GAME OF THE WEEK YOU'LL SEE
New York Jets at Buffalo
(8:15 p.m., ESPN)
It was supposed to be a matchup of two of last season's surprise quarterback stories -- the Jets' Vinny Testaverde vs. Doug Flutie. Now, with Testaverde out for the season because of an Achilles' tendon injury, it's a meeting of teams desperately trying to avoid an 0-2 start in the NFL's most competitive division.
After just one game, last Sunday's 30-28 loss to New England, the Jets' lineup is a mess. Six starters -- Testaverde, wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, tight end Eric Green, all-purpose running back Leon Johnson, cornerback Otis Smith and defensive tackle Jason Ferguson -- will not play today. In fact, only Green is expected to play this month. Golden Boy-turned-journeyman Rick Mirer will take over at quarterback, having completed 4 of 11 passes for 28 yards with two interceptions last week against New England. The Jets signed former Cincinnati cornerback Corey Sawyer to help a pass defense that looked shaky against the Patriots. Sawyer also will share kick-returning duties with wide reciever Dedric Ward.
The Bills showed last season that they can rebound from a rough start. They lost their first three games, but ended the season 10-6 and in the playoffs. They will need to establish a running game to avoid a similar hole this season. In last Sunday's 31-14 dismantling by the Colts, RB Antowain Smith carried six times for seven yards and the team rushed for 47 yards -- 24 on scrambles by Flutie. Worse, third-down RB Thurman Thomas will miss approximately six weeks because of liver and kidney contusions suffered against the Colts. That leaves the Bills with only three running backs. Buffalo may have no choice but to continue leaning on WR Eric Moulds, who is averaging 130.2 yards receiving in his last six games, and WR Andre Reed, who is seven catches from becoming the third player in NFL history with 900.
GAME OF THE WEEK YOU WON'T SEE
Indianapolis at New England
Quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Peyton Manning, both former No. 1 draft picks, lead their teams in a contest for the early AFC East lead. Bledsoe has attempted 3,382 passes in his first six seasons, more than any quarterback over any six-season period in NFL history, and has resurrected the Patriots. Manning set NFL rookie records for completions, attempts, passing yards, touchdown passes and 300-yard passing games last season and has given hope to the Colts.
The Patriots' run defense was suspect against the Jets, surrendering 4.6 yards per carry. Bledsoe was sharp, however, completing 21 of 30 attempts for 340 yards and a 58-yard touchdown pass. Moreover, Bledsoe owns a 9-2 career record against the Colts, and in their past five meetings, all won by the Patriots, Bledsoe has a 108.4 quarterback rating, with 11 touchdowns and one interception.
These may not be the same old Colts, though. After going 3-13 last season, Indianapolis has 10 new starters, and virtually everything went right in the opener against Buffalo. Manning passed for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Edgerrin James led all NFL running backs last week in his NFL debut, gaining 112 yards on 26 carries. Wide receivers E.G. Green and Marvin Harrison had 124 and 121 yards receiving, respectively, making last week the first time since 1985 that the Colts have had two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. In addition, they did not give up a sack. Meanwhile, the defense recorded five sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
A Familiar Struggle
Josh Bidwell, a rookie punter who was set to start this season for the Green Bay Packers, learned he had testicular cancer before the Packers' final preseason game, sidelining him for the season. After his replacement, Chris Hanson, struggled in the Packers' opener, Green Bay signed veteran Louie Aguiar, who last season returned from his own three-month bout with testicular cancer to play for Kansas City.
Aguiar told reporters that he has not yet spoken to Bidwell, who underwent surgery to treat the disease earlier this week, but hopes to soon. "I'll just tell him to never give up and never back down from it," Aguiar told the Associated Press. "I know how hard this is, and I know how hard you have to work to overcome it."
On QB In, One Out
Tim Couch, the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NFL draft, will make his first pro start when the Browns plays the Titans, who will start nine-year veteran Neil O'Donnell because Steve McNair, who had started 34 consecutive games, will undergo back surgery today. The Titans are seeking their first 2-0 start since 1991.
Cowboys Coach Chan Gailey and Falcons Coach Dan Reeves take a long personal history into their teams' matchup Monday night. Gailey began his NFL coaching career as an assistant to Reeves in Denver from 1985 to 1990. Both are from Americus, Ga., and have known each other since Gailey's days playing Little League baseball, when his coach was none other than Reeves.
Keep an Eye on This Fourth Quarter
When the Cardinals meet the Dolphins today, no lead will be safe. Including last week's 25-24 victory over Philadelphia, Cardinals QB Jake Plummer has led 10 fourth-quarter comeback victories in 26 career starts. Miami's Dan Marino has engineereed 34 fourth-quarter comebacks, second in NFL history. John Elway is the all-time leader with 43.