Green Bay at St. Louis. The Packers haven't faced St. Louis in
the Rams' three Greatest Show on Earth years. The first thing
they'll find out is that St. Louis's speed is almost impossible
to gauge on film. But as buttoned-up as Green Bay coach Mike
Sherman was with the offense in the first half against the 49ers
on Sunday, that's how bold his defensive coordinator, Ed
Donatell, was. That may be the way to attack the Rams. Kurt
Warner is deadly on his hot reads, but the Eagles' all-out pass
rush gave him trouble in the opener. I'm guessing the Packers
will go after him with the same bold approach they used against
the Niners' Jeff Garcia. On offense, if Sherman lets Brett Favre
open it up right away, we'll have the shootout everyone's hoping
for. If not, one team will shoot and the other will be out. The
pick: Rams, on the shock value of their speed.
Philadelphia at Chicago. The Bears will come out running, and
their passing game will be of the dink variety. If the Eagles get
a lead, Chicago might try to get something going downfield, but
that'll be playing into Philly's hands because the Bears'
receivers are overmatched against that secondary. How will the
Eagles get a lead? Look for Donovan McNabb to throw off his
scrambles, trying to create chaos downfield, as he did against
Tampa Bay. I don't see it. Chicago's defense is too disciplined.
The Eagles got a bit of a running game going against the Bucs,
but that was only after they'd built a lead. I don't think it'll
happen this time. The Bears will take it in the low scorer we all
Oakland at New England. Patriots coach Bill Belichick will have
had two weeks to prepare for a Raiders attack that laid 502 yards
on the Jets. I can't begin to imagine what kind of devilry he'll
have cooked up for Rich Gannon, but I'd guess that he'll focus on
Jerry Rice's crossing patterns, have his defensive backs sit on
Tim Brown's short routes and drop plenty of linebackers into the
underneath zones. I don't think he feels the Raiders can beat him
running. Neither do I. The Patriots win it.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh. Kordell Stewart had the game of his
life when these rivals last met, on Dec. 16, but this is a
different Ravens team. The defense has come together, and so has
the running game. This might be a different Steelers team too.
Stewart threw a total of six interceptions in the last two
games. (Granted, Pittsburgh had already clinched.) Jerome Bettis
will be back after missing five games. Will rust be showing, or
will the week's rest be what the Steelers needed to get
energized for a bruising game? I'm betting on the latter.
They'll crowd the line and defy Elvis Grbac to beat them. But if
the Ravens force turnovers, look out. The Steelers are still the
January 21, 2002