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Sunday, September 12, 2004 

Games of the Day

It's no coincidence that the 3 best games this week are night games. The NFL is smart enough to recognize that the weather can be beautiful in mid-September (unless you live in Florida, unfortunately) and fans haven't dedicated their Sunday afternoons to football yet. I admit it takes me a few weeks to get into the dynamics of the divisonal races. Unlike Opening Day in baseball, the first week of the NFL season isn't quite as romantic. Maybe it's a cliche, but baseball means that winter is over and there's a lot of nice weather ahead. When football season starts, the kids are back in school and summer is gone. On the other hand, at least more NFL teams start the season with legimate championship dreams than their baseball counterparts.

Early Games

Tampa Bay at Washington intrigues me. The return of Joe Gibbs should have the crowd fired up, but sports history is littered with failed second acts (Bill Parcells excepted). Tampa is just two years removed from a Super Bowl win, but last season was so disappointing that they've become an after-thought nationally. With Warren Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson out of the picture, they're definitely more likeable, and their defense should be a good test for the new Washington offense led by Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis.

Late Games

All three should be interesting, but I confess my attention will be on Parcells as Dallas travels to Minnesota. If Darren Woodson was healthy, they'd likely be favored, but stopping Duante Culpepper and Randy Moss will be tough. I suspect Dallas will try to grind it out on the ground instead of asking Vinny Testaverde to throw into an opportunistic Minnesota secondary that intercepted an NFC-leading 28 passes last year (2nd behind New England's 29).

Prime Time

Kansas City at Denver should be tremendous and the best game of the weekend overall. Denver improved their defense, including the trade for Champ Bailey, but can they stop Priest Holmes again like they did last December? In that game, Clinton Portis outgained Holmes 218 yards to 44 with 3 long TD runs in the second half and Denver won 45-27. But Portis was traded for Bailey and Mike Anderson is now out, and I have less confidence in the Denver running game without their long-time OL coach. Still, Kansas City's defense will be tested by Quentin Griffin and Tatum Bell.

Monday night, Carolina tries to prove last season was not a fluke as they take on Green Bay. I like the way Carolina plays, and their defense may force Brett Favre into taking some chances and making some mistakes. Favre can still have great games, but when he starts pressing bad things can happen.

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