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Sunday, September 18, 2005 

Quick Slants - Week 2

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New England (1-0) at Carolina (0-1)

We'll start in Carolina as the Panthers play another emotion-filled game at home. Last week, they faced a very determined New Orleans team and lost on John Carney's last-second field goal. But Carolina outgained New Orleans 350 to 291, including a 141 to 101 edge on the ground (with 8 fewer attempts).

This week, it's a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII, and the Panthers are doing a lot of talking to try to gain an emotional edge of their own. This could be a very high-scoring game, as the Patriots, who have linemen Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green nursing injuries, may be hard-pressed to control the Panthers 1-2 running punch of Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. On the other hand, Carolina let Aaron Brooks play a very clean game (18-24, 192 yards, no TDs or INTs, 1 sack), and they should have a much tougher time against Tom Brady. The Patriots rarely blow anyone out, and as the Saints found out last week, Carolina's defense keeps them in most games. Look for a close win by the Patriots.

Jacksonville (1-0) at Indianapolis (1-0)

Here we go again. In one of the league's newer rivalries, the Jaguars travel to the RCA Dome to play the Colts. Last season, the teams split two competitive games, with the road team winning both contests (24-17 Indy Week 4, 27-24 Jacksonville Week 7). This year, the second meeting of the two clubs won't be until Week 14 (Dec 11), so fans will have to wait a little longer for the rematch.

Both teams won their season openers in traditional fashion. Jacksonville won 26-14 as Josh Scobee hit 4 of 5 field goal attempts. and Byron Leftwich threw two TD passes to Jimmy Smith. The Jaguars offense must be frustrating to watch every week. They had to settle for two first quarter field goals, including a 23 yarder, and trailed 14-13 at halftime after surrending a touchdown with 47 seconds left. But in the second half, the defense pitched a shutout. The Colts won 24-7 Sunday night as they shut down Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright, picking off the Ravens QBs 3 times. A close win by Jacksonville is likely, but with one big caveat. All Indianapolis needs is a couple of big plays on their home turf to blow this one open, since I don't trust Jacksonville to come back from a big deficit.

San Diego (0-1) at Denver (0-1)

The subtitle of this game should be "The Frustrated against the Angry". The Chargers had their chances against the Cowboys but couldn't disrupt Drew Bledsoe and Julius Jones, while the Broncos wilted in the fourth quarter in the Miami heat. San Diego should win this game, but Denver's defense was better than the final stats of their game show. Denver gave up 151 yards rushing, but 61 were on a reverse by Chris Chambers. The bigger problem for the Broncos was that they couldn't run the ball (just 70 yards on 20 carries). They'll need to do a better job to win their home opener.

Monday Night
New York Giants (1-0) hosting New Orleans (1-0)

New Orleans will continue to be one of the top stories of the year. This week they play a home game in New York, with a special 7:30ET start on ABC with the normal ESPN Sunday Night crew calling the action. The Giants are trying to be generous hosts, and I think the Saints have a great chance in this game even though I'm worried about a letdown after such an emotional roller-coaster over the past few weeks.

Yes, the Giants beat the Cardinals 42-19 last week, and held Arizona to just 31 yards rushing, but that's where the good news ends. First of all, the Cardinals are still terrible. Second, in spite of that, the Cardinals had more first downs (20-14), a big edge in passing yards (287-154), and over 35 minutes of time of possession. And remember, Arizona led that game 13-7 at halftime, so it wasn't like the Giants had a big early lead and were sitting on it. If the Saints can overcome all of the distractions, they can give their fans another reason to smile.

Washington (1-0) at Dallas (1-0)

Finally, it's a rematch of the 1995 AFC Championship game as the Redskins play the Cowboys. Well, sort of. Former Patriots Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn, and Bill Parcells will be on the Dallas sideline, while former Jaguar Mark Brunell makes the start for Washington. Dallas looked terrific against San Diego last week, though you wonder if Washington can get more pressure on Bledsoe. They'd better, since their offense is terrible and can't win a high-scoring track meet.

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