I spent a good part of the off-season trying to find out what happened to the Eagles in the last five minutes of the Super Bowl. In case you forgot, they played that stretch in a semifog. Their two-minute offense died on the vine. There was no sense of urgency. What happened?
If you listen to Terrell Owens, the problem was that Donovan McNabb ran out of steam. I could not get this confirmed, or even mentioned, by anyone else. Then there was the matter of the sluggishness of the play-calling. Stuff was simply coming in too late. Was this coach Andy Reid's fault? Did the blame lie with offensive coordinator Brad Childress? "Maybe" was the best response I could get.
Finally, one old veteran told me the following (and please, no names. For God's sake, no): "The problem was that right up to the time when we clinched [a playoff spot] in December, we didn't have to come from behind to win any close games. Things came too easy for us. Then when we were put in that situation, we didn't know how to handle it."
Well, that happened again this season when the Eagles got into a nail-biter in their opener in Atlanta and lost. A week later they blew out the 49ers. But then on Sunday against the Raiders, Philadelphia got into another one of those hairy games that could have gone either way. This time the Eagles pulled it out, thanks to the courage of McNabb (bruised sternum, abdominal soreness) and kicker David Akers (torn right hamstring), both of whom performed their late heroics in extreme agony.
Now, banged up from a game that didn't figure to be that tough, Philly travels to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, a scary team when all of its offensive guns are firing. K.C. is the kind of club that can bury anybody. Do you remember the way it undressed Baltimore's defense in a Monday-nighter last October? The Chiefs are coming off a short week and could have a letdown following their Monday night division battle against the Broncos. I think the Chiefs will run the ball, and I think having the kicker hurt is a tremendous obstacle for the Eagles to overcome. That's why Kansas City is the pick.
The Patriots had three times as many turnovers as the Steelers did on Sunday, and twice the penalties. But at the end of the fight, New England's defensive linemen were on their feet, while Pittsburgh's O-line was slumped in the corner on its stool. It was a game for the ages, a slugfest, and one thing the Pats are good at is taking away the enemy's prime weapon. Last week it was Fast Willie Parker, this week it'll be LaDainian Tomlinson, who destroyed the Giants. I say they get the job done. The Patriots are the pick.
Oakland is the best 0-3 team in the league, which is like describing someone as the best-hitting pitcher in baseball. I have very strong feelings that the Raiders will beat Dallas. Washington defensive coach Gregg Williams will be ready for the challenge presented by the high-flying Seahawks, and, yes, I like the Skins in this one. Ditto the Giants, who I guarantee will pile up well over 400 yards against St. Louis.
Baltimore cashes in on the Jets' quarterback miseries. Denver upends the Jaguars in Jacksonville in the only thing close to an upset that I could find. Buffalo squeaks one out against the reeling Saints, Carolina bounces back against Green Bay in the Monday-nighter, and in the south of the border classic, it'll be the Cardinals taking the 49ers for a Mexican hayride--and how many times will you have to read that this week? --Paul Zimmerman
Last week: 6-3 Season: 15-13
Dr. Z writes for the Web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com/football.