I saw a very strange thing Monday night. Usually when the cameras tune in to the owner's booth during a crucial part of the game, they show a guy showing some measure of anxiety, especially when his team's losing. The picture of Danny Boy late in the fourth quarter, though, was of a guy relaxed, obviously enjoying himself, as he chatted with his new partner in the movie business, Tom Cruise. "You're doing it again. You're letting personal feeling take over," the Redhead warns. Yeah, I guess you're right, but don't worry. If the team shows real success during the season, I'll keep reiterating what a marvelous job he's done in stocking it.
It's not right, I know. They won and they still can't get out of the botton third of the rankings. Tell you what: Beat Green Bay (see below) at Lambeau this weekend and I'll put you in the top half of the rankings, which would probably be for the first time since the days of Sam Mills and Rickey Jackson.
Well, the club seems to have done well with its top draft selection, LB Ernie Sims, the first defensive guy picked as the top choice after six years of offense. Here's what the previous four years of those picks look like. 2005: Mike Williams, WR. The 10th player chosen. Not active Sunday. DeVale Ellis, promoted from the taxi squad Friday, took Williams' place because he can play special teams. 2004: Roy Williams, WR. Seventh player chosen. Three catches for 36 yards against Seattle, none in the first half. 2003: Charles Rogers, WR. Second man picked in the draft. Cut this season. 2002: Joey Harrington, QB. Third overall. Traded.
J.P. Losman is taking all the hits for the Patriots loss by getting sacked for a safety, but here's what I noticed: The defense collapsed, and it was supposed to be one of the Bills' strong points. The Patriots ran, and I do mean ran, the last 6:15 off the clock, advancing from their own 25 to Buffalo's 20. Seven of their eight plays, before the kneels started, were on the ground.
They'll be in a lot of shootouts this year. Their offense shows life. Their defense gives up ground. I think they'll outscore St. Louis in San Francisco on Sunday, and that comes from the same intrepid handicapper who gave you Oakland's inspiratonal upset over San Diego on Monday night.
This is really a blue period for my predicted Super Bowl winner. Left tackle Travelle Wharton is lost with a knee injury. Wideout Steve Smith, Mr. Everything last year, remains out with two, not one, pulled hamstrings. The offense against Atlanta gained 215 yards, the fewest in the Panthers' last 44 regular-season games. Defensively, Dan Morgan, their fine middle linebacker, went out against Atlanta early with still another concussion, and without him the Falcons rushed for 252 yards, the second most the Panthers have ever given up.
It's not a quarterback controversy, it's a stunner. Kerry Collins, who flunked out of Oakland, and that's not easy to do, was a surprise starter (well, it was a surprise for me ... I'll probably get a lot of e-mails from people who said they knew about it all along), and he responded with a 41.9 rating against the Jets. How did Billy Volek fall from grace so far? Will Vince Young be rushed into the fray much too early? Coming up are roadies against San Diego and Miami, a homer with Dallas, and then two more roadies against Indy and Washington. They could be 0-6 or 1-5 by their Oct. 22 bye week, and everybody could be screaming for Young, if he hasn't already been given the start.
Oh, they'll dig themselves out of this hole, for sure. But right now they're coming off a 27-0 home loss, and everyone is asking Chris Simms why so many of his passes keep getting deflected. And do you like them at Atlanta this Sunday? No, me neither, but these are the kinds of games they have a habit of winning.
Why are they below the Texans? Because Houston drove to a 7-0 lead against Philly, while Cleveland opened with two yards in the first quarter (one rushing, one passing), and their first three drives went for minus-19, minus-3 and minus-1 yard. That's why. "Wait a minute," says the Flaming Redhead. "That should be minus-23. How do you get two yards for them?" Twenty-five penalty yards, that's how.
This will be a spirited battle all season, Pack vs. Raiders for the cellar. Green Bay lost 26-0, Oakland got dumped 27-0, so Week 1 goes to the Raiders. There's another reason, too, and I'll get to it presently.
Here it is. When I pick a team for my upset of the week, based on my self-perfected Trap Theory of handicapping, I want it to at least show some sign of a discernable pulse. Hey, I've got it: Combine the Raiders' and Packers' front fives and take turns protecting the QB with 10. Now I sound like Tony Kornheiser.