Cracking the coad

Steve Coad -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

Pittsburgh (12-1) at N.Y. Giants (5-8) The line: Steelers by 10

The skinny: Tomorrow, 1:30 p.m. Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers and Eli Manning of the Giants are rookie quarterbacks getting dramatically different results. Roethlisberger, drafted 11th overall, is 11-0 as a starter; Manning, the future in the Big Apple, is 0-4 since replacing Kurt Warner. Manning's misery includes completing just 42 of 110 passes for 516 yards, a TD and six interceptions. His passer rating is 33.8, lowest in the NFL among QBs with 100 throws. Roethlisberger has connected on 66.1 per cent of his tosses for more than 2,000 yards, 14 TDs and a passer rating of 97.6, third best in the AFC.

Cody's call: Steelers 27-10

Washington (4-9) at San Francisco (2-11)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Tomorrow, 5 p.m. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs had only one losing season in his first (12-year) stint in Washington, going 7-9 in 1988. The 'Skins gave the Eagles a scare Sunday, never quite letting them take flight in a 17-14 victory. If it had gone the Redskins' way, it would have been a nice birthday present for offensive tackle Ray Brown, who turned 42 on game day, making him the NFL's oldest lineman since the 1920s. The 49ers are the only NFC team already eliminated and the Redskins can't get to .500. Yawn.

Cody's call: Redskins 14-13

Carolina (6-7) at Atlanta (10-3)

The line: Falcons by 3 1/2

The skinny: Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. Time will tell how Todd Sauerbrun's brush with the law this week (the Panthers punter was arrested and charged with driving while impaired early Thursday) will affect the defending NFC champs. On fire after their 1-7 start, Carolina has won five in a row. Everything seems to be working for the Panthers -- e.g, running back Nick Goings, who started at No. 6 on the depth chart only to be bumped up by the injury bug, ran for 108 yards Sunday and has gained more than 100 yards in all four starts. Falcons linebacker Keith Brookings, Atlanta's top tackler with 83, will be a significant hurdle.

Cody's call: Panthers 20-17

Minnesota (7-6) at Detroit (5-8)

The line: Vikings by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. This game, says Associated Press football writer David Mordkoff, may well turn on how a couple of Vikings veterans, corner Terrance Shaw and defensive end Kenny Mixon, fare against Lions star rookies, receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones. Williams, the seventh pick overall, leads the Lions with 40 catches and 618 receiving yards. Jones, taken 30th, has his sights set on becoming the first rookie with three straight 150-yard games. The Lions' turnover differential is plus-8, the Vikes minus-4.

Cody's call: Lions 24-20

Buffalo (7-6) at Cincinnati (6-7)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Bills, of course, are coming the biggest defensive effort in club history -- holding the Brownies to just 17 yards of offence, the fifth-lowest total in NFL history. In order to have a shot at the Bills, the Bengals must stop -- or slow down, at least -- Bills running back Willis McGahee. When McGahee gains 90 yards or more, the Bills win (7-0 this season). He had 105 Sunday vs. Cleveland as the formerly buffaloed Bills won their fourth in a row. If Cinci defenders such as free safety Madieu Williams and linebacker Brian Simmons cheat toward the line of scrimmage to support the run, then savvy Drew Bledsoe will look deep. Jon Kitna is starting at QB for the Bengals.

Cody's call: Bills 21-20

Seattle (7-6) at N.Y. Jets (9-4)

The line: Jets by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. With their passing game failing to deliver (Chad Pennington's right shoulder is ailing), the Jets must count on Curtis Martin to move the football. No problem, Martin says. He has already dashed for 1,377 yards, third in the NFL, and 10 TDs. The Jets haven't had 200 yards passing in a game since Nov. 7. The inconsistent Seahawks are 22nd in overall defence and 17th vs. the run, where they allow 115.5 yards a game and have surrendered 15 TDs this season. Shaun Alexander is a considerable weapon for the Seahawks, running for 1,385 yards (second in the NFL) and 12 TDS this season.

Cody' call: Jets 27-23

Houston (5-8) at Chicago (5-8)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Texans running back Domanick Davis had 201 total yards last week. He leads AFC running backs with 493 receiving yards and if any excitement is to come out of this game, he could well generate it. Da Bears' pass defence has been one of their few bright spots this season, allowing just over 200 yards a game. Bears corner Nathan Vasher is tied for the NFL rookie lead in interceptions with five.

Cody's call: Texans 20-14

San Diego (10-3) at Cleveland (3-10)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Charge! San Diego has won seven games in a row and the Browns will be hardpressed to prevent them from nailing down No. 8. The Chargers are fired up. The last time they won 10 games in a season (1994), they went to the Super Bowl. The Browns are headed -- and in a hurry -- in the opposite direction. When QB Jeff Garcia went down (knee) for the season Sunday, he became the eighth Browns starter and 17th player overall placed on injured reserve this season.

Cody's call: Chargers 30-10

Dallas (5-8) at Philadelphia (12-1)

The line: Eagles by 12 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Dallas rookie Julius Jones has rushed for 517 yards in his last four games and despite being injured for much of the season (broken shoulder blade), ranks second among rookies with 533 rushing yards. Eagles defensive end Hollis Thomas, Philly's best run-stopper, is out with a dislocated elbow, further depleting a D-line already missing end Derrick Burgess (chest). Terrell Owens has been worth his weight in bling since coming over from San Fran in the offseason. T.O. leads the NFL with 14 TDs, is second with 1,176 receiving yards and fifth with 75 snags.

Cody's call: Eagles 31-17

Denver (8-5) at Kansas City (5-8)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Jake Plummer must be drooling at the prospect of taking on K.C., the NFL's dead-last pass D. The Chiefs are surrendering 270.4 passing yards a game and are ranked 30th with 27 TD tosses allowed. Plummer does have a propensity for throwing to the wrong team (he has been picked off 17 times), but he's also third in the AFC with 3,248 passing yards, just behind K.C.'s Trent Green, who has tossed for 3,636 yards.

Cody's call: Chiefs 35-31

St. Louis (6-7) at Arizona (4-9)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Despite being under .500, both teams can make the playoffs. That's the NFC for you. The Rams have a minus-20 turnover differential, worst in the league. They'll likely have running back Marshall Faulk back after missing two games with wonky knees. The Rams are 27-0 when he runs for 100 yards. QB Marc Bulger (shoulder) may be well enough to play, good news for the Rams who could only look on in horror as backup Chris Chandler tossed six interceptions in a 20-7 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.

Cody's call: Rams 24-21

New Orleans (5-8) at Tampa Bay (5-8)

The line: Bucs by 7 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. The Saints have the NFL's worst overall defence (allowing 405.5 yards a game) and its worst run D (surrendering 149.6 yards a game). And it gets worse. They're second to last in pass defence, yards per game and first downs per game. Bucs QB Brian Griese is third in the NFC with a 99.4 passer rating. A favourite target is wideout Michael Clayton, who leads NFL rookies with 70 snags and 988 yards.

Cody's call: Bucs 28-20

Jacksonville (7-6) at Green Bay (8-5)

The line: Packers by 4

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. If the Packers win, they're in -- the playoffs, that is. They would be only the ninth team in NFL history to rebound from a 1-4 and reach the postseason. Early weather reports call for wind and possible snow showers, meaning running the ball will be a priority. So, if the Pack is to prevail, it'll have to deal well with Jags running back Fred Taylor, who has run for at least 118 yards in each of his last five games vs. teams in the NFC and has averaged 144.8 yards in that span. The Packers allow 110.8 yards a game.

Cody's call: Packers 24-21

Tennessee (4-9) at Oakland (4-9)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Raider cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Phillip Buchanon will have their hands full with Titans wideout Drew Bennett, who caught 12 passes for 233 yards and three TDs in Monday's 49-38 loss to K.C. The only guy who got more Monday Night Football camera time was referee Tommy White, whose crew threw enough flags to sew a good-sized tent. Of Bennett's 1,011 receiving yards this season, 623 have come after the Titans' bye on Nov. 7. Tennessee QB has thrown 11 TD passes in his last four games.

Cody's call: Raiders 28-25

Baltimore (8-5) at Indianapolis (10-3)

The line: Colts by 8 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN). Great matchup: The NFL's No. 1 offence throws itself at a truly ferocious defence. Colts QB Peyton Manning has thrown 46 TD passes, just two shy of Dan Marino's single-season record. Manning has tossed just nine interceptions, has 3,919 passing yards this season and a 126.3 passer rating. The Colts lead the NFL with a plus-18 turnover differential and 33 takeaways. The Ravens are a plus-9. Manning has been sacked just nine times all season but the Ravens, with 36 sacks, will get after him.

Cody's call: Colts 28-20

New England (12-1) at Miami (2-11)

The line: Patriots by 9 1/2

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC). The Dolphins are 0-9 vs. the AFC this season, and things aren't likely to improve with the Patriots coming to town. Remember, though, the Super Bowl champs needed overtime to win in Miami last season. Still, New England is a good bet. Including playoffs, the Patriots are 27-1 since losing in Week 4 of the 2003 season. And they have won 31 in a row when leading at halftime, the longest streak in the NFL since 1970. Pats kicker Adam Vinatieri leads the NFL with 123 points and a 96.6-per-cent success rate on field goals (28 of 29).

Cody's call: Patriots 28-14

Season record

Straight up

Last week: 12-4. Overall: 137-71

Spread

Last week: 6-5. Overall: 93-93


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