It's the non-Newtonian edition of the quarterback rookie battle, with Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton battling for second place in our hearts. While Dalton putters through his weeks, launching occasional bombs to his fellow rookie A.J. Green and doing his best to keep things close, Gabbert tries to wrap his impressionable young mind around Jack Del Rio's pretzel logic. Gabbert threw 24 passes in the first half against the Saints last week, with star running back Maurice Jones-Drew carrying the ball only three times in a neat inversion of Jaguars philosophy, cosmic balance and common sense. Then, late in the fourth quarter with the Jaguars trailing by 13 points, Del Rio reintroduced the running game, calling four handoffs to Jones-Drew on one drive. Gabbert would call the former Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard for advice, but he does not want to get Garrard's hopes up by making the phone ring.
CARDINALS (1-3) at VIKINGS (0-4), 11 a.m.
The winning quarterback in this game gets to be the Eagles starter in 2009. Opposing defenses are not the only ones ganging up on Donovan McNabb: Old-time quarterbacks have gotten into the act. Joe Theismann said Minnesota should start Christian Ponder. Fran Tarkenton said the Vikings should start Christian Ponder. Brett Favre wondered why Ponder has not taken the Vikings to a Super Bowl yet. Joe Namath was too busy ripping the Jets to offer an opinion, and Ron Jaworski may have said something, but we are still on a seven-second delay. McNabb is aging so rapidly that by next week, he may start criticizing himself.
SEAHAWKS (1-3) at GIANTS (3-1), 11 a.m.
The Giants won their last two meetings with the Seahawks by a combined score of 85-13, but Seattle has a new wrinkle: the no-huddle offense. The Seahawks increased their tempo in the second half against the Falcons, scoring three touchdowns in a near-comeback victory. What makes the no-huddle click for the Seahawks? "I guess it takes the thinking out of it for us," quarterback Tarvaris Jackson told reporters. "I know for me, being a young player, I tend to think a little too much." When your 28-year-old, sixth-year quarterback claims that he is young and needs to think less, you have problems that a change of pace are not going to solve.
BUCCANEERS (3-1) AT 49ERS (3-1), 2:05 p.m.
This is a battle between the league's two ugly-win champions. Tampa Bay committed 14 penalties Monday night, had a touchdown and a field goal nullified by penalties, and played the first half as if it had one eye on the Rangers-Rays game.?San Francisco played two impressive quarters against the Eagles, but the previous week's 13-8 slog against the Bengals was much more in character. The 49ers have not scored in the first quarter this season, and the Buccaneers have just three first-quarter points in their last three games, so it is safe to tune in late.
CHARGERS (3-1) at BRONCOS (1-3), 2:15 p.m.
John Fox finally rolled out the Tim Tebow Wild Horse package last week — for one play. Denver lost a yard, and Tebow disappeared again. "We did it once and we lost yardage," Fox said after the game. "It didn't prove to be beneficial, so we went in a different direction." Fox also took a multivitamin before the game, but since he did not feel instantly better, he stopped taking them, right after removing all of the insulation from his home because it did not provide immediate energy savings. Tebow resurfaced on the reality television program "The Biggest Loser," where he offered this advice: "Hard work beats talent when talent does not work as hard." Given only one chance a month, though, both hard work and talent are likely to lose a yard.
BEARS (2-2) at LIONS (4-0), Monday, 6:30 p.m.
This is the week that Detroit finally fakes the pass to Calvin Johnson at the goal line, then hands off to Jahvid Best. Best walks untouched into the end zone as 11 defenders (12, if Rob Ryan has any say) claw and drag Johnson to the ground.
Then, Ryan and the three other defensive coordinators who allowed two touchdowns a week to Johnson get to call Lovie Smith and say they told him so.
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