Super Bowl 37?

Athlon Sports
Published: September 17th, 2002
Prior to the season, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas installed St. Louis and Pittsburgh as favorites to meet in Super Bowl 37 in San Diego. Two weeks into the season, those odds are looking long.

The Rams, who were heavy favorites in their home-opener Sunday, fell to the New York Giants 26-21, while Pittsburgh was pounded 30-17 by the Raiders at home Sunday night.

The Rams lost all four preseason games heading into the season, then lost at Denver in Week 1. Losing a regular-season game on its home turf opened the flood gates for questions regarding how good this team really is.

Superstar running back Marshall Faulk is not ready to push the panic button.
"Push the panic button? For what?" Faulk said to a crowded group of reporters after the game. "It's a long season. You don't panic in this business. A lot of things can happen."

The Rams turned the ball over four times in the loss, with quarterback Kurt Warner throwing two interceptions and fumbling a snap.

"This one's completely on me, and it's tough to handle those," Warner told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is a game we very easily could've won. This team played well enough to win. And I didn't get it done, and it's hard."

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, there was plenty of blame to spread around. One week after being flattened by the Patriots, the Steelers saw breakdowns on offense, defense and special teams in their loss to Oakland. The Steelers had four fumbles, surrendered 403 yards passing to Rich Gannon and gave up a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Those are not numbers of a Super Bowl contender.

"Right now, we are not a good football team," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cower said.

One fact the Rams and Steelers can find comfort in: the Patriots started 0-2 last year and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Athlon ranks them all

1. New England - Super Bowl was a fluke - game was too close

2. Denver - Wins over St. Louis, San Fran give Broncos best start in league

3. Oakland - Veterans got their act together after rough preseason

4. Chicago - 15-3 in last 18 regular season games

5. Philadelphia - Trouncing of Redskins shows true team

6. Miami - Will battle New England in AFC East

7. San Diego - Haven't played anyone, but 58-9 score is impressive

8. New York Giants - Split of Rams, Niners good news

9. St. Louis - Too good to be playing this bad

10. New Orleans - Deuce gets loose vs. Pack

11. San Francisco - Offense not up to 49er standard

12. Atlanta - A whisker from being 2-0

13. Cleveland - Even closer to being 2-0

14. Tennessee - Surprised in Big D, but this team still solid

15. Buffalo - Lucky or good, Bills get it done

16. Indianapolis - Can't blame this loss on D

17. Green Bay - Favre likes the outdoor game

18. Pittsburgh - Steelers need to defend the pass and run the ball

19. New York Jets - Patriots exposed some weaknesses

20. Carolina - We have to acknowledge they are 2-0

21. Tampa Bay - Defense dominant against Ravens

22. Washington - Did police pepper spray offense?

23. Minnesota - Can you get closer to winning without winning?

24. Dallas - Boys redeem themselves nicely at home

25. Jacksonville - Jags bounce back against Chiefs

26. Arizona - Jones an ace for Cards

27. Kansas City - Awfully close to 0-2

28. Seattle - Dilfer's 352 yards not enough for Hawks

29. Houston - Texans find some Carr trouble

30. Cincinnati - Playoffs a longshot yet again

31. Baltimore - Seven points in two weeks

32. Detroit - Ford Field lone bright spot in Motor City

Prime Time Players

Julius Peppers - Defensive End, Carolina

Peppers was all over the field in the Panthers' 31-7 victory over Detroit. The rookie recorded a Panthers-record three sacks. He also had five tackles, one pass deflection and forced a fumble.

Donovan McNabb - Quarterback, Philadelphia

McNabb threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown in Philadelphia's 37-7 romp on Monday night against Washington. His 39-yard touchdown pass to James Thrash in the third quarter clinched the victory.

Drew Bledsoe - Quarterback, Buffalo

Bledsoe continues to impress in his new surroundings, leading the Bills to a 45-39 overtime victory at Minnesota. Bledsoe threw for a league-best 463 yards and three touchdowns. He also drove the Bills down the field in the final 30 seconds for a field goal to force overtime.

Thomas Jones - Running Back, Arizona

The former first-round pick exploded for 173 yards and one touchdown in Arizona's surprising 24-13 win at Seattle. Jones, who took over the No. 1 job this year when Michael Pittman left for Tampa Bay, tied the score in the third quarter with a 58-yard touchdown.

On Tap

Washington at San Francisco - Steve Spurrier will be licking his wounds from Monday night's shellacking by the Eagles. He will find no sympathy in San Francisco, where the ***** will look to get back on track after a disappointing loss to Denver.

The game features two of the better offenses in the league, with Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens featured by the ***** and Stephen Davis and Rod Gardner for the Redskins.

A short week may help Washington get over its disappointment of crossing midfield just once Monday, with its deepest penetration being the Eagles 35-yard line.

On the other side, San Francisco must jumpstart a running attack that gained just 71 yards on 20 carries against Denver.

St. Louis at Tampa Bay (Monday)

The Rams will not find things any easier when they visit one of the league's best defenses Monday night in Tampa. Staggered by an 0-2 start, the Rams will likely throw everything at a Bucs' defense that shut out the Ravens Sunday. Tampa Bay also forced a safety and returned an interception for a touchdown.
The Rams are trying not to panic following their 0-2 start, but quarterback Kurt Warner has not looked as sharp as he has for the past three seasons and the loss of Az-Zahir Hakim as a third receiver has hurt the offense more than expected.

Tampa Bay still has problems on offense, scoring just two touchdowns in two weeks.

ABC will be hoping to avoid a third straight Monday Night blowout.

Buffalo at Denver

The Broncos will look to keep pace in a competitive AFC West when they host Drew Bledsoe and the revamped Buffalo Bills. Buffalo finished 3-13 a year ago, but the off-season acquisition of Bledsoe has revived the offense. The Bills have scored a league-best 76 points in two weeks and are a special teams breakdown away from being 2-0.

Denver, meanwhile, has beaten two potential Super Bowl contenders in St. Louis and San Francisco and has answered its questions at quarterback with Brian Griese. The defense has been outstanding and it appears after last season's .500 record Denver is headed back among the AFC's elite.

Pro Football Notebook

Williams off to fast start

Ricky Williams is doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing in a Miami Dolphin uniform. Williams has 243 yards and two touchdowns in his two weeks in Miami, and the Dolphins are 2-0. It is the first time since 1994 a Miami running back had back-to-back 100-yard games (Bernie Parmalee). Miami ranked 23rd in the league in rushing a year ago. "I took it upon myself to make sure I did whatever I could to get back to my Texas days, where I did break a lot of runs,'' Williams told the Associated Press.

Tim getting off the Couch?

Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch has targeted this week's game with Tennessee as the one he would return to the starting lineup. Cleveland coach Butch Davis has said Couch's health during the week would be the determining factor.

In Couch's absence, backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb has performed exceptionally well, throwing for 524 yards while completing 64 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Holcomb's performance, however, will not be enough to keep a healthy Couch on the bench.

"[Couch] has been the proven guy," Davis told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "This guy won seven games last year. He's talented enough. There is absolutely no question in anybody's mind that he is the best quarterback."

After Holcomb's performance, Couch knows there will be pressure on him.

"I know every time I throw a bad pass (the fans) are going to be booing and wanting Kelly in, but that's part of life in the NFL and the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the team," Couch told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I'm just going to go play and I honestly don't care what they think."

Ravens on another drought

The Baltimore Ravens endured a five-game touchdown drought during their Super Bowl season in 2000, and they are enduring more offensive futility this year. Baltimore has scored just seven points in two games and has gone 20 straight offensive possessions without a point. Even worse, during that stretch, Baltimore has had an interception returned for a touchdown and a safety recorded against it.

"I understand the frustration, but I'm the one responsible," coach Brian Billick told the Baltimore Sun. "If anyone wants to make a case for [offensive coordinator] Matt Cavanaugh or the scheme, I'm responsible. That's where the focus and the criticisms and the observations ought to come. I'm going to use my experience as best I can to overcome these things."

Billick said he is planning to continue with first-year starter Chris Redman, though he will replace him with Jeff Blake if Redman "loses the confidence of him teammates and the coaching staff."

One more thing

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has throw 17 interceptions in his last five games against Miami. - New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins has thrown for over 300 yards five straight games. - The road teams went 11-5 in Week 2. - New England quarterback Tom Brady is 16-3 as a starter. - During the Patriots' 11-game winning streak, no team has scored more than 17 points against them.