What has happened to Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders? Is he up to the challenge of stopping Vikings wideouts Cris Carter or Randy Moss on Monday night? Those are questions you'd normally never think of asking when you're talking about the greatest cover-corner of this era, but he's been looking strange out there. And people have been saying strange things about him.
Two weeks ago Redskins wideouts Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook were talking about how they were going to challenge Sanders. They hinted he was slipping. Had they seen something in the Cowboys' previous game against the Giants, or were they just whistling to keep their courage up? They caught a few passes against Sanders, though none did much damage, then Sanders broke open the game with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Against the Colts on Sunday he had another long punt return, this time for 76 yards, but punter Hunter Smith caught Sanders just before he got into the end zone, something none of us figured we'd ever see. Sanders looked as if he had run out gas. He took himself out of the game and was sucking oxygen on the bench. The pre-game speculation centered on whether he would cover Marvin Harrison, the AFC's hottest receiver, all over the field, but it didn't happen. He played his normal right side and covered what came his way.
Terrence Wilkins, a rookie free agent, took Sanders across the field for 19-and 17-yard completions. Sanders showed none of his traditional catch-up speed. He picked up a holding penalty on another play, and when Sanders froze, Harrison burned him on the 40-yard go-ahead touchdown. What the heck was going on?
Was he still pooped from the long punt return or feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered against the Redskins? Has he fully recovered from the toe injury that kept him out of the first two games? Or, at 32, is he simply wearing down?
We'll find out on Monday night. The Vikings pulled out a win over the Broncos when Carter and quarterback Jeff George got things going. Moss wasn't much of a factor, but everyone knows what he's capable of. This is a kid with a big ego, who'd like nothing better than to embarrass the baddest defensive back in the game. I see a Vikings victory.
Tennessee is one of four teams with one loss. The Titans have knocked off two of the other three—the Jaguars and the Rams—and now they face the final one, the Dolphins, on the road. What do I like most about Miami? The defense. Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon was coming off a hot game against the Jets, but the Dolphins gave him fits, and I think they'll do more of the same against Steve McNair. Miami wins in a low-scoring affair.
Has the Rams' bubble burst? Not hardly. Everything went wrong against the Titans, but St. Louis still battled its way back into the game. The Silver-dome is a wicked place to play, but I'll take the Rams over the Lions. Eric Zeier, the new savior in Tampa Bay, completed 21 passes of less than 10 yards against Detroit while playing catch-up most of the night. Detroit must have gotten a laugh out of this dink-and-dunk approach, but it will just add to the miseries of the poor Saints. The Bucs get back in the win column.
Baltimore can't find a quarterback. Cleveland has one in Tim Couch, a miracle worker who stunned the Saints. The Browns are the upset pick. Finally, the Eagles, with that tough defense, will upset Carolina on the road, and the Colts will keep things rolling against Kansas City, provided they do a better job against the run than they did against Dallas.