Only three teams head into Week 4 undefeated, and two of them
could be in real trouble.
The Packers travel to Tampa, which has been a house of horrors
for them during the past three years. Last season Brett Favre
was knocked out with a sprained foot, and the Pack's only
touchdown came on a fake field goal. In 1999 the Bucs got Green
Bay into the kind of lopsided affair that they love. The Packers
threw 49 passes, rushed 12 times (for 12 yards) and practically
gave the game away with four turnovers. It was even worse in
'98, when Tampa Bay sacked Favre eight times and forced eight
fumbles, two of which were lost, as were all three games.
Green Bay is a new team now. Favre is healthy and zinging the
ball with authority. Ahman Green adds punch to the running game.
The defense is active. This Pack fights back. Green Bay got off
to a rocky start against Carolina on an Ericsson Stadium field
that was loaded with dangerous divots and potholes (do they ever
fine owners and groundskeepers for unsafe conditions?), but it
won going away.
Now the Packers face the Bucs. What a strange operation Tampa Bay
runs. It's old news that the offense, after three years of trying
to establish itself, still lacks an identity. What's weird is
that the defense that used to be dominating, that put real fear
into opponents, laid back in a double zone on Sunday and let the
Vikings pick it apart.
Tampa Bay's defenders typically make precise, picture-perfect
tackles. They missed a bunch of them on Sunday. This team doesn't
believe in blitzing because the front four usually generates
heat. Daunte Culpepper threw 44 times, and the Bucs sacked him
I'm building a swell case for the Packers, but the lesson of last
weekend's two major upsets--the Browns over the Jaguars and the
Patriots over the Colts--hasn't been lost. Emotion is the great
equalizer. I say the Bucs will be steamed. I would feel more
confident if Warrick Dunn weren't out, but I still like Tampa
The Browns knocked out the Jaguars' Mark Brunell on a cheap shot
by rookie tackle Gerard Warren, and they worked themselves into a
frenzy in one of the day's more violent struggles. I don't think
the momentum will carry over into this weekend, when unbeaten San
Diego comes to town. The Chargers have their share of tough
guys--safety Rodney Harrison, linebacker Junior Seau and defensive
tackle John Parrella, to name three. San Diego will win.
Finally there are the Rams, the third and the best of the
unbeatens. They have their ups and downs on grass, but they look
like a 400-meter relay team on their artificial surface, as the
Dolphins found out. The Rams won't be at home against the Lions
on Monday night, but they'll be on a synthetic surface. I see a
big St. Louis win against the Lions' decimated secondary.
Tennessee has to break out sometime. Can you really see the
Titans at 0-3? I can't, either, but until they get their offense
straightened out, I have to favor Baltimore, which feasts on
Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler is having a quietly
spectacular season, and even without Jamal Anderson (out for the
year with a torn left ACL), the Falcons are my choice over
Chicago. The Saints will bounce back from a tough loss to the
Giants and squeak by the Vikings. I'm not ready to give up on
the Bengals, although they got rocked by San Diego. I like
Cincinnati over the Steelers in my upset special.
Brunell might not be able to play in Seattle, but the Seahawks'
top two quarterbacks are ailing as well. The Jaguars will take
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Favre (4) has had a hot hand this season, but he'll run into an angry bunch when he faces the Bucs.