What has happened to Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders? Is he up
to the challenge of stopping Vikings wideouts Cris Carter or
Randy Moss on Monday night? Those are questions you'd normally
never think of asking when you're talking about the greatest
cover-corner of this era, but he's been looking strange out
there. And people have been saying strange things about him.
Two weeks ago Redskins wideouts Albert Connell and Michael
Westbrook were talking about how they were going to challenge
Sanders. They hinted he was slipping. Had they seen something in
the Cowboys' previous game against the Giants, or were they just
whistling to keep their courage up? They caught a few passes
against Sanders, though none did much damage, then Sanders broke
open the game with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Against the Colts on Sunday he had another long punt return,
this time for 76 yards, but punter Hunter Smith caught Sanders
just before he got into the end zone, something none of us
figured we'd ever see. Sanders looked as if he had run out gas.
He took himself out of the game and was sucking oxygen on the
bench. The pregame speculation centered on whether he would
cover Marvin Harrison, the AFC's hottest receiver, all over the
field, but it didn't happen. He played his normal right side and
covered what came his way.
Terrence Wilkins, a rookie free agent, took Sanders across the
field for 19- and 17-yard completions. Sanders showed none of his
traditional catch-up speed. He picked up a holding penalty on
another play, and when Sanders froze, Harrison burned him on the
40-yard go-ahead touchdown. What the heck was going on?
Was he still pooped from the long punt return or feeling the
effects of the concussion he suffered against the Redskins? Has
he fully recovered from the toe injury that kept him out of the
first two games? Or, at 32, is he simply wearing down?
We'll find out on Monday night. The Vikings pulled out a win
over the Broncos when Carter and quarterback Jeff George got
things going. Moss wasn't much of a factor, but everyone knows
what he's capable of. This is a kid with a big ego, who'd like
nothing better than to embarrass the baddest defensive back in
the game. I see a Vikings victory.
Tennessee is one of four teams with one loss. The Titans have
knocked off two of the other three--the Jaguars and the
Rams--and now they face the final one, the Dolphins, on the
road. What do I like most about Miami? The defense. Raiders
quarterback Rich Gannon was coming off a hot game against the
Jets, but the Dolphins gave him fits, and I think they'll do
more of the same against Steve McNair. Miami wins in a
Has the Rams' bubble burst? Not hardly. Everything went wrong
against the Titans, but St. Louis still battled its way back
into the game. The Silverdome is a wicked place to play, but
I'll take the Rams over the Lions. Eric Zeier, the new savior in
Tampa Bay, completed 21 passes of less than 10 yards against
Detroit while playing catch-up most of the night. Detroit must
have gotten a laugh out of this dink-and-dunk approach, but it
will just add to the miseries of the poor Saints. The Bucs get
back in the win column.
Baltimore can't find a quarterback. Cleveland has one in Tim
Couch, a miracle worker who stunned the Saints. The Browns are
the upset pick. Finally, the Eagles, with that tough defense,
will upset Carolina on the road, and the Colts will keep things
rolling against Kansas City, provided they do a better job
against the run than they did against Dallas.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Dallas will have its hands full against Moss.