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Sunday, November 07, 2004 

Games of the Day

Parity has returned to the NFL after an early absence (as it always does). There's nearly a three-way tie in the AFC South, ties for the AFC West and NFC West lead, and an eye-popping 19 teams within 1 game of a playoff spot (or better).

Early Games

This is one of the those weeks where it's easy to identify the good games - there are only 4 games matching two teams with winning records. And the best of the weekend is Philadelphia (7-0) at Pittsburgh (6-1). The Steelers ended the depleted Patriots winning streak last week, and have a very poised QB in Ben Roethlisberger. Their defense is 5th in the league against the run (89.3 ypg) and 5th overall. (Note that their pass defense is worse, though that is misleading: the top 2 pass defenses in terms of yardage are Miami and Chicago, and that's because their opponents get early leads and run out the clock. But I digress.) Pittsburgh's defense has a real challenge this week, since if they can't stop McNabb and Owens they could be in for a long day. I'm not convinced the Steelers can put up a lot of points without some help (as the Patriots graciously provided). Philadelphia should win this game, even though it is on the road. If Pittsburgh wins this one, then I'll believe in them.

Late Games

I actually wish I could watch Houston at Denver. The Texans must smell blood in the water now that Bryon Leftwich is out for a while and the Colts are struggling (and play Minnesota Monday night). Denver is in a surprising race with San Diego, where Drew Brees is having a remarkable season as the second-rated passer in the AFC (138-206 1597, 14 TD, 3 INT). San Diego is great against the run but awful against the pass, and while Denver can do both, their running game is their bread-and-butter. But Denver's defense will lead the way in this one. When these two teams met in week 3, San Diego held Denver to just 37 yards rushing on 21 carries but the Broncos completely shut down the Charger offense, limiting them to 60 yards rushing and just 129 yards through the air. Jake Plummer threw 2 TDs and didn't turn the ball over en route to a 23-13 win in Denver. I suspect the outcome will be similar today in San Diego.

Not much to say about the New England at St.Louis game except "heads up". Look for the Rams to throw early and often, and score early and often. For Patriots fans this one will not be pretty, especially if Corey Dillon doesn't play. The Patriots must win time of possession to have a shot.

Prime Time

Finally, an entertaining Monday night game! Culpepper vs. Manning would be good enough, but add in the fact that both defenses are awful and this could be 45-42 classic. Both teams are coming off bad losses. The Vikings turned the ball over 3 times (incl. 2 INTs by Culpepper), gave up 168 yards rushing, and got smoked by the Giants 34-13. The Colts meltdown was even worse, although the score was closer (45-35) against a surging Chiefs team. Manning threw for 472 yards and 5 TDs, and his one interception was balanced by 2 lost fumbles by Kansas City. But the Chiefs outgained the Colts 203 to 33 on the ground and held the ball for over 37 minutes. Fortunately, the Vikings may be without Mewelde Moore, and the absence of Randy Moss also hurts. The Colts need this game badly before hosting the Texans next week.

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