Patriots at Steelers 2:15 p.m., CBS
PITTSBURGH — In a world in which the Colts lose by 55 points, the Jaguars can beat the Ravens without scoring a touchdown and games are becoming so boring that they have become upstaged by the postgame handshakes, it is heartening to know that we can still count on the Steelers' defense. Unfortunately, we cannot still count on the Steelers' defense.
The Steelers have intercepted two passes, an amazingly low figure when you run down some of the quarterbacks they have faced: Tarvaris Jackson, Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Kolb, Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter. Ten of Pittsburgh's 17 sacks came against Gabbert and Jackson, the standard-bearers in that cavalcade of regret. Although Warren Sapp's "old and slow" estimation of Pittsburgh's defense after Week 1 was premature and slightly exaggerated, the Steel Curtain now has a higher-than-advertised aluminum content.
The Steelers compensate for their declining defense with one of the best passing offenses in the league: They rank fifth in net passing yards a game and eighth in yards an attempt. And though New England's offense is better than Pittsburgh's, its defense is far worse, allowing a league-high 423 yards a game. So get ready for a back-and-forth, high-scoring offensive battle. After last week's games, you deserve it.
COWBOYS (3-3) at EAGLES (2-4) 6:20 p.m.
Asante Samuel said last week that the Eagles' front office was "playing fantasy football." What gave it away? When it showed up at the start of free agency with a container of buffalo dip and a magazine tucked under its arm? When Andy Reid started leaking starting lineups over the Internet? Samuel was angry that the Eagles tried to trade him during their bye week. He should be thrilled that he did not end up with the Rams. Despite Samuel's complaints, these bitter rivals are experiencing renewed optimism, Philadelphia after a bye week, Dallas after facing the Rams. Jason Peters and Trent Cole returned to practice after the bye, getting the Eagles up to full strength so they can infuriate their fans with maximum potency.
LIONS (5-2) at BRONCOS (2-4) 2:05 p.m.
Any inexperienced passer can have a bottom-line game, but only Tim Tebow has the unique talents to produce the greatest, most bottom-worthy bottom-line game in history. Few quarterbacks have looked worse for 54 minutes, then gotten more support from diving catches, onside kicks or opponent incompetence, causing as much cognitive dissonance among those who automatically interpret victory with quarterbacking achievement. To top last Sunday's 18-15 overtime effort for Denver, Tebow must take the snap and simply roll the ball to Detroit defenders this week, then wait for a meteor shower to force the Lions to evacuate their bench and forfeit the game. With Tebow, anything is possible (except possibly three consecutive accurate passes), and after their actions in the past two weeks, the Lions may have it coming.
REDSKINS (3-3) at BILLS (4-2) 2:05 p.m.
A radio station in Ontario held a ticket giveaway in which six contestants had to dig through a kiddie pool filled with buffalo manure to find a canister containing tickets to this game at Rogers Centre in Toronto. ("Best seats in the hoose," the radio host claimed.) The exact amount of humiliation a person will endure for the opportunity to watch John Beck hand off to Roy Helu has finally been scientifically ascertained, and it sheds horrifying light upon human nature.
CARDINALS (1-5) at RAVENS (4-2) 11 a.m.
Baltimore is experiencing one of its periodic offensive brownouts, when the bombs stop falling and Joe Flacco demonstrates his inability to complete passes that do not travel across multiple congressional districts. All involved in the offense are lining up to take the blame, almost as if they had done this before. These slumps typically end when the Ravens face a defense that allowed 30 points a game over the past three games, or a turnover-prone, injury-plagued offense with pass-protection issues. Arizona meets both criteria.
VIKINGS (1-6) at PANTHERS (2-5) 11 a.m.
Carolina's Cam Newton is a great-looking quarterback, whether in the pocket, on the run or on the sideline: He is a photogenic young man. Newton may have met his match in the matinee idol department in his fellow rookie Christian Ponder. Not only did Ponder's passing in a near comeback against the Packers look beautiful after weeks of Donovan McNabb's pumpkin chunking, but he has also attracted fans of the attractive. Ponder beat the Twins catcher heartthrob Joe Mauer in a Minneapolis radio contest to determine the region's hunkiest athlete. "QB really does stand for Quality Beef," the radio host Jason Matheson told The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, providing us with our most awkward quotation ever.
JAGUARS (2-5) at TEXANS (4-3) 11 a.m.
The Jaguars are index patients spreading a plague of awful football. They win Monday night games, 12-7. They bring torrential rain to wash out the fascinating Panthers offense. They cannot beat the Steelers or the Saints, but they can render them sloppy and unwatchable. Jacksonville's defense is almost as good as its offense is bad, but good defense can only take partial credit for opponents' ability to become listless and penalty-prone the moment they see the teal jerseys. If you see the Jaguars on television, change the channel quickly, before you become contaminated, too.
DOLPHINS (0-6) at GIANTS (4-2) 11 a.m.
Tom Coughlin called Miami a clean team with regard to penalties. The Dolphins have incurred only 27 fouls, so there is something spotless about their record, unblemished as it is by victory.
SAINTS (5-2) at RAMS (0-6) 11 a.m.
New Orleans outscored the Seahawks, the Browns, the Raiders, the Titans, the Rams, the Jaguars, the Ravens and the Browns combined last week, and still had two points left over in case one of those eight teams (three of which won) attempted a two-point conversion.
COLTS (0-7) at TITANS (3-3) 11 a.m.
When the Colts need their pride challenged, they need only load up the team chairman Jim Irsay's Twitter feed, wade through all of the old Jackson Browne lyrics, and find something suitably motivational loopy: "We have 2turn n2that junkyard animal no creature EVER wants 2face, jaws of furry with nothin2lose!" Irsay will keep that junkyard animal handy in case Peyton Manning tries to interfere with the team's plan to draft Andrew Luck.
BROWNS (3-3) at 49ERS (5-1) 2:15 p.m.
Frank Gore is 110 yards from passing Roger Craig for second place on the 49ers' career rushing list, and Craig is more excited about it than Gore. "It just shows how mentally he's just involved in winning and doing his job every day," Craig told The San Francisco Chronicle.Comment on this story
BENGALS (4-2) at SEAHAWKS (2-4) 2:15 p.m.
Teams in the AFC North get to play opponents from the AFC South and the NFC West, the two worst divisions in the NFL. Assuming the Texans and the 49ers remain capable of putting up a fight, it means that teams like Cincinnati get six guaranteed wins for buckling their chin straps. It also makes their nonconference schedules a minefield full of trap games.
CHARGERS (4-2) AT CHIEFS (3-3) Monday, 6:30 p.m.
The Chiefs' defense has not allowed a touchdown in the last six quarters. They usually perform that well only when facing the Chiefs' offense, though facing Curtis Painter, Kyle Boller and a fresh-from-the-man-cave Carson Palmer has a similar effect. Philip Rivers is far better than that group, but he threw two interceptions in a narrow victory over Kansas City and two more against the Jets. "Am I playing my best ball right now? Absolutely not," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune.