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The Nickel Package

Times staff writer Sam Farmer breaks down five areas worth watching in today's NFL matchups

November 06, 2005

5 MIDSEASON DISAPPOINTMENTS

Jamal Lewis, Baltimore, RB

* Once the NFL's best back, he's averaging 3.0 yards a carry.

Julius Peppers, Carolina, DE

* Panthers might be hot, but Peppers isn't: one sack so far.

Quentin Jammer, San Diego, CB

* Collects lots of yellow flags but nary an interception.

Duane Starks, New England, CB

* Looking for a soft spot in the Patriot defense? You've found him.

Trent Dilfer, Cleveland, QB

* 2-5 Browns' offense hasn't scored a TD in 18 of 20 quarters.

*

5 RED-HOT RECEIVERS

* Steve Smith, Carolina -- Needs 203 yards receiving for 1,000 in first eight games, a first since 1970.

* Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay -- Averaging 110.2 yards and has five touchdowns in last five games.

* Jeremy Shockey, New York Giants -- With 28 catches and four touchdowns this season, he's helping make Eli Manning look good.

* Heath Miller, Pittsburgh -- Has caught at least one touchdown pass in four consecutive games.

* Santana Moss, Washington -- With four more catches, he'll surpass his 2004 total.

*

5 LOCKS

Jacksonville over Houston

* Jaguar defense should be able to decide this one.

San Diego over the New York Jets

* If LT doesn't doom Jets, turnovers will.

New York Giants over San Francisco

* 49ers will not be able to handle Giant offense.

Seattle over Arizona

* Remember Week 3? Shaun Alexander burned Cards for four TDs.

Pittsburgh over Green Bay

* Big Ben is out, but Packers have no ground game.

*

RATING THE SCHEDULES

*****

* Jacksonville -- Other than the Colts, every Jaguar opponent from now on has a losing record.

****

* Denver -- Broncos are rolling, and their future foes are a combined 26-33.

***

* Indianapolis -- Some tough games and a few -- Texans, Titans and Cardinals -- puff games.

**

* San Diego -- At least Chargers still have their open week; their opponents are 32-26.

*

* Dallas -- Six of Cowboys' final eight opponents have winning records.

*

5 TELLING STATISTICS

* Carolina is averaging 2.7 yards a carry in its last six games, with the longest run 14 yards.

* Cincinnati has a league-best 28 takeaways, including 20 interceptions. No other team has more than 13 interceptions.

* Jacksonville's Fred Taylor, who has averaged 148.5 yards rushing the last two games, today faces a Texan defense that has given up an average of 227 yards rushing in the last three games.

* Each of San Diego's last four road losses has come by three points or fewer.

* Indianapolis' Peyton Manning has completed 75% of his passes in the last five games.

*

Source: STATS LLC

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