“There have been too many different things,” said tight end Jason Witten, one of the few Cowboys with consistent performances this season. “[Teams] that are good in this league are consistent. That’s not what we’ve been. Each week it’s different, and you’ve got to eliminate it and get it fixed.
“The results have got to come. They’ve got to come soon.”
Atlanta (8-0) at New Orleans (3-5)
Usually, this is a meeting of NFC South titans, but the Saints have not done their part. Still, they come off their best performance in a 28-13 victory over Philadelphia, their third win in four games. And they surely will be stoked to play the runaway division leaders, especially with the Falcons being undefeated.
“For the players, it feels like every time we play the Falcons it’s such a big game, whether it be our standings or the meaning of the game (or) just the fact that we’re divisional opponents,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “We always know it’s going to be a 16-round bout. But, I think it’s kind of obvious that there’s an extreme competitiveness on both sides knowing what type of game this will be.”
Eight teams have gone 9-0 since 2002. Four went on to play in the Super Bowl and two (2006 Indianapolis and 2009 New Orleans) won it.
Denver (5-3) at Carolina (2-6)
Peyton Manning is closing in on more milestones, and current coach John Fox would be a very willing recipient of Manning’s latest achievements against the team that fired him after the 2010 season.
With two touchdown passes at Carolina, Manning would pass Dan Marino for the second-most touchdown passes in NFL annals; Marino had 420. Brett Favre holds the record with 508.
And with a win, Manning will tie Marino with 147 career regular-season victories, trailing only John Elway (148) and Favre (186).
The Panthers have fallen apart since Fox left, going 8-16 under Ron Rivera, but Fox draws no pleasure from that.
“I have a lot of great relationships there,” Fox said. “It was the place that gave me my first opportunity as a head coach, so I’ll always be indebted for that. I still own a home there. Some of my sons live that way, so it will be good to be back but it’s the NFL and this game’s only fun when you’re winning.”
San Diego (4-4) at Tampa Bay (4-4)
Vincent Jackson is having a terrific first season with the Buccaneers, and now he gets to show how good he is playing against the team that let him walk as a free agent after several contract hassles.
Jackson has 31 catches for 710 yards and six touchdowns, but most eye-opening is his 22.9-yard average per reception — game-breaker territory. No one in the league with as many as 20 catches comes close.
“Vincent is a great talent with his size and speed. He also has great hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic and make things happen,” quarterback Josh Freeman said. “Vincent’s been tremendous. He complements Mike Williams and vice versa. Having those two allows you to do a lot of things with your offence.
“Off the field the guy is a leader and a hard worker.”
Oakland (3-5) at Baltimore (6-2)
The Ravens have won six of the seven meetings and three in a row. Oakland comes in limping, particularly at running back with both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson dealing with sprained right ankles.
Baltimore, which has won 14 consecutive home games, has two players in reach of milestones. Ray Rice needs 1 yard rushing to reach 5,000 for his career. Receiver Anquan Boldin needs 32 yards to reach 10,000 from scrimmage for his career.
An interesting sidelight: Oakland rookie offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom will be playing against his brother-in-law, Ravens LB Paul Kruger.
Kansas City (1-7) at Pittsburgh (5-3), Monday night
ESPN might be looking for some college hoops to put in the prime-time slot.
The Chiefs, ranked at the bottom of the AP Pro32, have been awful in nearly every phase except running the ball. Most notable is their turnover woes: a ludicrous 29 giveaways, and a minus-20 differential.
Pittsburgh has begun playing like the Steelers we expect, using a power running game, stingy defence and timely special teams. Most impressive might be the depth at running back, where Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer have 100-yard games — and they are the backups to Rashard Mendenhall.
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