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NFL: Sundays Other Games
Buccaneers (0-2) at Patriots (2-0): Tampa Bay can't close out games and has lost twice on last-second field goals. New England can't seem to find the magic on offense but has won two close games. Tom Brady is squarely in charge when the Patriots have the ball but is surrounded by mediocrity in the skills positions. Josh Freeman has been the center of turmoil for the Bucs, struggling despite being surrounded by talent. New England has made key plays at key moments. Tampa Bay has not, and that might be the difference.
Packers (1-1) at Bengals (1-1): Both teams are coming off strong performances after opening losses. The Packers' offense has been in sync from the start, but the defense has been spotty and must contend with Cincinnati's versatile attack. Rookie Giovani Bernard has added flash to the running game, which already had the power of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green Bay got a boost from John Starks after Eddie Lacy went out with a concussion against Washington. Starks ran for a career-best 132 yards, but the Bengals are stingy against the run.
Texans (2-0) at Ravens (1-1): The Texans have been living dangerously, needing late rallies in their two wins. Then again, that's a sign of a resilient team. "The word for this week ... consistency," Coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's part of the NFL battle. We've got to get more consistent at what we're doing." Baltimore had to pull out everything to beat Cleveland last weekend and did so without star RB Ray Rice, who went out with a left hip flexor and is questionable for this game.
Cardinals (1-1) at Saints (2-0): This game could have plenty of scoring, but WR Larry Fitzgerald's hamstring problem is worrisome for Arizona, and he missed a key portion of last week's victory against Detroit. New Orleans has its own top receiver in Marques Colston, who has been battling a foot injury. His 58 TD catches trail only Fitzgerald's 59 since 2006.
Browns (0-2) at Vikings (0-2): Minnesota fans are looking for a breakout game from 2012 MVP Adrian Peterson, who is third in the league in rushing (193 yards) but not close to his 2,000-yard pace of last season. He might not have it against the Browns, who rank fourth against the run and sixth in overall defense. Their problem is a weak offense that is down to journeyman Brian Hoyer starting at QB for injured Brandon Weeden, and they just traded RB Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.
Lions (1-1) at Redskins (0-2): The Redskins will struggle until Robert Griffin III gets back to playing the way he did in 2012, when he was the top offensive rookie and a dynamic playmaker and all-around threat. Just as alarming is a defense that has been a sieve, allowing Philadelphia and Green Bay to pull away to big leads that Griffin couldn't overcome.
Detroit remains among the NFLs most schizophrenic teams and must find a way to transfer its solid work at home to road games.
Chargers (1-1) at Titans (1-1): After the Chargers blew a big lead at home to Houston then had to travel cross country to Philadelphia, they seemed doomed to another loss. But they beat the Eagles 33-30, and journeyman WR Eddie Royal was unstoppable. It won't be so easy against the Titans, whose defense was terrible in 2012 but is much more competitive now under Gregg Williams, back from his bounty suspension. San Diego has won nine straight in this series.
Rams (1-1) at Cowboys (1-1): After getting six takeaways in their opening win against the Giants, the Cowboys handed last weekend's game to Kansas City through sloppiness dropped passes, penalties and bad time management. Dallas is struggling to run the ball, and its pass defense is leaky. Those issues play right into the Rams' hands: St. Louis ranks fourth in passing and sixth in stopping the run.
Bills (1-1) at Jets (1-1): There's actually a worthwhile reason to watch this one: the two rookie QBs. EJ Manuel, the only quarterback drafted in the first round in April, led the Bills on a last-ditch drive and a win against Carolina, and his poise has been admirable. Even though New York's Geno Smith has been intercepted four times, he showed moxie in the rain at Foxborough in a Thursday night loss. He also has far less help around him than Manuel.
Falcons (1-1) at Dolphins (2-0): The team the Falcons will field isnt the one they expected to have, with LB Sean Weatherspoon, DE Kroy Biermann and FB Bradie Ewing on injured reserve (Weatherspoon can return in Week 11) and RB Steven Jackson out for this game with a thigh injury. Miami has been best at pressuring quarterbacks, and Atlantas ground game might not be much of a threat without Jackson. The Dolphins have nine sacks, but also have allowed nine on Ryan Tannehill.
Colts (1-1) at 49ers (1-1): Andrew Luck will go against his coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh and should expect lots of pressure against his suspect offensive line (Luck has been sacked seven times). San Francisco comes off one of its sloppiest efforts at Seattle five turnovers and no touchdowns for just the third time since 1979. Also, 49ers TE Vernon Davis will go against younger brother CB Vontae Davism but Vernon is nursing a hamstring injury.
Jaguars (0-2) at Seahawks (2-0): The Jaguars are banged-up, and even when healthy, they aren't much trouble for anyone. They stayed on the West Coast after a loss at Oakland and practiced at San Jose State. Seattle could have a defense to rival some of the best of the last 30 years, including the 1985 Bears and 2000 Ravens. What the Seahawks did in dominating a solid 49ers offense was mesmerizing, and the Seahawks still are missing key players such as DE Chris Clemons, CB Brandon Browner and LB Bruce Irvin.
Bears (2-0) at Steelers (0-2): Things haven't been this dire for the Steelers since they were 0-3 in 1986. They can't run the ball only the Giants are worse and rarely give QB Ben Roethlisberger time to survey the field. They need someone to make a big play and provide the spark thats missing, and usually thats safety Troy Polamalu. The Bears, winners of two close games at home, can stamp themselves as contenders with a win.
Jets' Sanchez: 'No doubt' I expect to win QB job
Yes, he believes he'll be NFL Odds the starter, and, yes, he looks forward to the competition.
Then came the question everyone really wanted to know: Hey, Mark, what's up with that headband?
''It's my inner-soccer player,'' said a smiling Sanchez, his hair slicked and held back by a thin green band. ''My hair's getting long. I'm going to donate it at some point, if I can last. We'll see.''
There's already a spoof Twitter account dedicated to the headband, and it received plenty of attention during the team's first locker room availability since last season. But while everyone appeared to be in good spirits, Thursday marked the first of what will likely be many conversations about who the Jets' starting quarterback will be.
Tim Tebow was cut on Monday, but the situation is far from settled. New general manager John Idzik said Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms and second-round draft pick Geno Smith are all candidates to be the starter.
''No doubt,'' Sanchez said when asked if he expects to be the No. 1 guy this season. ''Sure. Of course.''
Sanchez's future with the team became extremely uncertain when the Jets drafted Smith, the playmaking former West Virginia star, last week. Many fans and media assumed the move signaled the arrival of the future franchise quarterback for the Jets, with a chance that could happen as soon as this season.
Sanchez is coming off a miserable season in which he threw 18 interceptions, was benched for the first time in his career and had perhaps the most embarrassing NFL play in recent memory when he fumbled after running into the backside of former Jets guard Brandon Moore in a game on national TV.
But that was then and, of course, Sanchez has already put that all in the past. With new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg running a West Coast-style offense that might suit him better, Sanchez is fully motivated to get himself and the team back on track.
''Hopefully winning a bunch of games, that's really all I'm worried about,'' Sanchez said. ''Whether it's a make-or-break thing? I feel that way every year. It should feel that way if you care about it. It's an exciting time.''
Center Nick Mangold couldn't put his finger on it, but thinks there's ''something different'' in the way Sanchez is carrying himself this offseason.
''There's a little fire going, and that's good,'' Sanchez said. ''I think it's good for everybody.''
Mornhinweg spoke to Sanchez before and after the Jets drafted Smith, just to check in with him. There were rumors that the Jets might be looking into trying to part ways now with Sanchez, who is owed a guaranteed $8.25 million this season. Meanwhile, Idzik and coach Rex Ryan haven't spoken to Sanchez specifically about his status, and that's OK with him.
''They don't owe me that,'' Sanchez said. ''It's up to them if they'd like to. I'm free. I'm here.''
And, Tebow isn't - he's now a free agent after clearing waivers - and Sanchez believes that might help eliminate some of the distractions that marked most of last season. Sanchez said neither he nor Tebow were in the ideal situation, especially since they're at a position in which only one can be a starter.
''We both competed our best, tried to be the best of friends we could,'' he said. ''Honestly, under different circumstances we would be really good friends. It's just hard when you're competing like that. There's just a professionalism about it that you don't get too close to guys like that. You're just professional and you're cool. If the guy's got a flat tire on the side of the road, I'm going to stop. I'm not going to just blow by him. But at the same time, I'm not sending him gifts on his birthday.''
Sanchez insisted no hard feelings exist between the two, and added that he will be there for Smith when he joins the team. Rookies don't report to the facility until next week.
''If he's got a question, of course I'm not going to be a jerk,'' Sanchez said. ''I've heard plenty of stories about guys like that. They come ask you a read on a thing and they say, 'Hey, go look at your book.'''
Garrard, signed as a free agent, is the veteran of the bunch at 35 years old, but hasn't played a regular-season snap since 2010 because of injuries. He was in line to win the Miami Dolphins' job ahead of Matt Moore and rookie Ryan Tannehill last year, but hurt a knee and ended up sitting out the entire season after he was released.
So, quarterback competitions are nothing new for Garrard.
''I've been a No. 1 quarterback before,'' he said. ''As long as I'm healthy, as long as I'm able to continue to work with the team and don't have setbacks with my knee or my back or anything like that, then I know that I have the ability to.''
He added that he isn't with the Jets to simply collect a paycheck, and doesn't believe that Sanchez's salary or Smith's high profile will play a role in who ends up being the starter in Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
''It shouldn't be any politics,'' Garrard said. ''It should be the best guy playing. With that, if I'm going at it and I'm giving you my all and I'm healthy and you beat me at it, then that's great for the team.''
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Odds to Win 2015 Kentucky Derby
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