Only three teams head into Week 4 undefeated, and two of them could be in real trouble.
The Packers travel to Tampa, which has been a house of horrors for them during the past three years. Last season Brett Favre was knocked out with a sprained foot, and the Pack's only touchdown came on a fake field goal. In 1999 the Bucs got Green Bay into the kind of lopsided affair that they love. The Packers threw 49 passes, rushed 12 times (for 12 yards) and practically gave the game away with four turnovers. It was even worse in '98, when Tampa Bay sacked Favre eight times and forced eight fumbles, two of which were lost, as were all three games.
Green Bay is a new team now. Favre is healthy and zinging the ball with authority. Ahman Green adds punch to the running game. The defense is active. This Pack fights back. Green Bay got off to a rocky start against Carolina on an Ericsson Stadium field that was loaded with dangerous divots and potholes (do they ever fine owners and groundskeepers for unsafe conditions?), but it won going away.
Now the Packers face the Bucs. What a strange operation Tampa Bay runs. It's old news that the offense, after three years of trying to establish itself, still lacks an identity. What's weird is that the defense that used to be dominating, that put real fear into opponents, laid back in a double zone on Sunday and let the Vikings pick it apart.
Tampa Bay's defenders typically make precise, picture-perfect tackles. They missed a bunch of them on Sunday. This team doesn't believe in blitzing because the front four usually generates heat. Daunte Culpepper threw 44 times, and the Bucs sacked him once.
I'm building a swell case for the Packers, but the lesson of last weekend's two major upsets—the Browns over the Jaguars and the Patriots over the Colts—hasn't been lost. Emotion is the great equalizer. I say the Bucs will be steamed. I would feel more confident if Warrick Dunn weren't out, but I still like Tampa Bay.
The Browns knocked out the Jaguars' Mark Brunell on a cheap shot by rookie tackle Gerard Warren, and they worked themselves into a frenzy in one of the day's more violent struggles. I don't think the momentum will carry over into this weekend, when unbeaten San Diego comes to town. The Chargers have their share of tough guys—safety Rodney Harrison, linebacker Junior Seau and defensive tackle John Parrella, to name three. San Diego will win.
Finally there are the Rams, the third and the best of the unbeatens. They have their ups and downs on grass, but they look like a 400-meter relay team on their artificial surface, as the Dolphins found out. The Rams won't be at home against the Lions on Monday night, but they'll be on a synthetic surface. I see a big St. Louis win against the Lions' decimated secondary.
Tennessee has to break out sometime. Can you really see the Titans at 0-3? I can't, either, but until they get their offense straightened out, I have to favor Baltimore, which feasts on troubled attacks.
Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler is having a quietly spectacular season, and even without Jamal Anderson (out for the year with a torn left ACL), the Falcons are my choice over Chicago. The Saints will bounce back from a tough loss to the Giants and squeak by the Vikings. I'm not ready to give up on the Bengals, although they got rocked by San Diego. I like Cincinnati over the Steelers in my upset special.