Packers may give Rhodes chance to rant and rave Week 2 Preview

September 05, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The NFL, which starts giving the teams byes next week, has a bye week for the fans this weekend.

Since only three of the 15 games match teams that won their openers, it's not a weekend filled with memorable attractions.

The teams matched on Monday night -- Kansas City and Oakland -- both lost their openers. The Sunday night game shapes up as a mismatch with Dallas going to Arizona.

The feature game on Sunday -- being shown to 79 percent of the country by Fox TV with John Madden in the booth -- pits Green Bay at Philadelphia.

This is supposed to be just another stop on the Packers Repeat Victory Tour. They barely broke a sweat while disposing of the outmanned Chicago Bears, 38-24, last Monday night despite a rather lackluster effort. Their only concern was that they lost starting cornerback Craig Newsome for the season with a knee injury.

Since they beat the Eagles, 39-13, in the second game of the season last year at Lambeau Field, it's not surprising they're a touchdown favorite to do it again in Philadelphia.

But this game does have some intrigue to it because it'll show whether intense coach Ray Rhodes can still motivate his overachieving troops after browbeating them to a pair of 10-6 seasons his first two years.

In the wake of a disappointing 31-17 loss to the New York Giants -- during which he pulled quarterback Ty Detmer for Rodney Peete -- Rhodes launched into a 31-minute profanity-laced tirade at his Monday news conference.

He virtually threatened to fire most of the players on the spot. "I can't stand pat. I can't line up the same people who got their butts kicked. I have to see if somebody can do a better job," he said.

The problem is that it's too late to find players for this year. His bold move was to sign aging Richard Dent. He also restored Detmer to the starting quarterback job.

Rhodes can rant and rave all he wants, but he needs better players. And there's always the possibility the troops will tune him out.

With a Monday night trip to Dallas set for next week, the Eagles need this game or they'll be looking at the real possibility of an 0-3 start and a remote shot at the playoffs.

"I'll find a solution," Rhodes promised during his tirade. "I'll find a way."

A look at the other 14 games this weekend:

Best of the rest

Tennessee at Miami -- A quarterback of the future, Steve McNair, will duel a gunslinger from the past, Dan Marino, in a game in which the winner gets off to a 2-0 start. McNair has one advantage. He can hand off to Eddie George, who rumbled for 216 yards in the opener. By contrast, Karim Abdul-Jabbar led Miami with only 50 yards rushing. Coach Jimmy Johnson said the thought of benching Marino has crossed his mind, but he really needs to develop a running game.

Washington at Pittsburgh -- Baltimore fans who used to complain about a steady diet of Redskins games on TV will miss a good one Sunday unless they get Channel 5 in Washington when the Redskins go to Pittsburgh. The Steelers had a strange game plan last week against Dallas, running Jerome Bettis only 15 times. Look for him to get it a lot more against the porous Washington run defense. The Redskins will be hampered by the loss of Terry Allen with a broken thumb.

Worth a look

Tampa Bay at Detroit -- It's been a long time since the matchup between these teams meant anything, but the winner gets off to a 2-0 start. The Lions have won five straight against the Bucs and won their opener against Atlanta even though Barry Sanders gained only 33 yards. But the Bucs have now won six of their past eight under Tony Dungy.

San Francisco at St. Louis -- By San Francisco standards, the season ended when Jerry Rice was injured. The 49ers can't win the Super Bowl without him and anything less is a failure for the 49ers. The question now is whether they can even make the playoffs without him. It's up to the defense against the Rams, a young team with an aging coaching staff.

New York Giants at Jacksonville -- This is one of the three games matching 1-0 teams and the Giants won't get a warm welcome because Mark Brunell injured his knee on a Jessie Armstead hit in the preseason at Giants Stadium. For once, the Giants may have an edge at quarterback with Dave Brown because the Jaguars will have to play Steve Matthews if Rob Johnson is sidelined by his ankle injury.

Buffalo at New York Jets -- In an intriguing matchup, Marv Levy is trying to keep his team from falling apart while Bill Parcells is quickly building his team. This game should indicate whether the Jets' victory last week at Seattle was only an indication of how bad the Seahawks are. Levy is 17-4 in his career against the Jets.

Cincinnati at Baltimore -- This could be the most entertaining game of the week even though it'll be blacked out in Baltimore. Jeff Blake and Vinny Testaverde figure to put up big numbers in a shootout decided in the fourth quarter. It's a critical game for BTC Baltimore because if they're not the Same Old Ravens, they can't afford to start out with two home division losses.

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