Continued from page 3

Chris Johnson is approaching peak form after his holdout, and opponents have been uncharacteristically successful on the ground against the Steelers. Pittsburgh is second in the league in yards allowed, but 22nd against the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry compared to 3.0 per attempt in 2010.

“There’s a fine line between performing well and substandard,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Some of the mistakes are mental, some of them are physical. They’re not centrally located in one person or position, but when you add those things over the course of a football game you get eight to 10 snaps where somebody is letting you down either mentally or physically, and you have an opportunity to give up some big yards.”

And Johnson has the opportunity to gain them.

New Orleans (3-1) at Carolina (1-3)

Newcomers Cam Newton and Ron Rivera _ plus a revitalized Steve Smith _ have brought a breath of fresh air to Carolina, which has been in every game thus far. This, though, is a huge test for the Panthers because the Saints can pass anyone silly.

Drew Brees has at least 20 completions in 24 consecutive games, an NFL record, and he might surpass that number by halftime. Still, the dynamic Newton and Smith won’t back off.

Seattle (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1)

No, the Giants have not been switched to the NFC West, it only seems that way as they head into a third meeting in five weeks with the league’s worst division. New York’s easy early schedule has helped it get through a slew of injuries in, uh, good shape.

Seattle has only two takeaways, fewest in the NFC and six below what the Giants have managed. It’s also allowed 14 sacks, and the Giants have a strong pass rush.

Cincinnati (2-2) at Jacksonville (1-3)

A meeting of two rookie quarterbacks, first-rounder Blaine Gabbert for the Jaguars, second-rounder Andy Dalton for the Bengals. Right now, Dalton has the edge with his two victories; Gabbert is 0-2 as a starter.

The Bengals like what they’ve seen from their former TCU star.

Story Continues →