Game Of The Week You Will See
Tampa Bay at Green Bay
(8 p.m., ESPN)
All eyes will be on Packers QB Brett Favre and Buccaneers DT Warren Sapp, two of the NFL's best players. Tampa Bay, which lost at Minnesota last week, had trips to Minnesota and Green Bay in consecutive weeks last season and lost both games en route to an 8-8 finish. The Bucs have not won at Lambeau Field since 1989 and badly want to avoid another 0-2 start against NFC Central opponents. No wonder Sapp has vowed to play despite a broken hand that forced him to miss last week's game. He is the standout of the only defense that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, is ranked first in the NFL in total defense, at 198.5 yards per game, and first in rushing defense, at 58.3 yards per game. In addition, Sapp's seven sacks of Favre account for nearly 20 percent of his career total of 36 1/2. The Packers, fresh off a bye week, have lived dangerously this season. Touchdown passes by Favre in the last 15 seconds of games against Oakland and Minnesota are all that separates them from being 0-3. RB Dorsey Levens leads the NFC in yards from scrimmage with 463. As a team, the Packers are averaging 402 yards per game (second in the NFL). However, scoring hasn't been quite as easy; they are tied for 13th in the NFL at 22 points per game. Favre will celebrate his 30th birthday by making his 113th consecutive start, four behind Ron Jaworski's record for consecutive starts by a quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Former DE Reggie White's jersey will be retired at halftime.
Game Of The Week You Won't See
San Francisco at St. Louis
St. Louis hasn't had such a meaningful game since 1995, when the 5-1, first-place Rams played host to a 49ers team that was forced to play without injured QB Steve Young. Sound familiar? The Rams hope not. San Francisco won that game, 44-10, and St. Louis lost seven of its final nine games. It was just another chapter in the NFL's most lopsided rivalry; San Francisco has won 17 straight over the Rams, with 14 of those wins coming by 15 points or more. This time, though, Rams QB Kurt Warner enters with an NFL-leading 125.0 efficiency rating. The Rams' offense averages 394.7 yards per game, fourth in the NFL, while the defense allows 237.7 yards, also fourth in the league. Az-Zahir Hakim leads the league in punt returns and last week against the Bengals became the first Ram to score four touchdowns in one game since 1973. But here's the rub: the Rams' first three opponents are a combined 2-10.
Young will miss the game with post-concussion syndrome. Backup Jeff Garcia led the 49ers to a 24-22 win over previously undefeated Tennessee in his first NFL start last week, and RB Charlie Garner is on pace for 1,100 yards rushing this season (fellow RB Lawrence Phillips returns to face the team that made him a first-round choice in 1996, then cut him in '97). In addition, WR Jerry Rice has 20 touchdowns in 26 career games against the Rams.
Games Within The Games
A look at this week's best subplots
Has scored six points in past two games.
Have scored 11 points in Steelers'
past two games.
Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith
Averages 109.3 yards per game against the Eagles in his career, his best career average against NFC East foes.
Allowing 138.3 yards rushing per game this season, 27th in the NFL.
Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe
Has completed 26 of 34 passes in the fourth quarter this season, helping the Patriots (4-0) come from behind in every game.
Chiefs QB Elvis Grbac
Has completed 16 of 35 passes in the fourth quarter; the Chiefs have not scored when trailing in the final period.
Broncos' Super Bowl future
Doesn't look good with 0-4 start.
Broncos' Super Bowl past
Former Broncos CB Darrien Gordon will be on the field today when Denver plays Oakland, just as former Broncos S Steve Atwater was on field last week when the Jets beat the Broncos.
No. 1 Rookies Meet
For the second year in a row and the fourth time since 1970, two rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round will start against each other when Cleveland's Tim Couch, the first overall pick, meets Cincinnati's Akili Smith, the third. Smith is eager to play against the Browns, because he believes he was used as a bargaining chip during pre-draft contract negotiations between Browns officials and Couch. Smith thought he was close to a deal with the Browns, then learned they had struck a deal with Couch. "I'd be happy to beat them every time we play," Smith told the Associated Press. History favors Couch, however. In each meeting of such highly drafted rookie QBs, the No. 1 overall draft pick -- New England's Jim Plunkett in 1971, New England's Drew Bledsoe in 1993 and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning last season -- won, respectively defeating No. 3 pick Dan Pastorini's Oilers, No. 2 Rick Mirer's Seahawks and
No. 2 Ryan Leaf's Chargers.
Ross Revisits Chargers
Lions Coach Bobby Ross has downplayed the revenge factor in today's game against his former team, the Chargers, but his players don't believe it. "When the schedule first came out and I saw the Chargers on it, I mentioned it to the coach," Detroit DE Robert Porcher told reporters this week. "He told me, `Yeah, I'll probably be a little more wired that week.' "
Three years have passed since Ross was forced from the Chargers' job, but this is Ross's first game against the team he guided to a five-season record of 50-36, three playoff appearances, two AFC West titles and the club's only AFC championship. Ross hasn't fared as well with the Lions, compiling a 16-19 record, but the Chargers are 11-24 in the same span. The Chargers never had a losing season with Ross; without him, they have yet to enjoy a winning month.
This and That
Through four weeks, there have been four 21-point comeback victories, the most ever in an NFL season. . . . The Patriots are seeking their first 5-0 start since 1974. . . . After scoring three touchdowns in six possessions during its first quarter of the season, the Eagles' offense has not scored a touchdown in 15 quarters.