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The Nickel Package

December 30, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times staff writer

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

Road-weary

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who play at Baltimore today, are a much tougher team at home than on the road. Three of their four losses away from Heinz Field this season were to teams that didn't make the playoffs: Arizona, Denver and the New York Jets. And check out how their pass defense drops off when they're the visitors. Steelers home and away, 2007:

Source: Stats LLC

Dynamic duos

There have been some excellent running-back tandems this season. Over the last two seasons, Jacksonville's one-two punch has helped the Jaguars average a league-high 156.0 yards rushing a game. Most rushing yards by teammates this season:*

2,066 Minnesota: Adrian Peterson 1,305, Chester Taylor 761

1,970 Jacksonville: Fred Taylor 1,202, Maurice Jones-Drew 768

1,788 Pittsburgh: Willie Parker 1,316, Najeh Davenport 472

1,692 San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson 1,418, Michael Turner 274

1,586 Philadelphia: Brian Westbrook 1,291, Correll Buckhalter 295

* -- Only one duo per team. Note: Fred Taylor is, once again, closing out a season with a flurry. Taylor has gained at least 100 yards rushing in each of his last five games.

Source: Stats LLC

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Trench warfare

The Minnesota Vikings can make history this season in the running game. The Vikings are rushing for 5.27 yards per carry and hold the opposition to 3.00 yards per rush. The 2.27 yards-per-carry difference positions the Vikings within striking distance of the largest season differential in league history. The five largest differentials in rushing yards per carry for and against:

Source: NFL

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30-somethings

With a game to go, there already have been four quarterbacks to surpass 30 touchdown passes, tying the record for most in a season set in 1980 and 2004. Productive games today from Cleveland's Derek Anderson (28), Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck (27) and Green Bay's Brett Favre (26) could push the total of 30-touchdown quarterbacks to a record-setting seven:

Source: NFL

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It's a lock

Seattle over Atlanta -- The Seahawks, who have beaten the Falcons four times in a row, will get their running game on track.

Cleveland over San Francisco -- The Browns have won six in a row at home and have enough offense to outgun the 49ers if it becomes a shootout.

Green Bay over Detroit -- The Packers, ready to put last week's loss behind them, defeat the Lions for the fifth consecutive time.

Pittsburgh over Baltimore -- The Steelers have something to play for, and they beat the Ravens, 38-7, this season.

San Diego over Oakland -- The Chargers are better positioned to make a playoff run now than they were as a 14-2 team last season.

Last week: 4-1.

Season: 60-20.

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