Times Staff Writer


Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Ravens by 3.

Introduction: Linebacker Ray Lewis and the Raven defense have been playing excellent football, but that hasn't prevented Baltimore from losing two games in a row.

Plot: If the Seahawks are to win the NFC West, they'll have to start winning away from home. Seattle, 1-3 on the road, plays four of its last six on the road. Matt Hasselbeck has thrown for at least 200 yards in eight consecutive games. Baltimore is expected to start Anthony Wright at quarterback for the second consecutive week. Jamal Lewis leads the league in rushing but has fumbled three times in the last two games.

Bottom line: The Ravens have discovered they can't win only with defense and Jamal Lewis, which should open the door for the Seahawks.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2.

The line: Colts by 3.

Introduction: Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning is having a strong season and passed for more than 400 yards in last weekend's 38-31 victory over the New York Jets.

Plot: The Bills' Drew Bledsoe is not the same quarterback without receiver Eric Moulds, who did not play in last weekend's loss to Houston because of a nagging groin injury. Running back Travis Henry, who leads Buffalo in rushing, is questionable because of a hairline fracture in his right leg. The Colts are hoping to have receiver Marvin Harrison back. He sat out last weekend's game because of a hamstring injury.

Bottom line: Look for Coach Tony Dungy's Colts to win, but the Bills won't make it easy for them.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Browns by 3.

Introduction: The up-and-down Browns will be looking for their second win in as many weeks after a blowout victory over Arizona.

Plot: The Brown offense was nearly unstoppable against Arizona, with quarterback Kelly Holcomb passing for 392 yards and three touchdowns. Running back James Jackson, who scored twice against Arizona, will get his third start in place of suspended starter William Green. Quarterback Tommy Maddox passed for 327 yards Monday, but the Steelers still lost, 30-14, at San Francisco. Amos Zereoue leads the Steelers in rushing with only 335 yards.

Bottom line: In the dreadful AFC North, a two-game winning streak may be good enough to move into first place.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Cowboys by 3.

Introduction: Coach Bill Parcells and the Cowboys may have a dominant defense, but the jury is still out on their offense and quarterback Quincy Carter.

Plot: Dallas suffered its second shutout defeat of the season, 12-0, against New England last weekend. Carter has thrown nine touchdown passes but also 12 interceptions, three last weekend against the Patriots. The Cowboys have the NFL's top defense against the pass, giving up only 154.8 yards per game. Carolina leads the NFC South by three games and has won its last two.

Bottom line: The Panthers have won seven games by less than a touchdown and their ability to win close contests gives them an edge against the Cowboys.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11.

The line: Packers by 4 1/2.

Introduction: The Packers are hoping to build on last weekend's impressive road victory over Tampa Bay, the NFL's defending Super Bowl champion.

Plot: The Packers have the league's most effective ground attack. Green Bay leads the NFL in rushing with 166.5 yards a game. For the 49ers, quarterback Tim Rattay is 2-0 since taking over for injured starter Jeff Garcia, and wide receiver Terrell Owens has been putting up big numbers with Rattay in the lineup.

Bottom line: If Ahman Green can rush for at least 100 yards against the 49ers, the Packers will win and move a step closer in their quest for an NFC playoff berth.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Patriots by 5 1/2.

Introduction: The Patriots have emerged as a contender in the AFC, thanks to their suffocating defense.

Plot: New England has won six in a row despite a shaky offense. Kevin Faulk leads a Patriot running game that ranks 11th among 16 AFC teams. Tom Brady has 11 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Houston will start Tony Banks at quarterback after he stepped in for injured David Carr and led the Texans to a 12-10 victory at Buffalo last week. Rookie Domanick Davis leads Houston in rushing with 655 yards; Andre Johnson tops the receivers with 46 catches for 711 yards.

Bottom line: The Patriots don't have a strong running game but their defense is strong and Brady makes enough big plays to beat the Texans.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Vikings by 10 1/2.

Introduction: The slumping Vikings will be looking to end a four-game losing streak. The Lions are winless in five road games this season.

Plot: After winning their first six games of the season, the Vikings have struggled because of weak defensive play. Minnesota has given up 233 points this season, 129 in the last four games. Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss had only four catches for 25 yards against Oakland last weekend. The Lions have the NFL's worst ground attack. Detroit does lead the NFL in fewest fumbles lost, two.

Bottom line: The Vikings need Moss to step up and play as he did at the start of the season because they are certainly in trouble if they lose at home to the lowly Lions.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Jets by 4.

Introduction: The Jaguars and Jets are playing for pride now that both teams are out of the playoff picture.

Plot: After a strong start, Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich has had problems with interceptions recently. He has been intercepted eight times and has only three touchdown passes in the last four games. New York quarterback Chad Pennington has played well since returning from a preseason wrist injury. Pennington has nine touchdown passes with three interceptions in four games. The Jets' Curtis Martin has rushed for 746 yards.

Bottom line: New York's offense is playing well since the return of Pennington; the Jaguars are still going through growing pains with Leftwich.



Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Eagles by 5 1/2.

Introduction: The Saints have won two in a row and four of their last five, but they will be tested by the Eagles, who have won their last five games.

Plot: Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb is coming off his best game of the season. In last weekend's victory over the Giants, he completed 24 of 30 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The Eagles have the sixth-best rushing average in the league. New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven consecutive games and has gained 1,044.

Bottom line: After a horrendous start, the Eagles may be playing the best football in the NFC and their defense should be able to slow McAllister.



Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m.

The line: Rams by 8.

Introduction: Quarterback Marc Bulger made several big plays in the fourth quarter to lead the Rams to a two-point victory at Chicago last Sunday.

Plot: Running back Marshall Faulk rushed for a season-high 103 yards last weekend for the Rams, who have won their last two games and four of their last six. Wide receiver Torry Holt leads St. Louis in receiving with 75 catches for 1,140 yards but suffered an ankle injury against the Bears. Arizona Coach Dave McGinnis' job reportedly is on the line. McGinnis has a 14-26 record.

Bottom line: If Coach Mike Martz and the Rams take the Cardinals too lightly, that may be a problem because Arizona is a much better team at home than on the road.



Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m.

The line: Broncos by 10 1/2.

Introduction: Now that quarterback Jake Plummer has returned to the lineup, the Broncos may be the sleeper team of the AFC under Coach Mike Shanahan.

Plot: Denver trails Kansas City by three games in the AFC West, but the Broncos are tied with Miami for the second and final wild-card berth. Plummer is third in the AFC in passing with 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions. The Broncos' Clinton Portis needs 101 yards rushing to reach 1,000. Rod Smith leads Denver in receiving with 49 catches for 571 yards. Chicago has lost its last two games and has the NFL's worst offense, averaging only 256.4 yards.

Bottom line: The Broncos are primed to finish strongly and the Bears shouldn't be a problem.



Kickoff: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.

The line: Titans by 6 1/2.

Introduction: Although quarterback Steve McNair has not passed for more than 201 yards in a month, the Titans have won their last five games and moved into a first-place tie with Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Plot: Tennessee's defense has created 22 turnovers this season, but end Jevon Kearse is questionable because of an ankle injury suffered in last week's victory over Jacksonville. The Falcons will start Doug Johnson at quarterback instead of Kurt Kittner, who won once in four starts. The Falcons have the league's worst defense against the pass, giving up 255.9 yards a game.

Bottom line: The Titans have been running better recently but look for McNair to have a big game against the Falcons' suspect secondary.



Kickoff: Sunday 1:15 p.m., Channel 2.

The line: Chiefs by 11.

Introduction: The Chiefs will try to get back to their winning ways after losing for the first time this season Sunday at Cincinnati, while the Raiders will try to continue after defeating Minnesota at home.

Plot: Word around the league is that you can run against the Chiefs' defense and that's exactly what the Bengals and Rudi Johnson did last Sunday. Kansas City has the NFL's 31st-ranked defense against the run, giving up 130.5 yards a game. Kansas City running back Priest Holmes needs 76 yards rushing to reach 1,000 and five more catches to get to 50.

Bottom line: With their playoff hopes long over, expect the Raiders to play hard. Still, the Chiefs have too many weapons to lose two in a row.



Kickoff: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.

The line: Bengals by 3.

Introduction: The Chargers will start veteran quarterback Doug Flutie for the third week. The Bengals have moved into a first-place tie in the AFC North with Baltimore.

Plot: Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis has the Bengals believing they are a playoff team after winning four of their last five, including a victory over Kansas City. Quarterback Jon Kitna is having his best season as a pro with 2,297 yards passing and 15 touchdowns, with nine interceptions, and the Bengals have not been in contention this late in a season since 1990. San Diego is coming off an embarrassing 37-8 loss at Denver.

Bottom line: Expect the Bengals' stretch playoff run to continue with a road victory over the Chargers, who have had a season to forget.



Kickoff: Sunday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN.

The line: Dolphins by 6 1/2.

Introduction: Now that the Dolphins have seen what Brian Griese can do at quarterback, the team can't wait to get starter Jay Fiedler back into the lineup.

Plot: In last week's overtime victory over Baltimore, Miami running back Ricky Williams rushed for 100 yards for the first time since the third week of the season. The Dolphins rank 27th in the NFL in total yards at 282.9. Griese has thrown four touchdown passes and four interceptions in four starts for Miami. Washington suffered a tough three-point loss at Carolina last week and has lost five of its last six games.

Bottom line: It's now or never for the Dolphins, who should be able to run Williams enough to defeat the Redskins.



Kickoff: Monday, 6 p.m., Channel 7.

The line: Buccaneers by 5 1/2.

Introduction: The Buccaneers have too many major problems to think that deactivating one player will turn things around for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Plot: The Buccaneers believe that they will be a better team without Keyshawn Johnson, but the wide receiver does not play defense. The Buccaneers have lost three consecutive games while giving up more yards on the ground than the Arizona Cardinals. The Giants have lost their last two games. New York quarterback Kerry Collins ranks 13th in the NFC in third-down passing.

Bottom line: In a battle between two disappointing 4-6 teams, the Buccaneers should benefit from playing at home.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World