NFL PREVIEW \ Sunday's games



CLEVELAND at BUFFALO
Time: 1 p.m.TV/radio: WKBN (27), WOIO (19), WKBN-AM (570), WNCD-FM (93.3)Series history: Browns lead 8-4. Bills beat original Browns 22-19 on Oct. 2, 1995, at Cleveland.Key matchup: Browns' front seven vs. Bills RB Willis McGahee. Bills are 6-0 when McGahee gains at least 90 yards this season. Browns allow 139.4 yards rushing per game, fourth worst in league. McGahee averages 98.4 yards per start. He has seven TDs and eight runs of 20 yards or more, helping Bills win five of last six. Browns have allowed 16 TDs rushing, most in NFL.Streaks, stats and notes: Teams meet in Buffalo for first time since 1986. Then-owner Art Modell moved Browns to Baltimore after 1995 season. Cleveland didn't have team again until 1999, when NFL granted city expansion team. ... Browns have played NFL's strongest schedule thus far, with opponents' winning percentage of .643. ... Browns interim head coach Terry Robiskie had his longest run from scrimmage as a player against Bills, 36-yard carry with Dolphins in 1980. ... Bills CB-KR Terrence McGree has INT in three straight games. He also leads AFC with 26.9-yard kickoff return average, with three TDs. ... Browns are one of just three NFL teams already eliminated from playoff contention.
NEW YORK JETS at PITTSBURGH
Time: 4:05 p.m.TV/radio: KDKA (2), WBBG-FM (106.1)Series history: Steelers lead 14-2. Jets beat Steelers 6-0 on Dec. 14, 2003, at New York.Key matchup: Jets RB Curtis Martin vs. Steelers LB James Farrior. Martin is NFL's leading rusher with 1,305 yards, and also has 10 TDs. Farrior was Martin's teammate with Jets from 1998-2001. Farrior is leading tackler in Pittsburgh's front seven, and spearheads unit that allows just 77.4 yards rushing per game, fewest in league. Martin averages 108.8 yards rushing per game. Martin played in college at University of Pittsburgh.Streaks, stats and notes: Steelers can clinch AFC North with win or tie. ... Jets have plus-15 turnover differential, second best in league. Steelers are plus-12, tied for fourth. ... Game features two of NFL's top career rushers: Martin is sixth all-time with 12,974 yards and Steelers RB Jerome Bettis is fifth with 12,980 yards. ... Jets coach Herman Edwards and Steelers coach Bill Cowher were teammates with Eagles in 1983-84. ... Jets have never won a game in Pennsylvania. They're 0-9 on road against Steelers and Eagles.
SAN FRANCISCO at ARIZONA
Time: 4:15 p.m.Series history: 49ers lead 16-10. 49ers beat Cardinals 31-28 in OT on Oct. 10 at San Francisco.Key matchup: 49ers P Andy Lee vs. Cardinals P Scott Player. In matchup of two of NFL's worst teams, field position could make the difference. Lee and Player have been among busiest punters in league. Player has punted 73 times, third most in league, while Lee is fourth with 72. Both have mediocre net averages near 35 yards per kick. Player has slight edge in gross average.
CINCINNATI at NEW ENGLAND
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Patriots lead 10-8. Bengals beat Patriots 23-17 on Sept. 9, 2001, at Cincinnati.Key matchup: Bengals' front seven vs. Patriots RB Corey Dillon. Dillon is Cincinnati's all-time leading rusher with 8,061 yards from 1997-2003. Dillon was traded to Patriots in offseason and has run for 100 yards in seven games this year. He's third in AFC with 1,221 yards rushing, right in front of Bengals RB Rudi Johnson (1,105). In last game between these teams, Dillon rushed for 104 yards and one TD to lead Bengals to victory. He'll look to turn the tables this time.
OAKLAND at ATLANTA
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Raiders lead 7-3. Raiders beat Falcons 41-14 on Nov. 26, 2000, at Oakland.Key matchup: Raiders LB Danny Clark vs. Falcons QB Michael Vick. Last week, Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks shut down Vick and the Falcons. Vick was sacked five times, threw two INTs and lost two fumbles in shutout loss. Vick is 21-11-1 as starter for .652 winning percentage that's tops in franchise history. He leads NFL at 7.4 yards per carry and Falcons are 5-0 when he runs for 100 yards. He's also thrown for nearly 2,000 yards this season. Clark leads Raiders in total tackles and will need to be quick to chase Vick from sideline to sideline.
NEW ORLEANS at DALLAS
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Cowboys lead 14-6. Saints beat Cowboys 13-7 on Dec. 28, 2003, at New Orleans.Key matchup: Saints' front seven vs. Cowboys RB Julius Jones. Jones had 198 yards and three TDs last week. He was drafted in second round, No. 43 overall. He's rushed for 429 yards and five TDs on 93 carries in three starts since returning from broken shoulder blade suffered in Week 2. He'll face NFL's worst defense. Saints allow 152 yards rushing per game, and 416.8 total yards overall; no other team allows more than 375. Saints also rank last in first downs allowed per game (22.7), and points allowed (28.7).
NEW YORK GIANTS at BALTIMORE
Time: 1 p.m.TV: WYFX (17/62), WPGH (53), WJW (8)Series history: Ravens lead 2-0. Ravens beat Giants 34-7 on Jan. 28, 2001, at Tampa, Fla., in Super Bowl.Key matchup: Giants RB Tiki Barber vs. Ravens MLB Ray Lewis. Barber is second in NFC with 1,183 yards rushing and nine TDs, and leads NFL with 1,679 yards from scrimmage. He has 100-plus yards rushing or receiving in nine of 12 games. Lewis anchors one of NFL's top defenses. Ravens have allowed a 100-yard rusher just three times this season. With passing game struggling, Giants will need big game from Barber to win.
INDIANAPOLIS at HOUSTON
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Colts lead 5-0. Colts beat Texans 49-14 on Nov. 14 at Indianapolis.Key matchup: Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. Texans CB Dunta Robinson. With five TD passes, Manning will break Dan Marino's record of 48 in season, set in 1984. Manning has thrown five or more TD passes six times in his career, and four this season, including last game against Texans. He leads NFL with 3,621 yards passing, 44 TD passes and 126.3 passer rating. He has thrown nine INTs this season. Texans have 17 INTs this season, second most in league. Five Houston players have at least two INTs, led by rookie Robinson with five.
CHICAGO at JACKSONVILLE
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Bears lead 2-1. Bears beat Jaguars 33-13 on Jan. 6, 2002, at Chicago.Key matchup: Bears P Brad Maynard vs. Jaguars PR David Allen. No punter has been busier than Maynard this season. He's tied for league lead with 81 punts, averaging more than six per game. He ranks fifth in NFL with net average of 39 yards, although gross average is well off league-leading pace. Despite punting so many times, only three of his kicks have been touchbacks, and less than half (37) have been returned. With regular returner Jermaine Lewis sidelined (concussion), Allen could only muster 3 yards on two returns last week.
SEATTLE at MINNESOTA
Time: 1 p.m.Series history: Seahawks lead 5-3. Vikings beat Seahawks 34-7 on Dec. 7, 2003, at Minnesota.Key matchup: Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander vs. Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson. Alexander is third in NFL with 1,273 yards rushing and 12 TDs. He's coming off 18th career two-TD game. Vikings' defense has been shaky at times this season, which is perhaps why CB Antoine Winfield is their leading tackler, as many opposing ball carriers reach the secondary. Henderson is second on team with 65 total tackles. Vikings allow 128 yards rushing per game. Alexander averages 106.1 yards.
MIAMI at DENVER
Time: 4:05 p.m.Series history: Dolphins lead 9-3-1. Dolphins beat Broncos 24-22 on Oct. 13, 2002, at Denver.Key matchup: Dolphins' front seven vs. Broncos RB Reuben Droughns. Dolphins have not allowed 100-yard rusher in 22 straight games. Droughns has rushed for over 100 yards in six of last eight games, although he was held in check last week by Chargers. Droughns is probable with neck and thigh injuries, but he'll be spelled at times by rookie RB Tatum Bell, who scored first career TD last week. Dolphins have struggled against run, allowing 134 yards per game.
DETROIT at GREEN BAY
Time: 4:15 p.m.TV: WYFX (17/62), WJW (8)Series history: Packers lead 80-63-7. Packers beat Lions 38-10 on Oct. 17 at Detroit.Key matchup: Lions WR Roy Williams vs. Packers CBs Al Harris and Ahmad Carroll. Williams, taken No. 7 overall in draft, is tied for NFL rookie lead with five TDs receiving. He needs two more to tie Willie Green's team rookie record. He could get it against the Packers, who were burned last week by Donovan McNabb, who threw a career-high five TD passes and set Eagles' record with 464 yards passing. Packers have allowed 28 TD passes this season, second most in league.
ST. LOUIS at CAROLINA
Time: 4:15 p.m.Series history: Panthers lead 8-7. Panthers beat Rams 29-23 in double OT on Jan. 10 in NFC divisional playoff game.Key matchup: Rams WR Isaac Bruce vs. Panthers CBs Chris Gamble and Ricky Manning. Bruce is tied for second in NFC with 69 receptions and third with 1,044 yards receiving. He averages over 15 yards per catch. With usual starting QB Marc Bulger injured, aging veteran Chris Chandler will start. Bruce will likely be Chandler's first-choice target, facing a defense that allows 219.3 yards passing per contest.
TAMPA BAY at SAN DIEGO
Time: 4:15 p.m.Series history: Chargers lead 6-1. Buccaneers beat Chargers 25-17 on Nov. 17, 1996, at San Diego.Key matchup: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks. Tomlinson is second in NFL with 13 TDs rushing, more than 26 teams have. Buccaneers have just nine TDs rushing. Tomlinson is eighth in NFL with 1,012 yards rushing. Brooks, a mainstay on Tampa Bay defense that won Super Bowl two years ago, leads team with 102 total tackles and helped shut out Falcons last week. Tomlinson is among NFL's most versatile weapons, and Brooks will need strong performance to hold him in check.
PHILADELPHIA at WASHINGTON
Time: 8:30 p.m.TV/radio: ESPN, WBBW-AM (1240)Series history: Redskins lead 73-61-5. Eagles beat Redskins 28-6 on Nov. 21 at Philadelphia.Key matchup: Eagles QB Donovan McNabb vs. Redskins DT Cornelius Griffin. Last month, McNabb shredded Redskins for 222 yards and four TDs. Last week against Packers, McNabb finished 32-of-43 for club-record 464 yards and career-high five TDs. His passer rating of 110.4 is second in NFL, he ranks third with 28 TD passes, and fourth with 3,356 yards passing. He'll face defense that allows only 170.7 yards passing per game, third fewest in league. Griffin leads Redskins with four sacks. McNabb has been sacked 28 times this season.
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