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July 30, 2008

AFC News

BALTIMORE: Under the leadership of rookie head coach JOHN HARBAUGH, Baltimore has a 2-1 record and boasts the NFL’s top defense. Led by linebacker RAY LEWIS, the Ravens’ defense has allowed a league-low 186.7 yards per game…Through three games, rookie quarterback JOE FLACCO is building chemistry with veteran wide receiver DERRICK MASON, who aims to join DERRICK ALEXANDER (1995-96) as the only receivers in franchise history to record back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons.

BUFFALO: Led by second-year quarterback TRENT EDWARDS and a stout defense, the Bills are off to a 4-0 start as they aim to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999…Running back MARSHAWN LYNCH has led a steady rushing attack. Lynch has four touchdowns and is on pace to tie O.J. SIMPSON (16 in 1975) for the most rushing TDs in Bills history…Wide receiver LEE EVANS is in his fifth season in Buffalo and leads the team with 332 receiving yards. The veteran receiver is on track to surpass his career-high of 1,292 yards in 2006.

CINCINNATI: Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. HOUSHMANDZADEH has been an example of consistency. Houshmandzadeh leads the Bengals with 266 receiving yards and is on track to reach the 1,000-yard mark for a third consecutive season…Named the starting running back prior to the season opener, CHRIS PERRY has 208 rushing yards and is on pace to gain over 800 yards for a career-high.

CLEVELAND: With an offensive line led by former first-round pick JOE THOMAS, JAMAL LEWIS (235) is on target to become the first Cleveland running back to gain 900 or more yards in consecutive seasons since MIKE PRUITT in 1981…On the defensive side of the ball, veteran safety MIKE ADAMS (2) and second-year cornerback ERIC WRIGHT (2) are on pace to tie for the third-most interceptions in franchise history (8).

DENVER: JAY CUTLER has orchestrated the NFL’s top offense (435.5 yards per game) as the Broncos enter October with a 3-1 record. The third-year quarterback ranks second in the league in passing yards (1,275) and touchdowns (9). Cutler is on track to set the franchise record in passing yards (5,100; JAKE PLUMMER, 4,089 in 2004) and touchdowns (36; Plummer; 27 in 2004 and JOHN ELWAY, 27 in 1997)…Cutler’s top receiver BRANDON MARSHALL is tied for the league lead with 31 receptions and is on track (124) to surpass ROD SMITH (113 in 2001) for most catches in a season in Broncos history.

HOUSTON: Rookie running back STEVE SLATON has emerged as the starter for the Texans. The West Virginia product has 192 yards (4.7 average) on 41 carries through three games and can challenge the franchise record for most rushing yards in a season (DOMANICK WILLIAMS; 1,188 in 2004)…Wide receiver KEVIN WALTER has used his 6-3, 215-pound frame as a big target for quarterback MATT SCHAUB and leads the team with three touchdowns. Walter is on track to set the Texans’ season mark for touchdown receptions (12; ANDRE JOHNSON, 8 in 2007).

INDIANAPOLIS: Under the guidance of head coach TONY DUNGY, the Colts are 11-0 in the month of October since 2005…Wide receivers REGGIE WAYNE (253), ANTHONY GONZALEZ (222) and MARVIN HARRISON (132) can become the first Colts’ threesome to each record 500 or more receiving yards since 2005 (Harrison, 1,146; Wayne, 1,055; and BRANDON STOKLEY, 543).

JACKSONVILLE: DAVID GARRARD is in his second season as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback and is on pace to reach 3,000 passing yards. Garrard can become the first Jacksonville QB to hit the mark since MARK BRUNELL (3,309 in 2001)…Eleven-year running back FRED TAYLOR has continued his downhill running style and is on track to lead the Jaguars in rushing for the ninth time in his career.

KANSAS CITY: The Chiefs debuted the youngest roster in the NFL on Kickoff Weekend (25.57 average) and started six rookies in the season opener…Veteran TONY GONZALEZ (10,058) needs three yards to surpass SHANNON SHARPE (10,060) and become the career leader in receiving yards by a tight end…Running back LARRY JOHNSON (415) has gained 100-plus rush yards in consecutive weeks and is on the pace to surpass 1,500 yards for the third time in his career.

MIAMI: Rookie head coach TONY SPARANO has Dolphins fans excited about a heavy dose of the run game and an aggressive defense…Running back RONNIE BROWN (5) is tied for the league-high in rushing touchdowns and takes aim at surpassing RICKY WILLIAMS (16 in 2002) for most Dolphins touchdowns in a season…Veteran linebacker JOEY PORTER (4.0) is on pace to surpass his career-high of 10.5 sacks in 2000 and 2005.

NEW ENGLAND: Quarterback MATT CASSEL has taking over the reins for an injured TOM BRADY and has displayed accuracy with the AFC’s third-best completion percentage (66.7)…Kick returner-cornerback ELLIS HOBBS ranks first in the NFL with a 36.0-yard average. If he maintains that figure, he would set the Patriots’ kickoff-return record (RAYMOND CLAYBORN; 31.0 in 1977).

NEW YORK: Fresh off a career-high six touchdowns passes last Sunday, quarterback BRETT FAVRE is on pace (48) to surpass VINNY TESTAVERDE (29 in 1998) for most touchdowns in a season by a Jet…LAVERANUES COLES and JERRICHO COTCHERY are Favre’s main pass-catching weapons. Coles (257) and Cotchery (243) aim to become the first Jets wide receiver duo to gain 1,000 yards apiece since KEYSHAWN JOHNSON (1,131) and WAYNE CHREBET (1,083) in 1998.

OAKLAND: Quarterback JA MARCUS RUSSELL and rookie running back DARREN MC FADDEN look like a formidable 1-2 punch for years to come for the Raiders. A former No. 1 overall pick, Russell has four touchdowns versus one interception and an 84.9 passer rating. McFadden ranks second among AFC rookies with 272 rushing yards and is on track (1,088) to surpass MARCUS ALLEN (697 in 1982) for most rushing yards by a Raiders rookie…Cornerback DE ANGELO HALL has an interception in two consecutive games and seeks to become the first Raider to post double-digit interceptions since LESTER HAYES (13 in 1980).

PITTSBURGH: MIKE TOMLIN has the Steelers rolling with a 3-1 start in back-to-back seasons. The NFL’s second- ranked defense is sparked by safety TROY POLAMALU, who has three interceptions and is on pace to surpass MEL BLOUNT (11; in 1975) for most club interceptions in a season. The NFL sack leader through Week 4, JAMES HARRISON (5.5) is on track to set a career-high, surpassing his 8.5 total of last year…On offense, SANTONIO HOLMES and HINES WARD can challenge to become the first Pittsburgh wide receiver duo to gain 900 or more receiving yards since 2002 (PLAXICO BURRESS, 1,325 and Ward, 1,329).

SAN DIEGO: Quarterback PHILIP RIVERS ranks second in the AFC with 1,024 passing yards and is on pace (4,096) to become the first Chargers 4,000-yard passer since DAN FOUTS (4,802) in 1981…The NFL leader among tight ends with three touchdown receptions, ANTONIO GATES can challenge (12) his career-high of 13 touchdowns in 2004… Cornerback ANTONIO CROMARTIE leads the NFL with 12 interceptions since 2007.

TENNESSEE: Sparked by a stingy defense and a run-pounding offense, the Titans (4-0) are off to the best start in franchise history…First-round selection CHRIS JOHNSON and LEN DALE WHITE are developing into one of the league’s premier running-back tandems. Johnson ranks second in the AFC in rushing yards (337) and is on pace (1,348) to become the first Titans/Oilers rookie running back to gain 1,000 yards since EDDIE GEORGE in 1996. White is tied for the league lead with five rushing touchdowns and is on track (20) to break EARL CAMPBELL’s club season touchdown record (19 in 1979)…The AFC’s third-ranked defense has been disruptive upfront, led by defensive end KYLE VANDEN BOSCH and defensive tackle ALBERT HAYNESWORTH, who ranks second in the AFC with five sacks.

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