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The Nickel Package

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

November 27, 2005|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

5 COACHES IN TROUBLE

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Mike Tice, Minnesota

* Can he save his skin? Next few weeks will be critical.

Jim Haslett,

New Orleans

* Time might be running out, but could anyone have done better?

Brian Billick, Baltimore

* Offense is his specialty, but it sure doesn't look that way.

Herman Edwards,

New York Jets

* There's a chance he could pack up and head for Kansas City.

Dom Capers, Houston

* At some point, the Texans have to cut losses and move forward.

*--* 5 UNTOUCHABLES

*--*

* Jake Plummer, Denver -- Best-protected quarterback, knocked down only 26 times.

* Peyton Manning, Indianapolis -- You almost never see dirt on his jersey (29 knockdowns).

* Kyle Orton, Chicago -- Rookie has the benefit of a very strong offensive line (33).

* Steve McNair, Tennessee -- After all these years, still an escape artist (35).

* Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle -- Left side of Seahawk line seems to shut everyone down (35).

*--* 5 TELLING STATISTICS

*--*

* In his last two starts against Baltimore, Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer has completed 77.4% of his passes for 630 yards, five touchdowns and a 129.1 rating.

* Buffalo's scoring output has dwindled over the last five games, 27-17-16-14-10.

* In his last three games, Chicago cornerback Nate Vasher has three interceptions, two forced fumbles and a 108-yard missed field-goal attempt returned for a touchdown.

* San Diego has the worst interconference record (14-25, .359) of any AFC team since 1996.

* Seattle has outrushed opponents 1,053-564 in the last six games, with a 15-2 edge in rushing touchdowns.

SOURCE: STATS LLC

*--* 5 STARS: STICKY-FINGERS

*--*

***** Cincinnati -- Carson Palmer's targets have a league-low eight drops in 10 games.

**** Indianapolis -- Peyton Manning hits his receivers with pinpoint accuracy (nine drops).

*** Seattle -- Butterfingers in 2004, Seahawks are now middle of the pack (14).

** Kansas City -- With 23 drops, Chiefs could be in the market for a certain Philly troublemaker.

* New Orleans -- Saints haven't been able to keep their eyes -- or hands -- on the ball (27).

*--* 5 LOCKS

*--*

* Cincinnati over Baltimore -- Against Indianapolis, the Bengals showed they can hang with any team.

* Carolina over Buffalo -- Panthers' biggest challenge will be keeping Willis McGahee under control.

* Jacksonville over Arizona -- Stellar Jaguar pass defense will be tested by Cardinal air attack.

* Tennessee over San Francisco -- Both are bad teams, but Titans should protect their home turf.

* St. Louis over Houston -- Rams will improve to 3-0 with Jamie Martin starting at quarterback.

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