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Friday, September 18, 2009
10 Spot: It's all about the quarterbacks

By Adam Schefter
ESPN.com

On Sunday in Bristol, Conn., a different stairway to heaven was uncovered.

Moments after "Sunday NFL Countdown" wrapped last week, I followed my co-workers into a basement bunker where, on the wall, were perched -- holy moly -- 11 giant TV screens, an NFL game on each one.

They had been viewing games there for a couple years. But this was me losing my football virginity.

Almost a week later, it still is difficult to process what I saw. But now that a new week, with a new slate of games is upon us, this is what I want to see.

I want to see Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith wearing shoes with the inscription "Grow up, Dunta."

I want to see Bill Belichick wearing his Super Bowl rings so that if the Patriots win Sunday, Rex Ryan will have something to kiss.

I want to see Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco do the Lambeau Leap.

But more than anything, I want to see quarterbacks. As much as Week 2 is about Giants-Cowboys, Jets-Patriots, Seahawks-49ers, Ravens-Chargers, Bears-Steelers and Saints-Eagles, it's about quarterbacks and all the storylines surrounding them.

Without further adieu, here is this week's quarterback-driven 10 Spot:

Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford is responsible for only one of the losses, but it's up to him, against the Vikings, to help end the Lions' 18-game slide.
1. Old versus new: If Detroit's Matthew Stafford could start only 269 more straight games, he then will have matched Brett Favre's record for most consecutive starts by a quarterback. Long way to go. But for now, this is a matchup of this year's No. 1 overall pick against a quarterback who has been the league's No. 1 talking point. It is up to Stafford to help end the Lions' 18-game losing streak that three other quarterbacks -- Jon Kitna (0-5), Dan Orlovsky (0-7) and Daunte Culpepper (0-5) -- have contributed to.

2. A Jay-V performance: Despite his vast talents, Jay Cutler sometimes is prone to costly mistakes. It happens when he throws off the wrong foot, positions his body incorrectly and gets away from his mechanics. He threw four picks against the Packers, but it just as easily could have been seven. Cutler became the 11th Bears quarterback since 1970 to throw four picks in a game, a list that includes Henry Burris, Vince Evans, Gary Huff, Mike Phipps and Rex Grossman. Chicago pounced on Cutler's performance, and his behavior -- both of which will have to be considerably better against the league's toughest defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cutler already was under the microscope. If possible, the glare now is even greater.

3. The breakups: Without Jessica Simpson or Terrell Owens, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had one of his best games in a long time: 353 yards passing, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a W in Week 1 against Tampa. Now he will get a chance at the New York Giants. If the Cowboys can't beat the Giants at home, it's going to be tougher to beat them in New Jersey. And if the Boys can't beat the G-men at home or in New Jersey, they probably can't win the division. And if they can't win the division, they will struggle to make the playoffs. And if they struggle to make the playoffs, Romo inevitably will be criticized as he was when Simpson was still in his life and Owens was still his receiver. Big game on deck for Romo.

4. A bow for Tebow: Wonder if Jaguars quarterback David Garrard heard team owner Wayne Weaver's remarks to the Associated Press about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow this week. More telling, wonder if those comments concerned, or even burned, Garrard. "Star power is incredible, and Tebow is an iconic figure," Weaver said. "That's very compelling. He clearly is an outstanding football player and would be an asset to any football organization." For now, Garrard is the Jaguars' asset, and he must help Jacksonville avert a 0-2 start that would be difficult to rebound from. But a loss would put Jacksonville on the path to Tebow.

Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez will have to contend with a Bill Belichick defense that has held rookie QBs to a 55.9 passer rating.

5. Rookie hazing: Few coaches harass rookie quarterbacks -- or really, any quarterback -- better than New England's Bill Belichick. Remember what he used to do to a younger Peyton Manning? Manning sure does. Well, now Belichick gets his first crack at Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Belichick gets it with an undermanned defense, but he has a 5-1 record against rookie quarterbacks while holding them to a paltry 55.9 quarterback rating. Sanchez can take some solace. There was one rookie quarterback to beat Belichick: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.

6. Cool Brees: Drew Brees is playing at the level Peyton Manning did in 2004 and Tom Brady did in 2007. It's still hard to imagine that, after a game in which he threw six touchdown passes and looked as if he were toying with the Lions, Brees' quarterback rating was only 137 -- less than the perfect 158.3. At least there's room for improvement (sheesh). But now Brees will have to do it on the road, in Philadelphia, against one of the league's top defensive coordinators, Sean McDermott. Great matchup.

7. Backup back in: At some point, Kevin Kolb is going to have to justify the Eagles' decision to draft him in the second round. So far, not so much. He has a career passer rating of 25, throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns. But then, this is part of the reason the Eagles signed Jeff Garcia, in the event that Kolb continues to struggle. Even if Donovan McNabb decides to take a painkilling injection Sunday, it still will be difficult for him to play. So then it would be up to Kolb. And Kolb is going to have to be better to keep up with Brees.

8. Mildcats: An offense known for the Wildcat last season has been much more mild during the summer and the first week of the season. Miami's offense just looks off. Its offensive line is struggling. And quarterback Chad Pennington, normally trustworthy with the football, lost a fumble and threw an interception last week. Even under duress, Pennington needs to take better care of the football -- and he needs to be more dynamic against the high-powered Colts.

Jake Delhomme
After turning over the ball 11 times in his past two games, Jake Delhomme has no margin of error.

9. Delhomme: No quarterback in football is under more pressure than Carolina's Jake Delhomme, one of the nicest guys in the game. In his past two games, Delhomme has been a turnover machine, losing the ball 11 times, to the point where it's hard not to feel bad for him. Last week the Panthers went out and signed former Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley. Panthers backup Matt Moore already has seen some action. Were it not for the support that Delhomme has from some influential members of the Panthers organization, he might be on the bench already. He can continue to avoid it. But only if he plays considerably better against the Falcons than he has.

10. The man chasing these men: For all the talk in this week's 10 Spot about quarterbacks, there's one player who has done a first-rate job of hunting them down. Last season, Falcons defensive end John Abraham had 16.5 sacks -- and didn't go to the Pro Bowl. Last week he had two more sacks, including one in which he bull-rushed Miami offensive tackle Jake Long and tossed him aside as if he were a nuisance. This week Abraham gets a Panthers line that he has feasted on in recent seasons. Now, like seemingly most everyone else, Abraham is coming after Delhomme.

The Schef's Specialties

Game of the Week: Giants at Cowboys. If Jerry Jones believes the Cowboys can set the NFL single-game attendance record, with well over 100,000 fans, who doubts him?

Player of the Week: Falcons running back Michael Turner. Bottled up last week, Turner gets the chance to rebound this week.

Upset of the Week: Raiders over Chiefs. A part of me really wants to pick the Lions over the Vikings. Gut feeling that game will be close. But methinks the Raiders will be able to run the ball all they want -- and get a victory.

Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.