The first question is: If the Patriots made Jets backup quarterback Glenn Foley look like Joe Montana, what's going to happen when they face Brett Favre in the Monday-nighter? Score one for Green Bay.
The second question is: If the Packers are truly a much different team away from Lambeau Field (1-2 on the road, and the victory over the winless Bears could have easily gone the other way), what's going to happen when they visit Foxboro, where they've played three times without winning? Give the Patriots a check mark here.
More questions: What does it mean that this is a Super Bowl rematch? Do the Pats long for revenge? Or is there a belief in the Packers' hearts that they've got this team's number? And how about the fact that Green Bay has had a bye week to heal its wounded—well, some of them—while New England was struggling through an emotional loss?
There are a lot of angles to this one, folks, and I'll admit that I'm having a terrible time handicapping it. First of all, I think New England will bring the heat against a banged-up offensive line. The Patriots brought plenty against Neil O'Donnell on Sunday and forced him into a safety on a grounding penalty in the end zone, which made Bill Parcells so mad that he opened the second half with Foley, whose last win was in the Carquest Bowl at the end of the 1993 season, when he was quarterbacking Boston College.
Sitting on a lead, the Pats figured they'd lay back and give the kid a bunch of sophisticated zone coverages, which is not their style, and he carved them up. Ergo, I think they'll play a lot of man-to-man against Favre and devise an exotic blitz scheme and see if the blockers can pick it up.
Remember how the Patriots built their 14-10 lead over Green Bay in the second quarter of the Super Bowl? They talked run all week, then abandoned it early and went with a lot of play-action passing. But things are different now, with massive defensive tackle Gilbert Brown bedeviled by a bad knee. Four NFC Central runners have gone over 100 yards against the Pack; one of them, Chicago's Raymont Harris, did it twice. And this is a team that used to pride itself on shutting down the run.
I think the Patriots will give their talented tailback, Curtis Martin, a chance to hang another skin on the wall. I think that the crowd will be loud and crazy and that Drew Bledsoe, finally freed from having to address all those Parcells questions during the week, will put together a commendable evening. Call it a win for New England.
I didn't think the Buccaneers would lose to Green Bay. I certainly didn't think Detroit would beat them in Tampa. And I don't think the Bucs will lose to the Vikings. One might gather that I have a rooting interest in this team, and, well, I'll admit it, I'm kind of pulling for them. I have been underrating Minnesota all year. But still fresh in my mind are the 217 rushing yards the Bucs ran up in Green Bay, and I think they'll get some big numbers for Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott against a defense that's basically keyed to the pass rush.
Look for the Eagles to beat the Cowboys in Philadelphia. They should have done it in Dallas, except that the mechanics fell apart on an extra-point-length field goal attempt. Ray Rhodes won't let his players forget it. This is their make-or-break game of the season. Scratch that. I hate it when the media start writing off a season at the midpoint. But it is big, and the Cowboys, who regained some semblance of order against Jacksonville, have lost their last three on the road.
Philly will mount the kind of pass rush that troubled the Redskins a few weeks ago, and I particularly favor the matchup of speed rusher Mike Mamula, who seems to save his biggest games for the Cowboys, against Mark Tuinei's backup at left tackle, George Hegamin, who had a rough time with the Jaguars' Tony Brackens.