· New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress is one touchdown catch away from matching his career-high of ten touchdown catches in a single season that he achieved last year. But he's taken an interesting path to get there this season. After jumping out to a quick start, catching eight in his first six games, he finally got his ninth last week against the Vikings after being shutout of the end zone for four consecutive games. When the Giants head to Chicago this weekend, the Bears should be wary of Burress anytime he heads for the middle of the field. While he's averaging roughly 14 yards per catch in most areas of the field, he's snagged half a dozen passes in the middle for an average of 28 yards per catch, including a 60-yard strike and two of his touchdown catches.
· Speaking of the Bears, it's no surprise that Chicago's Devin Hester has more punt returns of 20-plus yards — including three for touchdowns — than any other NFL player this year. During those nine long returns, he's averaged 45.7 yards. Seattle's Nate Burleson, who will test the Eagles' coverage teams in Philadelphia this Sunday, is the current runner-up in that category with six returns of 20-plus yards, including one for a touchdown. Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish is right on his heels with five, including one touchdown. Parrish and the Bills head to Washington to play in an early game on Sunday.
· Can you guess who's the most dangerous receiver in the red zone so far this season? Well, you make the call. New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker has more receptions in the red zone than any other NFL player with 15 catches, including six for touchdowns. But teammate Randy Moss has caught a league-leading nine red zone touchdowns out of his 13 catches. The Patriots duo will try their luck against the Ravens defense Monday night in Baltimore. New Orleans' Marques Colston and Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh are currently tied as the third-hottest receivers in the red zone with 12 catches each. Colston has six red-zone touchdown catches while Houshmandzadeh, who will be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, has seven.
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
· On third down, no one has had more rushing opportunities this season to move the chains for his team than second-year back Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. But the little big-man has only converted 10 of his 30 chances into first downs. His 33.3-percent success rate is the lowest by any rusher who's taken at least 20 shots at rushing in that situation. Ironically, Jones-Drew squares off this Sunday with the running back who is at the other end of the spectrum. Joseph Addai has given the Indianapolis Colts a new set of downs on third-down runs 59.1 percent of the time this year, converting 13 out of 22 attempts.
· When the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers go head-to-head this Sunday in an important NFC South matchup, be prepared for a dink-and-dunk fest if Tampa Bay's usual starting quarterback — Jeff Garcia, who's trying to rebound from a back injury — goes up against Saints signal-caller Drew Brees. Both quarterbacks are in the top three in pass distribution percent to their running backs. Garcia is the leader, throwing 30.5 percent of his passes to his backfield mates. Brees is tied with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb at 29.4 percent.
· Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't. The Detroit Lions currently lead the league in fumble recoveries with 16, four more than any other team in the NFL. Six teams are tied for second-most recoveries with 12, including Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Tampa Bay. But in addition to struggling for wins at 2–9, the New York Jets have only been able to get their hands on three loose balls all year. The league median is currently nine recoveries out of 17 opportunities. But a big part of the problem is that the Jets have only managed to knock the ball out of their opponents' hands eight times during their first 11 games. The Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders aren't faring much better, with just four recoveries each.
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