The Pulse: Which teams is SportsNation picking?

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Which teams will win on Separation Saturday?
2. How does NFL Week 2 shape up?

Kenny Irons hopes to trample LSU on Saturday.Separation Saturday is nearly upon us. With seven games pitting ranked opponents against one another, we deferred to SportsNation on how these games will play out. The 'Nation picked just two lower-ranked teams to win:

59% No. 2 Notre Dame over No. 11 Michigan
61% No. 3 Auburn over No. 6 LSU
75% No. 4 USC over No. 19 Nebraska
58% No. 7 Florida over No. 13 Tennessee
53% No. 12 Louisville over No. 17 Miami
58% No. 18 Oregon over No. 15 Oklahoma
57% No. 24 Texas Tech over No. 20 TCU

I'm bettin' the house on Auburn...Just not my house, my GF's.
BJ (Carmel, NY)

Can you imagine if Texas-OSU was this Saturday as opposed to last? I think my head would explode.
Lee (Dallas, TX)

Will Shaun Alexander bounce back in Week 2?SportsNation is on a mission to bounce back after a break-even Week 1. That's what happens when 11 of 16 road teams win. This week, there are lots of bigger pointspreads, so the odds are with you, 'Nation prognosticators. And you think only five road teams will come away victorious, including a possible Steve Smith-less Panthers team headed in Minnesota:

64% Panthers over Vikings
80% Saints over Packers

79% Rams over 49ers
78% Patriots over Jets
54% Steelers over Jaguars

As you see, the Packers have fallen quite hard to the point where only one-fifth of SportsNation is picking them at home against the Saints. But there are four teams the 'Nation overwhelmingly expects to be 0-2 by the end of Sunday. Here are the lowest percentages of the week:

2% Texans over Colts
3% Raiders over Ravens
4% Titans over Chargers
4% Browns over Bengals

Wednesday's Big Questions

1. Which Saturday showdowns are most intriguing?
2. How is your NFL team's coach doing?
3. Which team is the worst in the NFL?

Will Mike Hart give Lloyd Carr his first win in South Bend?
There are seven games pitting ranked teams against one another on Saturday. It's the first major opportunity for most teams to make a lasting impression upon the pollsters in their quest for a national championship. There's also a chance that a once highly thought of squad will lay an egg and never be heard from again.

SportsNation chimed in with thoughts on Showdown Saturday:

Which one of these Saturday games excites you the most?
44% Michigan at Notre Dame
21% LSU at Auburn
15% Nebraska at USC
13% Florida at Tennessee
7% Miami at Louisville

Which game has the most national championship implications?
43% LSU at Auburn
31% Michigan at Notre Dame
16% Florida at Tennessee
7% Nebraska at USC
2% Oklahoma at Oregon
2% Miami at Louisville

Which Heisman contender will have the biggest game?
36% Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
23% Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
20% Kenny Irons, Auburn
12% Brian Brohm, Louisville
10% Chris Leak, Florida

Which coach most needs a win to keep fans off his back?
35% Lloyd Carr, Michigan
33% Larry Coker, Miami
13% Phil Fulmer, Tennessee
9% Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
7% Bill Callahan, Nebraska
3% Urban Meyer, Florida

Penn State was overrated, Notre Dame is overrated, Michigan wins in South Bend on Saturday.
Ryan (Atlanta)

Miami is going back to Florida with a done-zo season. Louisville wins this weekend by 10 points. FSU exposed every weakness Miami had. The Miami/FSU game was terrible. Hurricane season is OVER!
Clint (Louisville)

Auburn takes one step closer to becoming national champs this weekend in the battle of the tigers!
T-bone (Florence, AL)

Lovie Smith has Bears fans smiling.
Every week during the regular season, we ask for fans' knee-jerk opinions about their favorite team's head coach in SportsNation's NFL Coach Approval Ratings. After Week 1, nearly one-third of the league's head coaches have approval ratings of 90 percent or higher. It's no shocker that all of those coaches won their first game. On the other hand, there are six coaches who are under 50 percent - all Week 1 losers.

Highest approval ratings:
92% Lovie Smith, Bears
91% Eric Mangini, Jets
91% Brad Childress, Vikings
91% Sean Payton, Saints
91% Marvin Lewis, Bengals
91% Andy Reid, Eagles

Lowest approval ratings:
16% Mike McCarthy, Packers
23% Herm Edwards, Chiefs
29% Jon Gruden, Buccaneers
39% Art Shell, Raiders
40% Jeff Fisher, Titans
45% Bill Parcells, Cowboys

Is Brett Favre already wishing he had retired?
Three teams were shut out at home in Week 1 in the NFL. Since many are simply crediting the Ravens' stout defense for skunking the Bucs, that leaves the Packers and Raiders for a healthy debate of which is the worst team in the league. Even after nearly 125,000 fans chimed in, SportsNation could barely settle this one.

Which team is now on the clock for the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft?
50.3% Raiders
49.7% Packers

The Packers are going to be worse until they realize Favre has been past his prime for the past 6-7 years.
Lou (Roselle Park, NJ)

The Raiders are worse; they can't even get the ball out of the backfield. At least Favre has time to throw an INT.
Derek (Cleveland)

Should Brady Quinn go ahead and photoshop a picture of himself in silver and black so he'll know how the uniform looks on him?
Clinton (Indianapolis)

If I were Jerry Porter, I'd be laughing at my team too.
Chris (Sioux City, IA)

Tuesday's Big Questions

1. How did MNF's regular-season debut fare?
2. Which players get your MVP vote?
3. What are your thoughts about the Rick DiPietro deal?

Does the MNF team have good chemistry?
Monday Night Football on ESPN made its regular-season debut with a double dip last night. One really good game and one dud. But the focus wasn't only on the players and coaches, but on the press box, where Mike, Joe and Tony got a chance to show how much chemistry they've developed during the last month.

SportsNation was happy to see two games on Monday, but offered mixed reviews of the new team. The response was mostly positive for Tony Kornheiser, who received a "B" from 37 percent of the 'Nation. Speaking of "B's", the second game crew received kudos from some for even outperforming the regulars.

How would you grade Tony Kornheiser's Monday Night Football debut?
37% B
23% A
22% C
12% F
8% D

I don't think Kornheiser says enough during the games (then again with Theismann talking about how great Brad Johnson is, there weren't that many opportunities).
Shaun (Madison, WI)

Can we get the Nessler/Jaws/Vermeil crew for every Monday Night game? They were very refreshing as a commentating crew. The Tirico, TK, Theismann crew just doesn't mesh as well.
Kevin (Kansas City, MO)

I think if you'd trade Theismann and Jaws that'd be a much better fit for T.K. Theismann just seems to old school and almost bothered by T.K.'s comments.
Curtis (Indy)

Dick Vermeil was great...he had me rolling on that Keenan McCardell line...he's like a convenient store, open 24/7...right on cue!
Nick (DC)

Should pitchers like Johan Santana be considered for the MVP award?
The MVP race in both leagues is totally up for grabs and fans seem to change their minds everyday about which player deserves it the most. That's why we've created SportsNation's MVP Tracker.

In the AL, SportsNation loved David Ortiz in a landslide in July and August, but Jermaine Dye blew by everyone, grabbing 72 percent of the vote on September 1. What a difference 11 days make, huh? Not only is Dye not leading the vote anymore, but he's under 20 percent.

Who is your AL MVP?
31% Derek Jeter
22% David Ortiz
18% Jermaine Dye
18% Johan Santana
11% Justin Morneau

Both Joe Morgan and Rob Neyer were asked if a pitcher like Johan Santana should even be considered for the MVP. They sit on opposite sides of the fence on that issue.

Luis (Caracas, Venezuela): Do you think a pitcher (Johan Santana in this case) deserves consideration for an MVP? As a former MVP, I would like to hear your opinion.

Joe Morgan: He deserves consideration, but he wouldn't be in my top 3 or 4 ballots. My top 3 would be Jeter, Dye, Ortiz, in no order. I've had this discussion with many people. Pitchers go out there every fifth day. Jeter, Dye, even Ortiz have a chance to impact their team every day, though Santana is great...I know a lot of people think that certain pitchers should be considered for the MVP award, but I disagree. The Cy Young award is for the best pitcher. No matter how many HRs Ryan Howard hits, he can't win the Cy Young award, so why should a pitcher win the MVP? I think in some years when there's no dominant choice for MVP, the pitchers might get more consideration, but not on a regular basis.

Clint (Tucson, AZ): How much more would Johan have to do to get serious MVP consideration from the voters? It would seem that the Twins winning 85% of the games started by Johan, to go along with his ML-wide Triple Crown, gives him a worthy resume.

Rob Neyer: I have to be convinced that a pitcher's a serious MVP candidate, but you and Buster Olney have convinced me. With Hafner out, Santana and Jeter are now my top two candidates, with the outcome still open.

In the NL, it's not much of a race right now. Ryan Howard's home run barrage has taken him from 12 percent on August 1 to the overwhelming favorite in SportsNation's eyes.

Who is your AL MVP?
64% Ryan Howard
18% Albert Pujols
11% Carlos Beltran
4% Jose Reyes
4% Miguel Cabrera

The Islanders locked up Rick DiPietro through 2021.
Is it a good idea to sign any player to a 15-year contract? The New York Islanders certainly hope the second time offering an extremely long-term deal is a charm, because they inked their goaltender Rick DiPietro to a $67 million deal that will take him through 2021. You might remember the 10-year, $87 million contract they gave to Alexei Yashin just five years ago. That didn't go so well. SportsNation doesn't think this move is as bad, but they certainly didn't endorse it, either.

A 15-year deal to reward a season where he went 30-24? He'll be traded within three years.
Bob (Kansas City)

This has got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard of -- besides hiring Isiah Thomas to run the Knicks and allowing Matt Millen to select wide receivers in three straight drafts. DiPeitro isn't even a superstar goalie!
Jeremy (NYC)

This is a long needed foundation the Islanders have needed for a long time. Your team starts with your goalie -- if your goalie is no good then you might as well pack it in. The only concern I'd have is will his body hold up for the 15 years?
Kris (Bridgewater, MA)

As an Islanders fan, the only person I feel sorry for here is Rick DiPietro. For the next 15 years, he'll now be forced to watch what we've watched for the past 15 years.
Vin (New York)

Will DiPietro still be playing in the NHL at the end of this deal?
45% No
43% Yes, for the Islanders
12% Yes, for another team

Will DiPietro win a Vezina Trophy with the Islanders?
51% No
49% Yes

Monday's Big Questions

1. Did Trent Green take a dirty hit?
2. Did top picks play enough?
3. Which team and player were most impressive?

Product of a dirty hit or part of the game?
Kansas City was the scene of Week 1's most frightening play, a shoulder-to-helmet hit from Cincinnati's Robert Geathers that snapped the neck of Chiefs quaterback Trent Green backward and slammed his head into the turf. Green lay motionless on the field for several minutes after the hit before being taken off on a stretcher.

Green has feeling in his extremeties but suffered what the team described as "pretty severe head trauma" and remembered
neither the hit that knocked him out nor being carted off the field. The Chiefs said they expected the NFL front office to review the hit for possible disciplinary action against Geathers, who hit Green as the quarterback was attempting to slide and avoid contact at the end of a scramble.

For its part, SportsNation doesn't think it was a dirty play. Nearly two-thirds of SN does not consider the hit dirty and more than half say Geathers should not face any disciplinary action.

Do you feel the hit by Robert Geathers that knocked Trent Green out of the Bengals-Chiefs game was a dirty play?
64% No
36% Yes

Should Robert Geathers be fined and/or suspended for his hit on Trent Green?
56% No
44% Yes

It did not look to me like Geathers hit Green in the head. It looked like the force sent Green's head backwards and into the ground. I thought it was a clean hit.

Jeff (Iowa)

The Trent Green hit was part of the game. These guys are going 100 miles per hour. You might fine the guy by the letter of the law but I don't think it's a cheap shot.
Shaun (Madison WI)

I'd say Tiger is the most dominant "player". Any "sport" where a guy like Phil Mickelson can be good can't demand much athleticism.
Jeff (MN)

Geathers was also pushed from behind. Knocked his balance off. I doubt he could have stopped even if he wanted to
John (Georgetown, KY)

It was a legal hit, but it was definitely cheap. You dont have to stop, if he just put his hands out to brace himself, he wouldnt have hit Green the way he did. He lowered his helmet and dove down even though he knew it was a slide.
Tim (Indy)

That was definitely a cheap shot on Trent Green. He was clearly sliding. That should have been a penalty.
Kevin (Manassas)

The NFL needs to get rid of the QB sliding rule. Or at least only police it when the QB slides early enough to give the defenders time to adjust. Green was hit because he slid too late. When someone 260 is flying at you, it's difficult for him to stop when he's already in the air.
NSarge (Overland Park, KS)

Reggie Bush left plenty of defenders in his wake in Week 1.
Sunday also saw the long-awaited debuts of top picks like Reggie Bush and Vince Young, as well as many calls for heralded rookie Jay Cutler to supplant Jake Plummer as the starting quarterback in Denver.

SportsNation says Bush's impressive debut should be par for the course this season while a slight majority thinks coach Jeff Fisher used Young just enough in a loss to the Jets. The 'Nation is not so confident in Jake The Snake, though. Over 60 percent say Cutler should have replaced Plummer during an awful performance in St. Louis.

Were 25 touches and 141 total yards about what we can expect on a weekly basis from Reggie Bush?
57% Yes
24% No, he won't be that good every week
19% No, he'll be better

Should Vince Young have gotten more than four passing attempts in a loss to the Jets?
54% No
46% Yes

Should Jay Cutler have played for the Broncos after Jake Plummer committed four turnovers in a loss to the Rams?
63% Yes
37% No

Reggie Bush looked more than ready for prime time against the Browns. Got involved everywhere and should be able to keep it up. The best is yet to come, though.
James (N'awlins)

So how much do you think the Texans are kicking themselves right now? Bush lined up in almost every skill position yesterday. You can't tell me the Texans couldn't have found a spot for him somewhere.
Tim (Indy)

The Titans would have had a better chance if Vince Young had gotten more snaps. He sure looked good and would be better making plays on the run than the ancient Kerry Collins.
Tyler (Texas)

Nice to see VY on the field for the Titans. And after Collins' shaky performance methinks Vince will see the field a lot more before the year is over.
A fan (Atlantic City)

How much longer to we have to watch Jake Plummer submarine a good thing in Denver? He was flat-out awful. Four turnovers? Get Cutler in there ASAP.
Rich (Vergennes)

Jake the Snake took the Broncos quite far last season, but it looks like that good, relatively mistake-free year was an abberation. The Jay Cutler Era should begin sooner rather than later.
John (Matawan, NJ)

Donovan McNabb was in fine form against Houston.
So which teams proved something as a whole in Week 1? The Ravens top SportsNation's list after a thoroughly dominating 27-0 win over the Buccaneers, while the Falcons, Eagles and Bears also get some love.

As for the MVP of the day, Donovan McNabb is SN's runaway winner after shredding the Texans for three scoring passes and better than 300 yards.

Which team was most impressive in Week 1?
51% Ravens
13% Falcons
10% Eagles
10% Bears
8% Steelers
6% Bengals
3% Cardinals

Who was the Week 1 MVP?
58% Donovan McNabb, Eagles (24-35, 314 yds, 3 TD)
11% Kurt Warner, Cardinals (23-37, 301 yds, 3 TD)
10% Reggie Bush, Saints (25 touches, 141 total yds)
8% Chad Pennington, Jets (24-33, 319 yds, 2 TD)
5% Donte' Stallworth, Eagles (6 rec, 141 yds, 1 TD)
4% Warrick Dunn, Buccaneers (29 car, 132 yds)
2% Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (9 rec., 133 yds.)
2% Steven Jackson, Rams (22 car., 121 yds.)
2% Laveranues Coles, Jets (8 rec, 153 yds)

Ravens look like a Super Bowl team. A real QB and a really scary D.
Jon (Malvern)

Anyone want on the Ravens bandwagon? That defense is crazy good again, McNair will have a huge impact getting back with Mason and they have two good RBs, Todd Heap and much more. Good luck, AFC!
Ryan (Madison,wi)

So, do you think Steve McNair can run for mayor of Baltimore at this point?
Clinton (Indianapolis)

How about the Falcons dominating the Super Bowl favorites from Carolina? No Steve Smith, but still impressive.
Johnny (ATL)

McNabb is back, T.O. is gone and the Eagles are again a force to be reckoned with. NFC East is theirs for the taking.
Steve (Pennsylvania)

Bears defens looked dominating as usual. If Grossman can continue to be anywhere near as good as he was in the opener this is a very dangerous team.
Walter (New York)

Sure looks like Donovan McNabb has recovered from all of last year's trials and tribulations. Biggest statement performance in Week 1, hands down.
David (Detroit)

Warner and the Cardinals look like they might actually make some noise in the NFC West. They could contend in a weak division.
Geoff (Seattle)

How about Reggie Bush singlehandedly rejuvenating an entire team. Nice work, Reg.
Eric (Michigan)

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