NFL Countdown: Previewing Week 3's games
As much as I love how Adrian Peterson runs, I believe he won't break Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards. Unlike Dickerson, and I witnessed every one of his games with the Rams that season (1984), Peterson seems to love the macho-man collisions. Unless he alters his style just a tad, a record figures to be out of reach.
Peterson, on FOX Sports radio this week, begs to differ. "Oh, yeah, it's more than realistic," he said of the Dickerson record. "I definitely believe that with the group of guys that we have on the offensive side, it's up there, you know. It's definitely possible to crush it."
After two games, the reigning NFL rushing champion is ahead of Dickerson's pace. He's on pace for a 2,176-yard season. And, yes, he's been physically imposing. In his last 13 games, he's gone over 100 yards nine times.
But Dickerson's cut-back style perfectly suited the Rams' blocking style, and like Peterson, he had an awesome fourth gear. Dickerson was a legitimate 4.3-second 40-yard dash guy. He won the high school 100-yard dash in Texas.
But Dickerson wised up after a record rookie season of 1,808 yards. He learned to take a hit and go down. He learned to go out of bounds to live another play. Too many defenders, Dickerson told me, tried to hurt him in piles. Yes, no one likes to be humiliated by a running back.
One Peterson run stood out to me last week. He had turned the corner and was flashing down the left sideline, hitting fourth gear. And Detroit's hard-hitting rookie safety Louis Delmas was running up to greet him. Instead of cutting toward the middle of the field, trying to make a move, Peterson lowered his head and charged full-speed ahead. Massive collision and, luckily, both Peterson and Delmas were able to rise to their feet.
"When I'm out there and delivering a blow I'm going as hard as I can," Peterson said. "I'm actually the one that delivers the blow so they are getting the most force from the collision."
Peterson missed some practice time this week with a sore back, but he's starting and ready to go today against the visiting unbeaten 49ers. And Peterson has a score to settle. Late in his rookie season, three weeks after he demolished the Bears with a 296-yard effort, the 49ers limited him to 3 yards on 14 attempts. That's no typo. It was the worst game of his NFL career.
"That's the worst game I've ever had as a football player," Peterson said. "But when I watched film of that game, I was able to notice that it was really about what I was doing and not doing. I really learned a lot from those tapes."
Peterson, who was stuffed six times that day in San Francisco, plans to be more patient today. He's going to sit behind his blockers as much as he can before exploding through a hole. Well, we will see what 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis has to say about that!
Atlanta at New England, 1 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Can the Falcons stop Tom Brady and the Pats?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Falcons are catching the Patriots at the right time. New England's offensive line has struggled with blitz pressure. They are minus talented MLB Jerod Mayo and WR Wes Welker probably won't play. There were worries about Randy Moss, too, but supposedly he will try to play. But that isn't good news for Tom Brady, who is still trying to regain his 2007 MVP form. Yes, rookie Julian Edelman had a nice game against the Jets last week for Welker, but he's no deep threat. And Joey Galloway still seems to be finding his way in the offense.
The Patriots really don't have a defensive answer for Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez and they have been unable to muster much of a pass rush thus far, which is good for Falcons QB Matt Ryan. Atlanta has Roddy White to beat any press coverage and has Michael Turner to pound the ball. The biggest worry for Atlanta is whether C Todd McClure can slow down Vince Wilfolk.
CZAR'S SCOOP: Falcons WR Harry Douglass finally had surgery on his torn ACL; Douglas went down early in training camp.
How serious are the injuries to Moss and Welker? The Patriots had five receivers visit them on Friday, the biggest name being Courtney Taylor, who started four games for the Seahawks last season.
I don't know if the dynasty is over in New England, but Bill Belichick has lost a lot of coaches and personnel people through the years. Scott Pioli is now the GM in Kansas City and Thomas Dimitroff, New England's college scouting director, is the Atlanta GM. Nick Caserio, who has assumed Pioli's personnel job, doesn't have time to travel — Pioli was on the road an average of seven weeks a year — because he's also working as an offensive coach on Sundays. It is so interesting in New England that Brady probably knew the offense as well as if not better than quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien.
N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay, 1 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Will Eli's magic touch continue?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Bucs RB Derrick Ward will start against his former teammates. He may not recognize everyone, though, because the Giants will be minus Justin Tuck (shoulder) and CB Aaron Ross while C.C. Brown starts for safety Kenny Phillips, who was put on IR this week.
The Bucs' offense is struggling, too. WR Antonio Bryant (knee) will be a game-time decision and Maurice Stovall (knee) is out. Bryant probably won't play because that's the only explanation for activating WR Mario Urrutia off the practice squad and thus releasing LB Matt McCoy, a solid special-teams player.
Giants QB Eli Manning won't have WRs Domenik Hixon and Hakeem Nicks, but he still has Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. There is a chance that rookie WR Ramses Barden might see some playing time.
CZAR'S SCOOP: The Bucs rested RB Cadillac Williams this week after he was pounded last week and his left knee remains sore.
What has been killing the Giants are the injuries to the defensive line, which was considered the best group in the NFL heading into training camp. But they've already lost Jay Alford, and Chris Canty remains inactive and now Tuck could be out a game or two. The Giants were ripped by the Dallas running game, but they don't fear Tampa Bay as much because of the loss of Bucs center Jeff Faine. The best thing about New York, though, is that the offensive line remains intact and they should open some holes for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Look for the Bucs to use a little more zone play in their secondary, which has been torched for several deep touchdowns this season.
San Francisco at Minnesota, 1 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Can the 49ers stop Favre and Peterson?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The only key injuries are on the Minnesota side. MLB E.J. Henderson is bothered by a sore shoulder and rookie WR Percy Harvin missed two days of practices with migraines. Harvin will be a game-time decision.
San Francisco's defense held Adrian Peterson to 3 yards on 14 carries at the end of his rookie season, plus the 49ers are allowing only 53 yards rushing a game this season. They are getting quality play from NT Aubrayo Franklin, DE Justin Smith, LB Takeo Spikes and CB Nate Clements.
Vikings QB Brett Favre has gone two games without an interception and if he fails to throw one today, it will be the first time in his career that he's opened a season with zero in the first three games. There is talk that Favre hopes to go deep to WR Bernard Berrian to loosen up the 49ers' defensive front.
The Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 25 games, but Frank Gore (ankle) should be ready to test that mark.
CZAR'S SCOOP: 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, whose team is 2-0, said he's going "to find out a lot" about where his team stands today. This is the only game today between two 2-0 teams.
There is nothing new to report on San Francisco's unsigned No. 1 pick Michael Crabtree. The team has until Nov. 17 to sign him and can't trade his rights until next year, but like several GMs told me this week, what is he really worth? "Not a first-round pick unless you are sure you can sign him," one told me.
The word is that Minnesota rookie RT Phil Loadholt has been struggling in pass protection. It appears that Pat and Kevin Williams will have their StarCaps case heard after the season, probably in either February or March. San Francisco QB Shaun Hill may not possess the most dangerous arm, but he is the NFL's third-best third-down passer behind Eli Manning and Drew Brees, completing 17 of 21 throws for 206 yards.
Washington at Detroit, 1 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Will the Lions break through for a win?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With LB Ernie Sims out, it means the Lions won't have one draft choice from the Matt Millen era playing today. The Lions have lost 19 straight, but they might have a chance today because Redskins RB Clinton Portis is playing with painful bone spurs and RG Chad Rinehart is replacing the injured Randy Thomas. The Redskins have failed to score 30 points yet under coach Jim Zorn.
Meanwhile, Lions QB Matthew Stafford does have WR Calvin Johnson, probably the best player in this game. Stafford, who has five INTs, has forced a few too many passes toward Johnson. The Lions need RB Kevin Smith to take some heat off Stafford, but that's unlikely considering the overall talent of Washington's front seven.
CZAR'S SCOOP: The Rams are still laughing at Zorn's play-calling that kept them in the game last weekend. Zorn even disdained a field goal late in the game, which would have forced the Rams to score a touchdown to beat them. Zorn was also criticized for allowing Portis to throw (an incomplete pass) on third-and-goal in the third quarter after two failed runs.
Zorn explained himself this week. "Here is what happens," he said. "I get a feel for it out here when we're putting all the stuff in, in there at night, then putting it in again during the day with the players, and then watching it out here. On Saturday night I go over it again. Then in the game I am calling it, both run and pass. I kind of have a feel for what it is. The only thing we failed during the game was finishing it, catching the ball, finishing the play."
Many believe that WR Santana Moss has lost a step and that's hurting Washington's passing game. It seems unlikely that owner Daniel Snyder would make a coaching change during the season. The one name we hear is former Bucs GM Bruce Allen into the front office. If that would happen, would Jon Gruden be far behind?
Green Bay at St. Louis, 1 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Can the Rams stop Rodgers & Co.?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The Rams have only one sack, but their opportunities should increase against a Green Bay offensive line that has allowed a league-high 10 sacks of Aaron Rodgers. Keep an eye on LT Daryn Colledge, who struggled replacing the injured Chad Clifton last Sunday. The Packers want Rodgers to make quick drops and get rid of the ball. However, his receiving corps has had a case of the drops lately and that's been bogging down the passing game.
The Rams have gotten solid play from QB Marc Bulger, considering he's lacking big-time deep threats. The Rams will try to get RB Steven Jackson more carries and quit lining him up as a wide receiver. Derrick Martin starts for injured Packers SS Atari Bigby. No. 1 pick B.J. Raji, who hasn't played yet this season, will be a game-time decision.
CZAR'S SCOOP: Besides being sacked 10 times, Rodgers has also been hurried 19 times. Some believe he's holding on to the ball too long in the pocket.
The Rams are turning their punt and kick return duties over to newly acquired Danny Amendola, who was signed off of Philadelphia's practice squad. To make room for the former Texas Tech receiver, 2007 draft choice Derek Stanley was released. Amendola could end up in the receivers' rotation, too.
Rams GM Billy Devaney didn't appreciate ESPN's Mark Schlereth's criticism, especially when he said the club's football operations were in shambles and that the team wasn't playing hard. That was definitely over the top, considering Devaney did hire Steve Spagnuolo as head coach and that was a rock-solid hire. Schlereth later apologized to the Rams and Devaney.
With all their safety problems, the Packers are still moaning about the loss of Anthony Smith, who the Rams claimed off waivers. The word is that Smith and the recently released Aaron Rouse struggled picking up new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme.
New Orleans at Buffalo, 4:05 ET
NFL on FOX preview
What will Drew Brees do next?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The weather might be able to do what no defense has done to Saints QB Drew Brees this season. It is supposed to be rainy with winds at 15 mph today in Orchard Park. Plus, the Bills are pretty healthy on defense and they should be able to apply some pressure on Brees, especially RE Aaron Schobel.
New Orleans has used a committee of running backs this season and now Lynell Hamilton, who has never had a carry in a regular-season game, could get significant touches, considering Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush aren't physically ready to carry the load. The Saints list Bush as the starter, although Thomas, who was fitted for a lighter knee brace this week, should get more touches.
Buffalo's no-huddle defense should cause problems for the Saints, who don't match up very well against WRs Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.
CZAR'S SCOOP: RB Mike Bell's sprained MCL could sideline him for a month, and he was the lone power back on the Saints' roster. Bills coach Dick Jauron seems happy with T.O. to this point, even considering his drops. TE Derek Fine starts for the Bills, and QB Trent Edwards said he will miss rookie TE Shawn Nelson.
Remember, Bills RB Marshawn Lynch returns next week from his three-game NFL suspension and he could be active against Miami. Coach Dick Jauron is eager to have Lynch back because he's concerned with the pounding that Fred Jackson (54 touches in two games) has been taking.
With Saints WR Lance Moore out, the team activated rookie QB Chase Daniel from the practice squad because Moore served as the team's emergency quarterback.
Chicago at Seattle, 4:05 ET
NFL on FOX preview
Can Seattle's run-stoppers do the job?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: It won't be official until later in the morning, but Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck (ribs) is out and Seneca Wallace will start. The Seahawks were gashed last Sunday by Frank Gore (207 yards) and Chicago's running game, which has a long run of 15 yards this season, will test that defensive front with Matt Forte.
Bears QB Jay Cutler is starting to get comfortable with his new receivers and should be able to go deep against Seahawk CBs Ken Lucas and Josh Wilson. One good aspect for Wallace is that he should have T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Nate Burleson healthy. But look for TE John Carlson to be his favorite target against Bears MLB Hunter Hillenmayer.
CZAR'S SCOOP: What is so funny about Houshmandzadeh ripping into Bears GM Jerry Angelo for not offering him more money is that Housh should know that Angelo and Seattle GM Tim Ruskell used to work together in Tampa Bay. I'm sure Angelo always knew what he was up against when bidding for the ex-Bengal's services. Seattle has been known for over-paying players at that position, considering the contracts to Branch and Housh. Besides, the Bears look like they may have found a young receiver in rookie Johnny Knox. Cutler went in his direction a lot against the Steelers.
There is no question that Rod Marinelli's arrival has helped the Bears' defense, which is now designed by head coach Lovie Smith.
Tennessee at N.Y. Jets: The common denominator is that the Jets crushed the Texans in Houston while the Titans surrendered 449 yards to the Texans in a loss. In fact, the Titans were torched and now they go against rookie Mark Sanchez, who had a splendid second half against the Pats last week. The Jets have been winning with defense — they're tops in the NFL right now at 241 yards allowed per game — and you have to believe that Rex Ryan's group will be blitzing Kerry Collins as much as they did Tom Brady. The big worry for New York is Titans RB Chris Johnson and his home-run ability.
Kansas City at Philadelphia: Donovan McNabb is out again and Kevin Kolb will play, but how many snaps will Michael Vick get? Yes, he should get as many as 10 to 12 plays in the wildcat offense, but might he also take some reps in Philly's conventional offense? Insiders say he had a very good week of practice. Eagles coach Andy Reid prepared his team for Vick by running the wildcat 10 times last Sunday. The bad news for Philly fans is that RB Brian Westbrook continues to be bothered by a sore ankle (same one that was surgically repaired in the offseason) while big-play WR DeSean Jackson has a groin strain. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (right hamstring) should be active, but who knows how long he will last in the game and how limited he might become.
Jacksonville at Houston: The Texans' passing game humbled Tennessee last Sunday and Matt Schaub should have his way with the Jaguars, who could play with six defensive backs. Schaub passed for a career-high four TDs last week while Andre Johnson became the second-fastest receiver to reach 500 receptions, doing it in 88 games. No. 1 is Arizona's Anquan Boldin, who needed only 80 games. Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew is the main threat, considering the team has a lackluster receiving corps for David Garrard. If Jacksonville keeps losing, who knows if Jack Del Rio will be back. How about a marriage of Mike Shanahan and Tim Tebow next season?
Cleveland at Baltimore: The Browns don't make any news on the field. All they do is fight in the locker room (secondary players dumped ice water on CB Coye Francis at the end of practice and he retaliated on Abe Elam, Brandon McDonald and Mike Adams until cooler heads prevailed) and talk about coach Eric Mangini fining guys $1,701 for forgetting to pay for a $3 bottle of water on their hotel bills. More bad news for the Browns is that RB Jamal Lewis figures to sit and Brady Quinn is off to a horrible start. The Ravens rushed the ball 85 times in the two games against Cleveland last year and figure to try that approach again, considering the Browns are allowing 5.5 yards a carry.
Miami at San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson misses his third career regular-season game because of injury and the club says L.T. won't be playing until his ankle is 100 percent. Not only are the Dolphins catching San Diego minus L.T., but two offensive line starters remain out and Shawne Merriman is playing with a sore groin. ILB Kevin Burnett is banged up, too. QB Chad Pennington is 4-0 lifetime vs. San Diego, and the wildcat offense gained 107 yards on 12 plays Monday night. The big questions are whether Pennington can take advantage of a bad Chargers secondary and whether Philip Rivers can put up some points when he gets to the red zone.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: No shocker here: The Steelers are 8-0 in Paul Brown Stadium. What's weird right now is that Pittsburgh is averaging just 70 yards rushing per game and Willie Parker has a measly 66 yards on 27 carries. Ben Roethlisberger has the lone Pittsburgh rushing touchdown this season. On the flip side, the Bengals dominated the Packers' 3-4 defense last Sunday with RB Cedric Benson (217 yards) off to a great start. The Steelers, though, are allowing only 3.1 yards a rush this season. Safety Tyrone Carter, who is filling for Troy Polamalu, will start while Bengals deep threat Chris Henry remains slowed by a quad strain. In the last Cincy victory in this series, back in 2006, Henry caught two TDs.
Denver at Oakland: It was shocking for Ted Tollner, the Raiders' passing-game coach, to tell the truth about the struggles of QB JaMarcus Russell, who had nine three-and-out possessions last Sunday in a win against the Chiefs. Russell definitely looked like a quarterback who regressed in that game, totally out of touch with his receivers. He's completing 35.2 percent of his passes after finishing last season at 61 percent in his final seven games. Yes, the Raiders can still run the ball, but the Broncos have been very stout defensively thus far, allowing only a touchdown and two field goals in a 2-0 start.
Indianapolis at Arizona: How beat up are the Colts on defense? They were on the field Monday night for 45 minutes in their win over the Dolphins and took a physical pounding, unable to stop Miami's running game. The Cardinals are starting to get healthy on offense with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston practicing and QB Kurt Warner's throwing shoulder feeling better. Arizona's new 3-4 defense stuffed Frank Gore in a week 1 loss. And, yes, everything is fine between Warner and stud receiver Larry Fitzgerald despite the negative tweets last weekend from young Marcus Fitzgerald.
Carolina at Dallas: The Panthers won the NFC South last season, but they have lost three straight games, including playoffs, so how bad is their state of mind? Well, Bodog sportsbook manager Richard Gardner said that their odds are tumbling. "There always are a few teams that see their Super Bowl chances change dramatically after the first couple weeks and this year is no exception. The team that has fallen the furthest the fastest are the Carolina Panthers who behind Jake Delhomme's poor play have dropped from 18-1 to 70-1 odds." Cowboys RB Marion Barber (pulled quad muscle) wants to play, but it makes more sense to sit him. Teammates have rallied around Dallas QB Tony Romo, who took full responsibility for the home loss to the Giants.