Originally created 11/30/03

Pro football capsules

Falcons (2-9) at Texans (4-7) 1 p.m. * FOX-Ch. 54

Falcons still don't have Michael Vick, though he'll dress as the backup quarterback, and have lost Warrick Dunn for the season. Quarterback Tony Banks in one of his hot streaks for the Texans.

Players to watch: Texans' Andre Johnson, the third pick in the 2003 draft, leads AFC rookies with 50 catches, 4 for touchdowns. T.J. Duckett (4.2 yards per carry) set to start at running back for Falcons. Key stat: Six of Texans' past eight games have been decided by seven or fewer points. Last meeting: First meeting.

Patriots (9-2) at Colts (9-2) 1 p.m. * CBS-Ch. 12

These division leaders already are thinking playoffs, and a victory in this one could lead to a first-round bye. Peyton Manning felt a twinge in his throwing arm Wednesday, but an MRI on Thursday showed no damage. He has more weapons to work with in running back Edgerrin James and receiver Marvin Harrison.

Players to watch: The quarterbacks. Manning has thrown 19 touchdown passes vs. 8 interceptions for Indy; Tom Brady has tossed 13 touchdown passes vs. 10 interceptions for New England. Key stat: Pats have not allowed a first-quarter touchdown in eight of past nine games. Last meeting: Patriots won, 38-17, at Indianapolis on Oct. 21, 2001.

Cardinals (3-8) at Bears (4-7) 1 p.m.

Bears' defense is playing with a lot of confidence and should dominate. With passing offense in trouble, Bears will lean on Anthony Thomas.

Players to watch: Rookie Anquan Boldin has 66 catches for 15.1-yard average and 6 touchdowns. Bears' leading receiver is Dez White (40 catches, 11.5 avg., 2 scores). Key stat: Cardinals have NFL-worst minus-14 turnover differential. Last meeting: Bears won, 20-13, at Soldier Field on Oct. 14, 2001.

Bills (4-7) at Giants (4-7) 1 p.m.

Bills actually scored two touchdowns last week - and still lost. This time they hit the road and get to face one of the NFL's toughest pass rushers in Michael Strahan (11 sacks).

Players to watch: Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey (48 catches, 2 touchdowns) was due back from knee injury, but injured himself in a workout this week. Travis Henry averaging 4.0 yards per carry for Bills. Key stat: Bills have lost four straight on the road, scoring a total of 21 points. Last meeting: Giants won, 19-17, at Buffalo on Dec. 12, 1999.

Vikings (7-4) at Rams (8-3) 1 p.m.

Vikings' defense was struggling until actually scoring twice against Lions last week, but facing the Rams is another question. Marshall Faulk has rushed for 100 yards the past two games. If Marc Bulger continues to struggle, there's always Kurt Warner.

Players to watch: Rams' Torry Holt leads NFL catches with 84 catches; Vikings' Randy Moss is second with 72. They share the league lead with 10 touchdown receptions. Key stat: Rams have won 11 straight at home, two short of franchise record. Last meeting: Rams won, 40-29, at St. Louis on Dec. 10, 2000.

Bengals (6-5) at Steelers (4-7) 1 p.m.

It looks like Bengals and Ravens will fight for AFC North title, but this is a tough road assignment for Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. Steelers desperate, but still have a chance in this division.

Players to watch: Jerome Bettis, averaging 3.2 yards per carry, has rushed for 100 yards in 10 of 15 games vs. Bengals. Bengals' Rudi Johnson gets 4.4 yards per carry. Key stat: Bengals have won three straight by a total of 19 points. Last meeting: Steelers won, 17-10, at Cincinnati on Sept. 21.

Eagles (8-3) at Panthers (8-3) 1 p.m.

Eagles have shown they can win in tough places (Green Bay), and their defense can make things tough on Jake Delhomme.

Players to watch: In the past four games, Donovan McNabb has completed 63.9 percent of his passes and thrown for 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. Carolina's Steve Smith has three 100-yard receiving games and 60 catches, 5 for touchdowns. Key stat: Eagles have won six straight games, four by seven points or less. Last meeting: Panthers won 33-7 at Carolina on Nov. 17, 1999.

49ers (5-6) at Ravens (6-5) 1 p.m.

Quarterback Anthony Wright showed last week he can move the Ravens through the air with 4 touchdown passes. That's something injured rookie Kyle Boller couldn't do. If Ravens can do anything on offense, they'll be tough to beat at home down the stretch.

Players to watch: Ravens' Jamal Lewis leads NFL with 1,364 yards rushing, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson, who has 4.5 sacks, keys the pass rush. Key stat: 49ers lead NFC with turnover differential of plus-12. Last meeting: 49ers won, 38-20, at San Francisco on Nov. 17, 1996.

Saints (5-6) at Redskins (4-7) 4:05 p.m.

Can Redskins recover from blowing 13-point lead Sunday night at Miami? Players have begun going straight to owner Dan Snyder with complaints. This isn't working.

Players to watch: Saints' Aaron Brooks having a good year, with 14 touchdown passes vs. 8 interceptions. Trung Canidate averaging 3.9 yards per carry for Redskins. Key stat: Saints lead NFL with third-down conversion percentage of 46.5. Last meeting: Saints won, 43-27, at Washington on Oct. 13, 2002.

Browns (4-7) at Seahawks (7-4) 4:15 p.m.

Last week's loss to Steelers was dispiriting for Browns. Seahawks need this one to stay on Rams' heels in NFC West.

Players to watch: Bobby Engram has 37 catches for 12.3-yard average and 5 touchdowns for Seahawks. Browns' Kelly Holcomb has thrown 9 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions. Key stat: Seattle is 6-0 at home, winning by an average of 10 points. Last meeting: Seahawks won, 9-6, at Cleveland on Sept. 9, 2001.

Broncos (6-5) at Raiders (3-8) 4:15 p.m.

Did Sunday's loss to the Bears reveal serious problems with the Broncos' offense? If it happens against the Raiders too, the answer is yes.

Players to watch: In past five games vs. Raiders, Rod Smith has 37 catches, 3 for touchdowns. Raiders' Tyrone Wheatley has rushed for 261 yards (3.5 avg.) in the past three games. Key stat: Broncos have won 13 of past 17 meetings. Last meeting: Broncos won, 31-10, in Denver on Sept. 22.

Chiefs (10-1) at Chargers (2-9) 4:15 p.m. * CBS-Ch. 12

The Chiefs' offense gets to fatten its stats against the fading Chargers. Doug Flutie gives San Diego some life, but not enough.

Players to watch: Chargers' Doug Flutie has thrown 5 TD passes vs. 1 interception in 98 pass plays. Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez leads NFL tight ends with 603 receiving yards (44 catches, 6 touchdowns). Key stat: Chiefs have scored touchdowns on league-leading 71.9 percent trips (23-of-32) inside the 20.

Last meeting: Chiefs won, 27-14, at Kansas City on Sept. 7.

Bucs (5-6) at Jaguars (2-9) 8:30 p.m. * ESPN

Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio thought about benching Byron Leftwich, then decided to stick with him. Jaguars have nothing to lose but another game.

Players to watch: Bucs' Simeon Rice leads NFL with 12 sacks. Jaguars rookie Leftwich has thrown 8 touchdowns vs. 12 interceptions. Key stat: Jaguars have been outscored 61-17 in the first quarter. Last meeting: Jaguars won, 29-24, at Jacksonville on Nov. 15, 1998.

Titans (9-2) at Jets (4-7) Monday * 9 p.m. * ABC-Ch. 6

Steve McNair, the NFL's leading passer, has a strained calf but will try to play as the Titans go for their seventh consecutive win.

Players to watch: Jets' Santana Moss has 49 catches, 10 for touchdowns. Derrick Mason leads Titans with 59, 4 for touchdowns. Key stat: Titans are second in NFL with turnover differential of plus-12. Last meeting: Jets won, 24-3, at Tennessee on Nov. 22, 1998.


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