NFL: Something has to give in Lions-Bills game
AP Pro Football Writer
What a matchup: The Detroit Lions, who can’t win on the road, against the Buffalo Bills, who can’t win at all.
Detroit has the dubious distinction of owning not one but two 24-game road losing streaks. If they fall Sunday at Buffalo, the Lions will stand (teeter?) first and second in NFL ignominy.
Failing at Buffalo is almost the exclusive territory of the Bills, who are 0-8, halfway to the Lions’ NFL mark for misery of 0-16 in 2008.
Off this week, the final weekend for byes, are Green Bay (6-3), New Orleans (6-3), Oakland (5-4) and San Diego (4-5).
St. Louis (4-4)
at San Francisco (2-6)
San Francisco has won four straight against the Rams and can actually breathe some life into any division title hopes with a victory in the weak NFC West. Coming off a bye, the Niners have had more time to work in Troy Smith at quarterback.
The Rams are 0-3 on the road, but rookie QB Sam Bradford has thrown five touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last three games overall.
New England (6-2)
at Pittsburgh (6-2)
A great matchup in prime time between the most dominant franchises of the last decade. New England owns three Super Bowls, Pittsburgh has two, and each is a solid contender this year.
Not that the Patriots looked like one a week ago in being belted at Cleveland. And the Steelers struggled late against Cincinnati before nailing down the victory.
New York Jets (6-2)
at Cleveland (3-5)
The Browns get a chance to grab another pelt from a top team – and a second straight team their coach, Eric Mangini, worked for. After victories over the Saints and Patriots, Cleveland could stamp itself as an oncoming threat by beating New York.
The Jets struggled to beat Denver and Detroit and were shut out by Green Bay in recent games. They’ll need to run effectively and deal well with Cleveland’s emerging runner, Peyton Hillis.
at Miami (4-4)
Sometimes the good guys come out on top.
Chad Pennington has resurfaced as a starting quarterback, taking over for the struggling Chad Henne in Miami. If Ronnie Brown recaptures his form, perhaps Miami can make a push in the tough AFC East.
at Indianapolis (6-2)
The best receiving duo at Lucas Oil Stadium might be T.O.chocinco for the Bengals, given all the injuries at the position for the Colts. Still, you get the feeling Peyton Manning will manage better with old reliable Reggie Wayne and the newbies than Carson Palmer will with Terrell Owens and the fuming Chad Ochocinco, who made only one catch in the loss to the Steelers.
Cincinnati must find a way to protect Palmer as speedy DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis really have ramped up their sacks game.
at Jacksonville (4-4)
If skidding Houston can’t turn it around here, the second half of the season could be distressing – and lead to a bunch of changes. The one thing the Texans must change right now is a leaky secondary. If Jacksonville, with its weak passing game, picks apart the Texans, it’s a sign of serious problems.
at Washington (4-4), Monday night
Donovan McNabb can’t do this, coach Mike Shanahan says. And he can’t do that.
While the Redskins worry about their quarterbacking situation, the Eagles have no such qualms. Michael Vick leads the league in passing efficiency, looks as quick as ever, and the talent around him is getting healthy.
McNabb doesn’t have the added incentive of going back to Philly for the first time since being traded to D.C. He won that matchup, of course – back when Shanahan had some faith in the veteran QB.
at New York Giants (6-2)
The Dallas tailspin finally sent Wade Phillips on his way, and former Giants assistant Jason Garrett takes over as coach. Tight end Jason Witten insists he’s already seen a difference.
“There was a spark there,” Witten said after Garrett ran his first practice as head man – in full pads. “We had an intense practice and our mentality is let’s stack good days up and that’ll carry over to Sunday, hopefully.”
The Cowboys’ previous mode of play had better not carry over, particularly against the Giants, who have won five in a row with a devastating defense and potent offense. New York had to jumble its offensive line this week due to injuries, so maybe DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff finally will have some impact for Dallas.
at Arizona (3-5)
Seattle won the first meeting last month and would have the key tiebreaker over the two-time defending division champions with another win. But the Seahawks are 1-3 on the road. They hope to have QB Matt Hasselbeck back from a concussion. Not that it offsets a slew of injuries elsewhere, and the defense has yielded 74 points the last two weeks.
Arizona hasn’t lost four in a row under Ken Whisenhunt. To avoid doing so, the Cardinals need more production from outstanding WR Larry Fitzgerald, who had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season last Sunday at Minnesota.
Kansas City (5-3)
at Denver (2-6)
The Chiefs could have taken a stranglehold on the AFC West, but blew a couple of leads at Oakland. A loss against struggling Denver would negate many of the strides KC has made this year. Time to hand off to Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles and let them romp through the Broncos’ porous D that ranks 31st against the run.
at Chicago (5-3)
The oddsmakers showed how much respect there is out there for the Bears by installing the Vikings as a road favorite despite the teams’ records. Chicago hasn’t looked good since its 3-0 start, but at least the Bears haven’t been plagued by the dramatic headlines running rampant in Minnesota.
With Randy Moss gone, Brett Favre coming off a career high in yards passing, and the uproar surrounding Brad Childress’ coaching and personnel moves quieting a bit, maybe the Vikings get to concentrate on a key division match.
at Tampa Bay (5-3)
If the Bucs are to remain viable for a playoff berth, they can’t stumble against one of the NFL’s worst teams. Tampa Bay still has to play Baltimore, Atlanta and New Orleans, so it must make time against the likes of the Panthers, 49ers and Lions who remain on the schedule.
In addition to starting rookie QB Jimmy Clausen, the Panthers could be down to their fourth-string running back. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton all have injury issues.