28th June 14:36
Colts and Titans meet in big Week 2 game
By John Clayton
It's forecast time, and the AFC is troubling. Three of the four
division races are too close to call.
The most improved team might be the Chiefs. They are ready to
challenge the AFC Champion Raiders for the AFC West crown. Trent Green has
the offense smoking. Priest Holmes is back. And the defensive front seven is
Two other divisions give me fits. I keep going back and forth on
Indianapolis and Tennessee. The Titans might be the best team today, but an
injury or two throws everything over to the Colts if they stay healthy.
Peyton Manning has all of the tools that make him work the passing game at
his best -- two tight end sets with Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark, Marvin
Harrison at wide receiver and Edgerrin James back at being the old Edgerrin.
Down deep, I just have a feeling that a Super Bowl trip could be in the
cards for the winner of this division, but picking the team that wins it is
The same difficulty exists in the AFC East where the Dolphins and
Patriots keep trying to top one another with roster moves. Bill Belichick
solidified his 3-4 front seven by trading for Ted Washington and signing
pass-rushing linebacker Rosevelt Colvin during the offseason. The Dolphins
loaded up with great leadership by getting Junior Seau, Jeff Zgonina, Sammy
Knight and Terrell Buckley. As good as these teams are, one might not make
the playoffs because the second-place team in the AFC East could lose in
tie-breakers because of the tough schedule it endures.
Things are easier to figure out in the NFC. The Rams are back, and
their easy schedule should shoot them back to the 11- to 13-victory mark.
The Bucs have the defense and enough offense to repeat, but the fourth
toughest schedule in football may potentially force them to play on the road
again in the NFC title game.
Regardless, the tone for this season will be set in so many big games.
With teams having only six division games instead of eight, divisional
rivalries mean so much more and with that in mind, here are 10 games to
watch during the upcoming season:
1. Sept. 14: Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
For the Colts to gain an early edge on the Titans, they have to win.
This is their biggest game in years. The Colts stayed with the Titans for 15
weeks last year before falling one game behind for the division title in the
final two weeks of the season. They hung in the race despite losing two
games to the Titans and dealing with the reality that they haven't beaten
Tennessee since the Titans moved to Nashville. This game is do or die for
the Colts. Winning the AFC South carries a potential plum because it
arguably has two of the weakest teams in the AFC -- Jacksonville and
Houston. While the Texans are tough for anybody to beat on any given Sunday,
the Jaguars are in the rebuilding mode. The AFC South winner should be 5-1
in division play, but for the Colts to do that, they have to get a split
with the Titans. Winning in Nashville on Dec. 7 will be tough. The good news
for the Colts is they are catching the Titans at a good time. Defensive ends
Jevon Kearse and Carlos Hall are fighting back from training camp injuries,
so the pass-rush may not be as good as it will be later in the season.
2. Sept. 21: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
With quarterback Michael Vick out until at least Week 5 against the
Minnesota Vikings, this game will determine whether the Falcons will be a
division winner or a wild-card. It's unfair, but so much of the Falcons
season could be settled during the first month. They have a decent chance to
get off to a 2-0 start with Doug Johnson in charge if they can beat Dallas
and Washington in their first two games. But to be a division winner, you
have to win division games at home, and that's why this one is so important
to the Falcons. The NFC South is wacky. The Falcons don't match up well
against the Bucs, and the Bucs don't match up well against the Saints. The
Falcons have better luck with the Saints. What the Falcons have to do is
prevent a sweep at the hands of the Bucs. What adds extra pressure to this
game is that the Falcons go to Carolina the next week, and Panthers coach
John Fox will have three game tapes to study Johnson's lack of mobility.
Carolina's front seven could give Johnson and the Falcons fits. If the
Falcons lose two NFC South games in September, it won't kill their chances
of making the playoffs, but it would likely end their chances of winning the
3. Oct. 20: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
If the Chiefs are for real, they can prove it in this game. The Chiefs
don't have a killer opening schedule. It's possible for the Chiefs to enter
this game with at least a 5-2 record. The Raiders should be 5-2 or better
with early games against the Bengals, Bears and Cleveland included in their
schedule. A bye week follows this game, so the winner of this Monday Night
affair could have the upper hand in the AFC West early in the season. This
should be a high-scoring game. It could be like an old American Football
League shootout. Both teams work fast-paced, short passing offenses that
move the ball up and down the field. Both teams have quarterbacks who dish
off passes quickly without getting sacked. The defense that comes together
the fastest could claim victory, but the Raiders hold a significant edge at
home. They have to go to Kansas City on Nov. 23 for the rematch.
4. Oct. 19: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
It's fitting that the Dolphins get the first home game in this
home-and-home series. The Dolphins usually play like first-half champions.
The Patriots usually come on strong during the second half of the season,
and they have the rematch in Foxboro Dec. 7. What the Dolphins can't afford
to do is give the Patriots the early edge in division play by letting them
win in Miami. The timing is perfect. Junior Seau will have five games to
work on his timing with middle linebacker Zach Thomas. Sammy Knight will
have fit into the secondary. By Week 7, the Dolphins should know if they can
get by with rookie Wade Smith as the starting left tackle and if their
offensive line is in good shape. All the kinks -- if any -- should be worked
out in their running game. Ricky Williams should come into this game with a
string of 100-yard games. Of course, Williams is one of the reasons the
Patriots traded for Ted Washington.
5. Sept. 14: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
The 49ers won the NFC West, but they've always had a phobia about the
Rams, who dominated them for so many years after their offense turned into
such a great show. A year ago, the 49ers knew the road to being a division
winner went through St. Louis, and they played their cards right last year.
The 49ers won the Oct. 6 meeting between the two teams last year in San
Francisco, giving them the confidence to go 10-6 and win the division. Their
problem heading into this Week 2 showdown is how thin they are along the
defensive line and in the secondary. Starting cornerback Jason Webster won't
be available for the Rams game, so the 49ers will need big games from Ahmed
Plummer and Mike Rumph. The Rams have that swagger again, but their best
successes have come when they've gotten off to 6-0 starts and gained a big
lead in the division. The Rams can't afford a home loss, or they will lose a
little of that swagger.
6. Nov. 10: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
The Eagles and Packers are favorites to win their divisions, and the
weird part of this year's schedule is that the Eagles play half of their
division games in a three-week period (Oct. 5 through Oct. 19). Two of those
games are on the road, so if the Eagles go 2-1 or 3-0, they should be in
pretty good shape in the division. By Nov. 10, the Packers will have played
two games against the Vikings -- their main division rival -- so the Packers
should know if they're in good shape in the NFC North. That means that this
game has serious playoff ramifications because the loser might be at a
serious disadvantage for seedings in the playoffs. It's more important that
Andy Reid pull out this game because the Eagles have a much tougher schedule
than the Packers. A loss could mean coming back to Green Bay in January for
a playoff game.
7. Nov. 2: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jim Haslett believes the Saints can run off 10-12 wins this season,
and they have a little bit of magic on the Bucs, having beaten them twice
last year. If the Saints have any hopes of winning this division, they must
win this game. Haslett is a big game coach. He excelled getting his teams
ready for the Rams when the Saints were in the NFC West. Now, he has his
target set on the Bucs. The Saints match up so well against the Bucs because
of their physical offensive line and their speed at the receiver position.
Aaron Brooks is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, and this
could be a game for him to gain more national recognition.
8. Dec. 7: Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers
This is one of the great rivalries in football. By December, the
Raiders will know if they are on the path to going back to the Super Bowl. A
year ago, the Raiders embarrassed the Steelers by going to an
all-short-passing offense and beating them, 30-17. It exposed a flaw in the
Steelers defense. They didn't have enough speed in the secondary to stop the
short passing attack. Bill Cowher added more speed in the secondary and
should know by then if Kendrell Bell or maybe Alonzo Jackson can rush from a
defensive end position in nickel packages. There will be revenge on the
minds of the Steelers that day.
9. Oct. 19: Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams
If the Rams are for real, this game could determine potential
home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Rams are fortunate that so
many of their big games are at home. Their only potential cold-weather games
are Oct. 26 in Pittsburgh, Nov. 16 in Chicago and Dec. 8 in Cleveland. They
have only three games on natural grass. The Rams are built for artificial
turf, which should give them an edge against the Packers. The Packers
defense struggled during the preseason. The linebackers couldn't find a
groove, and they gave up too many big plays. But that was preseason. The
Packers can't afford to give up big plays in a key road game such as this.
10. Oct. 27: Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers
Junior Seau returns. That's a big story and seeing him in San Diego
wearing a Dolphins uniform will be one of the highlights of the season. The
Monday Night cameras will focus on Seau. So will the fans. The Chargers have
a tough opening part of the schedule, but if they can get to this game at
3-3 or 4-2, winning this game could give them a boost that could turn them
into a playoff team. They have four of their last six games at home. The
Dolphins can't afford to lose this one either if they want to stay ahead of
the Patriots. It's game such as these that the Dolphins thought they needed
the leadership of a Junior Seau.
28th June 14:37
Colts and Titans meet in big Week 2 game
races are too close to call.
This is so utterly absurd! Another idiotic "****ysis" by an "expert".
Give me a break.
Stupid Point #1: The Chiefs are vastly improved.
The Truth: Only because they ****ED SO BAD LAST YEAR they can only go up!
Stupid Point #2: Kansas City is ready to challenge for the AFC West crown.
The Truth: Only because hacks like Clayton are guessing (and desperately
hoping) the Raiders may stumble. These haters then have a one in three
chance of guessing correctly with KC, SD, or Denver.
Stupid Point #3: Trent Green has the offense smoking.
The Truth: Smoking what, dope? They must be if they are reading all this
hype and believing it.
Stupid Point #4: Priest Holmes is back.
The Truth: He's back on the field, but he'll spend more time ON HIS BACK
with linemen and backers on top of him because he's hurt and can't run any
more. The regular season will expose him.
Stupid Point #5: And the defensive front seven is better.
The Truth: Good god! He actually wrote this and ESPN hasn't fired him
yet? Of course they are better... they were one of the worst defenses in
history last season and it would be nearly impossible to underachive that
badly in consecutive years!
Someone tell this fool that it will feel relatively good when he stops
hitting himself in the head with that hammer.