There are three unbeaten teams in the NFL. Two of them, New England and Denver, meet in the Monday nighter. The third, and most intriguing, Tampa Bay, travels to Green Bay to face the wounded animal.
?I keep scratching my head over what I saw in that Packers-Lions game on Sunday. Brett Favre will be a featured performer on Detroit's 1997 highlight film. He tried two of those miracle plays he performed so regularly the past two years, throwing for six as he was falling, dodging, ducking, you know. This time? Two interceptions, good for 10 Detroit points.
The Packers' defense got worn down. It took the field with 7:01 left, trailing by eight and trying to force a punt, but the Lions ran 11 plays and 5� minutes off the clock. Ten of those plays were runs, and the 12th was the field goal that turned out the lights. Before that drive Detroit had run 52 plays, not an inordinate number, but the Green Bay defenders were shot. Don't forget, the Eagles killed them with a 19-play drive in the fourth quarter. And the Vikings made a run at them in the second half.
Is this the Achilles' heel on the defending champs, or was it a case of both starting cornerbacks being out and other guys playing hurt? The defense that finished first in the league in yards and points allowed last year is very thin. Not much depth. And not many turnovers. The Packers have forced seven through five games. Last year at this time they had 22.
Are the Buccaneers, whose offense went south in a look-ahead game against Arizona but still squeaked out a one-point win, catching the Pack at just the right time? I think they are. If the Bucs can stay close and not get psyched out by all those screaming maniacs in the Lambeau cheese factory, and if the Packers don't put up big numbers early and force them to play catch-up, Tampa Bay will win it in the fourth quarter. Call it youthful fire.
The Broncos have won nine straight over the Patriots. Here comes number 10. Yeah, I know, Denver had a big second-half letdown in Atlanta. The Broncos let the Falcons come back from 23-0 and make a run, and the Patriots had the bye week to get ready for this one, but Drew Bledsoe doesn't seem to do that well against Denver. Plus this one's at Mile High.
Three negatives for the Broncos. They've shown the tendency to give up big plays, even against Atlanta. They'll be without their kicker, Jason Elam, who has a hip flexor injury. And they'll be missing their blocking fullback, Howard Griffith. Look for a lot of two-tight-end sets, and look for Terrell Davis to bail them out. He always does.
Kansas City could easily have lost at home against Seattle on Sunday, except that Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson, for some weird reason, let 15 precious seconds tick off the clock at the end of regulation before Todd Peterson lined up for a 58-yard field goal attempt—which he missed, naturally. Then, in overtime, the Chiefs pounded a groggy team into submission.
Here's what I don't like about the Chiefs: Unless they blitz lots of people, they don't have a pass rush. Here's what I do like: Elvis Grbac. Usually when one of these 6'5" quarterbacks scrambles or rolls out, he looks like Ichabod Crane. But this guy is actually graceful, and he moves a lot faster than you'd think. Nevertheless, I'm picking Miami at home against K.C. Dare the Chiefs send the full blitz package at Dan Marino? I think not, at least not right away. He's too scary, even though his numbers are way down.
Look for Marino to throw from a multiple-wideout set, off a quick drop, using a lot of no-huddle. Look for Kansas City to pull in its horns and play coverages. The Chiefs will get good yardage on the ground but not enough to win it.