Ten storylines to watch in Week 3
The Jets' trip to Miami will be a crucial and perhaps season-defining game
If Minnesota flops against a Stafford-less Lions team, stick a fork in the Vikes
It appears as though Vince Young's grasp on the starting job is slipping once again
The New York Giants must try to keep their collective heads -- to say nothing of their helmets. Somebody may well get fired in Dallas. The dizzying quarterbacking carousel continues. The latest breaking news with Brett Favre: He's old. And Andy Reid is flip-flopping like an Atlantic City flounder. Those are but a few of the Top 10 storylines entering Week 3 of the NFL season. But we must begin with the frolicking road show known as the New York Jets.
1. Amid the hard knocks the Jets took on and off the field the past week, this will be a crucial and perhaps season-defining game for the club, as it heads to a showdown in South Florida Sunday night. Among the twists to follow in Jets-Dolphins:
Darrelle Revis, the Jets' pivotal $46 million shutdown corner, has been shut down. It's a bad hammy. Just how much will it hurt the Jets against a desperate Dolphins offense?
Receiver Braylon Edwards, on the other hand, will indeed play despite reportedly blowing a 0.16 and earning a DWI charge after a traffic stop in Manhattan. For his part, Edwards showed all the contrition of a Clint Eastwood character, telling reporters he did not understand how the incident was a black eye for the organization. He also said he wasn't exactly embarrassed. What a gem, eh?
Will Mark Sanchez be more like the Week 1 quarterbacking eunuch or the Week 2 Joe Montana clone? Against a truly outstanding Dolphins defense, Sanchez knows this week will go a long way toward determining just how much he has come along. And it could help decide just how often Rex Ryan will unlock the shackles and let Sanchez sling it like he did in a huge win over the Patriots.
J.T. the Jet goes back to Miami. Jason Taylor, the Dolphins' all-time sacks leader (128.5), figures to be a huge part of what happens in this game and ultimately the tightest division race in the league. Taylor had a tremendous relationship with fans and a tumultuous one with the front office in South Florida -- specifically, consultant Bill Parcells, who is now on his way out.
Don't forget -- there's going to be another quarterback on the field with a lot to prove. Chad Henne doesn't get the same publicity and exposure as Sanchez, but he is in much the same boat, if not more so. Because the Dolphins defense is so good, Henne's huge arm continues to be dialed back by conservative play-calling. But in this division, with so much parity and such strong defenses, if the Dolphins are going to contend, sooner or later they have to unleash Henne's talents and take more shots downfield to Brandon Marshall.
2. Antrel Rolle wants the Giants to quit playing like dogs and start thinking like them. And that's only one of several issues the Giants need to clean up. Rolle criticized team leadership, its preparation itinerary and highly controlled environment, saying it doesn't allow for a "dog mentality." There is obvious frustration within the club, as evidenced by Brandon Jacobs' helmet toss into the stands in last week's loss to the Colts. The good news: The Titans come into town off a quarterback swap and turning the ball over more than any other team in the league.
3. If the Vikes lose to Detroit, will three teammates drive to Brett Favre's house and beg him to re-retire? Remember when Jared Allen, Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson went to Mississippi to recruit Favre? The Vikings are at a crossroads this week, with Favre looking old and overmatched in consecutive weeks. Generally speaking, Minnesota playing Detroit at home is as close to a gimme as there is in the NFL. The Vikes are unbeaten at home against the Lions since 1997. If they flop against a Matt Stafford-less Lions team, stick a fork in the Vikes.
4. The weather calls for temperatures to hit the high-80s in Jacksonville on Sunday, which means Andy Reid should be able to wear his favorite shoes -- flip-flops. Remember the adage about how players can't lose their starting jobs because of injury? Reid adamantly adhered to it, saying Kevin Kolb would be his starting quarterback, no matter what. And then a day later, he flip-flopped and took all responsibility for naming Vick the starter. No matter what happens Sunday, the Kolb-Vick controversy will linger all season long.
5. Vince Young is "kind of" the Titans starting quarterback again. Maybe. For sure. But not really ... or, yeah. That's the message Titans coach Jeff Fisher sent to his team this week when naming Young the starter against the Giants. Fisher pulled Young, who's prone to being hyper-sensitive to such things. Fisher later said it was, "kind of a one-time thing." Translation: If VY struggles again, Kerry Collins will be back in charge and who knows what becomes of Young's career.
6. Who needs all their front-line stars? Not the Steelers, apparently. Nor the Texans. The Steelers and Texans are perhaps playing the best football in the AFC. Both are doing it despite mostly self-inflicted roster casualties. The Steelers are 2-0 without the suspended Ben Roethlisberger and backup Dennis Dixon. The Texans are 2-0 without suspended linebacker Brian Cushing, who failed an NFL performance-enhancing drug test. (And starting and left tackle Duane Brown was just suspended for the same reason.) But this week offers huge tests. The Steelers head to the road to face a surprising Bucs team with the third-best scoring defense in the league and newfound explosiveness offensively. The Texans face the desperate, but talented Cowboys.
7. Get a rope, Dallas. Maybe, two. If the Texans put two-wraps-and-a-hooey on the Cowboys (that's Texas slang for a butt-whooping), at least one Cowboys coach's job figures to be on the clock. These aren't good days to be Wade Phillips or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Jerry Jones isn't going to sit idly by as a Super Bowl in his building happens without his club even being relevant. And if they drop to 0-3, they won't be. There are severe in-house issues in Dallas, illustrated by Gerald Sensabaugh's rant about the Cowboys collapsing under, "too much hype."
8. Jahvid is Best in the rookie class. Everyone else is a distant second -- including Toby Gerhart. Don't look now, but the woeful Lions seem to have a little something going. Besides the heralded Ndamukong Suh at the center of the defense, there is Best, who has blazed out of the gate as a breakaway threat rushing and receiving, leading the league with 30 points. Gerhart (Stanford) and Best (Cal) were archrivals in college, but thus far, the NFL battle is one-sided. No other touted rookie back -- Ryan Mathews, Ben Tate, C.J. Spiller -- has even come close to matching Best.
9. How the heck did USC ever lose a game with linebackers Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga on the field? All three have proved to be big-time players. All three also have been central figures in their teams' respective fates thus far -- with Mathews' emergence as a dominant Packer, Maualuga leading a rising Bengals linebacking corps and 2009 Defensive Rookie Of The Year Cushing undergoing two more weeks of treatment for "Overtrained Athlete Syndrome" -- aka., an NFL suspension for failing a performance enhancing drug test. Keep an eye on the other two this weekend. They're that good.
10. If you had Eric Mangini in the 2010 NFL Coaching Dead Pool, step to the front of the line. For Browns fans, the only thing worse than losing, is losing to the Ravens. Both figure to happen on Sunday as the dominant Ravens defense plays at home for the first time against a bumbling Browns offense missing starting quarterback Jake Delhomme. Worse, the Browns just lost its two most winnable early-season games against the Chiefs and Bucs. And they did it by coughing up first-half leads, turning over the ball and committing stupid penalties.
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