Reality Check

· The Carolina Panthers continue to do the unthinkable and the time has come to take this team seriously. This Carolina team is an average offensive team, but they are efficient with Jake Delhomme at quarterback and Stephen Davis wearing down opposing defenses with a strong running game.

The Panthers have knocked the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts from the ranks of the unbeaten already this season, with both victories coming on the road.

· The Kansas City Chiefs have quickly become the sweetheart team of the NFL. An improved defense in 2003 has provided the Chiefs the opportunity to stay close in games, but let's make no mistake, it is the offense that has propelled this team to a 6-0 start. Running back Priest Holmes and kick-returner Dante Hall have received all the attention from the national media, but on Sunday, quarterback Trent Green passed for 400 yards and the wide receivers got into the act, with Eddie Kennison hauling in a 51 yard touchdown pass from Green to beat the Packers in overtime.

· The Indianapolis Colts may want to burn every copy of the game-tape from Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers. Despite taking the undefeated Panthers into overtime before succumbing to the physical team from Carolina, the recipe to defeat the Colts has been displayed. In a physical contest, the Colts are at a size disadvantage and pounding the football at the Indianapolis front-seven will wear down the defense, as evidenced by the numerous missed tackles and late arrival on assignments late in the game.

· Too bad the owners of the San Francisco 49ers don't have the ability to turn back the clock and pretend the dismissal of head coach Steve Mariucci never happened. The historically offensively efficient 49ers have struggled under head coach Dennis Erickson. Grumblings coming from the top heads of the organization are that the front office is disappointed in the preparation of the team, questioned the vast number of injuries, and have expressed concern about the communication surrounding the team.

· Speaking of Mariucci, life is getting better in Detroit despite a 1-4 start and the loss of first-round draft pick, wide receiver Charles Rogers. The Mariucci led Lions have shown significant improvement defensively since the beginning of the season, and the coach expects the team to be much more competitive in the second half of the season. An area of concern for the Lions has been the erratic play of quarterback Joey Harrington. During the bye-week, Mariucci and the second-year signal-called focused on his decision making, read progressions, has told his young quarterback he doesn't expect him to carry the team, consistency is what Mariucci stressed to Harrington.

· Put a fork in the Oakland Raiders, commitment to excellence will have to look towards the 2004 for any satisfaction. While players on the Raiders roster will tell anyone that will listen that age has nothing to do with their struggles in the 2003 season, seeing the Raiders up close this past weekend gave me another perspective. Especially at the wide receiver position, the Raiders appeared slow against the Browns. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown were shutout until midway through the second-half of the game against Cleveland, neither player was able to gain separation against an array of Browns defensive backs. Many close to the Raiders organization acknowledge that offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will be the fall-guy for the inability of the Oakland offense. Maybe someone should tell team owner Al Davis and head coach Bill Callahan that his team lacks discipline.

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