Old memories the hard. Think of the Titans, and what comes to mind? Relentless defense. An offense that squeezes out first downs on Eddie George's grinding runs or Steve McNair's scrambles or dump passes that tight end Frank Wycheck turns into decent gains.
Forget it. Everything has changed. McNair, coming off a 421-yard passing day against the Texans, is putting up the best numbers of his nine-year career. The wideouts are an exciting bunch, 5'10" Derrick Mason and a trio of big guys who can fly—6'5" Drew Bennett, 6'4" Tyrone Calico and 6'2" Justin McCareins. On Sunday, Tennessee averaged 23.4 yards per catch.
George has seen better days. So has the defense, which gave up 458 yards to the Texans. What the Titans have now is a flashy scoring machine that will put the Panthers to a severe test.
The Panthers pound the ball and play tough defense. Their quarterback, Jake Delhomme, has yet to have a big day, but the team has had five of them. I've been picking against Carolina all year, and I can't break the habit. The Titans win on superior firepower at quarterback.
?The last time the Packers and the Rams met, in the playoffs two years ago, Brett Favre was picked off six times in a 45-17 St. Louis win. This can mean one of two things: Either the Pack will exact a swift and terrible revenge, or the Rams' defense has Favre's number. Because the game's in St. Louis, I like the Rams on their artificial turf.
?The Dolphins will beat the Patriots for the sixth straight time in Miami. The Giants and the Eagles are flawed offensively and haunted by turnovers. This week the Giants will commit fewer mistakes and defeat their old NFC East foe. The Jets, euphoric after their first win, will keep it going in Houston. The Bucs will win in San Francisco, but it won't be easy. If Buffalo wideout Eric Moulds is sidelined again with his groin injury, I like the Redskins over the Bills. If Moulds plays, I'll take Buffalo. That's how important he is. Denver against Minnesota is another either/or: The Broncos win with quarterback Jake Plummer (partially separated shoulder) running things, lose without him. The Falcons are the pick over the Saints.
?Finally, there's the Monday nighter. The Chiefs, who have pulled out three straight by the seat of their pants, get a scare in Oakland but keep their perfect record intact.