NFL Countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

St. Louis (5-4) at Buffalo (3-6)

The line: Rams by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Drew Bledsoe is coming off the worst game of his career, going eight-of-19 for 76 yards and three interceptions to combine for a career-low 14.3 quarterback rating in Buffalo's 29-6 loss at New England last Sunday. Bledsoe is facing new questions about his ability to lead the Bills offence and whether it's time rookie first-round pick J. P. Losman took over as the starter. "The biggest challenge playing the position of quarterback is being hardheaded enough to move on," Bledsoe said this week. "I've had a couple of long nights tossing and turning. And I'm moving on, moving forward." We'll see.

Cody's call: Rams 27-14

Dallas (3-6) at Baltimore (6-3)

The line: Ravens by 8

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. This is a game the Ravens had better get after because the second half of their schedule includes rocky road games vs. the Jets, Patriots, Colts and Steelers. A critical matchup pits Cowboys QB Vinny Testaverde against Ravens strong safety Ed Reed. Testaverde, a Raven in 1996 and '97, has cooled off after a torrid start to the season. Reed is No. 1 in the NFL with 288 yards worth of interception returns. Testaverde has tossed 11 picks this season, one off the league high.

Cody's call: Ravens 23-17

Indianapolis (6-3) at Chicago (4-5)

The line: Colts by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. With star linebacker Brian Urlacher out (leg), Hunter Hillenmeyer will move back into the middle of the Bears defence (from his usual spot at outside linebacker), just as he did when Urlacher went down earlier in the season. Hillenmeyer will have his work cut out for him, considering the chap across the line will be Colts QB Peyton Manning. And make no mistake, Peyton is the Manning. He leads the NFL with 2,749 yards passing, 31 TD tosses and a 122.7 passer rating. He's on pace to toss 55 TD passes, which would easily break Dan Marino's record of 48.

Cody's call: Colts 37-28

Pittsburgh (8-1) at Cincinnati (4-5)

The line: Steelers by 4 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Hats off to Ben Roethlisberger, Duce Staley and defensive stars James Farrior and Troy Polamalu. But football folks agree it's been the play of Pittsburgh's offensive line (Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca, Jeff Hastings, Kendall Simmons and Oliver Ross) that has buoyed the Steelers' sinking fortunes. One season after the Steelers endured their worst season running the ball since 1967, they are No. 2 in rushing -- with only 20 fewer yards in nine games than they had in 16 last season. They're well down the list in sacks surrendered, too, allowing only 15 (25 fewer than the New York Giants). The Bengals' biggest weapon vs. Roethlisberger, 7-0 as an NFL starter, is their NFL-high 13 interceptions.

Cody's call: Steelers 27-20

N.Y. Jets (6-3) at Cleveland (3-6)

The line: Browns by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Cleveland's front seven will have their hands full trying to stop Jets running back Curtis Martin. Martin is second in the NFL with 984 yards rushing and has the second-most first downs with 62. With 16 yards against the Brownies' middle-of-the-pack run D, Martin will join Barry Sanders as the only players to reach 1,000 yards in each of their first 10 seasons. Jeff Garcia of the Browns is tops among AFC quarterbacks with 169 yards rushing but his passer rating of 75.4 is close to the bottom of the conference. The Jets won't have their guiding light Chad Pennington, who is still out a while with an injury to his throwing shoulder.

Cody's call: Jets 23-21

Detroit (4-5) at Minnesota (5-4)

The line: Vikings by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Even without Randy Moss (hamstring), the Vikings have the NFL's No.2 pass attack. Wideouts Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson have nicely picked up the slack in Moss's absence. Burleson has a team-leading 567 yards receiving, already surpassing his total (455) as a rookie last season. In a 34-31 loss to the Packers on Sunday, Burleson had career highs of 11 snags and 141 yards. The Lions' 22nd-ranked pass defence is allowing 224.7 yards a game and has surrendered 14 TD passes. Lions punt returner Eddie Drummond leads the NFL with a 15.2 return average. He had punt return TDs of 55 and 83 yards in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Jags. His 199 yards on punt runbacks was third-highest total ever.

Cody's call: Vikings 27-21

Arizona (4-5) at Carolina (2-7)

The line: Panthers by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Arizona's right defensive end Bertran Berry bears watching, a challenge that falls to Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross. Berry had four last sacks during Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Giants, becoming the first Cardinal since Curtis Greer 21 seasons ago. He has nine on the season, second only to John Abraham of the Jets. The Cardinals have forced 20 turnovers already this season after getting just 23 all of last year. Their turnover differential is plus-nine; the Panthers are minus-one.

Cody's call: Cardinals 20-17

Denver (6-3) at New Orleans (4-5)

The line: Broncos by 9

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The featured matchup is a battle of two loquacious dudes: Broncos corner Champ Bailey and Saints wideout Joe Horn. Horn is the Saints' leading receiver with 54 snags for 758 yards and five TDs. Bailey, acquired from Washington in the offseason for running back Clinton Portis, leads Denver with two interceptions. Broncos rusher Reuben Droughns has surpassed 100 yards four times in the last five weeks. Saints kicker John Carney has 1,499 career scoring points.

Cody's call: Broncos 33-30

Tennessee (3-6) at Jacksonville (6-3)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. It's a hookup of the unheralded and inexperienced backup quarterbacks. I'm talking about Billy Volek of the Titans and David Garrard of the Jaguars. Volek is set to replace Steve McNair, who hasn't played since bruising his sternum for the second time on Oct. 24. Garrard gets his second straight start in place of Byron Leftwich (sprained knee). Volek has started four games in a five-year NFL career, including last week when he became the first player in NFL history to be tackled in his own end zone in overtime to end the game (a 19-17 loss to the Bears) on a safety.

Cody's call: Jaguars 21-20

San Francisco (1-8) at Tampa Bay (3-6)

The line: Bucs by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. In a game that may well be decided by field position, the punting matchup pits Tampa's Josh Bidwell against San Francisco's Andy Lee. The edge clearly goes to Bidwell. Both have been busy this season. Lee has punted 50 times, Bidwell 49. Lee, a rookie, has struggled with net average (33.7) while Bidwell is fifth in the league at 38.8. Bidwell is No. 1 in the NFL with 18 punts caught via fair catch. The Bucs are a minus-one point differential while the 49ers are a league-worst minus-15.

Cody's call: Bucs 23-20

Miami (1-8) at Seattle (5-4)

The line: Seahawks by 10

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Dolphins new head coach Jim Bates is already making changes. Can't hurt. A. J. Feeley takes over at quarterback for the Dolphins, replacing Jay Fiedler. It's only Feeley's 16th start since high school. In five games this season, opponents have run back more of Feeley's heaves for interception-TDs than he has thrown to his own teammates (two). Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander leads the NFL with 1,055 yards and nine rushing TDs.

Cody's call: Seahawks 30-10

San Diego (6-3) at Oakland (3-6)

The line: Chargers by 4

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The play of the Chargers in general and QB Drew Brees in particular is among the NFL's most compelling success stories this season. Brees, just 25, is waging war to keep his job from going to rookie and No. 4 overall draft pick Philip Rivers, who is on a $41-million contract. Brees, in his fourth season, ranks third in the AFC with 18 TD passes and an 108.7 passer rating. Raiders QB Kerry Collins has a 65.4 passer rating, lowest among AFC quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts. He's also tied with Carson Palmer for most interceptions tossed (12). Note of caution: Raiders have won five of the last six meetings.

Cody's call: Chargers 24-17

Atlanta (7-2) at N.Y. Giants (5-4)

The line: Falcons by 2 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. After watching his Giants lose three of their last four games (including 17-14 to Arizona on Sunday), head coach Tom Coughlin benched Kurt Warner in favour of No. 1 overall draft choice Eli Manning, who will be making his first NFL start. And Falcons defensive end Patrick Kenney (eight sacks) will be right there to make life miserable for the much ballyhooed son of ex-NFLer Archie Manning and younger brother of princely Peyton. The Giants have allowed 40 sacks, most in the NFL. Atlanta's D is 30th vs. pass, but has 27 sacks, one off the league lead.

Cody's call: Falcons 28-24

Washington (3-6) at Philadelphia (8-1)

The line: Eagles by 11

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The Redskins have crack cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs to send after Philly wideout Terrell Owens, who leads the NFL with 12 TD catches, 884 receiving yards and seven snags of more than 40 yards. He embarrassed Dallas on Monday night, scoring three touchdowns. Patrick Ramsey will start after QB for the Redskins, who haven't scored more than 18 points in a game this season.

Cody's call: Eagles 38-13

Green Bay (5-4) at Houston (4-5)

The line: Packers by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). History (and a lot of other things, too) is on the Packers' side. Green Bay has won four straight after a 1-4 start to the season and the Pack has never lost in Houston (3-0). Javon Walker is Green Bay's most dangerous receiver and will command the attention of Houston corners Aaron Glenn and Dunta Robinson. Walker ranks second in the NFL with a career-best 857 receiving yards. He leads the loop with 383 yards receiving on third downs, helping the Packers convert 52.1 per cent of their third downs into first downs, best in the NFL. Texans QB David Carr ranks third in AFC with 2,377 yards passing.

Cody's call: Packers 27-23

New England (8-1) at Kansas City (3-6)

The line: Patriots by 3

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC). Filling in again for the injured Priest Holmes (sprained knee ligaments), K.C. running back Derrick Blaylock scampered for 186 yards and a TD in the Chiefs' 27-20 loss to the Saints on Sunday. Expect Rodney Harrison, the Pats' super-physical safety, to be in Blaylock's face in this one. Harrison is the leading tackler on a defence so stingy, it has allowed only 13 TDs this season. Along with chasing Blaylock all over the field, Harrison will have to keep an eye on Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzales as well. The Chiefs are 6-0-1 in last seven home games against Patriots and haven't lost to them at home since 1964.

Cody's call: Patriots 31-21

Season record

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Last week: 7-7. Overall: 89-55

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Last week: 3-9. Overall: 61-70


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