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Week 5 Breakdown

October 04, 2002|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK GIANTS at DALLAS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 11.

The line: Pick.

Quick slant: Three yards and a cloud of must.

Plot: Remember the Giants' between-the-tackles, control-the-football running game? Remember Emmitt Smith? Long-gone days. It has made for painful viewing, especially if you've been watching Smith's Bearcrawl to History, also known as his (prolonged) pursuit of Walter Payton's rushing record. Smith is taking it one excruciating footstep at a time, averaging 59 yards a game, still 304 shy. At his current pace, Smith won't get there until mid-November. Quick quiz: Which happens first, Smith breaks the record or Jim Fassel lets Kerry Collins throw another sideline pass just before halftime?

Monday's headline: "Emmitt, 3-2 Cowboys Agree: It's a Game of Inches"

*

OAKLAND at BUFFALO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 2.

The line: Oakland by 3.

Quick slant: Not Washed Up After All Bowl.

Plot: Preseason scouting report on this one: Why bother? Raiders were too old, Jon Gruden was gone, Rich Gannon can't keep it up, Jerry Rice can't keep up--warning: backslide ahead. Bills were 3-13 in 2001, Drew Bledsoe couldn't keep his job in New England, Bills can't protect Bledsoe--AFC East basement, here they come. One month later, we are older and so much wiser, equipped with calculator to keep track of the footballs flying over Buffalo, aggregate passing yards, points and total minutes played (Buffalo played three overtime games in September, a league record). Old-time AFL football!

Monday's headline: "Bills Defeat Raiders When Pigskins Fly"

*

TAMPA BAY at ATLANTA

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Tampa Bay by 1.

Quick slant: Slapped in face, Warrick Dunn prepares to slap back.

Plot: Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden calls it the harsh reality of salary-cap economics. Warrick Dunn calls it a slap in the face. Either way, Dunn no longer plays for Tampa Bay, which is averaging only 77.5 yards rushing per game without the diminutive running back. With him, Atlanta is averaging nearly twice as many: 148.3. As the first bitter reunion nears, Dunn told the Tampa Tribune, "They should have kept me. When I made a decision, it was easy because they didn't come close. It hurt.... I'll go on national TV and say this was a slap in the face." Dunn. Gruden. It could get intense.

Monday's headline: "Bucs Become Un-Dunn in Dome"

*

WASHINGTON at TENNESSEE

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Tennessee by 5.

Quick slant: Are you sitting down? Spurrier just benched his quarterback.

Plot: At least Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel knew what they were getting into. They played for Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida, so they know the drill--which is to say that quarterbacks in Spurrier's system are as disposable as sideline Gatorade cups. Recyclable too. Matthews started Spurrier's Redskin debut, won the game and was named NFC offensive player of the week. Then he didn't start the next week. Or the week after that. Given two weeks to think about it, Spurrier has decided to go with either Wuerffel or rookie Patrick Ramsey. Byes are dangerous when you play for Spurrier.

Monday's headline: "Titans Do It Old-Fashioned Way, With One Quarterback"

*

CINCINNATI at INDIANAPOLIS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Indianapolis by 13.

Quick slant: Kitna demands an end to Bengals' revolving door at quarterback. That'll teach him.

Plot: Jon Kitna wasn't necessarily talking about himself when he said Bengal Coach Dick LeBeau needed to pick one quarterback and stick with him, charging that LeBeau had "created a monster" with his Dial-An-Interception quarterback shuttle system. In fact, Kitna even suggested Akili Smith be given the job for the rest of the season. LeBeau wouldn't go that far, however, and he does read the newspapers. So that will be Kitna and his big mouth lining up over center against the Colts, who need a win badly.

Monday's headline: "Kitna Sacked 9 Times in Colt Rout; Smith, Frerotte Don't Say a Word"

*

NEW ENGLAND at MIAMI

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Miami by 3.

Quick slant: Repeat after us: Last week never happened.

Plot: What happens when two undefeated AFC East rivals get caught looking ahead at the same time? San Diego 21, New England 14. And Kansas City 48, Miami 30. At least the pressure's off. So too is much of the luster, with both defensive coordinators suddenly staring at game film and shaking their heads in stunned silence. What happened to the Dolphins' pass defense? Five touchdown passes by Trent Green? What happened to the Patriots' run defense? LaDainian Tomlinson plows through for 217 yards? What happens when Tom Brady and Ricky Williams are turned loose on the same field?

Monday's headline: "Patriots Win on Blocked Field Goal; Stuff Happens"

*

PITTSBURGH at NEW ORLEANS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: New Orleans by 3.

Quick slant: The Xtreme lives!

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