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Week 9 Breakdown

November 01, 2002|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

BALTIMORE AT ATLANTA

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Atlanta by 7 1/2

Quick slant: Michael Vick -- you can't stop him, you can only hope to fine him.

Plot: Vick is one of the best things to happen to pro football in recent years, certainly the best thing to happen to Atlanta Falcon football. When the NFL should be celebrating the closest thing it has ever had to Michael Jordan, it instead bogs itself down in petty, over-officious minutiae: After leading the Falcons to a thrilling, 37-35 victory over the Saints last week, Vick was fined $5,000 for wearing his white socks too low and $2,500 for tossing a football to a fan after a touchdown. Such is the lot of being a marked man. This stuff never happens to Raven quarterbacks.

Monday's headline: "NFL Fines Vick for Running Too Fast"

*

NEW ENGLAND AT BUFFALO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Buffalo by 2 1/2

Quick slant: Repeat after me: Never trade a franchise quarterback within your division.

Plot: How many of you thought New England's trading of Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo would come back to bite the Patriots this season? OK, hands down. You too, Tom Brady. Brady hasn't been bad; he's on pace to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. But he hasn't been good enough to win a game in his last four tries.

Bledsoe, meanwhile, has been the league's first-half MVP while leading the Bills to a 5-3 start.

It didn't have to be this way. New England could have traded Bledsoe to Cincinnati.

Monday's headline: "Ex-Patriot Leads Dumb Patriots By 2 1/2 Games in Standings"

*

PHILADELPHIA AT CHICAGO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 11

The line: Philadelphia by 6 1/2

Quick slant: With fog lifted, we can see: Bears are really bad.

Plot: Much pregame angst in Chicago over this one, to the tune of: Why can't we get a quarterback like Donovan McNabb? The Bears are 2-5 with the worst pitching rotation in Chicago: Jim Miller (backup forced into a starter's role), Chris Chandler (backup forced to play when Miller developed tendinitis; went 0-2 against Lions and Vikings) and Henry Burris (played last five minutes against Vikings; finished with a passer rating of 6.9). McNabb, meanwhile, had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Giants.

Monday's headline: "Hope for Bears: If They Keep Losing, Maybe They Can Draft Leftwich"

*

PITTSBURGH AT CLEVELAND

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Pittsburgh by 3

Quick slant: Last chance for Browns.

Plot: It appears the Steelers scrapped Kordell Stewart just in time. With Tommy Maddox dinking teams into submission, the Steelers have won their last three -- and if the Browns can't stop them here, they should keep on rolling through a schedule that has Atlanta, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Houston and Carolina neatly lined up for them. Cleveland is back at .500 after Tim Couch rallied the Browns from a 21-3 deficit against the Jets last week. That's right, it's the 4-3 Steelers vs. the 4-4 Browns. In the AFC North, that's as good as it gets.

Monday's headline: "Browns Rally Again; Cowher: 'Just a Speed Bump in the Road' "

*

DALLAS AT DETROIT

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Detroit by 3

Quick slant: Emmitt has the record that should have been Barry's. But Detroit isn't bitter.

Plot: How many yards would Barry Sanders have had if he hadn't decided to take his record run and go home before the 1999 season? New NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith says he thought Sanders was capable of "not only getting the record but blowing it away and setting it in the 20,000-yard area." Sunday, Smith brings his record to Ford Field, flaunting it for all of Detroit to see. When asked if he thought Detroit would be OK with it, Smith told the Detroit Free Press, "They have no choice but to be OK with it. People in Detroit love me too. There are Cowboys fans everywhere."

Monday's headline: "Lions' Victory Not Much of a Consolation Prize"

*

CINCINNATI AT HOUSTON

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Houston by 3

Quick slant: Yes, Houston by 3.

Plot: So it has come to this for the never-say-rock-bottom Bengals -- they are three-point underdogs to an expansion team. In his latest desperate attempt to rally his lost causes, Bengal Coach Dick LeBeau began the week by predicting victory over the seven-game-old Texans. Fired up, Bengal receiver Chad Johnson went a step further and guaranteed a victory. Uh-oh. By midweek, LeBeau had taken another look at his quarterback depth chart, prompting something of a backtrack: "You would probably be surprised to hear this, but I predict a victory for us every week." Long story short: Same old same old.

Monday's headline: "For Next Act, 0-8 LeBeau Predicts He'll Be Bengal Coach in 2003"

*

TENNESSEE AT INDIANAPOLIS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Indianapolis by 3

Quick slant: Just when you thought it was safe to forget the Titans.

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