I NEVER thought of Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore as a genius when I first knew him in his Steelers days, about 25 years ago. He was just a hardworking assistant on Chuck Noll's staff, a good guy to swap stories with. But now that he has become Peyton Manning's guru, the brain behind all that offensive wizardry, he is talked about in tones usually reserved for only the remarkably gifted.
Definition of a football genius: a guy who does what no one expects him to do and makes it work. And honestly, did anybody ever imagine that Moore would come out heavy with his power running game last Thursday night against the Patriots, who ranked fourth against the rush last season? And put together a 66-yard scoring drive consisting of nine straight runs (a very brash way to humble a Bill Belichick defense)? And almost beat New England with that approach?
I'll answer that: No one did, or at least I didn't. But I expect Indianapolis to come out running against Tennessee on Sunday. That's right, the same Titans who pride themselves on shutting down the big-name runners. Last year Deuce McAllister gained eight yards against Tennessee's No. 1--ranked rushing defense; Stephen Davis got 20 yards, Ricky Williams 37, Jamal Lewis 35.
But Indy's Edgerrin James did quite well, running for 120 yards in the teams' first meeting and then 95, which were the top two rushing performances against Tennessee. The Colts won both games. They also won the AFC South, relegating the Titans to wild-card status. The previous year Tennessee won both games, and the playoff roles were reversed. This year, unless Jacksonville catches fire, the AFC South remains a two-team race with the Colts and the Titans clashing on Sunday in Nashville.
Miami handed Tennessee a 17--7 win last Saturday, and we never really got a chance to see much of the Titans' offense except for running back Chris Brown, and now he's got a bad ankle. Steve McNair threw two passes in the second half, in which the Titans called 18 plays. The defense won it. I don't think it will on Sunday. I like the Colts in an upset. I think they'll run and run some more, which teams aren't supposed to do against Tennessee.
Philly will beat Minnesota on Monday night. I can't get the picture out of my mind of the Vikings going into that gutless prevent defense and handing Dallas seven points before halftime. Imagine, Atlanta is favored over St. Louis. Vegas is just begging us to pick the underdog Rams. I won't be suckered. The Falcons are the pick. Sorry, but nothing is very scintillating on the rest of the schedule.
I like the Bengals over the Dolphins; the Jets to squeak one out in San Diego; the Cowboys over Cleveland, despite all the Browns' fireworks last week; the Ravens over the Steelers, unless Baltimore's offensive miseries go deeper than I suspect; and the Broncos over the Jaguars in Jacksonville. The Chiefs might get their defense together, so I'll give them a shaky vote against Carolina. The Seahawks will keep it going against the Bucs, whose offense has gone south. Joe Gibbs always had a miserable time against Bill Parcells's Giants in the Meadowlands, but that was in the old days, and things have changed. Washington wins it. Finally, here's upset number 2: The Bills will beat the Raiders in Oakland.
Last week: 7--4 ¬†¬†Season: 7--4
Dr. Z's Inside Football, every week during the season at si.com/football.
Tennessee's vaunted run defense should get a heavy dose of James, who rushed for 142 yards against the Patriots.