Everyone in the NFC East is 1-1. The Vikings meet the Buccaneers for the undisputed lead in the NFC Central. The 49ers, just barely clinging to life and down to their third quarterback, are tied for the lead in the NFC West, which doesn't really have a team capable of leading anything. Things are getting weird, folks, and it isn't even autumn yet.
Don't the Cowboys know it. Their meltdown in the Arizona heat got 'em on Sunday night, and they're lucky they have an extra day to get ready for the Eagles. If I were Barry Switzer, I'd call off practice and just pack the players in ice until the Monday-night kickoff. The Cardinals tried to give away the game with those four fumbles, but Dallas wouldn't take it. Arizona finally got busy and started putting together drives. Then the heat kicked in, and the Cowboys' sideline looked like Cramp Central, and at the end it was the Cardinals, 25-22, in overtime. Now Dallas hosts the resurgent Eagles, coming off a 10-9 upset of the Packers. What I want to know is how long it takes a team to get its legs back.
I say two weeks. I say the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Dallas, even though they're coming off a nasty, bruising game themselves, a game they should have lost, except that Green Bay's rookie kicker, Ryan Longwell, pushed his 28-yard field goal at the end. There are some things I just can't get out of my mind, like the three times Philly gave up only field goals when the Packers had driven deep, and the 19-play touchdown drive the Eagles put together against a defense that was ranked No. 1 in the league last year. Then there was the way the Cowboys kept screwing up when they got close against the Cardinals.
The hook is the Philly quarterback situation. Ty Detmer is off to a rocky start, and Rodney Peete waits for the call. But the defense matches up well with Dallas, and who knows what kind of shape the Cowboys will be in after their disaster in the desert?
Green Bay to beat undefeated Miami at Lambeau. I didn't like what I saw of the Dolphins in their overtime win over Tennessee. There was a minicrisis when Dan Marino passed for only 105 yards in the opener, but everyone was smiling again when he threw for 324 against the Oilers. Almost all the action, though, was on passes to the inside, crossing patterns, slants, relatively easy throws. I think Green Bay's defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, will pinch off the middle and make Marino go to more difficult stuff. Miami's ground game? Forget it. The Dolphins haven't run on anybody, and they won't run on the Pack.
I'd feel more secure about this pick if Brett Favre could shake his alarming tendency to start slowly (against the Eagles, he didn't complete a pass until the second quarter), if his No. 2 wideout, Antonio Freeman, didn't drop so many balls and if cornerback Tyrone Williams hadn't been devoured by Philly's Irving Fryar (eight catches, 125 yards). That said, Green Bay simply has too many weapons.
Unbeaten Tampa Bay to upset unbeaten Minnesota in the Metrodome. I've picked two upsets in a row for the Bucs. You think I'm going to abandon them now, when they need me most? Their defense swarms, and Barry Sanders was the latest to feel its bite (10 carries, 20 yards). Now Tampa Bay faces a different problem, Cris Carter, who keeps pulling miracles out of the sky, the latest being a 21-yarder on fourth-and-eight on the closing drive that beat the Bears. But Tampa Bay won't put up the soft-cushion pass defense that Chicago did. And if you don't like Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer against a hungry Vikings defense that cherishes turnovers, bear in mind that he's thrown no interceptions this year, and that includes the preseason.
New England fans can't wait for Bill Parcells to come back so they can show him how nicely they're doing without him. Parcells' Jets looked like his first Super Bowl-winning Giants team in the slaughter of the Seahawks two weeks ago. No, I'm not talking about the Neil O'Donnell fireworks. I'm referring to the way he loaded the perimeters with two, sometimes three tight ends to get an overmatch and spring his runner, Adrian Murrell.
On the Joe Morris Giants, tight end Mark Bavaro blocked down and one of the guards came around. On last year's Patriots, Keith Byars cracked back. Parcells loves to get those angles on the outside, and that's what he wanted to do on Sunday against the Bills, who in Week 1 abandoned their running lanes and got burned badly by the Vikings.
Except that Buffalo played it straight-up this time and held firm at the point, and when the Jets went to Phase 2, their multiple wideout set, they were overrun by the Bills' pass rush to the tune of eight sacks. Poof went the game. Poof number 2 for the Jets comes this Sunday night in Foxboro. New England's pass rush is simply too quick for New York's blockers. O.K., you say, who have the Patriots played—the Chargers and the Colts? Yeah, but they played those teams with one eye to Sept. 14.