The Patriots, one of the NFL's two elite teams, survived their ordeal by fire on Sunday with a rousing victory over Dallas. Now the other one faces up to its most serious challenge when the Colts play once-beaten Jacksonville.
Indianapolis was embarrassed last year when the Jaguars hit them for 375 yards on the ground in a 44--17 triumph. After that, Indy moved Rob Morris, a big guy, to strongside linebacker, and heavy-hitting strong safety Bob Sanders returned from a knee injury, and gradually the run defense stiffened. Still, the memory of that humiliation remains.
When the Colts have faced running teams this year, they have usually scored early and often to put those opponents in catch-up mode. They could do that to Jacksonville on Monday night. The Jags are a heavy-legged team with an offense built on five-yard passes; a big, mushing offensive line; and the twin running threats of old warhorse Fred Taylor and explosive little Maurice Jones-Drew (above).
Morris is gone with a knee injury, and Sanders missed the last game with bad ribs. The teeny-weeny point spread favoring Indianapolis makes me very nervous. It almost seems as if Vegas is begging for Colts money. O.K., I'll fall into the trap. Indy wins a squeaker.
Word has gone out: Run on Chicago. The Eagles will try to do that this Sunday, and I think they will succeed. Philly wins it. Upset special: Bills over the Ravens, who will be playing at a place, Buffalo, where they've never won, mainly because they've never played there. I'm also going with home teams in picking the Bengals over the Jets, Washington to beat Arizona, Oakland over K.C. and the Lions over the Buccaneers. Lastly, Pittsburgh will win at Denver, which used to be a tough place to play, but no more.
Last week 4--4
FERNANDO MEDINA/US PRESSWIRE