Week 11 NFL Preview

Titans Go For 10-0; Big Division Clashes Highlight Week: Jets-Pats Thursday Night & Cowboys-’Skins Sunday Night A Simple Inch Of Tape Shows Where The Titans Are.

There was Tennessee defensive end JEVON KEARSE last Sunday afternoon after the Titans had defeated Chicago affixing an inch of white athletic tape between the 9 and 0 on his jersey to symbolize that his team was, indeed, 9-0 — the NFL’s lone undefeated club of 2008.

This week against AFC South-rival Jacksonville, the quest is for 10-0. In the 30 years since the NFL instituted the 16-game schedule in 1978, only eight clubs have reached that mark. Tennessee, in its methodical way, aims to do exactly that.

“They get turnovers. They play great defense. They stop the other team from running the ball,” says Chicago cornerback NATHAN VASHER of the Titans’ simple ways. “Whenever you do those things, you can be effective. They keep winning games. You’ve got to respect them for that.”

The Titans are four games up in their division as Week 11 dawns. That first-place margin is only a dream in most other divisions. There are two-way ties at the tops of the AFC East, AFC North and NFC North. And there are one-game separations between the top two teams in the AFC West and between the top three in the NFC South.

“It’s getting down to crunch time now,” says New England Patriots linebacker TEDY BRUSCHI.

Let the “crunching” begin with some of these highlight games of Week 11:


NEW YORK JETS (6-3) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-3) (Thursday night, NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET)


STORYLINE: What a way to start the week!


Two of the hottest rivals in the NFL…a battle for first in the AFC East…and new names playing pivotal roles.


“It will be a wild atmosphere,” says Jets S KERRY RHODES. “They don’t like us and we feel the same way about them.”


Two months ago, Patriots QB MATT CASSEL made his first NFL start against the Jets in a 19-10 New England victory. Since then, the kid has done all right for himself. In all but one of his eight starts, Cassel has completed 60 percent of his passes, showing confidence all the way such as last week when he engineered a club record-tying 19-play scoring drive in a 20-10 victory over Buffalo.


The Jets — themselves with key names new to the series (like that youngster from Mississippi, BRETT FAVRE) – beefed up their defense this year with mammoth DT KRIS JENKINS (Carolina) and pass-rushing LB CALVIN PACE (Arizona). Those two have helped New York hold its last three opponents to 80-or-fewer yards rushing and strengthen a unit that ranks second in the league in sacks (31). The Jets’ No. 5 NFL rush defense will confront yet another newcomer, Patriots rookie RB BEN JARVUS GREEN-ELLIS (his mother calls him “Benny”), who was at least sixth on New England’s training camp depth chart yet has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games and comes off a career-high 105-yard rushing game.


And hold on! As if this meeting needed any more sparks, suiting up for New York will be former Jets (2005) and Patriots (1995-04, two Super Bowl rings) CB TY LAW, signed this Monday. “I know they’re going to throw at me, but I welcome the challenge,” says Law.






FIRST-ROUND FINDS: The two quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s draft — MATT RYAN (Atlanta, No. 3) and JOE FLACCO (Baltimore, No. 18) — have already combined (with each club at 6-3) to top by three the total number of wins last year for both teams (Baltimore, 5; Atlanta, 4).




STORYLINE: No. 1 vs. No. 1 in two ways.


The NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense of the Giants will square off against the league’s top run defense of the Ravens that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 28 games, the longest such active streak in the NFL. So the “Earth (BRANDON JACOBS), Wind (DERRICK WARD) and Fire (AHMAD BRADSHAW)” backfield of the Giants better be ready for “RAY RAY” LEWIS and the boys.


The other No. 1s? That would be the Giants’ ELI MANNING, the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2004 and now a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, against the second QB taken in the draft this year (No. 18 overall), JOE FLACCO. Manning, in his steady way, has taken the Giants to the second-best record in the league. Flacco has led the Ravens to one more victory than they had in all of last year, four wins in a row (each with a team-record 27-or-more consecutive points), and has not thrown an interception in 111 consecutive attempts. That all said, the rookie goes up against the league’s No. 3 sack team (30).


New Ravens head coach JOHN HARBAUGH is quite familiar with the Giants and their tendencies. He spent the past 10 seasons (1998-07) with division-rival Philadelphia as the Eagles’ special teams/secondary coach.





STORYLINE: Falcs tough at home, but the road doesn’t bother the Broncs.


Denver comes to Atlanta to face a hot team led by a hot quarterback. The Falcons, who have won four of their past five, also have won all four of their home games this year. A large amount of credit for that goes to rookie MATT RYAN, the first QB taken in the draft this year (No. 3 overall), who has thrown every pass for the Falcons, completing 70 percent of them at home with five touchdowns and no interceptions.


That’s all great, say the Broncos. But look at what we did last Thursday night on the road in Cleveland. Denver’s first-round choice at QB in 2006, JAY CUTLER, threw three fourth-quarter TD passes to bring the Broncos back from a 23-10 deficit in an eventual 34-30 win while compiling a career-high 447 yards.


It could come down to “might vs. flight.” Atlanta comes in with the No. 2 NFL run game, led by the league’s third-leading rusher MICHAEL TURNER (890 yards). Cutler directs the No. 3 NFL passing game, with the third-most QB TDs (18).



DALLAS COWBOYS (5-4) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (6-3) (Sunday night, NBC, 8:15 PM ET)


STORYLINE: From byes to perhaps a tie.


After their bye weeks, these NFC East rivals are back at it big-time, with lots of scenarios. The biggest is: with a win, Dallas ties Washington for second place in the division behind the 8-1 Giants. And if Philadelphia wins this week, there will be a three-way second-place tie in the winningest division (.667) in the league.


Scenarios for Sunday night? There are many. Dallas could get a whole passel of key players back from injury – QB TONY ROMO (1-3 as a starter vs. Washington), G KYLE KOSIER, CB TERENCE NEWMAN and perhaps rookie RB FELIX JONES. Washington wants to get back to the no-season-interceptions pace followed by QB JASON CAMPBELL before he was picked off twice in the second half by Pittsburgh in Week 9. And the Redskins hope the league’s No. 2 rusher, CLINTON PORTIS (995 yards), will be available (knee). Plus, new CB DE ANGELO HALL will make his Washington debut.


With all that said, the key to the game could be, simply, the tight ends. Washington’s CHRIS COOLEY (48 catches) and Dallas’ JASON WITTEN (46) lead their clubs in receptions.



CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-6) at BUFFALO BILLS (5-4) (Monday night, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)


STORYLINE: Maybe in the NFL, it’ll be different!


Because when the two focal points of this game met in the past, it was all Browns QB BRADY QUINN’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish over Bills QB TRENT EDWARDS’ Stanford Cardinal. Monday night will be the first time the two have squared off in the NFL, but the 2007 draft choices battled three years in a row as undergrads with the Domers winning all three (2004, 23-15; 2005, 38-31; 2006, 31-10).


Old times aside, this will be a big one for both teams. The season is getting short, and losses cannot be afforded.


With two cold-weather clubs playing on a Monday night outdoors, the running game can play even more of a part. Each team wants to get this phase of their offense untracked and they’ve got the men to do it – Cleveland’s JAMAL LEWIS (593 yards) and Buffalo’s MARSHAWN LYNCH (512).


(Home team in CAPS)

Byes: Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Washington


Thursday, November 6

Sunday, November 9, Cont.’d.

Denver 34, CLEVELAND 30

NEW ENGLAND 20, Buffalo 10


N.Y. JETS 47, St. Louis 3

Sunday, November 9

Carolina 17, OAKLAND 6

ATLANTA 34, New Orleans 20

Indianapolis 24, PITTSBURGH 20

Tennessee 21, CHICAGO 14

SAN DIEGO 20, Kansas City 19

Jacksonville 38, DETROIT 14

N.Y. Giants 36, PHILADELPHIA 31

Baltimore 41, HOUSTON 13


MIAMI 21, Seattle 19

Monday, November 10

MINNESOTA 28, Green Bay 27

ARIZONA 29, San Francisco 24



(All times local)


Thursday, November 13

Sunday, November 16, Cont.’d.

N.Y. Jets at New England, 8:00 PM (NFLN)

Baltimore at N.Y. Giants, 1:00 PM


Minnesota at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Sunday, November 16

St. Louis at San Francisco, 1:05 PM

Denver at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Arizona at Seattle, 1:05 PM

Detroit at Carolina, 1:00 PM

Tennessee at Jacksonville, 4:15 PM

Philadelphia at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM

San Diego at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM

Chicago at Green Bay, 12:00 PM

Dallas at Washington, 8:15 PM (NBC)

Houston at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM


Oakland at Miami, 1:00 PM

Monday, November 17

New Orleans at Kansas City, 12:00 PM

Cleveland at Buffalo, 8:30 PM (ESPN)