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The Nickel Package

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

November 20, 2005|Sam Farmer | Times staff writer

5 COMEBACK KIDS

Drew Bledsoe, Dallas, QB

* The guy who fizzled in Buffalo is reborn as one of Parcells' Cowboys.

Tedy Bruschi, New England, LB

* He is believed to be the first to play after a stroke.

Steve Smith, Carolina, WR

* Panther star missed 15 games last season because of a broken leg.

Mark Brunell, Washington, QB

* Looked finished in 2004; has been ultra-sharp this season.

Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay, WR

* Downside of his career? Could be headed to his first Pro Bowl.

5 READY TO RUN

* Larry Johnson, Kansas City -- Houston can't stop the run, and Johnson has been on a tear.

* LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego -- Needs 165 more for his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season.

* Tatum Bell, Denver -- Not many teams have slowed Bronco ground game. The New York Jets won't either.

* Edgerrin James, Indianapolis -- Neutralizing James will be key for upset-minded Cincinnati.

* Tiki Barber, New York Giants -- Has rushed for 100-plus yards in four of his last five games against Philadelphia.

5 LOCKS

* Dallas over Detroit -- The short week shouldn't hamper Cowboys against overmatched Lions.

* Pittsburgh over Baltimore -- Steelers are well-positioned to survive without their starting quarterback for another week.

* New England over New Orleans -- Patriot defense is bad, but not bad enough to lose this one.

* Denver over New York Jets -- Broncos don't turn over the ball. Jets do -- in bunches.

* Seattle over San Francisco -- Road-warrior Seahawks scored 37 at St. Louis and 33 at Arizona.

5 STARS ON T.O. SUITORS

***** Dallas -- Bill Parcells has never shied from a talented troublemaker.

**** Denver -- Broncos need a No. 1 receiver when Rod Smith is done.

*** Atlanta -- T.O. lives in Atlanta and knows the Falcon staff well. But they know him too.

** New England -- He isn't a team player, but nobody thought Corey Dillon was either.

* Baltimore -- Ravens could use a good receiver, but T.O. burned this bridge long ago.

5 TELLING STATISTICS

* The No. 1 red-zone offense, Carolina, which has scored touchdowns 73.3% of the time it has gotten inside the opponent's 20-yard line, faces the No. 1 red-zone defense in Chicago, which has allowed TDs in 18.2% of red-zone situations.

* Tennessee has allowed at least one touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, 35 overall.

* Pittsburgh has won 11 consecutive road games and looks to become the second team in NFL history to win 12 straight on the road.

* Since 2003, Cincinnati is 20-2 when scoring 21 or more points, including eight wins in a row. It is 3-16 when scoring fewer than 21 in that span.

* The combined record of the four teams that Detroit has beaten this season is 9-27 (.250); the combined record of the five teams that have defeated the Lions is 29-16 (.644).

SOURCE: STATS LLC

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