NFL PREVIEWS | Weekend games



TENNESSEE at MIAMI
When: 1 p.m. todayRecord vs. spread (2003): Titans 10-7, Miami 8-8.Series history: Miami leads 15-13. Titans beat Dolphins 31-7 on Nov. 9, 2003, at Tennessee.Last season: Titans beat Baltimore in wild-card game and lost to Patriots in second round of playoffs. Dolphins missed out on last wild card spot in AFC because Denver had better conference record.Rankings (2003): Titans offense -- overall 8, rush 26, pass 5; Titans defense -- overall 12, rush 1, pass 30; Dolphins offense -- overall 24, rush 17, pass 26.Key matchup: Titans DE Carlos Hall vs. Dolphins OT Wade Smith and G Jeno James. Hall replaces Jevon Kearse, who signed with Eagles after getting 471/2 sacks for Titans from 1999-2003. Hall had three sacks last season. James started all 16 games for Panthers last season during run to Super Bowl.
DETROIT at CHICAGO
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Lions 9-7, Bears 8-8.Series history: Bears lead 83-60-5. Lions beat Bears 12-10 on Nov. 9, 2003, at Detroit.Last season: Lions finished last in NFC North. Bears finished third in NFC North.Rankings (2003): Lions offense -- overall 32, rush 32, pass 24; Lions defense -- overall 24, rush 15, pass 28; Bears offense -- overall 28, rush 18, pass 30; Bears defense -- overall 14, rush 16, pass 13.Key matchup: Lions WRs Charles Rogers and Roy Williams vs. Bears CBs Charles Tillman and R.W. McQuarters. Lions had NFL's worst offense in 2003. Rogers played in only five games in rookie season before breaking collarbone. With Rogers healthy and Williams, a speedy rookie, Lions have deep threats. Bears DB Jerry Azumah will be out until late in season after neck surgery. Tillman had six INTs last season.
CINCINNATI at NEW YORK JETS
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Bengals 9-6, Jets 4-9.Series history: Jets lead 12-6. Jets beat Bengals 15-14 on Dec. 16, 2001, at Jets.Last season: Bengals finished second in AFC North, two games behind Baltimore. Jets tied for last in AFC East.Rankings (2003): Bengals offense -- overall 13, rush 13, pass 12; Bengals defense -- overall 28, rush 25t, pass 24; Jets offense -- overall 19, rush 25, pass 13; Jets defense -- overall 21, rush 28, pass 10.Key matchup: Bengals QB Carson Palmer vs. Jets DE Shaun Ellis. Palmer, the first pick in the 2003 draft, never got into a game last year, sitting behind Jon Kitna. Coach Marvin Lewis chose Palmer in March as starter. He will make NFL debut against Ellis, a Pro Bowler who was tied for fifth with 121/2 sacks last year.
SAN DIEGO at HOUSTON
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Chargers 6-10, Texans 9-7.Series history: Chargers lead 1-0. Chargers beat Texans 24-3 on Sept. 15, 2002, at San Diego.Last season: Chargers were tied for last in AFC West. After winning four games in first season, Texans won five last year, finishing tied for last in AFC South.Rankings (2003): Chargers offense -- overall 14, rush 6, pass 19; Chargers defense -- overall 27, rush 25t, pass 21; Texans offense -- overall 31, rush 23, pass 29; Texans defense -- overall 31, rush 31, pass 31.Key matchup: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Texans LB Jamie Sharper. Tomlinson is only player in history to have 100 catches and 1,000 yards rushing in same season. He led NFL with 2,370 yards from scrimmage in 2003. Texans were equally inept at defending run and pass, finishing second to last in each defensive category. Sharper led NFL with 164 tackles and had team-best four sacks and three forced fumbles.
ARIZONA at ST. LOUIS
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Cardinals 6-10, Rams 9-7.Series history: Rams lead 28-21-2. Rams beat Cardinals 30-27 in OT on Nov. 23, 2003, at Arizona.Last season: Cardinals finished last in NFC West. Rams won NFC West, lost to Panthers in double overtime in playoffs.Rankings (2003): Cardinals offense -- overall 27, rush 29, pass 23; Cardinals defense -- overall 26, rush 19, pass 29; Rams offense -- overall 9, rush 30, pass 3; Rams defense -- overall 16, rush 20t, pass 12.Key matchup: Cardinals RB Emmitt Smith vs. Rams RB Marshall Faulk. Two aging backs. Last year, a bad knee and broken hand kept Faulk out of five games and limited him to 818 yards rushing and 45 receptions for 290 yards. While Faulk, 31, isn't likely to average five yards per carry, he's still a threat. Smith is the NFL's career rushing leader and will start, but he's 35 and averaged just 2.8 yards a carry last season.
TAMPA BAY at WASHINGTON
When: 1 p.m. SundayTV/radio: WYFX (17/62), WBBW-AM (1240)Record vs. spread (2003): Buccaneers 6-9, Redskins 7-7.Series history: Tied 6-6. Buccaneers beat Redskins 35-13 on Oct. 12, 2003, at Washington.Last season: After winning Super Bowl, Bucs finished third in NFC South. Redskins finished third in NFC East.Rankings (2003): Buccaneers offense -- overall 10, rush 24, pass 6; Buccaneers defense -- overall 5, rush 13, pass 3; Redskins offense -- overall 23, rush 22, pass 21; Redskins defense -- overall 25, rush 24, pass 14.Key matchup: Bucs QB Brad Johnson vs. Redskins LB LaVar Arrington. Johnson was a starter with Washington for two years and earned Pro Bowl trip after 1999 season. He has completed at least 60 percent of passes in eight consecutive seasons, tied with Joe Montana and Steve Young for longest streak. Arrington, a second-team All-Pro last year, has been to three straight Pro Bowls and will try to make Johnson's return to Washington unpleasant.
SEATTLE at NEW ORLEANS
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Seahawks 9-7, New Orleans 9-7.Series history: Tied 4-4. Seahawks beat Saints 27-10 on Sept. 7, 2003, at Seattle.Last season: Seahawks finished second in NFC West, earned wild card, lost to Packers in overtime in first round of playoffs. Saints finished second in NFC South.Rankings (2003): Seahawks offense -- overall 6, rush 10, pass 7; Seahawks defense -- overall 19, rush 14, pass 27; Saints offense -- overall 11, rush 11, pass 8; Saints defense -- overall 18, rush 27, pass 8.Key matchup: Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander vs. New Orleans front seven. In last meeting, Alexander rushed for 108 yards and scored two touchdowns. Saints were among NFL's worst teams at stopping run in 2003, allowing 140.1 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. Alexander averaged 4.4 yards per rush and had 14 TDs rushing last season, and could start building his stats against Saints.
JACKSONVILLE at BUFFALO
When: 1 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Jaguars 7-9, Bills 6-8.Series history: Bills lead 3-2. Bills beat Jaguars 38-17 on Sept. 14, 2003, at Jacksonville.Last season: Jaguars finished tied for last in AFC South. Bills finished tied for last in AFC East.Rankings (2003): Jaguars offense -- overall 12, rush 8, pass 15; Jaguars defense -- overall 6, rush 2, pass 18; Bills offense -- overall 30, rush 21, pass 28; Bills defense -- overall 2, rush 8, pass 2.Key matchup: Jaguars DT Marcus Stroud vs. Bills C Trey Teague and G Chris Villarrial. Buffalo offensive line allowed a league-high 51 sacks in 2003 and team went seven games without an offensive touchdown. Line spent most of training camp in disarray as projected five starters played one game together in preseason. Stroud was a second-team All-Pro in 2003 with 41/2 sacks.
ATLANTA at SAN FRANCISCO
When: 4:15 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Falcons 6-9, 49ers 7-7.Series history: 49ers lead 44-26-1. 49ers beat Falcons 37-31 in OT on Oct. 14, 2001, at Atlanta.Last season: Falcons finished last in NFC South. 49ers finished third in NFC West.Rankings (2003): Falcons offense -- overall 29, rush 14, pass 31; Falcons defense -- overall 32, rush 29, pass 32; 49ers offense -- overall 5, rush 5, pass 10; 49ers defense -- overall 13, rush 9, pass 17.Key matchup: Falcons coach Jim Mora vs. 49ers defensive coordinator Willy Robinson. Mora coaches his first game with Falcons. He spent 1997-2003 as assistant with 49ers, including past five seasons as defensive coordinator. Robinson brings new scheme to 49ers, but Mora should know his ex-players' weaknesses, and has QB Michael Vick to exploit them.
DALLAS at MINNESOTA
When: 4:15 p.m. SundayRecord vs. spread (2003): Cowboys 9-7, Vikings 8-8.Series history: Cowboys lead 13-11. Vikings beat Cowboys 27-17 on Nov. 8, 1999, at Minnesota.Last season: Cowboys finished second in NFC East, earned wild card and lost to Carolina in first round of playoffs. Vikings finished second in NFC North, missing out on postseason after losing to Arizona in Week 17 on final play.Rankings (2003): Cowboys offense -- overall 15, rush 12, pass 17; Cowboys defense -- overall 1, rush 3, pass 1; Vikings offense -- overall 1, rush 4, pass 4; Vikings defense -- overall 23, rush 17, pass 26.Key matchup: Cowboys CBs Pete Hunter and Terence Newman vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss. In four career games against Dallas, Moss has 21 receptions for 525 yards and eight TDs. Cowboys had NFL's top pass defense in 2003, allowing just 164.4 yards per game. Cowboys S Darren Woodson is out after having herniated disk removed from back and teammates must pick up slack to contain Moss.
NEW YORK GIANTS at PHILADELPHIA
When: 4:15 p.m. SundayTV/radio: WYFX (17/62), WJW (8), WPGH (53), WBBW-AM (1240)Record vs. spread (2003): Giants 3-11, Eagles 11-7.Series history: Giants lead 75-63-2. Eagles beat Giants 28-10 on Nov. 16, 2003, at Philadelphia.Last season: Giants finished last in NFC East. Eagles won NFC East, beat Green Bay in overtime in playoffs, then lost to Carolina in NFC Championship.Rankings (2003): Giants offense -- overall 20, rush 28, pass 11; Giants defense -- overall 22, rush 18, pass 25; Eagles offense -- overall 18, rush 9, pass 20; Eagles defense -- overall 20, rush 22, pass 16.Key matchup: Giants DE Michael Strahan vs. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. Strahan led NFL with 181/2 sacks last season. He has 52 sacks in past three seasons and is NFL's active sacks leader with 114. He has 171/2 career sacks against Eagles and 101/2 vs. McNabb, his most against any team and QB. McNabb had last laugh in 2003, winning both games against Giants and throwing for 314 yards in second meeting.
KANSAS CITY at DENVER
When: 8:30 p.m. SundayTV/radio: ESPN, WBBW-AM (1240).Record vs. spread (2003): Chiefs 10-7, Broncos 8-9.Series history: Chiefs lead 49-39. Broncos beat Chiefs 45-27 on Dec. 7, 2003, at Denver.Last season: Chiefs won AFC West, lost to Indianapolis in divisional playoff game. Broncos finished second in AFC West, earned wild card, and lost to Indianapolis in wild-card game.Rankings (2003): Chiefs offense -- overall 2, rush 15, pass 2; Chiefs defense -- overall 29, rush 30, pass 20; Broncos offense -- overall 7, rush 2, pass 22; Broncos defense -- overall 14, rush 7, pass 6.Key matchup: Chiefs RB Priest Holmes vs. Broncos' front seven. Holmes led NFL with 27 touchdowns rushing in 2003. He rushed for 1,420 yards last season, but Broncos held him to 97 and 44 in two games. Broncos allowed only 100.3 yards rushing per game and 11 TDs rushing last year.
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