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Saturday NFL News and Notes

Saturday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - Detroit (2-0) at Indianapolis (0-2)

(Sports Network) - The Indianapolis Colts will be trying to reach the win column for the first time of the 2007 preseason on Saturday night, when the reigning Super Bowl champs host Detroit in the third August warm-up for both clubs.

Indianapolis is 1-11 in the preseason since the latter stages of the 2004 tune-up period, including an 0-2 mark in 2007. Dallas (23-10) and Chicago (27-24) have both dealt the Colts preseason setbacks thus far in '07.

On the bright side for Indy fans, the Colts looked much better offensively in their second preseason game than they had the previous week. Three quarterbacks combined for 280 passing yards in the win, including a 5-of-8, 61-yard passing performance for starter Peyton Manning.

Running back Joseph Addai also got in on the act in the Chicago loss, carrying seven times for 24 yards including a four-yard touchdown run before yielding to backups.

The Indianapolis starters are expected to play the first half and perhaps into the third quarter on Saturday night, in keeping with preseason Week 3 custom.

On the injury front for the Colts, safety Bob Sanders (shoulder) is slated to see his first action of the preseason against Detroit. Tight end Bryan Fletcher (ankle) will be out, however.

Detroit's charge on Saturday night will be to keep its offense running at a high level versus the Colts. Rod Marinelli's squad has looked very good in that area during preseason wins over Cincinnati (27-26) and Cleveland (23-20), with starting quarterback Jon Kitna at the head of the class.

Kitna has completed 15-of-21 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 115.0 in warm-up action, but is considered a game-time decision for Saturday's game due to back spasms. Backup QB Dan Orlovsky (turf toe) is also questionable.

Possible starter J.T. O'Sullivan figures to throw to receivers such as backups Troy Walters (12 receptions, 124 yards) and Shaun McDonald (8 receptions, 193 yards, 2 TD), who have also shown ability in their first exposure to Mike Martz's offense.

Among those who won't be in uniform for Detroit on Saturday include running back Kevin Jones (foot), who is unlikely to appear in the preseason and might not be ready for the regular season opener.

On defense, tackle Shaun Rogers (knee) could make his first appearance of the preseason.

The Lions hold a 12-6-1 edge in their all-time preseason series with the Colts, including a 27-26 road win in the last such meeting, prior to the 2001 campaign.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Tampa Bay (1-1) at Miami (2-0)

(Sports Network) - The Miami Dolphins will try to maintain their perfect preseason record on Saturday night, when Cam Cameron's team hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third preseason tune-up for each club.

Cameron's first preseason at the helm of Miami has gone well from a won-loss standpoint, as the Fins have opened their warm-up schedule with consecutive one-point victories over the Jaguars (18-17) and Chiefs (11-10).

In the win at Kansas City last Thursday, running back Patrick Cobbs rushed for a seven-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, while rookie quarterback John Beck scored on the ensuing two-point conversion to give Miami the win.

The victory did not include a strong performance from Dolphins starting QB Trent Green, who has looked shaky in both his outings in a Miami uniform thus far. Green (10-of-22 passing, 101 yards, 1 INT) has a weak 40.2 passer rating during the preseason to date, and has been outplayed by both Beck (8-of-11, 75 yards) and backup Cleo Lemon (13-of-17, 108 yards).

Also not showing up much on the stat sheet thus far has been rookie wide receiver Ted Ginn. The No. 9 overall draft pick out of Ohio State has just one catch for nine yards in the two contests.

On defense, the storyline for Miami on Saturday will be the possible first appearance of August for linebacker Zach Thomas, defensive end Jason Taylor and defensive tackle Keith Traylor, all of whom have been held out of preseason action thus far for precautionary reasons.

Part of Tampa Bay's success in the 2007 success will be contingent on the play of the quarterback position, and initial returns in that department are positive.

In last Saturday's 31-19 loss to Jacksonville, quarterbacks Jeff Garcia (6- of-6, 43 yards, 1 TD), Luke McCown (9-of-13, 66 yards), and Bruce Gradkowski (7-of-11, 113 yards, 1 TD) combined for 22-of-30 passing for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. McCown, who is making a strong bid for the No. 2 signal- caller job behind Garcia, also rushed for a team-high 37 yards in the contest.

Those three players are expected to play on Saturday, though the status of former starter Chris Simms (ruptured spleen) has not been determined for the contest.

Elsewhere on the injury front, guard Arron Sears (ankle) is out for the Miami game, and cornerback Phillip Buchanon (hand) and safety Tanard Jackson (hamstring) are questionable.

Miami holds a 14-7 edge in the all-time preseason series with Tampa Bay, including a 13-10 road win prior to last season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Baltimore (1-1) at Washington (1-1)

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams separated by roughly 40 miles of I-95 interstate will meet in suburban D.C. on Saturday night, when the Washington Redskins play host to the Baltimore Ravens in the third preseason tune-up for each team.

Despite their geographical proximity, the Redskins and Ravens are currently in a much different place in terms of the current NFL hierarchy of quality.

Washington is looking to rebound from a 2006 season in which Joe Gibbs' club finished 5-11 and in last place in the NFC East. The Redskins have just one playoff win in the current millennium and have not won a division title since 1999. The Skins have split a pair of preseason games in 2007, defeating Tennessee (14-6) in their opener before falling to Pittsburgh (12-10) last Saturday.

Baltimore, meanwhile, is seeking to build on a 13-3 season and AFC North title won a year ago. The Ravens have posted double-digit wins four times since 2000, including a '00 season that ended with a triumph in Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens have elicited mixed results in the preseason, however, routing Philadelphia (29-3) before falling to the Giants (13-12) last Sunday night.

Both the Redskins and Ravens suffered significant injuries in their most recent outings.

Washington quarterback Jason Campbell left the Pittsburgh game with what was later determined to be a knee bruise following a low hit by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. Campbell's status for Saturday's contest has not been decided, and if the third-year-pro can't play, backups Todd Collins and Mark Brunell will have to carry the load.

Defensively, the Skins will be without linebacker Marcus Washington, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the defeat.

Baltimore, meanwhile, is expected to be minus the services of starting wide receiver Mark Clayton and cornerback Samari Rolle, who both went out with ankle injuries in the loss to New York.

Among those that will be in uniform on Saturday are Redskins linebacker Randall Godfrey, obtained earlier this week when the club parted ways with former starter Lemar Marshall. The 34-year-old Godfrey has been a starter in Dallas (1996-99), Tennessee (2000-02), Seattle (2003), and San Diego (2004-06).

Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox (ankle) is expected to see action on Saturday, but tackle Jonathan Ogden (toe) remains out along the trench unit.

Baltimore has a 2-1 edge in its all-time preseason series with Washington, including a 17-10 triumph at FedEx Field prior to last season.

The Ravens also have a 2-1 lead in the regular season series with their local rival.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Dallas (2-0) at Houston (1-1)

(Sports Network) - A battle for Lone Star State bragging rights is on tap at Reliant Stadium on Saturday night, as the Houston Texans play host to the Dallas Cowboys in the third preseason tune-up for both clubs.

The visiting Cowboys will be trying to maintain their preseason perfection, after handing the Colts (23-10) and Broncos (31-20) setbacks in their first two August tune-ups.

The win over Denver saw Wade Phillips' squad chew up an encouraging 190 yards on the ground, including contributions from Julius Jones (9 carries, 31 yards, 1 TD), Marion Barber (11 carries, 57 yards, 2 TD), and Tyson Thompson (11 carries, 75 yards).

Quarterback Tony Romo threw for 122 yards in the victory, and is now a crisp 21-of-29 passing for 215 yards and an interception on the preseason.

On the injury front for Dallas, cornerback Terence Newman (foot) and outside linebacker Greg Ellis (heel) are not expected to be in the lineup on Saturday.

Phillips will be making his return to Houston, where he began his professional coaching career as an assistant with the Oilers in 1976. Phillips' father, Bum, was head coach of the Houston Oilers from 1975 through 1980.

With his offense expected to see its most extensive time of the preseason on Saturday night, Houston head coach Gary Kubiak is expecting to witness strong play from newcomers like quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Ahman Green.

Schaub, who came to the Texans from Atlanta via an offseason trade, is a solid 12-of-17 passing for 133 yards and a quarterback rating of 93.5 during the preseason to date. The Virginia product also scored on a five-yard run in Houston's 33-20 win at Arizona last Saturday.

Green, the longtime Green Bay Packer, has rushed nine times for 26 yards in limited action during the August tune-up period.

Houston will be without the services of defensive end Anthony Weaver (knee) on Saturday night, but left guard Chester Pitts (back) is expected to be in the lineup after missing two weeks.

Dallas holds a 2-1 lead in its preseason series with Houston, including a 21-9 home win when the clubs met prior to the 2005 campaign.

The Cowboys also routed the Texans during the 2006 regular season, taking a 34-6 decision at Texas Stadium.

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NFL Preseason Preview - N.Y. Jets (1-1) at N.Y. Giants (1-1)

(Sports Network) - The annual preseason battle for New York football bragging rights is on tap at Giants Stadium Saturday night, when the Giants "host" the Jets in the third August warm-up for each club.

The two occupants of the Meadowlands facility traditionally meet each summer, with the Jets leading the all-time preseason series with the Giants by a narrow margin of 19-18-1. The Giants hold a 6-4 edge in the regular season series, however, and will look to extend that advantage when the teams meet in meaningful play Oct. 7th.

The Giants will be eager to get back to the business of football after a distracting week that was highlighted by a verbal feud between quarterback Eli Manning and former running back Tiki Barber. Barber, now a studio analyst for NBC, questioned Manning's leadership abilities, while Manning responded by questioning Barber's timing in announcing his retirement as well as his heart.

The controversy comes on the heels of the Giants' first win of the preseason, a 13-12 triumph over Baltimore last Sunday night.

Manning was a sharp 10-of-13 for 113 yards and a touchdown pass in the win, but that encouraging win was mitigated by numerous injuries the G-Men incurred.

Wideout Michael Jennings (Achilles) was lost for the year in the victory, safety Will Demps (dislocated elbow) is down for a minimum of three weeks, and cornerback Sam Madison (hamstring) will also miss the remainder of the preseason. Also absent once again this week will be perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan, who has yet to report to training camp and is contemplating retirement.

The Jets have less controversy as they are set to play preseason game number three, but Eric Mangini's club does have several concerns.

First and foremost is the play of quarterback Chad Pennington, who carries a preseason passer rating of 37.5 into Saturday's contest. Pennington was picked off twice in last Friday's 37-20 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, with both interceptions going the other way for touchdowns.

Also of some concern is the left guard slot, which lost its starter when disgruntled veteran Pete Kendall was traded to the Washington Redskins earlier this week. Inexperienced players such as Jacob Bender, Adrien Clarke, and Wade Smith are among those vying for the starting job at that position.

On the injury front for the Jets, running back Thomas Jones (calf) is among the notables who won't be in uniform on Saturday.

The Jets will be seeking to avenge last year's 13-7 loss to the Giants in the preseason.

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NFL Preseason Preview - San Francisco (1-1) at Chicago (2-0)

(Sports Network) - The play of Bears quarterback Rex Grossman will be among the top storylines at Soldier Field on Saturday night, when Chicago welcomes the San Francisco 49ers to town in the third preseason matchup for each team.

Grossman, who made headlines with his inconsistent play last season, has continued to raise questions about his abilities in leading the Chicago offense during the 2007 warm-up period.

The University of Florida product has put up decent passing numbers (17-of-21, 109 yards) during the preseason, but comes off an outing in which he fumbled three times and threw an interception in a 27-24 win over the Colts. Two of the quarterback's fumbles came on center-snap exchanges. Grossman has also yet to throw a touchdown in the preseason.

Bears coach Lovie Smith, who has been noted for his support of Grossman, said "We can't have those types of things happen," following the Indianapolis game, perhaps signaling that a repeat dismal performance by the quarterback could make Grossman's job less secure.

Helping Grossman on Saturday will be the first preseason appearance of left tackle John Tait, who had missed the team's initial two contests following offseason ankle injury.

Bears expected to miss the game include defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained late last season.

The 49ers, meanwhile, will be attempting to build on a 26-21 win over Bay Area rival Oakland last Saturday night.

Quarterback Alex Smith was a crisp 8-of-12 passing for 106 yards in the victory, also connecting with wideout Delanie Walker on a 19-yard touchdown strike in the first quarter.

Wideout Ashley Lelie, in his first training camp with the Niners following stints in Denver and Atlanta, had an impressive outing with four catches for 57 yards.

The game was not without negatives for the Niners, however, as safety Dashon Goldson (elbow) was lost for at least a week. Elsewhere on the injury front for Mike Nolan's club, Frank Gore (broken hand), who is not expected to appear at all in the preseason, will not play against Chicago.

The all-time preseason series between the 49ers and Bears is knotted, 2-2, with San Francisco evening the series by virtue of a 28-14 home victory prior to last season.

The teams also met in Week 8 of the 2006 regular season, a 41-10 Chicago romp at Soldier Field.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Minnesota (1-1) at Seattle (1-1)

(Sports Network) - The Seattle Seahawks will be attempting to wash away the residue of an embarrassing preseason loss Saturday night, when Mike Holmgren's club welcomes the Minnesota Vikings to town in the next-to-last warm-up tilt for each.

Seattle was pounded by Green Bay, 48-13, last Saturday, giving up a whopping 38 points in the first half of the contest. Included in a 28-point second- quarter assault were two fumble returns for touchdowns by the Packers. Seattle committed six turnovers in the loss, and Green Bay sacked Seahawks quarterbacks a total of seven times in the contest.

In the Packers loss, Green Bay was playing without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder), as well as starting tackles Sean Locklear (knee) and Walter Jones (shoulder). Hasselbeck and Locklear are expected to return to the field for the Minnesota game, but Jones is likely to remain out.

Things went much better for the Vikings in their second preseason game, as Brad Childress' club got off to a quick start in a 37-20 road win over the New York Jets last Friday.

The Vikings posted two interception returns for touchdowns off of the Jets' Chad Pennington in the first frame, with safety Darren Sharper breaking off a 40-yard touchdown return and linebacker Chad Greenway following up with a 16- yard return.

Later in the contest, backup defensive end Brett Robison turned in a three- yard fumble return for a score.

Minnesota rookie running back Adrian Peterson led the offense, carrying eight times for 70 yards including a three-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

Quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger, both attempting to state their case for starting signal-caller duties, did little to separate themselves in the win over the Jets. The front-runner Jackson was 2-of-4 passing for 12 yards, while Bollinger was 2-of-4 for 27 yards and added 18 more yards on scrambles.

Whoever plays QB this week could have a new target in the receiving corps, after former Packer Robert Ferguson was signed earlier this week.

The preseason series between the Seahawks and Vikings is knotted, 5-5, with the Vikings evening the series by virtue of a 23-21 road victory prior to the 2005 season.

The teams also met in Week 7 of the 2006 regular season, with Minnesota scoring a 31-13 road upset.

Saturday will mark the second time the clubs have met on the field since the notorious "Poison Pill" episode, in which the Vikings used a loophole in contract language to lure Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson from Minnesota to Seattle. The Seahawks later used the same maneuver to pry wide receiver Nate Burleson off the Minnesota roster.

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NFL Preseason Preview - Cleveland (1-1) at Denver (1-1)

(Sports Network) - The play of Cleveland quarterbacks Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, and especially Brady Quinn will be among the top storylines in Denver on Saturday night, when the Broncos play host to the Browns in the next-to-last preseason tilt for each team.

The Browns are attempting to establish their depth chart at the signal-caller position, with the incumbents Frye and Anderson trying to hold of Quinn, the No. 22 overall pick in the 2007 Draft out of Notre Dame.

Quinn made headlines with a strong performance in the Browns' 23-20 loss to the Lions last Saturday, completing 13-of-20 passes for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first live action as a pro. Quinn missed the team's first preseason contest after reporting to the club late due to a contract holdout.

Quinn's preseason passer rating is now a strong 121.9, as opposed to 69.4 for Frye (17-of-25 passing, 1 INT in the preseason) and 54.3 for Anderson (13- of-24, 151 yards). A fourth quarterback, Ken Dorsey, is also on the roster, though Dorsey (13-of-18, 120 yards) is considered by most to be a long shot to make the club.

On the injury front for Cleveland, fullback Lawrence Vickers (hamstring) and wideout Efrem Hill (shoulder) are among those unlikely to be in uniform Saturday night.

Denver's charge on Saturday will be to rebound from a 31-20 loss to Dallas last week, a game that included a few discouraging elements for Mike Shanahan's team.

The Broncos were run over by a fleet of Dallas running backs, surrendering 190 rushing yards on the evening. Denver did not answer in kind, with the team's much-ballyhooed rushing attack managing just 35 yards on a total of 19 carries.

Starting running back Travis Henry, who carried 10 times for 25 yards, suffered a sprained knee in the loss and could be held out for the Browns game. If he doesn't play, holdover Mike Bell (12 carries, 52 yards in the preseason) would stand to receive extended time with the first-team.

Defensively, the Broncos lost starting end Ebenezer Ekuban (Achilles) for the year in the Dallas contest and will need to begin identifying his replacement against the Browns.

Denver won its only all-time preseason meeting with Cleveland, taking a 19-10 home decision prior to the 1983 season.

The clubs have a storied shared history, however, having met for the AFC Championship in 1986, 1987, and 1989, with Denver winning each en route to Super Bowl defeats.

The Broncos were also 17-7 winners when they visited the Browns in Week 7 of the 2006 regular season.

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NFL Preseason Preview - San Diego (1-1) at Arizona (0-2)

(Sports Network) - The Arizona Cardinals will look to nail down their first win of the 2007 preseason on Saturday night, when first-year head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his team play host to the San Diego Chargers in the third preseason contest for each club.

The Cardinals have opened the 2007 tune-up period with losses to the Raiders (27-23) and Texans (33-20), though the defeats have not been without their share of positives.

Starting quarterback Matt Leinart has a strong 103.9 passer rating during the preseason to date, completing 12-of-18 passes for 120 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in the two losses. Leinart was a perfect 7-for-7 for 70 yard and a score before giving way to backups in last Saturday's loss at Houston.

Also encouraging has been the work of the running game, which was a major weakness of the Cardinals in years past. Starting running back Edgerrin James scored his first touchdown of August on a five-yard reception from Leinart last week, and backups Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington have combined for a healthy 114 yards on a 27 total carries (4.2 yards per rush).

On the injury front for Arizona this week, center Nick Leckey (knee) and tackle Brandon Gorin (knee) are among those not scheduled to appear.

San Diego, meanwhile, will be seeking to build on a 30-13 win over St. Louis last Saturday. The victory was the first of any kind for Norv Turner as Chargers head coach.

The Chargers looked strong in all phases against the Rams, with quarterback Philip Rivers (9-of-13 passing, 82 yards, 1 TD), running back Michael Turner (9 carries, 48 yards), and return man Darren Sproles (81-yard punt return for a touchdown) all getting in on the action. The San Diego defense did its part by forcing three Rams turnovers on the night.

Rivers has a 109.0 passer rating in the 2007 preseason.

This week, San Diego starters are slated to participate in about 40 plays, though that group will not include perennial Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is traditionally held out of the preseason as a precautionary measure.

Arizona holds a 9-7 edge in the preseason series with San Diego, though the Chargers were 38-13 road winners in the last such meeting, prior to the 2004 campaign.

The teams also met in Week 17 of the 2006 regular season, a 27-20 Chargers victory at Qualcomm Stadium.

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Saturday's NFL starter report

Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts (-6 ½, 40 ½)

The Lions may use only one quarterback for today’s game and if that’s the case it won’t be Jon Kitna. The leader of the first-string offense was absent from the last three practices because of back spasms. Kitna contends he can still play but the coaching staff is being much more cautious.

“We’ll just wait till game time,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz told reporters. “We’re not going to risk anything with Jon … I know he wants to play, but we’ll just see.”

Backup Dan Orlovsky also wants to play but his turf toe has him classified as doubtful. That leaves J.T. O’Sullivan, who was signed 2 ½ weeks before training camp, as the lone healthy QB.

The Lions' first offensive and defensive units will play at least the first half and possibly into the second quarter.

As for the Colts, coach Tony Dungy says his top players will play about 40 plays, which should translate into some second-half action. The most pressing issue for the offense is to find out who will be second on the depth chart behind top running back Joseph Addai.

DeDe Dorsey, Kenton Keith and Clifton Dawson are all in contention for the spot.

“We won’t have Joseph run 35 straight plays,” Dungy told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re going to do it more like we would a regular season game. One of those guys will get a little action with the first group.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Miami Dolphins (+2, 34)

Miami head coach Cam Cameron is holding his cards close as to how long he plans on playing his starting units. Earlier this week it sounded like defensive stars Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and Keith Traylor would all play this weekend but Cameron told reporters not to jump to any conclusions.

“Zach wants to play every down,” Cameron told reporters. “We had a drill (Monday morning) and we didn’t block Keith Traylor one time. It was in a 9-on-7 padded (session) and he made every play … That’s always been the challenge with the guys you are not going to play a lot (in the preseason). Just treat the practice like game.”

The Bucs starters are expected to play at least the first half but don’t count on No. 1 RB Cadillac Williams. Coach Jon Gruden doesn’t want to risk injury to his star back during the exhibition schedule.

“He won’t carry the ball a lot against Miami, he just won’t,” Gruden said, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Gruden may have a few more surprises up his sleeve for Bucs fans. Top draft pick Gaines Adams has been working with the first-unit defense and could start on Saturday. Also, former starting quarterback Chris Simms may see the field in the second half.

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins (+3 ½, 35)

The Skins will be without their top quarterback and running back in today’s matchup. QB Jason Campbell is still recovering from a knee injury suffered last week so wily vet Todd Collins gets the nod as this weekend’s starter.

“It’s a preseason game, but the more opportunities you get, the better,” Collins said after being told he would start by reporters. “You prepare the same way every week, but it’s obviously nice to be starting a game.”

Tailback Clinton Portis will also sit out due to tendonitis in his knee. The first units – offense and defense – are expected to be pulled at halftime.

Ravens coach Brian Billick refuses to say how long his starters will play but judging by how he’s treated the third week of the preseason in years past, each first unit should be finished after the second quarter.

Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans (+2 ½, 40)

Cowboys field boss Wade Phillips is nothing if not a players’ coach. His easy-going attitude has been a welcome change from the in-your-face tactics of former coach Bill Parcells.

Phillips says his first-stringers would play into the second half with the exception of a few. Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens may see less time whereas starting offensive tackles Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo should see more.

“There is a certain amount of work for certain veterans that can play,” Phillips told the Dallas Morning News. “They know what to do. They’ve shown they know what to do, (so) you have to be careful to a certain extent. You can’t overplay them. Each guy is an individual.”

Starters Terence Newman (CB) and Terry Glenn (WR) will not play due to injuries.

As for the Texans, head coach Gary Kubiak said his top crews will play 2 ½ to three quarters against Dallas.

New York Jets at New York Giants (+3, 36 ½)

The Giants' top units will play into the second quarter after a sharp performance last week against the Ravens. Tight end Jeremy Shockey has been ruled out of action because of a bothersome hamstring.

Jets coach Eric Mangini continues to be uncooperative with reporters asking about starters’ playing time. Last season the “Mangenius” pulled Chad Pennington and Co. midway through the third quarter.

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-6, 36 ½)

The Niners’ starters will play at least the entire first half and possibly into the third quarter depending how many snaps they get. San Francisco coach Mike Nolan told reporters Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore will not play in the preseason even if Gore’s broken is healed.

“It might be one of those things if LT plays, Frank plays,” Nolan said.

Of course this is a big joke because it’s a well-known fact the San Diego Chargers rarely play LaDainian Tomlinson in preseason games.

The Bears starters should play into the third quarter as well but that may not include Tommie Harris. The hulking defensive tackle missed the last two contests while recovering from offseason surgery on his hamstring.

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-6 ½, 38)

Both teams expect to have their starters come out for some snaps in the third quarter at least. Seattle will start Matt Hasselbeck even though he sprained his knee the last time the two clubs met in preseason and missed four games.

Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (-6, 37)

Charlie Frye will take the starting snaps for the Browns, but it’s still unclear who is going to be their No. 1 guy moving forward.

"I've taken most of the reps with the ones (first team) this week, so I feel like I'm ready to play," Frye told reporters. "I'm ready to go out and just fine-tune everything."

Cleveland’s first-string unit should play at least the first half, while Denver’s sticking with its status quo when it comes to the third week of preseason.

“We've been pretty consistent with this since I've been here," coach Mike Shanahan said. "The third game the starters usually go 35 plays. Then the fourth game, the established starters don't play."

San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals (+3, 40 ½)

San Diego starters (excluding Tomlinson, of course) are scheduled for about 40 plays. That should take them into the third quarter.

“It's going to be the most extensive playing time our guys get,” coach Norv Turner told reporters. “I like our guys to have that feeling coming out at halftime and preparing for the second half and going out and getting a series or two to start the second half.”

Arizona’s first-stringers will play at least the first half but may not play much past that, depending on how many snaps they get in before halftime.

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Several Ravens will be sidelined for Saturday's preseason game

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle and wide receiver Mark Clayton both insist they'll be ready for Baltimore's regular-season opener at Cincinnati.

Rolle and Clayton sprained their right ankles in a 13-12 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday and are expected to sit out the remainder of the preseason.

Rolle is optimistic that this ankle injury won't linger like the one he suffered in the second game last year against the Oakland Raiders. That setback affected his speed, and eventually his confidence.

''Same ankle, but not as bad,'' said Rolle, who's off crutches. ''I think it's just sprained badly. I'll be out there in the opener definitely.''

Rolle and Clayton are among several Ravens battling injuries heading into their preseason game at Washington on Saturday night. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (swollen knee) and rookie outside linebacker Antwan Barnes (right high-ankle sprain) are expected to be gametime decisions.

Tight end Daniel Wilcox (left ankle sprain) and running back P.J. Daniels (hamstring) returned to practice Thursday morning, but won't play against the Redskins.

The Ravens will start second-year cornerback David Pittman in Rolle's place against the Redskins, and Demetrius Williams in place of Clayton.

Pittman, a third-round pick in 2006, was criticized last season for his work ethic and toughness.

''Basically, I want to show the team and the coaching staff that I'm able to be trusted,'' Pittman said.

''It's time to put him up with the big boys and see what he can do,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Nose guard Kelly Gregg, who has missed the majority of the preseason with knee and thigh injuries, is slated to play at least a few snaps.

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Browns QB derby comes to Denver
August 24, 2007

DENVER (AP) -The Cleveland Browns are wondering who's going to win their quarterback derby and their trip to Denver could start to solve that mystery.

The Broncos are curious about how their depleted defense is going to stand up after dismal outings in San Francisco and Dallas, who will win jobs up front and whether linebacker D.J. Williams can cut it in the middle.

With Browns quarterbacks out to stake their claim on the starter's job and Denver's defense focused on quieting the yells of new defensive boss Jim Bates, the exhibition game Saturday has plenty of intrigue.

The Broncos lost two incumbent starters on the defensive line this week: Ebenezer Ekuban, who had surgery Thursday to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon, and Gerard Warren, who was shipped to Oakland.

That would appear to open up chances for the rookies, but first-rounder Jarvis Moss is still making up for lost time after tweaking a knee and second-rounder Tim Crowder will miss the game with a sprained ankle that has sidelined him for two weeks.

The Broncos also are banged up on offense, where guard Ben Hamilton (concussion) and their top two running backs, Travis Henry (knee) and Mike Bell (hip), are sidelined.

Converted fullback Cecil Sapp will try to take advantage of Bell's absence and show his coaches he can be counted on to be Henry's primary backup, and rookie free agent Selvin Young will try to make the most of his carries to make the team.

Brandon Stokley will make his Broncos debut after recovering from a thigh injury that hampered his return from an Achilles' tendon repair in the offseason.

But the big drama is who will put Cleveland's quarterback drama to rest.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel has said he might not name a starter until the week before the Sept. 9 opener. He has Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Ken Dorsey to choose from.

Frye will start against Denver, but so far he and Anderson have failed to impress the Browns coaches or their fans, who are clamoring to see more of Quinn, the rookie from Notre Dame who threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes against Detroit in his NFL debut last weekend.

Quinn might get some time with the starters to show his stuff.

He went 13-of-20 for 155 yards and played with poise and confidence, something neither Frye nor Anderson has shown much of this month, but he downplayed his performance against candidates on the fringes of the Lions' roster.

Crennel said Quinn will get more playing time against the Broncos but wouldn't specify when or how much. But another strong showing could move Quinn past Anderson on the depth chart - if he hasn't passed him already.

Quinn missed the first 11 days in a contract holdout but said he feels his game is coming around: ``I feel good. I feel confident. I think things are starting to flow,'' he said.

The Broncos don't have a quarterback quandary. They handed the job to rookie Jay Cutler with five weeks left last season and he nearly led them to the playoffs.

Cutler, however, hasn't wowed anybody this preseason - unlike last year, when his arm strength was in such stark contrast to then-starter Jake Plummer. This summer, Cutler's been bothered a bit by tendinitis in his throwing wrist, and more than that, he's been vexed by injuries all around him.

Cutler will be handing off to Sapp, Young and maybe Cedric Cobbs, who was waived in May and re-signed this week.

``We're working things out,'' Cutler said. ``I feel comfortable with the guys. I'm going to feel even more comfortable once we get everyone back and healthy.''

Young, whose block cleared the way for Vince Young's game-winning touchdown run in the Rose Bowl that gave Texas the 2005 national title, had an assortment of injuries in college, including a broken ankle that sidelined him for most of 2004.

He's healthy now and this is his best chance to show the Broncos he can contribute.

``I haven't been healthy in four years, which is probably why a lot of people would wonder, 'What can this kid do?''' said Young, who declared he hasn't felt this good since he was a senior in high school. ``I'm having so much fun with it. No pressure, none at all. It's fun to be able to run around healthy.''

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Chargers tuning up and Cardinals look for first preseason victory
August 24, 2007

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Aside from new head coaches, the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers have little in common as they prepare for their third preseason game on Saturday night.
The Cardinals, led by rookie head coach Ken Whisenhunt, are trying to gain confidence after deflating preseason losses to Oakland and Houston, which went a combined 8-24 last season.

San Diego is fine-tuning for a possible run to the Super Bowl under new coach Norv Turner.

Both teams' starters are expected to play at least the first half - except Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who will sit out for the third straight game to avoid injury.

``It's a good test for us,'' Whisenhunt said. ``We get to see where we are against a team that you know is a good football team. If we can improve and play better against a team like that, then I think that'll be something that we can really build on going into the season.''

Still, it would be unwise to draw too many conclusions based on a preseason game - even the third one, when starters typically see lots of action.

A year ago, the Cardinals went into Chicago and beat the Bears 23-16 in the third preseason game. Seven weeks later, Arizona blew a big lead as the Bears pulled out a 24-23 victory on Monday Night Football. Chicago went to the Super Bowl and the Cardinals went 5-11.

The Chargers have split their first two preseason games, losing to Seattle 24-16 and defeating St. Louis 30-13. Turner said he expects the other starters to be in for about 40 plays Saturday night, or a little more than a half.

``It's going to be the most extensive playing time our guys get,'' Turner said. ``I like our guys to have that feeling coming out at halftime and preparing for the second half and going out and getting a series or two to start the second half.''

The Chargers will try to cut down on penalties. They have been flagged 15 times for 80 yards.

Tomlinson, who watched from the sideline, said he was impressed by the road rout of the Rams.

``I thought we've improved from the first game to the second game,'' he said. ``We're doing some things well. Still some things that's killing us, you know, the penalties and stuff like that. But for the most part, when we're out there moving the football and playing defense and special teams, we look pretty good.''

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 14-of-20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the first two games. He said he doesn't expect the Chargers' attack to reach its potential until the Sept. 9 opener against Chicago.

``I think we got a lot better Week One to Week Two, and then we also made some mistakes differently, in different areas,'' Rivers said. ``So let's see if we can correct those and still build on what we did good. We're coming along. I think it'd be a little scary if we were where we needed to be right now.''

The Cardinals aren't anywhere close to where they need to be for the Sept. 10 opener at San Francisco on Monday Night Football. But they're going to have a good idea of how far they need to go after facing the Chargers, who return 19 starters, including all 11 on offense, from a team that won the AFC West.

``We'll know where we're at right away,'' Arizona defensive end Bertrand Berry said. ``This is going to be basically the last dress rehearsal, if you will, for the starters of the preseason. So we want to come out and show well and show that we're ready to get the season started on the right foot.''

The Cardinals hope to run the ball more effectively as part of Whisenhunt's plan for a more balanced attack this season. But the running game has been inconsistent so far. Through two games, the Cardinals' leading rusher is third-string quarterback Shane Boyd, with 71 yards on seven carries.

One explanation is that starting running back Edgerrin James has only seven carries for 14 yards. Another is that the Cardinals are breaking in a line with three new starters - center Al Johnson, left tackle Mike Gandy and rookie right tackle Levi Brown, the team's first-round draft pick.

Whisenhunt said the line has been making progress since training camp opened.

``I've seen some opportunities for some holes,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I've also seen some things we need to work on better, coming off blocks, working together on our double-team blocks. But I'm pleased with the physicalness of our offensive line. We are improving in those areas.''

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Chicago Bears QB Rex Grossman looks to build some momentum against San Francisco 49ers
August 24, 2007

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -The Chicago Bears hoped scenes like this were a thing of the past. Instead, Rex Grossman struggled in the most recent preseason game and teammates rushed to his defense, just as they often did last season.

Although the debate between fans over who should start at quarterback gained momentum this week, Grossman will get the call against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night.

``I just want to go out and look sharp,'' said Grossman, who fumbled three times against Indianapolis on Monday. ``That's pretty general, but that's my goal - look sharp, lead our team down the field a couple times and get some touchdowns and just feel good about the performance. Get some momentum and some rhythm heading into (the season-opener at) San Diego.''

While Grossman figures to be at the center of attention, there are other issues for the Bears (2-0 preseason), such as Tommie Harris' health. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle pronounced himself ready to go after suffering a season-ending hamstring injury last December, but coach Lovie Smith said no decision had been made on his status.

Meanwhile, several 49ers are looking to solidify spots in the rotation.

Rookie linebacker Patrick Willis, the 11th overall pick, will make his first start in place of Brandon Moore, who led the team with 114 tackles last season but missed a few too many in the first two preseason games. He may eventually replace Derek Smith as the starting middle linebacker, but for now, he's a backup.

Starting right tackle Kwame Harris is expected to alternate series with rookie Joe Staley, who could secure the No. 1 spot with a solid outing.

With the starters expected to play into the third quarter, a matchup with the defending NFC champions could be a good barometer for a 49ers team that is 1-1 in the preseason after going 7-9 last year. That included a 41-10 bashing by the Bears at Soldier Field.

``On paper, we got better,'' coach Mike Nolan said. ``On the practice field, we got better. In the two games we have played, we've been a little better, and we need to stay on that course over the next 2 1/2 weeks to get ready for the season opener.''

The Niners believe they are poised to make a playoff push, with quarterback Alex Smith and running back Frank Gore leading the way. Gore is out for the preseason with a broken hand, leaving Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks as the primary ball-carriers for now.

Smith is showing signs that he's poised for a breakout after two difficult seasons.

The surprise top choice in the 2005 draft, he is 12-for-17 with 164 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He played the first half in last week's 26-21 win over Oakland and threw for 106 yards while going 8-of-12.

``We're still looking to accomplish some things, to get into a rhythm,'' Smith said. ``Obviously I'll have more time to do that in this game, but the goal is always the same. We want to get the first-team offense together for an extended time, and then see what we can get out of it.''

Grossman was out of sync against Indianapolis, fumbling two exchanges with center Olin Kreutz and fueling the debate over whether he should start.

``We know (Grossman's) the best quarterback in this locker room, he's the best quarterback for us,'' Kreutz said.

But they've had a tough time convincing some fans over the past 12 months.

During a preseason game against Arizona a year ago, they serenaded backup quarterback Brian Griese with a ``Griese! Griese!'' chant. And although Grossman performed at a Pro Bowl level the first five weeks last season, his inconsistent play afterward refueled the debate.

Coach Lovie Smith stuck with his quarterback, but he might not have as much patience this time, with expectations as high as the Sears Tower.

The latest round in the quarterback debate came after a performance that rekindled memories of the Super Bowl loss to the Colts in rain-soaked Miami, where Grossman fumbled two snaps and threw two interceptions.

Lost amid the mistakes is the fact that the Bears won 27-24 on Monday, and he has completed 17 of 21 passes, albeit for just 109 yards, this preseason. Also, the Bears are 17-6 during the regular season with Grossman and played for a championship.

``How many other quarterbacks are out there that you want quarterbacking your team? Time and time again, I'll take Rex,'' veteran guard Ruben Brown said.

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Cowboys' Wade Phillips returns to Houston to face Gary Kubiak, Texans
August 24, 2007

HOUSTON (AP) -Wade Phillips was an assistant with the Houston Oilers when he met Gary Kubiak, then a high school student and ball boy for the team.

Thirty years later the two, who are now close friends, will meet again when Kubiak and the Houston Texans host the Phillips-led Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night in preseason action.

The coaches have faced each other plenty of times when Kubiak was Denver's offensive coordinator, but this will be the first meeting between the pair as head coaches.

``It's a big deal for us as far a preseason game, being the third one,'' Phillips said. ``You want to do well out there, but I think there will be a big crowd. I think they'll be into it. That will help their team some as far as motivation and I want to see how my team reacts with that.''

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Phillips, who played at the University of Houston and began his coaching career with the Oilers under his father Bum Phillips. He's not that nostalgic about his return though, instead focusing on preparing his team for the regular season.

But he will have at least 25 family and friends at the game.

``If it's special about teams that I've been with or areas I've been with, it'd be about half the league that's special,'' he said. ``My mom lives there so that's pretty special. I get to see her. No, it's a preseason game that we need to work our team to see how well we do.''

Through two games, Phillips has to be happy with what he's seen from his team, especially after the way the Cowboys starting defense handled Denver last week. It was a performance that prompted a few Broncos players to complain that the Cowboys were too aggressive for a preseason game.

But don't expect Phillips to let up this week against Houston in a game where both teams' starters will see their longest action of the preseason - probably about 2 1/2 quarters.

``That's what we work on all the time and we started out the first snap of anything when we came here of preseason was pursuit drill,'' Phillips said. ``It's something we emphasize defensively and always have. They bought into it well I guess you'd say. We have a lot of high character guys that pride themselves on effort besides knowing what to do.''

The Cowboys starters haven't allowed a touchdown this preseason.

Kubiak said he's rarely seen a team play as well as the Cowboys have through the first two preseason games. He thinks facing their in-state rival in front of a rowdy crowd will be good practice for the Texans.

``We're playing a heck of a football team,'' Kubiak said. ``And you watch what they've done the first two preseason games, and they've been dominant. So it's a great challenge for our players, and we're really working hard. I'm just excited to see this atmosphere and watch us get after it.''

Houston Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson knows facing a tough defense like the Cowboys will give the Texans a chance to evaluate the progress of their revamped offense, which features new quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Ahman Green.

``The preseason game when they played against Denver they just threw the whole package at them,'' Johnson said. ``I think it will be a good test for us and it will give us a chance to see where we're at right now. You never know what they're going to throw at us so we just have to be prepared for anything.''

Phillips believes the speed of Houston's receivers will challenge the Cowboys defense. Along with Johnson, the Texans have a pair of former track stars in rookie Jacoby Jones and Jerome Mathis.

``Anytime you play a team with the kind of speed they have at outside receiver that's a new look for you,'' Phillips said. ``That's something that you need to be aware of. Big plays we certainly don't want to give up so that'll certainly be a test ... I think it'll be another different type challenge again because they do have those kind of receivers and we want to see how we match up against that type of speed.''

Terrell Owens, who has one catch in each in the first two games, said he isn't too concerned with how many receptions he gets on Saturday, instead choosing to focus on the progress of the entire offense.

``It's another day, another game to kind of execute our offense and really get our timing down,'' he said. ``We're by no means where we need to be. We just have to go out and execute and play football.''

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Defending champions get chance to look like themselves against Lions
August 24, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The Indianapolis Colts have followed their traditional August script.
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, three Pro Bowl players who have been teammates since 2001, spent more time watching from the sidelines during the first two preseason games than playing. Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi did most of the work, and coach Tony Dungy took a look at his new players.

Week 3 of the preseason is always a little different. Dungy will make his usual changes Saturday night against Detroit, finally giving Manning and Co. a chance to show everyone what the defending Super Bowl champs really look like.

``We'll prepare for the Lions like we would a regular-season game,'' Manning said. ``We'll play it more like a regular-season game and, hopefully, we'll see as many situations as we can.''

Just don't expect too much.

While most of the starters are slated to play into the third quarter, there will be some anomalies.

The offense will likely be more vanilla than normal, meaning defensive tackle Dan Klecko and backup offensive lineman Charlie Johnson will probably not be catching passes as they did during last year's playoffs - and Manning will not be running much.

Running back Joseph Addai will see his most significant action, too, albeit with a sprinkling of his unknown backups, whom Dungy wants to see work with the starting unit.

Former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders, who was activated from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, is expected to play, too, but he'll likely leave earlier than most to avoid risking any additional injuries after having offseason shoulder surgery.

Still, it will look more like a game than an exhibition.

``We're looking forward to playing a game where we'll have everyone going through the third quarter,'' Dungy said. ``We really want to treat this like a game situation.''

For the Lions, it's more test than tuneup.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has taken his ``Greatest Show on Turf'' routine from St. Louis to Detroit, and the Lions appear to be catching on.

With Pro Bowl receiver Roy Williams, No. 2 overall draft pick Calvin Johnson and Mike Furrey, who caught 98 passes last season, quarterback Jon Kitna has become the architect of the NFL's most proficient preseason offense.

Detroit has averaged 429 total yards per game, a league-high 349 through the air and scored 50 points in victories over Cincinnati and Cleveland. The Colts have only 34 points in their two preseason games.

Lions fans want to know if this for real, and Saturday night's matchup against a defense that was strong enough to beat Kansas City, Baltimore, New England and Chicago to win last year's title, will be their toughest test yet.

``It's still a preseason game,'' coach Rod Marinelli said. ``If we win, we can look back at the things we did right against a good team. If we don't, then a team like (Indianapolis) is going to show us what we need to work on pretty quick.''

It's the first time Marinelli will face his former Tampa Bay boss, Dungy, since taking over the Lions last season. And Marinelli thinks he knows what to expect from the Colts.

``To play his teams, you know the execution, the speed - I mean this is the fastest team we'll play in all three phases of the game,'' Marinelli said. ``They're fast because they know what they're doing.''

Even if the regulars haven't had much time to show it.

In brief appearances against Dallas and Chicago, the Colts' defense looked faster, more confident and more aggressive - attributes the Lions are still seeking on both sides of the ball.

And although the Colts are 0-2 for the third straight preseason, and Detroit is 2-0 for the first time since 1995, it's not the records that will matter Saturday night.

All teams must cut down to 75 players by Tuesday, meaning this is the last opportunity for some players to impress the coaches.

If tradition holds, it will also mark the final tuneup for the Colts starters before the regular season since Dungy typically rests them in the final preseason game.

``I think it's hard to get that flow when you have three-and-out series and you're in their for such a short time,'' Manning said. ``The other night, we had first downs, we had multiple plays in a drive and that's good. When they took us out, I felt we could continue to execute from that point on, and that's what we're going to try and do Saturday.''

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NFL Preseason Odds: Colts, Lions Ready for Shootout
August 25th, 2007

* Detroit at Indianapolis (-3), Saturday, 7 p.m.

It's not too often when it's wise to bet against Peyton Manning and the Colts. The preseason, though, is a near sure thing. The Colts have one NFL preseason win since 2004 and Manning is likely going to play less than a half, which means the streak has a good chance of continuing. The Super Bowl champs are 0-2 this preseason, but the first-team offense has been on its game. The Lions wish they could say the same for their starters. Although they've won both their games, the backups have looked better. Jon Kitna hopes to rectify that situation as he aims to get the ball to highly touted rookie Calvin Johnson and top-flight wideout Roy Williams. The Lions will also continue to feed new RBs Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett to see who's the most capable runner to start the season. Last year's starter, Kevin Jones, is injured and could miss the first six weeks of the regular season. Fantasy football players will want to keep an eye on J.T. O'Sullivan, the Lions' backup QB who has been outstanding in two games. With two high-powered offenses, this game could go over the betting total.

* Tampa Bay at Miami (-3.5), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

The battle of South Florida pits two teams that figure to have significantly different looks this season. The Dolphins think Trent Green can lead them back to the playoffs. The veteran quarterback has started to look more comfortable with the offense and third-year running back Ronnie Brown is finally resembling the player Miami thought it was getting when it drafted him second overall in 2005. With Brown's power running and Green's ability to manage the game, the Dolphins will seek to win low-scoring contests. Their defense figures to be a strength again with Jason Taylor leading the way. The Bucs, meanwhile, are getting accustomed to Jeff Garcia being under the center. The former All Pro hopes to energize an offense that was anemic last season. He's got weapons, with Cadillac Williams in the backfield and Joey Galloway at receiver. Whether it's enough to get the Bucs back to prominence in the NFC remains to be seen. For complete NFL exhibition odds and Super Bowl odds, visit the Bodog Sportsbook.


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2007 NFL Preseason Notes


Detroit Lions - QB Rotation: Jon Kitna (first half), J.T. O'Sullivan (3rd Q), Dan Orlovsky, Phil Horvath.

QB Jon Kitna's injured back will be tested in the pre-game warmups Saturday before any decision will be made on whether he plays. Kitna missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of back spasms. Kitna said after practice Thursday that the injury was not serious, and that it was something he had experienced at other times in his career.

The starting offense will play the first half. QB Jon Kitna was held out of Wednesday's practice because of tightness in his lower back. QB Dan Orlovsky didn't practice Tuesday because of turf toe. Coach Rod Marinelli rated Orlovsky as doubtful.

If Kitna and Orlovsky are out Saturday, O'Sullivan will be the only quarterback available who has thrown a pass in an NFL game. The Lions signed Phil Horvath, a rookie free agent from Northern Illinois, on Tuesday. QB Drew Stanton (knee) had arthroscopic surgery and is out for the year.

For the first time this season, the Lions could have their 11 defensive starters on the field together. Linemen Shaun Rogers and Dewayne White will play Saturday. Both missed the first two exhibitions with injuries. Right end Kalimba Edwards missed last week's game because of a foot injury but is expected to play against the Colts.

The Lions are increasing the amount of game-plan preparation for the last two exhibition games, but the emphasis is still on how they perform, not the opponent. Coach Rod Marinelli will spend part of the practice time preparing for Indianapolis on Aug. 25 -- but the focus remains on the Lions executing their own assignments. "It's going to be on us," Marinelli said. "It's how we do our basics. Are we playing our gaps? Are we running our routes? Are we rerouting?"

Indianapolis Colts - QB Rotation: Peyton Manning (into the 3rd Q), Jim Sorgi, Josh Betts (see below).

Tony Dungy expects the first-teamers to play into the third quarter, their busiest action in preseason. "We'll be shooting for somewhere between 35 and 45 plays," he said.

RB Joseph Addai will get ample work against the Lions, but backup prospects DeDe Dorsey and Kenton Keith probably will help ease Addai's workload. And that could help determine who has the upper hand in a three-back backup derby that includes rookie Clifton Dawson.

Safety Bob Sanders is slated to see limited action Saturday against the Lions.

Tight ends thin: TEs Bryan Fletcher and Gijon Robinson will miss at least the next preseason game.

D-Line weak: DT Anthony McFarland will miss the season after a serious knee injury. Defensive lineman Corey Simon was let go.

With McFarland out, the Colts will move forward with Raheem Brock at one starting defensive tackle spot. The list of replacements for the other spot is long, but short on pedigree. Darrell Reid and Dan Klecko have appeared in a combined 62 games but share only four starts. Four of the other five prospects are rookies, including third-round draft pick Quinn Pitcock and seventh-rounder Keyunta Dawson, who has been moved inside after spending most of the offseason at end.

Tampa Bay Bucs - QB Rotation: Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms.

Though many coaches seek to play their starters longer in their team's third exhibition game, some even leaving them in well into the third quarter, Bucs coach Jon Gruden is not one of them.

"In the pre-salary cap era, I remember the third preseason game being a big part of getting ready for the regular season," Gruden said. "But I don't necessarily agree with that. "Sure, I'd like to look at some of the regulars a little longer [tonight]. But we have some very important cutdowns to make in the next week or so, so we have to see some of these other men play."

Offensive line problems: Rookie left guard Arron Sears is on crutches and out 10-14 days. Reserve guard Jeb Terry suffered an ankle injury against Jacksonville and center John Wade was overcome by the stifling conditions at the Buccaneers' complex Tuesday.

Jeff Garcia's presence has prompted Coach Jon Gruden to consider the shotgun as a legitimate option for his version of the West Coast attack. Gruden is eager to expand his playbook in terms of rollouts and bootlegs to capitalize on Garcia's mobility.

Defensively, the Bucs are considering new packages in an effort to disrupt timing and generate more heat on opposing quarterbacks. Last season, QBs feasted against Tampa Bay's defense, posting a cumulative 91.0 rating.

Don't be surprised if new MLB Jerry Mackey sees substantial playing time in the final two preseason games. Mackey, 22, was reacquired in a trade with the Jets on Tuesday, three days after Antoine Cash suffered a season-ending knee injury at Jacksonville.

Gruden has been preaching for an aggressive team. "We've got to be a more physical football team," Gruden said. "That was an area that got away from us a bit last year. This year, I want to see us hit in most every practice. And I want us to hit hard."

Miami Dolphins - QB Rotation: Trent Green (first half), Cleo Lemon, rookie John Beck, Gibran Hamdan.

QB Trent Green likely will start Miami's final two preseason games as Miami's new offense attempts to find a spark. Cleo Lemon, in his third season with the Dolphins, will be the backup with rookie John Beck holding the third slot.

With the exception of linebacker Joey Porter, the Dolphins will have their entire corps of starters on the field Saturday. LB Zach Thomas, defensive end Jason Taylor and DT Keith Traylor will all participate in part of the first half against the Bucs. It will mark the first time any of the three have seen action during this year's exhibition games. It also will be the only action they see, because all of the starters will sit in the final exhibition against the Saints. Porter will remain out while he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago.

Cameron's goal seems to be giving as much work as possible to an offense that is under reconstruction and needs repetitions together in a game setting.

They have a revamped offensive line.

Cam Cameron is the Dolphins new head coach, after being offensive coordinator of the Chargers in 2006.

Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. He should miss all the preseason.

Dallas Cowboys - QB Rotation: Tony Romo, Brad Johnson, Richard Bartel and Matt Moore.

QB Tony Romo and the rest of the starters are expected to go at least three quarters in Houston tonight. They won't play much in next week's preseason finale at Minnesota.

Getting the ball to WR Terrell Owens is a focal point of the offense, so the Cowboys might go to him early and often tonight.

QB Tony Romo and the first-team offense, which has played without injured WRs Terry Glenn and just briefly with Terrell Owens, have been efficient in the passing game and dominant on the ground.

WRs thin. WR Terry Glenn got arthoscopic knee surgery and missed the first 2 preseason games.

Saturday against Houston, DE Jay Ratliff will see some time on the inside as the Cowboys continue to look for alternatives behind starting NT Jason Ferguson. Remi Ayodele saw first-team action last week against Denver. "Jay will stunt more and move more than Jason," Phillips said. "Jason is a bigger guy. We will substitute Ratliff with the first team and see."

Look for more blitzing: The Cowboys were a read-and-react defensive scheme under Bill Parcells, but Phillips and new DC Brian Stewart bring in more of an attacking, disruptive philosophy. They also want defensive players to take third-down conversions personally.

The first-team defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in two preseason victories. The unit is starting to find its identity in Phillips' attacking 3-4 scheme, so much so that the Broncos complained about the overzealous blitzing.

Phillips has tweaked the 3-4 defensive scheme, moving strong safety Roy Williams closer to the line of scrimmage and allowing outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware, and when healthy, Greg Ellis to blitz more.

Wade Phillips is the new coach (Chargers' defensive coordinator in 2006).

Houston Texans - QB Rotation: Matt Schaub (2.5 to 3 QBs), Sage Rosenfels, Bradlee Van Pelt, rookie Jared Zabransky.

HC Gary Kubiak is going to play his starters from 2.5 to three quarters. He will look closely at the offensive line and the running backs. He wants to see an improved performance in the running game.

30-year old RB Ahman Green hasn't played much. The bulk of the carries has been split between Wali Lundy and Samkon Gado, who are battling for the No. 3 job.

The Texans have lost starting strong safety Glenn Earl for the entire 2007 season. Starting free safety C.C. Brown will move to the strong safety spot. Von Hutchins and Jason Simmons will work at free safety, and veteran CB Dexter McCleon will get snaps at safety.

New offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is putting in a plan for more balance to the offense this fall.

Baltimore Ravens - QB Rotation: Steve McNair, Kyle Boller, rookies Troy Smith and Drew Olson.

Billick would not outline how long the starters will play, but he dismissed the notion of letting them play out the first half. "I don't know who came up with that formula," he said. "We're going to play as long as we need to play with the starters to get a good rhythm. If that's a quarter, great. If it's a half, great. We're not going to take them into the second half."

Offensive line thin: With guard Chris Chester (foot) and tackle Steve Edwards (knee) nursing injuries, the offensive line featured a few different looks. At times, Jason Brown would move from left guard to center and Keydrick Vincent would fill the vacancy. Another look included Mike Flynn at center, Brown at left guard and Vincent at right guard. OT Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) has not been practicing and first-round pick Ben Grubbs sprained his knee.

WR Mark Clayton will miss the remainder of the preseason because of a sprained ankle. Demetrius Williams will make his second straight start.

With Samari Rolle expected to miss the final two preseason games with an ankle injury, the Ravens have decided to start David Pittman at cornerback, the team's most surprising move this preseason. Pittman, a third-round pick in 2006, was a major disappointment last season when he failed to take control of the nickel back job and fell to the bottom of the depth chart.

Kelly Gregg might play in his first preseason game Saturday, but fellow defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is likely to be sidelined with a swollen left knee. The outlook was much better for Gregg, who bruised his right knee and thigh July 31.

Unlike many teams that play vanilla defense in the preseason, the Ravens are turning up the heat on quarterbacks. In their preseason opener, they blitzed linebackers and cornerbacks from every angle, punishing the Philadelphia Eagles with five sacks. "We don't make apologies to anybody," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "It's not our job to protect your quarterback."

One justification for their aggressive style in meaningless games is evaluation purposes. "We're not out there to scrimmage," Ryan said. "We're out there to play a football game. And that's how we play. Playing passive is somebody else's defense."

Washington Redskins - QB Rotation: Jason Campbell (doubtful), Todd Collins, Mark Brunell, rookie Jordan Palmer (see below).

QB Jason Campbell (bruised left knee) is doubtful. Todd Collins will start, with Mark Brunell following. Rookie QB Jordan Palmer is cautiously optimistic about seeing his first action of the preseason.

The Redskins traded for LG Pete Kendall on Thursday, but he is unlikely to play.

The Redskins took another blow after it was revealed that LB Marcus Washington will be out at least a week with a dislocated right elbow.

RBs thin: RB Clinton Portis missed 2 days of practice with knee tendinitis. RB LaDell Betts (neck) and Derrick Blaylock (ankle) are hurting, so they signed RB Dee Brown this week.

OT Chris Samuels (knee) is out a few more weeks. Journeyman Mike Pucillo will start at LG Saturday in place of injured Todd Wade.

Backup Mark Brunell is coming off shoulder surgery, and the Redskins want him to get plenty of work to make sure he has recovered. That doesn't leave a lot of throws for the other QBs.

NY Jets - QB Rotation: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo, rookie Brett Ratliff.

Pennington will start tonight and likely play at least two quarters, if not more. Clemens is also expected to get work. It's unclear how much time multipurpose player Brad Smith or ex-Raider Marques Tuiasosopo will get behind center.

"It's obviously very disappointing," said an agitated Mangini after last week's loss. He hinted strongly that a grueling week of practice lies ahead. "If anyone has the impression that it's OK because this is preseason, they're wrong."

RB Thomas Jones (leg) is still ailing and won't play. RB Leon Washington has been starting, but the Jets are looking for a third back, and rookie free agent Danny Ware could be their guy. Rookie free agent Alvin Banks and veteran Tony Hollings are also in the mix.

The offense is in the second year of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's high-tech scheme that features an array of shifts and motions.

Rookie CB Darrell Revis is in camp and expected to play.

Offensive line change: Disgruntled Pete Kendall was traded this week so quality of their offensive line takes a hit. They will turn over the left-guard job to rookie Jacob Bender or Adrien Clarke, whose NFL resume consists of only 13 games and four starts, all with the Eagles in 2005. Clarke started the first two preseason games, but Bender, a sixth-round pick from Nicholls State, is working with the regulars this week in practice, and probably will start against the Giants.

NY Giants - QB Rotation: Eli Manning, Jared Lorenzen, Anthony Wright, Tim Hasselbeck.

The starters will play into the third quarter during their annual preseason tussle with the Jets. Manning will be followed in the quarterback rotation by Anthony Wright, then, if there's time, Tim Hasselbeck. After that, it's a cameo appearance in the preseason finale in New England.

The Giants suffered seven injuries in Sunday's preseason win over the Ravens, including WR Michael Jennings (out for the season.)

Cornerback Sam Madison, who pulled his hamstring on Sunday, will probably be out for a few weeks. Safety Will Demps is expected to miss three weeks with a dislocated right elbow. At corner, Madison's absence will most likely be filled by Corey Webster, the team's second-round pick in 2005. The other options are rookie Aaron Ross and second-year corner Kevin Dockery, who had a very good game on Sunday.

Punter Jeff Feagles will not suit up because of back spasms, leaving those duties to Cory Ohnesorge, a first-year player from Occidental College.

WRs thin. WRs Plaxico Burress is back and will play, but WR Sinorice Moss (ankle) is hurting. WR Amani Toomer is still testing his reconstructed knee. TE Jeremy Shockey is experiencing "tightness" in his hamstring.

HC Tom Coughlin brought in Chris Palmer as QB coach and moved Kevin Gilbride over to offensive coordinator.

San Fran 49ers - QB Rotation: Alex Smith (first half and into the 3rd), Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill.

The 49ers' starters will play at least a half and possibly into the third quarter, depending on how many snaps they get, coach Mike Nolan said.

Pro Bowl RB Frank Gore broke a bone in his right hand and might not play in the preseason. That means running backs Michael Robinson, Maurice Hicks and Thomas Clayton will take most of the pounding in camp and throughout much of the preseason.

"We'll just take it a day at a time," Nolan said. "We want Michael and Mo (Hicks), in particular those two players, to get the bulk of the first group's work while Frank is down." HC Mike Nolan said Gore could return as early as the final preseason game at San Diego. Nolan said Robinson could fill in as the third quarterback if an injury occurred.

Starting NT Aubrayo Franklin (knee) will miss the entire preseason. He is the centerpiece of Nolan's three-year scheme to install a true 3-4 defense in San Francisco. Isaac Sopoaga and rookie Joe Cohen will get the first chance to replace Franklin.

Cornerback Walt Harris is still recovering from a mild calf bruise. This is giving coaches a chance to look more closely at Shawntae Spencer.

Chicago Bears - QB Rotation: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, rookie Chris Leak.

"We'll play our guys into the third quarter.5?that's the plan," coach Lovie Smith said. "Haven't told anybody specifically when they'll come out. We want to see how guys respond after coming in at halftime."

Rookie QB Chris Leak, an undrafted free agent from Florida, has been getting more work in practice with Kyle Orton (knee) banged up.

Love Smith likes the depth: "It's the deepest team we've had. We have to see how it turns out, but we talk a lot about getting our 53-man roster as strong as we could. I would definitely say that is the case. We have good backups."

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Re: Saturday NFL News and Notes

Cleveland Browns - QB Rotation: Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, rookie Brady Quinn (see below).

Frye, who has the inside track to start the season, will open the game and probably play into the second quarter. Anderson will replace Frye, presumably in the first half, but must dazzle to revive his chance to start. Quinn will replace Anderson in the second half. He must excel to have a shot at Pittsburgh. "We'll reassess after every game," Crennel said. "Every day they have to compete for their jobs."

Rob Chudzinski is the Browns new offensive coordinator.

Starting left guard Eric Steinbach, the Browns' blockbuster signing of the off-season, fell on his right knee in practice and could miss up to two weeks. The line has been in flux with right tackle Ryan Tucker getting suspended the first four games of the season because of steroid use. That bumped rookie Joe Thomas up to the starting job at left tackle and moved Kevin Shaffer from left to right. Backup guard/center Lennie Friedman has worked in Steinbach's place.

LBs thin.

Browns DE Orpheus Roye, a 12-year pro, will undergo arthroscopic on his right knee and be lost for the rest of the preseason. It's a blow to their 3-4 defense. While Roye is out, four players will try out in his place: backup NT Shaun Smith, J'Vonne Parker, Simon Fraser and Orien Harris.

Denver Broncos - QB Rotation: Jay Cutler, Patrick Ramsey, Preston Parsons.

RBs thin: RB Travis Henry has a sprained left knee and backup RB Mike Bell strained his left hip. Henry was able to walk without help to the locker room, and the MRI revealed he should return before Bell. Tests on Bell's hip delivered news he will be out two weeks, the rest of the preseason. Denver signed tailback Cedric Cobbs this week.

Patrick Ramsey's extended bench time the past two years is why Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has been playing him more.

Four of Cutler's projected top five receivers - Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley and Rod Smith - are banged up. Rod Smith is coming off hip surgery and out. The Broncos expect the No. 2 WR Brandon Marshall to play, but No. 3 WR Brandon Stokley continues to be bothered by a thigh injury.

Offensive line thin. Left guard Ben Hamilton has missed significant time with a concussion. Left tackle Matt Lepsis has been out with a pulled groin. Right guard Chris Kuper was replaced on the first-team by Montrae Holland.

Lepsis' injury caused the Broncos to move Erik Pears from right tackle to left tackle one day, then back to right tackle the next. Adam Meadows has been playing whatever tackle position is opposite Pears, and Chris Myers has been filling in for Hamilton. Another backup left tackle, rookie Ryan Harris, hurt his back Thursday.

Starting LB Ebenezer Ekuban suffered a torn Achilles tendon and is out for the season. That means more work for first-round draft pick Jarvis Moss.

Mike Shanahan fired most of the defensive staff in the offseason, including DC Larry Coyer, and hired Jim Bates, whose M.O. is forcing turnovers by getting pressure on the quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings - QB Rotation: Tarvaris Jackson (first half), Brooks Bollinger, Drew Henson, Tyrus Thigpen (see below).

HC Childress said the starters would play into the third quarter. "I'd like to see them go through the process of going through halftime, readjusting, coming back out and playing both offense and defense," Childress said. He expects a fired up Seahawks team Saturday. Through two exhibition games the Vikings have scored four defensive touchdowns, including three off interceptions, and have six interceptions overall. The offense has gotten into the end zone once.

QB Tavaris Jackson's downfield accuracy has been lacking as he learns the offense, and most of his best throws have been dropped.

Running backs thin.

The Vikings have a new defensive coordinator in Leslie Frazier.

Seattle Seahawks - QB Rotation: Matt Hasselbeck (first half), Seneca Wallace, David Greene, rookie Derek Devine.

Holmgren's plan is to have his starting units play into the second half. QB Matt Hasselbeck, who didn't play last week, will start. Holmgren likes to use the third exhibition game of every year to see where the starters are as far as fine-tuning the No. 1 units.

Mike Holmgrem was furious after the 48-13 loss at Green Bay. "I cannot tolerate how we played," Holmgren said. "It's just unacceptable, and so we'll fix it.

Defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs will appear in a game for the first time since early last season, when knee surgery forced him into a long rehabilitation period. Sean Locklear, the team's No. 1 right tackle, will move to left tackle for Saturday, with Ray Willis opening at right tackle. Rookie defensive tackle Brandon Mebane might see time with the No. 1 defense.

Tackle Sean Locklear returned after sitting out last week with tendinitis in his right knee. But rather than lining up at his spot on the right side, Locklear was at left tackle to replace Walter Jones, who remains sidelined with soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. Tom Ashworth started at left tackle in Green Bay and was beaten for two of the Packers' seven sacks.

Defensive coordinator John Marshall is devising more blitz schemes, involving more players.

San Diego Chargers - QB Rotation: Philip Rivers (will start and into the 3rd Q), Billy Volek, Charlie Whitehurst (see below).

San Diego's starters, minus LaDainian Tomlinson, will go for about 40 plays Saturday, which should take them into the third quarter.

"It's going to be the most extensive playing time our guys get," coach Norv Turner said. "I like our guys to have that feeling coming out at halftime and preparing for the second half and going out and getting a series or two to start the second half."

RB LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't play in the preseason, so Michael Turner will start.

Nose tackle Brandon McKinney (ankle) and linebacker Matt Wilhelm (calf). McKinney definitely won't play in the final two exhibition games.

Norv Turner is the new head coach. He was the 49ers OC last year.

The Chargers will be without starting WR Eric Parker for as many as six games (toe surgery).

Arizona Cardinals - QB Rotation: Matt Leinart (first half), Kurt Warner (3rd Q), Shane Boyd, Lang Campbell.

Most of the Cardinals starters will play through the first half, but Ken Whisenhunt isn't sure how much they'll play, if at all, in the second half. It depends on how many snaps the first teams get in first half.

Potential season-ending injuries to two starters have moved first-round draft pick Levi Brown into Arizona's starting lineup and triggered a battle for the outside linebacker job. Offensive right tackle Oliver Ross and outside LB Chike Okeafor were hurt Saturday and both might require surgery. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Brown, the No. 5 pick overall in this year's draft, would move to Ross' spot, with Darryl Blackstock and Calvin Pace competing for Okeafor's job.

Ken Whisenhunt, the 2006 Steelers offensive coordinator, is the new Cardinals head coach. Whisenhunt is going to call plays.

The new coach wants the Cardinals to be more of a run-oriented team.

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Re: Saturday NFL News and Notes

NFL Notebook: Simms hoping to play vs. Miami
The Associated Press

Former Buccaneers starting quarterback Chris Simms may be playing for a spot on the roster -- if he gets in the game tonight when Tampa Bay faces the Miami Dolphins.

Simms is trying to come back from a spleen injury and overtake Luke McCown and Bruce Gradkowski behind new starter Jeff Garcia.

Simms sat out the first two games, and whether he plays will be a game-time decision by coach Jon Gruden.

"I'm definitely hoping to give it a go this week," Simms said. "Obviously I want to be on the roster, I want to be here, be a part of this team. I need to continue to keep working and just be happy and make sure I'm right where I need to be Saturday night."

Simms has started 15 games for the Buccaneers, but was out for the season in Week 3 last year when he injured his spleen and had it removed.

He resumed throwing in December, but has been limited in practice since training camp began.

"If you asked me two months ago, I would have just never envisioned it," he said. "It's a little bit more of an obstacle to overcome than I thought."

More Buccaneers

Receiver David Boston was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after police found him passed out behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle. The 29-year-old was found slumped over the steering wheel of a red Range Rover, police said.


Green Bay is hopeful that two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Donald Driver's foot injury is not too serious. Driver was hurt on Thursday night in the Packers' 21-13 loss to the Jaguars after making a 12-yard reception late in the second quarter. Jaguars safety Sammy Knight rolled up on Driver's right leg. Driver was aided off the field and did not return. The Packers have not released official word on the injury.


Defensive end Aaron Schobel reached a contract extension with the Bills, a reward for Buffalo's top pass-rusher coming off his first Pro Bowl season. The 29-year-old Schobel has been a regular starter since his rookie season as a second rounder of the 2001 draft out of Texas.

Last night's game

Playing only the first half, Vince Young went 13 of 19 for 162 yards passing and a touchdown, and also scored a rushing touchdown in the Tennessee Titans' 28-17 victory against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills' young defense struggled, allowing 218 yards in the first half and 293 overall.

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