AFCN Game Previews

Week 5 sees the Cleveland Browns (2-2) on the road in Pittsburgh (3-1) and the Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Washington Redskins (1-3). The Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) are on their bye week.

All Games:

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

Cleveland Browns (2-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/10/04
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Brent Jones
SERIES: 103rd meeting. The Browns lead the series 55-47. No teams in the AFC have played each other as much as Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won five of the last six meetings, including a 36-33 win in a wild-card game in January 2003. The Browns' only victory in that span was a 33-13 rout in Pittsburgh last October.
2004 RANKINGS: Browns: offense 31st (20th rush, 30th pass); defense 20th (8th rush, 26th pass). Steelers: offense 24th (7th rush, 28th pass); defense 5th (11th rush, 5th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception since his first regular-season attempt, 46 passes ago. The Browns are expected to be without DT Gerard Warren, but must find a way to pressure the rookie and prevent him from becoming comfortable in the pocket. RB Duce Staley is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing games and the Steelers will attempt to get him involved early to put Roethlisberger in manageable situations. Cleveland's offensive line struggled against Baltimore's 3-4 defensive front in will need to work better against Pittsburgh's. The Steelers lead the AFC with 11 takeaways, so expect the Browns to rely heavily on RBs Lee Suggs and William Green to prevent QB Jeff Garcia from facing long passing situations.

FAST FACTS: Browns: K Phil Dawson has converted 18 consecutive field-goal opportunities. ... Lead the series 55-49. Steelers: The offense has scored touchdown on nine of 11 red-zone possessions (81.8 percent). ... Roethlisberger is the team's first rookie quarterback to win his first two starts since Mike Kruczek in 1976.

PREDICTION: Browns 17-16

--RT Ryan Tucker has jogged in pads the last two days but he says doctors are being cautious and might not let him play until next week. He missed the last two games with a torn right quadriceps. Joaquin Gonzalez will start if Tucker does not.
--DT Gerard Warren has resigned himself to missing a third straight game with a strained pectoral muscle. Michael Myers will start.
--First-year P Derrick Frost leads the NFL with a 40.8 net average. His overall punting average is 43.9 on 23 punts.
--DB Leigh Bodden leads the team in special teams tackles. Bodden is looking forward to playing the Steelers in Heinz Field because he went to Duquesne University, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.
--WR Andre Davis has 10 catches for 216 yards, a 21.6 average. His highest per catch average until now was 14.4 on 40 catches last year.

-- LB James Farrior is tied for the NFL lead with three fumble recoveries on defense. Farrior also is second on the team with 30 tackles, has an interception and two passes defensed.
-- CB Deshea Townsend leads everyone in the secondary with four passes defensed and he's tied with Troy Polamalu with two interceptions and tied for the team lead with two sacks.
-- WR Antwaan Randle El has completed 10 of 12 passes in his first two years in the league, but has yet to attempt one in 2004.
-- QB Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception in his past 46 attempts. During that time, he's thrown two touchdowns.
-- WR Hines Ward needs eight yards receiving to move past Hall of Famer Lynn Swann as the third-leading receiver in Steelers history. Ward has 5,455 yards in his seventh season.

Coach Butch Davis isn't naming his starting running backs against the Steelers, but he says it doesn't matter because it will be running back by committee.
Lee Suggs carried 22 times last week against Washington. William Green carried four times. Suggs Thursday said he is "curious" about how playing time will be divided this week.
"It will be nice to start, but I just want to play," Suggs said. "Everybody has their own opinion how it should be handled. A running back needs to be in a rhythm to play his best. It's not my call. If it were my team it would be different. I just have to go with what the coaches call."
On Wednesday quarterback Jeff Garcia said a realistic split is 70-30 or 60-40. Garcia did not say which running back should get the majority of carries, and Davis did not comment on what his quarterback said.
Green spoke to reporters Sept. 26 when he rushed for 91 yards against the Giants, but he ducked the locker room all but one day since and on that day he refused to talk.
Suggs says he and Green have "a good relationship." He understands why Green has been in hiding.
"It goes without saying (that Green is down about the situation)," Suggs said.
"Both those guys will get opportunities to play," Davis said. "Ego shouldn't come into play if the No. 1 objective is winning. They could both be hot. It's a matter of keeping them fresh and getting them in the game."

Jerome Bettis, who has only 18 carries and 22 yards, could make his first start of the season at running back for Pittsburgh against Cleveland on Sunday in Heinz Field.
Duce Staley, off to his fastest start with 372 yards rushing, was downgraded by the Steelers on Thursday because of a sprained big toe. Staley did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Bettis, the NFL's sixth-leading rusher with 12,375 yards, lost his starting job to Staley, who signed as a free agent with the Steelers from the Philadelphia Eagles. Bettis' role was reduced to a goalline back and he's rushed for five touchdowns to tie for the league high.
Staley, who has never run for three straight 100-yard games, topped 100 yards each of the past two games. His 87 carries are only nine fewer than he had all last season with the Eagles. He has not missed a game since 2001.
Bettis' last 1,000-yard season came in 2001. He opened last season on the bench behind Amos Zereoue, then reclaimed his starting job after six games and finished with 811 yards rushing. He passed four players on the all-time list last season and needs 365 yards to pass Tony Dorsett at No. 5. However, Curtis Martin at No. 10 is closing fast. Martin is only 281 behind Bettis.
Verron Haynes, the team's third-down back, also could see more action if Staley either cannot play or his playing time is limited by his injury.

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Washington Redskins (1-3)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/10/04
TV: ESPN, Mike Patrick, Paul Maguire, Joe Theismann, Suzy Kolber
SERIES: Third meeting. The teams have split the series, 1-1. The Redskins beat the Ravens, 10-3, on Oct. 15, 2000 in Washington. Redskins running back Stephen Davis ran for a 33-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter for the game's only touchdown to break a 3-3 tie. The Ravens won the first meeting, 20-17 on Oct. 26, 1997.
2004 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 25th (4th rush, 32nd pass); defense 21st (18th rush, 20th pass). Redskins: offense 17th (21st rush, 16th pass); defense 4th (1st rush, 12th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Redskins coach Joe Gibbs' struggling offense has already come under scrutiny. But he will continue to use a lot of formations while adding more plays each week. The biggest key is getting RB Clinton Portis going - and getting him to hold onto the ball. The Ravens' front four has struggled to hold its ground and keep offensive linemen from picking off the linebackers. In a game likely to be determined by field position, Ravens QB Kyle Boller needs to keep his streak of three consecutive games without an interception going. But RB Jamal Lewis has been held under 100 rushing yards three times already and needs more help from the passing game to keep the defense from loading up against him. The Redskins, who are expected to be without LB LaVar Arrington for a second consecutive game, will blitz Boller often in an effort to rattle him.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Allowing 222.8 passing yards per game - 47.5 more than last season. ... Are 33-8 when they score at least 21 points. Redskins: Averaging 15.25 points. The team averaged 24.03 points under coach Joe Gibbs from 1981-92.

PREDICTION: Ravens 19-16

-- RB Jamal Lewis could be suspended this season by the NFL after pleading guilty Thursday to using a cell phone to try to set up a drug deal.
"We will review the court documents from today's proceedings and announce a decision on league discipline as soon as possible, perhaps as early as (Friday)," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Even if Lewis is suspended by the league, he has five days to appeal, so he'll probably play Sunday night against Washington.
Lewis will be sentenced to four months in prison, which will be served after the regular season
"I made a mistake four years ago, when I was 20 years old, that I am paying heavily for," Lewis said outside the courthouse after his plea. "It's a difficult time for me. My family and friends were hurt more."
--C Mike Flynn practiced lightly but will miss his fifth game of the season because of a collarbone injury. He will be replaced by Casey Rabach for the third straight game.
--TE Todd Heap did not practice and will not play Sunday. He will be replaced by Terry Jones.
--WR Travis Taylor surprisingly participated for the entire practice and could play despite a nagging groin injury. If he plays, he likely would still be limited.
--CB Deion Sanders is expected to return after missing last game with a hamstring injury.

--LB LaVar Arrington (knee) is virtually certain not to play against the Ravens. Arrington is holding out a very small possibility of getting on the field, but he is listed "out."
--S Andre Lott (hamstring) missed another practice Thursday and remains questionable. The Redskins are deep at safety, limiting the impact if Lott cannot play.
--CB Shawn Springs (ankle) missed another practice Thursday but should play against the Ravens.
--RT Ray Brown (hamstring) missed another practice Thursday but is expected to play against the Ravens. It is unclear whether he or Kenyatta Jones would start.
--DE Ron Warner (ankle) missed practice Thursday and was wearing a huge pack of ice on his left leg. He remains probable.
--KR Chad Morton (knee) continues to practice and should be able to play against the Ravens.
--WR Laveranues Coles took a day of rest Thursday. He continues to nurse a finger he dislocated in the Sept. 27 Dallas game, but Redskins officials said Coles is essentially healthy.


Facing the NFL's top-ranked run defense, the Ravens might need to rely on their passing game to defeat the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
The problem is, Baltimore has the worst-ranked passing attack in the league.
"When we're playing the caliber of defense we're playing this week, it's hard to imagine us able to win unless Kyle (Boller) has made some substantial plays," Billick said. "When I say Kyle, it's a euphemism (for the entire passing game)."
Boller has made strides as a second-year quarterback. His efficiency is significantly higher than his rookie season (58.2 percent) and his interceptions are down (none in the past three games).
But he has yet to give the Ravens a big-play arm. In the first four games, Boller has made six completions of 20 yards or more and 34 of nine yards or less.
The former first-round pick might have to elevate his game against the Redskins, who haven't allowed a running back to gain over 82 this year.
"There's no question, no doubt in my mind that Kyle Boller is the quarterback we believe him to be and is going to be our quarterback for a long, long time," Billick said.

Redskins assistant coach Joe Bugel apparently smoothed things over with running back Clinton Portis after a sharp rebuke early this week.
"We're the best of friends," Bugel said. "We must have shook hands (Wednesday) 12 times. We hugged each other. My feelings for Clinton will never change. He knows my feelings. I said it. I told him my feelings to him. We just reiterated how we cared about each other."
The peace-making became necessary after last weekend's loss at Cleveland. Portis said "the defense knew every play we were doing," which either meant the Browns were stealing signals or Joe Gibbs' offense is too predictable. A quote from the Cleveland locker room supported the latter theory.
But coaches shot down Portis after reviewing game tape, and Bugel was particularly pointed in his comments. He told Portis to "watch the tape," and said the claim was "totally wrong." Several days later, despite the amicable one-on-one conversation, Bugel's viewpoint on Portis' comment hadn't changed.
"Bite your tongue sometimes," Bugel said. "Or you can say, 'I stunk.'"
Portis remains under close scrutiny as Gibbs' offense struggles. A Pro Bowl back in Denver, Portis is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry in Washington excluding his 64-yard season-opening rush.


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