Ravens D may be too much for Jets

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Baltimore (5-3) at N.Y. Jets (6-2)

The line: Ravens by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Jets running back Curtis Martin had his poorest game of the season Sunday when he rushed for 67 yards in a 22-17 loss to the Bills. Martin will need to pick up his numbers this week, especially since the Jets will start Quincy Carter at QB in place of Chad Pennington, who is out with a shoulder injury. The yards won't come easily for Martin, who is second to Priest Holmes in AFC rushing with 865 yards. Baltimore's defence, led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis and his 42 tackles, is an obstacle course at the best of times. Carter started 31 games for the Cowboys 2001-03 and has a 16-15 record. The Ravens are the only team in the NFL to average more yards rushing (133.6) than passing. Ten teams average more yards rushing than the Ravens do passing.

Cody's call: Ravens 21-17

Pittsburgh (7-1) at Cleveland (3-5)

The line: Steelers by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Will Browns stellar defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban succeed where all others have failed? He's the Brownies' best shot at stopping Steelers rookie Ben Roethlisberger, who has tied the NFL rookie record of winning his first six games as a starting quarterback. Actually, Roethlisberger, a native of Finlay, Ohio (200 kilometres west of Cleveland), has a 19-game personal winning streak as a starter, counting his 13 college wins last year at Miami of Ohio. His passer rating of 105.2 is second only to Peyton Manning in the AFC. Ekuban has five sacks. Roethlisberger has been bagged behind the line only five times. And make no mistake, the Browns will have to get Roethlisberger down if they're to have a chance. Steelers running back Duce Staley is questionable (hamstring).

Cody's call: Steelers 24-14

Chicago (3-5) at Tennessee (3-5)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Alex Brown must be stopped. The Bears right defensive end had four sacks in last week's 28-21 upset of the Giants, falling a half-sack shy of Richard Dent's team record. Tennessee tackle Brad Hopkins, a 12-year-veteran with a trick or two up his sleeve, has the unenviable task of trying to slow Brown. The Titans have allowed 16 sacks in their eight games and QB Steve McNair has missed time with a chest injury (he's questionable this week). Da Bears had five sacks and five takeaways last week vs. the Giants. Running back Thomas Jones has accounted for 33 per cent of Chicago's offence. He has rushed for 511 yards and snagged passes for 191 more.

Cody's call: Titans 20-12

Houston (4-4) at Indianapolis (5-3)

The line: Colts by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Texans' hopes hinge precariously on roping Colts QB Peyton Manning. Manning leads the NFL with 2,429 passing yards and 26 TD tosses. He's thrown for nine touchdowns in the last two games alone and is on pace to pass for nearly 5,000 yards. Hard to believe but Manning is just three TD passes short of matching last year's co-MVP campaign total and his passer rating of 121.2 is ahead of Steve Young's NFL record of 112.8 in 1994. Wong leads the Texans with 3 1/2 sacks. They'll need him at his best in order to hurry Manning as much as possible. In Sunday's 31-13 loss to the Broncos, the Texans took a team record 109 yards in penalties.

Cody's call: Colts by 33-27

Seattle (5-3) at St. Louis (4-4)

The line: Rams by 1 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. A critical matchup throws Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander at the Rams' not-so-starry front seven. Alexander ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle's 42-27 victory over the 49ers on Sunday. It was his 17th career multi-touchdown game, tying Steve Largent's franchise record. Alexander ranks second in the NFL with 12 TDs (nine rushing, three receiving). He's also second in the loop with 879 yards rushing, including 150 against the Rams in October (a 33-27 St. Louis victory). The Rams are ranked 28th vs. the run, surrendering an average of 131.9 yards a game. Seattle's No. 8 ranked defence tops the NFL with eight interceptions.

Cody's call: Seahawks 30-28

Tampa Bay (3-5) at Atlanta (6-2)

The line: Falcons by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Bucs running back Michael Pittman has been on a tear since returning from his three-game suspension (all Tampa Bay losses) at the beginning of the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Pittman has averaged nearly five yards a carry and scored five touchdowns. In Sunday's 34-31 victory over the Chiefs, Pittman ran for 128 yards and three TDs. The Falcons, tied for sixth vs. the run, surrendered eight rushing TDs two weeks ago against the Chiefs. Last week's win gave the Bucs back-to-back victories for just the second time since their Super Bowl win two years ago. Bucs QB Brian Griese is second in the NFC with a 106.9 passer rating. Mike Vick leads Falcons in rushing with 463 yards on 65 carries.

Cody's call: Falcons 24-21

Detroit (4-4) at Jacksonville (5-3)

The line: Jaguars by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Egad, the Lions are 1-3 at home at 3-1 on the road, where they lost an NFL-record 24 straight prior to this season. The run-challenged Lions ran for just 64 yards in Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Redskins, the longest being an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Joey Harrington. So it's no surprise the Lions are ranked dead last (32nd) on the run and 31st in overall offence. With regular quarterback Byron Leftwich out with a sprained knee, the Jags will start David Garrard. Garrard has thrown only 60 passes in the NFL and has made just one previous career start. Defensive end James Hall leads the Lions with 5 1/2 sacks. The Jags have allowed 18 sacks in eight games.

Cody's call: Lions 13-10

Kansas City (3-5) at New Orleans (3-5)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. There's a chance the Saints' challenged D could face running backs Derrick Blaylock or Larry Johnson rather than Priest Holmes, the NFL's most potent offensive threat. Holmes has strained ligaments in his right knee and might not play. That's a huge break for the Saints' porous D (32nd overall, 30th against the run and 31st vs. the pass). Holmes, with an NFL-best 892 yards and 90 points, has accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the Chiefs' rushing attack and is their fourth-leading receiver with 19 receptions. Blaylock is K.C.'s next best rusher with 150 yards on 32 carries (four TDs vs. the Falcons two weeks ago, too), but he's questionable with a thigh injury. If he can't go, Johnson, the No. 3 man, will.

Cody's call: Chiefs 66-57

Cincinnati (3-5) at Washington (3-5)

The line: Redskins by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Cinci's challenge will be stopping Redskins running back Clinton Portis, who last week shredded Detroit's overworked D for 147 yards on 34 carries. In Washington's 17-10 taming of the Lions, Portis also snagged a pass for 11 yards and tossed a 15-yarder for a TD. Portis is the 'Skins weapon of choice, their only choice, really. He might be all they need against Cinci's run defence, which allows 149.6 yards a game and sits at the bottom of the league. Bengals corner Tory James has four interceptions in his last four games and leads NFL with five this season. Cinci has a plus-seven turnover differential; the Redskins are minus-2.

Cody's call: Redskins 17-13

N.Y. Giants (5-3) at Arizona (1-8)

The line: Giants by 2 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Cardinals running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, needs just 17 yards against the Giants to reach 18,000 for his career. His Giants counterpart, Tiki Barber, is second to Shaun Alexander in NFC rushing with 820 yards and tops the NFL with 1,231 yards from scrimmage. The Giants have allowed a league-high 34 sacks. The Cardinals are struggling with sacks as well, giving up 24. The Giants are hurting on the defensive front, having lost both starting defensive ends for the season: All-Pro Michael Strahan (chest) and Keith Washington. Both teams have 20 takeaways, tied for second in the NFL.

Cody's call: Giants 23-20

Minnesota (5-3) at Green Bay (4-4)

The line: Packers by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The Packers, after a 1-4 start, are coming off three straight wins and a bye week. This game matches the cream of the NFC North (although in the case of the Packers, it's taken quite a time to rise) and pits Green Bay's rejuvenated defensive line against Minnesota's offensive backfield. With Mini's wideout Randy Moss unlikely to play (hamstring), Packers nose tackle Grady Jackson and Co. can concentrate completely on the Vikings' running attack, which has averaged at least 4.0 yards a game for 18 consecutive games. The Vikings have lost two games in a row. Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper is the NFL's second-ranked passer (115.0) and has thrown for 21 TDs.

Cody's call: Packers 28-21

Carolina (1-7) at San Francisco (1-7)

The line: 49ers by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The Panthers offensive line will have its work cut out in slowing San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young (68.5 career sacks) and linebacker Jamie Winborn. Winborn's 4 1/2 sacks top all NFL linebackers. Carolina's O line has allowed just 11 sacks, fifth fewest in the NFL. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has thrown 12 TD passes, is averaging 231.5 passing yards and ranks second in the league with 285 pass attempts. Panthers wide receiver Mushin Muhammad is looking for his third straight eight-catch game. San Fran tight end Eric Johnson has 51 snags for 547 yards. He is on pace for 102 catches, which would surpass the NFL single-season record for receptions by a tight end.

Cody's call: 49ers 24-21

Buffalo (3-5) at New England (7-1)

The line: Patriots by 8 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). Bills running back Willis McGahee and Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison are sure to bump into one another a time or two. In Sunday's win over the Jets, McGahee ran for 132 yards on 37 carries. Harrison, a first team All-Pro last season, is the Patriots leading tackler. A hard hitter who excels at run support, Harrison will be sneaking up to the line of scrimmage in search of McGahee. Bills QB Drew Bledsoe has gone two games without being sacked or giving up a turnover. That's a marked improvement from his first six games when he was sacked 23 times and threw seven picks.

Cody's call: Patriots 24-20

Philadelphia (7-1) at Dallas (3-5)

The line: Eagles by 6 1/2

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC). Over-the-top Eagles receiver Terrell Owens is a big-play threat with nine TD receptions this season and at least one TD catch in his last six Monday Night Football appearances. The Cowboys defence has come up with just five turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble recovery) all season. Owens has six catches longer than 40 yards, most in the NFL, and multiple-touchdown games in two of his last three outings. Philly head coach Andy Reid is 13-1 on Monday nights and 17-6 (.739 winning percentage) in November. Dallas has lost four of its last five.

Cody's call: Eagles 28-20

Season record Straight up Last week: 7-7. Overall: 82-48

Spread Last week: 4-7. Overall: 58-61


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