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The Nickel Package

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

October 30, 2005|Sam Farmer

5 SUREST HANDS OVER THE MIDDLE

Hines Ward

Pittsburgh

* Hands down -- or hands up -- the NFL's best blocking WR.

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Antonio Gates

San Diego

* This ex-hoops standout wins just about every jump ball.

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Derrick Mason

Baltimore

* He's a seasoned veteran who knows all the tricks.

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David Givens

New England

* Stocky like a running back and extremely strong.

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Anquan Boldin

Arizona

* Runs ultra-precise routes and fearlessly takes big hits.

*--* 5 RBS WHO COULD RELOCATE

*--*

* Shaun Alexander, Seattle -- Mike Holmgren might want more of a West Coast back.

* Edgerrin James, Indianapolis -- With Manning, Harrison, Freeney, etc., can Colts afford Edge?

* DeShaun Foster, Carolina -- It might come down to a decision: Stephen Davis or Foster?

* Jamal Lewis, Baltimore -- He was a lot more effective before doing time in prison.

* Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia -- Eagles can't seem to find ways to get him the ball.

*--* 5 TELLING STATISTICS

*--*

* Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe has won all four of his career starts against Arizona, with 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

* After allowing 38 points with 17 takeaways in a 4-0 start, the Bengals have allowed 73 points with only six takeaways in the last three games.

* The Saints have the league's most penalties on offense, 68; the most giveaways, 21; and the worst turnover differential, minus-12.

* Washington's Mark Brunell has a 98.3 rating, on pace to be the highest by a Redskin QB since Slingin' Sammy Baugh's 109.9 in 1945.

* San Francisco is on pace to allow 565 points and 7,243 yards.

Source: STATS LLC

*--* 5 STARS ON QUOTABLE QBS

*--*

***** Brett Favre -- Brutally honest and unflinchingly speaks his mind on any subject.

**** Donovan McNabb -- When T.O. clammed up, he had to do enough talking for two.

*** Tom Brady -- He has gotten better, but squeaky clean doesn't make for great copy.

** Peyton Manning -- He's actually very funny, but usually too guarded to show it.

* Carson Palmer -- Improved slightly this season but still talks like a coach's son.

*--* 5 LOCKS

*--*

* Dallas over Arizona -- Cardinals bad on the road and even worse on turf, losing last 13 on fake grass.

* Cincinnati over Green Bay -- Without Ahman Green, Packers can't exploit Bengals' run-stopping problems.

* Tampa Bay over San Francisco -- Ken Dorsey, say hello to the NFL's No. 1 defense.

* Carolina over Minnesota -- Even in better times, the Vikings almost never won outdoors.

* Pittsburgh over Baltimore -- Everything points to a blowout. So the game will probably be close.

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