(Philadelphia, Pa) —- It is hard to believe, but the first quarter marker of the marathon like 17 week NFL season is upon us. Entering Week 4, the NFL sports five teams who are striving to do the impossible of going undefeated (Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Cowboys, and the surprising Packers). What these teams have in common is their ability to score points. NFL scoring is up as shown by the sixth-most points (751) scored for a weekend last week. And through the first three games of the season, the Dallas Cowboys (116 points) and New England Patriots (114) have scored the second- and fifth-most points in that time span since 1970, respectively (the 2000 St. Louis Rams, with 119 points, hold the top spot in the three-week category).This weekend’s games will feature some interesting “non-hugging” reunions — Raiders starting QB Daunte Culpepper and the Dolphins (Released Culpepper acrimoniously this summer), the Steelers and Cardinals Coaches Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm (Both Coaches are former Steelers assistants that were passed over for the head job), Browns RB Jamal Lewis and the Ravens (Lewis was unceremonious dumped by his original team when they thought he was too old), Texans QB Matt Schaub and the Atlanta Falcons (Schaub was traded before the season and now I think the Falcons wish they had him considering the play of Joey Harrington and the Vick fiasco), and Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and the Eagles (Spagnuolo was Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson’s right hand man before flying away to the Giants). The weekend will also feature eight divisional match-ups, which I like because familiarity breeds rivalries.
It seems it wouldn’t be an official NFL weekend if we didn’t talk about Packers QB Brett Favre breaking a record and this weekend is no different. Favre will attempting to break the all-time passing TD record (420) that he currently shares with Dan Marino and #4 with 11 pass attempts (now with 8,348) will break the all-time mark by Marino (8,358) as well. Favre seems unimpressed by the records and said of them, “there’s no better feeling than winning. All those touchdowns are great because they give you the opportunity to win”. Another possible milestone that may happen is Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander’s quest to join the 100 rushing touchdowns club. He currently has 98 rushing touchdowns in 109 career games and he would accomplish the feat in the third-fewest games (LaDainian Tomlinson reached 100 in a NFL record 93 games).
I also will be interested to see which of the dubious “no wins” club (Saints – Bye, Falcons, Bills, Rams, and Dolphins) will make the leap back into the race this weekend or continue toward the first pick of the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft. Either way the road for any of the (0-3) teams will be very long with only five teams (1981 New York Jets; 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (strike season; finished 5-4); 1992 San Diego Chargers (started 0-4 and finished 11-5); 1995 Detroit Lions; 1998 Buffalo Bills) having come back to make the playoffs. Don’t forget week four starts the bye weeks as Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tennessee, Washington are off this week.
Games and NotesGoing forward I will be previewing one feature game a week and listing the rest of the NFL weekly schedule.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (2-1) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-1) 4:05 PM FOXThis game really intrigues me, because with the NFC South favorite the Saints and the Vick-less Falcons lingering at (0-3) most likely these are the two teams that will be fighting for the division. The Panthers have won seven of the past eight meetings between these NFC South foes. Expect to see a lot of defense in this battle as both teams feature Pro Bowl type players on the defensive side of the ball.
Everyone knows about the Panthers attacking defense led by CB Richard Marshall and DE Julius Peppers, but the Buccaneers defense with five new starters has allowed the fifth-fewest points (37) in the NFL this year with new players DE Kevin Carter, LB Cato June, LB Jeremiah Trotters, and others leading the way. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of the group, “It’s a whole new group of guys out there playing,” and “We’ve gone back to what this defense is about, and that’s getting to the football”. The Bucs’ defense limited St. Louis to 4.0 yards per offensive play in Week 3, but they will confront a personal litmus test in the Panthers WR Steve Smith. Smith has had 100-yard receiving games in his last four meetings with Tampa Bay.
With QB Jake Delhomme hurt and newcomer David Carr starting at quarterback, expect the Panthers to pound the ball with RB’s DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster, who rushed for 122 yards with 1 TD rushing and receiving last week. Conversely the Panthers defense will need to control Bucs’ savvy veterans WR Joey Galloway and QB Jeff Garcia (No interceptions this season).
Byes: Jacksonville, New Orleans, Tennessee, Washington
Sunday, September 31
HOU @ ATL 1:00 PM CBS
BAL @ CLE 1:00 PM CBS
OAK @ MIA 1:00 PM CBS
GB @ MIN 1:00 PM FOX
NYJ @ BUF 1:00 PM CBS
STL @ DAL 1:00 PM FOX
CHI @ DET 1:00 PM FOX
SEA @ SF 4:05 PM FOX
KC @ SD 4:15 PM CBS
PIT @ ARI 4:15 PM CBS
DEN @ IND 4:15 PM CBS
PHI @ NYG 8:15 PM NBC
Monday, October 01NE @ CIN 8:30 PM ESPN