Week 8, Full of surprises

<b><u>Jacksonville at Houston</u></b> <br> <b> Observations:</b> The Texans' defense continued to show improvement in this game. They held Jaguars' QB Byron Leftwich in check-something few other teams had been able to do recently.

The Jaguars really missed RB Fred Taylor after he left the game early due to a hip injury. In the three previous games, Taylor had 15 total catches. That's the one area that he can be an additional threat for their offense.

The Texans' offense was led once again by QB David Carr who continued so show solid accuracy.

The receiving corps got an additional boost by Jabar Gaffney who saw additional snaps because Corey Bradford was not 100%. Of course, we saw Carr and no.1 WR Andre Johnson hook up plenty (nine catches). Johnson is starting to look like a younger and less vocal version of Terrell Owens.

The Jaguars must find a way to get to the quarterback. Whether it's going to some 3-4 looks or blitzing more, they have to do something because they only have 12 sacks on the season (no player with more than three).

Baltimore at Philadelphia

Observations: Sophomore QB Kyle Boller looked better in this game than in most of his games played this season.

Boller did a good job of evading constant pressure by the Eagles' defense and got the ball to his open receivers. He did make one mistake, on his only turnover on the day but he played well overall.

It was good to see rookie WR Clarence Moore get more involved in the passing game. Moore offers size and another downfield threat to their less than stellar passing offense. Also standing out was veteran WR Travis Taylor who needs to keep impressing since he's on the last year of his contract.

Defensively, the Ravens did a good job of keeping QB Donovan McNabb in check. They also did well against WR Terrell Owens---for a half. Owens shook off his three dropped passes and was able to catch six passes for 82 yards and a score in the second half.

The Eagles' offense certainly missed RB Brian Westbrook. His ability to get around the end or make plays in space was badly needed. Veteran RB Dorsey Levens and second-year RB Reno Mahe did all they could but it certainly wasn't enough.

The Eagles badly need another player to step up and make plays because Owens won't be able to do it all be himself-especially against the better teams in the league like this week's opponent-Pittsburgh.

Detroit at Dallas

Observations: You have to give QB Joey Harrington credit in this game. He was without his best WR Roy Williams and didn't have top-shelf talent to get the ball to. He was able to hit nine players with passes.

For whatever reason, rookie RB Kevin Jones only got 11 carries. The Lions must run the ball more to get better balance on offense.

Defensively, they gave QB Vinny Testaverde way too much time to throw and he was able to make too many key plays against them. The Lions were able to post three interceptions and one for a score but they also had too many lapses in coverage that resulted in three plays for over 30 yards.

The Cowboys finally made a strong commitment to the running game and were able to get veteran RB Eddie George over 30 carries. When they can run the ball that much, they'll win a lot more games than they'll lose because that means they'll be able to control the clock.

Defensively, they didn't get enough pressure on Harrington. Had Roy Williams played, he could have made a big difference in this game because Harrington had time to get the ball to his receivers.

The positive from their defense was that they tackled better in this game for the most part than they had in recent games.

Kansas City at Indianapolis

Observations: This game was pretty much what we thought it would be-little defense and mucho offense.

For the Colts, QB Peyton Manning played an almost flawless game. He did miss a few passes completions that he would love to have back including a sure touchdown pass to no.1 WR Marvin Harrison.

Defensively, making tackles was very poor and it seemed like many of their players were out of position or not staying in their gap responsibility. Against such a good offense like the Chiefs, discipline is paramount.

They really must get help this off-season on the defensive side of the ball if they want to be considered as a championship caliber team.

For the Chiefs, the offense operated on all cylinders. They got solid balance and weren't stopped in the run or passing game.

Defensively, they got absolutely no pressure on Manning but they at least were able to control their running game. That was a hidden key. That and the score forced the Colts to put the ball up in the air almost all the time. By doing that, they couldn't control the clock, which is a key facet in winning on the road.

Atlanta at Denver

Observations: In what had to be a surprise, the Falcons were able to win going away at Denver on Sunday. However, it certainly didn't look that way after one quarter as the club trailed 14-3. You have to give them credit. Instead of panicking, they still stuck with their game plan and dominated the second quarter. QB Michael Vick's 95 first-half rushing yards looked to put the Denver defense on their heels.

Vick played with tremendous poise and looked like the Vick of old and finished with 115 yards on the ground while finishing with a season-high 252 passing yards.

Defensively, they did a great job of rebounding off of last week's terrible performance against the run to pretty much shut down the Bronco running game on Sunday.

They gave up a lot of "empty" yards meaning garbage time numbers because Denver played behind for the whole second half.

The Broncos can't be happy with their lack of success on the ground especially seeing how well the Chiefs ran the ball against Atlanta the week before.

The positives offensively were that they were able to move the ball in the air quite well but QB Jake Plummer, for as good as his final numbers look, threw three interceptions and a few of them were bad ones.

Defensively, they did a poor job of staying in their gaps. They let Vick run wild and that really set up the Falcons' offense the whole game.

New England at Pittsburgh

Observations: There were a few noticeable issues that cropped up in this game for the Patriots' offense. Without no.1 RB Corey Dillon who missed the game due to injury, they lack a quality second back. Veteran RB Kevin Faulk is a nice third down or situational back but he cannot be a featured back. He doesn't have the ability to handle that role.

The Steelers just didn't respect the run and when that happened, it made passing the ball difficult for QB Tom Brady.

Defensively, not having veteran CB Tyrone Poole and losing no.1 CB Ty Law in the first quarter almost made it impossible to stop the Steelers' passing game. Give the Steelers credit; they went right at Law's replacement, rookie CB Randall Gay and WR Plaxico Burress scored shortly after Law's absence.

The Steelers were able to do what they wanted offensively. Whether it was on the ground with veteran backs Duce Staley or Jerome Bettis or in the air with rookie signal caller Ben Roethlisberger to Burress, the Steelers got the job done. Also give credit to their offensive line that dominated all day.

Defensively, the star was OLB Joey Porter with three sacks. Also give credit to veteran CB Willie Williams who started for Chad Scott who was out with a knee injury. The Patriots tested Williams all game and he came up well until late in the game when New England fell behind and had to put the ball up all the time.

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