|AP GRAPHIC NFL WK 2|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 18:10|
Such is the state of the league in 2007, that a sideshow is overshadowing a matchup between two of the NFL's three best teams. It's a rematch of one of last season's most significant games, the Patriots' 24-21 upset in San Diego that sent them on to the AFC championship game.
But instead of the matchup of two good teams, this week's issue was the spying allegations against the Patriots.
``Any questions about the Chargers?'' Bill Belichick pleaded at his main pregame news conference this week, as he was bombarded with question after question about signal-stealing. ``Want to talk about the football game?''
Few people did, and Belichick ended up walking out.
The football is worth mentioning.
Right now, the Chargers and Patriots are two of the NFL's best three teams. Indianapolis is the other.
The three will likely battle for the AFC championship (you might add Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore to the mix). The AFC winner will be the favorite in the Super Bowl in Arizona in February.
Whether signal stealing contributed or not, the Patriots were impressive last week, especially the new receiving corps.
Randy Moss had nine catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker had six catches and another TD and Ellis Hobbs had a 108-yard kickoff return, the longest in NFL history. Tom Brady went 22-of-28 for 297 yards with three TDs and a passer rating of 146.6, less than 12 points short of a perfect 158.3.
But that puts Brady only ``second'' in the NFL in that category - LaDainian Tomlinson IS perfect because he threw for a TD on his only attempt in the Chargers' hard-fought 14-3 win over Chicago. L.T. was held to 25 yards on 17 carries, but that 17-yard TD pass to Antonio Gates demonstrates the versatility that made him last season's MVP.
``We asked a lot of him and he was great handling it because it's easy to get frustrated when there's an unblocked or two unblocked guys and there's not much room to go,'' Chargers coach Norv Turner said of Tomlinson.
The last time the Chargers were in Foxborough was two years ago, and they won 41-17.
But in the NFL, two years is an eon. New teams, new game with playoff seeding already on the line.
In other games Sunday, Buffalo is at Pittsburgh; Indianapolis at Tennessee; Green Bay at the New York Giants; Houston at Carolina; San Francisco at St. Louis; Cincinnati at Cleveland; New Orleans at Tampa Bay; Atlanta at Jacksonville; Dallas at Miami; Minnesota at Detroit; Seattle at Arizona; Kansas City at Chicago; the New York Jets at Baltimore; and Oakland at Denver.
Washington is at Philadelphia Monday night.
Indianapolis (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)
The Colts held Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush to 38 yards apiece in their 42-10 blowout of New Orleans in the opener. Now they face a team that rushed for 282 yards in a 13-10 win over Jacksonville, which was supposed to have one of the NFL's top run defenses.
The Colts won't take this game lightly. They were outscored 33-31 last season by the Titans, who beat them in Nashville 20-17 after losing just 14-13 in Indy.
Buffalo (0-1) at Pittsburgh (1-0)
The Bills have put football in perspective after the grievous injury to Kevin Everett in the last-second 15-14 loss to Denver. ``There's no way to pretend that Kevin's situation does not occupy our thoughts and our conversations a lot of the time,'' coach Dick Jauron says. ``It certainly does. But I think our guys are professional enough, and they really care enough about what they do.''
Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes in the 34-7 win in Cleveland. That might be a sign he's over last season's troubles, although the bedraggled Browns aren't the best litmus test.
Green Bay (1-0) at the New York Giants (0-1)
The last time these teams met at the Meadowlands, Brett Favre took a dive that gave Michael Strahan the single-season sack record. The focus now is on New York's quarterback situation - Eli Manning threw this week and doesn't appear to have serious damage to his shoulder, but Jared Lorenzen could still make his first career start for the Giants.
``If I were a betting man, I would say he would play,'' Lorenzen said of Manning.
The Giants' problem is defense. Tony Romo passed for 345 yards, mostly against no coverage at all in Dallas' 45-35 win. Green Bay capitalized on special teams miscues to beat the Eagles 16-13 on rookie Mason Crosby's 42-yard field goal with 6 seconds left.
Washington (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1) (Monday night)
The notoriously impatient Philly fans will get really aroused if they lose a division game after the special teams debacle that cost them the opener in Green Bay - one muffed punt led to a Packers touchdown and another to the deciding field goal.
The Redskins managed to pull out a 16-13 overtime win against offensively challenged Miami last week. It wasn't the best week for Jason Campbell, who threw two interceptions against a good Dolphins defense, but managed a good drive to set up Shaun Shuisham's game-winning field goal.
New York Jets (0-1) at Baltimore (0-1)
Another New York team with a quarterback question - Chad Pennington sprained his right ankle last week against the Patriots. He and the Jets have been less forthcoming about his condition but if he doesn't play, it will be second-year man Kellen Clemens, who many Jets fans want anyway.
Same questions for the Ravens, although Kyle Boller, Steve McNair's backup, is a former first-round pick and former starter who just signed a contract extension. McNair has a groin injury that forced him to leave Monday night's loss in Cincinnati, but he's played hurt in the past.
New Orleans (0-1) at Tampa Bay (0-1)
The worst thing about the Saints' 42-10 opening night loss in Indy was the inept offense against a defense that should have been vulnerable.
``I think you've just got to understand that at times that's going to happen, and it shows the strength and character of the team to see how we're going to respond,'' Drew Brees said.
Still, New Orleans remains the favorite in the NFC South, but it wouldn't help to start 0-2 with a division loss against a team with few expectations. It doesn't help that Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams left last week's loss in Seattle with bruised ribs.
Oakland (0-1) at Denver (1-0)
``People have different terms for the type of rivalry we have,'' Mike Shanahan said.
One annual subplot: Shanahan claims that Al Davis, who fired him as the Raiders' coach four games into the 1989 season, still owes him several hundred thousand dollars.
The Raiders' defense, the one decent part of the team, collapsed late against Detroit last week after the offense made up a 17-0 deficit. The Broncos' special teams won in Denver, somehow executing a last-second get-on-to-the-field scramble for Jason Elam's game-winning field goal in Buffalo.
Houston (1-0) at Carolina (1-0)
A big step up in class for the Texans, who disposed of toothless Kansas City last week and got a solid performance from Matt Schaub, 16-of-22 for 225 yards in his Houston debut.
Jake Delhomme threw for three touchdowns in the Panthers' 27-13 win over the Rams last week, so his job isn't in jeopardy. But the Texans know his backup well: David Carr, their much-battered starter for the first five years of their existence.
San Francisco (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1)
The 49ers sure didn't look like a team on the rise Monday night against Arizona. But they got a win, which at this stage is all that counts, especially since young teams have room to improve.
This is a pivotal game for the Rams, who lost Orlando Pace, the linchpin of their offensive line, for the season. The NFC West figures to be very even and a home loss that would leave St. Louis two games behind the 49ers would hurt - even this early.
Seattle (1-0) at Arizona (0-1)
The other half of the NFC West.
Off recent history, Seattle is the presumed favorite. But the Seahawks aren't a good road team - they lost 27-21 in Arizona last season to start a late-season three-game losing streak that almost cost them the division title.
The new and improved Cardinals looked like the old and dismal Cardinals in losing 20-17 in San Francisco. Matt Leinart, 14-of-28 for just 102 yards looked like a QB who's still learning and the Pittsburgh-style smashmouth approach of Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm might not work with an offense whose assets are WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Cincinnati (1-0) at Cleveland (0-1)
Poor Browns. Charlie Frye, the Browns' starting QB last week, is now the third-stringer in Seattle, the first Week One starter ever traded before Week Two. So it's Derek Anderson this week with Brady Quinn waiting, perhaps for next week.
The Bengals have some injuries and some mysteries (Levi Jones' benching) on the OL. But they seem on course for a nice start: 2-0 with two division wins if they get by this game, as they should.
Kansas City (0-1) at Chicago (0-1)
About all these teams have in common is their record.
The Bears are hurt - playmaking safety Mike Brown is gone for the fourth time in five seasons and DT Dusty Dvoracek is also out. But Danieal Manning filled in for Brown last season and veteran DT Darwin Walker moves in for Dvoracek.
The Chiefs, who haven't replaced the retired Willie Roaf or Will Shields on the OL and were hoping that Brodie Croyle could take the QB job from Damon Huard, seem headed for a dismal year.
Dallas (1-0) at Miami (0-1)
The Cowboys should get Terrence Newman back at cornerback, plugging one hole in a secondary pretty much shredded last week by Eli Manning in a 45-35 win over the Giants. Tony Romo won't throw for 345 yards against the Dolphins, although the loss of safety Yeremiah Bell will hurt a defense that's pretty solid up front.
Trent Green was OK in the 16-13 overtime loss in Washington. But he'd be more OK if Miami could run for more than the 66 yards rushing they got there.
Minnesota (1-0) at Detroit (1-0)
The Lions have started 2-0 before during the Matt Millen era - in 2004. They have a decent chance here against a team whose only real offensive threat is rookie Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries in a 24-3 win over the Falcons and also caught a 60-yard TD pass for Minnesota's only offensive touchdown.
The Lions will probably have a number of games like the 36-21 win in Oakland - they blew a 17-0 lead against a punchless offense, then came back late behind Jon Kitna, Shaun McDonald and Tatum Bell. Another feature of this game: Peterson vs the Lions' Calvin Johnson, early candidates for offensive rookie of the year.
Atlanta (0-1) at Jacksonville (0-1)
The middle of the Jaguars' defense - John Henderson, Marcus Stroud and Mike Peterson - is supposed to be among the best in the NFL. So how does it allow 282 yards rushing to the Titans? ``It's over. It happened. It'll never happen again,'' Peterson said.
It shouldn't against the Falcons, who didn't score a touchdown in Minnesota but surrendered two to the Vikings' defense. Yes, they miss Michael Vick.