Power of 10, and possible plan to beat the Patriots

The scriptwriter outdid himself for Week 12. It all started on Thanksgiving Day, when Green Bay and Dallas set the stage for their big matchup this week on Thursday night. Green Bay has now won 10 of its first 11 games for the first time since 1936. Dallas has won 10 of its first 11 for the first time ever.

In keeping with the number 10, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Thursday night passed Johnny Unitas for 10th place on the NFL's all-time list for passing yards. Manning now has 40,407 yards.

In that same game, Falcons running back Warrick became the 22nd player ever to rush for 10,000 yards for his career. Three days later, LaDainian Tomlinson followed Dunn and is the 23rd player to reach 10,000 yards.

There was something special about all 12 games played on Sunday. Collectively, teams combined to score 586 points -- an average of 48.8 per game. Washington-Tampa Bay, with a 19-13 final, was the lowest-scoring game of the day.

In the Vikings-Giants game, the number 10 showed up again -- it was only the 10th time in NFL history in which three interceptions were returned for TDs in one game.

One more 10: With the win over St. Louis, the Seahawks took a 10-9 lead in their all-time series with the Rams. More notably, it was the third consecutive game in this series to be decided on the last play of the game. Seattle's Josh Brown kicked game-winning field goals at the end of both contests in 2006, and then Gus Frerotte fumbled the snap and was taken down on fourth-and-goal at the end of Sunday's game.

Other milestones and noteworthy developments from Week 12: Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber became the team's all-time interceptions leader with his 32nd career pick… Jaguars QB David Garrard set a franchise mark for consecutive passes without an INT with 209 (and counting)… Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee tied a team mark in that same game with five field goals… Going into Sunday's game against San Francisco, Kurt Warner was 7-0 against the 49ers. Despite his best passing game ever with 484 yards (his third career game over 400 yards), the Cardinals lost in overtime… For the second straight week, the Ravens gave up 30 points. They've allowed 243 points in 11 games after allowing an NFL-low 201 in 2006. For the first time in franchise history, Baltimore has lost five straight… Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham had converted 21 consecutive FGs before missing a 21-yarder on his first attempt Sunday.

Blueprint for New England?

Despite losing to New England Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles at least gave future Patriots opponents hope that they can win. More than that, their 31-28 loss to the undefeated Patriots provided some clues as to how teams can beat New England.

Perhaps the best way to stop Tom Brady and that high-flying offense is to keep them off the field. It's obvious that Philadelphia's game plan was to throw a lot of short, high-percentage passes -- A.J. Feeley had 42 attempts in all -- and throw to inside to the tight end as much as possible. They also had a successful onsides kick in an effort to play keep-away from Brady. All in all, they limited the Pats to three offensive possessions in the first half, and they would have had a halftime lead if not for Asante Samuel's interception return for a score.

On defense, it was obvious the Eagles wanted to blitz on every down to throw off Brady. And they did a very good job of holding Randy Moss in check. Unfortunately for defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and his unit, New England's offense was able to adjust -- as Wes Welker became the main target, catching 13 passes for 149 yards.

Turnovers doom Redskins

We all knew long before Sunday's Washington-Tampa Bay game that turnovers can be so critical. But that game might be ultimate proof. How else can you explain the fact that Washington came out on the short end of this contest despite outgaining the Buccaneers in the second half by the staggering margin of 316 yards to 15 yards?

Well, part of the explanation is that the Redskins had three drives of 59 yards or more that resulted in zero points. But the biggest reason for the 19-13 loss is that the Bucs had six takaways in the first 18 minutes of the game, and committed none.

Perhaps the key play in the game was a fourth-and-1 from the Tampa 3-yard line in the second half. Redskins running back Clinton Portis was stopped short by a solid Tampa run defense.

Browns keep rolling

We learned on Sunday that Cleveland is a serious playoff contender while Houston is not quite there yet. In a game that had wild-card implications for both teams, Cleveland took a huge step forward with its 27-17 home victory.

Browns quarterback Derek Anderson continued his remarkable season, as his 2 TD passes give him 22 for the season -- tied with Bernie Kosar for the most in team history since 1987. Anderson is on pace to break the Browns' season record of 30 set by Brian Sipe in 1980. Braylon Edwards' TD catch in the second quarter gives him 11 for the season -- the last Cleveland receiver with more than 10 was Gary Collins in 1969. Edwards is on pace to break Collins' single-season mark of 13 set in 1963. (And after watching Edwards rocket the ball into the stands after his score, perhaps he can challenge Brady Quinn for the backup QB spot.) Meanwhile, Phil Dawson moved past Hall of Famer Jim Brown in scoring with 759 points (but he's still far behind the franchise leader, Lou Groza, who has 1,349).

Raiders redux

Two dubious streaks ended for the Raiders when they defeated the Chiefs, 20-17, in Kansas City. Prior to the win, Oakland had lost nine in a row to the Chiefs and 17 consecutive AFC West games. The last division game they won was the 2002 regular-season finale.

Field goals played a big part in the outcome. The Chiefs missed a 33-yard attempt and then eschewed a 40-yard game-tying attempt with 4:26 left in the game. Instead, they went for it on fourth down -- running the same play that gained 19 yards on a fourth-and-1 earlier in the game. This time, however, the play was stopped and Oakland hung on for the win.

Green Bay-Dallas key matchups

Since my weekly matchups column doesn't run until Wednesday, here's a look at the key matchups in Thursday night's colossal battle between the Packers and Cowboys.

First off, here are yet more reasons why the number 10 is so prevalent this week: Not only has each team won 10 games this season, but the regular-season series between Green Bay and Dallas is dead even at 10-10. In those 20 games, Dallas has outscored the Packers by a total of -- you guessed it -- 10 points (434-424).

The marquee matchup of course, is the battle of quarterbacks Brett Favre and Tony Romo. But the key for both passers will be how well they are protected from the opponent's Pro Bowl pass rusher. Therefore, these are the two key battles to watch:

Packers DE Aaron Kampman vs. Cowboys RT Marc Columbo

Kampman is the most active and most productive player on a very good Green Bay front. He does a very good job getting the offensive tackle off-balance and then taking advantage. Columbo needs to have excellent technique to keep Kampman from getting to the edge. Kampman has 11 sacks and one fumble recovery this season.

Packers LT Chad Clifton vs. Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware

If Favre is to win his first-ever game at Texas Stadium (he's 0-5 in the regular season, 0-3 in the playoffs), Clifton must keep Ware out of the backfield. Clifton is a highly underrated, very smart player. He's a good technician and an excellent pass blocker. Ware lines up as an outside linebacker most of the time. He's a speed rusher who has a great first step, and he's strong for his size. Ware has 9 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries this season.

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