Bills rookie passer EJ Manuel played his worst game of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It won't get any easier facing the Jets, who roll in with the NFL's stingiest run defense and a pass rush that's sacked the quarterback in nine straight games. Meanwhile, New York's trying to win two in a row for the first time all season.
What happens when you pit Baltimore's DOA ground game against Chicago's 31st-ranked run defense? The world explodes. OK, no, but something's gotta give for the Ravens to keep up with a Chicago air attack guided by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who lead all teammate duos in receiving yards this season.
The Redskins are 3-6 for the third straight season. Last year, Washington turned that into a playoff berth, but it won't happen again unless this defense stiffens up. No unit in the league does a worse job tackling ball-carriers.
Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler have been disappointing for Miami. Look for them to be tested on Sunday. Ryan Mathews is running well for San Diego. Danny Woodhead is a matchup problem for almost any linebacker. And the Chargers' two tight end sets featuring Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are growing in effectiveness.
Aldon Smith barely played last week for the 49ers. Look for him to have a much bigger role in the Superdome, and the 49ers will need him. Drew Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards in every home game this season. He has 18 touchdowns and two interceptions at home. On the road, he only has seven scores and five picks.
Scott Tolzien wasn't the problem last week for Green Bay. Their defense against Philadelphia was a bigger problem. Clay Matthews was not right in his first game back from injury. Linebacker Brad Jones wasn't much better, and Green Bay's safety play was poor. Look for the Giants to test Green Bay's defense with vertical plays.
Schein: Best defensive player in '13?
J.J. Watt ran away with Defensive Player of the Year last season, but it's a tight race in 2013. Adam Schein ranks top candidates. **READ**
The Broncos are simply a different defense with Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard on the field at the same time. Miller's pass-rush skills are well known, but he's been a terror stopping the run the last two weeks. Woodyard is a terrific pass defender. The Broncos only gave up 41 points combined to Washington and San Diego, two very explosive offenses. Kansas City would be lucky to get over 17.
The Panthers haven't given up more than a touchdown in a single game during their five-game winning streak. They do it with premier talent and balance: No other defense ranks in the top five in yards allowed, scoring defense, rush defense and pass defense.