Colts Fan Viewing Guide: The Best of the Rest

THE game starts at 8:00 on NBC at the Meadowlands. But there are other games of importance to Colts fans as well. ColtPower gives you a crisp, quick primer of the top games that you should care about -- and tells you why -- out of this week's slate of games.

COLTPOWER'S GAMEDAY VIEWING GUIDE 

#1:  DALLAS (0-0) at JACKSONVILLE (0-0)


KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Because the Jags offense will be tested mightily right out of the gate by a stout Dallas defense that could be one of the best in the league this year. Be sure to watch how the Jaguars offense fares without wide receiver Jimmy Smith and take a look at whether or not RB Fred Taylor has anything left in his tank. How the Jaguars fare today against a top-tier team like Dallas will tell you a lot about the amount of struggle they will put up this year against Indy head-to-head. And you can cheer for Dallas without having to pull for Mike Vanderjagt. He's listed as "out" on the team's injury report with a groin injury.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 27-13

KEYS TO THE GAME
This game could get ugly if the Jaguars have to try to keep up with a fast-paced aerial attack by Dallas. The Jaguars need to slow the pace with a healthy Fred Taylor to stay in the game. Dallas' defense has the size and athleticism to bully the Jags offense, so it could be a long day for Byron Leftwich who isn't the most mobile of quarterbacks as he tries to connect with a relatively inexperienced receiver corps. Just as it did last year, Jacksonville will have to rely on their defense heavily, but they won't be able to bring eight men into the box often as Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe will go deep on them if they do. Both of his top wide receivers -- Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn -- will have to be shown some respect.

INSIDER NOTES
Cowboys: Have a league-best 29-17 (.630) record in road openers. WR Terrell Owens is ready to go, Mike Vanderjagt is not, and head coach Bill Parcells isn't pleased about the fact that he had to keep a second kicker on his roster for kickoffs. "I don't know the player well enough to be offering advice to him," Parcells said. "This guy is 36 years old. He has been doing this for a long time. I am just learning the player. I am not standing there telling him what to do. I am just hoping that based on his history he will find it. I think that is what he is trying to do." 

Jaguars: Have an NFL-best 8-3 (.727) record in season openers. Coach Jack Del Rio started 44 games as a linebacker for Dallas from 1989-91. The Jags will took a major blow to their interior line this week when DT Marcus Stroud suffered a major ankle injury that could sideline him for several weeks.

#2:  BUFFALO (0-0) at NEW ENGLAND (0-0) 

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Hey, it's the Patriots. What would make Colts fans almost as happy as an Indy win in the Meadowlands? A Pats loss in their opener against a team they should beat. Let's kill all the Pats to the Super Bowl talk and the associated Tedy Bruschi is Superman subplots amongst the media as early as possible.  The Colts play both teams this season, hosting the Bills on Nov. 12th, but have to make yet another trip to New England the week before that on Nov. 5th. Regardless, it's time to root for the underdog Bills. 

PREDICTION: Patriots 27-17

KEYS TO THE GAME
Will Willis McGahee show up? He was limited to just three yards total on eight carries last December. If the Bills' revamped offensive line can do a better job, the Bills should be able to make a game of this one, providing QB J.P. Losman can shake his lifetime 0-3 road start history. Hey, he's due, right? The Bills have also brought in new talent on the defense, like former Colt Larry Tripplet, to match up with the Cover 2 scheme they will showcase for the first time under head coach Dick Jauron. The Patriots (blech, just saying the word leaves a bad taste in my mouth) are having problems at middle linebacker to the point that 37 year-old Junior Seau, who is talented but aging, could get the start if Tedy Bruschi doesn't play with a cast on to protect his injured wrist. Either way, they won't be 100 percent at a key position defensively, and that won't help them as they try to improve from being one of the worst run defense teams during last year. QB Tom Brady, who has been on the team's injury list for about a year and a half, this week with a shoulder injury, should throw a pretty balanced attack at Buffalo even though they are missing holdout WR Deion Branch and rookie WR Chad Jackson has very limited practice time under his belt.  

INSIDER NOTES
Bills: Have 21 new players on the 53-man roster. DE Aaron Schobel has 10.0 sacks in his past 10 games. Former Colts QB Kelly Holcomb starts the season as the No. 2 man on the depth chart. 

Patriots: QB Tom Brady is 9-1 with a 92.2 passer rating against Buffalo. WR Troy Brown needs 18 receiving yards to join Stanley Morgan (10,352) with at least 6,000 in franchise history. 

#3: PHILADELPHIA (0-0) at HOUSTON (0-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Because if the Texans pull off an upset under new head coach Gary Kubiak, they'll head to Indy next weekend with a bit more confidence. And who needs that little bit of attitude coming into the RCA Dome? We want them thinking "here we go again" as they pack their bags for Indianapolis. 

PREDICTION: Eagles 26-17

KEYS TO THE GAME
The Texans have seemingly improved their pass protection under new head coach Gary Kubiak, who is truly one of the good guys in the NFL. They allowed just just four sacks in the preseason as they transitioned to the zone-blocking scheme that Kubiak used in Denver. If that success continues, this will be a make-or-break year for David Carr as he won't be able to have others make excuses for him because of the repetitive maulings he's suffered in the past. He has two strong receivers in Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson to boot. Houston had to put RB Domanick Davis on injured reserve, so inexperienced running backs Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency will be counted on to bring the balance to the attack. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is healthy following a foot injury, and QB Donovan McNabb will have to exploit a hobbled Houston secondary. Watch for how much pressure the Texans can generate out of their front four as that could determine McNabb's ability to run up the score.

INSIDER NOTES
Eagles: McNabb's 60-28 (.682) career record is best among active quarterbacks. Philadelphia has lost four of their past five season openers. WR Donte' Stallworth will be one of the team's starting receivers even though he's only been on the team less than two weeks.

Texans: Gary Kubiak will make his head coaching debut. LB Shantee Orr has 6.0 sacks in his past six regular-season games. The official beginning to defensive end Mario Williams' career will start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Williams will start at right end for the Texans after spending much of the preseason at left end. He was moved around during each preseason game, and played inside in pass-rushing situations.

TWO MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON...

New York Jets (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET
The Colts play at the Jets on Oct. 1st. They play Tennessee home on Oct. 8th and then visit them on Dec. 3rd. Pull for the J-E-T-S in this one. They aren't a playoff threat to the Colts and a Tennessee loss could put them in a trailing position in the AFC South that they may never pull out of. The Jets have switched to a 3-4 defense and will face new Titans QB Kerry Collins even though he just signed a couple of weeks ago. The Titans plan to give rookie Vince Young a few snaps just to get his feet wet. Tennessee wants to shutdown the Jets running game so they can subsequently go after Chad Pennington and hopefully rattle the oft-injured quarterback into making some mistakes. And while the Titans will focus primarily on the run offensively, they are working against a suspect Jets secondary and could take some shots downfield.

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 ET
The Bengals will likely be one of the top contenders for the AFC title this year. An early loss could nick their confidence level early in the season, maybe even Chad Johnson's. Chiefs RB Larry Johnson rushed for over 200 yards in Week 17 last year. Let's hope he can do it again. Under new coach Herm Edwards, the Chiefs plan a more balanced offense, so expect them to take more time off the clock if Johnson can get the rushing game established. It could keep this one from turning into a barn-burner.

In-story photos: Getty Images


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