NFL preview: Week 11

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WEEK 11 STORY LINES

1. Suddenly, Pittsburgh could sneak past Indianapolis and grab the No. 2 seed in the AFC. That is, if the Steelers continue to play the way they have. Their star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, would be a strong MVP candidate in any other year besides this one, thanks to Tom Brady. But Roethlisberger will take the W’s. He’s more comfortable with coach Mike Tomlin than he was with Bill Cowher and his play reflects that, evidenced by his 110.2 passer rating. The Steelers rank fifth offensively and are first defensively. Considering their next three games are against the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, they should enter the New England game with a 10-2 record.

2. Which race will be more interesting? To see New England go undefeated or to see the Dolphins try to win one game? It’s kind of funny that they’re in the same division, too. Miami’s task might be harder than the Patriots. Also, after St. Louis won last week, they no longer have any winless company. The Dolphins play at Philadelphia this week and Pittsburgh next week. Their one chancefor victory comes a week later, when they host the currently 1-8 Jets.

3. Second-year Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young is not exactly tearing it up. And, in some ways, he could be holding a very good team back. Young has thrown just four touchdown passes against 10 interceptions. Yes, he’s rushed for 217 yards, but that’s not enough to consider him a good quarterback at this stage. The Titans are winning in many ways despite Young and because of their excellent defense.

PLAYER TO WATCH

When Brodie Croyle steps under center for Kansas City’s first play Sunday, it will be the first time since 1983 that the Chiefs will start a quarterback they drafted. Croyle’s task at Indianapolis is to revive an offense that has been held to 13 points or less six times.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Giants (6-3) at Lions (6-3)

Two of the NFC’s surprise teams get a chance for some

playoff breathing room. This game could determine a tiebreaker, making this an even bigger contest. The New York Giants were finally cooled off against Dallas last week. It’ll be interesting to see which passing attack triumphs. Detroit has allowed 18 touchdown passes this year, a number surpassed by only two teams. That means Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and tight end Jeremy Shockey, who have combined for 84 catches and 11 touchdowns, could have big days. Meanwhile, Detroit’s Roy Williams and Shaun McDonald have combined for 93 catches and nine scores. But the Giants’ defense ranks ninth in passing yards per game.

WEEK 11 PICKS

REDSKINS AT COWBOYS After 3½ years, Gibbs has used up all of his good will from his first tenure. Cowboys 30, Redskins 13

BROWNS AT RAVENS Browns seeking second-ever sweep of Ravens and first since 2001. Derek Anderson beats former team. Browns 24, Ravens 20

CHARGERS AT JAGUARS The Norvals intercepted six passes and stillneeded a missed short field goal to win? Ugh. Jags 26, Chargers 23

CHIEFS AT COLTS Manning hasn’t tossed more than 10 interceptions in a season since 2002. He will this year. Colts 31, Chiefs 10

RAIDERS AT VIKINGS How far behind must JaMarcus Russell be if he can’t unseat Josh McCown or Daunte Culpepper? Vikings 13, Raiders 12

STEELERS AT JETS Jets fans already scouting college games to discover the high pick they’ll boo in April. Steelers 30, Jets 17

BUCCANEERS AT FALCONS Bucs 1-3 on road, but losses have come against teams with a combined 18-9 record. Bucs 21, Falcons 13

CARDINALS AT BENGALS Cards have never lost the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Must we tell you we’re joking? Bengals 21, Cards 17

DOLPHINS AT EAGLES Brian Westbrook second in yards from scrimmage; he’ll reach No. 1 after this game. Eagles 24, Dolphins 9

PATRIOTS AT BILLS Pats have won 12 of 13 against Bills; J.P. Losman isn’t about to alter this trend. Pats 27, Bills 10

SAINTS AT TEXANS Saints averaged 12.8 points in first four games and 30.1 in the next five. Saints 30.1, Texans 24

PANTHERS AT PACKERS Brett Favre finally faces a QB older than him in Vinny Testaverde. Packers 23, Panthers 14

GIANTS AT LIONS After allowing 80 points in first two games, G-men have allowed 110 in next seven. Giants 33, Lions 27

RAMS AT 49ERS After carefully reviewing the film, we discovered the problem with the Niners’ “O” — it stinks. Rams 26, Niners 12

BEARS AT SEAHAWKS Bears have turned ball over 23 times, second-most in the NFL. And Rex Grossman is starting again. Seahawks 20, Bears 16

TITANS AT BRONCOS Home-field edge no longer exists. Broncs 6-7 in last 13 home games. Upset special. Titans 23, Broncos 17

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