Someone once asked Vince Lombardi before a game about all the injuries his Packers had suffered. He didn't seem concerned. "It'll make the guys who are healthy play better," he said. It's the old urgency-through-adversity theory, and every week you see it, and every week you rub your eyes and murmur, "Amazing."
The Giants' already crippled offensive line took a big hit two weeks ago when steady left guard Rich Seubert broke his right leg. But the unit was patched together again and gave Kerry Collins enough time to throw for 375 yards as New York knocked off the undefeated Vikings.
No one has been as banged up as the Patriots have been lately, but they're working on a four-game winning streak. "I've never seen any team show as much courage as these guys have," said personnel director Scott Pioli.
After getting run over by the 49ers on Oct. 19, the Bucs' injury-riddled defense had firmed up by the time the Cowboys came to town, and Tampa Bay pitched a shutout.
So where do we stand? On Monday night New England visits Denver, which is also learning to live with adversity. But when your first two quarterbacks go down, all the emotion and urgency in the world won't get those passes completed for you. Danny Kanell throwing against a Bill Belichick defense doesn't seem quite fair, does it? The Patriots are my upset pick.
The Bucs always seem to have a letdown against the Saints, for some reason. New Orleans has won seven of the last 10, including both of last year's meetings. The way they've been playing, the Bucs win only when their intensity level is way up. If they give it the ho-hum treatment against the Saints, well, New Orleans has enough firepower to spring an upset. And if I had real courage, I'd pick it. But I don't, and I won't. The Bucs are the choice.
Looking for an upset? I like the Jets over the Giants. I just get the feeling it'll be a bust-loose afternoon for quarterback Chad Pennington, who looked rusty on Sunday in his first appearance since breaking his wrist during the preseason.
The best game on the board is Dolphins-Colts. When they were both in the AFC East, this was a serious rivalry. Though realignment changed that, it's still an interesting matchup of two high-level teams. Indy has all its weapons in place now that Edgerrin James is healthy again. The game is in Miami, but the Colts know how to win there. And the Dolphins' unsettled quarterback situation nags at me. So let's go for another upset and hang with the Colts.
Arizona, which entered Sunday's game with the NFC's worst rushing offense, ran for 221 yards against the 49ers, including 165 by a relentless banger named Marcel Shipp. So what happens to Shipp when Emmitt Smith comes back from a shoulder injury? We'll worry about that later. Cincinnati is coming to town, and, yes, I'm riding with the hot team and taking the Bengals.
Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia is taking too much punishment, so I like the Rams to beat San Francisco. The Cowboys will rebound big and beat the Redskins. I don't like Green Bay indoors, so I'll take the Vikings over the Pack. Finally, the Sea-hawks will bounce back from their embarrassment in Cincinnati and beat the Steelers.