The Sept. 11trade of former Super Bowl MVP receiver Deion Branch from New England toSeattle presents a couple of issues for the Seahawks. Coach Mike Holmgren hasto figure out how to get the ball to four established wideouts--Branch (right),Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and Darrell Jackson--while not de-emphasizing theShaun Alexander--led running attack that rolled up 153.6 rushing yards per gamelast season. Of greater concern, Branch has never played in the West Coastoffense. The prototypical receiver in that system is bigger than the 5'9",188-pound Branch and has to withstand more physical play than what Patriotsreceivers are used to. While Branch learns the Seattle offense, he'll likelysplit time with the speedy Burleson at flanker; Jackson starts at split end,and in a three-receiver set Engram lines up in the slot. "The mostimmediate thing Deion does for us," Holmgren said last week, "is tofurther develop our four-receiver package. Typically in the past we might havesix plays in our game plan for four wide receivers. When Deion gets in there wemight have 15."
"We don'thave a lot of time to become a team," a weary-sounding Tom Brady said onSunday night, after New England held off the the Jets 24--17. "I expect usto be right there at the end, like we always are, but we're not close to wherewe need to be." Despite a 2--0 start, the Pats have struggled--no surpriseconsidering their first (Branch), second (David Givens) and fourth (Tim Dwight)wideouts from 2005 are gone through trade or free agency. Two replacements,rookie Chad Jackson and former Raider Doug Gabriel, haven't practiced muchbecause of strained hamstrings. Look for Gabriel, who in Oakland showed he canget open, and tight end Ben Watson to be Brady's primary targets bymidseason.
How important isSunday's matchup between 0--2 Carolina (left) and 0--2 Tampa Bay? Since theplayoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, only three teams--San Diego in 1992,Detroit in '95 and Buffalo in '98--dug out of an 0--3 hole to reach thepostseason.
How can the Raiders spend a league-high 61% of their cap dollars on offense andlook as god-awful--a total of 291 yards and two field goals--as they did in thefirst two weeks?
Most surprising team so far this season: the Bills. To have split on the roadagainst New England and Miami and have zero turnovers with quarterback J.P.Losman still feeling his way is pretty positive stuff.
Note to all Titans fans hollering for Vince Young to play: He's not ready yet.That's why Tennessee signed veteran Kerry Collins--to take the lumps whileYoung gets mentally prepared to lead the franchise for a decade.
Read Peter King'sMonday Morning Quarterback every week at SI.com/football.
TED S. WARREN/AP (BRANCH)
PASSION PLAY The Cincy defense has extra incentive against AFC North rival Pittsburgh.
TOM DAHLIN/WIREIMAGE.COM (PANTHERS)
NOISY Plaxico Burress and the Giants have to tune out Seattle's fans.