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Jets' Sanchez among young QBs playing well; old guys keep up, too

Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime.

NEW YORK -- "What's up, Franchise?''

That's how Jets coach Rex Ryan greeted Mark Sanchez at the Jets' training complex in New Jersey the other day. It's not a rare thing. "That'd be taboo for a lot of coaches to say to a player, obviously,'' Sanchez said late Sunday afternoon, soaking in the biggest win of his, oh, eight-day pro playing career. "It's the elephant in the room, but coach Ryan just goes ahead and talks about the elephant. I like that.''

"I honestly don't think this kid knows he's the quarterback of a New York football team,'' said teammate Kerry Rhodes. "He's so cool.''

Rhodes is not alone. What struck me about Sunday's games -- about the first two weeks, in fact -- is how lucky the NFL is to have so many neophyte quarterbacks playing so well so early in their careers. Twenty of the 30 quarterbacks who played Sunday entered the league in the past six years. I'm not sure if that's any sort of record, but I do think it's surprising that two-thirds of the quarterbacks we saw Sunday are in their 20s.

The quarterbacks in the last two drafts have been exceedingly precocious. Sanchez, drafted fifth overall last April, was 14 of 22 for 163 yards and a touchdown in the 16-9 win over New England. What made his performance more surprising was his poise. Watching him in the NBC studios, Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy kept remarking, as Rhodes did, on Sanchez's presence and how he looked nothing like a kid playing his second game. Though he didn't fare as well as Sanchez, Detroit's Matthew Stafford, 21, showed flashes of why the Lions made him the first pick in the draft in leading Detroit to a 10-0 lead before falling 27-13. And the twin 24-year-olds taken in the first round last season -- Matt Ryan of Atlanta and Baltimore's Joe Flacco -- combined to complete 72 percent of their throws in two wins on Sunday.

I count six passers 25 or younger -- Ryan, Flacco, Sanchez, Stafford, Trent Edwards of Buffalo and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers -- as players with exceedingly bright futures. Ten years ago, the only sure thing under 25 was Peyton Manning ... and the draft class of 1999 (Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown, Shaun King) was on track to be awful, even with McNabb and Culpepper in it.

I can think of a few reasons. Colleges are a better incubator for pro quarterbacks today, in part because they're playing more pro-style spread schemes (and the NFL is copying some college spread stuff too); the NFL is using more shotgun snaps too, and that allows young passers to see the field more clearly on passing downs. There's also been a lot of cross-pollination between college and pro football recently.

Bill Belichick visits Urban Meyer at Florida every year to see what's new in his offensive laboratory. Lane Kiffin went from USC to the Raiders to Tennessee; Norm Chow from USC to the Tennessee Titans back to UCLA. The Wildcat formation, born at Arkansas to a smart offensive coach, David Lee, migrated to the NFL when Lee joined the Miami Dolphins staff in 2008. Now most teams use some form of the option play.

Plus, several of the young players seem so much more able to handle the rigors of the job at a young age. Last year, I'll never forget the scene at Baltimore training camp when Flacco, a rookie, went to the line to call signals and watched and listened for four or five seconds while several defensive players on the Ravens, most notably Ray Lewis, pointed and shouted out signals and defensive code words. Flacco waited, as if to say, "Are you finally finished?'' and then called his own play, completing a short pass. Matt Ryan studied how Peyton Manning and Tom Brady did their postgame press conferences; that's how prepared he was when he walked into the Falcons' locker room for the first time.

"Being at SC, in such a big program with such a good offensive attack, prepared me for this job well,'' Sanchez told me. "And just like SC prepared me for the football side of things, being in LA prepared me for the media side of it too. Here, on the field and off the field, everything is faster, but I feel like I'm ready for it. Like, Wednesday's my media day. I do a press conference, and the media guys here give me a list of everything I have to do, and I never feel overwhelmed.''

I said on NBC last night that Sanchez got a good piece of advice from Derek Jeter. "Don't read the headlines,'' Jeter told them when they met at Yankee Stadium this summer. Tiger Woods told him basically the same thing, and Sanchez hasn't. He didn't even know what all the hubbub over this game with the Patriots was until Rhodes apologized to him on Thursday for ratcheting up the pressure by saying the Jets were going to try to "embarrass'' the Patriots, not just beat them.

Aloud, I wondered to Sanchez whether his coach at USC, Pete Carroll, would still think Sanchez needed another year of college football after watching his first two weeks in the NFL. Sanchez has beaten two playoff contenders decisively -- Houston 24-7 and the Patriots by a touchdown. "That was his opinion, but it wasn't mine,'' said Sanchez. "We're fine. I feel like I've been able to adjust to everything -- the speed of the game, the demands on your time. The biggest thing everyone's told me, and they're right, is just, hey, don't try to do too much.''

Sanchez started slowly against New England, but, excluding a just-get-into-the-halftime-unscathed 17-second drive at the end of the first half, led scoring drives on four straight possessions -- starting in the second quarter. On the first play of the second half, from the Jet 44, he sent Jerricho Cotchery deep up the right side for a 45-yard gain; two plays later, he placed a perfect throw into the hands of tight end Dustin Keller for the game's only touchdown -- and what turned out to be the winning points.

All along, we figured Ryan would find a way to hold the opposition in the teens. That's his forte. He's actually doing better. New York has allowed just nine offensive points in eight quarters. The worry all along was how quickly Sanchez would come along. And he'll have his rocky moments. All young quarterbacks do, like the first play of the game, when a strip-sack resulted in a loss of 17 yards and put Sanchez back at his three-yard line. But time and again Sunday, he'd drop back, step nimbly out of any rush the Patriots threw at him (which wasn't much), and look very much like he belonged.

I could go back to 2003 (Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Tony Romo), or I could factor in the great 2004 class of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub (who threw for 330, 436, 221 and 357 yards Sunday, respectively). But I'll throw out this 10-man class of Sunday's young starters -- all those who started and are 26 or younger -- and rank them by how I think their careers will pan out:

Player, Team Age, Starting seasons, Skinny

1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta, age 24, 2: Started this season 2-0. Now 13-5 as a pro.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, age 25, 2: Threw for 261 yards in loss to Cincinnati

3. Jay Cutler, Chicago, age 26, 4: Rebounded from opening nightmare to beat Pitt.

4. Joe Flacco, Baltimore, age 24, 2: Finally has Baltimore O on equal footing with D

5. Mark Sanchez, NY Jets, age 22, 1: Even Namath didn't start the '65 opener

6. Trent Edwards, Buffalo, age 25, 2: Masterful at NE in opener, and beat TB Sunday

7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit, age 21, 1: Lions know they can't rush the kid

8. Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia, age 25, 0: Could back up McNabb for 2 more years.

9. Brady Quinn, Cleveland, age 24, 1: He'll get too beat up in Cleveland to be judged fairly.

10. JaMarcus Russell, Oakland, age 24, 2: A 52% passer in 21 career outings.

A final note: Think of all the talent headed to the league in 2010: Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow of Florida and Ole Miss' Jevan Snead, and more. It's going to be a young-armed league for a while.

*******

The odd thing -- especially considering the topic of this column -- is how well the older quarterbacks are playing. The three who have found the fountain of football youth:

Brett Favre. "Every game I play at this point, I'm pretty grateful,'' he said after his record-setting 271st consecutive start, the most by a position player in NFL history. "I know how difficult it is.''

What was all the more admirable about the performance by Favre -- who turns 40 in three weeks -- is that he got sacked three times by the Lions and hit hard on four other occasions, and still had one of the most accurate days of his NFL career, completing 23 of 27 throws. He came out of the game for the last series after banging his right hand in the process of throwing a touchdown pass to Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter. "He's fine,'' said Brad Childress. "He's an ironman.''

Now, we all assume that no one will ever break this record of Favre's, but should we? Let's say Favre plays 16 games this regular-season, then retires. (For good.) That would give him 285 straight starts. Peyton Manning is now at 177. If he starts the rest of this year, he'd be at 192. So he'd need 94 starts to pass Favre; Manning would have to start every game 'til December 2015 to get to 286. By that time, like Favre, Manning would be 39. Now that Manning has started to have knee issues, my money's on Favre to keep the record, but it wouldn't stun me if Manning -- who is conscious of his place in history and loves football as much as he loves breathing -- worked tirelessly to stay healthy enough to play that long.

Kurt Warner. One incompletion was a "sight-adjust'' route mixup with Anquan Boldin, which happens to every quarterback in every game. On the other, Jacksonville was blitzing, and Warner had to throw a fade he knew probably wouldn't be caught. That's the extent of his imperfections Sunday. His 24-of-26 day in a 31-17 win at Jacksonville was the most accurate (.923) in NFL history.

"I've had days where I felt like this before,'' he said. "The NFC Championship Game last year. The Super Bowl. Those weren't as accurate, but I felt like I was going to complete every ball. This was one of those days where you see things so quickly and feel comfortable about making the decisions so quickly. I knew where to go with the ball the second I got it. I haven't had many of those days, but this was one of them.''

Warner, 38, looks like he could play another three or four years. He's his typical immobile self, and maybe even a little moreso after offseason hip surgery, but since when did that matter? "The one thing I've learned about the game is you always have to figure out what you've lost and how to play with what you have left," he said. "If I'm slower, fine. But I think my feel for the game makes up for that.''

We can see.

Drew Brees. The young kid of the Trifecta at 30, Brees is playing some sick football. He doesn't have a franchise running back, nor a franchise receiver (though Marques Colston is angular, tough and sure-handed), nor a reliable tight end -- at least not until Jeremy Shockey proves he can stay healthy for a season.

"Every time we touch the ball, we think we're scoring,'' Brees said from the team bus in Philly, after the Saints routed the Eagles 48-22. "This game says a lot. We played in a hostile environment, played well in all three phases, and played a team that always makes the playoffs. It's big for us.''

I told him he reminded me of Warner a decade ago, where every game he played I thought he'd throw for 350. Well, he's got a way to go. He's averaging 334.5 yards a game. That'll do. If the Saints' D holds up its end, New Orleans will be play deep into January.

*******

I can't let this column top pass without acknowledging the greatness of Ray Lewis.

On fourth-and-two in the final minute at San Diego, with the Ravens trying to protect a 31-26 lead, the Chargers had the ball at Baltimore's 15. With Darren Sproles in the backfield, San Diego pulled left guard Kris Dielman to the right, and had back Jacob Hester blast up behind right tackle to great push for Sproles to get the two yards. And then Lewis came roaring, unblocked, through the left guard-center gap. Amazingly, he pinned one of the quickest players in recent history, Sproles, to the ground for a four-yard loss.

"The greatest play of Ray Lewis' career,'' Rodney Harrison said on NBC's Football Night in America.

I spoke with Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron by phone after the game. "You couldn't believe it when you saw it,'' said Cameron. "First the speed of the play. You can't appreciate how fast Ray was going and how hard he hit Sproles unless you were there live. But that play was so big in the game, and to have Ray make it as powerfully as he did. Just amazing.''

I thought so too. And I bet the Ravens are pretty happy they re-signed Ray Lewis instead of lowballing him and pushing him to go elsewhere -- when he still, obviously, has some great football left.

1. Baltimore (2-0). When the new regime took over in 2008, coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told the offense it was long past time that the unit carried its weight. Stop losing to the defense in practice. Stand up for yourselves.

Any doubt now the offense is an equal in Baltimore? The most impressive thing is the offense. At 34.5 points a game, the Ravens are second in the NFL to New Orleans.

2. Minnesota (2-0). "We just were ... the best word I can think of is slow,'' Brad Childress said over the phone from Detroit, alluding to the first few Sunday drives by the Vikings. But the Vikes woke up, and Brett Favre played like a 25-year-old. Or 35-year-old. Whatever. Imagine playing on the road, against a team with a fired-up crowd, indoors, and your 39-year-old quarterback has four incompletions all day.

3. New Orleans (2-0).Sean Payton has watched his team take two foes to the woodshed now, and he was careful after trouncing the Eagles in Philly to tell his team it really hasn't accomplished anything yet. "They're gonna start feeding loads of cheese, the local media, national media,'' Payton said in the postgame locker room. Yes we are. And it's deserved. A 26-point win at Philly? You're legit, Saints.

4. New York Jets (2-0). Houston was the third-rated offense in football last year. The Patriots were fifth. And in the first two games of the season, the Jets defense allowed those two teams zero touchdowns.

5. New York Giants (2-0). That's one of the best games Eli Manning's played in the NFL.

6. Pittsburgh (1-1).Willie Parker, 12 carries for 47 yards. What happened to the Steelers running game? Second straight game it hasn't been there.

7. Atlanta (2-0). Talk about a team sneaking up on the league. The Falcons are the quietest 2-0 team in football, and maybe the quietest team period.

8. New England (1-1). The worrisome thing (well, there are so many, but the biggest one) is the inability to pressure the passer, except for the two-sack final drive a week ago against Buffalo. Bill Belichick must trust his back end more than his front, but with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco coming to Foxboro in the next two weeks, the Patriots just have to find a pass rush.

9. Indianapolis (1-0). Two night games in six days in the tropics -- at Miami tonight, at Arizona on Sunday night.

10. San Francisco (2-0).Frank Gore broke touchdown runs of 79 and 80 yards against Seattle. If Adrian Peterson doesn't win the rushing title, my money's on Gore.

11. Dallas (1-1). Cowboys have played the first two games of the season without sacking the quarterback or forcing a turnover.

12. Green Bay (1-1). Good defensive teams, which I still think the Packers can be, just cannot let Cedric Benson shred them.

13. Chicago (1-1). Cutler redeemeth.

14. Philadelphia (1-1). "It was an absolutely horrendous performance by our team,'' said Andy Reid. 'Nuff said.

15. Tennessee (0-2). Almost put Buffalo here, but Tennessee's just better, even though the Titans looked so sloppy on defense against the Texans.

"You played a great game. You're really a smart player."-- Tom Brady to his youthful New York counterpart, Mark Sanchez, after the Jets beat the Patriots.

"The vastness of the concourses, some of them 65 feet wide, can make you feel as if you are lost in an international airport terminal ... The four-sided video board over the field is so big, and hangs so low, that a Tennessee punter hit it during a preseason game. It's a nice irony that for all the space, there may not be enough room at Cowboys Stadium to play a game.''-- New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff, on the biggest sports stadium ever built in America, Cowboys Stadium, which opened Sunday night in Arlington, Texas.

"I don't have all the answers. If I did, I'd be a cab driver.''-- Monte Clark at the press conference announcing his hiring as Detroit coach in 1978.

Clark died Wednesday. He was Don Shula's line coach in Miami in the seventies, developing Hall of Fame linemen Jim Langer and Larry Little. Clark, coached the 49ers in 1976, then led the Lions to two playoff appearances as coach.

This is too good to pass up from Elliott Kalb, my NBC studio partner: Tom Brady has been on the field for 21 offensive possessions this young season. With the exception of his heroic two series in the last six minutes of the win over Buffalo, the other 19 have resulted in no touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 64.2 passer rating.

Of course that number is not as frightening as JaMarcus Russell's completion percentage in his first two games of the season -- 35.2.

"Sign in the stands to Kiffin: 'Even the Raiders don't want you.' ''--@PeteThamelNYT, obviously Pete Thamel, college football writer for the New York Times, reporting about the Florida fans before Tennessee-Florida in Gainesville Saturday, with visiting coach Lane Kiffin the object of the ire of Gator fans.

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

With apologies to Philip Rivers and his ridiculous 436-yard day ...

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Others had better numbers than Manning's (25-38, 330 yards, two touchdowns), but he put 13 points on the board with three crisp scoring drives in the final 16 minutes Sunday night at Dallas.

In the process, he distributed the ball superbly -- 13 attempts to Mario Manningham, 13 to Steve Smith -- and hit both 10 times, the first time in Giants history the team has had two receivers snare at least 10 throws each.

Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona

His 24-of-26 passing day, 92.3 percent, is the best in the 90-year history of the league. He's getting older, but he might also be getting better.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati

The one thing the Packers were convinced they could do after an offseason adjusting to the 3-4 and a preseason in which they played it well and an opener in which they snuffed out the Bears is stop the run. And so here came a totally unimpressive running game, Cincinnati's, into Lambeau. Benson rushing 29 times for 141 yards (a 4.8-yard average) was the biggest reason the Bengals pulled the upset of the day.

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee

Can't blame him for the Tennessee D collapsing. Johnson had 284 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches (16 carries for 197 yards rushing, nine catches for 87 yards). Every time I looked up Sunday he was running wild-- one a 57-yard touchdown run, a 69-yard pass play from Kerry Collins for another TD, and then a 91-yard touchdown run that should have clinched the game for Tennessee. Wrong.

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore

As I said up top, one of the great plays of Lewis' career capped the Ravens' 31-26 win at San Diego. For the day, he had 12 tackles and a forced fumble. At 34, Lewis continues to play at the high level he's played at since the day he entered the league in the first year in Ravens' history, 1996.

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets

Randy Moss: four catches, 24 yards, no impact. "I just tried to be physical with him at the line,'' said Revis. He was, and though he had help, Revis is the kind of physical corner and excellent cover guy who allows Rex Ryan to leave the best receiver on the other team in Revis' hands -- with minimal help from a safety -- and not be worried that he'll get burned.

Antwan Odom, DE, Cincinnati

Before this season, Odom had played 60 NFL games and totaled 15.5 sacks. Guess who's the 2009 sack leader? Odom, the former bit-part Titan, who had five sacks, two additional tackles for loss, and five tackles in the Bengals' stunning upset at Green Bay. That gives Odom seven for the season, and it gives the Bengals a pass-rushing end they've been lacking for years, even when Justin Smith was a moderately successful rush end before leaving in free agency for the Niners last year.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona; Antrel Rolle, CB, Arizona

With the Jaguars aiming to cut a seven-point deficit to four on a Josh Scobee field goal, Campbell found a seam in the Jags punt-team line, slithered through it, blocked the field goal, then helped form a convoy for the sixth touchdown of young Rolle's career. Rolle, catching the ball at the Cardinals' 17, weaved down the left sideline, then cut across and scored against the grain on a play I can guarantee you Jack Del Rio will replay in Jacksonville film study this week. He'll ask his team: "Why'd so many people not sprint to the ball, even after Rolle ran past you once?''

COACH OF THE WEEK

Rex Ryan, coach, New York Jets

Ryan said after the upset of the Patriots, in essence, that the Jets talk because they can back it up. Two games prove it -- the Jets haven't allowed an offensive touchdown in a two-game stretch for the first time since 1993. I love the varying defensive looks the Jets gave New England. On the final three snaps of the day for New England, Brady faced seven-, five- and six-man rushes coming at him. I think from the we-won't-kiss-Belichick's-rings comment to challenging his quarterback to be great right away to telling his team they won't back down to anyone no matter what ... Ryan has a formula that's pretty simple: Ryan is putting the chip on the shoulder of every opponent and backing up every word he's saying.

GOAT OF THE WEEK

Jeff Reed, K, Pittsburgh

It came down to a battle of the kickers in the fourth quarter at Chicago. Reed missed wide left from 38 yards with 11:42 to play, then missed again from 43 yards out -- again wide left -- with 3:23 left. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler threw a game-tying touchdown, and then Robbie Gould made a 44-yard game-winner in the last minute. CBS showed a pained Reed on the sidelines about 63 times in the last few minutes.

1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Nine touchdowns in eight quarters, leading the most potent offense in football. He is to 2009 football what Kurt Warner was to 1999 football.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. He followed an intergalactic first game with a 116-yard second one, including another Cantonesque rushing touchdown among his 92 yards on the ground.

3. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore. "How well do you know him?'' Cam Cameron asked me Sunday night. Not well, I said; I've just talked to him three or four times. "You better get to know him. He's going to be really good for a long time.''

4. Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets.Andre Johnson was all-world in Week 2 -- after getting manhandled by Revis in Week 1. Randy Moss was All-Pro in Week 1, then got silenced by Revis in Week 2.

5. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. Quietly, a very solid start for the 2-0 Birds and their young quarterback -- 68-percent passing and a 108.5 rating against two good defenses, Miami and Carolina.

Yes, I've written a book. It's a combo platter of MMQB classic (there's an oxymoron) and new stuff -- lists, opinions, forecasting the future. It'll be out in October, and preorders are always welcome. For the next three or four weeks, I'll give you a nugget from the book based on what's topical in the football, online or Twitter universe.

This week, I'm giving you my top 12 quarterbacks of all time. This comes in the wake of Don Banks writing on SI.com the other day that Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas now are tied for the all-time franchise lead in wins by a quarterback; Banks further opined that Manning and Unitas were the best two quarterbacks, in tandem, for a franchise, ever. I agreed. Well, that unleashed a flurry of e-mails and Tweets advancing the causes of other duos -- Joe Montana/Steve Young or Bart Starr/Brett Favre, mostly. So I figured this week: Let the emotional e-mails begin. In the MMQB book, I pick the Top 100 Players in NFL history. Here are my top 12 players of all time at the quarterback position.

1. Otto Graham. Easy. Ten seasons, seven championships, seven passing titles.

2. Sammy Baugh. Had the best season of any player ever in 1943. Led the NFL in passing, punting and, as one of the best safeties in football, in interceptions.

3. Joe Montana. Made everyone copy Walsh's high-tech offense, and won four titles in a decade.

4. Johnny Unitas. First great modern quarterback, and great in the clutch. He'd be higher if he won more than one title in his last 14 seasons.

5. Brett Favre. Most durable, most productive quarterback of all time. Marred by only one title.

6. Peyton Manning. Could break every record if Favre ever retires. Needs another championship or two to climb the list.

7. John Elway. Two titles, though they came late, capped the career of a Unitas-type with legs.

8. Dan Marino. Prototype dropback quarterback who, arguably, was the model for the pocket quarterback of the last 40 years.

9. Roger Staubach. Might be the best player/athlete/leader of a quarterback ever, and he edges Steve Young in my book with a second title and three more title-game appearances.

10. Tom Brady. Three Super Bowl wins by age 27, and a fourth appearance at 30.

11. Bart Starr. All he did was win -- five NFL titles, including the first two Super Bowl titles, both ending with him being MVP.

12. Terry Bradshaw. Rebounded from a horrible start to his career to lead the Steelers to four Super Bowls in six years.

By the way, number 100 on my best player ever list is a quarterback too. And he'll surprise you quite a bit. You'll have to buy the book to find that one out.

The Ravens scored 33 points in defeating the Cowboys in the final game at Texas Stadium. The Giants scored 33 points in defeating the Cowboys in the first game at Cowboys Stadium.

1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 2:

a. I've had a number of Tweets and e-mails asking about Paul Zimmerman, including this one from Tony D. Robinson of Humble, Texas: "Can you update us on Dr. Z? Is he able to enjoy football?'' I called Linda, the Flaming Redheaded wonderful aide-de-camp and wife, on Sunday morning and asked about Zim -- who suffered three strokes 10 months ago and is trying to re-learn how to speak and read. "The first Thursday night game, we watched, and then Sunday morning, he drove me nuts, setting up for all the games,'' she said. "So that's a good sign. For a while, he didn't care much about football.''

He still can't do his famous charting of the games, obviously. I can tell you Zim appreciates everyone keeping him in their thoughts.

b. Andre Johnson might have the best hands in football. Did you see the one-handed touchdown catch from Matt Schaub? How do you learn how to do that?

c. Julian Edelman: Wes Welker Jr.

d. Belichick-Ryan handshake: Mangini-esque.

e. Lions: 19 in a row, 1-25 in the last 26.

f. Shawne Merriman is tied for 218th in the NFL in tackles after two games with six. And zero sacks. Dude, there's going to be an APB out on you soon. I mean, Antwan Odom is leading you in sacks right now -- by seven.

g. Good for Kathy Holmgren: She knew her husband would be pining away for football during week one of the season, so she and Mike Holmgren took a vacation to Ireland that coincided with the entire first weekend.

h. Changing of the Guard in Pittsburgh Dept.? Santonio Holmes was the intended receiver on 25 of Ben Roethlisberger's throws early this season. Hines Ward has been the target on 17.

i. Exhale, Chicago. Jay Cutler was pretty good Sunday.

j. Not saying I can pick games or teams or anything, as my Detroit-over-Minnesota pick, and my 7-9 Saints prediction shows, but I did pick the Browns to go 2-14. And I'm not feeling too wrong about that right now.

k. Good story by buddy Mike Silver, who reported Browns coach Eric Mangini fined a player $1,701 for not paying for a bottle of water he took from a hotel minibar during the preseason . As Plain Dealer columnist Bud Shaw wrote, it's like killing a fly with a sledgehammer.

2. I think I haven't seen a win that seemed so much like a loss as Washington's 9-7 snoozer over the Rams.

3. I think Brad Childress must be mad at me. He told me Sunday that my love for Jim Schwartz and Bill Belichick was "transparent.'' Gee, I thought I was doing a good job hiding it too. Next week, I'm going to keep all the coaches and all the teams happy. I'm going to pick every game exactly according to the spread. (Uh, not.)

4. I think the loss of Jamal Williams for the season is more hurtful to San Diego than the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson. And the Chargers went out and proved it Sunday. They ran up 474 yards of total offense on the Ravens ... and allowed Baltimore to rush for 130 carries on 32 attempts.

5. I think the one thing all you Eagle/Vick followers need to understand about the quarterback situation in Philly is this: Vick was never, ever signed to be the regular quarterback, isn't ready to be the regular quarterback, and wouldn't be prepared to digest an entire gameplan until at least November. I can guarantee you that Andy Reid, if he needs a quarterback to sub for McNabb this week and/or next, is dead-set on Kevin Kolb. As Reid said to me Sunday night: "Kevin Kolb is the least of my worries. He threw for, what, 380 yards?'' Nope; 391.

6. I think the weirdness of the Shawn Andrews situation in Philadelphia is probably ultimately going to lead to him resuming his career elsewhere. After touting him as their right tackle of the future all offseason, the Eagles put Andrews on injured-reserve with a back injury last week, ending his season. There was indignity added to injury -- Reid said Andrews would not rehab his back at the Philadelphia training facility. Clearly there are some in the organization who don't think Andrews is hurt as badly as he says, and removing him from the building removes a distraction from the team.

It's interesting how teams treat injured players. Bill Parcells used to steer injured players away from hanging out with teammates. It was almost like he felt the injury bug was contagious, and he didn't want the healthy players catching anything.

It even got to the point last week that one of Andrews' friends on the team, Brian Westbrook, had to defend him by saying "he wouldn't fake something like this -- but at the same time, as his friend I'm going to support him. It's been kind of tough, because everyone thinks he's faking ...'' Reid always has spoken of Andrews as a player who could be all-pro at tackle and guard. Now it might have be for another coach.

7. I think this is what I liked about Week 2:

a. Mike Wright did something on the first snap of the first series for Mark Sanchez at the Meadowlands that wasn't done in four quarters last week in Houston -- a strip-sack. First sack of Sanchez's career.

b. Drew Brees: nine touchdowns in the first 92 minutes of the season.

c. Madieu Williams, the underrated Minnesota safety, played impact football early against Detroit.

d. Larry Foote played impact football all day for Detroit inside. What a terrific run player.

e. Shane Lechler is on his way to another masterful season. Seven punts, 56.9-yard average at Kansas City. Long of 70. What a weapon.

f. If I lived in western New York, I'd be really excited about Trent Edwards. The presence, the poise, the accuracy and the playmaking in the first two games is one of the good stories of the early season.

g. Falcons ought to play with the old unis, the ones they wore Sunday against Carolina. Love the black and red.

h. Come to think of it, the Patriots' old uniforms are far, far better than the new ones. Love the red and whites from Monday night.

i. Nate Clements was all over Seattle wideouts Sunday.

j. Loved how the Cincinnati offensive line made a shell around Carson Palmer.

k. Very good job by Kyle Shanahan, the Houston offensive coordinator, in putting together a gameplan that played to the strengths of the Texans (Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson) when the Titans were playing the run well Sunday in Tennessee.

l. Elvis Dumervil may be the most unorthodox-looking pass-rusher in the league at 5-foot-11, but ask the Browns how hard he is to block. He had a tour-de-force, seven-tackle, four-sack game in the Denver rout of the Browns.

8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 2:

a. Leon Washington, come on. You're too good a player to let the ball be stripped when you and everyone else in the stadium knows the Patriots are going to be clawing at you trying to get the ball out.

b. Mark Sanchez did not "have too much juice'' on his throw in the end zone to Chansi Stuckey in the third quarter, as Dan Dierdorf said on TV. Stuckey slipped. Fell. Tripped. Come on.

c. When I saw Jason Campbell being interviewed on TV after Washington's win over St. Louis, I assumed it was because he did something to help them win. Well, at least he didn't turn it over.

d. If Matt Hasselbeck's rib injury makes him miss a couple of weeks, it could be Groundhog Day in Seattle, with Chicago coming to town this week. The Seahawks learned last year that they go nowhere without Hasselbeck.

e. Sean McDermott's got his hands full getting the Eagles secondary out of the dumps. What an awful game.

f. If I'm Todd Haley, I don't know where to start.

g. If I'm Tom Cable, I know -- the quarterback.

h. Poor star-crossed Robert Gallery. Now a broken leg. Too bad for a hard-trying guy.

i. There's something missing from the Cowboys. Don't know what it is. Something like discipline. How do the little mistakes keep happening from Tony Romo? How does Felix Jones, untouched, fumble like that? Where is DeMarcus Ware?

9. I think Marshawn Lynch must be getting very nervous about his job. I would be. Fred Jackson's been one of the Bills' five most important players in the first two weeks of the season. After the Patriots couldn't tackle him last week, Jackson had the best rushing day of his life (28 carries, 163 yards). Every team needs two good backs, and Buffalo has two.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. My best friend thinks Tony Dungy sounds like Cleveland in Family Guy. Your thoughts?

b. Doesn't USC lose every year in some wild Pac-10 road game where the camera shakes throughout the fourth quarter because the stands are all quaking?

c. There is nothing like a beautiful Indian Summer Saturday in New York City, especially around Soho. The crowds are incredible. What recession?

d. My goal in life is to be a clue in the New York Times crossword puzzle. I've never told anyone that, but it's true.

e. Coffeenerdness: Try as I might to make a go of China Green Tips tea (that was Marino's tea of choice at Starbucks when we worked at HBO, and I always admired how good he was being to steer clear of the coffee), I can't see myself being a daily drinker. Starbucks Italian Roast is making a comeback in our kitchen in Boston.

f. Weird pennant race. Like, where is one?

g. All of a sudden, I'd be nervous about the playoffs if I loved the Yankees. After Sabathia, who's pitching?

h. Never, ever did I think I'd be saying this in midsummer, but I could see an Angels-Cards World Series. MVP: Scott Kazmir.

i. Very good opening night for The Office, but I've been told by too many of you that I can't spoil the ending. Suffice it to say Stanley gets mad, and I don't blame him, and it is very funny.

Indianapolis 27, Miami 16. Uh-oh. The season's about to get very long for the Dolphins if they don't win tonight. Next six weeks: at San Diego, Buffalo, Jets, New Orleans, at Jets, at New England. My money's on Peyton Manning tonight. I think without Anthony Gonzalez he goes back to old standby Dallas Clark in the slot while starting to work in rookie Austin Collie, and Manning moves the chains enough to play keepaway from Chad Pennington.

Order a copy of Peter King's new book, "Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL"

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