================================================== Baltimore Ravens (0-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-0) ================================================== GAME SNAPSHOT KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET GAMEDATE: 9/12/04 SURFACE: Grass TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross SERIES: 11th meeting. The Ravens lead 7-3 after winning both games last year by a combined 68-13 last year. *2003 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 21st (1st rush, 32nd pass); defense 3rd (6th rush, 4th pass). Browns: offense 26th (20th rush, 25th pass); defense 15th (23rd rush, 7th pass) KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns' defensive line must keep Ravens RB Jamal Lewis from getting a head of steam into the secondary. The Browns have struggled in recent years against cutback runners and their secondary doesn't tackle particularly well. The Ravens do have concerns about their running game with C Mike Flynn (clavicle) out and LT Jonathan Ogden (knee) likely a game-time decision. The Browns will stuff the box and play man on the Ravens' receivers, so QB Kyle Boller must show improved accuracy. RB Lee Suggs (shoulder string) is unlikely to play, but William Green is a very capable backup and the key for the Browns is QB Jeff Garcia being more in sync with his receivers than he was in the preseason. CB Deion Sanders makes his regular-season return and will play in the nickel package in a secondary that heavily out-mans the Browns' receiving corps. FAST FACTS: Ravens: Lewis rushed for 500 yards in two games against the Browns last season, the most ever in a season against one team. ... Swept the season series last year by a combined score of 68-13. ... Ran the ball on 82 of 126 plays (65 percent) in the two meetings last season. Browns: QB Jeff Garcia threw four interceptions and had an 18.8 passer rating against the Ravens as a 49er last season. PREDICTED SCORE: Ravens 17, Browns 13 PERSONNEL NEWS Ravens: --LT Jonathan Ogden was very limited in practice because of a sprained left knee and remains 50-50 whether he will play. He has shown flexibility in that leg but hasn't done much in practice. --LB Adalius Thomas worked most of practice despite a knee injury. He "guaranteed" he would play although the injury might limit his presence on special teams. --NT Kelly Gregg participated in most drills although his left leg was heavily wrapped. He continues to progress each day and should be able to start. --OL Damion Cook likely will be the top backup for every offensive line position Sunday. The third-year veteran has worked at center, guard and tackle this preseason. --WR Randy Hymes will be the third receiver this Sunday after showing he has fully recovered from last year's season-ending knee injury. He isn't the most polished route runner but he has the best leaping ability on the team. Browns: --FB Terrelle Smith's father is gravely ill in a Los Angeles hospital. Smith said Otis Smith is "day to day." Terrelle Smith plans on playing against the Ravens Sunday even if his father passes away over the weekend. --OLB Chaun Thompson expects to be on the sideline at the start of Sunday's game. He will play with a soft cast on his left wrist. It was broken Aug. 1 in practice. He did not play until the final preseason game. --TE Kellen Winslow convinced Aaron Shea to give up the 80 Shea has worn since 2000. Winslow began training camp wearing 11. He wore 81 at the University of Miami but wanted 80 because his father wore 80 with the San Diego Chargers. Shea said he got a watch, a suit and some dinners in the deal. Shea now wears 83. --RB Dee Brown will return kicks. He was picked up as a street free agent early in training camp when James Jackson tore a hamstring. If Ben Taylor does start ahead of Thompson, it means the only change in the starting defensive lineup from last year is Warrick Holdman at OLB instead of Kevin Bentley. The Browns gave up an NFL record 295 yards to Jamal Lewis in the second week of the 2003 season. INSIDE THE CAMPS Ravens: There's a growing concern about the Ravens' offensive line. If left tackle Jonathan Ogden (sprained knee) can't play -- which seems more likely each day -- the Ravens would be left with just three regular starters on their line and only one healthy backup. The line was already depleted with center Mike Flynn (broken clavicle) out for another month. With Flynn and Ogden hurting, two of their backups -- center Casey Rabach and tackle Ethan Brooks -- are working with the starters, leaving Damion Cook as the top reserve for every position (center, guard and tackle). If team officials decide Ogden can't go, the Ravens likely would promote someone off the practice squad (perhaps Tony Pashos). "We can't go into a game with just six (healthy linemen)," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Ogden, who sprained his knee in last week's preseason finale, has trained off to the side. He has shown improvement, jogging on the sideline and working on his drop in pass protection. When asked if Ogden would play Sunday, coach Brian Billick said, "Tune in Sunday." Ogden and Flynn started all 16 games last season when Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards, including two 200-yard games against the Browns. With Rabach and Brooks in there, the Ravens lose that same physical presence, especially in the running game. Left guard Edwin Mulitalo admitted not having either of them beside him on the line has been strange, saying, "It's kind of like being the lone ranger out there." Browns: Browns right guard Kelvin Garmon says the best way to beat Baltimore's defense in the season opener Sunday is to attack it head on instead of trying to run away from Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens. "Ray is a good guy," Garmon said of Lewis. "He runs down plays. I don't think he takes on blocks as well as some linebackers. Our thing is going to be to keep him from running down plays on the back side." The Browns tried running away from Lewis last year and it did not work. The Browns lost 33-13 and 35-0. They rushed for 60 yards in the first game and 78 in the second. "The way we zone up, I'll be on (Lewis) a lot," Garmon said. "I'm sure he'll have a lot to say. Linemen don't say too much. We'll just go out and play. We'll try to use the run to set up the pass. "We're going to try to run at them instead of hitting the edge. Running at them means they can't run down the ball. They're extremely fast." The Browns have more confidence in their run offense than ever before. The original plan was to use Lee Suggs and William Green as a one-two punch. Suggs is listed as doubtful with a neck injury. He did not practice Monday, Wednesday or Thursday. "It will be real disappointing to miss out because we've worked so hard for this one game," said Suggs. "On the other hand, we have 15 more weeks. I have to listen to the doctors. They know what they're talking about. I have to be ready for whatever decision they make." Coach Butch Davis said he expects Suggs to be ready for Dallas next week. He holds out a slim hope Suggs will play against the Ravens. ================================================== Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at New York Jets (0-0) ================================================== GAME SNAPSHOT KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET GAMEDATE: 9/12/04 SURFACE: FieldTurf TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots SERIES: 19th meeting. The New York Jets lead series, 12-6, and have won the last four meetings. The Jets have won 8 of 10 home games. The last meeting was a 15-14 New York victory in 2001 at the Meadowlands. *2003 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 13th (13th rush, 12th pass); defense 28th (24th rush, 24th pass). Jets: offense 19th (25th rush, 13th pass); defense 21st (28th rush, 10th pass) KEYS TO THE GAME: All eyes will be on Bengals QB Carson Palmer making his first career start. While Palmer possesses the big arm the team wants to stretch the field, RB Rudi Johnson must be effective for the Bengals to win a tough road game. The Jets struggled against the run last season and revamped their linebacking corps. They hope to stop the run, force long passing situations and use multiple fronts to try to confuse Palmer. Cincinnati has real concerns on defense and must get strong play up front to keep undersized MLB Nate Webster free to make plays. Jets QB Chad Pennington hasn't had a lot of work with his top three receivers, but RB Curtis Martin is coming off a strong preseason and New York will use the run to set up play-action. FAST FACTS: Bengals: Palmer will be the seventh different opening game quarterback for the team in the past seven seasons. ... Johnson had 215 carries without a fumble last season. Jets: Lead the series 11-6 and have won the past four meetings. ... Are 2-8 in September under coach Herman Edwards. ... This will be the team's third home opener against the Bengals in the past 12 years. PREDICTED SCORE: Jets 21, Bengals 16 PERSONNEL NEWS Bengals: -- OL Victor Leyva, a fourth-year player, was waived by the Bengals on Thursday. Leyva's departure drops to 14 the number of players remaining from the 2002 opening roster on the current 53-man. Four are on defense. Ten are on offense. -- OL Alex Sulfsted was signed to a two-year contract and takes Leyva's roster spot. He was released Sunday when the team cut down to 53 players. -- RT Willie Anderson (knee) was added to the injury report Thursday as probable. He will play Sunday. He has started 64 consecutive games and is one of the NFL's most durable linemen. -- LB Brian Simmons (knee) is expected to be a game-time decision. He is listed as questionable and has not practiced since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 30. Rookie Landon Johnson is believed to be in line to start at weak-side linebacker if Simmons can't play. -- C Rich Braham (knee) remained probable but did not practice. He will start Sunday at the Jets. -- G-T Eric Steinbach (elbow) did practice but remained questionable. His left elbow was heavily wrapped. -- RB Chris Perry (hamstring) did not practice and remained listed as doubtful. -- FB James Lynch (hamstring) was added to the injury report as doubtful and did not practice. The Bengals had just three healthy running backs at practice: Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson and Jeremi Johnson, a fullback. -- WR Peter Warrick (knee) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday. He is probable for the Jets. He is a vital part of the offense, providing a threat from the slot and opening up the deep routes for Chad Johnson. Jets: --SS Erick Coleman is expected to start for the Jets Sunday. Coleman was the surprise of training camp and came through big in the third preseason game with an interception and a forced fumble. Coleman would be the first rookie the Jets have started in the secondary since 1998. --FS Reggie Tongue will start Sunday in place of Jon McGraw, who will play but be limited by an abdominal injury. Tongue was signed as a free agent in the offseason to start at strong safety but missed three weeks of training camp and lost out to Erik Coleman. Coleman and Tongue may switch safety positions, though, because in the Jets defense there isn't much of a difference between strong and free. --FS Jon McGraw will play but won't start Sunday against the Bengals because of an abdominal pull. Reggie Tongue will start in his place. --QB Quincy Carter has held on to the backup spot behind Chad Pennington despite a late charge by Brooks Bollinger because Carter is still practicing with the second team. The Jets have installed a small package of plays for Carter that he's learned rather quickly. Coach Herman Edwards described the decision of Carter over Bollinger as a "no-brainer." --DT Josh Evans (back stiffness) returned to practice Thursday and is probable for Sunday's game. INSIDE THE CAMPS Bengals: The Bengals will have their final walk-through practice Friday before their season opener Sunday at the Jets. The goals offensively and defensively center on the run: Running the ball consistently on offense and stopping the run on defense. But there is a statistic that bridges offense and defense: turnover differential. The Bengals plus-2 differential in 2003 was their first positive number since 1997, and they finished with just their second non-losing record in the past 13 years. From 1998 through 2002, the Bengals were a combined minus-45 and lost at least 10 games each season. In finishing plus-2 last season, the Bengals were 5-0 when they had a plus in differential, 1-7 when they were minus and 2-1 when even. Turnovers also reflected how the Bengals did in the preseason. In their two victories, the Bengals were a combined plus-1. In their two losses, they were minus-5 combined. "There's probably no other statistic that correlates more closely with winning and losing than turnovers," Lewis said. "Sometimes it can be frustrating when they don't go your way, but they tend to come in bunches, and if you're doing the right things, good things will happen." First-time starting quarterback Carson Palmer will have to avoid interceptions. And the defense is stressing takeaways. "It's one thing to stop the opponent on a three and out," Bengals free safety Kim Herring said. "But if you start getting takeaways, not only do you get the ball back for your offense, you start wearing on the psyche of the other team." Jets: With nickel back Ray Mickens out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, the Jets raced to sign veteran corner Terrell Buckley, who was cut just a few days earlier by New England. Buckley, 33, was courted by others. Cowboys' coach and former Jets coach Bill Parcells even called Buckley at the airport while Buckley was in Miami visiting family. "I think it's a good get for us," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "He's a veteran guy, has played in a lot of football games, has played a lot of different roles. He has some strengths that he brings to the table." One of Buckley's skills - and the one the Jets like the most - is that he's always around the ball. His 47 career interceptions rank him third among active players. Buckley made a career-high eight picks starting 16 games for Miami in 1998 and six as recently as the 2000 season with Denver. But even as a nickel back and part-time starter over the last three seasons for the Patriots and Dolphins, Buckley made nine interceptions in 47 games, including eight starts. "Everywhere I've been and in different systems, I've made plays," said Buckley, who makes the Jets his fifth team as he starts his 15th season. "I don't have to feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. I've done it, still can do it. If I can't do it ill be the first one to tell you, but I have a lot left." The Jets were one of the NFL's worst teams with just 11 interceptions last year. The Jets aren't sure if Buckley will be ready to play Sunday but haven't ruled him out. Derrick Strait, the Jets' third-round pick and a solid player during training camp, will play at the nickel position in Mickens' absence with rookie free agent Roderick Bryant - another training camp surprise - playing in the Jets' dime package. Despite the solid play of the Jets' rookies, the loss of Mickens is still a big blow to a thin Jets secondary. Not only was Mickens a talented veteran but also something of an inspirational player. Listed charitably at 5-feet-8, Mickens was always considered too small to be a starting corner, even though he started 10 games as a rookie in 1996 and 14 last year when Donnie Abraham was out with a fractured shoulder. What Mickens, 31, did during his previous eight seasons in New York was develop into one of the league's best nickel backs and slot defenders, a tough role considering you're guarding a receiver in a more wide open space rather than along the sidelines. Mickens was hurt when he got tangled up with receiver Justin McCareins Aug. 15, but because there was so much swelling, two previous MRIs were inconclusive and the Jets weren't aware of the damage. Tuesday's MRI was much more telling. ================================================== Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) ================================================== GAME SNAPSHOT KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET GAMEDATE: 9/12/04 SURFACE: Grass TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Lesley Visser SERIES: 22nd meeting. The Oakland Raiders lead the series, 11-10. The Steelers are 5-4 at home and 4-1 vs. the Raiders under coach Bill Cowher. This is the third straight season the two former archrivals will meet, the first time that has happened since 1972-74. Pittsburgh won Dec. 7 in Heinz Field, 27-7. *2003 RANKINGS: Raiders: offense 25th (16th rush, 27th pass); defense 30th (32nd rush, 22nd pass). Steelers: offense 22nd (31st rush, 14th pass); defense 9th (12th rush, 11th pass) KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers are determined to improve their running game with RBs Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis. That said, they will avoid massive Raiders DT Ted Washington and run at Warren Sapp, who will often line up at end when Oakland goes to a 3-4 front. Sapp's only edict is to rush the passer and he will play a big role in helping out the secondary, which is likely to have CB Charles Woodson only in as a nickel corner. The Raiders want to stretch the field in coach Norv Turner's offensive system, and QB Rich Gannon must prove that, at 38, he has the arm to get the ball deep to WR Jerry Porter. The Steelers' secondary can give up chunks of yards, especially if the line fails to create pressure. RB Tyrone Wheatley is starting because Turner likes his power and ability to draw the defense in. FAST FACTS: The teams are meeting for a third consecutive season, the first time that has happened since 1972-74. Raiders: Lead the series 11-10. ... Are 1-8 in road openers since 1991. Steelers: The defense did not record a sack, interception or forced fumble in four preseason games. ... Staley led the NFL with 6.4 yards-per-touch last season. PREDICTED SCORE: Steelers 23, Raiders 20 PERSONNEL NEWS Raiders: -- The Raiders have reached an injury settlement with G Mo Collins, a first round draft pick in 1998. He was placed on injured reserve last week. -- Rookie T Robert Gallery has worked out mostly on the right side this week but still has not been declared a starter for the opener at Pittsburgh. -- WR Jerry Rice said he was relieved when he saw the playbook Norv Turner brought with him to the Raiders. "When I first came here, the terminology was intense," he said. "It was just like going back to college. If you missed one word, you didn't know where to line up. It's easier now. You don't have to really do that much thinking. You can just go out there and let your natural ability take over. You can just go and play football." -- LB Napoleon Harris practiced on a limited basis Thursday and will probably not be forced into the lineup against Pittsburgh. "We're going to be smart about it," Turner said. -- SS David Terrell could earn the start against the Steelers in place of injured Derrick Gibson but the Raiders are still holding out hope that recently acquired Marques Anderson can master the defensive system in time to be used. -- SS Derrick Gibson underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder Wednesday and is out for the year. -- The Raiders reached an injury settlement with CB Clarence Love Thursday. Steelers: -- CB Chad Scott was added to the injury report as probable on Thursday. He jammed his thumb in practice on Wednesday and has it heavily taped up. -- LB Larry Foote will start if Kendrell Bell does not play and Foote also will play in the nickel defense for Bell even if Bell can play. -- WR Lee Mays has won the No. 4 job over veteran Chris Doering, who held it last season. -- S Mike Logan resigned with the Steelers as a free agent, turning down an offer from Green Bay. He started at strong safety last year. Not only did he lose that job, but he's not in any of their nickel and dime packages. -- LB Joey Porter will play on all downs, at right outside linebacker in the regular defense and right rush end in the nickel and dime defenses. INSIDE THE CAMPS Raiders: Rich Gannon's spot in the Raiders' starting lineup has not changed but his contract has. In a renegotiated deal, Gannon agreed to a base salary cut from $7 million to $4.5 million this week. He can make up the $2.5 million difference through incentives. If he plays in 50 percent of Oakland's offensive plays this year, he will receive an additional $1.5 million and if he reaches 65 percent, the pot is sweetened another $1 million. Gannon said that "it's not entirely true" that incentives had totally replaced any bonus money in his re-worked deal but did not elaborate. Gannon said he was satisfied with the outcome of the new deal, obviously confident he can hold on to his starting job ahead of Kerry Collins. Speculation has abounded since the Raiders signed Collins to a three-year deal in May that Gannon would be on the way out. Coach Norv Turner has remained steadfast that Gannon is his starter, even though Collins had a remarkable preseason in which he threw four touchdown passes totaling 228 yards. Gannon also played well, completing 58 percent of his passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Gannon is slated to make $8 million in 2005 and the numbers progress until he tops out at $11.5 million in 2008. Collins' base salary this year is $660,000 but he will make $4.7 million next year and $6 million in 2006. Gannon said in January that he would renegotiate his deal but would not take "a penny less" than the $7 million he had coming. Steelers: Pittsburgh linebacker Kendrell Bell has come down with yet another injury and may not play on Sunday against Oakland. Listed as questionable all week with a shoulder injury, Bell nevertheless got through practices on Monday and Wednesday. However, he did not practice on Thursday and a new injury appeared on the Steelers report for him: Groin. Neither coach Bill Cowher nor Bell would comment after practice. The linebacker was in a sullen mood all week. He did not play in the final three preseason games because of the shoulder injury, which was described as an "arthritic condition" by Cowher. He also missed all of the team's spring workouts after injuring his groin on the very first day. Bell has not been the same since he earned NFL rookie defensive player of the year honors in 2001, a year in which he also went to the Pro Bowl. A sprained ankle hurt his cause in 2002 and he had an average season in 2003. The Steelers dropped plans to use him on the nickel and dime defenses and he has reverted to a two-down player. Also, the team pulled its offer in negotiations several weeks ago and will allow Bell to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
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