Sports Illustrated's Don Banks tackles three issues from around the league:
Which team is most likely to make a QB change as Week 3 looms?
Joey Harrington Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
At a loss for what to do with his dead-beat team, Detroit head coach Marty Mornhinweg is mulling over switching from Mike McMahon to rookie Joey Harrington in time for Sunday's Ford Field opener against Green Bay. The odds are good that he'll make that move.
On Monday, Mornhinweg said he was leaning toward staying with McMahon. But later, after meeting with both quarterbacks on the field, Mornhinweg sure didn't sound like he was going with the status quo.
"Marty said he's not sure what he's going to do, but whatever it is, he expects us to handle it like professionals," McMahon said.
Who says something like that unless they're preparing the hook?
In fairness, the Lions have to try something week. Either way they're going to face what amounts to an angry mob in a game that was supposed to double as a celebration of the team's return to a downtown Detroit stadium for the first time since 1974.
Harrington gets nod
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Joey Harrington, the third overall pick in April's draft, will start at quarterback against the Green Bay Packers in the regular season debut of Ford Field on Sunday.
Harrington played behind second-year quarterback Mike McMahon in the first two games, both blowout losses for the Lions, who are 2-16 during the past two seasons.
He has completed 7-of-18 passes for 52 yards and has a dismal quarterback rating of 23.8.
Whatever Mornhinweg decides, it won't be a drastic move since both quarterbacks have played in both of Detroit's two losses. On Sunday in Carolina, the Lions made three quarterback changes, flip-flopping from McMahon to Harrington, to McMahon, to Harrington -- all within the confines of Detroit's humbling 31-7 loss.
McMahon, sacked six times, completed nine of 23 passes, for 95 yards and one interception against the Panthers. Harrington wasn't sacked, but completed just three of seven, for 11 yards and an interception. On the season, McMahon has completed 22 of 48 for 274 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Harrington is seven of 18, for 52 yards and no touchdowns.
With his job security sinking into the week-to-week category, Mornhinweg is desperate for a victory and any sense of credibility. He's 2-16 in his two seasons in Detroit, and may not make it into October at this rate. The Lions have been beaten by a combined score of 80-28 by Miami and Carolina. Detroit began last season 0-12, but was usually competitive.
Harrington has been the presumed starter at some point since the day he was drafted third overall in April. But McMahon held onto the job he won late last season, and was given the opportunity to keep Harrington on the bench. He hasn't done that. For his part, Harrington hasn't done much to earn the starter's role.
All the instability at the game's most important position is a familiar story line in Detroit. Last year, Mornhinweg switched from opening-day starter Charlie Batch to Ty Detmer in Week 2, then back to Batch at halftime of the team's third game. Batch got hurt on Thanksgiving Day, and the Lions inserted McMahon. The rookie started the next three games, before getting hurt himself and paving the way for Detmer to start the season finale.
If Harrington gets the nod this week, he'll be Mornhinweg's fourth different starting quarterback in a span of 19 regular-season games.
Speaking of QB controversies, what effect has Kelly Holcomb's strong performance had on Cleveland's long-term situation?
Kelly Holcomb AP
Let's just say Browns head coach Butch Davis has more options at the position than he really knew just two short weeks ago.
When Davis said late last week that injured starter Tim Couch would return to his place atop the depth chart once his sore throwing elbow had healed, he meant it. And that's likely to take place this week at Tennessee, once Couch proves that he's 100 percent in Wednesday's practice.
But while Couch has said he's ready, Davis is taking more of a we'll-see approach until Wednesday, which is a key distinction. Couch might be a little miffed that Davis is leaving himself some wiggle room, but that's what Holcomb's surprising effective work as a starter has afforded Davis. Were it not for Dwayne Rudd's helmet tossing, the Browns would be 2-0, with Holcomb's 524 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions being responsible for much of the success.
The reality is, Davis likes how Holcomb runs a game, and he's high on his accuracy (he's 44-of-69, 63.7 percent) and calm, on-field presence. While things have not progressed to the point where Couch is in danger of turning into this year's Drew Bledsoe (with Holcomb in the Tom Brady role), it is fair to say that the Browns' first-ever draft pick will be on a shorter leash than ever before.
You can bet that Davis will have a quicker trigger finger than in the past, when Couch was allowed to play through his erratic stretches. Largely because Holcomb is now a proven and enticing option, and the Browns have higher aspirations than just finishing close to .500. Now in his fourth season, Couch had best produce like the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be. With Holcomb around, Couch can no longer take starting for granted.
Who deserves much of the credit for showing Bill Belichick, Bill Callahan and the rest of the NFL how to attack the Pittsburgh 'D'?
Dick LeBeau Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Would you believe former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, in his current role as Cincinnati's head coach? Before the Patriots and Raiders hung up all those gaudy passing statistics against the befuddled Steelers the past two weeks, it was LeBeau's Bengals who really devised the blueprint of spreading the field with five receivers and throwing on most every down, in an effort to limit the effectiveness of Pittsburgh's blitz-happy, linebacker-driven defense.
In Week 16 of last season, the Bengals upset the Steelers 26-23 in overtime, snapping Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. The game wasn't important to the Steelers, who clinched the AFC's home-field advantage in the postseason despite the loss. But the method by which the Bengals pulled off the upset was noticed by New England, which was to meet the Steelers four weeks later in the AFC title game.
Playing on a cold day at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna threw the ball 68 times against the Steelers, completing 35 for 411 yards and two touchdowns. Cincinnati, which trailed 14-0 at one point in the game, didn't totally ignore the run as much as New England and Oakland have the past two weeks. The Bengals rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries -- most of them early -- with Corey Dillon leading the way with a 91-yard effort.
Against the Steelers in the AFC title game, New England employed some of the lessons from that Bengals win, having quarterback Tom Brady throw 18 times before being forced out of the game with an ankle injury with two minutes left in the first half. The Patriots got more conservative with a rusty Drew Bledsoe in the game, but he still wound up with 21 pass attempts in his 32 minutes of action. Combined, Brady and Bledsoe were 22-of-39 for 217 passing yards and one touchdown.
LeBeau was perfectly qualified to have those insights into the vulnerabilities of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense, given that he was the architect of the frequently copied "zone-blitz" defense that he and the Steelers rode to the Super Bowl in 1995. LeBeau's Steelers ranked third overall in defense in 1995, and improved to second in 1996. After five seasons in Pittsburgh, LeBeau left for his second coaching stint in Cincinnati, in 1997.
Using a no-huddle to prevent situational substitutions, and quick three and five-step drops to render Pittsburgh's blitzing tendencies irrelevant, the Patriots and Raiders amassed a combined 649 passing yards against the shell-shocked Steelers the past two games. With the Pittsburgh cornerbacks playing well off the receivers, as they traditionally do, both Brady and Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon picked apart the Steelers defense with a variety of quick-hitting, short passes.
Not every team has a quarterback capable of doing what Brady and Gannon did against Pittsburgh. But you can bet every quarterback is going to try -- starting with the Steelers' next game, Sept. 29 at home against Cleveland -- until Pittsburgh finds a way to defense the all-out passing attack first utilized by Cincinnati and LeBeau.