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5 UNDERSTUDIES UNDER PRESSURE

The Nickel Package

October 02, 2005|Sam Farmer | Times staff writer Sam Farmer breaks down five areas worth watching in today's NFL matchups

Brooks

Bollinger,

Jets

* Third-string QB makes his debut against bruising Baltimore defense.

Josh

Bullocks,

Saints

* Untested rookie SS steps in for team captain Jay Bellamy against Buffalo.

Todd France,

Eagles

* The only time the PK performed in a non-exhibition game, France was ... in Europe.

Angelo

Crowell,

Bills

* With Takeo TKOd, LB Crowell steps in to replace team's emotional leader.

Guss

Scott,

Patriots * Second-year S looked only so-so filling in for Rodney Harrison.

*

5 LIABILITIES IN THE SECONDARY

* Anthony Henry, Dallas -- Cowboys' $11-million CB gave up two touchdowns to San Francisco's Brandon Lloyd.

* Ken Irvin, Minnesota -- Dime back starts in place of injured FS Darren Sharper.

* Derrick Gibson, Oakland -- Makes a lot of mistakes for an already shaky defense.

* Will Allen, New York Giants -- Five-year starter has played like a rookie since last season.

* Quentin Jammer, San Diego -- Flagged for illegal contact four times in three games.

*

FIVE TELLING STATISTICS

* New England is averaging a league-low 2.5 yards a carry and has only three rushes of 10 or more yards.

* St. Louis has surrendered a league-high 15 sacks -- at least four in each game.

* Baltimore has won its last three after a week off, averaging 26.7 points in those games.

* Oakland's Kerry Collins has lost 12 of his last 13 home starts.

* Green Bay has neither scored nor given up a rushing touchdown.

*

Source: Stats LLC

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5 LOCKS

Cincinnati over Houston

* Bengals will be 4-0 for the first time since '88.

Indianapolis over Tennessee

* The Colt offense will wake up this week.

Tampa Bay over Detroit

* Cadillac will roar through the Motor City.

Atlanta over Minnesota

* Falcons have the edge in almost every category.

New England over San Diego

* Patriots are hurting but won't lose this.

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STAR RATINGS

*****

* Cincinnati defense already has 16 takeaways.

****

* With 75 points in three games, Dallas is on 1995 Super Bowl pace.

***

* N.Y. Jets need a healthy QB, but again with the Vinny stuff?

**

* Bill Belichick rudely shooed away Pittsburgh trainer trying to help.

*

* Zebras goof, add 52 seconds to clock in Pittsburgh-New England thriller.

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