- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

Anyone who has been successful at picking NFL games this season has my utmost respect. Indianapolis, having rung up 87 points on the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, was a lock to cream Drew Bledsoe-less New England last Sunday. Naturally, the Patriots routed the Colts 44-13.

Coach Jim Mora said the Colts 3-15 in Foxboro, Mass., since moving to Indianapolis and 0-4 at New England with Peyton Manning at quarterback, weren't loafing.

"We played hard," Mora said. "But we didn't quite have that edge that you need to have. I don't want to say that we were passionless, but we played below our personnel, below our capacity, below our ability against a team that had something to prove."

And I'm sure that everyone forecast that the only Week 4 matchup that would feature two winning teams would be San Diego (1-15 last year) against Cleveland (3-13). Three weeks into the season, there are only three unbeaten teams the Chargers, Green Bay and St. Louis. That's the fewest at this point at least since the advent of free agency in 1993. Just three seasons ago, nine teams were unbeaten heading into Week 4.

If the playoffs began today, Cincinnati (which made its last trip to the playoffs in 1990), San Diego (1995) and Atlanta, Green Bay and San Francisco (1998) would all play in the postseason. So would Jacksonville, which missed out last year.

Speaking of the playoffs, before they switched dates and moved the Super Bowl to Feb. 3, did the NFL and the National Automobile Dealers Association consider the possibility of the Saints playing host to the NFC Championship game Jan. 27? I can just see commissioner Paul Tagliabue trying to persuade Saints owner Tom Benson to play his team's first conference title game on the road even if New Orleans has earned homefield advantage.

Trivia time What player who couldn't get on the field for the 1999 Washington Redskins is currently starting for another NFL team? (Answer below.)

Ouch Falcons halfback Jamal Anderson, Bills linebacker Sam Cowart, Browns guard Tre Johnson and Oakland end Trace Armstrong all ex-Pro Bowl players have had their seasons ended by injuries. So have Bills tackle Kris Farris, Miami tackles Brent Smith and Marcus Spriggs, Packers cornerback Antuan Edwards, Chargers defensive tackle Jamal Williams, Titans corner Dainon Sidney and safety Bobby Myers and Washington linebacker Shawn Barber.

Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan broke a leg in Sunday's home opener and is supposed to be back next month. The Panthers had problems with the Ericsson Stadium turf in the preseason, so it was almost totally re-sodded with the same type of grass that was named the league's second best by the NFLPA in 1998. But this year's roots never fully took.

"It was like playing in a rainstorm or in the sand," Panthers linebacker Lester Towns said. "You couldn't plant on it. You couldn't drive off of it. You felt heavy and had to pick your feet up a lot higher. There would be a huge chunk of turf and you'd fall over it and say, 'Who tripped me?' I would rather play on [artificial] turf than play here."

Anderson isn't the only top runner to hit the shelf. Denver's Terrell Davis, Philadelphia's Duce Staley and Jacksonville's Fred Taylor have been hurt again. Seattle's usually indestructible Ricky Watters is likely out 6-8 weeks with a bad shoulder, and Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn figures to miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained foot.

NFC Least (again) Arizona, Dallas and Washington are all winless. The Cardinals have the NFL's worst record over the past 11 games, 1-10, beating only the Redskins (16-15 on Aeneas Williams' 105-yard return of Stephen Davis' goal line fumble last Nov. 5).

The Cowboys are a step ahead at 2-9, topping Cincinnati 23-6 last Nov. 12 and the Redskins 32-13 last Dec. 10. The Redskins are also 2-9, upsetting defending champion St. Louis 33-20 last Nov. 20 and thumping the Cardinals 20-3 on Dec. 24.

Take away their games against each other and Arizona, Dallas and Washington are a combined 2-25 in their past 27. With the Cardinals in Philadelphia, the Cowboys in Oakland and the Redskins at the Giants, the three lightweights will likely be 2-for-30 by Monday. Think ABC is looking forward to airing the likely winless Redskins visiting the probably winless Cowboys a week from Monday?

Trivia answer Defensive tackle Barron Tanner is starting for Arizona. Tanner is one of 18 players from the 1999 Redskins currently active or on injured reserve for other teams. Sixteen of the 1999 Redskins are active with Washington or on its IR list.

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