NFL Nation: audibles AFC 3
Here is a recap and observations on the show:
- As expected, there was plenty of focus on the quarterbacks. Matt Moore got the airtime first with his newborn and wife. It was a good view of Moore's home life, in addition to the pressures of trying to win a three-way quarterback race with David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill. HBO did a good job of introducing all three quarterbacks to the audience.
- Tannehill's holdout was documented well behind the scenes. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said at one point in the show the holdout is "driving me nuts." Tannehill eventually signed his contract and showed up past the team's curfew after 11 p.m. ET. He took his conditioning test the same night and practiced the following morning.
- Here is some shameless self promotion: I got a two-second cameo on the show during Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross’ press conference. I just had to get that in.
- The Dolphins showed their workouts with both receiver Braylon Edwards and guard Eric Steinbach. Ireland questioned Edwards about his prior stops and if there's any concerns to worry about. Miami passed on Edwards, who later landed with the Seattle Seahawks, but signed Steinbach.
- Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis says he was "gassed" in the first practices. I remember watching Davis getting beat the first few days and thinking he wasn't the same player at the end of last season. Davis appears to have come into camp out of shape, which is not a good sign. The Dolphins have already put Richard Marshall ahead of Davis on the first depth chart. Davis has some ground to make up.
- Receiver Chad Johnson was featured prominently. The former "Ochocinco" jokingly said he took the year off so everyone else could catch up. But Johnson also admits that he was exposed, and he's hungry to bounce back. The funniest part of the show was when Johnson interrupted a coaches' only meeting and demanded to have a seat. He left soon after. But it's a ploy you know Johnson could not have pulled off at a Bill Belichick-ran meeting with the New England Patriots. Johnson probably would've been released on the spot. Philbin, however, did not like Johnson’s profanity during a press conference and had a one-on-one talk with the receiver to clean up his language.
- The show ended with Philbin meeting with all the quarterbacks. Philbin explained that he must release a depth chart and explained that Garrard is the No. 1 quarterback, Moore No. 2 and Tannehill No. 3. Philbin concluded that this chart was not final and someone is going to have to earn it. Overall, it was a good first episode of "Hard Knocks" but not many huge surprises.
True that. Instead of losing by 25 points, the Dolphins will lose by half as many.
The Dolphins have shown virtually no running game or passing game, and they're about to go up against an elite front seven that includes the NFL's best defensive line. The Dolphins' pass defense has been immolated, and they're going to face Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Other than that and special teams, the Dolphins have the edge.
The Bills haven't won their first three games since 1992, but that should happen Sunday. The atmosphere should be electric in Ralph Wilson Stadium, where legendary defensive end Bruce Smith will be inducted on the team's Wall of Fame at halftime.
The Raiders are reeling. Head coach Lane Kiffin might be asked to turn in his office key at the end of the game and fly home commercial. Running back Justin Fargas isn't expected to play.
This game might be closer than Bills fans would like. The Bills have had trouble against good running teams in the past, and Oakland still has blue-chip rookie Darren McFadden.
The Bills, however, have demonstrated an extraordinary three-phase attack in victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars. If the Bills don't win this one, it will be viewed as a colossal disappointment and expunge much of the enthusiasm that has engulfed Western New York.
There will be no shortage of talking points for this one.
The Chargers have had their fill of losing and would like nothing more than to unleash their frustrations on the Jets, who still are trying to find their offensive identity based on the criticism directed at head coach Eric Mangini and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for their conservative play calls.
If the coaching staff has rabbit ears, then maybe Favre will have one of his classic Monday night performances and throw the ball all over the field -- even to tight end Dustn Keller and Laveranues Coles. Imagine that.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Texans' inability to forge an identity since their inception is evident in their work against Tennessee. Houston is just 2-10 all-time against the Titans and has lost seven straight against them.
Schaub may be less likely to stand in and absorb a hit just after release than he's been in the past. Steve Slaton is expected to get the first turns at running back and if he can slip a couple of tackles at crucial moments he could really help the cause. But the Titans defensive line is tailor-made to counteract the Texans' zone-blocking run scheme. If Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Vanden Bosch et al are able to get off quickly at the snap and push the offensive line back, they believe they'll throw Houston off its plan.
Kerry Collins fought fierce winds last week in Cincinnati. Barring such circumstances, we should get a better read on how the Titans' pass-targets respond to him as the starter. He needs only 90 yards passing to reach 35,000 for his career. When he gets there, he'll be the 15th quarterback all-time to hit the number and join Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only active players who've hit the mark.
The Titans shouldn't need Collins to do much: Including the playoffs, the Titans have limited opponents to 17 or fewer points in six consecutive games.
Beat-up offensive lines are the big issue in this game. Both teams will have three fill-ins at work. The team that can find run room and better protect its passer should have the edge. Jeff Saturday's return at center should help bolster the Colts.
Jacksonville retooled its secondary in the offseason, largely to be able to match up better with the Colts. Brian Williams, who's got a lot of experience as a cornerback, is the strong safety with Rashean Mathis and Drayton Florence at the corner spots. The way the Colts deploy Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark is no secret -- though last week they put Wayne in the slot some with Gonzalez outside. How does that secondary react to those targets and can the Jaguars find ways to get Peyton Manning off rhythm?
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to blitz, but that's rarely proven an effective way to fluster Manning, who simply connects with hot reads. This is just the type of scenario for which the Jaguars drafted Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Can the rookies get into the backfield?
The Colts have won five of the last six matchups, and the Jaguars have not won at Indianapolis since Oct. 24, 2004.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
The Bengals will have an especially difficult task against the Giants. New York is extremely physical on both sides of the football, and Cincinnati has struggled in that aspect. The Bengals were pounded physically in losses to both the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.
Cincinnati's offense has been surprisingly listless. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer is getting knocked around and looks shaky in the pocket. Receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco are not getting open, and tailback Chris Perry is still looking for his first breakout game.It likely won't come this week. The Giants are only allowing 10 points per game, which is tied for second in the NFL.
The Steelers travel to play the Eagles in arguably the best game of the week.
Pittsburgh has quietly risen to the top of the AFC with solid wins over the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. The Steelers are versatile and dangerous on offense and as well as aggressive defensively.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is fighting a shoulder sprain but has been efficient. He should get more opportunities to air it out this weekend against a defense that allowed 41 points last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
On the flip side, Philadelphia's offense presents an interesting challenge for the Steelers. Quarterback Donovan McNabb appears to be back, and Brian Westbrook may be the most dynamic running back Pittsburgh faces all season.
This is a must-win game for Cleveland following a pair of losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns, coming off a 10-win season in 2007, feel they are better than their record and simply ran into a pair of Super Bowl contenders to start the season. They will find out where they stack up with the Ravens on the road.
Baltimore is coming off an impromptu bye week following weather complications in Houston from Hurricane Ike. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco will make his second career start and is coming off a successful season debut in a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Browns only have 16 points total in two games. The offense has looked completely out of synch and will try to get back on track against one of the NFL's top defenses.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The speculation prior to the April draft was that Kansas City could try to move up with its gaggle of draft picks and take Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.
The Chiefs sent large contingents to scout Ryan in the offseason and there was the famous photo of Chiefs coach Herman Edwards and Ryan hamming it up after a Ryan workout.
Yet, the Chiefs never tried to move up from their spot at No. 5 in the draft and Atlanta pulled the trigger on Ryan at No. 3.
Kansas City will try to break its 11-game losing streak -- it lost the last nine games of the 2007 season and the first two games this season -- against Ryan and the Falcons.
The Chiefs are still trying to find their way at quarterback with starter Brodie Croyle and backup Damon Huard both getting hurt this season. The Falcons will likely get a long look at Chiefs reserve quarterback Tyler Thigpen.
The Chiefs are happy with defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who was taken with the No. 5 pick. They will be even happier if he gives would-have-been Chief Ryan a hard time and helps ends the team's drought.
If the Raiders are going to make the statement they were hoping to make in what turned out to be a disastrous season opener against Denver, they must beat the Bills the same way they beat the Chiefs.
Darren McFadden. It is no coincidence that Oakland's first win of the season came on the day the No. 4 overall draft pick went off. The former Arkansas star had 164 yards on 21 carries. He single-handedly destroyed the Chiefs.
McFadden has the ability to beat teams by himself.
If the Raiders are going to upset the Bills, it will be because of McFadden. Yes, he has been slowed some by a turf toe injury, but this is a special talent.
McFadden had nine carries against Denver and the Raiders were hammered. He had 21 carries at Kansas City and the Raiders won.
Get the picture?
There were concerns about the Denver Broncos' offense being able to show explosiveness this year because of the offensive line, particularly the tackles.
The concern in Denver was legitimate. The Broncos were entering the 2008 season with essentially two rookie tackles. Left tackle Ryan Clady, taking over for the retired Matt Lepsis, was the No. 12 overall pick in the April draft. At right tackle, Denver was inserting Ryan Harris, who was a third-round pick in 2007. Harris played one offensive play last season.
Teams usually don't win with two rookie tackles. Yet, the Broncos, who have scored 80 points in two games, are atop the AFC West at 2-0. Clady and Harris have been major reasons why.
Denver quarterback Jay Cutler is an early NFL MVP candidate, and a big reason why is he can order a pizza and get it delivered in the time he has to throw. Cutler has been sacked one time this season but that was because of his controversial fumble at the end of the San Diego game. Cutler has not been physically tackled for a loss this season. He wasn't sacked in five quarters during the preseason, either.
Yet, the San Diego Chargers' quarterback, who rarely declines to comment on any subject, politely declined to speak about the Favre situation while it was still percolating.
"I want to see how it plays out," Rivers said. "Brett Favre has always been one of my favorite players and I really hope it works out for him. I really respect him."
Rivers will have a chance to tell Favre how he feels in person. Rivers and his reeling 0-2 Chargers must beat Favre and the Jets or their Super Bowl aspirations will take a serious hit.
Rivers, who is quietly developing into one of the finer quarterbacks in the NFL, may need some Favre-like magic to turn around his team's fortunes after two heartbreaking losses to start the season.
2:00 2nd Qtr Indianapolis 0 Cincinnati 7 1:38 2nd Qtr Atlanta 14 Green Bay 10 5:39 2nd Qtr Cleveland 6 New England 0 3:55 2nd Qtr Oakland 3 New York 20 3:13 2nd Qtr Detroit 8 Philadelphia 0 3:39 2nd Qtr Miami 10 Pittsburgh 7 8:03 2nd Qtr Buffalo 3 Tampa Bay 17 7:48 2nd Qtr Kansas City 31 Washington 0 7:27 2nd Qtr Minnesota 0 Baltimore 7 4:05 PM ET Tennessee Denver 4:25 PM ET St. Louis Arizona 4:25 PM ET New York San Diego 4:25 PM ET Seattle San Francisco 8:30 PM ET Carolina New Orleans