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1:23 PM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
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Don't Forget To Catch All of the Following Games on WUSA*9 This Weekend. Full Schedule & Times Can Be Found Here 

Saturday Preview:

No. 1 Alabama (1-0) at No. 6 Texas A&M (2-0), 3:30 PM

(The Associated Press)

Line: Alabama by 7 ½.

Series record: Alabama 3-2.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

This is the first game of the season with true national championship implications. Alabama is looking forward to the rematch after the Aggies handed the Crimson Tide its only loss in last year's national championship season. The Aggies are out to prove that last year's game, which helped Johnny Manziel become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, wasn't a fluke.

KEY MATCHUP

Manziel and A&M's up-tempo offense vs. the Alabama defense. Alabama coach Nick Saban has complained about up-tempo offenses like the one Texas A&M uses. That doesn't matter to A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, who laughed and said: "we're going to go as fast as we possibly can," when asked about it. Manziel threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 more to help A&M to the 29-24 victory in Tuscaloosa last year, and will likely need a similar performance Saturday.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alabama: WR/KR/PR Christion Jones. Jones earned SEC special teams player of the week honors in Week 1 after a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 94-yard kickoff return for another score in Alabama's opener. He also had 47 yards receiving with a third score to finish with 256 all-purpose yards.

Texas A&M: CB Deshazor Everett. Saturday will be Everett's first full game after he sat out the first half of Texas A&M's opener serving a suspension for violating team rules before drawing his targeting penalty and another suspension in the second half against Rice. He intercepted Alabama's A.J. McCarron near the end zone in the fourth quarter to help secure win by the Aggies last season.

FACTS & FIGURES

Saturday is Alabama's second trip to College Station and the first since 1988. ... Alabama has a 15-game winning streak away from Tuscaloosa, which is the longest active streak in the FBS. They haven't lost away from home since Nov. 6, 2010 at LSU. ... The Aggies have won eight straight games. ... Alabama is 41-0 since 2008 when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent. ... The Crimson Tide defense has held teams to less than 300 yards of offense in 53 of Saban's 82 games. ... The Aggies are fifth in the country in total offense by averaging 600 yards a game.


Saturday Preview:

Cleveland Browns (0-1) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1), 1 PM

(Sports Network) - The Baltimore Ravens probably can't get Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns to M&T Bank Stadium fast enough.

The Ravens aim to rebound from a lopsided Week 1 loss on Sunday and avoid their first 0-2 start under John Harbaugh as they take on the Browns, who have not won in this series in six years.

Baltimore began defense of its Super Bowl championship on the road on Sept. 5 against Denver with several changes to the roster. The Ravens apparently need more time to build some chemistry, especially on defense, as they were routed 49-27 behind seven touchdown passes by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Five of Manning's touchdown tosses came in the second half as Denver turned a three-point halftime deficit into a comfortable 25-point cushion by scoring 28 straight points to start the second half.

The Ravens had a different look heading into the game, with future Hall-of- Fame linebacker Ray Lewis retired and safety Ed Reed and wide receiver Anquan Boldin on different teams among other changes. Baltimore's new-look defense was tagged for 479 yards by Denver's offense and allowed a franchise record for points in a game.

"Just one of those nights," said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 362 yards with a pair of touchdowns while also getting picked off twice. "It was a pretty good game for a while and it got away from us."

The Ravens did catch an early break as the other three teams in the AFC North lost in Week 1 and next try to avoid starting 0-2 for the first time since 2005 under Brian Billick.

"The great thing about it is -- and we all know this -- it's week to week in this league, and it's going to be that way. What we need to do is take care of our business. If we take care of our business, we're going to be in the hunt and make it interesting, and if we don't, we're not," said Harbaugh.

The Ravens have had no problems taking care of business against the Browns. They have won 10 in a row in this series since a 33-30 overtime setback at home on Nov. 18, 2007.

Rob Chudzinski will get a chance to snap Cleveland's losing streak in this series and pick up his first NFL head coaching win. His debut was far from a success as Brandon Weeden was picked off three times in a 23-10 home loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Weeden was also sacked six times and the offense failed to take advantage despite the defense limiting Miami to 275 yards, leading to what Chudzinski called a tough start to the season.

"It is one game, and that's our focus and that's what I talked to the guys about afterwards. We will learn from this and we will move on. There is a lot of football left to be played this season and we will approach it one game at a time like we have. We have got a big game coming up in the division against Baltimore next week," said the rookie coach.

Cleveland fell to 1-14 in its last 15 openers and will try avoid opening the season with two straight losses for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Brown began the 2012 campaign 0-5 and lost seven of eight on the road.

Sunday's game will mark the first back in Baltimore for linebacker Paul Kruger, one of Cleveland's big free agent signings this past offseason. Kruger totaled 15 1/2 sacks in four years with the Ravens, leading them with nine a season ago. He was nabbed by Baltimore in the second round of the 2009 draft.

"I was (in Baltimore) for four years and have so many friends and people over there that I still talk to, but I've made this place a new home and I'm really loving it here. I'm really excited about what we have going on," said Kruger.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Baltimore will certainly look for a better effort on defense, which includes a host of first-year Ravens in linebackers Daryl Smith and Elvis Dumervil, defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears as well as safety Michael Huff.

Certainly the communication needs to improve as Manning threw for 462 yards while five of his seven TD throws were longer than 20 yards. That included a 78-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas with 4:30 to play.

"It takes time. Anything in football takes time, especially when you're trying to get 11 people to be on the same page at once," said cornerback Corey Graham. "When you lose guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, obviously it's big, but I feel like we definitely have the guys to get it done. We've just got to get on the same page, find a way to go out there and win games."

Dumervil could have his breakout game for the Ravens as he owns nine career sacks in four previous meetings with the Browns, including a career-high four in one game.

A better balance on offense would also help. Flacco was forced to throw the ball 62 times and was sacked four times. Star running back Ray Rice ran the ball just 12 times for 36 yards and a score while also leading the club with eight receptions for 35 yards.

"We know we have to run the ball. We have to run the ball well. ... I don't anticipate many games where we'll throw the ball over 60 times, but we had 87 plays. Percentage-wise, we'll probably run the ball more most of the time than we did in this game," noted Harbaugh.

Baltimore's depth at receiver and in the return game took a big hit when Jacoby Jones suffered a knee injury in the second quarter that is expected to sideline him for as long as six weeks. Harbaugh would only say that Jones is week-to-week and Baltimore did re-sign wide receiver Tandon Doss on Monday.

Doss was released by the Ravens on Aug. 31 and played in 14 games last year with the club. He can also return punts.

"When you can bring someone back like Tandon, who knows the offense and is ready to plug right in and play for us, (it helps)," noted Harbaugh. "There's no teaching we have to do; he knows what to do. It's a big plus for us, and we're very fortunate that he was available for us."

Tackle Michael Oher suffered an ankle injury versus the Broncos, but it is not believed to be serious and he could play this weekend. The club is also close to getting defensive tackle Arthur Jones back from an unknown illness that has sidelined him since the preseason.

That would boost a Ravens defense that will try to mimic what the Dolphins did this past weekend against the Browns. Miami was all over Weeden, with Cameron Wake having his way with Cleveland right tackle Mitchell Schwartz in logging 2 1/2 sacks. The pressure also led to Weeden getting picked off three times, twice by former teammate Dimitri Patterson.

"There are some scheme things that we can do, and we will do. It's a matter of execution, whether it's chips and things we had planned and we just didn't execute it well enough. We'll get those things straightened out," Chudzinski said of his offensive line.

Also forced to throw a lot while playing from behind, Weeden completed 26- of-53 pass attempts for 289 yards. He showed excellent chemistry with tight end Jordan Cameron, who set career highs with nine receptions and 108 yards in addition to his second career TD catch.

Cameron became the first Browns tight end to have a 100-yard receiving game since Benjamin Watson on Dec. 5, 2010 and joined Watson, Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow as the only tight ends in club history to have nine or more catches in a game.

No Browns receiver has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Braylon Edwards during the 2006 campaign.

Wideouts Davone Bess and Greg Little combined for nine catches for a unit that was minus Josh Gordon, who served the first of his two-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy.

"We missed (Gordon) a lot out there," said running back Trent Richardson, who was limited to 13 carries. "There were a lot of opportunities for guys out there to step up and make plays. Josh Gordon is a big part of our offense; at the same time, you can't come out here and lose."

Despite the loss, the Browns defense came away with some positives it will try to carry over to this game. Though defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and 2013 first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) did not play, Cleveland allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in club history by limiting Miami to 20 yards on the ground on 23 carries.

Mingo was cleared for practice on Wednesday though it is unknown how much, if at all, he will play.

Cleveland's free agent haul also came through with a combined four sacks, one each by Kruger and linebacker Quentin Groves, while defensive lineman Desmond Bryant matched a career high with two sacks.

"We just had a great defense against the run game. If we would have picked up more assignments in the passing game, we could have pulled out a win. We have to get back in the film room, see what we did and come back out ready to play next week," said Bryant, who has a sack in five straight games dating back to last season with the Oakland Raiders.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The scheduling gods favor the Ravens this weekend as they get a chance at a much-needed rebound effort against a Browns club they have dominated as of late.

Baltimore is outscoring Cleveland 251-122 over the win streak and Flacco is 10-0 in his career versus the Browns with 12 touchdown passes to five interceptions.

The Ravens defense struggled against Manning, but Weeden is no Manning. Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who has 13 career sacks versus the Browns, will spend all day in the Cleveland backfield and leave Chudzinski still searching for his first win.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ravens 34, Browns 13

Denver Broncos (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1), 4:25 PM

(Sports Network) - Bragging rights in the Manning household will be at the forefront of Sunday's showdown between the Denver Broncos and New York Giants.

Big brother Peyton Manning leads his highly-touted Broncos squad into MetLife Stadium to face Eli and the turnover-happy Giants and is looking to build on an incredible Week 1 performance in which he shredded the defending champion Baltimore Ravens for 462 yards and an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes.

Peyton Manning displayed his trademark excellence, completing 27 of his 42 pass attempts without an interception in last Thursday's 49-27 victory. He became just the second player in league history to throw for seven TDs without an interception.

"You never know what is going to happen in a game," Manning said afterward. "I felt like we had to keep scoring."

No lead is safe in the NFL and the Broncos made sure not to give the Ravens any life by scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Manning, the 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, hooked up with Demaryius Thomas twice and needs 1,413 passing yards to surpass Dan Marino for second place all-time. Manning is 51 passing yards shy of joining Brett Favre and Marino as the only players in NFL history to total 60,000 yards.

The Broncos netted 510 yards and pretty much exiled their running game to the tune of 65 yards with a committee approach.

Denver's pass attack, however, was the talk of the town all weekend and seven different receivers were involved versus the Ravens. First-year Bronco and veteran slot receiver Wes Welker had 11 catches for 67 yards and two scores and Thomas also hauled in 11 passes, racking up 161 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 78-yard score in the fourth quarter. Thomas needs 100 yards to become the first player in Broncos history with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

Tight end Julius Thomas caught five passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard receiving game by a Broncos tight end since Tony Scheffler turned the trick on Oct. 19, 2009. But the Broncos know they still have work to do and can't get too confident after just one game. The running game needs improvement and will find it difficult to get established at New York.

Broncos head coach John Fox saw some things after watching tape.

"I saw that we made a lot of mistakes ... as a football team," said Fox, who spent five seasons as Giants defensive coordinator. "We spent a big part of the day after the game reviewing that and going over it. Like everybody in the league this week, it is the first game. There are a lot of question marks and there are a lot of corrections."

It won't be easy for the Broncos on Sunday against a Giants team that had six turnovers (3 fumbles, 3 INTs) in Sunday night's 36-31 road loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning didn't display his two-time Super Bowl winning form with three interceptions and running back David Wilson had a night to forget with two fumbles and a seat on the bench.

The six turnovers led to 24 Dallas points and both Wilson and Manning didn't do head coach Tom Coughlin any favors.

"Six times we gave the ball away tonight. Six times - that's my fault," Coughlin said afterward. "I'm totally, totally disappointed and embarrassed by that kind of football. That's sloppy, sloppy football. We have control over ourselves. We have to recognize situations that are going to lead to those kinds of things and then you can't turn the ball over. You can't win turning the football over. That's the bottom line. There are a lot of other things that we can fix ... we're going to fix that, too."

Despite his three picks, Manning played well and completed 27 of his 42 pass attempts -- just like his older bother -- for 450 yards. Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle all finished with 100-plus yards receiving, while Cruz had three TD catches. Those numbers could increase even more against a Denver defense that allowed 362 yards and two TDs to Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who connected with nine different receivers, including three who finished with 10 or more catches.

The Broncos, though, will be ready and know how dangerous the Giants are.

"They have no weaknesses, man. They can run the ball, they have a real solid offensive line," Denver safety Rahim Moore said. "Their receivers are dynamic ... they can do all kinds of things, especially with Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Randle. We have to go out there and do what we can to try to tame those guys. They have so many targets."

Denver is trying to match a franchise record with seven straight road victories (1976-77) and needs a victory to become the fifth franchise to reach 400 wins since the NFL merger in 1970. That has a strong chance of happening because the Broncos have won their past 12 regular-season games dating back to last year.

Both teams have several targets and Sunday's game is setting up to be a shootout in East Rutherford, NJ. New York has lost three straight season openers and last started 0-2 in 2007, when they went on to defeat New England in the Super Bowl. The Broncos haven't opened a season 2-0 since winning six in a row to kick off the 2009 campaign. That year Denver handed New York a 26-6 loss on Thanksgiving.

The Giants and Broncos have split the all-time regular season series, 5-5. In addition to the regular season series, the teams met for Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena following the 1986 season, won by the Giants by a 39-20 count. The Giants are 24-19 in regular season games versus the AFC West.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The biggest concern for the Giants should be their running game and the mindset of Wilson. Wilson, who also struggled in pass protection, was punished for putting the ball on the turf twice Sunday and finished with 19 yards on seven carries. Coughlin didn't comment on Wilson's status as a starter versus the Broncos and noted that it's not a mental issue with the former Virginia Tech star.

"I don't think there's a mental aspect of it because being asked very much about this circumstance of the situation over the spring and the fall is as if no one was here last year and watched him last year," Coughlin said. "Early on he had some errors last year and then he had a tremendous year as a kick returner, taking some drill shots and was able to secure the ball under those circumstances. I think we did preach so much about them being ball strippers and somehow, someway that didn't sink in. He had the ball stripped twice and he'll learn from it. He's got great pride and we'll try to get this under control."

Coughlin said the coaching staff will have an impact on Wilson being a better ball carrier from here on out. Remember, Coughlin taught former Giants running back Tiki Barber how to hold onto the ball correctly.

"He has to be limit ball exposure before contact, not try to hold on afterward, as happened in his second fumble," Barber recently told USA Today. "You have to have an easy methodology to anticipate contact, cover your four points of contact, then go to the ground or keep running."

Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox are other options in the backfield and the former ran for 23 yards on five carries in the loss to Dallas.

"I thought Da'Rel did a good job last night in a role that he didn't expect to get that many snaps, but he came in and did a good job," Coughlin said Monday. "You're always searching to see if you can improve and where you can improve. That goes for a lot of spots."

In an effort to push Wilson, the Giants brought back former running back Brandon Jacobs on Tuesday. Jacobs spent the first seven years of his career with the Giants, accumulating 4,849 yards and 56 touchdowns on 1,078 carries. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers for the 2012 season, but appeared in just two games because of injury issues and had five carries for seven yards.

Denver shouldn't be too concerned who's running the football after holding the talented Ray Rice and the Ravens to 58 net yards rushing last week.

The Broncos and Giants bring potent pass attacks into this matchup, but Denver's demonstrative showing against Baltimore was eye-popping. Peyton Manning was a tactician on the field and could face a Giants defense without cornerback Prince Amukamara, who needs to pass a concussion protocol to suit up. Amukamara suffered the ailment Sunday night and Aaron Ross may start alongside Corey Webster versus the Broncos.

"I know he's feeling better. He felt pretty good last night, to be honest with you," Coughlin said Monday. "He didn't seem to have any repercussions, but he does need to go through the protocol."

Safety Ryan Mundy recorded the only interception of Tony Romo. It will be a long day for the Giants' secondary if there's no pressure up front. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul posted a sack against Dallas and both DE Justin Tuck and DT Linval Joseph combined for one. The Giants must find a way to slow down Denver's receivers and tight end to have a shot at keeping this game close.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Peyton Manning is 2-0 against his brother and would like to have as many Super Bowl rings (2) as the younger sibling one day. That may happen months down the road, but the Broncos have to take it one step at a time.

The offensive deluge Denver displayed in its season opener won't happen this week because the Giants will not be embarrassed in their own building. The blueprint for beating Peyton Manning is consistent pressure and the Giants have the ability to do that, especially with the home crowd in their corner. In the end, however, the elder Manning will one-up his brother in what should be an exciting matchup.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Broncos 27, Giants 20


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