Game of the week
Tampa Bay at Washington, 1 p.m. ET
|Joe Gibbs' second stint in Washington will get an early test with the Bucs in town.(Getty Images)|
Something you might want to consider: Gibbs lost his first five games when he started with the Redskins in 1981. Yeah, I know this is different, but he's up against a team that won the Super Bowl only 17 games ago.
Three games I'd like to see ...
Baltimore at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET
|The Ravens have had much success drafting in the first round. Of those, ten picks are still on Baltimore's roster and have earned 22 Pro Bowl trips among them.|
|1996||T - J. Ogden||7|
|1996||LB - R. Lewis||6|
|1996||LB - P. Boulware||4|
|1999||CB - C. McAlister||1|
|2000||RB - J. Lewis||1|
|2000||WR - T. Taylor||-|
|2001||TE - T. Heap||2|
|2002||S - E. Reed||1|
|2003||LB - T. Suggs||-|
|2003||QB - K. Boller||-|
Something you might want to consider: Baltimore's Jamal Lewis absolutely torched these guys last year, running for 500 yards in two games -- including an NFL-record 295 in a 33-13 victory the second week of the season. For those who asked, the Ravens outscored Cleveland 68-13 in their two victories.
Detroit at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET
So neither of these teams won more than they lost last year. Big deal. I love this game for two reasons: 1) If the Lions are serious about making it to .500, this a great chance to end that 0-24 streak; and 2) it marks the return to Soldier Field of former coach Dick Jauron, now the Lions' defensive coordinator. Think he wouldn't mind settling a score? From Chicago's perspective, we get to see if Thomas Jones can ever be the back Arizona envisioned when it made him a first-round pick and watch yet another University of Florida quarterback try to make it in the bigs. Oh yeah, it's also Lovie Smith's debut as a head coach.
Something you might want to consider: Two of the Lions' past three losses at Chicago were by a field goal -- including one in overtime.
Kansas City at Denver, 8:35 p.m., ET
The knock on the Chiefs last year was that they couldn't stop the run. Heck, they couldn't stop the pass, either, offering a demonstration in the AFC divisional playoff game. But it was the run that murdered them, and no one plunged the dagger deeper than Denver's Clinton Portis, who had 218 yards and four TDs in his last look at Kansas City. Well, Portis is gone, and the Chiefs have a new defensive coordinator. Let's see what happens now. If Kansas City is going to the top, the Chiefs must first worry about winning the division -- and Denver is the competition. The two split last year, but were it not for Dante Hall the Chiefs might have been 0-2.
Something you might want to consider: Dick Vermeil hasn't beaten the Broncos in Denver since returning to the NFL in 2001. The closest he came was a 31-24 loss in 2002.
... but where we will beI will be in Washington covering the Buccaneers-Redskins game, mostly because I want to see Daniel Snyder's reaction when new coach Joe Gibbs unveils John Riggins as his starting tailback.
Pete Prisco will be at the Seahawks-Saints game to see first-hand if the Seahawks can win somewhere other than the Pacific time zone. And, no, those dinner reservations at Commander's Palace had nothing to do with it.
Crummy game of the week
San Diego at Houston, 1 p.m., ET
I'm sorry, but unless you have LaDainian Tomlinson on your fantasy football team or are related to Drew Brees, there's not much reason to watch the Chargers. They should be awful, and this is their first opportunity to prove it. Poor Marty Schottenheimer. He turned a sorry Washington team into an 8-8 club in 2001, going 8-3 down the stretch with Tony Banks as his quarterback, but there are some tasks that are insurmountable -- and this is one of them. Key men to watch for the Texans: wide receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback David Carr. While the Chargers ranked 21st against the pass, they surrendered 36 touchdown passes. That not only led the league, nobody was even close -- with Cincinnati second-worst in the AFC at a distant 23.
Something you might want to consider: The Houston Texans are at their best in season openers. They are 2-0 there, including a defeat of Dallas in their very first game, and 7-23 everywhere else.
Upset of the week
Kansas City over Denver
Yeah, I know it's not really an upset when Kansas City won the division last year, but how many games has Dick Vermeil won here with the Chiefs? You got it: zilch. And who's the underdog here? Yep, the Chiefs. By three points. But the Chiefs end the Vermeil streak with a win, mostly because I like their offense more than I like Denver's and because I think they'll be able to exploit the Broncos' linebackers.
Three questions for ...
Kansas City QB Trent Green
Q: Marc Boerigter is out for the season. How big a loss it that?
Green: It's a huge loss for us. We still don't know what's going on with Johnnie Morton, so it makes more pressure for the young guys because as much as we want a Dante Hall to become an every-down receiver, I just think from a wear-and-tear standpoint -- with him being the returner that he is -- he's too valuable to this team in that role. So we do have concern at the wideout position, that's for sure.
Q: What did you learn from last year's experience?
Green: I think just the overall process of learning to deal with success. We started out 9-0, so success becomes a measure of how mature you are as a group. Are you, say, going to be able to handle that success and not sit back and say, 'Well, we've arrived and we've done it?' I think there are a number of ways that we know we haven't. The defense has to improve, and, offensively, we're not getting any younger. Willie Roaf, Will Shields and I all came out in the '93 draft, and both our backs are in their 30s. So we know we have to make some noise now. This is an incredible opportunity in front of us, and we have to get something done now. We do feel that pressure and, yeah, a great sense of urgency to get things done.
Q: Of all your accomplishments since arriving in Kansas City, your ability to start every game stands out as the greatest. Do you agree?
Green: Well, I take a great deal of pride in that. And I took a great deal of pride in it before I got injured in St. Louis. When I came to Kansas City in a grade there was so much talk that first year of, 'I can't believe we did this; this guy is injury prone.' And I was like, wait a second, what do you mean? The only time I missed a game is when somebody dove into the back of my knee, and I had no control over it. So that did bug me a little bit.
Fortunately, in this offense I fit very well, and I have a great understanding of it. Plus, I am protected by one of the best lines in the league. They know on what pass plays I may have to hold the ball a little longer and which ones I'm getting rid of it quickly. That's what you get when you have an offensive line stay together and stay healthy as long as we have. You understand one another. I've been real fortunate.
The lowdown on ...
Dallas Cowboys QB Vinny Testaverde
(We asked a scout's opinion, and this is his take)
"The positives are his experience, leadership and his accuracy. At 40, the guy can still hit his receivers. The negatives are that he's not mobile anymore, he has a tendency to try to rely on his arm too much and his durability is not what you'd want from your starter. His arm strength is still above average, but they're going to have to rely on his ability to make smart decisions through an entire game and have him not try to make plays that aren't there because he can't do it.
I think he could be in big trouble this weekend because Minnesota will blitz the hell out of him. He will complete some passes, but over the course of a game they're going to wear him down physically with their speed. I hope it doesn't happen, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if he got hurt."