|ESPN.com: NFL Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul KuharskyGreen Bay Packers (4-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-0), 1 p.m. ET
The Packers have gotten healthy and will come to Nashville well-rested following a bye, while the Titans played an emotional game Monday night and had a short week. I don't buy any trap game theories and Jeff Fisher has been very good at keeping his good teams from any sort of hangovers, but I do buy that this is a bad matchup for Tennessee and could be its first loss.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has rested up that sore shoulder and defensive backs Atari Bigby and Al Harris are set to rejoin a secondary that shut down the Colts in the last game it played. Bigby will help in run defense, where I suspect the Packers can load up, leaving their corners on islands to deal with unintimidating receivers.
That would mean Green Bay selling out to stop the run and taking their chances against Kerry Collins & Co. It's what Indy tried, but it didn't work for the Colts, in part because they threw two picks and turned the ball over on downs twice.
If the Packers protect the ball better, they could have a breakthrough.
The Titans are the NFL's lone remaining unbeaten team.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-8), 1 p.m. ET
The Jaguars have struggled with consistency all year, and their chance to pull things together and be a factor in the AFC playoff field is reliant on victories this week at winless Cincinnati and next week at, as of now, winless Detroit.
Jacksonville plays tight games -- all seven have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis has played well at times -- he helped shut down Denver's Brandon Marshall, for example. He's likely to draw T.J. Houshmandzadeh often. That's a guy you don't want to get going for a team desperate for any crumbs of momentum.
The Bengals are 0-8 for the fifth time in franchise history. Three of the four previous times the Bengals started 0-8, they won their ninth game.
Houston Texans (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (3-4), 1 p.m. ET
The Texans are a bad road team and the Metrodome is a tough venue. Houston can prove a lot if it can win there, pulling to 4-4 after an 0-4 start.
Minnesota is ranked No. 2 against the run, forcing opponents to throw. The Texans have gotten pretty comfortable throwing it, ranking fifth in pass offense.
It could come down to which offensive star manages to have a better day, Minnesota running back Adrian P
eterson or Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson. Surely the Vikings will want to slow Johnson with Antoine Winfield as often as possible. Of course, the Texans will work to get Johnson into some situations where Cedric Griffin is trying to cover him.
The Vikings are coming off a bye and are 15-4 all-time in their first game following a week off.
New England Patriots (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-4), 8:15 p.m. ET
Safety Rodney Harrison often covered Dallas Clark in last year's game, a battle of unbeatens won by New England. Harrison is out of the picture now, done for the year like quarterback Tom Brady.
The prevailing thinking on this game is that the Colts will find more plays and that Peyton Manning should outduel Matt Cassel. But I am getting the feeling the Patriots are figuring out who they are and what they can do while Indianapolis is learning what it isn't and what it can't do.
Look for New England to try to get the ball to Wes Welker working out of the slot. He's got at least six catches in the first seven games of the year, a feat accomplished by only three players in league history before.
Colts cornerback Tim Jennings will work outside as a starter in place of Marlin Jackson, but it's unclear what Indianapolis will do in the nickel. The guy next in line at cornerback is Dante Hughes, who missed practice all week with an ankle injury. Behind him is Keiwan Ratliff, who was just re-signed. But the Colts could go with three safeties, finding a way to keep Melvin Bullitt involved even with Bob Sanders due back.
Indianapolis slowed the Titans strong run game last week. Sanders should give them a boost as the Colts try to do the same to New England. Then the question is about slowing Welker and Randy Moss and making Cassel uncomfortable. Those Patriots receivers have a lesser quarterback, but could be better suited to produce than their Colts counterparts, Marvin Harrison (not himself these days) and Reggie Wayne (missed two practices and was limited Friday with a knee injury).