Posted: Monday September 18, 2006 10:38AM; Updated: Monday September 18, 2006 2:03PM
The Fine Fifteen
LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers have looked unbeatable, although they haven't faced much competition in their first two games.
1. Baltimore (2-0). "We haven't accomplished anything yet,'' Ed Reed told me after the game. Yes you have, Ed. You've made us all forget the years you didn't have a quarterback.
2. Chicago (2-0). I think, at some point right before training camp, Rex Grossman had an arm transplant from Dan Fouts.
3. San Diego (2-0). I think there's a very good chance the Chargers are the best team in football. Very good chance being the operative phrase. They've played the Raiders and the Titans. 'Nuff said.
4. Indianapolis (2-0). Interesting NBC Note of the Day: Sterling Sharpe said on Football Night in America that Marvin Harrison told him he could play another 10 years. And look at the guy. He doesn't take a lot of direct hits, just a bunch of glancing ones. And now he's 606 catches behind Jerry Rice (Rice 1,549, Harrison 943), in fourth place on the all-time list. Three years ago we all thought no one would ever catch Rice. But when PeytonManning's the mailman, why can't Harrison catch him?
5. Pittsburgh (1-0). You really think there's a chance he won't play? No way. BigBen battles the Jags tonight.
6. Atlanta (2-0). We've always known the Falcons can run the ball. But entering this year, we had a feeling they might get out of the gate slowly, because they were facing the Panthers and the Bucs -- fourth and sixth in the NFL in run defense last year -- in the first two weeks. Think again. Atlanta has rushed for 556 yards in Weeks 1 and 2, by far the most in the league. Whatever Mike Vick does with his arm is almost irrelevant.
7. Seattle (2-0). I've got a feeling Sunday's matchup against the Giants is going to be a heckuva game.
8. Cincinnati (2-0). The Bengals were one beat-up group on Sunday night. I tried to interview Chad Johnson after the game but was told by the crack p.r. man of the Bengals, Jack Brennan, that Johnson was in no mental shape to talk to me. He'd better be in mental shape for Steelers-Bengals this week.
9. New England (2-0). The Pats are unbeaten, so all should be well. So why did Tom Brady sound like his dog just died when we spoke Sunday night?
10. Minnesota (2-0). Gutsy, opportunistic win. Can't knock it, but there's no question John Fox gift-wrapped it for them.
11. Jacksonville (1-0). I graded the Jags five spots down without them even playing a game since last Monday. Their underrated defensive-end duo of Reggie Hayward and Paul Spicer was ravaged in one week, Hayward lost for the year with an Achilles tear, Spicer banged up with a groin injury. Both great run players, too, which means the Steelers could have a big night on the ground tonight.
12. Dallas (1-1). Still learning how to win with a bunch of young players. But that 99-yard drive against the Washington defense should help.
13. Buffalo (1-1). Bills defensive end Ryan Denney, all 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, will be a nightmare for Daunte Culpepper for a long time. Three sacks and several pressures do that.
14. New York Giants (1-1). Eli Manning, you can play in the NFL Clutch Bowl anytime. Cris Collinsworth made a great point Sunday night at NBC: Most young quarterbacks who get sacked a bunch of times (eight, in this case) will be demonstratively ticked off and might show up their linemen. Not Manning. He just kept getting up and going back to work. A great performance in the clutch and a great demeanor for the most important position in the game.
15. Philadelphia (1-1). I know this is probably the last week I'll have the Iggles this low. They're good. But you can't blow a 24-7 second-half lead at home in a game vital to division-title hopes.
Bizarre, Ridiculous Quote of the Week
"Since Art Shell came back, this is a miracle performed here today.'' -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the third quarter of last Monday's Raiders-Chargers game on ESPN.
Ahh-nold, just a note to you: The team playing poorly, and the team way behind, is usually not the miracle team. They're the lousy, underachieving team. And re: Art Shell? What sort of miracle, exactly, is it when your team doesn't show up for the first game of the year when it's on national TV?
Quote of the Week I
"I am totally in the tank." -- Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden after the Bucs' second straight inept offensive performance, this one against Atlanta.
Quote of the Week II
"America! What a country! You get paid to lose weight!'' -- HBO and CBS analyst Dan Marino, the former Miami quarterback. He lost more than 20 pounds in a promotional deal with a weight-loss company.
Quote of the Week III
Hmmm. Think the distance between Pats coach Bill Belichick and protégé Eric Mangini, now with the Jets, hasn't led to chilly feelings, exacerbated by the tampering charge filed by the Pats against the Jets? Read on.
Belichick, asked last week if he could see Mangini's stamp on the Jets: "I don't know. I'm sure there's a lot of people, a lot of forces, that work down there. They have a big staff."
Belichick, asked when he knew Mangini had the stuff to be a head coach: "I don't know. That's not any kind of decision I have to make.''
Belichick, asked if he saw Mangini as head-coaching material: "Again, that's not my decision to make. I see coaches as coaches.... It's not anything I really have any control over, so I don't really worry about it.''