Spurrier, Callahan feel more heat in Week Nine of NFL

Updated: November 3, 2003, 11:05 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- The New England Patriots have overcome their share of injuries this season. On Monday night, they try to take advantage of facing a third-string quarterback as they visit the Denver Broncos.

Despite injuries to Rosevelt Colvin, Ted Johnson and Ty Law - among others - New England (6-2) is one game in front of the Miami Dolphins for the lead in the AFC East.

Many felt the Patriots would struggle defensively after releasing safety Lawyer Milloy just prior to the start of the regular season, but the team has continued to thrive with coach Bill Belichick's complex defensive schemes again causing headaches for opposing quarterbacks.

Milloy signed with Buffalo Bills after being released and was able to enjoy a 31-0 romp over the Patriots in Week One. But New England has won six of seven games since, including the last four, and is in good position to return to the playoffs after losing the division on a tiebreaker in 2002, one year after winning the Super Bowl.

Denver (5-3), like New England, was one of the preseason favorites in the AFC. The Broncos won five of their first six games, but face a pivotal game Monday as they are three games behind the Kansas City Chiefs - the only unbeaten team in the NFL - for the lead in the AFC West.

With starter Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein sidelined, Danny Kanell will be behind center on Monday. He did not have it easy as his first start since 2000 came last week against the Baltimore Ravens.

Kanell completed 16-of-31 passes for 114 yards and two interceptions against Baltimore and on Monday faces a team that is fourth in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just three touchdowns in the air while recording 12 interceptions.

Denver has won 12 of the last 14 meetings between the teams and leads the series, 22-14.

On Sunday, the Dolphins had no answer for defensive end Dwight Freeney as they were defeated, 23-17, by the Indianapolis Colts. Freeney had three sacks and two forced fumbles as the Colts (7-1) one game ahead of the idle Tennessee Titans (6-2) for the lead in the AFC South. Kansas City also had a bye.

Among the biggest surprises this season, the Dallas Cowboys won for the sixth time in seven games with a 21-14 victory over the Washington Redskins.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants kept the pressure on the Cowboys in the NFC East.

The Giants, who handed the Minnesota Vikings their first defeat last week, were the road team in their own stadium as Kerry Collins passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns and Brett Conway kicked a 29-yard field goal with four seconds left in overtime for a 31-28 win over the New York Jets.

Donovan McNabb threw for a season-high 312 yards to lead Philadelphia (5-3) to a 23-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It was the seventh straight loss for the Falcons (1-7).

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index