Five things on my radar this week:
1. Packers at Vikings. Revenge is a dish best served old. I have this feeling that the Vikings may not be served by the spectacular success of last week’s win vs. the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners are a team that lacks the offensive punch and balance of the Packers. The Niners lost Frank Gore early in the game and were unable to run out the clock with less than 2 minutes remaining.
I am wondering if newly-minted OLB Aaron Kampman is comfortable enough in his new position to bring the pain from the edge. He was the best DE you’d never heard of for the past three seasons. He notched 37 sacks playing in a 4-3 scheme. He’s been moved and has only registered one sack through 3 games. Does he break out in Minnesota? I’m sure he’ll want to show former fellow-Hawkeye and current Viking LB Chad Greenway a few tricks.
I think Al Harris and Charles Woodson are really going to be up for this game. I think Brett Favre will be so charged up that he will have to work hard to resist his urges to embarrass the Packers. The men he is most angry with will not be covering Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. If Favre loses focus, Harris and Woodson could take him to the wood shed.
2. Ravens at Patriots. At 1:00 p.m. in Foxboro, MA, we’re going to find out who is for real and who is not. Was the Patriots rushing attack of last week a one shot deal predicated on the weakness of the Falcons run defense? Can they do it again against Baltimore? Will they have to resort to gimmicks? Will they have to use Fred Taylor less and deploy Kevin Faulk in the screen and draw game? Who is going to keep Haloti Ngata off of Tom Brady?
For Baltimore, there are another set of compelling questions. Is Joe Flacco really that good? On Sunday, he goes up against Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs — and the mind of Bill Belichick. Does Cam Cameron have the right gameplan? If it’s the wrong gameplan, can he make changes before its too late? Does a second receiver have to step up for Baltimore to keep the Ravens honest? If Belichick is true to his template and decides to take away the Ravens best weapon, does he target the run game and that mammoth line, or does he take away Derrick Mason? Can Bodden do that without help the way he did to Lee Evans (3 catches, 25 yards) and Roddy White (4 catches, 24 yards)?
3. Jets at Saints. This is a classic matchup of elite offense vs. elite defense. The Saints have more weapons that Raytheon. The Jets have played smash mouth, trash-talking defense to anyone and everyone. They’ve already knocked off the Patriots and Titans. So, what’s the storyline going to be: Can Mark Sanchez put up enough points to keep pace with Drew Brees? Will the Jets try to take away the pass or the run? If they drop 7 or 8 in coverage to force the run, can Kris Jenkins and company get enough push to play on the other side of the ball and stuff the Saints?
4. Righting the Ship. Can the Steelers, Titans, Chargers and Seahawks get it together? The Steelers are hosting the Chargers. Only one of them can be viewed in a favorable light on Monday morning — unless the game is a classic. The Seahawks are traveling to the Colts, so it will tough to get right at Lucas Oil. It might be easier if Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t play. Dwight Freeney is out. That’s a good sign. Peyton is in. Reggie is in. Dallas is in. Pierre is in. Donald is in. That’s a very bad sign.
5. New Faces in New Spaces. Tyler Thipen (Miami), Josh Johnson (TB), and Derek Anderson (CLE) are taking over. Can they get it done? Maybe Ted Ginn and Davon Bess can run the entire route without waiting for the ball. Maybe Ronnie and Ricky won’t face a stacked box — nah. That’s premature. Josh Johnson is going to get a real education, isn’t he. Remember the last time Derek Anderson sank his teeth into the Bengals??
Should be a great week.