Friday, October 17, 2003
Culpepper returns, Smith heads to Buffalo in Week 7 of NFL
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - Daunte Culpepper returns for
the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings and Bruce Smith heads back to
Buffalo in Week 7 of the NFL.
The Vikings (5-0) host the Denver Broncos (5-1) and the
Washington Redskins (3-3) visit the Buffalo Bills (3-3) in
marquee interconference matchups Sunday.
Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans (4-2) hope to hand the
Carolina Panthers (5-0) their first loss of the season in
another top interconference meeting.
The Kansas City Chiefs (6-0), the lone remaining unbeaten team
left in the AFC, visit the aging Oakland Raiders (2-4) on Monday
Culpepper has not played since fracturing three small bones in
his lower back while diving for a touchdown in a September 21
win at Detroit.
Gus Frerotte replaced Culpepper in the win at Detroit, then led
the Vikings to victories over San Francisco and Atlanta before
the bye week.
Frerotte probably would love a chance to play against Denver
since he played for the Broncos in 2000 and 2001. He has
completed 38-of-64 passes for 690 yards and seven touchdowns in
three games with Minnesota.
But after the bye gave Culpepper an extra week of rest, coach
Mike Tice declared him ready to play.
In Minnesota's first two wins of the season, Culpepper completed
35-of-56 passes for 409 yards and five touchdowns with no
interceptions. He was 7-of-13 for 105 yards and rushed for two
touchdowns in the win over Detroit before the injury.
At 6-4, 260 pounds, Culpepper has the ability to beat teams with
his arm and legs. Denver's Jake Plummer can do the same but has
a foot injury and will be sidelined for the next few weeks.
Plummer missed last week's 17-14 win over Pittsburgh due to
soreness in his right shoulder. Veteran Steve Beuerlein will
make his second straight start after throwing two touchdown
passes and a pair of interceptions against Pittsburgh.
The Vikings have won eight straight games, dating to last
season. They last got off to a 7-0 start in 2000.
Smith was an 11-time Pro Bowl defensive end in 15 seasons with
the Bills from 1985-99. He returns to Buffalo for the first
time since signing with Washington as a free agent in February
Ironically, Smith is just two sacks shy of breaking Reggie
White's all-time record as he enters his old stomping grounds.
"I'm not even going to elaborate on that," Smith said of
possibly setting the sacks record in Buffalo. "It will be a
special week. My family will be up there. I'll see a lot of
friends. But I have a job to do when I get there."
The Panthers knocked Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts
from the ranks of the unbeaten last week. This time, McNair
will try to bump the Panthers.
McNair needed only 18 completions to pass for a career-high 421
yards in a 38-17 rout of Houston last week. He threw for 391
yards in a 38-30 loss at New England on October 5.
McNair, who has passed for 1,632 yards and 11 touchdowns with
two interceptions, has relied less on scrambling for big gains
and more on his quartet of receivers - Derrick Mason, Drew
Bennett, Justin McCareins and rookie Tyrone Calico.
The Raiders have gone from Super Bowl to bust while the Chiefs
are off to the best start in the 43-year history of the
Last season, the Chiefs led the league with 467 points, followed
by the Raiders with 450. Kansas City is averaging more than 32
points per game this season, but the Raiders have crashed to an
average of just more than 19 per game.
When they last met in the 2002 season finale, the New England
Patriots (4-2) knocked the Miami Dolphins (4-1) out of the
playoffs. Now the Pats will try to knock them out of first
place in the AFC East.
The Patriots rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth
quarter and posted a 27-24 victory over Miami on a 35-yard field
goal by Adam Vinatieri 2:03 into overtime. Vinatieri kicked
the game-tying 43-yard field goal with 69 seconds left in the
The loss cost the Dolphins the AFC East title. Miami, New
England and the New York Jets each finished 9-7, but the Jets
won the three-way tiebreaker for the division. Both the
Dolphins and Patriots missed the playoffs.
The Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) visit the New York Giants (2-3)
in a battle of NFC East rivals.
Both teams were expected to contend for the division title, but
instead are tied for third, behind the first-place Dallas
Cowboys (4-1) and Washington.
McNabb repeatedly overthrew his receivers and finished 11-of-26
for 126 yards in the Eagles' 23-21 loss at Dallas last week.
"My hand injury affects my grip, but I'll work on it," McNabb
said about his inaccuracy problem this season. "You need both
hands to hold the ball and my hand injury affects the security
of holding it."
Coach Bill Parcells has the Cowboys riding a four-game winning
streak heading into a meeting with the Detroit Lions (1-4), who
have dropped four straight.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) started their Super Bowl run with
a 31-6 rout of the San Francisco 49ers (2-4) in the divisional
playoff last January. This time, the teams will duel out west.
Brett Favre would rather forget his last trip to St. Louis. The
three-time Most Valuable Player was intercepted six times, three
of which were returned for touchdowns, as the St. Louis Rams
rolled to a 45-17 rout of the Green Bay Packers in the
divisional playoffs in January 2002.
The game was billed as a showdown between Favre and Kurt Warner,
the two-time MVP of the Rams. Warner threw for 216 yards and
two touchdowns with an interception.
Favre would like to make amends for that performance but will
not be dueling with Warner when the Packers (3-3) visit the Rams
(3-2). Marc Bulger is running the show in St. Louis and has a
9-2 record as a starter since last season, including an 8-0 mark
Bulger threw for 352 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in
St. Louis' 36-0 rout of Atlanta last Monday.
The Seattle Seahawks (4-1), first in the NFC West ahead of the
Rams, will host the Chicago Bears (1-4).
Marty Schottenheimer has yet to win a game this season. He
hopes his first comes at his former home.
Schottenheimer and the San Diego Chargers (0-5), the lone
remaining winless team in the NFL, visit the Cleveland Browns
Schottenheimer is familiar with Cleveland's "Dawg Pound," having
coached the Browns for 4 1/2 seasons from 1984-88. He produced
four playoff berths, three division titles and two trips to the
AFC championship game along with a 44-27 record.
The 60-year-old Schottenheimer has just one losing season in 16
years as an NFL coach. But he's mired in a nine-game losing
streak with the Chargers, dating to last season.
Marvin Lewis meets the team he helped win a Super Bowl on Sunday
when the Cincinnati Bengals (1-4) entertain the first-place
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) in an AFC North matchup.
It's the first year as an NFL head coach for Lewis, the
defensive coordinator for the Ravens when they established a
record for fewest points allowed during a 16-game season in 2000
and went on to defeat the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
In other games, the New Orleans Saints (2-4) visit the Atlanta
Falcons (1-5) and the Houston Texans (2-3) meet the Jets (1-4).
The Colts (5-1), Steelers (2-4), Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) and
Arizona Cardinals (1-5) are idle.