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A Head in the Game: NFL Week 2

By Brian Chase

SPORTS EDITOR

This football season, The Tech is debuting a new weekly football feature: A Head in the Game. This will be a pared-down version of the weekly NFL articles from last year, where your correspondent goes over three things we’ve learned within the past week of football, as well as two things we will learn in upcoming football games.

What We Have Learned:

1. Injuries are still a huge factor in the NFL. Everywhere you look, NFL teams are living and dying by the major injuries they’ve sustained. Some, like the ones to the Redskins offensive line players, don’t seem to have had much impact, as their running back Clinton Portis still ran roughshod over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But many other teams were really hurt by injuries sustained during or before the first game.

Part of the reason the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Denver Broncos was that several of their top wide receivers are out for the season with preseason injuries. The Detroit Lions just lost what may be one of their best receivers, Charles Rogers, which will hurt their attempt to become respectable. Even worse was the injury to the Carolina Panthers’ premier wide receiver, Steve Smith, which really limits their offense, and therefore their ability as a team. It looks again like the Super Bowl winner this year will be among the teams most able to avoid hugely impacting injuries.

2. The Packers know how to manage expectations. While all the pundits were talking the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC crown, the Green Bay Packers were dismissed. That changed somewhat over the weekend, when the Packers went into the Carolina Panthers’ stadium and handily beat them, displaying a good deal of defense while doing it, too. Because no one was talking about the Packers before, they have suddenly become the surprise team in the NFC, and they are getting more praise and coverage than the Vikes and the ‘Hawks are getting.

3. The AFC North might be even more of a toss-up than usual this year. When the Cleveland Browns whomped on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, it sent a clear message: the Ravens are not the bosses of this division they once were. And while I may have picked the Cincinnati Bengals take the division, they looked pretty weak in their opener, while the losers of their division, the Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, won. No one can really say anymore whether any of the teams in this conference are that better than any other. It should make for an interesting division race as the year progresses.

What We Will Learn:

1. Which is the best Quarterback to Receiver (WR) combo in the NFC? We’ll learn when the (relatively) old combo of Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss meet the come-lately pairing of Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb and WR Terrell Owens. Realize, that the outcome of the game doesn’t completely hinge on the performance of these two combos, but they will have a huge impact. For my money, the Vikes’ D will make it easier for McNabb to get to T.O. than the Philly D makes it for Daunte. Philly wins a high-scoring game, 31-24.

2. How far have the Carolina Panthers fallen? Pretty far, it turns out. After a devastating loss to the Packers last week, in which they lost WR Steve Smith, the Panthers now have to travel to Kansas City, which has possibly the biggest homefield advantage in the NFL. The KC Chiefs are also motivated to win after getting beaten at Denver by the Broncos. Teams starting 0-2 in today’s NFL almost never make the playoffs, so this game might determine which of these former playoffs teams doesn’t make it back to the dance this year. The Chiefs D will have a much more successful homecoming than they had opener, and the Chiefs will win this game 24-17.