They are afterthoughts, second options, bailouts. Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte is 37, a veteran of 15 NFL seasons and six clubs, one of them twice. Kerry Collins of the Titans is 35, and his resume includes five teams and 14 seasons. They started the year as comfortable old back-ups, but all of a sudden, when things started crumbling around them, they were rushed into action. Oh yes, they are both unbeaten, but that will end Sunday when they face each other.
Collins took over after Vince Young suffered a sprained knee and an emotional meltdown in the opener -- take your pick which came fist -- and he led Tennessee to a pair of workmanlike victories. At one time he was the brash young quarterback who guided Carolina into the Championship game, but that was 12 years ago. Now he bears the unspectacular heading of "competent."
Fourteen years ago, the Washington fans yelled for Frerotte, a seventh-round draft choice but a long-range gunner with a real mean streak, to replace the No.1 draft choice, Heath Shuler. Gus eventually took over and had some good years, always keyed to the big strike downfield, then he settled into the comfort of a back-up, until Brad Childress finally decided that Tarvaris Jackson still wasn't ready to lead the Vikings to the big bonanza that that had been promised this season. Frerotte started against Carolina last week and put up a 10-point win.
Both the Titans and Vikes believe in the old-fashioned values -- sturdy defense, sound running game. Neither has a wideout corps that will thrill you, but they have plenty of studs on defense, and a couple of dazzling runners, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, breathtakingly quick rookie Chris Johnson in Tennessee. Bet me that combined rushing yards outnumber passing yards Sunday.
Oh yes, I like the home team Titans in a low scorer. But I don't love them.
There isn't much that excites me this weekend. Sorry. The old formula comes up with only one suggestion -- Cardinals getting a meager two points against the Jets in New York. First of all, no one in his right mind would like Arizona getting only a deuce in Brett Favre country. But I think you have to look at the contrasts in quarterbacks here.
Kurt Warner is 37 to Favre's 38, going on 39. He spent plenty of years heating beans on the radiator -- cut by the Packers, four years on teams with comic book names, Iowa Barnstormers, Amsterdam Admirals -- giddy rise to the heights in St. Louis, then a hand injury that people said would finish his career, cut by the Rams, cut by the Giants, back up to Matt Leinart and finally the unquestioned starter on a decent young team. Whew, what a career!
He is now a modest, if slightly creaky, take-what-they-give-you QB with a full appreciation of life in the present tense.
Favre fell victim to a smashed ego in Green Bay, but had it revived by near hysteria in New York. Now at 1-2 people are beginning to scratch their heads. The Jets ran the ball against New England and lost. Boooo went the fans and the writers and anyone with lungs. Slight adjustment called for against the Chargers in the Monday night extravaganza. Hmmm, the big aerial show didn't exactly cut it, either. Two picks, one returned for six.
So now his team faces its traditional rival, Arizona .... hey, just kidding ... stop looking at me like that ... it faces Arizona, and you wonder what the modus operandi will be. I say the Jets throttle it down and run the ball (One never says just "run." It has to be followed by "the ball"). I say they go back to the ground game as a vehicle to set up the pass, which I'm sure you've heard before. I say the young defenders of Clancy Pendergast (played by Jeremy Irons in the movie) will be expecting just that and will be well prepared.
Youth, fire, energy, that's what I like about Arizona, plus a line that should be at least 5 in New York but has dropped to 2. Cardinals are the upset pick.
I like the Bengals giving the points, over Cleveland, on a hunch. Home team. Energy they showed last week, plus a habit of cutting loose with big games when least expected. Too much turmoil surrounds the Browns and their QB situation right now.
And that's a wrap, folks. As I said, it's not a weekend that quickens the pulses.