GAME OF THE WEEK
San Francisco 49ers (4-1) at Detroit Lions (5-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Last meeting: The 49ers won, 20-6, at home in 2009.
Streaking: Lions QB Matt Stafford has thrown at least two touchdowns passes in seven consecutive games, tying Milt Plum's (1964-65) franchise record.
Ground and pound: Bears RB Matt Forte found some solid running lanes in Detroit on Monday night and that's where the 49ers need to attack with Frank Gore. San Francisco lacks a dynamic passing game, which is further thinned by injuries to Braylon Edwards and Josh Morgan. The Lions generate an excellent push inside on short drops and storm the edges on deeper sets, so QB Alex Smith's 104.1 passer rating - built on efficiency - will receive a stress test.
Poison control: The 49ers are thriving on strong run defense and a plus-10 turnover margin. Lions RB Jahvid Best doesn't figure to be a major factor on the ground, but will be an important outlet receiver to keep Stafford out of constant third-and-long situations. No one has found an answer for WR Charles Johnson (NFL record nine touchdown catches through five games), and San Francisco has to pick its poison because the Lions have a pair of quality tight ends who present mismatches over the middle of the field.
Need to know: The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-high 27 consecutive games. ... The Lions are 5-0 for the first time since 1956.
Buffalo Bills (4-1) at N.Y. Giants (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Game plan: The Giants are coming off a sloppy, turnover-plagued loss to Seattle and have been preaching improved communication between QB Eli Manning and his receivers in preparing for Buffalo's opportunistic defense. The Giants are also looking to jump-start a ground game averaging just 3.2 yards per carry with only one 15-plus yard gain all season. Buffalo's spread offense is getting a lot of attention, but RB Fred Jackson (5.3 yards per carry) sets the table while the Giants have allowed 478 rushing yards the past three games. The Bills are minus their fast player in WR Donald Jones (ankle), who is used to stretch the defense.
Need to know: The Bills have a plus-11 turnover margin and have scored 72 points off turnovers. ... The Giants are second in the NFL with a 71.4 touchdown percentage in the red zone (10 of 14). Buffalo is first (75 percent).
Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jennifer Hale
Game plan: With the vertical passing game struggling and rookie WR Julio Jones (hamstring) out, the Falcons will come out attacking a Panthers run defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Atlanta might lack explosive plays, but should be able to methodically move the ball down the field. Carolina has been establishing more balance the past two weeks, but the Falcons' secondary is where the mismatches are. TEs Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey will attract attention as QB Cam Newton looks to set up deep shots to WR Steve Smith.
Need to know: Newton leads all NFL quarterbacks with five rushing touchdowns; no one else has more than two. ... Falcons RB Michael Turner has rushed for 512 yards and nine touchdowns in the past five meetings.
Indianapolis Colts (0-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Game plan: Colts QB Curtis Painter has a strong arm the Bengals have to respect. Cincinnati also sports the league's top-ranked defense while allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, so Indianapolis' offense will largely fall on Painter's ability to move the ball against a solid group of cornerbacks. He has to avoid the catastrophic mistake because the Colts can be competitive in a field position game. The Bengals will keep the ball on the ground and try to keep QB Andy Dalton away from the Colts' fearsome outside pass rush.
Need to know: The Bengals' last two games have come against quarterbacks with a combined 0-5 starting record in the NFL. ... The Bengals are allowing an NFL-low 279.6 yards per game.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Game plan: Jaguars rookie QB Blaine Gabbert has a touchdown pass in all three starts, but he's still battling some accuracy issues and lacks the downfield weapons to keep pace in a shootout. But with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger coming off a five-touchdown game and Jacksonville lacking the pass rush to exploit Pittsburgh's offensive line, Gabbert is going to have to put points on the board. The Jaguars will attempt to shorten the game by leaning on RB Maurice Jones-Drew, but to be competitive they must be highly efficient in the red zone - and get vastly improved special teams play from last week.
Need to know: Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis has six touchdowns in six career games against the Steelers. ... Steelers WR Mike Wallace has a reception of 40-plus yards in four consecutive games.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-4) at Washington Redskins (3-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Sam Rosen, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
Game plan: Redskins RB Ryan Torain, coming off a 139-yard game, is expected to lead the charge against Philadelphia's beleaguered 30th-ranked run defense. Also expect plenty of screen passes from QB Rex Grossman against the Eagles' wide-9 front; their linebackers don't shed blocks easily and the secondary hasn't been tackling well. The Eagles dropped 59 points on the Redskins last Nov. 15, but Washington upgraded its front seven over the offseason while Eagles QB Michael Vick has 10 turnovers despite racking up big yardage totals. Philadelphia has thrown 86 passes vs. just 20 runs for RB LeSean McCoy the past two games, and the imbalance has led to more pressure on Vick behind a line starting backup LT King Dunlap.
Need to know: The Eagles had a team-record 592 total yards in the last meeting. ... The Redskins lead the NFC East this late in a season for the first time in 12 years.
St. Louis Rams (0-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jaime Maggio
Game plan: The Rams are allowing 179.8 yards per game on the ground, have placed seven cornerbacks on injured reserve and the Packers come in having scored a league-high 173 points. St. Louis' best shot is to stiffen that run defense and then pressure QB Aaron Rodgers into mistakes with LT Marshall Newhouse replacing Chad Clifton and RT Bryan Bulaga (knee) also uncertain. Green Bay has its own questions in the secondary, but has been stopping the run (3.8 yards per carry). If St. Louis can't control the clock behind RB Steven Jackson, Packers backup QB Matt Flynn could make an early appearance.
Need to know: The Rams' 27:18 average in time of possession is the third-lowest in the league. ... The Packers are 5-0 for the first time since 1965 and their 11-game winning streak is one shy of the franchise record set from 1961-62.
Houston Texans (3-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 ET, CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
Game plan: The balanced Texans attack featured four players with at least 80 receiving yards last week, including RB Arian Foster (116), but none can stretch the Ravens' defense over the top. Recently-acquired Derrick Mason gives QB Matt Schaub another inside receiver to go with TEs Owen Daniels and Joel Dreesen. Schaub attempted 62 passes vs. Baltimore last season (393 yards, three touchdowns) and Foster rushed for 100 yards in a 34-28 overtime loss. The Texans lead the AFC with 15 sacks, but lost leading pass-rusher LB Mario Williams for the season. The focus is in preventing RB Ray Rice from getting to the second level and then coming after QB Joe Flacco as much as possible with a four-man front.
Need to know: Flacco's 49.3 completion percentage is 31st overall and last in the NFL among current starters. ... Mason had two touchdowns for the Ravens in last year's meeting.
Cleveland Browns (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 ET, CBS, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
Game plan: Browns QB Colt McCoy would love to have a few of the speed merchants lining up outside for Raiders QB Jason Campbell. Instead, the Browns have limitations attacking downfield but good size and power to move the ball methodically. RB Peyton Hillis remains a featured back in name, but hasn't proven worthy of the designation yet this season. The Raiders' issues tackling and containing outside runs could be exposed again. Oakland is content controlling time of possession with RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, who has impressed as a short-area receiver, but Campbell's receiving corps has evolved nicely. That includes former first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has 11 catches for 214 yards (19.5 yards per catch) and a touchdown in the last two games.
Need to know: The Browns have won seven of the last nine meetings. ... The Raiders lead the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:15 ET, FOX, Ron Pitts, Jim Mora, Drew Avent
Game plan: The Bucs' scheme isn't well-suited for stopping athletic tight ends like Jimmy Graham, who has three straight 100-yard games for the Saints. Thumped last week at San Francisco, the Bucs will have to send extra bodies at QB Drew Brees to affect his timing without vacating openings for RB Darren Sproles, a deadly third-down receiver. Tampa Bay might be forced to start Earnest Graham with LeGarrette Blount (knee) slowed, which could put more of the offense on QB Josh Freeman. But considering the Saints' ability to march the ball up and down the field, the Bucs' defense needs help from its running game to control the clock a bit.
Need to know: Saints QB Drew Brees has 20-plus completions in an NFL-record 25 straight games. ... Including a trip to London next week, the Bucs will travel more than 14,000 air miles to play four games in five weeks.
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at New England Patriots (4-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:15 ET, FOX, Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver
Game plan: The end game has been critical for the Cowboys. They've blown double-digit leads in losses to the Jets and Lions and survived a slow start for a rally at San Francisco. But the bye week bought Dallas recovery time and WR Miles Austin and RB Felix Jones should be at full strength for a potential shootout. The Patriots' once-rigid defense ranks last in the league, but Tom Brady and the NFL's top-ranked offense has mostly masked the flaw. Brady, who had five touchdown passes in his last start vs. Dallas, and WR Wes Welker, whose 740 receiving yards through five games set an NFL record, face nothing close to a shutdown corner this week. However, the Cowboys do own the league's stingiest run defense and will try to bring the heat on long passing downs.
Need to know: Only Reggie White (105) had more sacks in his first 100 games than Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware (85). ... The Patriots have won 19 straight home games.
Minnesota Vikings (1-4) at Chicago Bears (2-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 8:20 ET, NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Game plan: Bears QB Jay Cutler had six touchdown passes in two games against Minnesota in 2010, but he'll face the NFL's top pass-rush tandem in DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison (13 combined sacks). The Vikings have been stung by pass-catching running backs, and must account for RB Matt Forte as an all-purpose threat. The Vikings force teams to stop RB Adrian Peterson, who averages 103.5 rushing yards against the NFC North in his career. Peterson, also a threat as a receiver, will benefit from QB Donovan McNabb attacking deep and down the seam, where the Bears have been ripped for big plays all season. If DE Julius Peppers (knee) is out, McNabb should have plenty of time to set his feet and scan the field.
Need to know: McNabb's teams are 46-3 when he has a passer rating of at least 100. ... Forte leads the NFL with 785 yards from scrimmage.
Miami Dolphins (0-4) at N.Y. Jets (2-3)
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 ET, ESPN, Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Suzy Kolber
Game plan: Turnovers are likely to be critical. The Jets, averaging two giveaways per game, can't cough up the ball to breathe life into a flat-lining Dolphins team with just two takeaways this season. QB Matt Moore starts for Miami with Chad Henne (shoulder) done for 2011 and the Dolphins are desperate for a spark, especially in the red zone, with just six touchdowns in four games. Moore will need a running game for protection against the Jets' myriad blitz packages. If RB Daniel Thomas (hamstring) isn't a threat, the Jets can cut their front seven loose. The Jets can attack a Miami secondary waylaid by big plays since Week 1, and rookie Jeremy Kerley gets an opportunity to step up as the new No. 3 wideout.
Need to know: The Dolphins have scores just three touchdowns in 10 red zone possessions since the opener. ... Six straight games in the series have been decided by eight points or less.