Tampa look to coral Cowboys

The 2008 NFL season is already at the half-way mark and teams are struggling to live up to pre-season expectations.

Baltimore and Oakland had nothing to live up to entering the season. But in their match-up look for the Ravens to bring their trademark D to stop the Raiders talented runner Darren McFadden.

Two other teams coming out of nowhere are the Cardinals and the Panthers. Arizona has done it with a pass-happy juggernaut offense though it will be put to the test against a Carolina squad priding itself on stopping the run and disrupting offenses.

The Cowboys are in a world of hurt after dropping three straight games. With key players missing and a demoralised D a win against a stout Tampa Bay line-backing core will rest on Brad Johnson’s arm.

Washington should be an upbeat team. With Dallas faltering and New York showing problems, the door to an NFC East title is open. But their defense should focus on a Detroit team that’s gearing up for an upset.

Buffalo has fielded the competitive team most expected while the Dolphins are eyeing a way out of the cellar. This game will be a test of Buffalo’s character and their secondary against a quirky but talented Miami offensive unit.

New England played like their old selves against the Broncos on Monday. That and their new-found passing attack will need to continue against a Rams team suddenly fielding a dangerous squad.

The Chargers are a team scuffling to ensure a winning season. Their offense has been anything but powerful. Their defense better be on-point to hold off Drew Brees and an offensive-minded Saints side in their game in London.

The Jets are a team living and dieing on the arm of Brett Favre. In their game against an upstart Chiefs team that can actually threaten to score Favre will need to play well for New York to win.

Atlanta have a surprisingly good squad that has relied a lot on the run. The Eagles can play well on both sides of the ball and can stop the run. Look for the winner to be the team that controls the run game.

Cincinnati is playing so poor it’s doubtful they’ll get three wins this year. Without Palmer in the helm the Bengals will need to flash a defense that can limit Schaub and Johnson.

Anderson is a QB who needs weapons and confidence to do well in Cleveland. The loss of Kellen Winslow bodes well for the Jaguars as they look to run themselves back into contention in the AFC South.

The Giants are a team far from perfect and with Eli injured they’ll struggle to score. Thus their defense will have to be huge if they hope to stop the Steelers and their pass attack.

The Niners are a team in transition. Aside from Nolan they’re on the cusp of consistently showing a passing attack to prevent teams from focusing on Gore. O’Sullivan will need to be on target to get by a Seattle team trying to salvage the season.

Monday night games have constantly shown teams looking for redemption. The Colts are another in that group.

Peyton is unusually shaky, Harrison is banged up and the D still has a lot to prove. Everything will need to come together to shut down the Titans and their sound approach.

The teams with byes also deserve a mention. The Bears, Packers and Vikings are very much in the hunt for the NFC North title. Rest will do them well as they look to make a late-season push.

Meanwhile the Broncos will be licking their wounds after a thrashing at the hands of the Patriots. They can certainly get by San Diego to win their division but they’re going to need to rest up their D to do it.