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The Nickel Package

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

October 16, 2005|Sam Farmer

5 VENGEANCE SEEKERS

Trent Dilfer Cleveland, QB

* Makes his first start against Baltimore since the Ravens dumped him.

Brian Griese Tampa Bay, QB

* The Dolphins might remember him; they cut him in 2004.

Marshall Faulk St. Louis, RB

* Returns to Indy for the first time since Colts traded him in 1999.

Trent Green Kansas City, QB

* Ex-Redskin has thrown for 300-plus yards in his two starts vs. them.

Joey Harrington Detroit , QB

* Never played for Panthers, but they've held him to 1.9 yards per pass attempt.

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5 STARS ON NFL STADIUMS

*****Reliant Stadium -- Retractable roof makes Houston's home ideal, regardless of climate.

****Lincoln Financial Field -- Eagles' sound system isn't perfect, but who's picking nits?

***Arrowhead Stadium -- Even though it's more than 30 years old, it's still a great place for K.C. fans.

**Sun Devil Stadium -- Bring cooking spray to Tempe to peel your legs off the metal bleachers.

*Monster Park -- Home of the 49ers -- a.k.a. Candlestick Park -- in need of fresh coat of dynamite.

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5 LOCKS

* Seattle over Houston -- Look for a big game from Shaun Alexander, who plays huge at home.

* Indianapolis over St. Louis -- Rams do a lousy job protecting Marc Bulger, and that will cost them.

* Baltimore over Cleveland -- Jamal Lewis has averaged 147.6 yards rushing in eight games vs. Browns.

* Atlanta over New Orleans -- Saints, who usually play Falcons tough, already look worn out.

* Minnesota over Chicago -- Hard to like the Vikings, but they're a league-best 13-3 after a week off.

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5 TELLING STATISTICS

* Detroit has 11 takeaways in four games. Last season, the Lions had 12 in their first four, then only 12 more in their final 12.

* Viking Daunte Culpepper has one touchdown and seven interceptions in the second half this season.

* The New York Giants are 3-13 after a bye week since 1990, tied with Seattle for the worst such record in the league.

* New York Jet QB Vinny Testaverde has a 107.0 rating in four games at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, the highest of any player in history there (minimum four starts).

* New England QB Tom Brady is averaging 304 yards passing per game and is on pace for 4,870, which would be the second most in NFL history to Dan Marino's 5,084 in 1984.

Source: STATS LLC

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5 TACKLE BREAKERS

* Willie Parker, Pittsburgh -- Has league-best average of 2.92 yards after contact.

* DeShaun Foster, Carolina -- Not only faster than Stephen Davis but just as tough.

* Kevan Barlow, San Francisco -- Starting to make up for last season's bad showing.

* Ronnie Brown, Miami -- Still in Cadillac's shadow, but he's a very good rookie.

* Tatum Bell, Denver -- Will he be the next in Denver's long line of 1,000-yard backs?

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