Week 8 NFL Preview

NFL Goes International! Chargers & Saints Clash In London; Titans Strive For 7-0 Vs. AFC South-Rival Colts On MNF

A big game in London…and lots of them back in the homeland. That is on the packed docket this week as the NFL features its second regular-season game in London, England in as many years…the Tennessee Titans going for the first 7-0 start in their history against a longtime division tormentor…and a matchup of almost-perfect clubs – the 5-1 New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers. “It will be exciting for everyone involved,” says San Diego Chargers head coach NORV TURNER, speaking about his game at Wembley Stadium in London against the New Orleans Saints. But Norv could just as well be describing every game on the Week 8 schedule. The Chargers-Saints’ meeting is the first of at least three more annual regular-season NFL games that will be played in the United Kingdom from this year through 2010. It follows a sold-out game at Wembley last October 28 between the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants that was enthusiastically received by fans, media and the participating teams. Some people – like Chargers running back LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON — believe that the win (13-10) by the Giants in that game gave them a midseason boost that helped propel them through their Super Bowl XLII victory. “I honestly think the London game was why the Giants were successful last year,” says Tomlinson, who visited Wembley this spring. “They went to London and it kind of changed their season. Hopefully, London brings us that.” Some of the key Week 8 games:



SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (3-4) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (3-4) (London, England)


STORYLINE: Welcome, lads!


Aside from the international impact, this one comes packed with scenarios, not the least of which is that it could well finish in a point-and-yardage explosion.


It will be the first time Saints QB DREW BREES faces his former team (he signed with the Saints as a UFA in 2006). His understudy for his final two years in San Diego? His peer Sunday, Chargers QB PHILIP RIVERS. They rank first (Brees; 2,224) and fourth (Rivers; 1,697) in NFL passing yardage this season. “We had a good relationship,” says Rivers. “Drew taught me about following a set routine, win or lose, the whole season. That is key because it is a long year.”


London fans will see the prototypical types of football running backs, led by the elusive Tomlinson and pounder DEUCE MC ALLISTER of the Saints, who should see increased action with the loss of RB REGGIE BUSH (knee).


Breesing Around the World: This will be Brees’ third overseas trip this year. This spring, he made a USO tour to Okinawa (and saw where his grandfather landed 60 years ago during World War II), and partook in an NFL-USO trip in July with NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL and Giants DE OSI UMENYIORA to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.




STORYLINE: Winning again and as close to undefeated as you can get!


A good matchup of storied NFL clubs (the Steelers will wear their classic 1950-60s black jerseys with gold helmets) who,





PAYTON’S BEEN THERE: Head coach SEAN PAYTON – who will lead the New Orleans Saints against the San Diego Chargers this Sunday in London — is no stranger to football in England. Payton played semi-pro football in Leicester – about two hours north of London – for the Leicester Panthers of the Budweiser British American Football League in 1987. ******************************************************************************************************************************************

with Buffalo, share the second-best records in the league. And are there captivating storylines in this one!


Take the quarterbacks – ELI MANNING of New York and BEN ROETHLISBERGER of Pittsburgh. Both are 2004 first-round draft choices who have won Super Bowls (they faced off in their rookie year, with Roethlisberger winning, 33-30). Or the wide receivers. It’s the Steelers’ SANTONIO HOLMES – who leads all NFL receivers in career yards-per-catch (17.3; minimum 100 receptions) against the man he basically replaced, PLAXICO BURRESS. “It’s going to be fun,” says Burress of his first game against his former team. “I know their defense. They are going to come from everywhere. They’re going to be fired up at home.”


Then it’s the RBs. It’ll be New York’s BRANDON JACOBS (“He’s a Mack truck coming downhill,” says Giants LB ANTONIO PIERCE) vs. MEWELDE MOORE, signed in the offseason “in case,” as he says, starter WILLIE PARKER got hurt (he did). Moore comes off a 120-yard rush game (plus five catches) with three TDs.


Eli & The Boys: Manning and his five offensive linemen have started the Giants’ last 22 regular-season games together – the longest such active streak in the NFL.




STORYLINE: One’s coming off a bye, the other’s going into itall the more reason to win.

The Cardinals – fresh from their bye — are still exuberant from their Week 6 overtime win over Dallas. But they know that great feeling can be quickly dashed with a loss on Sunday. For the Panthers, the last thing they want is a loss that will last two weeks. “Sunday is huge,” says Carolina RB BRAD HOOVER.


This could be a big air day. The Cards expect to get WR ANQUAN BOLDIN back from injury to pair with LARRY FITZGERALD, who ranks third in the league in receiving yards (546). In Boldin’s absence, second-year pro STEVE BREASTON has proven himself with 24 catches for 301 yards. Of course, the Panthers – 4-0 at home this year after going 2-6 in 2007– do not lack in this area, trotting out veterans MUHSIN MUHAMMAD and STEVE SMITH, who comes off a 122-yard day, including a remarkable 39-yard TD catch after hitting the turf in the midst of double-coverage.


Or the ground attack could take over. Arizona RBs EDGERRIN JAMES and rookie TIM HIGHTOWER have rushed for a combined eight touchdowns, while Carolina’s DeANGELO WILLIAMS and rookie JONATHAN STEWART share seven.




STORYLINE: Time to keep it going. Time to get it going.


The Bucs seem to be gaining momentum. Coach JON GRUDEN has named QB JEFF GARCIA (26 of 37, 310 yards last Sunday night) the starter. EARNEST GRAHAM has switched to fullback while leading the team in rushing (456 yards). And former Cowboys second-round pick ANTONIO BRYANT tops the club in catches (31) and receiving yards (406).


The Cowboys, meanwhile, have lost three of their past four after winning their first three. “It’s time for us to come together, and not only find solutions, but find a cure,” says Dallas LB BRADIE JAMES. “And the only cure is winning.”


A matchup to watch Sunday will be Dallas’ No. 3 pass offense against an opportunistic, speedy secondary. At QB for the Cowboys will be either former Buc BRAD JOHNSON (who led Tampa Bay to its Super Bowl XXXVII title; “A great Buccaneer,” says Gruden) or TONY ROMO. Eight Bucs have at least one interception this year, the most such players on any team. Tampa Bay’s defense has limited teams to 42 drives without a first down, tops in the league.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (3-3) at TENNESSEE TITANS (6-0) (Monday night, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)


STORYLINE: A three-game leadbut it’s not the team you’d expect.


It’s the 6-0 Titans on top in the AFC South by three games, no less, over Indianapolis. These are the same Colts who have won the division five of the six years it has existed. From 2003-05, Indy swept the season series with Tennessee, but the clubs have split the past two years, with no game being decided by more than six points.


The Titans, operating quietly but efficiently under 14-year QB KERRY COLLINS – who has been sacked only once this season – have won an NFL-best nine in a row going back to last year. Their defense is ferocious, allowing a league-low 11.0 points per game.


The question is, though, which Indianapolis team will they face – the PEYTON MANNING-to-MARVIN HARRISON-and-REGGIE WAYNE Colts who handled Baltimore 31-3 in Week 6, or the 34-14 losers to Green Bay of last Sunday? Keep this in mind: both times Indy has lost this year, they won the next week.


Battle to watch: Manning, with two interceptions returned for TDs against Green Bay, vs. CB CORTLAND FINNEGAN and S MICHAEL GRIFFIN, tied for the league lead with four pickoffs apiece.


(Home team in CAPS)

Byes: Arizona, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Philadelphia


Sunday, October 19

Sunday, October 19, Cont.’d.

BUFFALO 23, San Diego 14

HOUSTON 28, Detroit 21

CAROLINA 30, New Orleans 7

GREEN BAY 34, Indianapolis 14

CHICAGO 48, Minnesota 41

OAKLAND 16, N.Y. Jets 13 (OT)

Pittsburgh 38, CINCINNATI 10

WASHINGTON 14, Cleveland 11

Tennessee 34, KANSAS CITY 10

TAMPA BAY 20, Seattle 10

Baltimore 27, MIAMI 13


N.Y. GIANTS 29, San Francisco 17

Monday, October 20

ST. LOUIS 34, Dallas 14

NEW ENGLAND 41, Denver 7



(All times local)

Byes: Chicago, Denver, Green Bay, Minnesota


Sunday, October 26

Sunday, October 26, Cont.’d.

Oakland at Baltimore, 1:00 PM

Atlanta at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM

Arizona at Carolina, 1:00 PM

Cincinnati at Houston, 3:05 PM

Tampa Bay at Dallas, 12:00 PM

Cleveland at Jacksonville, 4:05 PM

Washington at Detroit, 1:00 PM

N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM

Buffalo at Miami, 1:00 PM

Seattle at San Francisco, 1:15 PM

St. Louis at New England, 1:00 PM


San Diego at New Orleans (London), 5:00 PM

Monday, October 27

Kansas City at N.Y. Jets, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis at Tennessee, 7:30 PM (ESPN)