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Week 1

Ravens begin defense with 30 teams in hot pursuit

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Posted: Wednesday September 05, 2001 2:17 PM

Direct Snaps
Flags, Flattery

By B. Duane Cross,

Throw out all those preseason predictions. The unpredictable NFL kicks off Sunday.

Unpredictable? There were six new division winners in 2000 ... five teams made the playoffs after missing the year before -- the fourth year in a row that has happened ... the New Orleans Saints went from "worst to first" in the NFC West ... and the Baltimore Ravens became only the fourth non-division-winning team to win a Super Bowl.

What may be predictable in 2001 is that the Super Bowl XXXV champion Ravens will be one of the powerhouses, primarily on the strength of their defense. Returning all but one starter (safety Kim Herring) to a defense that set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165), the Ravens proved that defense can be exciting as well as vital. Six Super Bowl winners since 1990 had defenses ranked in the top five, and not one Super Bowl winner since '90 had a defense that finished lower than 11th.

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers -- 1 p.m.
Packers lead the all-time series 72-62-7 and have won nine consecutive regular-season home games against the Lions. Detroit has won three of its past four openers, including its past two on the road.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs -- 1 p.m.
Chiefs lead the all-time series 40-39-2. Seven of the past eight meetings have been decided on the final scoring play, and four of the past five meetings have been decided by seven points or less.
St. Louis Rams @ Philadelphia Eagles -- 4:15 p.m.
Rams lead the all-time series 15-14-1, but the Eagles have won the last six meetings. This game features the NFL's No. 1 passing offense (Rams, 442.2) vs. the NFC's No. 3 pass defense (Eagles, 186.9) for 2000.
Washington Redskins @ San Diego Chargers -- 4:15 p.m.
Redskins lead all-time series 6-0, and new head coach Marty Schottenheimer ranks second among active coaches with 145 regular-season wins (Dan Reeves, 171).
Miami Dolphins @ Tennessee Titans -- 8:30 p.m.
Dolphins lead the all-time series 14-11, and are vying for their NFL-best 10th season-opening win in a row. However, the Titans have won 15 of 16 regular-season home games at Adelphia Coliseum.
New York Giants @ Denver Broncos -- 9 p.m. Monday
Giants lead the all-time series 4-3, and head coach Jim Fassel is 4-0 on Kickoff Weekend. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan is 6-2 in season openers, including losses the past two years.

Run, Emmitt, Run
Dallas' Emmitt Smith can become the NFL's all-time rushing leader with 1,561 yards, topping Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton (16,726). Smith needs 104 yards to surpass former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders.
Rookie Watch
How much impact will the draft Class of 2001 -- featuring quarterback Michael Vick of Atlanta, guard Leonard Davis of Arizona, running back LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego and others -- have with their new teams?
QB Carousel
How far can quarterbacks new to teams take those clubs, such as Doug Flutie in San Diego, Elvis Grbac in Baltimore, Trent Green in K.C., Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle, Jon Kitna in Cincy and Brad Johnson in Tampa Bay?
Home Sweet Home
Two new stadiums -- Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver -- will open with the Steelers and Broncos using commemorative footballs to mark the regular-season debuts of their new homes.
The Bears will wear a "Salute to Soldier Field" patch on their home jerseys during the last season in their historic 31-year home before construction begins on a new stadium within the confines of Soldier Field.
Old News
Rookie quarterback Chris Weinke earned the Panthers' starting job. At 29, he becomes the oldest drafted quarterback to start a game since the first common AFL-NFL draft in 1967.

Flag: NFL and its officials
It's not brain surgery, folks. Hammer out a deal and get back to business. Upon further review, maybe the replacement officials won't be so bad after all; certainly they understand this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Flattery: Andrew Brandt
After being stripped during its Super Bowl days of free agent talent, the Packers' director of player finance kept the team's key components in place, including Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper.
Flag: Jerry Jones
"It's no secret that he was the one we wanted to get over Tony Banks," Jones said Tuesday. "I think everybody recognized he was our initial choice." Then why didn't Dallas claim QB Ryan Leaf in the first place?
Flattery: 'NFL's fastest man'
This season -- his 19th -- will be the last for Darrell Green, the Redskins' 41-year-old cornerback. However, we do argue his contention that he could play 22 years. ... The first thing to go is the mind.
Flag: Bill Belichick
A groin injury ends running back Robert Edwards' two-year comeback attempt from a devastating knee inury. Cutting Edwards before he even stepped on the field in preseason was heartless.
Flattery: George Seifert
After cutting veteran QB Steve Beuerlein, the Panthers' head coach admitted: "With this one, your [neck is] out there." Rarely do you find that kind of candor in modern-day sports.

Sports Illustrated ranked the NFL's offensive backs, receivers, kickers and return men from 1 (the best) to 400, based on our projections of their statistical production this season. The categories considered were scoring (touchdowns, field goals, extra points), long scoring plays (25 yards or more), big-game potential (300 yards passing or 100 yards rushing or receiving) and passing efficiency. We also took into account each player's stats as well as his role on his team, his prospects for improving or declining, his injury history and his current physical condition. Using these criteria, we determined each player's value ranking, or PVR.

Check out Fantasy Central for more insight and analysis.

This week's topic: Pundits spent the offseason bashing Jerry Jones for his hands-on approach molding the Dallas roster. As the Cowboys' owner, should he have carte blanche with on-field personnel decisions?

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Related information
Sports Illustrated's 2001 NFL Preview
SI's Don Banks: AFC Hot Spots for 2001
SI's Don Banks: NFC Hot Spots for 2001
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