NFL WEEK 3 NEWS AND NOTES

NFL WEEK 3 NEWS AND NOTES

Coach sticks with veteran over troubled Young
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -The Tennessee Titans are sticking with veteran Kerry Collins as their starting quarterback as long as the team keeps winning.

Coach Jeff Fisher said so Monday following the Titans' 24-7 windy win at Cincinnati. The Titans are 2-0 for the first time since 1999, when they made their lone Super Bowl appearance.

''We're going to get Vince back, get his knee back, work with him, get him back involved in the offense,'' Fisher said. ''But Kerry's going to go ahead and play for us until either he struggles or whatever else happens. Yeah, you saw by the way he played. In light of everything, it just makes sense to go with him.''

The Titans had not given any projection for Young's return from his sprained left knee except to rule him out against Cincinnati.

Outside predictions have said Young, 18-11 since taking over as Tennessee's starter, could miss up to four weeks. Now that this move is official, it gives Young time to deal with his off-field issues after the team was given information that resulted in a call to police for help finding the quarterback, prompting a national discussion over his mental attitude.

Asked if he had relayed the decision to Young, Fisher said he had not talked to the quarterback who a week ago postponed a scheduled MRI exam to determine the extent of his damaged knee. Young did visit the team's offices Monday and had treatment on his knee.

''He's got to get back. He's eventually going to be under center for us. When that happens, I don't know. For right now, Kerry's our quarterback,'' Fisher said.

That's not what Young was expecting last week when he talked to reporters about what prompted the search to check on his mental well-being. Asked if he would have to win his starting job back, he said he doubted it.

''They drafted me to be the quarterback here at the organization, and that's what they want me to do. What I like about our organization is they're behind me all the way from Houston,'' Young said last week.

But for now, Fisher said it just makes sense to go with Collins after watching him play nearly mistake-free against the Bengals.

''Kerry did a great job managing the game,'' Fisher said.

The 35-year-old Collins, in the 150th start of his career, was 14-of-21 for 128 yards with one touchdown - his first since Sept. 24, 2006. The numbers were more impressive considering the windy conditions with gusts up past 50 mph that made it impossible for some of his own teammates to hear him at the line of scrimmage.

This is the same quarterback who was out of work until the Titans called him in August 2006 to help mentor Young. But now he's back as a starter.

Collins was not available Monday, but tight end Alge Crumpler, who signed a two-year deal with the Titans with the chance to play with Young among his reasons, said winning is the key.

''I just want to win games. That's the thing. Whoever's going to be under the center as long the guy leads us to victory, that's what we have to rally behind,'' Crumpler said.

That's key for a team that went 10-6 last season but lost on the road to San Diego as the sixth and final wild-card team. The Titans already own a precious one-game edge over the AFC South's perennial champ Indianapolis and a two-game lead over Jacksonville in the division.

Rookie Chris Johnson has provided speed to an offense that ranked fifth in rushing in the NFL last season. He got his first 100-yard rushing performance in Cincinnati with a 51-yard run that tied for the team's third-longest since the start of the 1999 season, and his 248 yards combined lead the AFC in yards from scrimmage.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan leads the NFL with three interceptions, and only five teams have a better takeaway/giveaway ratio than the Titans with a plus-two.

And a team that was the NFL's worst at scoring touchdowns inside the final 20 yards in 2007 has found the end zone on four of five trips into the red zone. Only Pittsburgh and Denver have been better. Add in a favorable schedule with Houston (0-1) visiting Sunday with Minnesota (0-2) up next with a trip to Baltimore (1-0) before their bye.

''We all have confidence in Kerry. He'll be fine,'' Fisher said.

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Opening line report: Week 3
By STEPHEN NOVER

Just how good are the Buffalo Bills?

The Bills are healthy, unlike last year when they finished with the most players on injured reserve. That makes a difference. Trent Edwards has been solid.

Certainly their special teams are outstanding. Chemistry looks good. The defense is more physical.

But as professional gambler Dave Malinsky said, “The Bills should never be more than a touchdown favorite.”

Bookmakers disagree. The Bills currently are -9 and even up to -9 ½ hosting Oakland.

“They’re over inflated; no doubt about that,” Las Vegas Sports Consultants senior oddsmaker Mike Seba said about the Bills. “No doubt they’re much better than last year.

“They had so many injuries last year and now all those guys are back giving them depth. But look at the teams the Bills have played so far – Seattle and Jacksonville. Both have been decimated with injuries.”

The Raiders have a good rushing attack and their defense can play respectable. However, they have yet to develop any semblance of a passing attack, head coach Lane Kiffin is dead man walking and the Raiders are traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast with an early start time.

“It’s a tough trip for Oakland,” Seba said. “But it’s not a good situation either for the Bills. They could be in a letdown spot.

“It should be a low-scoring defensive type game. I wouldn’t want to be laying nine points in that type of situation.”

It’s weird to see the Bills favored by more than a touchdown and the San Francisco 49ers laying more than a field goal in the same week. That’s the case, though, as the 49ers are -3 ½ hosting Detroit.

The Lions are 31-83 in the Dark Ages era of Matt Millen. They have surrendered 82 points and 921 yards in opening 0-2 with losses to Atlanta and Green Bay at home.

“Detroit is just horrible,” Seba said. “I didn’t like the Lions in the first place and now they have to go on a long trip.”

Old friend Mike Martz will be there to greet the Lions. He was their unsuccessful offensive coordinator before moving on to San Francisco.

“If the 49ers win this game they go to 2-1 and could win the division,” Seba said.

Don’t laugh. Seattle is 0-2 and has been without its three best wideouts and running back Maurice Morris. Luckily the Seahawks host St. Louis. That matchup was the hardest game to make a line on, Seba said. He finally settled on Seattle -9. LVSC send out was -10.

“You’re thinking the Rams are just horrible and maybe making Seattle -11,” Seba said. “Then you see how banged-up Seattle is and you’re thinking no more than -7.

“Yet how is anyone going to back the Rams since they’ve looked so bad. The combination of injuries and the other team looking so bad makes it hard (to put out a line).

“We have five guys making the line, which really helps. It would be real tough to do it yourself.”

Many of the hotels in Nevada are clients of LVSC. They rely on them for their opening lines and advice.

The biggest spreads this week are on the New York Giants laying 13 to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots -13 at home to the Miami Dolphins.

It wouldn’t be a shock if both lines got up to -14. Seba is especially down on the Bengals. He made them +13 ½.

“How does Marvin Lewis keep his job?” he said. “The Bengals have no heart or discipline. They’re supposed to be better on defense, but I’m not seeing it.”

Things aren’t good for the Bengals when their defense is better than their offense, which has accounted for one touchdown in two games. Cincinnati’s offensive line continues to get pushed around, its star wideouts might not be healthy and Carson Palmer has thrown three interceptions and no touchdowns.

Still, it would be tempting to take the Bengals at two touchdowns. The Bengals opened at Baltimore against a fierce Ravens defense and this past Sunday went up against a tough Tennessee defense in extreme windy conditions.

The Dolphins have looked terrible, too. Their offensive line isn’t opening holes. Defenses are cheating on weak-armed Chad Pennington just about ignoring Miami’s puny passing attack.

Yet Miami could be a take also if the line reaches Patriots -14. The Dolphins-Patriots have the lowest ‘over/under’ on the Week 3 board at 34 ½.

“I would have to take the Dolphins at +14 just because of the low total,” Seba said.

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Cowboys safety Williams fractures forearm
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

IRVING, Texas (AP) - Cowboys safety Roy Williams fractured his right forearm while making a special teams tackle in Dallas' 41-37 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night. The five-time Pro Bowl selection could miss at least three games.

Williams was hurt when he and Keith Davis combined to hit Eagles return man Quintin Demps during a kickoff. The safety went to the sideline and was escorted to the locker room a few plays later.

Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten played through a separated shoulder that forced him to the locker room in the first half. But in the fourth quarter, Witten had a 32-yard catch to the Eagles 5 that set up Marion Barber's 1-yard go-ahead TD run.

''Little shoulder pops out and that's nothing,'' Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens said. ''It just shows you how tough the guy is.''

Witten, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards, will be re-evaluated Tuesday.

Backup Patrick Watkins took Williams' place in the defensive backfield and was called for a key face mask penalty on the final play of the third quarter. Two plays later, Brian Westbrook scored on a 1-yard run to put the Eagles up 37-31.

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Week 2 Recap
By Josh Jacobs

Week 2 in the NFL has come and gone and what a week it was. There’s no thought process needed to rank the Denver win over San Diego as the No. 1 offensive shootout on Sunday. And what is the problem with Cincinnati, Cleveland, Miami and St. Louis?

One of the biggest give away wins was Minnesota’s inability to hold down Indianapolis in the fourth quarter. Leading for most of the game, the Vikings decided to leave the door wide open for QB Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts’ depth chart.
   
Indy’s Manning was pressured into throwing two interceptions, while Minnesota’s big investment in defensive end Jared Allen finally paid off with one sack and three tackles. But in the end, the Vikings’ third down conversion problems (2-of-13 third down conversion) a passing game that logged in a mere 119 yards and failure to grab scores within the red zone were all reasons for a Colts’ pullout victory in the fourth quarter.

Keep you’re eye on Indianapolis wide out Anthony Gonzalez who recorded nine receptions for 137 receiving yards. With perennial all-star Marvin Harrison looking like an older version of the once untouchable wide receiver everyone remembers tearing up turf, Gonzalez could be on his way to stardom.

With the 18-15 win, the Colts were able to cover the one-point spread. The ‘under’ was golden with a combined 33 points well short of the set 43.

We can’t talk about Week 2 without bringing up Denver’s tight, 39-38 win over San Diego in the final moments of the contest. It was déjà vu all over again for the Chargers, who took a tough loss on the chin in Week 1 after Carolina found the end zone with time expiring off the clock.

The only difference this Sunday was referee Ed Hochuli’s mishap on an incomplete call. Trailing 38-31, Denver’s signal caller Jay Cutler appeared to have lost the ball before his arm lunged forward in the attempt to find the end zone. Hochuli proceeded to call an incomplete pass on the play, but instant replay clearly showed the ball coming loose before the arm extended.

Whichever way you want to view the missed call, Cutler proceeded to find WR Eddie Royal for the six points, only to follow up with a two-point conversion. In the first two weeks of defeats, San Diego has now lost to the Panthers and Broncos by a combined three points.

Pending on when you placed your wager the closing bell moved Denver as a one-point home favorite with a push resulting in the contest. However, opening lines had the Broncos as two-point home ‘dogs so hopefully those backers with the points cashed in.

Buffalo should start turning heads’ of the betting public. Bills QB Trent Edwards was spot on in the team’s 20-16 victory in Jacksonville on Sunday. The two-year vet out of Stanford etched his name into the stat sheet for 20 competitions in 25 attempts with 239 passing yards and one touchdown.

The last time Buffalo started the season at 2-0 was in 2003. Next up for the Bills is Oakland, an organization struggling to find its place in the NFL. The Raiders might be coming off a 23-8 victory but what does this say about Kansas City?

The Chiefs have now ran through three different slingers on the roster, losing Brodie Croyle for up to four weeks followed by Damon Huard sustaining a neck injury in the loss against Oakland. At this point it looks like inexperienced QB Tyler Thigpen could start taking snaps to begin games. Thigpen showed off his suspect ability, tossing the pigskin 33 times for only 14 completions and 151 yards. One score was offset by one interception and three sacks.

The Raiders closed the window as 3 ½-point underdogs in most spots.

Another big underdog who won straight out was the 49ers. Listed at plus-6 ½-points, San Francisco was catapulted into the ‘W’ column for the first time this season thanks to some high flying action created by signal caller J.T. O’Sullivan (20-for-32, 321 yards with one TD).

With the ‘Niners posting 33 points, this marked only the third time in five seasons that the team racked up 30 points or more in the last five seasons.

Seattle is in desperate times, especially with the absence of WRs Nate Burlinson (ACL), Bobby Engram (shoulder) and Deion Branch (ACL), compounded by utility player, Seneca Wallace’s calf injury. Wallace became the sixth wide receiver (really a backup QB, but we'll refer to him as a WR for the time being) to fall out of action due to injury.

The Seahawks will be looking to host the dilapidated Rams this week at home. St. Louis was balled out of their own stadium after the New York Giants found QB Mark Bulger in the backfield for four sacks, one interception and a defensive return for a touchdown. New York’s defensive end Justin Tuck recorded three tackles, a pair of sacks of his own and was that player who found the end zone after picking off Bulger.

Thanks to solid protection provided by the offensive line, Big Blue's field general Eli Manning connected with his receiving core for three scores with 260 yards. Keeping the Rams on their toes was major numbers crafted by running backs Brandon Jacobs (93 yards), Derrick Ward (58 yards) and Amah Bradshaw (52 yards with a TD).

New York easily covered the nine-point spread as the ‘over’ 43 ½ installed total netted returns to gamblers. The Giants have now won 12 straight road games dating back to 2007.

Most books have opened the G-men as 13 ½-point home favorites when they meet up with Cincinnati on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

The ‘under’ play of the week ended up a solid lock as Pittsburgh and Cleveland both reverted to the ground game in what was a messy evening in the Ohio Valley. But that ground attack was far from effective for the Browns as 53 total yards indicates. Whether or not the weather was a direct result to a low scoring affair, it must be documented that Cleveland’s QB Derek Anderson heaved two picks, while connecting only 18 passes out of 32 attempts. With the final score in favor of Pittsburgh 10-6, the ‘under’ was an easy play (closed at 43 ½-points).

You may have questioned Browns’ coach Romeo Crennel’s decision to kick a field goal with 3:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, pulling his team within three-points. Either way, Cleveland was unable to hold back Steelers’ RB Willie Parker (moving the chains and clock). With just 26 seconds left on the clock, the Browns’ offense came back on the field as Anderson threw three two incomplete passes and was sacked to end the game.

Pittsburgh failed to cover the six-point spread.

At the end of the day, underdogs went 7-6-2 ATS (depending on when you laid your money down) with four of these teams winning outright (Oakland, Washington, Buffalo and San Francisco).

vegasinsider.com.

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Chiefs will start rookie cornerbacks at Atlanta
September 16, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -The Kansas City Chiefs will start two rookie cornerbacks Sunday at Atlanta, a potentially troubling situation that coach Herm Edwards insists will not cost him one minute's sleep.
   
``Not at all. Not those two kids,'' Edwards said Tuesday.

On one side will be Brandon Flowers, who was handed the starting job as soon as he was drafted in the second round in April out of Virginia Tech. Replacing 11-year veteran Patrick Surtain, who injured his shoulder last week against Oakland, will be fifth-round pick Brandon Carr.

This time last year Carr was patrolling the secondary for Division II Grand Valley State, preparing for the NFL by facing Ashland, Hillsdale and Ferris State.

Career interception numbers also underscore how young Kansas City will be on the corner. Surtain, who may be out next week as well, has 36. Carr and Flowers between them are still looking for their first.

Nevertheless, Edwards said there's no reason to panic.

``I anticipated this was going to happen eventually anyway. Now it's come to fruition,'' he said.

Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard, the starting safeties, are both in their third year. DaJuan Morgan, another rookie, will also see plenty of action at safety as the Chiefs try to end an 11-game losing streak against an Atlanta offense that may be tempted to unleash its passing attack.

The Chiefs (0-2) were already the youngest team in the NFL, with 15 rookies on their opening day roster and 32 players with no more than three years of experience.

``It's the youngest secondary in the league now all of a sudden. But the good part is they get to play together a long time,'' Edwards said.

But starting two rookies at cornerback would seem to be courting disaster, especially for a rebuilding team whose defensive line has not been putting much pressure on the quarterback.

``They'll get tested,'' Edwards said.

Carr saw plenty of action in last week's 23-8 loss to Oakland after Surtain came out in the first half. Morgan also played. But with the Raiders running for 300 yards, the third-highest total in Chiefs history, there was no reason to throw many passes.

``For the most part, I thought they did a good job against the Raiders,'' Edwards said. ``We put them in a lot of man-to-man situations, they played a lot of bump-and-run. We got no problem playing man-to-man with these guys. They go up there and bump them and run with them and press them. No one gets nervous about it. They do pretty good.''

Edwards also said there would be a change of strategy at quarterback. While he still wouldn't say whether 12-year veteran Damon Huard or Tyler Thigpen would start in place of the injured Brodie Croyle, Edwards did say he's abandoned last week's plan of giving playing time to both the veteran and the youngster.

``We're thinking to be more decisive with the quarterback - let the guy who plays quarterback play quarterback and just play with the guy,'' he said.

Huard came out early in the first half with what the Chiefs said developed into a stiff neck. Thigpen, who had thrown only six passes in two NFL seasons, played most of the rest of the way. Marques Hagans, a college quarterback who'd never been anything but a wide receiver as a pro, also took five snaps under center.

Edwards said Huard was better and would be able to practice on Wednesday.

``What we're thinking about right now is just letting one guy play. Whoever we decide,'' Edwards said.

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Week 3 Injury Report    

AFC EAST

New England

Laurence Maroney, RB (shoulder) — Maroney left the game against the Jets in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, though he did return briefly in the fourth. The fact that he was able to come back leads me to believe this is not all that serious. What is serious, though, is the amount of competition in the Patriots' backfield and the fact that Maroney — despite being drafted to be their feature back — has been unable to secure a consistent gig.

AFC NORTH

Cincinnati

Carson Palmer, QB (ankle) — Palmer sprained his ankle after being tackled against Tennessee on Sunday. It doesn't appear serious right now, but Palmer will likely be limited in practice this week. He is having all sorts of problems in this offense anyway, and I don't see things turning around for him against the Giants even if he does play.

Ben Utecht, TE (chest) — Utecht left the game after the first play when he was hit hard in the chest. Even though an MRI did not reveal any bone damage, his coach, Marvin Lewis, doesn't believe he is likely to play this week against the Giants. It's not like Utecht was a "must-have" player anyway. Dan Coats would be his likely replacement, but he's not worth owning either.

Johnathan Joseph, DB (amkle) — Joseph left the game against Tennessee in the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle and was wearing a protective boot on Monday morning. Monitor the Bengals' practices this week to see if he plays. If he can't go this week, David Jones will be his replacement and you'll need to downgrade your expectations of the Cincinnati Team Defense … if you still have any, that is.

AFC SOUTH

Indianapolis

Bob Sanders, DB (ankle) — Sanders left the game against Minnesota in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. There's no word yet on the severity, but definitely watch him to make sure he practices this week. He is a fine IDP player, and the value of the Colts' team defense is directly affected by his health.

AFC WEST

Kansas City

Damon Huard, QB (head/neck) — Huard exited the game against Oakland with what was initially reported to be head trauma, but he later told reporters he had hurt his neck. How extensive the injury is hasn't been revealed yet, but if he can't play Sunday against Atlanta, Tyler Thigpen will take the reins of the impotent Chiefs offense.

Patrick Surtain, DB (shoulder) — Surtain left Sunday's tilt against the Raiders with a shoulder injury that was apparently causing him a great deal of pain. No word yet on the severity, but the Chiefs have been looking to work rookie Brandon Carr into the mix anyway. An extended injury would give them the perfect excuse.

Oakland

Justin Fargas, RB (groin) — Fargas left the game against Kansas City with what looks to be a severely pulled groin. There's no word on the extent of the injury yet, but he went down hard after running a route. Check back for updates on his condition, but suddenly Michael Bush is immensely relevant. Darren McFadden, of course, already was.

Darren McFadden, RB (toe) — McFadden was having a monster game against Kansas City when he left in the fourth quarter with what is believed to be turf toe. He didn't appear very worried about it when he spoke to reporters after the game, but make sure he practices this week. If there's one thing Oakland can do, it’s run the football.

San Diego

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (toe) — LT2 has been suffering from a case of turf toe, and he sat out a portion of the game against Denver because of it. He's claiming he'll be fine, and he does get an extra day of rest this week with the Chargers not playing until Monday night. Still, these types of injuries don't tend to go away quickly or easily, so keep an eye on how actively he practices this week.

NFC EAST

Washington

Malcolm Kelly, WR (ankle) — Kelly sprained his ankle during Sunday's game against New Orleans. Injuries have frustrated Kelly almost since the moment he pulled on a Redskins jersey. Every time it seems he may snag a permanent position with the team, he gets injured. Monitor his practice schedule this week, but he still shouldn't be starting on your roster until he proves himself.

NFC NORTH

Chicago

Devin Hester, WR (ribs) — Hester left the game against Carolina with a mysterious rib ailment. He wasn't hit, but he was still carted off the field, prompting speculation that he may have torn or pulled cartilage in his ribcage. More should be known later in the week, but chances are, unless your league awards points for return yardage (or a Bears fan), you weren't really caring all that much about Hester anyway.

Minnesota

Sidney Rice, WR (knee) — Rice left Sunday's game against the Colts after he injured his knee while running a route. An MRI on Monday revealed a sprained posterior cruciate ligament, which was certainly great news for the Vikings considering the alternatives. He may have a chance to play this week against Carolina, but it all depends on how the knee reacts to treatment this week.

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta

Michael Turner, RB (ankle) — Turner was spotted after Sunday's game icing down his ankle. There have been no reports that this is serious yet, so just make sure he practices this week before putting him into your lineup.

Tampa Bay

Joey Galloway, WR (foot) — Galloway left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter after spraining his foot. He was spotted on crutches at the team's headquarters on Monday morning, and Coach Jon Gruden has expressed some doubt about his receiver's status for this week's game. Besides Earnest Graham, Galloway is really the only threat the Bucs have, so you'd definitely have to downgrade Brian Griese if Galloway can't play.

NFC WEST

Seattle

Logan Payne, WR (knee) — This joke really isn't funny anymore: Yet another Seattle wide receiver ends up on the Injury report. Payne tore his medial collateral ligament in his knee when he was tackled while making his only catch of the day. He has been placed on Injured Reserve, ending his season. Paging Koren Robinson — or any free-agent receiver who is able to stay healthy for more than three plays.)

Seneca Wallace, WR (calf) — Coach Mike Holmgren has got to be wondering what he's done to offend the football gods at this point. Wallace, a backup quarterback who was pressed into receiving duties in the face of an injury tidal wave at the position, suffered a calf injury during pre-game warmups. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

sportsbuff.com.

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Colts safety Sanders could be out 6 weeks
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -All-Pro safety Bob Sanders could miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain sustained during the Indianapolis Colts' win last Sunday over Minnesota.

Team president Bill Polian said during a taping of his weekly TV show Tuesday night that the league's defensive player of the year could also have arthroscopic ''cleanup'' surgery on one of his knees while he's recovering from the ankle injury.

''He will be back, that is for sure,'' Polian told WISH-TV. ''At this point we are not sure of the severity, but four to six is the reasonable assumption at this time.''

Sanders hurt his right ankle during the second half of Sunday's 18-15 win over Minnesota, adding his name to a growing list of injured Colts players.

Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday hasn't been in a game since hurting a knee ligament Aug. 24, while starting left guard Ryan Lilja remains out after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Mike Pollak, a second-round draft choice expected to start at right guard, has been out since Aug. 24 with his own knee injury. And left tackle Tony Ugoh left Sunday's game with a groin injury.

Tight end Dallas Clark (knee) also missed the Minnesota game.

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Vikings bench QB Jackson, turn to Frerotte
September 17, 2008

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -The Minnesota Vikings are benching quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in favor of Gus Frerotte.

Coach Brad Childress said Wednesday that Frerotte will start Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Jackson started the first two games, both losses. He completed just 51 percent of his passes in those starts, prompting the coach to turn to 37-year-old journeyman Frerotte.

Frerotte was signed in the offseason to be Jackson's backup, but now finds himself trying to turn around a team that had high expectations to start the season.

Childress said that barring injury, Frerotte will be the quarterback for the rest of the season. However, Childress added he hasn't given up on the 25-year-old Jackson as an option for the team's long term.

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Chiefs to start Thigpen at QB
September 17, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Tyler Thigpen, the first player from Coastal Carolina selected in the NFL draft, will be the first to start at quarterback.

The 24-year-old Thigpen will be under center on Sunday for Kansas City when the Chiefs go to Atlanta. It will be exactly 11 months after the struggling young Chiefs (0-2) last won a game.

A 23-8 loss to Oakland on Sunday, in which Thigpen came off the bench and finished 14-for-33, was their 11th straight regular-season defeat.

``For what we're trying to do, I think he can do a good job of it,'' coach Herm Edwards said. ``He'll be limited in some things but we want to take a look at him.''

After coming in for Damon Huard against Oakland, Thigpen looked every bit like the inexperienced second-year pro that he is, and sent several passes glancing off the hands of defensive backs.

But he appeared to settle down, and eventually hit tight end Tony Gonzalez with a short touchdown pass and converted the 2-point conversion. He also threw an interception and finished 14-for-33 for 151 yards.

``He's another young player, a quarterback we want to look at, see where he's at. If he struggles, obviously Damon comes in,'' Edwards said.

Brodie Croyle, the strong-armed but injury-prone young quarterback the Chiefs are hoping to build around, has a separated shoulder and will be out at least one more week and possibly more. Huard, a 12-year veteran and the only quarterback in Kansas City who has won in the NFL, made the start against the Raiders but came out in the first half with a sore neck.

Now Huard is OK, but Thigpen will join several inexperienced young Chiefs who are getting a cram course in the NFL.

``We're trying to look at young players, it's part of the process,'' Edwards said. ``Is (Thigpen) a two? Is he a one? Is he always going to be a three? You don't know until they play, until they have an opportunity to play.''

With 15 rookies and 32 players of three years of experience or less, the Chiefs are the NFL's youngest team. Branden Albert, a rookie, will start at left tackle and be tasked with protecting Thigpen from Atlanta's John Abraham, who has four sacks in two games. Both starting cornerbacks and a starting defensive tackle are also rookies.

The more seasoned Huard would seem to provide a better opportunity for victory. But Edwards bristled at the suggestion the Chiefs have decided to sacrifice wins in order to develop young players.

``We're not trying to discard the season. We're not trying to not win any football games,'' he said.

``We're the youngest team in football. We know that. But we're trying to develop our plan. We're trying to build a football team, and it's hard. It's not a lot of fun. We're going to try to beat the Falcons. We feel with what we're trying to do this week, we'll have a great chance to be successful.''

Thigpen helped Coastal Carolina launch its Football Championship Subdivision program. In 41 games with the Chanticleers, he completed 486 of 879 passes for 6,598 yards, with 53 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He was the first player from his school selected as a consensus All-American.

Drafted by Minnesota in the seventh round in 2007, he was claimed off waivers and threw only six passes for the Chiefs last season, completing two. This year during the preseason, he was 25 of 54 for 282 yards and two touchdowns and three interceptions

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Week 3 NFL Power Rankings
by Robert Ferringo

Ah, hyperbole.

I will admit that Week 2 in the NFL was a pretty exciting and somewhat surprising week. However, for the last three days all I've heard is people talking about how it was "one of the most exciting weeks EVER in the NFL." I mean, c'mon. Give me a break. It's Week 2 people! Everything is still up for grabs. And if you are ever surprised by what happens on Sundays during the fall you just haven't been paying attention.

As we head into Week 2 I issue this warning, "Stay frosty". Right now people think they have a grasp on "who is good" and "who is bad" this year in the pro circuit. Cross those streams with the lingering 2007 impressions and ideas (people still expect the Browns to win 10 games) and it is very easy to get your heads twisted. Let's take a step back, crunch the numbers, and keep an open mind. Because the teams that have started 0-2 are not going 0-16 (except maybe Cincy) and the teams that have started 2-0 are not going 16-0.

With that in mind, here is a new installment of Doc's Sports Power Rankings:

1. Dallas Cowboys (2-0) - The loss of Roy Williams in the secondary is definitely the bad news that comes out of Monday's key win. But the good news is that this offense is an absolute machine right now, and it's mainly due to the fact that only a handful of teams in the league can A) get pressure on Tony Romo or B) cover Jason Witten. I wouldn't bank on much of a letdown this weekend against Green Bay. The Boys are 7-3-1 ATS after playing Philly and 16-3 ATS off a win over the Eagles and playing an NFC opponent the next week.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) -Mike Tomlin is a fast learner. Taking a page out of the Belichick Playbook, Tomlin is trying to play mind games regarding Big Ben's shoulder and Brett Keisel's calf injury. Unfortunately for Tomlin, Keisel will miss two months and there isn't much word play will do to change that. The home team has won the last five meetings in their series with Philly and the underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last 10.

3. New York Giants (2-0) - I opined last week that I couldn't embrace the Giants as the No. 3 team in the league. Scratch that. And it has little to do with the beat down they gave St. Louis. Yes, I'm worried about their depth on defense if some key guys on the line go down. But other than that, this team is exceptional and are playing with a ton of confidence. They are executing as well as anyone in the NFL, and when was the last time you could say that about a Giants team? The G-Men are 2-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite under Tom Coughlin. And with a bye week on the horizon you can expect maximum effort. (Those veterans know if they play well they will get extra time off!) The last time the Giants started 3-0 was 2000, when they made it to the Super Bowl.

4. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) - Against the Bears, one Colts defender was quoted as saying, "We knew they were going to run the ball but we couldn't stop them." Then they were carved up by Minnesota's rushing attack last week as well. Now they will be without Bob Sanders (ankle) for 4-6 weeks. They may be getting Jeff Saturday back this Sunday, but it looks like we'll have to wait until later in the week on updates for LT Tony Ugoh and TE Dallas Clark, two more keys in the running game.

5. New England Patriots (2-0) - Some questions about Matt Cassel were answered on Sunday. But he still has a lot left to prove in my book. New England's defense has obviously risen to the task, but looking ahead on the schedule there will still be several teams with the speed to challenge this aging bunch. The home team is 12-5 ATS in their series with Miami and the Patriots are 6-2 ATS in Foxboro against the Fins.

6. Tennessee Titans (2-0) - Kerry Collins looked calm and in complete control against the Bengals last Sunday. However, I've seen too many multiple-turnover games from him to ever get too comfortable. But as long as Chris Johnson is getting touches this offense should be just good enough. Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in this Houston series but the last five games have been determined by an average of 5.0 points.

7. Carolina Panthers (2-0) - Winning its first two games was not only crucial because it has helped the Panthers forge an early divisional lead. It's also key because it has helped this team realize that they can win without Steve Smith, who has not been Mr. Reliable over the last three years. Carolina is back on the road this week and they are 8-3 ATS away from home. Jake Delhomme will have to keep his cool this week because against the Vikes I don't expect the Panthers to have as much success on the ground as they have had up to this point.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) -The Bucs are just 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games and they were not able to dispatch the young Falcons as easily as I know John Gruden would have like last week. Also, there was a key report today from the St. Pete Times that suggests that Joey Galloway (foot sprain) won't play this week. That is a tremendous loss and the lack of their top wideout and deep threat will allow the Bears to bring extra men in the box to slow down Earnest Graham.

9. Green Bay Packers (2-0) - Green Bay fits into a fantastic system this week regarding home underdogs off a win against a team that was at home the previous week. In non-divisional situations, the home puppy has covered nearly 70 percent of the time. This game against Dallas is also somewhat of a revenge game for a close loss in Big D last year. That was really Aaron Rodgers' breakout performance and he'll have to maintain his sharp play this week for the Pack to have a chance. Also, they need to figure out who is going to guard Jason Witten this weekend because no one has stopped him yet.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) -Donovan McNabb is clearly playing at a high level and, when healthy, is still one of the best five or six QBs in the game. But he's gotten off to fast starts in each of the past four years only to fade down the stretch. DeSean Jackson has been an arrogant punk. Hey, that's what the Eagles love about him - his confidence. But I think that the coaching staff really needed to send a message to him for his incredible Asshole Moment on Monday Night. Not by benching him (this isn't high school) but by ripping him a new one on the sidelines in a scene that you know would have gotten national play. Only two of the last 10 meetings with Pittsburgh have been decided by 10 points or more. But only once in the last 10 meetings has the spread actually been a factor in who cashes.

11. Buffalo Bills (2-0) -If Buffalo wins this week against the Raiders to improve to 3-0 their probability of making the playoffs is 79.5 percent. And with a trip to St. Louis on the horizon the Bills could actually be set for a 4-0 start. Buffalo is 14-6 ATS as a home favorite dating back to 2004. But this team has to protect against overconfidence this week and simply stick to the game plan. As we've seen the Jags and the Seahawks are not nearly as good as everyone though.

12. San Diego Chargers (0-2) - This ranking could cause a mini-uproar, but the reality is that the Chargers lost two games in the last 30 seconds by a combined two points. One of the games was on the road and should have been a win. So even though it is obvious that Norv Turner is an anchor around this team's neck, I sense the veterans on this club circling the wagons and finding another gear pretty soon. The main problem here is that they haven't been playing good defense without Shawne Merriman. The Chargers have already given up more points than all but three teams in the league. The Chargers are 8-2 ATS versus non-divisional opponents on Monday Night Football.

13. Denver Broncos (2-0) -If the refs get the call right you aren't arguing with me about Denver being behind San Diego. I think that Denver has the look of the 2005 Bengals and the 2007 Browns as the "defensively challenged" team that makes a run to the playoffs behind an offense that simply can't be stopped. But before we start printing January tickets, remember that the Broncos started 2-0 last year as well.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) -In the last 15 years there have been many teams that started 0-3. Only two made the playoffs. That's the level of desperation that faces Everyone's Sexy Super Bowl Pick. Through two games here is the combined stat line for Fred Taylor and Mo-Jo Drew: 35 rushes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Yikes. Jacksonville is 5-2 ATS against the Colts and the road team is 5-2-1 ATS in this series.

15. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) -Granted, the Cardinals have beaten two of the worst teams in the NFL in San Fran and Miami. However, they looked exceptional while doing it and at no point did I ever feel like they were playing down to the level of their competition in those games. That's a great sign. This is a good football team and they have gotten three times as good executing the little things. I will say this: Neil Rackers is cause for concern. He looks just as erratic as he was last year and I bet you he costs them at least one game. An interesting travel note: Arizona won't fly home between this weekend's game at Washington and their Week 4 game against the Jets. Arizona is 9-4 ATS on the road and 17-8 ATS in their last 25 overall.

16. Chicago Bears (1-1) -That could be a season-changing loss for the Bears. They were just a few minutes from a seemingly improbably 2-0 start with BOTH wins coming on the road. Now the defense will get a crack at former backup quarterback Brian Griese. Chicago's defense looks energized and looks like it has recovered from last year's debacle, which is great news. But this team needs to take more shots in the passing game. Not up the field, per se, but in the intermediate routes. Every pass doesn't have to be either a quick slant or screen or a bomb down the field. The Bears are 6-1 ATS following a loss but just 4-9 ATS playing at home.

17. New York Jets (1-1) -Jets Nation has to be in a collective state of shock and disappointment after last week's loss to the Patriots. This is going to be a tremendous test for Eric Mangini and Suddenly Leader Brett Favre to scrape this team off the mat and put forth a good effort against a desperate Chargers club. As was suspected, the Jets offense has not gotten on track as Brett struggles to learn the system. But they are still averaging over 4.0 yards per rush on the year and perhaps they need to keep pounding the ball until he "gets" it. The Jets are 9-2 ATS as a road dog on MNF.

18. New Orleans Saints (1-1) -I hate to say it after pumping the Saints up so much last week, but that team that played in Washington on Sunday looked an awful lot like the mediocre group that struggled through 2007. Without Marques Colston the entire complexion of that offense changes because the rest of their wideouts are a C- group. The secondary, which had made solid strides, regressed again and the linebackers for this team were invisible. I have no idea how that defense expects to slow down Denver's aerial attack. The Saints are 2-4 ATS on grass.

19. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) -Question: if Vinny Shianco had come up with that perfectly thrown T-Jack throw in the end zone last week would everyone be saying how pathetic the Vikings quarterback situation is? Maybe. Regardless, Brad Childress announced today that Gus Frerotte will be starting against the Panthers this weekend. The Vikings have dumped five straight games against the spread and are just 4-10 ATS at home. Oh, and an offensive suggestion: don't you think that play-action passing would be a vital part of the attack with this team. Through two games it's been an afterthought.

20. Washington Redskins (1-1) -Jim Zorn had some very questionable situations in his win over New Orleans. Not the least of which was his decision to go for a two-point conversion in the third quarter when it was 15-17 and his choice to not go for it to put the Skins up six points when they scored to make it 29-24. He will cost them at least one game this year with shoddy situational management. Great day by Chris Horton, who may be able to ease the loss (on the field) of Sean Taylor.

21. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) -This team is reeling, and I feel like Mike Holmgren should have taken the same level of urgency into his offseason personnel moves as he has in the last two weeks. He is scrambling to add players after the season is already started when he knew about certain injuries and suspensions that would keep key guys off the field. The biggest surprise for this team to this point is how awful their defense has played. They have already given up 67 points to Buffalo and San Fran - not exactly two offensive juggernauts. Seattle is 3-1 ATS when home again after a straight-up home loss but just 7-9 ATS in the second of back-to-back home games.

22. Houston Texans (0-1) -This is a very difficult spot for the Texans. There is no doubt in my mind that they would have pummeled the Ravens last weekend and entered Week 3's trip to the Music City with confidence in themselves and kinks worked out on defense. Instead, they have had two broken weeks, questions yet unanswered, and now head to Tennessee with their minds still on family and friends in tough situations at home. We're going to learn a lot about if this Houston team is ready to compete in the rugged AFC South by how they come out and play in this game this weekend.

23. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) -Can't say enough about how impressed I am with Matt Ryan's attitude to this point. That kid took every lick the Bucs had to throw at him and kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming last week. However, he is quickly learning that if you miss a throw in college it was incomplete, but if you miss a throw in the NFL it's going the other way. Stunning news out of Falcons camp this week was that All-Around Good Guy Lawyer Milloy was busted with a DUI Sunday night coming home from the strip clubs. There is no update on his playing status, but I expect to see him on the field on Sunday. Atlanta is 1-4 ATS against the Chiefs and just 3-6 ATS as a home favorite.

24. Cleveland Browns (0-2) -After two weeks of railing against the Browns it's time to bring it back a bit. Romeo Crennel is a complete and total joke. He is probably the worst coach in the league, and I've been saying that for two years. However, the Browns showed some toughness and showed some solid execution on Sunday night. Also, they are 0-2 but they have lost to two of the four or five best teams in football. They are 11-1 ATS against a team with a winning record, 5-0 ATS against the Ravens, and the underdog in this series is 4-1 ATS.

25. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) - The Niners are going to be a very live underdog this year precisely because of the Mike Martz scheme. They will never win anything with Martz calling the shots, but they will be just good enough and just feisty enough to put pressure on favorites with their passing attack. The 49ers are 5-11 ATS at home against a team with a losing road record and they are just 4-9 ATS overall. They are also just 2-6 ATS as a favorite dating back to 2003. (And yes, the San Francisco 49ers have only been a favorite eight times in the last five years. Somewhere Ronnie Lott is crying.)

26. Oakland Raiders (1-1) -Same old Raiders: defensive end Tommy Kelly was arrested on suspicion of DUI this week. Mix in the whole Kiffin-Davis debacle and you are right back at Square 1 with this franchise. They have a young nucleus of up-and-comers, but they have no character anywhere in the organization to show these kids how to play in the NFL.

27. Detroit Lions (0-2) -Rumor has it that the Lions are hell-bent on acquiring more washed-up running backs (besides Rudi Johnson). They apparently have worked out Cedric Benson and Shaun Alexander, as Matt Millen reaffirms himself as the Isaiah Thomas of the NFL. The Lions will be facing their old OC Mike Martz this weekend and you can expect MM to further exploit the weaknesses of the league's worst defense. Detroit is 2-8 ATS on grass, 1-7 ATS against the NFC, and 0-5 ATS overall. However, they are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after a double-digit home loss.

28. Miami Dolphins (0-2) -As long as the Dolphins cannot run the ball they cannot compete, especially on the road. Only once in their past 10 games have they averaged more than 3.8 yards per rush and eight of those 10 games they have averaged less than 3.4 per attempt. The struggling Dolphins secondary should also expect a heavy dose of Wes Welker and Randy Moss this weekend. However, that could actually work to their advantage because they may be able to force Matt Cassel into some turnovers. It's a reach, I know. But if they don't lose by 30 points it will because they manufactured a couple interceptions.

29. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) - The great news for the Ravens is that they had an extra week to sit back and feel good about themselves after their opening win. And they had an extra week to rest and game plan before they host a reeling Browns team that's coming off an emotionally draining 0-2 start. You really couldn't have scripted it any better for this crew. Willis McGahee will get the start, but don't look for much explosion out of him. My sources say he's still overweight and not in full game shape. We will also see if Joe Flacco can exploit Cleveland's porous secondary, and that matchup should determine the winner in this one.

30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) -As I pointed out on the blog while breaking down the Raiders-Chiefs game, the defensive line did not play as poorly as the stats indicate. One guy who has really been invisible through the first two games is Derrick Johnson. Many thought this was going to be his breakout year but he's had about as quiet of a 12 tackles as you can have through two games. Kansas City is 7-1 ATS in its last eight road games but that could definitely change if they don't settle on a quarterback.

31. St. Louis Rams (0-2) -Before we rail the Rams too terribly much, let's remember that they have played at Philadelphia and at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. That's tough sledding. However, the Rams have played with little passion and little plan on the offensive front. It's as if they know their offensive line stinks but they don't care and don't game plan to protect them. Marc Bulger is probably ducking under tables if someone slams the door too loudly, that's how shell-shocked he looks. The good news is that Seattle hasn't looked much better and that the underdog is 8-3 ATS in this series.

32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) -This team, this coaching staff, and this organization are pathetic. Not really much more to say than that and I can't say it enough. They have the second-worst offense in the league and their pass protection should be no match for the Giants' exotic blitz schemes. Also, Cincy is only converting 19 percent on third down. Oh, and Dexter Jackson (out) and Jonathan Joseph (questionable) may not play this week. If you have Eli Manning in your fantasy league: start him. The only positives I have for this team is that Keith Rivers and Domata Peko are both very good football players. Too bad they are the only defensive players that can hit.

Docsports.com

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Re: NFL WEEK 3 NEWS AND NOTES

TEDDY COVERS

NEWS AND NOTES

Bengals - What on earth has happened to this offensive line? The same group has been together for years, and has basically been an above average unit. Not any more. At least Chris Perry is a dramatic upgrade over the departed Rudi Johnson - Perry is the much more explosive back at this stage of his career, and he’s fresh after essentially missing the last two seasons due to injury concerns. Still, I’m not sure which unit is worse - the struggling offense loaded with skill position talent, or the defense that couldn’t stop Baltimore last week and couldn’t stop Tennessee this time around. Huge injury to starting cornerback Jonathan Joseph who came limping off the field, one of the few defensive bright spots this season - check his status, because this pass defense will struggle mightily without him.

Bills - This offense is designed for one thing and one thing only, even though I’ll describe it using three phrases -- keep the chains moving, stay out of third and longs, and keep the playmaking defense fresh. The key is the middle of three - stay out of third and long. The thing that was most impressive about this victory was their poise and execution trailing on the road in the fourth quarter. Trent Edwards was flawless guiding the Bills down the field for the game winning touchdown, a real confidence inspiring victory for an emerging young team.

Broncos - 18 new players on the 45-man roster, three rookies starting on offense alone last week - this is a very young team. But this offense is absolutely on fire to open the season. Four punts (zero three and outs), no turnovers and twelve scoring drives through their first six quarters of the season - now that’s an impressive ratio. Real questions persist about the Broncos defense - this is a dead nuts Over team at this stage of the season.

Chargers - Last week, the Panthers moved the ball virtually at will against this defense. Here against Denver, it was more of the same -- a pass defense that wasn’t generating pressure and wasn’t covering receivers downfield. The talent level is there even without Shawn Merriman. I’ve got to blame the scheme here, a Ted Cottrell problem. And, with the game on the line in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, Cottrell did exactly what he did last week, eschewing the blitz and dropping back into coverage, both on the final fourth down play and the subsequent two-point conversion.

Chiefs - This offensive line is absolutely horrific. Rookie left tackle Brandon Alberts, in particular, is most assuredly not ready for prime time. Five sacks allowed,34 yards rushing on 17 carries by the running backs. And with Herm Edwards rotating three quarterbacks -Tyler Thigpen saw the majority of action this week -- it’s virtually impossible for this struggling offense to develop any sort of rhythm. Nobody is getting enough reps in practice; nobody establishes any type of chemistry with their receivers. At least they have a great punter in Dustin Colquitt. There’s a fair amount of talent here on the defensive side of the football, which makes the 300 rushing yards allowed that much more embarrassing.

Colts - Even with eight men in the box, completely selling out to stop the run, Indy struggled to stop the power rushing game. And with left tackle Tony Ugoh going down with an injury in the first half, Steve Justice, Jamie Richard and Daniel Federkeil are now manning the interior of the offensive line. No wonder this team can’t run the football! Yes, the Colts gave up chunks of yardage against the run (just like they did in their Super Bowl season), but this defense really stiffened when they had to, stepping up in the red zone extremely well. And Peyton Manning deserves every accolade he gets for guiding this team from 15 points down on the road to earn the victory, truly an impressive performance from the league’s best offensive player.

Jaguars - This team has enormous receivers. Mercedes Lewis, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams all stand 6-4 or taller. It’s hard to overthrow this trio, and equally hard for the vast majority of NFL cornerbacks to cover them. Too bad none of the three seem to have good hands. Jones, in particular, didn’t show a lot of effort to nab catchable balls. And with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, David Garrard couldn’t get anything going with the passing game, bad news on a day where their running game was largely stifled.

Jets - Brett Favre clearly showed the effects of not having a full training camp to work with this offense in this ball game. Favre seems to have little chemistry with his receiving corps, unable to make the big throws on the fly that have characterized his career. The Jets rebuilt offensive line really struggled in short yardage situations - this team couldn’t get a tough yard in between the tackles.And the special teams performance was downright horrific. They couldn’t cover punts, couldn’t cover kicks and Jay Feely missed a crucial early field goal. This has the potential to be a real problem area -- the Jets started every drive of the game from inside their own 25-yard line, while the Pats started five drives from inside Jets’ territory. I’m really starting to dislike Brian Schottenheimer’s play calling -- a suspect secondary and a quarterback with a big arm, yet the Jets weren’t taking shots downfield.

Patriots -New England executed a brilliant offensive game plan, mixing power rushing and quick passing from Matt Cassel to keep the chains moving all afternoon.Without Tom Brady, the downfield passing game isn’t what it was last year, but this team was prepped and ready to roll, a testament to the coaching staff. And, for all the weakness this team has showed in their secondary, they’ve done one thing extremely well through the first two weeks -- they protect the goal line. Their stellar goal-line defense was the difference last week; this week they were tremendous defensively inside the red zone once again, stuffing the Jets three times from inside the two yard line to force a field goal.

Raiders - This defense looks significantly better than they did on Monday Night, getting pressure at the line of scrimmage. JaMarcus Russell, however, looks just as bad this time around -- he simply is not seeing the field very well, nor is he making good quick decisions. Russell stares down his receivers, holds the ball too long, has terrible footwork, and equally terrible accuracy. Right now, Russell might be the single worst starting quarterback in the NFL. We did see lots of promise from Darren McFadden, the Raiders’ other big name youngster. McFadden, however, did put the ball on the turf twice, the type of miscue that tends to haunt teams like the Raiders. I was surprised that McFadden wasn’t able to outrun the defense on the one big play where he broke away from the line of scrimmage -- he got caught from behind.

Titans - Rookie RB Chris Johnson earned the single fastest time in the history of the NFL combine, running a 4.2 40-yard dash. LenDale White was also a very highly regarded high draft choice out of USC. But between the two of them, we aren’t seeing anything resembling a big play -- this offense defines the word ‘pedestrian’, completely lacking big play capability whether Vince Young or Kerry Collins starts behind center. At least with Collins they have some sort of a downfield passing game, better than the dinks and dunks that have characterized the last three years with Young behind center. And no team in the NFL is better at winning ugly than Jeff Fisher’s Titans.

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Re: NFL WEEK 3 NEWS AND NOTES

NFL poolies cheat sheet: Week 3
By SHAWN HARTLEN

Kansas City at Atlanta (-5)

Why Chiefs cover: Are 7-1 ATS in their last eight road games. Have only lost once in six meetings with Atlanta. Falcons are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 home games.

Why Falcons cover: NFC-leading ground game keeps pressure off rookie QB Matt Ryan. Chiefs are allowing 213 rushing yards per game. Kansas City will start Tyler Thigpen (54 percent QB rating) at quarterback.

Total (36½): Over is 5-0 in Falcons’ last five home games and 8-1 in their last nine games overall.
       

Arizona at Washington (-3)

Why Cardinals cover: Kurt Warner playing like an MVP quarterback again. Underdog is 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 meetings.

Why Redskins cover: Are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games. Have won last six meetings with Cardinals. New offense looked much better in last week’s win over New Orleans.

Total (42½): Over is 18-6 in Cardinals’ last 24 games overall.


Houston at Tennessee (-5)

Why Texans cover:  Vince Young will not play due to mental and knee problems. Kerry Collins will start at QB for the Titans. Underdog is 7-2 ATS in their last nine meetings.

Why Titans cover: Are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 vs. AFC South. Have won 10 of 12 all-time meetings with Houston, including six straight. Defense holding opponents to 8.5 points per game. Texans are 0-4 ATS in their last four road games and 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings with Tennessee.

Total (39): Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.

         
Oakland at Buffalo (-9½)

Why Raiders cover: Have won the last four meetings. Rookie halfback Darren McFadden exploded with a 164-yard performance last week and will be out to claim the No. 1 spot from the injured Justin Fargas.

Why Bills cover: Are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games on turf. Trent Edwards has thrived as the Bills’ starting QB (454 yards, 2 TDs, zero INTs). Rumor of coach Lane Kiffin’s impending firing could be a distraction for Oakland. JaMarcus Russell has looked lost at the Raiders QB.

Total (36½):  Over is 4-1 in Raiders’ last five road games and 5-0 in Bills’ last five home games.

         
Tampa Bay at Chicago (-3)

Why Buccaneers cover: Will go with Brian Griese again at QB. Griese has had success under Jon Gruden, throwing for 3928 yards with 28 TDs in 18 games. Defense could feast on an already struggling Chicago passing game. Bears could be without sparkplug Devin Hester, who has a rib injury.

Why Bears cover: Are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games. Buccaneers are 1-4 ATS in their last five games and will be without top receiver Joey Galloway, who has a foot injury.

Total (35): Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings and 4-1 in the last five meetings in Chicago.

         
Carolina at Minnesota (-3½)

Why Panthers cover: Are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games. Get Pro-Bowl receiver Steve Smith back from suspension. Vikings are 0-5 ATS in their last five games.

Why Vikings cover: Will it be Tarvaris Jackson in favor of veteran QB Gus Frerotte to spark anaemic passing game? Adrian Peterson could be even more explosive if the passing game can be adequate. Holding opponents to 82 rushing yards per game.

Total (37½): Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings and 5-1 in the last six meetings in Minnesota.


Cincinnati at N.Y. Giants (-13½)

Why Bengals cover: Allowing the fewest sacks in the league. Held Eli Manning to 201 yards passing with an interception in their last meeting, a 23-22 victory.

Why Giants cover: Tough defense gets another matchup against a struggling offense. Three-headed rushing attack faces a Cincy defense that has allowed 406 yards on the ground through two games. Bengals are 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games overall.

Total (41½): Under is 4-1 in Bengals’ last five road games and 7-1 in their last eight games overall.

         
Miami at New England (-13)

Why Dolphins cover: Large spread for a New England team that is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games and has only managed to score a total of 36 points against weak opponents in 2008. Patriots could be without running backs Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan, who were absent from practice Wednesday.

Why Patriots cover: Home team is 12-5 ATS in their last 17 meetings. Miami has the third worst passing defense in the league. Dolphins are 2-6 ATS in their last eight meetings in New England.

Total (36): Under is 6-0-1 in Patriots’ last seven home games and 4-0 in their last four games overall.


New Orleans at Denver (-5½)


Why Saints cover: New Orleans still possesses one of the better offenses in the league. While the Saints ground game has been ineffective, Reggie Bush has found the end zone in each of his first two seasons.

Why Broncos cover: QB Jay Culter is finding his groove. The young signal caller leads the NFL in passing yards (650) and touchdown passes (six). Mike Shanahan's offense has gained 927 yards in two games.

Total (51): Over is 7-0 in Saints last 7 games overall. Over is 12-1-1 in Broncos last 14 home games. 


Detroit at San Francisco (-4)

Why Lions cover: Have strong passing attack centered on second-year phenom Calvin Johnson (236 yards, 2 TDs). Niners have allowed 12 quarterback sacks, by far the most in the NFL.

Why 49ers cover: Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan has looked good in Mike Martz's offense. Detroit has lost both games this season and by an average of 18 points per game. Lions are 0-5 ATS their last five games.

Total (46½): Under is 5-0 in the last five meetings and 4-0 in the last four meetings in San Francisco.


St. Louis at Seattle (-9½)

Why Rams cover: Underdog is 8-3 ATS in their last 11 meetings. Injuries to the offense continue to hamper the Seahawks, who are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.

Why Seahawks cover: Are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games. Addition of Koren Robinson should give Matt Hasselbeck a reliable target in the passing game. Rams only averaging 52 rushing yards per game and are 0-5 ATS in their last five games.

Total (43½): Over is 5-0 in Seahawks’ last five games and 4-1 in Rams’ last five games.


Cleveland at Baltimore (-1)

Why Browns cover: Are 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings and won both meetings outright last season. Baltimore rookie QB Joe Flacco will be making his second NFL start. Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.

Why Ravens cover: Early bye week allowed injured stars Todd Heap and Willis McGahee another week to recover. Both could play Sunday. Home team is 6-2 ATS in their last eight meetings. Browns' offense playing way below expectations.

Total (38½): Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings in Baltimore.

         
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (-3)

Why Steelers cover: Holding opponents to 11.5 points per game. Willie Parker (243 rushing yards, 3 TDs) is fully recovered from a broken leg suffered last season.

Why Eagles cover: Are 4-1 ATS in their last five games. Have the NFC's highest scoring offense. Ben Roethlisberger dealing with a sprained shoulder. Steelers are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games and have not won on the road in Philadelphia in their last seven meetings.

Total (43½): Over is 5-1 in Steelers’ last six games.

         
Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-5)

Why Jaguars cover: Are 1-4 ATS in their last five games. Colts are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games and will be without defensive player of the year Bob Sanders, who has a sprained ankle. Road team is 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight meetings.

Why Colts cover: Could get offensive lineman, Jeff Saturday, and tight end Dallas Clark back from injuries. Jaguars once-feared running attack has been awful in 2008 and QB David Garrard has already matched last season's interception total (3).

Total (41½): Over is 7-1-1 in Jaguars’ last nine road games and 10-2-2 in their last 14 games overall.


Dallas at Green Bay (+3)


Why Cowboys cover: Are 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings. Have the second-best offense in the NFL. Favorite is 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.

Why Packers cover: Are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games. Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular, sporting 117.8 QB rating this season. Cowboys are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games and will be without starting safety Roy Williams who broke his arm last week. Home team is 7-0 ATS in their last seven meetings.

Total (51½): Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.


N.Y. Jets at San Diego (-9½)

Why Jets cover: Are 4-0 ATS in their last four road games and 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings with San Diego. Brett Favre is 5-0 in his career against San Diego. LaDainian Tomlinson dealing with a toe injury. Chargers have allowed a whopping 837 yards of offense through two games.

Why Chargers cover: Are 7-1 ATS in their last eight home games. Philip Rivers (594 yards, 6 TDs) has been one of the best quarterbacks so far this season.

Total (44): Under is 4-0 in Chargers’ last four Monday games and 6-0 in Jets’ last six games overall.

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NFL prop shop: Week 3 picks
By DAVID CHAN

Let’s try this again, shall we?

It was another 2-2 split in Week 2 with my props picks, which brings me to 4-4 on the season. Hopefully, third time’s a charm.

Let’s knock down four winners this week.

Oakland vs. Buffalo

Most rushing yards: Darren McFadden vs. Marshawn Lynch

Play on Lynch

Let’s not get too excited over McFadden’s 164-yard performance against the Chiefs last Sunday. Kansas City’s offense couldn’t stay on the field, and as a result its defense was completely gassed by the second half. That’s when McFadden took over.

He won’t find the Bills defense to be nearly as forgiving - they have yet to allow a 50-yard rusher this season. He also has a turf toe injury he’s battling and that should slow him or at least limit his carries.

It’s easy to forget just how bad the Raiders defense looked against Denver in Week 1. Sure, they kept the Chiefs in check last week, but I’m willing to bet a Division 1-AA college team could do the same.

Marshawn Lynch is slightly below his yards per carry mark from a year ago and that tells me he’s in line for a breakout day against the Raiders.


Detroit vs. San Francisco

Most passing yards: Jon Kitna vs. J.T. O’Sullivan

Play on Kitna

I went with Kitna last week and it wasn’t even close. So why am I interested in backing him again this Sunday? Call me a sucker for punishment.

Expect a big day for Kitna and his receivers against this San Francisco defense. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Lions through two weeks, it’s that their running game is non-existent. Kevin Smith isn’t ready to shoulder the load and that means Kitna will be forced to sling the ball all afternoon long.

This isn’t a fantasy matchup, I don’t care how many interceptions Kitna throws. Through two weeks, he’s averaging over 250 passing yards per game, and that should be more than enough to outgun J.T. O’Sullivan this week.


Cleveland vs. Baltimore

Most receptions: Braylon Edwards vs. Derrick Mason

Play on Edwards

When a team is struggling, it’s up to their biggest playmakers to turn things around.

Braylon Edwards has caught only five passes through two games. It’s only a matter of time before he busts out and I believe that time is now.

In last year’s matchup in Baltimore, Edwards hauled in eight catches for 85 yards. Edwards caught 80 passes a year ago, so this sudden drop in production is unexpected. The Browns passing game was virtually handcuffed by high winds last Sunday night, but conditions look favorable in Baltimore this weekend.


Arizona vs. Washington

Longest reception

Play on: Washington

Here’s a hunch for my final play.

Jason Campbell and Santana Moss finally got on the same page last week, hooking up seven times for 164 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown came on a 67-yard pass.

Arizona’s corners have a tendency to take an all-or-nothing approach, and I believe they’ll get burned for a long one at least once on Sunday.

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Weekend Preview
by Lenny Del Genio

Kansas City at Atlanta: Falcons are actually on a 6-3-1 ATS run vs. the AFC, including 3-1 ATS when favored. Home team has won and covered the last three meetings.

Houston at Tennessee: The Texans went 0-3 SU/ATS on the division road last year, losing by an average of 17 PPG. Meanwhile, the Titans are 11-2 ATS their L13 division games, including a 6-0 SU/5-1 ATS in this series. The Over has cashed in 8 of the last 10 meetings.

Miami at New England: The Patriots are 36-17 ATS in divisional games. The Dolphins are 4-20 ATS since 2004 in divisional games.

Tampa Bay at Chicago: Bears are just 4-8 ATS L12 home games while the Bucs are just 6-12 ATS L18 road games. Visitor is on 8-4 ATS run in this series.

Carolina at Minnesota: The favorite has covered the last three head-to-head meetings.

Detroit at San Francisco: The Lions are just 4-13 ATS on the road under Marinelli, including 2-11 ATS vs. NFC.

New Orleans at Denver: The Saints are just 2-8 ATS L10 vs. the AFC and 1-4 ATS L5 as road underdogs.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia: The Steelers are 10-3 ATS vs. the NFC, the Eagles are 5-13 ATS at home vs. the AFC under Reid. Underdog has won and covered each of the last four meetings.

Dallas at Green Bay: These teams have met 11 times since 1992, with just two coming at the Frozen Tundra, but both were easy Packers wins. Ten of those games have gone Over. Green Bay is 11-2 SU/9-3-1 ATS at home under McCarthy.

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Total Talk - Week 3
By Chris David

Week 2 Recap

For the record the Week 3 totals went 7-7-1. On the season, the ‘under’ owns a 16-14-1 mark through 31 games. A couple shootouts highlighted the second week of the season, led by the Broncos-Chargers (77), Cowboys-Eagles (78) and Lions-Packers (73).

Gamblers should make a note of these games, based on an “Oldie but Goodie” system used in the handicapping world. Anytime you see a total go ‘over’ or ‘under’ by 10 points of the closing number in a divisional game, bet the opposite in the second meeting of the regular season. The three games above, plus the San Francisco-Seattle and Pittsburgh-Cleveland contests fit the criteria.

In short, these are plays to look for later in the year. Ironically, four of the five are in the last week of the season and it’s fair to say that those games will be considered meaningless for most. Be sure to chart all divisional matchups throughout the year!

Week 8 – Seattle at St. Louis (UNDER)
Week 17 – Dallas at Philadelphia (UNDER)
Week 17 – Pittsburgh at Cleveland (OVER)
Week 17 – Green Bay at Detroit (UNDER)
Week 17 – Denver at San Diego (UNDER)

LOW for a reason

As Stephen Nover mentioned in the Opening Line Report, it’s only Week 3 and oddsmakers have putting out totals that are comparable to late in the year due to weather conditions. As Nover pointed out, the inability for teams to score is dependent on their quarterbacks.

Kansas City at Atlanta (36): The Chiefs (Tyler Thigpen) and Falcons (Matt Ryan) battle will feature a pair of untested signal callers behind center. Most would expect Kansas City and Atlanta to pound the ground game all day long and hope they’re not in a position of playing catch-up with a young quarterback.

Miami at New England (35.5): Defensive play usually dominates in divisional matchups and most would expect that to continue from Foxboro on Sunday when the Dolphins and Patriots square off. Miami’s offense lacks any big-play ability and the 51 points surrendered by the defense is misleading, considering the team has had numerous mental mistakes. New England’s once potent offense has become vanilla with quarterback Matt Cassel running the show. Even though Bill Belichick lost his MVP (Tom Brady), his defensive coaching and experience continues to thrive (10 PPG). The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 in the last four meetings.

Tampa Bay at Chicago (35): Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton wasn’t expected to be an upgrade from Rex Grossman and he’s lived up to the criticism. To his defense, the former Purdue standout doesn’t have any weapons but at the same time he doesn’t take any shots. His longest completion is 32 yards. While the passing game has been sluggish in the Windy City, the defense and ground game have looked good. The Bucs have proven to be a run-first team and quarterback Brian Griese isn’t expected to have homerun hitter Joey Galloway (doubtful-ankle) this weekend. Also, the Bears could be without Devin Hester (questionable-ribs) as well.

Afternoon Shootouts – Part II

Last Sunday, the second session featured a pair of back-and-forth battles as Denver nipped San Diego 39-38 and San Francisco edged Seattle 33-30 in overtime. Week 3 features another six-pack of contests for gamblers to chase on in the afternoon and a five of the six have totals of 42 or higher.

St. Louis at Seattle (44): The Rams’ defense has been completely embarrassed in their first two games, giving up an average of 481.5 YPG and 39.5 PPG. Heading to the Great Northwest could make things worse for St. Louis, especially since they’ve dropped six straight to the ‘Hawks while giving up 29.8 PPG during the skid. Seattle hasn’t been able to stick its chest out either, since they’ve given up 34 and 33 in its first two games. The ‘under’ went 2-0 in the two battles last season.

Detroit at San Francisco (46.5): Is Detroit’s defense is bad as it looks? Can J.T. O’Sullivan lead the Niners to another win? The Lions’ defense isn’t that good and it’s prone to big plays, but last week’s 45 points surrendered did include two interception returns for touchdowns. SF also received a defensive touchdown in its win over Seattle (33-30) last Sunday. This one could get personal, as SF offensive coordinator Mike Martz may want to put some extra points on the scoreboard against his former employer.

New Orleans at Denver (51): After watching the Broncos post 41 and 39 points to open up the season, a lot of people hopping on the ‘over’ bandwagon. The Saints have watched the ‘over’ go 2-0 in their first two games, largely because their defense (24.5 PPG) is prone to the big play. Denver
   
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (44.5): The battle for the Keystone State features Philly’s red-hot offense (37.5 PPG) against Pittsburgh’s stifling defense (11.5 PPG). Ben Roethlisberger is completing 75% of his passes for the Steelers, while the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb (65.7%, 642 yards, 4 TDs) is just as hot.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville (42): This number might seem a tad high, considering the Colts and Jaguars have both watched the ‘under’ go 2-0. However, most would expect Indianapolis (15.5 PPG) and Jacksonville (13 PPG) to break their averages, right? With the Colts safety Bob Sanders (ankle) ‘out’ for 4-6 weeks, the Jaguars could run left, right and up the middle all day long. Indy and Jacksonville watched the total go 1-1 last year.

Sunday Night Football

The Packers and Cowboys conclude Sunday’s finale from Lambeau Field and oddsmakers are expecting the scoreboard operator to be working overtime. The total opened up at 51, which seems fair considering the Packers (36 PPG) and Cowboys (34.5 PPG) are ranked third and fourth in points scored. Last year, Dallas stopped Green Bay 37-27 in a Thursday Night affair from Texas Stadium. The total closed at 51½ points and the combined 64 points easily jumped ‘over’ the number. There have been three games played on NBC’s telecast of SNF this year, including the Giants-Redskins opener played on Sept. 4. Trend players should note that all three contests went ‘under’ the total. Are we due for an explosion?

Monday Night Football

While the SNF games have been low-scoring affairs, the opposite can be said about Monday. Three games have been played on MNF this year and all three have gone ‘over’ the total, including last week’s game between Dallas and Philadelphia (41-37). This Monday, ESPN heads to the West Coast as the Chargers welcome the Jets. Something has to give in this matchup since San Diego has watched the ‘over’ go 2-0 in its first two games, while the Jets have seen the ‘under’ go 2-0. Oddsmakers have tabbed the ‘over/under’ at 44½.

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Non-Conference Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

A mix of Sunday, 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. EDT football games each have a distinct way of playing out until the end of the fourth quarter. Whether it’s the New York Giants looking to win one at home to continue it’s miraculous run from last season’s Super Bowl or the Steelers expecting to take its first ‘W’ on the road against the Eagles since 1965, four total non-conference games are sure to excite.

Just a quick trip back in time reveals that underdogs were not financially viable during Week 2, going 3-12 straight up and 5-8-2 ATS (spreads at the closing bell). And while home teams also slacked with a 6-9 SU record, a 4-9-2 ATS report truly broke the bank of backers that invested.

Cincinnati at N.Y. Giants (-13½, 41½) – 1:00 p.m. EDT

First off, the Giants have been a financial monster for gamblers by returning funds with a 16-5 ATS run in their last 21 games. Combine that with an 8-3 ATS record in New York’s last 11 versus a team with a losing record and these obvious trends become quite appealing.

Wide receiver Chad Johnson and the Bengals have split their head-to-heads with the G-Men at three games apiece in the last six (as well as ATS), but we’re looking at a club who’s a far cry from the offensive threat they’ve been in the past few seasons.

Cincinnati has been unable to get airborne with QB Carson Palmer (228 yards, 37.1 QB rating) having found the end zone for a grand total of zero TDs. What could prove more disastrous is the team’s defensive vulnerability by allowing 326.5 YPG, with an unprecedented 203 YPG allowed on the ground.

If we put one-plus-one together, this could prove to be a huge day for Big Blue’s rushing attack. Between backs Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward, a total of 354 yards in 63 attempts with two TDs have been manufactured. Jacobs’ has been the bread winner thus far with 209 yards donated to the rushing total.

Also watch for New York’s DE Justin Tuck and DT Fred Robinson to build on their combined 17 tackles (eight for losses) and five sacks (Tuck recorded an interception for a TD in the last win over St. Louis).

The ‘over’ has gone 5-1 in the last six head-to-head meetings.

Kansas City at Atlanta (-5½, 36½) – 1:00 p.m. EDT

This matchup continues the week’s theme of overwhelming home favorites (only one home team has been installed as the underdog; Green Bay). When the Falcons are installed as 5½-point favorites, what does that say about Kansas City?

It says that the Chiefs can’t be trusted by backers, especially after an imploding loss against the troubled Raiders in Week 2. Kansas City has gone through three QBs with unknown Tyler Thigpen expected to take opening game snaps. On top of the signal caller problems is corner back Patrick Surtain’s status as ‘out’ and safeties Bernard Pollard and Jarred Page’s combined 25 tackles. You may think that this is a good thing, but so many tackles registered by two safeties in two weeks is good indication that the cornerbacks have been burnt.

With Oakland dispatching Kansas City last week (23-8), public perception of how bad the Chiefs are have driven the point spread from a three-point opening to its current 5½. The Falcons rookie field general, Matt Ryan took a step backwards last week, throwing for 158 yards and two picks. But good news may be coming Ryan’s way as reports indicate that Kansas City will be starting two rookie cornerbacks.

If Atlanta’s RBs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood (combined for 373 rushing yards and three scores) can continue running the ball with conviction then there’s no doubt that the Chiefs will be facing major problems (as if they’re not already).

New Orleans at Denver (-5½, 51) – 4:05 p.m. EDT

Just when New Orleans looked to be turning up the juice a loss to Washington derailed the team’s plans of offensive dominance. Specifically, QB Drew Breese and his 343 yard with three touchdowns in Week 1 compared to 216 passing yards with one TD and two picks in Week 2 (this was the loss to Washington).

Even with referee Ed Hochui’s game deciding call on what clearly appeared to be a fumble by Denver signal caller, Jay Cutler last week, Denver has been rolling with its high powered offense. The Broncos have been firing on all 11 cylinders, led by Cutler’s seasonal stats of 650 passing yards with six TDs. Many questioned if WR Eddie Royal’s Week 1 performance of nine receptions for 146 yards with a score was just an aberration. Then came a follow up in the win over the Chargers. While Royal grabbed the ball five times for just 37 yards, the game winning TD pass with the two-point conversion put an exclamation point on what this kid is capable of.

And then there was Denver wide out, Brandon Marshall’s 18 receptions last week, which set a single-game record for the organization. The weapons don’t stop there as WRs Tony Scheffler (136 receiving yards, two TDs), Brandon Stokley (72 yards), Darrell Jackson (48 yards, one TD) and RBs Selvin Young (114 rushing yards, one score) and Michael Pittman (42 rushing yards, three trips across the end zone) have all contributed one way or another to Cutler’s aerial assault.

The Saints have been a poor club in Week 3 games, going 3-8 ATS in their last 11. For a totals angle, look at the ‘over’ going 21-6-1 in the Broncos’ last 28 games and a 12-1-1 ‘over’ record in the last 14 home games.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (-3½, 44½) – 4:15 p.m. EDT

What could be shaping up to be one of more anticipated games of the week, Pittsburgh finds itself entering Philadelphia with a QB suffering from a sprained shoulder. The Steelers’ slinger Ben Roethlisberger was reported to be suffering from a dislocated throwing shoulder. Those allegations have since been considered erroneous.

We talk about Roethlisberger because of his methodical approach, a 133.9 QB rating and the ability to spread the ball around the field. Team thanks should also be given to running back Willie Parker who continues to run through defenses like butter, up to 243 rushing yards with three trips across the goal line.

Then there’s Pitt's ‘D’ unit responsible for holding Houston and Cleveland to 11½-point per game. And if history has anything to say about this contest it’s that the Steelers have registered a 5-1 SU and ATS record against the Eagles in the last six, while holding their opponent to 15.7 PPG. Expect cornerback Deshea Townsend to make a return to the lineup. His 13 interceptions in five seasons have been enormous for Pittsburgh.

Not to leave the Eagles in the dust but a high scoring affair in Dallas last week solidified the belief that this club’s defense needs a tune up. With a 2-10 ATS home record versus AFC opponents in the last 12, backers are going to have to hold on tight in this one.

What could prove important is that the Steelers haven’t won a game during the Super Bowl era in Philadelphia. The last time the Steelers celebrated a win against the Eagles on the road was in 1965.

Philly’s QB Donovan McNabb is 46-for-70 for 642 passing yards. His four touchdown passes and no interceptions equates to an efficient 114.1 QB rating. Watch for McNabb’s new favorite target in rookie receiver DeSean Jackson, who’s pulled in 12 catches for 216 yards. With wide outs Reggie Brown (hamstring) and Kevin Curtis (hernia) shaken up, expect the Steelers to zero in on the youthful Jackson.

Philly is 3-8 ATS in its last 11 home games.

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Division Battles
By Brian Edwards

**Texans at Titans**

–Most books are listing Tennessee (2-0 straight up, 2-0 agains the spread) as a 4 1/2-point favorite with a total of 39. The Texans are plus 170 on the money line (risk $100 to win $170).

–Jeff Fisher’s squad is looking strong following wins both SU and ATS over Jacksonville (17-10) and at Cincinnati (24-7). Rookie running back Chris Johnson ran for 109 yards on just 19 carries against the Bengals, while Keith Bulluck blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

–Houston (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) saw its home opener against Baltimore cancelled last week due to Hurricane Ike. The Texans opened the year by getting trounced 38-17 at Pittsburgh as seven-point underdogs. Matt Schaub completed 25-of-33 passes for 202 yards, one TD but two interceptions. Andre Johnson hauled in 10 receptions for 112 yards.

--With Titans QB Vince Young still out with a knee injury, Fisher has made it clear that Collins is in a position to keep the job if he remains effective. To date, Collins has connected on 69.6 percent of his throws with a 1/0 TD-INT ratio.

–"We're going to get Vince back, get his knee back, work with him, get him back involved in the offense," Fisher told the Associated Press this week. "But Kerry's going to go ahead and play for us until either he struggles or whatever else happens."

**Dolphins at Patriots**

--Most books are listing New England (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) as a 13-point favorite with a total of 36 ½. The Dolphins are plus 500 on the money line (risk $100 to win $500).

–New England won a 17-10 decision over Kansas City in its season opener, but the Patriots failed to take the cash as 16-point favorites. Even worse, perennial Pro-Bowl QB Tom Brady was lost for the season.

–In his first start since he was in high school in 1999, Matt Cassel took over under center last week and led the Pats to a 19-10 victory at New York. New England took the cash against the Jets as a 2 1/2-point road ‘chalk.’ Cassel managed the game efficiently and didn’t make any mistakes, completing 16-of-23 throws for 165 yards and zero interceptions.

--Miami (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) lost its opener to the Jets at home and then got trounced 31-10 at Arizona in Week 2.

–The ‘under’ is 2-0 for the Patriots, 1-1 for the ‘Fins.

**Jags at Colts**

–Who would’ve thought that these teams would collide in Week 3 with only one win combined? This is always a crucial AFC South showdown, but this meeting has an additional feel of desperation, especially for the winless Jaguars.

–Most spots have installed Indianapolis (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) as a 4 1/2-point ‘chalk’ with the total in the 41-42 range. Jacksonville (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) is plus 175 on the money line (risk $100 to win $175).

--Jack Del Rio’s team has an offensive line decimated by injuries. The Jags’ potent running game with the combination of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew has been rendered ineffective because the RBs have had no room to operate. The Jags will be missing three starters on the offensive line again this week.

--Jacksonville lost its home opener to Buffalo last week, dropping a 20-16 decision as a five-point favorite.

--Jacksonville QB David Garrard threw three interceptions during the entire 2007 season. To date in '08, he has a 1/3 TD-INT ratio.

--Indy has had plenty of its own issues. The Colts took a 29-13 beating at home from Chicago in Week 1. Then at Minnesota in Week 2, the Vikings jumped out to a 15-0 lead late in the third quarter. However, Peyton Manning hooked up with Anthony Gonzalez on a big play and the deficit was cut to 15-7 going into the final stanza. From there, it was all Colts, as they pulled out a 18-15 come-from-behind win.

--Tony Dungy's squad still has concerns about its offense, particularly the ground attack. RB Joseph Addai is averaging just 2.4 yards per carry.

**Rams at Seahawks**

–Most books have tabbed Seattle (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) as a 9 1/2-point favorite with a total of 44. Bettors can back the Rams on the money line for a plus 330 return.

–St. Louis (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) appears to be in competition with the Chiefs as to who the NFL’s worst team is. The Rams have twice taken woodshed treatment, including last week’s 41-13 home loss to the Giants. Back in Week 1, the Eagles trashed St. Louis 38-3.

–Seattle is right there with Jacksonville and Minnesota as the most surprising teams to be winless going into Week 3. The Seahawks got drilled at Buffalo in Week 1. Next, they blew a big lead and lost 33-30 to San Francisco as nine-point home favorites.

--Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was sacked eight times last week. He is playing without his two best WRs -- Deion Branch and Bobby Engram.

--Hasselbeck has completed just 45.5 percent of his passes with a mediocre 1/3 TD-INT ratio.

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