Perception vs. reality (cont.)
Perception: Carolina couldn't possibly win with its best player -- receiver Steve Smith -- sitting out a two-game team suspension to start the season.
The Panthers own a pair of fourth-quarter comeback wins, getting it done on the game's final play in Week 1 at San Diego and rallying from a 17-3 third-quarter hole at home against the plucky Bears on Sunday. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme has thrown for just one touchdown with his go-to guy, Smith, sidelined, but that one really counted for something when it went to Dante Rosario for the game-winner against the Chargers.
Perception: The disgruntled Anquan Boldin could make for trouble in Arizona this season.
Boldin had six receptions for 140 yards against the Dolphins, with scoring plays of 79, 5 and 8 yards. It was his 22nd 100-yard receiving game as a Cardinal, setting a franchise record. Combined with his eight second-half receptions in Week 1 at San Francisco, Boldin has made all 14 of his 2008 catches in Arizona's past six quarters.
Perception: If Devin Hester doesn't score, Chicago won't score.
With Hester now nursing sore ribs and his status somewhat uncertain for Week 3, Chicago needs its early season play-makers to continue to fill the void on offense.
Perception: Having gotten a taste of playoff success with two wins last January, the Chargers would return hungry and focused in 2008.
The Chargers defense has been horrendous through two games, giving up 32.5 points per game to rank 29th in the NFL. Five of the six touchdowns San Diego has allowed have come via the air, which is tied for the second-most passing touchdowns in the league. Already two games behind first-place Denver in the AFC West, the Chargers better start finishing their work, beginning with Monday night's showdown at home with Brett Favre and the Jets.
Perception: Without both the retired Michael Strahan and the injured Osi Umenyiora, the Giants' vaunted pass rush is going to struggle to repeat last year's dominance.
New York dumped Washington's Jason Campbell just once in the season opener at Giants Stadium, but they harried or hurried him all night long. At St. Louis on Sunday, the Giants sacked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger six times, with Justin Tuck leading the way with a pair of sacks and a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Perception: David Garrard won't get you beat throwing interceptions.
Perception: The Browns newly rebuilt defensive line will shut down the run and make opponents one-dimensional.
Cleveland couldn't slow down the Cowboys at all on opening day, and in Sunday night's ugly 10-6 loss to the visiting Steelers, the Browns couldn't stop Pittsburgh and get the ball back late in the game, when it really mattered. And things might be about to get worse before they get better, because defensive end Robaire Smith sustained a potentially season-ending Achilles tendon injury against the Steelers.