I've always liked Oakland-Denver matchups. Strange things happen. It's particularly interesting now, because they're the only teams in me AFC West that have beaten anybody, and the division was a head scratchier for the preseason handicappers, who decided that any of four teams could win it. Two of those teams, Kansas City and Seattle, are 0-2. The Raiders are 2-0, the Broncos 1-1, suffering little loss of prestige after bowing to the Rams in their opener, during which they matched the Super Bowl champs punch for punch.
Denver beat the Raiders twice last year, the first win coming in Oakland when Brian Griese got word he was starting two hours before kickoff. Griese led the Broncos to the winning field goal in the fourth quarter. The second victory came in overtime in the snow at Mile High. Griese came in after Chris Miller was knocked goofy in the fourth quarter, and led Denver to the tying field goal. So Griese is 2-0 against the Raiders.
How good is Griese? Real good. He's got the coolness of his father, Bob. He's got enough arm to make the required throws, and he's made real progress in getting his reads down. Plus the Broncos can run the ball. Terrell Davis went down against St. Louis, so they plugged in Olandis Gary. Gary was lost after the same game for the year, so they came up with a sixth-round pick named Mike Anderson, who led all NFL rushers on Sunday with 131 yards against Atlanta. Where does Denver find these guys?
This year Oakland has won two heart-stoppers, a 9-6 bleeder against San Diego and a 38-31 come-from-behind shootout over Indy. It's hard to figure out what the Raiders are going to give you, except that last year they were losing tight ones, and now they're winning them. So which team do I like? The Broncos in an upset, only because they're better than anyone dreamed they'd be.
The Giants sit atop the NFC East after a surprisingly easy win over the pickle juice king, Philadelphia. New York's riding high at 2-0, but beware: Chicago on the road is a trap. The winless Bears are wounded but dangerous. (They're favored because no one really believes in the Giants—yet). All logic says go with New York, but I have a hunch about this one. Chicago it is.
Tampa Bay at Detroit looks like another trap, but I saw the rush that Washington got on Lions quarterback Charlie Batch. I say Tampa Bay will do likewise. Call it a Bucs win and give 'em about five sacks.
I don't like the Jets with a short work week to prepare for Buffalo's defense. The Bills will take it in a low-scorer. Baltimore's defense was embarrassed by Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell, but Miami doesn't have the firepower to do the same. I'm taking the Ravens. The Eagles will upset the injury-ravaged Packers in Green Bay.
When's the last time the Vikings won in Foxboro? Answer: Never in three visits. (But they did win in Boston 30 years ago.) I like the Patriots, but why do I keep picking against Minnesota, and losing?
Finally, the Monday nighter. Rumors are that Washington quarterback Brad Johnson has a tired arm and that Deion Sanders has lost more than a step and can't cover anyone. If the Skins go 1-2, Dan Snyder will fire everybody and open a new can of players. Heaven forbid. Washington will beat Dallas.