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Week 5

Deep-sea fishing for defensive records

Click here for more on this story
Latest: Tuesday October 03, 2000 08:43 PM

By Jon A. Dolezar,

  Giants at Titans
Chargers at Rams
Ravens at Browns
Steelers at Jaguars
Cowboys at Panthers
Vikings at Lions
Colts at Bills
Patriots at Broncos
Dolphins at Bengals
Cardinals at 49ers
Bears at Packers
Buccaneers at Redskins
Falcons at Eagles
Seahawks at Chiefs

Lost in all the talk of the insane numbers that are being put up by the Rams' offense is how well the Dolphins are playing defensively.

Sure, the Rams are on pace to obliterate Minnesota's scoring record by 84 points, but in an offensive era that isn't so surprising.

What Miami's defense is doing to teams through four games is simply amazing.

The Dolphins are giving up only 5.5 points per game, which translates to 88 points allowed for the entire season. Miami's next closest competitor in defensive scoring is the Buccaneers who give up 6.3 more points per contest.

The Dolphins have allowed just one touchdown in four games, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss in the fourth quarter of their 13-7 loss to the Vikings in Week 2. They are on pace to allow only four touchdowns for an entire season, which would better the record of the 1932 Bears and 1933 Dodgers who each allowed six touchdowns.

The Dolphins rank second behind the Buccaneers in turnover margin at +7. Miami leads the league with nine interceptions, is tied for the league lead with six forced fumbles and is tied for third with 15 sacks. The Dolphins are seventh with 269 yards per game against overall, 11th in rushing with 92.5 yards against and sixth in passing with 176.5 yards against.

Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas is tied for second with four stuffs, veteran defensive end Trace Armstrong is second with 6 1/2 sacks and his bookend defensive end, Jason Taylor, is tied for 11th with three sacks. Thomas is also seventh with 27 solo tackles and leads the league with 15 assists.

The Dolphins continue their attempted assault on the record books this week at Paul Brown Stadium against a Bengals team that hasn't scored in 164 minutes, 33 seconds.

It could make for a rare opportunity to see some eye-popping defensive statistics after a game.

Week 5 NFL Preview
Giants (3-1) at Titans (2-1), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
5-1: Giants' record against the Oilers-Titans franchise, with the Titans' lone win coming in their last meeting on Nov. 9, 1997 at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.  Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Giants' Thunder and Lightning running game (163.8 yards per game) against Titans front four of Kenny Holmes (three stuffs, one sack), Jason Fisk (two stuffs, one sack), John Thornton (1 1/2 stuffs, one sack) and Jevon Kearse (two stuffs, 1 1/2 sacks).
Player to Watch
Steve McNair, QB, Tennessee: After rescuing the Titans with his late-game heroics on Sunday, McNair needs to improve on Tennessee's woeful passing game which has thrown only three touchdowns against six interceptions.
Chargers (0-4) at Rams (4-0), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
2: Consecutive 300-yard passing games need by Rams quarterback Kurt Warner to tie Steve Young's record of six straight 300-yards games set in 1998.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Chargers cornerbacks Darryll Lewis, Scott Lewis and Deron Jenkins (only one interception among them) against Rams receiving trio of Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Az-Zahir Hakim (combined 54 catches for 1,019 yards and six touchdowns).
Player to Watch
Grant Wistrom, DE, St. Louis: As teams double-team and run away from 1999 sack leader Kevin Carter (only seven tackles and two sacks), Wistrom has stepped up his play at the other end position with 13 tackles, three sacks and one stuff.
Ravens (3-1) at Browns (2-2), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
+10: Sack differential for the Browns, who were -9 after four games last season.  Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Ravens offensive tackles Harry Swayne and Jonathan Ogden against Browns defensive ends Keith McKenzie (four sacks, 3 1/2 stuffs) and Courtney Brown (three sacks, one stuff).
Player to Watch
Errict Rhett, RB, Cleveland: Facing his former team for the first time, after rushing for 852 yards and five touchdowns last season for Baltimore.
Steelers (0-3) at Jaguars (2-2), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
.684: Steelers' winning percentage (13-6) in October since 1995, the best in the AFC. Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Steelers cornerbacks Chad Scott (14 tackles, two interceptions) and Dewayne Washington (18 tackles, one interception) against explosive Jaguars wide receivers Jimmy Smith (36 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns) and Keenan McCardell (30 catches for 332 yards and one touchdowns).
Player to Watch
Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville: Ran for 57 yards on 14 carries in his season debut Monday night, but was given little work in the second half when the Jaguars fell behind.
Cowboys (1-3) at Panthers (1-2), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
6: Consecutive field goals made by Cowboys rookie kicker Tim Seder, leaving him only four short of breaking Chris Boniol's team record of nine in a row to open a career.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Cowboys' rushing defense (last in the league with 193.0 yards allowed per game) against Tim Biakabutuka (49 carries for 208 yards and one touchdown).
Player to Watch
Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas: Struggled in his first game back after his concussion, completing only 15 of 26 for 197 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Vikings (3-0) at Lions (3-1), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
20: Points needed by Vikings kicker Gary Anderson (1,982) to break George Blanda's all-time scoring record of 2,002.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Disappointing Lions running back James Stewart (77 carries for 227 yards and one touchdown) against Vikings linebackers Ed McDaniel (29 tackles, two sacks), Kailee Wong (17 tackles, one sack) and Dwayne Rudd (11 tackles).
Player to Watch
Kurt Schulz, FS, Detroit: Has five interceptions through first four games, and has 26 since 1995, while Mark Carrier, who he replaced in the Lions secondary, has only 13 during that same time.
Colts (2-1) at Bills (2-1), 1 p.m.
Key Stat
218.6: Difference between Colts' offensive yards per game (460.3) and Bills' yards allowed per game (241.7), both tops in the AFC.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Bills offensive tackles John Fina and Robert Hicks against Chad Bratzke (12 tackles, two sacks, 1 1/2 stuffs) and Bernard Holsey (six tackles, one stuff).
Player to Watch
Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis: Has 21 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns, and is the only player with at least 100 yards receiving in each game this season. Harrison has gone over 100 yards in seven of his past eight games and has four touchdown grabs in the past four games against the Bills.
Patriots (0-4) at Broncos (2-2), 4:05 p.m.
Key Stat
10: Wins in the last 11 meetings between the two teams, with the Patriots ending the Broncos' 10-game winning streak against them in their meeting on Oct. 24, 1999 with a 24-23 win.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Broncos wide receivers Rod Smith (25 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns) and Ed McCaffrey (17 catches for 232 yards and one touchdown) against Patriots cornerbacks Ty Law (21 interceptions in 76 career games) and Otis Smith (22 interceptions in 123 career games).
Player to Watch
Drew Bledsoe, QB, New England: Averaging only 199 yards passing this season compared to 245.2 per game prior to this season, but has played well against the Broncos, completing 33 of 54 for 503 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games against Denver.
Dolphins (3-1) at Bengals (0-3), 4:05 p.m.
Key Stat
8: Consecutive games won in this series by the Dolphins who now hold an 11-3 advantage, including a 26-23 comeback win on Oct. 1, 1995 in their last meeting.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Corey Dillon (41 carries for 82 yards with zero touchdowns) against Dolphins defense that is giving up only 92.5 yards per game on the ground.
Player to Watch
Trace Armstrong, DE, Miami: Second in the league with 6 1/2 sacks, Armstrong is on pace to easily surpass his previous season high of 12 sacks set in 1993 with the Bears and tied in 1996 with the Dolphins.
Cardinals (1-2) at 49ers (1-3), 4:15 p.m.
Key Stat
10.4: Increase in points per game for the 49ers through four games this season (28.8) over their per-game average for the 1999 season (18.4).   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Struggling Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer (63.5 quarterback rating, seven interceptions) against a 49ers secondary that is allowing 306.8 passing yards per game and 15.5 per catch, both last in the league.
Player to Watch
Jeff Garcia, QB, San Francisco: Has completed 72 of 116 for 902 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, putting him on pace for 3,608 yards, 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, which would far surpass his 1999 numbers of 2,544 yards, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games.
Bears (0-4) at Packers (2-2), 4:15 p.m.
Key Stat
82-70-6: Bears' record against the Packers in the most contested series in NFL history, although Green Bay has won 11 of the last 12.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Packers' secondary (six interceptions by Green Bay defensive backs) against struggling Bears quarterback Cade McNown (15 interceptions in 213 career attempts).
Player to Watch
Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay: Elbow looked fine in throwing for 277 yards and one touchdown last week against Arizona. Favre has torched the Bears for 1,950 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight career games against the Bears at Lambeau, compiling a 6-2 record in those games.
Buccaneers (3-1) at Redskins (2-2), 4:15 p.m.
Key Stat
27.5: League-leading average yards per catch for Buccaneers wide receiver Jacquez Green (11 catches for 302 yards).   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Redskins wide receivers Albert Connell (10 catches for 203 yards), Irving Fryar (12 catches for 136 yards and one touchdown) and Andre Reed (five catches for 46 yards and one touchdown) against Buccaneers cornerbacks Ronde Barber (15 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and one interception), Donnie Abraham (22 tackles and three interceptions) and Brian Kelly (16 tackles).
Player to Watch
Mike Alstott, RB, Tampa Bay: Has 253 yards rushing and four touchdowns, but his two fumbles and six stuffs aren't acceptable for a workhorse 250-pound fullback.
Falcons (2-2) at Eagles (2-2), 8:35 p.m.
Key Stat
557: Career points with the Falcons for kicker Morten Andersen, putting him two points away from breaking Mick Luckhurst's team record of 558 points.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Eagles defensive ends Hugh Douglas (league-leading seven sacks this season, with nine sacks in his past six games) and Mike Mamula (seven tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) against Falcons offensive line that has surrendered 16 sacks.
Player to Watch
Jamal Anderson, RB, Atlanta: Has carried 68 times for 253 yards and two touchdowns (3.7 yards per carry), but leads the league in fumbles with five and fumbles lost with three.
Seahawks (2-2) at Chiefs (2-2), 9:00 p.m. Monday
Key Stat
.706: Seahawks' winning percentage on Monday Night Football (12-5), the best among teams with a minimum of 10 appearances.   Stats matchup | Preview
Key Matchup
Seahawks running Ricky Watters (65 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns) against Chiefs linebackers Marvcus Patton (23 tackles, one interception), Donnie Edwards (22 tackles, two interceptions) and Lew Bush (eight tackles, one interception).
Player to Watch
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City: Needs only 13 catches for pass Fred Arbanas (198) for most catches by a tight end in team history. Gonzalez has 17 catches for 148 yards in his past two games against the Seahawks.

Related information
Stories's NFL Week 4 Preview Grid's Week 4 NFL Recap Grid
Colts tight end Ken Dilger says the Colts face a familiar foe in the Bills. (83 K)
Colts defensive tackle Bernard Whittington says the defense won't make any special changes before facing the Bills. (102 K)
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