The bye season is upon us, and the schedule will lag some. Aside from three big-time division matchups, there are not many blockbusters on the docket. Perhaps we get a major upset or two, otherwise this could be a pretty ho-hum week in the long NFL season. Then again, any given Sunday ...
The storyline:Could the Steelers seriously go 4-0 without suspended star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger?
Why you should watch:Two of the greatest rivals in the NFL always provide some of the hardest-hitting football of the year. There are also potential huge playoff implications.
Did you know?Ravens running back Willis McGahee has six rushing touchdowns in his past seven outings against the Steelers. ... Baltimore's Terrell Suggs needs one more sack to become the second player in franchise history with 60 in his career. ... The Steelers are 4-0 at home against the Ravens under coach Mike Tomlin (including the playoffs). ... Pittsburgh leads the league in scoring defense.
The storyline:There was this guy, Donovan McNabb, who was loved/loathed by Eagles fans for a decade -- and now he's coming back wearing the jersey of an arch rival.
Why you should watch:Teams are starting to get used to hanging 30 points on Washington's ill-fitted 3-4 scheme and Michael Vick is making everyone forget about McNabb in Philadelphia.
Did you know?Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb holds the Eagles' all-time record for passing TDs with 216. ... Washington's Clinton Portis has eight rushing touchdowns in his last nine games vs. Philadelphia. ... Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has 100-plus passer rating in three consecutive outings. ... Philadelphia's Juqua Parker has a sack in five straight games.
The storyline:The Patriots can't stop anyone and the Dolphins have been about as stingy as any team in the NFL. This is another game with division-tiebreaker potential.
Why you should watch:Bill Belichick has been embarrassed by the Wildcat before. Could he let it happen again? The Patriots' defense is very vulnerable right now.
Did you know?The Patriots have won six of their past seven Monday Night Football games. ... New England's Wes Welker has 371 receiving yards in his last three games against Miami. ... Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown averages 106.7 rushing yards on Monday Night Football (three career appearances). ... Miami's Vontae Davis has an interception in both of his career games vs. New England.
The storyline:Could San Francisco open the season 0-4 and still seriously contend in the NFC West? I say yes, but it would be an awfully tough climb.
Why you should watch:Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is maturing by the game and if the 49ers continue to implode, the likelihood of a sideline blowout mounts.
Did you know?Niners QB Alex Smith has thrown for over 220 yards in five consecutive games. ... San Francisco's Justin Smith has started 142 games in a row -- the league's longest streak for a defensive lineman. ... Falcons DE John Abraham has a sack in three straight games against the 49ers. ... Atlanta's Roddy White has seven touchdowns in his last eight home games.
The storyline:The Colts score points at will and the Jaguars concede points at a staggering rate.
Why you should watch:There might be a single-game offensive record or two that Peyton Manning doesn't already hold that he can attain in this contest. Jacksonville had better find a way to get Maurice Jones-Drew going early in games.
Did you know?The Colts are 38-11 against AFC South foes since 2002. ... Indianapolis' Robert Mathis has a sack in three consecutive games. ... Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 101.3 rushing yards in his last four games vs. the Colts. ... Jacksonville CB Derek Cox had his first career interception vs. the Colts last season.
The storyline:Seattle could grab a nice little lead in its division if it can finally translate its stellar home play to the road.
Why you should watch:Seahawks running back Leon Washington, once as explosive as any return man in the league, is back. Standout rookie quarterback Sam Bradford is restoring faith in a Ram revival.
Did you know?The Seahawks have won 10 consecutive games against the Rams. ... Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck has posted a 100-plus passer rating in two straight outings against division opponents. ... Rams running back Steven Jackson has rushed for a touchdown in all six of his home games against the Seahawks. ... St. Louis' James Hall has a sack in his last two games.
The storyline:The Broncos have moved the ball well offensively, but they can't get into the end zone enough. Doing so against this physical foe on the road will not be easy.
Why you should watch:After a brief reprieve against the Steelers, Titans running back Chris Johnson is back to his 100-yard ways. Tennessee quarterback Vince Young bounced back after a Week 2 meltdown as well.
Did you know?Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is 3-0 in the month of October. ... Denver quarterback Kyle Orton had a career-high 476 passing yards last week. ... The Titans are 14-4 when running back Chris Johnson rushes for 100 yards. ... Tennessee's Vince Young is 7-2 since 2008 in home starts.
The storyline:This should be a nice bounce-back game for the Texans with the Raiders coming off a haunting defeat due in large part to special teams.
Why you should watch:Oakland coach Tom Cable might have to juggle quarterbacks throughout the season, now. Raiders running back Darren McFadden is rounding into form, though.
Did you know?The Texans have won three consecutive road games. ... Houston's Kevin Walter has a touchdown catch in his last three outings. ... Of Raiders wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey's 19 career catches, 17 have gone for first downs. ... Oakland's Chris Johnson has an interception in his last two games vs. Houston.
The storyline:The Giants better start getting some wins, or rumors of Bill Cowher and others to the Big Apple are going to heat up.
Why you should watch:Chicago's Devin Hester returned a punt for a score against Green Bay, and he could exploit a struggling New York special teams unit. The New Meadowlands has been stoic and the Giants have to begin winning at home, soon.
Did you know?Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has 10 career blocked field goals. ... Chicago's Matt Forte leads all NFL running backs with 1,150 receiving yards since 2008. ... Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdown catches. ... New York has won 12 straight games when Justin Tuck has a sack (including the playoffs).
The storyline:The Bills gave the Dolphins and Patriots as much as they could handle, before coming up short. Perhaps they are ready to take the next step this week vs. the Jets.
Why you should watch:Buffalo rookie running back C.J. Spiller has finally started to figure some things out and Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the Bills some life last week. The Jets can't afford any slipups within the division.
Did you know?The Jets have won four consecutive regular-season road games. ... New York's LaDainian Tomlinson has had a 20-plus yard carry in three straight outings. ... Bills RB Marshawn Lynch averages 82.7 rushing yards per game vs. the Bills. ... Buffalo's Terrence McGee has five career interceptions vs. the Jets -- his most against any foe.
The storyline:Browns running back Peyton Hillis is becoming an impact back after opening third on the depth chart. That said, he is likely not enough to keep the Bengals from winning a ninth straight divisional game.
Why you should watch:Batman and Robin have been fairly well cloaked thus far, but this is a team they could explode on.
Did you know?The Bengals are 5-2 at Cleveland Browns Stadium under coach Marvin Lewis. ... Cincinnati's Cedric Benson had his first career touchdown catch last week. ... Browns rookie safety T.J. Ward leads the team with 24 tackles. ... Cleveland's Marcus Bernard has at least a half sack in four straight games.
The storyline:Arizona might be the worst 2-1 team I've seen in a while, and the Chargers may be the best 1-2 club.
Why you should watch:San Diego's mental gaffes and special teams inadequacy is enough to keep any opponent in a game. The Chargers do tend to put up big numbers the week after laying an egg, however, as they did in Seattle.
Did you know?The Cardinals are 21-2 under coach Ken Whisenhunt when they score at least 30 points. ... Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 477 receptions since 2005. ... Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is 6-2 at home against NFC opponents. ... San Diego's Malcom Floyd is averaging 20 yards per catch this year.
The storyline:The Saints lost any bid to flirt with perfection in Week 3 and they should be plenty hungry to take care of a struggling division foe.
Why you should watch:Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen makes his second NFL start in a rabid dome environment against a coordinator who loves to dial up the pressure. Yikes.
Did you know?Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has three rushing touchdowns in his last four games against the Saints. ... Carolina has intercepted New Orleans QB Drew Brees in five consecutive matchups. ... Saints running back Pierre Thomas has 13 TDs in his past 13 home games (including playoffs). ... New Orleans' Anthony Hargrove has two fumble recoveries in his last two games vs. Carolina.