NFL countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:08 AM ET

Detroit (2-1) at Atlanta (4-0)

The line: Falcons by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Defensive end Patrick Kearney is a critical piece in the Falcons' puzzle and a gent the Lions, offensive right tackle Stockar McDougle specifically, must stop from going about his business. Kearney leads the NFL with seven sacks and as a team the Falcons are second in the league with 16. The thing is, when the Falcons don't get to the quarterback, their secondary has been suspect, allowing 247 passing yards a game. Atlanta's D is No. 10 overall -- second against the run, but No. 27 versus the pass. If Lions QB Joey Harrington has time to toss it, he'll look for wideout Roy Williams, who has four TDs and leads NFL rookies with 277 receiving yards.

Cody's call: Falcons 20-14

N.Y. Giants (3-1) at Dallas (2-1)

The line: Cowboys by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Giants running back Tiki Barber is off to flying start, which means he'll get plenty of attention from Cowboys stellar middle linebacker Dat Nguyen. Barber is averaging 6.2 yards a carry, tops in the NFL among rushers with at least 40 carries. Barber has run for more than 100 yards in three of four games this season, including 182 yards last week. He tops the loop with four dashes for 20-plus yards. Barber has three rushing TDs already and his task Sunday will be to pound on a D that hasn't allowed a touchdown on the ground this season. Dallas QB Vinny Testaverde is No. 2 in the NFL, averaging 297 passing yards a game. The Giants are only No. 21 versus the pass.

Cody's call: Cowboys 27-20

Oakland (2-2) at Indianapolis (3-1)

The line: Colts by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Colts QB Peyton Manning leads the NFL with 11 TD tosses and tops the AFC with 1,123 passing yards and a 115.4 passer rating. In his last five home games, including playoffs, Manning has thrown 19 TD passes and just one interception. And just think, the Colts had the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft and could have taken Ryan (Fallen) Leaf ahead of Manning. The Raiders, who will send wide receivers Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter out against Indy's banged up (and 32nd-ranked) secondary, are 8-3 lifetime versus the Colts and 2-0 in Indianapolis.

Cody's call: Colts 33-21

Minnesota (2-1) at Houston (2-2)

The line: Vikings by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. At the beginning of training camp, Minnesota's backfield was touted as the deepest in years. That belief is about to be tested. Michael Bennett is injured (knee). Onterrio Smith is suspended. And ol' vet Moe Williams is suspect due to a calf problem. That, folks, leaves rookie Mewelde Moore and unknown Larry Ned to carry the mail against the Texans, who are ranked No. 26 versus the run. Expect Daunte Culpepper (124.8 passer rating) to find Randy Moss a lot, despite the best efforts of Texas corners Dunta Robinson, a rookie, and Aaron Glenn. The Vikes are 28-11 when Moss tops 100 receiving yards.

Cody's call: Texans 27-21

Miami (0-4) at New England (3-0)

The line: Pats by 13 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. With their 34-17 doubling of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Patriots tied the NFL record of 18 straight wins. The Pats last lost more than a year ago, Sept. 18, 2003, at Washington. New England has won the last three meetings versus the Dolphins, but needed OT in two of them. Here's a sadsack stat: As a team, the dead-last Dolphins have 239 rushing yards; 21 individual running backs on other teams have more. Any good news? Sure. The Dolphins are No. 3 overall on D, including No. 1 versus the pass. Miami has the NFL's second-longest streak -- 14 games -- without allowing a 100-yard receiver. (Jacksonville is at 15.)

Cody's call: Patriots 24-3

Cleveland (2-2) at Pittsburgh (3-1)

The line: Steelers by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Cleveland corners Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry will have their hands full against steely Steeler wideout Hines Ward, the AFC offensive player of the month for September. Ward topped the conference with 28 snags for 394 yards in the first month. Seventeen of Ward's catches have resulted in first downs. And the Browns are not shining stars at stopping the pass. Ranked No. 26 versus the toss, they have surrendered a 100-yard receiver each of their last two games and let Cowboys QB Vinny Testaverde shred them for 322 yards during Week 2. Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown four TDs in nine quarters.

Cody's call: Steelers 20-17

Tampa Bay (0-4) at New Orleans (2-2)

The line: Saints by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The acronym for New Orleans, of course, is N.O. It should stand for N.O. defence. The Saints are ranked 31st overall on D (31st versus the run, 23rd versus the pass). So, it stands to reason that a critical matchup pits Bucs running back Michael Pittman against the Saints' defensive front seven. The Saints are allowing 159.5 rushing yards a game, second-most in the NFL. Heck, lowly Arizona ran up 211 yards in Sunday's 34-10 sacking of the Saints. Still, the Bucs have just three offensive TDs this season, none on the run.

Cody's call: Bucs 20-19

Buffalo (0-3) at N.Y. Jets (3-0)

The line: Jets by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Once again, Drew Bledsoe of the Bills is the NFL's most-sacked quarterback with 15. At this rate, he'll be sacked 80 times this season, lots more than even last season, when he did his pylon impression a league-high 49 times. While the Bills need to worry about protecting Bledsoe, as much from his own ineptness as from the Jets' sack attack, Buffalo also needs to keep Curtis Martin from running wild. The Jets running back has five career 100-yard games versus the Bills and 1,487 career rushing yards against them. Martin has been merely amazing this season, running for more than 100 yards in each of the Jets' three wins. His average is 141.7 yards a game.

Cody's call: Jets 31-17

Jacksonville (3-1) at San Diego (2-2)

The line: Jaguars by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. LaDainian Tomlinson has a sore groin but is listed on the injury report as "probable" for this weekend's tussle with the Jags. Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer was unequivocal in saying his ace will play. "He's fine. We're just giving him an opportunity to rest a bit. He's proven that time off doesn't hurt." Tomlinson rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's 38-17 win over Tennessee, becoming the Chargers' career rushing leader with 4,979 yards (surpassing Paul Lowe). Jags QB Byron Leftwich is becoming a fourth-quarter whiz, completing 21 of 36 fourth-quarter passes for two TDs and no interceptions and leading his team to a pair of last-minute wins already this season.

Cody's call: Jaguars 17-13

Carolina (1-2) at Denver (3-1)

The line: Broncos by 5 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Talk about a headbanger in the trenches, this is it. Denver's O-line has allowed just two sacks this season, which ties them with the Colts for fewest in the league. The Panthers' defensive line has 75 1/2 sacks since 2002, second only to Miami's 88. Trench tangles aside, the game could spin on the performance of Broncos kick returner Reuben Droughns, the AFC's special teams player of the month for September. Among guys with at least eight returns, Droughns is third in the NFL with a 28.9-yard average. Speaking of special teams, Broncos placekicker Jason Elam is atop AFC scoring with 37 points. Denver's D is No. 2 overall, including No. 2 versus the run and No. 14 versus the pass.

Cody's call: Broncos 28-17

St. Louis (2-2) at Seattle (3-0)

The line: Seahawks by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The often pass-happy Rams are at their best when they use a balanced attack, like last week when they built a 24-0 halftime lead using 19 running plays and 18 passes. Whether Rams coach Mike Martz will keep his balance or lose it to his love of the pass is anyone's guess. The Seahawks can play it either way, too. They have the NFL's No. 1 defence overall, ranking third against the rush and sixth against the pass. Seattle, seeking its first 4-0 start, has allowed only 13 points against weak, one-dimensional offences (the Saints, Bucs and 49ers). The Rams, especially Marshall Faulk, will provide a harsher test.

Cody's call: Seahawks 30-20

Arizona (1-3) at San Francisco (0-4)

The line: 49ers by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Finally, the Cardinals have something that should make their opponents stop laughing and start playing. The Cards certainly had the last laugh Sunday when they steamrolled the defenceless Saints 34-10, led by a ground attack that totalled 211 yards, including 127 yards and a touchdown by venerable Emmitt Smith. The NFL's career rushing leader, Smith has gained 290 yards this season, his best start through four games since '99 (409). Arizona may run wild again, as San Fran's defensive front seven has been ravaged by injuries. Niners QB Tim Rattay returned to the starting lineup Sunday, throwing for 299 yards and two TDs in a 24-24 loss to the Rams.

Cody's call: 49ers 21-17

Baltimore (2-2) at Washington (1-3)

The line: No line

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). Jamal Lewis's legal entanglements aren't expected to keep him off the field, setting up a noodle-knocker between the Ravens running back and Washington's great gang of run defenders. The Redskins are No. 1 against the prance, allowing just 59.5 yards a game. The Ravens, the NFL's fourth best running team, are averaging 148.5 yards a game. After three straight losses, it's safe to say the honeymoon is over on Joe Gibbs' return as Redskins coach. The Ravens have outscored opponents 47-23 in the first half, but are being outpointed 36-33 after the break.

Cody's call: Ravens 23-21

Tennessee (1-3) at Green Bay (1-3)

The line: Packers by 3

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. Desperation suggests a titanic duel. The loser will have a tough time coming back from a 1-4 start. A lot depends on the MVP quarterbacks, both of whom are hurting but expected to play. Steve McNair sat out Tennessee's 38-17 loss Sunday at San Diego with a bruised chest. Brett Favre, dealing this week with death in an all-terrain vehicle accident of his brother-in-law, Casey Tynes, 24, missed most of the second half of the Packers' 14-7 loss to the Giants with a concussion. That was the second straight setback at Lambeau Field for Green Bay, which is 6-6 in its last dozen games at a stadium in which it used to be invincible. The Titans are 43-31 on the road under head coach Jeff Fisher.

Cody's call: Packers 23-17

Season record

Straight up

Last week: 8-6; overall: 39-21

Spread

Last week: 8-5; overall: 27-30


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