BENGALS (6-2) AT RAVENS (2-5)
The skinny: This could be a game of mistaken identity. Baltimore is not as bad as its record might indicate, not if the way the Ravens played against Pittsburgh is any indication. And Cincinnati might not be as good as its record would indicate, not after the Bengals got hammered by the Steelers, not after they had to hold on to beat Green Bay in a game in which they intercepted Brett Favre five times. The Bengals had big problems stopping the Steelers running game. They will have bigger problems stopping Jamal Lewis, who looked like the old Jamal Lewis against the Steelers.
Prediction: Ravens, 17-13
TITANS (2-6) AT BROWNS (2-5)
The skinny: Think Tennessee has problems? Cleveland has lost three in a row, the most recent against previously winless Houston, and its quarterback gives the ball to the other team as though it's a birthday present. The misery is enough to drive the fans, and, apparently, even some players, to drink. In his past four games, Browns QB Trent Dilfer has committed nine turnovers, an average of 2.25 per game. Curiously, the only team the Titans have managed to beat in their past six games is Houston. Since then, they've lost three in a row.
Prediction: Browns, 20-17
TEXANS (1-6) AT JAGUARS (4-3)
The skinny: Houston has just one shutout in its brief history, and it came in the last meeting in Jacksonville. The Texans beat the Jaguars, 21-0, on Christmas eve, a defeat that ultimately kept Jacksonville from making the playoffs. After beating the Bengals and Steelers on back-to-back weeks, the Jaguars picked yet another bad time to lay an egg, losing to the Rams, 24-21, last Sunday. Conversely, the Texans picked a good time to end their six-game losing streak, beating Cleveland. You would think, though, it's not a good time to be going to Jacksonville.
Prediction: Jaguars, 23-7
RAIDERS (3-4) AT CHIEFS (4-3)
The skinny: After an 0-3 start, Oakland has bounced back to win three of its last four. If the Raiders can manage to beat Kansas City, something they've been unable to do in the past five meetings, they will put themselves back in the hunt in the competitive AFC West. The Chiefs kept everything jumbled by losing in San Diego, 28-20, leaving the Raiders as the only sub-.500 team in the division. Raiders Coach Norv Turner has never beaten Kansas City (0-4), not even when he was in Washington. He will have to wait a little longer.
Prediction: Chiefs, 31-28
FALCONS (5-2) AT DOLPHINS (3-4)
11 a.m., Ch. 13
The skinny: Atlanta has the league's top rushing attack, headed by Warrick Dunn, who leads all top-10 rushers in yards per carry (5.4). But Miami has a pretty good combo with rookie Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, who combined for 188 yards rushing in last week's road victory against New Orleans. The Dolphins can be sneaky good, at times, particularly at home, where they have already defeated Denver and Carolina this season. And, like Denver and Carolina, the Falcons have only two losses. The Upset Special.
Prediction: Dolphins, 24-23
LIONS (3-4) AT VIKINGS (2-5)
The skinny: Despite all its problems — on land, at sea and at quarterback — Minnesota is welcoming a visit from Detroit. The Vikings have won six in a row against the Lions and have not lost to them at the Metrodome since 1997. To be sure, the Vikings have lost quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the season, but they might be better off with Brad Johnson, his replacement. Johnson, who hasn't started a game for the Vikings since 1998, will force fewer throws and make fewer mistakes than Culpepper. He might even produce a few more wins.
Prediction: Vikings 24-20
CHARGERS (4-4) AT JETS (2-5)
11 a.m., Ch. 2
The skinny: This is the fourth time in the past five weeks San Diego will play a team coming off a bye, and perhaps the Chargers have paid the price for the unfair scheduling. They are 1-2 in the other games against teams coming off a bye, including the Steelers. To be sure, New York needed at least a bye after losing two in a row and four of the past five. Don't be fooled by the Chargers' record: Their four losses have been by a total of 12 points. You think Drew Brees is efficient? LaDainian Tomlinson has attempted three passes this season and all three have been touchdowns.
Prediction: Chargers, 24-20
PANTHERS (5-2) AT BUCCANEERS (5-2)
The skinny: Well, at least the three-way tie that exists at the top of the NFC South will be broken after Sunday. That's because two of the teams meet in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers are still reeling from a 15-10 loss to the 49ers. Carolina is riding a pair of four-game win streaks — having won its past four games after a 1-2 start and having beaten Tampa Bay the past four meetings. The Bucs are trying to adjust to quarterback Chris Sims, who has replaced injured Brian Griese. They also better adjust to Panthers WR Steve Smith, who is tied for the NFL lead with 12 catches of 20-plus yards.
Prediction: Panthers, 14-13
BEARS (4-3) AT SAINTS (2-6)
The skinny: New Orleans Coach Jim Haslett has already warned his players he will cut anyone who still doesn't practice hard and still doesn't play hard after a four-game losing streak. That means New Orleans could lose more than a franchise; it might lose half the players. The Saints managed just a pair of field goals against the Dolphins last week at "home," which, for the second week in a row, will be the LSU campus in Baton Rouge. They might not manage that many against Chicago, which has allowed an NFC-low 81 points and won three in a row.
Prediction: Bears, 16-5
SEAHAWKS (5-2) AT CARDINALS (2-5)
The skinny: When these NFC West teams met in September, Seattle won by 25 points — or roughly the amount of points generated by running back Shaun Alexander, who rushed for four TDs, two in a 30-second span of the third quarter. If Alexander gets just three TDs today in Arizona, he will become the first player in league history to rush for 15 or touchdowns in five consecutive seasons. The Cardinals allowed 34 points last week to the Cowboys. Imagine what might happen against the Seahawks, who have the league's No. 1 offense.
Prediction: Seahawks, 31-26
GIANTS (5-2) AT 49ERS (2-5)
The skinny: New York remembers the last time it played a game against San Francisco — 2002, when the Giants blew a 38-14 lead and lost a divisional playoff game to the 49ers, 39-38, the second biggest comeback in playoff history. In all probability, the 49ers will not score that many points today, not after managing just five field goals last week in a victory against Tampa Bay, not with their third-team quarterback. But it's very possible the Giants could put up 38 again on the 49ers. They lead in points per game (29.9), are coming off a 36-0 pasting of a pretty good Redskins team and the 49ers secondary is atrocious.
Prediction: Giants, 38-12
STEELERS (5-2) AT PACKERS (1-6)
2:15 p.m., Ch. 2
The skinny: One thing you don't have to worry about in Green Bay — Lambeau Field will never be renamed Fort Howard Paper Field or anything like that. The Steelers haven't played a regular-season game there in 10 years, since Yancey Thigpen dropped a pass in the end zone — and laughed about it later — in a meaningless 24-19 defeat on Christmas Eve, a game that gave the Packers their first division title since 1972. Now, the only laughing concerns the performance of the Packers, who are tied with the Texans for the league's worst record. The Steelers have won a club-record 10 in a row on the road
Prediction: Steelers, 24-14
EAGLES (4-3) AT REDSKINS (4-3)
6:30 p.m., ESPN
The skinny: One week after shutting down LaDainian Tomlinson, Philadelphia gave up 49 points in Denver. One week after scoring 52 points against the 49ers, Washington got shut out by the Giants. This has the makings of a pretty good matchup, but only if the Eagles and Redskins play as they did two weeks ago, not last week. The Eagles have won the past seven games against the Skins, including the past five in Landover, Md. But they better play like they did after the Broncos took a 28-0 lead and before the Broncos scored the final 21 points.
Prediction: Eagles, 31-30