When Jim Kelly and his old run-and-shoot Houston Gamblers were snapping off 40 and 50 passes per game, a schoolboy quarterback from Kiln, Miss., named Brett Favre must have noted the action and thought, "Man, wouldn't it be great to run an offense like that?" Well, at age 38, he's doing it. The Gnat Attack with which Favre peppered the Lions on Thanksgiving was pure run-and-shoot: five wideouts across, lots of one- to 1.5-second patterns, all the reads precise and beautifully timed. Favre went 31-for-41, with the five wideouts catching 23 passes. The Gamblers would have been proud. Now the question is, Was that a dress rehearsal for Green Bay's Thursday-night game with Dallas?
If the Cowboys think they're in for a big dose of that precision attack, I'm guessing they'll dust off Dick LeBeau's zone blitz. They'll drop big, agile guys such as Greg Ellis, Chris Canty and DeMarcus Ware (above) into coverage, fill the short zones with large objects popping up in unusual places, make the wideouts pay for all those little five-yard routes. And, of course, make Favre pay for working a game without protectors, which was why the run-and-shoot was eventually mothballed. Coaches become contrary in big games, though. If the Packers show a strong running game, just to let people know they can, they'd find it too hard to match points with the Dallas scoring machine. And that's why I like the Cowboys—too many weapons.
I like Houston to upset Tennessee in a game the Texans have been waiting for all year, the Colts to beat the Jaguars and the Giants to bounce back against the Bears. Minnesota will avenge an earlier loss to Detroit; New Orleans will do likewise to Tampa Bay; Philadelphia will rally behind its new savior, A.J. Feeley, to beat Seattle; and Arizona will have too much offense for Cleveland.
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JAMES D. SMITH/ICON SMI