NFL: This week's preview

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 20, 2012

Associated Press
Today’s NFL preview …
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has been very protective of the ball (only four turnovers) and quite productive through the air, ranking seventh in yards passing. But Pittsburgh (2-3) has the appearance of a team in transition, particularly on the offensive line and everywhere on defense, where injuries have been damaging – star safety Troy Polamalu won’t play Sunday night.
“It comes down to playmaking,” coach Mike Tomlin said, “and we haven’t made enough significant plays.”
When they head to Cincinnati (3-3), the Steelers will find an AFC North rival that is reeling. The Bengals flopped against Miami at home, then in Cleveland, handing the Browns their first win. Their big-play defense has yet to materialize.
“It’s not time to jump ship,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “We’re 3-3 just like everybody else in our conference. At the end of the day, it’s not about wins and losses, it’s about who makes the playoffs. Our goals are all still right there in front of us. Somebody that’s 3-3 has to go win some games and get in the playoffs. Why not be us?”•Also today, it’s Tennessee at Buffalo, Baltimore at Houston, Arizona at Minnesota, the New York Jets at New England, Washington at the New York Giants, Green Bay at St. Louis, New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Cleveland at Indianapolis, and Jacksonville at Oakland.
On Monday night, it’s Detroit at Chicago.
Off this week are Atlanta (6-0), the league’s only unbeaten team; Denver (3-3); Kansas City (1-5); Miami (3-3); Philadelphia (3-3); and San Diego (3-3).•The games …
Tennessee (2-4) at Buffalo (3-3)
Yet two more teams that had high expectations for this season, the Titans hoping to build off their surprising 9-7 record of 2011, the Bills believing their retooled roster was ready to carry them back to the playoffs for the first time since Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Marv Levy – well, not quite that long ago, but you get the picture.
The Bills lost consecutive games by a combined 97-31 before beating the Cards. Coach Chan Gailey doesn’t believe there’s an ounce of satisfaction after that win.
Baltimore (5-1) at Houston (5-1)
Here they are, the only two AFC teams with winning records. No kidding – there are seven teams at 3-3, including the entire East.
After its first stumble of the season, Houston can grab back the inside track to being the AFC’s elite team. Not that the Texans have it in mind.
Arizona (4-2) at Minnesota (4-2)
The banged-up Cardinals go back to John Skelton at quarterback after Kevin Kolb hurt his ribs. Arizona has lost two straight as its offense stagnated: After scoring 91 points in its four victories, Arizona has 19 in its successive defeats.
Minnesota might not be the best place to get things straight. The Vikings, one of the most pleasant surprises in the league, seem to be getting their pass rush on track and Arizona has yielded 28 sacks, 22 in the last three games.
NYJets (3-3) at New England (3-3)One of football’s most bitter rivalries, and with the Jets coming off a lopsided victory and the Patriots blowing a lead in Seattle to lose, New York has taken the offensive – verbally.
Hard to imagine with coach Rex Ryan, isn’t it?
“I want them to know, and they know, that I think we’re going to beat them,” Ryan said. “I don’t buy into all that other stuff. Look, I recognize they’re a great football team and (Bill) Belichick’s a great coach. I’ve never once said he wasn’t, OK, but we’re not going to back down or concede anything. They’re going to get our best shot. We’ll see if we land that punch to win the game.”
Washington (3-3) at N.Y. Giants (4-2)
Washington went 2-4 in the NFC East a year ago. Both wins came against the Giants, who merely went on to win it all.
These Redskins, sparked by the versatility and excitement Robert Griffin III brought to the nation’s capital, are a better team than the 2011 version. Griffin isn’t the only difference – the defense is eighth against the run and the team is plus-9 in turnover margin – but he is the main reason the Giants must be very careful.
Griffin is liable to do anything, such as run 76 yards for a touchdown, outsprinting Minnesota’s defensive backs to the end zone last Sunday.
Detroit (2-3) at Chicago (4-1), Monday
The Lions might have saved their season with a big rally to win at Philadelphia last week. They might need something similar against a better team at Soldier Field.
Detroit ranks second in yards on offense and Chicago is third in overall defense.
Green Bay (3-3) at St. Louis (3-3)
This is a solid test to see if the Packers righted themselves with last Sunday night’s victory at Houston. St. Louis is 3-0 at home, with victories over some good teams: Washington, Arizona and Seattle.
New Orleans (1-4) at Tampa Bay (2-3)
So let’s see if not losing in two weeks – a comeback win over San Diego followed by a bye – has gotten the Saints back on track. There’s still a ton of noise surrounding them with the bounties scandal, of course, and one of Tampa Bay’s four victories last season came against the Saints. In fact, the Bucs then lost their next 10.
Cleveland (1-5) at Indianapolis (2-3)
New owner Jimmy Haslam hopes the Browns can build on last Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati, when, he says, they played their best football of the season in the fourth quarter. But the Browns haven’t won two straight in this series since 1988.
Jacksonville (1-4) at Oakland (1-4)
The Raiders played their best game of the season in nearly handing Atlanta its first loss. Nearly: Oakland fell apart late and was beaten by Matt Bryant’s 55-yard field goal.Darren McFadden had a career-high 209 yards from scrimmage with three TDs in the last meeting with the Jaguars, who are far less formidable than the Falcons.
But Jacksonville comes off a bye and has won the last four against the Raiders. That shouldn’t make the Jaguars feel comfortable, though – they’ve been outscored 99-16 in their last three trips to the West Coast.