Suspended bosses get to watch Brees

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 9:50 p.m. MDT

After a busy opening four weeks, the Ravens finally are rested, having last played on Sept. 27.

Cleveland (0-4) at New York Giants (2-2)

The Giants recognize that they messed up late at Philly last Sunday night, costing them sole possession of the NFC East lead. With a brutal upcoming schedule, a victory against the winless Browns, ranked last in the AP Pro32, is a must.

Yet, the Giants have struggled in recent years against mediocre (or worse) opponents.

"I don't know if it's our preparation, I don't know if it's the mindset that we go in there with," receiver Victor Cruz said. "Hopefully, we'll gear up this week and be prepared for this team, no matter what their record is. They're still a good football team, and we have to prepare ourselves to win a football game."

Cleveland has lost 10 straight dating back to last season. It has shown sparks on offense with rookie RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden, and has some playmakers on defense, particularly linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. Top cornerback Joe Haden has one more week on his suspension.

Buffalo (2-2) at San Francisco (3-1)

Early in the third quarter last week, the Bills led New England 21-7 and were envisioning a solo spot atop the AFC East. Then the Patriots stopped fooling around and soon were headed to a 52-28 romp.

The Niners aren't likely to score that many points, but their fierce, opportunistic defense almost certainly won't yield anything close to four touchdowns.

This could be an entertaining matchup on the ground with Buffalo's Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller trying to outdo San Francisco's Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. It also could turn into a mismatch if Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and the rest of the 49ers' defense shuts down the Bills' running attack and forces Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw under duress. Fitzpatrick's 12 TD passes top the league, but he's also thrown seven interceptions.

Miami (1-3) at Cincinnati (3-1)

With two division matches after this, Cincinnati needs to pay attention against a Dolphins squad that lost its last two games in overtime, blowing leads in both. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been sensational late in games and has the best fourth-quarter passing rating in the NFL, 151.7.

The Dolphins have won six of their last seven visits to Cincinnati and have the NFL's leading receiver in yards in Brian Hartline. But getting time to find him will be problematic for rookie QB Ryan Tannehill: The Bengals lead the NFL with 17 sacks.

"Our defensive linemen are very tall guys," safety Chris Crocker said. "Just them getting their arms up, getting around him — it's uncomfortable. As long as they continue to get the pressure like they're getting, then we'll make a lot of plays."

Seattle (2-2) at Carolina (1-3)

Reverse the site of this game and the Seahawks are a strong favorite. Instead, they make one of the longest road trips possible in the NFL, 2,800 miles, to face an angry group of Panthers.

Carolina had Atlanta pinned at its 1-yard line in the final moments last Sunday and still managed to blow the game. For developing teams, such defeats can be devastating.

"We are a young football team, but at some point you've got to get past that, because at some point you run out of time," coach Ron Rivera said. "We don't want to run out of time."

Chicago (3-1) at Jacksonville (1-3)

The addition of WR Brandon Marshall has energized Chicago's offense and even made Jay Cutler less sullen. But it's the defense that is making the Bears formidable with a league-high 14 takeaways, including 11 interceptions. They've run back three picks for touchdowns.

That paints a distressing picture for the Jaguars, whose 62 points are the fewest of any team to have played four games.

Tennessee (1-3) at Minnesota (3-1)

One of the league's biggest flops through a quarter of the schedule visits one of the most pleasant surprises.

Tennessee is without starting QB Jake Locker (shoulder), so Matt Hasselbeck gets the call. He'll need Chris Johnson to resemble the running back he was last week with 141 yards, not the impostor of the previous three games.

Minnesota has been getting strong contributions from its veteran leaders, particularly Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin on offense, Chad Greenway and Antoine Winfield on defense, and Harvin on special teams. The kick returners have been superb.

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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