Confused and amused by wild Week 5

Quarterback: Steve McNair, Tennessee – He looked good on Monday night at less than 100 percent. He'll be even better this week in a game the Titans have to win vs. Houston.

Running back: Fred Taylor, Jacksonville – He's been disappointing so far, but Kyle Brady's return will provide a boost for the Jags' ground game. So will facing Kansas City; Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati – The Bengals have had a week off to regroup, and Cleveland has given up eight TDs on the ground, the second-most in the NFL.

Wide receiver: Randy Moss, Minnesota – "The Freak" has become freakishly reliable lately, catching a touchdown pass in nine straight games. Make it 10; Roy Williams, Detroit – The league's best rookie to date faces the league's second-worst defense (Green Bay).

Tight end: Eric Johnson, San Francisco – Quick, who leads the NFL in receptions? Surprisingly enough, it's Johnson, the 49ers tough-as-nails TE with 41, including 13 last week. Defenses can't stop him. Sore ribs won't, either.

Kicker: Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis – The Bucs have given up three field goals three times this season, and Wilkins is 23 of 24 on FGs at home since the beginning of the 2003 season.

Defense: Washington – The Redskins pay a visit to Chicago, one of the few teams with an offense worse than their own.

Ravens report

The Ravens' bye week will give owners of Jamal Lewis a taste of what life is like without their No. 1 running back. Get used to it – the two-game suspension handed down last week ensures that you'll be muddling through minus Jamal for the better part of the next month. It won't be easy, but it could have been a lot worse, and Lewis owners knew early on that their man could miss some time this season because of his legal difficulties. All things considered, the two-game penalty warrants a big sigh of relief.

As long as Lewis sits, both Chester Taylor and Musa Smith will have value. How much value, only time will tell. But it's safe to say that both will see a healthy helping of carries, given the Ravens' run-heavy offensive philosophy and the sad state of the passing game. Lewis has averaged 21 carries per game, so it's safe to pencil Taylor in for at least 15-20 attempts and use him as a No. 2 RB.

Coach Brian Billick indicated earlier this week that Smith could see more time than Taylor typically does as the Ravens' No. 2/third-down back. That should translate into 5-10 carries a game, including some valuable red-zone action. But unless you're in a pinch, you might want to wait a week to see how the Ravens use Smith before putting him in your lineup. Problem is, even if he does get on the field, his chances of busting loose against two of the league's best run defenses (Buffalo and Philadelphia) are slim.

Dave Alexander is a sports producer at Send questions or comments to




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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