Starting over in Game 2

NFL This Week


IT'S TOO EARLY to panic, too late to start over.

For several NFL teams, however, it's time to get their helmets out of their shoulder pads and make amends for a brutal opening week.

The five teams most desperate for a win entering Week 2:

1. Denver Broncos: They were torched by Gus Frerotte in a 34-10 debacle at Miami, and the humidity had little to do with it. This is a defense that coach Mike Shanahan stocks with free-agent castoffs every season. This offseason, for instance, he added four defensive linemen from the sad-sack Cleveland Browns. Get a clue, Mike.

Starting today, the Broncos face the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars in a pivotal three-game stretch. Unless they shape up fast, the Broncos won't make it to Indianapolis for their annual playoff whipping.

2. New York Jets: It was the Comedy Club in Kansas City, where the Jets' offense delivered muffed touchdown passes and fumbled quarterback snaps. The Jets still outgained the Chiefs, 390-389, in a 27-7 loss. So better play by Chad Pennington would help.

But there are serious questions about Pennington's shoulder, after offseason surgery, and his command of the new offense. The Jets get the resurgent Dolphins today and then face five straight tough defenses - Jaguars, Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons. Ouch.

3. Green Bay Packers: Was that Brett Favre or Craig Nall at quarterback who put up three points at Detroit last week? That's as close as the Packers will get to this year's Super Bowl.

They lost their three-year stranglehold on the NFC North when they let starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera go in free agency. It became official when big-play receiver Javon Walker tore up his knee last week. If the Packers can't beat Cleveland at home, they may not win this year.

4. Minnesota Vikings: The heir apparent in the North, the Vikings stumbled badly in a 24-13 loss to the Bucs at home. In the aftermath, new owner Zygi Wilf said he would become more active in the organization.

We should know if coach Mike Tice is toast after a trip to Cincinnati. The Bengals are 6-2 against NFC teams under Marvin Lewis. Most importantly, the Vikings don't have a running game to exploit the Bengals' weakness.

5. Houston Texans: Their offense was awful against Buffalo, netting just 120 yards in a 22-7 loss. Thought to be a team on the rise, the Texans are losing ground in the AFC South behind the Colts and Jaguars.

It could get worse before it gets better, too. They host the Pittsburgh Steelers today in a rematch of their miracle 2002 victory. That's when the Texans had 47 yards of offense but scored three touchdowns on defense to win, 24-6. It won't happen that way again.

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