It'll be Rocky Marciano against Muhammad Ali this weekend, a bear against a swarm of bees. Jacksonville-Indianapolis, of course, slugger against boxer, denim against velvet. (And I have now used up my entire box of analogies.)
So tell me, honestly, which game did you like better on Sunday? Indy--Green Bay, in which the outcome was determined by the team that broke service first and stopped a drive? Or Jacksonville-Tennessee, a defensive slugfest in which every yard was dearly won?
The Jaguars' defense so terrified the Titans that when Tennessee had a chance to mount a drive with just under two minutes left in the first half, it chose to run out the clock so as not to screw up its 6--0 lead. Six points? In the Colts-Packers game that was a mere hors d'oeuvre.
So what's with the Jaguars, who entered the Titans game with the lowest-ranked offense in the league? What are they doing defensively, anyway? Well, they have the best pair of tackles in the league in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, and they go from there. The Jags get a big push up front, relentless pressure that collapses the pocket, and behind it they have players who are smart, players who take excellent cutoff angles and miss few tackles.
October 3, 2004
Does all this sound familiar? Baltimore used the same formula to win the Super Bowl in January 2001. The Ravens endured a five-game stretch during which their offense failed to score a touchdown, but their defense made up for it. The same thing happened in the title game two seasons ago, when the Bucs took down the Raiders' high-flying offense with a swarming, suffocating front four. Who cared what the Tampa Bay offense looked like?
So am I building a case for the undefeated Jaguars, who until coach Jack Del Rio came on board last year had never beaten the Colts in five meetings? Kind of. If the game were on artificial turf, I'd say Indy would have too much speed. But on Jacksonville's grass field, yeah, why not? Let's start with a nice little upset. The Jaguars will squeeze one out.
I'm looking really hard for an upset in the Monday-nighter, too. At 0--3 the Chiefs are desperate. They're a wounded animal that can move the ball. They need this one a lot worse than the Ravens do. But their defense ... ah, the heck with it, emotion will cover that part. K.C. in upset number 2. This upset thing is a narcotic. I can't get away from it. Here comes number 3: Tampa Bay will rise up in a fury and knock off the Broncos.
I've calmed down now. The Packers will handle the Giants, who aren't ready to conquer Lambeau just yet. The Browns get it together against Washington. The Texans? Yeah, I think they're for real--at least they will be against Oakland. I like the Steelers over the Bengals, although I don't think Big Ben Roethlisberger can get away with another game of throwing nothing but touch passes. The Panthers will get past the Falcons, but it wouldn't surprise me if this one went the other way.
Jets-Dolphins has plenty of tradition, but until Miami straightens out its myriad problems, I have to go with a balanced Jets team. The 49ers are ready to take out their frustrations on someone, and the Rams would appear to be the perfect candidate. But my head tells me, no, it'll be too much offense against not enough defense. The Rams will win it. --Paul Zimmerman
Last Week 7--0 Season: 22--8
Dr. Z's Inside Football, every week during the season at si.com/football.