GAME OF THE WEEK
N.Y. Giants (6-2) at San Francisco 49ers (7-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:15 ET, FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
Last Meeting: The Giants won, 29-17, at home on Oct. 19, 2008 with RB Brandon Jacobs rushing for a pair of touchdowns and San Francisco managing 35 rushing yards.
Streaking: 49ers RB Frank Gore has a franchise-record five consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
No security blankets: The Giants won't know RB Ahmad Bradshaw's (foot) status until late in the week. Brandon Jacobs did provide a physical presence last week, but the 49ers enter with the league's No. 1-ranked run defense. QB Eli Manning will likely have to work the ball downfield without the benefit of an effective play-action game. TE Jake Ballard continues to be a huge surprise in the passing attack to help complement the ground game and WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) could return to give Manning his most reliable target.
Stick to the script: The 49ers want no part of QB Alex Smith forcing the ball downfield against the Giants' league-best pass rush (28 sacks). They'll attack the front seven with RBs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter pounding the ball against a defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry. Smith is utilizing TE Vernon Davis heavily for high percentage passes, which could keep Giants S Antrel Rolle off the line of scrimmage with more focus on shadowing Davis downfield.
Need to know: Manning has an NFL-best 121.7 fourth-quarter passer rating. ... The 49ers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-high 30 straight games.
Buffalo Bills (5-3) at Dallas Cowboys (4-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Game plan: The Bills spent considerable time developing a plan to contend with OLB DeMarcus Ware, who is second in the NFL with 12 sacks and likely will match up with third-string LT Andy Levitre, a natural guard. RB Fred Jackson needs to bounce back from an off day last week against the Jets, when he dropped multiple passes and lost a fumble. The Cowboys have been unpredictable from week to week, but the offense has evened out since rookie RB DeMarco Murray — averaging 6.7 yards per carry — became a starter. Buffalo allows 120.8 rushing yards per game
Need to know: Jackson is second in the NFL with 149.3 yards from scrimmage per game. ... Dallas has allowed 27 or more points in three games — all losses.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) at Indianapolis Colts (0-9)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
Game plan: The delicate balance for the Jaguars is not asking too much of struggling rookie QB Blaine Gabbert while still giving him an opportunity to grow against a struggling defense. They'll rely on RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who averages 92.9 rushing yards in this series. The Colts lack that type of bell cow in the backfield, which has planted Curtis Painter in a pressure cooker behind a shaky offensive line. He is also without injured TE Dallas Clark, although backup Jacob Tamme did step up admirably in his place last season.
Need to know: The game features the two lowest-ranked offenses in the league. ... The Jaguars are 8-8 in games following their bye.
Denver Broncos (3-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Bill Macatee, Steve Tasker
Game plan: The Broncos' run-first approach featuring Willis McGahee (5.1 yards per carry) and QB Tim Tebow in a read-option hybrid offense created assignment breakdowns for Oakland last week. The Chiefs' 3-4, featuring OLB Tamba Hali and ILB Derrick Johnson, trusts its corners to lock down receivers in man coverage, leaving eight defenders to sew up running lanes. The offensive line let down Chiefs QB Matt Cassel last week. He'll be chased by the tandem of OLB Von Miller and DE Elvis Dumervil, but given time he'll be attacking a pass defense allowing 258 yards per game.
Need to know: The Chiefs' defense has just nine sacks in 269 passing plays. ... The Broncos have 671 rushing yards the past three games.
Arizona Cardinals (2-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Dick Stockton, John Lynch, Jennifer Hale
Game plan: Cardinals RB Beanie Wells expects to be closer to full health after playing with a sore knee the past two weeks, and he'll get all the carries he can handle. The Eagles' defense has been harpooned on the ground and Arizona might turn to QB John Skelton again with Kevin Kolb (foot) uncertain. Philadelphia's pass rush was kept at bay in Monday's loss to Chicago, but Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked 27 times. The key for the Eagles' explosive offense is limiting mistakes. Arizona's secondary has been battered all season, but Philadelphia has been its own worst enemy, entering with a minus-7 turnover margin.
Need to know: The Eagles lead the NFL with 172.3 rushing yards per game. ... Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has six touchdowns in three games against the Eagles.
New Orleans Saints (6-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Game plan: The Saints have found success this season playing a brand of football using more of the Falcons' offensive blueprint — running behind a physical front five to set up downfield passing. QB Drew Brees is 8-2 in his career against the Falcons, but he's come to rely heavily on RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham more than outside receivers. Falcons QB Matt Ryan avoided turnovers in a pair of three-point losses to the Saints in 2010, when RB Michael Turner logged 47 carries. With Julio Jones and Roddy White to stretch the defense and TE Tony Gonzalez working underneath, Atlanta is well-equipped to match pyrotechnics.
Need to know: Brees is on pace to throw for 5,304 yards; Dan Marino's single-season record is 5,084 in 1984. ... Ryan is 8-1 at home vs. NFC South opponents.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Game plan: Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton, a four-year starter at TCU, hasn't shown his inexperience but that could change against a high-pressure defense. He's learned to trust rookie WR A.J. Green even in tight coverage, keeping the offense churning despite RB Cedric Benson showing little burst. Without that big-play threat, the pressure — quite literally — is on Dalton. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has three straight 300-yard passing games and has alleviated pressure with short drops and quick passes. Cincinnati needs its second-ranked run defense to stuff RB Rashard Mendenhall so Roethlisberger becomes more vulnerable in longer passing situations.
Need to know: Pittsburgh is 11-1 against rookie starting quarterbacks under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau since 2004. ... The Bengals have four defensive linemen with multiple sacks.
St. Louis Rams (1-7) at Cleveland Browns (3-5)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Ron Pitts, Jim Mora, Drea Avent
Game plan: The Browns haven't been able to hold up against physical running teams and Rams RB Steven Jackson's bruising style puts their 30th-ranked defense on the spot. Jackson has 359 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the past three games, and St. Louis will force Cleveland to stop the run first with QB Sam Bradford (ankle) still less than full strength. The Browns average 14.9 points per game and have marginal skill position talent. RBs Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton must do better than their combined 38 yards on 18 carries last week to lend a hand to regressing QB Colt McCoy.
Need to know: Browns coach Pat Shurmur was the Rams' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. ... Jackson is averaging 5.1 yards per carry; the Browns average 3.1.
Washington Redskins (3-5) at Miami Dolphins (1-7)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, FOX, Chris Myers, Tim Ryan, Jaime Maggio
Game plan: The Redskins are so beat up offensively that newly-signed WR David Anderson figures to be involved heavily in the game plan. QB John Beck has had a difficult time working the ball downfield. Rookie RB Roy Helu caught 14 passes last week, but for only a 7.5-yard average. Meanwhile, Dolphins QB Matt Moore is beginning to show better command of the offense while getting help from RB Reggie Bush in the form of explosive plays. Washington's last four opponents have averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
Need to know: Coach Mike Shanahan is 9-15 with the Redskins; predecessor Jim Zorn was 12-20 before being fired. ... Bush is averaging 6.4 yards per carry the past four games, although on just 48 total carries.
Tennessee Titans (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-6)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
Game plan: The Panthers have morphed into a pass-heavy team under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, but they still have the league's No. 8-ranked ground game. That's in large part due to WR Steve Smith stretching the field vertically and getting the defensive backs to turn their backs on QB Cam Newton. The onus on Tennessee's linebackers is to not only spy on Newton, but keep tabs on TEs Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey, who have combined for 53 catches. Titans RB Chris Johnson flashed last week and need to be a more consistent threat against the league's 27th-ranked run defense. QB Matt Hasselbeck has been solid, but minus WR Kenny Britt he simply lacks the downfield threat to lead a one-dimensional attack.
Need to know: Tennessee has converted 6-of-7 fourth downs this season. ... Smith has 46 receptions, equaling his team-leading total for all of last season.
Houston Texans (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET, CBS, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon
Game plan: The Texans are expected to let WR Andre Johnson rest his injured hamstring for a sixth consecutive game entering their bye week and force the Bucs' 26th-ranked ground game stop Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Foster and TE Owen Daniels have teamed for 61 catches to keep the chains moving, and Tampa Bay's tackling has been an inconsistent element all season. So, too, has QB Josh Freeman. He has just two touchdown passes in the first half this season vs. five interceptions. Tampa Bay's offense needs RB LeGarrette Blount carrying a heavy workload, but that requires keeping the game within a score at halftime.
Need to know: Houston has equaled last season's win total. ... Bucs GM Mark Dominik watched all 134 of DT Albert Haynesworth's snaps with the Patriots - twice - before placing a waiver claim on him Wednesday.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at Seattle Seahawks (2-6)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:05 ET, CBS, Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf
Game plan: The Ravens' biggest obstacle is a mental letdown traveling cross-country following Sunday night's dramatic victory in Pittsburgh. The Seahawks do have one of the league's most underrated run defenses, but QB Joe Flacco should be able to move the ball through the air - Seattle doesn't generate pressure without blitzing, which stresses their overmatched cornerbacks in man coverage. The Seahawks average just 15.2 points per game. RB Marshawn Lynch is healthy and running hard, but the offensive line doesn't provide much of a push and QB Tarvaris Jackson is still less than 100 percent playing through a pectoral injury.
Need to know:Baltimore has a five-game winning streak vs. the NFC. ... Seattle has committed 71 penalties, second-most in the NFL.
Detroit Lions (6-2) at Chicago Bears (5-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:15 ET, Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Laura Okmin
Game plan: The Bears have revamped their passing game since being flagged for nine false-start penalties in a 24-13 loss at Detroit on Monday night in Week 5. Coordinator Mike Martz is leaning on RB Matt Forte's versatility and QB Jay Cutler has been efficient with short drops and quick throws. That combination will help thwart Detroit's pass rush while attacking the league's fifth-worst run defense. The Lions have a plus-13 turnover margin, which will be difficult to maintain without a better ground game. Chicago will focus on keeping completions in front of its defensive backs, although Detroit QB Matthew Stafford kept the chains moving by completing 73.1 percent of his passes in the first meeting.
Need to know: Detroit has allowed an NFL-low 49 points in the second half this season while scoring a league-best 149. ... Bears RB Marion Barber has a team-high four rushing touchdowns on just 32 carries.
New England Patriots (5-3) at N.Y. Jets (5-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 8:20 ET, NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Game plan: The Jets have tightened up their run defensive since RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis rumbled for 136 yards in the Patriots' 30-21 victory in Week 5, and coach Rex Ryan always mixes up his scheme for the rematch. Patriots QB Tom Brady should get RB Kevin Faulk back into the mix to help work in more screen passes and alleviate the stress on an offensive line that has allowed increased pressure of late. The Jets have returned to using the ground game to set up the pass, but New England is also last in the NFL allowing 314.0 passing yards per game. QB Mark Sanchez will have open receivers and needs to be efficient considering the Patriots' lack of a threatening pass rush.
Need to know: Brady has thrown 10 interceptions in eight games compared to four all of last season. ... The Jets are 5-1 with C Nick Mangold this season and 0-2 when he doesn't play.
Minnesota Vikings (2-6) at Green Bay Packers (8-0)
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 ET, ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Rachel Nichols
Game plan: As solidly as QB Christian Ponder played in his first career start against Green Bay three weeks ago, he was also 0-for-5 passing with two interceptions as the Packers outscored the Vikings 20-0 in the third quarter. Minnesota can't afford that type of inconsistency, and it can't fall behind by multiple scores and marginalize RB Adrian Peterson's role. Peterson has become more involved in the passing game and the Packers are giving up yards in large chunks, but they're also opportunistic. Green Bay will try to turn this into a shootout on the arm of red-hot QB Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota's undermanned secondary needs a massive effort out of DE Jared Allen (12.5 sacks).
Need to know: Peterson had 175 rushing yards on 24 carries (7.3-yard average) in the first meeting. ... The Packers have scored at least 24 points in each game, an eight-game streak that matches the longest single-season streak in franchise annals (Sept. 22-Nov. 10, 1963). Plus, Green Bay is the only team in the league to score at least 24 points in every game this season.
—By Derek Harper and Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange