Week 10 NFL Preview

Hard To Ignore” Titans Go For 9-0; NFL Network Kicks Off “Thursday Night Football”; Eagles-Giants In NFC East Clash

It’s hard to fly under the radar when you’re undefeated.

But that’s exactly what the Tennessee Titans believe they’re doing, and it doesn’t bother them a bit. The Titans this week seek to become the 11th team — including one in each of the past three years — to start a season at 9-0 since the 16-game schedule was established in 1978.

And they don’t care if people haven’t quite noticed. “I still think we’re flying under the radar,” says Titans fullback AHMARD HALL, a former U.S. Marine. “But that’s OK. It doesn’t matter to us as long as we keep winning. But I do think we’re getting harder and harder to ignore.”

The Chicago Bears won’t be doing any ignoring this Sunday when they welcome back an injured-reserve member of their 1985 Super Bowl XX team (and an unofficial coaching aide to BUDDY RYAN in the famed “46” defense) — the longest- tenured head coach in the NFL, the Titans’ JEFF FISHER.

Titans-Bears is only one of the big games on the schedule of a week that begins with the kickoff of the NFL Network’s eight-game schedule that offers live game “look-ins” on NFL.com and, for the first time ever, a live game streamed on a phone through NFL Mobile Live from Sprint.

Only some of the Week 10 games that will be heating up the early-November chill:


DENVER BRONCOS (4-4) at CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-5) (Thursday night, NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET)


STORYLINE: Welcome, Brady!


It will be a battle of two first-round quarterbacks as Denver’s JAY CUTLER, who will be starting his 30th consecutive game for the Broncos, goes against BRADY QUINN, making his NFL starting debut.


“We’re going to play hard for whoever is back there,” says Browns C HANK FRALEY. “We’re still not out of this. Who knows if we can’t roll out seven wins in a row and get right in the thick of this thing.”


Each of the QBs will have defensive forces they will have to contend with. Quinn will have to be wary of Broncos’ DEs EBENEZER EKUBAN and ELVIS DUMERVIL, who between them have seven sacks on the season. Cutler better keep an eye on Browns 6-4, 340-pound NT SHAUN ROGERS, who has been virtually unstoppable the past two weeks with 18 tackles, two sacks, five QB hurries, six tackles-for-loss…and one blocked field goal. “He doesn’t take plays off,” says CBS analyst RICH GANNON.




STORYLINE: Only twice before!


Two of the best rookie running backs in the NFL will highlight this matchup in which the Titans will seek to remain spotless and the Bears aim to retain the top spot in the NFC North Division.


The youngsters who should play a large role in the outcome Sunday are the only two rookie RBs in the top 10 in rushing in the league – Tennessee’s CHRIS JOHNSON (715 yards) and Chicago’s MATT FORTÉ (641).





SCORING AVERAGE HIGHEST IN 26 SEASONS: Through the first half of the season, NFL games are averaging 44.2 points per game, the highest average at this point in a season since 1983 (44.4). If that mark holds, it would top the NFL 16-game season record of 43.7 points per game in 1983.


Only twice before in history have rookie running backs ranked in the top 10 in rushing with 600 yards apiece squared off:





December 12, 1965

Gale Sayers (Chicago) vs. Ken Willard (San Francisco)

Sayers, 672; Willard, 745

December 21, 1969

Larry Brown (Washington) vs. Calvin Hill (Dallas)

Brown, 827; Hill, 869


For Chicago, it looks like REX GROSSMAN could start at QB with the ankle injury to KYLE ORTON. The six-year veteran led the Bears to a 27-23 win over Detroit last Sunday after replacing Orton by scoring the decisive points on a quarterback sneak. For the Titans, it will be the same man who has taken them to seven of their eight wins – 35-year-old, 14-year QB KERRY COLLINS. His knowledgeable handling of the Tennessee offense has not produced impressive personal statistics – no game over 200 yards passing, but no interceptions in the past three games, either — but has chalked up win after win. “You feel a lot younger when you’re 8-0,” says Collins.




STORYLINE: Peyton vs. Big Ben or old foe Byron.


If the shoulder injury of Steelers QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER prevents him from playing, then the Colts will meet a rival they know well — former Jacksonville Jaguars QB BYRON LEFTWICH, who was an AFC South foe from 2003-06. The sixth-year QB came on for Roethlisberger in the second half on Monday night and guided the Steelers to a 23-6 win over Washington.


Indy’s third-ranked NFL pass defense will try to tone down Leftwich’s quick release. The trouble for Colts QB PEYTON MANNING – coming off his best game of the year with a 21-of-29 for 254 yards and two-TD performance in a Sunday night win over New England – is that he goes up against the league’s top-rated pass defense and top overall defense that sacked Washington’s JASON CAMPBELL seven times Monday night to retain its lead in most NFL sacks (32).


Perhaps Redskins head coach JIM ZORN summed up best — in his always picturesque way — the task Manning will face with Pittsburgh’s pass rush. “When the team they’re playing has to throw,” says Zorn, “the Steelers just put their warrior bandana on, and here they come.”


NEW YORK GIANTS (7-1) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-3) (Sunday night, NBC, 8:15 PM ET)


STORYLINE: Another week, another NFC East battle!


“We’re in the meat of our schedule,” says Eagles QB DONOVAN MC NABB, speaking for both teams. “Philly is my favorite road stadium because the fans absolutely hate everybody that moves in an opponent’s jersey,” says Giants DE JUSTIN TUCK, speaking for only his team. “I kind of like being hated.”


Well there will be plenty of that when these two longtime rivals clash Sunday night


And the storylines will abound. Two hot teams: The Giants have lost only once this season, the Eagles have won three in a row. Two evenly-matched teams: New York has the NFL’s No. 5 offense, Philly the No. 6. The Giants are No. 3 in defense, the Eagles No. 5. Two stellar quarterbacks: The Giants’ ELI MANNING has a 3-1 record against McNabb, who ranks third in the league in yardage (2,178). Two explosive backs: New York’s power RB BRANDON JACOBS is fifth in the league in rushing yards (680), while the Eagles’ BRIAN WESTBROOK, healthy again, has averaged 114 yards in his past two games and has scored 12 touchdowns in his last eight games against the Giants. And young Giants’ defensive coordinator STEVE SPAGNUOLO goes against the guy he studied under, Philly’s sack-meister JIM JOHNSON.


So bring it on, NFC East! “We’re playing a team that knows us, and we know them,” summarizes McNabb.


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-6) at ARIZONA CARDINALS (5-3) (Monday night, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)


STORYLINE: Mike wants to slow down Kurt and the boys.


But new 49ers head coach MIKE SINGLETARY, that Hall of Fame linebacker, knows it won’t be easy. His Niners’ defense will confront a looks-like-he’s-not-ready-to-retire QB KURT WARNER, who has taken the first-place Cardinals to a three-game lead in the division while posting at least 30 points in five of their past seven games.


Warner throws to the only trio in the NFL with 500 receiving yards apiece – LARRY FITZGERALD (742), ANQUAN BOLDIN (514, with an NFL-leading eight TD catches) and STEVE BREASTON (503).


That all said, the 49ers feel they have attributes that can lead to a win. They topped Arizona twice last year, once with Warner as the starter…new starting QB SHAUN HILL has proven he can play in the league, winning his only two NFL starts last year for the 49ers…and RB FRANK GORE (second in the league in scrimmage yards with 940) has rushed for 212 yards in his last two games against the Cards, averaging 6.1 yards a carry, with three rushing touchdowns.



(Home team in CAPS)

Byes: Carolina, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco


Sunday, November 2

Sunday, November 2, Cont.’d.

N.Y. Jets 26, BUFFALO 17

Miami 26, DENVER 17

CHICAGO 27, Detroit 23

N.Y. GIANTS 35, Dallas 14

CINCINNATI 21, Jacksonville 19

Atlanta 24, OAKLAND 0

Baltimore 37, CLEVELAND 27

Philadelphia 26, SEATTLE 7

Tampa Bay 30, KANSAS CITY 27 (OT)

INDIANAPOLIS 18, New England 15

MINNESOTA 28, Houston 21


Arizona 34, ST. LOUIS 13

Monday, November 3

TENNESSEE 19, Green Bay 16 (OT)

Pittsburgh 23, WASHINGTON 6



(All times local)

Byes: Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Washington


Thursday, November 6

Sunday, November 9, Cont.’d.

Denver at Cleveland, 8:15 PM (NFLN)

Buffalo at New England, 1:00 PM


St. Louis at N.Y. Jets, 1:00 PM

Sunday, November 9

Carolina at Oakland, 1:05 PM

New Orleans at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM

Tennessee at Chicago, 12:00 PM

Kansas City at San Diego, 1:15 PM

Jacksonville at Detroit, 1:00 PM

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia, 8:15 PM (NBC)

Baltimore at Houston, 12:00 PM


Seattle at Miami, 1:00 PM

Monday, November 10

Green Bay at Minnesota, 12:00 PM

San Francisco at Arizona, 6:30 PM (ESPN)