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Plenty of teams are dealing with key injuries, but the amount of injuries is no different than in any year in the NFL. Football is a collision sport and people are going to get injured. That's a fact.
Last year, no one thought the Patriots could win another Super Bowl with all of their injuries, but they got it done. So injuries can't be used as an excuse. You're going to have them and you're going to be forced to deal with them.
Injuries test the depth of a roster. On Sunday, we'll begin to see which team, particularly in the injury-ravaged AFC East, has the best depth. It's always easier to coach talented players, so the coach who can coach up his backups the best is the coach who'll keep his team on track for the playoffs.
THE PICK SIX
You can't listen to what Champ Bailey said about the Chiefs not playing hard. Bailey and the Broncos expected a battle from K.C. and didn't get one on Monday night because Denver played so well. Every team in the league plays hard. But you better believe that comment will have the Chiefs ready to play this week.
Prediction: Kansas City. Philly always has struggled against teams that run straight at them, and the Chiefs will try to run Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson down their throats. It's also hard to run a dominant pass offense in Arrowhead Stadium where the crowd noise is so loud. As for their banged-up quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Eagles are better off playing him because his sports hernia isn't going to get any better.
Bill Belichick did not rule out the return of Tedy Bruschi this week, but I don't think we should even be speculating on whether the linebacker will come back. He just had a stroke earlier this year. Besides, the Patriots have too many other pressing issues as far as injuries, namely the season-ending knee injury to safety Rodney Harrison.
Prediction: New England. Defensively, the Patriots do the best job in the NFL at taking away what a team wants to do. So what is San Diego going to do when Belichick's defense takes away LaDainian Tomlinson, who's quite possibly the best player in the league? Still, I think the Chargers will try to get the ball to L.T. out of the backfield because the Patriots don't have linebackers who can cover him.
Even though Vick isn't putting up big passing numbers in the West Coast offense, I still love what he is doing in Atlanta because I don't have the same expectations for him as I do for Culpepper in the Vikings offense. I look at Vick the same way I look at Tom Brady – what matters most is getting the win, not compiling great statistics.
Prediction: Atlanta. With a healthy Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith, the Falcons are going to put so much pressure on a Vikings offensive line that has really struggled this season. Culpepper will be running around for his life and anytime he does that, he is prone to mistakes, as evidenced by his eight interceptions against the defensive pressure of Tampa Bay and Cincinnati.
Denver's defense is for real. The Broncos are using Champ Bailey more – the only question is whether Bailey can stay healthy – and the biggest factor has been the return of Trevor Pryce. Everyone is talking about the addition of Ebenezer Ekuban, Michael Myers and Gerard Warren, but Pryce has really been the key in helping the Broncos form one of the best defensive lines in the game.
Prediction: Jacksonville. Even with their tough defense, the Broncos face a difficult challenge in bouncing back from Monday night's win over K.C. and making another long trip to Florida. The temperature won't be as hot as Denver's Week 1 loss at Miami, but the humidity will still affect the Broncos, who just aren't used to playing in the Florida heat. The Jaguars will pound Fred Taylor inside 20 times, looking for that one big run.
The Saints still are upset about playing their first home game in the Meadowlands. The truth of the matter is that the NFL should've never made them play there. But it's time to move on. The Saints are in San Antonio for the first of three games at the Alamodome and it should be exciting. There shouldn't be any problem selling tickets, which has always been the league's main concern about San Antonio becoming an NFL town.
Prediction: New Orleans. The Saints will be well-rested after traveling to play their first three games, so we'll see a different team. Against Deuce McAllister and New Orleans' running game, Buffalo will really miss linebacker Takeo Spikes, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon.
The Cardinals are 0-3, but look at their schedule – who were they supposed to beat? Maybe St. Louis at home, but overall, they've had a tough schedule so far. If you want to point fingers, though, direct them at the defense, which isn't playing as well as it did last year, and the offensive line, which still isn't able to run-block even with the big first-round pick from 2001, tackle Leonard Davis.
Prediction: San Francisco. I like what Mike Nolan is doing with the 49ers in his first season. They're much improved and they have more overall team speed. Also, Brandon Lloyd is emerging as a go-to receiver. But what I really like about the Niners is that they weren't afraid to swallow their pride and start Tim Rattay at quarterback over No. 1 pick Alex Smith.