philadelphia, played at Texas Stadium against Detroit, then hosted the Broncos four days later on Thanksgiving.
But the Bucs will become only the fourth team since 1978 to play three games within 11 days, with two of the contests on the road. The three previous teams to face this scenario finished a combined 2-7. Buffalo in '94 (1-2), Washington in '90 (1-2) and Seattle in '80 (0-3) all failed to produce a winning record during that stretch.
In addition to the obvious difficulties of trying to install a game plan for three opponents in such a short time frame, there are issues of player safety.
There's a reason why NFL games are generally played once a week. Players say they need anywhere from two to three days just to recover from the normal bumps and bruises. Add an injury, and it might take up to a week.
Gruden said the scheduling hardship puts players' safety at greater risk.
"At the beginning of the year, we go to these meetings and they talk about player safety, they give us a speech about it and I agree with it," Gruden said. "I'm a big fan of player safety.
"I don't understand it, you know what I mean? I don't really understand it. I don't know that it's ever been done since the inception of this bye (week) particularly. I can't necessarily say it's unfair or fair, I don't want to sound like a crier. But you play on Monday night and then you play on Sunday and Thursday, that's a lot of football."
To account for the shortage of preparation days, coaches began studying tape of the Redskins on Monday. They may use part of Monday in Charlotte to glimpse at the Cowboys.
"For the next week against the Cowboys, I have no freaking idea what we'll do," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "We work long hours as it is with (defensive coordinator Monte) Kiffin, but when it comes to that, it's going to be interesting."
Bucs players are not exactly embracing the grueling three-game stretch, but they have had plenty of time to accept the idea.
"The upside is we like the revenue as players that (national television games) generates," tight end Dave Moore said. "The bad news is you've got to play when they tell you they want you to play.
"It's hard just going from a Monday to a Sunday, depending on the style of game you wind up playing. If you play a physical game, it's tough duty. And the older you get, the longer it takes for you to recover."
For players like defensive end Simeon Rice (shoulder) and Shelton Quarles (knee), who have not practiced much the past two weeks and need six days to be physically prepared to play in games, the short weeks could force them to sit out a contest.
"It's been a struggle to practice, really, in some ways, with the number of players who haven't practiced," Gruden said. "And the ones that do practice, some are limited. So you've got to modify your schedule and you've got to say, hey, we've got to do the best we can with what we have and that's what we're going to do."
Running back Cadillac Williams, who has never played on "Monday Night Football," is taking a positive approach.
"If you look at it this way, we have a chance to get to 5-6 quick," Williams said. "Two and six is definitely not a good feeling, and with the upcoming schedule we have we should look at it like we have a chance to go 5-6 in a couple days. That's the bright side of it."

This has been a frustrating season for Panthers starting cornerback Ken Lucas, but he said he's trying to stay positive and not let a string of injuries get to him.
"I have never been constantly just bothered with nagging injuries as the season goes on," Lucas said. "I may have an injury here and there, but not as frequently as this year. I'm just being tested right now. My faith is being tested, but I'm not going to give up. I know this is going to make me stronger. It makes me appreciate this game even more."
For the third time this season, Lucas was forced to leave a game when he suffered a slight tear in his groin during Carolina's 35-14 loss to the Cowboys before the bye week.
Previously, he left games at Minnesota in Week 2 with a strained neck and then again in Week 7 against Cincinnati with a hip injury.
It may be just coincidence, but the Panthers blew fourth-quarter leads in all three of those games, one of the major reasons they're 4-4 at the midpoint of the season and not 7-1.
"They have been keeping me out of games in crucial situations where I need to be out there," Lucas said. "I'm just trying to work hard in the weight room trying to prevent some of these injuries from happening so I can be out there for four quarters and help my team get a win."
Lucas entered this year with Pro Bowl aspirations after being shunned in 2005 despite a terrific first season with the Panthers. He had 72 tackles and six interceptions in the regular season and two more picks in the NFC playoffs.
But this year has been one hurdle after another.
He came into the season having missed only three games out of a possible 80 during his previous five NFL seasons. He hasn't missed any this year, but has had to leave three and play a limited role in a fourth.
So why is he struggling staying on the field this year?
Lucas wondered that, too, and after some careful self-examination, he believes he's found the origin of the problem. He said he's been taking a legal supplement to give him extra energy, but that it may be causing him to dehydrate and the muscles to cramp.
"I have low body fat, and some things drain the fluids out of your body quicker than not taking anything at all," Lucas said. "That is part of my problem last week when I strained my groin. I've got to get off those things and drink a lot of fluids.
"It's kind of hard to pull things when it gets cooler, and that's what I did. I drank plenty of fluids before the game, and I still ended up pulling (my groin)."
He said he's thrown away that supplement.
As for Monday night's game against Tampa Bay, he did practice some on Thursday but remains questionable on the injury report.
"You'll have to kill me to stop me from getting on the field on Monday," Lucas said.

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