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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Raiders-Steelers is among must-see games this week in NFL

Oakland, surprisingly, is in a tie for first in the AFC West with Kansas City. Pittsburgh is coming off a tough loss at home to New England.

November 16, 2010|Sam Farmer

Each week this NFL season there have been one or two games worth circling in red.

This week, the marquee isn't big enough to handle all the must-see matchups. There are five games pitting winning teams. (Last week, for instance, there were two.)

Among the eye-catching showdowns:

Indianapolis at New England.

Green Bay at Minnesota.

The New York Giants at Philadelphia.

And maybe the most interesting one? Oakland at Pittsburgh — an old-school rivalry renewed; a showdown that wasn't as eye-catching at the beginning of the season because few people thought the Raiders still would be relevant at this point.

In fact, the Raiders are more than simply relevant. They have won four of five and are in a first-place tie with Kansas City — a team Oakland has beaten — atop the AFC West.

Whereas the Raiders (5-4) are rested after a week off, the Steelers are trying to regroup after a sound beating at home by New England, a game in which Pro Bowl receiver Hines Ward was sidelined by a concussion.

Pittsburgh (6-3) has been ravaged by injuries, although Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he expects Ward, left guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee and ankle) and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (hip) to be ready to play.

The Steelers also parted ways with longtime kicker Jeff Reed, who entered the season as the most accurate kicker in club history but has missed seven of 22 attempts this fall — including a 26-yarder against the Patriots. Former Dallas and Washington kicker Shaun Suisham was signed to replace him.

Tomlin said Reed "had a lot of individual success and also contributed to our success but at this juncture we thought it was appropriate for us to make a change."

Last season, the Raiders shocked the Steelers by beating them in Pittsburgh, dropping them to 6-6. There's no more element of surprise for the Raiders.

In other games:

Colts at Patriots: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are getting older, but their classic matchups seem ageless. Both teams are 4-1 over the last five games, and both have at least a share of their division leads.

Remember the last time these teams played? That's when Patriots Coach Bill Belichick made the ill-fated decision at the end to go for it on fourth down deep in New England territory. The Patriots didn't convert, and watched the last shreds of a 17-point fourth-quarter lead slip away as Manning threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds to play and the Colts won, 35-34.

Giants at Eagles: The Giants were the hottest team in the league last week before they were stunned at home by the one-win Dallas Cowboys. Now, New York is looking to regain its equilibrium against a bitter rival, one led by the sizzling Michael Vick. The last time these teams played at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia cruised to a 40-17 victory. But that was with Donovan McNabb at quarterback for the Eagles.

Packers at Vikings: Brett Favre takes on his old franchise yet again, although — and you've heard this before — he's feeling pain in his throwing shoulder. He's well off his impressive pace of last season, when he finished with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This season he leads the NFL with 16 interceptions, has lost five fumbles, and is 31st in passer rating.

Chicago at Miami: It should be fascinating to see how the Dolphins cope with their difficulties at quarterback, a problem made tougher because the game is on Thursday so the preparation time is severely limited. By all indications, it will be third-stringer Tyler Thigpen — who Tuesday took his first snaps of the season with the No. 1 offense — in place of the hurting Chads: Pennington and Henne.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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