Here's an overview of what I'll be looking for in today's games:
1.) Will Ben Roethlisberger be successful in his first game back following a four -game suspension?
While some might say he could be rusty in his first game back, there's no reason why the coaches should hold the right-handed thrower back. Roethlisberger has been practicing the last two weeks with the first-team offense, so he should be ready to go against the visiting Cleveland Browns.
What the Steelers have been missing in his absence is their downfield passing game. Expect that to change with Roethlisberger back behind center. The Browns have a less-than-stellar secondary, so look for the Steelers to exploit that area of Cleveland's defense. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see second-year WR Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh's best deep threat, to make a big play or two in this game.
2.) Are the Washington Redskins really as good as their 3-2 record?
If you've watched the Redskins this season, you probably would get the sense that they have been an inconsistent team. But that's been the case with the entire NFC East.
Despite the absence of RB Clinton Portis due to injury, they may have found their future starter at running back in Ryan Torain. And Torain figures to get his share of the carries against the Indianapolis Colts this evening.
The Redskins have won their last two games because the defense, despite being ranked 32nd overall, is actually improving. They did a nice job against Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers last week. If the defense can hold Peyton Manning to lower numbers than usual, the Redskins could pull off an upset in this game.
3.) Can the Houston Texans bounce back from last week's poor performance?
That's the big issue going forward. Was last week's loss to the New York Giants an aberration or a portent of things to come?
The Texans must get their running game back on track. Because the Kansas City Chiefs don't have a strong offense, the game should be close enough for the Texans to make a strong commitment to running the ball. But Kansas City's pass defense really has been much improved this season, so this could be a low-scoring game.
The absence of starting OLT Duane Brown due to his four-game suspension has been noticeable. The best way to deal with that is to get back to running the ball. The expectation is that they'll make a stronger commitment from the outset of this game to get good balance on offense. If they can't, they'll become more one dimensional and easier to defend.
4.) How will the New England Patriots compensate for the loss of WR Randy Moss against the Baltimore Ravens?
This will be the first game that the Patriots will play without Moss, so it will be interesting to see how they approach Baltimore's defense. Veteran WR Deion Branch, whom the team reacquired recently, figures to play mostly on the outside. But after dealing with knee problems over the past few seasons, it remains to be seen how well he will be moving.
Look for rookie WR Aaron Hernandez to pick up some of the slack as a vertical threat that was lost with Moss moving on. Hernandez, who was selected in the fourth round, would have been no worse than a second-round pick had he not had off-the-field issues coming into the draft. Hernandez could be used quite a bit in the slot to provide mismatches against linebackers. Also look for WR Brandon Tate to see an increased role as a vertical passing option.
5.) Can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the New Orleans Saints?
It's getting to the point where beating the Saints might not be as much of a feat as it once was considered. The Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's biggest surprises this season. And the Saints, on the other hand, probably have been one of the NFL's biggest disappointments so far. While the Saints have a winning record, they aren't playing nearly to their championship level from last season.
Tampa Bay will have to run the ball a lot better than they have of late to have a strong chance to beat the visiting Saints. QB Josh Freeman is starting to really come on and he has really good receiving options in rookie WR Mike Williams and veteran TE Kellen Winslow.
It certainly will be a challenge for the Buccaneers to win this game, but they are playing well enough on both sides of the ball to make this game close, perhaps close enough to pull it out in the end.
-- Adam Caplan