Week 8 AFCN game match-ups

Week 8 in the AFCN sees the Browns in their bye week. Pittsburgh hosts the 6-0 Patriots who will try to defend their record breaking winning streak, the Bengals are on the road at the Titans and the Baltimore Ravens travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles at 1PM Sunday.

Complete listing of week 8 games:

Arizona Cardinals (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (1-5)
Baltimore Ravens (4-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)
Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-5)
Detroit Lions (4-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-4)
Green Bay Packers (3-4) at Washington Redskins (2-4)
Indianapolis Colts (4-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-4)
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-2) at Houston Texans (3-3)
New York Giants (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (5-1)
Atlanta Falcons (5-2) at Denver Broncos (5-2)
Carolina Panthers (1-5) at Seattle Seahawks (3-3)
New England Patriots (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)
Oakland Raiders (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-3)
San Francisco 49ers (1-5) at Chicago Bears (1-5)

Miami Dolphins (1-6) at New York Jets (5-1)

Baltimore Ravens (4-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/31/04
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian
SERIES: Second meeting. The only game between the franchises came in 1997, when the Ravens and Eagles tied at 10 in Baltimore. It was the only tie in the Ravens' nine-season history. Both teams missed field goals in overtime. Philadelphia tied the game with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter on a Charlie Garner 2-yard touchdown run to cap a 60-yard drive.
2004 RANKINGS: Ravens: offense 31st (4th rush, 32nd pass); defense 7th (7th rush, 9th pass). Eagles: offense 4th (20th rush, 2nd pass); defense 20th (16th rush, 21st pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Ravens would be fighting an uphill battle against the Eagles even if they were healthy. As it is, they must overcome the likelihood of playing without three Pro Bowl players on offense: RB Jamal Lewis (suspension), TE Todd Heap (ankle) and LT Jonathan Ogden (hamstring). The key is staying close and pounding the ball against an Eagles defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry. Philadelphia has 23 sacks and Ravens QB Kyle Boller has been taken down 10 times over the past three games, so long passing situations would be Baltimore's downfall. The Eagles are expected to be without RB Brian Westbrook, which takes a dynamic element out of their offense. The Ravens will not shadow WR Terrell Owens with Chris McAlister, meaning Gary Baxter and Deion Sanders will have to hold their own against him at times.

FAST FACTS: Ravens: Defense has not allowed a touchdown in the past six quarters. ... Are 41-2 under coach Bill Belichick with a positive turnover margin. ... Have allowed just one 300-yard passer in their past 11 games. Eagles: Have had a negative turnover margin in just three of their past 22 games.


--OT Jonathan Ogden is listed as questionable but he won't play after pulling his hamstring last game. Ogden likely will miss three to four games. He will be replaced by Ethan Brooks.
--TE Todd Heap was limited in practice for a second straight day and likely will be sidelined for the fifth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Cutting remains the biggest problem for him. He will be replaced by Terry Jones.
--FB Ovie Mughelli was limited in practice with a hamstring injury but could be available for Sunday's game on special teams.
--RS B.J. Sams was added to the injury report with a back injury but likely will return both punts and kickoffs. He has scored a touchdown in three straight games, two on returns and one as a running back.

--RB Brian Westbrook still is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but didn't practice for the second straight game and isn't expected to play Sunday. Westbrook, who has a hairline rib fracture, could miss anywhere from one to four games.
--RB Dorsey Levens will make his first NFL start in four years Sunday when he replaces injured Brian Westbrook. Levens, 34, is coming off a seven-carry, 48-yard performance last week against Cleveland.
--RB Thomas Tapeh is expected to be activated for only the second time this season. The 6-1, 243-pound rookie will back up Dorsey Levens and Reno Mahe, as well as fullback Josh Parry.
--RT Jon Runyan didn't practice for the second straight day and continues to be listed as questionable with a groin strain. If Runyan can't play Sunday, the Eagles are going to be hard-pressed to stop Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has a club-high 7 sacks.
--DT Darwin Walker didn't practice again Thursday. Walker is nursing a calf strain and is listed as questionable. If he can't play Sunday against the Ravens, he'll be replaced by either Hollis Thomas or Sam Rayburn. Regardless, both will play.

The Ravens signed offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden to a new seven-year contract.
It is believed to be worth $50 million and guarantees the seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle $20 million in the first two years of his contract.
Although Ogden was already under contract for the next three seasons, both sides agreed this new deal allows the franchise's first ever pick to end his career here and provides the team salary cap room to re-sign players.
"I'm glad to get it done," said Ogden, the No. 4 overall draft pick in 1996, the year the Ravens began playing in Baltimore after moving from Cleveland. "Finally there is no doubt that I will be here until I'm done. This is what I was looking for. I plan to retire as a Raven.
"I'm glad I could get it over with so I don't have to worry about it next year. I can just concentrate on playing and getting my hamstring right, and getting out there to play."
By lessening Ogden's cap number over the next few years, the Ravens have the room to look into re-signing cornerback Gary Baxter, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and running back Jamal Lewis, who is signed through next year.
The team could also look into reworking the contract of linebacker Ray Lewis, whose contract is through 2008, according to NFL Players Association documents. Tight end Todd Heap is another possibility because he has one year left on his contract after the season.
"This is good for everyone else and that includes the entire organization as well as players," said Ogden, who is still expected to miss Sunday's game with a pulled hamstring. "So now they can move on so they can get done what they need to get done."

For the second straight day, running back Brian Westbrook was listed as questionable on the Eagles' injury report. But he did not practice and almost certainly won't play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Westbrook suffered a hairline fracture of his first rib last week in the Eagles' overtime win over Cleveland. Coach Andy Reid already has acknowledged that veteran Dorsey Levens will be the starting running back against the Ravens.
Second year man Reno Mahe, who has carried the ball just four times since making the team last year as an undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young, will rotate with the 34-year-old Levens. Reid said he also likely will activate rookie fullback-running back Thomas Tapeh.
Tapeh was the club's fifth-round pick out of Minnesota. He saw garbage-time action in the Eagles' Week One win over the New York Giants, but hasn't played since. In practice, the 6-1, 243-pound Tapeh has been used mainly as the fullback on the scout team. But Reid said he can "step in if we need him" at either fullback or running back.
Reid said the absence of Westbrook won't change the Eagles' offensive gameplan much. The Eagles have averaged 35.5 passes per game in their first six games, compared to 23 rushing attempts.
"We're not going to change the offense," Reid said. "We'll keep doing what we do. The other guys will fill in and be expected to execute the plays. We're not going to change much."
Both Levens and Mahe are good receivers. Mahe is a former college wideout and can line up outside much like Westbrook. Levens is more of a between the tackles runner.
"I think the players around them have trust in them," Reid said. "They have two different styles obviously. Dorsey is more of a pounder, a big body. Reno is more like Brian. He's shifty and quick. So it gives you a little different flavor."

Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) at Tennessee Titans (2-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/31/04
TV: CBS, Don Criqui, Steve Tasker
SERIES: 68th meeting -- The Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers have a 37-29-1 edge in the series against the Bengals. The Bengals are 11-21-1 on the road. They are 1-4 since the franchise moved to Tennessee and 2-11 overall since the franchise moved from Houston before the 1997 season. The Bengals won their last visit to Nashville, 23-21, in the 2001 season finale.
2004 RANKINGS: Bengals: offense 23rd (21st rush, 23rd pass); defense 26th (32nd rush, 10th pass). Titans: offense 19th (8th rush, 27th pass); defense 19th (18th rush, 20th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: With Titans QB Steve McNair expected to miss the game with a bruised sternum, the Bengals can afford to load up against RB Chris Brown, who might be limited with a sore toe. The tight ends play a big role in Tennessee offense and with starter Erron Kinney still out, the Titans need Shad Meier and rookie Ben Troupe to be heavily involved to make life easier on QB Billy Volek. The Bengals still don't know how many snaps they will get out of WR Peter Warrick, whose presence alone helps Chad Johnson on the other side. Johnson, who torched Denver CB Champ Bailey on Monday night, will be matched up against good friend Samari Rolle. But Tennessee is allowing 115.7 yards per game on the ground, so the Bengals will lean on RB Rudi Johnson early.

FAST FACTS: Bengals: Are 2-0 in primetime games and 0-4 during the day this season. ... K Shayne Graham is one pace for a team-record 123 points. ... Have a five-game road losing streak. Titans: Lead the series 37-30-1. ... Are 0-3 at home this season. ... Defense has not allowed a first-quarter touchdown in 26 of the past 31 games.

PREDICTION: Bengals 27-23

-- WR Peter Warrick is questionable with a shin injury. The Bengals are expected to draw a $10,000 fine for upgrading Warrick from out on Friday and playing him in the Monday night game.
-- WR Chad Johnson arrived a few minutes late but did practice Thursday. He is listed as probable with a knee injury and is sore, coach Marvin Lewis said.
-- QB Carson Palmer is third in the AFC with 211 passes attempted and has averaged 206.5 yards passing in the past four games.
-- CB Tory James has three interceptions in the past two games and is tied for the NFL lead with four.
-- RB Rudi Johnson was announced Thursday as the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week for his 24-carry, 119-yard performance against Denver. He also had a touchdown run.

--QB Steve McNair returned to team headquarters after a day off for a death in the family, but he did not participate in practice. He said after a crunching hit forced him out of the Minnesota last game with a re-bruised sternum that it was worse than when he hurt it earlier this season, and he took a week off to recover after that game.
--QB Billy Volek is the likely starter Sunday as Steve McNair deals with a bruised sternum for the second time this season.
--RB Chris Brown did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, wearing an immobilizing boot on his left foot to help reduce the swelling from a bout with turf toe. He should do some running Friday and has a good shot to start. Whether he will be able to finish Sunday's game against the Bengals will then become the big question.
--WR Darrell Hill, who plays a big role on coverage teams, suffered a mild MCL strain on Wednesday and appears unlikely to play Sunday.
--DE Carlos Hall (knee) has not practiced this week and his chances are looking slim with Jeff Fisher calling him "very sore" and a bye week looming for Tennessee. Travis LaBoy will see more playing time if Hall can't play.
--DE Antwan Odom (sternum) was out of practice Thursday but showed improvement from Wednesday. Travis LaBoy will see more playing time if Hall can't play.

Defensive tackle has become the latest position of attrition for the Bengals.
The Bengals are expected to place defensive tackle Tony Williams on the injured reserve list Friday and might sign Greg Scott from their practice squad. Scott, a second-year defensive tackle, was on the Bengals practice squad for all 16 games in 2003 and all six games this year.
Scott, 25, played three games for Washington in 2002. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was the Redskins defensive coordinator that year.
Williams, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury Monday night, had surgery Wednesday morning. The Bengals are tight against the salary cap and are not expected to spend a great deal of money to add an eighth defensive lineman to the roster.
Lewis said the Bengals would make the decision based on which player could help them the most Sunday when they play at Tennessee.
Rookie defensive tackle Matthias Askew will probably get his first significant NFL action against the Titans.
"He's learning to play and practice with intensity at this level," Lewis said of Askew, the team's first of three fourth-round picks in the 2004 draft.
Askew, who turned 22 in the summer, was an early-entry junior.
"I'm ready to play," he said. "I've been ready."
Langston Moore will start along side John Thornton at tackle.
Complicating matters Thursday was the condition of Carl Powell's knee. Powell, who can play both tackle and end, was downgraded to questionable.

Titans free safety Lamont Thompson faces the team that drafted him in the second round in 2003 for the first time on Sunday when Tennessee plays host to Cincinnati.
Marvin Lewis and the Bengals unceremoniously dumped him in 2003 before the start of his second season.
"They don't owe me an explanation, things just didn't work out and that's what it was," Thompson said. "Whatever happened there, I still had confidence in my ability. That never went away."
Thompson has three interceptions this season, and coach Jeff Fisher said Thompson's speed gives the team an insurance policy against big plays.
"He can help to minimize the big gains because of his speed," Fisher said. "You're not going to have somebody go the distance against you when you have his speed in the secondary."
"He's got exceptional speed and range to cover the field, he's got the ability to jump, he's got good hand eye coordination."

New England Patriots (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/31/04
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein
SERIES: 20th meeting. The Steelers lead all-time series 12-7, but the Patriots have won the last three including the 2001 AFC Championship Game played in Pittsburgh. The teams have met in the postseason three times since 1996 with New England winning twice. Pittsburgh won seven of eight meetings between 1989-1997.
2004 RANKINGS: Patriots: offense 11th (11th rush, 14th pass); defense 12th (14th rush, 17th pass). Steelers: offense 20th (5th rush, 25th pass); defense 6th (10th rush, 7th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots are expected to be without injured WRs Deion Branch and Troy Brown again, but that won't keep them from attacking CB Willie Williams, who will start just his third game in three seasons while replacing injured CB Chad Scott. Another question mark is NT Chris Hoke replacing injured NT Casey Hampton, who was vital in clogging the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 alignment. The Patriots defense has allowed just seven touchdowns in 23 red-zone possessions by opponents, but the Steelers have scored touchdowns on 82.4 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line. Rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger will face his most complex defense to date, but he must build on the team's red-zone success to keep this game close down to the wire.

FAST FACTS: Patriots: Are 6-0 for the first time in franchise history. ... Are 19-0 when QB Tom Brady has a passer rating of at least 100.0. ... Have won 11 consecutive games when they have a 100-yard rusher. Steelers: The five teams they have defeated have a combined 10-23 record. ... Are 7-6 following bye weeks under coach Bill Cowher. ... Lead the series 11-5.

PREDICTION: Patriots 24-16

--P Josh Miller will return this week to Pittsburgh, where he played for eight seasons before being released by the club following the 2003 season. Miller has punted superbly for the Patriots, who benefited from the Steelers' decision to acquire Chris Gardocki. "They said Chris Gardocki wasn't better than I was," Miller explained when asked about being cut. "They said they weren't getting an upgrade. My special teams coach was new and he had Gardocki in Indianapolis and our offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, was a special teams coach in Cleveland and had Gardocki there. They just liked him. I thought that was screwed up, but it is what it is. I'm very happy to be here. It's nice to be where you're wanted."
--WR Troy Brown has been questionable ever since injuring his shoulder in New England's Week 3 win over Buffalo, but has not played and isn't likely to step back on the field in Pittsburgh. The last time Brown was in Pittsburgh to play the Steelers, he returned a Josh Miller punt for a touchdown and scooped up a blocked field goal before flipping it to Antwan Harris, who raced for a touchdown. Those two scores helped New England capture the AFC championship.
--QB Tom Brady has deservedly developed a reputation as a clutch performer who thrives in the game's biggest spots. His two Super Bowl game-winning drives engineered in the waning seconds attest to that. But this season, Brady's fourth quarter performances have been substandard. He is 13th in the AFC in fourth-quarter passer rating at 61.1, which is well below his overall mark of 95.3.
--S Rodney Harrison, who is often listed among the NFL dirtiest players, not surprisingly leads the Patriots with five penalties this season. He has been called for roughing the passer when he rolled into the quarterback's legs, illegal use of hands, offside, personal foul and illegal contact. With the emphasis on preventing illegal defensive contact, it's also no surprise that Ty Law leads the way with two of those infractions, which is the most on the team along with Randall Gay's two.
--RT Tom Ashworth had the best Halloween costume as a child according to a quick poll of all-time best costumes. Ashworth once dressed up as the Headless Horseman and wore a real pumpkin on his head. "That scared the crap out of people," he said.

-- RB Duce Staley, listed as probable with a slight knee injury, has practiced all week and says he'll be in top form for Sunday's game.
-- TE Jay Riemersma could see a different kind of action Sunday with WR Lee Mays hurting. Riemersma likely will split out more often to replace Mays.
-- DE Kimo von Oelhoffen did not practice at nose tackle all week. Chris Hoke will start in place of injured Casey Hampton, but von Oelhoffen still could replace Hoke if he's ineffective.
-- CB Ricardo Colclough, a rookie, did not get the start to replace injured Chad Scott. That went to veteran Willie Williams. But Colclough will play in their nickel and dime defenses, which they may use more often than normal on Sunday.
-- LB Kendrell Bell practiced all week for the first time this season, but he will not start on Sunday. The target for Bell's return is next week against Philadelphia.

Teams have tried blitzing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and been burned, and they've tried sitting back and covering his receivers and they've been burned too. Miami actually had the most success stopping the Patriots passing attack and they did it by going light on the blitzes.
But when the Patriots head to Pittsburgh Sunday, they expect to see a heavy dose of the Steelers' famed zone blitz that is guided by architect Dick LeBeau. The difference in the Steelers' blitzes and those of other teams is the experience they have running them since they have had coaching continuity over the years.
"They run it very effectively," Brady said. "They have been running it for an awfully long time. All the players know how to run the defense. They know the strengths and weaknesses of and how to disguise their blitz zones. They have multiple variations of them. They are very aggressive. It is a fast defense that moves really well and attacks the ball. I think some teams mix in the blitz zone and aren't as good as they are. With a team that runs it as much as they do, they can make some plays blitzing because they know actually what to do.
Brady torched the Bills, who blitzed him on nearly every snap, by getting rid of the ball quickly or getting max protection and shredding the Buffalo secondary down the field. He had some similar success against the Cardinals' aggressive blitz-heavy game plan.
Dealing with the different blitzes is a week-to-week thing and something Brady and the offense are constantly working to perfect.
"I think we are trying to get rid of the ball quickly," he said. "I think our guys do a great job of not letting guys run free. I watch a lot of other game tapes and I see a lot of other quarterbacks stand there with the ball in their hands and guys running free on them. That rarely and probably never happens with our guys because they always know what to do and they know whom to block. It is not like we have one or two different protections. We probably have 20 to 25 different protections that they are all running. Our guys have to know what to do and then ultimately they have to go and block them."
That will be a challenge in Pittsburgh this week in a hostile, raucous Heinz Field.

The Steelers will play their biggest regular-season game in Pittsburgh this late in the season since they took a 5-1 record into a 2001 game at Heinz Field against another defending Super Bowl champion, Baltimore.
They lost that game. In fact this will be the third time in four years Pittsburgh will play the defending champs. They lost the previous two, including the opener at New England in 2002.
This is a chance for the Steelers to break into the upper crust of the AFC, to tie the Patriots for the best record in the conference at 6-1 and re-establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders after a down season in 2003.
"I think the game itself will take on its magnitude and that's a good thing," coach Bill Cowher said. "We have created a situation for ourselves and we have been here before. We have some veteran guys that have been there before."
The Steelers have their running game back to where they want it, they have the hottest rookie quarterback in 20 years and their defense has returned to an aggressive-big play style that disappeared last season. They feel they're ready to make their run over the next two weeks against the only unbeaten teams left in the league, New England and Philadelphia, both at home in Heinz Field.
"They're a great team," said Chris Hoke, who will replace injured Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton. "But on any given Sunday, every team can be beat. They've made the least amount of mistakes in every game. They've played well. This is our opportunity to break that streak."


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