Where to begin this week -- Philly, South Beach or The Black Hole? Week 7 has several five-star games, each with its own unique appeal.
In the City of Brotherly Love -- something the homestanding Eagles haven't shown the visiting Buccaneers in their last two trips to Veterans Stadium -- Philadelphia plays host to Tampa Bay. The Eagles have the league's third-ranked offense (412.2 yards per game), but the Bucs feature the NFL's No. 1 defense (250.7 ypg).
But being numero uno doesn't tell the whole story. Tampa Bay's D:
Has allowed only 30 points in the last five games -- all wins.
Has given up zero offensive touchdowns in the last 12 quarters.
Holds opposing quarterbacks to a rating of just 39.6.
In Miami, the Dolphins face a familiar foe -- Drew Bledsoe, who will be making his first appearance at Pro Player with Buffalo. Arguably the AFC's flavor of the month, Miami is averaging 144.2 rushing yards per game. The Bills hope to offset the Dolphins' ground game with the conference's second-best passing game (336.0 ypg).
While many salivated at the thought of Bledsoe hooking up with Eric Moulds, fourth-year receiver Peerless Price has become a major factor in Buffalo's offense. After an eight-catch, 121-yard, one TD game at Houston, Price is on pace for 114 receptions for 1,640 yards and 13 TDs.
And finally in Oakland, the Raiders and Chargers renew their age-old rivalry as San Diego invades rollicking Network Associates Coliseum. The Bolts are 10th in scoring (24.3 points per game), while the Gray & Black -- how else to describe a team with eight starters over 30 and a ninth, Jerry Rice, who is 40 -- are leading the league in scoring (35.0).
And speaking of old-timers, Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper will receive his HoF ring at halftime. He was the 13th Raider inducted into the shrine when formal ceremonies were held Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio.
This game features the NFLís top rushing offense (K.C., 163.3 yards per game) vs. the best run defense (Denver, 62.0 ypg). And look for the Broncos to jump out early; under head coach Mike Shanahan (since 1995), Denver owns the league's greatest first-quarter point differential (+357).
If the Skins can stay close, rookie QB Patrick Ramsey may be the difference-maker. He leads the NFC with a 110.2 fourth-quarter passer rating. However, the Packers have won 17 consecutive games when leading at halftime, the longest current streak in NFL ... and Brett Favre is 68-12 at home.
Tony Dungy joins Don McCafferty (1970) and Lindy Infante ('96) with the best start by a new Colts head coach after five games (4-1). For what it's worth: McCaffrey won Super Bowl V; Infante bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. The Steelers are 11-1 all-time at home vs. the Colts.
Points allowed by the Broncos in the first quarter this season. Denver has scored 30.
Points per game average through six weeks, the highest rate since 48.2 in 1958.
Eaglesí winning percentage under head coach Andy Reid (24-4) when scoring 20 or more points.
Emmitt Watch Emmitt Smith's quest for the all-time rushing record meanders into the desert this week. Through six games, the Cowboys RB has 365 yards and is now 175 yards shy of breaking Walter Payton's mark of 16,726. Dallas plays at Arizona on Sunday; Smith has averaged 91.8 ypg vs. the Cardinals.
This week, when Cleveland plays host to Houston, it will be the first of a number of teams through the rest of the season to wear a "classic" -- the NFL's word, not ours -- or alternate-color jersey for a home game. The Browns will wear an orange jersey, the same color as their helmet.
Yada, yada, yada
"If they paid me by the touchdown catch, then I'd be worried." -- Broncos TE Shannon Sharpe, who does not have a touchdown this season. The league's all-time receptions leader among tight ends, Sharpe has 24 catches for 222 yards this season. He's averaged one TD catch every three games for his career.
CNNSI.com's Richard Harris Bulger says Marc Bulger was impressive enough in the preseason to warrant the No. 2 job behind Kurt Warner. That did not happen. Nonetheless, with Jamie Martin injured, Bulger made his first NFL start Sunday, and showed that his preseason performance was no fluke. Check out this week's Tip Sheet.
Patrick Ramsey, QB, Washington 2002 stats: 41 of 77, 588 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs
Selected in the first round (32nd overall), Ramsey went from the Redskins' QB-of-the-future to the team's starter after a strong performance in relief of Danny Wuerffel in Week 5. Ramsey completed 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns as Washington won 31-14.
At Tulane, Ramsey completed 798 of 1,355 passes (58.9%) for 9,205 yards and 72 TDs, surpassing Shaun King's (1995-98) career marks (649 of 1,163 for 8,419 yards and 70 TDs). Ramsey also had at least one TD pass in 31 consecutive games, another school record.
An accomplished javelin thrower, Ramsey won the Louisiana Class 5A championship and prestigious Golden West Invitational in the javelin throw as a senior at Ruston High School. He graduated from Tulane in December 2001, with a double degree in Accounting and Finance. He and his wife, Virginia, were married just before the 2002 NFL Draft.
Users sounded off on what one thing they would change about the NFL, if appointed commissioner for a day:
Have field goals of 50-59 yards worth four points and field goals of 60+ worth five points. That would change some strategies toward the end of the game. Bruce -- Whitehall, Wis.
Require only one foot in bounds for a reception. This would alleviate a lot of officiating problems, widen the field, and create more excitement. John -- Hamilton, Mont.
I would extend the trading deadline so bad teams could sell off players at a premium to teams in the playoff hunt. John -- Kansas City
I would totally elimate the unsportmanlike player penalty. It seems that even if a guy says even one little thing, it's a 15-yard penalty and could totally shift a game one way or the other. ... These are grown men; I don't think their egos are going to be too bruised by someone flipping a football at them. Sharon -- Minneapolis
Eliminate the sudden death overtime format and implement something similar to the NCAA. Bob -- Texarkana, Texas
The penalty for pass interference is unequally punative. I would add a loss-of-down to offensive pass-interference penalty. Larry -- Merritt Island, Fla.
I would get rid of the arcane uniform rules. C'mon! Not letting Manning wear black high-tops to honor Unitas? Don -- Detroit
Smash-mouth football needs to return to the gridiron. Eliminate field goals and extra points! No more sissy kickers! Phillip -- Spanaway, Wash.
Take a page from the CFL and give the wide receivers a running start at the snap. Higher scores mean more entertainment! Carl -- Grafton, Va.
I would make it a turnover if a field goal is blocked by the defense regardless if it passes the line of scrimmage. However, the ball must be kicked. Anthony -- Tampa, Fla.
Get rid of all the limelight-seeking, hot-dogging, stutter-stepping boorish behavior that follows so many plays: a 25-yard penalty if you fail to "act like you've done it before." Andy -- Hanson, Mass.
I would not allow the in-the-grasp rule for the QB. Let them play till they are on the ground. Marty, Milwaukee
I'd give every team's stadium a shot at hosting the Super Bowl. Buffalo, Super Bowl, January ... SWEET! Alex -- Greenville, S.C.
Allow a "Larry Bird rule" with the salary cap. One veteran's salary will not count against the cap, that way a player can stay with the same team as long as they want, a la "Jerry Rice with the 49ers." Danny, Savannah, Ga.
I'd change the blackout rule. How can a team establish a fan base if it can never see its team play, especially when they have already spent millions on buying them a football stadium? Bryan -- Seattle
Mandatory geographic rivalry games yearly, regardless of conference. Steve -- Tucson, Ariz.
This week's topic: Which head coach -- current or former -- would you want given the chance to win a Super Bowl?