NFL Countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Cleveland (3-9) at Buffalo (6-6)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Even though Jeff Garcia (strained throwing shoulder) is listed as probable on the injury report and interim coach Terry Robiskie says he is "90-per-cent healthy," rookie QB Luke McCown will make his second career start Sunday when the Browns tackle the Bills. This is the word from Associated Press football correspondent Tom Withers. Rumours of Garcia's general unhappiness in Cleveland are rampant. The black-and-blue Brownies are one of three teams already out of the playoff race. Bills running back Willis McGahee is averaging 98.4 rushing yards a start. Cleveland is ranked 29th vs. the run, allowing 139.4 yards a game.

Cody's call: Bills 33-17

Cincinnati (6-6) at New England (11-1)

The line: Patriots by 11

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Corey Dillon is no longer running with his Bengals buddies -- now he's running at them. Dillon is Cinci's all-time leading rusher with 8,061 yards, piled up from 1997-2003. Unhappy last season in a reduced role with the Bengals, he was traded to the Patriots in the offseason and is third in the AFC in rushing with 1,221 yards, including seven 100-yard games. Cinci QB Carson Palmer caught fire in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-26 clipping of the Ravens, tossing for 200 yards and three TDs.

Cody's call: Patriots 27-17

Oakland (4-8) at Atlanta (9-3)

The line: Falcons by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Last week, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks shut down Mike Vick and the Falcons in a 27-0 shellacking. Against Tampa Bay, Vick was sacked five times, threw two interceptions and coughed up a couple of fumbles. This week, the Raiders will send linebacker Danny Clark after Vick, who is 21-11-1 as a starter. Clark is Oakland's leading tackler and will need to be quick to run sideline-to-sideline with Vick. The Falcons can clinch the NFC South with a tie or better.

Cody's call: Falcons 24-14

New Orleans (4-8) at Dallas (5-7)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Cowboys rookie running back Julius Jones, second round (43rd overall) out of Notre Dame, is on a tear. Including his 198 rushing yards and three TDs Monday night vs. Seattle, Jones has rambled for 429 yards and five TDs in three starts since returning from a broken shoulder blade sustained on the second Sunday of the season. He's facing the NFL's worst defence. The Saints allow 152 yards rushing per game, and 416.8 total yards. No other team surrenders more than 375.

Cody's call: Cowboys 27-21

N.Y. Giants (5-7) at Baltimore (7-5)

The line: Ravens by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Giants running back Tiki Barber and Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis will likely knock noggins all afternoon. And if the Giants are to have a chance of winning the game, Barber must win this critical matchup, says AP football reporter David Mordkoff. New York's passing game is that impotent. Barber is second in the NFC with 1,183 yards rushing and nine TDs, and tops the NFL with 1,679 yards from scrimmage. Burned by Cinci last week, the Lewis-led Ravens' D is still one of the eighth-ranked best in the league.

Cody's call: Ravens 27-17

Indianapolis (9-3) at Houston (5-7)

The line: Colts by 10 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. With a win, the Colts can clinch in the AFC South. But all eyes and interest will be on Peyton Manning's charge toward Dan Marino's NFL record of 48 touchdown passes in a season. Manning the Magnificent could do it this week. He already has 44 TD tosses this season, including four games in which he's thrown for five or more majors. Can the Texans stop Manning, who has an NFL-best 126.3 passer rating. Probably not, although Houston's 17 interceptions is the second most in the league. Still, they're ranked 28th vs. the pass.

Cody's call: Colts 38-27

Chicago (5-7) at Jacksonville (6-6)

The line: Jaguars by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Bears are on their fourth starting quarterback of the season. Sunday, in his first start since 2002, Chad Hutchinson threw for three touchdowns (with no interceptions) in a 24-14 shocker over the Vikings. Brad Maynard of da Bears is the loop's busiest punter, already kicking it away 81 times this season. While his net average is 39 yards, fifth in the league, his gross average is well down the list, he seldom gets touchbacks and nearly half his boots (37) have been returned. Too bad for the Jags that ace returner Jermaine Lewis is out (concussion).

Cody's call: Jaguars 23-17

Seattle (6-6) at Minnesota (7-5)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Despite records at or near .500, both teams lead their divisions. That, folks, is today's NFL. The critical matchup could be Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander vs. Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Alexander is third in the NFL with 1,237 yards rushing and 12 TDs. The Vikings defence is shaky (ranked 26th overall, 23rd vs. the run and 24th vs. the pass), which perhaps explains why cornerback Antoine Winfield is their leading tackler. Henderson is second with 65 tackles. The Vikes, 5-1 at home, allow 128 yards rushing per game. Alexander averages 106.1.

Cody's call: Vikings 30-24

N.Y. Jets (9-3) at Pittsburgh (11-1)

The line: Steelers by 5 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The Steelers can wrap up the AFC North with a tie. The Jets have a plus-15 turnover differential, second in the NFL; the Steelers are tied for fourth best at plus-12. Major noggin knocking is likely to go on between Jets running back Curtis Martin and Steelers linebacker James Farrior. Ex-teammates on the Jets from 1998-2001, Martin is the NFL's leading rusher with 1,305 yards (he has 10 TDs, too). Farrior spearheads a defence that allows just 77.4 rushing yards a game, fewest in the league.

Cody's call: Steelers 24-20

Miami (2-10) at Denver (7-5)

The line: Broncos by 11 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The Dolphins, for all their difficulties, have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 22 straight games. But can they bust Broncos running back Reuben Droughns, who has surpassed 100 yards in six of his last eight games (although the Chargers held him to 38 on 14 carries on Sunday)? Droughns (neck and thigh) is listed as probable, but he'll get relief at times from rookie Tatum Bell, who scored his first NFL TD in Sunday's 20-17 loss to San Diego. The Dolphins are 5-0 in the regular season vs. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

Cody's call: Broncos 23-13

Detroit (5-7) at Green Bay (7-5)

The line: Packers by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Brett Favre will be sporting a new 'do Sunday, a crewcut. No, he didn't have an accident with the lawn mower. He had it done as a way of honouring his wife, Deanna, who is battling breast cancer and is beginning to lose her hair due to the chemotherapy she is undergoing. The Favres' 15-year-old daughter, Brittany, is staying with relatives in Mississippi while Breleigh, 5, remains with her parents, blissfully unaware of her mom's illness or, at least, the severity of it. Somehow, about now, football just doesn't seem that important.

Cody's call: Packers 28-20

St. Louis (6-6) at Carolina (5-7)

The line: Non offered

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Aging veteran Chris Chandler will start at quarterback for the Rams, stepping in for the injured Marc Bulger (throwing shoulder). Chandler saw his first action of the season Sunday in a 16-6 win over San Fran, connecting on 18 of 27 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown. He has major targets in Torry Holt, who had 10 catches for 160 yards Sunday, and Issac Bruce who is averaging more than 15 yards a catch (69 snags for 1,044 yards). The Rams are minus-15 in turnover differential.

Cody's call: Panthers 28-23

San Francisco (1-11) at Arizona (4-8)

The line: Cardinals by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The minor Niners are the only NFC team already eliminated from the playoffs. Still, their per game points average of 16.5 (fifth fewest in the league) is better than the Cardinals, who are averaging just 16 a game. Cardinals defensive end Bertrand Berry leads the NFL in sacks with 11. The 49ers have won seven of their last eight vs. the Cards.

Cody's call: Cardinals 16-13

Tampa Bay (5-7) at San Diego (9-3)

The line: Chargers by 5 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Derrick Brooks destroyed Mike Vick and the Falcons on Sunday. This week's assignment for the Bucs brilliant linebacker is Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson who, despite wonky hamstrings, has run for 13 TDs this season (which is more than 26 teams have in total). For instance, Tampa Bay has run for just nine majors. Tomlinson has run for 1,012 yards this season (eighth in the NFL). Brooks leads the Bucs in tackles with 102. Sparks will fly.

Cody's call: Chargers 21-19

Philadelphia (11-1) at Washington (4-8)

The line: Eagles by 9 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). The Eagles can clinch a first-round bye with a win. Last month, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb shredded the Redskins for 222 yards passing and four TDs (in a 28-6 win at Philly). Sunday against Green Bay, he finished 32-of-43 for a team-record 464 yards and a career-high five TDs. McNabb's passer rating is 110.4, second only to Manning. Playing Washington, he'll take on a defence that allows only 170.7 yards a game, third fewest in the league. Overall, the 'Skins are the NFL's second-ranked D. Trouble is their offence is ranked 30th.

Cody's call: Eagles 28-17

Kansas City (4-8) at Tennessee (4-8)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC). Chiefs defensive co-ordinator Gunther Cunningham credits Titans head coach Jeff Fisher with resurrecting his career after was canned as head man in K.C. following the 2000 campaign. Fisher hired Cunningham as the Titans linebacker coach in 2001, a job he did till returning to the Chiefs for the start of this season. Unfortunately, Cunningham hasn't been able to plug the holes in the Chiefs' porous D, which is ranked 30th overall and 31st vs. the pass. It doesn't help the Chiefs that running back Priest Holmes (knee) can't get back in there to help that the pressure off the D.

Cody's call: Titans 28-24

Season record Straight up Last week: 11-5; overall: 125-67

Spread Last week: 9-5; overall: 87-88


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