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Week 5 in the NFL | THE NICKEL PACKAGE

5 Starting Quarterbacks From The Mid-american Conference

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

October 08, 2006|Sam Farmer

Charlie Frye

Cleveland

* While at Akron, he set 54 passing and total offense records.

Bruce Gradkowski

Tampa Bay

* Had nation's second-best completion rate as a Toledo sophomore.

Byron Leftwich

Jacksonville

* At Marshall, he led one of the most potent offenses in the country.

Chad Pennington

New York Jets

* Marshall's QB rivaled another MAC star: Central Florida's Daunte Culpepper.

Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh

* When he was at Miami of Ohio, Big Ben also handled punting.

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5 STARS ON BLITZ FREQUENCY

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***** Baltimore -- The Ravens have blitzed a league-high 59% on passing downs, and it's working: 13 sacks, five interceptions.

**** St. Louis -- Jim Haslett, the new defensive coordinator, has his players blitzing in more than half of the passing situations.

*** San Diego -- The Chargers have an ultra-tough defense, but they don't often blitz, especially on third down.

** Dallas -- The Cowboys got bigger on defense this off-season, yet it isn't often they go quarterback hunting.

* Indianapolis -- The Colts have blitzed a league-low 11 times, compared with the Ravens' 80.

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5 POISED FOR A BREAKOUT

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RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville

* The rookie standout from UCLA has 191 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in last two games.

WR Terrell Owens, Dallas

* Can he handle the heat? He did when he faced the 49ers for the first time: 143 yards, two touchdowns.

WR Isaac Bruce, St. Louis

* In his last two games against the Packers, he had 18 receptions for 299 yards.

QB Brad Johnson, Minnesota

* He has won his last five starts against Detroit, and last season had a 127.3 rating in two starts vs. Lions.

WR Santana Moss, Washington

* He's red-hot now, and he has two three-touchdown games against the Giants.

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5 LOCKS

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* Chicago over Buffalo -- The Bears, who have given up only 29 points, are the league's best team.

* Minnesota over Detroit -- The Lions have lost 18 of 19 road games against division opponents.

* Indianapolis over Tennessee -- Think Colts are struggling with their ground game? Titans have been outrushed 708 yards to 281.

* New Orleans over Tampa Bay -- Saints will feed off some of the same Superdome energy they had in opener.

* San Francisco over Oakland -- Norv Turner, San Francisco's offensive coordinator, knows how to pick apart his old team.

* Last week: 5-0.

* Season: 18-2.

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5 POISED FOR A BREAKDOWN

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QB Bruce Gradkowski, Tampa Bay

* The Buccaneers don't have a lot of luck with rookie quarterbacks, and they're facing the surprisingly tough Saints.

QB Tom Brady, New England

* His rating is a ho-hum 65.2 in his last five starts against Miami.

RB Willie Parker, Pittsburgh

* Averaging 5.5 yards a carry on first down, he drops to 2.1 yards on the other three downs.

QB Jake Plummer, Denver

* The Broncos have scored only 36 points in the first three games, and now they're facing Baltimore.

RB Kevan Barlow, New York Jets

* Yes, he has four rushing touchdowns this season -- covering a total of 10 yards.

Source: STATS LLC

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