By Cris Carter, Yahoo! Sports
September 18, 2006
Before we get into this week’s action, I have a confession to make. I have already abandoned the Indianapolis Colts as my AFC Super Bowl pick. I’m now on the Baltimore Ravens’ bandwagon. Hey, with the way they’ve played two weeks in, can you blame me?
OK with that out of the way, let’s get down to my Six Points for Week 2.
1. DOWN BUT NOT OUT
What a crazy finish to the New York Giants’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles. There were a lot of plays at the end of that game that you can talk about, but the turning point was the 15-yard personal foul penalty on Eagles defensive end Trent Cole late in the fourth quarter. Instead of Jay Feely having to kick a 50-yard field goal, the Giants get a kick from 35 yards out and send the game into overtime. Here you are, burying a team, out-classing them for three quarters. You’re up 24-7 and you let it get away.
And the thing is, the Giants are a pretty good team. They don’t need a punch. A slap. All it takes is a little shove and then they’ve been awaken.
From the Eagles’ standpoint, it won’t put an end to the season. It was a game that they played well for three quarters, so there are many positives to take away. They were able to run the ball with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. Donovan McNabb is healthy and has looked good. L.J. Smith is starting to become a premier receiver. They’ll bounce back.
2. “WITH THE No. 1 PICK …”
I don’t know what’s going to happen first. Either the Oakland Raiders will show some signs of actually looking like a football team … or Al Davis will die of a heart attack while watching this team play. It’s absolutely awful the way that team is a playing. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen some bad Raiders football, but this takes the cake.
There’s no hope – they don’t have a lot of cap space or cash and whomever the coach is, he’s always going to be restricted because Davis wants so many former Raiders on the staff. It’s gotten to the point that the mystique of the Raiders has become out-dated. Their glory years were a whole other era. You can’t be in the top 2 or 3 every year in penalties, rely on veteran rejects from other teams and think you’re going to win in the NFL. You need to develop players.
3. IN A (JOHN) FOX HOLE?
John Fox is dealing with the proverbial curse that comes with your team being picked to reach the Super Bowl. You had to know the Carolina Panthers were going to struggle going into this game. Their big threat, Steve Smith, was out again and it’s hard to see Jake Delhomme being the quarterback he wants to be with Steve out. With that key component out of the lineup, they’re going to play in a lot of close games. One mistake and you lose. We saw that Sunday when Chris Gamble decided to gamble.
Even if Smith was healthy, they could have lost these two games. You know the Falcons are going to play them tough. Michael Vick has always been hard for the Panthers to defend. Then, they had to travel to Minnesota to play the much-improved Vikings. The Panthers are a championship-caliber football team but it’s hard to play like a champion without your best player. Teams aren’t threatened by their receiving corps. Keyshawn Johnson made some good catches against Minnesota, but he’s not the same player as Smith. He had a couple of plays that ended inside the 10-yard line that Smith would have taken to the house.
In addition to Smith’s absence, they’re also reeling from the injuries to the offensive line. They lost tackle Travelle Wharton and have some other ailing players upfront.
Defensively, this team is playing well enough to win. They shut down the Vikings on Sunday. They got after Brad Johnson all day. The problem is offense. You have to score to win and they don’t have enough firepower to win.
4. NO COMFORT ZONE
Up until the beginning of his last season with the Vikings, Daunte Culpepper had always gotten good protection from the offensive line. Like most quarterbacks, if he doesn’t, it will affect his performance and we’re seeing that right now with the Miami Dolphins.
With the type of pressure the Bills put on him, he wasn’t able to get comfortable. If the Dolphins expect Daunte to get back into a groove, they need to provide some comfort and the way to do that is by running the ball. Yeah, a mobile quarterback gives you some options on offense, but bad protection will take that way. Randall Cunningham was one of the most mobile quarterbacks we’ve seen and look how many times he was sacked.
5. RIGHT DIRECTION
I like what Sean Payton has been able to do so far with the New Orleans Saints. When you’re trying to build a program, you build confidence through winning. You have an easier time to get guys to focus while they’re winning because they’re more apt to pay attention to the small details. This team has gone out and won two road games. From this point on, if they win another two road games and go 6-2 at home – there’s never been a bigger home-field advantage at the Superdome than now – they’re looking at going 10-6.
Just as impressive as the team’s start is the emergence of Marques Colston.
During the preseason, I’m always watching to see young wide receivers. When I saw him, I loved his size (6-foot-4, 231 pounds) and it’s one of those stories you love to see – a late-round pick (seventh in this case) not only making the team but having a chance to contribute right away. You knew something had to be special about him if the Saints were willing to trade away a good player like Donte Stallworth.
6. GET READY TO RUMBLE
Tonight’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars is truly a treat for a football fan. It’s a rock ‘em, sock ‘em, put the kids to bed early game. This is the type of game the kids don’t need to see. Football purists will like this.
Both head coaches are defensive-oriented and try to impose their physical wills on the opposition. Then you have the storyline of whether Ben Roethlisberger will play for Pittsburgh. I think he will force himself back into the lineup. With the accident and emergency surgery, he’s ready to get back out there and establish himself as a leader.
Cris Carter is Yahoo! Sports' NFL analyst. Send Cris a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Sep 18, 2006 12:24 pm, EDT
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