2009 NFL Week Two Preview

LVCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2009

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 03: Quarterback Jeff Garcia #7 of the Oakland Raiders looks to pass before the game against the Seattle Seahawks on September 3, 2009 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
All eyes will be on Philadelphia to see if Eagles' veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia will get his chance against the Saints in Week Two of the 2009 NFL Season
I am naming Week Two of the 2009 NFL season “Divisional Rivalry” Week, as there are seven matchups featuring divisional rivals. Rivalry games on the docket include Oakland at KC, New England at NY Jets, Carolina at Atlanta, Minnesota at Detroit, Houston at Tennessee, Seattle at San Francisco, and NY Giants at Dallas (See Game of the Week).
To football fans, there is nothing better than putting on your team’s colors and rooting against a hated rival. Players usually try to keep a lid on emotions, but when a familiar foe is across the line—usually twice a year, sometimes three if both teams make the playoffs—you can save the handshakes for the offseason. 
Former Super Bowl-winning head coach turned NBC analyst Tony Dungy said of divisional games, “These games are important, because you want to gain an advantage in your division.” 
Some fans may ask, “How important are division games?” 
Well, since realignment to the current eight-division format in 2002, the 14 teams that have advanced to the Super Bowl have a combined 68-16 (.810) record in games within their division.
Kansas City Chiefs-Oakland Raiders

With the 50th anniversary of the AFL, there will be two renewals of old-time AFL rivalries (Chiefs-Raiders and Patriots-Jets). The Oakland Raiders will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs for the 98th time in this heated rivalry—two of the eight original AFL teams.  Both teams hung around in Week One, only to lose near the end—Ravens beating the Chiefs 38-24, and Chargers over the Raiders, 24-20—so both will be looking for their first win of the season. 

The Raiders and Chiefs have not liked each other for a long time, starting with the AFL’s birth in 1960 when the Raiders faced off against the Dallas Texans (later the KC Chiefs). The two teams have battled over the years in games, for players in the draft, and even their owners, the late Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) and Al Davis (Raiders), battled over league rules and other matters.  

Some of their best games were played when legendary Hall of Fame coaches Hank Stram and John Madden were patrolling the sidelines against each other and wouldn’t give an inch. One of the more famous incidents between the teams back in the day was the infamous spearing of Chiefs QB Len Dawson by Raiders LB Ben Davidson in 1970 that prompted a huge brawl.

The Chiefs are one of two teams in the NFL with a winning record against the Raiders (51-44-1), which includes a 2-1 record in the playoffs. So get ready for some heated action as the Chiefs’ Red Storm crowd welcomes quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the rest of the silver and black. Raiders LB Kirk Morrison said of the KC-Oakland rivalry, “In Oakland...the game you always really wanted to come see was the Chiefs. You grew up hating red...It goes deep...It’s always been the must-win game."


New England Patriots-New York Jets

The New England (formerly Boston) Patriots will play the New York Jets for the 97th time. The Patriots traveling to the Jets is always big news, especially with the two teams’ history—Spygate, Belichick coached the Jets for literally a minute, the Patriots have won of five of the past seven AFC East division titles and NFL aristocracy vs. blue collar tough guys—basically, there is no love lost between these two franchises. 

Though the Jets hold an edge of 49-47-1 in the series, the Patriots have won three of the last four games against them and are looking to improve on their nine-consecutive game winning streak at the Jets’ home. Pats starting quarterback Tom Brady has never lost to the Jets in the Meadowlands as he holds a 7-0 record in the stadium. Brady also has added incentive, because with a victory on against the Jets, he will match former Bears’ quarterback Jim McMahon for the longest streak of consecutive regular-season wins by a quarterback (22).

To heighten the Patriots-Jets rivalry even more, there is the addition of brash Jets rookie head coach Rex Ryan, who definitely likes to take a page from his father, former NFL defensive guru Buddy Ryan, in stirring the pot. Ryan has been yapping his mouth all week and his team has been following suit, which may get the Pats even more fired up on Sunday. 

Ryan said of the J-E-T-S playing the vaunted Patriots, “I didn’t come here to kiss (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick’s rings, I came here to win...I’m certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else.” 

Ryan must be rubbing off on his team, as defensive leader FS Kerry Rhodes added, “You go out from the first quarter on, from the first play on, and try to embarrass them, not just go out there and try to win, try to embarrass them." 

Rhodes better be careful as Brady, fresh off a 378-yard passing performance in a Week One win over the Bills, said, “Talk is cheap...We’re going to be playing this game like it’s the Super Bowl.”

Unfortunately after only one week of play, some NFL fans are panicking a little over whether their team is a pretender or contender. To anyone feeling the pinch of the NFL season after one week of play, please relax. The NFL regular season is a 17-week marathon with many twists and turns ahead. It is too early to paint broad conclusions on team’s futures after one week. 

Sure, injuries and areas to fine-tune were prevalent throughout the league last week, but take the results from week one as partial results. I am urging all fans to wait five or six games before jumping on or off your team’s bandwagon. As we saw with the 2007 Patriots brush with perfection, it is almost unthinkable that a team can get through a season undefeated in today’s NFL—this fact should make you truly appreciative of the Herculean effort of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.

An interesting stat is that at the end of Week Two, no more than 11 teams will be able to claim a perfect 2-0 record, leaving at least 21 clubs at 1-1 or 0-2. But being 1-1 or 0-2 after the first two weeks of the season is not a death sentence, as  in the years since 2002, 48 of 84 teams—a percentage of 57.1 percent—made the playoffs after starting at those marks. In fact, four of the past eight Super Bowl champions began their seasons with a 1-1 or 0-2 record, including the 2007 Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, who started last season at 0-2.

Here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers before we move on to our featured game for this week.

Lawn vandals are catch—In a grotesque act, the front lawn of Bills' DB Leodis McKelvin was vandalized after the Bills’ heartbreaking 25-24 loss to the Patriots on MNF. McKelvin fumbled a late kickoff return that led directly to the Patriots' go-ahead score. The vandalism apparently consisted of the score, 25-24, and a graphic depiction of the male anatomy scrawled in white paint. 

Fortunately, the vandals were caught when two male teens, who lived near McKelvin, turned themselves in. To the surprise of many,  the emerging second-year corner didn’t want to press charges, but expect the D.A in the area to do so. Bills receiver Terrell Owens said of the incident, “Once we make it to the playoffs, tell them to do his lawn again. You just attribute that to ignorance.”


NFL hits Texans corner in the pocket—Houston Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson was fined $25,000 by the NFL for his shoe message to his team’s front office. Robinson inscribed “Pay Me” and “Rick” on his shoes, a message to GM Rick Smith.  Robinson has been locked in a nasty contract dispute after being tagged as the team’s franchise player way back in February. 

The disgruntled defensive back held out through training camp and didn’t report to the team until right before their season opener, when he signed a one-year, $9.957 million deal. My feeling is Robinson should let his play do his talking, and last week he wasn’t saying much as he allowed Jets rookie Mark Sanchez to pick him apart in an embarrassing 24-7 home loss.


Ochocinco may try a Lambeau Leap – It may be another of his self-promoting stunts (Twitter, U-stream, and others), but Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said via a conference call that he plans on doing a “Lambeau Leap” if he scores against the Packers on Sunday.  No. 85 said, “I’m looking forward to the Lambeau Leap like I did with the Dawg Pound…There needs to be understanding that this is merely a challenge for the defense to find a way from stopping me from getting in the end zone”.   Hey if Ochocinco wants to take his life in his own hands by jumping in the crowd, then more power to him…just don’t try it in Philly.  Last week Ochocinco seemed to be on the comeback trail producing 5 catches for 89 yards in the Bengals heartbreaking 12-7 loss to the Broncos.


V.Y does a great job filling in—Titans quarterback Vince Young, who was mentored by the late Steve McNair during his teenage years, did an awesome thing the other day. Young filled-in for his deceased friend at his sons’ (Trenton and Tyler) “Dear Dads Breakfast” event at their school, St. Paul Christian Academy. 

Young surprised the children when he showed up at their house early Wednesday and took them.

“Those are my boys,” Young said. “I wouldn’t say it was to pay anyone back; it was just out of love. Steve would do it for me. He pretty much did it for me when I was growing up. I have a history with the boys and I want to do anything I can. I am their big brother.” 

Young gave jerseys and autographs to several St. Paul children.


Favre sticks it to the Jets all the way from Minnesota—Even though Brett Favre is now on the Minnesota Vikings, America’s favorite flip-flopper stuck it to the J-E-T-S one more time. After Favre commented to the media in Minnesota that last year the Jets did not properly disclose his injury, the NFL took action this week. 

The league fined the New York Jets $75,000, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and former Jets head coach Eric Mangini $25,000 for their roles in failing to disclose Favre’s biceps injury on 2008 injury reports. The Vikings don’t play the Jets this regular season, but that would be one fun reunion.


Week Two Featured Game

NEW YORK GIANTS (1-0) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0)—Sunday Night Football @ 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Broadcast Team: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Andrea Kremer (Field Reporter)

In talking about rivalries in the NFL, the NFC East division has them everywhere. In particular, the rest of the division all wants a piece of the ballyhooed Dallas Cowboys.

I don’t know if it is the star on the helmet, their borderline smug owner, or their moniker as “America’s Team,” but the Cowboys bring out the best in the Eagles, Giants, and Redskins. This week, the Giants and Cowboys will meet for the 94th time in a NFC East grudge match. These two NFC East rivals have won the past two division crowns; Giants (2008), Cowboys (2007).

To make the stage even larger, the Giants will be the first regular season opponent of the Cowboys in their new billion-dollar place, Cowboys Stadium. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of his team’s new digs, “This is the real deal. This stadium shows the glitz and glamour of the Dallas Cowboys.”

Surprisingly, the Cowboys have won four of the five meetings between the two, but both teams are coming off impressive Kickoff Weekend victories (Giants over the Redskins 23-17 and the Cowboys over the Bucs 34-21). 

However, I still think both sides are thinking about the 2007 season where the Cowboys beat the Giants twice in the regular season only to have the G-Men turn the tables on them in the playoffs by a score of 21-17 in a stinging home loss. That Giants victory and subsequent Super Bowl title have fueled a bitter rivalry to take shape between the two teams. 

“We’re just going to go in there and try to play good football,” says Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We know it’s going to take a great effort on our part. We’re going to Dallas, playing in a new stadium, and it will be a loud crowd. It’s a big game for us.”

Offensively, these two teams have weapons, but go about their game plan differently. The Cowboys prefer throwing the ball all over the place with early season hero QB Tony Romo, while the Giants look to be efficient behind their power running game. Dallas’ high-powered offense led by Romo—threw for a career-high 353 passing yards plus three TDs of 40 yards or more—will have to find a way to avoid the Giants pass rush. 

The Giants last week, held the Redskins to 272 total yards, recorded three sacks and forced two turnovers, including a 37-yard fumble-return touchdown by defensive end Osi Umenyiora. The Cowboys also have a running game led by their three-headed monster (Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice) that combined for 111 yards on 22 carries and one TD last week.

The Giants' first option will be to pound the ball behind their big O-line. The G-Men were okay running the ball last week against the Redskins, but their leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw only ran for 60 yards and big back Brandon Jacobs never really got going.

Quarterback Eli Manning is still searching for a replacement for former receiver Plaxico Burress and the candidates are plentiful, including Steve Smith (six catches for 80 yards) and second-year receiver Mario Manningway, who had a touchdown reception last week.   

The Giants' defense is one of the NFL’s best and they will have their hands full contending with Pro Bowl players RB Marion Barber, TE Jason Witten, and Romo—plus emerging speedsters Jones and Miles Austin. The Giants' defensive line, led by Umenyiora and Justin Tuck (1.5 sacks last week), will try to rattle Romo into throwing interceptions to a secondary led by CB Aaron Ross. 

The Cowboys defense was a bit sloppy as they gave up 450 yards of offense and 21 points to a rebuilding Tampa, and the Giants are a bigger, more physical team. The Cowboys will be looking for OLB DeMarcus Ware (who got his bell rung last week) to get some pressure on Manning, as they had no sacks against the Bucs. 

There will also be the anticipation of seeing if Cowboys punter Matt McBriar or Giants punter Jeff Feagles can boom one into the huge controversial scoreboard in the middle of Cowboys Stadium.

Injuries will also play a factor in this games. The Giants' list includes DE Chris Canty (calf), S Michael Johnson (shoulder), T Adam Koets (ankle), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), RB Danny Ware (elbow), S Kenny Phillips (knee), CB Kevin Dockery (hamstring), and LB Clint Sintim (groin). 

Dallas does not have as many players hurt, as their list contains S Michael Hamlin (wrist), LB Jason Williams (ankle), LB Curtis Johnson (hamstring), QB Tony Romo (ankle), and S Gerald Sensabaugh (chest)

LV’s Pick: Last time these two teams met, it was the Cowboys who harassed the Giants' offense to the tune of eight sacks and two turnovers. But I believe the G-Men, led by their very deep D-line and powerful running game, will spoil Cowboys Stadium’s grand opening. Look for Manning to find Smith and for Tuck to make a big game-changing play—Giants 27, Cowboys 24


NFL Week Two

Sunday, Sept. 20 

Carolina at Atlanta 1:00 PM (FOX)

Minnesota at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX) 

Cincinnati at Green Bay 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Houston at Tennessee 1:00 PM (CBS)

Oakland at Kansas City 1:00 PM (CBS)

New England at NY Jets 1:00 PM (CBS) 

New Orleans at Philadelphia 1:00 PM  

St. Louis at Washington 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Arizona at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Seattle at San Francisco 4:05 PM (FOX)  

Tampa Bay at Buffalo 4:05 PM (FOX) 

Pittsburgh at Chicago 4:15 PM (CBS) 

Baltimore at San Diego 4:15 PM (CBS)  

Cleveland at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)

NY Giants at Dallas 8:20 PM (NBC)


Monday, Sept. 21

Indianapolis at Miami 8:30 PM (ESPN)


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)