Pregame Notes and Quotes: Early Games

Are the Bills taking Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson lightly? Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and Bears rookie RB Matt Forte will look for running room against two of the NFL's top rush defenses. Learn more as Ed Thompson takes a look at some of the top storylines for the 1:00 (ET) slate of NFL games.

Chargers (3-3) at Bills (4-1)

Although Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has only rushed for 100 yards once this season and hasn't scored a rushing touchdown in four of six contests, the Buffalo's defense isn't taking him lightly. But Tomlinson is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, well below his career average of 4.5 yards per carry. And just 16.5 percent of his runs have resulted in a first down for San Diego—a career-low mark. But Tomlinson has topped the 100-yard rushing mark in two of his last three games against the Bills.

Buffalo enters this matchup ranked 18th in the league against the rush based on total rushing yards, but 15th based on average yards allowed per rush (4.0). 

"He's the number one guy that you have stop on their offense because if he's going, and they're using their play action off of his running, then you're really in trouble, you're on your heels all day, so the number one goal in this football game is to stop LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles." -- Bills safety Donte Whitner

New Orleans (3-3) at Carolina (4-2), 1 p.m.

The Saints' Drew Brees is arguably the hottest quarterback in the NFL right now. His 332 passing yards per game average is almost 50 more yards per game than runner-up Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals. And the news out of New Orleans is that Brees could get both WR Marques Colston and TE Jeremy Shockey back in the lineup after both have missed multiple games due to injury.

But the Carolina defense is ranked third in total yards allowed and in points allowed. Third-down situations will be critical in this matchup as Carolina has only allowed their opponents to convert 33 percent of their chance—fourth-best in the league—while the Saints offense is converting at a rate of 49 percent, second only to the Dallas Cowboys.

"I think they're [the Panthers] playing with a different energy. I think it's a lot of the same guys, but they're 4-2, playing with a lot of confidence. I know coming off that loss at Tampa, they're going to be salty." -- Saints QB Drew Brees

Minnesota (3-3) at Chicago (3-3), 1 p.m.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The last time Vikings running back Adrian Peterson played in Chicago, he had a huge day, scoring three times and rushing for 224 yards on 20 carries. This year, the Bears will counter with rookie Matt Forte, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 665 scrimmage yards. The team's second-round draft pick, Forte has rushed for 459 and is the team's leader in receptions with 27.

But both team's defenses have performed very well against the run this year, so more burden may be on Kyle Orton and Gus Frerotte when their respective teams have the ball. The Vikings have given up a fourth-best 73.7 yards per game while the fifth-ranked Bears have yielded 74.3 per game.

"We get off the bus running the ball, but if we have to pass, we can pass." -- Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

Pittsburgh (4-1) at Cincinnati (0-6), 1 p.m.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer will rest his sore elbow for another week, missing a divisional clash with the AFC North leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. So that leaves Cincinnati's offense in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 152 yards during a 26-14 loss to the Jets last week. Fitzpatrick was sacked five times and fumbled once during the game.

But the Steelers will likely be without the services of their top running back, Willie Parker, who appears to be close to recovering from his knee injury. Mewelde Moore will be the likely starter, especially since Pittsburgh should be fully capable of winning this contest without asking Parker get back on the field prematurely. One more week off could pay off big for the team during the second half of the season if Parker comes back 100 percent healthy.

"I think that's been a lot of their [the Steelers] success in previous years is they keep finding guys who just go; they've got high motors and they want to get to the quarterback, and they're not going to stop until they get him." -- Bengals QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Titans (5-0) at Chiefs (1-4), 1 p.m.

Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle returns as the starter since Week 1 when he injured his shoulder. But he'll have to adapt quickly since he'll be facing a very tough, Titans defense that is currently ranked fourth in the league in yards allowed. Making the task even tougher is that the Chiefs offense will be missing running back Larry Johnson, who was deactivated for this weekend's matchup for an unspecified violation of team rules. Croyle noted that running backs Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles have both practiced well this week and are eager to play.  And since he knew that this weekend's game was his target date for his return, Croyle said he's been watching game tape of the Titans for a month.

Tennessee's defense has been feasting on turnovers with ten interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Their 14 total takeaways is the most in the NFL heading into Week 7 action.

"You really can't (prepare yourself for your next hit) until you get it for the first time. You get hit, get up, feel all your body parts, make sure your shoulder is still in place. Then we can go." -- QB Brodie Croyle

Baltimore (2-3) at Miami (2-3), 1 p.m.

Ravens LB Ray Lewis.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

While the Ravens have eight takeaways through their first five games, they can't keep up with the giveaways by their offense, which stands at 12 as they travel to Miami this weekend. Last week against the Colts, the Ravens offense coughed the ball up five times.

Baltimore's defense ranks first in the NFL, allowing just 220.8 yards per game. But Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, who has been averaging 96 yards per game during his last three contests, will attempt to break the Ravens' 24-game streak of not allowing an opposing rusher to to gain 100-plus yards in a game—the longest current streak in NFL.

"It's going to be a physical contest. You do need to get out in front early. This is not a defense that you want to be playing behind in this game. Then you're playing right into their hands that way and their confusion, and their pressure and all of the things that they can apply to you that way start to come back and get you." -- Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano

San Francisco (2-4) at New York Giants (4-1), 1 p.m.

The defending World Champions will be anxious to show their home fans that Monday night's loss to the Browns was an aberration that they won't allow two games in a row. For the defense, that means stopping 49ers running back Frank Gore, who leads the NFL with 720 scrimmage yards (524 rushing, 196 receiving). When Gore gets 20-plus rushing attempts, the 49ers are 12-2, so the Giants have to discourage the run early in this game. New York is currently ranked twelfth against the run.

While Eli Manning is 2-0 in his career against the 49ers, he's coming off a game in which he threw three interceptions—after throwing just one during his first four contests. 

"We just have to finish. We have to finish and go out there and play our ball. If we go out there and play our ball all four quarters, we have a great shot to win the game." -- 49ers RB Frank Gore

Dallas (4-2) at St. Louis (1-4), 1 p.m.

A couple of weeks ago, this game had the makings of a being a "gimme" for Dallas. But with Tony Romo sidelined with a broken finger and the Rams now under the leadership of head coach Jim Haslett, fans in St. Louis should see a more competitive game. While Brad Johnson will get the start, the Dallas Morning News is reporting that Romo will be active for this game as his backup. The Cowboys' usual starter was able to throw this week with a sprint on his finger. Running back and sensational kickoff return specialist Felix Jones has a slightly torn hamstring and will also miss this game.

Rams quarterback Marc Bulger will undoubtedly be keeping his eye on Dallas' DeMarcus Ware. The 6-foot-4, 262-pound linebacker already has six sacks this season, putting him in a tie for fourth place in the NFL.  And if Ware is able to drop Bulger in this matchup, he'll tie an NFL record for sacking a quarterback in ten consecutive games. Teammate Greg Ellis has 14.5 sacks in his last 19 contests.

"It's not the ideal circumstance you want to take a job over, but so far it's been good. The players have been good people in the building and have responded well so hopefully we can keep doing a pretty good job and see what happens." -- Rams head coach Jim Haslett

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the network and at You can contact him by email through this link.

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