Nfl Week 1

September 08, 2002|By Chicago Tribune

Detroit at Miami

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Dolphins by 8.

Key stat: Miami has won 15 straight regular-season home games in August and September.

Worth watching: Quarterback Jay Fiedler has won 22 of 32 starts for Dolphins. Can Lions' Mike McMahon play well enough to keep first-round pick Joey Harrington on the bench for a few weeks?

Outlook: Dolphins have the swagger of Super Bowl contenders, while Lions seem destined for last place in the NFC North. Detroit's only hope is to generate a running game with James Stewart. It won't matter in the opener.

New York Jets at Buffalo

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Jets by 3.

Key stat: Past three meetings have been decided by six points or fewer.

Worth watching: Drew Bledsoe, who lost his starting job in New England last season, debuts as Bills quarterback. In past three games vs. Buffalo, Jets' Vinny Testaverde has completed 66.3 percent of his passes with six TDs and two interceptions.

Outlook: How long will it take for the Jets' revamped defense to come together? Bledsoe had a solid preseason for the Bills, who may profit from the emotional opening-day atmosphere.

Atlanta at Green Bay

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Packers by 7.

Key stat: Packers were 7-1 at home last season - and the only loss was to Atlanta.

Worth watching: Michael Vick opens the season as Falcons starting quarterback. Packers need big things from ex-Patriot Terry Glenn.

Outlook: Last season would have played out much differently if the Packers hadn't blown the Falcons game, which Brett Favre has been reminded about endlessly. This year the Packers have a revamped receiver corps and a beefed-up defense.

Minnesota at Chicago

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Bears by 4 1/2 .

Key stat: Bears won both meetings with Vikings last season.

Worth watching: Vikings' Randy Moss is under pressure to improve on his 82-catch, 10-TD season of last year. Can Bears' Anthony Thomas do more than 1,183 yards rushing?

Outlook: Bears begin their season in Champaign, Ill., against one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL. Will a secondary with two new starters, cornerback Jerry Azumah and safety Mike Green, be up to the challenge? As long as the rest of the defense does its share.

Philadelphia at Tennessee

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Titans by 1.

Key stat: Titans have won 10 of past 11 vs. NFC teams.

Worth watching: Can Eagles' Donovan McNabb improve on a 25-TD, 12-interception season? Can Eddie George bounce back from a disappointing 2001 (939 yards, 3.0 average)?

Outlook: The Eagles have Super Bowl aspirations, while the Titans are one of the league's enigmas. Tennessee is coming off an injury-marred season but still boasts starters like George, QB Steve McNair and DE Jevon Kearse. An opening loss to Miami doomed the Titans last season, so emotion is on their side.

San Diego at Cincinnati

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Bengals by 2 1/2 .

Key stat: Chargers have won five of past six vs. Bengals.

Worth watching: Second-year QB Drew Brees takes over as Chargers starter. Bengals are led by running back Corey Dillon, who has rushed for at least 1,100 yards in each of his first five seasons.

Outlook: The Bengals' annual quarterback search produced well-traveled Gus Frerotte, who is no doubt being told to simply get the ball to Dillon. The Bengals' defense gives them a chance to move up in the AFC North, and the starting-over Chargers don't figure to give Cincinnati too much trouble.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Colts by 3 1/2 .

Key stat: Jaguars have won six straight openers.

Worth watching: The injured running backs: Colts' Edgerrin James and Jaguars' Fred Taylor both missed much of last season.

Outlook: The Jaguars are paying off their salary-cap bills and trying to stay respectable at the same time. This AFC South opener will show that they can't. Look for Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to have big days.

Kansas City at Cleveland

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Browns by 1.

Key stat: Browns led NFL with 33 interceptions in 2001.

Worth watching: Cleveland first-round pick William Green makes his debut. Chiefs have NFL's leading rusher, Priest Holmes (1,555 yards).

Outlook: The Chiefs have become a trendy pick to make a playoff run this year, but quarterback Trent Green will have to suddenly blossom for that to happen. Green should provide a spark for the NFL's worst rushing offense of last season. Unless Tim Couch's sore arm acts up, the Browns should score just enough.

St. Louis at Denver

Time: 4:15 p.m. today, chs. 45, 5.

Line: Rams by 3.

Key stat: Under Mike Shanahan, Broncos are 7-2 in openers.

Worth watching: After under-using Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl loss to New England, the Rams figure to rely on him more than ever. Can Denver's Rod Smith repeat his league-leading 113-catch season?

Outlook: Tough opener for defending NFC champion Rams, who aren't quite as tough outdoors. The Broncos are always tough at home, but they're searching for a running game.

Seattle at Oakland

Time: 4:15 p.m. today.

Line: Raiders by 7.

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