The Rams loved Marc Bulger's quick release, so they released him quickly. This was in 2000, when the young quarterback drew a one-week paycheck as a member of the practice squad. That was a week less than he spent on the Falcons' cab squad, where he landed after he'd been cut in training camp by New Orleans, the team that drafted him.
He was back with the Rams in 2001, inactive all last season and for the first five games this year. But, subbing for the injured Jamie Martin on Sunday, he showed a big league arm and a lot of pocket poise while leading St. Louis to its shocking upset of the Raiders. "Actually he's the best passer we have," said coach Mike Martz, who has given us quite a few unusual quotes this year. But it's no more unusual than this season of the question-mark quarterback. Resurrections abound, along with a lot of head scratching.
Tommy Maddox returns from the netherworld to lead the Steelers. Is he the real deal, or will he find a more modest level, as has Carolina's Rodney Peete, a surprising hero early this year? How about Patrick Ramsey, the Redskins rookie? "I've found my quarterback," Steve Spurrier said after the kid's first at bat, against the Titans on Oct. 6. "I don't know where he was throwing some of those," the coach said on Sunday, after Ramsey had thrown three picks before completing his first pass—with his team down 20-0.
It's expansion and contraction with these guys. That's why it's so hard to handicap these games. But we've all got problems, so let's concentrate on a matchup involving honest-to-goodness veteran quarterbacks and a bit of a grudge.
Philadelphia knocked Tampa Bay out of the playoffs the past two years. The Bucs, after getting shocked by the Saints in their opener, have unleashed all the furies of their defense, allowing 30 points in their last five games, none of which were against teams with a winning record.
?The Eagles are winners. And they're at home, rested after a bye week. And they know how to play defense. Will the Bucs go back to their big howitzer, Mike Alstott, whom they seem to save for special occasions, such as last week's game against the Browns? I don't think so. I think Tampa Bay will put the ball in the air, and so will Philly, and the team that makes the fewest turnovers will win. And the winner will be—the envelope, please—the Bucs in an upset.
?Against Oakland, the Rams were stoked for the first time this year. Their tackling was precise, and they played with courage. I think they like the feeling, so I give St. Louis win number two against Seattle.
?Another courageous team was Green Bay, which won convincingly despite the absence of three starters from its secondary against the pass-happy Patriots. The Packers are the pick over Washington. I missed both of my upset specials last week, but one of them—the Lions over the Vikings—was close, so let's try it again. Detroit to upset Chicago. Coming off a heartbreaker, Denver will exercise some measure of control over Priest Holmes. The Broncos beat the Chiefs.
? Quarterback Chad Pennington gets his first win as the Jets defeat Minnesota, and Atlanta's the pick over Carolina if Michael Vick plays. If not, the Panthers take it.
?The Dolphins are due for a letdown after their stirring victory in Denver, but not against the Bills, whom they've beaten four straight. Miami wins it. So does Arizona against Dallas in the desert; the Cardinals have won their last three there over the Cowboys.