We're just six weeks into the season, but has there ever been a year like this one for quarterback controversies? I'm not talking about normal replacement processes, such as a guy coming back from an injury. Everyone knows, for instance, that when the Titans' Steve McNair returns from back surgery, Neil O'Donnell will sit. I'm talking about the nutso stuff, the head-scratchers, the moves that create a buzz on the call-in shows.
In Cincinnati, Jeff Blake wonders whether he'll get his job back from Akili Smith. Both New York teams are in flux: The Kent Graham-Kerry Collins debate has added some intrigue to the Giants' season, while Jets coach Bill Parcells, ever eager to astound the world, pulls Ray Lucas out of nowhere and sends him, instead of Rick Mirer, out against the Colts.
Then there's Doug Pederson versus Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia; Cade McNown's getting occasional on-the-job training while Shane Matthews tries to keep the offense afloat in Chicago; Randall Cunningham's surrendering the helm to Jeff George in Minnesota (a move that insiders said should have happened weeks ago); and Jim Harbaugh's wondering if he'll ever reclaim his job from Erik Kramer in San Diego. Legends are even getting messed with, as Damon Huard, coming off a strong showing against New England, now casts a long shadow over the career of Dan Marino.
But my favorite is in Denver, where young, ever-improving Brian Griese still wonders whether he'll flatten out on the bench once Bubby Brister gets healthy. Did you happen to catch the kid's act in the Broncos' romp over the Packers? The biggest rip has been that he couldn't run a long-ball attack, but how about that 78-yard touchdown pass play to wideout Ed McCaffrey? Griese scrambled left, faked one guy, then, heading for the sideline, put the ball right in McCaffrey's hands 40 yards downfield. Remind you of somebody?
If I were Mike Shanahan, I'd start Griese against New England. Just to prove that I mean it, I'll go with the Broncos in an upset in Foxboro against a team they've beaten 10 straight times. The Patriots' attack is too herky-jerky. Their running game is nowhere. I get creepy feelings watching them.
Upset Number 2: the Chargers over the Packers. I'm well aware that San Diego's offense rides in the wake of the defense, but I see that defense, stoked to the eyeballs, as it usually is, creating havoc with a Green Bay offensive line that's a mess.
George might throw for career numbers against a San Francisco secondary that has given up 978 yards in its last three games. "They're aiming at us," 49ers free safety Lance Schulters says. Yes, I see a Vikings win.
I like the Seahawks over the Bills because of the coaching matchup: Seattle's Mike Holmgren against the Bills' Wade Phillips. I still remember what Holmgren's offense did to Phillips's defense in the Niners-Broncos Super Bowl 10 seasons ago.
The Redskins, riding high in the NFC East, venture to Big D, where they've dropped six out of their last seven to the Cowboys. Washington comes out on top this time. The Redskins have already proved they can put up big numbers against Dallas, and their defense is getting better. They also remember all too well how the Cowboys snatched the September game away from them.
The Steelers will beat the crumbling Falcons in the Monday nighter and the Giants will hang one on the Saints in the Meadow-lands. Finally, the Panthers, provided they aren't still celebrating their win over San Francisco, will beat the Lions, who seem to rise to their highest level against division opponents but come back to earth against nondivision foes.