NFC South: Bucs-Bears
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
A bunch of things jump out from the stat sheet from Tampa Bay's overtime victory. But let's focus on just a couple of guys, namely quarterback Brian Griese and defensive end Greg White.
Start with Griese. He threw 67 passes. According to ESPN's research department, only four quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown more passes in a single game. Here's a look at the top five of all-time:
That's a pretty stunning day for a journeyman who began the season as the backup to Jeff Garcia. It's even more stunning when you consider Griese did all this without top receiver Joey Galloway. A lot of people said the Bucs didn't have any playmakers besides Galloway. They do now. Antonio Bryant, who was out of the league last year, had 10 catches. Coach Jon Gruden's taken a lot of heat through the years for taking players who have been cast aside by other teams. But he sure looks like he's found a playmaker in Bryant.
Now, on to White. Very quietly, the Bucs signed White to a new contract a couple weeks ago. That's looking like a very good move. White has had at least one sack in each game so far and he has 3.5 for the season. Veteran Kevin Carter still is very much in the mix. But, with White and second-year pro Gaines Adams, the Bucs are in great shape at defensive end for a long time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Still not sure what the "real'' Atlanta offense looks like. It was great in Week 1 against Detroit and lousy in Week 2 versus Tampa Bay.
I'm guessing that had something to do with the competition. Drawing Kansas City in the Georgia Dome this week is probably the best thing that can happen for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, who took a beating from the Bucs.
The Falcons are painfully aware they need to keep the pressure off Ryan by using Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and the running game extensively. Even against the Chiefs, Ryan's not ready to win a game on his own yet.
Had a question from a reader on a chat this morning, basically asking if Carolina's defensive line is any good.
Truth is, I don't know yet. I don't think anybody knows yet. But I think we're all about to find out. The defensive front needs to have a good game against Minnesota. That's not going to be easy, especially if Adrian Peterson is playing.
I know Carolina's defensive line (particularly Julius Peppers) has been taking heat because it hasn't come up with a lot of sacks. John Fox gladly will tell you sacks aren't the true measure of a defensive line. But, deep down, he wants sacks.
Maybe the sacks will start coming this week. Gus Frerotte isn't exactly a mobile quarterback. But the defensive line has to do its part if it wants to get a shot at some sacks. The defense needs to shut Peterson and the running game down first. If that happens, the sacks will come. If it doesn't, the questions will continue.
The Bucs need to start establishing an identity on offense if they're going to contend for the playoffs. With Joey Galloway likely to sit out because of injury, that's not going to be easy. The running game, featuring Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn, has looked good at times and that's a start.
But Jon Gruden's offense needs big plays from the passing game and someone has to step up. Two reclamation projects likely will get that chance. Antonio Bryant, who was out of football last season, has been starting opposite Galloway. Bryant had a great preseason, but has been quiet in the first two games. Without Galloway, he might become the No. 1 option in the passing game.
The other alternative is Michael Clayton. He's spent the last couple of years in Gruden's doghouse. But it's hard to erase the memories of what Clayton did as a rookie. Keep in mind, Griese was his quarterback that year.
I'm discovering that Saints' fans are a lot like Red Sox fans. New Orleans lost a game last week and a lot of fans went straight to the ledge. Given the team's history, that's understandable.
But you don't write off a team in Week 3 even if it has to go into Denver and face what suddenly has become an offensive machine. On paper, the Saints have the offensive horses to get into a shootout.
After last week's loss to the Redskins, there's been a lot of talk about how New Orleans' defense is right back where it was last year. But the Saints put an awful lot of effort (see Jonathan Vilma, Sedrick Ellis, etc.) into sprucing up their defense in the offseason. We're about to see if that makes a difference or not.