At 4-0, the Ravens feel on top of the world, but winning in the Mile High City is a tough task. The Broncos have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Playing at home Monday night is even more of an advantage. That's good and bad for Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. While the players believe in him like the Ravens believe in McNair, the fans are skeptical. Should Plummer have a tough half against the Ravens, Broncos' fans might turn on him, which is why it's important for the Broncos to get a first-quarter lead. The big concern for the Ravens is the offensive line. The right side of the line was already a problem and now the left side is hampered by the loss of guard Ed Mulitalo to a season-ending triceps injury. Jason Brown takes over, but the line could be vulnerable to a deep Broncos defensive line that is augmented by a sophisticated blitzing scheme.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers
Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer took a lot of heat the past couple of days for playing too close to the vest in last Sunday's loss to the Ravens. With a young quarterback, Philip Rivers, Schottenheimer is back to playing "Marty Ball." With the lead, Schottenheimer is taking the air out of the ball and just running it.
That backfired against the Ravens when a couple of mistakes led to the Ravens getting field position in the fourth quarter and scoring nine points to win the game. Going against his close friend Bill Cowher, Schottenheimer isn't going to turn the Chargers' offense into Air Coryell. Expect a close game. This is a critical game for the Steelers. If they fall to 1-3, they could fall out of the hot AFC North race. Hines Ward has been slowed by a hamstring injury that won't go away. Ben Roethlisberger made it through the bye week without a surgery, so that's a good starting point. But Roethlisberger is at the bottom of the NFL starters with a 34.3 quarterback rating and he knows it's time for him to step up.
6. New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars
Of the first-year coaches, Eric Mangini is doing one of the best jobs. At 2-2, his Jets have been surprisingly competitive and they might be catching Jacksonville at the right time. The Jaguars are on a two-game losing streak and coach Jack Del Rio has major problems along the defensive line. He played defensive tackle Marcus Stroud the past couple weeks with a bad ankle. But the injury has gotten worse so Stroud might sit out this week.
The Jaguars already lost defensive end Reggie Hayward for the season. Backup end Marcellus Wiley probably won't play because of a groin injury. Those problems leave the defensive line thin and unable to sustain much of a pass rush. That plays into the hand of Jets quarterback Chad Pennington. Pennington doesn't have a running game yet to bail him out, but he's had success working the short passing game and his heady leadership has kept the Jets' offense moving. Though they looked to be a two- or three-win team in the preseason, the Jets might now have a chance to get to seven or eight wins this year. For the Jaguars, it's a must win because if the Colts beat the Titans and the Jaguars lose, the Jags could be three games out of first in the AFC South.
5. Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings