By Chris Timoney
As teams get back to practice in preparation for Week 2 action, it's a few off-field issues that graze the headlines in the AFC East.
THE SPY WHO TAPED ME...AND MY COACHES
Roger Goodell has found that the New England Patriots are guilty of videotaping opposing coaches in hopes of stealing play-calling signs. While penalties have not been handed down yet, the Patriots' All-American image has certainly taken a hit again.
September has not been kind to the defending AFC East champs. First Richard Seymour turned up on the PUP list September 1st therefore sidelining the All-Pro for the first six games then Rodney Harrison 'fesses to his part in an HGH operation, suspended for 4 games and now this. Can the Patriots remain America's team for the 21st Century? Will a Harrison-like confession bail them out from pigskin espionage? Chances are the verdict will still be out while New England hosts the Chargers Sunday night.
The Patriots are allowed to present their side of the case before penalties are handed out. Word on the grass-turf is Goodell will issue some form of draft sanctions, i.e. taking away some mid-round picks over a multi-season period. It's stiff and should get the message across.
Apparently video spy games are commonplace and have been for quite sometime. ESPN's Mark Schlereth called for a forfeiture of the Jets game as penalty to the Patriots. Goodell has made it known he's not putting up with any bull from players and I'm sure he'll carry that stance to coaches and management. Dallas Cowboys QB coach Wade Wilson was swiftly suspended after his involvement in the same HGH operation as Harrison copped to. I'm not sure the commissioner is willing to take away the Patriots victory, but he very well could make it harder for them to win in the future. Too bad for the league the Patriots are the one organization where draft sanctions would have minimal effect. At least it would take away the espionage.
Guilty or not guilty, penalized or not penalized, the Patriots will still host the San Diego Chargers Sunday night in a rematch of last seasons playoff game. In case you don't remember, the Chargers didn't take the loss or the Patriots post-game celebration too well. Regardless of what happens with Spy-Gate neither Brady, Moss, Stallworth, Welker, Watson, Maroney, Morris, Green, Bruschi, Vrabel, Hobbs, Samuel, Wilfork nor Belichick will be suspended for the Sunday night feature so it's a safe bet the Pats will do what they always do and take care of the business on the field. From what I saw in the Chargers season opener against the Bears the Pats look ready to be 2-0.
|Buffalo Bills orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Cappuccino Kevin Everett (David Duprey/AP)|
In much more important news, Buffalo Bills special teams player Kevin Everett has taken an amazing turn for the better. Everett suffered a "catastrophic" spinal injury in the Bills season opening loss against the Broncos that left him immediately motionless. Permanent paralysis and even death were among the early diagnosis, yet due to an innovative medical procedure doctors say that Everett has shown voluntary movement of his arms and legs which appear to be indicators that he will regain the ability to walk. Everett is still being held in the ICU ward of a Buffalo hospital, but doctors treating him say they will soon take him off life support systems. The innovative treatment involved lowering Everett's body temperature to prevent swelling on the spinal cord from doing permanent damage. Everett's recovery has a long way to go, but his teammates and Bills fans can breathe a sigh of relief in the short-term.
The Bills have no choice but to rally. With back-to-back road games against AFC giants in the Steelers and Patriots, Buffalo could be headed to 0-3 territory. The Bills defense was torched for over 300 yards passing and 171 yards rushing in the opener against Denver, yet they managed to keep the Broncos to mostly field goals. Unfortunately one of those field goals was the game winner.
QB J.P. Losman played a conservative game completing 66% of his passes for only 97 yards and a pick. That's probably not going to get the job done throughout the season. A bright spot for the Bills in week 1 was rookie running back Marshawn Lynch. Brought in to fill the shoes of Willis McGahee who was brought in to take Travis Henry's place who took over for Antowain Smith who failed to be the next Thurman Thomas, Lynch ran well in his NFL debut carrying 19 times for 90 yard and a score. With Losman yet to establish himself as a credible QB in the league, defenses will play to stuff the run. Head coach Dick Jauron and offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild better get as creative as the Buffalo medical staff.
It appears the ankle injury Chad Pennington suffered in the season opener against New England will sideline him for the Jets Sunday road game in Baltimore. After seeing the Ravens defense in action, although be it in a loss to Cincinnati, do you think this is where backup Kellen Clemens wants to get his first NFL start In Ray Lewis' home? I can already see Ed Reed's interception total rise. Not that Pennington played great in the opener nor will all of Jets nation be sorry to see him on the sideline, but he did continue a successful fluidity with Laverneous Coles. Coles just happens to be the best player on the Jets. Message to Clemens get the ball to number 87 by any means necessary. Just don't use stolen defensive signals to do it. Regardless of who plays quarterback the Jets offensive line must come up big and allow Thomas Jones to be productive so that Coles and Jerricho Cotchery get the opportunity to find some space in the Ravens secondary. It's all on the guy under center from there.
|Miami Dolphins QB Trent Green (AP Photo)|
Trent Green wasn't horrible but the Miami running game was borderline absent in their week 1 loss to the Redskins. Doesn't seem like their run defense was all that much better as they let Clinton Portis(98 yards, 1 TD) and Ladell Betts(59 yards) run wild on critical possessions. Running back Ronnie Brown proved more effective as a receiver (6 catches for 40 yards) than as a guy to hand-off to (11 rushes for 32 yards). As Trent Green plays his role as the next guy trying to fill Dan Marino's Hall of Fame shoes he was serviceable in his Miami debut. For Miami's sake it's good to see he knows who Chris Chambers is. Let's be honest, expectations are low for Cam Cameron and his Dolphins team. When I say low I mean 'not finishing last' low. Miami fans are hoping to finish ahead of the Bills at the bottom of the AFC East. Low expectations like that could make a .500 season pretty great.
Before dreams of mediocrity are met the Dolphins have to deal with the home opener against Dallas in week 2. Offensively the Cowboys appear to be running on all cylinders. Anointed stud QB Tony Romo seems to have left the end of last season in the past. In only 15 completions against the Giants in Dallas' opener Romo threw for 345 yards and 4 TD's. Both Marion Barber and Julius Jones were successfully involved in the running game both accounting for 60+ yards each. An inconsistent Dolphins defense must gain composure and stability if the Dolphins have any chance of getting win No. 1 under their belt. If not, well, at least the Raiders come to town in 2 weeks.
Ben Roethlisberger looks to have recovered from a dismal 2006 season and the Bills will be the next to experience his resurgence. The Steelers smoked Cleveland in the season opener and look to do the same in their home opener this Sunday. Kick-off is at 1, the Steelers will be in command by 2, broadcasters start looking ahead to week 3 by 2:30.
Uncertainty at the quarterback position is not how you want to head out on your first road game. Make that first road game in Baltimore against the Ravens and matters get worse quick. Can Mangini's defense step up and make this a Mike Nugent vs. Matt Stover affair? Will Pennington play? Brian Billick won't need spy games to stop Kellen Clemens.
Miami fans can once again revel in the beautiful weather they get throughout the entirety of the NFL season. Much like their Arizona counterparts that's about all they'll have to cheer about. If Dallas comes out as half the team they were against the Giants they still spoil the Dolphins home opener. There's been some talk that Zach Thomas might be running out of gas. After a game against the Cowboys his tank might just empty out. One thing Miami's got going for them is that Dallas' D did give up a lot of points last week. Maybe Trent Green won't have Fish fans yearning for the David Woodley days after all.
One thing Bill Belichick's great at, besides espionage, is focusing on what happens on the field. No players will be suspended as a result of Spy Gate so Norv Turner will still have to deal with Brady and his new bag of toys. Can the Chargers find a way to slow down both the running and passing attack of the Patriots? Although be it against a solid Bears defense, the Chargers offense was comprised of only three players in their season opener, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates. Well the Patriots defense isn't any worse than the Bears and some would say has much more flexibility. In short, New England will probably be more than happy to have L.T. get his yards and keep the Chargers one-dimensional on offense. As New England sees it, Philip Rivers just doesn't have the NFL knowledge to beat them with his arm. The pressure will be on and it'll be hotter than hell in that pocket all day for Rivers. As Cold War tactics get a revival in the NFL via "video surveillance" the Patriots focus on the target at hand in the Chargers and quietly walk off the field Sunday night with a 2-0 record.
Week 2 Picks
Pats 31-20, 2-0
Jets 13-20, 0-2
Bills 13-38, 0-2
Miami 10-30, 0-2
Chris Timoney is a long time Patriots Insider contributor who covered the Boston Celtics for Sporting News Radio's 1510 "The Zone". You can reach Chris in the forums under the name: JakBrown
Hot Topic: "Video Gate" Pats taped Jets Signals