- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

There’s only one zero remaining in the NFL standings, right next to Oakland - and on the wrong side of the ledger.

The Raiders, as bad as any pro franchise over the last dozen years, head to Cleveland, where the Browns seemed to be in the midst of the league’s top feel-good story until they went to Jacksonville and promptly handed the Jaguars their first win. Oakland (0-6) has dropped 12 in a row going back to last year.

“Our concern is getting one win and winning the next game,” said interim coach Tony Sparano, 0-2 since taking over for the fired Dennis Allen. “That really has to be our focus, because if we look at the picture down the road right now, the parade might pass us by. That happened to a few teams this week in this league. We’re not going to do that.”

But there needs to be a sense of urgency when the skid is at a dozen and counting. Sparano, who went 29-33 as Miami’s head coach from 2008-11, recognizes that.

“You can’t keep saying, ‘We’ll get it next week; we’ll get it next week.’ That’s not one of the things that works in this league,” Sparano said. “You have to get it when the opportunity is out there, and we’ve gotten opportunities in the last two weeks. We put ourselves in position to win and we didn’t win the football game.”

The Browns (3-3) didn’t put themselves where they wanted and probably should have been by losing last week. All of that promising work that preceded the defeat now is being questioned.

“Maybe it’s good we lost last week,” quarterback Brian Hoyer said, “I don’t think we underestimated anyone, but I think now we see that no matter who we’re playing we have to be at our best and there’s no excuses, and we have to go out and execute.”

Elsewhere Sunday, it’s Philadelphia at Arizona, Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, Green Bay at New Orleans, Seattle at Carolina, Baltimore at Cincinnati, Chicago at New England, Miami at Jacksonville, St. Louis at Kansas City, Houston at Tennessee, Minnesota at Tampa Bay and Buffalo at the New York Jets.

In the second of three games at London’s Wembley Stadium, Atlanta hosts Detroit.

Monday night, Washington is at Dallas.

The action began Thursday night with a terrific AFC West matchup in which Denver outscored San Diego 35-21. Peyton Manning threw for three more touchdowns, all to Emmanuel Sanders, as the Broncos improved to 6-1. Juwan Thompson had two short scoring runs.

The Chargers (5-3) got two TD catches from tight end Antonio Gates.

Off this week are San Francisco (4-3) and the New York Giants (3-4).

Philadelphia (5-1) at Arizona (5-1)

A matchup of two superbly coached teams who have overcome some key injuries.

Philadelphia’s pass rush has come alive, with 16 of 19 sacks in the last three games. Arizona doesn’t have nearly that forceful a rush.

The Eagles also have seven touchdowns not scored by the offense, four on special teams, further displaying their balance.

But the Cardinals are 10-2 with Carson Palmer at quarterback and their defense has not allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards, the only team that can brag about that.

“They run a lot of different looks on the defensive side of the ball, so they can confuse you a little bit,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly says. “But also they’ve got some really, really good football players on the defensive side of the ball.”

Washington (2-5) at Dallas (6-1), Monday night

Only Denver and Oakland have faced off more times on Monday nights (17) than these two NFC East rivals, who go at it for the 16th time in the spotlight game.

Washington can’t be comfortable, though, having lost its last seven prime-time outings. Plus, the Redskins can’t find a way to beat any division partner, losing all six last year and two this year.

No team is more surprisingly successful so far than Dallas, led by DeMarco Murray, who broke Jim Brown’s mark by rushing for at least 100 years in the first seven games.

Indianapolis (5-2) at Pittsburgh (4-3)

The Colts are on a major role with five successive victories and the NFL’s top offense. But their defense, which blanked Cincinnati 27-0 last Sunday, is coming on, too.

“They do a lot of blitzing, a lot of confusion,” Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said. “Outside, their defensive backs do a lot of press-man, holding, grabbing, just being physical. And it makes it tough to get a pass into them.”

Pittsburgh can move the ball, too. Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 719 yards receiving and RB Le’Veon Bell is second in NFL in total yards (938). Bell has topped 100 total yards in seven straight games.

Green Bay (5-2) at New Orleans (2-4)

Four road games, four losses for the Saints. Two home games, two wins.

Green Bay has won four straight, two on the road.

The key here could be protecting the ball. The Packers’ turnover margin is a league-best plus-10 and their four giveaways are as low as any NFC team. The Saints’ margin is minus-8 and their four takeaways rank worst in the conference.

Seattle (3-3) at Carolina (3-3-1)

Start the playoffs now and the Seahawks are watching from home. They’ve lost two in a row and have looked sloppy in both defeats.

But they are headed to Charlotte for the third straight year and won the previous two trips.

Despite sitting atop the weak NFC South, the Panthers have been outgained by six of their seven opponents. Their supposedly strong defense has wilted and the Panthers have allowed 37 or more points in four of the last five games.

Baltimore (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-2-1)

These teams met to open the season and the Bengals won thanks to A.J. Green’s juggling 77-yard TD catch late in fourth quarter. His toe injury has not only sidelined the star receiver but put a huge crimp in the Bengals’ attack.

Meanwhile, the Ravens are rolling. Baltimore has yielded only 14.9 points per game, fewest in the NFL, with the 23 points against Cincinnati the most allowed. The offense has been pretty dynamic, too: Joe Flacco has thrown seven TD passes over the last two games.

Chicago (3-4) at New England (5-2)

The Bears probably are glad to get away from Soldier Field, where they are 0-3. Their best weapon, RB Matt Forte, leads the NFL with 52 receptions and is fifth with 448 yards rushing. Meanwhile, DE Willie Young is tied for the NFC lead with seven sacks.

Slowing down Tom Brady, who has hit his stride recently, would be a good idea for Chicago. Brady has thrown for 914 yards, nine TDs with no interceptions in the last three games, all wins.

Miami (3-3) at Jacksonville (1-6)

The Jaguars got off the schneid with their first win in 10 games last week, upsetting Cleveland. But injuries hit a defense that has been improving: middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (pectoral) is out for the season and end Andre Branch (groin) will be sidelined for at least six weeks.

After blowing a lead in the final seconds to Green Bay, the Dolphins went to Chicago and won impressively. They are giving up the fewest yards per play (4.7) in the NFL.

St. Louis (2-4) at Kansas City (3-3)

For the Governor’s Cup.

Kansas City has won five straight in this series dating to Sept. 25, 1994, when the Rams were still in Los Angeles. But St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher is 4-0 against Chiefs coach Andy Reid from their days when Fisher was at Tennessee and Reid was in Philadelphia.

Rams star DE Robert Quinn, who had 19 sacks last season, got his first this season in last week’s upset of the Seahawks. Kansas City LB Justin Houston has seven sacks, tied for second in the NFL.

Houston (3-4) at Tennessee (2-5)

The Texans thought they could contend with the Colts in the AFC South, but they’ve dropped three in a row, including losing to Indy. They hope to get top overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney back on defense. He hurt his knee in the opener.

Tennessee starts rookie QB Zach Mettenberger for the first time. Knowing that might make Clowney even more eager to get back on the field.

Minnesota (2-5) at Tampa Bay (1-5)

Two struggling teams under new coaches, Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay and Mike Zimmer in Minnesota.

Smith’s Buccaneers have yielded 141 points in their three most recent defeats. They will be without FB Jorvorskie Lane and DE Da’Quan Bowers, suspended two games apiece for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.

Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is the Bucs’ defensive coordinator. His unit faces the NFC’s top rookie rusher in Jerick McKinnon (340 yards).

Buffalo (4-3) at New York Jets (1-6)

The Bills lost their one-two punch at running back, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, to injuries. So Brice Brown and Anthony Dixon get the call against reeling New York, which has dropped six in a row for the first time in Rex Ryan’s tenure.

The Jets added WR-KR Percy Harvin in a trade with Seattle, hoping he will boost their anemic passing game and help special teams.

Detroit (5-2) vs. Atlanta (2-5)


No, no, we aren’t bored. It’s just this game is starting at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and 6:30 on the West Coast. Make sure to get your fantasy lineups set Saturday night.

This experiment makes Lions-Falcons a day match on the Wembley pitch. The last thing the Falcons needed to do, given their struggles on the road, is sacrifice a home game, but they have done just that.

Moving the ball against the Lions has become problematic: Detroit ranks first in overall defense, second against the run.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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