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Week 4 Capsules

September 26, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

ARIZONA AT ST. LOUIS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: St. Louis by 10 1/2.

Introduction: The Cardinals will be looking to get the step on the once-dominant Rams, who have become one of the league's most under-achieving teams under Coach Mike Martz.

Plot: Behind quarterback Jeff Blake's stellar performance and a big-play defense, the lowly Cardinals are coming off an impressive victory over Green Bay last week. The Rams will be without running back Marshall Faulk, who broke his hand in last week's defeat at Seattle. St. Louis will need to rely on quarterback Marc Bulger.

Bottom line: The Rams' secondary will have a difficult time slowing down Blake and the Cardinals' passing game, which should make it a tight game.

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TENNESSEE AT PITTSBURGH

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Pittsburgh by 3.

Introduction: It will be football with attitude when the Titans and Steelers meet in an important AFC game.

Plot: Titan running back Eddie George has to have a productive game rushing to keep pressure off quarterback Steve McNair. The Steelers know all about McNair's toughness, but their goal will be to knock the oft-injured quarterback out of the game. Pittsburgh will continue to rely on a passing game that features receivers Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward. Coach Bill Cowher is 10-12 against the Titans.

Bottom line: The Steelers will do a better job shutting down George than they did against Kansas City's Priest Holmes two weeks ago, and that will be the difference.

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JACKSONVILLE AT HOUSTON

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Jacksonville by 3.

Introduction: Rookie Coach Jack Del Rio may be forced to turn to rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich with the winless Jaguars.

Plot: Quarterback David Carr and the Texans were completely outclassed by Kansas City last week. Houston could not run, pass or tackle in the loss. The Texans need to get wideout Andre Johnson and running back Stacey Mack more involved. Jacksonville may be winless, but it has shown signs of improvement, especially on defense with linemen Hugh Douglas and John Henderson.

Bottom line: The Texans are not one of the league's quicker teams, which will give the Jaguars the opportunity for their first victory under Del Rio, a former USC All-American linebacker.

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PHILADELPHIA AT BUFFALO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Buffalo by 3.

Introduction: The struggling Eagles are still looking for their first victory of the season, while the Bills are coming off a dismal loss at Miami last week.

Plot: After opening with two embarrassing losses at new Lincoln Financial Field, quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Eagles expect to be a more focused team on the road. McNabb is completing 45% of his passes, and he's averaging only four yards an attempt. The Bills are banged up after losing at Miami last week and may be without running back Travis Henry.

Bottom line: The Eagles are coming off a bye week and are not the type of team to lose three in a row, but unless McNabb gets his rhythm back, they will continue to flounder.

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NEW ENGLAND AT WASHINGTON

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Washington by 3.

Introduction: At the end of the season, this will be the type of statement game that both the Patriots and Redskins will remember.

Plot: After a lopsided opening loss at Buffalo, the Patriots have posted two impressive victories. New England quarterback Tom Brady has looked sharp spreading the ball around, especially to tight end Christian Fauria. The Redskins suffered their first loss last week to the New York Giants, but quarterback Patrick Ramsey continues to play well. Ramsey will be shooting for his third consecutive 300-yard passing game.

Bottom line: The Patriots' defense has trouble against speedy players, and they will face an assortment of fast and skilled Redskins, who are a much better team at home.

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CINCINNATI AT CLEVELAND

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Cleveland by 4 1/2.

Introduction: Although their record is not surprising, the Bengals are an up-and-coming team under first-year Coach Marvin Lewis, and a victory over the Browns would go a long way in their rise.

Plot: Quarterback Jon Kitna has to do a better job of getting the ball to receivers Peter Warrick and Chad Johnson in order to help Corey Dillon and the Bengals' ground attack. With Kelly Holcomb sidelined because of injury, the Browns will start Tim Couch at quarterback. Cleveland is coming off an emotional come-from-behind road victory over San Francisco.

Bottom line: With the Browns' confidence growing, the pressure will be on Couch to perform, and the Bengals are the perfect opponent.

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SAN FRANCISCO AT MINNESOTA

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m., Ch. 11.

The line: Off.

Introduction: Every time quarterback Daunte Culpepper plays hurt, he grows as the team leader for the undefeated Vikings.

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