AFCN Game Previews

This week's AFCN games: on Sunday the Cleveland Browns(1-2) host the Washington Redskins (1-2)and the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) host the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2). The Baltimore Ravens (2-1) play Monday Night hosting the Kansas City Chiefs (0-3). <br><br> Notes, quotes, game match-ups and personel/injury info for all three games.


Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Indianapolis Colts (2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-0)
New England Patriots (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (0-2)
New York Giants (2-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Houston Texans (1-2)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) at Chicago Bears (1-2)
Washington Redskins (1-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-2)
Atlanta Falcons (3-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
New Orleans Saints (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (0-3)
Denver Broncos (2-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3)
New York Jets (2-0) at Miami Dolphins (0-3)
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
St. Louis Rams (1-2) at San Francisco 49ers (0-3)

Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) at Baltimore Ravens (1-2)

Cincinnati Bengals (1-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/03/04
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 68th meeting. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the all-time series 39-28. The Steelers are 23-11 in games played in Pittsburgh. Sunday's game, as the 68th against the Steelers for the Bengals, ties Pittsburgh with the Tennessee/Houston franchise as the Bengals' most frequent opponent. The Steelers won in Cincinnati last year. The Bengals won in Pittsburgh.
*2004 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 19th (19th rush, 15th pass); defense 19th (31st rush, 10th pass). Steelers: offense 25th (11th rush, 25th pass); defense 6th (9th rush, 5th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bengals' injury-riddled roster took another hit with the loss of MLB Nate Webster for the season, and the Steelers will attempt to take advantage in the running game. RB Duce Staley is coming off his first 100-yard game with the Steelers and needs to be productive to take pressure off rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals struggled against the run with Webster, so they will need to stack the box and force Roethlisberger to win the game. Offensively, the Bengals have struggled to put drives together and score touchdowns. They need RB Rudi Johnson to get untracked early and know if they can get a lead it will put more pressure on Roethlisberger to come from behind.

FAST FACTS: Bengals: Offense has not scored a touchdown in its past 30 possessions. ... Have lost 41 consecutive road games to teams with a winning record. Steelers: WR Hines Ward is on pace to catch 117 passes. ... Lead the series 39-28. ... Coach Bill Cowher is 17-7 against Cincinnati, his most wins against any team.

PREDICTION: Bengals 16-10

-- WR Chad Johnson could have a big game Sunday against the Steelers, based on their problems at cornerback and Johnson's historically strong showings against Pittsburgh. In six career games against the Steelers, Johnson has averaged 5.2 catches and 82.3 yards. He had a career high 152 yards at Pittsburgh in 2002.
-- RB Chris Perry finally appears prepared to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Steelers. Though dressed, Perry did not play in either of the last two games after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. The problem appears to be blocking schemes.
-- QB Carson Palmer leads the NFL with 117 pass attempts after three games, three ahead of Vinny Testaverde and Marc Bulger. Palmer's high number of attempts is the result of a 52-pass game against Baltimore in which the Bengals fell behind 17-0 and had to pass more to try to catch up.
-- LB Caleb Miller is confident that he can be successful in making his first NFL start at middle linebacker. The third-round rookie started at weak-side linebacker in the opener and suffered a sprained ankle. He is just 225 pounds but said he compensates for working against bigger offensive linemen and running backs with speed, quickness and brains.
-- DB Keiwan Ratliff, who is third on the depth chart at left cornerback, said the Bengals have been working him at safety and have asked him to learn all four defensive backfield positions.

-- LB Kendrell Bell did not practice again on Thursday and it appears he will miss his fourth straight regular season game. Bell, who has a groin injury, has not played since the first exhibition game. Larry Foote will again replace him.
-- QB Ben Roethlisberger makes his first start in Heinz Field after opening on the road in Miami last week. Roethlisberger is third in the AFC with a touchdown percent of 7.1.
-- P Chris Gardocki will play in his 200th game and possibly make his 1,000th punt against Cincinnati. He already owns the NFL record for punting 997 times without a block - he's never had one touched in an NFL game.
-- K Jeff Reed has made only 3 of 6 field goal tries this season. Coach Bill Cowher said this week his kicker needs to be more consistent.
-- CB Deshea Townsend is off to a fast start. He has two interceptions, two passes defensed and is tied for second on the team with 14 solo tackles.

The injury-riddled Bengals got a mix of good and bad Thursday.
The bad: Backup safety Kevin Kaesviharn, who has started the past two games at free safety, was added to the injury report as questionable with a back injury. If Kaesviharn can't play or is limited, rookie Madieu Williams would likely move from free to strong safety.
The good: Starting strong safety Rogers Beckett, who has missed the last two games because of a concussion suffered in the opener, was upgraded from questionable to probable for the game Sunday at Pittsburgh. Beckett practiced Thursday for the second day in a row. Beckett's return would allow Williams to move to free safety. Williams started the past two games at strong safety.
Other key injuries remained unchanged Thursday. Starting left tackle Levi Jones (knee) missed his second consecutive day of practice. He had to leave the game early Sunday against Baltimore. He is likely to try to play against Pittsburgh, where he would be working against linebacker Joey Porter.
If Jones can't play, left guard Eric Steinbach would slide to left tackle, and Larry Moore would be inserted at left guard. Moore (knee) has been out since the opener. Though he remained questionable Thursday, Moore did practice for the second day in a row.
The Bengals also appear prepared to play without wide receiver Peter Warrick on Sunday. He remained questionable with a shin injury and did not practice. The team signed wide receiver Cliff Russell from its practice squad Wednesday, and Russell would dress as the fifth wide receiver if Warrick can't play.
The Bengals (1-2) are just trying to hold the team together and steal a victory Sunday before heading into a much-needed bye week.

Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu and Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer were roommates at Southern Cal and first-round draft choices in the NFL last season.
Sunday, Polamalu hopes to short-sheet his old roommate.
"It would be a blessing for me to get my hands on the ball," said Polamalu, who leads the Steelers in tackles from his strong safety position and swiped his first NFL interception last week.
Polamalu was a two-time All American at USC, where Palmer won the Heisman Trophy in 2002. Neither, though, started a game as a rookie last season.
"He looks very good," Polamalu said of Palmer's play this season. "His first game, he looked very comfortable. Baltimore is an excellent defense and they gave their offense some trouble. Hopefully, we can do the same."
Polamalu played on the nickel and dime defenses for the Steelers last season even though they traded up in the first round to take him with the 16th pick. He was immediately installed as their starting strong safety the past spring, just about the time Palmer was promoted to No. 1 quarterback in Cincinnati.
"He was a great roommate," Polamalu said of Palmer. "We had a house with about six guys who were low-key guys."

Washington Redskins (1-2) at Cleveland Browns (1-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/03/04
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Jay Glazer
SERIES: 43rd meeting. The Browns lead the all-time series 32-9-1. The last contest took place in 1991, a 42-17 Redskins victory as Washington surged toward Joe Gibbs' third Super Bowl title. The clubs split the other two meetings during Gibbs' tenure.
*2004 RANKINGS: Redskins: offense 15th (10th rush, 16th pass); defense 3rd (1st rush, 14th pass). Browns: offense 28th (13th rush, 30th pass); defense 25th (18th rush, 25th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns, who have yet to score in the first quarter this season, can't afford to stumble out of the gate again. The offense has gone three-and-out on its first possession of each game and produced a total of four first-quarter first downs. QB Jeff Garcia has appeared tentative in the pocket and the Browns are hoping RBs William Green and perhaps Lee Suggs can ease the pressure and prevent constant third-and-longs. Redskins QB Mark Brunell has struggled with his consistency, so the Browns will focus on containing RB Clinton Portis and try to make Brunell force the ball downfield. Brunell's protection has been shaky so his time to find open receivers likely will be limited.

FAST FACTS: Redskins: WR Rod Gardner has seven receptions on third down this season. ... Portis has 19 100-yard rushing games in 32 career games. Browns: Offense has converted just nine of 37 (24.3 percent) of third-down situations. ... Lead the series 32-9-1, but the teams have not met since 1991.

PREDICTION: Redskins 20-10

--KR Chad Morton (knee) didn't practice Thursday and looks like he might miss the Browns game. Although he was moving better, he didn't appear to be in football shape.
--S Andre Lott (hamstring) didn't practice Thursday and remained questionable. However, he believes he is going to play at Cleveland.
--LB Mike Barrow (knee) didn't practice Thursday and remained questionable. Barrow's return from a torn tendon is pretty much a week-to-week crapshoot. He has yet to play in a game for the Redskins.
--S Matt Bowen (groin) didn't practice Thursday but healed enough to be upgraded to probable.
--WR Laveranues Coles (finger) practiced again Thursday and shouldn't have any problem playing at Cleveland.
--LB Antonio Pierce (foot) returned to practice Thursday and was taken off the injury list.

--TE Kellen Winslow Jr. was placed on injured reserve Thursday. His right leg was broken Sept. 19 in Dallas. Coach Butch Davis was hopeful Winslow might play again in 2004 until doctors discovered ligament damage in a post-operative exam. A second operation was performed Wednesday. Winslow's rehab will last five months.
--OL Bo Lacy was signed from the Steelers practice squad Thursday to fill the roster spot opened when Winslow was placed on I.R. Lacy, a sixth-round draft pick by the Steelers in 2004, had been on Pittsburgh's practice squad. The Browns play the Steelers Oct. 10.
--Whether RB Lee Suggs plays against the Redskins Sunday will be another game-time decision. He has been inactive each of the first three weeks because of a neck injury. Coach Davis said Suggs has done no more in practice this week than either of the last two weeks.
--LG Paul Zukauskas played last week with a sprained MCL of his left knee. He was listed as questionable Wednesday and upgraded to probable Thursday.
--LB Chaun Thompson will be making his first career start in the Browns' traditional 4-3 defense. He did start against the Ravens in the opener, but the Browns were in a 4-4-3 defense to stop Jamal Lewis. Thompson is starting because Ben Taylor is out for the season following surgery to reattach his torn pectoral tendon.

The Hall of Fame credentials of Redskins coach Joe Gibbs bought him just a two-week grace period. Following Monday's loss to the Cowboys, Gibbs' game-management skills became a hot topic of debate around Washington.
At the center of griping was the fact that Washington had no timeouts left in the game's final minutes. Wide receiver Rod Gardner caught a pass in range for a potential tying field goal but time expired when he couldn't get out of bounds.
The first two timeouts were burned midway through the second half when the Redskins had trouble getting a play off. Gibbs shouldered the blame for both timeouts, saying he would trim back the pre-snap motion and complexity of the offense.
"Basically, I've got to simplify some things we're doing package-wise," Gibbs said. "We're trying to do too much. We shouldn't get caught in those situations."
The final timeout vanished in the fourth quarter on a failed challenge. Terry Glenn had just scored to put Dallas up by 11. In the booth, the Redskins couldn't get a good angle to determine whether Glenn was in or out of bounds. Gibbs decided to take a risk and challenge the play.
"Here was the problem on that: that was a huge play," Gibbs said. "It put them up by a ton. And so if it was close, I at least wanted to take our shot. I sure didn't want to be sitting here (this week), saying, 'The thing was out of bounds.'
"As happens many times out there, (the guys in the booth will) tell you, 'Yes, it's reviewable, but we can't get the replay.' ... I felt like where the game was there, I needed to do it. That one goes with me. That's my mistake."
And that wasn't the last game-management error that Gibbs admitted. He also took blame for running the ball on second down from the Cowboys' 1 at the end of the first half. By running and failing to score, the Redskins had to burn their final timeout. That meant they had to pass on third down.
If Gibbs had passed and thrown incomplete, the clock would have stopped and he could have had run or passed on third down.
"I probably hurt us with what I decided to go with there," Gibbs said. "I was kind of stubborn with what I thought would work."

Cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry vow to start against the Redskins Sunday after missing the game in Giants Stadium last week.
McCutcheon did not play against the Giants because of a broken middle finger on his left hand and Henry was deactivated because of a lingering bout of vertigo. Giants quarterback Kurt Warner picked on their replacements, Michael Lehan and Leigh Bodden. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 286 yards.
"The starters give you a better chance to win," McCutcheon said. "I want to be out there. I don't think just because I'm out there we win, but you want your starters out there. It gives you a chance to play better defense. If we get them down we want to keep them down."
McCutcheon's finger was broken in the first quarter against Dallas Sept. 19 when it was mashed between two helmets. Doctors operated and used three pins to put the finger back together.
McCutcheon did not practice once last week. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday this week while wearing a bulky cast that immobilizes the middle and ring finger on his left hand. He said the trainers have made three different casts for him to choose from. McCutcheon said he wanted to play last week, but the pain was to great.
Henry's problem started when he tackled Cowboys running back Eddie George on first-and-goal from the 6 with 4:06 left in the third quarter. It was a solid hit that stopped George cold. Henry said he felt a little dizzy in the moments afterward, but he said that sensation is not uncommon. He felt fine on the plane ride home. But that night, when he lay down to sleep, he started feeling dizzy.
"The whole room was spinning," he said. "Whenever I tilted or moved quickly in one direction I felt it."
Treatment included neck exercises and sleeping sitting up in a chair five nights straight. He said he has had no dizziness since Tuesday.

Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) at Baltimore Ravens (1-2)

KICKOFF: Monday, 9:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/04/04
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 3rd meeting. Chiefs are 2-0 against the Ravens after winning games in Baltimore in 1999 and last year, 17-10.
*2004 RANKINGS: Chiefs: offense 18th (6th rush, 23rd pass); defense 23rd (29th rush, 16th pass). Ravens: offense 22nd (2nd rush, 31st pass); defense 16th (10th rush, 20th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: How many Chiefs does it take to stop Ravens RB Jamal Lewis? Kansas City has struggled mightily against the run and will have to creep the safeties forward to help against Lewis. The Ravens' passing game is hardly threatening, but WR Randy Hymes has emerged as a downfield threat for QB Kyle Boller, who has improved his accuracy. The Ravens' defense believes it can handle the Chiefs' receivers one-on-one, and will focus its attention on RB Priest Holmes. They key is whether the Chiefs' offensive line can create gaps for Holmes to exploit. If not, the Ravens can stuff the box and make sure TE Tony Gonzalez is double covered at all times.

FAST FACTS: Chiefs: 0-3 for the first time since 1980. ... QB Trent Green will start his 52nd consecutive game with Kansas City, breaking Len Dawson's franchise record. ... Three teams have begun a season 0-3 and gone on to reach the playoffs. Ravens: LB Terrell Suggs has 15 sacks in 19 games. ... 40-2 under coach Brian Billick when having a positive turnover margin. ... LB Ray Lewis has 44 tackles in three Monday night games. ... Next three opponents have a combined 1-7 record.

PREDICTION: Ravens 19-17

--WR Eddie Kennison did not practice again Thursday because of his sore hamstring and is looking doubtful for Baltimore on Monday. Kennison also did not play last week in the loss to Houston.
--WR Dante Hall did not practice Thursday because of a swollen lip, but he should be available for Monday night's game in Baltimore. You read that right, it's lip with an "L." Hall got belted in the mouth in the first quarter of the Houston loss last week. He continued to play, but the lip blew up to roughly the size of the Met Life blimp and Hall needed antibiotics for an infection and was held out of practice as a precaution. Hall's kickoff return in the Baltimore game last year provided the game-winning points in the final five minutes.
--WR Samie Parker, a rookie who has battled injuries through the preseason and the first three games of the season, was back at practice Thursday for the first time in weeks. He might suit up for his first NFL game Sunday as he is one of only four healthy receivers on the KC active roster.
--DE Vonnie Holliday returned to practice Thursday after missing a second straight game against Houston with a groin injury. He may not be returned immediately to his starting position, however, as replacement John Browning, a transplanted DT, has been playing very well there.
--CB William Bartee, who missed the Houston loss while feeling the effects of an earlier concussion, returned to practice Thursday and should be available as the Chiefs nickel back against Baltimore.

--C Mike Flynn has returned to practice but will not play Monday because he is still recovering from a broken collarbone. He will be replaced by Casey Rabach for the third straight game.
--TE Todd Heap did not practice and will not play Monday. He will be replaced by Terry Jones.
--WR Travis Taylor did not practice because of a groin injury and will not play Monday. He will be replaced by Randy Hymes.
--CB Deion Sanders is expected to return after missing last game with a hamstring injury. He ran back punts and worked on the team's nickel packages in practice.
--NT Kelly Gregg practiced for the first time in two weeks and should start Monday. He had missed the past two games with a knee injury.
--FB Ovie Mughelli is doubtful for Monday's game with a hamstring injury. His presence on special teams will be missed against dangerous returner Dante Hall.

The Chiefs insist they know how to go keep Baltimore's Jamal Lewis from racing through their 29th-ranked rushing defenses when the two teams meet Monday night in Baltimore.
"The key is not to let him get going," said Chiefs linebacker Monty Beisel, who knows that is easier said than done. "When he gets his legs moving, he's hard to bring down. We've got to do our best to stop him at the line of scrimmage or behind it."
Yeah, that happens a lot. Like when Lewis ran for 2,066 yards last year, the second-best single-season total in NFL history.
At least the Chiefs kept Lewis below his individual game average last year. Lewis ran for 115 yards in Kansas City's 17-10 win in Baltimore a year ago. He needed 26 rushes to get that many.
Kansas City's Swiss Cheese run defense got at least a taste of respectability last week. It held Houston's Domanick Davis, No. 2 in total yards from scrimmage coming into last week's game, to only 12 rushing yards on 10 carries and 1 reception for 15 yards before he was injured early in the second half.
They passed that test last week, even though they flunked the course overall in a loss to the Texans. Lewis, however, is like graduate school, especially when playing in Baltimore where the Ravens have won eight straight games.
But knowing what they have to do and then getting it done against Lewis and his imposing offensive lines are two different things.
"He's a great back running behind a great offensive line; we have our work cut out for us," said Chiefs DT Lional Dalton, a former Raven. "We've got to hit him early and keep him from getting on a streak. Because once he gets going, it's hard to stop him.
"There's no secret to what they want to do. It's gonna be smashmouth football, a 9-on-7 drill the whole game. They're gonna try to beat us up and run the ball down our throat."

The first Monday night game for Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs could represent the biggest test of the season in Kansas City left tackle Willie Roaf.
The nine-time Pro Bowl lineman has faced big-name pass rushers such as Reggie White, Charles Haley, Kevin Greene and Chris Doleman. Because Roaf is an established blocker, the Chiefs might let him go one-on-one with Suggs and not use a tight end or running back to double team. He has given up just one sack in three games this season.
What Suggs lacks in experience (he turns 22 next month), he makes up with talent. Unlike a lot of pass rushers who rely either on speed or power, Suggs combines both to keep tackles off balance. He has a tremendous burst with his first two steps, but he has surprised coaches and teammates with his strength to push past bigger lineman.
Since he entered the league as a first-round draft pick last season, Suggs has registered 15 sacks in 19 games. Only three players -- the New York Giants' Michael Strahan (21 1/2), Chicago's Adewale Ogunleye (17) and Rice (16) -- have harassed quarterbacks more over that time.
"To me, he's the premier pass rusher in the AFC," said Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan, who works with Suggs on his pass-rushing technique. "He really is unbelievable. The great thing is the kid is only going to get better."
The biggest strides made by Suggs is in his development as an every-down player.
As a rookie last season, he failed miserably to convert from a college defensive end to pro outside linebacker. The Ravens used him solely as a pass-rush end, a role he dominated so thoroughly he won the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
This offseason, Suggs showed more determination in transforming into a linebacker.
Under the direction of outside linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald, Suggs learned how to attack the run but not get sucked in by misdirection. He also has become adept at dropping back in coverage, which means resisting the urge to rush the quarterback every down.
"He runs the complete package now," coach Brian Billick said. "He is proud of that and is becoming a great professional. Just to think how young this kid is and how well he is playing, it's exciting."


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