NFL Countdown

Steve Coad -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

New England (10-1) at Cleveland (3-8) The line: Patriots by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Browns interim head coach Terry Robiskie (replacing Butch Davis, who resigned this week) got emotional during his kickoff address to the troops: "All I said was I want every guy in here, if you believe you're a leader, stand up," Robiskie told Associated Press football writer Joe Milicia. "About 25 guys stood up . . . and then I told them, 'If you're a leader, grab a guy who you think will follow you, and let's go to work.' " Normally, I'd give the nod to a squad with a new coach. Not this time. The Brownies are banged up to the point where they may have to start a rookie (Luke McCown) at quarterback and it is, after all, the Patriots coming to town.

Cody's call: Patriots 23-16

Buffalo (5-6) at Miami (2-9)

The line: Bills by 3 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. It's homecoming weekend for Bills running back Willis McGahee, a Miami native and former Miami Hurricanes star in college. The Bills are 5-0 when McGahee rushes for 100 yards, including Sunday's 38-9 throttling of the Seahawks, when he scampered for 116 yards and four touchdowns. As well, McGahee gained 111 yards when the teams tangled on Oct. 17 (a 20-13 Bills' win at home). The pressure to stop McGahee will be on Miami's rookie linebacker Derrick Pope, who will start in place of the injured Zach Thomas, a five-time Pro Bowler who leads the Dolphins with 132 tackles.

Cody's call: Bills 27-17

Arizona (4-7) at Detroit (4-7)

The line: Lions by 4

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. If Emmitt Smith (sprained toe) can't go, undrafted rookie Larry Croom will start at running back for the Cardinals. Smith, seventh among NFC rushers with 679 yards, is listed as questionable, which means his chances of playing are about 50-50. Croom carried 10 times for only 25 yards in Sunday's 13-3 loss to the New York Jets. John Navarre will be the Cardinals' third starting QB in four weeks. A three-year starter at the University of Michigan, Navarre has never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game. Lions running back Kevin Jones leads NFL rookies with 507 yards rushing.

Cody's call: Lions 20-10

Minnesota (7-4) at Chicago (4-7)

The line: Vikings by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has missed da Bears' last two games (both losses) with a calf injury. He wasn't supposed to be back for at least another couple of weeks, but practised Wednesday and, according to AP football writer David Mordkoff, looks ready to get back in there. The Bears need their All-Pro defender's help in stopping Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper, who stands second in the league with 28 TD tosses and a 112.4 passer rating. FYI: Culpepper's already gaudy pass rating soars to 130.9 on third down, best in the NFL. Minnesota wideout Randy Moss has 16 TDs in his last 13 games.

Cody's call: Vikings 28-17

Cincinnati (5-6) at Baltimore (7-4)

The line: Ravens by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Bengals bruising back Rudi Johnson bashed his way to 202 yards rushing and two TDs in Sunday's blasting of the beleaguered Browns. Expect the Ravens' 11th-ranked run defence, led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis and nose tackle Kelly Gregg, to be a more formidable challenge, although Johnson managed 98 tough yards on 23 carries in Cinci's 23-9 loss to Baltimore on Sept. 26. In that game, Carson Palmer's three interceptions undid the good created by Johnson. Gregg missed the September game with a knee injury.

Cody's call: Ravens 21-17

Tennessee (4-7) at Indianapolis (8-3)

The line: Colts by 10 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Last season's co-MVPs -- Indy's Peyton Manning and Steve McNair of the Titans -- are having wildly different seasons. Manning is on pace to break a pile of passing records, while Mordkoff reports McNair is so frustrated (not to mention banged and bruised), he's hinting this may be his final season. Manning has thrown for 41 TDs in just 11 games, so Dan Marino's single-season record of 48 is almost certain to fall. The Colts have played four games in the last 18 days and won them all. In that run of success, Manning has 19 TD tosses.

Cody's call: Colts 33-20

San Francisco (1-10) at St. Louis (5-6)

The line: Rams by 10 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Rams will probably be fine against the 49ers but just so you know, their head coach Mike Martz makes me crazy. It started with the Super Bowl vs. New England at the end of the 2001 season when Martz completely went away from running back Marshall Faulk and lost (after I'd picked them). And the feeling was back Monday when the Rams did another really dumb thing -- eschewing an easy field goal in the third quarter (that would have put them within a single possession of the Packers at 21-13) for some ill-conceived trickery involving a kicker running with the ball. It failed miserably and the Pack went on to steamroll the Rams 45-17. Martz has been called an offensive genius. As you know, it's fine line between genius and madness.

Cody's call: Rams 33-27

Houston (5-6) at N.Y. Jets (8-3)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Jets have scored a paltry 23 points in winning their last two games (Cleveland and Arizona). It helps that their turnover differential is plus 14, second in the league. Houston corners Marcus Coleman and Aaron Glenn, both longtime Jets till they were taken by the Texans in the 2002 expansion draft, will be after Jets' blossoming wide receiver Justin McCareins, who has a catch every game this season and has three TD snags in his last five games.

Cody's call: Jets 17-14

Atlanta (9-2) at Tampa Bay (4-7)

The line: Bucs by 1 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. A critical battle is taking shape between Falcons QB Mike Vick, one of the NFL's most versatile weapons, and Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, one of the last bastions of Tampa's once-great D. Rice leads the Bucs with seven sacks and needs one more for 100 in his career. Vick has 709 yards rushing (a fantastic 15th in the NFL). He's been whacked a lot, too, taking 34 sacks, third most this season. The Falcons can clinch the NFC South with a win or tie.

Cody's call: Bucs 22-21

Carolina (4-7) at New Orleans (4-7)

The line: Saints by 1 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Heck, just throw Julius Peppers at the whole Saints' offence. The Panthers ace defensive end is a belligerent combination of size (six-foot-three, 283 pounds), strength and speed. In Sunday's 21-14 win over the Bucs, Peppers returned an interception for a TD, blocked a field-goal try and bagged Brian Griese for a sack. He has nine sacks on the season, seven in the last four games. The Saints are dead last in total defence and 2-4 at home.

Cody's call: Panthers 20-14

Denver (7-4) at San Diego (8-3)

The line: Chargers by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The Chargers have won five in a row and they're second in the NFL with 319 points for (Indy has pushed across 380). These AFC West frontrunners will really do some noodle-knocking in the fourth quarter: San Diego has scored 86 points in the fourth period this season (fourth most) while the Broncos have given up just 38 in the fourth (third fewest). Broncos QB Jake Plummer is second in the AFC with 22 TD passes and third with 2,751 passing yards. His Chargers counterpart Drew Brees is second in the AFC with a 108.0 passer rating and third with 21 TD tosses.

Cody's call: Chargers 27-23

Kansas City (3-8) at Oakland (3-8)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. With Priest Holmes still shelved by a knee injury, K.C. will again turn to Derrick Blaylock as its running back. In the last three weeks, Blaylock has rushed for 301 yards and three TDs. With QB Trent Green questionable with sore ribs, Blaylock and the running game will need to carry a heavier load. If Green can't go, Todd Collins (he has thrown just 23 passes in seven seasons) gets the start. The Raiders struggle against both the run (ranked 22nd) and the pass (ranked 26th).

Cody's call: Raiders 34-31

Green Bay (7-4) at Philadelphia (10-1)

The line: Eagles by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. It's history, perhaps, but who can forget the Packers' infamous fourth-and-26 flop in last year's playoffs. Discussing the Packers' failure, AP football writer Arnie Stapleton says the play, which resulted in a Philly first down, cost the Pack a shot at the NFC title and triggered shuffles among the defensive coaches (co-ordinator Ed Donnatelli was canned and replaced by Bob Slowik, who has instilled a more aggressive, blitzing mentality). More ancient history: The Packers have lost their last six in Philly and haven't won there since 1962.

Cody's call: Packers 24-23

N.Y. Giants (5-6) at Washington (3-8)

The line: Redskins by 2 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The Giants have surrendered 46 sacks this season, most in the NFL. Freshman quarterback Eli Manning, pegged as the Giants eventual saviour, went down five times in Sunday's 27-6 loss to the Eagles. Lucky for the New Yorkers, running back Tiki Barber is enjoying is banner season. He leads the NFL with 1,641 yards from scrimmage (1,145 rushing and 496 receiving). Just a feeling, but just when you think the Giants will win handily -- they lose.

Cody's call: Redskins 14-10

Pittsburgh (10-1) at Jacksonville (6-5)

The line: Steelers by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). By jolting the Jags, Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers will set the NFL record for most wins in a season by a rookie quarterback (10). Jacksonville QB Byron Leftwich has a claim to fame of own: he has already engineered five final-minute comebacks this season. Even if Steelers running back Duce Staley returns, watch for Jerome Bettis to get his carries (especially up the gut). Stepping in for Staley, Bettis has run for 100 yards in each of the last four games. Pittsburgh has the NFL's No. 1 run defence, allowing just 75.4 yards a game.

Cody's call: Steelers 24-20

Dallas (4-7) at Seattle (6-5)

The line: Seahawks by 7

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC). Check out the head-knocking between Cowboys linebacker Dat Nguyen and Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. Nguyen leads Dallas with 65 tackles. Alexander leads the NFL with 1,190 yards rushing and is first in the NFC with 10 rushing TDs. As well, he has 11 runs of 20 yards or more, the only back in the NFL with more than 10. The Seahawks are the NFL's least penalized team -- 59 flags this season. A few more flags may be a sign they're willing to play a little more aggressively.

Cody's call: Seahawks 27-21

Season record

Straight up

Last week: 12-4. Overall: 114-62

Spread

Last week: 9-6; overall: 78-83


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